Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Rigatoni with Shrimp, Calamari, and Basil

October 25, 2010
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While I detox from my sister’s gluttonous wedding weekend and ponder tasty diet dinners, I want to share this recipe from the wayback machine.  I made this pasta dish a month or two ago, and it really hit the spot – it was hearty and satisfying, but the seafood and veggies kept it tasting fresh and light (well, light-er).

When I made this dish, I could not find calamari ANYWHERE (I can usually get it at a small local market, but they were all out when I visited), so I just doubled the shrimp.  And speaking of shrimp, my only issue with this recipe was the processing/blending of half of the seafood.  I don’t really understand the point – I mean, it certainly imparts great shrimpy flavor, but why can’t you just leave the little guys whole?  I will definitely omit that step next time – though, maybe the calamari would make the difference?

Oh, and anyone who poo-poos the idea of cheese and seafood together?  Well, let’s just say those people are no friends of mine.

  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined, divided
  • 14 ounces cleaned calamari (bodies only; tentacles reserved for another use), divided
  • 12 ounces rigatoni pasta
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; about 3 large)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese or Parmesan cheese plus additional (for serving)
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided

Place half of shrimp in medium bowl. Slice half of calamari crosswise into 1/3-inch-wide rings and place in small bowl.

Coarsely chop remaining shrimp and calamari; place in processor. Using on/off turns, blend until shrimp mixture is finely chopped. Transfer to another medium bowl.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat 5 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks, garlic, and crushed red pepper; sauté until leeks are tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add chopped shrimp mixture; stir until shrimp and calamari are just opaque, about 2 minutes. Add clam juice and peas; simmer until flavors blend, about 3 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter. Season with salt and pepper. Set sauce aside; cover to keep warm.

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add reserved whole shrimp and sauté 2 minutes. Add calamari rings to shrimp; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until just opaque, about 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

Drain pasta; return to same pot. Add chopped shrimp and calamari sauce, 1/2 cup cheese, and 1/2 cup basil and toss to blend.

Divide pasta among 4 bowls. Top each serving with sautéed shrimp mixture; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup basil. Pass additional cheese separately and serve.

Recipe: Roast Chicken Breasts with Garbanzo Beans, Tomatoes, and Paprika

October 22, 2010
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Happy Friday, everyone!  For my last post of the week, I thought I’d share a really tasty recipe that was a big success on my dinner table.  The spice rub for the chicken is so great for a fall meal – it has the perfect amount of heat and tastes so comforting.  I love cooking with bone-in, skin-on chicken – the extra flavor is worth any additional calories.  And, as a nutritional bonus, the chicken in this dish is joined by healthy chickpeas and tomatoes (both delicious when roasted).

The yogurt sauce and cilantro are certainly optional (in fact, I left the cilantro out because my family doesn’t like it as much as I do), but the former is nice for a cooling effect.  Don’t be afraid of the salt – it really brings out the rest of the flavors.

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 4 chicken breast halves with bones
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
  • 1 12-ounce container cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided

Preheat oven to 450. Mix first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Pour 1 teaspoon spiced oil mixture into small bowl; whisk in yogurt and set aside for sauce. Place chicken on large rimmed baking sheet. Rub 2 tablespoons spiced oil mixture over chicken. Add beans, tomatoes, and 1/2 cup cilantro to remaining spiced oil mixture; toss to coat. Pour bean mixture around chicken. Sprinkle everything generously with salt and pepper.

Roast until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cilantro. Transfer chicken to plates. Spoon bean mixture over. Serve with yogurt sauce.

Recipe: Seared Scallops with Farmers’ Market Salad

October 21, 2010
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Now that we are nearing the end of October, it seems a little silly to post a summery recipe like this one.  However, this dish was so fresh and tasty and simple, and it’s not the recipe’s fault that I’ve been behind on my blogging.  So, keep this one in the vaults for next summer!

There’s really not much to this meal besides good quality ingredients prepared simply – which, to me, is what summer is all about.  The briny scallops, the acidic tomatoes, and the sweet corn all play together nicely for a satisfying and healthy hot-weather dinner.  Again, no photo, so apologies – sometimes I am just so gung-ho about eating my creations that the camera doesn’t even come out.

  • 2  cups  chopped tomato (about 1 pound)
  • 1  cup  chopped fresh basil
  • 1  tablespoon  canola oil
  • 1 1/2  pounds  sea scallops
  • 2  cups  fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)

Combine tomato, basil, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; toss gently. Heat a large cast-iron or heavy skillet over high heat. Add oil to pan, swirling to coat. Pat scallops dry with paper towels; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Add scallops to pan; cook 2 minutes or until browned. Turn scallops; cook 2 minutes or until done. Remove scallops from pan; keep warm. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add corn to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Add to tomato mixture; toss gently. Serve salad with scallops.

Recipe: Honey-Orange Chicken

October 20, 2010
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Wow, it has been quite a while since I gave the ol’ blog – and you, my three remaining readers – some lovin’!  Now that the Chicago Marathon is in the books (recap to come shortly on my other site) and my sister’s wedding weekend is upon us, I should be able to cook and post more regularly.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, things are still busy busy – I recently got promoted, AND we’re closing on our house next month – but that’s the story of my life, it seems…

…which is a GREAT segue to this simple yet tasty weeknight meal!  I found it in the AJC under their “5:30 Challenge,” which focuses on recipes that use no more than 5 ingredients (salt, pepper, water, and oil don’t count) and can be made in 30 minutes or less.  Sure enough, this was a pretty easy dinner to throw together – the hardest thing about it was cutting the chicken into uniformly sized pieces so they would cook consistently.  Do watch the chicken the second time you put it in the skillet – when it is cut so small, it cooks faster than you think, and you don’t want to end up (like I did) with overcooked meat.

No pictures, since the family ate this up so quickly – enjoy!

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed, cut into bite-size pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

In a medium skillet, melt butter over high heat. Sprinkle chicken breast pieces with salt and pepper and quickly sauté until browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and keep warm.

In same skillet, reduce heat to medium, add orange zest and juice and scrape browned bits from bottom of skillet. Add honey and ginger and stir to combine. Return chicken pieces to sauce, cover and heat until chicken is cooked through, approximately 5 minutes. Serve over rice.

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Recipe: Roast Chicken with Pasta Gratin

October 4, 2010
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Whoops, things got a little crazy at the end of last week (wrapping up the fiscal year and what not), so I didn’ t get to post the last recipe from The Athlete’s Palate.  So, here it is!  The recipe was contributed to the book by Chef Kevin Crawley of the Coriander Bistro (located in the Boston suburbs).

As with all three dishes from this cookbook, this meal had highs and lows.  The chicken was just fine, and the roasted vegetables were absolutely delicious, but the gratin was a big disappointment.  It was dry, bland, and not comforting at all – in other words, it was the polar opposite of what a gratin should be.  Looking back at the recipe, I realize that it doesn’t call for nearly enough cheese for the amount of pasta, and the fact that the listed cheese are low fat/low moisture doesn’t help, either.  The other problem with the dish as a whole is its lack of presentation points – as you can probably imagine by looking at the ingredient list, all three components are pretty beige and earth toney.  Perhaps serving the chicken and veg with the previously posted pesto orzo would be a good way to get some carbs AND some green on the plate?

I suppose the lesson to learn here is that watching what you eat is all fine and good, but some foods just can’t be made any healthier without losing what makes them great in the first place – and if you love those foods, there is no shame in enjoying them (in moderation, of course).


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1 onion, diced
    2 carrots, 1/2-inch dice
    2 parsnips, 1/2-inch dice
    1 celery root, 1/2-inch dice

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Sear one side for five minutes over medium-high heat in a nonstick, oven-proof saute grill pan. Turn the chicken over and add the vegetables. As the vegetables begin to brown (about six minutes), turn them over and place the pan in a preheated 400 degree oven until the chicken is cooked (seven to 10 minutes). Remove chicken and let it rest while the vegetables finish cooking in the oven (about five minutes more). Serves four.


  • 12 ounces farfalle noodles
    2 tablespoons part-skim ricotta
    1 tablespoon Mascarpone (or use 2 tablespoons cream cheese total)
    1 tablespoon low-fat cream cheese
    1 ounce goat cheese
    2 tablespoons half and half (optional)
    3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
    Salt and Pepper to taste

Follow package directions to cook pasta al dente. Mix together cheeses; thin with half and half if desired. Toss cooked pasta with the cheese mixture and pour into a two-quart casserole dish and top with Parmesan. Place under the broiler (450 degrees) until the cheese has browned, about five to eight minutes. Serves four.