Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Roasted Tomato and Garlic Puttanesca

April 6, 2011
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Unfortunately, our last Week in a Day dinner was our least favorite of the bunch – so much for going out with a bang!  This recipe had all of the makings of a successful pasta dinner, but it just seemed to fall flat.  The tomatoes and garlic smelled amazing while they were roasting, but once they were blended into the sauce, they lost their depth.  I thought that serving this dish last would allow all of the flavors to stew and mesh and intensify, but I think the opposite happened – so, maybe if you eat the sauce right away it will live up to its promise!  If someone tries that, please let me know how it turns out.

As far as the experiment as a whole, I was really pleased with the results.  I was able to spend more time with my hubby and critters while still putting satisfying, home-cooked meals on the table.  We didn’t eat out for the whole week.  We even wound up with leftovers (bolognese and lentil soup) in the freezer for a proverbial rainy day.  I will definitely continue to watch the show, and I hope she throws more menus out there that will work for our tastes.

  • 1 head garlic
  • 12 to 14 large Roma or plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh marjoram or oregano, leaves picked and chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 cup pitted oil-cured olives, loosely packed
  • 6 flat filets anchovies
  • 3 tablespoons drained Capote capers or stemmed caperberries
  • 1 small Fresno chile or Italian red cherry pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound penne or bucatini
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Arrange a cooling rack over a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet for easy clean up.  Cut the ends off the entire head garlic to expose all of the cloves. Season the garlic with a little salt, some black pepper, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, then wrap in foil.  Cut the tomatoes in 1/2 and place in a bowl. Lightly dress the tomatoes by drizzling with extra-virgin olive oil. Season the tomatoes with salt, pepper, and marjoram, and arrange on the baking sheet cut-side down. Bake the tomatoes 20 to 25 minutes, then flip the tomatoes, and roast 20 minutes more. Roast the garlic 45 to 50 minutes alongside the tomatoes.  Place about 2/3 of the tomatoes in a food processor. Coarsely chop the remainder of the tomatoes, and reserve. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin, and add to the food processor pulsing until smooth. Add the mixture to a Dutch oven and add the olives, anchovies, capers, and chile. Cook for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Transfer to a small container for a make-ahead meal and refrigerate, or transfer to a serving bowl. Store the chopped tomatoes separately, or add to the serving bowl.  To serve, bring water to a boil, salt the water and cook the pasta to al dente. Reheat the sauce. Toss the pasta with the sauce for 1 minute, to coat. Serve in shallow bowls with lots of parsley, and drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil.

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Recipe: Lamb and Rice Stuffed Peppers

April 4, 2011
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This may have been the favorite of the Week in a Day recipes.  I actually thought that my husband wouldn’t like it, since he’s usually not a huge fan of bell peppers, but he raved about the flavor and texture.  The peppers themselves were soft without being mushy, and firm enough to hold their shape and handle all of the filling.  They were also incredibly sweet, which I think comes from the fact that I splurged and bought really good organic ones from Whole Foods (they were the only ones that had the right shape for stuffing).  The filling was really hearty and satisfying, and the lamb was a welcome protein change in our house (it’s not my favorite, so we only eat it sparingly).  The whole dish together, including the sauce and goat cheese, was really well-balanced and delicious.

Since I knew I wasn’t going to serve this dish until day four, I got the peppers all the way to the stuffing point and then I put them in a baking dish, covered them with foil, and put them in the fridge.  I made the sauce ahead of time and also stored it in the fridge.  Then, when I was ready to serve, I pulled the peppers out of the fridge and brought them to closer to room temp, and then I roasted them in the oven for the prescribed time.  I just reheated the sauce in a pot on the stove over low heat.

I really look forward to making these again – if you can get peppers that stand up nice and straight, the presentation is really nice (my photo skills, however, are not – ha).

  • 4 large red bell peppers
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups orzo pasta
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 12 ounces ground lamb
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh marjoram or oregano, leaves picked and chopped or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
  • 2 small sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cubanelle peppers or mild frying peppers, chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Remove the tops from the peppers and scoop out the seeds and ribs. Carefully trim the bottoms if necessary to make peppers stand straight when upright. Place a steamer rack over a few inches of boiling water, or set a colander over a couple of inches boiling water in a large stock pot. Place the peppers in the steamer and cover. Steam 10 minutes, and remove to a baking dish or casserole. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepot with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add the orzo and brown lightly, and then add 1/2 the garlic and stir. After 30 seconds stir in the water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes. Spread the orzo onto a baking sheet and cool.  Place the ground lamb in a bowl and add the cooled orzo. Season with 1/2 the marjoram, the rosemary, 2 tablespoons parsley, and season with salt, and pepper. Overstuff the peppers with the filling. Drizzle about 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil over the peppers, pouring about 1 tablespoon over top of each. Arrange the peppers in a casserole or small baking dish and roast 50 minutes to 1 hour, until crispy at the edges and cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a saucepot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, cubanelle peppers, remaining garlic, remaining marjoram, and saute until soft. Add the tomato sauce, and season with salt, and pepper.  Cool the peppers and sauce for a make-ahead meal or serve immediately.  For reheating: Add 1/2 cup water to the baking dish, and place in a heated 375 degree F oven, covered until warmed throughout, about 30 minutes. Uncover and let the water evaporate, and crisp the top, 20 minutes more. Reheat the sauce over medium-low heat to heat through.  Serve the peppers hot with sauce over top, or in a puddle underneath the peppers. Top with crumbled feta.


Recipe: Sausage, Kale, and Lentil Soup

March 31, 2011
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I was so happy to see this recipe in the Week in a Day episode I chose, since my CSA has been providing me with lots of beautiful kale.  I was also happy to see a hearty soup on the list, as the winter-into-spring weather has been providing some crazy temperature fluctuations (in other words, soup season ain’t quite over yet).

Much like the bolognese, the most crucial things you need for this soup are a big stock pot and some simmering time.  The only tricky thing is the lentils – since I was planning on pre-cooking and then reheating the soup, I didn’t want to cook the lentils 100% during the first simmer.  I probably undershot it a tad, though, since they ended up being a bit too al dente when we ate the meal the first time around.  I had enough soup left over to freeze a few servings, so I imagine that the lentils will be softer with each reheating.

Flavor-wise, the soup is spot on – if you follow the recipe and use hot sausage, it provides a wonderful spicy kick.  If hot isn’t your thing, I’m sure it would be delicious with a sweeter or milder sausage.  Enjoy! 

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound hot sausage, bulk or casing removed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped, leafy tops reserved
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large Idaho (russet) potato, peeled and chopped into small dice
  • 1 Fresno or Holland chile pepper, thinly sliced or finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped or sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bundle Tuscan, black, or dinosaur kale, stemmed and very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 cups lentils
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
In a soup pot or large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Add the sausage, breaking it into pieces, and cook until lightly brown. Add the onions, celery, carrots, potato, chile pepper, rosemary, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper, and cook to soften, 8 to 10 minutes.  Wilt in the kale, and season the kale leaves with a little freshly grated nutmeg. Stir in the tomato paste for 30 seconds, then add white wine. Cook to reduce by 1/2 and stir in the lentils, stock, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the soup until the lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. Serve immediately or cool, store, and reheat. Serve with chopped celery greens to garnish.

Recipe: Beer-Braised Chicken Thighs

March 29, 2011
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Meal number two of the Week in a Day experiment was beer-braised chicken thighs.  This dish was sure to be a hit, since it included the words “beer” and “chicken thighs.”  I was also optimistic since the bolognese from the same episode had turned out so well.  The only thing that concerned me was reheating everything, since you never know if that will zap all of the good flavor and texture out of a meal.

Basically, I prepped the recipe as if I was going to eat it right then and there, but then I took the whole Dutch oven off the heat and refrigerated it “as-is” (in other words, I didn’t put it in different or individual storage containers).  Then, the night I served the dish, I took the Dutch oven out of the fridge, got it to room temperature (or pretty close), and then heated it through over low-medium heat.  I served it over couscous because I had it on hand and it was quick and easy, but it could work easily well over rice or smaller pasta or even mashed potatoes.

The dish was full of flavor, though maybe not as spicy as I anticipated (easily adjustable for next time).  And since all of the slicing and dicing is done on the official cook day, it’s an easy dish to throw together.  I really couldn’t believe it, but Rachael Ray was batting a thousand…

  • 8 pieces bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 link andouille sausage, casing removed and chopped, or 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 rounded tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle lager beer
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes with chiles or stewed tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • Scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • Warm baguette, for mopping

Pat the chicken thighs dry, and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the chicken and brown on both sides in 2 batches.  Remove the chicken to a plate and spoon out 1/2 the drippings, and add the andouille sausage. Brown for 2 minutes and then add the onion, celery, pepper, garlic, and thyme, and cook to soften, for about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Add the flour, stir 1 to 2 minutes, and then pour in the beer and let the foam subside. Stir in the tomatoes, stock, and hot sauce. Let the sauce thicken a bit, and then slide the chicken into the pot and simmer to cook through. Serve with warm crusty bread, or cool and store for make-ahead meal.


Recipe: Classic Bolognese

March 28, 2011
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Just when I was starting to get really bored with all of the options on the Food Network, my husband and I moved and got Directv and were happily introduced to the Cooking Channel.  There are a lot of great programs, but one of my favorites has to be Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day.  Basically, she promises that if you spend one day in the kitchen, you can have five nights worth of tasty, home cooked meals.

I never got on the “I hate Rachael Ray” bandwagon, but I was never her biggest fan, either.  I felt that her recipes were just okay, though I was certainly in favor of getting busy folks into the kitchen rather than spending time at the drive-through.  I was somewhat skeptical of the week in a day concept, but I decided to give it a go and spend a dreary Sunday afternoon getting all of the dishes ready for the week.  Suggestion for the Cooking Channel – for this show, since folks are cooking everything at once and thus shopping for everything at once, could you possibly provide a comprehensive shopping list (organized by food genre) along with the recipes?

This bolognese was the first dish up.  As most sauces and soups are, it’s pretty easy to put together – you just need a BIG stock pot and some time, especially since this recipe as-written represents a double batch.  Don’t balk at the chicken livers – they really do add a deep, earthy flavor to the sauce.  And of course, if at all possible, use homemade stock; I had homemade beef stock saved up from the last prime rib I roasted, and that really made a difference.  The end result is a meaty, hearty sauce with TONS of flavor.  It’s richer and less acidic than my usual marinara sauce, but if you’re in the mood for something really soul-satisfying, it definitely fits the bill.  Make sure you toast a baguette (or other crusty bread) to sop up every last drop.

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, finely diced
  • 4 ounces trimmed chicken livers, finely diced, optional, but recommended
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 small ribs celery, finely chopped, with leafy tops, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 small sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground beef (chuck or sirloin) and veal mix
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 pinches ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine (about 1/3 bottle)
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans Italian pureed tomatoes
  • 1 pound egg tagliatelle or bucatini pasta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Warm 2 cups milk in small pot over lowest heat.  Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly brown. Then add the chicken livers, and cook almost through. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, rosemary, and bay leaves, and cook until tender, 10 minutes.  Add the ground meat and cook through breaking into pieces, but do not brown. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, clove, and stir in the wine and allow it to cook into the meat, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the warm milk to the meat and allow it to absorb into the meat for 1 minute. Stir in the beef stock, vegetable stock, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Divide the sauce in 1/2, cool, and freeze one batch. Cool and store the remainder for a make-ahead meal within the week. Alternately, cook pasta to al dente, thin the sauce a bit with a bit of starchy pasta water and toss with pasta dressed with butter to combine. Top with grated cheese and chopped celery leaves. Serve with green salad.