Monday, September 17, 2007

Boyfriend came to visit this weekend, so I finally had a chance to cook for us (his kitchen is non-functioning at the present). It was chilly outside, so we both wanted some hot, gooey, comfort food. I had experimented with homemade macaroni and cheese the night before, but there wasn’t enough sauce for the pound of pasta, and there wasn’t nearly enough cheese in said sauce. Also, there was no meat to speak of. I love ground beef in my pasta and so does Boyfriend so that was an easy choice, the vegetable was not. I wanted peas, he didn’t want anything green whatsoever. I swear he wouldn’t have eaten it if I so much as garnished it with parsley, sigh. So peas are optional in this recipe, but they would totally kick ass.

Mac & Cheese with Beef

1 lb pasta (I used wide ziti but any small, chunky pasta will work)
1 cup frozen peas (or more if you love them)
½ lb ground beef
½ tsp Adobo (a seasoning salt, if you don’t have this, just sub with garlic powder, salt and pepper)
2 tbs Worcestershire Sauce

4 tbs unsalted butter
4 tbs flour
2 cups milk (any kind except skim)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar (or your favorite meltable cheese)

Salt and Pepper to taste (be stingy with this)

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente. To save a step, throw the peas in the pot 1 minute before the pasta is done and drain all of it together. Put the pasta (and peas) back in the pot and set aside. Don’t add oil.

Cook the beef in a big skillet, drain off the grease half way through cooking. Then add the Adobo, a few grinds of pepper and the Worcestershire Sauce. When fully browned drain off most of the grease, leaving a bit in the pan. Pour the meat into the pot with the pasta and stir well.

In a medium saucepan melt the butter, then add flour while whisking. This is called a roux, a basic sauce thickener, also an arm breaker. Cook this for a minute over medium heat whisking constantly. Pour in the milk slowly while whisking briskly. Keep the heat at medium and stir constantly for about 5 minutes, you will see the sauce start to thicken. You want to cook out the flour taste so small simmer bubbles are good, boiling is not. After the sauce has cooked for 2 minutes after thickening add the cheese a handful at a time, don’t stop stirring. Tired yet? After all the cheese is melted taste your sauce. If it tastes floury just keep on stirring over med for 2 more minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper, then pour sauce over the pasta/meat mixture.
Stir, serve and revel in your awesomeness.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Pasta Rescue

So after the whole cat-food-spaghetti-sauce incident, I had this pound of cooked ziti sitting in my fridge, cold and lonely. I did not want to "cook" again, I "cook" once a week and make enough so that the leftovers last me about 5 days. All I had around was some garlic and frozen snow peas. This is what became of them:

Garlicky Snowpea Ziti
Time: 15 minutes (25 if making fresh pasta)
Tools: garlic press, big pan

1 lb cooked and cooled ziti (or any chunky pasta)
1 bag (probably 12-16 oz) frozen snowpeas, broccoli or whatever is hiding in your freezer
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if, like me, you enjoy pain)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Salt and Pepper

Heat oil in pan over med-low, add pressed garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 2 minutes. Turn heat up to med and add frozen veggies and sautee until crisp, usually around 5 minutes. Add pasta*, season with salt and pepper sparingly and stir until heated through, about 2 minutes, then mix in parmesan. The parmesan seasons like salt, and the red pepper seasons like pepper, so go easy on the real stuff!

Quick, and really fucking good too.

*If you boil the pasta fresh, just drain well and add to the pan, turn off the heat and mix with other ingredients.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

To Avoid Cat Food Red Sauce

Easy Tomato Sauce

28 oz crushed tomatoes in liquid store bought or homemade*
4 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp red pepper flakes
16 oz fresh mushrooms (portabella or button)
2 lbs zucchini
¼ cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Your favorite pasta
Optional: Chopped basil

*Homemade crushed tomatoes: cut a shallow X in the bottoms of 1.5 lbs tomatoes, boil for 2 minutes then put in ice bath until cool. The skin will peel off easily, then just crush the skinned tomatoes in a bowl with your hands, or a potato masher, or chop them up on a cutting board.

Strain the crushed tomatoes until most of the liquid is separated, you’ll get about 2 cups worth of solids, reserve liquid. Mince or press garlic and sauté with red pepper flakes in 3 tbsp of the olive oil for 2 minutes on med low heat until garlic is lightly browned and smells good. Add the solids from the strained crushed tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes, don’t add liquid at this stage. Add the basil if you’re using it.

Chop zucchini to bite size cubes (quarter length wise and then cut across about ¾”) with skin on. Slice mushrooms. Sautee zucchini in 3 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper over med heat for 3-5 minutes until nicely browned and crisp tender. Add zucchini and any liquid in the pan to sauce. In zucchini pan add 2 more tbsp olive oil and sauté the mushrooms again with salt and pepper, until moisture is released from the mushrooms and they are soft. Add the mushrooms and all their liquid to the sauce and stir. If the sauce is still too dry add a few tbsp of the reserved tomato liquid. Note, this is not meant to be a runny sauce, you want it to stick to the pasta when it’s mixed in.

Cook some fettuccini or angel hair, or even penne in salted boiling water. Drain thoroughly (don’t rinse) and add to the sauce in the pan. Pour 2-3 tbsp olive oil on the pasta and combine with the sauce. Add ¼ cup (or a little more if you like) grated parmesan cheese.

Notes: You can, of course, cook the zucchini and mushrooms at the same time in the same pan if you have one that is big enough. Also, go easy on the salt when seasoning each stage, the parmesan at the end will add quite a bit of seasoning. Instead of zucchini and mushrooms you could use eggplant, yellow squash, broccoli, bell peppers, Italian sausage, grilled chicken, pretty much anything you have laying around that you would want to eat in a tomato sauce. Take a trip to your local farmers market, produce is usually cheaper (and much better) than the chain grocery store offerings because it hasn’t traveled as far.

Who Put Fancy Feast In My Red Sauce??

Exhibit A: The offending bottle of crap not fit for human consumption.

I am in possession of a strong set of guts. I grew up with Greek, Spanish, German, and in my teen years Vietnamese cuisine. Octopus, eel, mussels, deer, rabbit, kimchi, pickled anything, quail eggs, bitter greens, fried duck fat, raw fish, raw onion, dangerous amounts of garlic…I eat it all and love it. But this shit is too much. I present to you, the discerning eater, Del Grosso Meat Flavored Spaghetti Sauce. Do not, under any circumstances ever, buy this product unless you’re using it as part of some cruel prank on an unsuspecting roommate.

I made the mistake of picking up a few bottles of Del Grosso sauce for $1 a piece, thinking I was getting a good deal. I liked the fact that all the ingredients looked simple and straight forward, and they contained less sugar than the big commercial brands like Prego. The other flavors, Marinara and Three Cheese, weren’t bad although it should be noted that they weren’t great either. I just don’t understand how you could screw up something so simple, but trust, the Del Grosso’s violated that sauce in more ways than an Atlantic City hooker sees on a Friday night.

To put it simply, the sauce tasted like cat food, the wet kind, after it’s been sitting out for a few days in the sun. To piss me off even more, I had poured it over 2 lbs of gorgeous sautéed zucchini, thus ruining it. I even made an attempt to eat the finished product, because throwing out perfectly good food is just wrong when there are starving kids out there. I wouldn’t even feed this crap to starving kids. I would have been better off throwing some parmesan and olive oil on those zucchini and eating that with the pasta, and using the “meat sauce” as squirrel deterrent in my garden.

To DelGrosso Foods Inc: You owe me 2 lbs of zucchini you jerks.