We decided to celebrate “World Vegetarian Day” yesterday with a hearty vegetarian entree. This macaroni is cheesy and crusty and saucy and flavorful and not terribly difficult or time-consuming. I grated the cheese and tore up the bread a little earlier in the day, to get it to come together even more quickly. I also microwaved the milk in a large, glass batter bowl (about 3 minutes,) which was a little quicker and more “hands off” than waiting for it to warm up in a saucepan. Recipe here. I added a couple of pinches of dried herbs (parsley, oregano and basil) to both the breadcrumbs and the cheese sauce and also a bit of dry mustard powder to the sauce.
This was really yummy, but we are a household (mostly) of veggie-loving folks. If you already love kale and butternut squash, you’ll love this pasta (the nutty Gruyère and luscious crème fraîche are a fantastic and classic combination). If you don’t, this recipe isn’t going to be the one to convert you (try this or this, instead). This recipe isn’t the simplest or the quickest (there is decent amount of peeling and chopping of kale, squash and onions and many of the components must be cooked individually first, before assembling the casserole,) but it was quite good. The red pepper flakes add a nice kick, too.
Flexitarian Note: I simultaneously prepared a veggie version of this for The Girl. I made a 1/4 batch (one pound of pasta, in total, for both versions) for her, cooking the onions in butter instead of the bacon grease. I cooked all of the pasta, kale, squash and sauce (substituting veggie broth, instead of chicken) together, then separated out 4/5ths of the mixture and just added the bacon and bacon-fat onions to that to create the carnivorous batch. I baked it in a smaller dish, but for the same amount of time.
If I haven’t scared you off, the recipe can be found here.
These scallops (recipe here) were really easy and tasty. I don’t know why, though, the recipe says to use a separate saucepan to make the sauce. I would take advantage of all of the crusty caramelizing in the shallot pan and just make the sauce in there. I suppose since this sauce is kind of an ersatz beurre blanc, they were trying to keep it lightly-colored and delicate, but I would always fall on the side of incorporating more flavor (and washing less pots and pans!) The side dishes I made with this were easy (Farfalle with pesto and toasted pine nuts and sautéed zucchini), but they did make the plate look very white and green. I wish I had added some roasted red pepper strips or cherry tomato halves to the pasta or some yellow squash to the zucchini (or both) just for a little color variety.
This was SO fast and easy (recipe here.) Very tasty, too. Even Hubby, who has historically not been a big shellfish fan, loved it. Filling and healthy and VERY fast to make.
This was SO delicious. The chewy sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes was the perfect complement to the earthy grassiness of the asparagus. Recipe here.
Quite possibly the least attractive dish that I’ve ever made…
But…wholesome, healthy and hearty, tasty and quick and easy to make.
It looks HORRID. It is something that I would NEVER serve to company, but it was good.
If, after that resounding endorsement, you’re still interested in making it, the recipe is here.
Baked Orzo with Fontina and Peas
This is a great Giada recipe (recipe here). That girls never steers me wrong. Every one of her recipes that I’ve tried has turned out well.
If you use veggie stock, instead of chicken stock, this recipe would be vegetarian, but my vegetarian daughter was out for the evening, so I went the other way and added a cup of chopped ham. Really nice and made it more of an entree than a side dish. The Marsala flavor in this is really yummy and the crusty bread crumbs on top add something special to the warm, cheesy goodness of the inside.
This recipe (served with a simple, small salad and some chicken that was sprinkled with seasoning and grilled) was tasty, but I’ve made a version of this dish before and VASTLY preferred the other recipe. The other recipe used sweet potato instead of the butternut and also contained some ricotta. The dough for that version was MUCH easier to work with and the finished gnocchi cooked MUCH faster. The flavors are good here, but they’re pretty much identical to the other one, which was much easier to execute. I’ll be sticking with this version in the future.
This recipe has been in my family for so long, I don’t remember which cookbook it came from, originally. It was one of those civic/charity league cookbooks, I think…Junior League of Tyler, perhaps? My mom gave it to me MANY moons ago and we’ve served it for quite a few “Help! I need to feed a crowd!” occasions since, including Hubby’s graduation from the police academy and Girl’s christening, although I haven’t made it in a VERY long time. I’ve adapted it significantly enough from the original version that I feel that I can now call it my own. This is a real winner of a recipe, since it can be prepared ahead of time and only takes 20 minutes in the oven before serving. It is very rich and creamy…not a “healthy” recipe, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s pretty universally appealing (all but the most finicky kids seem to like it and the mushrooms are big enough to pick out, if anyone objects to them) and hearty enough to not need a lot of side dishes. We’re having a small crowd over for dinner tomorrow night, so I think it’s time to dust this one off again…
Chicken Spaghetti for 25
12 skinless, bone-in chicken breasts
1 white onion, sliced
4 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 bay leaves
2 whole peppercorns
one bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces (or about 8 baby carrots, cut in half)
4 1/2 cups white wine, divided (you’ll need a little more than one bottle and can save the remainder of the second bottle to drink with the completed spaghetti – remember: don’t ever cook with a bottle that you wouldn’t drink)
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup flour
2 cups half and half
4 1/2 cups sour cream
3 4-ounce jars of chopped pimientos
3 8-ounce jars mushroom pieces (or 2 1-pound boxes of fresh, sliced mushrooms, sauteed until golden browned and softened)
juice of 3 lemons
2 T Worcestershire sauce
dash cayenne pepper
salt and white pepper to taste
3 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 pounds spaghetti noodles
1 package Pepperidge Farms pastry shells, baked according to package directions
Place chicken, onion, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley stems (not the leaves), thyme and carrots in a large, covered stockpot. Add 3 cups of wine and enough water to cover and simmer until chicken is thoroughly cooked, but still tender. Strain and reserve chicken stock. Remove chicken meat from bones and dice it.
Melt butter in a large saucepan and add flour; cook for 1 minute. Add half-and-half, sour cream and 3 cups of the reserved chicken stock; blend well. Add pimientos, mushrooms, lemon juice, Worcestershire, cayenne, salt, pepper, 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the chicken.
Unbaked casseroles, ready to go in the oven (or freezer.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook spaghetti in the remaining reserved chicken stock and remaining 1 and 1/2 cups wine according to the package directions (maybe undercook it just a TINY bit, because it will absorb more liquid as it bakes later), adding more water, if necessary, and drain. Divide the spaghetti evenly among three 8-inch X 12-inch or 9-inch X 13-inch Pyrex-type (oven-safe) baking dishes. Cover each with equal amounts of the chicken sauce. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese. Crumble pastry shells on top of each dish. If desired, casserole can be frozen, at this point. (cover tightly with plastic wrap and then foil. Thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours before cooking.)
Bake casseroles, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven and top with finely chopped parsley leaves for garnish (I forgot to do this last night.)
Peanut Butter Noodles recipe here.
The scallops recipe is from the subscription-only section of Fine Cooking’s website, but basically, you just cook the scallops in a VERY HOT lightly oiled pan (after sprinkling them with a tiny bit of cayenne and salt) until they’re browned on both sides and opaque throughout and then you lightly brush them with hoisin sauce. Easy peasy. The accompanying spinach recipe is slightly more difficult to sum, but I didn’t use it, anyway. I just sauteed my spinach the same old way, with a little Baby Bam.
I’ve added the “vegetarian” tag to this post, because the peanut butter noodles would be (and were, for The Girl) an acceptable vegetarian entree, on their own. They were delicious and were a huge hit with all four of us. You could add any veggies that suit your taste (mushrooms, water chestnuts, baby corn, broccoli, etc.) and you could add a bit or sriracha to spice it up, if you like that sort of thing. We added cucumber, grated carrot, red bell pepper, cilantro and finely chopped peanuts.