Spaghetti alla Carbonara

We made spaghetti alla carbonara the other night for the first time and it was really delicious. It was also the first time we used an Anne Burrell recipe (she’s on Food Network). I was impressed and will try to make more of her dishes in the future.

This will easily be one of our standby dishes in the future. It was so quick and easy to make. The ingredients are fairly basic: eggs, spaghetti (we used whole wheat), pancetta (if you can’t find pancetta you can substitute bacon), parmesan and pecorino cheeses, salt, scallions, and pepper. The only tricky thing is trying to make sure the eggs don’t become scrambled eggs once you add them to the hot pasta and pancetta. The egg and cheese mixture should just be a white sauce once it cooks. Ours got slightly scrambled but it didn’t matter. It was so good. Maybe next time I’ll try to temper the eggs by adding a bit of the hot pasta water to the egg mixture first to get the mixture slightly warm before pouring it into the pan with the pasta.  Also, don’t dismiss the use of the scallions. They are not just a garnish, they seriously do give the dish that final burst of flavor. So, definitely use them.

I highly recommend this as a quick, delicious dinner option. Enjoy!

Banh Mi – Vietnamese Sandwich

To continue my exploration of what pork can be used for in it’s variety of forms, I decided to make the Vietnamese sandwich called the Banh Mi. This sandwich featured pork loin seared and then cooked off in the oven (you could also use pork shoulder/butt). When cooked it was moist in the center with a bit of a crispy fatty edge. Awesome! For the toppings I pickled some carrots in vinegar, salt and sugar. Chopped up some jalapenos from my garden out back,

jalepeno

some sliced cucumber, cilantro, mayo (with lemon mixed in), and some soy sauce drizzled on top. This was all served on a white sub roll. Now traditionally this is served on a french baguette but I thought I would try it on a fresh sub roll. If you need a bit more heat just add some sriracha. This sandwich combines a lot of flavors and goes perfect with a cabbage salad and a dry Asian beer (i had a Sapporo).

Now the recipe was a combo of different techniques I came across online. Here was the main source.

A couple of my variations were to

1. use pork loin (sear it then finish off in the oven)

2. add a bit of lemon to the mayo

3. Use a sub roll instead of french baguette.

4. A little sriracha to add bit of heat.

If you are looking for a sandwich that is a little bit different and has an explosion of flavors, check this one out.

Barbecue Pork Ribs – North Carolina Style

Pork has become one of my favorite meats as of late due to its versatility and great taste.  I think that we can all agree that bacon is one of the best ingredients ever.  But this week is about the ribs, slow cooked and seasoned North Carolina style.  North Carolina has its own way of doing barbecue and that way is all about the vinegar.

What I did first was brine the ribs.  Brining is soaking the meat in a salt water overnight to tenderize the meat and make sure they stay moist.  For the sauce its a mixture of apple cider vinegar, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, salt, pepper, and liquid smoke.  Now I used liquid smoke because I did the ribs in the oven.  If you have a smoker on your grill use that. Bring all the ingredients to a boil and that’s it.

Next is to cook it slow for 3 hours on 275 basting every half an hour.  After that you have perfect ribs, tender and moist with a great caramelized sauce on top. Here is the full recipe.

I also grilled up some fresh corn we got from the farmers market and Lina made a classic cole slaw.  This was a great southern style meal ya’ll.

Kafta Burgers

Check it out!  Kafta is a very traditional dish from Lebanon. Since I am from Lebanon, I grew up eating this but in other ways such as baked in pan with potatoes, onions, and tomatoes…I decided to put a modern twist on it and give a twist on basic burgers. Here’s the recipe.

Kafta Burgers
Servings: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooke time: 15 minutes
1/2 cup curly parsley (finely chopped)
1 pounds ground turkey (or beef or chicken)
½ cup onion (diced)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp allspice
1.5 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
¼ cup bread crumbs (only if using chicken/turkey; don’t need for beef)
1 medium tomato (sliced in rounds)
4 buns
Cucumber sauce:
1 clove garlic (minced or pressed using a garlic press)
1 cup yogurt (Greek yogurt preferably, but regular yogurt is fine)
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup shredded cucumber (after water has been pressed out)
salt and pepper (to taste)

Preparation
Heat outdoor grill on medium. (If you do not have a grill, you can just use a grill pan or skillet on the stovetop.)

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Mix ground meat, chopped parsley, diced onion, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and allspice in a bowl. Once mixed, form into 4 patties. Press thumb into middle to form a slight indention to keep burgers from puffing up.
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Grill for about 7 minutes on each side.

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Grating cucumber
Squeezing out the excess water from the grated cucumber with a paper towel
Squeezing out the excess water from the grated cucumber
Mixing cucumber sauce ingredients
Mixing cucumber sauce ingredients

While the burgers are grilling, mix together the cucumber sauce ingredients and set aside.
Lightly grill the buns to heat through. Once burgers are done, place on them on the bun, top with tomato and cucumber sauce.

Harissa Chicken with potatoes and squash

harisa

Last night I made harissa rubbed chicken legs baked in the oven with fingerling potatoes and yellow zucchini (from the farmer’s market). This was my first attempt at using harissa. Harissa is a north african spicy red paste that can either be used as marinades, a dip, or an addition to sauces, mayo, etc. I’ve been hearing more and more about it so I thought I’d try it out. I got the can from a local middle eastern market. Here’s what I did…very simple:

1. Rub the chicken legs on the outside and under the skin with the paste. Let marinate for an hour or so if time allows.

2. In the meantime, I parboiled the potatoes and cut up the squash.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

4. I then removed the chicken from fridge, threw the potatoes and squash into the baking dish.

5. Put salt, pepper, and olive oil on the chicken (both sides) and the veggies.

6. Cook in the oven for 50 minutes….and then you have a full meal ready for you.

It was a good dish…a change from the typical spices we use. Strangely, the heat of the harissa hits you with the first couple of bites and then it just all of a sudden mellows out and allows you to taste the real flavor of it.  I have a bunch of harissa left and am going to play with other ways to use it.

Potato Torte and Strawberry Granita

Potato Torte
Potato Torte

For the first time yesterday I made a pastry crust! Last night’s dinner was a potato torte with cream (infused with thyme), Gruyere cheese, bacon, and pastry crust. Might I add that the crust has 2 sticks of butter in it! I felt really guilty but once we took our first bite, that guilt washed away. It was amazing! So, we didn’t eat the WHOLE thing, but we ate about 3/4 of it. How sick is that? It was so easy to eat. It seems like it would taste so heavy that you could only have a little, but the crust was so light and flaky and there is honestly not that much cream and cheese in the entire thing. Did you notice the cute “U” for “Urmos” I put in there as the vent holes for it? That keeps too much steam from building up inside the torte which would cause the crust to be soggy.

Plus, does it make us look any better that we didn’t eat the out crust of our slices of torte? And does it make it even that much better to know we had a big salad with it? Well, whatever, it made ME feel better. So that’s all that matters right?

Strawberry Granita
Strawberry Granita

And for dessert (yes I said dessert). Yes, we were able to cram even more food down our throats after that. I had made a strawberry granita earlier that day and put it in the freezer. The granita has a little mascarpone in it and is infused with mint. This is something I’ve made many times. It’s so easy and so refreshing.I’d highly recommend it…especially in the hot weather months.

Note to all, at 9:26am this monday morning, I am FINALLY feeling the fullness I should have felt last night. Ugh. Hopefully that will pass. Some exercise will definitely be in order today…but seriously, in the end, I have no regrets. Every bite was worth it and tasted just as good as the bite before.

French Toast with Sauteed Figs

Mmmm…breakfast this morning. French toast with sauteed figs.

We went the slightly healthier route by using whole wheat bread. Very simple and basic recipe. Bread soaked in a mixture of eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. For the topping – we sliced the figs in half, sauteed them in a teaspoon of butter on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Topped the french toast with the figs and a little maple syrup. Delish.

Chicken and Potato Hash

Strangely, this is the second Guy Fieri recipe I’m trying this week…and I’ve only ever tried one other recipe of his before in the past.

This was ok. I’m usually more of a white meat girl, but used the chicken thighs this time for a change. This is one of those meals that’s great to make when you don’t know what to make and you just toss in a bunch of things you already have lying around your kitchen. A good “standby” dish. We just paired it with a spinach salad. Overall, a fairly healthy meal (minus the dark meat). Oh, and he called for Queso Fresco. Well, I’m not supposed to eat that kind of cheese while I’m pregnant (unfortunately because it’s so good!). So, I used Ricotta Salata instead. This is the first time I’ve tried this cheese. After years of watching Giada De Laurentis, I figured it was about time. I have to say, I wasn’t very impressed with it. Not sure if I’d use it again…

So, ingredients I used are chicken thighs, small red potatoes, red onion, green and red bell peppers, jalepeno pepper, beer, salt, pepper…I think that’s it?

Asian noodles and salmon…home cookin’

I’m going to try and start blogging about the yummy dishes we make at home. Yesterday I made an asian noodle salad (inspired by a Guy Fieri recipe) and baked salmon.


The salad consisted of soba noodles (made of buckwheat), napa cabbage, red bell peppers, carrots, celery, cilantro, soy sauce, olive oil, hoisin, sriracha, sesame oil, lemon juice, slivered almonds, sesame seeds, and rice wine vinegar. Really good. I thought salmon would go well with this kind of dish, as it usually fits well with asian inspired meals. All I did was put a little salt, pepper, and olive oil on the salmon and bake it in the oven at 375 for about 25 minutes. The entire dish came together really well…AND we have noodle salad left over to eat with our hot dogs (organic turkey) tonight.

I won’t blog about tonight’s dinner because honestly how much can you say about hot dogs? They’ll be on whole wheat buns and be topped with veggie chili and slaw I picked up from Cincy’s today.