Fettuccine Alfredo

Simple, tasty, elegant, filling, and very much not healthy — but sometimes that’s a worthwhile tradeoff for an easy pasta dinner.

I had a recipe for this in my cookbook for years, but for some reason it stopped working for me. There was no creaminess and it didn’t mix well. This one I found recently on the Food Network site and it was perfect. My only addition is the garnish of fresh parsley.

I served this with small meatballs on the side.

Serves 6

1 lb. fettuccine noodles
1/2 cup (1 stick/110g) butter
1 cup heavy (double) cream
2 cups finely grated Parmesan
Handful fresh parsley, chopped

Start cooking pasta. In a small saucepan, warm butter and cream with a good amount of salt and pepper.

Put half of the cheese in a large bowl.

When pasta is about to finish, add the butter/cream mixture to the cheese in the bowl and mix well. Drain pasta and immediately pour into bowl. Toss well, then add the rest of the Parmesan. Toss to combine.

Garnish individual servings with parsley.

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Stromboli

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A baked sandwich roll of pizza dough, marinara sauce, meat, and cheese, stromboli is an easy dinner idea that will make your kitchen smell delicious. Working with the pizza dough takes a bit of practice, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it. You can vary the meats and cheeses however you like. And if you’re feeding a crowd, just make two of these at the same time.

I learned the hard way that being a baker doesn’t necessarily mean you know pizza dough. The gluten makes it stubborn and stretching the dough requires patience. (You can’t be stubborn if the dough is, too.) The first night I tried to make this, I failed — I was so determined to get the dough into the shape I wanted that I pushed and pulled and ended up ripping the dough, which never got much bigger than the size I started with anyway.

The key, as I then learned, is to take the dough out of the fridge two hours before you need it and to take your time stretching it. Be gentle. Lay it down between stretches and return to it five minutes later. In a while, it will get to the size and shape you want.

Inspiration for this recipe came from Guy Fieri and Bon Appetit magazine. Amounts for the meat and cheese are approximate.

Serves 4

1 lb. refrigerated prepared pizza dough
Olive oil
3/4 cup marinara sauce, plus extra for dipping
2 cloves garlic, minced
Grated Parmesan
2 large spoonfuls basil pesto
3 oz. thinly sliced salami
3 oz. other thinly sliced deli meat, like ham or turkey
8 thin slices mozzarella
8 thin slices provolone

Remove pizza dough from refrigerator 2 hours before using.

The goal is to get the dough into a large rectangle, roughly 9 x 12 inches, or even slightly larger. With floured hands, start by flattening the ball of dough, then picking it up and holding it from the edges, moving your fingers around the circle, pausing for a few seconds each time to let gravity gently pull down the dough.

Set it down and wait 5 minutes before starting the stretching process again. You will need to do the stop-and-wait about 3 or 4 times before you achieve the right size. Be patient! At some point during the stretching process, turn the oven to 375F degrees.

As your dough stretches, keep in mind that you want it to become a rectangle. Stretch the dough as best you can into the rectangle shape.

When the dough is the right size, lay it on top of a large piece of parchment. (Work swiftly so the dough doesn’t decide to shrink again.) With one of the long edges closest to you, brush the dough with a little olive oil, then spread with marinara, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Top with minced garlic, Parmesan, and a ribbon of pesto going from one side to the other.

Cover the sauce with slices of meat (I had room for four rows lengthwise, 2 rows for salami and 2 for ham). Cover the meat with the cheese slices in the same way.

Starting with the end closest to you, roll it into a log, using the parchment paper to help you roll if needed. Gently pinch the sides together as you go. When you reach the end, gently press down on the seam and turn the log seam-side down on the parchment. Lift the parchment with the log on top onto a baking pan, then bake 25-30 minutes.

Let cool about 5 minutes, then use a serrated knife to cut into slices. Serve with some marinara sauce on the side for dipping.

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Thai Chicken Peanut Satay

This recipe came about because I found some Thai peanut satay sauce on sale at the store. I knew I wanted to serve it with chicken skewers, but I needed some ideas. Improvising with chicken is not something I’m good at.

There are many versions online. Lots of them were for grilled skewers, but I wanted to use the oven. Some used the peanut sauce for basting, but I wanted to use it for dipping. After a lot of searching, I found two chicken skewer recipes from the Food Network (their recipes always work for me!) that I combined to make a perfect easy dinner. One recipe gave me the idea to marinate and the other had the cooking instructions.

Here’s the result. I served this with sesame broccolini (trim stems on the diagonal, parboil, drain, drizzle with sesame oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds, serve hot.)

Serves 4

1 7-oz. jar Thai peanut satay sauce
2 1/2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Large handful of cilantro (fresh coriander)
12-14 long bamboo skewers

For the marinade:
1 Tbsp. hoisin sauce (I know it’s not Thai, but it worked)
1/2 cup lime juice
4 Tbsp. agave
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced

Whisk the marinade ingredients together and set aside.

Trim the chicken, then cut into strips. Length doesn’t matter too much, as long as they’re not more than 5 inches or so. You can always put two small strips together on a skewer. Don’t make them too wide — maybe between 1 and 1 1/2 inches.

Whisk the marinade again briefly, then pour into a large bowl. Add the chicken and let marinate 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.

Soak the bamboo skewers in water for 1 hour so they don’t burn in the oven. A good idea is to lay them in a rimmed baking pan (which you’ll use for the skewers later) and pour enough water on top to cover them.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C degrees. Remove the bamboo skewers from the pan, empty the water, and line the pan with a sheet of foil.

Thread the chicken strips onto the skewers, leaving space on one end for handling, as with a popsicle stick. Place them on the foil and bake for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through.

While they’re cooking, pinch off four cilantro sprigs, chop the rest, and set aside. Pour the satay sauce into small individual serving bowls and stick a cilantro sprig in each. Make the broccolini, if using.

To serve, stack all the skewers on a large plate and sprinkle the cilantro on top. Put the broccolini in a serving bowl. Place both on the table for everyone to help themselves.

Hard-boiled Eggs

There isn’t much to say about this recipe, but it’s a basic one that ought to be in your cookbook somewhere. I’ve been making more of these lately so we can dye them for Easter eggs.

1. Wash eggs to be hard-cooked in warm soap and water.

2. Place eggs in a single layer in an enamel, glass, or steel pan.

3. Add enough tap water to come at least 1 inch above the eggs.

4. Cover the pan and rapidly bring the water to a boil. Then turn off the heat. If you’re using an electric range, take the pan off the burner.

5. Leave the cover on the pan. Let large eggs sit for 15-17 minutes; medium eggs about 3 minutes less; extra-large about 3 minutes more.

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6. Heat retained in the water will continue to cook them, so remove eggs with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Cooling helps prevent the green rings that sometimes form around the yolks.

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Notes:
Don’t worry if the eggs crack a little during boiling, because they are still cooked and perfectly edible. If you dye them, part of the egg underneath the shell will be colored, but since most egg dyes are food-safe it won’t matter.

To eat them, tap the eggs gently on a hard surface to make cracks, then gently peel off the shell.

Slice or cut them into chunks, sprinkled with a little salt. Chop them for an egg salad sandwich or crumble them for a salad. Or make them into deviled eggs — see my recipe here.

Baked Sugar Snap Peas

20160825_184458The sweetness of sugar snap peas really comes out in this dish, which uses only five ingredients and takes just 10 minutes in the oven. I made this on a night when we had leftovers, and it baked while the rest of the meal reheated in the microwave.

Serves 4

8 oz. sugar snap peas
1 shallot, minced
Dried basil for sprinkling on top
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt to taste

Heat oven to 400F/200C degrees. Place sugar snap peas on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with minced shallot and basil and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Bake 8-10 minutes. Season with salt before serving.

(Adapted from a Publix recipe.)

Curried Chickpeas with Spinach and Tomatoes

At our house we try to have a Meatless Monday each week, where we forego typical protein in favor of vegetarian options (though sometimes with our busy schedules, it ends up being a Meatless Tuesday or Wednesday). Aside from the health benefits, a meatless night forces us to be creative in planning our dinners.

But that’s not always easy. The vegetable section of my three-ring recipe binder has mostly side dishes. And the stir-fries that I love to eat will quickly get boring for the rest of the family.

An Internet search a few weeks ago yielded this recipe from Bon Appetit, which was a great success, especially with the soft, warm naan bread I served with it. Even with the curry seasoning, the children loved it. It also kept well in the fridge for a few days.

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Serves 4.

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves
1 red jalapeno, coarsely chopped (I left this out to keep the dish mild)
1 Tbsp. chopped ginger
1 lb. fresh spinach leaves, any tough stems removed
Salt and pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. chili powder (I left this out too)
2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed
1 24-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
Naan bread or basmati rice for serving

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, jalapeno (if using), and ginger; cook until fragrant and softened, about 4 minutes.

Working in batches, add spinach by the handful, tossing to wilt between additions. Cook until fully wilted and bright green, stirring often, about 5 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, 5-6 minutes. Add curry powder and chili powder (if using) and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chickpeas, tomatoes with liquid, and 1/2 cup water. Season with salt and pepper.

Simmer about 10 minutes, breaking tomatoes apart with the side of a wooden spoon, until the mixture is thickened and tomatoes are soft. Fold in spinach puree. Serve with naan bread or rice.

Grilled Mozzarella, Prosciutto, and Basil Sandwich

This delicious grilled sandwich makes a filling lunch, but it can also be a nice dinner — just add a couple of sides, like oven fries (we like the sweet potato ones) and a salad. This recipe is for one sandwich. When making it for more people, I make an assembly line on the countertop for easy preparation.
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Makes 1 sandwich

2 slices firm white bread (from a ciabatta or good sourdough loaf from the bakery)
1 tsp. plus 1 Tbsp. butter, divided
4 thin slices mozzarella (from a fresh ball of mozzarella, not the kind in a bag)
2 thin slices prosciutto
3 large fresh basil leaves
2 thin slices fresh tomato, or about 3 slices from a plum tomato
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Melt 1 tsp. butter and brush it very lightly over the two slices of bread. On one slice, stack 2 slices of mozzarella, the prosciutto, basil leaves, and tomato slices. Season with pepper.

Top with the remaining 2 slices of mozzarella. Finish with the other slice of bread, buttered side down.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the remaining 1 Tbsp. butter with the oil and cook the sandwich until browned. Turn with a spatula and brown it on the other side. Press it down lightly with the spatula.

(The sandwich may also be prepared in a toaster oven, but it won’t come out as well.)