Sunday, March 31

HOW TO: Make Cavatelli with Broccoli and Garlic

Cavatelli with broccoli and garlic is an Italian American favorite. Served at restaurants, weddings, pasta stations, and most buffets. It is a great weeknight dinner and can easily be made at home.

Serves 4-6
Full time 30-40 minutes (based on if you cook in rounds* or at same time)

Making this dish comes down to one time timing and order. Especially if your working with limited space or pots, cooking the different elements in order(rounds*) will help create the best finished product. In order you will want to cook: broccoli, pasta, sauce. If your up to the challenge of multi tasking than you can actually cook all three at the same time. It just depends on your range space.

I am going to break each part down for you to follow, I will keep them separated but, feel free to work each element together. Just remember to start them in order broccoli, pasta, sauce.

You will need:

1 broccoli head (or 3 cups frozen broccoli florets)
1 lb. Cavatelli, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes(optional)
Salt to taste

For cooking:

Several cups of water
Several teaspoons of salt

Let us begin with the broccoli.

If your using fresh broccoli, which is preferred you are going to want to chop your head into florets.

To do this start with a cutting board, sharp knife, and washed head.

Carefully cut the stalk-or-stem of the broccoli off.

Now you can either break individual florets off with your hands or cut them apart where their bases touch.

In a pot get several cups, 3-4 is good, of water boiling. Add roughly 1/2-1 tsp of salt to the water.

Once boiling add broccoli in, cooking for 3-5 minutes until a vibrate green color appears. Do not over cook, it will still have a little crunch to it.

Drain from hot water and shock by either running under ice cold water for several minutes, or placing in a bowl filled with ice and cold water.

Set aside for now and let us move on to the pasta.

In a large pot boil 1-2 quarts of water, add roughly 1/2-1 tsp salt to the water.

Follow cook time on your Cavatelli package. Once done, drain and set aside, hopefully you are cooking this and sauce at same time.

If your not, to prevent Cavatelli from sticking together, toss 1 tbsp of olive oil in a boil along with the Cavatelli and make sure it is fully coated.

Let us begin on the sauce part.

In a large, deep sauté pan place butter and minced garlic.

Turn heat to medium, medium high. Cook 3-4 minutes or until butter if fully melted and garlic just begins to golden.

Add olive oil and broccoli florets into the pan.

Cook 3-4 minutes until broccoli has warmed up and appears to be turning a darker green.

Add in chicken stock. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

You have two options here, the fancy way, or ideal way to do this is to add drained Cavatelli into the pan and toss over heat. Allowing you to cook for 2-3 minutes together.

The easier option is to add drain pasta to a serving bowl, pour sauce over the top, and toss to fully coat.

Your choice, the first will impart more flavor, the second is by far easier.

Either way, the end product should be placed in a large serving bowl, and served immediately, enjoy!

Friday, March 29

Arroz a la Mexicana (Mexican inspired rice)

Arroz a la Mexicana is essentially Mexican fried rice. Or what we as Americans would call Mexican fried rice. This is a flavorful pan cooked rice dish, which uses a traditional Mexican rice cooking technique. Creating a longer cooking time with a more flavorful outcome. This is a great dish for family dinner, get-togethers, or fiestas!

Full time: 1 1/2 hours
Serves 4-6

You will need:

1 small carrot, sliced very thin
2 cup very hot, not boiling water
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup salsa*
3/4 cup long grain white rice
2 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
optional: 2 tbsp peas (I am not using these today)

*Traditional recipe would use a purée of 1 tomato, 1 small onion, and 1 garlic clove. I just find the salsa more flavorful and texturally interesting.

Let us begin:

In a shallow bowl or pan, lay rice out as flat as you can.

Pour hot water over rice, only high enough to cover over it.

Let this stand for 20 minutes.

Drain rice and rinse under cold water.

Allow to drain of excess water for 10 minutes.

In a cast iron or heavy, deep, flameproof pan heat oil until it appears to be smoking over high heat.

Make sure all water is out of rice or you can cause a fire up. Add rice to pan and quickly stir to fully coat rice in oil.

Fry rice until golden in color, stirring and moving around often. This will take 5-10 minutes based on your pan and heat.

Drain excess oil.

Add salsa to pan and continue to cook over high heat, scrap bottom of pan to prevent burning.

Once pan appears dry, add in broth, carrots, and optional peas if using.

Reduce heat to medium.

Add salt, stir, adjust seasoning if needed.

Allow to cook 8-10 minutes or all liquid has been absorbed, do not stir.

Remove from heat and cover tightly. Let stand 20 minutes, do not lift cover.

Check to ensure rice is cooked to liking, if needed recover and let stand 10 minutes more.

To serve, mix well from the bottom and move to a serving platter, enjoy!

Tuesday, March 26

Poulet à la Basquaise: French Basque Chicken

French cooking is something of a wonder. Rich dishes and complex techniques make French cooking a masterful art. But there is another side to French cooking, the hearty home cooked, flavorful, and easier side. Traditional family meals of stewed vegetables and meats, seasoned to perfection. This is one of those dishes, flavorful and easy, sure to be a favorite.

Serves 3-4
Full time 1 hour

You will need:

2 tomatoes, diced fine
1 bell pepper, thin sliced strips
1 onion, thin sliced
2-3 large chicken breast, boneless & skinless
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Let us begin:

Trim chicken breasts if needed and cut into several large pieces.

Season with salt and pepper.

You will be cooking in two pans at the same time for the beginning of this. You will need 1 large sauté pan and 1 medium size sauté pan.

In both pans, heat 1/2 of the olive oil over medium-high heat.

Once oil is heated in the large sauté pan add onions and pepper slices. Reduce heat to medium and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes.

In the second pan add chicken breast. Reduce heat to medium and brown off all sides, rotating often.

Once chicken is evenly browned remove from heat and set aside.

Add garlic into onion and pepper pan, allow to cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add in tomatoes, cover and reduce to simmer, cook for 10-15 minutes.

Add chicken, wine, cayenne, and herbs into the stewed vegetable pan.

Return cover and simmer 20-30 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked.

Remove from heat and serve immediately. Traditionally served along side rice, enjoy!

Sunday, March 24

Rotini with Argentinean Red Shrimp

I love cooking shrimp, it easily takes on flavors while retaining a savory aspect of its own. Recently out family decided to participate in meatless Monday, a nod to help the environment and self-sustaining living. This is a great and simple dish, filled with bold flavors and a hint of lemon. A fantastic meatless Monday dinner.

Full time 20 minutes
Serves 2

You will need:

1 lb. Argentinian red shrimp, cleaned
1 shallot, sliced fine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp dried chopped parsley
1/2 tbsp dried chopped basil
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt

1/3 lb. rotini or penne pasta, cooked

For garnish:
1 small lemon
fresh ground pepper

Let us begin:

In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil, garlic, and shallot over medium high heat.

Cook 2-3 minutes until garlic begins to golden and shallot turns translucent.

Add in chicken stock, lemon juice, white wine, salt, and pepper.

Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook 5-8 minutes or until liquid reduces by 1/2.

Remove cover. Add in butter, basil, and parsley. Return heat to medium-high and let butter melt in.

Once butter is melted, give a good stir.

Add in shrimp and cook 3-4 minutes until shrimp is opaque.

Remove from heat.

Divide pasta between two dishes and top with half of the shrimp and liquid.

Zest lemon and slice in half.

Top shrimp with half lemon and lemon zest, lightly grind pepper across the top.

Serve immediately and enjoy!