Spaghetti with Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce

One of my biggest pet peeves is having leftover ingredients from a recipe and not knowing what to do with them. I made roasted leek and garlic toasts with minced anchovy filets as part of Christmas dinner; they were delicious, but left me with a jar full of anchovies in the refrigerator. I came across this recipe in Bon Appetit and noticed that it called for a couple of my fishy friends. I was concerned that their taste would be too strong since a lot of people don’t like their very distinct flavor (they’re reminiscent of low tide), but the little guys really just round out the 8 cloves of garlic and robust tomato flavors in the dish.

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The roasted garlic and leek toasts from Christmas!

Even though it’s a hearty, comforting meal, its bright scent reminds me of summer and picking tomatoes in my aunt’s garden.

INGREDIENTS:

1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

8 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed

2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, minced

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes plus more for serving

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 oz. bucatini or spaghetti (I’ve also used papardelle… anything that can hold up to the jammy sauce is fine) 

Finely grated Parmesan or Romano (for serving)

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DIRECTIONS:

Put on an apron– this recipe will splatter!

No really, put on an apron.

Preheat oven to 425°. Combine tomatoes (crushing them with your hands), garlic, anchovies, butter, and ½ tsp. red pepper flakes in a 13×9” baking dish; season with salt and black pepper. Roast, tossing halfway through, until garlic is very soft and mixture is jammy, 35–40 minutes. Using a fork, mash to break up garlic and tomatoes.

 

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid.

 

Return pasta to pot and add tomato sauce and pasta cooking liquid. Cook over medium-high heat, tossing until sauce coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Serve topped with Parmesan and more red pepper flakes (and salt, if you have a salt problem like I do).
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The finished product. I wish you could smell this picture.

Nom nom nom, dig in!

Chrissy Teigen’s Cheesy Guac

I know it’s been a while since I posted– I was moving, and then Christmas happened (our dinner was French-themed so I made bacon fat mashed potatoes with cantal cheese and it was fist pumping good). I don’t know what my excuse for January is, but I’m gonna blame it on Donald Trump and the family of hamsters masquerading as his hair.

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I especially enjoy cooking when it’s holiday specific, so I figured I’d make something for Superbowl Sunday (go Beardogs!). I’ve been eyeing Chrissy Teigen’s cheesy guacamole recipe for a couple of weeks now, and this seemed like a good excuse to make it. I get that adding cheese to an otherwise healthy dip seems like overkill, but it takes it from being just an inexplicably delicious pile of green goop to being an inexplicably delicious pile of green goop with cheese mixed in. Plus, who’s really trying to be healthy on Superbowl Sunday?

 

INGREDIENTS:

3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded, and peeled

Juice of 1/2 a lime

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 medium onion, diced

1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced (jarred is fine)

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Tortilla chips (NOT “hint of lime”, unless you are a “hint of lime” eating monster)

*If you’d like to add tomatoes, Chrissy says to add 2 romas, seeded and diced. I have acid reflux so raw tomatoes are my worst nightmare. But if you can eat them, they add beautiful color and sweetness to an otherwise salty and tangy dish.

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DIRECTIONS:

Put the avocados in a medium bowl. Cover with the lime juice. Mash with a potato masher. Mash. Mash. Mash away, until there are only a few delightful little chunks left.

Mash in the spices and salt.

Gently fold in the remaining ingredients. Cover the guac in saran wrap for an hour to let those flavors dance together.

Wash your hands really well so you don’t touch your eye later and get jalapeño juice in it.

Dip your chip and enjoy.

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Baked Occasions Strawberry Cake

I’m always trepidatious when it comes to trying desserts with fruit in them. Fruit-bearing desserts almost always have way too much fruit, and way too little butter and cake and brownies and chocolate. For example, “berries and whipped cream” are almost always a bunch of blackberries and strawberries with a tiny dollop of whipped cream; I’m not in dessert for the fruit, I’m in it for the dessert.

In spite of my clearly defined feelings toward fruit masquerading as dessert, this Strawberry Supreme Cake, as it’s called in the cookbook Baked Occasions, caught my eye. I kept flipping back to the photo of the elegantly whimsical cake, on which three strawberries were neatly perched. The cake to berry ratio seemed to be in my favor. I skimmed the recipe and though it calls for multiple cups of fresh or frozen strawberries, it also calls for butter, heavy cream, and sugar, so my fruit fears were abated. (I want to reiterate, it’s not that I don’t like fruit, it’s just that it has it’s place, and that’s usually not on my dessert plate, or in salads… generally speaking, I find fruit in salads to be a bit wonky).

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This cake is probably the best homemade strawberry cake you’ll ever make. It’s fluffy and moist, thanks to the shortening and meringue in the batter. The frosting, which contains three sticks of butter, is fluffy and enchanting in texture. The strawberry preserves, which lie under the whipped cream filling, round out the cake perfectly. To be honest, I doubted whether I could finish my slice since it’s so, so sweet, but somehow I managed.

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Due to copyright laws I can’t reprint the wonderful recipe here, but hopefully the pictures will inspire you to buy the book, or try a strawberry cake recipe of your own!

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 Enjoy!

Chicken Pot Pie

It’s hard to find shockingly good recipes, but this is one of them. I have never been a huge fan of chicken pot pie, probably because up until now I’ve only eaten the frozen ones. It might seem strange to try a recipe for something that I don’t like, but I had a feeling this one would change my mind, and I was right! This recipe, though not complicated, is a bit time consuming, so I’ve been waiting for a day where I had a few spare hours to make it. Finally, a nippy fall day rolled along on which I didn’t have work, so I thawed those peas and grilled that chicken and geared up to make chicken pot pie.

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The wonderful blogger behind this recipe, Joy the Baker, warns against using pre-made pie crusts with this recipe. Normally I would have heeded her advice, but I was in no mood to patch together pate brisee, so I went for it: I used Pillsbury. Consequently, I had to cook my pie for about 10 minutes past the instructed baking time, and it didn’t appear to be as crispy as Joy’s. But, truth be told I’m kind of into semi-moist pie crusts (if you use Pillsbury and notice that your crust appears to be a bit translucent, it’s probably not undercooked, it’s just absorbed some of the creamy filling!). Additionally, I switched out her preferred fresh string beans for canned corn, which I had on hand. The corn also added a nice pop of color to the pie.

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One of the most convenient things about this recipe is that it calls for grilled chicken breasts, not leftovers from a rotisserie chicken, which many chicken pot pies use. However, because you’re using grilled chicken, make sure you season it well with salt and pepper so that it has as much flavor as a rotisserie chicken would.

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Original Recipe: http://joythebaker.com/2014/04/double-crust-chicken-pot-pie/

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INGREDIENTS:

2 pre-made Pillsbury pie crusts, thawed

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups chicken stock

3/4  cup whole milk>> I often use skim when recipes call for whole milk, but in this case, USE WHOLE MILK! It adds to the creamy luxuriousness of the sauce.

2 oz cream cheese

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups cubed chicken meat (2-3 chicken breasts, seasoned and grilled)

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted or salted is fine

1 small onion, diced

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 cup canned corn, drained

3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed

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DIRECTIONS:

In a medium-large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Whisk in the flour.  The mixture, which is a roux, will look almost too thick- but don’t worry, that’s what it’s supposed to look like.  Heat for 1 minute.  Reduce heat to low and slowly add the chicken stock.  Whisk until no flour globs remain.  Whisk in the milk and add the cream cheese.  Heat over medium low heat, stirring often, until cream cheese has melted and the mixture is thick but not stiff.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove mixture from heat and carefully pour or spoon into a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In the same skillet over medium heat, melt butter.  Add onions and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add minced garlic and saute for one minute more.  Add carrots, corn, and peas.  Cook for  about 5 minutes. Remove from heat even if the veggies still look crisp, and stir in cooked, cubed chicken.  Pour the mixture into the sauce, and stir to combine. Set aside and let cool for a hot sec.

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Unroll one pie crust and place in a 9 inch pie dish. Make sure there are no cracks, or the filling may seep through. If the crusts are fully thawed, they generally won’t crack.

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Spoon or carefully pour the filling into the bottom pie crust.

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Drape the second pie crust over the filling in the pie dish. With your fingers press the top and bottom crusts together and fold under. Crimp the edges of the dough. Cut five small slits in the top of the crust so the steam can vent.  Brush lightly with beaten egg and place in the fridge to chill while the oven preheats.

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Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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Place pie in the oven bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce the oven heat to 375 and bake for 20-25 (increased time based on Pillsbury crusts) more minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 1 hour before serving.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Pizza

Ya gotta love pizza. Or maybe you don’t, who knows, but I love pizza and I’m going to tell you ALL ABOUT IT. There’s a bit of a debate regarding who actually invented pizza, but whoever it was: thank you. Pizza is fantastic in that it carries with it a lot of fond memories. Childhood ice skating parties (eating pizza signified the end of said torturous ice skating parties), “girls nights'” where my friends and I ordered Domino’s and always finished the pie, a dinner date with one of my dearest friends Thomas at John’s in the city where we similarly finished two large pizzas… the list goes on.

Normally, I order pizza if I’m just too tired to do anything else. But once in a while, it’s nice to make it myself. Kneading the dough is mildly therapeutic and I like putting on multiple toppings without being charged extra. Extra cheese? Hello. Mushrooms? Hey there. Olives? Heyheyhey.

This crust recipe is exceptionally simple, and comes out nice and crispy. A big thank you to The Silver Spoon for introducing it to me. I improvised the topping, so feel free to follow my instructions or make your own!

Buy The Silver Spoon here: http://www.phaidon.com/the-silver-spoon/the-silver-spoon-series/the-silver-spoon-9780714862569/

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INGREDIENTS:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)

1/2 cup lukewarm water

Olive oil, for brushing

1 can Hunt’s diced tomatoes, strained

1 package cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Parmesan cheese, grated

Olives, quartered

1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 tbsp olive oil

Garlic powder, if desired

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Sift the flour, salt, and yeast into a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour the lukewarm water into the well, and mix with dry ingredients using a wooden spoon.If the dough is too sticky, add a pinch of flour as needed.

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Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for ten minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic.

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Shape the dough into a ball, and place in a large bowl that has been brushed with olive oil. Brush seran wrap with olive oil and wrap tightly on top. Put bowl in a warm area for at least an hour, and let the dough rise until it is doubled in size. If you’re making the dough in advance, remove from the bowl after the hour and punch down. Return to the bowl, and place in the refrigerator until needed.

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Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface, and roll out until it is about 16 inches long and 1/4 inch thick. I still haven’t perfected the art of making pizzas round, so don’t worry if yours is a funny shape. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Move the dough to the baking sheet. Reshape to fit the sheet if needed.

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Sautee garlic until translucent, then add mushrooms. Cook until they are smaller and a deep brown.

Spread tomatoes across dough. Sprinkle the red pepper flakes and garlic powder (if desired) on the tomatoes. Top with mozzarella and parmesan. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and garlic from the pan and place on pizza. Add the olives, and then the parsley.

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Place the pizza in the preheated oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Graham Cracker Cookies

If you live anywhere near me (any New Yorkers out there?), you know that the sweltering humidity we’re currently experiencing is far from autumnal. With that said, I usually consider everything post Labor Day and pre Christmas to be part of my favorite season: fall. Fall is the rebirth of the year for children… sort of like New Year’s for adults. It’s when they get to start the new school year with a clean slate, new hopes and dreams, and most importantly, great snacks in their lunchboxes.

One of the snacks that my mom always kept stocked in the house growing up was graham crackers. When I was younger I didn’t really get the appeal unless they were transformed into s’mores. But now I enjoy them with peanut butter and fresh strawberries as a dessert when I’m being healthy. When I’m not being healthy, I still use them for s’mores making purposes.

This recipe, which comes from the pretty and pink Miette cookbook, takes graham crackers to the next level by making them into cookies. They’re delicious with milk, as most cookies are, but I especially like putting them out when I have people for tea.

Buy the Miette Cookbook here: https://www.miette.com/mailorder/books/miette-book.html

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

Heaping tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 firmly packed brown sugar (I used dark, but either works fine)

2 tbsp honey

DIRECTIONS:

Sift together flour, whole wheat flour, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

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In the bowl of a stand mixer (such as a Kitchen Aid) fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, brown sugar, and honey on low speed for about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl throughout.

Add the sifted ingredients to the butter mixture a third at a time, beating just until combined after each addition. Form the dough into a disc shape and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling. Similarly to a pate brisee, this dough has a lot of butter so it must be chilled in order to roll properly.

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unwrap the dough and place between 2 sheets of wax paper. It’s important to use wax paper and not flour because flour would ruin the caramel complexion of the dough. Roll out until it is about 1/4 inch thick. I made mine a little bit too thick so they didn’t turn out as crispy as they otherwise would have. If you like chewy cookies, feel free to make them thicker, but if you want more of a traditional graham cracker texture, I recommend sticking to the 1/4 inch suggestion.

Using a 3 1/4 inch round cookie cutter with a scalloped edge, cut out the cookies. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet, placing the cookies about 1/2 inch apart. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and LET COOL COMPLETELY! I put that part in caps because I tend to be impatient and always move my cookies too early. But be warned: these cookies will break very easily.

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Re-roll remaining dough scraps and cut out more cookies. Bake as directed and let cool. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Simply Delicious Crostini

Sometimes I find myself surrounded by remnants of meals past; some mozzarella and basil from that lasagne I made, some tomatoes from that sauce I cooked, some bread from me eating that loaf of bread… you get the picture. I hate throwing out food since it’s wasteful and not cost effective, but it can be hard to concoct a meal out of leftovers. How are you supposed to find a recipe that uses everything you have laying around your kitchen? Often, you can’t, but if you only have to run out and  buy one new thing in order to make a recipe that involves most of your leftovers, why not?

I came up with this crostini recipe when I saw that an old loaf of Italian bread was about to be thrown out. I looked around and saw that we had some tomatoes, which we normally keep in the house to put in salads, and some basil leaves from our basil plant out back. I had never made crostinis before, but one of my classmates had made them recently, so I had a rough idea of what making them entailed. Luckily, I discovered that cooking crostinis is very simple. As long as you don’t burn the bread (which I’m sure you won’t), there’s not much that can go wrong. Since this recipe was intended as a way to use leftovers, I left the ingredient amounts loose so that you can adjust it to fit your pantry.

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INGREDIENTS:

 One loaf of few-day-old Italian bread

Olive oil

Kalamata olives

A couple of small-medium sized tomatoes (not cherry tomatoes)

Mozzarella cheese (fresh is always preferable, but feel free to use prepackaged like I did here)

Feta cheese

3-4 torn basil leaves

Garlic salt (if you don’t have garlic salt, you can use a pinch of garlic powder and coarse salt)

Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices. Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil so that the middle appears yellow and slightly moist- no need to drench them! Sprinkle each side with garlic salt and pepper.

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Lay the crostini on a baking sheet (or two, depending on how many you’re making). Put crostini in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they no longer appear moist and the crust is a deeper brown than when you put them in. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet(s).

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Chop the kalamata olives and mix with feta cheese. Take half of the bread off of the baking sheet(s) and top with kalamata-feta mixture. Set aside.

Cut tomatoes so that each piece is no larger than the size of a nickel. Do the same with the mozzarella. There should be about the same amount of mozzarella and tomatoes. Tear the basil leaves and mix with the tomato-mozzarella mixture. Put on top of the remaining crostini.

Combine both types of crostini on a serving plate, and sprinkle with a few pinches of pepper.

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Enjoy!

Leslie