30 January 2015

Have a party, walk away with a sandwich

You think that I am writing this blog post to pander to the Super Bowl fans out there, with their need for myriad snacks on Sunday.  Maybe I am, maybe I'm just doing this for myself because I like snacking AND eating on the road.

So the thing is, I have long eschewed sandwiches as the food you eat when you can't do any better.  Bread, often dried out and boring, with some slippery stuff inside that makes said bread soggy.  It's not exciting. And it's not worth writing recipes about, is it?

But I eat while traveling a lot, and while I would love to have the time to eat a nice cold noodle dish out of a container with a fork like a civilized adult, or even to heat my homemade burrito in a nearby microwave oven, I don't always have that luxury.  Sandwiches are really practical.  And I figured out how to make them suck less: use spreadable dips as your flavoring!  Smear some hummus or guacamole on a piece of bread, pile on some vegetables, and cover with another piece of bread--that is actually pretty good. So, in honor of my a) love of cocktail hour + snacks and b) the fact that I will mostly be eating on the road all of next week (look for tips on all the hot spots to try in Omaha in a future blogpost!!), I offer you a little pairing guide, along with links to some of my favorite dips...

Guacamole + sliced red onion + slice red bell pepper
Hummus + pickles + fresh spinach
Ricotta and Herb Spread + chopped sundried tomatoes + smashed peas
Tuscan White Bean Dip + kalamata olives + sliced green bell pepper
Walnut-Feta Spread + arugula

If you're at home and can enjoy these leftovers warm, you can also easily toss the ingredients listed above with some freshly cooked pasta and gloat about not having to eat in your car.

27 January 2015

Brown Butter Linguine with Sage and Parmesan

Does this recipe need explanation?  It's low on vegetable content, but high on gooey, cheesy beautifulness.  And if you haven't made anything with browned butter yet, this is a great way to appreciate just how cheesy and nutty it gets, because that's basically what the sauce is.  You can add shrimp or throw in some spinach to the end of the cooking time to make this slightly more well-rounded, if you must...

Brown Butter Linguine with Sage and Parmesan

Serves 4

1 pound linguine
6 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Bring a well-salted pot of water to boil.  Cook linguine according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the butter or medium heat, and continue to cook until it begins to turn golden and smell nutty/cheesy (this should take up to 20 minutes).  Add the shallot, sage, and capers and fry until shallot begins to brown and the sage and capers get a little bit crisp, about 6 minutes.

Add the cooked pasta plus about 1/8 cup of the cooking water to the skillet along with the salt, lemon zest, red pepper, and cheese.  Toss, low heat, and cover.  Serve  piping hot when the cheese is melted (about 5 minutes).

23 January 2015

Making Jack Daniels palatable is a worthy challenge.

I was recently gifted a bottle of Jack Daniels.  I do not particularly enjoy Jack Daniels.  Even as I have warmed (no pun intended!) to the idea of whiskey, scotch, and bourbon, I still can't drink this crap.  What is with this stuff?  Why is it so much more terrible than other whiskeys?  Perhaps it's generational.  Any 80-year-olds out there who can illuminate me?

So, here's what I have found to do with it; if you are ever similarly gifted with any kind of rough brown liquor that you cannot choke down by itself, I hope this modest list of ideas will help you.  Because, as an environmentalist, I cannot let any drop of liquor go to waste in my house.  I'm sure you agree.

Hot Toddy: This is actually easy and brilliant.  Boil 6-8 ounces of water.  Put 2 shots of Jack in a mug along with a generous tablespoon each of lemon juice and honey, add a cinnamon stick, and pour in the hot water. Give it a stir and you've got a tasty hot lemonade with a little kick.

Infuse it: dump in one Earl Grey tea bag per cup of Jack and allow to sit on the counter 2-3 days.  Mix with orange juice or soda water.

Jack and Ginger: doesn't ginger ale fix everything?  I like to go with a 1:3 ratio (Jack:ginger, that is). Garnish with a lime wedge, because that's classy.

And next time, tell your house guest you would prefer some delicious, smooth Wyoming Whiskey, anything from the lovely folks at Backwards Distillery, or wonderful Stranahan's Whiskey from Colorado.

Meet Jack, the ginger.

20 January 2015

"Little ears" and garbanzos

I love orecchiette, or "little ears" pasta with beans.  Each noodle cradles the garbanzos in this recipe so nicely, and most brands of this pasta shape are a little more rustic and toothsome.  You can whip this meal together in 30 minutes and feel both happy and full for a long time afterwards, especially if you serve it with red wine.

Quick Garbanzos and Orecchiette 

Serves 4

1 15-oz. can chick peas, rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups chopped kale
¼ cup sliced sun dried tomatoes
½ yellow onion, sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups orecchiette or other small pasta shape
Grated Parmesan for serving

Bring a pot of well-salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile,  in a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook until very soft, stirring occasionally (about 15 minutes).  Add the kale about a teaspoon of salt and sauté until wilted (about 5 minutes).  Add the balsamic vinegar, chick peas, garlic, crushed red pepper, sun dried tomatoes, and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt.  Stir well to combine and cover.  Cook until heated through about 10 minutes. When the pasta is done, drain and stir into the chick pea mixture.  Serve on individual plates with grated Parmesan.