Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Roasted Tomato Pasta (sort of Amatriciana Sauce)

This is a perfect pasta for late Summer or for when some hothouse in B.C. is cranking out so many tomatoes that they're on super sale at the grocery store. Once they're roasted the tomatoes freeze well and are great to use on pizza, in dip, on a sandwich - so many things. This is basically an Amatriciana sauce - tomatoes, red chili flakes, and bacon or pancetta - though it would usually be served on spaghetti or bucatini (my new favorite). If you have the tomatoes on hand it only takes about 15 minutes to make. It's a great go to dinner - rich, spicy, simple, satisfying, and fresh.

Oops, too good to wait for the photo.
Roast Tomato Pasta
serves 4

5 pounds (about 15) ripe tomatoes
olive oil
salt & pepper
8 garlic cloves (papery skin still on)
4 slices of good bacon or equivalent of pancetta
2 generous pinches of red chili flakes
1/2 an onion, sliced
1 lb pasta
Parmesan cheese

  • Cut the tomatoes into eighths and spread them onto two sheet pans with the garlic cloves. I use a non-stick liner to make clean-up easier, but tin foil or parchment paper will work also. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and then toss to coat.
  • Roast in the oven at 325 degrees for about 2 hours - until they are dark, but not burned. I know that's a long time, but you can make these on the weekend, store them in the fridge for a couple of weeks or freezer for a couple of months, and you'll have the toms ready for whenever you want them.
  • Scrape the tomatoes and any good pan juices into a bowl. Peel the garlic, mush it with the back of a spoon, and mix it in with the tomatoes.
  • Put on your pasta water. I set a half cup measuring cup next to the pot to remind me to take out some of the pasta water before draining. This is the only way I ever remember to do it.
  • In a frying pan, cook the bacon until brown but not hard.
  • Add the onion and cook until it starts to brown, then add the chili flakes and cook for about 2 minutes more. Set aside.
  • Cook the pasta and before draining take out about half a cup of the salty, gluteny water. 
  • Add the pasta to the bacon and stir in the tomatoes. Stir in the pasta water a bit at a time. If you forget this step, don't worry about it, it just smooths the sauce a little and helps it coat the pasta better.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

This is the 3rd or 4th time I've tried to make my own Tomatillo Salsa, but it's my first success. I use this salsa in Stacked Chicken Enchiladas, Green Chile Pork Tacos, and just for eating with chips so it seemed worthy of its own post. Thanks to a great blog that I just discovered, Mexican Foodie, for giving me the initial recipe that I varied a little.
I updated this post when I made a huge batch to give away. Scroll down to the bottom for those instructions.

Tomatillo Salsa
makes 2 to 3 cups, depending on how juicy the tomatillos are

1 pound fresh tomatillos
1 jalapeno
1 serrano chile
1/2 a red onion
2 T oil (not olive)
2 garlic cloves
1 cup cilantro
1 to 2 limes
  • Heat a heavy-bottomed (preferably cast iron) pan to medium-high. Place the jalapeno and serrano chile in the dry pan and roast until they have are mostly black. You'll have to turn them a few times over 5 to 10 minutes.

  • Remove the chiles and place the tomatillos, husks removed, in the same pan. Blacken top and bottom and, if possible, a little of the sides. Set them aside with the chiles.

  • Roughly chop the onion and and it to the pan. It will cook quickly because the pan is so hot from the roasting. After about a minute add the oil, stir well, and remove from the heat.

  • Remove the seeds from the chiles and put them in a food processor with the garlic, cilantro, juice of 1 lime, tomatillos, and onions. Add salt to taste and blend well.

  • Adjust the seasonings, adding more lime, salt, and maybe even another chile. 
For a big batch, all the ingredients are the same, but I had to simplify the process or I would have been turning tomatillos in the pot all day.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 425.
  • Spread the tomatillos, onions, garlic, and serranos onto sheet pans that you've covered in foil (or else cleanup is a nightmare). Keep the different items as separate as you can because they roast at different speeds.
  • Roast in the oven until the edges of everything are blackened and at least a couple of the tomatillos have split. I pulled out the garlic first, then the onions, then serranos, and last the tomatillos.
  • Blend in batches according to the directions above. Combine all the batches together in a big bowl and check the seasonings.
  • Tomatillos, especially with lime added, are acidic enough to preserve just like you would do jam.

      Sunday, April 4, 2010

      Lentil Caviar with Cod and a simple salad

      I don't usually post a whole meal, but these three simple elements - lentil "caviar," cod cooked in butter, and and the simplest arugula salad - worked so well together that I have to suggest making the combination. I set out just to post the lentils which are great as a hot side dish or as the base for a lentil salad. We buy the tiniest green-black lentils we can find, but simple french lentils or small green lentils should work as well. To turn this into a salad just allow it to cool and then drizzle on a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat and you're finished (unless you feel like adding some minced carrots and tomatoes and maybe a little feta, but then it doesn't look as much like caviar).

      Lentil Caviar
      serves 2 to 4

      1/2 yellow onion, diced small
      2 garlic cloves, diced small
      1 carrot, peeled & diced small
      1 1/2 cups tiny black lentils
      3 cups stock
      1 bay leaf
      2 t thyme
      1 t mustard
      fresh ground black pepper to taste
      • In a small pot, saute the onion and garlic in a tablespoon of butter or oil for about 5 minutes.
      • Rinse the lentils and add them to the onions along with the rest of the ingredients.
      • Simmer uncovered on medium (don't let it boil too hard or the lentils will turn to mush) for about 30 minutes. If the lentils are cooked, but soupy just ladle off some of the water. If the liquid cooks away before the lentils are done, add a little water.
      Simple Cod in Butter
      serves 2
      • Cut 3/4 to 1 pound Cod (depending on how hungry you are) into 4 portions. 
      • Heat 2 T butter in large skillet. 
      • Salt and pepper both sides of the fish. 
      • Pan cook the fish on medium heat until the fish starts to flake apart, about 10 minutes (flipping half way through cooking).

      Thursday, April 1, 2010

      Green Chile Pork Tacos with Homemade Sour Cream

      My favorite thing to make in my slow cooker is a spicy, tomatoey pork taco filling. I used to say it was the only thing worth making in a slow cooker, but now I know about a few other things. Lately, I've been trying to make my own tomatillo salsa for Stacked Tomatillo Enchiladas (success finally!), but since I still can't quite get that right I keep ending up with tupperwares full of decent, but not fantastic tomatillo salsa. What to do, what to do... Last week I adjusted my old, favorite taco recipe to be green instead of red and we were shocked to discover that we like it better. Shocked! How could our most loved dinner be changed and improved? Our world is rocked over here.
      Oh, and, we served it with homemade sour cream. Maybe that's why these were some of the best tacos I've ever made...

      Green Chile Pork Tacos
      serves 4 to 6

      1 yellow onion, diced
      4 cloves garlic, diced
      3 pounds boneless pork (just about anything will work, but you might need to trim off fat depending on which cut you use)
      2 cups chicken stock (depending on your slow cooker)
      2 T cumin
      2 T oregano
      2 cups tomatillo salsa (store-bought or try this recipe)
      1 bunch cilantro
      1 to 2 T pickled jalapenos, minced (they're spicy)
      1 7 oz can green chiles, or equivalent fresh chiles roasted and diced
      2 limes
      corn tortillas
      sour cream

      • Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and brown it on all sides - you're not cooking it now, just creating flavor. Put the meat in the slow cooker and put the lid on.
      • In the same pan, saute the onion until the edges start to brown, scraping up any good bits the pork left behind. Then add the garlic and saute just until it starts to brown.
      • Sprinkle the onions and garlic with the cumin. Have your stock ready. Toast the cumin until it starts to stick, then, quick, dump in your stock.
      • Add the rest of the ingredients BUT reserve 1 lime and some cilantro for the end. Bring this all to a bubble (I never put anything cold in my slow cooker) scraping the bottom to get all the toasted goodness off.
      • Pour this over the meat in the cooker and give it a bit of a stir so that the meat is coated. Scrape down the inside of the cooker so that no sauce is splashed above the line of sauce/meat (this helps with clean-up and prevents burned edges).
      • Cook on High for 6 to 8 hours. I check mine after 6 hours to see if it's too soupy. If it is, I cook it the last 2 hours with the lid off. Slow cooker vary a lot so you might need to stop after 6 hours or add a little more stock and keep going. The meat should me falling apart.
      • Add the juice of the second lime, break up the meat a little, and stir it in with the sauce. Serve it however you like tacos or with rice and beans. 
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