Oven Roasted Red Potatoes with Peppers, Cilantro and Thyme

Quick to make, Oven Roasted Potatoes are simple to make.  The usual recipe – garlic & Rosemary is nice, but gets a bit old.  This is one I’ve been using for quite a long time, and is full of interesting flavors, as well as texture and color.  Not only tastes great, but plates nicely.

Cilntro (aka Coriander)

Cilantro (aka Coriander)

Oven Roasted Red Potatoes with Peppers, Cilantro and Thyme

1 1/2 pounds small new red potatoes (about 15), washed well
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or olive oil, if you have it)
4 to 6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup diced red bell peppers
1/4 cup diced green bell peppers
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Wash well, and then dice the potatoes into bite sized pieces – about 1 inch.  I hardly ever peel the potatoes.  I like to leave it intact, as it gives good flavor, and texture.

In a large bowl mix the oil, garlic, and cilantro and thyme.  Add the potatoes and peppers and toss well.

Transfer the potatoes to a shallow baking pan, and arrange into a single layer.  Roast until potatoes are tender when tested with the tip of a knife, which should be between 25-30 minutes.

Serve hot, or cold, as these are great leftover.

Note:

I have sometimes made a ‘potato’ salad with the leftovers, adding in mayo, and eggs, with a bit of spicy mustard.

Fettuccine Alfredo, History and Recipe

Todays post is by a guest poster — Enjoy!

This is an exerpt from Esquire Magazine. I made this myself for Christmas, wow. Add some garlic and lemon pepper to this to make it zesty. Cook some chicken on the side with more garlic and you’ve got yourself a wonderful meal. Some might view the additions as sacriligious, but it’s still good, and, to me, it’s the taste that matters. You have to walk a fine balance between being creative and being authentic, a question I plan to discuss in a future post, but it is a line you can indeed walk, if you know what you’re doing. Anyway, serve this along with a salad and crusty Italian bread. I personally dislike wine, but follow the instructions at the end, I’m sure they work. I drink a fine espreso after this, myself.

Fettuccine all’Alfredo is one of those dishes everyone I’ve ever met swoons
over. They imagine it to be the richest, most extravagant amalgam of
ingredients ever to send a palate reeling, but it’s also comforting, sensual,
and entirely satisfying, strand after creamy strand. Indeed, the dish was
created to restore the appetite of a woman, and I cannot imagine any woman not
being impressed by a man who knows how to tum out this classic pasta with
finesse.

This is a cute story: Back in the 1920s Alfredo Di Lelio ran a little
restaurant on Rome’s Via della Scrofa, not far from the Piazzo Navona. His
wife had just given birth to their first son, an experience that left her
exhausted, without an appetite, and therefore without milk for the baby, which
meant Alfredo had to stay up half night rocking a squalling infant. “It was
really a hell of a life,” he wrote. “So one day I decided to take the bull by
the horns and solve the problem once and for all.” He whipped up a dish of egg
noodles, extra-rich butter, and the best parmigiano cheese he could find.

Naturally, his wife gobbled up the noodles with gusto, and soon Alfredo began
serving the dish in his restaurant.

The dish became legendary when Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford visited
Rome in 1927 and ate at Alfredo’s place, proclaiming him the “king of
fettuccine” and presenting him with a golden fork and spoon as a memento. From
that moment the dish became part of a tradition among celebrities, who had to
eat at Alfredo’s when in Rome-and to get their photos in one of the two
competing Roman restaurants that now call themselves Alfredo’s.

What happened was that during the war Alfredo retired, handing over the
restaurant to two of his waiters, but afterward decided to open a new place
called Alfredo l’Originale. Over the years both places have claimed to be the
“original” Alfredo’s, but the Di Lelio family is still in charge of the newer
restaurant and has opened three outposts here called Alfredo, the Original of
Rome-one in New York, another in Philadelphia, and a third at the Italian
Pavilion in Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center-all serving the ilustrious dish
better than anywhere else I’ve ever had it. There’s no secret to making the
original fettuccine all’Alfredo, but most people botch it anyway. Alfredo’s
own printed recipe is deliberately vague: “water-salt-extra fine flour of the
highest quality, mixed by hand with fresh eggs-a most carefully selected
butter and finally Parmesan cheese, but not dried and aged Parmesan (I just
take the core of fresh cakes and grate it by hand).” That’s it? No
proportions? No pots or pans?

Well, I’ve come up with an estimable home preparation that’s as close to the
mark as I think you’ll come. The key is in the ingredients and in the cooking
time. If you have no intention of going out to buy these kind of ingredients,
don’t bother with the dish at all. You may come up with a nice-looking plate
of noodles, but it’s like wearing a blue-flannel blazer with a polyester tie:
it’s a cheat and someone will notice.

NO STRINGS ATTACHED

If you have a pasta machine at home, by all means make the fettuccine fresh,
using nothing but flour and eggs (no water, no oil in the dough), but be aware
that Alfredo’s uses three different types of flour-semolina, durum, and a
high-gluten variety-for their noodles. Or buy a fettuccine freshly made at an
Italian pasta shop-and I don’t mean the “fresh” fettuccine put up in plastic
boxes and stored in the refrigerator section of the supermarket. Otherwise,
use a good imported brand such as De Cecco.

Put on a large pot of water (at least sixteen cups) to boil. While you’re
waiting for it to boil, melt one stick of sweet butter (not margarine) in a
saucepan and allow it to melt but not to sizzle. Add about four tablespoons of
heavy cream (not light cream, not half-and-half, not milk), and stir it in.

(You’ll notice that the original recipe does not contain cream, but I’ve seen
it added at the New York Alfredo’s; Americans seem to expect the dish to be a
little creamier.) Remove the mixture from the heat.

When the water is boiling furiously, throw in two tablespoons of salt. Then
plunge the fettuccine in the water. If it is fresh pasta, wait till the water
retums to the boil, then count to twenty: the pasta should be perfectly
cooked-al dente. If you’re using packaged fettuccine, figure on about eight
minutes in a rolling boil.

Drain the noodles well in a colander (do not rinse under cold water, which is
just plain stupid), then toss them into the melted butter and cream over low
heat. Grate into the mixture about one and a half cups of parmigano reggiano-

this is the true imported Parmesan cheese, and nothing else comes close. But
grate the cheese from the sweet, golden core, not from the harder, drier,
white part near the rind.

Toss together for about thirty seconds so that the cheese melts and the whole
thing comes together. Serve on a slightly heated plate. The consistency should
be satiny, and rich but not heavy, with the slight tang of cheese and the
lusciousness of butter, all buoyed by the slightly chewy texture of egg
noodles. Once you learn how to do this correctly, it’s like knowing the
“thirteen times” tables. Nothing to it really, but something so few ever
bother to master.

With fettuccine all’Alfredo, you should drink a good Italian red, like
Lungarotti’s Torgiano or Antinori’s Tignanello.
-John F. Mariani
From “Esquire” – March 1986

Chicken and Wild Rice, with Onion and Orange Peppers

Weekends in my house are always for cooking.  And I enjoy making food on Saturday, but Sunday meals are always so much fun to make as I get to cook with Sander.  We decide at the end of the week what we will cook together, and come Sunday, have a fun time cooking – each in our own way, making the same dish, with different techniques.

This week he chose chicken breasts and rice.  And though I love chicken and rice, I was drawing a blank on what I wanted to do.  So this recipe is, for the most part, his recipe. His choice was chicken, rice, an onion, and an orange bell pepper.

He used quick cooking white rice, while I used a rice blend by Rice Select, called the “Royal Blend”, which is a blend of Texmati white rice, brown rice, wild rice, and red rice.  It is also a quick cooking (15 minute) rice, but this recipe could very easily be done with long cooking brown, black, or red rices with the addition of a bit more stock, and a few more minutes cooking time.  I really enjoyed the nutty flavor this mix of rice gave to the dish, and cannot wait to make it again.  I plan to do some experimenting with the rice mix as soon as possible.

Chicken and Wild Rice, with Onion and Orange Peppers

Orange Bell Peppers

Orange Bell Peppers

2 pounds chicken cutlets, cleaned and cut into bite sized pieces *See note
1/2 small onion, diced
1 medium bell pepper (red, orange or yellow)
2 cups wild rice (or rice of your choosing), preferably quick cooking rice
1 3/4 cup chicken stock* See note
2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil
Salt to taste *

In a large pan (suitable for putting into the oven), saute the onion and bell pepper in a bit of olive oil for about 1 minute.  Add in the chicken, and chicken stock.  Cover and put into a 400F oven for about 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, add in the rice, and stir.  Leave the lid on for about 10 minutes.  After the 10 minutes, remove the cover completely, and stir.  Don’t put the cover back on.  Continue to bake in the oven until the rice is cooked through.

This method works well with quicker cooking rices.  If you are using wild rice, or brown rice, add in the rice when you add in the chicken.

Note:

  • As noted above, I used a quick cooking texmati white, brown, wild and red rice blend.
  • You can use whole boneless chicken breasts, or bone-in chicken breasts, just give it 10 more minutes in the oven, before you add in the rice.
  • If you do not have chicken stock or chicken broth, use water instead, and adding chicken 2 bouillon cubes (or 2 teaspoons bouillon paste).
  • Regarding the salt:  First, if you are using a store bought chicken stock, get the lower sodium version.  Second, if you are using bouillon cubes, taste mid-way through cooking, adding salt then if necessary to keep from having the dish over salty.

Twice Baked Mashed Potatoes with Onion, Peppers and Bacon

This recipe is a good one to use for the holidays — it can be made a day or two in advance.

A strange, but interesting variation, is to use shredded potatoes, instead of mashed, either homemade or the type you can get at your local market.

Enjoy :)

Twice Baked Mashed Potatoes with Onion, Green Peppers and Bacon

5-6 pieces of bacon to equal about 1/2 cup when cooked, and crumbled.
1 tablespoon of leftover bacon fat/grease
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
5-6 cups of mashed potatoes (prepared with butter & milk)(leftover or made previous day is fine)
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (divided)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cook the bacon — about 5-6 pieces, depending on the size, until nicely crispy. Set aside to drain, and then crumble.

Take about 1 tablespoon of the leftover bacon fat and saute scallions and green pepper until peppers are tender.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the scallion/green pepper mixture, mashed potatoes, 1/2 cup of the cheese, 1/4 cup of the bacon, salt and pepper.  Pour into a lightly greased baking dish – about 2 quart size.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese and the bacon over top.

Bake uncovered at 350F for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and golden.

Notes:

  • I’ve mixed this up totally the day before, put it in the refrigerator and, the next day, about 1 hour before I want to put it in the oven, I take it out, and let it come to room temp.  Bake then as usual.
  • If you don’t want to cook the onion and pepper in the bacon fat, just use vegetable oil
  • Don’t have mashed potatoes?? Just bake 7-8 red potatoes in your oven for about 50 minutes at 400F.  Once done, allow to cool a bit, and then mash the potatoes (leave the skins on if you like, or remove them)(I like them left on — looks good and tastes great), mash with butter, and milk.  Continue the recipe as above.  The baking time may need to be adjusted as the potatoes will still be hot from baking.
  • Add things you like:
  • Sour cream — add 1/2 cup sour cream
  • a clove of garlic added when you saute the scallions and green peppers
  • instead of cheddar, use a mix of feta and Parmesan or Romano — yummy when combined with the addition of garlic, as above.  Use 1/2 cup feta, and 1/2 cup Parmesan.
  • mix the peppers up — use yellow, red and orange bell peppers
  • use a medium yellow or white onion, instead of scallions
  • use chives, instead of scallions

Maple Pumpkin Oatmeal

 

Like I’ve said in a previous post, I didn’t really like oatmeal much as a child.  It wasn’t until last year that I gave it another chance.  That said, I’ve been experimenting ;)

It’s pumpkin season, and one of my very favorite things to eat at this time of year is anything with it! So on these cool Autumn mornings, it seemed pretty logical to try to use some pumpkin with my oatmeal.  It tastes almost like creamy pumpkin pie, and, next time I make it, if my son isn’t around, it might just get a big dollop of whipped cream ;)

Enjoy!

 

Maple Pumpkin Oatmeal

1/2 cup milk
3/4 tablespoons water
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon teaspoon maple extract
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
brown sugar, to taste

Bring the milk and water to boil over a medium heat.  Add in the oats, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring often.  Add in the pumpkin and maple extract, and then serve.  Sprinkle with brown sugar, to taste. 

You can change out the maple for vanilla, or leave it out all together.

Simple and Easy Mexican Rice

Rice is so easy to make.  Mexican rice.. not so easy.  I could never get it to taste the way it was supposed to.  I tried lots of different recipes over the years, and was really never successful with it.

I was back home a few years ago, when I stopped to see an old friend of mine, who was just about to make dinner.  And making Mexican Rice, to boot.  She is an older woman, raised in Mexico, and taught by her grandmothers, mother, and aunts how to cook.

The secret to Mexican rice, I’ve found, is to use salsa – aka Pica de Gallo.  I recall the conversation pretty well..tomatillo

“The secret to making rice is simple.  What goes into the rice?  Nice fresh crisp tomatoes, tomatillos, spicy peppers, some onion, a bit of cilantro, a touch of garlic and some lime, if you have it.  Same things that go into the rice, right?  Every couple of days, I make pica de gallo. So, why not use the  salsa?”

She made the rice in a similar fashion to making Risotto.  She melted some shortening, and then added the rice in, and stirred it well, until the rice was evenly coated.  Then she dumped in a bunch of salsa, and again stirred it.  She added some water, and a bit of beer, and continued to stir it, adding more water as needed, until the rice is done.

I experimented with the recipe as soon as I could.  I dropped the shortening in favor of vegetable oil, but the rest of the recipe is the same.

The “heat” of the rice is purely dependent upon the type of salsa you use.   The hotter, the better, in my opinion.  You can make your own, of course.  That is always fun to do.  But this recipe, for me, uses a jar of salsa.

gringosalsa

There are a lot of salsas on the market, but by far, my favorite one is Green Mountain Gringo Salsa – Hot.  It tastes like the salsa my friend made – fresh, crisp,  and without the chemicals.  It literally has no preservatives.   But whatever salsa you end up choosing, make it one one that you like the flavor of with tortilla chips or by itself.  If the salsa is bland to you with the chips, it’ll be bland in the rice.  Find one that you really enjoy and then use that.

Enjoy!

Simple and Easy Mexican Rice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups rice
2 cups salsa (or a 16 ounce or 454grams) Salsa
4-6 Cups of water (depends on the amount of liquid in your Salsa)
Beer
Cilantro, chiffonade

In a pot, heat the water – no need for boiling, but just simmering.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan with deep sides, to a medium-high temp.

Add in the rice, and stir to coat. Cook for about 30 seconds.

Add in the salsa, and stir well.

Once the rice has absorbed most of the liquid in the salsa (don’t let it get dried out), add in, by ladlefuls, the water.  Stir until the water has been almost all absorbed, and add in more.  Repeat this until the rice is done.

At some point, towards the end, add in some beer.  This is not really necessary, but gives a nice flavor.  Use about 1/2 cup or so.

Serve, topped with the cilantro.

Tabouli

Tabouli is a Middle Eastern dish that I became aware of at a party given by some friends, who had it catered from a Middle Eastern restaurant.  I immediately loved the creamy texture of this salad, with the delicate flavors of the tomatoes and spring onions. 

This salad is great for summer picnics, barbeques – it can be served as a side dish, or as an alternative dip for chips. 

I also like this wrapped up in thin slices of roast beef, or leaves of lettuce for an easy lunch. 

I usually prepare this in the traditional way, with slight variations when I feel the need. I sometimes add in finely chopped red peppers, or hot peppers.  And I’ve made this without mint or parsley – This is great with basil, or with cilantro.  The cilantro version is fantastic with refried beans, or as a topping with tortilla soup.

 

bulgur couscous

Fine Bulgur Wheat

Couscous

quinoa

pastina

Quinoa

Pastina

I tend to use instant couscous, instead of bulgur, because of the ease of prep. I’ve also tasted tabouli made with quinoa, as well as pastina, giving the salad a different flavor and texture.

Enjoy!

Tabouli

2 cups fine bulgur (or use couscous)
2 cups very hot water
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced tabouli
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced 
1 Red onion (Or, for traditional, use Scallions)
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped fine
2 cups fresh parsley, chopped fine
1 clove of garlic, minced fine (you can leave this out 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground

If you are going to use the bulgur, soak it in the hot water for about 30 minutes, and then drain.  If it is overly wet, squeeze dry. 

If you are going to use couscous, prepare as directed — usually 1 cup of water to 1 cup of couscous.  Bring the water to boil, add the couscous, and remove from the heat, allowing it to sit for about 5 minutes.

Combine the couscous, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, mint and parsley together.  In another bowl, combine the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and then mix together with the couscous-vegetable mix. 

Refrigerate, and allow the flavors to meld for about 2 hours.

You can serve this either chilled, or at room temp.  Keeps for 3-5 days, refrigerated.