Sunday, February 22, 2015

Diana Henry's Kale Pesto with Pasta

Snowmageddon '15 arrived this week.  Early Monday morning it started snowing here in Kentucky.  Now let me preface this by saying that a mere inch of snow is enough to cause widespread panic here in the Bluegrass.  So you can imagine what happened when we received over a foot of snow Monday afternoon.  No school all week. No mail.  No garbage collection. No anything (and that's not an exaggeration). Then later in the week the arctic temps came in.  Again, when I say arctic I mean it. On Friday it was colder here in Kentucky than it was in Alaska or Antarctica. Record breaking weather for Kentucky. Everything froze up, even the battery in my car died.  Then came the news that we were going to receive another winter storm, this one bringing ice, sleet, freezing rain, and another several inches of snow.  This news gave the term 'widespread panic' new meaning.
While everyone else was out braving the weather for  the last of the bread, milk, eggs, or ground beef (as pictured here) I was warm and cozy inside.  I was thankful for my food hoarding tendencies.  I like to keep a very well stocked pantry, especially in the winter months, because you never know when bad weather will strike.  Lots of pasta, rice, cereal, broth, cheese, frozen veggies, etc.  This way I don't have to venture out in the bad weather and I can throw together dishes like this Kale Pesto with Pasta.

This Kale Pesto with Pasta sounds super virtuous, and it is fairly healthy, but don't let that fool you.  It is  delicious, hearty, and ultra-comforting!  It really hits the spot! Even my non-kale lovers enjoyed it!  The kale pesto is perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of garlic and cheese.  The addition of red pepper flakes is perfect as the spicy heat from the pepper flakes does a subtle job of spicing things up just right. I enjoyed the pesto with larger pieces of kale still remaining for texture, but you could blend the pesto smooth if you were so inclined.  I will definitely make this dish again!

Kale Pesto with Pasta
Adapted from Diana Henry's 
A Change of Apettite
Serves 4-6

1 pound pasta*
12 oz kale (about 4 cups stemmed and chopped)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
2 good quality anchovies, drained
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 - 3/4 cup grated Parmesan or pecorino
really good pinch of dried red pepper flakes (optional)

Notes: Use any pasta you like.  Whole wheat, multigrain, or semolina.  The recipe uses linguine, but I also think fusilli, bowtie, or any other smaller shape would be nice as well. 

 Wash the kale well and strip the fibrous leaves from their stems.  At the same time, bring a large pot of water to a boil, plunge the leaves in, and cook for five minutes.  After five minutes, remove the kale from the boiling water and place into a bowl.  Once the kale is removed add in the pasta and cook until al dente.   

While the pasta is cooking make the pesto.  Place the cooked kale into a food processor with the butter, extra virgin olive oil, parsley, anchovies, garlic and 1/2 cup of the cheese.  Add the red pepper flakes (if using).  Process, using the pulse-blend button.  I like this pesto when it isn't completely pureed but still has quite large flecks in it, so best not to overdo it. Taste the pesto, add the rest of the cheese, salt, and pepper, red pepper flakes, etc. to taste.  Drain the pasta, return it to the pan with a little of it's cooking water, mix in the pesto and serve immediately. Garnish with cheese, if desired.
Theme: Curds & Whey

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Asian Pork Balls with Chili Dipping Sauce

Juicy pork meatballs filled with garlic....lots of garlic, jalapeno, green onions, cilantro, lime and ginger.  A colorful mix of ingredients add up to make one mouthwatering and flavorful pork ball.
Serve these pork balls as an appetizer dunked in a sweet chili dipping sauce or serve them as a main course along with rice and stir fried veggies.  Either way, you simply can't go wrong!  These flavorful little meatballs were a huge hit at my house!  We ate them straight from the pan.  We ate them on their own. We loved them dunked in the sweet chili dipping sauce.  We served them over rice and edamame. We absolutely devoured them.

I chose to bake the pork balls instead of frying because I'm convinced baking yields a superior result.  It's not that I think baking meatballs is more virtuous than frying, because I still use the same amount of oil, but I think the oven does a better job of cooking the meat balls more evenly.  Frying tends to be rather messy and has to be done in batches.  Also, fried meatballs oftentimes end up misshapen, some undercooked, some overcooked.  I find that baking meatballs results in nicer shaped balls that are perfectly browned with a lightly crusted exterior and perfectly tender interior.  Therefore I almost always bake any meatball recipe.  Simply set your oven to 350F, oil a baking sheet, place your meatballs on the baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and bake for around 20-25 minutes.  Throw the baking sheet in the oven and walk away!  Easy peasy! No messy clean up. No standing over the stove frying batch after batch of meatballs. I highly recommend it. 

I want to thank my friend Joyce, at Kitchen Flavours, for pointing out this delectable pork ball recipe! Like Joyce, I went ahead and used a sweet chili dipping sauce that I had in my pantry, but I have included the recipe for Diana Henry's homemade chili dipping sauce below.
Asian Pork Balls with Chili Dipping Sauce
Inspired by Diana Henry
recipe found on Kitchen Flavours
Serves 4-6

For the Chili Sauce
6 large red chillies, 3 deseeded and roughly chopped
5cm (2in) root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
grated zest of 3 and juice of 2 limes
12 garlic cloves
1 large bunch of coriander, leaves only
300gm (10-1/2oz) caster sugar
50ml (2fl oz) Thai fish sauce
120ml (4fl oz) white wine vinegar
For the Pork Balls
2 pounds ground pork
7 oz. of bacon, finely chopped*
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2cm (3/4in) fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
1 red chili (jalapeno), deseeded and chopped
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
grated zest of 1 and juice of 1/2 lime
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup coriander, finely chopped
salt and pepper
canola oil, for frying or baking

First make the chilli sauce: Put the chillies, ginger, lime zest and juice, garlic and coriander leaves into a food processor and puree into a coarse puree. Put the sugar into a thick-bottomed pan with 6 tbsp water and place on medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat slowly and gradually boil until the syrup becomes a caramel colour. Stir in the paste, fish sauce and vinegar and simmer for 2 minutes. Leave to cool.
For the Pork Balls: Mix everything for the pork balls (not the oil) together in a large bowl, combining all the ingredients with your hands to make sure they get well mixed. Season well. Pull off chunks and form into balls about the size of a walnut. It is better to chill these before cooking them, otherwise they tend to fall apart, so lay them on a baking sheet, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour or so.
To Cook Pork Balls:  Heat about 1cm (1/2 in) oil in a frying pan and cook the pork balls in batches, colouring them all over. It takes about 4 minutes, but do check you are frying them long enough for the pork in the middle to be cooked.  Or, bake the pork balls as I have done by oiling a baking sheet, placing the pork balls on the sheet, drizzling with more oil, and baking at 350F for about 25 minutes.

To Serve: Serve with the chilli sauce (or indeed a bought dipping sauce, such as Thai chilli or plum) and eat with plain boiled rice and stir-fried vegetables.

Theme: East Meets West

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Diana Henry's Broccoli with Ricotta, Lemon, and Parmesan

 So it's Superbowl weekend and I'm serving up broccoli? Well, to be fair we are celebrating veggies over at I Heart Cooking Clubs and to the people in my household there is really only one vegetable: broccoli!  Here at my house we fight over broccoli.  It's the house vegetable.  Yes, we have a house vegetable.  So much so, that at any given time, I usually have at least 4 heads of broccoli in my fridge. 

Most times I serve broccoli steamed with a bit of Parmesan butter. When I'm feeling ambitious I saute the broccoli with butter, garlic, and breadcrumbs. Either way, there is never a spare spear left in the bowl. The broccoli gets snarfed down like it's candy.

This recipe with ricotta cheese, lemon, and Parmesan is a new way to serve broccoli and I must say that everyone loved it!  The cheese doesn't overpower the broccoli at all.  We loved the way the ricotta added creaminess and the Parmesan added that sharp nutty flavor.  The lemon went a long way in brightening up this dish, which was very welcome since we're experiencing a bad case of the winter doldrums at the moment.  This was a winning broccoli recipe that's sure to be repeated in my kitchen.

Broccoli with Ricotta, Lemon, and Parmesan
Adapted from Diana Henry
Serves 2-4

One head of broccoli
1/2 cup of fresh ricotta
half a lemon, zested 
1 lemon, juice only
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan
cracked black pepper and salt, to taste

Note: These measurements are a guide only.  Feel free to adorn your broccoli with more cheese, oil, lemon, etc.  This dish is easily customizable to suit your taste.

 Steam the broccoli for around 4-5 minutes. Place the hot broccoli onto a serving plate and decorate with dollops of ricotta and nice curls of shaved parmesan (I forgot my parmesan in the pictures).  Sprinkle on the lemon zest and squeeze the lemon over the broccoli.  Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt and black pepper, and serve.

Theme: Veggie Variations