Chicken Puttanesca for the Soul

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As it turns out, one’s final semester at an engineering school is a crappy time to try to cook, much less blog, this past week being no exception.

Between two tests, downloading and trying to learn how to use Arena, working on a month long simulation project (which involves playing large amounts of Pandemic 2 with lots data collection and no actual enjoyment) and a Mathematica analysis for a car that is no longer going to the competition for which it was designed, I feel like I don’t have time to breathe.

Did I say that was last week? That was today. 

Which, looking at that eternal to do list, was why I took two hours and some newly sharpened knives to make Chicken Puttanesca with a gigantic loaf of home made french bread and some arugula, cherry tomato and mushroom salad.

Salty, savory and spicy, chicken puttanesca (literally “whore’s chicken” in Italian, although how it got that name seems to be somewhat contested) is my perfect comfort food so, combined with punching a thick dough into submission it made the perfect meal for what promises to be a hellish week.

Now, as I begin the countdown to graduation, lets pray I can give myself more chances to really cook before I lose my mind.

Enjoy the meal and bon appetit!

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Chicken Puttanesca

  • 2 lb chicken meat cut into cubes. I usually buy a 5 lb or so chicken and butcher it myself. This is completely optional but you do get a lovely carcass for the stock pot.
  • 2 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes, liquid reserved
  • 2 bottles of kalamata olives, drained and halved 
  • 2 bottles of capers, drained
  • 2 cans of anchovies, chopped, oil reserved
  • 10 oz mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 largeish shallots, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat some of the anchovy oil over medium high heat in a heavy sauce pot. Dry and season chicken with salt and pepper and brown in batches, adding more oil as needed (about 3 minutes per side). Set aside and repeat with the mushrooms, adding a little salt and pepper to season. Set the mushrooms aside. 
  2. Add the shallots and the garlic and sautee for a few minutes, until softened slightly. Deglaze with the white wine.
  3. Add the tomatoes and their juice and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and pulse a few times with an immersion mixer to break up the tomatoes. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, crushed tomatoes can be substituted) Return to a simmer and add in anchovies, capers, olives, red pepper and season with salt and pepper. After about ten minutes of simmering, add in parsley and simmer for 45 minutes.

French Bread

  • 6 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/4 cups warm water (~100F)
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  1. Add yeast to water and allow to froth
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and knead for 20 minutes, or until a moderate window pane can be achieved.
  3. Cover dough and let proof in an oiled bowl until doubled in size (about one hour)
  4. Preheat oven to 425F
  5. Roll proofed dough into a ball and place on a cast iron pan and place in the oven for about 30 minutes

Arugula Salad

  • 2 Tbsp Anchovy Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tbsp Butter
  • 10 oz Mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 box Arugula Roquette
  • 2 cups Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Parsley
  1. Sautee mushrooms over medium heat in butter, taking care not to crowd the pan. Deglaze with oil and lemon juice and add in parsley. Pour hot mixture over arugula to wilt slightly and add in tomatoes. 

Leftover Tomato Sauce Week (or: The Week In Which I, at the Age of 22, Finally Stop Spelling Tomato “Tomatoe”)

So I was making me a huge pot of tomato sauce for a week’s worth of new and exciting recipes when I thought to myself, “You know what you haven’t done in a while, Self? You haven’t blogged one word in seven whole months! The tomato sauce you are going to be making doesn’t even look like the tomato sauce you made two whole years ago” 

“You’re right, Self,” I replied, “my poor forgotten readers deserve to see all of this week’s new and exciting recipes to make up for my long hiatus.”

That’s right, Ladies and Germs, its Leftover Sauce Week.

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Behold! The mighty tower of Leftovers!

Today I will show you exactly how to make the most delicious, completely from scratch, tomato sauce you will ever feast your mouth on. From there we are headed into the realm of Veal Puttanesca, beyond the land of Minestrone Soup, deep into the caves of Pasta Bolognese, through the forests of Ragu and past the island of Baked Eggplant before landing on the sacred shores of Homemade Pizza. So throw out that bottle of store bought sauce, cause we’re going on an adventure!

For today, though, we are going to make what can be best described as a metric crap ton of sauce (or approximately 1.1 imperial crap tons of sauce for you inch lovers out there).

For this, you will need:

  • 1 head of garlic with the cloves separated, peeled and sliced
  • 1 3-lb bag of onions, chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh basil, chiffonaded
  • 1 Tbs packed fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 Tbs packed fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 3 large (28 oz) cans of tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 large (28 oz) can of tomatoes, fine diced
  • 1 large (28 oz) can of tomatoes, pureed
  • Plenty o’ salt, pepper and olive oil
  • One really freaking big pot
  • One sufficiently long spoon
  • One stool (for the vertically challenged)

 

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Aside from being efficient, mise en place looks hella impressive

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium low heat and add the garlic. Saute the garlic until it is ever so slightly golden around the edges and then add the onions and a few hefty pinches of salt. Cook the onions over low heat until they are translucent and have begun to slightly caramelize (about 30 minutes) .

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I tried to get an image from above but steam and camera lenses do not agree with one another.

If, at this point, you see any bits of burnt garlic, pull them out. Add the herbs, all five cans of tomatoes, and the plenty of salt and pepper and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally until sauce is cooked (about one hour). 

If, like me, you compose blog posts while you are cooking, be sure to set a timer so that  you don’t forget to stir. If, like me, you forget to do this, add a bit more salt and dried versions of the herbs in the proportions listed above to mask the bitterness and learn to live with the fact that everything you cook for the next week will taste slightly…smokey.

Look at all the sauce!

Look at all the sauce!

Prep Time: 30 Minutes

Cook Time: 2 Hours

Enjoy and be sure to join me later this week for Veal Puttanesca!

Spinach and Mushroom Strata

Strata

Well that lasted. I want to blame the belated post this week on the newest addition to the household. Everybody, meet Geoffery. A new dog meant that my free time suddenly went *poof*. So, here we are.

Geoffery

Hi, everybody

A strata is a savory breakfast bread pudding made with alternating layers (or “strata”… get it?) of cubed bread, filling and egg. Because this kind of recipe needs to rest in order to set fully, it is best to make it night before. That means that, of course,  I almost never get around to making one because, lets face it, who wants to do breakfast dishes right after finishing cleaning up from dinner? I first came across this dish at my first trip up to visit Will’s parents and it quickly rocketed to the top of my preferred breakfast food list.

Despite the pre-planing required to make a good strata, it can easily give two people a week’s worth of breakfasts or (made ahead, of course) can be easily re-heated to feed a crowd

Spinach and Mushroom Strata:

(makes 12 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Loaf Crusty Bread (such as a baguette), cut into 1″ cubes
  • 12 Large Eggs
  • 2 Cups Soy Milk  or Lactaid(or regular milk if you are not lactose-impaired)
  • 3/4 Cup freshly grated Parmesean or Pecorino Cheese
  • 1 8 oz package Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 10 oz package Fresh Spinach
  • 1 clove Garlic, crushed
  • Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper

Saute mushrooms (in batches, if needed) in 1 tsp oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pan until well browned and almost cooked through. Add spinach and garlic  along with a bit of salt and pepper (~1/8 tsp each) and lower the heat to medium-low. Continue cooking until mushrooms are finished and spinach is fully wilted. Set aside

Beat together eggs and milk in a large bowl until fully combined. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper (~1/4 tsp each)

In a greased baking pan, layer 1/2 of the vegetable mixture over 1/2 of the bread and pour over that 1/2 of the egg mixture. Repeat. Refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 F and bake for 45 minutes or until strata is fully set and the top is well browned.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Be sure to set the strata out at room temperature while the oven is heating. The temperature shock of moving directly from the fridge to the hot oven ( a difference of ~315 F or 157 C) could cause crack propagation in your Pyrex. This means a gross mess all over your oven and a distinct lack of yummy breakfast. Don’t lose your breakfast. Let the glass warm up a bit.

Arugula Salad with White Beans and Wild Rice

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Oof. One week in and classes are already in full swing (and with four grad level classes, full swing means homework due Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights). Nevertheless, I am back in the kitchen almost every night, even if it does mean that I don’t start cooking until 9:15 most nights of the week. Of course, those nights when I don’t quite make it into the kitchen are usually filled with pizza and beer, so I need to be especially careful to eat healthy the other six nights. And, as everyone knows, pizza always tastes better if you have been subsiding on soups and salads).

With that in mind, I made a delightfully light (and totally filling) arugula salad for dinner the other night. White beans and wild rice provide enough protein that it doesn’t feel like rabbit food, while a light Dijon vinaigrette gives it an elegant flavor.

Arugula Salad with White Beans and Wild Rice 

(Serves two)

  • One box baby Arugula  (5oz)
  • ½ cup dried or one can Cannelloni Beans
  • ½ cup Wild Rice
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Olive Oil
  • ¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
  • ¼ tsp. each Dried Basil and Garlic Powder
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

If using dried cannelloni beans, soak for 8-12 hours and then cook for  ~45 minutes in simmering water (enough to cover the beans by one inch) or until a bean can be easily smooshed between your fingers without feeling grainy. Drain and allow to cool completely. Add salt about 40 minutes add a pinch of salt to the water. If using canned beans, they do not need to be cooked, just drained and rinsed.

Simmer the wild rice for 45 minutes in a tightly sealed pot or until rice is tender. Use a 2:1 water to rice ratio. Allow to cool completely before use.

In a cup, combine oil, vinegar, mustard, basil and garlic in a small bowl (I used a measuring cup, fill the balsamic to the ¼ cup mark, then use the oil to fill to the ⅓ cup mark) and whisk with a fork (or whisk if that floats your boat) until all ingredients are well combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Combine dressing, drained beans, rice and arugula in a large bowl and toss to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Long time no see.

Hey all. As you may have noticed I have flown under the radar this past semester. Apparently, when you are directing a greatly abridged version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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while acting in a mainstage production of Murdered to Death (not, of course, to be confused with the hit movie Murder by Death with Peter Sellers)

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and taking a full credit load all during the same semester, you have very little time to cook, much less to create new and exciting recipes for you all to enjoy. But after a holiday break of friends and family loudly wondering when I was going to blog once more, I made myself a new year’s resolution. Now, as I sit here on this lazy Sunday evening, with a pot of French onion soup simmering away, baguettes baking in the oven and a glass of cheap white wine in my hand, I am finally ready to act. From next week on, I will supply you with at least one exciting recipe a week. Who knows? I may even get around to finishing Legume Week. The world is a crazy place.

Dinner for Three-Caprese Salad with Homemade Mozzarella

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Simply delightful

Well, it seems that I am still a completely unreliable blogger. Some things may never change. Since my last apology for not posting often enough, my wonderful boyfriend and my almost as wonderful best friend and cooking partner have gotten an apartment together. Which leads to the introduction of a new series here at Engineer Food, Dinner for Three, in which me and Larry and sometimes Will prepare a recipe (often from Bon Apetite or the NY Times) and tell you what we think. This being the first installment, however, I feel no need to stick to an established pattern. I’m funny like that.

This time I am going to tell you about a fantastic birthday present that Larry gave me:

Clearly, I was planning on being part of this documentation as evidenced by my wearing an over-sized t-shirt

That’s right folks, a very fancy, Williams-Sonoma cheese making kit. I meant to take pictures the whole way, but I was completely occupied with the whole making mozzarella thing. Sue me. While I was separating my curds and whey and slowly cooking in the microwave. Larry sliced up some tomatoes and bread and retrieved basil from the fridge.

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So damn pretty

Anyway, about 50 minutes after that horrific picture of me was taken, one gallon of whole pasteurized (but not ultra-pasteurized) milk was turned (with the careful addition of citric acid, rennet and some cheese salt)  into one pound of mozzarella cheese.

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Alright, the texture was a little off but it tasted right.

For Caprese Salad:

  • 2 Ripe Jersey Tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 Loaf of Bread, sliced
  • 1 Sprig of Basil
  • 1 lb Mozzarella Cheese (Making it at home optional)
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar

Difficulty Level-Extraordinarily Easy

Before eating, generously salt and pepper the tomato slices.

Cut each slice of bread in half, if they are significantly bigger than the tomatoes. On each half, place several small pieces of mozzarella, a tomato slice, some basil and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Eat with a fork and knife or be a savage and just dig right on in. Enjoy with a light white whine (chilled Chardonnay pictured above).

Oh my Goodness

Whelp…it looks like I chose the exact wrong week to experiment with beans. My wonderful boyfriend just graduated from college which means I have been running around like  a chicken with my head cut off the last couple days. So, sorry about that and Legume Week will start up again on Sunday.