Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pasta with Sardine and Tomato Sauce

This is for tomorrow's Mr. Bento. While I do value my protein, it was sad to open and use an entire tin of sardines unmolested, sans little paws batting at my calves and loud demands for compliance with the household fish tax.

While Bittman, whose basic tomato sauce recipe this is very loosely based on, claims that this is enough for a pound of pasta, I like a lot of sauce, and so figure it's good for about 1/2-3/4 lb.
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4-5 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 4.25 oz. can of sardines in tomato sauce
  • 1 28-oz. can of tomatoes (San Marzano in this case)
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
Salt a pot of water, bring it to a boil and cook anywhere from 1/2-1 lb. of your favorite pasta (I used whole wheat rotini). Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. of the oil, the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes in a large pan or skillet over medium heat till the onions are translucent and the garlic's golden (3-5 minutes).

Mash up the sardines and add them to the pan. Raise the heat to medium and cook for 2-5 minutes, till they dry up a bit and release their smell.

Crush the tomatoes (I use my hands) and add them to the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, till the tomatoes break down and become saucy (10-15 minutes or so). Add some of the liquid from the can of tomatoes if the mixture starts to seem too dry.

Correct seasoning and remove from heat. Stir in the last tbsp. of olive oil, then toss with your pasta.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chicken Thighs with Soy Sauce and Lemon

Yesterday was the first time I'd cooked since my cat died (R.I.P. Bunnicat, 1995-2009). As do most braises, it tasted good the night of, even better the day after - and it will taste even better tomorrow. It will also always remind me of Bun. Despite the still-unfamiliar silence (no more soft splash of her fountain; no more querulous meows), I had to remind myself not to set aside a little portion of chicken for her each time I packed my lunch. Alas, my mise en place/condiment bowls are now merely those again; they no longer double as amuse bouche plates for my furry food critic. I miss you, anak.

This recipe's based on one in the first edition of Bittman; any deviations from the original are in italics.
  • 1 tbsp. peanut oil
  • 1.5 lbs. chicken thighs (orig. 2 lbs.)
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic (orig. 1 tsp.)
  • 1 scant tbsp. grated lemon zest (orig. 1 tbsp.)
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar (omitted this)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • juice of 1 lemon (about 3-1/2 tbsp.)
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the oil, swirl, then add the chicken. Brown quickly - about 2-3 minutes per side.

Turn off the heat. Remove the chicken and all but one tablespoon of fat from the skillet. Let the pan cool for a minute or two, then turn the heat to medium and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, till it softens, about 1-2 minutes.

Add everything else but the lemon juice; stir. Return the chicken to the skillet; turn it once or twice in the liquid. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, turning once or twice, till chicken is done (anywhere from 20-40 minutes, though admittedly I went long because a new episode of "No Reservations" was on).

Add the lemon juice to the broth and stir. Serve with white rice.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Spaghetti with Leeks and Tomatoes

Behold - a spare bunch of leeks! At first I considered a riff on spaghetti with ramps, but realized the leeks would have to cook significantly longer. Ended up making a delicious variant on this Bittman recipe. Major changes: halved the amount of pasta (because I never seem to have enough veggies when I follow these types of recipes), added a shallot (because I have scads available) and omitted the parsley (didn't have any). Yum nonetheless - even cold, when I brought some leftovers for lunch and was too lazy and hungry to heat them. May add pancetta (as in this recipe) next time, too - it'll probably contrast nicely with the sweet vegetables.
  • 3 large leeks - trimmed, cleaned, halved and chopped (not too finely)
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil or butter (used the former this time)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1 shallot, coarsely chopped
  • about 1 cup grape tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 heaping tsp. red pepper flakes
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
Put 2 tbsp. olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Saute the garlic for about a minute (just till it begins to brown), then remove it. Add the leeks and red pepper flakes; saute the leeks, stirring now and then, till they wilt (about 7-10 minutes).

Lower the heat to medium and add tomatoes. Cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, till leeks begin to brown. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta till tender then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta liquid. Toss the pasta, leek mixture and remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil, adding some of the pasta water if the sauce seems too dry (mine didn't need any). Correct seasoning and serve.