A Sarcastic Appetite

Pasta with Chicken, Cauliflower & Mustard Breadcrumbs
November 30, 2010, 11:41 pm
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Sfoglia has a little gem on its menu right now – well, actually, many gems, but tonight I will concern myself with just one: “mezze rigatoni, cauliflower, truffle, taleggio.” There’s something magical about such a stinky cheese; remember Missy Robbins’ taleggio-filled pasta with chanterelles at A Voce Columbus? If this doesn’t ring a bell, get thee to a cheese shop. Buy a wedge, slather it on some crackers, and you’ll understand. Just crack open a window while you’re at it, so your neighbors don’t think you’re growing a dirty sock farm.

Anyway, Sfoglia’s rendition, with rigatoni and cauliflower, was as stinky and delightful as it sounds. The breadcrumbs added a crunchy layer and the sauce was creamy and highly caloric – just what I needed the night after Thanksgiving! Oh, wait.

I thought about recreating it at home, but procuring truffles is not so high on my to-do list these days. Luckily, I needed to look no further than the November issue of Bon Appétit: an updated version with mustard and lemon in place of truffles, and a simpler sauce that wouldn’t stink up the place. Taleggio, I’ll miss you….but I’ll see you at my next cheese plate, so I’m not too worried about it.

This recipe is also incredibly simple, and wins serious brownie points for requiring the cooking of two separate things (pasta and cauliflower in this case) in one measly pot. The pasta gets drained (save a bit of water!) and then thrown back in the pot, where it’s tossed with some cream, lemon zest, plenty of salt and pepper, and some cheese. Add some chicken for protein, but feel free to omit it if you don’t have a crazed dietician living with you who demands a balanced meal without excessive lactose. Unfortunately that eliminates stinky sock farms.

Penne with Chicken, Cauliflower & Mustard Breadcrumbs

Adapted from this Bon Appétit recipe. Serves 4.

8 oz. penne (about 2 1/2 c.)

1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite-size florets

2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. mustard

3/4 c. panko breadcrumbs

zest of 1 lemon

1 1/2 c. cooked chicken, cubed (about 1 1/2 breasts)

1/2 c. heavy cream

3/4 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

(1/2 c. pasta water)

lots of salt and pepper

In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the mustard, then add the breadcrumbs. Cook, tossing occasionally and stirring to remove clumps, about 10 minutes, until they’re crunchy and golden brown, then set aside. Boil some water in a big pot and cook the pasta until it’s about 5 minutes away from being ready to go. At the 5 minute mark, throw the cauliflower in there and cook about another 5 minutes, until it’s all fork-tender and the pasta is cooked. Reserve 1/2 c. of the water, then drain the pot. Toss the pasta and cauliflower back into the pot with the reserved water, cream, chicken, lemon zest, and cheese. Season with plenty of salt and pepper. Stir together until the sauce coats the pasta, then serve in shallow bowls with several tablespoons of breadcrumbs scattered across the top. 

Lamb Chops with Tomatoes & Feta
November 15, 2010, 10:08 pm
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Over the weekend, the Ninja pointed to the stove and said, “Do you know what this is? This is called an oven. It’s used to cook dinner.”

(The Ninja also demanded that he would now like to be known on the blog as “The Smartest and Greatest Person Who Has Ever Lived, Also Known As Baby Bird In Certain Circles,” so take that with a grain of salt.)

He’s right, though, it’s been quiet around here for a few reasons, and one of those reasons is the obvious: I haven’t been cooking much. I’ve been sort of bored with everything – the same boneless, skinless chicken breasts done the same five ways. It got old fast. So these last few days, I’ve made an effort to look for new recipes with new ingredients, and tonight we hit the jackpot.

I’ve never made lamb chops before, and now I’m sort of wondering why. They cook quickly, and my initial fear that it would be a lot of work for only a little meat was unfounded. It’s plenty. The recipe calls for blade chops, but use loin chops if you can – they’re a nicer cut of meat and more flavorful. And serve with rice or orzo.

The Ninja claims this is one of the best things I’ve ever made. It looks like I finally remembered how to use that stove….

Lamb Chops with Tomatoes & Feta

Adapted from this Bon Appetit recipe. Serves 2.

1/2 c. + 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/4 c. red wine vinegar

juice of 1 lemon

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

4 lamb loin chops

1 10 oz. container of grape tomatoes

6 thin slices red onion

2 handfuls baby spinach

2ish oz. nice feta cheese, or about 1/4 c.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk the olive oil and red wine vinegar together with the lemon juice, garlic, oregano, and ground cumin. Add salt and pepper; taste, and correct seasoning as necessary. Pour half the dressing into a shallow baking dish, and add the chops. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour, covered, and flip once or twice. (Refrigerate if you’re planning to marinate for more than 30 minutes.)

Halve the grape tomatoes and add to the remaining dressing in the bowl; add the red onion slices, separating them into rings as you go. Toss and let sit. (Start the rice, and let that get going before you cook the chops, which only take about 10 minutes.)

Heat the last 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet – let it get nice and hot. Sear the chops, and cook, about 5 minutes per side for medium rare. Let them rest momentarily.

Plate the lamb chops: A handful of spinach, followed by two chops, followed by the tomato onion salad. Drizzle some of the dressing over everything, then top with crumbled feta cheese.