Garlic Lemon Cream Pasta

I’ve been on the hunt for a creamy lemon sauce for years and have tried a few that just didn’t do it. They either weren’t lemony enough or had way too much cream (Cliff has no gall bladder – too much cream or butter does him in). This one finally has the right balance of flavor and creaminess. Here’s the original, with my version below.

1 T butter
1 T olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
2 c chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup capers
Juice of 1 lemon
1 c artichoke hearts
1/4 cup cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 t herbes des Provence
1 lb broccoli florets (optional)
1 lb pasta

Heat butter and oil to medium in a deep skillet. Sauté garlic, shallots and lemon zest until tender and fragrant. Add broth and simmer until reduced by half and syrupy*. Add capers, lemon juice and artichoke hearts and stir until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in cream and add salt, pepper and herbes. Set aside sauce. Cook pasta and broccoli to desired doneness, drain and toss with sauce.

*I wasn’t happy with the ‘syrupy’ texture and wanted the sauce to be a little thicker, so I added a cornstarch slurry (1 T cornstarch and 1 T water whisked until smooth). Pour the slurry into the simmering sauce and stir well until thickened, then proceed as above.

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

I’m sick of cooking. Yeah, I didn’t think it would ever happen, either, but the recently wrapped-up holiday season kinda tested my limits. Mostly because I’m tired of doing dishes, but at least part of it is a lack of inspiration. As much as I wanted to go out last night, I didn’t feel like spending the money, so I looked inward…to my pantry. It had to be something made from staples that wasn’t boring. The technique came from one recipe and the flavor profile from another and it yielded delicious results: subtly sweet and smoky, with a salty punch from cheese and some half & half to ease the acidic edges. And it came together in the amount of time it took to boil the pasta.

Maybe my mojo’s not entirely gone.

1 T olive oil
1 T butter
2 shallots, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T tomato paste
1/4 c white wine
1/2 t basil
1/2 t oregano
large pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1 jar (3-4 peppers) roasted red peppers, drained, lightly rinsed and roughly chopped
2/3 c half & half
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated
salt to taste*

In a small saucepan, heat oil and butter to medium-low. Sauté shallots and garlic until just tender, then stir in tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes. Add wine, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes, stir to combine and allow wine to reduce to 1/3 (the boozy smell the should be gone). Reduce heat to low, add the red peppers and half & half and stir until everything is combined. Allow to heat to a bare simmer, then blend with a stick blender until very smooth. Stir in the cheese and bring sauce to a simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, but do not allow it to get to a full boil. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Toss with pasta and serve with more cheese for sprinkling.

*The peppers I used had a little salt in them, as part of the preservation process. Combined with the cheese, that was salty enough for us. Plus, be careful not to blot out the peppers’ sweetness – I think that’s where the interest comes from.

Creamy Goat Cheese Tomato Pasta

I am a total sucker for a creamy tomato sauce. Unfortunately, they tend to be a little disappointing. This is the exception.

The goat cheese flavor is pretty pronounced, so if you’re not a fan, this one isn’t for you. The original is here, but I made lots of changes (chief among them: cutting out the bacon – sundrieds really fill that meaty, umami slot for me). That said, the technique is the same and I might employ it in the future. As a plus, this comes together very quickly.

2 shallots, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
100 g (roughly) oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained and sliced thin, oil reserved
2 T white wine
1 14.5 oz/400 g can stewed tomatoes
1 small pinch salt
1 small pinch sugar
1/4 t dried oregano
1 large pinch dried red pepper flakes
1 lb/500 g short pasta (1/4 c pasta water reserved before draining)
3-4 oz/100-125 g spreadable goat cheese (Ziegenfrischkäse)
lots of torn basil leaves

Heat a deep skillet over medium low heat and warm 1-2 T reserved sundried tomato oil. When oil shimmers, add shallots, garlic and sundried tomatoes and stir frequently until shallots and garlic are tender (3 minutes). Add wine and cook until 3/4 reduced (and the boozy smell is gone). Add canned tomatoes, salt, sugar, oregano and red pepper flakes and reduce heat to low. Stir to combine, crushing tomatoes with spoon. Allow sauce to simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, then remove from heat and set aside.

Cook and drain pasta, returning it quickly to the pot off the heat. Add goat cheese to pasta and stir well to coat. When goat cheese is well distributed, pour in tomato sauce, again stirring very well. If sauce seems too thick, add a little pasta water to loosen it to your desired texture. Add torn basil and stir until just distributed. Serve immediately.

Copycat Gates Barbecue Sauce (a.k.a. Fake Gates)

There are many Kansas City barbecue sauces that I enjoy: Rosedale is great when you want something sweeter, Jack Stack is nice when you want something thicker, but Gates is my all-purpose winner. I feel they do a great job of balancing the sweet and vinegar tang and pepperiness, and that’s what makes it so great on beef, pork, turkey or chicken. It’s even my favorite french fry dipping sauce.

But bottles of barbecue sauce are heavy to ship and to carry in luggage. Continue reading Copycat Gates Barbecue Sauce (a.k.a. Fake Gates)

Bacon Jam

Not Quite Nigella's Bacon Jam recipe printed in the Detroit NewsMy sister and I visited my parents for the weekend in rural Michigan about a year ago. One afternoon while it was time for a snack, they said “You guys need to try this, but we’re not telling you what it is. We’re positive you’ll like it. See if you can guess.” They spread a tiny sample of a dark brown paste on a cracker and I took a sniff. It smelled good — really good. Thoughts of Sarah’s family and hometown flooded my mind as I took a bite. I asked, “Is this a chunky barbecue sauce?” “It’s BACON JAM!” they exclaimed. Of course! It’s not a big surprise the smoky, savory, and sweet flavor elements reminded me of Kansas City barbecue. Continue reading Bacon Jam

Baba Ghanouj (Roasted Eggplant Dip)

This eggplant dip seems complicated but is ridiculously easy. It was too hot to really cook for a few weeks this August. That made things difficult, as I love to cook and don’t particularly care for raw food. Cliff is an avowed hater of eggplant, so it took a little cajoling to get his buy-in on this one. Even eggplant haters should give this one a shot, though. Much of the texture-weirdness that people have against eggplant is mitigated through the roasting and mashing. Plus, it’s ridiculously easy to make if you roast the eggplant with plenty of time to cool. The original recipe is here, but the changes I made are listed below.

1-2 large purple eggplants, about 2 lbs
3 T olive oil
2-3 T tahini
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 t ground cumin
juice of 1 lemon
pinch smoked hot paprika
salt to taste
2 T chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise, puncture the skin several times with a fork and rub all over with olive oil. Roast on a baking sheet, cut side down, until very tender, 30-40 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Scoop the cooled eggplant flesh out of the skins and combine with the rest of the ingredients, except parsley. Baba Ghanouj, not yet blendedMash everything together with a fork or put it all in a blender and pulse until combined but not completely smooth. Serve topped with parsley as a dip with pita or raw vegetables.