"Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we've lived."
-Jean Luc Picard

Monday, December 15, 2008

Menu for 12/15/2008

Mr. Hairball has requested that I make him some crusty bread that is good for dipping into olive oil. With that request in mind, I have put together the following menu:

Pasta with walnut sauce topped with skillet roasted chicken, salad, and cuban bread with seasoned olive oil for dipping

Nigella Lawson's Pasta with walnut sauce
6 ounces shelled walnuts
1/2 clove garlic, minced ( I add several more cloves)
1 slice bread, crusts removed
2/3 cup whole milk
1 ounce grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil (preferably Ligurian)
Salt and pepper
2 pounds any flat short pasta
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, for garnish

Put a large saucepan of water on to boil, and toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan until they begin to make a nutty aroma. Put the bread in a bowl and cover with the milk. Put most of the toasted walnuts (reserving about 1 ounce for garnish) into a blender along with the garlic, bread soaked in milk, and Parmesan. Blend until it turns smooth and creamy, then pour in the oil and season well with salt and pepper before blending again.

Pour into a bowl, and set aside. Add pasta to boiling water with salt and cook for the required amount of time. When pasta is al dente, reserve a cup of the pasta cooking liquid and then drain the pasta, but put it in to a large bowl while it's still dripping slightly with water. Sprinkle a little olive oil over the pasta to prevent it sticking together, and then add the walnut sauce, mixing it into the pasta (splash in a little pasta cooking liquid to make the sauce less thick if needed). Roughly chop the remaining walnuts and toss them over the top along with some more Parmesan and the chopped parsley.

Skillet roasted chicken- source unknown
The original recipe called for bone-in and skin-on chicken breasts and then you made a white wine based sauce for the chicken. I decided that I liked the chicken but preferred other sauces so I just started combining the chicken with other sauce recipes till I found ones I liked. Also, after trying this recipe with boneless skinless breasts, I decided that I preferred the harder texture of the exterior of the boneless breasts after roasting when combined with something like the walnut sauce. YMMV.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch strips
salt and pepper
1 tsp vegetable oil ( I usually need more than this)

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450F. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 12 inch ovenproof skillet*** over high heat until just smoking. Add chicken and cook until light golden brown on both sides. Place the skillet and chicken in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove chicken from oven and cut into the thickest piece to make sure it is cooked through. Cut up chicken into bite size pieces and place on top of the pasta with walnut sauce before you add the reserved walnuts, Parmesan and parsley.

*** If you don't own an ovenproof skillet, then use a preheated metal baking dish for the oven portion of the recipe. If you don't own a large enough skillet to brown all the chicken at one time, do it in batches.

Cuban Bread-recipezaar.com
1¼ hours | 25 min prep 2 loaves

2 cups whole wheat flour
2-4 cups white flour
2 tablespoons yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups hot water (120-130 degrees)

Mix the 2 cups whole wheat and 2 cups of the white flour together. Add the yeast, the sugar, and the salt.Pour in the hot water and beat for 100 strokes (or 3 minutes with a mixer).Stir in the rest of the flour until it is no longer sticky. Knead it for 8 minutes.Put the dough in a metal bowl that you have sprayed with cooking spray.Cover it with a damp towel.Let it rise for 15 minutes.Punch it down.Divide it into 2 pieces. Shape each piece into a round loaf and put them on a baking sheet that you have sprayed with cooking spray. Cut an x in the top of each loaf. If you want you can brush the top with water and put sesame seeds or poppy seeds on top.Put the pan on the middle rack of a cold oven.Put a pan of boiling water on the bottom shelf. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes or until it is deep golden brown.
Note: If you want to use your food processor, put all the dry into the bowl. Turn it on and slowly add the water until the dough forms a ball. Let it spin 20 times. *** Be careful with using your food processor with this recipe. Mine was straining a bit at the end.

Garlic and butter rice

Mr. Hairball loves rice and used to be addicted to the boxed rice mixes. I would try to get them as cheaply as possible through watching for sales and using coupons but, I really wanted to learn how to make them myself. Unfortunately I don't remember the source of the recipe so I am unable to give credit where credit is due.

I'm estimating how much garlic I use as I no longer refer to the recipe as it's in my head after years of making it. I just start chopping garlic till it looks right. There have been times when I was sure I'd used too much garlic and he would hate it but, he always wolfs it down. If you are not a huge garlic person then please start with 1-2 cloves and try adding more the next time you make this if you want more garlic.

Garlic and butter rice
2/3 cup long grain white rice
1/3 cup spaghetti or angel hair broken up into 1 inch pieces
6 cloves minced garlic
2 TBs butter or margarine (or 1 TB butter or margarine and 1 TB light olive oil)
2 cups chicken broth ( you can use beef or vegetable if you prefer)
2 TBs Dried parsley

Brown the first three ingredients in the butter or butter/olive oil mixture over medium heat until the rice and pasta is light golden brown. Stir frequently. ( If you like your garlic a little more toasty, then start with the garlic in your butter or butter/olive oil mixture and add the rice and pasta after the garlic has started to turn golden.) Add your chicken broth and parsley and turn heat to high and heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook until rice is tender (15-20 minutes for long grain white rice). Let the rice stand for 5 minutes then stir it all together. I don't usually think it needs salt because of the broth but, be sure and taste it and add salt or pepper or whatever else you think it needs.

Variation: I sometimes add some cooked wild rice to this. I make up a pot of wild rice according to the directions on the package and divide it up into 1/2 cup portions, place in containers and freeze. Then when I am ready to make the garlic and butter rice, I pull one of the wild rice containers out of the freezer when I start making the recipe and then dump the wild rice in the pot just before the lid goes on.