We had classic carbonara last night.  Back when I used to work in a cubicle and would e-mail back and forth with Andra, mostly about dinner, I always thought it was so ironic when spell check would offer “coronary” as the correct spelling for “carbonara”.  Maybe my work computer was trying to tell me something about the health pitfalls of eating too much carbonara.

One pound of spaghetti, half a package of bacon*, three eggs, one cup of parmesan and a half cup of pasta water and “Presto.”  (Is that Italian for “Voila”?)  Anyway, after making this a few times and scrambling the eggs, now I can make a silky carbonara that makes you forget all about your judgemental computer.

* Years ago, I would buy Pancetta for carbonara.  I also bought facial moisturizer at department stores.  And used hundred-dollar bills as kindling.  I could tell you that the decision to substitute bacon for pancetta was solely based on cost, but the truth is that bacon tastes better.

– Catherine

Lemon Chicken

To call a recipe “Lemon Chicken” around here is like calling any pants made of denim “jeans”.  There are as many lemon chicken recipes as there are types of jeans:  dressed up, dressed down, easy and the kind that makes you smell like garlic the next day.  (Okay, so I don’t have jeans that make me smell like garlic, that would be weird.)

This chicken is cooked in a cast iron skillet (sprinkled only with kosher salt, pepper would burn) under the broiler until it’s almost cooked through.  When it looks golden, I take it out, cut the breasts in half, add the sauce and continue to cook until it’s golden brown and the internal temp is at least 160°.  The sauce is the juice of two lemons, an equal part olive oil, one or two garlic cloves, chopped, lots of thyme and oregano and salt and pepper.

Last night, I served it with the simplest roasted asparagus and torn pieces of store-bought Naan.  Not pictured is a small pitcher I filled with the garlicky, lemony pan juices that we poured over the chicken as we ate, using the bread to soak up the sauce.  Coincidentally, I was wearing my favorite jeans.

– Catherine

Cedar Grilled Asian Salmon with Quinoa Pilaf, Jersey Style

I made Andra’s Grilled Asian Salmon last night.  That may seem weird since she just made it, but we’d talked about it and she convinced me it was one of the best things she’d had in recent memory, so I had to taste it for myself.

What is sort of strange is when we make the same thing without talking about it, which happens all the time.

Me:  You made Bolognese last night?  That’s so funny, I made Bolognese!  Did you use pork, beef and veal?

Andra:  No, I used turkey.

Me:  That sounds good.  Did you serve it with linguine?

Andra:  No, polenta.  I used the standard Bolognese recipe, replacing the whole tomatoes with Rotel and the onion and garlic with jalapeno and cilantro, and I used tequila instead of wine.  But otherwise, I stuck to the recipe.  I bet they were pretty similar.

In this case, however, I used her recipe for the salmon without deviating and made my own mushroom quinoa pilaf with ginger, sesame oil, lime and cilantro.  Andra was right, the salmon was amazing.  Next time, though, I might replace the garlic with ginger, the soy with wine, and the olive oil with motor oil.  I’m sure it will be pretty similar.

– Catherine

Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon wtih Quinoa Pilaf

Last night we made Ina’s Asian Grilled Salmon using cedar planks.  I served the salmon over a quinoa pilaf with steamed baby bok choy, drizzled with my favorite ginger vinaigrette.

The salmon cooked slowly over the cedar planks which infused the salmon with delicious smokey flavor.  The rich, buttery salmon served over the quinoa pilaf was the perfect combination.   It was so delicious that when my husband left for work this morning, I fantasized about pushing him over and yanking the leftovers out of his hand.   We will be making this again very soon.  Next time though, we’ll need leftovers for two.

Asian Grilled Salmon on Cedar planks, adapted from Asian Grilled Salmon from Barefoot Contessa Parties! 

1 side of salmon, boned with skin on, about 2 – 2 1/2 pounds

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

3 tablespoon of soy sauce

6 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of minced garlic

2 cedar planks, soaked in water for 15- 20 minutes

Whisk all of the ingredients for the marinade.  Pour the marinade over the salmon and let marinate for 10 minutes.

Place the salmon on the cedar planks and grill over medium heat for 12-15 minutes.

Pull the salmon off of the grill and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Quinoa Pilaf

1 cup of quinoa

2 cups of low sodium chicken broth

2  tablespoons of olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup of diced carrots

1 cup of chopped mushrooms

1/2 t of marjoram

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup of quinoa

2 cups of low sodium chicken broth

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Sauté the onions, carrots, garlic and mushrooms until the onions are translucent, the carrots have softened and the mushrooms have released most of their liquid.  Add marjoram and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in the quinoa to absorb the flavors of the vegetables.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed.

Adjust the seasoning and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.


For Realsies

I remember when Giada De Laurentiis came on the scene and none of us knew if she was for real.  Andra was convinced she was a front for a heavy old Italian woman with a hairy mole on her face.  I think we were all a little suspicious of her credibility because of her tiny waist, big green eyes, impeccable taste and her rack that probably keeps the Super Tight/Super Deep V-Neck Shirt Company in business.

While it would be easier to accept that she’s simply a cover, the truth is that she’s totally legit.  Educated at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris with a serious resume before her TV career, she is in fact not just another pretty face.  All that aside (or maybe because of it), I’m a fan because her recipes WORK.  I have an arsenal of Giada recipes that I use regularly, like this one, Pasta alla Formiana, which uses fresh tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and olive oil to cook dry pasta in the oven.  This is in rotation around here in the summer when there always seem to be more ripe tomatoes than we know what to do with.  I was hesitant about the amount of dried oregano called for, but true to her recipes, it works.  The oregano mellows in the oven with the long cooking time and permeates the pasta.  The tomatoes caramelize and actually become the perfect serving size outline; one cubic tomato for the adults, less for kids.

You’ll love this recipe (and you’ll appreciate that Giada shared it with us lesser attractive, non-celebrity home cooks).*

*I’m just saying that for everyone else; I can tell that you’re actually very good-looking.  

– Catherine

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