Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Beef Ragu Over Spaghetti Squash

From Fine Cooking magazine

When I made this last night for dinner, I skipped entirely that first part about the garlic bread; we had some in the freezer so I baked that instead.

I love the use of spaghetti squash instead of pasta - it makes a nice change. I thought the sauce could have used about an hour or two more cooking time to give it more depth. Next time, I'll use some Roasted Tomato Sauce from our freezer or a jar of our favorite kind from a store.

Overall, thumbs up! Everybody at our house liked it.

1/4 baguette, halved lengthwise
1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
6 medium cloves garlic

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small (2-1/2-lb.) spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
One 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat the oven to 375°F.

Arrange the bread cut side up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Brush it with the butter. Peel and chop the garlic. Divide the garlic in half and sprinkle one-half with a generous pinch of salt. Using the flat side of a chef’s knife, mince and mash the garlic and salt together to form a smooth paste. Spread each piece of bread evenly with garlic paste and season with salt and pepper. Bake until light golden-brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Cut each piece in half to make 4 pieces total, and cover with foil to keep warm.

Meanwhile, arrange the spaghetti squash in a single layer in the bottom of a large, wide pot. (Don’t worry if the squash halves don’t lie completely flat in the pot.) Add 1/2 inch of water, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the squash is tender enough to shred when raked with a fork but still somewhat crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the squash to a plate and set aside until cool enough to handle.

While the squash cooks, heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, the remaining chopped garlic, onion, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper; cook, stirring to break up the meat, until just cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain and discard the fat if necessary. Add the tomatoes, basil, and 1/4 cup water; stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

With a fork, rake the squash flesh into strands, transfer to plates, and season to taste with salt. Ladle the beef ragù over the squash and garnish with the Parmigiano. Serve with the garlic bread.

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

The traditional twice-baked potato reinvented using the sweet potato, perfect for fall meals.

4 sweet potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup fresh pineapple or 1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
1 to 2 teaspoons orange zest
splash of almond flavoring or Amaretto

Preheat oven to 350.

Scrub sweet potatoes and bake until tender, probably 45 to 60 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.

Slice the potatoes in half and scoop out insides. Place the cooked sweet potato in a large bowl. Add the salt, butter, drained pineapple, orange zest, and almond flavoring or Amaretto. Stir well and put mixture back in potato shells or, if you'd rather, in a greased casserole dish. Top mixture with a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg.

Can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated for a day or two. Bring to room temperature before baking.)

Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

Brown Sugar and Pecan Brussels Sprouts

1 ½ pounds fresh Brussel sprouts or 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons butter
¾ cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
3 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Core fresh Brussel sprouts and steam them until just soft.

If using frozen packages, cook them according to the package directions or: bring 1 cup water to boil and add the Brussels sprouts. Return to boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer about 5 minutes, until sprouts are tender. Drain and set aside.

You can slice each sprout in two, which will help them soak up more of the yummy sauce.

In a small saucepan, combine the butter, pecans, nutmeg and salt over low heat until the butter is melted.

Toss Brussels sprouts with pecans. Just before serving, pour the buttery sauce over the Brussels sprouts, tossing to coat. Serve warm.

This tasty way to serve Brussels sprouts has won over real Brussels sprouts haters.

Serves 6.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Loaded Alfredo

Also from Cook This, Not That*. We had this last for dinner and it was a hit! We used homemade pasta, which helped, but it would be good with the suggested whole wheat pasta, too.

It wouldn't have bothered me if the sauce had had a bit more body to it. Next time, I may use 1 cup of whole milk, and probably add a bit of Asiago cheese to it.

While we were eating dinner, we thought of lots of versions of this - smoked sausage and crawfish tails. Shrimp and asparagus instead of chicken and broccoli would be another. It would be a great dish to use up bits and pieces from the fridge. We often have grilled chicken, grilled asparagus, roasted green beans left over from various meals.

Our son loved it, too. We'll be making it again.

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp flour
3 cups 2% milk
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups bite-size broccoli florets
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
8 oz cooked chicken breast, thinly sliced (store-bought rotisserie chicken works well) - We used two grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
12 oz whole-wheat fettuccine (we like Ronzoni Healthy Harvest)

How to Make It:
To make the bechamel, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour. Cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk to prevent any lumps from forming. Add the garlic and simmer, whisking often, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until nicely thickened. Stir in the Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Heat the oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables have lightly caramelized. Stir in the chicken. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot, add the sauce and the chicken mixture, and toss to coat. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta water to thin it. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings / Cost per serving: $3.63

In comparison, consider the same dish at The Olive Garden:
1,220 calories
75 g fat (47 g saturated)
1,350 mg sodium

*Love this book.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Easy weeknight dinner

from Cook This Not That

12 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 14-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp red-pepper flakes - the recipe calls for 2 teaspoons, which was very spicy - next time I'll use a scant 1 teaspoon

4 oz dried spaghetti
1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/4 tsp dried oregano or thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the red-pepper flakes, olive oil, onion, garlic, and oregano or thyme, and cook until the onions are soft. Add the tomatoes.

Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook according to package directions.

Add the shrimp to the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the pasta, add as much of the sauce as you'd like, and garnish with parsley.