Thursday, March 29, 2018

Pasta à la Monique and Sourdough Bread!

Even though the first week or so of spring has been challenging weather-wise, I have had a delicious, savory time in the kitchen!

Recently, Monique at La Table de Nana, shared this delightful pasta dish with rapini, bacon and pine nuts that included dry sherry.  I had just used sherry in a stir fry recipe not that long ago, and when she mentioned using sherry in her pasta dish I knew it would taste terrific.  And it did :)

I didn't have any penne pasta which Monique uses, but the campanelle pasta that I did have in the pantry worked fine and I love the spirally trumpet shape.

My pea shoots are still going strong so decided to add some as a garnish. It would be nice to stir them into the dish right at the end so they wilt slightly too. Such a good dish!  My husband loved it too.

I added a little more sherry and pasta water to make it even more saucy and tossed in lots of grated parmesan, as Monique suggests.  I served it with some freshly made sourdough bread.

See that rabbit shape on the far right? That's the shape I was happy to finally create  :)

I've been keeping my sourdough starter alive for over a year but I've never been able to achieve the type of bread I'd been longing for until after I ordered a couple of books to read.  The bread above was made with Ken Forkish's levain ingredients and ratios from his book Flour Water Salt Yeast.  The whole wheat flour added to my starter feeding really made a difference.

Sort of fitting for Easter, don't you think?  My rabbit even has eyes and what looks like a hind leg :)

I used the techniques I found in Emilie Raffa's book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple.   She really does simplify the long process.  So far, I've tried two of her recipes and both worked very well with the greatest success coming from the 'high hydration' recipe.  It was so good I couldn't stop eating it myself :) The crust was amazing. Still not as 'holey' as some breads I see on Instagram but I'm happy with my first new results so far and I'll keep working on it!  I know a lot of people aren't into nurturing sourdough starters, and making bread, but if you are, just send me a private email and I can tell you what I did.

The past couple of weeks we've celebrated two birthdays in our family (including yours truly) and have two more coming up in the next two weeks with my husband's birthday falling on Easter Sunday this year.  Fun times ♥ 

Wishing you and your family a safe and joyous Easter or Passover weekend!

Monique's pasta would make a delicious side dish for your holiday menu :)

Pasta à la Monique for Two - see Monique's instructions here:

1 diced shallot
3 or 4 cloves of minced garlic
1 small bunch of rapini, cleaned and cut into 1-2" pieces, discarding the tough ends
Toasted pine nuts
Cooked bacon, as much as you like - perhaps 2-3 pieces per person, diced
Cooked pasta, perhaps 1/2 pound of dry pasta - save a half cup of pasta cooking water before draining
1/8 cup dry sherry...or more :)
Lots of grated Parmesan - perhaps 4 oz or to your liking
Red Pepper Flakes, a pinch
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh basil, parsley or pea shoots for garnish :)

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium high heat. Saute the shallot and garlic about a 30 seconds or so being careful not to burn.  Add rapini and cover pan to let it steam-cook for about 3 minutes until just barely tender.  Remove cover and toss in the rest of the pasta, pine nuts and bacon. Add the sherry and a splash of pasta cooking water and toss.  Add the parmesan and seasonings and toss.  Add more sherry or cooking water if you like.  Pass the Parmesan and red pepper flakes at the table.  Simple and tasty!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Sunshine Chicken Salad

How about a tasty chicken salad to welcome the first day of spring?  Even though we have no snow on the ground here, the first day of spring definitely came in like a Lion with chilly temperatures (about 32F as I type) and lots of wind (meaning a wind chill of 20F).  Glad I didn't put away my warm coat yet!  On the day I made this last weekend, it was a mild 57F.  The wild ride of March :)

This delightful chicken salad idea came by way of a Penny at Lake Lure Cottage who happened to mention the great chicken salad sandwich she and her husband enjoy at a restaurant in New Smyra Beach, Florida.  No recipe, just a list of the ingredients, so I decided to try and recreate it.  The apples, dried cranberries and orange mayonnaise sounded delicious together.  And, since it's from a restaurant in Florida, I named this Sunshine Chicken Salad :)

This was also a great opportunity to use the pea shoots that I started indoors last month.  I was anxious to see something green growing so just put a small handful of pea seeds in some seed starting soil and look what I have now! They added another wonderful and flavorful dimension to the salad.

Serve it on a bed of greens, add some avocado slices, as I did, or eat it on a buttery croissant, the way the restaurant in New Smyrna Beach serves it! Enjoy!

Sunshine Chicken Salad

Printable Recipe

Serves 2 as a main course salad

Add as much of each ingredient as you like, according to your preference!

2 cooked chicken breasts halves (roasted, poached or rotisserie chicken breast), diced
1 organic Gala Apple, cored and diced
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup toasted pecans, broken into pieces
1-2 green onions, sliced thin, saving some of the green part for garnish
1/2 cup Hellmans or Best Foods mayonaisse
2 teaspoons concentrated orange juice, or use freshly squeezed
1/2 teaspoon grated organic orange rind, optional
Small bunch of snipped pea shoots, optional
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook chicken breast, allow to cool and then dice.

In a small saute pan, melt a little butter and add the pecans. Toast, tossing them around in the pan until fragrant and beginning to brown, slightly. Add a pinch of salt and toss. Place on paper toweling to cool.

Make the orange mayonnaise by adding the orange concentrate or fresh orange juice and zest, if using. Stir thoroughly to combine and taste test. Add more orange juice, if desired.

In a large bowl, combine the diced chicken, diced apple, cranberries, pecans, and sliced green onions.

Add the orange mayonnaise, salt and pepper, and toss to coat, adding more mayo, if necessary.

Cool for at least 1 hour to let the flavors combine and serve on a bed of lettuce and top with additional green onion and pea shoots, if available.