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Now that you have my fabulous pesto recipe, you can make my pesto pasta!  The recipe comes from the Food Network Favorites cookbook.  I haven’t made too many other recipes from the book, but this one caught my eye immediately.

Not only is it fabulous pesto, which as we all know I only recently started eating, but it also has feta and tomatoes, and the occasional peas, when I’m feeling sassy.  The combination of pesto and feta is an amazing one, that super salty cheese combined with the garlicky basily pesto.  So good.

It’s perfect for summer bbqs, good for lunches, and you can enjoy it year round, as you can (sometimes) buy basil all the time, even if it is shipped in from god knows where.

Pesto Pasta

1 pound bow tie pasta
3/4 cup pesto
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Peas, if you’re feeling sassy (and I use frozen and just boil them)

Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the box.  Drain, and run it under cold water so it’s not boiling hot.  No one likes hot pasta salad.

In a large serving bowl combine pasta, pesto, cheese, and peas.  If you need to, season with salt and pepper, and if it’s kind of dry, top off with a little olive oil.  Enjoy!

Well now that you know I’m a vodka and tequila girl, it should come as no surprise that I like penne alla vodka.  It’s good stuff, even though you don’t even taste the booze.

A month or so ago I was in my favorite bookstore, Brookline Booksmith, perusing their sale items as well as their food cookbooks (they happen to have fabulous sales), and I came across Lidia Bastianich.  Now, I’m not going to lie and tell you I have been watching her shows for years (I haven’t).  I only know her name because my beloved Fabio, of Top Chef Season 5 (I looove him, as well as that show), mentioned how she is the queen of Italian cooking in America.  I think she was a guest judge (see how well I paid attention).

So when I came across one of her cookbooks (on sale, no less!), I leafed through it and immediately decided I needed to own it.  My Italian collection consists of Giada, who I love, but sometimes a girl needs to branch out.  I bought it immediately, and ignored the comments I would get when I got home (“but why do you need another cookbook?”).

There have been no comments, by the way, as both of the pasta dishes I have made thus far have been immense hits.  I have also recommended the book to friends.

I started with her penne alla vodka, easy and straightforward.  My girl Lidia likes her Italian plum tomatoes (in a 35oz can, which does not exist at Trader Joe’s), which I had never used before.  Sure, I do whole peeled, crushed, petite diced, but never plum tomatoes.  Well now they rock my world, much like the diced and fire roasted do.

She’s not afraid of the kind of bad for you things, so this isn’t a dish you would eat every week.  Definitely if you’re having company, it’s easy to make and a total crowd pleaser.

And if you’re like me, you’ll eat it with some salad in a bag, rustic bread, and a big old glass of wine.  And sit down and watch something on tv.  It’s kind of sad, my husband and I eat in front of the tv, even though we have a perfectly good dining table (and an amazing one on the way).  Maybe someday we’ll turn the tv off and sit and just chat and eat.  We usually reserve that for company.

Penne alla Vodka
from Lidia Bastiianich’s “Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen”

Salt
One 35-oz can Italian plum tomatoes or if you are me, you improvise with 1 and change 28oz cans and hope for the best
1 pound whole wheat penne
1/4 cup olive oil
10 cloves garlic, peeled
crushed red pepper
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tb. unsalted butter or olive oil for finishing the sauce
2-3 tb. chopped fresh Italian parsley
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Bring salted water to a boil.

Pour the tomatoes and their liquid into the work bowl of a food processor.  Using quick on/off pulses, process the tomatoes just until they are finely chopped (longer processing will aerate the tomatoes, turning them pink).

Stir the penne into the boiling water.  Bring the water back to a boil, stirring frequently.  Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 8-10 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat (a dutch oven works great for this.  ideally you want a pan/pot that is large enough to mix the sauce and pasta in). Whack the garlic cloves with the side of a knife and add them to the hot oil.  Cook, shaking the skillet, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes carefully.  Bring to a boil, season lightly with salt and generously with crushed red pepper, and boil 2 minutes.  Pour in the vodka, lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer (this actually does exist, instead of splattering sauce everywhere), and simmer until the pasta is ready.

Just before the pasta is done, fish the garlic cloves out of the sauce and pour in the cream.  Add the 2tb. of butter or olive oil, if using, and swirl the skillet to incorporate into the sauce.   Once pasta is done, drain (or fish out of the hot water and put directly into sauce) the pasta and add to the sauce.  Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to coat the pasta with the sauce.  Check the seasoning, adding salt and red pepper if necessary.  Sprinkle the parsley over the pasta and boil until the sauce is reduced enough to cling to the pasta.

Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle cheese over the pasta, and toss to mix.  Serve immediately, passing additional cheese if you like.

This recipe comes to us by way of The Pioneer Woman Cooks, but is technically done by her friend, Pastor Ryan.  I’ve made Indian food maybe once before, and that dish came from a newspaper cooking section, and was not nearly as delicious as this one.  I don’t think I have ever had Chicken Tikka Masala before, but I knew it looked delicious and since it had so many interesting Indian spices in it, it had to be good, right?

And delicious it definitely was.  There were so many different flavors due to spices, and it was spicy as well, and the chicken was moist and delicious.  I believe the fact that the chicken was so moist has to do with the fact that you broil it, but cover it in plain yogurt first.  The first time I made this was for my sister in law and her husband, and they couldn’t get enough of it.  The first time I ate it, my stomach was mad at me for 2 days.  But that didn’t stop me from getting back on the horse and making it again, that’s how good it was.  And the second time, my stomach was fine, thank you very much.

Now that I think about it, I never even had Indian food until a few years ago, when my sister in law and husband took us to one of their favorite places, Bukhara in JP, Mass.  They took us there a few times, and I could never get over the perfect rice, the chunks of chicken in their spicy yet complex sauces, and the naan.  Oh, the naan.  Had I paid attention once, I would have known that my sister in law wasn’t drinking, as they told us she was pregnant with our adorable nephew about a month later.  Now I know the signs, should they decide to have another baby.  I’m on to their sneaky ways.

Make a big batch of this, serve it with some amazingly delicious Trader Joe’s naan, and you will be set for days.

Chicken Tikka Masala

3-4 Chicken Breasts
1/2 cup Plain Yogurt
6 Tb. Butter
1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
28 oz. crushed or diced tomatoes (I used two 15 oz. cans of fire roasted diced and that worked well)
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic
1×2 inch chunk of fresh ginger
cumin
3 tb. garam masala (I had to do a bit of searching for this, but found it at Whole Foods)
ground coriander
kosher salt
1 tb. sugar
2 cups basmati rice
1 tb. ground tumeric
frozen peas

Season the chicken breasts with kosher salt, cumin, and ground coriander.  Coat the chicken breasts with the plain yogurt.  Set the chicken on a metal cooling rack on top of a baking sheet (covered in tin foil, this is very important, I forgot to do so, and paid dearly when doing dishes).  Place about 10-12 inches under broiler and broil for about 5-7 minutes each side, until slightly blackened.  Remove from oven.

Dice the onion and heat up 2 tb. of butter in a large skillet.  Cook the onions until they are slightly browned.  Next add in onions and ginger and cook for a few more minutes.

Add in salt, 3 tb. garam masala spice, and diced tomatoes.  Continue cooking and stirring, scraping up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add 1 tb. of sugar, and let simmer for about 5 minutes.

To your rice cooker (or you can make it on the stove as well) add your rice, 4 tb. butter, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tb. ground tumeric, and 4 cups water.  Once the rice is done, stir in frozen peas.  The heat of the rice will thaw the peas right out.

Once the sauce has simmered for a bit, stir in the heavy cream.  Chop up your chicken breasts into good sized chunks, and add them to the sauce.   Serve the chicken mixture over rice, with some naan on the side.

This post is about my anniversary dinner, which I know, occured over a week ago.  But it’s better late than never, right?  I’m glad we got that straightened out.  Instead of going out to our favorite nice restaurant in the city, Sel de la terre (best drinks and french fries, and the staff there is extremely nice, at least at the one on the harbor), we opted to stay home and cook.

One of the main reasons to stay home (not that staying home and enjoying one another’s company wasn’t enough), is because we are in the process of buying a loft!  Our very first place to call our own!  Well, our very first place we will own, as I like to call all our apartments our “own.”  And all our extra money, once we sign our lives away, will be going towards furniture.  I have been scouring craigslist, overstock, ebay, and will be going to my new favorite stores and flea markets to furnish the place.

It has actually always been my dream to live in a loft, and I’m really glad my husband was on the same page.  We’re moving to this fabulously old factory that was converted in 2004, and from the looks of it, there is a real community there.  There is a shared roofdeck, parking (!), and a gallery.  Hopefully that gallery will be just the push I need to start making art again.  We’ll see.  It’s a fabulous space with a fabulous kitchen, and it is perfect for entertaining, which we happen to love to do.  I grew up in an open floorplan, and this is taking it even further!  Not to mention there is laundry in our unit.  IN OUR UNIT!!!  I swear, sometimes it’s the little things.

We will be closing on the 30th of this month, and moving soon after that, so if you don’t hear so much from me…that’s why.  I am thinking of starting a spin off blog about decorating and design, and living in a totally different space, so keep an eye out for that in the not too distant future.  But now, back to what you came here for, dinner.

For dinner we had steak (more about that in a second), roasted potaoes (nice and crispy, just the way we like them), roasted green beans, and delicious rosemary bread (bought, not made).  For the steak, we go to Whole Foods and buy a really nice cut of meat, and then salt and pepper the heck out of it.  This time the husband used a wee bit too much salt (and kosher, to boot), but it was still pretty delicious.  Then we slap it on the grill, and that’s it!  No sauce, no nothing.  Just plain, simple, and delicious.

Now the dessert.  Oh, the dessert.  This is a recipe I found 2 winters ago, when I was scouring the internet for a delicious and easy dessert to make for Christmas at my in laws house (I don’t think they were technically my in laws yet at that point).  And I wanted it to be chocolate.  So on to the food network’s website I went, and looked through about a million different recipes.

This one caught my eye, and it’s a Nigella recipe, which often means easy and delicious.  Not pretentious, not always the most beautiful, but at least you know it’s going to taste pretty darn good.  And so I got all the ingredients, was gifted ramekins for Christmas, and after dinner everyone had drunk far too much wine to want any dessert.  This was actually Christmas Eve, so when we trekked to my parents house the next day, I ended up making these.  And they always get rave reviews.  Think somewhat molten chocolate cakes, but so much easier and confined to their own little ramekin.  I also like to top them with ice cream, it makes the whole experience that much better.

Chocohotpots (she actually calls them Chocohotopots, but I like my name better)

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, with 60 percent cocoa solids (this time I accidentally used regular semi-sweet, and it was just fine)
2 eggs
3/4 cup superfine sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Special equipment: 4 (2/3 to 1-cup capacity) ramekins

Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Butter the ramekins with 1 tablespoon butter.

Either in a microwave or in a bowl suspended over a pan over simmering water, melt the dark chocolate and 1 stick butter, then set aside to cool a little.

In another bowl, mix the eggs with the sugar and flour with a hand whisk and beat in the cooled butter and chocolate mixture. Divide the mixture between the 4 buttered ramekins. Bake for about 20 minutes, by which time the tops will be cooked and cracked and the chocolate gooey underneath.

Place each ramekin on a small plate with a teaspoon and serve. Make sure to warn people that these desserts will be HOT!

I realize that I have been totally slacking yet again, work is crazy, and all that jazz.  Although the exciting news is that if all goes well (we have one final hurdle), the husband and I will be moving into a loft, a loft that we OWN.  Now I was never always totally interested in owning my own piece of property, be it a condo or a house (although around here you have to go far from the city to find a house that can actually be worth it), but my husband has always wanted to own.  He hates renting, and I just never wanted the commitment of owning.  But every time he would make his case, the fact that I could paint however I wanted, knock down walls (we won’t have any in our loft), and do WHATEVER I wanted to in the kitchen.  That was always an enticing idea.  You mean I could put in stainless steel countertops, and tons of cabinets, and get my dream fridge and stove?  Certainly not right after we move, but somewhere down the line.  So I caved to the peer pressure, and here we are, just steps from owning a condo.

I will have more updates on it as time goes on, and I apologize if design elements sneak their way into my blog…but hey, it is my blog, and I can do whatever I want to it…now on to the food.

A few weeks ago I was looking to try something new in the kitchen, and happened to be craving chicken.  After going through ALL of my cookbooks and finding nothing appealing, I turned to my reader.  I was looking through my starred items, and came across this beauty, which is chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, originally by the Barefoot Contessa, but adapted by Pam at For the Love of Cooking.

This recipe is easy (except it takes a while, smashing all that garlic), delicious, and best of all, since Pam jazzed it up, it has NO heavy cream or any of those other bad for you things that Ina likes to use.  Believe me, I love the Barefoot Contessa, but homegirl is not down with the lighter side of food.  And at some point, I am going to be on the beach, in a bathing suit, and I will leave my heavy cream for the ice cream that I love so much (I never said I was a healthy eater, did I?).

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic (yes really, 40!)

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of any fat and in half (you don’t quite need as many, unless you are serving a crowd)
1-2 tbsp of olive oil
Dried thyme to taste
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
40 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp flour
1 2/3 cups of chicken broth
2 tbsp 2% milk (or more)
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Separate the cloves of garlic and peel.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place trimmed and halved chicken breast in a large zip lock bag. Pound the chicken breasts flat with a mallet until 1/2 inch thick (such a good stress killer!).   Season with sea salt, black pepper and thyme to taste.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. In batches, saute the chicken smooth side down first, until nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Flip the breasts and cook for 45 seconds then remove to a baking dish. Once all the chicken has been removed, add the garlic to the pot. Lower the heat and saute for 3-4 minutes, turning often; add the chicken stock, making sure to scrape all the brown goodies off the bottom of the pan. Season with sea salt, pepper and thyme if needed. Pour sauce over the chicken in the baking dish. Cover with a lid or tinfoil and bake for 20 minutes.

Once the chicken has baked, carefully remove the chicken and garlic cloves to a platter and cover with an aluminum foil tent to stay warm. Place the sauce in the large skillet that you cooked the meat in or a saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and milk with a little bit of the sauce. Once it’s thoroughly mixed, slowly whisk the flour mixture back into the rest of the sauce. Add the butter to the sauce, raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes or until it’s nice and thick. Taste and re-season if needed. Pour the sauce over the chicken, garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve. Enjoy.

I served mine with egg noodles, and my husband had his the next day with rice, and both were very tasty (he doesn’t like egg noodles as much, since they’re too slippery).

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