Brussels Sprouts & Bacon Pasta

Q: What do you make for dinner the night before you go back to work after having a baby?

A: Anything you have in your fridge already, so you don’t disturb the good people at the grocery store with your heaving sobs. Oh, and pasta, because that always makes me feel better.

Somehow it’s October.  Four months have flown by and my baby is big enough to hold up his own head and smile and generally make my heart sing like those baby animals in Snow White.  Naturally, I’m feeling sad and anxious about going from spending all day, every day with him, to only the hours after dark.  More about that some other time, I guess.

Anyway, the night before I recommenced working outside the home, we still had to eat and I hadn’t been to the store in quite some time.  A perusal through the fridge revealed: half a lemon, half a container of chicken stock, a going-bad-very-quickly package of brussels sprouts, and some Parmesan cheese.  Bacon from the freezer and half a box of pasta and presto, dinner in about 30 minutes.

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pasta

  • half box pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
  • about four slices bacon, chopped
  • a few sprigs thyme
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt, pepper
  • a good amount crushed red pepper
  • 1 bag (or 1 branch, or however you buy your sprouts) brussels sprouts
  • olive oil or butter
  • about 1/2 cup chicken stock, white wine, or just the starchy pasta water
  • Parmesan cheese
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil; cook your pasta according to directions and drain, reserving about a cup of the starchy water (if using).
  2. As your pasta cooks, prep your sprouts.  Chop off the tough end of each sprout and add to your food processor. Finely shred all your sprouts.
  3. Heat a deep, large skillet over medium heat and then add bacon.  Crisp it up a bit and then add garlic, taking care not to burn it.  Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and your crushed red peppers (note: if you like spice, add a fair amount.  The crushed red peppers get a bit lost among all the brussels sprouts).  Add a few sprigs thyme, as well.
  4. Add brussels sprouts to pan; spread them out evenly so the shreds start to crisp up underneath a little bit.  Don’t be afraid to add a bit of olive oil or butter at this stage!  After a while, stir the mixture up to let all the sprouts cook evenly.  Add a bit of white wine, stock, or some of the starchy pasta water to start creating a sauce.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and give the whole thing a toss; add lemon juice and Parmesan & season to taste; serve hot.

The Verdict:

Make sure to carefully season your pasta throughout the cooking process.  I was a bit afraid to oversalt, given the bacon, so I had to make up for this at the end.  But this is delicious, and a big bonus is that it makes enough to take for lunch the next day, too.  The only remaining question: what do you make for dinner AFTER the day after you start working..and the day after that, and the day after that?

Answer: you marry into literally the best family ever and your MIL brings you a delicious lasagna.

Leek Fritters & Garlic Lemon Cream (SK recipe)

You know those bus ads that roll past you with some amazing picture of someone doing something somewhere ridiculous and at the bottom it says “taken with an iPhone”?  Yea, so my iPhone pictures don’t look anything like that.  (Maybe because my life doesn’t really look like this. Although I did pay for the ridiculous storage upgrade so I can now take thousands and thousands of pictures of baby, all doing the same thing, lying on our bed. Maybe not the same thing.)

Of course, that doesn’t stop me from thinking: now that it’s awful and dark and rainy out, maybe the iPhone camera will be able to create some magic in the kitchen.  First up, these leek fritters, taken unabashedly from the Smitten Kitchen, in honor of Rosh Hashanah.  Yes, I know that latkes are for Hanukkah and moreover, that they’re made with potatoes.  But who wouldn’t want to start the New Year, though, with some fried onions with cream and garlic?

Leek Fritters

  • 3-4 large leeks, sliced in half lengthwise and then sliced thinly crosswise
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced down to the white parts
  • about 1/4 cup flour
  • dash garlic powder
  • dash crushed red pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • butter
  • for the sauce:
    • about half a cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
    • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
    • juice from 1/2 lemon
    • a bit of lemon zest
    • pepper, salt to taste
    • optional: dash hot sauce
  • additional eggs, for frying and serving on top

**tip: if you’re serving these for dinner, this makes a comfortable amount for 2 people for dinner.  Otherwise, double the recipe if you’re serving 4, etc.

  1. Prep your vegetables.  Trim the leeks, leaving the white and pale green parts.  Cut them lengthwise and slice them thinly crosswise.  Slice up the scallions, discarding the bottom parts.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to boil, and boil the leeks for about 3-4 minutes.  Drain, and then wring all the water out using a dish towel, paper towel, or cheese cloth.  Try to get out as much water as you can.
  3. Mix the leeks and the scallions in a large bowl with your fingers, making sure to break up the clumps of leeks that will form after you wring them out.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and garlic powder.  Add to the leeks/scallions, and then add one egg.  Give it all a stir so a lumpy batter forms.
  5. Preheat an oven and a baking sheet so you can keep your batches of leeks warm.
  6. Over medium to medium-low heat, heat more butter than you think your heart wants, and then add little drops of batter to the pan, smushing each little drop so it forms a flat pancake.  Fry each side until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.  When nice and toasty, transfer to the warmed oven.  Repeat until you finish off the batter.
  7. While your fritters cook, mix together your cream sauce by adding the sour cream, garlic, lemon, lemon zest, salt, pepper and hot sauce together and whisking.
  8. When the last of your fritters is sitting in the oven, fry up a couple of eggs to finish off your meal.  Serve hot.

The Verdict:

Deb Perelman promises that these keep well in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for about a month – simply warm them up in a 325 degree oven to get them nice and crisp again.  The Husband and I have no idea if this is true, because we gobbled all of these right up.

Arugula and Mint Pea Salad

We had company over for the first time post-baby two weeks ago.  Prior to baby, I thought spending time at home with one small, portable child who naps on and off all day would mean I’d have lots of time to menu plan and cook and get real fancy.  I had big plans for this blog, for instance.

I know.

Clearly, I didn’t spend any time with any children before abruptly shifting into 24/7, all baby, all the time, mode.  So what made it to the table for company was a reliable friend: chicken and this simple, deceptively good salad.

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Arugula and Mint Pea Salad

  • 2 cups fresh peas
  • 1 bunch mint, torn
  • good handful of parmesan
  • arugula
  • dressing:
    • juice from one lemon
    • a bit of lemon zest
    • olive oil
    • salt, pepper
  1. If using fresh peas (which are awesome), bring a pot of water to boil and very quickly pass the peas through – about 1 minute.  You can also use canned or thawed frozen peas.
  2. Whisk dressing together.
  3. Combine all ingredients together and toss with dressing; top with parmesan.

The Verdict:

This is an old reliable for good reason. Simple, easy, and super delicious.  Definitely enough to impress post-baby company.

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese & Cranberries

Lately, most of the dinners chez nous are a fairly consistent staple of Dairy meets Starch, they have Love Child.  This is because it’s easy, because it’s filling, and because I’d like my pre-ice cream meal to be complementary to the main event.  Obvi.

Even when the husband might be thinking we could incorporate some more meat or veggies, he’s smart enough to know not to comment.  Ever.  There are some definite perks to pregnancy.

However.  Every once in a while, you do crave the green stuff.  Ina here, to the rescue.

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese & Cranberries 

(adapted from Ina Garten)

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  • 2 ripe pears
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • crumbled blue cheese
  • big handful dried cranberries
  • big handful nuts – walnuts, pecans, or almonds
  • 1/3 cup apple cider or 1/4 apple cider vinegar
  • if using apple cider and not apple cider vinegar, splash balsamic
  • big dollop of honey or 3 big tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • arugula (we used Bibb lettuce, but this would definitely be better with the bite from arugula)
  • salt, pepper (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Peel the pears and slice in half lengthwise; remove the core.  Cut just a small slice off the back – this will keep it steady on the baking pan.  Toss with about half the lemon juice and place in a small baking dish, core side up.
  3. Mix together the blue cheese, nuts, and cranberries in a small bowl and top the pears with the mixture.  Mix together the cider, balsamic, honey/sugar and pour over the pears, reserving a bit of the liquid.
  4. Bake pears for 25-30 minutes & pull from the oven.  Make a dressing by whisking together the rest of the lemon juice, the olive oil, and the reserved basting liquid.  Serve the pears on top of the arugula with the dressing.

The Verdict:

This is delicious.  Eat it.  Feel healthy.  And then, to the ice cream.

 

[recipe tweak/do-over] SK’s Shaved Asparagus Pizza

I recently realized I am THAT lady. The one I’ve certainly felt badly for, but banned from my brain because I never thought I would be her.

This was the moment of realization: I was walking home from work, and I dropped my hair elastic.  To retrieve or not retrieve?

Pros

  1. I’d really like to tie my hair up.
  2. I’m grossed out by other people’s hair ties on the ground.  Like, seriously, you don’t notice when all of a sudden your hair springs loose?
  3. I don’t want to be a litterbug.
  4. I’d really like to tie my hair up.

Con

  1. The ground is really far away.
  2. Really far away.

I did not retrieve my hair elastic.  I am a litterbug.

As you can imagine, I’ve also been a bit of a disaster in the kitchen.  However, I was very proud of myself when I looked in the fridge about a week ago and realized I could basically recreate Deb Perelman’s shaved asparagus pizza (which I attempted here before) from things already in my fridge.  Even better: all ingredients were within easy reach & didn’t require bending down.  Some liberties, of course, were taken.

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Smitten Kitchen Shaved Asparagus Pizza

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, crushed reds
  • about 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 (prepared) pizza dough (Trader Joe’s) – we used Trader Joe’s – plus a little bit of flour for rolling the dough
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • sprinkle of Parmesan
  • 2 eggs – you’re going to poach these, & it will be awesome.  I find Alton’s instructions turn out the most consistently well-cooked eggs.
  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. “Shave” the asparagus by holding by their (untrimmed) ends against a flat cutting board and running a sharp vegetable peeler across the spear.  I found that using a cheese slicer works best.  Repeat until you have a big pile of asparagus shavings, and then toss them in a small bowl with the onions, olive oil, Balsamic, lemon juice, and a pinch each salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.
  3. Roll out the pizza dough on a lightly floured surface; sprinkle a bit of the flour on the bottom of your baking sheet and then transfer the dough to the sheet.  Spread the ricotta lightly over the dough, top with asparagus and onion mixture.  Drizzle with a little olive oil if you like, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, and then pop the pizza in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until edges are browned and the cheese is bubbly.
  4. Top with a poached egg and serve immediately.

The Verdict:

Yup, we’ll be having more of this in the future.