Artichoke + Fennel Seed Paella

Every so often, you need to get fancy.  As in: fancy = your highest heels + your reddest lipstick + the expensive bottle of wine you’ve been saving.

Or, when you’re gestating a human, and you want to put on your best lined slippers and your size-up yoga pants…the good news is you can still cook with really fancy ingredients, to make up for the wine you’re missing.  I’m talking those things you bought when you went to the specialty kitchen store or spice bazaar and your husband was like, seriously? Do we even have room in the cabinets?  When are we going to use these things?  And you give him a look that says: this is already done.  You know what I’m talking about.

Saffron, fennel seeds, calasparra rice, all in one dish.  You can even wear red lipstick.

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Artichoke + Fennel Seed Paella

  • olive oil
  • two white or yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (I used an orange and a green)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • small handful fennel seeds
  • small handful saffron threads
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 and 1/4 cup calasparra rice (super hard to find – you can substitute another short grain rice like bomba or calrose)
  • 1 cup dry sherry or white wine
  • bunch parsley, washed and roughly chopped
  • small handful smoked paprika
  • 1 jar or can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • other vegetables as you please: grape tomatoes, scallions, spinach, etc.
  • 1 lemon
  1. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add a bit of olive oil and then onions + peppers and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.  While these cook, pour the veggie stock into a bowl with the saffron and allow that tasty goodness to infuse the broth.
  2. Add garlic and fennel seeds to the pan, saute for another few minutes, or until onions begin to brown.  Turn the heat up and then add a bit more olive oil, add the rice and cook for a few minutes.  Pour in the sherry or wine and cook until the liquid mostly evaporates.
  3. Add salt, pepper, parsley, and smoked paprika – stir and cook for a minute or two.  Pour in the stock, turn down the heat to medium again and leave your paella alone.  No really.  No stirring.  Let the rice cook in that beautiful stock until there is just a tiny bit of liquid bubbling on top – about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add the artichokes and/or other vegetables into the top of the rice and push them down (again, taking care not to stir the rice).  Cook another 5-10 minutes, then turn off the heat and cover the whole thing, in order to let all the liquid absorb.
  5. Just before serving, squeeze the juice from the lemon all over the paella and scatter with parsley.

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 The Verdict:

This paella gets even better on days 2 + 3 (which is a good news because this is a LOT for two people, even one person who counts as 1.5).  Depending on your level of love for artichokes (mine is quite high) I might even suggest doubling up on those.  Get really fancy.

Slow Cooked Pork with Spicy Squash

We all know that chez nous, we have a strong, strong affinity for the slow cooker.  One might even say it’s a deep, passionate love, if that weren’t a somewhat odd thing to say about something you plug into the wall.

However, I do have a bone to pick with some slow cooker recipes. I’m looking at you, Williams Sonoma.   As in: the whole POINT of the slow cooker is so you can fix it and forget it and still have a delicious meal at the end of the day.  So while I love you, WS, think about this the next time you suggest an ingredient addition at the two hour mark, or a quick pass through the oven at the 90 minute mark, or removing the meat and adding some separately cooked vegetables about 3 hours in.  Just, no.  No one has time for that.  If they did, they’d be actively cooking, and not plugging their dinner into the wall.

Now that the rant section is over, let’s get on with the rave section.  As in this pork recipe.  Adapted from WS, this is a (really) good one, folks. And it’s a (mostly) fix-it-and-forget-it situation.

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Slow Cooked Pork with Spicy Squash

for the pork

  • large (2-3 pounds) pork tenderloin
  • salt, pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • big splash white wine or sherry
  • about 1/2 cup chicken stock

for the squash

  • 1 package pre-cut butternut squash
  • olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed red peppers
  • asian-lime vinaigrette:
    • olive oil (about 2 TBs)
    • soy sauce (about 2TBs)
    • juice from 1 lime
    • sherry or red wine vinegar (about 2 Tsp.)
    • pinch sugar
    • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
    • Sriracha (about 1 TB)
    • big handful basil, chopped
    • big handful cilantro, chopped
  1. Season the pork with salt and pepper and then sear each side in olive oil, over medium-high heat, in a large saute pan.  (This is important for flavor.) Transfer to the slow cooker.
  2. In the saute pan, add the onions and let them cook down a bit, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic when the onions are nice and soft and cook about a minute or two; add the wine/sherry.  Scrape up the nice brown bits, add the stock, cook it off for about a minute and then add to the slow cooker, over the pork.  Cover and cook on low about 6-7 hours (Note: if you’re using a fattier cut of meat, such as pork butt or shoulder, you could let it roll for longer.)
  3. About 30 minutes before the pork finishes, get your squash roasting.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  On a large jelly roll pan, spread out the squash, drizzle olive oil, and then season with salt, pepper and crushed reds.  Make sure it’s nice and tossed through, and then pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is nice and roasted.
  4. While the squash and pork finish, make your vinaigrette.  Combine all of the ingredients, whisk them together, and set aside.  You could also add jalapeno or chilis, if you have them on hand.  Reserve a bit of vinaigrette, as well as cilantro/basil for sprinkling on top of the pork/squash.
  5. Shred the pork in the slow cooker and spoon some of the liquid over it, to keep it moist.  Add the vinaigrette to the squash separately, and give it a good toss.
  6. On a plate, make a bed out of the squash and serve the pork on top.  Drizzle with a bit more vinaigrette and top with basil and/or cilantro.

The Verdict:

Hello, delicious!  The vinaigrette and fresh herbs really make this one pop, so make sure you have that on hand and ready to go for this meal.  (After, of course, you enjoy 6-7 hours away from your plugged-in dinner!).

 

Vegetable Pasta with Sherry Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Remember that time when I said everything on here would be relatively healthy?

Welp, relatively was the operative word in that promise.  Also: it’s cold outside, and you deserve it.

creamy + cheesy + veggie +...carby
creamy + cheesy + veggie +…carby

Vegetable Pasta with Sherry Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

  • about half a box of pasta
  • olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • salt, pepper + crushed reds
  • 3-4 tablespoons sherry
  • large handful spinach
  • large handful kale
  • about 1/3 cup cream
  • 2-3 oz gorgonzola, crumbled
  • optional: parsley, parmesan
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente.  Reserve a little bit of the starchy water for the sauce.
  2. Heat the olive oil and the butter in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onions, some salt, some crushed reds and gently cook the mixture as the pasta cooks (about 10 minutes or so).
  3. Add the sherry and cook off the alcohol; add the starchy water, cream, gorgonzola, spinach, and kale.  Add the pasta and bring the mixture to a quick boil to thicken the sauce.
  4. Serve immediately, topped with a bit of parsley and/or parmesan.  Contemplate going for a run…tomorrow.

The Verdict:

As you’ll note from the menu plan earlier this week, this wasn’t part of our plan this week.  This was a hail Mary after the Husband wasn’t able to make it home for dinner – it just didn’t feel right to make the asparagus tart without him!  Which also means this isn’t a “recipe” – this is a mix+match based on what’s in your fridge.  Sometimes, that’s just how you have to roll.