Parmesan Pilaf


This is a recipe that was printed on the back of an Uncle’s Ben’s bag years ago. We used to eat it at my mom’s a lot, as it’s easy, fast, relatively inexpensive and good for you (perfect for weeknights!). They don’t make the Uncle Ben’s pilaf mix we used to use, but I just subbed regular white rice with some orzo pasta and it works well. I top mine with a ton of fresh lemon (or lime, if lemons are too expensive) because I’m a lemon freak and anything with broccoli gets doused in lemon.

I didn’t make this for NickĀ  because I figured he wouldn’t like it too much — too much broccoli and flavors that are too subtle. But surprisingly, he requests it now. The recipe as it is makes plenty of leftovers, which we love. You can easily halve the recipe if you want.

Parmesan Pilaf

1.5 lb chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 1/2 c long grain white rice
1/2 c orzo
6 c chicken broth
4 T (half stick) butter
6 garlic cloves, chopped
4 stalks fresh broccoli
2 handfuls grated parmesan

1. Brown the chicken in a Dutch oven or other pot with a tight fitting lid. Remove from pan.

2. Add butter and garlic over medium heat, saute for a minute until fragrant and butter is foamy. Add rice and toast in the pan for 4-5 minutes, until the grain obsorb the butter and turn nutty smelling.

3. Add the chicken broth and the reserved cooked chicken. Scrap the bottom of the pan to release the brown stuff (fond). Cover and cook for 12 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, chop your broccoli. I like somewhat large florets. I also peel the broccoli stems with a paring knife: slip the knife under the fibrous part of the peel, then hold it against the kinfe with your thumb and pull. It will peel off down the stem. The heart of the stems will be tender and lovely once cooked.

5. After 12 minutes of cooking, add the orzo to the pot and stir. Top with the broccoli, cover, and cook another 8-10 minutes. The broccoli will steam on top of the rice.

6. When rice and broccoli are tender, turn heat off and stir in parmesan. Season with S+P.

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Vietnamese Bun


Welcome to JS readers! Feel free to browse my previous posts and recipes. For now, here’s the recipe that was in the paper, in case you’re looking for an electronic copy. Bun is probably one of my favorite summertime salads. If you don’t like beef, feel free to use shrimp, pork, tofu or chicken as the protein in this salad.

Vietnamese Bun with Seared Beef

Salad (makes 4 servings):
1 recipe seared beef
1 recipe nuoc cham
8 oz rice vermicelli or bean thread noodles
1 small head red leaf or Boston lettuce, shredded
3 carrots, julienned
1/2 large English cucumber, julienned
4 T chopped basil
4 T chopped cilantro
2 T chopped mint
roasted peanuts, crushed, optional

Cook noodles according to package directions and chill in ice water under ready to use. Arrange a bed of lettuce on each plate. Top with chilled, drained noodles, carrots, cucumber, sliced beef, herbs and peanuts, if using. Drizzle nuoc cham over salad and serve extra along side.

Seared beef
1 lb sirloin or flank steak
1 large sprig basil (6-8 leaves)
1 large sprig mint (6-8 leaves)
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 T fish sauce*
3 T canola oil
juice of 1/2 lime

Tear basil and mint and combine with other ingredients. Add beef and marinade for at least 1 hour but no more than 3. Pat meat dry, then pan sear over medium-high heat or grill until desired doneness.

Nuoc Cham
1/2 c hot water
1/4 c fish sauce*
3 T sugar
2-3 T lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Thai bird chiles or one large serrano, seeded and minced

Combine hot water and sugar to dissolve. Add other ingredients and adjust seasoning to your liking by adding more acid (lime), salt (fish sauce) or sugar.

* Preferably 3 Crabs brand. Look for the pink label with 3 crabs on it.

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Tomato Basil Soup


I love me some tomato soup. Especially homemade. Especially near the end of summer when I can go to the farmer’s market and buy tomato seconds by the bushel. They’re the tomatoes that might have gotten bruised or blemished that don’t sell as well, and as a bonus, they’re really cheap. But they’re perfect for soup. Look for roma (plum) tomato seconds. They’re nice and meaty. Don’t forget to get an onion and some fresh basil while you’re at the market!

Tomato Basil Soup

~8 cups chicken broth, or as much to just cover the tomatoes you have
as many fresh, ripe roma tomatoes you can buy
1 small bunch of fresh basil
3 T tomato paste
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic, optional
1 pint heavy cream, optional (half and half works well

1. Peel the tomatoes. It’s easy, it just takes a little time. Score the bottom of the tomato with an X with a knife, like this. —->

2. Drop the tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds or so, or until you see the skins starting to peel back or shrivel up. Fish them out of the water with a strainer and plunge them into a bowl of ice water to cool off.

3. Once you do that, the skins should just slip right off. Keep the skins in a bowl, and seed the tomatoes into the same bowl. I just use my hands, since the tomatoes are already slightly mushy at this point anyway. Keep the tomato ‘meat’ in a large bowl or pot until ready to use.

4. Take the bowl of seeds and skins and press through
a mesh sieve to extract as much of the tomato pulp and juice as you can. Add that back to the bowl of tomato ‘meat’ and discard the skins.

5. In a large pot, heat olive oil and sweat the onions
and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the tomato paste and cook for another minute to concentrate the flavors and caramelize the paste.

6. Add your tomatoes and juice, chicken broth, and the
cleaned bunch of basil. Isoup71 just leave the basil on the
stems and fish the entire
bunch out later on. It flavors the soup but doesn’t leave green specks.

7. Simmer for at least 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the basil, and puree with a stick blender, or in a counter top blender in batches.
Add cream, if using.

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Crock Pot Pulled Pork


Sometimes you just want a little bit of summer all year long. That’s when it’s time for picnic’y foods!

This is perhaps the easiest recipe, one of the most versatile, and very cheap. You can’t screw it up. It’s impossible. You can make any number of dishes out of it when you’re done: BBQ pork sandwiches, a topping for nachos, tacos, carnitas, use some to make a pork stew, perogies, a porky version of shepherd’s pie….You get the idea. It’s stolen from the lovely goons over at the SomethingAwful forums. And while that can be a scary, scary place, the food forum is actually quite good and full of food snobs where I fit in quite comfortably.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork

1 pork shoulder, whatever size you can fit in your pot
Worchestershire sauce, about 1/4 cup, depending on the size of your roast
Light brown sugar, enough to cover your roast
Lots of salt

Plop your roast in your crock pot. Cover that baby with worchestershire, until there’s a little pool in the bottom of the pot. Pat brown sugar liberally all around the roast until it’s covered. Put the lid on, turn it on low, and cook for 10-12 hours. If you have a relatively small roast, check it at 8 hours. If it’s falling apart, it’s done. If you’re impatient, you could probably get away with cooking it on high for 5-6 hours, but low and slow is the way to go.

Once it’s done, take it out of the pot and let it rest on a cutting board until it’s cool enough to handle. Then pull into shreds and salt liberally. And I mean liberally. You will use more salt than you think you need.

Then, do whatever you want with it! I usually just keep it plain and add BBQ sauce to it as needed, so I can use the leftovers for tacos or whatever else. If you’re going for picnic’y, then serve with chips and pickles, of course.

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Shortcut Pasta Arrabiatta


Sometimes I just don’t feel like cooking. (Gasp, right?!) Or I just plain don’t have much time to cook. In those cases (and when I’m feeling rich), I go and buy a bottle of Rao’s brand arrabiatta sauce. Yes, I know it’s $8/bottle, but it’s so good. I don’t do this very often, only when it’s on sale. If you don’t want to spend that money, you can easily substitute canned crushed tomatoes (san marzano, please), along with some garlic, lots of red pepper flakes and a bit of dried oregano and basil.

Cheating Pasta Arrabiatta with Sausage

1 lb short pasta, I used Barilla gemelli
1 jar arrabiatta pasta sauce, I use Rao’s
1 lb hot Italian sausage, links or bulk
1 red bell pepper, sliced
fresh basil

1. Boil water, add salt, and cook pasta to al dente, timing it so the pasta is done cooking about when the sauce is ready.

2. For sauce, add bell pepper strips to pan over high heat and sear until small black marks appear on the skin. Remove from pan.

3. Remove sausage from casings if in links, and brown in the same pan. Ad jar of sauce once sausage is cooked through, and simmer over medium-low for 5 minutes, or until pasta is cooked.

4. Drain pasta, then return to the pot. Add sauce and sausage, along with bell pepper strips and fresh torn basil. Stir to combine. Add parmesan on the plate to taste.

Serve with garlic bread and/or salad. (My garlic bread is simple and slightly ghetto…Halve French or Italian bread, spread with warmed butter, sprinkle with garlic salt. Pop under the broiler until browned and crisp.)

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Chipotle Chicken Pasta


This is not exactly what you would consider a healthy dish. Though, it does get veggie-haters to eat a good amount of veggies. So maybe the veggies even out the massive amount of heavy cream….right?!

Chipotle Chicken Pasta

1 lb short pasta, I use penne
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 c heavy cream
1 c milk
4-6 chipotles in adobo
1 small onion
2 T tomato paste
3 cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 large handfuls frozen peas
To garnish: chopped cilantro, green onions and parmesan

1. Cook pasta to al dente, timing it so the pasta is complete around the same time the sauce is ready.

2. Using a stick blender, or a blender jar, combine the seeded chipotles and milk until thick and foamy.

3. Clean and chop the chicken. Brown over medium-high heat until cooked through. Remove from pan. Add onions, garlic and red bell pepper. Cook 5 minutes over medium heat. Add tomato pasteĀ  and cook until caramelized, about a minute. Add milk and chipotle mixture and bring to a simmer.

4. When the pasta has 6 or 7 minutes of cooking time left, add the asparagus and the chicken to the pan with the chipotle mixture. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add cream and peas, simmer until asparagus is tender and sauce is thickened slightly. Adjust seasoning to taste. Combine the sauce with the drained pasta. Top each plate with green onions, cilantro and parmesan, to taste.

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Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)


Pho is the ultimate comfort food. Hot, fragrant both, noodles, tender beef, herbs, chiles, fish sauce…Well, it’s my comfort food, anyway. (Don’t be scared, it doesn’t taste fishy.)

I – and many others – have never been able to replicate restaurant pho at home. No one’s sure why. MSG? Stock that simmers for days? Who knows. That, coupled with the amount of time and money this recipe takes, makes me suggest that you only make this if you really, really like pho, and you really, really like cooking. This soup is really good, but not as good as you can get for $5 a bowl at your local Vietnamese place. This is expensive to make, unless you know a butcher you can get soup bones from for free, and yields relatively little. But it is good.


For the Stock:
3.5 lb oxtail (No oxtails were available, so I used beef neck)
2 1/4 lb beef shank or brisket (I used brisket)
2 large onions
2 carrots
3 in fresh ginger
6 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole star anise
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 T soy sauce
3-4 T nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)

For the add-ins/garnishes:
9 oz beef sirloin
8 oz rice noodles
1 onion, sliced paper thin
2-3 thai bird chiles or jalapenos
4 oz fresh beansprouts
1 large bunch cilantro and mint (I did not use mint, and I have also had it frequently with basil as well)
2 limes

1. Make the stock. Put oxtail or soup bones into a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. While that’s boiling, roast your onions over the flame of your gas stove, or under the broiler until the skins turn black. Remove the skins. Roughly chop the onions and carrots and peel the ginger with a spoon.

2. After 10 minutes, drain the soup bones, rinse them, and clean out the pot. You’re getting rid of any scum here. Return the bones and add the other stock ingredients to the pot,except the fish sauce. Add 12 cups of water, and simmer for as long as you can stand it with the lid on, at least 3 hours. After that time, remove the lid and simmer another hour to reduce slightly.

3. When you just can’t stand it anymore and need to eat soon, remove the brisket from the pot, and strain everything into a clean pot through a mesh strainer with cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel. Discard the solids.

4. Bring the soup to a simmer and add the fish sauce to taste. Cook rice noodles according to package directions. Slice the chiles and onion paper thin, and chop the herbs. Slice the sirloin as thin as humanly possible. The reason this is important is because the sirloin is cooked only once the hot broth hits it; otherwise it is never cooked. It helps to freeze the sirloin for 30 minutes or so before slicing.

5. Assemble noodles in bowls and top with slices of the sirloin. Ladle the simmering broth over top and watch the meat cook! Top each bowl with herbs, lime juice, chiles, bean sprouts and onions to taste. Then drool.

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Spaghetti and Meatballs


Ah, everyone’s comfort food. And a crock pot recipe, to boot!

This is perfect for winter, or summer when you want comfort food but don’t want to heat up the kitchen. OK, it’s perfect any time. I make an entire 6-quart crock full, and plan on having leftovers for a week. I usually make around a dozen meatballs and add 5 hot Italian sausages. We always say we’re going to make meatball or sausage sandwiches later in the week, but somehow we always just got back to pasta. Because mmmm, pasta.

Crock Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs (and Sausage)

For Meatballs:
1.5 lbs ground beef
1 small onion, grated
1 egg
1/2 c parmesan
1 t dried oregano
4 T fresh chopped parsley
2 slices white bread, soaked in milk

1 small onion, minced
half red bell pepper, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c red wine
2 T dried oregano
1 T dried basil
1 T red pepper flakes
3 T tomato paste
3 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes, or whole tomatoes, crushed (I swear by Dei Fratelli brand crushed tomatoes, but whole canned san marzano’s are fabulous as well)

Additional ingredients:
1 lb hot Italian sausage (5 links)
hot cooked spaghetti

1. Make the meat-a-balls. Combine everything but the beef in a bowl. Add the beef, and combine well. Salt liberally (if you’re unsure of the seasoning, you can cook a small amount of the mixture in a skillet before shaping the meatballs.) Shape the mixture into balls. I usually make them slightly bigger than golf balls, but size is up to you. Place on a baking sheet lined with silpat or foil, and bake at 450 F for about 20 minutes until browned. They do not need to be cooked all the way through.

2. While the meatballs are baking, sear the Italian sausages in a pan so the casings are brown and crisp, and put into the crock pot.

3. Make the sauce. In the same pan you browned the sausages in, add your onion, garlic and bell pepper. Saute for 5 minutes, then add tomato paste and stir until caramelized. Add wine and deglaze the pan. Add spices and reduce the mixture until there is almost no liquid left. Add one can of tomatoes, bring to a simmer, then pour into the crock pot. Add the other two cans of tomatoes and stir to combine.

4. Place meatballs directly from oven into crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours. Serve over pasta with parmesan.

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