Pasta Primavera

Here’s another one for vegetarians or anyone avoiding meat on Fridays during Lent.  Not being much of a vegetable eater, I wasn’t so sure I would enjoy a dish made with just pasta and veggies.  Turns out that with the right sauce and vegetables, I’m a fan.  We adapted this pasta primavera recipe by using veggies that we already know we like and beefing up the sauce (so to speak) with tomatoes.  We also left out the chicken called for in the original recipe, but adding some leftover cooked chicken if you’ve got it would be a welcome addition of protein.  This is an easy and flavorful dish with a creamy tomato sauce that has a hint of spice and complementary textures from the sauteed veggies and cooked pasta.  It’s worth a try with whatever veggies you happen to like for a relatively quick and healthy weeknight meal.

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Pork Souvlaki

The word “souvlaki” comes from a Greek word meaning “skewer” and refers to meat (usually lamb or pork) grilled on a skewer.  Although we’ve never been to Greece (add it to the Life List!), we were inspired by a visit to a Greek food festival to try making this type of cuisine at home.  Given our prior success with meat-on-a-stick recipes (pork, beef and more pork), we figured that the Greek version of the kebab would be a good place to start.  We used this recipe for a simple, yet flavor-packed marinade made from olive oil, red wine, lemon juice, dried mint, dried oregano, garlic and a bay leaf.  We made pork souvlaki because we happened to have pork shoulder in the freezer (most likely leftover from our Charcutepalooza efforts), but the marinade would likely be just as good with lamb or even chicken.  Aside from the dried mint, these are all ingredients that we almost always have on hand, but wouldn’t necessarily have thought of combining.  Surprisingly, the combination resulted in the unmistakable “Greek” flavors we remember sampling at the festival.  Who knew it would be so easy to make Greek food at home?  This is one of our favorite things about cooking  — the satisfaction that comes from learning a new flavor profile or technique that opens up a whole new realm of recipe possibilities.  Opa!

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Tomato Orzo Soup w/ Spinach

We love a good soup, especially one that is hearty enough to be a meal all on its own.  Bonus points for also being healthy and vegetarian.  This soup (adapted from a recipe by Chef Michael Chiarello) not only fits these criteria, but also is delicious and easy to make with simple ingredients you most likely already have on hand:  a can of whole tomatoes, olive oil, butter, celery, a carrot, onion, garlic, chicken broth, a bay leaf, orzo pasta and spinach.  It’s a great dish for anyone avoiding meat on Fridays during Lent, or anyone who likes soup and is looking for a nutritious, meat-less, meal-in-a-bowl dinner.

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Turkey Chipotle Chili

There are probably as many different chili recipes as there are reasons for people’s differing opinions as to whether or not chili should have beans in it.  For the record, we do not put beans in our traditional (award-winning!) chili because Texas Chili does not have beans in it.  Apparently someone even wrote a song about it:  “If You Know Beans About Chili, You Know That Chili Has No Beans.”  We make an exception to this rule for white chili, which is a lighter alternative to the red meat version.  We’ve made white chili before and enjoyed it, but felt that it lacked the flavor “wow factor” of our beef chili recipe.  Enter the chipotle and the tomatillo.  The idea of adding these ingredients came from this recipe and took the white chili to a whole new level, flavor-wise.  The spicy/smoky chipotle and sweet/tart tomatillo give a much needed boost to the otherwise potentially bland flavor combination of white beans and ground turkey.  This is a dish that even a Texas-chili-purist can love, beans and all.

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Baked Panko Fish Sticks

Anybody else remember eating fish sticks as a kid?  The pre-breaded kind that you buy frozen and re-heat on a cookie sheet in the oven?  I feel a strange fondness thinking back about those perfectly formed, mostly tasteless, little breaded logs of mystery fish meat — most likely because they remind me of Friday nights during Lent, which makes me happy for two reasons:  Fridays signal the Weekend (favorite time of the week) and Lent signals Spring (favorite season.)  Fondness aside, the fish sticks of our childhood didn’t have much going for them in the flavor department.  And I’m pretty sure that their exact uniform shapes were not the result of a chef’s precise knife skills preparing the fish for breading, freezing, packaging and shipment.  Makes me think of this great commercial, featuring a little girl’s indignation at being fed “minced” fish sticks:  “What is this, ‘minced?’  You feed me ‘minced?’  You ever catch a minced fish?!?”  We’re pretty sure that Martha Stewart never fed anyone minced fish, so we decided to try her recipe for fish sticks made from tilapia fillets as a modern version of this childhood classic.  With just a few ingredients — tilapia, an egg, panko, olive oil and Old Bay seasoning — and an elegant dipping sauce made with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, horseradish, lemon juice and parsley, the fish stick is all grown up.

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Wilted Kale and Roasted-Potato Winter Salad

Despite the fact that Spring seems to have sprung (at least around these parts — temps in the high 70s here this week!), it’s not too late to try this hearty and healthy winter salad recipe, found on the Epicurious website.  This is our second attempt at cooking with kale, and we think it turned out just as good as our first.  We’re fans of roasted potatoes already and liked the idea of incorporating one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet for a “super food” side dish.  Kale is rich in vitamins K, C and A and contains tons of health-boosting nutrients that do things like help with diet and digestion, provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, prevent cancer and lower cholesterol.  Seriously, what doesn’t this leafy green do?  If you’ve never tried kale, this potato salad is a good introduction to it.  The salty, Parmesan-crusted potatoes complement the slightly bitter kale, and the lemon-tahini dressing brings it all together with rich, bright flavor.  Surprisingly good!

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Shredded Chicken Tacos

If you like chicken tacos even just a little bit, we’re going to have to insist that you make these tacos, adapted from this recipe.  While we always respect people’s varying palates and food preferences, we can’t say enough good things about these tacos and really want everyone to try them.  If we could invite you all over for dinner and make them for you, we would.  They’re that good.  They’re also pretty easy to make — just simmer a couple of chicken breasts in a sauce made with tomato sauce, white vinegar, garlic, a chipotle pepper, ancho chile powder, ground cumin, oregano and sugar.  Then shred the chicken, add it back to the sauce, and fill a couple of tortillas with the tender, spicy and tangy chicken mixture.  Garnish with chopped white onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime, and enjoy your new favorite tacos!

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