Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Chicken Pho

In a strange twist of fortune, I made one of my favorite meals in ages on a day I didn’t feel like taking pictures. A few weeks back, I saw Smitten Kitchen’s new recipe for Chicken Pho and was instantly interested in giving it a shot. I remembered seeing something on this Vietnamese soup on a travel food show, most likely an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and have been interested in trying it ever since.

At first, I was a bit skeptical because I have an aversion to working with full chickens. They just seem like so much work. But my intrigue trumped my laziness and I spent one day a few weekends back following this recipe very closely. The only ingredients I didn’t include were sprouts and black cardamoms because I couldn’t find them at my grocery store. I even bought some star anise and used about five of them for my broth. I can’t quite remember the exact measurements I used for cinnamon, coriander seeds, fennel seeds or ground cloves, but I think I was in the teaspoon-per arena.

With those few variables in place, I followed the recipe by charring the onion and ginger on my gas stovetop, let the stock cook for several hours and got as much chicken off the bones as possible. I wish I was a better food writer to properly explain to you how good this broth turned out. It had so much depth of flavor thanks to the combination of sweet, salty, tangy and even a bit of sour that I wanted to eat it all day. You throw in some well cooked chicken, rice noodles, crispy fried shallots (which I should have cooked a bit longer as mine didn’t get too crispy) and the rest of the garnishes and you’ve got one of the best, most unique meals I’ve made in a very long time.

Recipe Roundup: Smitten Kitchen

baked-pasta-with-broccoli-rabe-and-sausage2As I said in a recent post compiling various recently attempted recipes from the site Closet Cooking, I’ve tried a lot of recipes in the past several months and done very little posting, so it’s time to go through the images, write down my spotty memories and get these things out there into the internet where they will hopefully jog my memory later on and encourage other people to give them a try. This batch of three all come from the cooking site I’ve been following the longest: Smitten Kitchen!

Chicken Tacos

I’m always interested in checking out a new recipe for tacos and this certainly fit the bill. I don’t think I’d ever made chicken ones before and the flavor on these were pretty solid if memory serves. I especially like the way you cook the chicken which is fairly hands-off and super easy. Combine all ingredients in a pan and boil for a half hour. This gives you plenty of time to chop up the rest of your taco fixins. I don’t quite remember why I didn’t make the salsa fresca that’s also mentioned in the post. Instead I whipped up a crema (sour cream combined with avocado, salt, oil, onion and some green Tabasco). One of these days I’d like to give this one a shot with bone-in chicken because I understand there’s more flavor there.

Baked Pasta With Broccoli Rabe & Sausage

baked-pasta-with-broccoli-rabe-and-sausage1

Apparently I only snapped a few pictures when I tried out this recipe. I remember this being a pretty easy thing to put together and the results being a kind of sausage-y, rabe-y mac and cheese and there’s nothing wrong with that. Actually, seeing this recipe again makes me want to give it another try in the next few weeks.

Pasta With White Beans

While I only snapped two pictures of the previous meal, I can’t seem to find a single image from either of the two times I made Pasta with White Beans (I skipped the rosemary oil because my wife is not a fan of that particular herb). Another easy meal to put together thanks to all the food processing, I really enjoyed the flavors combined for this recipe, but will note that all those beans can lead to some evenings punctuated by the most musical of fruits.

Cooking Smitten Pasta With Cauliflower Walnuts and Feta

I’ve been so lax in posting here on MATK that I’m actually circling back around to recipes I tried months ago, snapped pictures of and never posted about. So, the main photos from this post are from that original try while the last one is from the most recent.

The first time I made Smitten Kitchen’s Pasta With Cauliflower, Walnuts & Feta, I followed the recipe to the letter, using the whole wheat pasta, two heads of cauliflower and the whole deal. It’s really simple to put together. Just get the water going, chop the veggies up, stir, drop, repeat, season and mix. My memories are a bit fuzzy from the first attempt, but it must have been good because I kept the link.

The second time, I jammed a little bit on the recipe, mostly because we had a few things sitting around in the pantry that I could sub in and save a little cash. First off, I used half a bag of egg noodles. I tried a new way of boiling pasta that I will get to in an other post, but I think I cooked them a little long because they got a bit sticky. I also swapped out the toasted walnuts for pecans because I had some on hand. I ground them down to sand size and toasted them up in a separate pan.

Since I’m trying to write down my cooking experiences in a more timely fashion, I can say that this is definitely a hearty, tasty meal that benefits from the mixture of acid from the lemon and white wine vinegar mingling with the punch of the feta and the crunchy sweetness of the cauliflower. My alterations this time around worked out well and showed how versatile this recipe — and the showcase ingredient — can be.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Garlic Butter Mushrooms & Steak Plus A Leftover Sandwich

Like anyone who tries a lot of different recipes, I’ve had a good deal of hits and misses lately. But, one of the absolute best hits I’ve come across in recent memory is actually a side dish: Smitten Kitchen’s Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms. As it happens, this is also one of the easiest things to put together. The only change I made was cutting out the capers because I forgot to buy them at the store. I also used some garlic butter because I had it around, if you do too, give that  shot. You basically get all the ingredients together in a baking dish and throw them into a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.

I figured that man can not live on mushrooms alone, so I also grilled up some steaks that happened to be on sale that week and steamed some asparagus. The dinner itself was pretty rad. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with a well cooked steak (I just spread some extra virgin olive oil on and sprinkle with salt and pepper before cooking on the cast iron grill pan). The real star, though, were the mushrooms. They’re just so perfectly earthy, rich and buttery with just a bit of acid from the lemon to tone the whole dish of goodness down just a bit.

Better than the dinner was the sandwich I made the next day. I had a red bell pepper in the fridge, so first off I sliced that and cooked it in some olive oil. After that, I sliced some of the steak and warmed that up in a pan with some of the mushrooms and the juice. When that was all warmed up, I placed it on some bread (that I spread some of the mushroom juice on too) with some rasped cheese and put all that on a foil covered pan under the broiler to melt the cheese. Once that was all done — I took it out when I saw the cheese getting melty — and then put some arugula on there and had myself a lunch I could eat four times a week given the resources. Man, I’m actually getting hungry thinking about this. Maybe it’s time to cut to the chase and make these sandwiches for dinner next week.

Forgotten Food: Smitten Kitchen’s Bowties With Sugar Snaps, Lemon & Ricotta

It’s always a bummer when I can’t remember how a dish came out. It’s even worse when it’s a Smitten Kitchen one like Bowties With Sugar Snaps, Lemon & Ricotta because I remember it being good, I just can’t remember any of the details. I mean, it’s got ricotta and peas (had to go with frozen because that’s what I’ve got) and lemon, so I know it’s good, plus I’ve got an almost 100% success rate with recipes from that site. It’s just been too long and I can’t remember! Still, I’m posting this because the pics came out well and I want to return to it later on down the line.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Steak Sandwiches

To save some cash, I’ve been trying to base my weekly menus off of what’s on sale at my preferred grocery store. A few weeks back my store had loin steak on sale so I went to Smitten Kitchen, threw it in the search and discovered her recipe for Steak Sandwiches.

The meal is super easy to put together. I whipped up the Mustard Mayo first and put it aside, then got to work on the steak and onions which were not only easy to cook (basically throw in a pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper), but only dirtied one pan! Once done, you cut your steak and lay out your spread — the arugala, two kinds of cheddar and the Mustard Mayo — and you’ve got dinner. I really enjoyed the simple combination of mayo and mustard. At some point in the future, I will attempt this with homemade mayo.P1200000

I also enjoyed the leftovers for this meal as you can see in the very last image. While I don’t usually go for sandwiches for dinner, I liked the simple and easy leftovers this preparation created. I basically recreated the sandwich, put it under the broiler for a few minutes and had a tasty and dynamic dish.

Making Smitten Kitchen’s Caesar Salad With Tyler Florence’s Croutons

As I said in a few posts this week, it’s been hot in New York for a while, or at least it was for a while there. I tried coming up with salads and other meals that wouldn’t overheat the house or myself during prep. As I usually do when I have a vague cooking idea, I went over to SmittenKitchen.com and looked around for various salads. Her recipe for Caesar Salad sounded really interesting, especially because of the brined boneless chicken breasts used. I’m a big fan of Caesar when it comes to the salad family, that dressing is just so in line with what my taste buds love being slathered in, so I decided to give it a shot. Smitten’s recipe for the actual dressing can be found here. I didn’t see anything specific about the croutons, so I did a search on FoodNetwork.com and decided to go with Tyler Florence’s take.

This meal wound up taking more time to get together than I anticipated, but it wound up being well worth the time and energy. The first thing I got together was the brine for the chicken breasts. I’ve brined pork chops and our Thanksgiving turkey, so I was intrigued with the idea of going that route for simple chicken breasts.

Those stayed in the fridge for 15 minutes which gave me time to get the croutons and dressing together. The croutons were pretty simple. After setting your oven for 350 degrees, you rip up half your loaf of bread — I got a focaccia from the grocery store — and mix that up with some olive oil, Parmesan cheese and fresh ground black pepper. Then spread that mixture on a (foil-covered) baking sheet and let the oven do its thing for 15 minutes. These guys came out so cheesey and crunchy that I could have eaten them as snacks. In fact, I did while waiting for everything to come together.

The dressing was a pretty simple measure-and-whisk operation. I took the easy way out going the mayonnaise and no anchovy route. For some reason, this version didn’t taste right to me in the beginning, but I ran it by my wife — a fellow fan of the Caesar salad — and she was happy with it, so I let it hang out in the fridge as I took out the chicken and got to work with that.

I cooked the breasts for about 7 minutes per side in one of our non-stick pans. I added some salt and pepper, the former of which was silly considering I had just brined them in salt water. Anyway, while those cooked, I cut up the lettuce and got that in the serving bowl along with the croutons. Once the breasts were done, I chopped them up, tossed them in the bowl and was ready to serve.

I’ve said this before in regards to making tomato sauce and perogies, but there’s just something far more satisfying about eating a complicated and/or time-consuming dish that you make with your own hands. Now, Caesar Salad is nowhere near as complex as those other two, but when you consider the fact that you can drive to pretty much any sandwich shop, diner or fast food place and get this meal in about 10 minutes, it does give a bit of a different perspective and far more appreciation for your food. So, yes, this was a good Caesar salad. The brined chicken had so much more flavor that I’m thinking about using this preparation whenever I have the extra time for dinner. Also, as I’ve mentioned several times already, Tyler Florence’s croutons were to die for. All mixed together, this was a dish that I will definitely be making again, hopefully with some farm fresh ingredients in the not too distant future.

Forgotten Food: Asparagus, Artichoke & Shiitake Risotto

It bums me out that I can’t remember much about making Smitten Kitchen’s Asparagus, Artichoke & Shiitake Risotto. I remember liking the dish a lot, but the details have escaped into the ether. I did want to throw up this post though for a couple reasons. First and foremost, it was good enough to try again and I wanted to at least put that out into the world. Second, I have no idea how to prepare artichokes. I don’t have a link to the method I tried, though I think it was a YouTube video. I screwed them up pretty sufficiently and had to toss them. And third, after watching all these shows about food, risotto sounds like a super hard thing to make, but that’s not the case. It can take a while to swirl the chicken broth in the way you’re supposed to, but it ain’t no thang, really. I can see how it’d be tough to do in a short period of time, surrounded by other cooks and in front of cameras, though.

Making Smitten Kitchen’s Dill-Pepperoncini Tuna Salad

I don’t know about you guys, but it was hot as heck here in New York the past few weeks. It was so hot, in fact, that I didn’t want to sit under my computer a second longer than necessary, hence the lack of posting. Luckily it’s cooling down here (saying that the mid 80s is cool is odd) so I don’t mind hanging out with my old friend the laptop some more. I did my best to plan meals that wouldn’t take a lot of cooking to actually make. While looking around SmittenKitchen.com I came across her recipe for Dill-Pepperoncini Tuna Salad which involved just a bit of fire and heat!

Another bonus for this recipe is that I had everything on hand either in the pantry (tuna, Tony Packos banana peppers instead of pepperoncini, etc.) or the herb garden (dill). As you can see from the above images, there’s not a lot to this recipe. I opened the cans of tuna and dumped them in the bowl. I also got a small pan on the stove to toast some slivered almonds. Once those were done, they were dropped in too. Aside from that, the most work this recipe requires is chopping up the peppers and pouring liquid in the container. Mix it up and you’ve got a meal.

In the leftover phase, I ate this right out of the dish, but for dinner the first time, I went with a sandwich. The tuna salad had a great tartness thanks to the balsamic/mustard combination that includes a little sweetness and crunch thanks to the almonds. You add some sharp cheddar cheese into the mix on some toast and blammo, you’re good. I don’t usually like sandwiches for dinner because I had sandwiches every day throughout grade school and high school and made thousands of them while working at a bagel place back home, but when it’s hot as a mother out and I can whip something together with little work, I’m all for them.

Revisiting Smitten Kitchen’s Pea Pesto

fresh pea pesto

A few weeks back, my wife convinced me to go with her and our daughter to a nearby farm so we could pick strawberries — one of our daughter’s favorite foods — and anything else we might come across. It was luckily not too hot when we got there, but I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of doing my own picking. I don’t mind paying a little bit more to buy local goods that have been picked by other folks. In fact, after actually going out and doing this, I’m even more okay with it. Anyway, the other thing my wife decided to get from the farm was a big basket of sugar snap peas. For some reason, I can never find them fresh at our grocery store which has a pretty solid and impressive selection most of the time. So, she wanted a pea-centric recipe and I searched by blog went with Smitten Kitchen’s Pea Pesto, a recipe that’s super easy and super tasty, two of the biggest things I look for when making food.

My wife was adamant that the fresh peas would taste far better than the frozen ones I usually wind up using. I joked with her, saying I forgot to use the fresh and went with the frozen instead and that I couldn’t tell the difference between fresh and frozen, but that was just for giggles. In fact, the fresh peas made for such a big difference that I fully support her going out and picking more…just leave me and the kid at home.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Japanese Vegetable Pancakes

Every time I see a new meal recipe pop up on Smitten Kitchen, I get excited. When I saw her post about Japanese Vegetable Pancakes, I got jazzed and added it to that week’s menu because it looked new and different yet I could tell that I’d be able to find most of the ingredients at the grocery store.

You’ll need cabbage, kale, carrots and a few other things and you basically just slice them up into strips. Throw all that in a bowl with some flour and six eggs and start forming patties. After my failed attempt at making veggie burgers recently (which turned into a successful veggie has), I was worried that my pancakes wouldn’t come out, but luckily everything stuck together. I broke out two different pans to make the process go a bit faster and flipped/took them off the heat when they got a good shade of blackish brown.

The other key element to this dish is the Tangy Sauce which was FAN-tastic. I’ll probably get to a post about the Sesame Chicken Breasts I made around the same time. There was a similar, spicy ketchup based sauce with that, but it turned out a lot spicier than we like. Smitten’s, though, was fantastic. Tangy, sweet, salty, all the good things in one. The only problem? We ran out of sauce well before we ran out of pancakes.

My wife and I both really fell for this dish. To frame it properly, I would go to the fridge and eat these as snacks right out of the bowl, dipping in the sauce when we still had some. That’s how much I was into this recipe. It’s definitely going in the regular rotation, such as it is.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Italian Stuffed Cabbage

I don’t know about you guys, but I can get kind of lazy when it comes to the meals I chose to make. I don’t mind being it he kitchen for longer periods of time, but I’m not a huge fan of recipes that involve lots of steps, especially ones that involve wrapping one element in another. If I’ve got all the time in the world and the kid’s not running all around me while I’m cooking, I’ve got no problem, but when does that ever happen. So, when I first thought about making Smitten Kitchen’s Italian Stuffed Cabbage, I wasn’t sure about tackling it. But I decided to give it a shot and it actually wasn’t much more work than making meatballs.

The first thing I did for this recipe was getting the bread soaking in milk. My bread was pretty hard, so I figured it would make sense to get those pieces nice and soft. Meanwhile, I got my cabbage ready, cutting off the bottom and doing my best to keep the large pieces intact without ripping. With that ready, I got some water on the stove and made the meatballs. As usual, I went with the loose sweet Italian sausage from my grocery store, though I think I’m going to try and make my own next time. Anyway, with the meatballs prepared and the water boiling, I followed the recipe and got the cabbage ready.

From there, it was simply a matter of wrapping the meatball in cabbage and pinning everything together with a toothpick. Once that was done, I got the tomatoes cooking in the same pot I used to wilt the cabbage (after draining, of course) and dropped my meat filled packages in there. After cooking for a while, you take the picks out, flip them over and let cook a little longer.

In addition to being a really tasty recipe — my wife and I both really liked the flavor of these particular meatballs and how they interacted with the cabbage — this is a nice recipe because you can do the steps at various points throughout the day. Deb at Smitten breaks everything down that way and it really lends itself to someone like me who can be busy on and off throughout the day. I happened to be able to do everything in one session, but if I didn’t have that kind of time, I could have easily popped into the kitchen and made the meatballs, then put them in the fridge, done more work and come back later on. I highly recommend giving this recipe a try because I really haven’t tasted such an interesting meatball. This one will definitely be making its way into my regular rotation…if such a thing every takes shape.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Pasta & White Beans

I’m a big fan of the Smitten Kitchen website. Proprietor Deb Perelman and I seem to share a lot of the same food sensibilities which is great because I’m always looking for new recipes to try out every single week. Lately she’s been doing a lot of dessert stuff which I’m not really into, but any time an entree pops up, I’m usually trying it within a week or two. That was the case with her recipe for Pasta & White Beans (I skipped the garlic-rosemary oil because my wife’s not a fan of that particular herb), even though that was a while back. By the way, sorry about the lack of posting lately, I got sick last week and have been pretty busy doing the whole freelance writer/stay at home dad/new podcaster thing (check out my Pop Poppa Nap Cast over on PopPoppa.com or through iTunes).

Anyway, back to food. I mentioned in a previous post how when I made Nigella Lawson’s Turkey Meatballs In Tomato Sauce it made me think of using a similar “throw the aromatics into a food processor and cook that” approach for my beloved Pasta With Onion Butter Red Sauce from Smitten (which I did here). Oddly enough, this particular recipe for Pasta & White Beans actually does the exact same thing with carrots, onions, garlic and celery. It’s a great way to get all those ingredients together from the jump and really get their flavors to develop while cooking. It also helps make for a bit of a thicker pasta experience which I’m almost always in favor of.

I went with canned beans because I haven’t quite made the transition to getting my own and soaking them over night (maybe when I have more kitchen space, but as of now it doesn’t make a lot of sense in our tiny galley kitchen. The rest of the recipe is really simple. You get the pasta going and cook the food processed vegetables with some water and beans for a while. When everything’s ready, combine, heat through and you’ve got dinner. It’s a really solid, hearty meal that probably can’t be any easier to make. As is, it’s vegetarian, but you could also easily throw in some cooked chicken or turkey and give it some animal protein, although you’re already getting a good deal of that from the beans.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Gnocchi & Tomato Sauce

I’ve made gnocchi before and really liked the results, even though it can be a somewhat time consuming process. So, when I saw what looked like an even easier recipe on Smitten Kitchen’s website called Gnocchi & Tomato Broth, I was game. In addition to the difference in taste, I was also interested in noting the difference between this recipe and the previous one I worked off of. For one thing, it makes a lot less gnocchi which is good for me because I had a rough time trying to thaw out the dough I had frozen. You also prep the potato portion of the dish differently, instead of boiling them, you poke a bunch of holes in your potatoes and throw them in the oven, which I think it actually a lot simpler.

While the potatoes baked, I got to work on the sauce. You’ll note I said “sauce” instead of “broth” because instead of straining everything out like the recipe suggests, I took to it with a hand blender and made myself more of a sauce. Why? Well, it’s been cold and I wanted something thicker. If I made this in warmer months, though, I’d try the broth method to see how that works.

Once the sauce was done, I went back to making the gnocchi dough which involved mixing the ingredients up in our Kitchenaide. From there, I divided up the dough, rolled out some lines and chopped them up with my dough cutter/scooper. While working on this part, I set a pot of water on the stove to boil. When I was done with the dough pieces and the water was boiling, I started dropping them in and waiting for them to rise.

Again, the process can be somewhat laborious and time consuming, but there are days when all I want to do is go into the kitchen and not come out for a few hours with something really good and even a little primal that I made with my hands. This gave me that feeling without taking up too much of the day, so I’m adding it to the greatest hits.

Cooking Homesick Texan Carnitas With Avocado Dressing & Asian Carrot Slaw

It seems like I just can’t recreate the success I had the first time I made Smitten Kitchen’s Homesick Texas Carnitas. It’s a super simple recipe that involves a few ingredients and a bunch of time, but the last time I did it I accidentally bought beef instead of pork and then this time I didn’t chop it up ahead of time. Both times the results were pretty good, I just want to nail the procedure again, you know?

Anyway, I’ve already talked about making that dish, so I want to write about a few of the accouterments I made to go along with it. For whatever reason I had a brain fart when planning the menu that week and didn’t plan on serving the carnitas with anything other than a tortilla. Scrambling, I used what I had at hand to make Paula Deen’s Avocado Dressing and Martha Stewart’s Asian Carrot Slaw. The latter might seem like kind of a strange choice, but the only veggies I had in the house were carrots and I thought the Asian flavorings would bring something interesting to the table.

The Avocado Dressing was alright, but it being a Paula Deen recipe, there’s a good deal of mayo in there which I thought threw the flavor off a little. Since then I’ve made an Avocado Crema that I’ll write about eventually that actually had no dairy or condiments involved and tasted a lot more avocado-y which is what I wanted. Still, it was an okay addition that worked well with everything else on the plate.

The Asian Carrot Slaw actually wound up working really well with the carnitas. I kind of figured this would be the case when I saw that lime was a main ingredient, which is also in the carnitas, of course. I liked the tang that the sesame seeds and vinegar brought to the table and think I might be onto a cool flavor combination here. Anyone want to start a food truck?

Revisiting Smitten Kitchen’s Pasta With Onion Butter Red Sauce & Turkey

revisiting smitten's onion butter pasta One of the few recipes that I cook on a regular basis is Smitten Kitchen’s Tomato Sauce With Onion & Butter. In fact, it’s one of the first dishes I ever wrote about online. It’s so good and only requires four ingredients: pasta, canned tomatoes, butter and onion. I double the recipe to get a lot more sauce because I’m that big of a fan.

One thing that’s always bugged me about the recipe, though, is that you toss the onions after cooking for 45 minutes. I still did it, but I wondered if there might be something else to do with it. Then, after making Nigella Lawson’s Turkey Meatballs In Tomato Sauce and I decided to take one of her techniques and use it with this recipe.

Lawson called for celery, carrots and onion to be tossed in the food processor and given a whirl, I figured I’d take that idea and use it with this recipe (I used two onions, two carrots and two celery stalks. Yes, it ups the ingredient list from four things to six, but I’m sure you would have just as much success just whirring the onions instead of all three veggies. When I first tasted the results, I was worried because it tasted very onion-y, but after simmering for the requisite 45 minutes, that flavor mellowed out and combined well with the other ingredients. I think I might have actually made a great recipe even better!

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Linguine With Tomato-Almond Pesto (Sorta)

As my go-to, single person recipe blog, I spend about as much time flipping through Smitten Kitchen’s archives as I do going through books by people like Betty Crocker, Alton Brown and Michael Ruhlman. We’re just on similar wavelenghts and she has a killer eye for good food. So, I was pretty excited when I came across her recipe for Linguine With Tomato-Almond Pesto. I was far less excited, however, when I went to the grocery store that week and they didn’t have any basil. I wasn’t really prepared to sub in another recipe, so I decided to wing it and the results weren’t half bad.

I followed the recipe for the most part, but added and subtracted a few things based on what I had on hand. Obviously, the basil was out of the pesto, so I tried making it a little more flavorful by adding some olives, but I don’t think that flavor really came through in the finished product. I also decided to heat up some of the frozen Thanksgiving turkey and warmed that up in the same pan I toasted the almonds in.

When the sauce was done whirring in the food processor, I added it to the defrosted chicken and let those guys get to know each other a little bit while the pasta finished doing its thing. Before draining, I pulled out some of the pasta water which I later mixed back in to thicken everything up a bit. I haven’t made the recipe yet as written, though I intend to at some point, but I can say that mine was pretty almond-y. It did feel like it was missing a little something without the basil, but overall it felt like a pretty good save.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Spaghetti With Broccoli Cream Pesto

I didn’t take a lot of pictures of my process for making Smitten Kitchen’s Spaghetti With Broccoli Cream Pesto because it’s not a particularly photo-worthy post (plus, there’s no way I can take better one that SK’s Deb Perelman). You’re boiling water, steaming broccoli, cooking pasta, cutting up broccoli, shredding cheese, chopping garlic, throwing stuff in the food processor, cooking onions and eating.

I’ve made plenty of pesto recipes before and love the variety you can come across even without the traditional ingredients of pesto and pine nuts. In this case the cooked broccoli and onions take the place of those fancier greens. The real genius of this recipe is how you basically use one pot and the food processor to make the whole thing. I got a pot of water boiling and put the steam basket in the top of it. Once it was ready, I added the cleaned and trimmed broccoli. Once that was done and set aside, I threw the pasta in.

While that cooked I took care of some of the other prep stuff. I cut up the onion and shredded the parm. When it was done and drained, I then cooked first the onion and then the broccoli in the pot. When that was done, everything but the pasta went into the food processor and we had diner after a few whirs.

I can’t really say that I’d kick my other pesto recipes to the curb for this one, but I do appreciate that it’s so simple to put together. If you’ve got an extra box of pasta and some broccoli you’re good to go. In a pinch you could use milk instead of cream, You could also cook up some chicken and add that in for added protein if you wanted. Super easy.

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Cold Rice Noodles With Peanut-Lime Chicken

I’m not kidding when I say that Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Cold Rice Noodles With Peanut-Lime Chicken is the best thing I’ve made in a long time. I was immediately drawn to the dish when I first saw her post it, but didn’t get around to actually making it until last night. That’s right, while most of these posts are about dishes I made the previous week, I loved this one so much that I had to move some things around so I could write about it today.

The only changes I made to the recipe was that I omitted the chilies from the dipping sauce and went with chicken breasts instead of thighs because that’s what we prefer. That’s it. I went exactly according to detail for the rest of it. Since there are so many different components to this dish, I decided to work on it throughout the day. I had some time around 2PM, so I hopped in the kitchen and put together the two sauces. For the peanut one, this was a simple matter of pouring the correct amounts of fish oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, peanut butter and lime juice in a blender along with some ginger. Hit a button and you wind up with a wonderful salty, citrucy peanut buttery sauce that I want to put on everything from sandwiches to ice cream.

The dipping sauce was even easier, especially because I didn’t include the chilies which would have required a bit of chopping. This was just a combination of brown sugar, fish oil, lime juice and garlic all whisked together. For the lime juice, I had bought a bunch of limes for mojitos and just decided to use them here. I found that you get about a tablespoon per lime half and used the juicer seen in the photo just to make sure I wasn’t going too crazy or coming up too short. I put both sauces in the fridge for later.

Some time later in the afternoon, I trimmed the fat from the chicken breasts and chopped them up. I realized after I did this that the recipe calls for just putting the chicken on the grill or in the broiler and then chopping later, but I like doing it this way because it gets the marinade on the maximum amount of chicken. I put the pieces in a baking dish and then mixed the marinade like the recipes says, covered that and put it in the fridge.

When it got to be my usual dinner making time of 5PM, I was really set. All I had to do at that point was broil the chicken, pick and chop mint, basil and chives from our herb garden and cut them up, then cut up the cucumber and carrots and prepare the rice noodles. The kind I got said to just cover the noodles in boiling water, so I filled my hot pot, let it get all the way to boiling and then covered the package’s contents with the steaming water in a Dutch oven. Ten minutes later, I drained the noodles and sprayed them down with cool water. For the chicken, I covered a baking sheet with foil, then spooned the chicken pieces onto it and broiled for about four minutes. At that point, I pulled the pan out, flipped the meat and put it back in for 4 or 5 minutes to finish off.

And that’s it, really. You set all the components out kind of like a taco bar so your diners can add whatever they want in whatever amounts they like. This is the kind of meal you see judges go crazy about on something like Chopped because it’s just so amazingly layered. The chicken is perfectly limey and peanuty, you’ve got the saltyness and sweetness of the dipping sauces and marinades playing off of each other. Then there’s the subtle flavor and crunch of the carrots and cukes. All of that is wonder and then you get a bit of the basil or mint in there and you’re in a whole different plane of awesomeness. I can not recommend a recipe more highly than I do this one. Everyone should make it because everyone needs these flavors dancing on their tongues.