Dinner in a Blink: Pasta with Chèvre, Asparagus & Mint

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I love Jamie Oliver, but I was cursing him as my attempt to make his recipe for ravioli with minted-asparagus, potatoes and mascarpone went up in flames this last weekend. I wont get into details other than to say that the whole thing ended up being a real big mess and I was nearly forced to go to my Jamie Oliver-themed potluck party empty handed (I substituted with his easy and excellent “Chocolate Pots” at the 11th hour. When in doubt, bring chocolate!). Despite my ill-fated ravioli-making endeavor, I really can’t stay mad at Jamie because the combination of flavors inspired by his recipe — tangy-creamy chèvre, sweet asparagus, and bright herbs — is quite wonderful and works perfectly as a quick and delightfully spring-y pasta dish that comes together nearly as quickly as boxed mac and cheese. This combo would be equally great on crostini, as a topping for pizza or melted inside a grilled panini.

BTW: I’ll make sure to nudge Simran to share the recipe for Jamie’s ricotta and herb stuffed mushrooms that she made for the potluck — they were great!

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Piling on the Kudos for Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Braised with Milk and Lemon

Milk Braised Chicken

It’s impossible to resist this recipe. There’s an article over at Kitchn titled the “Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk is Probably The Best Chicken Recipe of All Time“; a good friend (aka the Hungry Dog) — a person I trust 200% in all matters food-related — swears by it; and it has even shown up in my email box at least once with a note from Simran saying, “please make this and invite me over!”. So I finally cooked up some of this irresistible chicken, or rather threw it together one night when I found myself staring blankly into the refrigerator wishing it was someone else’s turn to make dinner. The verdict: this is as tasty as advertised, especially given the extra liberties I took (no sage, forgot the cinnamon stick, chicken pieces instead of whole…). What can I say? This is just one more reason to love Jamie Oliver. Continue reading

Jamie Oliver’s Ultimate Gingerbread

Jamie Oliver Ultimate Gingerbread_A Little Yumminess

Here’s a zingy, zesty, candy-like, and totally unique gingerbread with an interesting history. It dates back to the mid 1800’s and a country baker named Sarah Nelson who sold her famous gingerbread out of a quaint stone cottage to Victorian tourists visiting England’s Lake District . If you’re lucky enough to be roaming the English countryside in those parts, you’ll find the Grasmere  Gingerbread Shop still going strong after more than 150 years and offering up freshly made confections made from Sarah’s original recipes.

One of my faves, Jamie Oliver, loves Grasmere gingerbread and since he was not able to get ahold of the top secret recipe (it’s locked in the National Westminster Bank in Ambleside), he created his own version which he says is almost as good and “some of the best gingerbread you’ll ever eat”…. if that’s not enough of a recommendation to try this recipe yourself, I don’t know what is! Continue reading

Jamie Oliver’s Summery Roasted Pepper and Tomato Bruschetta

This is a great bruschetta to take advantage of late summer lovelies — fragrant, juicy tomatoes and sweet, sweet peppers. I love the technique of roasting the tomatoes right inside the peppers and then smooshing the whole thing down onto a hunk of grilled bread. Messy to eat for sure, but so beautiful.

I saw Jamie Oliver make this on his series “Jamie at Home” one day while I was parked on the couch, dazed from too many sleepless nights with our newborn. In such a state it was reviving to my spirits just to see Jamie wandering around his bountiful country garden, cooking up mouthwatering, rustic dishes like this one. And if I could have jumped right through the TV and grabbed one of these bruschetta right off his plate, believe me I would have! I was so exhausted at the time that I only managed to make a few mostly illegible chicken scratch notes on a scrap of paper while I was watching the show. Lucky for me, I unearthed that scrap this summer and I had enough to go on to try to re-create the dish.

I like these bruschetta along with an antipasto plate assembled from the deli for an easy summer dinner. I know sweet peppers are not necessarily a slam dunk for kids — I have one yes and one no in my family —  but it’s an easy enough recipe to put together to test the waters. I think peeling the peppers could help texture-wise for kids and it always seems to help to get them involved with the cooking process. Dressing and scooping tomatoes are good tasks for little ones and I think no kid could possibly resist a little parent sanctioned smooshing..

Summery Roasted Sweet Pepper and Tomato Bruschetta

(adapted from Jamie Oliver At Home)

  • 2 sweet peppers
  • 4 large slices of rustic bread, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • 2 large tomatoes (or the equivalent of 2 cups chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Fresh or dried herbs such as basil, thyme or parsley (optional)
  • Shaved ricotta salata for garnish(optional)
  • Sea salt, pepper, pinch of red pepper flakes
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Halve the peppers and remove the stems and seeds. Place the pepper halves on a foil lined baking sheet.
  2. In a bowl, core and chop the tomatoes (if using cherry tomatoes, halve them). Toss the tomatoes with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, red wine vinegar. I like to add a small pinch of chile flakes (enough if give it a little zing without making it too spicy for kids.). Taste and adjust the seasonings — it should taste like a well-seasoned tomato salad. Switch it up by adding fresh or dried herbs, substituting balsamic vinegar, etc.
  3. Spoon the seasoned tomatoes into the sweet pepper halves. Cover with foil and bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until the peppers start to soften. Uncover and roast for an additional 10 minutes. While the peppers are roasting, slice your bread. The slices should be thick enough to stand up to the juicy topping.
  4. Turn your oven to broil and pop in your bread to toast while the peppers spend a few minutes under the broiler to get a light char. I like to flip my bread to toast both sides. Keep a close eye on everything during these 5 minutes — I have had too many burned toast disasters to count!
  5. When the peppers have cooled enough for you to work with them, tip excessive juice into a bowl so you won’t wont water log your bruschetta. Dress the toasted bread with a light drizzle of olive oil and then lay a roasted pepper on top (you may need to cut the peppers in half). Press down to let some of the juice mingle into the bread and to flatten out the whole thing. Sprinkle fresh herbs, sprinkle a little more salt if needed and optionally top with some shaved ricotta salata. You can also drizzle some of the juice you poured off earlier.

You might also like: Jamie Oliver’s Braised Pork and Pepper Goulash, Jamie Oliver’s Mini “Egg Cupcakes”, Summer Favorites Recipe Collection

Sunday Stew: Jamie Oliver’s Braised Pork and Pepper Goulash

Feeding our new bambino late one night gave me a chance to catch up on a few cooking shows. This goulash recipe from Jamie Oliver at Home (the “Peppers” episode) “had me at hello”. Slow-braised pork shoulder and peppers? Sign me up! While it takes a few hours to cook, the hands on time is pretty minimal. I wasn’t sure if Luca was going to go for the whole peppers thing so I told him it was carnitas and he ate it right up. This is a great one for a lazy sunday dinner with family and friends since you can feed a crowd with very little effort on an inexpensive cut of meat. Leftovers would make a fantastic sauce for pasta and, of course, we couldn’t resist some “goulash/carnitas” tacos for lunch the next day.

Jamie Oliver’s Spicy Pork Goulash (my cliff notes version below, get the original recipe from Jamie’s site here.)

I knew Simran and I were kindred spirits — when I told her that I was making this, she said she had been salivating over this recipe for quite some time.  Since not everyone in her family eats pork, I think you could substitute chicken pieces (reducing the simmer time from 3 hours to 1) with similarly delicious results. Despite the word “spicy” being in the title, if you like the heat like Simran you’ll want to add some chili flakes.

  • Boneless Pork Shoulder
  • 2-3 Red Yellow or Orange Peppers
  • 1 Onion
  • Jarred Marinated Sweet Peppers
  • Can of Tomatoes (diced or squish up whole tomatoes)
  • Paprika
  • Caraway Seeds
  • Sour Cream
  • Lemon
  • Parsley
  1. Season a piece of bonelss pork shoulder with salt and pepper and sear well on all sides in a very hot pan (start with the fat side). Set the meat aside and drain off the rendered fat.
  2. Add 1 finely diced onion, the leaves from a sprig or oregano or marjoram, two heaping Tablespoons of paprika, and a teaspoon of caraway seeds crushed in a mortar and pestle. Let the onion soften for a few minutes.
  3. Add 2 or 3 thinly sliced red, orange or yellow bell peppers (no green ones!);  a cup or more of jarred, marinated sweet peppers; a couple of Tablespoons of red wine vinegar; and a can of tomatoes.
  4. Add the meat back into the pot and add water as needed to nearly cover the meat. Cover and place in a 350 degree oven for three hours. The meat will be fork tender when it’s done.
  5. Remove the meat from the pot, skim off any fat that has risen to the top and taste the sauce for seasoning. Serve everything together with a dallop of sour cream flavored with lemon zest and parsley.

This one is seriously good —  awesome recipe, Jamie!

Happy Lemon Risotto

The crazier life gets, the more I am won over by the versatility and ease of risotto. It’s serious comfort food, endlessly adaptable and an old standby that can be pulled together last minute with ingredients I almost always have in my pantry (arborio rice, chicken stock, an onion, a hunk of parmegiano reggiano) and jazzed up with a few bits of whatever else is around. While stove-side stirring is required, it somehow feels less stressful than recipes that require a lot of chopping or ingredients…. or thinking!

Before I get to some notes on risotto, here are three of our favorite variations:

  • Lemon Zest, Lemon Juice, Peas — Some Diced Roast Chicken or Sauteed Shrimp Would Be Nice!
  • Crumbled Sausage; a Can of Crushed Tomatoes Mixed with Broth for the Cooking Liquid; Fresh Spinach for Garnish (chiffonade)
  • Roasted Garlic; Toasted Sliced Almonds & a Dollop of Mascarpone (gotta give credit to Jamie Oliver for this one. Here’s his recipe)

Stacie’s Risotto Crib Sheet:

  1. Bring your stock to a simmer (you’ll need ~2.5 cups for every cup of uncooked arborio rice). [Since I had some asparagus I wanted to use up, I just trimmed it and blanched it right in the stock for 2-3 minutes until tender crisp, then set it aside.]
  2. Saute some finely diced onion and celery in olive oil until softened. Add the uncooked arborio rice to the pan and saute for several minutes until it starts looking less chalky and more translucent.
  3. If you have some available, add a splash of white wine (1/2 cup or so) and let it completely absorb before starting to add the stock (if you don’t have any, you can skip it without sacrificing too much). Then, start adding the warm stock one ladle at a time, stirring until the liquid is completely absorbed between each addition. My Italian cooking guru Marcella Hazan says to start checking the rice for done-ness after about 20 minutes.
  4. When you’re getting close to your preferred done-ness, add your goodies [in this case the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of 1.5 lemons, a handful of frozen peas which I didn’t bother defrosting].
  5. Off heat stir in a generous amount of grated parmeggiano and a little pat of butter if it strikes your fancy. Taste taste taste and correct your seasonings. [I scattered my blanched asparagus on top. For a little zip, I also garnished with some finely chopped chives, crispy fried sage leaves (nice for texture and takes the intensity way down), a little squeeze of lemon and drizzle of good olive oil.]

Unfortunately, my little one objects to most green foods lately and picked around the peas & asparagus with determination– even after we made happy face bites on our forks — but my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this dinner of creamy, lemony, comfort food yumminess which we enjoyed with some crispy fish fillets and sauteed asparagus. Yum yum good!