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Posts Tagged ‘2-4-6-8 Great Meals’

I recently mentioned my new love for the often-ignored vegetables, fennel and leeks. The recipes I told you to try are not posted online, so I wanted to write them here. My favorite out of all three is the orzo with steak.

Grilled Skirt Steak and Orzo With the Works

(p. 252, 365: No Repeats; makes 4 servings)

  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. skirt steak (I just used regular steak from Costco)
  • 3 tbs. balsamic vinegar (eyeball it)
  • 2 tbs. EVOO, plus some for drizzling
  • Coarse black pepper
  • Coarse salt
  • 1/2 lb. orzo
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (a couple of pinches)
  • 1 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes (I actually didn’t have any, and it still tasted great!)
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped or torn
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (a couple of generous handfuls), chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (a couple of overflowing handfuls)

Coat the skirt steak in balsamic vinegar, a good drizzle of EVOO, and a lot of freshly ground black pepper and marinate in a nonreactive dish for 5-10 minutes.

Preheat an outdoor grill or ridged grill pan to high.

Bring a large sauce pot of water to a boil to cook the orzo. Once boiling, salt the water and add the orzo. Cook until al dente, with a bite to it, about 12 minutes.

While the water is coming up to a boil, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the 2 tbs. of EVOO (twice around the pan); add the onions, garlic, fennel, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the veggies are slightly tender.

Season the steak with salt and grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove the meat to a plate, tent loosely with foil, and let it rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.

To the veggies, add the chicken stock and grape tomatoes, bring up to a bubble, and cook for 2 minutes, or until the grape tomatoes begin to burst. Add the cooked orzo, basil, parsley, and grated cheese and stir to combine.

Slice the meat very thin on a sharp angle. Serve alongside the orzo with the works.

My Friend Frank’s Famous Chicken

(p. 138, 30-Minute Meals; makes 4 servings)

  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • EVOO
  • 1 large bulb fennel, halved, then thinly sliced
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, sliced into strips, lengthwise
  • A handful golden raisins (about 1/4 cup packed)
  • 1 can (14 oz.) no-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • A handful chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Toasted pignoli (pine nuts) to garnish

Rub the balsamic vinegar into the chicken to tenderize it.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Go twice around the pan with EVOO. Cook chicken breasts 5 minutes on each side and remove from pan. Add fennel and onion. Cook, shaking pan every so often, until onion begins to caramelize (sweeten or turn caramel-golden in color), about 5 minutes. Return chicken to pan. Add raisins, broth, parsley, and salt and pepper. Heat through. Pour dish out onto a serving platter and granish with toasted pine nuts.

Shrimp Primavera Pasta With Asparagus, Peas, and Leeks

(p. 46, 2-4-6-8 Great Meals; makes 2-4 servings)

  • Salt
  • 1/2 lb. spaghetti
  • 1 leek
  • 2 tbs. EVOO
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/2 lb. medium-to-large shrimp, peeled and deveined (you can also substitute chicken for the shrimp)
  • 3/4 to 1 lb. asparagus (1 bundle), trimmed to 4 inches then cut into thirds
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tbs. butter, cut into small pieces
  • Black pepper
  • 1 cup shaved or grated Romano cheese
  • Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

Place a large covered pot of water on the stove and bring it up to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water and cook the spaghetti to al dente.

While the pasta is working, trim the tough green tops and the roots from the leek. Halve the leek lengthwise and dice it thin. Place the leeks in a colander and rinse them vigorously to release any grit. Drain the leeks well.

Heat the EVOO in a large, deep skillet over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook for a minute. Add the leeks and shiitakes and cook until they are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the stock, raise the heat a little, and bring it up to a bubble. Once the stock bubbles, add the zest and the shrimp and cook it for 2 minutes, then add the asparagus and peas to the pan and cook them for 2 minutes more.

Melt the butter into the sauce, add the drained pasta to the pan, and toss to combine the shrimp and vegetables with the spaghetti. Season with a little pepper, adjust the salt to taste, and garnish with the cheese and parsley.

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Monday’s dinner was supposed to be Polenta With Chunky Chicken and Chorizo Chili from 2-4-6-8 Great Meals (p. 181). I set out all the ingredients, including an opened bottle of Yuengling Light, and began chopping peppers and onions as the ground chicken started to cook. I opened a cabinet to get a storage container and ka-BOOM! A jar of honey fell from the top shelf and knocked the beer bottle to the floor, splashing all over the tile and cabinet doors.

What surprised me the most was that I didn’t overreact – I actually laughed, drank the remainder of the beer (and opened a new one for the chili), wiped the floor, and kept going. I think back to past kitchen mishaps – dropping an entire pot of rice and beans on the floor, spilling various spice jars, etc. At the time I wanted to cry. Haven’t we all had those moments?

I was curious as to what polenta and chili would taste like, and the answer is a very interesting combination of chunky and smooth. The polenta is spooned into the bottom of the bowl and the chili (and its light sauce of beer and tomato sauce) rests on top. The recipe called for chorizo in the chili, but I’m not a fan of its spicy, gritty flavor, so I left it out. I added a little sour cream on top to cool it all down.

Polenta is one of my new favorite ingredients to use – cooking it with chicken stock instead of water enhances the flavor and makes it taste like you’ve been cooking it all day. This meal had polenta mixed with scallions, butter, and thyme, and I’ve made it also with butter, parmesan cheese, and a little half-and-half. A few of Rachael Ray’s recipes call for polenta cakes in a twist on traditional lasagna – I think that will be my next attempt.

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On Sunday night I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to make for dinner – eggs, hamburgers, or just give up and make PB&J. I decided on an Olive Frittata and Tomato Bean Stoup from the 2-4-6-8 Great Meals for Couples or Crowds cookbook by Rachael Ray (p. 56-57). I like how she’s divided the recipes into how many people each will serve, although I tend to focus mainly on the “4” section. (I’ll admit I’m the queen of leftovers for lunch the next day.) This meal was listed in the “2” section, but it ended up making enough for 4 people.

This was the first time I’ve ever made a frittata from the stove to the oven, and it turned out great! I used the small skillet from Rachael Ray’s cookware line, which is the only skillet I have that is oven-safe (up to 400 degrees). I started the frittata on the stove and finished it up in the oven, and it was much faster than making it in the oven from the start. The frittata had a nice blend of green olives, roasted red peppers, and onions, with a creamy finish from the eggs. Next time I’ll fold the eggs more evenly on the stove so it has a flatter surface on top when it goes in the oven.

The stoup was wonderful because it had a great combination of fresh and canned ingredients. The red pepper flakes added a spicy note to the stoup without overwhelming it, and the mixture of beans and vegetables made the consistency of the dish hearty enough to stand on its own. I can see a wide range of possibilities with the tomato sauce/chicken broth/garlic/red pepper flakes base – for example, the recipe called for a 15-oz. can of small white beans, which I didn’t have, but a substitution of a can of soy beans worked equally as well.

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