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A Nice Little Italian Minestrone

Italian minestrone

This is called an Italian minestrone — which usually means whatever you have in the fridge made into a soup — and it is a wonderful soup for those occasionally cool rainy days that still show up in April. This came originally from a Bon Appetite article I saw, probably four or five years ago, and with a little tweaking, became a fast friend at my house, at least.

The base for this soup is relatively easy, and it’s very good in just about every situation I can think of. But what’s great, is there are a whole host of other things you can add, which only make it better. I’ve use a little broccoli, some asparagus, some spinach (added late in the soup) and a few other things. I’d stay away from zucchini (courgette) for this recipe, mainly because it drastically changes the taste, but otherwise — go for it. I tend to like the leeks and carrots in this soup. You might try scallions or better yet shallots instead of the leeks, but keep the carrots.

And for the pasta, main thing is to keep it small, little pasta leaves, ditalini, small shells. Just small.

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Ropa Vieja

ropa vieja

Ropa vieja, or so it is said, is “The National Dish of Cuba,” and I suppose it’s OK to say such a thing, but I’ve encountered a number of other things that probably could qualify for such a title. Setting that aside for the moment, I really wanted to come up with something that could be made in a slow cooker rather than done fresh, and after looking around a bit, I found some good ideas that gave me a place to start and the result was very high on my list for a great slow cooker recipe.

To understand ropa vieja, you really have to understand that it’s basically a stew using flank steak, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc., then supplemented with olives and a little cilantro. And like most stews, it actually gets better a day or two after you make it. I mean that, too. It gets really better after it’s been cooked and refrigerated a day or so.

The slow cooking method gives the flank steak a chance to cook slowly and gives you that sort of “ropy” texture that makes the dish just what it’s supposed to be, but without a long time standing at the stove. It works really well for this. And I promise you, this will be a mainstay on your menu for a long time to come.

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Spanish Chicken of a Sort

spanish chicken

Spanish chicken is one of those things that make no sense, but it does come out a little Spanish, sort of. This is something else that I picked up on another blog somewhere, made my own changes, and it turns out to be something very good, in fact. That said, I’m pretty sure it did not come from Spain (or Mexico) and apart from some of the flavorings, is just a good Chicken dish.

The best of this dish is the Taco seasoning, which I make myself, but which works even if you have to buy it from the store ready made. Same for the black beans, which you can make or just buy.

In short, it’s very good, even if you can’t let the Spanish thing go bye…

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A few little problems…

All Posts | April 3, 2017 | By

Life being what it is, good ol’ WordPress and some other events have put a small dent in postings last week and apparently this week as well. We’re working on it and will try to get it fixed ASAP.

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Miso Salmon

miso salmon

Salmon is both a quick and easy meal, whether for lunch or a full meal. And this miso salmon is definitely at the top of that list. The only tough part is getting a good salmon, and while that’s generally easier than it once was, getting a really good salmon from Alaska or the northwest coast still can be a problem sometimes. Generally, I try to stay away from farmed salmon, in part because they often use color enhancements to make the fish look better in the case. I get why they do it, but well, it doesn’t sit right with me. 

So when I can get good salmon, the miso salmon is one of those “go to” recipes I often use, because it requires only a little marinade and a bit of time in the oven. At that point, your pretty much done. It’s really fast and gives you plenty of time to focus on a great side dish if you’ve got something special or just want to get a quick meal on the table and be done with it. The marinade does have only one ingredient — the miso — that can be difficult to find, but honestly, with online shopping, it’s really not hard. And the miso can last a long time if kept pretty well in the fridge or the freezer.

Give this a try the next time you need something in a hurry.

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Cashew Chicken

Cashew Chicken

Cashew chicken.  There are a handful of recipes you can find on almost any Chinese restaurant menu you can think of, yet most of them are very Americanized to say the least. But I spent a great deal of time in China, and yes, I’ve had cashew chicken there, and I can tell you that with a couple of changes in ingredients, you can have the “real” dish on your own menu, in a flash.

Here are the things you’ll want to have before you start the dish: Shao Xing cooking wine, dark (mushroom flavored) soy sauce, and Zhenjiang vinegar. If you have a local Chinese grocery available, these are things that are easy to find. If not, all of them can be found online. You might have to wait a few days, but trust me, it’s worth it. Generally, this would be one of several dishes at a Chinese banquet, but you can either serve with other things or simply serve it itself.

It will be darker, and have a few hints of flavor you might not otherwise expect, and yet it will be the same in most respects. The main thing is it will have nothing but actual Chinese ingredients in it, which is a good thing. How much different is it from Americanized cashew chicken? Well, a great deal of it has to do with how sophisticated your palate might be, but in general it’s richer and a lot more filling than the kind of thing you might find in any but the very best Chinese restaurants. 

For a lot of reasons, I used a wok to make my version. You can use a large skillet, but like a lot of things in Chinese cooking, a decent wok does make a difference (though probably small) in the final recipe. If you’ve got one, use it. If not, don’t worry much about it.

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Tortellini in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

Tortellini In Creamy Tomato Sauce

Tortellini is one of those Italian recipes that I make fairly often but don’t generally write about. Why? Well, for the most part, you get a good cheese tortellini and add some marinara and you’re pretty much done. Great meal, but not much to write or read about, unless you’re making your own — something I’ve never tried before. Still, with all that, I made a couple of discoveries that changed my mind. The first is a chicken and mushroom tortellini and the second is a delicious creamy tomato sauce that makes all the difference.

You can get all kinds of cheese tortellini, almost anywhere you can find groceries. What you find less often are meat tortellini, in part because they don’t keep as well in a refrigerated case. What I found this time, however, was homemade tortellini in a small Italian grocery that was filled with a lovely chicken mushroom mixture that was in just about any context you can think of, a real pleasure to eat.

But when you add the creamy tomato sauce — yes, flavored with real cream — it was nothing short of astounding. In particular, the use of chopped tomatoes and spinach with just enough onion to give it a little bite and you’ve got a real winner. Add a little Parmesan on the side and I don’t know too many things that get much better.

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