Linguine alla Reckless

Linguine + lemon butter + arrabbiata sauce = my favorite pasta in the whole world.

It might sound a little strange, but it’s my preferred way to eat pasta. The lemon butter makes the noodles all slippery (and probably a lot less healthy…arteries, be damned!), and the arrabbiata adds a nice, spicy kick.

Click on the photo to zoom in on my favorite pasta ever.

The Recipe:
Linguine alla Reckless

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium-sized white onion, chopped finely
3 tsp minced garlic
1/3 cup red wine (I used a Cabernet-Shiraz blend, substitute with what you’ve got)
1 tbsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
1/3 oz fresh basil, chopped (or 1/2 of a package, if you get the pre-packed “fresh” herbs at the grocery)
2 cans peeled, diced tomatoes
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 stick butter
3 tbsp lemon juice
linguine noodles (I used about half of a standard box, I’ll check the number of oz later)

Do This

I like to get all of the chopping out of the way at the beginning. Chop the onion into tiny tiny bits, and do the same with the basil.
Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into a large saucepan, coating the bottom. Dump the chopped onion bits into the pan, and turn the burner to high. Cook for about three minutes, to the point where you can smell the onions cooking from another room. Add in the minced garlic. Open up the cans of diced tomatoes and the tomato paste, and add to the sauce pot. Pour in the red wine, and stir with a wooden spoon until the contents of the pan are well-blended.
Add in the red pepper, black pepper, Italian seasoning, fresh basil, and sugar, and stir. Cover the pan, and reduce heat to medium-low.
While the sauce is hanging out on a back burner, fill a pot with water, a shake of salt, and a short glug of oil, and start it boiling. Grab some linguine (I generally like to take as many noodles as will comfortably fit inside the circle made between my thumb and index finger, and count that as one serving. If you’re cooking for two people, you’ll most likely use at least half a box) and place it in the boiling water. Cook until just past al dente – you don’t want to overcook them, but you also aren’t going for too much crunch with these noodles.
Place the stick of butter in a small saucepan, and turn the burner to low. The butter will melt fairly quickly. Add lemon juice a tablespoon at a time. Three worked perfectly for me, but you may want more or less, depending on how you prefer your lemon butter.
Drain the water from the pasta. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl. Gently pour the lemon butter over the noodles – you’ll have plenty left over, so don’t pour any more than is needed to gently coat the pasta. Lightly toss the noodles in the lemon butter, then spoon into serving plates or pasta bowls.
Top the linguine with the spicy tomato sauce. You won’t need too much – again, there will be plenty of sauce left over. Garnish with fresh basil, and enjoy!

The arrabbiata sauce freezes very well, and you’ll have more than enough for several dinners/lunches. It’s also great on chicken, on other types of pasta (with or without lemon butter), or spooned over garlic bread.

Click on the picture to zoom in. Sorry, you can’t smell the sauce through your computer.

Warning: you may find that this arrabbiata sauce is a little bit hot; I’m a huge fan of crushed red pepper. If your tastebuds are a little bit more sensitive, you can cut back on the crushed red, and I won’t judge you.


It’s Peanut Butter [Cookie] Time

Successful emergency ingredient substitutions are my favorite.

I started out using Smitten Kitchen’s Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe, which, in turn, came from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. The only intentional modification I was planning on making was omitting the peanut butter chips and chocolate chips*.

Of course, I started mixing the ingredients before checking that I had everything in my kitchen. The original recipe calls for milk, but there was no milk, cream, buttermilk, soymilk, or anything close to milk in my fridge. The closest approximation? Cream cheese.

Know what? It worked.

These cookies are not the prettiest peanut butter cookies in the world (to be completely honest, I am not a fan of the photos, and will almost certainly make another batch just to get some better ones), but they are the best ones I’ve ever tasted. I’m sure most of that can be attributed to the folks at Magnolia Bakery, but maybe the cream cheese did something. We’ll never know.

(That’s actually not true at all. I could make two batches, one with cream cheese and one without, but I’m okay with this score remaining unsettled for the moment.)

Click on the photo to zoom in. I’m not sure why I put the cookie on flowery paper, but I kind of like it.

The Recipe:
Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar (plus some extra for rolling)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
optional: 2-3 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (for melting and drizzling, if you like chocolate with your peanut butter)

Do This

Preheat your oven to 350.
In a large bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Coat the bottom of another large bowl with a few tablespoons of sugar. Set these two bowls aside for the moment.
In a mixing bowl, combine one stick of butter (melted is easier to work with, but at least use softened/room temperature butter) with the crunchy peanut butter. Beat with a hand mixer (or a standing mixer, if you’re luckier than I am) until the peanut butter butter is extra fluffy and smooth, and slowly add in vanilla and cream cheese. Gradually add the dry ingredient blend, and mix until the dough is consistently blended.
Form balls of dough, approximately one inch in diameter, and place in the bowl with the sugar from earlier. Roll each dough ball around until it is lightly coated in sugar, then place on a baking sheet. Make sure each ball has plenty of room to expand (at least an inch or two on each side – I made 8 cookies per each 13 x 9 baking sheet just to be safe).

Most peanut butter cookies feature a signature cris-crossed fork mark. I’m sorry, but these cookies don’t do so well with the fork marks (they tend to break apart and expand into funny shapes…it might be the cream cheese’s fault).

Ugly and broken, but still delicious. Click on the image above to see why this recipe does not lend itself to traditional peanut butter cookie fork marks.

Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes. They will look a bit under cooked when you pull them out of the oven, but let them cool for a few minutes. If they’re still super soft after 5 minutes, bake for another few minutes.
Optional: drizzle the cookies with chocolate. This is a very rich peanut butter cookie recipe, and the addition of chocolate makes them taste similar to buckeye candy.

These are a bit thicker and more cakey than any peanut butter cookies I’ve ever had, but I’m a fan. My coworkers and a random CTA worker also enjoy this recipe.

*Reckless Chef trivia: I can’t stand chocolate chip cookies. I’m ok with chocolate-chip-free cookies, though.

A Nice, Light, Summer-y Dinner

Sometimes, it’s too hot outside for a really heavy meal.
Sometimes, I’ve just found a new (to me, at least) shape of pasta that I don’t want to drown in a meat or cream sauce.

Look how pretty summer veggies can be. They’re so nice, they get bowties!

Mini farfalles! If there’s anything better than bowtie pasta, it’s tiny bowtie pasta. Even better? Mini bowties with colorful summer veggies.

The Recipe:
Summer Veggies with Vinaigrette-Tossed Mini Bowties

1 red pepper
1 orange pepper
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
garlic powder
Italian seasoning mix (basil, oregano, etc)
fresh ground pepper

Do This
Start two pots of boiling water – one about halfway full and the other about an inch full. The first one is for pasta and the second is for steaming. Hooray, multitasking!
Chop the veggies into bite-sized pieces. One-inch squares for the peppers and quarter-inch thick slices of the zucchini and squash should work just fine. if you’re feeling fancy, cut stripes into the zucchini.
Toss a few handfuls (or half a box, whatever) of mini bowtie pasta into the first pot and cook until juuust past al dente. While the pasta is cooking, place the veggies in a steamer basket in the second pot of boiling water, cover with a lid, and let them have some sauna time.
When the pasta is done cooking, drain the water off and place the little floppy bowties in a large bowl. Pour in a few glugs each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar (how much is up to you – I went with about a tablespoon and a half of each). Shake a little bit of garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and fresh ground pepper over the top, then toss the pasta until the spices and vinaigrette are evenly distributed.
Remove the veggies from the steamer, and spoon over a plate of the vinaigrette-tossed bowties.

You can serve the pasta warm or chilled – it’s great either way. I plan on making this in bulk and packing it into little containers for tasty at-work lunches.

Bite-sized Frozen Chocolate Goodness

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you chocolate butter that won’t actually separate, make tiny homemade fudgsicles.

Click the image above to zoom in on the cutest little frozen treat ever.

The Boyfriend’s sister sent me a text message last week that consisted of two words: chocolate butter. I’d been toying with the idea of making my own butter for quite some time, so when Amberance came over with two mason jars and a fond memory of a 4th grade social studies textbook (don’t ask), we decided to make a batch or two of butter. The plain kind turned out just right. However, instead of waiting until the butter separated from the buttermilk, I thought it might be a smart idea to add cocoa and sugar before Batch #2 turned into butter. Instead, it got suspended at frothy-whipped-cream phase. Lesson learned: future batches of chocolate butter will be made with chemistry in mind.

The obvious next step was to make homemade fudgsicles with this rich, chocolatey cream.

The Recipe:
Mini Fudge Pops

1/2 pint heavy cream
2 tbsp cocoa powder
5 tsp sugar

Do This
Pour the cream into a mason jar or other airtight container, and seal. Shake the jar vigorously until the contents shift from cream to thick (whipped) cream to a semi-solid almost-butter.
At this point, stir in the cocoa powder and butter. It will look a little bit funky, as though the chocolate doesn’t want to mix all the way in. Keep shaking until your arms are tired. If you need to cheat and put the mixture in the blender for a minute or two, I won’t tell anyone.
When the cream, sugar, and cocoa are fully blended, they will resemble a very thin chocolate pudding, possibly with bubbles in it. Pour this mixture into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, then refrigerate for about half an hour.
Remove the bowl from the fridge. There may be a very thin skin on top, but after a quick stir, it’ll break apart and blend back into the chocolate. Carefully spoon the chocolate into an ice cube tray, and place in the freezer.
After about half an hour, add toothpicks or cut-in-half popsicle sticks to the semi-frozen chocolate bites.
Freeze for several hours, remove the treats from the ice cube tray, and enjoy!

These aren’t intensely sweet, but they’re very rich. I’m inclined to believe that they’re healthier than regular fudge pops because of their tiny size (and because they’re rich enough that you probably won’t need more than one or two to satisfy a chocolate craving).

Just a note: I’m planning on re-making these soon…the faux-fudgsicles were delicious, but very reluctant to come out of the ice cube tray. I had to use a hairdryer to coax them out. I’m going to experiment with different methods, and hopefully find something that doesn’t corrupt the flavor (my first thought was to coat the ice cube tray with non-stick spray, but I feel like that would make for some really gross popsicles). Suggestions are welcome – otherwise, expect an update to this post with more assorted fudgsicle misadventures.

Site Updates + Some Really Good News

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now (unless you’re viewing the posts here via a feed, in which case, you are welcome to disregard) that the site layout looks a little bit different.

In case you’re curious why…
I’m now a FoodBuzz Featured Publisher!

Bruschetta, Sort Of

I’m a huge fan of bruschetta. I’m also pretty reckless. To that end, I bought some tomatoes last week (yes, even in the midst of that salmonella scare) and decided that a tasty snack was probably worth the trouble.

Technically, the bread part of bruschetta is supposed to be grilled. I opted to make mine crunchy by allowing it to sit out for a day, then toasting in the oven. I’m okay with that, but feel free to grill yours. Plus, if we’re getting into proper bruschetta technique, it’s also supposed to be served fresh, but I ate half the batch and stored the rest in the fridge (to marinate?) for a few days, and I liked it better the second time.

And so…bruschetta, sort of:

Click on the photo to zoom in on the snack that didn’t give me salmonella!

You’ll notice that the slices of bread in the photograph are quite light. This was out of caution. I was trying to do too many things at once, and neglected the first batch until I smelled something burning. The resulting char made me go a little on the light end when toasting the second batch. They’re still pretty crunchy, just not very brown.

The Recipe:
Bruschetta, Sort Of

1 loaf day-old French bread (or Italian, whatever you like)
2 large tomatoes
1 package of fresh basil (8 oz)
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
week-old red wine (mine was a Shiraz-Cabernet blend)
garlic powder
onion salt
fresh ground pepper

Do This
Chop the tomatoes and basil, and place in a medium-sized bowl.
This is where things are a little bit inexact – hence I didn’t list complete measurements. You’re going to want to eyeball the amounts on this part. Add a few shakes each (< 1 tsp) of fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, and onion salt. Pour a couple of glugs each (approximately 3-4 tbsp) of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and red wine into the bowl, and stir gently to incorporate the spices, liquid, tomatoes, and basil. I used some week-old Shiraz-Cab that had been sitting out on my counter (again, it was used for something else but then set aside because I didn’t want to waste the rest). Cover the bowl in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator. I let mine hang out in the fridge for a few days, but the tomatoes and basil should soak up the flavorings within a matter of hours.
Let the loaf of bread sit out for a day or so, until it’s crunchy. Fresh bread will work as well, but will be slightly more annoying to slice because of its softness. Slice the bread into inch-thick slices. Lightly brush the center of each slice with olive oil, top with a tablespoon or two of the tomato-basil mixture, and toast in the oven for a few minutes. I made the mistake of severely burning the first batch of bread, to the point that I thought my kitchen was on fire, so the second batch was toasted very lightly. I took mine out of the oven before it was even browned, but you can toast it longer.

Optional: top with mozzarella cheese. The slices in the picture above are not topped with cheese, but that’s because they photographed better without.

I added the wine on a random impulse, but I like how it worked with the other flavors, and will probably keep using red wine in future batches of bruschetta.

A final note: Letting the tomatoes and basil marinate in the wine/vinegar/oil/spices did wonders for the flavor, but not much for the presentation. If you want pretty, green, fresh-looking basil and bright red tomatoes, this isn’t the recipe to go with.

Another Salad With Bulgur In It

Last weekend, my roommate and I had some sort of amazing chicken and pear and goat cheese salad at Mystic Celt. This is not that salad, although it was loosely inspired by it. It has chicken and arugula (Fun fact: arugula is also known as rocket. Yes, ROCKET!), but no pears, goat cheese, walnuts, or any of the other ingredients from the original. It’s finals week and I’m a little bit stressed out, so I felt like making something up. There were always pizza rolls in the freezer if it turned out awful, right?

Click on the image to zoom in on the salad. The bulgur is not that big in real life, hooray macro!

Lucky for me, no pizza rolls were necessary.

The Recipe:
Chicken and Bulgur Salad
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (3 medium-sized breasts)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/3 tbsp garlic powder
1/4 tbsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup coarse bulgur (mine came in a bag that says #4, I’m not sure what that means)
1/4 of a green pepper
a few handfuls of arugula
1/2 oz honey roasted sunflower seeds (mine came from Chic-Fil-A, I’m not quite sure how they ended up in the pantry)

Improvised Dressing
1 oz olive oil
1 1/2 oz lemon juice
1 oz week-old pinot grigio, chilled
1 oz cherry juice
2/3 tbsp chili powder
1/3 tbsp garlic powder
1/4 tbsp onion salt
dash of pepper

Do This
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Blend the spices in a bowl, and rub into the chicken breasts, thoroughly coating both sides. Place chicken into a foil-lined baking dish, slide into the oven, and bake for 30 minutes.
While the chicken is baking, boil 3/4 cup of water. If you’re absentminded like me, boil quite a bit more than that, and measure out 3/4 cup after it’s boiling. Put the bulgur in a medium-sized glass bowl. When the water starts boiling, pour over the bulgur and cover the bowl with a paper towel. Forget about it for a little while, and use this time to mix your dressing.

Some notes on that dressing: I concocted the tart/sweet dressing using a shot glass for liquid measure, mostly because we have a collection of shot glasses in the house that never get any use, and a variety of liquids and spices that were readily available in my kitchen. They may or may not be in yours. The cherry juice called for is some delicious 100% juice, not a juice cocktail. The pinot grigio was a week old because we used it last week for something else, and had no inclination to either drink the rest or throw it away. You are more than welcome to use wine that is not old.

Chop the pepper into tiny bits, as close in size as possible to the sunflower seeds. Set aside.
Once the oven beeps (and the chicken isn’t pink), remove the chicken from the oven and let it cool for several minutes. Check on your bulgur, and drain off any excess water. When the chicken is no longer too hot to touch, slice one of the chicken breasts into thin strips. You’ll have two left over, but they’re tasty and would probably be great in sandwiches. This is me having problems estimating yield again (also, the chicken breasts came in a three-pack, not in single servings).
Assemble your salad: place a handful of arugula in a shallow bowl. Pour about 1/3 of the improvised dressing (or your dressing of choice) into the bowl with the bulgur, mix, and spoon onto the arugula. Arrange chicken strips over the bulgur, and top with green peppers and sunflower seeds. Add more dressing if you feel so inclined.

This turned out much better than I expected, considering that I was super distracted while I made it. The only reason there are any measurements in this recipe is because I had the brilliant idea of writing things down on my fridge white board as I added them.

Side note: I really enjoy using bulgur in salads, even if The Boyfriend says that they’re Not Real Salads if they’ve got bulgur in them. Bulgur is officially the new goat cheese. You heard it here first.