Fettuccine with Leeks and Prosciutto

This one goes out to everyone who wants to try fettuccine with something other than Alfredo or tomato sauce.  It’s super-simple, twice as delicious, and evokes some rich and quintessentially Italian flavors, especially if you splurge a little bit for high-quality ingredients.


Without further ado, here is your ingredient list to make 3-4 servings in the space of about 45 minutes or less (i.e. a great weeknight dish):

  • 2 leeks
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 oz. imported Italian sliced prosciutto
  • Cracked pepper to taste
  • 8 oz. fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated fontina cheese, preferably Fontina Valle d’Aosta
  • 4-6 oz. fresh asparagus
  • extra virgin olive oil

For your prep work, cut the roots and dark green tops off of the leeks — you only want to use the white or light green portions.  Freeze the tops and reserve them for making a vegetable stock later.  Slice the leeks lengthwise and rinse them well in cold water, separating the layers to make sure any hidden dirt is cleaned away, then slice them crosswise into strips.  Also cut the prosciutto crosswise into strips and set them aside.

The asparagus will be roasted in the oven separately from the main pasta dish, to be added at the end.  Preheat the oven to 450.  Snap the fibrous ends off of each asparagus stalk.  Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper, then toss to coat evenly and arrange the stalks on a baking sheet.  We will roast these toward the end of the cook time.

In a deep, straight-sided skillet, add the leeks, water, butter and a generous pinch of kosher salt, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender and the water is evaporated, which should take about 30 minutes.  Take care not to let the leeks brown.

While the leeks are cooking, boil some salted water for your pasta.  As the leeks are halfway through their cook time, get the asparagus into the oven to roast, and your pasta into the water to start boiling.

When the leeks are tender, stir in the heavy cream and cook for about 2 minutes until it starts to bubble and thicken.  Next add the prosciutto strips and a few turns of black pepper from your grinder.  By this time the pasta should be at or near a nice al dente, and the asparagus should be about done.  Remove the asparagus from the oven to your cutting board, and slice into one-inch pieces.  Drain the pasta and toss it into the leek-prosciutto mixture, then remove the skillet from the heat.  Toss in the grated cheese, and then you’re ready to plate.  Finish each serving with a sprinkle of the sliced asparagus.

This was a new dish for us, with a little improv on my part, so we weren’t sure what to expect.  But boy oh boy were we pleased with the results.  And then when I added a fresh-baked loaf of my Italian herb and olive oil bread — big happy grins for miles.  We were in strong agreement that this recipe is a keeper.  I hope you’ll try it and enjoy it as thoroughly as we did.  Until our next visit to the kitchen:  Eat well, my friends!


Indian Veggie Chili

Okay, this is not actually a chili dish — it just reminds me of one.  But it is authentic Indian and it is vegetarian, so two out of three isn’t bad.  Actually today’s recipe is a classic kidney bean curry called Rajma, which is a flavorful, hearty and healthy meal unto itself.


There is no shortage of knife work to prep this dish.  Once that’s done the cook time is only about 30 minutes.  Here are your ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 2 tbsp. peanut oil
  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 2 cans (15 oz.) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • Cooked basmati rice
  • Fresh chopped cilantro
  • Plain yogurt

Just one ingredient note — this dish has a bit of pep to it, so if your spice tolerance is not very high you can back down the heat by just using one serrano chile, or cutting the garam masala to 1/2 teaspoon, or both if you’re a serious spice wimp.  Keep in mind, though, that the yogurt garnish goes a long way to cool the dish down, so don’t be afraid to go bold with it.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium flame.  Stir in the cumin seeds and cook until they stop crackling.  Add the onions and sweat them until they are tender and translucent.  Next mix in the ginger and garlic and continue to cook for about 2 minutes.   Add in the chiles, tomatoes, and dry spices, and saute the mixture for about 10-15 minutes.  Lastly, in go the beans, brown sugar, water and salt.  Cook another 10 minutes, and you’re done.


Serve up your finished product with a bit of cooked rice and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and a dollop of yogurt.  Some warm naan also makes a great accompaniment.  We munched this delicious curry down with a big happy grin on our faces, then did it again.  Yummy and healthy in the same bowl — it doesn’t get any better than that.  Until next time:  Eat well, my friends!



Chef Lolly?

I just wanted to take a brief opportunity to brag on my Lolly a bit.  Actually I do that every chance I get, but this time is different.  Regular readers of my blog know her as my lovely bride and greatest supporter as I explore the endless world of culinaria.


What you probably don’t know, however, because I never mentioned it before, is that Lolly will tell you she hates to cook.  Over the years, as we were raising our children, of necessity she cooked fairly regularly and developed a modest repertoire of family dinners, including several of which I remain very fond to this day.  However, she never enjoyed cooking and would happily let me handle it whenever I had the time.

More recently, though, since we became empty-nesters and I started taking culinary classes, I do almost all the cooking in our home.  Lolly is only too happy to let me do the honors, and to be honest, I frequently cringe when I watch her wield my razor-sharp Shun chef’s knife.  Luckily for her, she has an avid live-in home chef to do that for her … usually.  Some nights she simply can’t avoid it.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I walked in last night after one of my thrice-weekly kung fu classes to the smell of something wonderful wafting from our kitchen.  I detected the unmistakable savor of roasting meat, vegetables and herbs, and quickly made my way to the kitchen to investigate the source of this tantalizing aroma.  I found the place clean and tidy — nothing but a single roasting pan in the oven.  A few minutes later, here is what Lolly — yes, that very same Lolly — pulled out.


Oh my!  Roasted chicken thighs in a marinade of red wine vinegar and fresh herbs, with a mélange of Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and apples, topped with — dare I say it? — lovely chunks of thick-cut bacon.  And as beautiful as it looks, the taste was even better.  To say I was impressed is a woeful understatement.  “Gob smacked” would be a better choice.

We munched this amazing dinner down with big happy grins on our faces, as I heaped effusive and well-deserved praise on my pretty little chef.  I like to think my enthusiasm for the kitchen has rubbed off on her at least a bit over the years.   Just between you and me, I think Lolly is secretly starting to enjoy cooking.  But we’ll just let that be our little secret, shall we?  Until next time:  Eat well, my friends!


Greek Roasted Chicken with Okra

So what’s the Greek word for “spatchcock”?  I don’t suppose it really matters — this dish is just as yummy without the translation.  Today we’re doing a Greek-inspired recipe that combines a whole roasted chicken with okra in a delicious tomato-garlic sauce.


This will serve four people, and takes a total of maybe two hours beginning to end.  Here are your ingredients to make the magic happen:

  • 1 whole roasting chicken, about 5-6 pounds
  • 3 oz. extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 can (14 oz.) peeled whole plum tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/4 cups hot water
  • 1 lb. fresh okra
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400.  Spatchcock the chicken by using poultry shears to cut out the spine, then bend the chicken open until the breastbone cracks and the bird is able to lay flat.  In a large roasting pan, lay the chicken breast side down and drizzle half the olive oil to coat it.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle on 1 tsp. of the oregano.  Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the bottom of the roasting pan with the minced garlic and hot water.  Into the oven it goes, to bake for 30 minutes.

During this initial baking period, it’s time to prep the okra.  Using a paring knife, trim the stem end of each pod to remove the hard cone, taking care not to cut into the pods as this can release the natural okra slime.  When you’re done trimming, give it a thorough wash in cold water and let it drain.

When the 30 minute bake time has finished, remove the pan from the oven and reduce the heat to 375.  Turn the chicken over so the breast faces up.  Drizzle it with the remaining oil, season with more salt and pepper, and sprinkle the rest of the oregano.  Arrange the okra around the bird and stir the pods to coat with some of the tomato sauce.  Sprinkle the parsley over the whole mess, then back into the oven it goes for about an hour, maybe a bit more, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165.  Baste the chicken and okra with the tomato sauce a few times while baking.  And with that, you’re done and ready to plate.


We munched that bird with wild abandon — okra pods and drumsticks flying everywhere.  Okay, maybe that’s a teensy exaggeration, but we really enjoyed the finished product — big happy grins all around.  This dish combines healthy and delicious on the same plate, but sadly it won’t do a thing for your Greek language skills.  Until next time:  Eat well, my friends!



Pizza as Medicine

Lolly has been battling a nasty cold this week, so today she decreed that to make her feel better we would dine on comfort food — in the form of my homemade pizza.  Ever the dutiful husband, and always looking for an excuse to cook something, I promptly set to work making some pizza dough.


I got a little later start on this than I would prefer, so I had to shorten my bulk ferment and proof times just a bit.  To make up for the lessened flavor development I bolstered the dough with some garlic powder and some dried oregano and basil.  The rest of the pie was composed of a garlic-pesto sauce and some traditional toppings.

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves minced garlic

For the remaining toppings:

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian cheese blend (mozzarella, provolone, fontina, etc.)
  • 12 oz. small Italian sausage meatballs
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil

To create the sauce, combine those ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly, then allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes to let the garlic infuse.  For the meatballs, pan-fry them in advance until browned, and drain them on paper towels to keep excess fat off of your pizza.

When everything is assembled more or less in the order listed, bake at 450 on a preheated pizza stone for about 15 minutes and voila … yummy pizza goodness with all of its well-known medicinal properties.  As you might expect, we munched it down with a big happy grin on our faces, and Lolly felt gratified if not clinically improved.  I’m not a doctor, after all.  Until next time:  Eat well, my friends!


Bengali Monkfish Curry

It has been a few weeks since my last post — I spent about half of that time on vacation, cruising the Caribbean with Lolly — and in the meantime I have been anxious to jump back into the kitchen with some more Indian cuisine.  My collection of Indian spices has been growing at an alarming rate as I try new things — which brings me to today’s recipe.  I have been wanting to work with two ingredients in particular:  the Bengali spice blend called panch phoran, because it appears frequently in the recipes I have been reading; and monkfish, because I’ve never used it before and it has a cool name.  I was able to bring them together in this dish.


Part of the fun with today’s recipe is that we get to break out the mortar and pestle to grind spices as part of our prep.    Panch phoran is a blend of equal parts fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds and nigella seeds — that’s a lot of seeds.  I didn’t need much so for now I just used a tablespoon of each and ground them up as fine as I could — the fenugreek seeds tend to be a bit stubborn that way, so some folks may prefer a spice grinder.  Whatever you don’t use for this recipe can be stored in an airtight container.

Once the prep work is done this dish comes together in just over 30 minutes.  Here are the ingredients for 4 hearty servings of this spicy, rich Indian fish stew:

  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 6 green chiles (Thai chiles will work)
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard powder
  • 1 1/2 lb. monkfish fillets
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. panch phoran
  • 3 cups cold water
  • cooked basmati rice to serve

In a dry skillet, combine the coriander seeds and cumin seeds, and roast them for about 2 minutes.  After they have cooled, grind them in a mortar and pestle and set them aside.  Slit the chiles lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Cut the monkfish fillets into bite-sized chunks.  Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2″ sticks.  That wraps up the prep work, so now we’re ready to start cooking in earnest.

Mix the peanut oil and dry mustard until thoroughly blended.  In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp. of the oil mixture until it just reaches the smoke point, and remove it from the heat to cool.  Reheat the oil over medium flame and add the fish, cooking one minute on each side.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the fish to a plate.

Add the rest of the oil to the skillet, followed by the potato slices, and sauté them for about 3 minutes.  Add the turmeric, salt, chiles, panch phoran and ground seeds, and sauté for another minute.  Next add the water and bring the mixture to a boil, then back it down to a simmer.  Cook until the potatoes start to become tender, about 12-15 minutes.  Add the fish and cook another 3-5 minutes until it is cooked through.

Now you’re ready to serve it up with some basmati rice.  The spicy curry kick is unmistakable, but it doesn’t last long.  The overall result is an intensely flavorful, tender stew that will fill you up and make you feel warm all over.  We munched it right down with a big happy grin on our faces, and you better believe I had seconds.  I hope you’ll enjoy it as well as we did.  Until next time:  Eat well, my friends!