Tuesday, July 23, 2013

pasta estate stir-fry with brown rice pasta and baked chicken breast

We'll just call this "summer pasta" for short. I had a hankering for alfredo sauce and vegetables yesterday, after one of my pen pals was talking about pasta primavera on Facebook. I rarely eat pasta (as in, once a year, maybe, if you twist my arm) so when my honey came home he demanded to know who I was and what I had done with his wife. But after the first bite he declared it good and light. I myself was very pleased with it. You can't hardly go wrong with olive oil, lemon, and Italian seasonings.

I am not gluten intolerant per se, but I have noticed I feel better and my skin is clearer when I avoid wheat. Luckily there are plenty of options these days. I used Field Day Organic brown rice fusilli which was very satisfactory. The spiral shape is my favorite for collecting the sauce.

(Just FYI, I mostly post recipes here for my own benefit, so what follows is more casual method than strict recipe.)

For the chicken breasts:

Trim and slice in half through the thickness; lay in single layer on (olive) oiled baking dish. Melt & brown 1/2 stick of butter; add equal amount of lemon juice. Pour over chicken breasts. Season well with salt & pepper, or Italian dressing mix & pepper. Sprinkle generously with Italian herbs for crust. Bake at 325-350 for about 30-40 minutes or til done.

Chop and prep vegetables as if for stir fry:

1/3 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 broccoli crown
1 large carrot
1/2 red bell pepper
1 small yellow squash
1 small young zucchini
2 large button mushrooms
2/3 cup frozen peas (save out to add with sauce, below)

Melt butter & olive oil together in skillet. Sautee vegs, in stages, in the order given, til almost tender. Remove to bowl after each stage. Salt and pepper lightly if desired (although the butter and the sauce are almost salty enough, so be careful).

Start pasta cooking while you make the sauce.

Pseudo-Alfredo Sauce:

After vegs are removed from skillet, pour in:

1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 - 2/3 cup of grated parmesan and/or mixed parm and peccorino cheese
1 cup cream
1 cup half & half
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup white wine, (or a little more lemon juice and chicken broth, if preferred)
generous amount of black pepper
2 pinches ground nutmeg

Let simmer, stirring often, until cheese is melted and it cooks down to be slightly velvety. Throw in the frozen peas at the last moment.

Drain pasta and add to veg mixture in large bowl. Pour sauce over all. Top with fresh basil chiffonade, and more pepper and grated cheese if you like. Toss together, spoon serving into soup plate and top with sliced chicken breast. Would also be good with seared blackened shrimp.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Now this is interesting:

J.K. Rowling outed as writer of acclaimed crime novel

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling secretly posed as a retired military policeman to write a crime novel that has been hailed as one of the best debut detective stories in years. 
Rowling wrote "The Cuckoo's Calling" under the name Robert Galbraith and kept up the pretence that it was the work of a married father of two and former undercover investigator. 
"I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience," [Rowling] said. "It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name."

I just bet it was. And what I find really interesting is that the novel was well-received, but hardly-read, until the author's real name was leaked. By contrast, her first post-Potter novel in her own name, "The Casual Vacancy" has been much-read and much-panned.

It's hard to know which are the biggest assholes--fans or critics. How they love to knock down idols.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

rum drinks and snark: a book review

I am not a big drinker. My recent infatuation with gin and tonics is an anomaly. Nevertheless I am interested in cooking, and history, and through one quirk and another I found myself wondering what people--specifically poor people in 1880's New Orleans--would drink to unwind. Rum, I figured. But rum isn't such a popular drink these days, aside from rum-and-cokes, and though I, my husband, and the bartender at Blanc on the Plaza racked our brains, we couldn't think of any commonplace, traditional drinks that featured rum.

(Yes, yes--that's why we have the iPhones and the Internet. Don't jump ahead of me.)

Then I remembered I had acquired a copy of "Steamdrunks: 101 Steampunk Cocktails and Mixed Drinks" a couple of months ago on a whim. And sure enough, when I opened my Kindle I saw there were plenty of historically-accurate and shudder-inducing mixological concoctions featuring rum.

And I should mention, the book itself is a hoot:

"Rum is the saucy drink of choice for your Steampunk sky pirate. Those of you seeking an authentic Victorian flavor need to search the cheapest, bottom rotgut shelves of your local liquor store. The $6 gallon bottle will still be too refined and palatable, so try adding a nice mix of rat droppings, sweat scraped from a homeless man's armpit, and the bitter white citrus interior you've thrown away from all the other recipes in this book. It'll still be too pure for the sake of authenticity, but you'll start to get a feeling for why every rum cocktail of the 19th century was blended with citrus, sugar, and crushing regret."

After reading that, I also understand why not so many rum cocktails have remained popular into the current day.

I recommend this book if you're into booze, or hosting, or history, or any combination thereof.