Skillet Lasagna

One of the most freeing things about my evolution as a “food person” has been learning my likes and dislikes and adapting recipes accordingly. Sounds simple, right? But when I was first learning how to cook, I felt chained to a recipe. I assumed every dish was quadruple tested, its methods and ingredients absolute truth.

And then I met my college roommate, who insisted that you could cut the amount of sugar in every cookie recipe by half, or even substitute honey. (Heresy!) And then I met Gabriel, who alarmed me with his way of just throwing in salt and pepper as he tasted a dish, rather than measuring it out by the teaspoon.

Guess what? The food cooked up by those recipe-challengers was delicious! As I became more comfortable with my own cooking skills, I emulated Alex and Gabe and learned to approach recipes as starting points, not rigid contracts. And so it was with a big freaking smile on my face that I finally dumped out the jar of dried cilantro in my spice drawer a couple weeks ago. Because it turns out I don’t like cilantro.

I also can’t stand fennel seed, which is unfortunate, because the sausage I chose for this otherwise amazingly delicious recipe was rife with it. But now that I’m 100% sure of my distaste, I’ll be sure to choose the fennel-less sausage next time. Because I can.

Skillet lasagna

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Skillet Lasagna

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 8 oz. dried pasta (I chose pasta that looked like broken-up lasagna pieces)
  • 42.5 oz. canned, crushed tomatoes (I used one 28-oz can and one 14.5-oz can)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup ricotta
  • 6 oz. fresh mozzarella, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh basil

Heat olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until onion is softened, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in  crushed red pepper flakes, italian seasoning, and a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Add sausage to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until broken into pieces and no longer pink (3-5 minutes).

Stir in pasta and tomatoes. Cover and continue to cook on medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Be sure to stir fairly frequently, otherwise the pasta will stick to the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. When pasta is done, remove skillet from heat and stir in half the parmesan and ricotta. Adjust seasoning to taste. Sprinkle the pasta with the remaining parmesan and chunks of mozzarella, and dot with the remaining ricotta.

Place skillet under broiler and cook until the cheese starts to bubble and brown. Remove from oven, sprinkle with fresh basil, and serve.

Source: Slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution via Pink Parsley

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Grilled Salmon with Tangy Cucumber Dill Salad

I don’t want to write this without knocking on wood or throwing salt over my shoulder, but guess what? I’m actually growing plants! Basil, mint, chives, oregano, thyme, dill, rosemary, and even a little jalapeño plant! Oh, and fresh catnip, that is constantly and lovingly guarded by a certain little someone.

Guarding her catnip

I’m super excited about my little container garden. It just seems so magical to have ingredients that are (practically) free sitting right on my balcony. But when I noticed that my dill was growing rapidly and threatening to take over its neighbors, it was time to trim it back a bit and do some cooking. Take that, dill.

Chopped Dill

And so I made this tasty grilled salmon with a tangy cucumber dill salad. The salad comes together quickly and can sit in the fridge for awhile, so this fast and easy weeknight meal is ready to go in no time at all. Which is good, because the cat is not the only salmon lover in this household.

Grilled Salmon with Tangy Cucumber Dill Salad

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 Grilled Salmon with Tangy Cucumber Dill Salad

  • 1 hothouse cucumber
  • 1/3 cup finely sliced red onion
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbs. good mayo
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 4 skin-on salmon fillets, about 6 oz. each and 1 inch thick
  • olive oil, for greasing the grill

Slice cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Slice cucumber very thin and toss with sliced red onion and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Place vegetables into a fine mesh sieve and let drain over a bowl for about 1 hour to draw out some of the water.

To make the dressing, whisk together sour cream, mayo, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and dill. Stir in the cucumbers and red onions and toss until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill salad until ready to use.

Heat grill over high heat and brush with olive oil. Rub salmon fillets with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Grill the salmon, skin side down, for about 4 minutes, or until it gets nice grill lines. Flip and grill for another 2-3 minutes, or until desired doneness.

Remove salmon from grill and carefully peel off the skin, if desired. Serve topped with cucumber salad.

Source: Slightly adapted from Once Upon a Chef.

Beef and Noodle Stir-fry

One of my favorite classic fables is that of the Town Mouse and Country Mouse. I grew up a bit of a country mouse, and I love the stillness and open skies of the countryside. There’s nothing quite like waking up before the rest of the world, slapping on a pair of tennis shoes, and going for a solitary walk through the morning mists.

But there are certain drawbacks to living in the country. Like getting stuck behind tractors as you drive to school, or not being able to order chinese food delivered to your front door. And now I definitely consider myself to be more of a city mouse. I love the energy and diversity that comes with city living. I enjoy walking everywhere, knowing there are thousands of experiences right at my fingertips.

I love being able to order chinese food for delivery.

Of course, when I find a good stir-fry recipe that’s easy to whip up at home, the town mouse/country mouse divide seems to fade away. At least when it comes to takeout. :)

Beef and noodle stir-fry

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Beef and Noodle Stir-fry

  • 3 Tbs. sesame oil, divided
  • 5 Tbs. soy sauce, divided
  • splash of hot sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 8-10 oz. beef sirloin
  • 8 oz. fresh pasta (or 6 oz. dry)
  • 1 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbs. grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 3 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 oz. fresh spinach
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh chives or 1 Tbs. chopped green onion
  • 2 tsp. sesame seeds

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 Tbs. sesame oil, 4 Tbs. soy sauce, a splash of hot sauce, and the crushed garlic. Slice the steak and add it to the bowl, tossing until well-coated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Return to pan and toss with 1 Tbs. sesame oil and 1 Tbs. soy sauce.

Stir together cornstarch and 2 tsp. water in a small bowl until dissolved. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add beef and sauté for about three minutes, or until it starts to brown. Remove the beef from the frying pan and set aside. In the same pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until golden, about four minutes. Add the spinach and sauté until it just starts to wilt, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in cornstarch mixture, cooked beef, and noodles. Sauté everything together until hot and well-coated with sauce, about three minutes.

Garnish with chives and sesame seeds, and serve hot.

Serves 4.

Source: Slightly adapted from Clementine Cuisine.

Nutrition facts (per serving): 355 calories, 20.2 g fat, 20.6 g carbs, 2.0 g fiber, 24.0 g protein.

Turkey Lasagna

Hello friends! Sorry it’s been awhile. I have time for a quick update, and then it’s back to work. (One more paper to write; the end is in sight!)

The end-of-the-semester frenzy has wreaked havoc on our usual schedules. While I pride myself on my housekeeping abilities, dishes have a tendency to pile up in the kitchen sink when Gabe and I are busy studying. And since I hate messes, I’ve started to avoid the kitchen like the plague.

So aside from Gabe’s birthday dinner on Monday night, not much cooking has been happening around here lately. I did make turkey lasagna last weekend so we could eat leftovers all week long. (It takes two people a surprising amount of time to eat this much lasagna.) I adore this recipe. The goat cheese gives it a bit of a tang, and anything with a pound of fresh mozzarella is destined to be delicious.

Okie dokie, it’s back to paper-writing for me. Two more days until my library books (and therefore my paper) are due!

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Light Chicken Potpie

Because it’s January, everyone seems to be looking for healthy recipes. This means comfort foods like mac ‘n’ cheese, au gratin potatoes, and chicken potpie are off the table, right?

Wrong. This recipe for chicken potpie has all the flavor of the original with way less butter and no cream. It makes enough for eight, so we’re planning on eating it for the next few nights while Gabe introduces me to the Star Wars movies.

Here’s to healthy eating in the new year! May the force be with you.

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The Calm Before the Storm

Knowing that next week is going to be a wee bit busy, I decided to devote time this past weekend to some low-key cooking.  The goal: make enough food so we can have home-cooked meals all week while ensuring that I can still spend the majority of my time at my desk doing research.  (Oh end of the semester, how did you sneak up on me?)

I know a lot of people love their crockpots for low-maintenance cooking, but I am very particular about how many appliances I own, due to limited storage space.  (My espresso machine and KitchenAid mixer are the clear winners here.  Gabe even had to convince me that we needed a blender.)  Plus there’s a teensy part of me that feels like I’m not old enough to own a crockpot yet.  There, I said it.

Luckily, I do own a roasting pan!  What could be easier than pulled beef?  I’m not a huge fan of barbecue sauce (shhh… don’t tell) so I cooked this roast with a homemade Italian-style marinade.

My carnivorous baby sister should appreciate this photo

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Perfect Pot Roast

Three of Gabe’s college friends are visiting us this weekend, so I tried hard to come up with a homey yet impressive dinner menu.  I first planned on serving beef tenderloin, until I discovered the price tag of $16/pound.  We’re grad students.  Not happening.

In desperation, I grabbed a pot roast from the grocery store and set out to make my first roast.  (Most people don’t recommend trying new recipes the day of your dinner party, but I like to walk on the wild side.)  After perusing several different roast recipes, I combined and tweaked and improvised to come up with my very own.

I also called my mom for gravy tips.  There are some things you just can’t learn from a cookbook.

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