Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pappardelle with Tilapia, Cauliflower, & Red Peppers in Alfredo Sauce

This nice pasta dish is delicious with the Alfredo sauce -- but could be adapted to use a healthier one!  It's a great way to get your pickier family members to enjoy both fish and vegetables. 

This is a 3-pot dinner.  Serves 4 people generously.

Pot #1: Large Pot. Cook a package of Trader Joe's Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta, drain and return to pot to keep warm.  Stir in a little of the sauce from pot #2 to keep the noodles from sticking together.

Pot #2: Medium Saucepan.  Make the Alfredo Sauce. This is from an online recipe that claims to be the Olive Garden version, which I happen to adore.  It is very high fat, and I sometimes substitute evaporated milk for half of the cream.
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder, more to taste
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese or romano cheese
Melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the cream cheese and whisk 'til smooth and melted, then whisk in the heavy cream.  Season with the garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Bring to a good simmer and whisk frequently over medium-low heat until sauce thickens, around 25 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Pot #3:  Large Skillet with lid.  Vegies and fish - this combo is delicious, but it would work well with other fish and vegies.
  • Cauliflower, one head, chopped
  • Red peppers, 1 or 2, chopped
  • Tilapia about 1.5 lbs, cut into about 1-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup Flour
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Cajon seasoning, to taste (or salt & pepper)
  • Olive oil, about 1 Tablespoon
  • Canola oil, about 1/4 cup
Vegies:  Heat pan to high heat, and add olive oil.  When hot add the vegies, and cook on high with the lid on, stirring often with a metal spatula, and scraping the pan to prevent burning.  Cook until the vegies are browned and tender to your liking, about 15 to 20 minutes.  This produces a great flavor, similar to roasting.  Transfer the vegies out of the pan - I put them on top of the now-done, drained pasta in Pot #2.

Fish:   In a mixing bowl, combine flour and seasoning.  Add fish pieces, and shake to coat.  Add canola oil to the skillet, and heat on high.  When hot, add the fish pieces, cook until done, turning to brown both sides, about 5 minutes total.

To serve: put pasta on plate, then vegies on top of pasta, fish beside, and sauce over vegies and pasta.  This way the fish stays crispier.  Yum, yum, yum!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chili Verde: Slow-Cooked Pork with Tomatillos and Other Yumminess

Chile Verde

Serves 8, cooks several hours, uses crock pot (or large soup pot) and blender.

• 4 pounds pork shoulder (also called pork butt)
• Salt & freshly ground black pepper
• Olive oil
• 2 yellow onions
• 8 garlic cloves or 5 cloves and 3 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 1/2 pounds tomatillos -- about 20
• 1 or 2 jalapenos
• 2 Anaheim or Poblano chiles (some say pasilla chile are similar.)
• 1 bunch cilantro
• 2 Tbsp of chopped fresh oregano or 1 Tbsp of dried oregano
• 2 1/2 cups chicken or beef stock
• Pinch of ground cloves (or allspice)

This first step is the most work: Cut the pork into 1 to 2-inch cubes. OK, now breathe, because the rest is a piece of cake!

Heat a little olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat and brown the pork chunks well on all sides, with salt & pepper. Work in batches so that the pork is not crowded in the pan. Using a slotted spatula, lift pork out of pan and place in a crock pot (or very large soup pot or Dutch oven).  If using a crock pot, pour in about a cup of the stock, and turn it on high so it can start heating/cooking while doing the rest of the steps.

As pork is browning, chop onions and finely chop 3 garlic cloves (or used crushed garlic).  Cook onions and garlic until translucent/limp and add to crock pot.  Deglaze pan with stock or apple cider vinegar, and add to crock pot.

Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well. Cut them in half. Wash other chilis, remove seeds and stems, slice so that they will lay flat under the broiler. 

Arrange tomatillos, cut side down, and other chilis, and remaining 5 garlic cloves on your broiler pan, in batches according to what fits under your broiler.  Broil tomatillos and chiles until the skin is blackened, then using your metal spatula, lift them into the blender.  Let the garlic cloves cool, then remove them from their skins and add them to the blender.

Meanwhile wash the cilantro, and pull the leaves off the stems and add them to the blender.

Add about a half cup of stock to aid in blending, and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Pour into the crock pot.

Add the oregano, and ground cloves or allspice.  Add enough stock to make enough liquid to cover the pork. Cook on high (I have an old crock pot, so it needs to be on high -- you may prefer to cook yours on another setting -- use what you normally would to cook a pot roast several hours.)

(If using a large pot on the stove instead of a crock pot, bring to a boil and reduce to a slight simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours uncovered or until the pork is fork tender.)

Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with tortillas.  Spanish rice is a good side dish.

I made this on my birthday in September, and we packed it to the beach, wrapping the crock pot in newspaper and placing it in a box.

Craig, Isy, Jenna, and I dined on chili verde, tortillas, and birthday cake, beer and soda, while enjoying the spectacular sunset over the waves and the LAX jets putting on a light show for us as they flew off toward faraway lands. 

(Would have had a bonfire, but all the firepits were taken.) 

What an incredible evening with my dear loves!!!  <3

(similar sunset, from our house)