Quick Chicken Spinach Bolognese

I had a cooking fail. It’s amazing how much of a rage something like that sends me into. I was trying my hand at a Spanish tortilla. Finally. Finally because I stopped being so scared. Something about it intimidates me. It’s really easy. Maybe it’s because stewing potatoes and onions in olive oil isn’t probably something you should do regularly. No, it’s not that. It’s because it’s intimidating. It’s a perfectly pillowy, yet dense, cake of eggs, potatoes, and onions. It’s beautiful in its simplicity, so if you fuck it up [and I did], it’s obvious. I was doing well until I got to that whole “slide a plate over the top of your pan and flip it over” thing. Yeah, that wasn’t happening. My non-stick pan is losing its non-stick properties. It’s given up on me. I’ve been eyeing this one [but probably an All-Clad], but I’ve been holding out. The one I have was a perfectly good non-stick pan, but once eggs start sticking–even with boatloads of olive oil–you’re dead to me. Needless to say, the tortilla became a scramble. It tasted fine. It tasted just like it was supposed to, but it wasn’t what it was supposed to be. It made me want to throw things. Sigh. I’ll try again someday. Probably not until I get a new pan.

Until that happens, there is this really good chicken spinach bolognese that doesn’t take much time to throw together, and pretends to be super healthy with all that spinach. I wanted something to take to work the next few days, which really turned into the next day only because I ate that much of it for dinner. Pasta is a weakness. I bought a little block of Pecorino Romano to grate on top. Deliciously salty.

I’m starting to understand the whole ‘reserve some pasta water’ thing; it makes all the difference to the consistency of a bowl of al dente pasta. It elevates it from becoming a congealed mass of starch with toppings. It keeps better in the fridge so I can steal multiple bites any time I open the fridge door [read: all the time]. The original recipe called for turkey, but I was hesitant to recreate the feeling of thanksgiving. Every time I cook with it, browned turkey just smells like thanksgiving. Chicken was the easy and obvious substitute. Pork would have been equally delicious, especially of the hot Italian sausage variety.  This is a lot more mellow in flavor that way. Feel free to add tons of red chile flakes. I did.

Quick Chicken Spinach Bolognese

Inspiration: Fuss Free Cooking

Ingredients

  • 1lb ground chicken
  • 250g frozen spinach
  • 15oz can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1lb pasta of choice
  • Parmesan
  • Red chili flakes

Preparation

In a large skillet, heat a little bit of olive oil on medium high heat. Brown the chicken. Add in the frozen spinach and roasted tomatoes. Don’t drain them first. Stir until well mixed and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Let it simmer together and unthaw the spinach.

While the sauce simmers away, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Before draining, retain 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Taste the sauce and add salt, pepper, and possibly some red chili flakes.

Add the pasta to the sauce. Stir well and add pasta water to get the desired consistency.

Before serving, add a healthy dose of shaved parmesan.

Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Sandwich

There are a few new-to-me places I have to tell you about. Rose City Taqueria? It’s such a solid taco shop. Filling, cheap, and that green sauce is awesome. Oh and carne asada fries? Yep. Wiz Bang, the new soft serve place by the same folks as Salt and Straw? Talk about reinvigorating my love for them. They have these things called concretes, which is soft serve mixed with toppings. That Woodblock chocolate soft serve with salted, malted chocolate chip cookie dough is like a Dairy Queen Blizzard on steroids. Unbelievably good. It’s in the new Pine Street Market space, which makes me feel like I’m in Europe. I haven’t been to any of the other restaurants in there, but soon. Boke Dokie is Boke Bowl’s new food cart that focuses on their fried chicken [and tofu] sandwiches. I’ve had their ramen, but never the chicken, but it seems like it deserves it’s own food cart. The chicken was juicy, the bun a perfect mix of soft and sturdy, a kimchi-esque slaw, and the green salsa will melt your face. Bomb. So bomb.

So this simple sandwich of smashed chickpeas and avocado had me craving pickles like whoa. After that first bite, I knew that’s what I wanted. That salty brine and crunch was necessary. Some red onion or some capers would have also been gladly accepted. There was a jar of Colman’s Mustard at the store the other day and I had to have it. I haven’t seen it in non-powder form since I was in the UK years ago. It’s so spicy and intense–probably one of my favorite mustards. It definitely started my love affair with mustard at any rate. It would have been absolutely on this sandwich. It’s a versatile thing, this sandwich. I started with the bare bones of this recipe, smash an avocado and some drained and rinsed chickpeas together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add a splash of lemon or lime juice. It’s been all the rage, and I can see why. It’s filling and fresh. It doesn’t leave the office smelling like fish [but I’m not above that]. It can sit in your desk without needing the fridge, but that avocado may start to brown. I realize it’s not really much of a recipe, but it’s just that good.

Smashed Avocado Chickpea Sandwich

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 15oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • Salt and pepper
  • A splash or lemon or lime juice
  • Bread
  • Optional mix-ins/toppings: mustard, pickles, red onion, capers

Preparation

Mash together the avocado and chickpeas in a bowl. I used my small capacity food processor because the avocado wasn’t as ripe as I would have liked. I think in a perfect world, a fork would work just fine. Add salt, pepper, and lemon/lime juice to taste. Mix in additional condiments and make your sandwich. Top with pickles if you’re into that sort of thing.

Udon Noodles with Spring Vegetables

Vegetables! Give me spring vegetables.

It can’t be pizza all the time around here. But I wouldn’t complain if it was.  

This came from a fierce craving of something fresh, green, and crisp. It’s rather coincidence that sugar snap peas are all the rage right now. Thanks Spring. I had a handful or two [probably two, lets be real] of dried udon noodles left over in the pantry, so noodles! I spent a crazy amount of time julienning again because it’s turning into a soothing ritual. Who am I? Meditating is all the rage, right?

If I’m honest, I really just wanted the vegetables [of which I ate a ton while cutting them up] and this sauce. The udon noodles just kept me from gnawing my arm off within an hour after eating. I love any excuse to use toasted sesame oil. It’s such a specific, slight overpowering flavor that it takes time to find those recipes that it would be good in. Rice vinegar, soy sauce, peanut butter, garlic, and ginger round out the rest of the flavors. It’s very bright and tangy. It feels almost as crisp as the vegetables. I added red chile flakes and a bunch of the seaweed gomasio, which is sesame seeds, salt, and seaweed. I had to immediately put half of this in a to-go container so I could eat some for work the next day, otherwise I’m sure I’d have eaten all of it in one sitting.

Spring Udon Noodles

Inspiration: Sprouted Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 6oz dried udon noodles, cooked to package directions and rinsed/drained under cool water
  • 1 large cucumber, julienned
  • 2 handfuls of sugar snap peas, halved
  • Green onion, red chile flakes, sesame seeds for garnish

Preparation

In a small bowl or in a jar with a lid, add the vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut butter, garlic, and ginger. Whisk or shake together.

In a large bowl, add the vegetables and the dressing. Toss everything together before adding the noodles. Serve and top with your garnishes.

 

Pizza Week: 2016

As promised, these are the few slices I had during Portland Mercury’s Pizza Week. It’s like their burger week, but for pizza [you’re welcome]. My idea of heaven. Pizza is my weakness. I would eat it all day, every day, and have no shame. I like it hot. I like it cold [especially for breakfast]. I like just about every pizza combination. It’s also that one food that I have no qualms lowering my standards. Crappy pizza is still pizza, and I’ll happily eat it. Some of my fondest memories are eating a Totinos pizza all to myself when my dad was out of town. Classy is my middle name.

There were 31 slices to be had over the course of the week, and I only had a measly five but they’re worth talking about. Three of them were on a mini-pizza tour.

Pizza1

Left: The week after tax day, I treated myself to half-days of work. I’d go in for the first few hours, and then head home at lunch. Having that kind of freedom meant pizza. The first stop was Bella Faccia Pizzaria’s “She Bangs.” That’s the slice on the left. The base was deli mustard! My favorite condiment of all time. They added sausage, mozzarella, caramelized onions, feta, basil, and chili flake. It was tart and spicy and meaty and so, so good. I also had a generic [but also delicious] veggie slice. I hadn’t been to Bella Faccia in years. That’s another reason I love these types of events. If it’s not getting you out to try new spots, it’s rekindling your relationship with old ones. There are so many [too many?] restaurants in this town to keep up.

Right: I’m kind of a sucker for sausage, but I’m pretty sure you knew that based on the high percentage of sausage and chorizo recipes I make around here. This slice was from Old Town Brewing Co.’s “The Bellelujah.” Again, the base. This time = beer cheese sauce. Think about the goodness of that for a second. Does it get much better [hint: it does, but only barely]? Seeing that Old Town’s thing is being a brewery that happens to serve pizza, it seems like the only logical choice. They took that base and topped it with sausage, caramelized onions, fresh jalapeños, and tomatoes. It was another combination of delicious proportions. Those meatballs are the ones that they use in their meatball sandwiches, which is really good to know as someone who loves a meatball sandwich from time to time. Maybe they’ll start making one drowned in that beer cheese sauce.

Pizza2

Left: This was the beginning of what was a beautiful evening of pizza. Like I mentioned before, events like this get me out to places I would have never tried otherwise. East Glisan Pizza Lounge was “holy-shit-that’s awesome” from start to finish. They make this crazy good berry balsamic house soda. All of their pizza combinations sound awesome, not just the one we had for pizza week. They also apparently have lasagna Sundays because who doesn’t love lasagna? Their pizza week slice was “The Montaverde.” Again with the creatively awesome bases. Tomatillo cream base? WHAT. It was unreal. They topped it with a generous layer of cheese, roasted mushrooms, and pickled jalapeños. No one misses meat on their slice when it tastes like this. It might be my favorite slice of the week. I keep changing my mind.

Right: East Glisan makes cannoli. Cannoli! It’s perfectly seasoned ricotta. Delicious little chocolate chips, and a light, crispy cannoli shell. I’d go back for one of those without hesitation [and pizza because who says no to pizza?].

Pizza3

Left: Another place that wins on all accounts. UFO Pizza has been in business for 18 years, and yet somehow I’ve never heard of it [maybe because it’s in a part of town I hardly ever go to, but still…]. We’ve been back a couple of times because their pizza game is on point. We went last night even. They have many slices all the time and their to-go pizzas are equally good. Their slice for pizza week wasn’t that special since its on their menu all the time but why mess with success? It’s called “Danger Bird” — a spicy peanut sauce, chicken, bacon, red onion, and jalapeños. So spicy delicious. The crust was probably one of my favorites. It’s not too thin but still crunchy despite having substance.

Right: We ended the pizza tour with a heavy, rich slice from Atlas Pizza. Their “Whiskey-Soaked Smoked Brisket Pizza” is exactly what you’d expect, and really awesome. It takes so many of my favorite things and puts it right on my favorite food. Does it get much better?

PizzaWeek2016-7

This was taken after I picked Andrew up from the airport. We went straight to UFO Pizza. Did I mention that they have grape soda? Be still my heart.

Sweet Potato Spinach Pasta

No long hours at the office. No studying. No class. No exams. Nothing. I leave the office like a normal human, and I find myself with an abundance if free time. I haven’t had free time like this in years. Even though I would still do what I wanted during school, CPA exams, and busy season, I always had a lot going on mentally. That to-do list ever present. And now? Nothing. It’s weird and it’s awesome. I’ve already read a few books, read a ton of magazines thanks to the library’s magazine app, and am a few lessons into German on Duolingo. I went out to eat only once last week. Once! Who am I? That means there are several new recipes to come. We have a loose timeline for the Germany trip, but I can actually focus on details now. Plans for replanting the patio flowers will have to wait until we’re back from Germany. They need all the help they can get to not die this year.

Pizza week was a success. I have a few photos to share once I get them off the phone camera. It’s probably my favorite in the burgers vs pizza weeks that go on. I’m such a sucker for pizza.

It’s funny that I’m sharing a pasta recipe today, and I have at least two more coming up. Apparently I’ve been on a pasta kick lately. I hardly ever cook pasta because…I don’t know. I don’t really have a good reason. It’s just not something I think about most of the time. Maybe because it’s a little lower on the difficulty scale. It’s also just an excuse to eat whatever is with it. I am actually a little more partial to loading up my pastas with all kinds of vegetables. It takes a lot of vegetables to get me to feel full enough to stop eating, so pasta helps me out in that department. This was a result of me craving vegetables towards the end of busy season when all I getting sick of all the snacks and catering. Plus, blue cheese. I love blue cheese.

Sweet Potato Spinach Pasta

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into uniform cubes
  • 2-3 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped into smaller pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2lb pasta of choice [I used spaghetti]
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato pieces with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking sheet in an even layer. Place in the oven and roast until browned on the edges and cooked through, approximately 30-40 minutes.

While the sweet potatoes roast, cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining. In a large bowl, add the spinach. Pour the drained, hot pasta on top of the spinach so it will wilt.

Add the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet. Saute the minced garlic until it’s  browning and fragrant. Add the olive oil to the top of the pasta. Top with the roasted sweet potatoes and blue cheese crumbles. Toss together until well mixed. Serve.