Weeknight Dinner: Bacon & Arugula Cellentani

Main Dishes, Recipes

I know the discontinuation of Google Reader is old news, but a few weeks ago I finally migrated my RSS feeds over to Feedly and have been playing catch-up with some of my favorite food blogs for inspiration. Anywho, last week Adam at The Amateur Gourmet posted an apparently popular recipe for bacon, chickpea, and spinach pasta and I, remembering the bacon I have leftover in the fridge after making a boatload of onion compote for the barbecue, was inspired to make my own bacon pasta for dinner. Unfortunately I had neither chickpea nor spinach on hand, so as much as I love Lidia Bastianich, I had to pave my own path that night. A half-eaten bag of arugula, also a casualty of the Copycat FO Burger, called out to me (as did its friend Canned Tomatoes sitting in the pantry) and before I knew it, the dish really came together.

Bacon & Arugula Pasta

Bacon & Arugula Pasta

It’s hearty and rustic without really using much meat, and it was an easy, comforting weeknight dish that yielded 4 meals. Plus, these new cellentani (also known as cavatappi) from Barilla were fun to eat and perfectly held the light tomato-bacon sauce. You can substitute any shaped pasta of your choosing; I imagine penne or ziti would also work well.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

3-4 strips of applewood smoked bacon (the fancy thick-cut slices are ideal)

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced (I used 6. It was awesome.)

1/4 cup sweet onion, diced (or about 1/4 to 1/2 of a medium-sized onion)

Optional: Dried red pepper flakes, a few shakes

1 14.5-ounce can of whole tomatoes, hand crushed (you can also use canned diced or crushed tomatoes)

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 16-ounce box of dried pasta (you might not need all of it – I used about 3/4 of the box and saved the leftover plain pasta for another dish)

1 generous handful (about 1 cup) arugula, washed and dried

Step 1: Cook the pasta

Step 1: Cook the pasta

Step 1: Boil just enough water to cover the pasta by an inch or so (you’ll want to save the nice and starchy pasta water for the sauce later). Salt it and cook the pasta according to package instructions.

Step 2: Bacon Lardon

Step 2: Bacon Lardon

Step 2: Meanwhile, cut the bacon slices into 1/2-inch strips (in case you’re curious, these are also known as lardon). Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.

Step 3: Sizzle like bacon (just kidding - render the fat)

Step 3: Sizzle like bacon (just kidding – render the fat)

Step 3: Render the fat from the bacon pieces, stirring periodically to brown both sides of each piece.

Step 4: Onions, garlic, pepper flakes

Step 4: Onions, garlic, pepper flakes

Step 4: When the bacon is sufficiently browned but not quite shriveled to a crisp, add the garlic and onion and red pepper flakes, if using. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Depending on the size and shape of your pasta, this will be about the time when you’ll need to — RESERVING the pasta water — drain (and rinse, if you have to) and set it aside. Hold onto the pasta water, at least a cup or two of it.

Step 5a: Crush the whole tomatoes (if using crushed, just open the can)

Step 5a: Crush the whole tomatoes (if using crushed, just open the can)

Step 5a: Crush the tomatoes by hand if using whole tomatoes.

Step 5b: Add the tomatoes

Step 5b: Add the tomatoes

Step 5b: Add the crushed tomatoes and about a ladle or two’s worth of pasta water. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes to cook down and thicken.

Step 6: Herbs

Step 6: Herbs

Step 6: I sprinkled in a bit of granulated sugar at this point, not more than a teaspoon, to balance the acidity. Add the dried herbs and continue to simmer.

Step 7: Stir and simmer

Step 7: Stir and simmer

Step 7: Stir the sauce periodically. If you feel it is getting too thick, add more pasta water. The sauce should resemble a spaghetti sauce but preferably a bit less viscous.

Step 7: Add pasta

Step 8: Add pasta

Step 8: When the sauce resembles a good ol’ spaghetti sauce, add about half to two-thirds of the pasta. Stir well. Add more pasta water or pasta or both until you’ve hit a ratio of evenly coated, tomato-y pasta. Just be careful not to thin out the sauce too much at this point and again, you will probably not use up all of the cooked pasta.

Step 9: Arugula

Step 9: Arugula

Step 9: Just before serving, pile on the arugula and mix in, letting the steam from the hot pasta wilt the leaves. You’ll want to do this last because actually cooking the arugula will make it bitter.

Wilting arugula

Wilting arugula

A sprinkling of fresh cracked black pepper and this is ready to serve.

Buon appetito~!

Buon appetito~!

Buon appetito — a rustic-tasting dinner that can be thrown together in as little as 30 minutes! When I first made this, Martin was working late, so I kept the sauce on a constant simmer and periodically added pasta water as needed over the course of about 20-30 minutes. My total prep and cooking time was about an hour because I wanted to toss in the pasta closer to serving time. Still, not bad for a weeknight and if you’re just cooking for 2 like we are, this means plenty of leftovers for lunch. And in case you were wondering, microwaved arugula is a bit bitter but certainly edible. If you can, bring along some fresh sprigs and mix them in after nuking the pasta and sauce only for best next-day results. Cheers!

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Chicken Noodle Soup (Adorable Shapes Welcomed)

Main Dishes, Recipes

April Showers make me want to curl up in our cozy house with a hot bowl of comforting chicken noodle soup, especially since the aroma of chicken will likely lure at least one of our cats over to beg for a morsel. I’ll be honest, I used to be content to opening up a can of Campbell’s (the one with the star shapes was my favorite), but after making your own chicken soup, you can never really go back. This is the perfect recipe to use up random chicken parts – wings are great for both rendering the stock and shredding up to eat since they have a good bone-to-meat ratio, but you can also use a chicken carcass (perhaps after butchering your own chicken – my latest “thing”) paired with more meaty parts. I’ve even been known to muster up the effort to prepare this soup for myself while out sick, it’s that easy. Leftovers freeze well for a rainy day, but this small-batch recipe will serve about 4.

Chicken Noodle Soup (made even more fun with Hello Kitty Macaroni)

Chicken Noodle Soup (made even more fun with Hello Kitty shaped macaroni!)

Ingredients:

1 lb bone-in chicken (I used 10 wings)

1 tablespoon oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium onion, diced

3-4 carrots, diced or sliced

3-4 stalks of celery, sliced

5-6 cups of water

Dried bay leaves

Dried thyme

Salt & pepper

1 1-lb box of pasta, any shape

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and set aside. Start prepping your vegetables.

Sizzle sizzle!

Sizzle sizzle!

In a large pot, heat the oil and saute the garlic until just barely browned. Add the chicken and sear on all sides.

Veg-tastic!

Veg-tastic!

Toss in the onions and let them sweat a bit, just a few minutes. Add in the rest of the vegetables and pour in the water. Bring to a boil.

Mmm soup..

Mmm soup..

Add in the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam that may form.

Cook according to package instructions, and what a cute package it is!

Cook according to package instructions, and what a cute package it is!

As the broth is simmering, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and rinse and set aside.

Ta-da! Soup is ready.

Ta-da! Soup is ready.

When ready to serve, spoon some pasta into a bowl and ladle the soup over it. If you’re packing up leftovers, it is best to store the noodles separately from the broth, otherwise the pasta will absorb extra liquid and turn to mush.

For the days when you feel under the weather, we hope this chicken noodle soup brings some comfort and smiles :]

A Docked “Galley” in Morro Bay

Central Coast, Food Adventures

In a recent weekend trip to Morro Bay, we were trying to find a relatively nice sit-down restaurant to dine on Saturday evening. Many of the oceanfront restaurants seemed to cater to tourists and a brief glance of their menus didn’t spark any interest.

After doing a brief search on Yelp!, we decided to check out the menu at The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar and a place to stay at the adjoining inn. Although the inn had booked out along with every inn on that street, the manager recommended we make reservations in advance for The Galley.

The Galley Car

The host, John, was very friendly and took our reservations for 8:30pm. After a few hours of walking around and realizing that Morro Bay is a small retirement ocean-side town that, after the peak summer season, had very little to do, we decided to arrive at The Galley a full hour early. John, who had seen us hovering around over the menu outside deciding in advance what we wanted to order, came out and offered to seat us earlier if other parties had not arrived by 8:15pm. It was difficult not to notice how busy they were despite being in the off-season. We even noticed John turning away other parties due to the number of reservations.

We came back later and by this point, both he and another staff member had recognized us and immediately showed us to our table. We were seated in a corner section in the dimly lit Galley which was frequented by an older and local crowd.

Let’s start with the table bread. Alice and I are both suckers for warm ciabatta and look what they had…mini ciabatta loaves, served with homemade whipped herbed butter.

Mini Ciabatta Loaf

We decided to splurge, ordering up a half dozen oysters that, according to our server Jennifer, came from British Columbia. These things were ginormous, a lot larger than the Fanny Bay varieties served at seafood restaurants in Santa Monica and Venice during happy hour. They were sizable and very briny, delicious.

Oysters On The Half Shell

Alice knew exactly what she wanted for her entree, the Pan Seared Scallops, a Galley specialty. The scallops were moist and perfectly cooked — a beautiful golden sear on the outside, nice and opaque on the inside. The garlic mashed potatoes, made with Yukon Golds, was flavorful and even better with the pan jus drizzled on the plate. The assortment of steamed vegetables were well cooked and nothing was soggy. Bringing a bit of autumn into the kitchen, the “garnish” was a slice of steamed kabocha, wonderfully sweet and starchy.

Pan Seared Scallops

Torn between the Blackened Local Snapper, Pan Seared Scallops, and Rack of Lamb, I asked Jennifer for her recommendation but she made a simple suggestion: get what you crave. Rack of Lamb, rare, was the final verdict. I had to ask her if they would be able to do that because some restaurants refuse to serve lamb rare in fear of diners getting sick, but Jennifer seemed confident that their quality was high enough to serve it however I wanted.

The lamb was amazing, very tender on the inside and seared to a slight crisp on the outside. Again, a very sizable portion with 4 double-ribs. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Kalamata tapenade but that is a personal preference. The garlic mashed potatoes, tucked under the rack of lamb, were a big hit as well but I wish they had given a larger scoop.

Rack of Lamb – Rare

After Alice and I polished off our plates, we finished up with the Grand Marnier Crème Brûlée. I amused myself for the longest time saying the name while waiting for our dessert, it just rhymed so well! (Try saying it out loud, noting that Marnier is pronounced like marn-yay, not mar-nee-er.) I have to say this crème brûlée marginally overtook the Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée we had at Opal in Santa Barbara, which, for its simplicity, was very high in quality. However, the Grand Marnier added an extra citrusy zing that was different from just vanilla beans. Five stars for sure.

Grand Marnier Crème Brûlée

Overall it was a great experience with phenomenal service through the whole night, even before we were seated. The food was excellent and the staff extremely accommodating.  Shout out to John for his amazingness of working to getting us seated earlier than expected and Jennifer for being so attentive to our needs and excellent recommendations. We will definitely be back if we find ourselves in Morro Bay again.

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Check out The Galley: www.galleymorrobay.com/

899 Embarcadero
Morro Bay, CA 93442

See their Yelp reviews here.