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Meatless Monday: Kale-Quinoa Minestrone

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In most parts of the country, autumn is a transitional season where summer slowly transitions into winter. Leaves turn colors, fields are harvested and turned for the next season, and our sleeves get longer.

Here in Central New York, autumn lasts about three weeks. September gets progressively colder, so much so that you think it is October already. By the time Halloween hits, parents debate whether snowsuits are necessary underneath the costume for trick or treating. Continue reading Meatless Monday: Kale-Quinoa Minestrone

Tuesday Dinner: Steak and Eggs

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Sometimes you want something light for dinner. I’ve cooked with a lot of cream and butter recently, so this week for dinner I wanted to offer some choices that were not as rich or heavy on the stomach.

Naturally, steak and eggs came to mind.

This Southwest-style steak and eggs dish came from Julia’s Album, a nifty food blog with a fairly large readership. Now, Julia intended this to be a breakfast selection, but I’ve found that there is little that you make for the first meal that you cannot make for your evening sitdown. The Wife is a proponent of the breakfast-for-dinner movement, so this was an easy choice. Continue reading Tuesday Dinner: Steak and Eggs

Meatless Monday: Black Bean Burritos

2014-10-27 at 17-20-49Mexican food scares the hell out of white Baby Boomers and I’m not sure why. The Father and The In-Laws would rather eat a bowlful of glass than a taco and for no good reason. Popularly, Mexican food is characterized as being hot, thanks to the mystery chile peppers that Speedy Gonzalez would slip to his threat du jour.

I also think that Taco Bell had something to do with it. I haven’t run for the border in a long time, but my memories of what’s inside the wax paper wrapper is not pretty. It is usually a sloppy mess of meat, salsa and sour cream with the smell of warm garbage. I don’t know why this was so appealing to me in high school, but I ate it like a champ.

Continue reading Meatless Monday: Black Bean Burritos

Tuesday Dinner: Orecchiette Carbonara with Charred Brussels Sprouts

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One of the things I learned early on about The Wife is that she really liked carbonara. It’s a great sauce, and for a long time, I thought it got its name from the black pepper, resembling coal loaded into charcoal burning carbonari.

Apparently,  I was wrong. According to Dr. Jeremy Parzen, a food historian, Italian translator and proprietor of the Do Bianco blog. He mentions the historical significance of the carbonari — a secret society of Italian revolutionaries — and the fact that alla carbonara is a Sicilian cooking style that uses cuttlefish cooked in its ink. So, the coal miner thing is out. Continue reading Tuesday Dinner: Orecchiette Carbonara with Charred Brussels Sprouts

Thursday Dinner: Mushroom Risotto

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I have made mushroom risotto here before without thinking much about it. Usually what happens is that I sweat some mushrooms, make a basic risotto, and combine them at some point.

What I liked about this offering from Closet Cooking was that it took the mushrooms more seriously than the rice. You actually create a mushroom broth to supplement the flavor of the risotto. The recipe is for a true mushroom risotto, rather than just a risotto with mushrooms. Continue reading Thursday Dinner: Mushroom Risotto

Meatless Monday: Kale and Black-Eyed Pea Soup

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The best reason I can come up with for why I don’t use more black-eyed peas is that I never really ate them while growing up. We all branch out and try new things, but when it comes to things like beans, I think we just lean on the familiar. Cannellini beans are popular in Italian cooking. Black-eyed peas are popular in Southern cooking styles and dishes like Hoppin’ John. So, maybe it’s not so unusual.

Anyhow, black-eyed peas are high in calcium, folates, protein, dietary fiber and vitamin A. When paired with kale, high in vitamin A, C, K and calcium, you can get a lot of nutrients out of a meal.

The original recipe included sausage, but it was easy to eliminate it for Meatless Monday purposes.

Continue reading Meatless Monday: Kale and Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Sunday Dinner: Pork-Hominy Stew

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Sunday was spent supporting our area’s agritourism industry, which is to say that The Wife and I took The Kid to Critz Farm in Cazenovia for some autumntime fun. I’ll write more later about why Critz’s fall festival weekends are awesome, but my point here is that a day at the farm meant that I wouldn’t have time to grocery shop or fuss much over dinner.

Last week I bought a boneless pork shoulder at Wegmans. I had no real plan for it when I tossed it in the cart. I do this from time to time as my Iron Chef skills test here at Al Dente HQ. Pork shoulders are awesome and versatile and I figured, at worst, I would make a pork ragu to serve over pasta. Continue reading Sunday Dinner: Pork-Hominy Stew

Saturday Dinner: Chocolate Stout Braised Short Ribs

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Cold weather is settling in, so we turn our hymnals to those slow-cooked, warm-you-from-the-inside-out recipes that fuel us during the fall and winter. The type of recipe that you start at 1 or 2 p.m. and let roll until 5 or 6 p.m. The type of recipe that involves braising. The first thing I toss in the braising pan each fall are short ribs, simply because they are so good and so easy to make. Sear them, cook the veg, toss in some liquid and move to the oven for the afternoon.

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The problem is that I like my short ribs with bones. The bone’s marrow adds a lot of flavor and richness to sauce and they are typically cheaper than the boneless variety. Yes, you spend more money to get the quantity of meat you want, but it’s worth it for the flavor. According to the moustached man in the Wegmans Fairmount meat department, they stopped getting short ribs with bones weeks ago. While grocers charge more for the boneless variety, Mr. Moustache told me that wholesalers can get more for the bone-in variety from restaurants, who like the bone for presentation purposes. So, instead of $7.49/lb., I was left with $9.99/lb. for meat that was once considered a throwaway cut of beef.

“I remember when we used to just grind short ribs for hamburger,” said Mr. Moustache. “Some joker went on TV, made them famous, and now we charge $10 a pound.”

He’s absolutely right.

Continue reading Saturday Dinner: Chocolate Stout Braised Short Ribs