Thursday, June 24, 2010

CEiMB: Chicken Paella with Sausage and Olives

It's Thursday! That means it is time for another Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe. This week's recipe was chosen by Margaret of Tea and Scones. She chose for us to make the Chicken Paella with Sausage and Olives from So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week by Ellie Krieger. The recipe can be found online here.

I had never made paella before, and this recipe is a bit different as far as other recipes I have seen. Traditional paella is made is a special pan that allows the rice to form a chewy, crispy crust on the bottom. Unfortunately, I do not have one of those pans, but I think that the fact that the dish is cooked in the oven adds a nice chewy texture to the rice. For me, what makes this dish different from a common chicken and rice dish is the addition of green Spanish olives and saffron. These ingredients add an extra layer of flavor that makes the dish a little sour (olives) with floral undertones (saffron). With the addition of turmeric, it makes the rice a lovely yellow color.

Of course, like always, I made some substitutions and additions. I am finally seeing the first vegetables pop up in my garden. Earlier this week I picked a handful of sugar snap peas and a small yellow squash. I sliced the sugar snap peas and used them in place of the frozen peas called for in the recipe, which was quite lovely, they were sweet and had a great texture to them. I also sliced the squash into rounds and added that to the dish as well. Unfortunately, I don't have any tomatoes in my garden yet, and the tomatoes at my grocery store looked dreadful, so I substituted about one cup of canned diced tomatoes that I drained and added to the pan. To compensate for the extra liquid, I cut back on the chicken broth and used one 14 ounce can of chicken broth instead of the 2 1/2 cups used in the original recipe. I think that worked really well because the tomatoes added a nice sweetness that balance out the briny-ness of the olives. Finally, to give the dish an extra Spanish flair I added 1/2 teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika.

I was quite surprised how much I liked this dish. I am not a big fan of olives, and when I do eat them, I prefer the Greek kalamata olives, not green olives. But luckily for me, I live next to a great specialty grocery store that has an olive bar, so I was able to pick up some green Spanish olives that were stuffed with red bell peppers. They were delicious. Another great recipe from Ellie. Be sure to check out Margaret's blog for the recipe as well as the Craving Ellie in My Belly blogroll to see what other bloggers did with their recipes!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pasta Ponza

I love quick pasta dishes, especially ones that use unique ingredients. I have posted a few here, like Pasta with Chicken and Mixed Vegetables, Pasta with Potatoes, Pesto, and Green Beans, and Pasta with Kalamata Olives, Capers, and Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce. That is why I was eager to try the Pasta Ponza recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. It is pasta with a roasted tomato sauce, but what makes it unique is that the tomatoes are mixed with breadcrumbs and capers. That combination sounded unique to me, and I love capers. Anytime a recipe has them in it, I take notice.

I liked this pasta dish, but I didn't love it. It's quick and simple, and the roasting of the tomatoes is a great way to bring out their natural sweetness. If I made it again, I would probably leave out the breadcrumbs or I would mix the roasted tomatoes with the pasta and capers, and top the dish with the breadcrumbs, cheese, and some olive oil, then bake the dish so that it would form a crispy crust on top. Some of the breadcrumbs became soggy and the texture was not very appealing. However the tomato/caper/cheese mixture was delicious. I will definitely try the combination again.

Pasta Ponza
from Giada De Laurentiis
serves 4 to 6
  • Butter for greasing
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 pound ziti or other short tube-shaped pasta (I used rigatoni)
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 ounces) Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.

Place the tomatoes, capers, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in the prepared baking dish. Toss to coat. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the tomato mixture. Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden. Cool for 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

Place the pasta in a large serving bowl. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the pasta. Add the cheese and toss well. Thin out the sauce with a little pasta water, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and basil and serve immediately.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

CEiMB: Shortcut Collard Greens

We haven't had a Craving Ellie in My Belly Recipe in the past few weeks, as our site leader has been out of contact for the past few weeks. We hope all is well for her. Fortunately, Joanne of Apple Crumbles and Peggy of Pantry Revisited stepped up to the plate, and picked this week's recipe, Shortcut Collard Greens from from The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life by Ellie Krieger.

I really like collard greens, I think they have a nice flavor and texture. The way that I usually have them is slow cooked for hours with a ham hock or bacon, therefore, I was interested when I read that this recipe only takes about 10 minutes to complete. It involves first microwaving the greens to soften them, and then adding them to a skillet with onions and Canadian bacon. The recipe also calls for other ingredients that I thought would a twist to the typical collard green recipe. You add apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and crushed red pepper. This makes for a nice flavor combination. The crushed red pepper balances nicely with the sweetness of the maple syrup and the saltiness of the Canadian Bacon. I also like the slight bite that the vinegar adds to the dish. I cut down the amount of onion the recipe called for because collard greens really cook down, and I felt that the whole small onion would overwhelm them, so I only added half the amount. I also added a minced garlic clove along with the onion. A quick note, the collard greens still had quite a bite to them after 5 minutes in the microwave, so if you like the texture to be a bit softer, I would add a couple minutes to the cook time. This was a quick, unexpected side dish, that I will definitely make again. Thanks to Ellie for another great recipe!