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Category Archives: Main Dishes

Spring has finally Sprung…today in my kitchen



Can I complain for one hot second? I’ll take a rain check on a verbal/written reply and take the silence as a ‘yes.’ I am fed up with winter. It rained for my sister’s entire outdoor graduation. Sideways rain, and I don’t think you can get more insulting than that. It rained for my graduation too, but I was happy as a clam to be inside a Track & Field stadium (addendum: I would not have found myself quite so content had it been a sunny-side-up day). I am angry at the weather. Angry to be on the East Coast, although, given the recent (and not-so-recent) rash of natural disasters and other not-so-natural disastrous events, I suppose I should feel at least a modicum of gratitude to be right where I am.  But I am not grateful for my location so much as the produce that it produces. Today, it a little market near my train stop I found all three of the above-pictured vegetables. I hadn’t a clue what to do with them, but daydreamed all the way home on the train, and by the time I arrived, I had the scaffolding of a couple of ideas in my head. I rushed home. I dirtied a lot of a pots and pans. I sweated in my kitchen for the first time in many moons. I requested fancy cocktails from my fiance for our guests. He provided them. (they were delicious) I had a mini-meltdown over 2 poorly poached eggs. Then I got the hang of it.

I took one singular picture…it doesn’t do the final dish justice…but if you want to try any/all of the mishmash medley of vegetarian sensations that I created, the lackadaisical recipes are as follows:

Creamy Polenta

6 cups of water with a dash of salt to speed the boiling process

2 cups dry polenta

½ cup cream

2 tbsp butter

¼ cup grated romano/pecorino/other fancy cheese

Salt & Pepper to taste

Bring the water to a rollicking boil before mixing in the 2 dry cupfuls of polenta. Lower heat and let bubble and brew at a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir in cream and butter, stir well and bring to a simmer again. Lastly, mix in cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste before serving. Best served hot. Makes 6 servings or more…

Mizuna Greens

A Japanese green, these tender young’uns have been descried as “piquant, mild peppery flavor…slightly spicy, but less so than arugula.” I tossed them lightly with sesame vinaigrette, toasted sesame seeds and finely grated pecorino.

Caramelized Rutabega

1 large rutabaga (cut into ½-inch cubes)
¼ cup butter
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/8 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Freshly ground pepper

Cut the ‘bega into small cubes. Boil in salted water until tender-crisp (about 10 minutes). Drain well. Melt butter in pot, add the rutabega, sprinkle brown sugar and mix gently until caramel appears, just a few short minutes. Add pumpkin pie spice and pepper.

Crispy Pan-friend Spring Onions

4-6 young spring onions

3 tbsp butter

salt, pepper, lemon

With a mandolin, slice the onions into rounds. Melt butter in a skillet and turn up the heat. Add onions and flash-fry for 1 minute on each side. Season the onions with salt, pepper and lemon. Drain any excess butter (can be used with the polenta for an additional seasoning flavor).

Poached Eggs

Tips:

  1. Do NOT boil the water. Do not let it simmer. Get the water “excited” with bubbles just barely appearing at the bottom. It is poachable now.
  2. Pour in a splash of vinegar
  3. Prep your eggs in ramekins, do not crack directly into the whirlpool you create.
  4. Make a whirlpool in the water with a spatula in your dominant hand, hold the ramekin containing the egg in the other hand, and gently dump it in the center of the whirlpool at the same moment that you remove the spatula
  5. Do not touch your egg as it swirls and gels. Close your eyes if you have to! Do not touch the egg. Trust it.
  6. Let it cook for at least 90 seconds before nudging it gently with the spatula to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. If it is ready, gently scoop it out with a slotted spoon and put in a warm bath of water to await serving time.

I discussed egg poaching in a previous entry and recommended Smitten Kitchen for an excellent tutorial. I still  stand by this method, despite my initial failed attempts. Check it out for detailed instructions and pictures.

Happy happy spring!

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The Crock Pot Saga: Texan Picante Chicken Sandwichitos

I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for quite a while, but kept it on the back burner–so to speak–(pahaha, so punny) since this whole Emergency Room saga began. I figured now is a great time to put it up, though, since it’s been wiggling its way into my food brain lately. Nothing like coming home from a 12-14 hour shift to the tangy and mouthwatering scent of barbecue sauce wafting out into the stairwell, and knowing that it’s coming from my own apartment. The best part about this recipe is that the prep time is next to nothing and it’s great for leftover lunches, too.

Texan Picante Chicken Sandwichitos

Cleverly named by: My fiance 🙂

– 1 medium onions or 1/2 large onions, thinly sliced

– 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

– 1 cup ketchup

– 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

– 2 tablespoons molasses

– 1 tablespoon yellow mustard

  1. Cut the onion in half and slice. Line the bottom of the crock pot with the onions.
  2. Trim the chicken breasts and place on top of the bed of onions.
  3. Mix all of the sauce ingredients together and pour on top of the chicken covering completely. (I made the sauce the night before so that it’s even easier to prep in the morning.)
  4. Cook for 6 hours on low setting. While cooking, the sauce will thicken and darken and the onions will soften or perhaps dissolve completely depending on how thinly you’ve sliced them.
  5. When the chicken is falling apart tender, take two forks and shred the chicken.
  6. Serve on top of split buns. I like mine toasted and with a few spinach sprigs so they hold up better to the weight of the shredded chicken.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2011 in Main Dishes

 

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Spoonful of Beans

 

beans, beans the magical fruit...rinse them well and you won't toot!

YUM. Every time I go over to a certain friend’s house, she has the most delicious beans simmering on the stove.  The mouth-watering aroma fills her house. However, I never get to see how the process begins. It appears to be a seamless cooking process with no definitive start or finish. A dash of this and that, simmer for a few hours, maybe more, and then taste test. Sprinkle in a bit more of this and a lot more of that, then ¡voila! there are amazing beans to eat. Put them in a taco, mix them with stir fried kale and sausage for a nontraditional breakfast, or eat them solo, piping hot. Finally, after craving them for eons, I emailed her for the recipe. (By “eons” I really mean the extent of this freezing cold on the East Coast that they call winter, instead of appropriately titling it “Arctic Chill.”) Alas, my friend admitted that there was no official “recipe” but gave me a list of suggested ingredients and vague instructions. Trying not to get my hopes up, I went for it, infusing my own sprinkling style into the mix. No measuring spoons or cups used, just instinct. So that’s how the following recipe looks, laundry list style. I won’t be able to recreate exactly what I made today, but I have faith that I (and you) can create delightfully unique but equally delicious Bean Surprise.

Ingredient List

Beans (I use the 17-bean mix from TJ’s. Amazing mix at an unbeatable value)

A few yellow onions, finely chopped

Cloves of garlic, minced

Carrots

Apple or dried apricots

Cumin

Paprika

Cinnamon

Red chili flakes (or anything you desire for some heat)

Few teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Splash of wine

Worcestershire sauce

Chopped chipotle peppers from can (with sauce)

Tomatoes (fire-roasted can version, or a small container of tomato-ey salsa)

Brown sugar and salt, to taste

1) Soak beans overnight, or “quick soak” (soak them for an hour and then boil until slightly softened). Set aside.

2) In a large pan, sauté onions and garlic with a little olive oil and all the spices. Mix in carrots/apples/apricots.  Let these ingredients simmer together for a couple of minutes.

3) Add beans, (keeping some but not all of the liquid that you boiled/soaked them in) to the onion mixture.

4) In no particular, combine with apple cider vinegar, wine, Worcestershire, and tomatoes.

5) Cover and simmer gently over a stove for 1-2 hours, letting the flavors meld. This does not need to be tended often, just tasted occasionally and seasoned to taste. I added a small teaspoon of brown sugar and a dash of salt towards the end.

6) Let the mixture cook down until there is very little liquid left and it is a thick stew-like concoction. Enjoy served over toast, quinoa, eggs, in tacos, or any other delicious vehicle you can come up with.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2011 in Legumes, Main Dishes, Snacks

 

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Inglorious Bast-turds

Turd is a 4-letter word that I much prefer over test. I promise, I am not talking about wiping bums today, but I do not feel ashamed in at least mentioning it. I would far prefer to clean up after someone who passed their bowels than take a pharmacology/physiology/issues of nursing test…ANY DAY.

I am a bit worn out on exam-taking today. This week. This month.

If there was a pie chart of my life, studying for exams would be disproportionately representative. I know that I need to learn this material in order to be a safe and effective nurse, but this method of tricky multiple choice testing day-in-and-day-out really takes a toll. That’s why going to the hospital this week was such welcome relief. Patience may be a virtue, but I am sadly lacking it when it comes to waiting for competence in nursing practice. Yesterday, however, reminded me why it is worth working for.

Our preceptor placed us with telemetry/cardiac monitor patients this week. In the RICU, this may seem like a step down in terms of hands-on learning since our patients weren’t dealing with tracheostomies and ventilators, but in terms of gleaning knowledge from our patients about their present illness, it was profoundly educational and emotional. This was my first patient that could actually speak to me!  More than speaking to me, she entertained me to no end.* Breathing was difficult, her energy was low, but her wit abounded. She was a total trip. She told a doctor that she was going to kick, ahem, his little “behind” if he didn’t get her off the drug that was causing her anxiety. While she was consulting with a palliative care doctor about possible treatments, her son was telling me all about her career working for the police department and before that, traveling with the army for close to 20 years. In a break from talking with the physician, her son asked, “Hey mom, what’s your favorite gun?” Without missing a beat (quite a feat on a 50%-O2 saturation partial face mask) she responded, “M-16 and M-19,” then she turned back to the doctor and continued conversing about her treatment. I was momentarily shocked that this little tiny lady had not only handled a gun, but that the names of her personal “favorites” had tumbled from her lips as easy as 1,2,3. Previously, we had spoken about salsa dancing and I had pegged her as a dancer in her former life, but that clearly wasn’t all… She is quite a character. Unfortunately, her condition doesn’t promise a quick recovery: sigmoid colon cancer, pancreatic cancer that quickly metastasized to the liver, bones and lungs. For this reason, my day with her was quite bittersweet. I was able to talk to her about her life and illness, take my time in giving a bed bath which she and I both thoroughly enjoyed, and also meet one of her incredible children who moved here from different state barely a week ago to be with her in the hospital. I was able to understand her condition (an achievement in itself) but this also opened my eyes to the possibility (or reality) that she will most likely not be leaving the hospital with her son. This is a hard pill to swallow.

When I left the hospital yesterday, though, I wasn’t sad. Maybe my residents helped me understand death and dying a little better. There was a part of me that was sad for her and her family. But I was able to compartmentalize that sentiment and also recognize another emotion: elation. At 6am that morning, I left the house as a Negative Nelly, feeling down-in-the-dumps over another upcoming test, compounded by a serious sleep deficit. But at 3:30pm, as I left the hospital even more weary, I had a completely different outlook. Again, my patient reminded me why I am here. It made me so excited to learn more, even if it means test-anxiety, some more sleepless nights, and even the monotony of studying on a Friday night. It’s only a few more weeks until August, and then it’s three weeks OFF!

In honor of my impending cooking-fest, I will post a recipe that I found the time to make the other day and ADORED.

Eggs Nesting In Tomatoes On Toast

Adapted slightly from A Cozy Kitchen

Serves 4 (maybe…)

  • 4-5 eggs (separated, reserving 2 of the whites for another use)
  • 1/8-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • ½-1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 24-oz can of whole tomatoes (San Marzano highly recommended)
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 Tbsp of chopped fresh basil (I’m growing mine on my fire escape!)
  • 4 slices bread–whatever you have on hand, toasted

In a cold medium skillet, combine the oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano.  Turn on the heat and warm over medium heat until the garlic begins to become fragrant (without browning), about 2 minutes.

Raise the heat to high, then use your hands to “crush” each tomato into the pan. (I used a fork/finger to pierce them because the squirt-factor was out of control. Beware of your cute t-shirt, it is in danger!) Season with salt and pepper.  Fry the tomatoes, continuing to break them up with a fork. Cook until they concentrate and no longer look watery (5-7 minutes).

Lower the heat to medium and stir in the egg whites.  Cook until the whites become opaque and firm, thickening the tomato sauce, about 1 minute.

Turn off the heat. Using the back of a spoon, make 4 indentations in the sauce, allowing a few inches around each.  Nestle an egg yolk into each indent.  Pull the sauce in from the edges of the pan so that it cradles each of the yolks.  Cover the skillet and leave it on the stove, heat off, until the yolks are just warmed through and beginning to set, about 3 minutes for runny yolks.

Gently spoon some sauce and a yolk onto each piece of toast and serve immediately. Use a large spoon, perhaps lightly oiled, to pick up a nestled yolk without breaking it. Enjoy for breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner. Or another special occasion time (plucking your eyebrows??)

*information changed & withheld to protect patient identity

 

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Chicken Lovers

garlic that we grew in our P-Patch!

Purple potato ratio far outweighed the red. Purple Prejudice

Final Product: pre-oven

I recreated the delish’ chicken dish that I made a few weeks ago with an old friend. On date night, Matt and I decided to double the recipe (yay for leftovers). However, for some reason, the chicken wasn’t quite as succulent this time around. I have no idea why, because we recreated the recipe to a T (except for some magic seasoning called Alpine Dust).  The culprit may be the fact that we bought really cheap chicken. Impossibly cheap: we were impressed at the value per poundage. We remarked upon in while standing in line at the grocery store. It looked quite delicious in its happy yellow Styrofoam container! But I am convinced that it is the culprit. Even though I was under the assumption that all chickens are created equal, apparently that is not the case. Free range, large (but not genetically modified) breasted, happy chickens from now on.

Here’s the recipe again, for a lil’ reminder, and more specific measurements:

Lemon, Thyme, Wine and Everything Nice Chicken

Set oven to 425
3 Tb Butter
1C white table wine
2-3 potatoes
*Season and roast this, stirring every 10 minutes, for approx 25 minutes, then add:
2C Asparagus (2” pieces)
1 Lemon, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Chicken Breast medallions, seasoned (originally, the recipe called for 1 whole chicken, skin side up…would have to increase the asparagus portion as well to balance this out though)
5 sprigs fresh thyme

*Roast this at the same temperature for approximately 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

If you eat this as leftovers, the potatoes get even more delightfully flavorful with time…and I would believe that the chicken would too, if its genetically modified weirdness didn’t make it impermeable to all-things-delicious marinade…

moral of this story: don’t be cheap on chicken!

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2010 in Main Dishes

 

Illuminating Nostrils

I know, I know. I said I was going to write about every single day I had left. And I missed a day. Did anyone notice? Probably, not. I get like 10 views for my blog per day and my mom probably accounts for at least 7 of those. But I noticed, and felt badly about it, because these memories are going nowhere (rather, they are going somewhere, I suppose, most likely dissolving into thin air since my brain’s file cabinet is more of a selective sieve than a tupperware).  God knows where the memories disappear to if I don’t put them down into cloud computing history. Enter, blog.

This story is worth not forgetting. I can admit it; I only have two weeks left. I have a favorite resident. I know, I know. The inner primary school teacher in you says that this is bad. I said it too! But is it avoidable? Don’t we all choose favorites to some extent? And the answer is “yes,” I do spend more time with her on average than with my other residents. But the world of assisted living is strange. People pay to live there. A lot. And they pay on a scale of care needed. This resident in particular pays for a total of 4 hours of one-on-one care each day. 4 hours! The base level (I believe) is nearly zero hours (of one-on-one time) because it is assumed that most people in assisted living are fairly independent. And the base level of care is already expensive (at least to my unrefined sense of what is a luxury). So this resident, the one I call Addie, is supposed to receive the large amount of care that I provide for her. She is. It’s just that in the process of providing all this care, I have also grown incredibly fond of her. She is funny, she is sweet, she is altogether unique, and it has become second nature for her to tell me that she loves me, and for me to respond the same words. Good god, I hope I learn to maintain some distance from my patients when I am a nurse practitioner.

Addie loves bingo. She doesn’t quite ever remember the name of the game, but she usually tells me that she wants to play “the one with the red circles.” (Our bingo marker chips are red circular tiles.) I regularly lead social, so I always invite Addie when we are playing social. In fact, Addie will come to any social that I lead, even if she prefers not to participate in the word games. She enjoys drinking her Lipton tea, delicately nibbling a cookie, and studiously observing us blurt out words that we can form out of the larger word “ILLUMINATINGLY” (“extemporaneous,” “flimflammeries,”capriciousness,” or any other 14-letter word I pull out of my hat). But yesterday was Bingo. These ladies are really into their Bingo. We have a big cauldron of fun little prizes for the winners, so it’s always at least a little exciting. I call out the numbers…and yes, it gets monotonous, so after about 4 or 5 games (always ending in one seemingly never-ending round of blackout) I am ready to call it a day. Yesterday, Addie won on of the 4 rounds that we played. She pulled a tub of body butter out of the prize bin, lavender scented.

I pulled her scooter up to her chair, assisted her to stand up, and we walked back to her room. After she was settled in her blue recliner, I proffered the prize. She asked me to open it for her. So, I knelt down beside her, unscrewed the top, and went to work slowly peeling back the annoyingly thick foil that they always stick on beauty products to soothe the germaphobes. After peeling that off, there was a big bubble of lotion burgeoning from the top. Without thinking, Addie reached forward reflexively, and with one finger, popped the bubble. A small clump sprung up with a soft “pff!” and hit her smack-dab in the nose. In surprise, she said, “Oh!” And then we both cracked up. And I mean, really cracked up. Tears welled up in my eyes from laughing so hard, as soon as we would look at each other we would snort and start giggling again. Through it all, she never touched the dab of lotion on her nose, making it all the more entertaining. And then she leaned forward, and gave me a nose kiss with her own, and we both had lotion noses. That started us off on another round of giggles…and another as we finally tried to straighten things out and smear it into our skin, alas, to no avail. There were still smudges, here, there, everywhere. She would reach out and try and help me with my smudges and I would do the same for her. It was nonsense, and so much fun. Blogging seriously doesn’t do it justice. I loved my job so much in that moment.

Today I had dinner with a fabulous old friend. Why cook alone when I can cook with a friend? The wine tasted fancier, the food was richer (or maybe that was the butter) 😮 and the company was perfect. The only thing that suffered was my food photography. It didn’t happen. Maybe next time I will drink a cupful less and remember to take out my camera. Maybe. At least I know that one of these dishes was already made, and blogged about (the broccoli) and the second dish will be made again very shortly. It was that good. Yummy yummy, happy tummy.

All-things-delicious Chicken

Heat oven to 425. Place in one large-ish casserole dish:

purple potatoes, wedged

1/4-1/3 stick of butter, sliced

Generous splash of white wine

Bake for 5ish minutes, until butter melts and delicious aroma of wine flavored butter wafts up from the oven vents. Add:

2 big chicken breasts (or whatever you got, just wing it. Hah, get it?) quartered

Bunch of asparagus, halved

lemon slices, quartered and seeded

few sprigs of thyme (fresh!)

Another 2 or 3 little slices of butter for good measure

salt+peppa to taste (red chili flakes may improve it as well)

Cook for roughly 20-25 minutes, until the juices of the lemons have mostly gone into sauce, and the chicken feels tender to a fork. Eat and Enjoy!


 
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Posted by on March 4, 2010 in Healing Spoonful, Main Dishes

 

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State of the Onion

I originally wrote this post the day after the State of the Union. I had every intention of using this space to help digest Obama’s rhetoric more fully, but truthfully I still don’t think I am proficient enough (or comfortable enough) with blogging to do it justice. So I will say just this:

I felt uplifted by Obama’s elegant prose (who isn’t, really…truly) and then I was punched down like overblown bread dough while listening to commentators and pundits launch into their over-zealous fact checking and general dismissal of his speech by saying that nothing will materialize from his words and that all of our temporary up-liftedness will dissolve away within a few days when we must again, face reality. I am most frustrated by the partisan politic divides that prevent any sort of collaborative work in politics. I applaud Obama for his scolding of both parties and felt shivers run down my spine when he said:

“Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we don’t also reform how we work with one another. Now, I’m not naïve. I never thought that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace and harmony and some post-partisan era.

I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched. And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, they’ve been taking place for over 200 years. They’re the very essence of our democracy.

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can’t wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side, a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can…

…To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills.

And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, a supermajority, then the responsibility to govern is now yours, as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.

So let’s show the American people that we can do it together.”

Amen, Obama!

I admit, that I was one of those Democrats who, after the initial satisfaction wore off from electing Obama into office, fell into a deeply peaceful slumber that seemed to exculpate me from doing anything political ever again. Obama would fix it. He would fix it all. I could just wait and watch. Or not even watch at all…because soon it would just happen. And then, only a year later, because everything wasn’t “better” here I was beginning to blame Obama for all of our problems. Just like everyone else! The Supreme Court ruling, the MA elections, our economy…now it was all his fault. But it is actually our collective fault. We were tired of working so hard, of feeling so stressed by fighting for what we believed in, we just wanted to take a break. Obama promised us fresh politics, he gave us hope, but he did not give us an infinite vacation from action, activism and advocacy.

Back to work, America! While very little is solved, hope is not lost. We need to start by identifying the things that we can control. And what can we control? Only ourselves, and our own actions.

Think about it. And in thinking about it I will give you some food for thought. Incredible food. Hope-filled. Your taste buds will celebrate and revel in the simplicity of it.

I found this recipe in my favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen, although apparently Deb wasn’t the first food blogger to rave about it. She cites at least 3 other food bloggers (all also very worthy of your perusal) who have become as enamored by this tomato sauce recipe as she (and I) have. I also had to share this recipe today because it relates oh-so-punnily to Obama’s. Thank you to my incredibly clever sister, Sarah, who is now in Ecuador, for coming up with this deliciously witty title.

3-ingredient Tomato Sauce
Found on Smitten Kitchen. Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking

28 oz whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano was recommended, which I used…found at most supermarkets)

5 Tbs (70 g) unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved

Salt, to taste (I found the salt in the tomatoes to be sufficient for my taste)

Combine the tomatoes, onion and butter in a 3-qt saucepan, over medium heat until it simmers. Lower the heat just enough to keep it at a slow, steady simmer. Cook like this, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes, or until droplets of buttery goodness (ok, fat) rise to the top. As you stir, crush the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. They should be almost completely broken down by the time you finish.

Remove from heat, scoop out the onion (but don’t throw it away, it’s a delicacy now) and add salt, if necessary.

If I make this again, I will definitely double the recipe. One recipe serves 4, but not as liberally as I (and you) will wish for. Add to whatever pasta you wish (I used farro, and it was delicious) and sprinkle with Parmesan (which I actually found unnecessary). I preferred the simplicity of the pasta served naked with the tomato sauce. It’s a flavor explosion.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2010 in Main Dishes

 

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