Chili Balsamic Marinated Sirloin with Linguine and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

My e-mail inbox is out of control. I’m using the new Priority Inbox at Gmail but it is still stuffed full of old newsletters, mailing list digests and of course the non-spam spam (that would be the ‘today only!! Sale!!!’ announcements from any website you have ever purchased from*). I have been ruthless in my deletion of messages I know I won’t ever read. I’m also unsubscribing to a number of regular senders which often results in unsubscribe-confirmation emails. Aagh!

In my purging, I started to delete the email from Cookbooker, a website for posting cookbook recipe reviews. I signed up there at some point but never actually used the site. At the time, my focus was primarily ad-hoc cooking or using web-based recipes. Now I have about one-third of my cookbooks out of boxes, on a shelf, ready to be used and reviewed.  But rather than start using those books and their recipes, I decided to take the Fall challenge by writing reviews for the recipes in the spotlight book, High Flavor, Low Labor. I don’t own this book but fortunately, the website provides you with three sample recipes to get you started.  All three sounded pretty good to me and since Chris had been out of town for a week and would be leaving again in a week for another five days, I didn’t want to buy a fridge full of food that wouldn’t get eaten.

I decided to start with the sirloin and pasta because I either had a number of the ingredients on hand or knew that if I opened a jar of, for example, sun-dried tomatoes but didn’t use it all, I would be able to find another purpose easily enough.

The sample recipe, Chili Balsamic Marinated Sirloin with Fettucine & Sun-dried Tomatoes is the third one provided, when you follow the link. I think you could figure that out, though.  Note, firstly, that my blog post title is linguine, not fettucine. For reasons I can’t explain, the only brand of fettucine at the most convenient grocery store (a Kroger) is the cheapest name brand. I did not want.  They also had the fresh, refrigerated stuff but I didn’t need that much. Also, I think I like the smaller size of linguine better. I bought a whole-wheat version and was quite happy with the outcome.

I am not, historically, a buyer of steak so finding the right cut and the right size proved more work than I initially anticipated. I believe that my final choice was pretty close to the the recipe’s intentions although I couldn’t tell you what is was called, sirloin something**. I didn’t slice it in to strips before marinating/cooking because I was being lazy. And the trip to the store to buy the ingredients cut in to my time for cooking them (primarily because sun-dried tomatoes are in two places and I had to walk around a lot to find the right ones). But mostly because I am lazy.

Other than halving the amount of meat and reducing the amount of pasta for serving two instead of four, I followed the ingredient proportions.  Next time, I will either not be lazy and slice the meat so it can absorb more marinade or add more shiracha since I thought it needed heat.  I also added a bit of the marinade to the tomatoes and peppers which was not called for but I liked it. For food safety reasons, you will need to cook this a bit more than “warm through”.

The seasoning profile for this came out very well. Again, I would have liked a little more heat but you could definitely tell the shiracha was there. I salted the pasta water exactly right, apparently, because the linguine had a nice nutty wheat flavor but didn’t taste like salt. We both liked this and it really did only take 30 minutes.

Garnished with a bit of green tops from our wee little onions in the garden.

*On the drive home from a party Saturday night,  we discussed diagramming sentences (honestly, no alcohol involved). I very distinctly remember not learning how to do this in junior high. I think my English teacher spent one day on the uselessness of the exercise and on we moved.  Fast forward to AP English in my senior year of high school where the formidable Ms. Moore was crusading against all sorts of grammar violations including writing ‘alot’ instead of ‘a lot’, avoiding redundancy, again and not ending a sentence with a preposition. This last one is a struggle for me as I balance using academic language and structure with not sounding like a stilted buffon. I was trying to explain the problem to Chris by example except I couldn’t think of a single suitable sentence!  Since he reads this blog, the sentence up there with the asterisk is just for him as is the reworded example to be ‘correct’ located in this paragraph.  (Note: I was pleased to see that Grammar Girl says this ‘rule’ is really a myth and I shouldn’t worry so much about it).

**I could have bought pre-sliced sirloin, apparently for stir-fry recipes except the premium on the per pound price was too high and the packages were only one serving each.


 

My review at Cookbooker is here. I have also made the pesto chicken dish and plan to make the tomato-bacon jam tonight. If this third recipe is a success, I’ll probably buy the book even though I don’t really need another cookbook. I should probably get rid of some that I don’t use now but its a hard thing, much easier to say than do.

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Out of the box Lasagna

Another recipe from the Real Simple maga-book. I’ve actually been thinking about this one in the back of my head but it hadn’t been quite the right night for it.

Until tonight. I had a bunch of errands to run so I got home about an hour later than usual but still before Chris. He’d done some light grocery shopping earlier in the day but we didn’t have a ton of fresh stuff on hand. What we did have was some things that needed using up, ASAP.

The original recipe called for frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained. I do have spinach in the freezer but decided to go a different route.

Ingredients
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 package ravioli (frozen or thawed)- I used a chicken ravioli, medium sized from Sam’s Club
1 jar pasta sauce (organic basil, may I suggest)
1 8oz package shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup 3-cheese mix with parmesan
Garlic seasoning
oregano, fresh

Directions

Preheat oven to 350

While oven is heating, saute onions and mushrooms over medium-high heat with some garlic seasoning. Cook until onions are lightly golden. Near end of cooking time, stir in fresh oregano or other fresh herbs of your choosing.

In a 9×13 baking dish, layer 1/3 of pasta sauce in the bottom then half the raviolis. Top with more sauce, half of mozzarella cheese and onions/mushroom mixture. Add second layer of raviolis and finish with last of sauce, remainder of mozzarella and the 3-cheese mix.

Bake, covered with foil, for 25 mintues. Remove foil and continue to bake another 10 minutes or until cheese turns golden and bubbly.

Remove from oven. Ideally, let set for 10 minutes to allow cheese to set up.

Served with mixed green salad.


No picture – C’mon you know what lasagna looks like! It was way too gloomy to try for nice natural light pictures anyhow. And we were hungry.
Super super easy. Next time I hope to do both the added mushrooms/onions and the spinach.

Salad Days

I love salads and I wish I made them more often. Nothing too fancy, just a mix of lettuces, some chopped veggies and a little crunchy topper. I sometimes think about more advanced salads or non-traditional salads like the roasted beets and goat cheese type that I love. For awhile Chris was making me a salad several days a week and bring it to me at work. But that goes in streak and we’ve been on the “off streak” for a while now.
So, tonight, with no protein in the fridge looking to be cooked, Chris mentioned he’d cooked some chicken earlier in the week for salads so maybe I could do up salads. And it sounded pretty good to me.
Clearly, there is no recipe involved here. We had a bag of romaine and a plastic box of field greens. I took a few cups of each and combined them with diced carrot, bell pepper, green onion, red onion* (sliced very thin), and tomatoes. Add to that a handful of dried cranberries and another handful of sweet n’ spicy pecans from Trader Joe’s and we had ourselves a salad. My one rule: Always, always always re-wash your lettuces. Even if the bag says ready-to-go! Between internet horror stories of frogs in bags o’ lettuce and occasionally floppy texture of bagged lettuce, its worth the extra step, in my book. At the very list, your salad will be fresher tasting with more crunch.

I also like to a salad as above but with sunflower seeds, a bleu cheese crumble and ranch dressing. A favored variation of the green lettuce salad is spinach, mandarin oranges, red onions* and a lite Caesar style dressing. Both of these seem to combine all my favorite flavors and textures.

Normally, I like to add my dressing to the bowl and toss it all together. You use less dressing this way without any bald spots in the salad. I didn’t do that tonight because I didn’t know what variety Chris would like. Of course, we ended up both using the  same kind: Asiago peppercorn!

The best thing about making this salad today is that it was the first opportunity to use the salad bowl and tossers given to me as a wedding shower gift.

So cute!! I feel like I need to have a salad party now! And a pizza party since we also got a pizza stone. And I still want to have a pasta party sometime to use my pasta attachments for the Kitchen-Aid.

To go with the salad, I, at the last minute, decided to make some bruschetta. I just brushed a couple slices of bread (multi-grain artisan) with garlic olive oil, topped them with diced tomato and a little shredded cheese and dried basil then under the broiler for 2 minutes.

*I swear that red onions have gotten a lot hotter over the last few years. These are supposed to the best suited for salads but man oh man sometimes they haunt me all day. I am hoping this is a variation in onion varieties and not a sign that I am getting old.  To get around this, I find that the thinner the slice, the easier for my esophagus.

Caribbean Grill Stir Fry

In a perfect example of fusion cooking, I made a Caribbean Grill- Stir Fry dinner tonight.

First, we had some turkey marinating in Caribbean Jerk sauce.  It had been marinating since Sunday so it was definitely time to use it.

Second, I needed to use some of my bok choy and water spinach from the Farmer’s Market last week.

I convinced myself that this would work perfectly.  And it almost did.


To refresh, the turkey had been marinating in Caribbean Jerk sauce since Sunday. As it turns out, this is just a little too long. We’ve used this marinade before and its pretty good on grilled meats. However, like many marinades, it has acids in it to tenderize the meat. Know what happens when the acid works overtime? You end up with ceviche of a sorts.

the citric acid causes the proteins in to become denatured, which pickles or “cooks” the meat/fish without heat.

Ceviche made with shrimp is quite good- I’ve made it before. Chicken “acid-cooked” then under the broiler for 10 minutes is a little tougher to swallow- literally. Fortunately, the red bell pepper and onion slices I also put under the broiler came out quite tasty.  Isn’t this beautiful?

Perfect Grilled Onion

Perfect Grilled Onion

 

Now for the stir-fry part of the meal! I researched recipes using water spinach but didn’t find much beyond “stir fry with garlic.” So, that is what I did.

Ingredients:

1 bunch water spinach, bottom of stalks removed (the thicker parts
1 head of baby bok choy, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, sliced or chopped, your choice
garlic & ginger, mashed together
cooking oil (peanut, canola, vegetable, olive- whatever’s handy)
sesame oil
tamari soy sauce
Gomasio

Directions:

Heat 1-2 teaspoons of the cooking oil over medium heat in a non-stick pan.  Add the garlic-ginger mash and saute about 30 seconds then add the onoin.  Continue to cook 2-3 minutes more before adding the bok choy.  Sprinkle some sesame oil over the vegetables, add more garlic and ginger if you want.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the water spinach to the pan.  Keep the leaves moving in the pan, tossing with the bok choy and onions.  When the spinach is wilted but still a nice bright green, toss with a teaspoon of soy sauce and garnish with Gomasio.

 

Notice no salt? Gomasio is a Japanese condiment made with salt.  I use the garlic version but you can get it plain, with seaweed added and other varietes from Eden Foods.  A quick and simple lunch I like is 1/2 an avocado, mashed and mixed with canned tuna, chopped tomatoes and Gomasio then served on crackers or rice cakes.

 

Caribbean Grill Stir Fry

Caribbean Grill Stir Fry

Tacos Supremo

Another one of Chris’s favorites, I like this dish because its pretty quick to put together and provides at least a day’s worth of leftovers.

 Taco Filling Ingredients:

1 lb (ish) ground turkey
1 8oz can tomato sauce
Chili Powder & Cumin
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 onion chopped + more to garnish as desired
olive oil

Toppings:

avocado/guacamole
diced tomato and/or onion
shredded cheese
tomato
lettuce
sour cream
Tortillas

Directions:

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil to coat pan.  When heated, add garlic, 1 tbsp. chili powder and 1/2 tsp. cumin (I used seeds or ground, depends on what’s handy) and saute until it starts to smell really good.  Then add onion and cook until onions are starting to soften.  Add ground turkey, breaking up the meat into smaller chunks as it cooks.  When most of the turkey is browned, add another 1 tbls. chili powder and  1 tsp. cumin and the cayenne pepper along with the tomato sauce.  Reduce heat to low-medium until turkey is cooked through and sauce thickens slightly.

While the filling is cooking, chop up onion and tomato plus what ever other fillings you like. Last time, we had avocado (just diced), tomato/onion, cheese and sour  cream. 

You can either heat up the tortillas between two damp paper towels in the microwave (45-60 seconds on high, flip over half-way through) or heat them individually in a dry frying pan.

Served with Lazy-girl Salsa and chips.

TIps and Options

You can use a taco seasoning mix if you want.  Just try to find something that is mostly spices and not a lot of fillers.  I’ve done a combination of the two before- a packet mix and 1/2 the cumin and chili powder.

I generally use burrito size flour tortillas because that is what Chris prefers. Buy them from the refrigerated section or look for ones from a local shop. 

Feeling really ambitious?  Try making your own corn tortillas. I have the tortilla press which is really useful but just use a nice heavy skillet to cook them instead of the comal.  Don’t buy the expensive electric tortilla maker.  Its heavy, overpriced and the machine makes this horrible screaming sound when you press the tortillas.  (You can make your own flour tortillas but its a little less fun than corn ones, I think).

Adjust the seasonings to your liking- Of course!. Consider buying pureed tomatoes with jalapenos mixed in although I like the thicker sauce that comes from the tomato sauce.