Dinner, Duck, Lunch, Meats, Pasta

Braised duck and red wine ragu pasta

Braised duck and red wine ragu pasta

This is a very lovely meal to make for people you love very much because it takes forever. But it is very much worth it, and if there’s just two of you, you get to enjoy not one but two leftovers!

As tends to be the case with sauces, this tastes better the next day, so you can make the ragu with a full belly and then all you’ll have to do the next day is heat it up and cook the pasta. You can enjoy a quick but decadent dinner even on a weekday!

The recipe is written to be leftover friendly. Cook only the pasta you need on the day you’re having it (step 11), and combine it with as much sauce as each person desires, directly into each plate.

Also written into the recipe is one way in which to prevent the pasta from hardening and sticking together: combining it with a little bit of sauce. This is a less photogenic option than adding the sauce to the bare pasta at the dinner table but I personally think this is a photogenic sacrifice that is worth making. I’ve also heard you can prevent the pasta from hardening by running it under cold water and then under hot water again to heat it back up, which I’ve tried but was not happy with because I couldn’t get the pasta to get hot enough. And I’ve read that you can instead combine the pasta with some olive oil, but I have not tried this because I’m worried it would become too greasy. #pickyeaterproblems

This dish would be even more lovely with homemade pasta. I use the next best thing, egg pasta imported from Italy. I still use the Filotea brand that I buy from the World Market section of my local Bed Bath & Beyond. I did run out and tried a pasta that was still imported from Italy but was 100% semolina for a set of portions and I’m sorry to say that I was disappointed. You likely need to add quite a bit of salt to the water when making non-egg pasta to have it taste good, and I don’t know enough about the chemistry to know how adding salt to the water affects the sodium content of the dish.

I made this first for a surprise birthday dinner for my husband and then it took a year for duck legs to come back in stock at Whole Foods so I could remake it. I loved it the first time but there’s just something about the novelty of making something that’s time-intensive for the first time that prevents me from being able to be objective. Second time around, the ragu is still delicious and since the recipe yields 6 portions, the amount of time and effort it takes feels more worth it.

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Brunch, Dinner, Lunch, Meats, potatoes, Quick, Salad, Sausage

Sausage and potato roast salad with arugula and shallots

Here’s a quick, weeknight friendly dinner to try out now that it’s fall and the oven is back in commission. This salad has a very complex taste for how few ingredients it combines and it is tasty with both fingerling and colorful mini potatoes.

The recipes this one is adapted from call for a lot more sausage and shallots. I’ve made this several times and tweaked the recipe with each iteration until I finally found a balance I liked with enough sausage to be filling but not too heavy and just a small amount of shallots, enough to add a little bit of sweetness. 1/2 sausage link per person is plenty for lunch or brunch and can be increased to 3/4 of a link for dinner (and the remaining sausage can be used as a pizza topping!) I use just one shallot per person, and I peel and slice it before I roast it so it can caramelize and crisp in the pan. I try to keep as much of the basal stem in tact as I can when I separate it from the roots so the shallot layers stay together when I slice it. I keep the shallots in for the same amount of time as the potatoes because I like them extra crispy. If they look too crispy for you, they can be removed before the final stir, as noted in the instructions.

The only decision I’m still on the fence about is how small to cut the sausage before roasting. Cutting them into 1″ pieces yields pieces large enough to slice into that stay tender inside whereas cutting them into 1/2″ pieces produces crispier and bite-sized pieces that can be more evenly distributed in the salad. For the salad in these pictures, the sausage is cut into 1/2″ pieces and I used 1/2 sausage link per person.

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Dinner, Lunch, Pasta, Quick, Seafood, Shrimp, Walnuts

Shrimp pasta with parmesan and ground walnuts

Shrimp pasta with parmesan and ground walnuts

We’ve been eating more pasta since I discovered egg pasta that tastes more like freshly-made pasta than the kind we can find at our grocery store. Egg pasta is generally yellow, looks more brittle, cooks more quickly and comes, for some mysterious reason, in fragile packaging like bags or boxes with an exposed, shrink-wrapped front. The kind we get is much pricier than the $1 boxes of pasta we used to get, but it’s so much tastier, it’s completely worth it. It also has some sodium from the egg so it tastes good on its own even though we don’t salt the water when we cook it.

This recipe is fairly quick but it does require a little bit of multitasking and figuring out the timing can be a little tricky. We first prepare the shrimp and set it in the fridge to marinate for at least half an hour. We’ve found that marinating it in a carbonated beverage helps make the shrimp taste more tender. We usually marinate it in the cheapest beer we have; pop or soda also works well. We aim to have the pasta and the sauce ready at the same time so we give the pot of water for the pasta a little bit of time to warm up, then start preparing the sauce in a frying pan. We start cooking the pasta after we add the shrimp to the sauce and give it a couple of minutes to cook. The shrimp cooks pretty quickly so the timing will need to be adjusted if you’re using a pasta that takes longer than 4 minutes to cook.

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Beans, Carrots, Chickpeas, Corn, Dinner, Legumes, Lunch, Pepper, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian, Zucchini

Vegan chili

Vegan chili

This vegan chili is very filling and quickly made its way into our rotation of favorite dinners. It’s got protein from the beans and chickpeas, lots of vegetable and lots of spices. It’s very tasty and sort of sweet and doesn’t give you that heavy feeling some chili can. We get three dinners out of one batch so it’s a lifesaver during crunch time.

The recipe is based on the vegetarian chili recipe from Archie Moore’s, a small chain of American-style restaurants around New Haven. Most people go there for their wings but I almost always got a bowl of veggie chili. This is a vegan replica of that, the only missing ingredient being shredded cheddar cheese used as a topping. I eat the chili with tortilla chips so I find it filling enough without the cheese and don’t really miss it, but (vegan) cheddar cheese can be added as a topping. I like this adapted recipe so much, I was not even tempted to go back for the original the last time I visited New Haven.

I use a large 7.5 quart (7 liter) pot to cook the chili and it is much too big. The second largest pot I have, however, is 3.2 quarts (3 liters) and wouldn’t give me enough room to stir. A pot of any size in between should work well.

It takes a while to get all of the ingredients ready. To cut down on prep time, I get the onion, garlic, spices, broth, and tomato sauce ready before I begin and I prepare the rest of the ingredients while cooking. I chop up the carrot while the onion is cooking, I open the remaining cans while the sauce is cooking, and I chop up the remaining vegetables while the sauce with the legumes and corn are cooking. The zucchini and peppers do overcook when the chili is reheated, so if you’re making ahead, add them in when reheating, and simmer them for 15 minutes before eating.

My absolute favorite tortilla chips for this chili are multigrain scoops. They’re little edible spoons! And there’s something about the multigrain that makes the chili taste even heartier and tastier. These chips are very hard to find in my neighborhood so I order them online and sometimes they arrive in good condition and sometimes they arrive mostly crushed, so I don’t always get my first choice. Regular scoops taste too salty for me so my second choice is tortilla chips that are made in store in our grocery store. They’re thick enough to allow me to scoop up the chili, don’t have much salt, are very inexpensive, and remind me of homemade tortilla chips. Homemade tortilla chips are fairly easy to make from corn tortillas if you cut some tortillas up into triangle shapes and they are so, so good warm. But you have to have the patience and/or tools to fry them. I, for one, have never had this with homemade tortilla chips.

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Dinner, Figs, Lunch, Pizza, Prosciutto

Prosciutto (fig) pizza with arugula and pine nuts

This is my new favorite pizza, inspired by one I had in Finland a few months ago. I love the way the fresh figs play off the prosciutto in spite of the fact that I’m generally not a fan of sweet and savory things. But fresh figs are hard to find, so more often than not, we end up making this pizza without them.

It’s made with the same no-knead dough recipe I’ve posted before, but this time you don’t need to make a big batch of it. This recipe will give you exactly the amount you’ll need for a pizza that fits in a 12-inch round cast iron pan. The dough takes very little effort to prepare, but it does take a long time to rise and then chill to a manageable temperature. But! It lasts two weeks in the fridge, so once you get past the two long waiting periods, you have two weeks to prepare homemade pizza in a pinch!

I added cup measurements for the flour, but the weight measurements are much more accurate so use those if you have a scale. If you do end up using the cup measurements, withhold some of the water and add it using the wet hand method described in the recipe until there are no more dry patches.

Since the tomatoes are freshly cut and do not simmer for very long, the tomato sauce does not taste quite the same as the tomato sauce you get on pizzas you order at restaurants. We sometimes replace one of the tomatoes with crushed tomato sauce and that gives it a more similar taste. It is nice with just the fresh tomatoes, too, you might just find that it’s a more acquired taste. We still add red chili pepper flakes to the tomato sauce so that the spiciness is evenly distributed. We also started adding red wine to the sauce and it adds a very nice sweetness so we almost always add it now.

As always, I’ve preemptively answered more questions you may have in the tips section. If you decide to make this or a version of this, I hope you enjoy it, and feel free to let me know so I know that this blog isn’t just my own personal recipe book. Who knows, maybe hearing from you will motivate me to post more regularly.

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Asparagus, Dinner, Leeks, Legumes, Lentils, Lunch, potatoes, Quick, Salad, Side salad, Vegan, Vegetarian

Warm potato salad with lentils, asparagus, and caramelized leeks

Warm potato salad with lentils, asparagus, and caramelized leeks

Salads make for great meals in the summer, especially ones that don’t require you to heat up your oven, like this one. Fingerling potatoes are still in season, and the colorful ones look great in this filling and accidentally-vegan salad. If you can’t find fingerling potatoes, new potatoes are also nice but really, any kind of potato works; just be sure to mind the cooking time. Some hints about modifications and serving the salad as a side can be found in the Tips section below.

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Breakfast, Brunch, Chickpeas, Dinner, Eggs, Lunch, Quick, Vegetarian

Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas and Feta (Shakshuka)

Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas and Feta (Shakshuka)

This poached egg, tomato, and feta dish is quick and easy to make, tasty, and hearty enough to be breakfast, brunch, lunch, or even dinner. We usually only poach as many eggs as we eat on the day we make it and save the rest to reheat and serve with fried eggs. This shakshuka is slightly spicy. For a bit more spice, I would use either two jalapeños or increase the chili powder to 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL). Serve with good bread or warmed pita or tortilla.

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Dinner, Lamb, Lunch, Meats, Side dish

Pistachio Masala Lamb Chops with Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Summer is officially over, which hopefully means that even those of you without temperature controlled apartments have regained use of your oven. What better way to celebrate than to heat it up and cook lamb chops smothered in pistachios and spices.

This recipe calls for meat masala, an Indian spice mix. If you can’t find it, you can use garam or chaat masala instead. I initially got my masala spice mix when I first made chana masala, an Indian chickpea dish, and it quickly became my husband’s go-to spice when he cooks meat, fish, and even fried eggs. We sometimes put it on homemade popcorn. If you can’t find it or if you’re not convinced of how versatile masala can be, you can use a sprinkle of each of the main ingredients it contains instead: ground coriander, cumin, fennel, and black pepper.

We usually get three lamb loin chops, one each plus another to share, so the recipe yields three pork loin chops and two servings of roasted baby potatoes on the side.

P.S. Yesterday was the first anniversary of my first post!

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Avocado, Beans, Dinner, Legumes, Lunch, Mushrooms, Quick, Vegan, Vegetarian

Black bean, mushroom, and avocado tacos

Tacos were actually our first successful home-cooked low-sodium meal two years ago. We licked our fingers clean and rubbed our bellies and patted ourselves on the back and have been making some version of them every one to two weeks since. This version is vegetarian and has our favorite source of vegetarian protein, black beans. It can easily be made vegan if you use vegan cheese or skip the cheese altogether.

We always use corn tortillas; they have much less sodium than flour tortillas. I prefer hard shell tacos and I fry mine in a pan with a little bit of oil. I have yet to perfect my method — I never seem to get the temperature and time ratio right — but they’re still always better and less likely to fall apart than store-bought hard shell tacos, even when I accidentally dry them out. The only constant I’ve noticed is that the fresher they are, the less likely I am to screw them up. My husband toasts his tortillas in the toaster oven for a couple of minutes. Check the tips section for more explicit instructions on how I heat them up.

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Avocado, Beans, Dinner, Lunch, Quick, Soup

Aztec Soup (Spicy Tortilla Soup)

Aztec Soup (Spicy Tortilla Soup) on alickofsalt.com

Here is a recent addition to our repertoire of favorite dishes that are quick to make. But first, a quick digression on my relationship with soup.

Soups are a huge part of my heritage. It’s the first part of every main meal. I didn’t particularly appreciate this custom growing up because, as picky as I am about food in general, I’m even pickier about soup. I was happy to eat it if it was made by my mom or grandma and even then, it couldn’t be just any soup. It basically had to be either strained chicken noodle soup with thin, homemade noodles or fresh bean soup with a tomato base.

And then I had a version of this soup in Nicaragua. It’s a tomato base soup with avocado and cheddar and, the best part, crispy tortilla strips. No, wait, the best part might be how quick it is to make.

It’s slightly tangy, likely from the tomatoes we use, and I’ve made it spicy enough to require some nose-blowing mid-meal. We add fried black beans for some extra protein because we have it as a single dish meal. Make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and make it vegan by skipping the cheese.

Part of what makes eating this soup so fun to eat is that you continually replenish the toppings and can have crispy tortilla strips with every bite. I like letting some of the tortilla strips soak slightly, so parts are crispy and parts are soft. My partner like to eat them before they have a chance to soften.

We generally snack a lot during the day so eat relatively small meals. But serial snackers as we are, this soup that’s supposed to serve at least 5 people is only enough for two meals for the two of us.

A website update: I added a favorite tools section to the website which features some of our favorite kitchen things. The products link to the site where we bought them (or had bought from us from our registries). You’ll notice that currently everything that’s on there is from Amazon. That’s in part because I’m only an affiliate there, but in larger part because I actually do buy almost everything from them. They got me hooked, the tricksters, with a free prime account when I was a student living in a city that had no home goods stores within waking distance and I had no car. If you are a human (i.e. not a spam bot), feel free to suggest your must-haves on that page, and not just from Amazon. I look forward to any recommendations!

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