Monday, March 28, 2011

Creamy Goat Cheese Pasta with Roasted Asparagus

I had a subscription to Everyday Food several years ago, and this is the one recipe that I've saved and made over and over again. Whenever spring rolls around and I start seeing asparagus on sale at the grocery store, I immediately think of this recipe. It's a snap to make... you combine the goat cheese and a little butter with hot pasta cooking water to make a creamy, no-cook sauce. Then toss it with your pasta and roasted asparagus. Easy peasy.

I usually leave out the chive garnish, just to make this that much easier. John, however, prefers to add crumbled bacon. Do what you will, but please don't make the same mistake I did the first time I cooked this: the recipe says to reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water, but then instructs you to only put 1/2 cup in the sauce (and add the rest incrementally, if needed). Since I often fail at reading directions, I dumped in the entire cup and half of water. The sauce was a little thin, to say the least. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wilted Spinach Salad with Bacon and Balsamic Vinaigrette

This might sound weird if you've never had a warm salad before, but I promise the spinach really holds up well to the warm dressing (dressing made with bacon fat, by the way). I'm just going to let the bacon convince you. Bacon bacon bacon. Just try it. It's really a very simple recipe without a lot of ingredients (no hard boiled eggs here... why does it seem like every spinach salad has to have those??). The recipe says it serves four as a first course, but John and I took down the whole salad as a side dish to our steak dinner.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

My slow cooker is an appliance that I really, really want to like, but it constantly disappoints me. Almost everything I've made in it has been completely underwhelming. So, when the America's Test Kitchen people came out with their new cookbook, Slow Cooker Revolution, I knew they'd be able to improve my relationship with the slow cooker. This recipe for bolognese sauce was definitely a good start. I've never made a traditional bolognese, but this was just as flavorful as anything I've had at a restaurant (and John couldn't get enough of it, so it's Italian-approved).

The folks at America's Test Kitchen always come up with creative ways to solve common cooking dilemmas, and this recipe is no exception. To prevent the meat from drying out during the long cooking time, they mix it with a panade of bread and cream before putting it in the slow cooker. The recipe (which I am posting as written) calls for meatloaf mix, but I ended up using a mix of ground beef and pork. I also ended up adding quite a bit of salt once this was done cooking, so next time I will probably add more than the recommended 1/2 teaspoon to the meat mixture before it goes in the crock pot.

I think the appeal of the slow cooker for many people is the time-saving element. On that end, this recipe does take some prep work (chopping and sauteing vegetables), so it might not be an ideal weeknight recipe. However, this recipe saves you time in that it makes a huge batch of sauce: enough to sauce three pounds of pasta! So, you can make it on the weekend and freeze the rest for a busy night. I know John and I are looking forward to eating these leftovers!