Monday, March 28, 2011

Penne with Vodka Sauce/Simple Tomato Sauce (Giada De Laurentiis)


  • 1 quart Simple Tomato Sauce, recipe follows, blended until smooth
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 pound penne


Simmer the tomato sauce and vodka in a heavy large skillet over low heat until the mixture reduces by 1/4, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Stir the cream into the tomato and vodka sauce. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted and well blended.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the pan with the sauce, and toss to coat.

Simple Tomato Sauce:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

4 to 6 basil leaves

2 dried bay leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrot and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning. If sauce tastes too acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, to round out the flavor.

Pour half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and then pour 1 to 2 cup portions into plastic freezer bags. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Yield: 6 cups

Beef and Cheese Empanadas

(From Cook's Illustrated)


  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 pinches ground cloves
  • 2 pinches cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound 85 percent lean ground chuck
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large egg , beaten, or olive oil (for brushing on tops of empanadas)
  • 1 package empanada wrappers (10/package)


  1. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, oregano, cumin, cloves, and cayenne, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the beef and cook, breaking up the clumps with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.

  2. Stir in the broth, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the mixture is moist but not wet, about 8 minutes. (I had to drain it a bit.) Off the heat, stir in the sugar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until completely cool, about 1 hour. Stir in the cheese and continue to chill until needed, up to 3 days.

  3. Working with the first batch of dough rounds, take one at a time, rim edge with water, and fill with 2-3 tablespoons of filling. Fold in half, seal, and crimp the edges of the empanadas using a fork. Arrange them on a fresh, parchment-lined baking sheet. Wrap the baking sheet tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate while making a second batch of empanadas.

  4. To Store: Make sure each baking sheet is covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month. (After the empanadas are completely frozen, about 8 hours, they can be transferred to a zipper-lock bag to save space in the freezer. Transfer back to a parchment-lined baking sheet before baking.)

  5. To Serve: Adjust 2 oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Unwrap the empanadas and brush with the egg or oil. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes, switching and rotating the trays halfway through the baking time. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Grilled Pork Chops with Blueberry BBQ Sauce

For the sauce:
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups fresh blueberries
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons water or lemon juice

For the pork chops:
4 pork chops (6 to 8 ounces each)
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush grill grate with oil.

Saute shallots and jalapeno in oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat until soft, about 2 minutes. Add blueberries, vinegar, brown sugar, Dijon, garlic powder, and salt; simmer until sauce thickens, 2-3 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor; pulse until pureed. Return sauce to pan over medium heat. Stir in water; simmer sauce 1-2 minutes more, stirring often. Remove sauce from heat; set aside.

Season pork with salt and pepper. Grill pork, covered, over direct heat until an instant-read thermometer registers 155 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. Brush sauce over pork as it cooks. Remove pork from grill and tent with foil; let rest 5 minutes.

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Shrimp

If you don't like spicy food, start with only 2 teaspoons chile paste. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a little water--it should be the consistency of unwhipped cream.

Peanut Sauce:

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2-2/3 cup water
4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2-4 teaspoons chile paste with garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Cooking spray
1/2 tsp. salt


8 cups cooked thick udon noodles or linguine (16 ounces uncooked)
2 small red bell peppers, cut into julienne strips
1 1/2 cup chopped seeded cucumber
1/2 cup diagonally cut green onions
6 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
4 tablespoons cilantro leaves
6 lime wedges (optional)


To prepare sauce, combine the ingredients and stir with a whisk.

To prepare the shrimp, toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté in nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat for 3 minutes on each side or until done.

To prepare pasta, combine peanut sauce, shrimp, noodles, bell pepper, cucumber, and onions in a large bowl; toss well. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.