“Fall”ing in Love Again with Kale

sausage-kale-fettucineIt’s Fall again, and that means no one will question why you want to incorporate kale or pumpkin into every plate. Sometimes both! I’d personally start with kale, because there will be plenty of time in November for pumpkin pies, lattes, quesadillas (no, really!), cake, and anything else you can sneak pumpkin into. But kale is one of best ways I know of to say goodbye to summer and hello to fall. It is the perfect accompaniment to pastas, soups, and stews.

In this seriously simple recipe http://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipe/fettuccine-with-sausage-kale/, Rachel Ray serves up Fettuccine with Sausage and Kale for four people.

All you’ll need are: ­

1 lb fettuccine
1 lb spicy Italian sausage, removed from the casings
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1 large bunch kale, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan

When making this, I added an extra half ­pound of sausage (sweet Italian), but that’s a personal preference. Also, try boiling the fettuccine in vegetable or chicken stock, rather than water, for additional flavor.

TIP: I always buy DeCecco pasta. It is not much more expensive than other brands, but IMO it is a much better product. I am friends with a few Italians and this is the brand they use. Who am I to argue with a native?!?!

As you can imagine, the directions for this are simple. I modified them a bit to reflect my own preferences.

1. Bring stock (or salted water) to rolling boil. (Always salt your water after it starts to boil. That way it comes to a boil faster.)

2. Cook pasta until the noodles are slightly under-cooked. Seriously, there is nothing more disgusting than over-cooked pasta. Save a couple ladles of the pasta water before you drain your noodles.

3. Drain.

4. While preparing pasta, saute sausage on medium­ low until browned. Break it up as you go. Make sure you pan is large enough since you will soon be dumping your cooked pasta in there too.

5.  Add 1/2 cup of pasta water and the heavy cream.

6. Simmer until reduced to a consistency you like.

7. Add kale; stir until wilted. This won’t be very long.

8. Add your pasta and simmer for a few moments longer. This way your pasta (the real star of any pasta dish) soaks up all that good flavor. Never. And I mean NEVER dump plain pasta onto a dish and ladle your sauce or topping over it.

9. Add a handful of Parmesan and gently incorporate. Give it a taste. Add salt and pepper if needed.

10. Serve and enjoy promptly!

P.S. I was not paid by DeCecco to mention their brand. The simple truth is, that’s what I use!

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Does Beer Go with Chicken? What Do You Think?!?

Asian-Sweet-Chili-Sesame-Chicken-10With the LA food and wine festival past, I want to bring another food and beverage pairing to everyone’s mind: craft beer. Some might not think of craft beer the way they think of wine. I love pairing a good craft beer with a home-cooked meal. IMO, a fizzy, spicy, vaguely fruity Saison complements the spice and depth of flavor in Asian-inspired dishes perfectly. I’ve been attempting variations on this recipe  (http://www.carlsbadcravings.com/asian-sweet-chili-sesame-chicken/)  trying to find the perfect beer pairing for the sweet/spicy Asian flavors.

 

The base recipe is as follows. (You’ll need a crock pot.)

Asian Sweet Chili Sesame Chicken
2 lbs chicken breasts
1 ½ tablespoons of cornstarch
¼ cup water
Sriracha to taste (I added this at the end.)
Sesame seeds (your preference on amount)
Green onion (your preference)

For the sweet chili sesame sauce:
1/4 -1/3 cup Asian sweet chili sauce (I use this stuff in everything.)
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar (I added just a bit more)
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (Unseasoned is my preference.)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
3-4 garlic cloves, minced (see Tip)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger (see Tip)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Tip: Avoid all that grating and mincing and get yourself a good blender. Personally, I use a Vitamix* and would never be without one again. I just toss my garlic and ginger (peeled of course) in whole with the other ingredients and the blender does the rest. Seriously, if you make a lot of marinades and dressings, a quality blender is the way to go. (Or smoothies and milk shakes for that matter!)

Carefully toast your sesame seeds and chop up some green onions for garnish.

Directions:
Add chicken to the bottom of the crock pot.

Little known fact: If you are like me, you ALWAYS forget to thaw your meat a day or two in advance. Am I right? Personally, I’m not a fan of thawing meat in the microwave. But you can throw your frozen chicken breasts in the crock pot with the other ingredients and they will still cook! Try it!

  • Whisk the sweet chili sesame sauce ingredients together, and pour them over the chicken.
  • Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours.
    Shred the chicken! Then add 1 ½ tablespoons of cornstarch, mixed with ¼ water, to the crock pot.
  • Stir everything around and cook on high for 20-30 minutes… or until the sauce thickens.
  • Add Sriracha if you want it spicier, brown sugar if you prefer it sweeter.
    Serve with rice (and beer). Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.

Let me know what you think and what favorite beer you’d pair with this recipe!

*No one paid me a darned thing to mention Vitamix. I just happen to be a huge fan!