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[sticky post] Sticky: Welcome to fitc_dc

I had started fitc_dc as a place to put my commentaries on local wine, restaurants and food culture, as well as recipes I enjoyed as I started cooking more often. But frankly I did not have the time to keep it up and it quickly became a random repository for recipes and little cohesive thought to the contents.

So I’ve changed it into a place where I can cook through every recipe in Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis. Since I’m at the end of that book, I’m also going to start cooking through Giada’s Family Dinners. Currently I’ve only been blogging about any Giada recipes I try out. I will continue that but may start to throw in some other recipes too.

For those books I’m tracking my way through the whole book, here are the Table of Contents Posts to track what recipes I have cooked and what I have yet to cook:

Everyday Italian
Giada's Family Dinners
Again… not a fan of broccoli rabe. So while it was in the house, I had to make both EI broccoli rabe recipes.

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Raisins and Pine Nuts
Source: Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis, similar to this one online here

This was also pretty good. I don’t know that I’d often use it instead of spinach or regular broccoli or any of my go to veg. But if you put raisins and pine nuts with any bitter green, I’m going to like it at least a little. It was decent, I’d make this again if I had broccoli rabe around or found some looking particularly good at the farmers market.

Date: Dinner, January ??
Location: My Apartment
Dining Companion(s): just me
Recipe Rating: B+

Peas and prosciutto

Peas and prosciutto is one of the first dishes I made out of EI, when I rarely even read a blog, much less wrote something like this. I’ve made it a zillion times since, rarely following the recipe exactly, but always ending up with a delicious tasting dish. So when some friends were coming over for a low key dinner, I added this to the menu to have some simple, easy and delightful veg.

Peas and prosciutto
Source: Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis, found online here

Yeah, salty and sweet – an easy side dish that always goes down well.

Date: Dinner, January 10, 2012
Location: My Apartment
Dining Companion(s): James, Leigh, Tim
Recipe Rating: A
I have saved the recipes with broccoli rabe until towards the end of the cooking through EI because I don’t particularly like broccoli rabe. I’ve had it plenty served as a part of some dish out, and I’ve never particularly liked it.

Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
Source: Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis, recipe similar to this one online at Food Network

Bowl me over with a feather. I actually liked this. It helps that it’s similar to EI’s Farfalle with Turkey Sausage, Peas, and Mushrooms. Which I love. I’d say this one wasn’t quite as good – it needed another flavor in there. The spice in the sausage accented the bitter broccoli rabe well, but it still needed something else to brighten the flavors. I was thinking I’d try some yellow peppers cooked in with the sausage if I make it again. It needs something like that, another texture and flavor.

I used turkey sausage instead of the pork sausage that was called for, and it was still delicious.

Location: My Apartment
Dining Companion(s): Just me
Recipe Rating: B+

Herbed Cottage Cheese Spread

While not inherently Italian, this cheese spread is best served on crostini, thus I’m counting it as Italian and writing about it on here!

L’Auberge Chez Francois Herbed Cottage Cheese Spread
Source: from Once Upon A Chef, recipe found here)

Delicious! I love L’Auberge Chez Francois, although I’ve only been there for one special occasion dinner. Thus, when I saw this I had to try it.

Of course I put a bit more garlic in there, and probably more of all the herbs, as I didn’t measure anything. But it melded together nicely and wasn’t overpowering – just the right amount of flavor to be zesty and creamy all in one.

Date: After midnight snacks, January 1, 2012
Location: James' Apartment
Wine with “Dinner”: Copious amounts of sparkling wine
Dining Companion(s): James, Korry, Alison, Erika
Recipe Rating: A-

Chickpea and Pasta Soup

One day when I was planning a festive steak dinner, James decided he wasn’t feeling too well and really just wanted soup. Moreover, he wanted a specific soup that I had made for him once. I had no recollection of such a soup, but set about finding the recipe somewhere in my vast recipe collection. Luckily, he had more luck than I did and found it right away.

Chickpea and Pasta Soup
Source: My version is an adaptation of an adaptation of a Jamie Oliver original recipe (first adapted on Serious Eats here)

I can see why James remembered it and requested it – it is quite delicious. And he loves chickpeas, so this is just about the perfect soup for him. It’s not complicated and made entirely of ingredients I always have in my cabinets. I don’t know why I don’t make this more often! Perhaps this time I won’t hide the recipe away quite so well.

Date: Dinner, Sunday, January 8, 2012
Location: My Apartment
Dining Companion(s): James
Recipe Rating: A

Mustard Pork Chops and Gnocchi

Since I’ve started posting about other cooking adventures, not just Giada’s recipes, one of the advantages is you’ll get to see some of my other go to cookbooks. Although Giada is #1 on that list, I do have some other favorites – Ina, Jamie, Gordon and today’s post subject – Nigella. I love Nigella’s cookbooks and often go to them when I’m in a pinch and don’t have a lot of ingredients around the apartment. Such was the case last weekend, when I had just enough to whip up this delicious and simple pork dish!

Mustard Pork Chops and Gnocchi
Adapted from: Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson, original recipe found online here

2 pork chops, about 1-pound total weight
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed with a knife
1/2 cup sparkling apple juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1/2 tablespoon dijon
1/4 cup light cream
1 package gnocchi

Bash the pork chops briefly but brutally between 2 pieces of cling film/plastic wrap to make them thinner.

Heat the oil in a pan, and carefully infuse the oil with the garlic. Add the chops after about 1 minute and cook the chops over a moderately-high heat for about 5 minutes a side. Remove them to a warmed plate. Remove the garlic cloves to discard.

Meanwhile, heat water to cook gnocchi to package directions – watch carefully, do not overcook.

Pour the apple juice and cider vinegar into the pan, still over the heat, to deglaze the pan. Let it bubble away until reduced, about 3 minutes and add the mustards and stir in the cream.

Let the sauce continue cooking for a few minutes, then turn gnocchi in the pan. Top each chop with some of the sauce. Serve.

If you go to the original recipe, you’ll note that I substituted pretty much everything but the main ingredients.

Date: Dinner, Saturday, August 8, 2009
Location: My Apartment
Dining Companion(s): James
Wine in the Dish: Marterella Vidal Blanc
Wine with Dinner: Sugarleaf Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Side Dishes:
Recipe Rating: A-

Orzo with Creamed Corn Sauce

I love corn. I love fresh corn season. I love cooking with corn. So in 2008 when I discovered this recipe, it’s quickly replaced macaroni & cheese as my go to summer comfort meal.

Orzo with Creamed Corn Sauce
Adapted from: Onda Wine Bar at The Mirage, via Bon Appétit, August 2008

2/3 cup orzo
1 1/3 cups light cream
2-3 ears of corn, kernels cut from cobs, divided (1-2 cobs reserved)
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp finely chopped leek (white part only)
3 Tbsp dry white wine or chicken broth
Chopped fresh chives (optional)

Cook orzo in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Meanwhile, place cream, half of corn kernels, and reserved cob in heavy medium saucepan. Boil over medium heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Discard cob; purée sauce in blender until smooth.

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add leek and sauté until tender, about 2 minutes. Add wine and simmer until almost evaporated, about 1 minute. Add remaining corn kernels and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add creamed corn sauce and cooked orzo. Bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl or plates, sprinkle with chives, and serve.

The chives are nice addition, but I rarely have them in the house. This doesn’t need it, although it is better with it. I do make sure I have the chives if I’m entertaining with this, but just for myself – I’ve substituted about everything in here. I’ve made a time or two from frozen corn when it’s not corn season… I’ve made with shallots… I’ve made with green onions. It all works. But yes, it’s best with fresh corn, leeks and chives. You must make this.

Date: all the time
Location: My Apartment
Dining Companion(s): me
Wine with Dinner: usually a crisp white wine
Side Dishes: wine, sometimes bread or a veg
Recipe Rating: A+

Asparagus and Soft Eggs on Toast

One of my favorite things is finding a new super simple weeknight meal. And one of my favorite types of weeknight meals involves eggs and bread and some veg. So, when I saw this winner in Real Simple magazine, I knew I had to try it.

Asparagus and Soft Eggs on Toast
Adapted from: Real Simple Magazine, recipe found online here

4 slices rustic country bread
1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off
olive oil, salt and black pepper
8 large eggs
Parmesan, butter

Coat asparagus lightly with olive oil, salt & pepper. Roast the asparagus in a 350 oven for about 40 minutes, or until done.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Carefully lower the eggs into the water. Reduce heat and gently simmer for 6 minutes. Remove from hot water and place into an ice bath to cool. Peel eggs.

Lightly brush bread with olive oil and toast in oven about 5 minutes; transfer the bread to plates. Lightly butter the toast.

Divide the asparagus among the toast, lightly sprinkle on Parmesan, and top with the eggs.

There’s nothing quite like a nice bottle of local red wine and a runny egg to end a stressful day of work, and this dish does the trick oh so well.

I always have asparagus in my apartment, so this is a nice use for some of that and it makes me feel like I might be having something healthy to accompany the luscious runny eggs.

Date: sometime this past fall
Location: My Apartment
Dining Companion(s): me, myself and I
Wine with Dinner: a northern Virginia Chambourcin
Side Dishes: wine
Recipe Rating: A+

Meatballs - Easy and Delicious!

Several recipes in a row will be posted from one very successful birthday celebration dinner I threw for myself. My friends and I had discussed having Sunday “family” dinners for a while, so when it became clear the only day I’d be able to celebrate my birthday with my group of close friends (several of whom couldn’t join us at the last moment) was on a Sunday, I decided to start the tradition. So, I threw myself a party with a duo of crostini, homemade pasta sauce, homemade meatballs, homemade pasta, veg, garlic bread & dessert. It was DELICIOUS, if I do say so myself. Each dish would work individually, but they do make one incredible Italian feast together.

Source: Ina Garten, recipe found online here

I adore the Barefoot Contessa and I love making new Ina recipes. But I also have a hard time making new Ina recipes, because I adore the ones I’ve already made so much. I make her Garlic Bread every time I need a good bread, and I find it difficult to deviate from her “Real Meatballs and Spaghetti” recipe too.

I made this for the first time several years ago, and it just has so much flavor – without being a ton of work. I have a few recipes that I know I might like better, but they all require about three times the work. For something so simple, these meatballs taste anything but.

I made both the garlic bread and the meatballs for this dinner, but did make my own pasta and pasta sauce, rather than use the rest of Ina’s recipe called for in the link.

Date: Dinner, Saturday, August 28, 2011
Location: My Apartment
Dining Companion(s): James, Korry, Erika
Wine with Dinner: several northern Virginia red wines
Side Dishes: 2 crostini, homemade pasta sauce, homemade meatballs, homemade pasta, veg, garlic bread & dessert
Recipe Rating: A