Monday, March 25, 2013

Dreamy Baked Ziti

I've tried several recipes for Baked Ziti in the past and none have been remarkable.  Not bad by any means- how can pasta, tomato sauce, and cheese be bad?- but forgettable.  Until tonight!  Last week I came upon this recipe at Mel's Kitchen Cafe (it's originally from Cook's Illustrated Magazine) and I just knew we would love it.  Turns out I was absolutely right!  It's nice and creamy (but not too creamy) and the herbed tomato sauce goes with it perfectly.  The melted, golden cheese on top is the crowning glory.  If you are like us and love the pasta, tomato sauce, and cheese combo, definitely give this recipe a try!  And just as nice is the fact that this recipe is pretty quick and easy to get going, only about half an hour of prep time before it slides into the oven.  My search for a fantastic Baked Ziti recipe is definitely over and I can't wait to make this for my in-laws when they visit next!

Quick note: I've both tweaked and simplified this recipe a bit.  Basically, I commit the cardinal sin among parmesan cheese and just use a container of shaved parmesan.  Also, instead of cooking the cream with the cornstarch to thicken it, I just stir both ingredients in with the cottage cheese mixture and it ends up thickening perfectly in the oven.  Saves time and dishes!  Oh and if you're leery of the cottage cheese, don't be- it's very good in this dish and apparently Cook's Illustrated baked a version with ricotta but discovered that the ricotta dried it out.

Dreamy Baked Ziti

1 lb ziti or rigatoni
2 T olive oil
5 cloves minced garlic
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz tomato sauce
1 t dried oregano
1 T dried basil
1/2 t black pepper
1 t sugar
1 t salt (or to taste)
1 lb cottage cheese
2 eggs
1 C cream
6 oz oz grated or shaved parmesan, divided
8 oz cubed mozzarella cheese, divided
1 t cornstarch
1 t salt
1 t dried parsley

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 pan and a piece of aluminum foil.  Cook pasta in salted water until almost tender.  It will continue cooking in the oven.  While pasta cooks, heat olive oil over medium and saute garlic until golden.  Stir in tomatoes, oregano, basil, pepper, and sugar, reduce heat, and simmer about 10 minutes.  Add salt to taste.  While pasta and sauce cooks, stir together all other ingredients except for half of the parmesan and half of the mozzarella cubes.  When pasta has finished cooking, drain and then stir in cottage cheese mixture and about 1 cup of the tomato sauce.  Spread pasta mixture in baking dish and top with remaining tomato sauce, spread to cover.  Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cubes and parmesan and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake 30 minutes, remove foil, and bake 30 minutes longer or until nicely golden and bubbly.

Yield: About 10 servings

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Shrimp Egg Foo Young

SHE LIVES!  Sorry about the long hiatus.  I started a new job in January and have been pretty busy with that so haven't been cooking a lot of new recipes.  Several times I did refer to the blog though for recipes I've already made so I could make them again!  Hopefully I am out of my cooking slump though.  Last night I spent a solid couple hours looking at new recipes and am all excited to try them out.

To kick things off, here is a recipe I made for dinner last night.  Egg foo young.  A couple of weeks ago my in-laws took us to a nice Chinese restaurant to celebrate our birthdays (which are a week apart) and I ordered a combination plate that had egg foo young on it.  Had never had it before, but it sure was good, so I decided to try it at home!  The recipe I made is loosely based on this one from AllRecipes.  Had to tweak it a bit based on availability of ingredients and so it would suit our tastes better, but it turned out REALLY well and I will definitely make it again.

Oh and I served this with brown rice.  I'd never actually cooked brown rice, but found out you could bake it so decided to give it a try!  Worked PERFECTLY and it turns out we both really like brown rice, so I plan to make it frequently now.  I just followed Alton Brown's recipe, which you can find here.  My only suggestion is to cut back on the salt a tad if you're going to serve it with something salty like Chinese food, and the butter is probably unnecessary.  Also I haven't tried it yet, but apparently you can double the recipe and bake it in a 9 by 13 pan if you want a whole lot of brown rice!

Quick note:  I cooked the Egg Foo Young as one big omelet in the pan to save time, but you could cook it in smaller amounts like pancakes so they're round.

Shrimp Egg Foo Young

about a tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
1/2 lb shredded cabbage (I used the shredded cabbage and carrots in a bag for coleslaw)
1 clove garlic, minced
5 eggs
1 C frozen cooked baby shrimp, thawed
1/3 C thinly sliced green onion
1/4 t salt
1 T soy sauce
2 t sesame oil

1 1/2 C chicken broth
1 T sugar
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 T white vinegar
1 1/2 T cornstarch
2 T cold water

Heat about a teaspoon of oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shredded cabbage and garlic and cook just until it starts to wilt.  Set aside to cool.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs, then add in remaining Egg Foo Young ingredients.  Add cabbage mixture once it has cooled.  Stir well to combine.  Heat remaining 2 t oil in skillet over medium (don't want it too hot), then pour in mixture.  Let it cook until it's nicely set on the bottom and sides, about 4 minutes, then cut the round into quarters with a spatula and carefully flip each quarter over.  Cook until lightly browned on the other side and completely set, about 2 more minutes.  Remove Egg Foo Young to a plate and keep warm in an oven set to 200 while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce, rinse out the skillet or use a saucepan.  Add all ingredients except cornstarch and cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stir together cornstarch and water in a small bowl until smooth.  Once liquid comes to a boil, reduce heat a little, then whisk in cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened and clear, which should only take a minute or so.  Serve over Egg Foo Young and rice.

Yield: 4 dinner sized servings