the ultimate comfort food: spaghetti with clams

When I need comfort food, there is very little than can compete with a big bowl of perfectly al dente spaghetti, butter, clams, garlic, and yes, a fabulous pecorino.  I don’t care if all of Italy sneers in my face because I enjoy shellfish with cheese. I happen to like it, so THERE.  I totally understand the argument that cheese can mask the natural aroma of great seafood, but I’m tired of this antiquated myth circling about that eating cheese and seafood will give you an upset stomach, and/or make you a trashy human being. It won’t and if you like the taste, I hereby give you permission to grate away.

This quick dish can be filed under 10-minute meals.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound of pasta
  • 4 Tablespoons of butter
  • 1 medium shallot, loosely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cans of clams (I used the 6.5oz cans of Trader Joes’ Maine Whole Cherrystone Clams)
  • Salt to taste
  • Grated Pecorino or Pamesan (optional, to taste)

Recipe:

  • Vigorously salt a large vat of water and bring to a boil.
  • Throw in the pound of pasta once the water is hot and time it according to your preference. I usually cook spaghetti for 8 1/2 minutes, testing it along the way until it has the perfect bite.
  • Meanwhile as the water boils and pasta cooks, heat 2 Tablespoons of butter on a skillet. Be careful not to let it burn (I love ghee, or clarified butter for this very reason).
  • Once the pan is hot, toss in the shallots and cook for one to two minutes. Then add the garlic. After another minute finally add in the clams.
  • Drain the pasta and then throw it back into the pot, along with the clams. Toss 2 more Tablespoons of butter (or however much you need to get the pasta coated).
  • Salt to taste and grate fresh pecorino or parmesan over each serving (optional).

Life After the Microwave & Some Zucchini

I returned from Cayucos, CA with Dhiren a couple days ago. We spent Friday through Tuesday with his family at an awesome 5-room house steps away from the beach in Central California. We had a fabulous time, but life has felt unbalanced since the return. Adjusting to life post vacation has never been easy. Even when the bags are unpacked and laundry done, it’s SO hard readjusting. Going back to teach on Wednesday felt like being stuck in quicksand.

Anyhow, the other day as I was making the cookie dough to bring to the vacation house, our microwave exploded!!!! Literally, it just started randomly popping and smelling like a nuclear disaster before we left on our trip. I tested it with a microwave safe plate and butter, and while empty and it just malfunctioned.SO scary. One of my “in-laws” friends was a microwave engineer, and he told them that he would NEVER use a microwave, even though he built them. He said it literally changes the atomic  structure of the molecules in the food and radiates the food we put in our bodies. Sounds like something from a Vonnegut novel. So, instead of running out to replace it, I am going to ditch microwaves for good.

“Microwave (or RF) Radiation is thermal. RF radiation can enter deep into the body and heat human organs.”

My organs don’t need radiation heating, thank you! I’ve also been doing more resarch about cell phones, and it’s super scary. I’ve heard some people (defeatists) say “Everything causes cancer” but I disagree… things that literally heat up your brain or body with radiation need to be seriously considered.

But, now the problem is how to survive without one?? How do I heat up leftovers, cold coffee or soften my butter in a zap for cookies?

It’s going to take some readjusting.

Lastly, here’s one of my favorite dishes and recipes for the week: Zucchini & Orange Chicken. I’ve started Weight Watchers this week, and it’s been great, though I’m keeping it on the hush hush until I have some results to go along with the goals. So I’m going to begin posting the points so I can meet WW friends and have a place I can later reference!

This has 5 Points for the Chicken, 3 Points for the Sauce (estimated) and 0 points for as much zucchini as you need to fill you up! I use olive oil to get in some healthy fat, and it has 7 points for 2 tbsp. I also use Pam as well, to help coat the skillets.

-1 cup Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken (5 points)
– a couple zucchini, sliced (0 points)
– 1/2 packet of Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken Sauce (3 points)
-2 tbsp olive oil (divided, 1 for the zucchini, and 1 for the chicken)

1. Using a nifty garlic crusher, crush a couple cloves of garlic. You can also use shallots to add flavor.

2. Heat up 1 tbsp of olive oil, then add the garlic. After a minute, toss in the squash and zucchini (I love using yellow summer star squash as well).

3. Prepare the Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken as directed.

A filling, amazing meal, costing you around 15 points. Now, I’m personally eating a whopping 40 points starting out on Weight Watchers, so for those people eating 29 or so per day, I would reinvent this so that it’s fewer points. Probably cut back on the oil by baking the chicken. Enjoy!

Eggplant Sandwich Replica

Since I finished classes at UCI this past December, there’s been a void in my life, and its name is “Chicken Eggplant Sandwich.” Most people who have attended UCI at one point or another stumble on Le Diplomat Cafe and try one of their (cheap) delicious sandwiches.

I decided to try and remake their vegetarian eggplant version (sans chicken).

The recipe:

– 4 tbsp mayo (makes extra aioli)
-1/2 minced garlic from TJs. You can use real garlic if you have a food processor and want it to be that much more fresh- I’d normally use real garlic, but I sadly don’t own a processor (hint, hint… birthday is on September 6th….)
– 1/2 tsp lemon juice,  freshly squeeze.
– French French baguette
– Feta cheese
-Eggplant (I use the Eggplant/Zucchini melange from TJs. Kind of expensive at $3.99, but it’s really good, and all you gotta do is heat it up. Time vs. Money and all…
– 1/2 Roma tomato.
– Sea salt to taste

1. Combine garlic, mayo and lemon juice in a small bowl and mix well.
2. In a small frying pan, heat the eggplant (or grill it/ fry it if using fresh eggplant), add some thinly sliced tomatoes to the pan a couple minutes before taking off the heat.
3. Cut baguette to whatever size you can eat & coat the inside with the garlic mayo.
4. Crumble feta cheese inside.
5. Put baguette open-faced in a toaster, and toast for about 5 minutes, or until feta is soft and gooey.
6. Layer one/two small pieces of eggplant and tomato in the baguette and lightly salt to taste.

Serves two. Goes well with ginger ale. 😉


Result: the garlic mayo at Le Dip is whole fat (I used reduced fat) and I don’t think that they put lemon juice in their aioli.  So mine was  tarter and a bit more acidic, but still pretty damned good, if I do say so myself! I forgot that eggplant is an acidic vegetable, so you really don’t need to add lemon. I think it would be better to add lemon if you plan to use the sauce on a chicken sandwhich though. I also  added extra veggies, whereas Le Dip’s is more sauce & cheese.

The main different was that I didn’t put NEARLY enough garlic compared to the original, so if you don’t mind offending everyone around you for 24 hours, add twice as much garlic and it’ll be more like Le Dip’s. Letting the mayo sit for a couple hours in the fridge after incorporating the garlic is probably a good idea too!

Hope one of you Le Dip lovers tests it out and let’s me know what you think!

Enjoy!

You say Chickpea, I say Garbanzo

I’ve always wanted to make falafel, but assumed it was a complicated dish and avoided it. Well, it isn’t complicated and it’s a great quick, “kinda healthy” meal. You toss a bunch of ingredients in a blender or food processor, mash it into a little ball and fry it. Pretty painless, although it took me a while to assemble the ingredients since I didn’t have most of the spices and tahini. Here’s the recipe for a Mediterranean feast. You’ll need:

Falafel

  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 Tbs. tahini
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbs. grated lemon zest
  • 1½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped onion
  • 2 Tbs. chopped parsley
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • Olive oil, for frying

Yogurt Sauce

  • 2 cups plain nonfat yogurt
  • 3 Tbs. chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin

1. Pulse the first ten ingredients (through salt) in a blender or food processor until mostly smooth, but still chunky. Dump it into a large bowl and stir in the flour, onion, parsley, and baking powder.
2. Pour enough olive oil into large skillet to have 1/4 inch in bottom and heat. I always test the readiness with a couple breadcrumbs or a few drops of water. If the oil crackles and scalds you, it’s ready.
3. Shape 1/4 cup chickpea mixture into a patty like the one in the photo, and then lightly pat breadcrumbs on it and drop it carefully into the pan and cook 3 minutes per side until golden brown. Transfer to paper-towel-lined platter to drain. Don’t let the falafel stick together!
4. To make Yogurt Sauce: Combine all ingredients in serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

These turned out delicious and moist– one of my biggest complaints about falafel is that it tends to be super dry at some restaurants. I also put together a couscous salad. To make the couscous you prepare as directed on the box with slightly less water and no butter, then add around 6 Tbsp of olive oil, 1/2 chopped onion, a tomato, parsley and seasoning. I pretty much stuck to the recipe on the back of the TJ’s couscous box. Not very creative, but yummy. The boyfriend made a gyro out of his and wedged the falafel in a warm pita with hummus. I’m getting kind of hungry thinking about it.

WARNING: for those of you who don’t like chickpeas or have never used them, please note that chickpeas are the same thing as garbanzo beans. I traveled to three separate grocery stores like a moron searching for chickpeas with no luck. I like the name garbanzo better, and think it would also be a good name for a cat.