Coconut Alfredo Macaroni

Coconut alfredo macaroni.jpg

This is a new take on mac and cheese that I came up with the other evening. Coconut milk introduces an exotic element to the alfredo sauce, and the large macaroni noodles absorb the sauce well.

The sweet and slightly rich coconut milk melds with the juice of the chicken, plus a sprinkling of paprika and salt, and, of course, cheese gratings, for major umami.

I added the peas for color. And for veggies. Because you’ve got to eat your greens.

Ingredients:

1/2 package of macaroni
1 pack of chicken thighs, cut into small cubes
1 can of coconut milk
1/2 bag of peas
Parmesan, grated (desired amount)
Salt to taste
Paprika to taste

Bring water to a boil in a pot and cook the macaroni (about 10 min.). Drain and set aside.

In a large pan, cook the chicken in olive oil with the pan covered. When the chicken is cooked, stir in the coconut milk, salt and paprika. Continue cooking with the pan uncovered until the liquid reduces to the bottom of the pan, then stir in the peas, macaroni and cheese. Turn off heat, let sit for 5-10 min. for the flavor profile to settle, then serve.

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Pea Pesto Pappardelle

Pappardelle with pea pesto.jpg

This dish is wonderfully versatile. It’s simple enough for a weeknight, and it has elegance for a special meal. You can keep it light or add protein (I recommend chicken or steak strips). The yellow of the noodles and the green of the peas make for an attractive color combo.

The pesto I made for this dish isn’t traditional. I was feeling creative, and I decided to grind up peas, parmesan and olive oil together in the food processor. Once the pappardelle is cooked after boiling for 5-10 min., drizzle olive oil on the drained noodles in a pot or pan, then stir in the pea pesto.

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Pasta Shells with Chicken, Collard Greens and Cheese

Pasta shells with cheese

I love mixing cheese with pasta. The cheese gives pasta a big dose of umami if you use a lot (and I love cheese, so I do). This dish is a good balance of carbs, protein and fiber. The collard greens are full of nutritional goodness and are a pretty color contrast to the pasta shells.

Ingredients:

1/4 bag of pasta shells
2 chicken thighs, cut into cubes
1 Roma tomato, cut into cubes
1/2 bag of pre-cut collard greens
shredded aged white cheddar to taste

Bring water to a boil in a pot, and cook the pasta until al dente (about 10 min.). Drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, saute the chicken and tomato in a pan with olive oil until the chicken is cooked, then add the collard greens so it soaks up the juices. When the pasta is ready, mix it into the pan and stir in the cheddar. Shred a bit more cheese when you plate the dish if you want garnish.

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Hanabi Ramen

Ramen Hanabi

I took a stroll to the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, VA, this afternoon and stopped by Hanabi Ramen for lunch. I was greeted by a friendly host, who was also an attentive server. I asked him what he recommended, and he said the Tsukemen since it was a hot and humid summer day. I ordered mine with an extra egg, mushroom slices and tofu.

This was indeed a good choice for a hot day because Tsukemen is served with cold noodles separate from the broth, so that you can dip the noodles in the broth without the heat of the dish being concentrated.

The broth here is made with a blend of pork, fish and soy sauce, according to the menu. I could see little glistening fat globules in the broth, which is a good sign it’s been simmering away with all that pork goodness for a long time. The broth had a creamy look to it; I’m not sure what made it look like that, but I did appreciate the rich flavor. There were cubes of tender pork hidden in the broth; a nice surprise when I dipped the spoon in.

I chatted a bit with the chef, who said he sources his noodles from the West Coast. The noodles were somewhat wide and flat (like a fettucini noodle) and had the perfect toothsome texture. They picked up the flavor of the broth quickly when dipped.

Two pork slices were served atop the noodles. They were thinly sliced and tender and cold like the noodles.

I liked the coating on the tofu cubes. I asked the chef what he used, and he told me–but I promised to keep his secret.

I love soft-boiled eggs marinated in soy sauce, so I had a second helping for the meal. I enjoyed talking to the chef about the process for making a perfect soft-boiled egg. He told me the trick is to prick a tiny hole at the bottom of the egg so that the internal gas can escape and to cook the egg for 6 min., then stop the cooking process with cold water and let it sit for 20 min.

The verdict: A hearty, pleasurable meal. I recommend you visit if you’re in the neighborhood.

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Food Truck: Miami Vice Burgers

Miami Vice Burgers

I haven’t been visiting the food trucks near my office much, but I recently stepped out and got a chicken sandwich from Miami Vice Burgers. It came with red pepper and blue cheese and was quite tasty. I was impressed. It was a restaurant-quality sandwich. The chicken was breaded and tender, the bun wasn’t soggy and held up, the blue cheese gave it a creamy tang, and there was a zing of heat from the pepper. My only regret was that I didn’t order shoestring or sweet potato fries to go with it. Maybe next time.

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Burritos

Burrito

Burritos are simple, hearty and easy to make, which is why I love them. This recipe adds color and freshness with Thai basil. The green is a celebration of summer.

Ingredients:

1 pack ground beef
1 can black beans
aged cheddar, shredded or cut into cubes
salt and pepper to taste
fresh basil leaves
tomato chunks (optional)
1 pack of tortillas

Cook the ground beef in a large skillet, and when it’s almost cooked, stir in the black beans and salt and pepper. Cook for another 5-10 min., or until the beans reach desired texture. Add the cheddar, turn off the heat and cover to melt the cheese. Serve on a tortilla, and garnish with fresh basil and/or tomato.

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Shrimp Fried Rice

shrimp fried rice

Rice is like pasta; a blank starch canvas that you can dress up with any protein and/or veg you want. This is a fun and quick meal to put together that’s good for any day of the week. The large shrimp gives it a little special something.

The flavor base for this dish is Asian. I don’t have soy sauce at the moment, so I used ponzu, which is more subtle in salt and has a citrus taste. I used Chinese broccoli, but you can substitute with spinach or regular broccoli. For a playful element, I made an omelette and put the slices in the dish.

Ingredients:

1 cup brown rice, cooked
1 bag Chinese broccoli, sliced
1/2 bag large shrimp, peeled
2 eggs, scrambled
ponzu to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste (optional)

Cook the broccoli in a large pan with olive oil and enough water to steam cook the broccoli while the pan is covered. Add more water if necessary. The broccoli is ready when soft.

In a separate pan, cook the eggs into an omelette and cut it up into thin slices.

In another pan, saute the shrimp. I recommend 1.5 min. per side.

Stir the rice in with the broccoli, adding more oil to taste. Pour in ponzu, add the garlic powder (and salt if needed), and mix in the omelette slices. Serve with the shrimp on top.

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