Hugh Acheson’s Bucatini Amatriciana

I have a couple of fast weeknight pasta dishes to share. Classics. Both are served with bucatini, a house favorite. 🙂

This amatriciana sauce has rich and meaty flavor from the pancetta which balances nicely with the spiciness from crushed red pepper flakes. The flavors really come together as the sauce simmers. Simple and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from a “staff-favorite” Food and Wine recipe, contributed by Hugh Acheson. I omitted the marjoram.

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Sheet Pan Turkey Meatballs with Roasted Harissa Chickpeas & Tomatoes

We have such a big adjustment- to life!- at the beginning of the school year. I feel like we’re always pressed for time… especially when it comes to preparing a family dinner. I have a few weeknight meals that I’d like to share that have helped us during crunch time. 🙂

This delicious sheet pan dinner was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. I used ground turkey instead of ground chicken and halved the harissa to decrease the level of spiciness. We ate it with crusty bread. Spicy and Great!!

Yield: 4 Servings
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons jarred harissa paste, divided ( I used Trader Joe’s Harissa)
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup panko
  • 6 ounces feta in brine plus ¼ cup brine, cheese crumbled, divided (I used sheep’s milk feta)
  • ⅔ cup chopped parsley, divided
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey
  • 1 pint mixed cherry or grape tomatoes, halved if large
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, drained
  • crusty bread, for serving, optional
  1. Place a rack in top of oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Taste your harissa. If it’s extremely spicy, cut quantities used in recipe in half (…which I did!).
  3. Using a fork, stir 1 egg, ½ cup panko, ¼ cup feta brine, half of crumbled feta, half of parsley, 2 T (or 4 T if not halved) harissa, and 2 T oil in a large bowl until egg is blended and mixture looks homogenous.
  4. Finely grate or push 2 garlic cloves through a garlic press into bowl, then add 1 teaspoon salt and several cranks of black pepper. Be pretty generous here; 10 cranks wouldn’t be too much! Stir again with a fork.
  5. Add ground meat to garlic and work with clean hands until the meat is totally intermingled with panko mixture. Work it enough so that you don’t see big distinct pieces of meat, but then stop. Overworking could lead to crumbly meatballs. The mixture will feel very soft and wet and look a bit shiny.
  6. Pour tomatoes and chickpeas into the center of a large rimmed baking sheet. Add 2 T oil and remaining 1 T (or 2 T if not halved) harissa. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Using clean hands or a small spatula, toss everything together right on sheet until chickpeas and tomatoes are evenly coated.
  7. Next you’re going to form the meatballs, but don’t wash your hands if you used them—the coating of oil will prevent them from sticking to your palms. Roll ground meat mixture gently and loosely between your palms into about 14 to 16 golf ball-sized balls (it’s okay if the balls aren’t perfectly round; just try to make them about the same size). (I used a large cookie scoop and kept my hands clean.) Place on baking sheet, tucking them in and around chickpeas and tomatoes and spacing evenly apart.
  8. Bake meatballs on top rack until about halfway cooked through, 12–15 minutes. Remove from oven and take a look. The tomatoes should be starting to soften and burst, and the meatballs should look opaque and feel a bit springy to the touch. If not, bake a few minutes longer.
  9. Meanwhile, combine remaining 3 oz. feta, ⅓ cup parsley, and 2 T oil in a small bowl, then grate or use a garlic press to add in the remaining garlic clove. Toss with fork to distribute. Turn on broiler (to high if your broiler has settings).
  10. Place baking sheet back on top rack if your broiler is on the top of your oven. Broil meatballs, rotating tray once or twice if they’re browning unevenly, until browned and fully cooked through, some tomatoes are lightly charred, and some chickpeas are crisp, 8–10 minutes.
  11. Let sit a few minutes, then sprinkle feta mixture over meatballs.

Note: Meatballs can be formed on baking sheet 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

I’m bringing my dish to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #190, co-hosted by Shinta @Carmel Tinted Life and Diann @Of Goats and Greens. Enjoy!

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Shrimp in Yellow Curry

I have difficulty getting together the energy to cook after a long day at the beach. Life is rough! 😉 I’m always looking for new fast and fabulous meals to try.

This is a bright, flavor-packed, quick, and delicious weeknight dish. Perfect after a long day outside. It could be prepared any time of year as well.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. I modified the proportions, used Maharajah curry, and incorporated spinach and a red bell pepper into the dish. We ate it over brown Basmati rice. Wonderful!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (I used 7 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon minced galangal or ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced hot chili, or crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder, or to taste (I used Penzeys Maharajah curry)
  • 13.5 oz fresh or canned coconut milk
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into slices
  • 6 oz baby spinach
  • 1 ½ to 2 pounds medium-to-large shrimp, peeled with tails intact
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro or mint leaves
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving (I used 1 1/2 cups rice to 3 cups stock)
  • naan, for serving, optional
  1. Place the oil in a large, deep skillet and turn the heat to medium. (I used enameled cast iron.)
  2. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and chilies and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and the mixture pasty.
  3. Add red pepper slices and sauté until starting to soften.
  4. Add the curry and cook, stirring, another minute.
  5. Add the coconut milk and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is nearly dry.
  6. Add the shrimp and spinach, a few pinches of salt and a little black pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp release their liquid (the mixture will become quite moist again) and turn pink, and the spinach is wilted.
  7. Add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, stir, then taste and add the rest if necessary.
  8. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice.

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One-Skillet Chicken Thighs with Buttery Orzo

I had saved this recipe a couple of months ago just waiting for my CSA box fennel to arrive. As soon as I saw it on my list of veggies to expect, I knew exactly what I was going to make. 🙂 I love how the orzo is cooked like risotto in this dish- the results were amazing.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in. I also increased the amount of fennel and used a sweet onion instead of a leek. We ate it with sautéed collard greens as well as sautéed yellow summer squash, also from my CSA box, of course. Easy, fresh, and delicious.

Yield: 4 to 5 servings
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, patted dry
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped, plus fronds, chopped (I used 1 1/2 bulbs)
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion or 1 leek, white and pale green parts only, chopped
  • 8 ounces orzo
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine
  • 2½ cups chicken stock, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Heat 2 T butter in a medium cast-iron skillet (I used a 10-inch skillet) over medium-high.
  4. Nestle chicken, skin side down, in skillet in a single layer with no gaps (if you can’t quite fit them all, wait until chicken shrinks slightly, then puzzle in the remaining pieces). Cook until meat is opaque around the edges, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Turn chicken browned side up and transfer skillet to oven; bake, uncovered, until chicken is cooked through, about 4 additional minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  6. Set same skillet over medium; combine chopped fennel bulb and leek/onion in skillet and sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until leek is looking golden around the edges, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add orzo and cook until pasta is darkened (it will take on a brown hue) to a nice nutty brown in spots and toasty smelling, about 3 minutes.
  8. Pour in wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute.
  9. Add broth ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting broth absorb before adding more, until orzo is tender and broth is mostly absorbed but pan is not dry, 10–15 minutes.
  10. Remove skillet from heat, taste and adjust seasoning. Mix in lemon juice and remaining 1 T butter, then chopped fennel fronds.
  11. Nestle and pile chicken on top and finish with lemon zest.
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Orecchiette with Greens, Mozzarella & Crispy Chickpeas

I love a recipe that gobbles up the greens from my CSA share. I have made this dish a couple of times using whatever combination of greens I had available. Recently, I used turnip greens, kale and spinach but I have also used chard and baby collard greens in the past. The classic combination of basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella was a nice complement to the sautéed greens as well.

This quick dish was adapted from a Food and Wine staff favorite recipe, contributed by Marcie Turney. I doubled the recipe, decreased the red pepper flakes, and increased amount of fresh mozzarella. SO delicious.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 pound orecchiette
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and patted dry
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • coarse salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 pound greens such as Swiss chard, kale, turnip greens, spinach, stemmed and leaves coarsely chopped (or more, as desired)
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 16 large basil leaves, torn or chiffonade
  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the orecchiette until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium, deep skillet, heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the chickpeas and cook over high heat until crisp, 4 minutes. Transfer them to a paper towel–lined plate, sprinkle with the cumin and coriander and season with salt and black pepper. Discard the oil and wipe out the skillet.
  3. Add the olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper to the skillet. Cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened, 3 minutes.
  5. Add the greens and cook, stirring, until wilted, 5 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.
  6. Add the pasta and 1/2 cup of reserved cooking water to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring until incorporated.
  7. Add the mozzarella and basil and toss. Add more pasta water, if necessary.
  8. Spoon the pasta into bowls, sprinkle with the chickpeas and serve.

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Happy Mother’s Day & Cooking for a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge

Happy Mother’s Day! I wish all of the mom’s out there a beautiful and relaxing day. ❤ While Mr. BrookCook and my kids take care of me and the cooking today, I have time to share a special mother-daughter cooking project.

In order to earn a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge, my daughter (with my help) had to cook a complete breakfast, a healthy dinner, and a delicious dessert. Understandably, she wanted to make meals that she wanted to eat! This was actually a great opportunity for her as she is harder to please when menu planning. It was a lesson in itself to see how much time and work is required to put together an entire meal. 🙂

We made Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins for breakfast with fruit salad on the side. She loved cutting all of the fruit herself. For the “healthy” dinner, she prepared a No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese (recipe below) with Simple Caesar Salad. Healthy enough, right? She loved it so much we have already made it again.

We made a Lemon Meringue Pie, using a store-bought pie crust, for dessert. Not only did she make the pie, she typed out the recipe to share with her Girl Scout Troop. A big project! She did a great job and I was very proud of her. I hope that she continues to enjoy cooking more and more in the future. ❤

No-Boil Macaroni & Cheese (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Yield: 8 Servings

For the Pasta:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 T coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more, to taste
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar, divided

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.
  4. Whisk in milk and 3 cups water.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, whisking often, until a very thin, glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove sauce from heat.
  7. Toss pasta and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a 13x9x2-inch or other shallow 3-quart baking dish. Place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Pour sauce over (pasta should be submerged; do not stir) and cover with foil.
  9. Bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes.

For the Topping:

  1. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, panko, and parsley and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Remove foil from dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, then panko mixture.
  2. Bake until pasta is tender, edges are bubbling, and top is golden brown, about 10 minutes longer.
  3. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

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Roasted Chicken Thighs over Herbed Pea & Spinach Puree

Another green sauce! The last one, for now… 🙂

This is a wonderful, quick and healthy dish. As a sauce fan, I loved the idea of serving the roasted chicken over a colorful and tasty vegetable purée.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in, and reduced the oven temperature to accommodate roasting potatoes and asparagus simultaneously. I also incorporated pan drippings into the vegetable puree. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, divided, and 1 T fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving, optional
  • 3 T freshly grated Pecorino Romano, divided
  • 3 T  extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, on convection roast.

  2. Cook peas in a small pot of boiling salted water 1 minute. Drain; transfer to a food processor.

  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 tablespoon juice, 1 tablespoon cheese, and 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper; process until texture is similar to hummus. Add cilantro and 1 packed cup spinach; puree.

  4. Pat chicken dry; season with salt and pepper.

  5. Stir together remaining 2 tablespoons cheese and 1/2 teaspoon zest.

  6. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add chicken; cook until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Spoon off fat and incorporate into puree, to taste. Discard excess fat left in the pan.

  7. Flip chicken and sprinkle with cheese mixture. Transfer to oven; roast until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

  8. Serve chicken over puree, with lemon wedges, if desired.

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