Pasta Milanese

This dish literally took my entire family to create. When we were in Michigan, my mom gifted me with some pork from my cousin’s pig. Heather and Rick raise a few pigs every year at their home. Come fall, the pigs are butchered and my cousins share some of the meat with our family. I’d heard that their pork was pretty amazing – their pigs are fed day-old produce from the farmers near where they live, so they eat everything from sweet corn to peaches. Not a bad diet for pigs or people!

I unwrapped the bacon my mom gave me, and knew that we would be rationing the precious slabs to get as many meals out of it as possible. The smell of smoke wafted from the chilled bacon – it’s very lean, almost ham-like. For our first bacon experience, I decided to make an old family favorite – Pasta Milanese, with the fresh bacon as the star ingredient.

Pasta Milanese is a great cook-from-the-pantry dish that comes together quickly – you can have this on the table in under a half hour. Milanese was a favorite dish in our family and always disappeared from the table when mom made it (though she would make this with prosciutto or sliced pepperoni instead of bacon). I’ve changed my mom’s recipe a little bit – minimizing the amount of oil I used, and heating the dish up with lots of red pepper flakes and black pepper. This was a fantastic lunch from the pantry, and the fresh basil made me long for summer on this subzero winter day.

Pasta Milanese
Serves 2

6oz brown rice penne pasta (dried)
2 thick slices of bacon, chopped
1/2 cup sliced onion
1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan, grated with microplane
1/4 cup sliced oven roasted tomatoes (substitute sun-dried tomatoes)
2 T fresh basil, sliced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

  1. Bring 3qts of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the rice pasta to the boiling water and stir to make sure the noodles don’t stick to each other. Cook according to the package directions.
  2. While the pasta cooks, make the “sauce”. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon to the hot pan and cook for a minute or two, then add the onion to the pan, and saute until the bacon begins to crisp and the onions caramelize – about 5 minutes.
  3. Turn the sauce burner down to low. Add the red pepper flakes, garlic and pepper to the pan along with the olive oil, if needed – if there’s some bacon fat in the pan coating the onion, you may not need the additional oil.
  4. When the pasta is done, drain it in a colander, then toss the pasta into the pan with the bacon and onion mixture. Quickly toss the pasta with the ingredients, then add in the basil, oven-roasted tomatoes and parmesan cheese and toss the pasta gently before serving.

537 cal/serving, 160cal from fat, 19.1g fat, 30mg cholesterol, 260mg sodium, 190mg potassium, 70g carbs, 4g fiber, 2g sugars

Grilled Peaches with Balsamic Glaze

I think I have a new favorite dessert – and it’s healthy! Grilled peaches with balsamic glaze have been popping up on food blogs and in magazines for awhile now, and I have no idea why it took me this long to give it a try. I love peaches, and always have a few ripening on the counter this time of year.

Grilling the peaches not only makes them all warm and a bit melty, but concentrates the flavors of the lush fruit. The balsamic glaze adds a layer of puckery sweetness, and the basil adds a green earthiness to balance the whole dish. I could have eaten all four of those peach halves, they were so good. Next time I’ll toss an extra peach on the grill, so I can have some leftovers on my breakfast cinammon quinoa. Try this one out while the peaches are still in season!

Grilled Peaches with Balsamic Glaze
Serves 2, 69 calories per peach

2 peaches, halved and stones removed
4 T balsamic vinegar (the cheap stuff is fine)
2 tsp brown sugar
1 T fresh basil, sliced very thin

  1. Oil the grill area where you will be grilling the peaches. Preheat the grill to blazing hot. Place the halved peaches on the grill facedown. Grill for 4 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, pour the vinegar and brown sugar into a small pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce until it gets syrupy and will coat a spoon. Turn off the heat and set aside. Roll the basil leaves up into a cigar shape, and then thinly slice (the chefs call this “chiffonade”).
  3. Take the peaches off the grill and drizzle with the balsamic glaze and sprinkle basil over the peaches. Enjoy!

Basil Vinaigrette Potato Salad

Glutenfree Girl posted a recipe for potato salad in May that I have been craving ever since. To say that I’ve been craving potato salad is a big deal. I have never been an eater of potato salad – even passing up my mom’s, which seems to disappear at any summer gathering. But when my favorite German Butterball potatoes showed up at the farmer’s market this week along with the first giant bouquets of basil…I just had to take the plunge and give this salad a try. I’m not going to post the recipe for this one, as you really should just go read Shauna’s post, as I cannot match her beautiful words or photos.

I didn’t have morels or asparagus to add to the salad, as both of those have now passed out of season here. I switched out her Walla Walla onions (local to Seattle), for our own local spring onions and green garlic. I served the finished salad to friends on our balcony on a perfect summer evening, and there were second helpings all-around. I had a tiny bit leftover, which I tossed with some leftover roasted chicken to take for dinner at Relay For Life on Friday night. I also had about 3/4 cup of the vinaigrette leftover as well, which we’ll enjoy on salads this week.

Thai Basil Noodles

This is one of those crisper-clean-out dishes that is infinitely adaptable, and very tasty. I love rice noodles, and when I was on my kumquat binge a couple weeks ago, I stocked up on fresh rice noodles at the Vietnamese market. The noodles need only 5-10 seconds submerged in boiling water to be ready for use, so you can pull dinner off in no-time with these, and they’re tastier than dried noodles.

I used thai basil in this, which has a bit more heat and intensity than italian basil, but it could easily be omitted, or substitute cilantro, which would be just as tasty. I added some heat to the noodles with my favorite Sambal Oelek chili sauce – it’s not too hot, and the chilies have heat with a little sweetness. If you don’t have Sambal, add some cayenne to add some heat, or any dried chile you’ve got on hand.

The only real trick of this dish is dealing with the rice noodles. Once you plunge them in the boiling water, you’ve got to get them out of the water, drained, and into the stir-fry, pronto. So remember to take care of the noodles when everything else in the stir fry is done to your liking – that way you drain the noodles, toss them with the sauce, and you’re done. Dinner’s on!

Thai Basil Noodles
Serves 4
8 Weight Watchers Points per serving

Chicken marinade
6 oz chicken breast, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 T soy sauce
1/4 cup sherry
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp Sambal Oelek

Combine soy, sherry, ginger, garlic and sambal in a bowl and stir. Add sliced chicken and stir to coat with marinade. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 8 hours. (I do this before I go to work)

1 12oz package of fresh rice noodles
1 T oil
1 cup chicken stock
1 T soy sauce
1 T fish sauce
1 tsp Sambal Oelek
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2 cups raw broccoli florets
1/2 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
handful of thai basil, roughly chopped
3 scallions, sliced
lime wedges

  1. Combine stock, soy, fish sauce, sambal and ginger in a bowl, and set aside. Heat a large pot of water and bring to a boil.
  2. Heat a large skillet over med-high heat. Drain off the liquid from the chicken and marinade. Add oil to the pan and gently add chicken to hot skillet, in one layer (you may have to cook chicken in batches, to avoid crowding the skillet). Sear for 2 minutes, then turn chicken over, cook one more minute, then remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  3. Add a touch more oil to the pan. Add onion and broccoli, and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add red pepper and garlic, cook 2 more minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add the sauce mixture and stir.
  4. Plunge rice noodles in boiling water for 5-10 seconds. Drain quickly in a colander, then add the noodles to the stir fry, and toss to coat. Add chopped basil and scallions, and serve with wedges of lime.