Farfalle with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Image from Cooking Light, The Complete Quick Cook

Bruce and Mark were gracious enough to share The Complete Quick Cook with me and answer my questions.  And you may be thinking “well that’s great for you and all but what about me?”  Dear, dear friends, I would never forget about you.  I wanted to put this in a box and wrap it in shiny, sparkly paper before I gave it to you.  But Farfalle with Creamy Mushroom Sauce doesn’t readily lend itself to gift wrapping.  What it does lend itself to is easy transformations based on whatever extras you happen to have on hand.  I doubled the amount of mushrooms, thickened the sauce with a combination of butter and flour, and added diced chicken breast and peas.  That’s how I made it my own.  You do what you like.  So without further ado, I give you my newest comfort food bff.

Farfalle with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Reprinted with Permission from Cooking Light, The Complete Quick Cook

  • 1 pound uncooked farfalle (bow tie pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 12 ounces presliced exotic mushroom blend
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 11/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • minced fresh parsley (optional)

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, shallots, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper; cook 12 minutes or until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally. Add wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Add pasta, cream, cheese, and 2 tablespoons parsley, tossing gently to coat. Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Garnish with minced fresh parsley, if desired. Serve immedi­ately. YIELD: 8 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups).

 CALORIES 336; FAT 11.4g (sat 6.9g, mono 3.1g, poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 12.1g; CARB 47.5g; FIBER 2.3g; CHOL 36mg; IRON 2.3mg; SODIUM 577mg; CALC 124mg

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Cooking Light, The Complete Quick Cook

Cooking Light and I are old friends.  You may recall that I’ve mentioned them here from time to time.  Actually, we are old, estranged friends.  It has been years since I’ve picked up an issue of Cooking Light.  But some of the recipes that Cooking Light introduced me to have earned seniority.  In my kitchen, where the turnover rate of recipes is pretty high, miso glazed salmon, cider roasted pork, and cinnamon sugar cookies all have made return appearances.  And they all came from the pages of the magazine.

So imagine my surprise when I found out that Mark Scarbrough, with whom I exchange pithy Tweets, was half of the dynamic duo of Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough who are long time collaborators with Cooking Light.  I was having one of those “when worlds collide” moments.  Here I was tweeting with someone whose recipes I had made in my own home.  And through those tweets, Bruce and Mark reunited me with Cooking Light.

See, they were kind enough to offer me the opportunity to receive their newest cookbook, which just so happens to be a collaboration with Cooking Light focused on smart, fast home cooking.  Clearly, they know I am their target audience.  As soon as I got the book in my hands, I started reading.  Because in addition to over 200 recipes, The Complete Quick Cook is full of tips, tricks, and strategies to make cooking less intimidating.  I may have been doing my thing in the kitchen for a few years now but there is always something I can learn to cook smarter.  Because really, when you’re trying to balance all of life’s craziness, it pays to take the smarter approach.

And to top it all off with a pretty bow, I was given the opportunity to interview Bruce and Mark about The Complete Quick Cook.  How could I possibly say no to that?  I tried my best to at least sound like I knew what I was talking about, despite my track record of making a hot mess of whatever it is that I’m working on in the kitchen.  Here’s how our conversation went.

Bruce and Mark, you have written over 20 cookbooks, focusing on things such as Cooking For Two, Pizza, Grilling, Ham, and Goat.  What made you decide to tackle the challenge of smart, fast home cooking?

Every year, there’s a new study about how people have less time, fewer minutes, more things to do. It’s a cliché—but true, nonetheless. So while we’re still all for the seven-hour roasted goat leg or the two-day ham brine, cooking quickly remains the real way most of the people we know want to cook. Indeed, need to cook. To get a healthy dinner on the table in under thirty minutes: that’s the challenge of an average Wednesday night.

You’ve been collaborating with Cooking Light for some time and developing recipes for their magazine.  How has that influenced the cooking that you do in your own home?

Cooking Light’s philosophy fits exactly with ours: “healthy” and “tasty” in balance. And a balance without any big no-no’s. It doesn’t make sense to make some ingredients forbidden. You know you’ll eat them soon enough if you do! Instead, it’s far better to see the sensible ways we can even bring indulgences to our tables.

The book is full of tips and secrets to help make cooking less intimidating.  If you had to choose just one tip that people should remember to be a smarter cook, what would that be?

The one who cooks the meal is not the one who cleans up afterwards! Well, okay, more seriously, there’s a lot in the book for how to “mise” your kitchen: put the wooden spoon and spices near the stove, keep the counters clean, keep a list on a marker board or your smart phone of pantry items you need to restock, etc. Many people know about making a “mise en place” for the meal they’ll cook: getting out the ingredients and prepping them before they start to cook. But it’s just as important to organize and prep your kitchen itself. That’s a real secret to quick cooking.

As someone who constantly uses cookbooks and magazines, all I know is I open them up and the recipes are magically there waiting for me to bring them to life.  Can you describe the process of developing the recipes so that they would fit into a busy cook’s available time and embody the Cooking Light philosophy?

Admittedly, our process is pretty complicated. In truth, developed recipes for Cooking Light are a collaboration among editors, publishers, the Cooking Light test kitchen, the many tasters on staff, and us two food writers, who actually have fairly different tastes between us. That collaboration is a tricky dance, but it also assures that recipes remain accessible and that the basic flavors don’t get lost in a search for newish flare. I’d say that the best thing a quick cook can do is to treat meals at home as collaborations, too: keep your family’s tastes in mind, listen to how they respond to dishes, have your kids or spouse help out in the kitchen. Working together can be a key to working quickly. And if you get your family and loved ones involved in the meal, they’re much less likely to complain!

I bestowed comfort food status to the Farfalle with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce the first time I made it.  Is there a story behind this recipe?

Recipes are like your kids—they’ve all got stories. In our world, Mark loves dairy, thinks butter is a beverage; Bruce is rather indifferent to it, all things considered. He’d rather have olive oil any day. So recipes like this come about because Mark, the writer, is just craving something creamy and wonderful. Bruce, the chef, then comes up with a way to keep that creaminess in check, so that supper’s satisfying without being a belt-buster. Now that’s real comfort food!

As stated above, I have fallen in love with Farfalle with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce.  Although I must admit that I reversed engineered it to be a little less Cooking Light friendly by thickening the sauce with some kneaded butter.  Do those kneaded buttery calories get voided if I add some roasted chicken breast and baby peas to the pasta?

Um, we hate to tell you this, but a food calorie is a food calorie. It doesn’t get nixed from anything in the pan or skillet. That said, some roast chicken from a rotisseried bird would be a fine addition to this recipe. In fact, you’re doing what we dream every reader does: morph our recipes into something that suits your table. We hope to provide the inspiration—where you take it from there is your own creative journey. And a sure sign of a better meal ahead for you and those you love!

Ok, so maybe Bruce and Mark didn’t absolve my additional kneaded butter calories in the Farfalle, but I love their philosophy and they definitely gave me a new recipe to add to my seniority list.  I can’t wait to see how else The Complete Quick Cook is going to make an impact at our table.

Be sure to come back on Wednesday when I will introduce you to Farfalle with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce.  You really don’t want to miss this.  And you can follow along with the adventures of Bruce and Mark at their blog.  Want some of those pithy tweets in your Twitter feed?  Check out @markscarbrough and @bruceweinstein on the Twittah.

Flashback Friday – Table For Two

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 2/23/09 at Exit 51.

Table For Two

From the looks of my blog stats, we all had the same idea about making a special Valentine’s Day dinner.  Those scallops from Jacques Pepin got even more traffic than usual on the 14th.  Luckily, that is a recipe that you can pull together at the last minute. And from the look of Wegman’s Saturday afternoon, there was a lot of last minute happening.  Even I was not immune to lastminuteitis and found myself standing at the seafood counter for scallops.  But I had another, equally easy, recipe in mind for them…no offense to Jacques, of course.

HVD Dinner & Dessert

Valentine’s Day was brought to us courtesy of Gourmet Magazine and Mark Bittman.  And while it would have been way cooler if someone from Gourmet, or Mr. Bittman himself, had shown up on my doorstep and done the cooking for me, I think I did a pretty good job following their instructions.  Because really, the instructions were as easy as 1,2,3.  I know I say that a lot, but it’s only because those are the kinds of recipes I love the best.

Our table for two Valentine’s Dinner featured Paprika Dusted Scallops with Pea Puree topped off with a Chocolate Souffle.  Sounds pretty daunting doesn’t it?  Let me tell you, the key to this meal is working backwards and preparing the souffle to the point where it is ready to go into the oven BEFORE you start the scallops.  Bittman’s recipe is a lifesaver here because it can go from fridge to oven to table.  Executing this menu is nothing more than a dance.  One, two, cha, cha, cha.  And even those of us with two left feet can get the steps right.

So start off by getting the souffle together and have it chill out in the fridge.  Then move onto the pea puree.  Once this is all blitzed together in the food processor, it can stay there till the scallops are done and you’re ready to plate.  Preheat your oven for the souffle and start on the scallops.  In the time it takes the scallops to cook, your oven will be ready and the souffle can go in just as you sit down to eat.  Thirty minutes later, your dinner plate will be empty but your dessert plate will be piled high with warm chocolate love.

Enjoy it while it’s hot.  The dishes can wait till morning.

Melissa’s Creamy Crock Pot Polenta

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the States.  It’s going to be an especially challenging day for me.  A day that will require me to remember to Be Brave.  But it’s a day that celebrates gratitude.  And despite all of the ups and downs of the year, or maybe because of them, I am acutely aware of the bounty that I have been given.

I hope that your Thanksgiving finds you surrounded by those that matter to you.  Those that are close to your heart.  And that you cook, and share, something that warms you.

Creamy Crock Pot Polenta

Adapted from Melissa d’Arabian

BAH Note: Do yourself a favor and make a double batch of this polenta.  The first time I made it, I only made a single batch.  And as soon as dinner was over and the crock pot was empty I wished I had more.  I brought back a bag of course stone ground white grits from our trip to Georgia thinking I would love substituting them for the cornmeal.  I was wrong.  It took more than 4 hours for those damned grits to cook into a soft pudding and I didn’t like their texture nearly as much as the supermarket cornmeal.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/3 cup half and half
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan (optional)

Lightly coat the insert of your crock pot with cooking spray, or a thin film of canola oil, and turn your crockpot to high.

Combine the milk, 1 cup half and half, 1 tablespoon butter, cornmeal, and a pinch of kosher salt in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly, and boil for 2 – 3 minutes.

Pour the mixture into the crock pot, cover, and cook on high for two hours or until the cornmeal has softened and the mixture has thickened into a soft, loose pudding.  Once or twice per hour, stir the mixture.  Just before serving, whisk in the remaining half and half, butter, and parmesan (if using).  Taste for seasoning and add kosher salt to taste.

{printable recipe}

Be Brave

I have been procrastinating, avoiding the “Add New Post” page.  Just today I stalked a Praying Mantis in my rose bushes, watched the moon crest just above the trees in the fading afternoon light, uploaded photos of said Mantis and moon, and stopped just short of cleaning the cat’s litter box to avoid opening this page.

This procrastination is not for a lack of recipes I desperately want to share.  I’ve got 22 drafts and a baker’s dozen of recipes that haven’t even made it into draft form yet.  Each and every one of them is worthy of your time and mine.  But I’m not ready to talk Apple Slices, Sweet Pickle Relish, or Crockpot Polenta just yet.  I know, you come here for the food…but I appreciate your patience as I ramble about other things while I work my way back to the food.

I said that “words have been swirling through my head“.  In its uncanny ability to recognize what I need before I do, the Universe has had one word in particular following me around.  That word is gratitude.   It started with Maggy’s piece talking about her husband’s expression of gratitude for the meals that she makes for him.  I had a chance to chat with Maggy after I read that post, and what I didn’t tell her in the conversation is that reading her description of Andy’s expressions of gratitude instantly made me think of my dad.

My dad could cook, had cooked, but in his adult life he did not cook.  Yet at the end of every meal, whether it was a simple ham and cheese sandwich with chips or a pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, he always thanked whomever had made the meal.  It wasn’t until I started cooking for him and was the recipient of that thanks that I realized it was about more than the plate of food.  It was his gratitude for the effort and love that went into the food.

Up until he became sick, my dad was not one to say “I love you”.  And it was only after his death that family members told me that he was proud of me.  But in his way, each time he expressed his gratitude for a meal, he was saying those things.  I just wasn’t able to hear it in that moment.

As I said to Maggy, her discussion of gratitude really spoke to me at a time when I needed a reminder about why it is important for me to take the time to cook.  It’s not just about the food.  It’s about all that goes into it and how we, or I, use food as a metaphor for all of the things I can’t find the words to say.

And then a few weeks later, I opened a link in Twitter, not having any idea that I would again be coming face to face with the word gratitude.  But there it was, in something like 18 point font, on a post by Matthew Naquin.  As I read his words, I felt his pain.  Because it was my pain also.  But here it was, in black and white, the Universe basically giving me a lesson plan in how gratitude and the free will to choose can make a difference.

So why am I rambling about gratitude instead of talking about Peach Preserves or Honey Dijon Chicken Thighs?  Partly because I’m struggling.  Struggling with the day to day reality of feeling like my world has been turned upside down and shaken like a snow globe.  Struggling with the overwhelming emotion that takes me by surprise…both with the fact that in my life I will never see either of my parents again as well as the fact that I have to consciously choose each and every day to make my future what I want it to be.  So when these emotions come and knock me off balance, I have to stop and think about exactly why it is that I’m hitting a wall.  What is it that I am reacting to?

In a single word, it’s change.

And that gets me to the other part of the why.  I have been taking part in a weekly discussion with a small group of women.  We each have our own struggles and challenges and we’re all at different places in our journeys.  But there is so much that we can learn from each other’s experiences that the fine details aren’t quite as important as the big picture.  In our discussion last week, I heard two more words that triggered this latest round of reflection and emotion, and reluctance to talk food.  Be brave.

Two words that are simultaneously simple and powerful.  And what they mean to me is not necessarily what they mean to anyone else.  I hear them and think: be brave in the face of change; be brave and reach out for help; be brave and admit that I don’t have all the answers; be brave in spite of being afraid; be brave and actually choose change; be brave and express gratitude each and every day.

So maybe my procrastination earlier today was actually a bit of disguised gratitude.  I chose to take the time to see the Mantis hiding in the rose bushes.  And I chose to watch the moon crest the trees in the fading afternoon light. I chose to be brave and not care if the neighbors thought I was weird for climbing into the rose bushes or walking around my yard with the camera.  And now I choose to go upstairs and make dinner for The Mistah to express my gratitude for his patience, support, and love.

Flashback Friday – Notes On A Recipe, Ina’s Mustard Chicken Salad

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 2/18/09 at Exit 51.

Notes On A Recipe – Ina’s Mustard Chicken Salad

I love a good chicken salad. Its one of those dishes that, when done right,  can shine in its simplicity.  In many ways, it is the ultimate test of a cook.  Almost anyone can learn fancy techniques that dazzle and delight.  But how many of us, when faced with the challenge of taking a bare minimum of the simplest of ingredients, can create a dish that is memorable because it hits all the right notes, because it becomes more than you imagined possible?

Ina's Mustard Chicken Salad

I don’t have a recipe for my go-to chicken salad.  It comes from the prepared food case at The Fresh Market and is everything I want in my chicken salad.  As far as I can tell, there are three ingredients – chicken, celery, and mayo.  That’s all it needs.  And it is the standard by which I measure all other chicken salads.

During my weekend with Ina, she made Mustard Chicken Salad, which uses both mayonnaise and mustard.  I’ve long known the beauty of mixing mayo and mustard together.  Have you ever dipped pretzels in a mix of mustard and mayo?  If not, I’ll wait here while you go experiment.  Start with a couple of tablespoons of mayo and gradually add mustard till it’s creamy and tangy at the same time.

See what I mean?  That’s good stuff.  So I imagined that a chicken salad that used one of my favorite flavor combinations would be a home run.  But I think it ran out of steam somewhere around second base.  I prefer to have a drier chicken salad, not too wet and definitely not thick or gloppy.  And while not gloppy thanks to the white wine, Ina’s  Mustard Chicken Salad is just too wet for my taste.  I can’t imagine a slice of bread being structurally sound enough to support a sandwich made of this.

But all is not lost. Because when added to a mix of lettuce and spinach, you’ve got yourself a lovely salad.  The wetness of the chicken salad provides just enough of a dressing to moisten the greens.  This would make a light lunch by itself, or pair it with some soup and you’ve got a fuss free dinner.   So if you’ve got the few simple ingredients on hand that go into Ina’s Mustard Chicken Salad, I think it’s worth a try.

Mustard Chicken Salad

Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Back To Basics

  • 2 whole (4 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and dice the chicken in large bite-size pieces.

Meanwhile, add the broccoli florets to a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook for 1 minute, until crisp tender, drain, and place into a bowl of ice water until cool. This will stop the cooking and set the bright green color.

For the dressing, whisk together the mayonnaise, wine, mustards, 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add enough sauce to the warm chicken to moisten well. Add the tarragon, broccoli, and tomatoes and mix gently to combine. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.

Kerrygold Give Away

I got to thinking, after posting all those odes to Kerrygold for the contest, that it would be wrong of me not to give you an opportunity to experience #butterlove for yourself.  The folks at Kerrygold have been very good to me and it’s only right that I pay that goodwill forward.  Besides, I think part of finding grace in everyday life is making the conscious decision to share that which you have with others.

So, two lucky folks will each receive:

  • One store coupon redeemable for the Kerrygold product of your choice…as in FREE y’all.
  • One eco-friendly reusable shopping bag featuring the fine Kerrygold logo.

While the folks at Kerrygold are not sponsoring this give away, I did receive these items from them at various blogging events.  But let’s be honest, the folks at Kerrygold could pass me on the street and we’d never recognize each other…unless they were decked out in that happy gold foil and I had #butterlove tattooed on my forehead.

Want a chance to win some #butterlove?  Leave a comment on this post no later than midnight on 20 November 2011 to enter the “sweepstakes”.  Be sure to include a valid email address in the comment form so I can contact you in case you’re one of the two randomly selected winners.

Sadly, it’s a litigious world y’all, so here’s the necessary long form, legal mumbojumbo, disclaimery type language:

  • NO PURCHASE NECESSARY
  • This sweepstakes is open to residents of the United States only.  Entrants must be at least 18 years of age.
  • The Give Away period shall commence at 8am on 16 November 2011.  Entries must be received no later than midnight on 20 November 2011.  Any entries received after that time will be disqualified.
  • Entries shall be limited to comments on this post and must include a valid email address in the comment form.  No alternate form of entry is available.
  • Each prize consists of: one manufacturer’s coupon for the Kerrygold item of your choice (approximate retail value $5); one reusable grocery bag.
  • Odds of winning will be determined by the number of eligible entries.
  • Bon Appetit Hon is not responsible for entries that are not received due to technical error.
  • Two winners will be randomly selected using Random.org on 21 November 2011 and will have five days to respond via email to claim their prize and provide shipping information.
  • All prizes will be awarded and shipped via USPS.  Bon Appetit Hon is not responsible for loss of prize by USPS.
  • Manufacturer’s coupons expire 31 December 2011.
  • VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW