Pasta Fajioli…an easy way to empty the fridge

Pasta Fajioli AM Northwest

Had great fun being back on AM Northwest last week (watch the clip, below), and got to talk about one of my all-time favorite subjects…comfort food. It’s getting chilly up here in the PNW, and nothing warms you back up like a good pot of soup.

One of my Facebook friends commented that whenever I’m on the show, I always do Italian recipes.

It’s true.

I love French food, and Asian food, and pretty much ANY food, but if I’m going to present the best version of something, something you can taste the love in, it’s probably going to be an old Italian Grandmother’s recipe.

The Home Chef's Guide to Frugal Fine CookingI love this recipe, not just because it’s delicious, and brings back great childhood memories, but because it’s one of those dishes that proves you don’t have to spend a lot, to make an amazing meal.  Pasta is cheap. Beans are cheap. Carrots, onions, celery? Cheap. Add whatever leftover meat and veggies from last night’s dinner, and presto…you have soup!

(For more tips, tricks, and recipes for great eating on a budget, check out my new book, “The Home Chef’s Guide to Frugal Fine Cooking” on Amazon.com!)

Soggiorno caldo!

~Chef Perry

Pasta Fajioli Recipe for AMNW
(pasta va-zool)

1 lb meat, cooked and chopped (roast chicken, sausage, hamburger, etc.)
36 oz “Quick and Easy Chicken Stock
28 ounces fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained (or 6 Romas, freshly roasted*)
15 oz tomato sauce
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbs olive oil
4 celery ribs, diced
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 cups beans (cannellini, kidney beans, etc,) rinsed and drained
2 tsp minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tsp coarse black pepper
8 ounces uncooked pasta (ditalini, macaroni, etc.)
4 teaspoons minced fresh parsley

Additional veggies: Whatcha’got? Pretty much any leftover veggies will compliment this soup. Peas, corn, sauteed mushrooms, green beans, cabbage…empty that fridge!

Mirepoix for soup

Make the mirepoix: In a saute pan, heat oil over medium low, and saute onions, celery, and carrots until just beginning to soften. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat, and transfer to a stock pot.

Pasta Fajioli AM Northwest

Add broth, sauce, beans, oregano, and black pepper.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Add pasta, parsley, and any additional veggies; simmer, covered, 10-14 minutes or until pasta is tender.

Pasta Fajioli AM Northwest

Stir in meat, and serve with crusty, warm bread.

Yield: 10-12 servings

*To roast your own: Place 6 Roma tomatoes on a very hot grill, under a broiler, or directly on above a gas burner. Char, rotating frequently, until blackened on all sides. Place tomatoes in a large zip bag and seal, allowing them to steam 20-30 minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the bag, and peel off most of the charred skin (I ike to leave a little, for flavor). Dice the tomatoes, place in a bowl, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt, and just cover with hot water. Allow to come to room temp before using the tomatoes and water in this recipe.

Here’s the clip from AM Northwest:

Pasta Fajioli Recipe AM Northwest
Click on image to be redirected to AM Northwest’s video page

 

Help us help kids (and get a great book!)

Home Chef Book Fundraiser

Cover in FrameI’m donating 100% of sales from “The Home Chef’s Guide to Frugal Fine Cooking” AND “The Home Chef: Transforming the American Kitchen” to the MY KITCHEN OUTREACH Program, to help feed the hungry, and teach important life skills to at-risk and special-needs youth.

This guidebook would make a great gift for struggling families, college students, and young couples trying to eat healthy on a limited budget!

Proceeds will only be used to pay for teaching materials, supplies, and ingredients for classes. I’ll post the results here, at MY KITCHEN Outreach Program on Monday, October 16th.

Please place your order, on Amazon, before midnight TONIGHT, to help support the outreach!

Cover in frameThese funds will be earmarked specifically for the new youth classes we’ll be doing for the high school in Stevenson WA, and for our annual turkey roast (10 this year!) for The Father’s Heart Street Ministry. Anything left over will go into the general use fund for MK.

Order your copies of “The Home Chef’s Guide to Frugal Fine Cooking” HERE.

BOTH are availabe on my Amazon author page: www.perryperkinsbooks.com

PLEASE LET YOUR FRIENDS KNOW (by using the “sharing buttons”, below!)

Thank you for helping us help kids!

Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com

National Taco Day Recipes

The Home Chef's Guide to Frugal Fine Cooking(Excerpt from “The Home Chef’s Guide to Frugal Fine Cooking” Available October 15, 2017. This is the first in a series of guidebooks to delve deeper into specific topics discussed in, “The Home Chef: Transforming the American Kitchen” – available on Amazon.)

It’s #NationalTacoDay, baby!

We actually made these last night (my planning skills being what they are) but I figure that’s close enough…

Here are my favorite recipes for “the real thing”, as well as an awesome “Gringo” taco!

Tacos al Pastor

Tacos Al Pastor

This dish, developed in Central Mexico, is based on shawarma spit-grilled meat brought by the Lebanese immigrants to Mexico.

You’ve never really had Tacos Al Pastor (roast pork and pineapple tacos) until you’ve gotten then hot off the grill from a street hawker in Mexico City, but these are a pretty darn good second, for a quick and delicious dinner.

  • 1 lb pulled pork shoulder
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks, divided
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup enchilada sauce
  • 8 corn tortillas (6 inches), warmed
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Warm the pork in the microwave until warm through, and the juices have liquified.

Coarsely shred the pork (if not already shredded) mixing with the juices.

Crush half of the pineapple with a fork.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the un-crushed pineapple chunks; sauté in oil 3-4 minutes, until lightly browned, turning occasionally.

Remove the pineapple from the pan.

Add the enchilada sauce and crushed pineapple to same skillet, and bring to a simmer; stir in pork and reserved juices. Cook over medium-high heat 4-6 minutes or until liquid has reduced to a thick glaze on the meat, stirring occasionally.

Serve in warmed tortillas with pineapple chunks, onion and cilantro, and serve with lime wedges.

Now, while you should definitely try the Tacos Al Pastor, sometimes you just want a good old fashioned “American” Taco (the kind we grew up with).

Here’s how Mom did it…

Gringo taco recipe

Best “Gringo” Taco Meat Ever!

This is my favorite “gringo” taco meat recipe…

Now, in all fairness these aren’t “real” Mexican-style tacos (which I love with all of my chubby little heart) but a “next level” upgrade to the weekly suburbanite special that I grew up on. Pretty darn tasty, too!

The big deal about this recipe is that it doesn’t include “taco seasoning” which, in my opinion, just makes everything taste like…well…taco seasoning. If I wanted that, I’d “make a run for the border.”

If I go to the trouble of buying good, fresh meat, I want to taste meat!

I like these best the old-fashioned way: crispy taco shell, sour cream, shredded mexi-cheese, chopped cilantro, diced tomatoes and avocado.

My wife and daughter prefer flour “soft” tacos, and once in a while I get a hankerin’ for some fresh corn tortillas from the local Hispanic market.

Hey, if you like what I’m posting, please share! If you love what I’m posting, and want to help me feed the hungry, and teach at-risk and special needs kids to cook for themselves, please consider becoming a patron at my Patreon page!

  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 lb. 80/20 ground beef (none of that “lean” nonsense!)
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs. Chili powder
  • 2 Tsp. seasoned salt (to taste)
  • 2 tsp. ground black pepper

Mise en Place:

Dice onions, heat water, combine all spices.

Gringo taco recipe

Prepare the Dish:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook onions until just starting to brown, add hot water and simmer until all the water had cooked away (about 10 minutes).

Add the ground beef and ground pork, in chunks, cooking until it begins to brown. Using a spatula, or flat-edge wooden spoon, begin chopping the meat. Add the spices, and continue chopping until the meat is evenly browned and broken in to pieces no larger than 1/2 inch round. Stir, cover skillet, and remove from heat. Allow to rest 5 minutes, stir, and rest another 5 minutes.

Great for soft tacos, crispy tacos, burrito or enchilada filling, nachos, and taco salad!

 

5 More Terrific Taco Tips:

  • Always warm crispy taco shells (or tortilla chips) in a 250F oven for 5-10 minutes. Warming them releases the natural oils, making them crispier and tastier.
  • To jack the flavor up even more, skip the lettuce and cilantro, and buy a bag of “Fiesta” or “Southwestern” salad blend. Mix it up according to directions, and use it as you would plain lettuce in your tacos.
  • If you haven’t tried “Crema” (Mexican sour cream) you should, it’s bolder and more tangy than the regular stuff.
  • Like the taco shells, four or corn tortillas are MUCH better when warmed. Heat them in the dry pan, over medium heat until they just start to brown on the bottom. Flip and repeat. When the tortilla starts to puff up, remove and place inside a  folded towel. If cooking in advance, or in large numbers, wrap 10-12 of the warmed tortillas in foil, and place in a 150F oven to stay warm.
  • Lastly (and this is my favorite) I always mix beef and pork 50/50. Pork has tons of flavor, but is very dry on it’s own. Beef adds a richness, and the necessary fat. Together…amazing! This goes for meatballs, and meatloaf, as well!

Thai Red Fish Curry

Frugal Red Fish Curry recipe

The Home Chef's Guide to Frugal Fine Cooking(Excerpt from “The Home Chef’s Guide to Frugal Fine Cooking” Available October 15, 2017. This is the first in a series of guidebooks to delve deeper into specific topics discussed in, “The Home Chef: Transforming the American Kitchen” – available on Amazon.)

Regarding Curry…

“Curry” can be a confusing term. It’s the name of an entire family of Indian, and Indian-influenced, dishes, but it’s also the name of spice blends within those dishes, and those blend of spices are different from region to region, and, typically, house to house.

Instead of a specific recipe, with set ingredients, think of it as a term like “sauce”, for which there can be uncountable varieties (and my mom’s is always better than your mom’s…)

Curries in Thailand (usually a mix of curry spice paste, coconut milk or water, meat, seafood, vegetables or fruit, and herbs) mainly differ from the curries in Indian cuisine in their use of fresh ingredients such as herbs and aromatic leaves, instead of a mix of dried, and then toasted and ground, spices.

The dry, powdery stuff we buy in the jars is a lot like kissing your sister…similar…but not quite the same thing.

My personal favorite Indian blend (when not toasting and grinding it fresh) is the “Bombay Curry” from my beloved Market Spice, in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

Curries (the dishes) are a great way to add a touch of the exotic to a frugal dinner, while using up leftover meats and veggies, at the same time.

Think about it…both India and Thailand are home to some of the poorest people (and the best food) on the planet.

Once again, it’s less about what you’ve got, than what you can do with it.

Thai Red Fish Curry

1lb tilapia
1 knob of ginger, peeled
2 cloves of garlic
1 stalk lemongrass, minced
Juice of half a lime
2-3 fresh red chilies
1 Tbs tomato puree
1 onion, very finely chopped
Oil
2 Tbs fish sauce
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup water
A generous pinch of salt
Cilantro to garnish

To make the curry paste blend together the ginger, garlic, lemongrass, lime juice, chilies, tomato puree and a little oil.

Heat a little more oil in a large saucepan and begin to fry the onions. After 5 minutes add the paste and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Tip in the coconut milk and water and continue to cook to allow the flavors to infuse, and the sauce to reduce a bit.

Season the sauce to taste before adding the fish in large, skinless chunks. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the fish is completely done.

At this point one can serve the dish, though if the sauce is a little thin one may opt to remove the fish from the sauce and turn the heat up for a little while.

Ensure it is served piping hot, sticky rice, mango slices, and fresh cilantro are optional.

Rabbit Mushroom Stroganoff

I love rabbit, and have been raising my own, for my own table, for years.

Rabbits are one of the most productive livestock animals there is, producing up to 6 times as much meat, on the same amount of feed and water, as a cow.

The meat has more (and more easily digestible) protein than chicken, contains the least amount of fat among all commonly eaten meats, is nearly cholesterol free, and the ratio of meat to bone is high…meaning there is more edible meat on a rabbit.

Rabbit has a mild flavor, comparable (but NOT the same as) chicken.

Plus, they’re quiet, and easy to raise (unlike goats…but let’s not open THAT can of worms…)

Here’s one of my favorite bunny recipes, that will make you turn your back on that tasteless store-bought yard-bird forever!

Rabbit Mushroom Stroganoff

1 whole rabbit (3-5lbs), dressed
3/4 cup flour, seasoned with garlic-salt and coarse black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 Tbs. butter
4 cups of chicken stock
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup sour cream
1 lb white mushrooms, button or sliced
16 oz (uncooked) egg noodles.

Preheat oven to 350F

Cut rabbit into pieces, salt lightly on both sides (I do forequarters, hindquarters, and saddle) and toss in seasoned flour.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep casserole pan or dutch oven (something with a heavy lid). Add rabbit and fry until browned on both sides. Remove rabbit from pot.


Saute your mushrooms over medium heat with a pinch of salt until well browned. Remove the mushrooms and set them aside.

Add another tablespoon of butter, and saute onions until soft and just starting to brown.

De-glaze the pot (leave the onions in) with 1 cup of the chicken stock, scraping up all the browned bits. Then add the rest of the stock, and the rabbit pieces.

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Bring to a simmer, cover, and roast in the oven, covered, for 4 hours.

Cook pasta according to package directions, until just al dente. Drain and set aside, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Remove the rabbit pieces to a platter and let it cool to touch, then strip all the skin and meat from the bones, in bite size pieces.

Add the sour cream, pasta water, and mushrooms to the cooking liquid in the casserole, and bring to a simmer.

Stir the noodles into the sauce, remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Notes: You can substitute the pasta for white rice, wild rice, faro, and it’s great over hot buttermilk biscuits, as well.

Volunteering: Columbia Gorge Fire

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Hot, dry and gusty east winds have fanned the flames of the Eagle Creek Fire, which is now rapidly moving west, swelling to 10,000 acres (currently). The fire has “jumped” the Columbia River, and has sparked several new fires on the Washington side, as well. I-84 has been closed to all public traffic.

Sheriff’s offices in Multnomah and Hood River Counties have issued Level 3 (Go!) evacuations for Larch Mountain and the communities of Dodson, Warrendale, Latourell, Bridal Veil, East Corbett, and everything south of I-84 in Cascade Locks. The number of towns on this list are growing by the hour. Many more are under a Level 2 (Be Ready) evacuation status. A number of evacuation shelters have been established at a number of local community colleges and fairgrounds.

InciWeb (Incident Information System) reports that a “A thermal trough will continue with hot, dry and unstable conditions with east winds overnight and through tomorrow.”

I’m a local chef, who grew up and went to school in the gorge, and I’m volunteering to help feed folks displaced by the fire, and/or fire fighters and volunteers. Food prep, serving, washing dishes, wherever I’m needed. Right now it looks like I will be in Washougal, at the evacuation center, as early as tomorrow to help establish an on-site kitchen, then moving on to Cascade Locks to help feed the fire crews through the weekend.

IMG_3876

With the MY KITCHEN cargo van, I can do pick up and/or deliveries of food or supplies, we well.

If you would like to help me out with gas, supplies, and donations to the emergency shelters I’m working with, etc., please make donations via PayPal* to: mykitchendonations@gmail.com

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*You do not need a PayPal account to donate. Tax-deductible donation receipts are available on request. Any funds not used to cover costs will be donated to the locations I’m volunteering at.