Orecchiette with Asparagus and Sausage

A little over a month ago it was Valentine’s Day, and on this specific day I had dinner with the love of my life. We ordered a pasta dish—along with a lot of other dishes to share because I was super mega hungry that day. I can’t really remember those dishes right now. I guess they’re unimportant since they didn’t stay in my head. This pasta, however, was the best dish I’ve had in a restaurant in a really long time. Probably in forever, but don’t quote me on that because I don’t want to make that kind of commitment to one dish so early on in my life. The pasta in question was something out of this world. Perhaps it was all just a dream. I’m convinced it was voodoo magic brought to me on a white plate, and that if I return to that restaurant now it wouldn’t be the same. That’s how it always is. I’m okay with that though, because I decided to recreate it at home. I decided to challenge myself, to see if I could actually make it without having much to go on except for the memory of a delicious night. As it turns out, I must have some of that voodoo magic myself, because not only was my pasta better than the one from the restaurant, it also happens to be ridiculously easy to make. Not to mention the fact that for the same price of the restaurant dish, you get an entire potful instead of just one small plate’s worth. It’s a win win situation. The ol’ ball and chain even said it was the best thing I’ve ever made. I don’t know if I should be flattered or offended. I’ll go with flattered.

It’s made with orecchiette noodles, in case you didn’t already guess that part, hence the name. Orecchiette actually comes from two Italian words that mean “ear” and “small,” which gives you the word for “small ears” because the pasta looks like little ears. Aaah. There’s a little trivia for you to throw out at your next cocktail party. You can thank me later. Both versions of the dish, the fancy restaurant and my own, have crispy ground sausage and are loaded with peas. Lots of peas. (Have I told you that I’m a sucker for peas?) The one at the restaurant had broccoli rabe and I’m a total fan of broccoli rabe but when I first tried to recreate it, I couldn’t find any at the grocery store. I almost cried right there in the produce section by the bagged salad mixes. It was a sad sight to see. There was, however, an abundance of asparagus staring at me because it happens to be spring here, and I’m all for seasonal fresh produce. So I stopped crying and decided to give it a go with asparagus and as it turns out, I preferred it much better. Life is funny sometimes the way it points you in the right direction without you really knowing what in the world is going on. Now, I’m only making it with asparagus and I’m topping it off with a heaping amount of lemon infused ricotta cheese because, um hello RICOTTA CHEESE, people!

Have you ever fallen in love with a dish you’ve tried at a restaurant or in someone else’s house? So much so that you go home and try to recreate it for yourself, determined to make it just as good, if not better? If you have, share some of your experiences down in the comments section below, I’d love to hear about them. Mostly because I want to know I’m not the only crazy one out there, but also because I’m curious to hear what dishes make you happy. In the meantime, let’s make this pasta dish and become addicted together because that’s what friends do. They become addicted to food with you.

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Pot Roast Sliders with Sriracha Aioli

I’m currently in a slider coma. But don’t worry about me. It’s not the kind of coma I don’t want to be in. This is the best kind of coma possible; a food coma. And I’m not talking about the kind you get after eating two Thanksgiving Day dinners, one right after the other, either. This is more of a give me ten sliders and then right after I’m done devouring them, without a care in the world, give me ten more and I’ll eat those as well, kind of coma. Now that I think about it, that’s pretty much the same type you fall into on Thanksgiving. What can I say, my only goal in life is to eat as much as possible. So far, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of it.

The thing about sliders, though, is that they’re mini hamburgers. Do you guys understand that? MINI. HAMBURGERS. Hamburgers that are mini. Itty bitty burgers. Tiny buns with tiny meat. (Okay I’m done, I promise). You’re required to eat more than two. It’s a rule. I think that’s what makes them so appealing. Perfectly bite-sized burgers are the way to go. And I know what you might be thinking, “But Jonathan, sliders are more than just one bite. You’re crazy!” I don’t know about you, but all I can tell you is that if you’re not shoving sliders into your mouth, whole, then you’re doing it all wrong. You need to reevaluate your eating habits. The word “sliders” is Greek for “eat it in one bite.” Okay, maybe it isn’t, but we all know it should be. By the way, I totally can’t even eat a slider in a single bite. It’s more like two. (Maybe one and a half, on a good day).

These sliders were a visionary collaboration with my significant other. The apple of my eye. The ol’ ball and chain. I was thinking about making a sliders post, so we both sort of began throwing out over-the-top ideas just to be funny, because that’s what we do. Then it became a competition about who could come up with the craziest slider idea. Naturally I won. I lie. He won, but don’t tell him I said that. So the crazier our ideas got the more and more they began to make sense. That’s usually how it works. We were super excited, pacing around the dining room as we continued to brainstorm. All his ideas were comfort foods meet sliders and I was totally into it. I wasn’t quite convinced with mac and cheese sliders, though. I don’t know if the world is ready for it, just yet, but we did think it’s about time pot roast sliders made a bigger appearance. So kaboom pot roast sliders with sriracha aioli because “sriracha is really big right now” he yells at me, “and crispy onion rings with homemade brioche buns,” I scream! As it turns out brioche is kind of complicated and I was too lazy to go through with it, so I had to toss everything and start from scratch. But it’s all good because everything slider buns were even better. And that’s how pot roast sliders were born. (Some events might have been dramatized for the sake of this story).

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Salmon Cakes with Creamy Dill Sauce

I used to hate salmon. Not like “I sort of disliked it, didn’t really care for it,” kind of hate. No, it was definitely more like “I loathed it with a passion greater than life itself,” kind of hate. It was one of my biggest fears, if not the biggest. My worst nightmare come true. Whenever I’d see salmon I’d go into a fit of rage. Uncontrollable anger would swell up deep inside of me, in the pit of my stomach, that of which you cannot even begin to fathom. It truly would be a scary sight to see. I’d sooner eat liver and onions than eat salmon, and that’s saying something because have you tried beef liver before? It’s not the tastiest thing on earth, to put it nicely. I’d throw tantrums, push people out of the way and flip a table over (Real Housewives style) because I did not want to eat salmon. And that was just last week. Now, seven days later, and about twenty salmon cakes in, I am a believer. Salmon is my new obsession. Hey Salmon, hey! Where have you been my entire life? Let’s be best friends for life. Call me every five minutes.

Maybe it’s all the delicious flavor in these salmon cakes? Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m eating savory cakes (yeah, that’s cool) that appeals to me? I’m not sure but whatever it is, I wasn’t living before now. My eyes were closed and these cakes have opened them. I only wish I had discovered salmon cakes a long time ago. Think of all the tables that could have been saved in the process, but most importantly, think of all the salmon I could have been eating. All that salmon I missed out on. Is it weird that the best part of this recipe wasn’t the salmon itself, but the creamy dill sauce instead? I mean, talk about something you can get addicted to. Be weary my friends. I think you might need a support group on hand, after you try it for yourself.

You know, the more I think about it, the more I know it was definitely the creamy dill sauce that has made salmon not so scary for me. The fear and anger is gone, replaced now with a yearning for salmon this and salmon that. I owe dill sauce my entire life, so much so that I’ll have to name my first child Dill Sauce. Don’t laugh, it’s happening. In the meantime, let’s just be content with eating nothing but salmon cakes, drenched in creamy dill sauce for the remainder of my life. Or until I find a new obsession, whichever comes first. If you need me, I’ll definitely NOT be in the kitchen, head in the fridge eating cold salmon cakes with dill sauce all over my face. That’s totally not me, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

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Beef Sausage and Peppers Tacos w/ Avocado Cream*

I have a confession to make. It’s a sad and terrible confession but one that I should get off my chest, right here and now. Why prolong the inevitable? Sure it’s embarrassing, but maybe I’m not the only one out there with the same belief. Or I guess I should say, with the same belief that I used to have. I don’t anymore because now I’ve totally seen the light. I used to think cooking with sausage was a big hassle. It was daunting and scary to me because I felt like I just never knew what to cook with it. I was in a slump, friends. A cooking slump, and those are the worst kinds of slumps to be in. I mean, a guy can only eat so many hot dogs before you begin to get tired of them. So I wouldn’t really make anything else with sausage. I always bypassed it at the grocery store, not wanting to put that pressure on myself. Whenever I’d pass through the sausage aisle, I’d look away. It was too much for me to bear. Of course I would always end up getting chicken because, in my mind, it was the easiest thing to cook with. “Jonathan, just grab a couple of chicken breasts and call it a day,” I would say. Just like that too. I like to talk to myself in first person sometimes. If you recall my Roasted Autumn Vegetable Pot Pie post, my friend Jenny can attest to always having chicken at my house. It was starting to become a problem. So one day I got the courage to start exploring more with smoked sausage. In part because anything smoked is just plain delicious (have you met my friend bacon?) but mostly because sometimes—and by sometimes I mean like all the time—I get lazy in the kitchen and just want something quick and easy to whip up so I can devour it as soon as possible. Can you blame me?

So there I am one day at the grocery store, walking—no, stomping, that sounds a lot better—towards the sausage aisle with determination in my eyes. Really it was a glint in my eyes and a light bulb over my head, because I finally had an idea as to what I can cook with sausage. It wasn’t that hard to come up with, really. I just started thinking of all the delicious things I enjoy eating and then I’d mentally swap out the main ingredient for sausage. I did that until I got the perfect match. You all know my love for doughnuts, however, cake doughnuts with a sausage glaze just didn’t sit well with me. So just like that, sweets were out of the question. Sausage lasagna with a creamy béchamel sauce with seven different cheeses sounded amazing. I was just about to pick up the eighth cheese when I came to my senses. “Jonathan, you don’t have that kind of time on your hands to make a lasagna! You need something quick and easy!” So out the window went that plan. Then all of a sudden someone threw a package of tortillas at my face and BAM just like that, tacos were in my future. Oh and not just any tacos, my friends, but angus beef smoked sausage tacos.

After about fifteen of the most stress-free minutes I’ve ever encountered in the kitchen, I sat down to eat my beef sausage and peppers tacos with all the toppings you could possibly think of. And right there, between my fifth and sixth taco, I realized cooking with sausage isn’t all that difficult at all. In fact, it’s ridiculously easy (and tasty too). So now every time I go to the grocery store, I don’t avoid the sausage aisle. In fact, I go over and wave at it, picking up a few packages of Hillshire Farm along the way. “Hello delicious smoked sausage,” I yell out. Don’t worry, I look around before talking to the sausage to make sure no one is looking at me. I’m not that crazy. Okay maybe a little crazy. Crazy for smoked sausage tacos that is.

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Lasagna Soup

Sometimes I like to dream the impossible like pretending to be king of the world while standing on the edge of a giant ship yelling out at the top of my lungs, “I’m king of the world,” while sailing the Atlantic en route to hit an iceberg…wait…that’s not my life. Sometimes I like to dream the impossible like boarding a space shuttle with only one destination in mind, an asteroid. Navigating the depths of outer space, my crew and I having to drill through a massive lethal rock with hopes of saving the world…actually that’s not my life either. Sometimes I like to dream the impossible like combining two of my favorite dishes. A pasta classic and a warming soup. A comfort food meets comfort food sort of situation, can you blame me? There comes a time in everyone’s life when we have to make the difficult decision of choosing one or the other, but you know what I say to that? I say, why choose, when you can have both mashed together into one delicious, mouth watering meal? I say, why burden yourself with such a task impossible of accomplishing? The thought of having to choose only one makes me sad beyond words. We shouldn’t have to settle. We should be given the opportunity to have both, soup and lasagna. But not in the form of two separate dishes in one sitting because that sort of seems gluttonous to me. I mean come on, I’m not that crazy.

I’ll let you in on a little secret—because it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want, but also because I feel like we’re at that point in our relationship where I can be completely honest. Truth is, I’ve been sitting in front of my computer for hours. Just staring at the screen without knowing what else to write. What else to share with you this time around. My mind keeps drawing a blank and I can’t understand why. Sure music is playing and I continue to get distracted, singing out loud the songs with a microphone. I’m only kidding, it’s not really a microphone but a pen I found on my desk. I won’t, however, admit to you that I’m constantly spinning around in my chair like if I’m on a ride at an amusement park, as I yell out “Whooooo whooooo!” That totally never happened. I have the excitement of a teenager, bubbling inside my stomach, about to go on a promising first date, but I think that’s solely because of how much I’ve fallen in love with this post. Not only the recipe itself but also the images. These images I’ll classify, and will go down in my head, as my best work to date, and I’m proud of that. I can’t help but look back to where I was when I first started this blog to where I am now. A few years have passed and I’m more and more excited with each passing post. Not to mention I’m a little wiser and a little older. Let’s not talk about it.

With each new recipe I share with you, I get the sensation that we’re growing together. We’re getting to know each other (really, you’re getting to know me more than I’m getting to know you). And do you want to know something? I rather enjoy it. Sometimes I can’t contain myself and all I want to do is share my work with you just as soon as I can, much like with this recipe. This post is the first one in a really long time where I’ve wished I could work faster so that I can put it up as quickly as possible so you can enjoy it right away. I hope you do enjoy it and not only because I enjoy it but because it’s a good one. Too good, I find. But if there is one thing my mamma taught me—she actually taught me a lot of things but this one thing fits perfectly in such a scenario—it’s that you can never have too much of a good thing. Just like you can never have too much of lasagna in soup form, and that’s a fact.

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Brussels Sprouts and Apple Quiche

I’m going to be completely honest with you all right here, right now. I feel like you need to hear my confession. I’m currently knee deep in denial friends and I can’t help it. It’s not even the good kind of denial, it’s the bad kind. I actually don’t know if there’s a good kind of denial but I feel like there might be, and if this was the good kind I’d sure know about it. So I’ll reiterate, it’s not the good kind. I refuse to believe or even acknowledge that it’s mid-November already. I don’t want to even think about saying it out loud because I feel like if I do, then that’ll make it real. It’ll put it out there and I’m not ready for that kind of permanence. Seriously though, where has the time gone? Where is it heading so fast? Hey time, slow down a bit yeah? Why are you in such a hurry? You’re moving way too fast for my taste. I feel like it was Thanksgiving and Christmas 2012, just yesterday. I keep asking everyone I encounter—from the cashier at the grocery store, to the mailman, even the dog on the street—”Can you believe it’s almost the end of the year already?!” They responded to me just as shocked as I was, except of course for the dog. He just looked at me and tilted his head to the side. Probably thought I was a piece of bacon or something. The sense of time lost on him no doubt. Memo to myself, I need to think more like a dog and lose my sense of time. Added to my to-do list.

The thought that Thanksgiving is just around the corner is giving me anxiety and it’s starting to sink in. It’s creeping up fast and I have not yet begun to prepare myself for this gigantic holiday. Don’t get me wrong, physically I’m prepared. I’m always ready to eat large amounts of delicious turkey and sides and pie until I can’t move anymore and all I want to do is take a nap or eat some more. (Whichever comes first.) If I could, I’d do that everyday of my life. I’m totally kidding (but not really). Thanksgiving happens to be my favorite holiday—just in case you didn’t already know that—second of course to the 4th of July. But we’ll save that conversation for another time. This isn’t a 4th of July post. So at the moment Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. That’s all you need to know. Someone might need to slap me a couple of times to shake me out of this trance though. My mind still thinks it’s summer, and I have the unusually warm weather here in LA to thank for this. It’s mid-November, it shouldn’t be this hot! Get it together California, you’re killing me!

As my mind tries desperately to get into the right mindset for the upcoming holidays,  I decided to let this post give me the inspiration and boost I’ve been looking for in order to prepare myself for all the cooking and eating (and eating) that’s sure to come soon. I figured that if I used ingredients typically found around the Thanksgiving table, I’d be able to get inspired and get my act together. So I bring to you this Brussels Sprouts and Apple Quiche. I think it screams Thanksgiving without beating you over the head with it. It’s more like “Oh hey, morning after Thanksgiving meal! You look mighty tasty,” instead of, “Oh wow this is like Thanksgiving exploded all over the place,” and that’s something I can totally get behind. I don’t know if this post really helped or not. Just continue to lie to me. Let me be in denial for a few more days. I’ll deal with it next week, but for now I’m going to eat this quiche and pretend that it’s not, absolutely not, mid-November and I think you should do the same. We’re all better off this way.

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