Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Swiss Chard and Sausage Rigatoni + Real Talk

I am going to get real here. I am sorry, you can skip to the recipe if you want.

I don't mind.

Derek has been gone since the middle of September. He came back for two weeks for Christmas and we try to talk everyday. I am going to see him in 62 days (for two weeks). That is it.

Then he is coming home in 143 days. 

I miss him more than I can say.

I am totally a modern woman. I am self-sufficient, someone who manages people (in small numbers), organizes travel, and drives long distances alone. I have lived alone, travelled abroad alone, and worked in foreign countries. I do not think of myself as co-dependent. Derek and I have totally done this before too. He spent a year in Germany while I was in graduate school in Denver. 

Somehow this year is different. Derek is gone and I am empty. I get home from work and the house is empty. There are no cuddles in the bed before I go to sleep (except with the kitten, but that is a different story). Everything is very empty. 

I feel like I should not feel sorry for myself. I have a great home, wonderful friends, a great family, an awesome job, and a very cuddly stripped kitten. I also get to have a full time Derek in just 143 days, tons of people are not so lucky. It's just that I am missing my love always.

When I busy with friends, work, and sewing it not a big deal. When I am not busy it is easy to be a little sad. 

Sorry for the pity party. 

Now for a recipe. This dinner makes me happy, in a way only food can. Derek loves this dinner too. 

It is really easy and fast. Perfect happy food, plus if you use rainbow chard you get to eat a cheerful rainbow, which is nice on a cloudy day. 

Swiss Chard and Sausage Rigatoni
Extensively modified from an old Real Simple cookbook
Serves 4

1 pound dried rigatoni (penne or ziti would work too)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound chorizo or hot italian sausage*
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 14.5 ounce can of vegetable broth
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Boil water with plenty of salt and cook the pasta al dente according to the directions, about a minute less than the package directions. 

2. In a large non-stick frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook it all of the way, about 7 minutes. Spoon off and discard the excess fat. 

Cooking the pork. This is the best pork ever.
3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Then add the broth and red pepper flakes and bring them to a boil. Then, add the swiss chard, cover, and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the butter and pasta to the sauce and stir until combined. 

Yes, I have a kitty cat spatula. It makes me smile.
Pork Sauce!
Swiss Chard and pork sauce.
4. With the lid off stir the pasta and the sauce until the sauce thickens and some of the broth boils off. Stir in the parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. 

Now it is time to stir.
Pasta combined!
5. Serve. No cheese on top. This has plenty of cheese already.

Dinner. Wine. Always.
*Please buy locally raised and antibiotic free pork. Smithfield is the devil. 

Pork from here

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Swiss Chard and Winter (in a manner of speaking)

Is that swiss chard in that sandwich? Brilliant.
It is winter here in North Carolina.

Winter is hiding just like the fuzz (sorry couldn't resist posting this picture).
Well, that is not exactly true. It would be more accurate for me to say it is February in North Carolina.  Winter implies a certain amount of cold miserable weather, which has just not happened. I am okay with that. I have decided that if I can not ski I do not care for winter. All it does is kill my favorite vegetables.

Except this year it has not! I mean, I am not eating tomatoes or anything, but certain winter greens have been coming to the farmer's market every week (that's right, we hippies in the south have a year round farmer's market). It is certainly not the bounty we get in summer. In February, I will take it.

I have many favorite winter vegetables. I love carrots, brussels sprouts, squash, and I have even developed a soft spot for kale (prepared properly). My favorite is swiss chard.

Reasons swiss chard is kick a** (this blog is PG, sort of):
1. It is beautiful (I know it comes in rainbow and plain, as with most things, I prefer rainbow). I love bright colors and this is one vegetable that can give me that in spades.

Rainbow Chard! I have no idea why my cell phone is right there. I am probably checking Facebook or something else essential. A glimpse into my fascinating life.
2. It is versatile. Soup, gratin, tossed with pasta, sauteed with [insert favorite seasonings here], and many other applications all taste wonderful.

3. It makes me feel healthy. I know that chard is not healthy when doused in cream, covered in cheese, or cooked with olive oil, but a girl can convince herself otherwise. This is a vegetable. Healthy.

Garlicky Swiss Chard Grilled Cheese
Serves 2 to 4 depending on how much chard you get

1 Bunch of Swiss Chard (I like rainbow, but it really does not matter)
2 cloves garlic
Olive oil
Bread (I prefer sourdough sandwich bread, but a whole grain bread would be healthier and anything will really do)
Cheddar Cheese (I like a sharp white cheddar, but make it your own!)

1. Remove the swiss chard from the stems and roughly chop it into approximately 2 inch square pieces. Peel and chop up the garlic cloves. If you are a better person than me chop up your stems and use them too. I am going to save these for something else because I do not like the texture in the sandwich.

Tasty chard and so beautiful
2. Heat a heavy pan to medium heat with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the chard, garlic, and a pinch of salt in the heated pan. Stir to get everything combined. Cook for about 1 minute like this then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook this way until the chard is tender and droopy (about 5 minutes). These will need longer if you added the stems. Remove the lid and let all of the water cook off. Take the chard out of the pan, but leave the pan on the heat.
3. Take two slices of bread and butter one side. You can be as generous or stingy as you would like here. I try and straddle a very fine line between gluttonous and boring. More butter = more crusty deliciousness.

Buttering bread. What's that Sarah, an apple cider? I am going to start calling it chef juice (thanks Gilmore Girls).

4. Slice your cheddar to taste and place it on the unbuttered side of one of your bread slices. Cover this cheese with a generous handful of chard. Add the other slice of buttered bread on top (butter up). Repeat process with all of the sandwiches you wish to make.

Assembling sandwich.
5. Put this sandwich on the heavy pan. No grease necessary, remember the butter. Cook until the bottom is golden brown and the cheese has started to melt. Sometimes I use the lid for part of this time to speed up the cheese melting. Flip the sandwiches and do the same for the other side.

Sandwiches in the pan.
6. Remove and serve with tomato soup, roasted potatoes, by themselves, the world is your oyster.

Served with roasted potatoes. Winter dinner. Done. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

I finished my Mom's birthday quilt

I just needed to share these pictures because they make me so happy! Feel free to ignore the glimpses of my neighbors house and my crazy yard.

This was the secret project I alluded to about a month ago. The colors are inspired by the winter sunrise as I see it through my rearview mirror while driving to work. Do you see it? Maybe not...

I love you Mom!
I cut, sewed, quilted, and embroidered. Now it is done. It is warm and soft and I hope she loves it as much as I do.

This is hard to see, but the back is pieced from some of the same colors  as the front.. Also, yes I have a traffic cone in my back yard, no I did not steal it. Uh, if you do not know my neighborhood it is a little hard to explain. Can I just say it is interesting?
I put a lot of love into this quilt, now it is off in the Portland wilds. Second quilt done!