Uova in Brodetto (Pasta with Eggs Poached in Red Sauce)

The other night I pulled this dish out of my memory bank for a quick and easy meal. It is inspired by a dish called Uova in Brodetto: Eggs in Tomato Sauce by Mario Batali. I got this recipe from watching one of his old cooking shows. This is a bit of a variation on that original recipe since I just prepare it from memory. Either way the credit here goes to Mario, not me. For the dish you need:

Pasta of your choice– I think a wider pasta like papardelle works best because it catches the sauce better than thinner pasta.

Tomato sauce– Use your homemade recipe or a good store-bought sauce. I’ve done both but most recently used Trader Joe’s organic marinara.

Four eggs

Good-quality parmesan

Boil pasta to your desired tooth. While the pasta is cooking, bring the sauce to a simmer in a high-sided pan. Crack the eggs into the sauce. Do this gently in order to maintain the shape of the eggs. You want to keep the eggs evenly separated from each other with at least a couple inches between them. Cover and check often. As the eggs begin to become cooked, you can spoon some sauce over them. Keep cooking with the lid on. You want the eggs to cook to the point where the whites are solid but you have a liquid yoke.

To serve, put pasta in a dish and spoon one to two eggs on the bed of pasta. Add as much sauce as desired. Serve with rustic or garlic bread.

As you eat, the yolk will break into the sauce, creating a creamy and flavorful treat.

This is vegetarian (if you eat eggs, of course) and easily made gluten free by using GF pasta.

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Bar Ferdinand: Tops in Tapas

Sarah and I love tapas. Eating samples from multiple plates is our favorite way to eat. You can relax, take your time and enjoy the food, what you’re drinking and good conversation. A number of months ago we tried Bar Ferdinand in Northern Liberties. It was great and it had just opened recently. We went back a week ago and had an equally great, if not better experience.

First off, Bar Ferdinand is open late. They serve dinner until midnight and the bar is open until 2AM. What’s more, they have a late-night happy hour between 9PM and 11PM. Normally, this means $3 sangrias and $4 draught beers. The beer selection is very good, featuring Belgians and microbrews. The wine list is extensive with a nice amount of selections by the glass. One of the things we miss about New York is the ability to get good meals late in the evening. Bar Ferdinand satisfies this need for us.

On to the food.

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Chicken Soupy Rice (Arroz Asopado con Pollo)

When Sarah and I lived in Ridgewood, Queens, one of our favorite things to get at our local Puerto Rican or Dominican restaurants was the Chicken Soupy Rice. It was cheap and delicious, especially on winter nights. Sarah has come down with a cold, so I thought I would try my hand at a version off the cuff since we both have fond memories of curling up on the couch with soupy rice when we were sick in NYC.

The ingredients that I used:

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Fresh ginger, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)

2 shallots, chopped

2 sweet potatoes, diced

1/2 cup of snow peas, sliced

2 1/2 cups of chicken stock

1/4 cup of crushed tomatoes

2 chicken breasts, diced

Adobo seasoning


1 cup arborio rice

Salt and pepper to taste

Toss chicken with adobo seasoning and cinnamon.  (Marinate for an hour if you have the time.)  Saute chicken in a pan and set aside. In a pot, heat a few tablespoons of oil and add the garlic and ginger. After a couple of minutes add the shallot and saute for a few more minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the arborio rice and the snow peas. Saute for a minute or two. Pour in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low, add the crushed tomatoes, stir and cover. Simmer for about twenty minutes, stirring every few minutes to ensure that the rice does not stick. When the rice is done, add the chicken. At this point check the consistency. You want it to be thick but still soupy, somewhere between a stew and a soup. If it is too thick (as mine was), add some more stock and water to get it to the thickness that you desire. Simmer another minute or two and serve. I topped ours with some chopped green onion.

A very comforting meal to share with your loved one while geeking out in front of Star Trek:TNG DVDs.

This is gluten and dairy free. Just be sure to check the chicken stock that you buy. Some of it does contain gluten.

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Meatloaf with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

If you grew up in what the politicians call Middle America, you are no doubt familiar with meatloaf.  It’s usually mentioned as the height of culinary mediocrity, the unimaginative, badly cooked Tuesday night dinner of 1950s housewives.  The fifties did produce some horrible food in this country, no question: in fact, there’s an awesome web site that specializes in it.

But meatloaf gets a bad rap.  Yes, it’s disgusting if you’re just pouring ketchup over hamburger, but done property it can be a delicious, complex and comforting dish.  Give this simple recipe a try and tell me I’m wrong.

I used Alton Brown’s method for this meatloaf, but the ingredients are mine.  I should also, in the interests of full disclosure, admit that I really, really hate ketchup.  I realize that this is a shocking admission for a Pittsburgher, but it’s true.  I’ve never been able to stand it, my whole life.  I don’t know, maybe I was permanently scarred by those big vats of nasty they used to serve in the school cafeteria.  So instead of the traditional ketchup-and-Coke glaze, I’ve updated this meatloaf with a delicious spicy-sweet tomato sauce.  It’s got a bit of vinegar to make it tangy, like ketchup, but the taste is livelier and more complex than you get with ketchup.  Screw ketchup.

(I really wish I could stop typing this as “meatload.”)

For the meatloaf:

1 1/2 lbs ground beef* 

7 slices white bread, potato bread, or plain gluten-free bread (the Whole Foods GF sandwich bread works well)

1 small onion, chopped

3 whole cloves garlic

1 egg

1 pinch cayenne pepper

2 pinches sage (I used dried, but fresh would be better)

1 generous pinch salt

1 pinch fresh ground black pepper

For the glaze:

About 1 lb crushed tomatoes

1 tbsp garam masala

1 tbsp molasses

2 tsp red wine vinegar

*Alton recommends a mixture of chuck and sirloin; we used chuck from Haldeman’s Foods at the Reading Terminal Market.  Definitely use high-quality, fresh ground beef.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Tear up the bread and put it in the food processor with the sage, pepper and cayenne.  Blend until you have bread crumbs.  Empty into a bowl and put the chopped onion and garlic into the processor.  Don’t quite puree it– leave it a bit chunky.

In a large bowl, mix the onion mixture, the bread crumbs, the salt and the egg into the meat with your (clean, please) hands.   Mix thoroughly but don’t squeeze too hard.

Press the mixture into a 10-inch loaf pan to shape it, and then turn it out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Insert a probe thermometer into the meat at a 45-degree angle, so that the end of the probe is in the center of the meatloaf.  Set the thermometer to go off at 155 degrees, and bake.

In the meantime, heat the crushed tomatoes in a pan over medium heat.  Add the garam masala, vinegar and molasses and stir in.  Lower heat and bring slowly to a boil.  Turn off heat and let cool for a minute, then pour into a measuring cup or other good pouring vessel.  After the meatloaf has been cooking for ten minutes (by which time it should start to have a bit of a brown crust) pour the glaze onto it and brush it over the meatloaf so it’s covered.  Be generous- it’s okay to have a big thick layer on top.

When the center is at 155 degrees, take the meatloaf out and let it cool for a few minutes before slicing (a bread knife works well for this).  Serve with garlic mashed potatoes.

Joe’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes

5 smallish Yukon Gold potatoes

Olive oil

Truffle oil

2 cloves garlic

3 tbsp butter

Fresh herbs (we used parsley and sage), chopped finely

A splash of half-and-half (optional, for texture)

Peel, dice and boil the potatoes, then mash them in a bowl.  Add a splash of truffle oil, the butter, the half-and-half and the herbs.  In the meantime, slice the garlic and brown the slices in olive oil in a small pan.  When it starts to get brown, turn off the heat.  Drain the garlic oil into the potatoes.  Chop the garlic slices and fold into the potatoes.

By the way, the leftover meatloaf makes really good sandwiches– we made this with a week’s worth of lunches in mind!

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I was excited about this dish.  It’s a Puerto Rican side dish of African origin, basically a cake of fried plantains, chicharrones and garlic all mashed together and smothered in delicious tomato sauce.  When we lived in Ridgewood, Queens, we had a couple of Puerto Rican and Dominican places down the block that served wonderful, wonderful versions of this.  (If you’re in the area, try Jorge’s on Seneca Ave., right under the Seneca M stop.  It’s the one with the purple neon lights in the windows.)  You can also get it with chicken, or with whole garlicky shrimp on the side.  They’re all delicious, and in our neighborhood the going rate for a cake of mofongo bigger than the two of us could finish was about $3.50.  Did I mention it’s gluten free?  I must have eaten this stuff three times a week when I first went on the gluten-free diet.   We often had it on the side with some pollo a la plancha and rice and beans, but just as often we’d eat it on our own.  Filling! Cheap! Gluten-free!

Mofongo is probably the dish Joe and I have missed the most since moving to Philly.  We tried a $15 version at Mixto but were unimpressed, so we decided to make our own.  I looked up a couple of recipes but didn’t find anything quite like I remembered, so we decided to pretty much wing it.


3 green plantains, sliced diagonally

6 cloves garlic

1/2 cup crumbled chicharrones, fried fatback or bacon, cooked

Olive oil and salt to taste

Fry the plantain slices until they soften.  Crush garlic and grind in mortar and pestle with olive oil and salt.  Add all ingredients to food processor and pulse in short bursts until the plantains are in small pieces.  (Do not puree.  If it’s a paste, you’ve gone too far.)  Pack tightly into a bowl or small ramekins to shape.  Warm in oven on low heat until ready to serve.


3 cloves of garlic

2 Cups of chopped cherry tomatoes (I used green, yellow and red)

One medium onion chopped

Two chilli peppers or japalenos roasted, peeled, seeded and finely chopped. 

One cup of chicken stock

Four scallions chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a high-sided pan or pot on medium high heat. Add onion, saute for a couple of minutes. Add garlic and saute until soft but not brown. Add tomatoes and stir. Cook for a couple of minutes and add the scallions and chillies. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Add chicken stock. Increase heat to high. When it begins to bubble, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for another ten minutes. Use a stick blender or pour liquid into a blender. Blend until you have a thick but soupy consistency. Put back on stove on low heat and add salt and pepper to taste. At this point you could add a bit more stock if is is too thick. You want it to be easily pourable yet it should adhere to the mofongo.  Also, you can cut down on the chillies if you don’t want it blazing hot.

Our execution:

We bought three green plantains, but our first surprise was that two of them ripened really quickly.  OK, so we’d be unorthodox and mix green (savory) and yellow (sweet) plantains in our mofongo.  So far, so good.  Joe pounded some chicken cutlets flat, rubbed them with adobo seasoning and threw them on the grill.  He fried up some bacon and some fatback (since we can no longer just go to the corner butcher for a cone of hot chicharrones), and threw together a tomato sauce.

Meanwhile, I sliced the plantains and fried them until they got soft and a little bit brown.  Then I attempted to mash them with a masher, but they just got stuck in the grooves of the masher, so I threw them in the Cuisinart with the pork.  I muddled some garlic, olive oil and salt with the mortar and pestle and threw that in as well.  A few pulses later, it looked like mofongo.  It smelled like mofongo.  And it tasted like mofongo.  Score!

Since we didn’t really have a good mold for a big mofongo cake, I pressed the mixture into ramekins to make little single-serving cakes.  We served them piled with Joe’s improvised tomato sauce and some chopped fresh scallions, and the chicken, for a bright and colorful meal.  (Sadly, my camera ran out of batteries!) The sauce was much, much spicier than the thin, savory sauce we loved in Ridgewood, and the plantains were sweeter.  It wasn’t exactly like the Ridgewood version, but it was damn tasty.

And then I had a nasty allergic reaction, the details of which I’ll spare you.  I have a long history of negative and scary interactions between my immune system and my gut and have been diagnosed with all sorts of things (see the FAQ for a Cliffs Notes version), and this was the first bad experience I’ve had since my recent stay in the hospital.  I made it through half a serving of mofongo and then was pretty much destroyed for the night.  I’m not sure which ingredient declared war on my body, but I’ll definitely be discussing this at my next doctor’s appointment.

But!  The good news: if you’re not a freak like me, this dish is quite tasty, and much easier to make than I expected it to be. 

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Beef Korma with Pooris

Between traveling and convalescing, I haven’t had the time or energy to cook a Madhur Jaffrey recipe in a while.  I’ve been looking forward to getting back to it.  I finally managed to do a beef korma last night, although my cooking skills were rusty– it took a while to get back into my comfort zone!  I’m going to try to do fewer heavy meat dishes like this… but I’m only human, and korma is good.

I thawed stew meat with the intention of making beef roganjosh again, but when I got home from work I realized I was missing a few key ingredients, and of course the store was already closed.  Joe had prepped ingredients already, so I decided to do beef korma, which uses similar ingredients.  It worked, mostly.  I also decided to leave the little metal spoons in their drawer.  I haven’t done this precise dish before, but I have done it with chicken, so I have some familiarity with the process.

The recipe has you brown some onions for garnish, then remove them and brown the meat in the onion-flavored oil, then make the sauce and put the meat back into it to simmer.  You’re supposed to chop the onion into half rings for browning, but Joe had prepped for roganjosh so the onions were very finely chopped.  I decided to go ahead and brown them, which worked beautifully until it came time to take them out of the oil.  I had a really hard time catching them all and fishing them out before they could burn– important, because you don’t want burnt onions all through your meat.  I ended up pouring a bit of hot oil on my hand and then dropping an entire bowl into the pan!  Yeah.  Off my game, people, seriously.  Don’t ask me to operate any heavy machinery.

After I got the sauce ready to go, I added the meat back into the pan to simmer.  At this point, Jaffrey says to simmer it for half an hour, add the almond-pecan paste, and then give it another 25-30 minutes.  But I’d halved the recipe; I was using beef rather than lamb; and I was hungry and ready to watch Eureka, so I decided to play the simmering time by ear.  I ended up simmering for 20 minutes, adding the nut paste, and giving it another 10.  The beef ended up a little tough, though, so I guess I jumped the gun a bit.  The sauce, however, turned out really delicious.

Joe made poori dough while I was at work, so after I got things simmering, he started heating the oil and I started kneading the dough.  We learned last time we made pooris that it’s best not to roll them out too thin– about four inches, five at most, does the trick.  This time, we learned that speed is key during frying.  If you aren’t quick enough at turning the pooris once they puff, they’ll overcook and become crispy.  Joe mastered the technique about three pooris in, and this was probably the best batch we’ve made since the first time.  I’m totally amazed at how well certain dishes are complemented by specific breads.  Eating pooris with a beef dish like this has an effect similar to eating a good piece of cheese with just the right wine– the flavors of both are enhanced more than you’d ever suspect. 


-If you’re going to use stew meat, the simmering time matters.  Hmm, I know it works for dal but I’m not sure about beef… would this be a job for our friend Mr. Pressure Cooker?  Or would he do strange things to the meat?  I’m totally inexperienced with pressure cookers.  Readers?

-Speed matters when frying pooris.  Don’t hesitate to flip them the second they puff.

-Try not to spill hot oil on yourself.  Also, avoid dropping things into hot oil.

-Do not grab at things randomly and accidentally cause balls of dough to scatter everywhere, or your wife will become cranky.  Right, Joe? 🙂

-Pay attention to food/bread pairings.  It’s been my experience, in my limited explorations of Indian cuisine, that people have strong opinions and traditions about which breads go with which dishes.  Those pairings exist for a reason, and serving the correct bread with a dish really does make a difference to the flavors of both.

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Kheema, moong dal and chapatis

Back to the book! I made three recipes from the Jaffrey cookbook for dinner last night: kheema, a spiced ground beef dish; moong dal, a classic North Indian lentil recipe; and chapatis, a simple bread which I’ve done a few times before. Jaffrey recommends this combination, and I can see why– the flavors mingled really well together. Also, they’re both simple and good for leftovers, so we’re pretty much set for next week’s lunches now.

The dal has to simmer for an hour and a half, the kheema has to simmer for an hour, and the chapati dough has to rise for at least 30 minutes, so I made the dishes in that order.

The dal recipe is actually incredibly easy. I’ve made some fairly complicated dals in my time. When I first went on a gluten-free diet after being misdiagnosed with celiac disease, I was totally broke and didn’t know what was safe to eat, and pretty much survived the first month on dal and rice. It’s nutritionally fantastic and very versatile, but it can be an intricate pain to make. Not so much this dal. Anyone with a pot, a pan and an hour and a half can pretty much do this one with their eyes closed.

Get yourself some moong dal. The lentils should be split open, dark green on the outside and light yellow on the inside. Put 10 oz. in a pot with two pints of water, and boil. Clean the scum off the top with a strainer. Throw in a few cloves of garlic, some ginger (no need to chop), turmeric, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and chopped cilantro or parsley if you have it (I didn’t). Turn down the heat, cover but leave a little vent open, and leave it for an hour and a half, stirring every ten minutes or so. Try to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. I was sure, initially, that this would run out of moisture, but it didn’t. About ten minutes before it’s done, throw in one lemon’s worth of juice and some salt. Then, right before service, melt ghee in a pan– about 3 tbsp– and put in a pinch of asafetida and an equal amount of whole cumin seeds. When the asafetida starts to snap-crackle-pop, pour the whole thing into the dal. Sprinkle with a handful of fried onions and serve immediately, with a lemon wedge on the side.

While that’s simmering: kheema. I halved the recipe, because two pounds of ground beef is too much for two people. This has both warm spices and a bit of heat. First, you need to fry some onion half-rings, because both this recipe and the dal are finished with them. Just put them in hot oil and keep stirring until they get nice and brown. You don’t want them to burn. Make sure you start taking them out of the pan just before they are done, because these little suckers are slippery and you don’t want them burning while you’re still struggling to get them out of the pan.

Keep the oil from the onions. Throw in two bay leaves, a cinnamon stick and six cloves. Once the leaves change color, throw in a finely chopped onion, three cloves chopped garlic and a spoonful of chopped ginger (I admit it, I used the emergency ginger jar). Keep those going until things are just barely starting to brown, then add your classic North Indian spice mix– ground cumin, coriander seeds and turmeric. Mix and fry. Then add a tablespoon of plain yogurt and stir that in very quickly. Give that a minute, then put in one chopped tomato. Fresh would be great, but I was out so I used canned chopped tomato, which actually works beautifully and even gives a slightly more consistent texture. Next time I use fresh, I think I’ll run it through the food processor!

Give that a few minutes, then add the meat, chop it all up with your flipper, mix well with the sauce and let it start to brown. Then add your warm spices: mace, nutmeg, cayenne and salt, plus a few ounces of water. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat, and simmer for an hour, stirring every ten minutes or so. If you are not making chapatis, what you can do at this point is go zone out in front of Law & Order, and get up at every commercial break to go and stir your pots. (I know, it’s an awful show, but I’m addicted. You never know what character actor will show up– Aasif Mandvi was on last night! Aasif– if you’re reading– call me!) About halfway through the simmering, put the fried onions in (reserving some to top the dal) and stir. That’s it.

Now for the chapatis. I was worried about having enough time, so I had Joe do most of the kheema prep while I kneaded chapati dough. I needn’t have worried– I had time to spare, as it turned out. Chapatis are the easiest Indian bread I’ve tried– spelt flour and water in about equal parts, knead for 8 minutes, let rise for half an hour. Knead again, divide into 8 balls. Roll each ball into about a 5-6 inch circle, flouring all the while. To cook, put the chapatis, one at a time, on your very hot tava or cast iron pan. Once they solidify and start to get brown, grab with tongs and hold over an open flame until they puff. Brush with a bit of butter, and repeat with the next chapati. These ones came out fluffier than previous chapatis– we had some excellent puffing action this time.

All this should be served with rice, by the way. We still had some of this rice left over, so we tossed it in the microwave and it went perfectly.

So: rice, kheema, dal with a lemon wedge and fried onions, chapatis, Wild Goose IPA. Both the kheema and dal had a kick to them, more so than a lot of the food I’ve made from the Jaffrey book so far. Joe and I found our sinuses clearing by the end of the meal, but it wasn’t so hot that the flavors were disguised. We were amazed at how well the flavors complemented each other.

I wasn’t sure I’d like this dal. When I was growing up, most of the veggies we ate were of the frozen-microwaved variety or the slimy-okra variety, and I didn’t like them one bit. My stepbrothers still tease me about the time I gagged over a bowl of peas. It’s only recently, under the tutelage of a former-vegetarian husband and Indian vegetable-eating friends, that I’ve started learning to like my vegetables. (My friend Gagan’s mom’s okra blew my mind.) But I’m still a bit leery about anything green and savory. So when I was cooking these lentils, and they were very green with lots of brown liquid, and they smelled sort of pea-like, I was worried. But once I added the spiced ghee, I started to relax. And by the time it got to my plate, I was thrilled. The vegetable-ness of the lentils is balanced with the richness of the ghee, the heat from the spices, the tang of the lemon juice and the sweetness of the fried onions. The lemon juice, in particular, really made the flavors from the spices bright and vivid. There’s a lot going on in this deceptively simple dish, and I have to say that I am now looking forward to eating this particular vegetable. I hope you’re reading this, Mom!

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Red Joe said…
This was a great dish on Saturday. I just had some for lunch today and it was AMAZING! The flavors of the spices, in particular the asafetida, really come out more than they did before. It is hot but very flavorful with a pleasant bitter after taste. A real winner. I’ll be requesting this one for a while.
July 9, 2007 12:24 PM