Pasta alla Genovese

This is one of those recipes that doesn’t necessarily make total sense but from what I understand, this is a classic dish in Liguria (which is on the NW coast of Italy). It mixes potatoes with pasta and is definitely not for the “no/low carb” diet. But I am telling you, once you taste it, the dish makes total sense. And trust that the green beans will help you take comfort in the fact that you are eating your veggies. The combination of pesto, potatoes, pasta, and green beans creates a perfect symphony of flavors.

I have made this quite a few times and will continue to make it in the future. This is a recipe I found in Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Kitchen cookbook. Because of my preference for arugula pesto over basil pesto, I swapped out the basil in the original recipe for an arugula/spinach mix. I also tend to prefer whole wheat pastas, so I used that instead of the regular linguine she called for. And please remember to save your pasta water! I am so notorious for forgetting and it really does make a big difference when you use it. I generally add a little olive oil and freshly grated parmesan cheese on top of each serving bowl.

Pasta all Genovese with potatoes, green beans, and pesto
Adapted from Nigella Kitchen cookbook

Ingredients

1 pound large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch slices, each slice quartered into chunks
1 pound whole wheat linguine
7 oz green/French green beans, trimmed and cut in half

for pesto:
5 cups arugula/spinach mix, lightly packed
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup of olive oil (give or take)

Directions

Put the prepared potato chunks into a large pot with enough salted water to take the pasta later, and bring to a boil.

Cook the potatoes until tender (about 20 minutes) and then add the pasta. At about 4 minutes before the pasta is cooked, add the green beans. (at this point you have the potatoes, pasta, and green beans cooking in the same pot together)

While this is cooking, place the arugula/spinach mix, Parm, and garlic in a food processor and whiz away. Once processed, slowly add the olive oil until you get to a nice thin consistency. Taste and add salt/pepper as needed.

Before draining the pot of boiling potatoes, pasta, and green beans, reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water. Put the drained potatoes, beans, and pasta back in the pot. Add the pesto and enough pasta water to give it a runny sauce and combine thoroughly. Take a final taste, and adjust salt/pepper seasonings as necessary.

Place in serving bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil and grated Parm.

 

 

Kafta Meatball Tagine

I don’t know about you, but it strikes me as odd that the first time I blog about Kafta, I do a Moroccan version and not a Lebanese version. I’ve just been intrigued about how this would taste ever since I saw a version of it prepared on TV. I recently learned that a “tagine” does not just refer to the clay cooking pot with the cone-shaped lid. It also refers to any type of dish that is classically prepared in it as well.

The only similarity between the Moroccan and Lebanese versions is that ground meat, onion, salt, and pepper are involved. Traditional Lebanese Kafta is made with ground meat, parsley, onion, allspice, salt, and pepper. The allspice and parsley give it a completely different flavor profile from the paprika in this version. And that’s just the meatballs, once you add in the egg it takes it to another level.

As always, I used ground turkey instead of ground beef because it lightens things up…and frankly I prefer the flavor. What’s really cool is that when you add the egg in at the end and mix it in, the yolk gives the sauce a rich creaminess that you wouldn’t even get from adding milk/cream. I chose to serve this with couscous but it would also be really good with pita bread or rice instead.

Oh, and last note, I do not own a tagine so I just prepared this in a pan. You can use a dutch oven, skillet, whatever…as long as it is at least 2 inches deep.

Kafta Meatball “Tagine”

Meatballs
1 lb ground dark turkey or beef
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion finely diced
1/2 tsp sweet paprika (I used Hungarian)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Tomato Sauce
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp chopped parsley
3 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
28oz can pureed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
4 large eggs

Directions

For the meatballs: Combine the ground turkey, olive oil, onions, paprika, salt and pepper together. Roll into 1-inch balls and set aside until needed.

For the sauce: Saute the garlic and onions with the extra-virgin olive oil on low heat in a Dutch oven or deep pan/skillet. Cook until slightly translucent, and then add the parsley, paprika, cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another minute or two. Add the canned tomatoes, turn up the heat to medium, and cook for about 5 minutes until almost boiling. Place the meatballs on top of the sauce and cook for 5 minutes. Stir the meatballs into the sauce and cook for 30 minutes on low heat. Break the eggs on top of the meat and sauce. Gently stir to break the eggs up into the meat and sauce. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until eggs are cooked, stirring occasionally. Serve with couscous, rice, or pita bread.

Arugula and Eggplant Salad and Pomegranate Dressing

I had this salad for the first time in Lebanon last year. We had gone to visit family and generally the first week or so we stay away from any raw fruits and vegetables. We were invited to my aunt’s house for a delicious lunch one day. I don’t know if it I loved this so much because this was the first raw veg I had in a week or because the combination of flavors was so delicious. I’d like to think it was both because when I made this salad again back home, it was just as delicious as I remembered. The tartness of the dressing, the bite from the raw onion, the creaminess of the eggplant, the spiciness of the arugula, and the saltiness from the olives. I think the only thing missing here was a sweet flavor!

This recipe originated from a Lebanese cookbook author, Marlene Matar (which I didn’t even realize until after I had made the salad from memory recently).

I chose to pan fry the eggplant with a little bit of oil but you could just as easily throw the slices on a grill/grill pan or bake them in the oven. Some other great additions to the salad would be some fresh mint and oregano. I didn’t have any at the time but that would add even more flavor to it. Just go sparingly on the fresh oregano as it is strong.

The pomegranate syrup is something I brought back from Lebanon, made fresh by a local grocer’s family. But I’m sure you can find this online or at a local middle eastern market. If you don’t have the pomegranate syrup, I would suggest using a really good, aged balsamic vinegar in place of the pomegranate syrup. I bet that would be delicious as it would add a slight sweetness to the dressing.

Ingredients

3 small eggplant (or 2 medium)
5-6 cups of arugula
2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley (roughly chopped)
1/4 red onion sliced very thin
10 black/calamata olives, pits removed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp pomegranate syrup (dibs el rimman)
1 tsp hot water
salt/pepper to taste

Directions

Heat a nonstick pan on medium-high heat. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into about 1/4 inch slices. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place a 4-5 slices at a time into the pan (or on grill pan) and cook for about 3 minutes per side until light golden brown. Remove from pan and place onto a plate and sprinkle with a little salt. Repeat the above steps until all eggplant is cooked. The eggplant is served at room temperature so don’t worry about keeping them hot.

Mix pomegranate syrup, hot water, a pinch of salt & pepper, and olive oil in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Place arugula and parsley in a mixing bowl and toss with dressing. Arrange eggplant around the outside of a serving dish or bowl. Place salad in the middle and top with onion and olives.

The best meal in Paris…

Well, it’s about time I tell you a little about our trip to Paris in April. I’ve always loved Paris…once I even had an 8 hour layover at Charles de Gaulle airport and took a bus into the city to get a quick fix before boarding a plane back home. How cool that you can just run into the city for a few hours on your way from one city to another?

This is a city where you could spend hours walking around just looking at the architecture and smelling the fresh baked breads and pastries wafting throughout the streets. While I had been to Paris before, I had never been with Mark. How amazing would it be to experience the city of love with someone I love?

We always get our food research in before our trips. We look on the web, check out where Anthony Bourdain went, NY Times reviews, etc. Funny enough, the best meal we had there wasn’t planned at all.

Les Papilles was a restaurant that Mark had seen on online when we got there. It had great reviews and after our lunch of Croque Monsieurs and salad, we decided to walk by and take a look. The owner was very welcoming and was was able to squeeze us in for an 8pm seating for dinner that night.

We had no idea what kind of treat we had in store! They do prix fixe 4 course menus that change daily. I don’t think we could have picked a better day to go.

Inside, the tables are close together but it was such a convivial atmosphere that it didn’t matter. Plus, you become so enthralled in what you are eating that you barely hear what’s going on at the next table. You kind of feel swept away in the experience. We would see people come in constantly asking if there was a table available only to be turned away because all seatings were reserved that night. Must be a good sign right?

They started off with a tureen of cauliflower soup with a ladle. Each of our bowls had shredded raw cauliflower, creme fraiche, bacon, chives, fried parsley, and croutons. The various textures and flavors were so comforting and delicious and warmed us to the bone. It was incredible. They gave us a generous amount of soup but we had to stop ourselves from finishing it so that we had room for the rest.

The main course was what rocked my world and what I dream about since then. Seared and roasted duck breast with potatoes, carrots, snap peas, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and a decadent sauce. I’m sure butter played a big part in it but they managed to somehow keep it from being too heavy. This dish transcended anything that I can ever remember having. There was a familiarity to it but it was elevated by such a depth of flavor. The duck was cooked perfectly. I mean, look at the picture. Doesn’t it LOOK amazing? If anyone can tell me how to make this dish please do! I haven’t tried to recreate it because I’m not sure that I can.

After the duck, we had a cheese course of bleu cheese and jam followed by an apple panna cotta with caramel foam for dessert. That dessert was heavenly.

Ahhh, Europe always ruins restaurants for me back home. Barcelona was where it all started. The food, the people, the experience…nothing like it. And I’m sorry Paris, but Barcelona still ranks as my top spot. But Paris comes in at a very close second.

Zucchini Carpaccio with Avocados and Pistachios

This is one of those recipes that looks too simple to be as good as it is. Something about the combination of flavors and the addition of the salty pistachios brings it to another level. I made this twice. The first time for some friends a couple of weeks ago. And then about three times the amount last weekend for family.

Let me just go ahead and tell you that trying to make this in large quantities somehow doesn’t work as well. It’s harder to make it look pretty by layering the zucchini and avocado. In hindsight, I would have cut the zucchini and avocado in smaller pieces to allow the dressing salt to really hit every bite you take. The thin slices of zucchini can be delicate so you want to be careful when mixing the dressing in and working it through with your hands. Another thing that probably played a part in it being not so perfect the second time was that I used large zucchinis, not realizing the recipe calls for 4oz each. So I likely had double the amount of zucchini without making enough dressing to accommodate them. So pay close attention to that if you decide to make this. Just make more dressing if you can only find large zucchini. I didn’t use the pistachio oil because I couldn’t find it, so I used extra virgin olive oil. I can only imagine how much more flavorful this would have been with pistachio oil.

Most of the people that had this haven’t really eaten zucchini in it’s raw state. And if you haven’t, this should be a nice surprise. You will have a lot of lemon salt left. You can use the remainder in pastas, sauteed vegetables, etc.

Zucchini Carpaccio with Avocados and Pistachios
Recipe from Patricia Wells’ Cookbook “Salad as a Meal”

Lemon Zest Salt:

1 tablespoon lemon zest, preferably organic
1 tablespoon fine sea salt

Combine the lemon zest and salt in a spice grinder, and grind into a fine powder (i used a mortar and pestle). Transfer to a small jar and close the lid. (Store, sealed in the jar, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. After that the lemon flavor will begin to fade.)

Salad Ingredients:

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Lemon Zest Salt
3 tablespoons best-quality pistachio oil (such as Leblanc) or extra-virgin olive oil
4 small, fresh zucchini (about 4oz each) rinsed and trimmed at both ends
1 large ripe avocado
1/2 cup salted pistachios
Leaves from 4 fresh lemon thyme or regular thyme sprigs, with flowers if possible
Sea Salt (or Fleur de Sel)

Directions

In a small jar with a lid, combine the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon Lemon Zest Salt. Cover with the lid and shake to blend. Add the oil and shake to blend.

With a mandoline, vegetable peeler, or very sharp chef’s knife slice the zucchini lengthwise as thin as possible.

Arrange the slices on a platter and pour the dressing over them. Tilt the platter back and forth to coat the slices evenly (you probably need to get your hands in there to make sure they are all coated). Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, so the zucchini absorbs the dressing and does not dry out.

Halve, pit, and peel the avocado, and cut it lengthwise into very thin slices. Carefully arrange the slices of marinated zucchini on individual salad plates, alternating with the avocado slices, slightly overlapping them. Sprinkle with the pistachio nuts. Garnish with the thyme leaves and flowers and fleur de sel. Serve.

 

Ragu Bolognese

ragu bolognese

I found this recipe months ago in Bon Appetit magazine for Ragu Bolognese. It looked so delicious and authentic. This is one of those Sunday dinners that takes at least a couple of hours to make.

This sauce is the real deal. Lots of simmering, stirring, and (of course) tasting. The recipe calls for a mix of ground beef and veal. I know I took a classic and probably ruined it in some people’s eyes…but I used ground dark turkey instead. Worry not though, I did still use the pancetta!

At this point, most people know I’m not the biggest red meat eater. I’ll have some every now and then but if I can make a dish using ground turkey, then I will typically do it. BUT, I do love cured meats…prosciutto, salami, pancetta, etc. Strange that I eat cured meats and not a steak? Maybe. It works for me though….So, there it is. Believe me, this dish does not suffer for having ground turkey. There is such a complexity in the flavors that develops over the hours of cooking. If you want to do the veal and beef combo I included the amounts in directions below.

And bonus, this recipe calls for wine so, if you’re like me, you’ll pour yourself a glass to enjoy while you stir, simmer, and taste…

(Not so Classic) Ragu Bolognese
adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 celery stalks, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 carrots, peeled, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 pound ground dark organic/natural turkey
3 oz. thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 cups (about) chicken stock, divided
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole milk
1 lb. tagliatelle or fettuccine (preferably fresh egg)
Finely grated Parmesan (for serving)

Directions

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots. Sauté until soft, 8-10 minutes. Add turkey and pancetta (if using beef and veal, use 6oz of each and make sure the beef is 85% lean); sauté, breaking up with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add wine; boil 1 minute, stirring often and scraping up browned bits. Add 2 1/2 cups stock (you could use beef stock if using ground beef/veal) and tomato paste; stir to blend. Reduce heat to very low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring milk to a simmer in a small saucepan; gradually add to sauce. Cover sauce with lid slightly ajar and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until milk is absorbed, about 45 minutes, adding more stock by 1/4-cupfuls to thin if needed.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta (I used tagliatelle) and cook, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute before al dente. Add pasta to the pot that contains the ragù with tongs, pasta server, etc. I say this because it will ensure that you have additional pasta water to use if needed. I can’t tell you how many times I drain my pasta and forget to save some pasta water. So frustrating when that happens!

Stir in some of the reserved pasta water by tablespoonfuls if sauce seems dry. Divide pasta among plates and grate Parmesan on top.

 

 

Pesto chicken, panzanella, and peanut butter pie

This recipe idea came to me from Saveur magazine. The first thing that I thought was “Great! I can use up the rest of the pesto I have left in the refrigerator!” Of course, I went to smell the pesto and realized it had better days. Since I still had it in my mind to make it, I went ahead and made a small batch of walnut basil pesto.

Doesn’t pesto grilled chicken and panzanella salad scream summer to you? Fresh flavors, cooking outdoors…

That was going to be all I was planning to make that night, but as I read more blogs about a fellow blogger’s (Jennie Perillo) husband Mikey, I felt that I had to make peanut butter pie. I had never even read her blog and didn’t know her or her husband. But the story of his sudden heart attack sent shock waves through the food blog community. She blogged about his death and how she kept telling herself she was going to make him a peanut butter pie (his favorite) and didn’t get around to it. She asked everyone to make a peanut butter pie and share it with someone you love.

I have never felt inclined to make one before, but I made it…and Sophie licked the spoon many times. Mark and I ate some that night…then my brother and his girlfriend had some with us the next night.  There was more to last a few more days. So that pie spread a lot of love and calories for days! You can go here to get the recipe for the pie. Note, I used half the sugar and about 3/4 of the condensed milk and it was really sweet like that. So, maybe add little by little and taste as you go to see how much you want to add.

Pesto chicken and panzanella
adapted from Saveur

1 3- to 4-lb. chicken, cut into 6 pieces
3/4 cup pesto (i made a walnut basil pesto)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1-lb. loaf country-style white bread, cut into 1 1/2″ slices
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
2 cups packed baby arugula
1/2 cup oil-cured black olives
1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 small cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Instructions

I bought my chicken already cut up so that I didn’t have to worry about messing with that. Using your fingers, loosen skin from meat on chicken and spread 1/2 cup pesto in between skin and meat. Transfer chicken to a baking sheet and season generously with salt and pepper (on top of and under the skin); set aside.

Make the panzanella: Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high. (Alternatively, arrange an oven rack 4″ from broiler element and heat broiler to high.) Brush bread slices with oil and toss tomatoes and bell pepper with 2 tbsp. oil; season all with salt and pepper. Place bread and vegetables on grill and cook, turning as needed, until bread is toasted and tomatoes begin to burst, about 5 minutes. Remove bread and tomatoes, and continue cooking bell pepper until it is charred all over, about 7 minutes more. Let pepper cool, and then peel and remove seeds; thinly slice and transfer to a large bowl along with tomatoes, arugula, olives, parsley, onion, and cucumber. Cut bread slices into 1 1/2″ cubes and add to salad.

Heat grill to 425°. Place chicken skin side down on grill and cook, covered and turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165°, about 25 minutes. Rub with remaining pesto and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165°, about 5 minutes more. (Alternatively, heat an oven to 475°, and cook chicken, skin side up, for 25 minutes; rub with remaining pesto and cook until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°.) Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil; rest for 20 minutes.

To serve, whisk together remaining oil, vinegar, roasted garlic, lemon juice, and zest in a small bowl; pour over bread salad, toss to combine, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer panzanella to a large serving platter, and place chicken over top; pour any juices that accumulated on the plate over salad.

S’mores Cookies (Whole Wheat)

I can’t seem to find the time to do anything outside of work and getting this new house in order. I’m learning how to maneuver around this new kitchen (with less counter space), new appliances (new to me, not “new”), etc. And now that my 19 month old daughter is running all over the place, it is twice as hard to cook AND take pictures of the process while making sure that she isn’t getting into something she shouldn’t be.

I’m embarrassed to say that I record Yo Gabba Gabba on the DVR and play them for her so that I can actually get something done. I swore she wouldn’t watch tv until she was 2 and then I broke that rule a long time ago.

This past Saturday was the first time I cooked a meal in the new kitchen. I made a delicious chicken spetzatino and some whole wheat s’mores cookies. Why not go from cooking nothing to cooking dinner AND dessert at the same time? All or nothing. That’s how I like to roll!

These cookies were really quite good. I honestly had low expectations because when I make dessert, I just go all out since I don’t make them that often. I was looking through Bon Appetit’s website and came across their ‘healthy’ section. I saw these cookies and thought, why not? I didn’t put the words “Whole Wheat” in the title because I thought that might detract most people from checking this out. But trust me, they are good. I left out the walnuts because I don’t like nuts in my cookies.

When you mix the dry and wet ingredients together, it gets really hard at the end because it seems dry. I added a little more buttermilk to help the stirring process. Next time I make these, I will mix them in the KitchenAid Stand Mixer.

Whole Wheat S’mores Cookies
adapted from Bon Appetit

3 cups whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon robust-flavored (dark) molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 9 ounces)
1 cup mini marshmallows
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 3 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in large bowl. Whisk eggs, buttermilk, molasses, and vanilla extract in medium bowl; whisk in butter. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients, stirring until dough is evenly moistened. Stir in chocolate chips, marshmallows, and nuts (if using).

Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, spacing about 3 inches apart (about 12 cookies per sheet). Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until golden brown, dry to touch, but still slightly soft, about 15 minutes. I used a medium sized ice cream scoop and made larger cookies. I used the same baking time (15 minutes) and they turned out great. Let cookies cool on sheets 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool (cookies will firm up).

 

Mushroom Ragu with Polenta

June has begun and we have been so wrapped up in trying to sell/rent our townhouse and buy a new house. It’s been hard enough to find the time to cook, much less photograph and write about it.

This is a dish we recently made and it was too delicious to keep it to myself. The mushrooms in this ragu give the dish such a heartiness that you don’t miss the meat at all. The polenta gives it an extra lusciousness without making it too heavy. This will appeal to vegetarians and “meatarians” alike!

The polenta is fairly simple and straight-forward.

Polenta

1 cup instant/quick cooking polenta
4 cups vegetable/chicken broth
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

Mushroom Ragu
adapted from Giada de Laurentiis, Food Network

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound mixed mushrooms (cremini, oyster, shiitake) chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Marsala
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4-1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan

For the ragu, in a large skillet heat the oil. When almost smoking, add the onions and garlic over medium-low heat until the onions have wilted, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Raise heat to high and saute until mushrooms are tender and all the liquid has evaporated. Remove pan from heat and pour in Marsala. Return pan to stove and allow wine to evaporate, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and simmer for 1/2 hour until the sauce has reduced by half. Add heavy cream and mix well. Take the pan off the heat and add the fresh herbs and Parmesan and mix thoroughly.

For polenta, pour 1 tablespoon olive oil in a serving bowl and then set aside. Then bring the chicken stock to a bowl. Once it boils, lower the heat to medium and slowly whisk in the polenta. Continue to stir until the polenta starts to pull away from the sides (maybe 5 minutes). Then pour into serving bowl and let stand for 5-10 minutes.

Once the ragu is done, pour over the polenta and serve.

April flew by…

Wow, it’s been a month since I’ve posted anything! Unbelievable how last month flew by. Between getting our house ready to put on the market and taking a trip to Europe, we were lucky to cook dinner…much less try to take pictures and blog about it.

The next blog I post will be a little synopsis of the AMAZING food we had while in Paris. Hoping to get that up in the next few days. In the meantime, happy mother’s day to all of the amazing moms out there!

Pesto Pasta with Roasted Broccolini, Cherry Tomatoes, and Bread Crumbs

I seem to be on this pesto kick lately….trying to think of ways to use it so that recipes don’t become redundant. This might be one of the more obvious choices for pesto, seeing that it is used with pasta (whole wheat spaghetti in this case). But with a few extra touches, you can bring it to a whole new level.

The combination of textures here make this such a delicious dish, using ingredients you can find at your local farmers market or at the grocery store. During a recent trip to the farmer’s market I saw some really delicate looking broccolini. Although, even though the stalks were thin, I still have to trim a good amount off because it was too chewy once roasted. Tomatoes aren’t in season yet so I had to get those from the grocery store. Regardless, roasting tomatoes brings out such a nice flavor from them – so it doesn’t matter as much that they are not in season.

For the pesto, I like to use the arugula/spinach mix by Organic Girl, but if you can’t find that, just use arugula by itself. If you make this pesto (or any pesto), please use good quality parmesano reggiano and not the powdered kind. It makes all the difference in the world.

1 pound broccolini, stalks trimmed
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, divided
5 cups arugula spinach mix (by Organic Girl)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup olive oil, plus 4 tablespoons
Pinch crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400F. While oven is heating, put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Once boiling, salt the water well (2 tablespoons or so), add pasta, and cook until al dente. Reserve a cup of pasta water for later.

Place broccolini and tomatoes on a sheet pan and put about 2 tablespoons olive oil, couple of pinches of salt, pinch of crushed red pepper, and a few grinds of pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes. Check on broccolini after 15 minutes as it may cook before the tomatoes are roasted. If so, remove broccolini and continue to roast tomatoes until the skins just burst.

While the veggies are roasting, go ahead and make the pesto. (Note: You can make the pesto up to a few days in advance if you’d like. If you do, just pour a little olive oil on top once you have put it into a secure container. This will make it keep better. Make sure to refrigerate until you use it.)

Place arugula, 1 garlic clove, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper in a food processor and blend until it looks like a paste. Add parmesan cheese and blend. While blending, pour olive  oil in until it is the consistency that you prefer. You may use more/less olive oil than what I suggested, depending on how you like your pesto. Be sure to taste and add salt if needed.

Once the pasta has cooked, drain and place back into pot. Add 1/2 of the pesto and continue to add until you have as much as you like in there. If the pesto seems dry, add in about 1/4 cup of pasta water at a time until it’s the consistency that you like.

To make the breadcrumb topping, place 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a small pan, once heated, add the garlic and cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes, making sure not to burn the garlic. Then add the breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt, and stir together. Continue to stir and cook until the breadcrumbs are nicely toasted. Set aside.

To serve, put some pasta into a bowl or plate. Add some broccolini and a couple of cherry tomatoes on the side, and top with some of the breadcrumb mixture.

 

 

 

Lentil Soup with Roasted Root Vegetables and Goat Cheese

Ahh, the dreariness of the recent weather here at home is enough to put anyone to sleep. It’s so hard to feel motivated enough even to make dinner when it’s like that. It makes me just want to curl up on the couch and have someone bring me something good to eat. Luckily, I had some cooked lentils leftover from another dish we had made recently so I decided to make a soup.

I thought roasted root vegetables would go nicely with this, as more of a “garnish” than something you would cook into the soup itself. I planned in advance to use the roasted vegetables, but adding the goat cheese was a last minute decision. It gives it a nice tang to counter the earthy flavors. This is a really warm and comforting soup.

2 cups cooked green/french lentils
3 cups chicken/vegetable broth
1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
1 bay leaf
2-3 sprigs thyme
salt
pepper
1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice
4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large sweet potato, chopped into cubes
3 parsnips, chopped into cubes
1/2 butternut/acorn/kabocha squash, chopped into cubes
Goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 425F.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium dutch oven (or heavy bottom pot) on medium/high heat. Add onion, celery, and carrots, and a pinch of salt and sautee until tender (5-7 minutes). Add garlic and sautee for another 2 minutes. Add lentils, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, cumin, coriander, 1/2 tsp salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir together and then add in broth. Once it comes to a boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes to let all of the flavors incorporate. Once the soup is done, remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Then squeeze about 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice in. Add a little more if you feel that it needs more. The lemon juice really brings some life to the soup. Taste and add more salt/pepper if needed. (it depends on how much sodium is in your broth)

Meanwhile, toss the squash, sweet potato, and parsnips with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Roast in oven for about 20-30 minutes until golden and fully cooked. Toss the vegetables around halfway through the cooking process.

Ladel into bowls, place about 2 tablespoons of the roasted vegetables in the middle and top with a little bit of crumbled goat cheese.