Archive for the ‘Sides’ Category

Malai Palak (Indian Creamed Spinach)

February 11, 2018

Another recipe from my Rasika cookbook, it’s been on my list for a couple of weeks. I had just a little of the chicken curry left and this was nice to have alongside.  It’s nothing like the creamed spinach you may be used to, served with steak and filled with cheese and cream and butter.  I’m not knocking that, but this is definitely not that.  No cheese and with much less cream.  It turned out slightly more like spinach sauce or soup than I expected.  It tastes good and the onions give it some texture, but it still might be nice for it to be a little bit toothier.

I did make a couple of substitutions.  I used part of a jalapeno instead of a Thai green chili, less heat and a pepper slightly easier to come by.  I looked for fenugreek leaves and fenugreek leaf powder, but no luck.  Of course I combed the interwebs looking for a suitable substitute.  Here’s what’s weird. Some sites listed maple syrup and some sites listed fennel and others celery leaves.  Odd.  Maple syrup seemed kind of out there.  You have to buy a whole fennel bulb or a jar of fennel seeds.  I’m not a huge fan of fennel so I wouldn’t have a lot of use for the leftovers.  That left me with celery leaves.

For the spinach:

  • 1 large clamshell of spinach (10oz)
  • handful celery leaves
  • 3/4 C water

Blanche the spinach in boiling water and transfer immediately into a bowl of iced water.  That’s how you keep the bright green color.  Drain.  Add spinach, celery leaves, and water to a blender.  Process until smooth.

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Here’s the spice/aromatic part of the ingredients list: (my photo disappeared!)

  • 1/4 C canola oil
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 2 1/2 C diced onion
  • 1 T minced ginger
  • 1 t diced jalapeno
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1/4 C cream
  • salt to taste

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan.  When it shimmers add the cumin seeds and garlic. Brown the garlic.  30 seconds.
  • Add the onions.  Cook until the onions are brown. 5 minnutes
  • Add the ginger, jalapeno, and turmeric.  Stir 30 seconds.  Add the spinach.
  • Stir constantly for 5 minutes.  Be careful of the splatter.
  • Reduce the heat.  Add cream and salt.  Bring to a boil  Cook another 5 minutes.

Here’s how it went:

Other than the fenugreek, this recipe is pretty easy and pretty good.  It’s beautifully bright green.  It has a toasty flavor with just a little heat.  I did end up with a green polka dotted kitchen.  There’s a LOT of splatter when you add the spinach.  It’s a great side dish.  I imagine it will be good served over rice.  The cookbook offers adding cubed paneer  or potatoes as good variations.  Palak paneer makes a good entree and adding some potatoes would give some weight to the spinach as a side.  All in all, two thumbs up!  My array of Indian food at home is increasing!

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UPDATE:  This is absolutely a multi-use vegetable side.  It makes a fantastic topping for scrambled eggs and an amazing sauce for pasta!

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Chicken and Roasted Vegetables in Lemon Sauce

January 17, 2018

I’m getting a little stir crazy.  I work from home, so it happens from time to time.  It happens especially when the weather is challenging and I don’t get out beyond the dog walking and running in the neighborhood.  Believe it or not cooking helps burn off some crazy.  So today, in between work things, I roasted a bunch of vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower and radishes.  No plan for them, just a way to use up some stuff in the vegetable drawer and something to do.  Then came time for a dinner plan.  I pulled a chicken breast out of the freezer and voila!  Dinner.

Vegetables first.  Roasting vegetables is the easiest way to cook vegetables and add wonderful flavor to them.  There are very few rules.  High heat.  Pieces roughly the same size.  Some kind of fat.  Salt.  If you don’t season them beyond salt and maybe pepper, they’re super versatile.  You can cook multiple kinds of vegetables on the same sheet as long as they have about the same roasting time.  Today I had to take the broccoli off early to keep it from burning.

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The key to adding that amazing roasted flavor is caramelizing.  Put everything in a single layer and don’t stir it.  The contact with the hot pan will brown the bottom and the oven heat will brown the top.  Beautiful.  I always end up eating a good part of the vegetables right out of the pan while I’m doing other kitchen things.

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Now the chicken.  Chicken is scary.  No one wants to give anyone salmonella.  But then no one wants to eat dust dry chicken either.  There is a middle ground.  My favorite way to do chicken to serve alongside vegetables or over rice is to pan sear it and then make a sauce in the same pan.

Cut the chicken breast horizontally.  It will cook a lot faster this way.  You’re also a lot less likely to under or over cook it.  In a cooking class I took once the chef told us that a chicken breast, sliced in half this way, will cook in 3 minutes on either side.  I’ve had good luck with that formula except with the fattest breasts.

How do you do that?  It’s easiest if the chicken is still partially frozen.  It’s less wiggly that way.  But you can do it regardless.  Place the chicken on the cutting board with the long side facing you.  Place your empty hand flat on top of the chicken.  Run your knife down the breast starting at the short end.  Might be best to angle ever so slightly downwards to avoid cutting your hand, just until you get used to it.  Not too much angle because you’re aiming for 2 pieces of equal thickness.  I didn’t do a fabulous job tonight, but the breast was so fat that I ended up with 3 pieces.

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What about the pan?  I use cast iron for almost everything because it holds heat so evenly and so well.  This is the exception.  When you’re making a pan sauce it’s better to use a different pan – copper, stainless steel, etc.    Cast iron leaves little black flecks in your sauce.  I stay away from non-stick for this though.

One tip about searing the chicken.  Once you put it in the pan don’t move it until you’re ready to flip it.  Once it has a good sear on it, it won’t stick to the pan.  If you try to move it around too soon it will stick to the pan and tear.

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Here’s what you need:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 C stock
  • 1 T flour
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 C roasted vegetables per person

Here’s what you do:

  • Cut the chicken into horizontal halves
  • Salt and pepper the top of each half
  • Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a pan
  • When the oil begins to smoke add the chicken, salt side down
  • Cook 3-4 minutes, depending on thickness.
  • Turn, cook 3-4 more minutes
  • Remove from the pan and keep warm
  • Add stock, less 2-3 T,  to the pan and stir to incorporate all of the brown bits (the fond) into the stock
  • Let the stock simmer until it reduces by half
  • Stir flour into the extra stock to make a slurry
  • Stir into the pan and let it thicken
  • Stir in the lemon juice and reduce by about a third
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the butter
  • Top the vegetables with the chicken and pour the sauce over

Here’s what I thought:

Easy, fast, good, healthy.  Some capers or olives would have made a wonderful addition.

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Red Lentil Dal

January 14, 2018

Vegetarian dinner, day 2!  And another day to use the new bowl cozies I made.  These are a genius invention for those of us who mostly eat while sitting on the couch.  Equally useful for carrying hot bowls back and forth to the table.

So cute!  But I digress.

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I love Indian food.  Love it.  And frequent trips to London have helped me love it all the more.  I didn’t eat dal for a long time.  Let’s be real, they mostly look pretty gross.  And I have some texture issues with food anyway.  But I’ve come around.  There are all kinds of lentils, the base of dal.  Some of them hold their shape and some don’t.  The red ones don’t, but this tastes so good it doesn’t matter.  Keeping your rice a little firm helps balance the texture as well.

One of the wonderful things about Indian food is the layers of spices.  And these are all spices you can find in any grocery store, but some of them you may not keep on hand.  We’ll talk substitutions as we go.  I found the recipe on a site called “The Wanderlust Kitchen” that seems to have a lot of good stuff, so check that out when you have a minute.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 green chili pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced (serrano for spicy, jalapeno for more mild)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger root
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • Juice of one half a lemon
  • Chopped cilantro leaves and plain yogurt for garnish

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I think you could substitute ground cinnamon and ground cumin for the stick and the see forms, respectively.  I’d advise against using ginger powder instead of fresh, but if you have bottled, that’s probably ok.  Cardamom is a unique flavor so worth buying a small jar.

Here’s what you do (annotated):

Place the rinsed lentils in a medium saucepan along with 3 cups of room temperature water. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.

I brought mine to a simmer and cooked them with the lid mostly on, but tilted to vent.  Start the rice at the same time as the lentils.  Add some salt to the water for both the lentils and the rice.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cinnamon stick; cook for 60 to 90 seconds, until fragrant.

I broke my cinnamon stick in half to release more flavor.

Add the onion, green chili pepper, garlic, and ginger; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onions are turning translucent.

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Add the turmeric, cardamom, paprika, salt, and tomato to the pan. Cook until the tomato begins to fall apart, about 2 to 3 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.

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Stir the spiced onion mixture into the pot of lentils. Add the lemon juice and stir well. Taste and add salt as needed.

Garnish with cilantro; serve with basmati rice and naan.

I left off the naan and added a dollop of yogurt.  I also added more lemon juice and some salt.  

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Here’s what I thought:

It comes together easily enough to make for a week night meal or as a side.  It took me longer than the 20 minutes quoted in the original, but that could be me.  My technical knife skills aren’t bad, but I’m not fast.  Takes me a few minutes to get all the chopping and measuring done.  I’ve become increasingly appreciative of mis en place – getting all the prep work done before the cooking begins.  It’ll save you time in the end.

It definitely needed more lemon juice and salt.  Lentils are pretty earthy on their own and they take spice very nicely.  This is a rich and wonderful dish.  I chose the jalapeno over the Serrano chili so it wasn’t overly heat spicy.  Just enough to liven up all of the other spices.  An excellent dish for a cold January night. This is one to add to your list of comfort foods.

Greek Butternut Squash Salad

January 13, 2018

Hey vegetarian friends, and those looking for a Meatless Monday dish, and those looking for something to take to a picnic, party or potluck – this is for you!  After the Singapore Noodles debacle yesterday, I approached this with some trepidation.  I’m familiar with all of these ingredients though, so it seemed pretty low risk.

I had a butternut squash in the pantry that’s been here for a while.  Sometimes it takes me a while to work up the energy to cut one up.  But I’m really trying to eat a little better and butternut squash salad is as good a start (re-start) as anything.  And I had half a red onion left from yesterday.  And half a sweet onion left from some other day.  And the ends of a block of feta in brine.  I actually only had to buy a 99 cent bunch of parsley for this.  Everything else I already had in the house.

Roasting vegetables is easy.  Here are the things to remember.  Use high heat.  Cut everything roughly the same size so it will all be done at the same time.  Keep everything in a single layer so that every piece has contact with the pan.  Don’t stir more than once.  It’s the contact with the pan that gives you that yummy caramelization.  Salt the vegetables.

If you’re planning to use your squash (or potatoes or carrots) in cubed format, keep an eye on them.  If you let them roast too long they’ll be so soft that they won’t hold their shape when you stir them into whatever else you’re using.

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What we love about these kinds of salads is that they’re mostly dump and stir, and they can be served as a main dish.  I added some bulgur to this to give it some extra heft and left out the walnuts.  I hate walnuts.

Here’s what you need: (minus the olives, which I did use, but left out of this photo)

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  • 1 small butternut squash diced and roasted with olive oil and salt
  • 1/2 red onion and 1/2 sweet onion, diced and roasted with the squash
  • 1- 1 1/2 C cooked bulgur
    • 1/2 C bulgur and 1 C water or vegetable stock
    • Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 10-12 minutes
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/2 C pitted kalamata olives, chopped
  • 2 t red wine vinegar
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 1 t honey
  • 1/2 t dried dill weed
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
    • Whisk the above 5 ingredients (vinegar through oregano) together in a small bowl to make dressing
  • 1/2 C chopped or crumbled feta
  • 2 T chopped fresh parsley

Here’s what you do:

Combine chickpeas and olives in a large bowl.  Drizzle with the dressing.  Add cooked bulgur and roasted vegetables.  Stir in feta and parsley.  Salt and pepper to taste.

That’s it!  Easy!

Here’s what I thought:

This is good stuff.  And good for you stuff.  It can be served at room temperature so would be great to take to a potluck or dinner party.  No worries about keeping it hot.  It’s got no mayo or yogurt so good for an outdoor event as well.  It’s good as a single dish meal or as a side for chicken or pork chops. It’s pretty.  It’s healthy.  It’s yummy.  What more could you ask?

Here’s the original recipe.

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I made this bowl cozy today.  This bowl wasn’t hot so I didn’t really need it, but it’s so cute I wanted to use it anyway.

Luck and Money for the New Year!

January 1, 2018

Happy New Year everyone!

New Year’s Day here means few things for sure:  a First Day 5K; the end to 2 weeks of eating junk and drinking too much, otherwise known as the Fat Fortnight; collards and black-eyed peas for dinner.

It’s a Southern thing.  Collards and black-eyed peas for the new year to represent luck and money.  The whole truth is that this is filling food for cheap.

Most years I start these with a pot liquor made with smoked turkey wings or ham hocks.  This year I went vegetarian and I’m not sorry.  These were easy, didn’t make a mess and tasted great.  I’m looking forward to leftovers!

Here’s all the stuff you need:

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1/8 cup canola oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 lbs. collard greens, stemmed and chopped

1 tsp. red pepper flakes, toasted. (Toast the pepper flakes in a dry sauté pan over medium heat, tossing constantly.  Leave this out if you’re heat averse.)

1/2 cup white wine

2 cups cooked black -eyed peas

1/2 an onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 C vegetable stock or water (enough to cover the peas)

salt to taste

 

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 T butter

1 tomato, chopped

Hot sauce to taste

If you haven’t worked with collards before just know that this is a sturdy leaf.  They have to be cooked a long while to make them tender and cook out some of the bitterness.  They’re available chopped and bagged at the grocery store.  I don’t buy them that way because they have the stems in them.  I prefer to remove the stems.  More industrious people than I pickle the stems to use as garnishes.  I just toss them.

I like to chop these kind of small.  They work better in soups that way and they mix better with rice and peas.  Place the leaf face down on your cutting board.  Run your knife down either side of the stem and stack the two leaf halves on top of each other.  Set them aside.  Stem all of the leaves before you begin the chopping.

Stack 4-5 leaves on top of each other and roll them up together.  Slice the roll in half longways, turn it and slice longways again.  The roll is now in four sections.  Cut it crosswise in small pieces and you’ll end up with something that looks like a dice.

Normally you cook these in enough liquid to cover them, but this recipe is fairly dry.  The collards are easier to use when you don’t have to drain them.  Just be sure that you use a pot big enough for the collards and then to add the peas to.

Start with oil, I use olive oil for nearly everything, but canola or safflower or whatever will work here just as well.  I sauteed the onions and garlic together.  This saved me the trouble of making the roasted garlic butter that the recipe calls for.  You may need to add the collards in batches to make them fit.  Once they’ve started to cook down add the wine.  If you don’t want to use wine use vegetable broth here.

You’ve got 30-40 minutes to cook these until they’re really tender.  If the collards start to stick to the bottom of the pot add a little water and stir.  Cook them with the lid off the pot.

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While the collards cook, start the black-eyed peas.  In this part of the world you can get fresh peas for New Year’s, so I recommend that.  If you can’t, frozen are the next best thing.

Again, start your pot, a small one this time, with a little oil.  When it’s hot, but not smoking, add some onion and garlic.  Saute until the onions are soft.  Add the black-eyed peas and enough water or vegetable stock to cover them.  Salt the water to taste.  Bring them to a boil and then cut the heat back to simmer.  It’ll take 15-20 minutes to cook these.  I like mine pretty soft, but be careful that they aren’t mushy.  You want them to hold their shape when you mix them into the collards.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the black-eyed peas from the cooking liquid.  Save that liquid for cooking the rice.  Add enough water to the cooking liquid to make 1 1/2 cups.  Add the rice to the small pot with the liquid, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, until it’s done.  About 15 minutes.

And, back to the collards.  Add the cooked peas and vinegar to the collards.  Throw in the butter and salt to taste.  Cook everything another 10 minutes.  Serve over the rice.  Garnish with a few chopped tomatoes.  Add a few dashes of Tabasco or Siracha or other hot sauce if you like

I had this as my dinner tonight, but later this week it’ll make a great side dish and maybe some breakfast hash.  Stay tuned!

This is based on a recipe from Garden and Gun magazine.  Check it out here!

Hope the new year brings you all the luck and money you need!

Pearled Barley Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Chicken

April 18, 2013

The April book club meeting provided a little interruption in taco week.  Tacos don’t travel that well so I opted for a salad instead.  I needed a main dish salad so something with protein and substance to it.  I bought some pearled barley ages ago and never got around to making the barley and mushroom soup for which it was intended so it became my salad.  And it’s a pretty good salad.

Pearled Barley Salad

Of course I made a few changes to the recipe.  I added some rotisserie chicken to give it a little bulk.  I left out the basil because fresh basil and feta don’t excite me when you put them together.  I made the dressing mostly as instructed, but with slightly less oil.  Next time I’d probably replace the feta with mozzarella.  The tang of the feta kind of fights with the honey vinegar dressing.  This would be good too without the chicken, but with a bunch of summer vegetables added in – peppers, squash, snow peas.  A little extra sweetness and crunch would be a nice addition.

An important note if you decide to make this.  Read the recipe all the way to the end.  It comes together really quickly and easily, but if you’ve never made pearled barley before you might not know how much time to allow for that.  You have to soak it an hour before you start to cook it.  And then it cooks about 20 minutes.  And then it has to cool to room temperature.  It’s a process.  I’d do that part the day before if you can.  Another note – you’ll almost never hear me say this, but use commercial stock.  You cook barley like pasta in that once it’s done you drain it.  Don’t use stock that you’d hate to pour down the sink.

Book club did a fine job making their way through this. I had enough leftover for a good lunch today.  This is a salad with a lot of possibilities.  The barley is chewy and nutty and good.  The dressing is light and sweet and tangy.  The tomatoes add a nice fresh flavor and the green onions add a little sharpness.  I have a feeling that some variation on this theme will be making an appearance at summer cookouts this year!

Good? Good.
Easy? Easy. But a little long.
Good for company? Worked for book club!
Special shopping? Nope.

Pearled Barley Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Chicken

Ingredients

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup olive oil

4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups barley
2 C diced rotisserie chicken
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 7-ounce package feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup chopped green onions

Directions

Rinse barley, and place in a small bowl. Cover with water by about two inches, and let soak for about an hour. Drain.

Whisk vinegar, lemon juice, and honey in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.)

Bring broth and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a large heavy saucepan. Stir in barley, reduce heat, cover, and boil until tender but still firm to bite, about 20 minutes. Drain. Transfer to large wide bowl, tossing frequently until cool.

Mix tomatoes, chicken, feta, and green onions into barley. Add vinaigrette; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) Serve at room temperature.

Pesto Pasta Frittata

April 7, 2013

Welcome Spring!  Today was the first real Spring day in Central Virginia.  I spent most of it knee deep in Spring chores:  dealing with the storm windows, cleaning the ceiling fans; tilling and weeding the garden.  No energy left for a trip to the grocery store.  So tonight’s dinner was kind of a “smoke ’em if ya’ got ’em” affair.  Pretty much everything is on the menu because I had it –  leftover, already thawed or on its last decent day.  And you know what?  It was a very good dinner.  I got to use the grill and everything!

The feature for tonight is the frittata.  I grilled a London Broil and sauteed some spinach to round things out.  I made the London Broil plain to make it as versatile as possible.  You’ll be seeing it for the rest of the week so stay tuned!

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A few days ago I made some whole wheat spaghetti with pesto sauce from my Summer 2011 garden.  If I was going to avoid tossing it in the trash I had to do something with it.  And I had some mascarpone and mozzarella leftover from the pizza triumph of last night.  When I looked in the vegetable drawer I discovered some forgotten parsley too.  This recipe let me use all of the above plus a bunch of eggs and some of my quart of milk that I too often end up dumping down the sink.  In case it hasn’t dawned on you yet what we’re really talking about here is little quiche muffins with pasta instead of crust. 

The original recipe calls for prosciutto (didn’t have any), cream (didn’t have any) and grated Asiago (used parmigiano instead).  I also cut the eggs from 7 to 6.  Seven eggs just seemed excessive.  The frittata muffins set up just fine so no loss there.  The original recipe called for plain pasta,  but the pesto more than made up for the absent prosciutto.  Good news for the vegetarians out there!

These are really easy.  The recipe makes a dozen.  Good for any meal.  My plan is to have them for breakfast all week.  Hard to beat them for protein, a few carbs, easy to heat and eat.  You can put pretty much anything in them.  I do recommend keeping the amounts of the basic ingredients the same so you’ll be confident that they’ll set up like they’re supposed to.  Other than that have fun with them!  Add some chicken and broccoli to leftover fettuccine alfredo.  Add some peppers and onions to leftover pasta marinara.  Add a little ham or bacon to leftover macaroni and cheese.  Yum!

Good? Really good.
Easy? Really easy.
Good for company? A terrific brunch option.
Special shopping? Definitely not.

Pesto Pasta Frittata

Ingredients

Cooked spaghetti cut into 2-3 inch segments, enough to measure 3 C
Pesto sauce to taste
6 eggs
1/3 C mascarpone cheese
1 C diced mozzarella
1/4 C grated parmigiana cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 T chopped parsley
3/4 t salt
3/4 t pepper
1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the muffin tin.

In a blender combine the eggs, milk, cream, and mascarpone cheese. Blend until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Mix the hot pasta with the pesto sauce. Add the cut pasta, mozzarella cheese, Parmigiana cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until the ingredients are combined.

Using a 1/3 cup measure, fill each of the muffin cups until both the pasta and liquid are at the top. Bake until firm and cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes before removing from the tin.

Zesty Honey-Lemon Dressing

March 10, 2013

March potluck this weekend.  Since potluck was Friday night and I had a feeling that work might get a little hairy I signed up to make salad.  I made it as easy as possible without completely bailing on making something.  I make most of my salad dressings from scratch and I decided that counted as “making something.”

The main dish for potluck this month was a pasta dish so I did a green salad with tomatoes, artichoke hearts and olives.  That’s a lot of briny goodness so I needed a dressing with something sweet to balance it out.  This is a good one.  The honey and lemon come out really nicely.  The zesty is a little more subtle.  If you want more zest just add more dijon.  I left out the fresh parsley because I didn’t have any.  Probably a nice addition, but not critical.  I made it with the immersion blender because I’m too lazy to whisk enough to get a good emulsion.  Most of the time when I whisk by hand the dressing separates and has to be shaken before serving.  If I use the stick blender I don’t have that issue.  A regular blender will do too.

Not much else to say about this one.  It’s a keeper.  I’ll be using it throughout the Spring on early vegetables and greens.  Yum!

Good? Good.
Easy? Easy.
Good for company? Sure.
Special shopping? Nope.

Zesty Honey-Lemon Dressing

Ingredients

3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Directions

Blend all ingredients until completely combined. Keeps up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Sweet and Tangy Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes

February 10, 2013

Ok, I know this sounds kind of weird.  Maybe it is. I’m getting down to the end of items in my fridge and that always breeds some unique combinations.  This one really worked out though.  If you struggle a little with brussels sprouts you might find that adding the sweet potatoes will get you over the hump.  That said, I’m not a proponent of wasting your time, energy and calories eating things you hate.  (I’ve given up making salmon at home for this very reason).  Feel free to use just the sweet potatoes or just the sprouts.  Your call.  I like the mix.

Sweet and Tangy Sprouts and Potatoes

There’s not really a recipe for this.  I steamed some sprouts on the stove top while I roasted some diced sweet potato in the oven.  I threw everything in a cast iron skillet with some bacon grease.  Often you’ll see recipes that include one or the other of these vegetables with bacon or pancetta or some such so that’s where the bacon grease thing came from.  Feel free to use olive or canola oil or butter if you prefer.  Stir them around in the hot oil until you get a little browning on everything then turn the heat off.  Cast iron will hold heat a long time so don’t worry about things getting cold.

The sauce is a combination of maple syrup, stone ground mustard, dijon mustard, Worchestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar.  Sweet and tangy.  Just stir it together and add a little more of this or that until it tastes good to you.

Enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash with Lemon and Capers

December 31, 2012

The holiday season is finally wrapping up so I’m looking for ways to, without suffering too much, rid myself of the few pounds I gained.  I’ll be turning to soups and vegetables over the next few weeks to help with that.  I started with a spaghetti squash.  I’m not a huge fan of spaghetti squash, particularly not as a substitute for actual spaghetti.  I did have one serving of this with spaghetti sauce on it, reminding me what a poor substitute it is for pasta.  Had to find something else to do with the rest.  And there was a lot of “the rest.”  Fortunately I was invited for an impromptu pot luck with a couple of friends so I had a chance to try this out on them without risking a lot of leftovers.

Spaghetti squash

Turns out leftovers were not a worry.  This is really good.  Well, of course it’s really good.  It’s a brown butter sauce.  Not so much a health food, but I maintain that butter sauce on spaghetti squash is still better for you than butter sauce on most other things.  Really I think this is more of a summer dish.  It calls for a little zucchini and a little chopped tomato.  It’s December and those things just don’t taste good so far out of season so I left them out.  To be completely honest I was going to include a few diced canned tomatoes, to the point that a friend went to pick them up for me and dropped them by the house (thank you!!), and then I forgot them.  I think that was fine, maybe even better.  I halved the spaghetti squash and most of the other ingredients, but kept full amounts, plus a little, of the red bell pepper and parsley.

There’s only one thing that makes this the tiniest bit tricky – browning the butter.  You have to watch it every second.  If you don’t it will burn and you’ll have to start over.  There’s no saving burned butter.  Swirl it around the pan occasionally as it browns.  Keep the heat relatively low.  Be patient.  There’s no rushing browned butter.  It’s worth it though.  It has a much richer flavor than just melted butter.  I used salted butter, as I do with everything, which is fine. I still added a touch of salt. You need it for balance.

The flavors in this are fantastic.  You get citrus and brine from the lemon and capers.  You get sweetness from the squash and red bell pepper.  You get a pop of fresh green flavor from the parsley.  A little salt and a little fresh cracked black pepper.  Done.  And awesome.  And pretty.  And a little bit sophisticated.  This definitely goes in the list of things to serve to guests.

Good? So much better than I dared hope.  Really good.
Easy? Yep, just watch the butter.
Good for company? It sure went fast at dinner, so yes.
Special shopping? Nope. Capers will be on the aisle with the pickles in any grocery store.

Spaghetti Squash with Lemon and Capers

Ingredients

1 large spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons sweet butter
1 tablespoons capers, drained
1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 C chopped parsley leaves
Salt and pepper

Directions

Cut squash in 1/2 lengthwise and scoop out all seeds. Place the squash cut side down on a sheet pan or cookie sheet and cover with foil. Place in the oven and cook until the rind is slightly soft or gives with a little pressure, about 20 minutes. When it’s done, scrape the meat out with a fork and reserve, keeping warm.

In a hot skillet, melt the butter, add the olive oil and continue to cook until dark brown. Add the capers and bell pepper to stop the butter from cooking any further, and cook, stirring, until tender. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley and season with salt and pepper.

In a large mixing bowl mix the squash and butter sauce and serve.