Tag Archives: oil talk

loving your leftovers: part one

A Pear to Remember is about making delicious use of your food, whether potato or frozen chicken breast. Part of becoming comfortable with cooking means throwing less food away. Finding creative uses for leftovers is utterly satisfying.

I know inventing and improvising can be daunting—but that’s why you have this and other resourceful blogs for inspiration. I read cookbooks like it’s nobody’s business, and on the days my mental file falls through, typing on-hand ingredients into [my favorite search engine] offers exciting menu alternatives.

About to leave for a weekend with a big bag of handsome spinach (from this citrus salad) to rot in the fridge? No way. I wanted a way to freeze the spinach, and wasn’t about to get other ingredients from the store to make some complicated freezer casserole. Who has the time?

A thought: spinach pesto! Does that exist? I just typed it into [search engine] and sure enough others have made it. You know I love arugula pesto like it’s going out of style. Here’s a new green sauce for variety.

Spinach Pesto

a Linvention, sort of

a bag of spinach leaves (at least more than half), rinsed and dry

1/4 cup whole nuts (almond, walnuts, hazlenuts, etc.)

1/4 cup grated parmesan

olive oil

1 clove garlic (optional)

Toast the nuts in a dry skillet until golden and fragrant—just shake the pan a few times to brown evenly. Into a food processor, add the nuts and garlic (I used 3 cloves, which was overkill; 1 may be perfect) and pulse until ground. Add the spinach and pulse to chop, followed by the parmesan. With the machine on, add a stream of olive oil until you have a sauce to your consistency.

Pesto recipes often call for incredible amounts of olive oil, but I always hold back a bit, because you will store it with an oil layer on top—stirred into the sauce for serving later.

Taste and season with salt and pepper as you like. Consider red chili flakes for something extra exciting.

To store and freeze, I’ve read about using ice cube trays for defrosting individual portions. I use mini food storage containers, add the pesto a little more than halfway and pour a thin layer of olive oil over top. They freeze and thaw wonderfully for about three months. I often pull my pesto out of the fridge in the morning, zap it in the microwave for just 10 seconds, stir, and have a perfect spread for my afternoon sandwich.

Spinach pesto doesn’t have a strong spinach flavor, but it does make for a new pesto experience. And it comes together in under 10 minutes. For further pesto-making tips and ideas: click here and here, and definately check out my creamy corn pesto.

Return soon for Loving Your Leftovers: Part Two, where I’m grilling some unexpected things…

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soap salad

We can’t start chatting about this delicious cilantro rice salad without getting into genetics. Yes, cilantro is a controversial herb for good reason: we humans have a genetic disposition determining our cilantro experience. Some of us enjoy its lemony freshness, while others find its flavor uterrly identical to that of soap. Unlike blue cheese or kale or pine nuts, cilantro is not an acquired taste.

Those whose tastebuds insist on such prejudice have joined together on this wacky world web to create I Hate Cilantro.com. Really, they are an anti-cilantro community; I’m trying not to take it personally.

I picked up this gorgeous grafitti eggplant to accompany a bunch of cilantro and basmati dish. It’s that time of the month when we’re trying to use up all those stock items in our pantry and freezer. And we always have bags of brown and white basmati. We voted on brown tonight, knowing it was better for us and could justify brownie baking later in the evening. If you’re not into brown rice, a textured rice salad like this one really takes rice to another level. This recipe involves cumin and coriander seeds—ingredients I always keep around for my Indian cuisine nights. Since coriander seeds, however, are cilantro infants, I would be curious how the cilantro-haters tolerate this tasty seed?

You’ll find this lovely rice photographed alongside our meat/meatless mains: truly tasty grilled dishes on our (stunning cobalt blue) 12″ cast-iron grill pan.

Warm Herbed Coriander Rice Salad

from Gourmet, serves 4

  • 1 cup long-grain brown basmati rice, rinsed well
  • 1 3/4 cups cold water (use low-sodium chicken broth instead)
  • 3 tablespoons olive/vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, slightly crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, slightly crushed
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (on your microplane!)
  • 2 medium zucchini (1 1/4 pound), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped mixed herbs such as cilantro, parsley, and mint (just used cilantro here)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup pecans (2 ounces), toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
This is both a low-fuss and budget-friendly meal. And may I take a moment to mention that Andrew, who has little reverence for zucchini, noted it was a “nice touch” in this dish? You heard it here. 

Bring rice and water to a boil with 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 40 minutes. Let stand, covered, 10 minutes.

While rice is standing, cook coriander and cumin seeds in remaining 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and a shade darker, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic, zucchini, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until zucchini is crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Toss zucchini mixture with rice, herbs, lemon juice, pecans, and salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, I cut half a medium eggplant into half-inch slices, brushed both sides with olive olive and sprinkled with coarse salt (needed for all the moisture in aubergines). I grilled on a medium-low heat so the slices could cook through. So rich.
 
Andrew thawed deveined shrimp in cool water for 20 minutes, then brushed with olive oil, salt and fresh pepper before grilling on medium-high. Of course, these crustaceans cooked up in no time—with a golden caramelized skin.
In my humble opinion, it’s really a toss up which is more gorgeous: the color of the shrimp or that spectacular grill pan?
 
I realize 40-minute rice sounds like quite a time committment on a weeknight, but the simmering time allows just enough opportunity to get all your other things done (switch into slippers, prep the side dishes, turn on some pleasant background noise, pour a nice glass of [preferred beverage]).
 
While grilling is an efficient way to cook, it’s delicious because of the intense heat caramelizing the surface of your ingredients. If you also have a snow storm in the forecast and can’t get out to your grill—or don’t yet own one of these handy stovetop pans—you can still achieve similar results.
Roasting shrimp and veggies with 1 tbsp olive oil at 450 F is another quick-cooking method for deep flavors. A metal cookie sheet is all you need. (Click here for my 6-minute shrimp.)
More on the brownies later… I’ll tell you how they taste after they’ve cooled (said the cook, counting the minutes).

For my earlier post on Perfect Basmati Rice Every Time, click here.

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weeknight wonders

If I had been working late tonight and Andrew was on his own, he’d probably be content to bake a frozen pizza and enjoy the relief from my disastrous kitchen messes.

But me? On the rare night Andrew’s working late, I go to town. Oh yes, something carefully and beautifully prepared all for me. In my book, that’s a great end to a long day in second grade.

I made this salad once before, and even featured it in the very first post of this blog. Tonight’s photos came out better than those from the dinner I shared with Andrew, Maggie, and Elijah a year ago. Though I made some substitutions tonight (spinach, pears, pomegranate seeds), I’m going to post the original recipe because it’s just that great.

Confession: While on a post-work stop at Target for household essentials, I did purchase this mandolin for $6. I’ve read these inexpensive little guys work just as well as the $100 versions, and cannot wait to use it for prepping tarts, onion rings, and money sandwiches!

Citrus Salad

a beloved recipe from January 2010 Vegetarian Times

serves 4

Dressing

2 Tbs. agave syrup

1 1/2 Tbs. lime or lemon juice

1 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Salad

2 oranges or blood oranges

1 grapefruit

1/2 cup coarsely chopped arugula

1 shallot, peeled, thinly sliced crosswise, and loosened into strands (1/4 cup)

1 Tbs. coarsely chopped mint leaves

2 Tbs. crushed roasted peanuts or dry-roasted almond slivers, for garnish

1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

To make Dressing: Mix all ingredients together in bowl. Taste for balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy, adjusting seasonings as necessary. Set aside.

To make Salad: Slice ends off oranges and grapefruit. Stand fruit on cutting board, and slice away skin and pith from outside with knife. Cut fruit segments from membranes, and transfer to bowl; toss lightly with arugula, shallot, and mint. Toss with Dressing. Serve garnished with peanuts and sesame seeds. Lots of them!

While I really thought I was in an unusual mood for “salad night”, I got so hungry in my mental preparations (and grocery store excursions), I decided to whip up this divine pasta side. I told myself it was really so I would have leftovers for Thursday’s lunch… but I ate a few forkfuls from the pot before packing it up. After a plateful to accompany my salad.

The Danger of Eating Alone.

I hope you never encounter a shortage of pasta, olive oil, and fresh garlic in your pantry. You’d be amazed what intense luxury results…

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Romano and Roasted Garlic

a regular Linvention

whole-wheat angel hair or thin spaghetti (as much as you want)

one head of garlic

freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese

a few tablespoons of olive oil

red chili flakes

Start boiling your water in a big pot (so it will be ready whenever you need it). Place the garlic head in a sheet of aluminum foil, and drizzle olive oil over it. Seal into a little foil package and place on a baking sheet at 400 F. This is best in a toaster oven if you’ve got one (what a pain to heat an entire oven for this teeny thing). In about 15-20 minutes, poke a small knife though. When the garlic is roasted through, the knife should meet no resistance and come out cleanly. Set aside to cool.

Cook the pasta and drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. With your hands or a fork, squeeze all the pulp out of the garlic skins. Mash it with a few tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Combine roasted garlic oil with pasta, a pinch of chili flakes, and a good sprinkling of the grated cheese. Add a bit of pasta water to melt the cheese. Top with more fresh black pepper. That’s it, but darn if it’s not simple and satisfying.

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happy food

It’s a very exciting birthday this year, waking to fluffy white flakes through the window beside the coolest man I know (who proposed three years ago today). Yep, life is good, and I hope it finds you the same in the new year.

Twenty-five years of life does not mean twenty-five years of cooking and great food (though I’m optimistic for the next quarter-century). It’s really been six years of serious food love, and merely three of dedicated home cooking (cookbooks on the nightstand, sautéing in my slumber). When I met my Andrew, I had never seen, or tasted, a bell pepper—definitely clueless on chopping one. I had never held a knife other than a petite paring. And I really wasn’t clued into non-powdered garlic. Clearly, life has been more delicious since I began it with Andrew, and God bless him for putting up with my nightly vegetarian experimentations.

My point is that I am relatively new to beautiful food, and A Pear to Remember is the place to be if you are, too. When we are blessed enough to have food on the table each day, it ought to be filled with love (and maybe even roasted garlic). Delicious food is possible every day, and crucial for celebrations. So happy birthday to me and to Mom, Jesus and all the rest of you replicating this memorable dish in your own kitchen.

Here is our feast italianoJust wait until you tell your guests you “infused the oil”.

Lindsey’s Tuscan Spaghetti

inspired by Pierluigi Giachi from the Torciano Vineyard

1 lb. spaghetti (the best stuff you can find)

5 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 tsp dried chili flakes

2-3 springs fresh oregano

2 tbsp flat leaf parsley

6 tbsp good extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup parmigiano-reggiano, finely shredded

While boiling your biggest pot of well-salted water, heat the oil over a low flame. Once hot (heat at least 3 minutes), add the crushed garlic, chili flakes, and oregano to the oil in your largest skillet. (If you want the dish very mild, add only 1/4 tsp. chili flakes). Let the aromatics infuse their vibrant flavor into the oil while the pasta boils, or until the garlic turns golden brown.

Pour the infused oil into a measuring cup with a fine strainer catching the garlic and herbs. Add the flavorful oil back into the skillet.

Cook the pasta just until al dente, about 1-2 minutes before fully cooked.

With tongs, transfer the spaghetti directly into the skillet (still over low heat). Toss gently until all the pasta is coated with oil, adding a few tablespoons of pasta water if necessary. Toss with the parsley, a few leaves of fresh oregano, parmesan and serve hot. You will not believe how this rustic dish glistens with flavor.

But wait! The garlic bread! An absolute must.

Lindsey’s Not-too Garlicky Garlic Bread

This bread was a dee-licious Linvention.

1 loaf Italian bread, halved lengthwise

7 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

7 cloves garlic

1 tsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. flat leaf parsley

2 tsp. finely shredded parmesan

Roast four cloves of garlic within their papery skin (olive oil drizzled over cloves, all wrapped in foil. roasted at 400 F for about 25 minutes until brown). Once cooled, squeeze the roasted garlic out of their paper into the softened butter. Mince the remaining garlic cloves on a microplane and add to the butter with the parsley, parmesan, and a pinch of coarse salt. Mash with a fork until well combined.

With a spatula, spread evenly on the bread. Bake on a pizza stone or cookie sheet at 375 F until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Slice crosswise and serve warm with tomato sauce. 

Where’s the tomato sauce in this feast? I realize we’re working backwards in terms of preparation, but Andrew’s Original Chicken Parmesan is a perfect meat-eater’s way to round out the meal—besides, of course, the salad. Mom and the rest of the family loved this recipe.

Andrew’s Chicken Parmesan

1 lb. organic chicken tenderloins

1 jar tomato sauce (our favorite: Emeril’s Kicked-Up Tomato)

6 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced thick

2 eggs

1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs

1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano

2 tsp. finely shredded parmesan-reggiano

With kitchen scissors, cut the tenderloin into 2-inch pieces. Dip each into beaten egg, then breadcrumbs combined with oregano and parmesan. Add each piece directly into the baking dish. Drizzle the breaded chicken lightly with olive oil. With all the pieces in a single layer of an 8-inch casserole, bake in a 400 F oven until the chicken is just cooked through. Into the casserole, pour sauce to completely cover the chicken and top with mozzarella slices in a single layer. Bake again until the sauce bubbles and the cheese browns.  

Serve with chianti and a simple salad of crunchy romaine and small, sweet tomatoes—lemon and olive oil to moisten.

Such a feast that is easily all on the table in 45 minutes.

A tiramisu cake to top it all off? Oh do.

 

 

 

 

P.S. My very special birthday gift from Mom & Pops was a stunning 12″ Staub grill pan. Prepare for endless indoor grilling recipes in 2011!

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noodles with a twist and a twirl

To my American readers, I hope everyone had a memorable and delicious Thanksgiving celebration. Now that we have a moment to breathe before the holiday whirlwind begins, you also may be interested in simpler, healthy dishes equally as comforting as the feasts to come. Pardon my adoration for  alliteration, but I have a pair of pasta platters I simply must share. I rarely make any dish twice (too many recipes still to try!), but we’ve enjoyed this first dish three times in a single month! Yes, by “we” I mean that even my Andrew absolutely loves this dish. A healthy alfredo? Who could imagine something more marvelous?

Thanks as always to the brilliant Vegetarian Times magazine for inspiring two fabulous weeknight dishes…

Lindsey’s Lemon and Chive Linguine

serves 4 (unless you also fall in love and can’t help yourself to an extra serving or three)

8 oz. dry whole grain linguine

1/2 cup Neufchâtel (light cream cheese)

1 tsp. olive oil

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/2 cup chopped chives

Besides tasting delicious, this meal is elegant and easy on the wallet. Fresh herbs are super-divine here, you must give in with so few ingredients to worry about. Please note the photos include ingredients from the original recipe, but listed above is my deliciously nutritious improvement.

Cook the linguine in salted water while heating a large skillet over low heat. Warm the cream cheese, oil, and juice of one lemon. Stir until the cream cheese melts.

Drain the pasta, and reserve 1/2 cup of the salty, starchy cooking water. Stir reserved cooking water into the cream cheese mixture. To the skillet, add the pasta, lemon zest, and chives tossing to coat. Season with coarse salt and plenty of pepper.

In the words of Ina Garten, how easy is that? Yes, this photo clearly contains parsley. Trust me on the chive revision.

This dish really requires nothing else, but if you’re rooting through the freezer and trying to stretch this out to something a wee more sustaining for big eaters (like A & L in this kitchen), toss in some 3-minute steamed broccoli…

…or some broiled chicken (marinated in lemon + olive oil)?

Did I mention this dish and the one to follow are only 5 ingredients and on the table within 30 minutes?! Hellllllo, relaxing evening.

The next dish we tried just last night. Talk about a sneaky sauce for vegetables! Like the last dish, this sauce isn’t trying to fool anyone with complexity, it is what it is. And boy is it tasty.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

serves 4

2 tbsp. garlic-flavored olive oil*

1 cup jarred roasted red bell peppers, rinsed, drained, and chopped

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)

1 large carrot, finely diced (1/2 cup)

8 oz. fusilli bucati lunghi, or other twirly pasta shape

*if you don’t have garlic olive oil on hand either, I simply did this: heat 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium-low heat. once hot, add four crushed cloves of garlic. stir until the cloves are golden and almost brown, then remove from the oil and set aside.

To the hot oil, add roasted peppers, onion, and carrot. Saute for five minutes on medium-high, or until the onions start to brown. Add 3/4 cup water, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package.

Remove the roasted pepper mixture from heat. If you have an immersion blender (hello fewer dishes!), puree in a small jar. Otherwise, puree the mixture in a blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

the bold and the beautiful

 

I anticipated a puree that would need serious amounts of pasta water to coat the noodles. But not a drop! It’s a kind of magical sauce. It is so thick, yet a minimum of fat and sodium. Here’s to good health. Delish!

 

 

 

My own little extras…

While blending the peppers, toss some veggies into the hot skillet for a quick steam. Green beans, broccoli, whatever may be around. Once cooked, thinly slice the golden garlic (that you set aside from the oil) and sprinkle over the veggies and pasta. We also had a lovely sharp cheddar on hand, so I added just a few shavings to our dinner. Yum! 

 

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sweet, soup!

We’ve fallen into a chilly Autumn, and if sick season has also taken you as its coughing little victim, you might appreciate my impromptu, weeknight-friendly Sweet Squash Soup.

Despite disappointment over my usual onion and chicken broth supply, this came together in very few ingredients—delicious still. Lucky for us! I only used on-hand items from Saturday’s trip to the farmer’s market, so feel free to experiment with whatever lingers in your fridge.

 

Lindsey’s Sweet Squash Soup

makes 4 generous servings

1 butternut squash

1 apple

2 pears

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup apple juice

1 tbsp. canola oil

Roast the fruit and squash.

Cut the squash into roughly 1″ pieces. Cut the apple and pears into slightly larger pieces, especially if they are a bit ripe.

In a bowl, toss the veggies and fruit with the canola oil, and a generous sprinkling of coarse salt and ground pepper. Roast on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes at 425F, or until tender and slightly brown.

Puree and Season.

In a pot, combine the roasted vegetables with the broth and apple juice or cider. If you have an immersion blender, puree away! If not, simply combine the roastings and broth directly in a blender.

Once pureed, taste for level of deliciousness. If you find the soup too thick, add broth or water and blend again—you’ll find the single apple adds plenty of sweetness to the soup. I added about a cup of water at this point, and the soup remained rich in flavor. Add salt and plenty of pepper, it’s perfect against the sweet apple.

sweet squash soup with parsnip fries

If you’re craving a simultaneous side and have root veggies in the cupboard as well…

Rosemary Root Veggies

These, again, are simply ingredients I had lying around. They would be beautifully enhanced with an onion or two.

Combine cut potatoes, parsnips, or whatever root veggies you might have with a generous tablespoon or two of olive oil and fresh rosemary. Roast in the same 425F oven as the soup ingredients, and allow these to continue roasting as you finish the soup. They should be brown and tender in about 20-25 minutes. If not, I never hesitate to crank up the oven!

Dress fresh greens with lemon and a bit of olive oil and you’ve completed one fast, fabulous meal.

This sweet soup is husband and kid-friendly. I hope you love it, too.

do you enjoy A Pear to Remember? ever tried a recipe you’re pretty darn proud of? pass it on!

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parting with the pieces

Not to be depressing, but it’s the week when I am struck with the harsh reality that all things come to an end. (Many, at least. And for a while, anyhow.)

I bid adieu to sweet summer tomatoes, along with my appendix, this week. Unrelated, but a loss on both counts.

I suppose we could look on the sunny side of things and say that summer tomatoes make room for fall potatoes. And who tires of potatoes? Saturday’s visit to the farmer’s market behind our apartment was exquisite—everything wonderful is in season, the abundance of fruit and vegetable variety is at its finest. Had I not headed to the hospital soon after my successful shopping, I was about to return and take photos of my sunny walk for you.

And though my Saturday did not end happily (nor did my Sunday or Monday), these lovely veggies were calling to me over on the sofa since I returned home. And today, the humming of pain killers subdued, the little guys were screaming.

Blame it on Mom for teaching me not to waste, or the mid-day inspirational television to which I’ve been subjected in my excrutiating recovery. If the blind 19-year old can inspire the town despite his broken trumpet valves, I ought to be able to hobble to the kitchen and make good use of those ripe tomatoes?

So in my Advil-induced state, I beckoned the tomatoes and purple potatoes (+ coordinating basil) to join me in a whole-hearted, half-conscious attempt to play with my food.

Lindsey’s Purple Potato Tomato & Basil Spaghetti

for the potatoes

You could spare 5 minutes cooking time by omitting the potatoes, but they’re such an indulgent vegetable, and when they’re purple who can really resist?

1 lb. baby potatoes

1 tbsp. butter, melted, combined with 1 tsp. olive oil

salt and ground pepper

My dad made up this potato dish, which he made often for us growing up. It’s great with tender redskin potatoes. In a safer effort than mine tonight, slice the potatoes about 1/2 centimeter thick. These bake quickly in the toaster oven, but for a larger batch like this one, spread the slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet.

Heat the oven to 375F.  Brush the top of the slices with the butter/oil mixture. Sprinkle with coarse salt followed by a very light dusting of pepper. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until browning and bubbly.

for the pasta

inspired by Fresh from the Farmers’ Market by Janet Fletcher

1 lb. assorted gold and red cherry tomatoes, halved (yes, really)

3 large shallots, minced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes

1 lb. dried spaghetti or spaghettini

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

Yes, Andrew came home to find his recuperating wife tempted by the fruit of another—because we’re on the same page about tomato being a fruit, right? You must trust me about taking the trouble to halve the tomatoes. This is what I was doing, slouched on a kitchen stool, when Andrew walked in the door tonight to, “What are you doing?”

Bring your pasta pot to a boil while heating the 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium high. Infuse the oil with the pepper flakes, stirring for about 2 minutes.

Add the shallots for another 2, then dump all of the tomatoes into the oil. Bring the mixture to a simmer, tossing gently once or twice. Turn off the heat before the tomatoes break—no longer than 5 minutes total. Turn off the heat.

When the pasta is just cooked through, transfer directly from the pasta water to the skillet of tomato sunshine. Toss gently over high heat for a minute or so until the noodles glisten with tomato-ey magic.

Toss the potato slices inside, or serve atop the spaghetti. Sprinkle with basil and fresh parmesan.

Ah, tomatoes in just the shade of my autumn mums. We’ve got to take advantage of these things while they last. I sure thought I’d be going into the week with an appendix, and I don’t mean the handy one in the back of my new Market cookbook…

Make the best of what you’ve got… happy summer!

 

 

 

leftover update: for lunch, wilt your leftover salad greens (arugula, spinach) in a few drops of olive oil. toss leftovers in the skillet, heat and eat! (with plenty of parmesan, of course.)

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baby talk

Last Saturday’s farmer’s market was attended by so many teeny darlings. Endless babies I was desperate to take home—irresistable, as you can see for yourself…

 Baby peppers, baby eggplants, sigh. You knew that’s what I meant, right?

I had a friend from church over for dinner, and made some homemade pesto for the occasion. (Click here for a previous post with my favorite recipe.) Though my DH (that’s Darling Husband) loathes eggplant in adulthood, I took a chance that this friend felt differently towards these innocent aubergines.

First, a crucial cooling beverage: my own recipe for

Strawberry Basil Lemonade

Prep time: two minutes.

Ingredients: lemonade, a few strawberries (4-7) hulled and halved, a few leaves of basil

I don’t have any amounts to offer, as this sweet beverage should be adapted to your taste. This is a lickety-quick drink if you’re starting off with purchased lemonade. Frankly, I find lemons too darn expensive to make my own lemonade. (And even for a gal willing to spend 7 hours on a special meal, hand-squeezed lemonade appears tedious). Lemonades I love and highly recommend: Newman’s Own Virgin Lemonade or Santa Cruz Organic Lemonade. I find both brands neither too sweet nor too tart.

You can put the ingredients in a pitcher (and make directly there if you have an immersion blender) or you can make it in a blender and transfer it. You can also let all these raw ingredients mingle in a pitcher in the fridge for a few hours and come out with similar success. Easy and versatile. But here’s how I create my favorite version:

Fill one-third of the pitcher with your favorite purchased lemonade. Add a few strawberries, per your preference—they really add so much sweetness, best to start with about four. Toss in a few basil leaves (starting between three to five) and combine to desired consistency. Add almost one-third water at this point, diluting until it’s not too sweet and the perfect degree of refreshing to you.

You can strain this if you don’t like the strawberry seeds, but honestly they’re not so distracting with this light drink. Don’t be afraid to dilute the deliciousness. (That’s also why you’ve left room in the pitcher to add additional lemonade or strawberries).

I made this last summer at full intensity, with only a handful of ice cubes. The drink was so sweet and tart, it was impossible to enjoy with a meal. It’s much more enjoyable when all the flavors are subtle with that lemony touch of basil.

Serve over ice with basil or strawberries in each glass, or add a few whole leaves and berries to the blended pitcher. Isn’t it loverly?

Lindsey’s Roasted Baby Eggplants

I just had to create something special for such exquisite vegetables. I mean, really, what beauties.

You know how I feel about roasting (surely you do by now, right?)—it’s often the best method for intensifying the ingredient’s natural flavor and developing incredible texture.

If you’ve tried sauteing eggplant in vegetable oil, you know they absorb the oil like a sponge and turn into a bland, soaking sidedish. Roasting eggplant enhances its texture without doubt, but it’s also a great way to use the least amount of oil.

I halved my eggplants, placed them cut side up on a baking sheet, and brushed with a mixture of olive oil and (just a tad) balsamic vinegar. If you don’t have a silicone basting brush, it’s quite a handy kitchen tool. I’m becoming a big fan of brushing oil onto cut veggies (tomatoes, potatoes, etc.), as I can be more precise in distributing the oil evenly—rather than pouring on a gloppy mess.

Over the balsamic and oiled eggplants, I sprinkled a pinch of coarse kosher salt. The pan went into a 375 degree oven (I used the smaller toaster oven, I didn’t want to char these too quickly in the intense close-range heat) for 15-20 minutes. Just cook until the eggplants are tender and slightly charred.

Because there is a very light layer of oil on the veggies, they will come out drier than veggies tossed in a lot of oil (aka how I usually do things). After transferring to a serving plate, I drizzled the smokey eggplant with olive oil (just a little). You could certainly enjoy these as an accompaniment to any dish, but (as Katie and I can attest) these are great among parmesan pasta with fresh pesto. Ooooh, and don’t hesitate to sprinkle with some fresh shaved parmesan. The surprising texture is like mashed potato. You. are. going. to. go. wild. over. these.

p.s. come back soon to read about the buttery corn pesto I made to fill all those mini peppers!

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pasta + garlic = audible yummmm

Everytime I make this dish (and it’s one of the few repeats) I think, Wow—why don’t we eat pasta more often?? You might think as a vegetarian, my options are so limited. But my summer at Azafran Cafe exposed me to the variety of (fabulously creative, ethnic and exotic) meatless meals beyond pasta. Where do you think I ever heard of zucchini fritters?

This meal is inspired from one of my weekly go-to cookbooks: 200 FOUR-INGREDIENT RECIPES by JOANNA FARROW. This is super straightforward (in case you were overwhelmed by the many ingredients and sidedishes in yesterday’s meal), less than 30 minutes, and no technique (or fancy tools) required.

All you need for

Tagliatelle with Vegetable Ribbons

4 tbsp. garlic oil

3 large zucchini

3 large carrots

9 oz. egg tagliatelle (or wide egg noodles)

Let’s get started on the garlic oil. All you need: fresh garlic and olive oil. You have two options here…

If you just decided to make this dish and have 5 minutes to whip together garlic oil:

Slice 3 cloves of garlic and combine with 1/2 cup olive oil. Heat gently until bubbling, then pour into a heatproof bowl. Cover and leave in a cool place overnight—be sure to strain out the garlic the next day. (These measurements don’t need to be followed too closely…)

If you need garlic oil a few hours from now:

Add olive oil to 3 or more crushed garlic cloves. Cover and place in a cool spot until you need it. No dirty pot!

Okay, now  it’s apparent that garlic oil is super, super easy to make. You can also add a handful of rosemary sprigs into the oil to flavor it along with the garlic. Just be certain to strain the garlic and herbs from the oil the next day.

Now just wash and peel these beauties. That’s it.

Unlike peeling the carrots and zucchini over the sink and tossing the peelings, you want every beautiful ribbon for your egg noodles. The lovely thing about this dish (beyond the flavor) is you don’t need to try hard to make it a beautiful dish. You don’t even have to peel with precision.

 

any egg noodles will do!

While you’re peeling the veggies, bring a large pan of (very) salted water to a boil. Boil the veggies for 30 seconds. Really! Only 30! The ribbons will cook a bit further when you toss them with hot pasta. I overcook them every time forgetting this…

If you can, fish out the ribbons with a small strainer or tongs—boiling vegetables is not an ideal way of cooking. Many of the nutrients (especially the vitamins and minerals) seep out into the boiling water. This is why boiling the egg noodles in the same veggie water (you guessed it: the next step) savors a bit of the good stuff.

Once you cook the noodles according to the instructions, drain the pasta and return it to the pan. Add the vegetable ribbons, garlic flavored oil, and any salt or pepper you desire. Toss over medium heat until the veggies are glistening with oil. Gobble up with haste (this will not prove challenging).

I realized this time around that it’s such an appealing dish because it tastes so homey—the carrot and egg noodles with subtle garlic remind me of the comforting flavors in a homemade soup. I also added some chopped chives, a nice oniony addition.

What if you have leftover garlic oil? You can, of course, make Lindsey’s Best Chicken to accompany your green and orange ribbons. It’s so easy it cracks me up that Andrew likes it so much—almost two years of 12-ingredient marinades and all these fancy attempts. I’m never straying again…

Here’s my silly little marinade that keeps the hubby smiling:

olive oil (enough to coat the chicken)

3-5 fresh garlic cloves, crushed

a generous sprinkling of dried oregano

a pinch of salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper

Roast at 400F. Chicken tenderloins take only about 8 minutes!

P.S. I crumbled some feta over the leftover pasta.  It is awesome. Pine nuts next time, too.

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hold the mayo

Pasta salad: a picnic classic. If you’ve spent any time on A Pear to Remember, you know I like to keep things simple and packed with flavor. Though it veers from The American Classic, I think you will love this pasta salad. I made it up about a year ago and it’s been a hit among pasta lovers. It’s easily adaptable to your ingredient availabilities and preferences. Here are the basics:

  • Pasta (fun shape of your choosing)
  • Olive Oil
  • Kosher salt or sea salt (not table salt) and pepper
  • Assorted vegetables (sautéed, grilled, jarred)
  • Cheese (parmesan or cubes of fresh mozzarella)
  • Optional: lemon zest, fresh herbs (chives! basil!)

I love any pasta dish with these ingredients, but they really make a sensational pasta salad. Deliciously chilled for summertime. Pasta salad should be vibrant in flavor and appearance—bold colors and shapes. My favorite pasta shapes for pasta salad are Cavatappi (corkscrews) or Campanelle (little bells).

Prepare your veggies (and chop the pepperoni if you must). I chopped up zucchini and eggplant (and often add red onion), tossed with olive oil and ample coarse salt. Flavoring the veggies before grilling provides exceptional additions for your salad.

I also had some lovely fresh corn. Grilled corn is exceptional when the kernels are charred, but I’ve found the corn burns before cooking through when placed bare on the grill. This time around, I experimented by removing the outer husks until just one or two layers remained. Leaving the ears on the grill while tending to the chopped veggies (not cut too small) allowed the corn to steam through.

After rotating the corn for about five minutes, I peeled the remaining husks from the ears with my grilling tongs and allowed the kernels to char slightly (yum). You could brush with flavored olive oil or butter here to aid in flavor and browning, but it’s still fantastic on its own.

After cutting the kernels from the cob and combining with the other grilled vegetables, I seasoned these before adding to the pasta–coarse salt and pepper as needed. It’s easier to intensify the flavors at this point before they mingle with your remaining ingredients.

Cook your pasta in salted water until al dente. Gooey, overcooked pasta reminds me of grocery-store pasta salad. Yuck. Rinse the pasta slightly and drain well. Set aside in your serving bowl with just enough olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking. Combining the pasta and grilled (or sautéed) veggies while everything is still warm allow the flavors to marry and absorb into the pasta before refrigeration.

You can add whatever amount and variety of vegetables you wish, but jarred veggies simplify the task of beautifying your pasta salad. I added some of my homemade slow-roasted tomatoes, but jarred sun-dried tomatoes do the same trick. I also love jarred roasted red peppers, chopped finely to toss into pasta. They are so mild yet sweet, a great dish-booster even to eaters who might otherwise think they don’t enjoy bell peppers. I’ve met such people.

Remember you could also add artichokes, olives, whatever you fancy.

Fresh shredded parmesan is often just enough cheese for this simple salad. However, if it’s a special occasion (like this particular pasta celebration) and you’re in the mood for something special, hunt down some super-fresh mozzarella.

As I mentioned earlier, combining your salad ingredients while the pasta and veggies are warm really allows the flavors to mingle. But how to do this without melting the mozzarella?

Cut the mozzarella into cubes and place on a dish or small baking sheet (wax or parchment paper beneath). Refrigerate for an hour or just pop in the freezer for 20 minutes (I adore efficiency). Now toss with your salad, no fears of melting!

Once you’ve combined your ingredients, it’s very important to taste for flavor. Even with vibrant vegetables, the noodles may turn out surprisingly bland. This is where I add (as I did this time around) lemon zest, salt and pepper, additional olive oil, fresh basil, and even a slight splash of balsamic.

I discussed in an earlier posting about my dislike of most dried herbs—and chilled pasta salad is not the time to raid your spice cabinet for flavor. Fresh ingredients are best. (I do recommend fresh basil if you can find some, it’s certainly an attractive addition to white pasta). However, I did mention my appreciation for McCormick’s Spiced Sea Salt blend for a quick pasta boost. It has coarse sea salt, dried lemon peel, garlic, red pepper, and oregano—great for a vegetable combination like this. Be sure to toss well, as all the good stuff sinks to the bottom! You can really get creative, simplifying this with three ingredients or amplifying with a variety of seasonal veggies and herbs.

If you read a recipe for American pasta salad, you’ll need peas, celery, dry Italian-style salad dressing mix, mayo, sour cream, and milk. If that’s your thing, fantastic. But Lindsey’s little Mediterranean-inspired medley—beyond sounding more temperature stable—is light and bright. Not to mention all of those fresh, nutritious ingredients.  

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