Tag Archives: sauces

france’s third favorite dish

Pardon my absence, I’ve been graduating. And resting. And eating out. Now that I’ve completed my graduate courses in Nutrition, I feel hyper-aware of my responsibilities to promote good health—especially in my own kitchen. That’s why we’re talking whole grains today in their most loveable form. If you’re not aboard the couscous train, allow me to introduce this fluffy five-minute grain as your new weeknight wonder. Yes, a 2011 study published in Vie Pratique Gourmand showed couscous to be the third favorite dish of French people. And first place in East France! Oui.

Polish-raised folk—such as myself—can rarely resist a potato recipe. And when I saw this recipe as Vegetarian Time’s “top pick” for the April issue, I tested it in my own kitchen. If you don’t have these spices on hand, you will find plenty of excuses to use them in my favorite Eastern recipes. For a little bit of chopping, and 20 quick minutes, this simple dish offers a hearty reward.

Try this out on the deck with fresh pita and minty iced tea. Happy end-of-spring.

Quick Moroccan Tagine

Vegetarian Times April 2010, serves 6
Note: you can serve this spice-laced North African stew over bulgur, couscous, or rice.

Spice Blend

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 ½ tsp. sweet or smoked paprika

1 tsp. ground ginger (I didn’t have this, it was fine!)

½ tsp. ground turmeric

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

Tagine

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 large leek, cut into 1-inch-thick rounds (watch prep tips here)

1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch triangles (how to cut bell pepper)

4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and halved (redskin or yukon gold)

1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 15-oz. can, rinsed and drained)

2 cloves garlic, minced on a microplane or grater (2 tsp.)

8 dried apricots, quartered

½ cup dry-cured black olives, optional

¼ cup chopped cilantro

1 cup whole-wheat couscous

To make the spice blend, combine all ingredients in small bowl.

To make Tagine: Heat oil in pot over medium-high heat. Add leek and bell pepper; sauté 3 minutes.

Add potatoes, chickpeas, garlic, and Spice Blend; cook 30 seconds.

Stir in apricots, olives (if using), and 2 cups water; season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender (my red potatoes were tender in 10 minutes).

While the vegetables are simmering, make the couscous: heat 1 cup water (or chicken broth) until boiling.

Once boiling, stir in 1 cup dry couscous. Cover and remove from heat. Let the couscous steam for five minutes. Regardless of the serving size, couscous always takes five minutes (glory be!). After the couscous steams, fluff gently with a fork.

Spoon the couscous into a bowl and top with the vegetables and sauce. Serve sprinkled with cilantro.

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we all need some veggie to love

Yes, the Jefferson Airplane song popped right into my head this Sunday afternoon as I took my first bite of An Artichoke. Ever. A truly psychedelic experience. The lyrics ask the ultimate question (about terrifying, hypothetical circumstances): When the garden flowers, baby, are dead and your mind is so full of red, don’t you want some veggie to love? Don’t you need some veggie to love?

You see, Andrew and I were on our regular Sunday afternoon Trader Joes trip, already in the checkout line and this basket of nestled artichokes (where one might find magazines or candy at a lesser grocery store) made me want to dance like the hippies in the video above.

Mom and Dad always wanted me to try new things, though I believe they had steak in mind. I felt very adventurous with my little green friend and wanted to do this right. I think if foods are prepared with care and proper technique, anyone can make any food fabulous. I feel like there are few occasions where high heat can do a food wrong, precisely why I turn to roasting and grilling most often. Though I hadn’t a clue what to do with an artichoke (thank you, internet videos), I figured it would surely enjoy sitting a spell on my favorite blue grill.

A special thanks to The Killer Griller for the confidence to grill my artichokes. I’m also sending you once again to my Harris Teeter friend to learn how to prepare an artichoke for steaming through his brief instructional video.

Lindsey’s Garlic Grilled Artichokes

serves one as a main course, easily adapted to serve more

an artichoke

olive oil

four garlic cloves

half a lemon

coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

you will also need:

a pastry or silicone brush and aluminum foil

for optional Let’s-Pretend-This-is-Aioli dipping sauce

1/4 cup mayonnaise

Prep the artichoke

Preheat your grill to medium heat. Cut an inch off the top of the artichoke, cut the outer tips, and use a vegetable peeler on the stem (more visual instructions here). Immediately rub the exposed parts with a cut lemon to prevent browning. Reserve the lemon.

Steam the artichoke

Place the artichoke on a large sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil (or melted butter if you’re feeling naughty). Wrap the foil around the ‘choke and seal well. (Make individual packets if you’re preparing more than one artichoke). Place on the grill for about 40 minutes, or until a paring knife slides easily into the middle—you can test right when it’s on the grill.

Make the marinade

While the artichokes are steaming on the grill, crush the garlic cloves with a firm whack of your wide chef’s knife. (If you only have a narrow knife, you can smash it with the bottom of a pan, a meat pounder, etc. Get creative). Stir the smashed garlic pieces into 1/2 cup of olive oil, and season very well with coarse salt and fresh pepper.

When the artichoke is tender, remove the bundled ‘choke to your cutting board and carefully open. Cut the globe in half and scrape out the fuzzy middle—click here to watch The Killer Griller demonstrate. Brush both sides generously with your garlic marinade.

Grill that baby

Place the artichoke halves cute cut side up on the hot grill, the garlic cloves snuggled in the middle of the heart (sigh). Grill for about four minutes and turn gently with tongs, setting the garlic aside. Turn again if you like, until the vegetable has gorgeous char marks. Put on a serving plate.

Chop the softened garlic very fine and stir into the mayo along with a big squeeze of lemon. Add coarse salt and lots of pepper. Get out a big napkin, rip and dip away. Don’t bother with a fork.

Three minutes later, the marvelous massacre:

What is your vegetable/cooking Everest?

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a little chick[pea] told me…

…that you must try Indian food. When I brought my homemade Indian leftovers to work and opened the container to release cumin and tomato-scented steam throughout the teacher’s lounge, there were two, predictable, reactions:

reaction no. 1

“Oh my gosh, is that homemade Indian food? Oh I love chana masala, one of my favorites! That smells so good!”

reaction no. 2

[initially nonverbal; glances down the nose towards my reddish-brown pile of garbanzos, followed by:] “I’ve never liked curry. My mother never liked curry, either. I simply can’t stand the flavor of curry.”

the curry myth

I cannot count how many times I have been told “I don’t like Indian because I don’t like curry” everywhere I go. Interestingly, this remark always comes from the same demographic. I imagine post-WWII mothers in the kitchen, their daughters eyeing the cake in the oven while they learn important Lady Life Lessons: keeping one’s knees together in a skirt, crossing at the ankles, and lastly, “You might hear of a thing called ‘curry’, dear. Avoid it, it’s rather unpleasant.”

Curry is a meat, vegetable, or fish dish with spiced sauce and rice or bread. In Britain, where chicken tikka masala is the national dish, “curry” is often a generic descriptor for all Indian food. However, the word curry describes more of a soup or stew, it is not a particular ingredient. Curry powder is a spice mixture developed by the British to make Indian food at home. Curry powder can range from 5 to 20 ingredients, and you will not see it in today’s recipe. Think of seasoned salt or dried Italian seasoning: convenient? yes. traditional? no.

the yellow spice tumeric will stain, watch out!

Like the most recent post on my very favorite Indian dish, Palak Paneer, or spinach with fried cheese, this is a very mild dish you could make spicy if you like. I’m a wimp.

Chana masala is a Northern Indian chickpea stew with tomatoes; masala refers to spices in a thick sauce for rice or flatbread.

Unpretentious, economical (canned chickpeas, canned tomatoes, dried spices!) and even better the next few days.

Chana Masala

(slightly adapted) from Smitten Kitchen

1 tablespoon vegetable/olive oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced (on your microplane)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (on your microplane)
1 fresh, hot green chili pepper, minced (optional; I use half a can of TJ’s mild fire-roasted green chili)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (I use a quarter of this because cayenne is extremely hot)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
2/3 cup water
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 lemon (juiced)

fresh cilantro (optional)

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic, ginger and peppers and sauté over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes.

Turn heat down to medium-low and add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, cumin seeds, paprika and garam masala. Cook onion mixture with spices for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes with juices, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the water and chickpeas. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then stir in salt and lemon juice. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro, if you’ve got it.

Serve over basmati rice (click here for a flawless recipe) and buttery flatbread (click here for our top freezer-section pick). And do write back about your culinary experimentations!

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out of our (walnut) shell

Not that it lessens the shame, but it turns out I’m not the only one. Often I go to the grocery store and think, “I hope I don’t see anyone I know, I look/feel [self-deflating comment here] today.” Why one’s self-esteem drops upon stepping into the flourescent lights is beyond me; I never have this thought at the post office, the shoe store. Certainly not at Trader Joes.

Sure enough, upon shopping for this celebratory meal, I see two women reuniting in front of the napa cabbage. The first, with her back to me, motions her palms down her body shaking her head apologetically. The other, I can nearly hear by now, reassures, “It’s great to see you. Oh, but really, you look fine.”

Why do we walk about feeling so terrible about ourselves when there is so much to enjoy, certainly in the produce section? I wish I could say this fear of ours is irrational, but I encountered my favorite teacher (of all time, I might add) at Whole Foods before Thanksgiving. I came straight from the doctor, had not showered, my skin the shade of bitter onion. We caught up on each other’s lives and menus, and exchanged e-mail addresses; I guarantee no trauma ensued.

All the energy on our looks, fear of lengthy recipes, feelings of inadequacy, is more efficient for creating something wildly memorable in the kitchen. What better way to end the day than take loving pride in a wonderful dish you cooked?

Something new with 5 ingredients in 10 minutes? Now that sounds do-able.

Creamy Walnut Sauce

mostly from Fresh Flavor Fast, serves 4-6

tell me you would also fall for this darling orecchiette ("small ears") pasta?

1 lb. pasta (your favorite kind)

1 cup heavy cream

1 garlic clove

2 cups walnuts, toasted

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

(1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley or chives, optional)

Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant (just a few minutes).

Bring a pot of water to boil, then add a generous amount of salt (there isn’t much elsewhere in the dish). Cook the pasta until al dente according to the package. Drain pasta and return to the pot.

While the pasta is boiling, combine the cream, garlic, and 1 cup of the walnuts in a food processor. Process until smooth, and season with coarse salt and fresh pepper to your taste. (If you don’t have a $2 pepper grinder, pick up one in the spice section next time).

Transfer to the pot along with (at least) 1/4 cup parmesan, chives (if using), and remaining 1 cup walnuts. Toss to coat the pasta. Serve with additional cheese.

Since this is a simple and inexpensive dish, maybe the $2 for fresh chives won’t break the bank??

On the side? The first time I made a walnut pasta dish, I made this incredible fried bleu cheese arugula salad.

Tonight, I made a very, very basic panzanella. You may remember my first Greek panzanella, an inspiring salad experience. I recommend panzanella to every person who a) claims they can’t cook anything and b) needs to impress dinner guests. No bowls, no baking.

Panzanella requires day-old bread, so it’s a great use for a leftover dinner loaf, or any nice bread abandoned in the freezer.

There are a number of ways to transform your nearly-stale bread into remarkable croutons. You could bake them—now cut into two-inch cubes—in the oven, but I find it simpler to flip them around in a medium-hot skillet with some nice olive oil. Really toast the bread until you’re concerned it’s rock hard. This won’t take ages, maybe a little more than five minutes.

In your serving bowl, combine equal amounts olive oil and red wine vinegar (or balsamic). Stir in a little salt and pepper. For a medium-sized salad bowl, 2 tbsp. of each is a good amount. Add your veggies. I kept it to tomatoes and cucumbers, chunks of feta and fresh basil. (It was less expensive to purchase a big pot of basil at the store than a single serving, so I set it in our sunny window with abundant prayers).

Of course, red onion, white beans and all kinds of other wonderful ingredients can grace your panzanella. There is no one way to create this rustic bread salad—an overwhelming thought to some cooks. You really can’t make this incorrectly. Toss your veggies around in the oil and vinegar, and taste if it needs salt or pepper. Once your happy with your seasonings, add the bread and serve it… anytime! I don’t like the bread too soggy, though this is the point of the salad. Let it sit about twenty minutes, or even hours in the fridge. The bread absorbs deep flavors and makes this salad a substantial accompaniment. Add your basil or chives just before serving.

Finish off with this delightful dessert.

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loving your leftovers: is it fry day yet?

Thank you, thank you readers!In its brief existence, A Pear to Remember reached over 6,000 viewers. 6,201 today! How do I express my gratitude? How about something interesting for the goods in your fridge?

in our fridge/freezer:

4 chicken tenderloins (from this meal)

romaine hearts

half a medium eggplant (from this meal)

3/4 jar tomato sauce

a hunk of fresh mozzarella

3 eggs

Don’t feel too bad for us, we’ve got orange juice and yogurt and sandwich makings, but these were most promising for a last-minute dinner. A really scrumptious undertaking for any night of the week…

tomato sauce has a short fridge life. andrew made us a special whole-wheat pizza on Monday night, but what to do with leftover sauce? read on.

 

 

Eggplant Medallions Over Grilled Romaine Hearts

a Thursday night Linvention

Finally, finally—do-able frying! I used to really complicate the batter and bread process, make a mess all over the place, and take a good 40 minutes from slicing to frying. Forget that.

It’s all about a line up—not far off from mise en place, which is about having all your ingredients measured and in place before beginning your recipe. This is a dip-n-drip station where tongs are your best friend. I used to do this by hand and the caked mixture all over your fingernails really slows you down.

Grab your slices (1/4 inch thin) with the tongs, dip in egg (2 eggs with a wee bit of salt and pepper beaten in) followed by breadcrumbs (this time from a can, lots of Italian seasoning sprinkled in). Then right into the skillet with hot oil—not too hot, it will burn right up and spatter all over the place. And not too deep, my slices were a breadcrumb away from submersion and cooked perfectly. About 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your pieces—just keep the width uniform. I made good use of my cheap-o mandolin here.

Set your golden goodies on a plate packed with paper towels and chug right along until you’ve fried all of your ingredients (zucchini, anyone?).

Now I had heard of grilling romaine lettuce, I thought it was as bizarre as you are thinking now; I had never seen it done. But darn it all, I want any excuse to grill.

I spritzed whole romaine leaves with a healthy sheen of olive oil, followed by a generous sprinkle of coarse salt and pepper—this made all the difference. After grilling both sides over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes, you’ve got a new lettuce experience. As in, lettuce forget about that side of pasta, okay? A rare mood to reject pasta, but this proved the perfect bedding for my fried friends. With a little tomato sauce drizzled over the entire thing and cold, cold mozzarella torn in big pieces alongside… yes! yes! 

If loving warm lettuce is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

The romaine is salty and flavor-packed in a way some rarely know lettuce to be. Serve it warm and enjoy the smokey flavor with the eggplant. I love homemade breaded eggplant because it makes this luscious aubergine into a filling meal I know you’ll love, too.

How did Andrew use his chicken? Check out his chicken parmesan technique here.

Also a good day all around—sometimes haircuts are as refreshing as new flavors.

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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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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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squash appreciation month

November celebrates a variety of causes: National Novel Writing Month, National Adoption Month, National Pomegranate Month, National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, the list goes on. In Australia and New Zealand, November is the month men sport moustaches to raise awareness on men’s health issues. They call it Movember.

Though only a few days remain, I’m declaring this Squash Appreciation month. I’ve met many who claim they are simply Not A Squash Person. As though we are our own breed. Here is a dish to celebrate and appreciate a seriously overlooked nutrient-packed gourd.

In my fascinating grad school studies, I recently came across two terms apt for introducing this squash-altering experience.

This cheesey squash dish is the divine combination of everything we seek for our cultural eating dilemma:

neophilia: the pleasure of variety

vs.

neophobia: the comfort of the familiar

Do you love homemade mac and cheese? Creamy with crispy breadcrumbs on top? Do you love the idea of eating something remarkable nutritious that hardly tastes like it could be so darn good for you?

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mac and Cheese or Baked Shells with Winter Squash

tweaked from Great Food Fast, serves 6

4 tbsp. olive oil

2 large onions, chopped

coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lb. butternut or acorn squash, seeded and chopped into 2-inch cubes (pre-cut saves incredible time)

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 lb.  whole-wheat medium pasta shells or other medium shape

breadcrumbs (fresh or store-bought)

Prep the Squash

If you can find frozen squash puree, that’s one less step. But if you find that a challenging task, simply roast the pieces of squash. On a baking sheet, combine 1.5 tbsp. oil with the squash, season with salt and pepper, and roast at 400F until just tender.

or

Speed it up: steam squash cubes in the microwave until tender throughout. a little water in the bottom of a casserole, covered and cooked about 6 minutes removes time and considerable fat from dish—no need to cook the squash in olive oil with this method.

In a food processor, puree the squash, seasoning with pepper if needed. You need about 2 cups of squash. You can also use a blender or an immersion blender, adding some pasta water to help puree.

Caramelize the Onions

Meanwhile, heat 3 tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion pieces, season with salt and pepper and cook until onions go from this

to this

about 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling well-salted water for 2 minutes less than the package suggests. Drain and reserve 2 cups of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot.

Bake the Casserole

Stir the squash puree and reserved pasta water into the onions and simmer for two minutes.

Toss the squash mixture and 1/2 cup of the parmesan with the pasta.

Transfer to buttered 9 x 13 dish. If the mixture is still very thick, don’t hesitate to add a few more tablespoons of pasta water.

Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining parmesan and top the pasta. Drizzle the remaining olive oil evenly over the casserole.

Bake until brown, about 10-15 minutes.

When Andrew is returning for his third helping of squash, even after I admitted the dish was purely vegetable, you know it’s a tasty dish for all palettes. Proven safe for squash-phobics! The amount of cheese is minimal, but selecting a good quality cheese adds tremendous flavor that makes it a convincingly cheesey entrée. This is one of my favorite dishes of the past year, I will be making it again very soon.

I have been eager to share this dish with you since the moment I cleared my plate. Click here for another, more recent, life-altering squash experience.

Bonus Recipe!

P.S. Upon the most recent enjoyment of this dish, we ate such marvelous asparagus, Andrew (who previously loathed asparagus) exclaimed, “I didn’t expect to love this!” To re-create, you’ll need:

ONE BUNCH OF ASPARAGUS 

THE JUICE OF ONE FRESH LEMON

OLIVE OIL

A SMIDGEN OF REAL BUTTER

Remove woody ends from asparagus–about three inches and cut the remaining stalk in half. If using jumbo asparagus, halve lengthwise as well for optimal caramelization. If using petite asparagus, simply cut stalks horizontally as pictured.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil (and a teeny tab of Real Butter) over medium-high, and sear the asparagus in two batches. Use a lid or pan to cover the asparagus briefly (about 30 seconds) to steam the asparagus as it sears. This caramelizes the natural sugars in asparagus and makes it so divine. But here’s the kicker:

Juice the entire lemon into the asparagus serving bowl/dish. Using tongs, transfer each batch of  piping seared asparagus straight from the skillet to the lemon juice. Toss in the juice, and sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper and a pinch of coarse salt. The butter from the asparagus mingles with the lemon juice and creates a light brown sauce. Unforgettable.

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the life and death of tweety mccluck: part two

Stop right here. You may be missing out on a freshly-released original song about my roast chicken. Please click over here to head back to Part One before continuing on. This post will make a lot more sense once I introduce the story.

So as I was saying in Part One, we had a special guest for dinner Saturday night—though I must amend that by saying all our guests are special, this one just happens to be quite unique. 

Long story short: in December of 1985, my parents picked up this incredibly petite, smiling blue-eyed baby, decided to take her home and love her for the rest of everyone’s lives. There were lots of things they couldn’t have imagined about her—the places she would go, the gazillion recitals she would perform, and the chicken nuggets she simply refused.

Earlier in 1985, there was a man named Bob. A kind, hard working mid-forties fellow living his life in New York when—surprise surprise—I managed to pop into the picture. Not that it was this simple, but everyone decided it would be best to give me to a couple really ready for an extra Christmas present that year. And that’s pretty much how I ended up home.

Curiosity + a bit of life experience and maturity + supportive family and Andrew + a court order led me to meet Bob two years ago. Last night, he stopped in for dinner.

And onto the story of Tweety.

Easy Impress-Your-Guests Roast Chicken

with endless gratitude to Ina Garten

  • 1 roasting chicken
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch fresh thyme
  • 4 lemons
  • 3 heads garlic, cut in 1/2 crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 onion, plus carrots or potatoes (all optional)
  • for the gravy:

  • 1 cup white wine (or tablespoon of red wine vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • cleaning Tweety

    Preheat the oven to 425F. Remove the chicken giblets (thank goodness Tweety was clean, I got off the hook). Then rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers and pat the outside dry. Place the chicken in a large roasting pan (or, if it’s a small bird like Tweets, a ceramic 9×13 casserole works just fine). Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken—ensuring you’re using large kosher salt and fresh pepper here.

    Stuff the cavity with the thyme (reserving enough thyme to garnish the dish) 1 lemon, halved, and 2 halves of the garlic. Now since Tweety was small, I had to cut the lemon in quarters. Know, too, that you simply keep the peels on; the lemon rind will caramelize to become edible, and the garlic skin will simply slip off upon roasting.

    Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper.

    Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Cut 2 of the lemons in quarters and scatter the quarters and remaining garlic around the chicken. If you’re including onion, carrots, potatoes, or fennel, drizzle the veggies with a little olive oil and salt them, too.

    Roast the chicken for 1 hour (longer for a bird over 4lb.) until your meat thermometer reads 180F, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh.

    Remove to a platter and cover with aluminum foil while you prepare the gravy. (Am I fooling you yet, Lindsey The Chicken Expert?)

    We interrupt here to bring you this amusing quote of the night:

    Lindsey: What do I use to transfer this hot bird to a plate?? I’ve got a pancake spatula. Tongs?

    Bob: Well, you could usually use a meat fork.

    Lindsey: I didn’t register for a meat fork. 

    this is a good time to pose

    Thank you for your patience. We now return you back to your regularly scheduled recipe.

    Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the bottom of the pan. To the juices in the bottom of the pan, add the wine (or a tablespoon of red wine vinegar) and chicken stock and bring it to a boil. If you’re using a casserole you don’t want to put over the burner, be sure to scrape up all the lovely brown bits with hot chicken stock so it transfers to the saucepan for the gravy.

    Reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until reduced by half.

    Now, here is a gourmet touch I added: when your (health-conscious) guests aren’t looking, whisk a piece of cold butter into your finished gravy for shine and richness.

    Slice the chicken on a platter (or recruit a meat-eater to help with this complicated task). Don’t forget to remove Tweety’s twine!

    Garnish the chicken platter with the roasted garlic, reserved thyme and 1 lemon, sliced. Serve with the gravy.

    not that it holds vegetarian appeal, but I do say it looks scrumptious

    Next up? The unique autumn pasta I served alongside, and a simple starter salad.

    Tweety McCluck Part Three: The Last Stand comes soon to a blog near you. Stay Tuned!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    a joyful fall to one and all

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