Tag Archives: spinach

the food of our forefathers

Let’s close our eyes and imagine this monumental moment in American history: It’s July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress closes its session for the day and John Adams takes a moment to write his dear Abigail:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, curried quinoa salad, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Yes, from our remarkable forefather, and determined by the democratic votes of dear Pear readers, this Fourth of July was one of cornhole, fireworks, and curried quinoa salad. You voted, I made it, neighbors loved it.

While a number of new foods and flavors crossed the Atlantic in the late eighteenth century, the combinations here were likely uncommon. If only I could time travel to Mr. Adams’ day and gift him with a subscription to Bon Appetit

curried quinoa salad with mango, bok choy, fourth of july

Curried Quinoa Salad with Mango

from Bon Appetit, makes 2 servings

1 cup quinoa (about 6 ounces)

1/4 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon mango chutney, chopped if chunky

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

2 cups chopped peeled mango (peaches are a perfect substitute)

1 cup chopped unpeeled English hothouse cucumber

5 tablespoons chopped green onions, divided

2 cups baby spinach, chopped

Note: I bought mango slices in the deli section, having not planned ahead for ripe mangos. I also recommend adding any or all of the following for extra sweet crunch: diced peaches, dried fruit (apricots or cranberries), red bell pepper.

It is important to rinse quinoa well before cooking. (I used the steam method and found it makes the quinoa too gummy). Cook quinoa in medium pot of boiling salted water (I used chicken broth for flavor) over medium heat until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Drain well and cool.

curried quinoa salad with mango, quinoa, le cruset, purple

Transfer to medium bowl.

curry powder, mango dressing

whisk, whisking dressing, blue bowl

Whisk oil and next 4 ingredients in small bowl to blend. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

chopped mango, spring onion, scallion

diced cucumbers

dried apricots, chopped

Add chopped mango, cucumber, green onions, any other fruits and veggies you are including, and 1/4 cup dressing to quinoa; toss to coat. Divide spinach between 2 plates. Spoon quinoa salad over spinach. Drizzle with remaining dressing and serve. Or, toss it all together in a big bowl and serve the next day!

curried quinoa salad, mango, red pepper, scallion, dried apricot

I spent my Independence day crying to Mao’s Last Dancer, painting furniture for my music room, and serving this salad to new friends. (Even my father-in-law loved this salad!) How did you celebrate?

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plenty: the mighty eggplant

I’m limited in many of the cookbooks of my shelf; vegetarian entrées are less than a third of each book. Imagine my delight when I opened this new cookbook to 120 main course vegetarian recipes. Yes, I coveted Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook Plenty since Christmas when it popped up on all my favorite food blogs.

Consider this new series a reader’s guide to Plenty. The book is packed with abundant photos and paragraphs, the latter of which can appear daunting. When I received the Peter Gorden’s book Salads from a co-worker, I thought I had to roast an entire red onion to use 1 tsp onion juice in the final dressing. It took many years growing comfortable in the kitchen to realize how I could create the dish without four hours devoted to “leaving tomatoes in the sun”. To the discerning palette, some of these steps make a world of difference; the rest of us work and want to get dinner on the table before midnight. I will walk you through some of Plenty’s recipes (four this week alone!) and hope to take the intimidation out of 600-word recipes.

If you purchased Plenty, or plan to, it is surely inspired by the cover photo: roasted eggplants blanketed in a creamy sauce and sparkling pomegranate seeds like jewels. It looks remarkably elegant and utterly original. It is. And it is so do-able, you need to make this  tomorrow—impress the heck of out your friends. I ate my last eggplant the next day, dressed to the nines and refrigerated overnight: it held up perfectly and was delightful cold. (Good thing, since yogurt does not heat well). The ease of achieving this dish: slice, roast, and dress the eggplant for a memorable evening.

Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce

from Plenty, serves four as a starter

2 large and long eggplants (firm and unblemished)

1/3 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tsp thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish

1 pomegranate (or package of pomegranate seeds)

1 tsp za’atar (or equal parts dried oregano, thyme, sesame seeds—crushed)

Sauce:

9 tbsp buttermilk

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I purchased a single serving yogurt cup)

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish

1 small garlic clove, minced (on a microplane or like this)

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways, cutting straight through the green stalk (the stalk is for the look; don’t eat it).

Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin. (I made a few too many! didn’t make a difference) Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern.

Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil—keep on brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed by the flesh.

Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and some coarse salt and pepper.

Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, at which point the flesh should be soft, flavorful and nicely browned. I increased the heat to 475°F the last five minutes to achieve the proper color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely.

A delightful za’atar substitute from The Internet: crush 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. leftover fresh thyme, 1 tsp. sesame seeds.

if you can’t find packaged pomegranate seeds:

While the eggplants are in the oven, cut the pomegranate into two horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, and use the back of a wooden spoon or a rolling pin to gently knock on the pomegranate skin. Continue beating with increasing power until the seeds start coming out naturally and falling through your fingers into the bowl. Once all are there, sift through the seeds to remove any bits of white skin or membrane. For the visual learner.

To make the sauce: Whisk together all of the ingredients. Taste for seasoning, then keep cold until needed.

To serve, spoon plenty of buttermilk sauce over the eggplant halves without covering the stalks. Sprinkle za’atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with thyme. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

What would YOU serve alongside this eggplant extravaganza? share in the comment section.

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pizza: it’s what’s for dinner

Let’s get in the mood with a scene from a beloved childhood film. In this clip from Back to the Future II, we glipse at the McFly family in the Future: the year 2015. Ha!

I am impressed the writers in 1987 foresaw caller ID. Still waiting on Black & Decker to release The Hydrator.

Yes, it’s a cherished dish since I was born in the 1980s when Mom, Dad, Jason and I would lay the picnic blanket on the family room floor to watch TGIF around a piping hot pizza box. Even on a scorching summer night, 26 years later, pizza is still the ultimate end-the-week dinner. Now that I’ve wrapped up nutrition classes, it seems an apt time to talk about up-ing the nutrient value of our favorite foods. Let’s start perfecting the pie.

OVERLOAD

Carry-out pizza, despite the presence of carbs, veggies, dairy and in one serving, can be nutritionally void and calorically perilous. Fat and salt reign. The sodium overload in the sauce, pepperoni, and cheese cancels out much hope of absorbing calcium. Pizza also often lacks fiber so crucial to our diet; I found a way to include it in my version, with a flavor just as appealing.

RETHINK PIZZA

What do we love about pizza? The crust’s crunch, rich tomato flavor, the alluring salty cheese? Here’s just one way to enjoy this essence without sacrificing our heart’s health. Using an appropriate portion of salty cheese provides ample cheesiness and significantly decreases the saturated fat. I added toppings high in vitamins, low in calories—then baked it to that golden brown we all adore.

Heart-Healthy Pizza

A  Friday Night Linvention

1 cup baby spinach leaves (use arugula for peppery kick)

1 cup mixed basil and mint leaves

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 bell pepper, sliced thin

½ cup shaved parmesan cheese (pecorino, romano, asiago are all great options)

1 prepared pizza crust (mine was only about 9 inches diameter; whole wheat is a great choice)

budget tip: purchase a wedge of romano or asiago cheese and shave with a vegetable peeler. this can be several dollars less than pre-shredded parmesan.

Note the sodium per serving size on this Trader Joes’ pizza crust! It would have been all too easy to eat this entire pie. It’s not just about fat: it’s about the whole picture.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

In a food processor (a 2-cup machine is sufficient), puree the spinach and herbs with 2 tbsp olive oil. If you don’t have a food processor, finely chop all of greens and stir into the olive oil. A traditional pesto with nuts and cheese would add much more fat than I desired here.

Spread the pesto over the crust. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on the sauce along with the peppers. Sprinkle a pinch of kosher or sea salt over the tomatoes—this will help them roast in the oven. Scatter the cheese in between the tomatoes and peppers, leaving the tomatoes exposed.

Bake directly on the rack according to the crust’s package directions, or until the cheese browns. I place a large baking sheet beneath the pizza to catch any dripping oil or cheese as it bakes. Cool slightly before cutting; I prefer a long knife instead of a pizza wheel.

Other ideas:

Rather than high-sodium pizza sauce, top your crust with thin slices of salted beefsteak tomatoes (and herbs if you like) and bake until the tomatoes begin to dry out. Top with ½ cup of salty cheese, and the veggies/meat of your choosing and bake until brown. Of course, the tricky part is not eating the whole pie! Serve with a salad and munch on fruit or nuts before dinner. Eating a salad (tossed with peaches or berries) while our pizza is in the oven helps with smaller portions.

Pizza is a favorite is our home, and we’re always playing around with new ways to make it memorable in our own kitchen. Find more pizza inspirations here and recent medical news on life-saving fiber from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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the other white meat

Last weekend, we ventured to Delaware to celebrate Pop’s birthday. What could I cook for him? I needed a second dinner request when his favorite “bratwurst and and sauerkraut” sounded less crowd-friendly. Second pick: Pork chops. Andrew was concerned, having only had dry, flavorless pork chops. I’d never even seen a pork chop, but surely it’s all a matter of the right recipe?

It is indeed. Thank you, Gourmet magazine.

This was a fast, flawless meat dish. Because it’s a striaghtforward recipe, and sometimes that’s what really makes great cooking. The carnivores in my family agreed this was genuinely better than any restaurant chop they had ever experienced. And this is a do-able dinner: sear it, roast it, sauce it.

Pan-Roasted Pork Chops with Cranberry Reduction

tweaked from Gourmet, 2001

For the pork chops

4 (1 1/4-inch-thick) rib pork chops

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the sauce

2 medium shallots, grated on the large holes of a box grater

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 cup unsweetened dried cranberries

3/4 cup chicken stock or broth

3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled until added at the end

Before you begin, place the dried cranberries in the chicken stock to plump up for the sauce. 

Cook the pork chops: Pat chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in your largest skillet over moderately high heat until very hot but not smoking. Heat the pan for at least a minute to caramelize the meat. Brown the chops, leaving untouched for about 3 minutes per side.

If the chops are a tight fit in the pan, brown just two at a time or use two skillets.

Transfer skillet to oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally 2 inches into meat registers 155°F, 7 to 9 minutes. Check the internal temperature at 6 minutes so the meat does not overcook.

Transfer chops with tongs to a platter, leaving fat in skillet, and cover chops loosely with foil to keep warm.

in the same skillet…

Make the sauce: This sauce may sound fussy, but having all the ingredients ready to go in the skillet just means pour, stir, pour, stir until the sauce reduces and thickens. Only a few minutes.

Sauté shallots in fat remaining in skillet over moderately high heat, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes.

Add wine and deglaze by boiling over high heat, scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half.

Add cranberries and stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries begin to swell, about 2 minutes.

Stir in brown sugar and thyme and simmer, stirring about 3 minutes more minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in butter until incorporated, then season with salt and pepper.

Don’t worry my fellow vegetarians, the accompanying creamed spinach is up next! Indulgent, yes, but it made a few spinach converts. Pops included 😉

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I’m not in right now, but if you leave a message…

I’m a guest writer! You can find my latest recipes and post over on Anilia’s health and home blog: A Little Inspiration. Today, I’m writing about pistachio pesto, a 5-minute plum salad, and sharing the yellow roma tomatoes I submitted to the 2011 Virginia Grown farmer’s market photo contest! Click over to read, and see you back here soon 🙂

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out with the stud, in with the spud

I like beautiful food on small plates when I’m alone. Andrew, on occassion, is off with The WoodsBoys, and I cherish the solitude to make elegant meals. Get out the good cheese, the 14-ingredient salads, the three-hour dinners—it’s all for me. Yes, I’m the girl who wears pearls on most days and dresses up for the post office.

I was planning a more extravagant dish, but, with the school year near its end, my Friday afternoon energy was only enough for a simple potato. Not to say it was anything short of amaaaazing. Lucky for us (yes, I had you in mind), this is an effortless entrée worth repeating—for company, next time. With caramelized onions.

Lindsey’s Friday Night Potato

serves one, a Linvention easily adapted for a crowd

1 sweet potato, rinsed and scrubbed

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

1 small bunch chopped chives (or scallions)

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

fresh pepper

On a hot day, I was thrilled to find one can easily cook a potato whole on the grill[pan]. Who wants to heat up the dang apartment and turn on the oven for a whole hour for one measly potato?? If you don’t have a grill, bake it in your oven sans judgement 😉

Rub the entire potato with oil and place directly on a medium-hot grill. Turn occasionally and prick with a fork after about 40 minutes, cooking until the potato is completely tender. As the jury is still out on eating potato skin, I wasn’t so worried about charring the exterior. I did wrap the potato in foil for a little bit to see if this decreased cooking time, but it didn’t seem to make much difference. The charred potato was shockingly moist, to my delight.

Once tender, slice the potato into a “t” and push the edges towards the middle to push the flesh out (Mom’s trick). Sprinkle with cheese and chives, and pepper if desired. The salty cheese melts and flavors the potato beautifully.

Serve with tender greens (mache or baby spinach) dressed in lemon and olive oil. Then, if you’re me, turn on Bringing Up Baby or another silly flick, get on your jammies and put your feet up.

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earning your [favorite dessert here]

A family friend recently asked (regarding my veggie-loving, meat-free diet), “Lindsey, I just don’t understand what you order when you go out for fast food” to which I could only respond, “Well, I don’t eat fast food.” I realize this is a lifestyle choice, and the next few thoughts explore why it’s mine.

Now I think dinner in 20 minutes does count as (pretty-darn) fast food, but, yes, it requires planning ahead—precisely why I write this handy blog for you! The following grilled treat is healthy and creamy-wonderful; I simply do not believe there has to be a trade-off between enjoying food and treating your body well. Lately I’ve been considering whether this perspective is an adoptee thing?

It feels like people around me are always yapping about their genes, “A strong heart runs in the family, I just eat what I want…” Or persistent co-worker: “We’ve always had good cholesterol on Dad’s side, I don’t need to worry about sodium”. Maybe two decades of checking the not applicable box on those medical history forms has led me to the silly assumption I’ve got take things into my own hands mouth and eat foods that will best provide my body with nutritious fuel. Adoptees often don’t know of historical health on which they can rely, not that this makes all of us vegetarians…

I love to eat, I live for cheese; I cook at home so my food can be delicious and controlled in salt and fat (motive: so I can live a long time traveling the world with Andrew, who has enviable genes). Call me nuts for considering this concoction a complete meal, but it was divine and followed by a well-earned a gelato date with the hubs. Andrew my Chicken-Loving Man loved this, called it restaurant material. Gene-ius 😉

Grilled Corn and Feta Bruschetta

based on a June 2011 recipe from Bon Appetit

2 ears corn, shucked

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1/2 loaf fresh ciabatta bread

1/2 garlic clove

1/4 cup sour cream (or crema mexicana)

3 tbsp. crumbled feta

1 large tomato, chopped

1 lime

fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, or chives)

chili powder

kosher salt

fresh black pepper

Grill the corn

If you want to speed along the corn cooking (and avoid charred, raw kernels), consider partially cooking the cobs in the microwave. When ready to grill, rub the corn with vegetable oil and season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill over medium heat until lightly charred and tender. Slice corn off the cob in wide strips.

Season the Bread

Cut the loaf into one-inch slices; stack the slices and cut them in half (I found grilling smaller pieces the second night—not pictured—made for easier eating). Lightly brush the bread slices with olive oil and grill on each side until slightly charred (just 3 or so minutes on each side, keep on eye on ’em). Immediately rub the top of each slice with the cut side of the garlic—a rustic Italian technique you will love.

Assemble the bruschetta

Mix the sour cream with feta (I used fat-free sour cream).

Smear the toasts with the cheese mixture and top with the grilled corn and chopped tomatoes. Squeeze a generous amount of lime juice over each and garnish with your favorite herb (a must). Top with chili powder (also essential; I use a completely mild chili powder and it adds lovely smokey flavor to the corn and lime).

Without a Grill?

If you find this recipe as alluring as I did on paper, you can replicate it without a grill by cooking the corn (either in the oven with this fabulous method, or cutting off the cob and then sautéing in olive oil until tender). Brush the bread slices with olive oil and toast on a baking sheet in a 400F oven until lightly brown, rubbing the garlic on the bread as soon as it’s out of the oven.

Pepita and Spinach Salad

inspired by an April 2011 taco recipe from Epicurious

1 large tomato, chopped

1/4 cup roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1/3 cup canned chickpeas

1/2 lime

3/4 cup packed spinach leaves, stacked, rolled, and thinly sliced

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 avocado, peeled, seeded, cut into chunks

1 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

olive oil

If the pumpkin seeds are raw, toast them until fragrant in a dry, medium-hot skillet. Toast the chickpeas in a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil and stir until brown and crisp.

Combine the sliced spinach and tomatoes with a generous squeeze of fresh lime and small drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the feta, avocado, chickpeas, and seeds just before serving.

More about my most adored indoor grill here. And have you checked out the updated About Lindsey tab??

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eastern essentials

For readers already infatuated with Indian cuisine, skip ahead. Once you discover the sensation that is Indian food, you’ll see how silly for me to go about explaining things. Whatever misconceptions you might have about “curry”, “spicy food”, and other notions about unfamiliar combinations, you leave them right here in this opening paragraph and we’ll move on together. No looking back.

In your mental skillet, imagine olive oil glistening over the heat. Smell the garlic, onion, and ginger crackling and golden. Toss in some seeds and colorful spices–mild in every way but flavor.  Stir in tomatoes, chicken, eggplant, spinach—whatever your favorite entrée. Simmer into a sauce to pour over fluffy, fragrant basmati and scoop up with rich buttery Indian flatbread.

Basic ingredients, new combinations. Not spicy, but well-spiced.  Vibrant, unforgettable food that redefines flavor. Not so scary, eh?

Because we’re starting simple, I’m going to divide yesterday’s Indian feast into two posts. Let’s begin with Palak Paneer: creamy (though creamless) spinach and onion sauce with cubes of fried cheese. Tell me that appeals to abundant cultural palettes?

Though Indian cuisine embraces rich sauces and flavor more complex than any other, the ingredients are often in your freezer and pantry. This traditional recipe for Palak Paneer is phenomenal, and a new jar of Garam Masala in the spice cabinet might be the only ingredient unique to your dinner. Garam Masala is a spice blend with ground coriander, cumin, cloves, and cinnamon—most grocery stores now carry it with everyday spices.

Paneer is Indian cheese, whole milk that has simply been strained. It has little flavor (since it’s just cow’s milk) and does not melt, making it perfect for frying in olive oil and simmering in sauces. You can purchase it at Whole Foods, at some Trader Joes, and ethnic markets. If you can’t find paneer, you can use chicken or another protein, though the sauce alone is perfect with a side starch. I have not tried substituting Haloumi cheese (with very similar properties), and I bet it would be wonderful.

a fast method to chop cilantro: just scrape your knife along the stems in a downward motion

The nice thing about preparing Palak Paneer—at least the way I learned it in my Indian cuisine cooking class—is you blend all the sautéed ingredients, meaning you don’t have to spend your time on such precise chopping.Traditional Indian food is rarely finicky about technique or measurement, delightfully simple to make. One of many reasons to add it to your repertoire.

Palak Paneer (Spinach with Cheese)

loosely based on Rosy’s recipe from AllRecipes.com, and what I remembered from my Indian cooking class

2 tbsp. olive oil (or 1 tbsp. oil, 1 tbsp. butter)

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (on your microplane)

1/2 teaspoon toasted cumin seed

1 (3 inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced (on your microplane)

2 teaspoons garam masala

1 teaspoon salt

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup water, or as needed

10 to 16 oz. (give or take) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

1 pound paneer, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (Finnish Frying Cheese or Halloumi are great substitutes)

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

juice of half a lemon 

Before you start on the Palak Paneer, start cooking your rice so they’ll finish at the same time. Click here for my recipe on authentic basmati.

the sauce

Heat oil/butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in garlic and cumin seed; cook until the garlic softens, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger, 1 teaspoon garam masala, salt, onion, and water. Increase heat to medium and simmer until the water reduces a bit. Don’t hesitate to add more water to keep a sauce-like consistency.

Stir in spinach and cook until hot, about 5 minutes. Transfer to an immersion or upright blender and blend with the lemon juice, adding more water if needed.

the cheese

In the same pan (if nonstick), add the cubes of paneer to one tablespoon of hot vegetable oil. Using tongs, turn them as they develop a flavorful crispy crust.

how easy is that?

Add paneer to the sauce, heating an additional 5 minutes, or until hot. Pour into a serving dish and sprinkle with cilantro and remaining garam masala. Taste and add a pinch of salt, if needed. Serve over rice (here’s how I make it every time), or scoop up with Naan—traditional Indian flatbread. Pita, though not authentic, would work wonderfully. Andrew and I have not been impressed with any of the plastic-packaged Naan near the grocery store bakeries—uck, save your money. Trader Joes has the best Naan in their freezer section.

Next time: Chana Masala, chickpeas with tomatoes. Please, please share your questions and successes in the comment section. I know plenty of you out there excited for an excuse to try something completely new. Welcome.

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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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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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