Quick Tip: More Flavorful Pasta

Want more flavorful pasta? Cook it in the same water you used to par-boil (precook) your sausages. Some of the richness of the sausage will seep into your noodles, for an extra flavor kick!

Not making sausage?Throw a slightly-crushed clove of garlic and a few sprigs of thyme in the pot as you bring it to a boil. Just remember to fish them out before tossing in your spaghetti!

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Meatless Monday: Burrata, Asparagus, and Mint Pasta

Many of my friends tell me they are too busy to cook, especially during the week. In honor of them, and of people like me, who have found 2012 to be way more busy than they expected, here is a quick and delicious Spring pasta.

For those of you who have not experienced the culinary delight that is Burrata, it’s Mozarella mixed with cream, which creates this rich, soft cheese with a hint of sweetness. It makes a wonderful addition to pastas, salads, roasted vegetables, almost anything, really. In this pasta, I paired it with some steamed asparagus and lemon zest, which complemented the sweetness and richness of the Burrata well.

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Burrata, Asparagus, and Mint Pasta

1 bunch of asparagus trimmed and cut diagonally into inch long pieces

8 oz of favorite pasta

Zest of 2 meyer lemons

Salt. ground pepper, and red chili pepper flakes to taste

2 tablespoons of mint finely chopped

Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

2 spoon fulls of Burrata

Boil pasta water with ample amounts of salt, and prepare the other ingredients. Place a steam basket in another pot and fill approximately 2 inches with water. Place pasta in boiling water and asparagus pieces in steam basket. Cook the asparagus pieces until just tender, depending on thickness, 3-6 minutes. Cook the pasta until al dente, both pasta and asparagus should be slightly under done because they will cook more once combined. Combine cooked pasta, and asparagus in a warm pot (the one you used to cook the pasta) and drizzle with olive oil. Mix in lemon zest, salt, ground pepper, and red chili pepper flakes. Lastly mix in mint and desired amount of Parmesan cheese. Once individual portions are served, add a small spoon full of Burrata to each plate.

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If you wanted to do a lighter version of this dish, simply leave off the Burrata. The mint, lemon, and Parmesan make a lovely flavor combination on their own. Me, personally, I would never say no to Burrata, it’s the perfect ingredient to dress up a quick and easy week night dinner.

Until next week, Happy Meatless Monday!

Irish Soda Bread with Currants and Flax

Irish soda bread

Irish soda bread

Almost every Friday, my partner’s architecture firm has a team breakfast, with a rotating schedule of responsibility.  When it’s B’s turn to provide, I try to bake something fresh (often in the wee hours the morning of).  I’ve made fresh popovers, muffins galore… and today, in honor of Saint Patty’s this weekend, Irish soda bread.

This recipe uses the traditional ingredients of black currants and flaxseed.  (Unfortunately, on this occasion there were no currants available at our local co-op, and so I substituted non-traditional raisins for similar sweetness.)

Flax has been grown in Ireland for hundreds of years.  I found a registry of Irish flax growers from 1796, and discovered 11 of my partner’s relatives on the list!  The plant fibers are used to make linen, leaving the seeds for human consumption.  Flax seeds are high in dietary fiber, micronutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids, making them a great (unobtrusive) addition to baked goods.  Just make sure to drink plenty of water, or you might find yourself a little… um… backed up, for want of a more polite term.

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Meatless Monday: Easy Mini Quiche Recipe

Stuffed Dates and Mini Quiches

Stuffed Dates and Mini Quiches

This weekend, I was privileged enough to celebrate Gabrielle’s upcoming nuptials with a fantastic group of ladies. Now, what happens at a bachelorette party stays at the party, but one thing I can speak to is the food — because I made it. Okay, not all of it. For dinner proper, we had a beautiful prix-fixe designed especially for us by the friendly folks at First Crush, but there was a good stretch of activity before dinner, for which we needed fuel. And I spent all day Friday (and Saturday morning) making sure we had that fuel, in the most delicious and convenient packages possible.

These mini quiches are ideal for party finger food, as I served them, or simply as a handy on-the-go breakfast, lunch, or dinner. (You all know from my passion for muffins how much I love food you can easily grab and go.) They’re also a great source of protein for those of us who choose to intentionally eat vegetarian regularly — whether it be Meatless Monday or not!

The fact that they’re incredible easy to make, as well as transport, is not to be undervalued either. When you’ve got several dishes to knock out, a simple but elegant appetizer like this is a godsend. Whereas I would normally make my own crust, cut out circles, prebake, and so on, I cut corners (but not flavor) by using the organic herbed ciabatta rolls found in my local co-op’s small frozen section. You can customize the recipe by using whatever rolls you prefer, along with your favorite vegetables and seasonings.

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Quick Mini Quiche Recipe

Makes 16 muffin-sized quiches.

  • 1 package small frozen rolls (at least 8 rolls)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • small bunch rainbow chard, or other wilt-able greens
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 cup low-fat or skim milk
  • 4 large eggs (free range/organic, if possible!)
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bake your frozen rolls according to the package’s instructions, and set aside to cool. Preheat your oven to 375°F for the baking of the finished quiches. Then, prep your veggie ingredients. Chop and lightly sauté the onion garlic in olive oil with fennel seeds. Add your greens and as they wilt, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring frequently, until all excess vinegar is evaporated. I also made fire-roasted bell peppers (click for how-to), but you could easily throw them (or almost anything else) into the sauté pan with your onion and greens.

Next, mix your quiche filling. Whisk together milk, eggs, paprika, mustard, salt, pepper, and thyme.

To assemble your quiches, spray two muffin tins with non-stick spray. (If you want to present your quiches in cupcake papers as I did, you will do that after baking, when they are already holding their shapes.) Cut your rolls in half and place one half in the bottom of each muffin cup. Sprinkle half of your Parmesan over each “crust,” then distribute your vegetables evenly over that. Pour egg mixture over each, and bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle remaining Parmesan and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Let cool, then transfer each quiche into the festive cupcake papers of your choice!

dividerPretty easy for a fancy party appetizer, right? The best part of it all is, you can use whatever veggies you have on hand. No more excuses for letting that spinach go bad in the fridge. No more ordering in because you think you don’t have a vehicle for the ingredients on hand. I give you: the Quiche That Cures Many (If Not All) Ills.

Bachelorette fare: Lemon drop shots, stuffed dates, and mini quiches

Bachelorette fare: Lemon drop shots, stuffed dates, and mini quichesSpecial Preview...

 

Special Preview…

Coming this week on Foodies: Gourmet lemon drop jello shots in lemon rind wedges!  They look just like lemon slices, but taste just like your favorite citrus cocktail!

Baby Lima Bean and Blood Orange Salad

With the warm weather we have been enjoying in the last few days, I have been on a salad kick.  I love salads, they are a wonderful backdrop for a variety of ingredients and allow for culinary creativity. The trick with salads as main courses is packing in some protein so that you get full and have enough nutrients.

This particular salad was derived from one of my favorite Bruschetta recipes, which I originally found on Epicurious. The Bruschetta is made of up a fava bean dip, spread on toasted bread, and a blood orange salad on top.  Last night, I decided to put baby lima beans in a salad with blood orange slices and dressing, and topped with avocado and sourdough baguette pieces.

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Baby Lima Bean and Blood Orange Salad

  • 1 1/4 cups frozen double-peeled lima beans (about one 14-ounce bag), thawed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 blood oranges
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 5 ounces Arugula
  • 1 Avocado
  • 6-8 Slices of Sourdough Bread (optional)

If not already thawed, soak frozen lima beans in warm water. Prepare blood oranges: Grate the zest from one orange, juice enough to get 3 tbs, and cut the rind and white pieces off of two, to get several small sections of the fruit itself.  Combine the juice, zest, and garlic in a large bowl.  Add the white balsamic and olive oil, and whisk together until fully combined.

Once beans are fully thawed, heat them and 1 cup water in a medium sauce pan on high heat until water is bowling. Reduce heat to medium and cook until just tender, approximately 10 minutes total. Drain beans and place them in a separate container to cool. Meanwhile, toss the arugula in the prepared dressing. Slice avocado into long, thin pieces, and prepare baguette into 1 inch slices.  Once beans are room temperature, add them to the arugula mixture and toss. Add orange pieces.

Serve with avocado on top and bread on the plate.

dividerShay and I both found this salad a delicious balance of flavors with the blood orange and the garlic, but also filling with the avocado and the beans.  While I will admit that it has similarities to my last salad post, just try the combination of white balsamic, blood orange juice, and garlic, I bet you’ll want to use it in everything too. Happy Meatless Monday!

Green Tea Cupcakes with Pomegranate Foam

Green tea cupcakes topped with pomegranate foam

Green tea cupcakes topped with pomegranate foam

This weekend I was tasked with providing a non-chocolate dessert for an Oscars party. With a pomegranate languishing on my counter, I headed to Foodily, a website and smartphone app that makes it easy to find recipes by ingredient. A featured recipe from Cupcake Bakeshop caught my eye: Green Tea Pomegranate Cupcakes.

Gabrielle enjoys a cupcake

Gabrielle enjoys a cupcake

I love green tea desserts, and keep matcha powder in my pantry the way I do sugar, flour, and other baking staples. Green tea cake, green tea ice cream, green tea cocktails… you name it, I love it. I was slightly weirded out by the idea of putting pomegranate seeds into my batter the way the original recipe did, and was also low on useable pomegranate seeds, so I omitted that step. I also made changes to the recipe: using white whole wheat flour (reducing the amount to avoid changing the texture), adding vanilla, and making a more complex flavor profile for the foam topping. I also added cream of tartar to stabilize the egg whites. The result: a perfect pairing of fluffy, earthy green tea cake cut with an airy topping with the tangy sweetness of pomegranate and a hint of orange. These little numbers got rave reviews, not only from Gabrielle, but from the rest of the group as well. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

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Meatless Monday: Tofu Salad with Blood Orange Sesame Vinaigrette

In my quest to discover and invent delicious, healthy recipes, I have come to love tofu.  I used to think that it was bland, cardboard-like, or when uncooked, an undesirable texture. But as I have started to experiment, it’s really amazing how much you can do with tofu.  While I know I have only scratched the surface of tofu possibilities, one my favorite things to do with it is to lightly brown it.  It takes almost no time at all, and will take on the flavors that you cook it with.

In this recipe, I browned tofu on top of a bed of arugula and other mixed greens with a few of my favorite salad additions.   The toppings combinations are endless, but I found the crunch of cucumber, and green onion with the soft avocado made a lovely texture combination. The blood orange juice is a nice alternative to the usual suspects in a Japanese inspired dressing, but in a pinch, orange or lemon juice would also provide a nice balance to the sesame oil and white balsamic vinegar.

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Tofu Salad with Blood Orange Sesame Vinaigrette

  • Juice from 1.5 medium sized blood orange
  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 large garlic clove pressed
  • 2 tbs “shoyu” (unpasteurized soy sauce)
  • 2 inch chunk of ginger grated
  • 2 tbs White balsamic vinegar
  • pinch of paprika
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tbs Canola or other cooking oil
  • 2 14oz packs of extra firm tofu
  • 1 large bag of arugula or other desired salad green
  • 1 bunch of green onions, finely sliced
  • 1 cucumber, sliced in thin rounds and then halved
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 small handful of sesame seeds (optional)

Whisk together the first nine ingredients in a large bowl; taste and season as needed.  Prepare cucumber, avocado and green onion and set aside.  Remove excess moisture from tofu and slice into 1/2 inch pieces. Place the cooking oil, with salt and pepper in a large saute pan and bring to medium heat.  Saute tofu until golden brown on both sides *NOTE depending on size of saute pan, may need to cook tofu in multiple batches.  Meanwhile, toss the salad greens, green onions, cucumber, and avocado in the large bowl with the salad dressing.  Once the tofu has reached the desired color on both sides, remove from heat and cool for a few minutes. Add the room temperature tofu to the salad mixture and toss until all ingredients are evenly coated. Add sesame seeds last on individual portions.

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If you like this salad but want to try something different next time, instead of sauteing the tofu, caramelize it.  There really are so many ways to do tofu well.  So if your only experience of tofu so far has been as a bland, mushy, inferior meat substitute, give this recipe a try and see if you too become a tofu convert.  Happy Meatless Monday!!

Meatless Monday: Asparagus and Spinach Pesto

Super Natural Cooking coverI adore all things basil:  Caprese salads, adding it to pastas, and of course, pesto. The challenge is, Shay, my fiance, does not like traditional pesto (insert sounds of shock and slight outrage here).  So when my mom recommended that I start reading Heidi Swanson’s blog www.101cookbooks.com and then generously bought me one of her cookbooks, “Super Natural Cooking”, I was excited to see a pesto alternative recipe!!

For those who are unfamilar with Heidi Swanson, she is a San Francisco native who practices and preaches healthy eating with natural, organic, sustainable ingredients. Her recipes are inventive, varied, and absolutely delicious.

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Series Switcheroo: “Cheese of the Week” to “Meatless Monday”

Cheese of the Week will be taking a hiatus in favor of a brand new series starting on Monday!  We have really enjoyed Cheese of the Week — discovering new cheeses, revisiting old favorites — but we are very excited for something new on Monday. We hope that rotating series will keep us all exploring different types of food! But not to worry, Cheese of the Week will be back.

Meatless Monday logoOn Monday, I will be joining the Meatless Monday campaign and posting a new Vegetarian or Vegan Recipe weekly. I have started exploring vegan dishes and am so excited to share some of the wonderful recipes I have stumbled across and created.  As is true of so many great things in my life, Maddie introduced me to this campaign and gave me the idea for the new series. I hope you all enjoy it, and for all of the cheese lovers out there, don’t worry, there will definitely be some cheesey recipes in Meatless Mondays.

The World’s Easiest Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark Recipe

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark

I don’t really go in for the whole Valentine’s Day experience.  It’s what I call a Hallmark holiday, invented by card and candy companies to move product.  On the other hand, I’ll take any excuse to eat chocolate… not that I need one.  Whether you’re looking for a quick treat for yourself, your loved one, or want to give it away as gourmet gifts, this recipe for peanut butter bark is delicious and darn easy to boot.

Just how easy is it?  To give you an idea, I invented it this past Saturday, probably between 11 and midnight, in the middle of a [paused] movie.  What can I say?  B wanted something sweet and crunchy, and I wanted to deliver.  And in this case, it was easy: it only takes about 5 minutes of active work (plus time to set).

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