Monthly Archives: March 2007

Mmmm. Pasta.

I had not one, not two, but three! pasta recipes to choose from this week for Presto Pasta Night. However, I chose the one that looks like worms, because it was the most fun.

worms

Just in case you thought I was kidding. Of course, the pasta did not look like worms in the package. In fact, it was a brilliant purply red. Any guesses?

It’s roasted-garlic beet pasta from the Dupont Circle freshmarket. And, while I was at the farmers market, I picked up kale and herbed goat cheese to go with it.

No real recipe, for the sauce, just sauteed some garlic and oil, added slivered kale, and dumped in some cheese and milk. But beet pasta? Once you get past the color, it’s fantabulous; rich, flavorful, slightly softer than al dente, and you can feel yourself getting healthier as you eat (um, yes, still a little bit of a priority. Whoops. )

Next time I might try it with a simpler sauce, it’s that good. I’m still kicking myself for not saving the bright red pasta water for risotto.

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Health Food

(Or, what I eat when I’m sick.)

Plate

Stuffed butternut squash and garlic kale. Isn’t that what you eat when you’re sick and there’s no soup in the house?

Well, maybe not. But this was fabulous. I’m sick, gross-sick, and I don’t want the roomie to get sick (cause then who’ll take care of me?), so I needed to make something so very healthy that the sick germs would take one look at her and run. As I subscribe to the colorful plate theory of nutrition, I pulled out the brightest things in my cabinets/ pantry, and tried to make them work together. I decided that kale and butternut squash didn’t go together well enough to be cooked together, which left me butternut squash and my newest impulse purchase, black “forbidden” rice.

This rice? It’s fabulous. I’m not entirely sure that it counts as rice, really, in terms of taste– it’s very nutty and firm, more so than brown rice. Of course, this makes it perfect for stuffing something soft and sweet, for more contrast. I was inspired towards the end (interestingly, after the addition of feta), to make this almost Moroccan style, with raisins, cinnamon, and almonds. Of course, then it needed Parmesan before baking, which made this even more of a cultural hodge-podge. Nevertheless, it’s something I could taste even with the gross, and the roomie kept saying “wow, it’s so good” from the other side of the quarantine-box.

Here’s how:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Slice 2 small butternut squash in half. Remove seeds and fiber, then place, cut side up, on a baking sheet and cover it with foil, placing it in your oven. (Total cook time: ~ 1hr)

Meanwhile, sautee 1/2 an onion and 1/4 cup parsley in olive oil for about 5 minutes, until onion is transluscent. Add salt, pepper, 1 cup black “forbidden” rice, and 2 cups vegetable stock (or water.) Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, approximately 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, sautee 1 thinly sliced carrot in olive oil . Add garlic (I like lots, you may not), 1/4 cup of corn (I used frozen) and 10 brussel sprouts (sliced thinly), until brussel sprout “wilts.” Let cool 5 minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste, a healthy squirt of lemon juice, half a pack (40z?) of feta, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 cup of raisins, and 1/4 cup of slivered almonds ( I like mine toasted first). Mix together.

When rice is done, take squash out of oven and spoon out most of the flesh, so that you have a hollow bowl-like shell with about 1/2″ of flesh left in. Put the shells back in the oven, cut the squash pieces up into small chunks, and mix together with the rice. Let sit for 5 minutes, then mix in the vegetable-cheese mixture. Stuff the squash shells with the stuffing (as pictured below), sprinkle the top with parm, and bake another 10 minutes.

Serve hot. Enjoy.

squash

Of course, I couldn’t make something so brightly colored, on a Tuesday no less, and not submit it for Sweetnicks’ ARF-5 A Day blogging event. Thanks Cate! Check out the other healthy entries here.

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Steaming Bowl of Jewish Comfort (Passover Safe)

You may have noticed that meat doesn’t appear very much in my kitchen. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I bought any. However, I do eat it occasionally, with great enjoyment, and when my sister came in from San Diego last month, she was kind enough to roast a chicken for us. Now, meat-squeamish girl that I am, it seemed a shame to let all those nice chicken bones go to waste, so I made my first-ever chicken stock, and stuck it in the freezer.

Spoonful

The stock didn’t come out perfectly– more like a vegetable stock w/ chicken flavoring due to being overpracticed at making vegetable stock. However, the resulting mazto ball soup was perfect, a mixture of steamy herby chicken goodness, fluffy matzo balls, and hearty veggie goodness. Even better, with the matzo balls coming from a mix, this took almost no time or effort, and was perfect during a sickly midterms afternoon.

1 package Manischevitz Matzo Ball Soup
2 eggs
1 quart (or slightly more) chicken or veggie stock (homemade, please!)
Olive Oil
1/2 onion
3 cloves garlic
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
2 cups kale, chard, spinach, or other bitter greens
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix matzo meal and eggs and cook in a large pot of boiling water (note: these will expand significantly.) Meanwhile, in a large pot, sautee onion and carrot on medium heat with a little olive oil until onion is translucent and fragrant. Add minced garlic and celery, sautee another two minutes (do not let garlic burn). Add greens and stock and cook until carrots and celery are as soft as you enjoy eating. Add matzo balls and serve.

Just as a sidenote, I love serving this with a buttery or creamy noodle dish. Yes, it may be too carb-heavy for some, but isn’t that the point of comfort food?

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Guest Blog! (Amanda from SexualEvolution)

I’ve never been much of a cook. I’ve had my moments, like in the 7th grade when I made dinner for 12 as a project for foods class (chicken amandine, sweet potato casserole, and some kind of soup), or when I decided that July was the perfect time to make an big pot of vegetarian chili. For the most part, though, anything involving more than a single pot or pan, a utensil, and a bowl is too much for me, unless I’m feeling adventurous.

 

Or unless it’s Greek food. I studied in Greece for a semester in college, and fell in love with good cheese and real yogurt and fried pita. When I came back to the states my favorite Greek dishes weren’t always easy to find, so I started making them myself. Last week I made tzatziki (with fried pita) and spanakopitaki for Roomie. I got the impression she approved when she asked me to guest-blog them!

plate

 

 

For the tzatziki:

Set aside 2 cups or so of Greek strained yogurt. Theoretically you could strain regular yogurt yourself with cheesecloth, but real Greek yogurt is just so tasty.

Peel either 1 large English cucumber or 2 smallish regular cucumbers. Grate on a cheese grater and put the (very wet) cucumber confetti that results into a strainer. Salt it lightly, toss it, press it, then let it drain for a while – as long as a couple of hours, although a half-hour did the trick for me this time.

Mince 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, and mix them into the yogurt along with a tablespoon of vinegar, two of olive oil, salt and pepper, and a generous pinch of dried dill (or about a tbs of fresh chopped mint).

Mix in the drained cucumber, and voila! Tzatziki will taste better if you let it sit in the fridge (overnight or even just an hour) before serving it, so while you’re waiting on that you can make…

 

Spanakopitaki (or little spinach pies):

 

First, make the filling:

½ lb. feta

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Some parsley, depending on how much you like it

 

1 lb. fresh spinach, chopped and sautéed with diced onion

A stick or so of butter, melted

 

 

Crumble the feta and mix in the eggs, and then the parsley. Use a fork to crumble the feta even smaller – the smaller the better — then mix in the spinach and onions.

 

 

Take 10 sheets of defrosted filo dough from the fridge. Slice them to make 2-inch strips; you’ll probably get about 4 from each sheet. Take two strips together and cover the rest with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.

 

Brush the top of each sheet with butter, then stack the two together. Put a spoonful of filling at the bottom and fold the edge up diagonally, as though you were folding a flag, and brush the triangle with butter after each fold. Put the completed triangle seam-side down on a buttered baking sheet and repeat with the remaining strips. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes and enjoy!

Spanakopitaki

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Foods that Blow My Mind

I’m not dead, just in the middle of exams and not doing much cooking. But while my mind is being blown by a fabulous lunch that my wonderful roomie cooked me, I’m going to make a list of 5 foods that have surprised and delighted me recently. Feel free to chime in with your own.

1. Twice baked potatoes– made with cream cheese! (whoever heard of that?! but it’s amazing), cheddar, spinach, and onions.

2. Homemade tzatziki sauce– amazing, and great to pack w/ veggies for lunch.

3. Pad Woon Sen Jae– I love this, and get it every time I go out for Thai food. If only I weren’t too intimidated to try cooking Asian foods other than stir fries at home.

4. Homemade chai– so different from the guilty-pleasure Starbucks variety, and yet deliciously creamy and spicy nonetheless.

5. Natural honey peanut butter with multi-grain crackers– Oddly, this is nowhere near as good on white flour crackers. A good midterms food for obvious reasons, but as I don’t normally like peanut butter or anything with peanuts, I have to thank my friend Jess, who knows to gift me with food.

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Penne as Promised

Penne a la Vodka, in fast. Not a health food, but it’s so good. And, you know, sometimes you need easy comfort food. Of course, many of the people collecting pasta recipe’s at Once Upon a Feast agree. Thank you, Ruth, for hosting Presto Pasta Nights.
I’d try to do more describing, but I think that this picture speaks for itself:

pasta.JPG

(Served with garlic bread and yesterday’s arugula-pear salad)

To achieve your own plate of yummy pasta comfort, take a cup of cream in a small pot and cook it down until it halves in volume. While you’re doing that, cook 4 pieces of bacon in a large skillet with tall edges or medium sized pot, and put a pot of water up to boil for pasta (add enough pasta for 4 members of your household to the pot when it boils). Add 1 cup of tomato sauce, cream, and 2oz of vodka to the bacon and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Combine sauce with pasta. Eat. Smile.

sauce.JPG

(Mmmm. Sauce)

Also, bonus points (yeah, I’m not sure what those are good for either) to anyone who can guess what this was made into:

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potato.JPG

 

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Peppers and Penne and Potatoes, Oh my!

Well, to be fair, only one will be featured in this entry, the other two are more… teasers. However, I made a well-recieved stuffed red pepper dish the other day, and as red peppers are an antioxidant rich food, particularly when combined with the arugula-pear salad I served it with, I’m happy to submit this entry as part of Sweetnicks’ ARF-5 event. Check out the other entries here!

peppers.JPG

The peppers were inspired by the mushroom and cheese stuffed pepper tapas my family enjoyed at Jaleo last month. Of course, I used up all my mushrooms making Faerie Pasta, so I had to improvise, but I really think that any vegetable and cheese (or uncheese combination would work using this technique.

I used:

9 mini sweet peppers (red, yellow, and green)
2 oz fresh mozarella
2 oz feta
1/2C cooked couscous (could also use rice, or nothing– the original had no starch, but I’m a carb addict)
1/2 cup textured vegetable protein or meat (also optional, but I try’n sneak in my protein wherever I can.)
3 tbsp. tomato paste (could also use fresh tomato)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4c onions
1/4 c carrot
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1/2c water or broth/stock
salt/ pepper to taste

First, wash peppers thoroughly and slice the very head off, deseeding as you go. (I tried two ways, “buckets” and “boats”, and found the buckets to be better textured– even though the buckets are arguably prettier).

peppers2.jpg

Lay pepper buckets on a foil-lined tray and preheat the oven to 350.

Sautee onion and carrot in olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat until you can smell the onions, add the garlic , sautee another 30 seconds, and then add the TVP/ meat. For TVP, sautee another minute and a half, for meat, sautee until cooked all the way through.

Combine TVP/ meat mixture with other ingredients (reserving water/stock and peppers) and pulse in blender until a paste is formed, adding water/stock as necessary. The finished consistency should be that of somewhat loose mashed potatoes.

Spoon the filling into the pepper “buckets”, and bake until the pepper begins to brown/ blacken at the edges, around 20 minutes in my oven.

Serve with a salad, preferably the one I made– arugula, pear, parmesan cheese, and a mustard-vinegar dressing. Yum. I could live off of that salad, at least until I remembered that I’m obsessed with pasta.

As your trivia of the day, in Australia red pepper is called capsicum and arugula is called rocket. In fact, I didn’t know that I’d even had arugula before until I bit into it last night and realized that it was my old, familiar friend.

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