Arugula, chive, parsley pesto with farfalle and mixed vegetables

May 5, 2020 at 9:05 pm (Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Italian, Monthly menu plan, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

Derek and Alma harvested a huge bag of arugula and random herbs from our CSA farm on Saturday, but they only brought one bag so everything got mixed up together. I’ve been trying to use up the herbs over the last couple of days. I pulled out all the scallions and added them to our spicy tofu dish on Sunday. Then I threw a couple big handfuls of arugula into a pan of escarole and beans. Yesterday I pulled out all the cilantro and used it in our simmered vegetable tacos last night. But I still had a pretty big bag of stuff left. I separated out the dill and used the rest of it to make a mixed herb pesto. I roughly followed this Bon Appetit recipe for parsley and chive pesto, but I think I used a couple cups of arugula, a big handful of parsley, and a small handful of chives, as well as some miscellaneous oregano, thyme, and cilantro leaves mixed in. I didn’t roast my almonds because I was in a rush, and I think in pesto you don’t normally roast the pine nuts. I didn’t measure the olive oil, just kept pouring it into the food processor until the pesto came together as a cohesive paste. The pesto wasn’t really saucy at that point, more of a thick spoonable paste. But it tasted good so I stopped and called it a day. I couldn’t really taste any of the individual herbs. I don’t think I could have told you that it was made from arugula, chives, or parsley. But it was bright green and very fresh tasting, with some underlying floral (oregano?) and peppery (arugula? chives?) notes. Yum.

Derek said it was way better than the storebought pesto we’ve been using since we ran out of homemade pesto made from our summer CSA basil and frozen. Alma said she preferred the storebought pesto, and had some from the freezer instead of my homemade version.

We served the pesto with whole wheat farfalle noodles and steamed vegetables: broccoli, carrots, zucchini, and red bell peppers. Last time I put in mushrooms but no one but me liked them all that much. This time I threw a few chickpeas and kohlrabi slices into my dish, and quite liked the crunch that the raw kohlrabi added. Both Derek and Alma were happy with the dinner, and we have a jar (maybe two?) full of pesto to freeze for a quick dinner some other week. I steam my veggies in the same pot I cook the pasta in it, so if the pesto is made it’s basically a one-pot supper.

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Oven-roasted Ratatouille

August 31, 2019 at 10:22 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes, Yearly menu plan)

Before I got pregnant with Alma I hated eggplant. So I never tried making ratatouille. But since my pregnancy I’ve learned to like eggplant. And I got eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers from my CSA this week. It was time to try making ratatouille.

I chose the “Walkaway Ratatouille” recipe from Cook’s Illustrated to try.

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup olive oil + 1 Tablespoon
  • 2 large onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons herbes de Provence
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ½ pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped coarse (or one 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes that have been drained and chopped coarse)
  • 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Crush and peel your garlic and chop your onion.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat ⅓ cup oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and starting to soften, about 10 minutes. While the onions are cooking, cut up the eggplant.
  3. Add herbes de Provence, pepper flakes, and bay leaf and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Stir in eggplant and tomatoes. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and stir to combine. Transfer pot to oven and cook, uncovered, until vegetables are very tender and spotty brown, 40 to 45 minutes. While you’re waiting, cut up your zucchini and bell peppers.
  4. Remove pot from oven and, using potato masher or heavy wooden spoon, smash and stir eggplant mixture until broken down to sauce-like consistency. Stir in zucchini, bell peppers, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and return to oven. Cook, uncovered, until zucchini and bell peppers are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from oven, cover, and let stand until zucchini is translucent and easily pierced with tip of paring knife, 10 to 15 minutes. Using wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits from sides of pot and stir back into ratatouille. Discard bay leaf. Stir in 1 tablespoon basil, parsley, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to large platter, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon basil, and serve.

My notes:

I mostly followed the recipe except I used “only” 5 Tbs. olive oil total, halved the salt (since I was using fine salt not kosher), was a little bit short on eggplant, and didn’t have fresh parsley so used some extra basil. Also, I forgot to add the sherry vinegar at the end, which was particularly sad since we all made a special trip to France this morning to get it! (I can’t find sherry vinegar in my German grocery stores.). Also, I added a bit more herbes de provence then the recipe called for. I didn’t use my fresh CSA tomatoes (seemed a waste). Instead I used two German jars of whole tomatoes. I drained them and crushed them right into the pot. I also shorted all the cooking times a bit because I started cooking dinner too late and was in a rush.

Derek and I liked it. Alma ate a little of the ratatouille, but she found it a bit too spicy (even from just a 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes!).

I thought that the flavors were balanced with a nice mix of roasted and fresh flavors.  And the combination of texture was also nice, with the mashed eggplant and onions and tomatoes contrasting with the less cooked zucchini and bell peppers. I particularly liked that the bell peppers were almost still crisp, but our zucchini was a tad on the raw side. I think next time I’d cut the zucchini a bit smaller and the bell peppers a bit bigger. Since I halved the salt it was a little bit undersalted, but I served with an oversalted polenta (not sure how that happened), so it balanced out. I really liked the combination with the polenta, but Derek said he thought it would be better on pasta. When I looked online people recommended eating it on bread, or as a side with meat or fish. Derek added parmesan to his.

The recipe did take a while to make, but it felt pretty simple. And it only got one pot dirty, which is a big plus in my book! Most of the work is just roughly chopping some vegetables, and you can chop a lot of the veggies while the earlier veggies are cooking.

The recipe made a lot, but I actually wish it had made a bit more! I think next time I make this I will try using a little more of all the vegetables, but cut the oil down to 1/4 cup. And I won’t peel the eggplant. That was just depressing seeing the beautiful purple eggplants turn into wan white spongy fruits, sad and embarrassed in their undressed state. Finally, I will make it on a cooler day! Turning the oven on really heated up the kitchen.

I’m also kind of curious to compare this recipe to Alice Waters’s ratatouille.

If you don’t have any herbes de provence, you can make your own using equal parts of rosemary, thyme, and marjoram and 1/3 as much fennel seeds. If you want a floral blend, also add 1/3 as much dried lavender. So for this recipe, for example, you could use 1/2 tsp. of each of the herbs and 1/6 tsp. each of fennel (and lavender if you want).

Update October 2019: About six weeks after posting this I made a different roasted ratatouille recipe from a new cookbook I just got: River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Instead of roasting the veggies in a dutch oven, you do it on a cookie sheet. The regular version has you make a tomato sauce on the stovetop, but the variant I tried has you omit the tomato sauce and instead roast a bunch of tomatoes on a separate tray from the other veggies and then mix them all together at the end. Both Derek and I really liked the recipe. It was extremely rich, with tons of olive oil, but therefore also very satisfying. And it didn’t seem greasy. Derek thought he liked it more than the usual ratatouille because of the lack of tomato sauce. Alma wouldn’t eat it, as usual with ratatouille. I can’t really compare this recipe to the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, since they were six weeks apart. But my best guess is that this one was simpler and tastier? But I did use all the oil, whereas I halved the CI oil, so maybe it’s not a fair comparison.

 

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Instant Pot Mushroom Risotto

August 4, 2019 at 9:14 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Fall recipes, Grains, Instant Pot, Italian, Jill Nussinow, Monthly menu plan, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

Making risotto on the stovetop is a pain, but in the instant pot it’s truly hands off. I’ve been making risotto much more often since I got my Instant Pot. This recipe is our favorite so far. I like to serve this risotto for dinner with lemon juice, parmesan, lots of basil, and green beans. I eat the green beans mixed into my risotto. I like the textural contrast they provide, as well as the pop of color. They also balance out the meal by providing a little more fiber, protein, and vitamins. I think it makes about 6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 quite large onion, finely diced or 2 cups finely chopped leek
  • 500g (just over a pound) crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 4.5 to 5.5 cups veggie broth
  • 2 cups (400g) arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini or other flavorful dried mushrooms, not soaked
  • 1 Tbs. porcini mushroom powder
  • 6 sundried tomatoes, unsoaked, not rehydrated
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red or dry white wine (optional)
  • 2 tsp. veggie bouillon powder + salt or soy sauce to taste
  • a big knob of butter, maybe a tablespoon or two? or creme fraiche
  • parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
  • lemon juice (optional)
  • lots of fresh basil (original recipe calls for 3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley)

Instructions:

  1. Prep: Mince the garlic. Chop the onion or leek. Let the garlic and onion sit while you wash and slice the mushrooms. If you need to defrost vegetable broth, do it now.
  2. Saute: Set the instant pot to saute. When hot, add the olive oil and onion or leek and saute for a few minutes. While the onion is sauteing, measure out your rice, your mushroom powder, your dried mushrooms, and your sundried tomatoes. When the onion is translucent add the garlic and saute another minute or two.
  3. Make some room in the Instant Pot by pushing the onions and garlic to the side of the inner pot. Stir in the rice to coat with oil, and toast the rice in the Instant Pot for 2 to 3 minutes to give the dish a really nice nutty flavor. (Keep stirring, don’t let the rice stick.) You don’t want to brown the rice. You want the edges of the arborio rice to become translucent, while the center remains white.
  4. Add a third a cup of wine (if using). Stir to deglaze the bottom of the pot. When the wine has mostly evaporated add 4.5 cups of vegetable broth. (Reserve the last cup of broth to adjust the consistency once the risotto is finished cooking.) Next, add the dried mushrooms, crushing them into small pieces with your hands as you drop them into the pot. Add the sundried tomatoes, using scissors to slice each one into about 4 pieces as you drop them into the pot. Finally, add the sliced fresh mushrooms, the bouillon powder, and the porcini powder. Give it a quick stir and make sure that no rice is sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  5. Cook: Lock on the lid. Cook at high pressure for 2 minutes 30 seconds. (The instant pot only lets you set it for 2 or 3 minutes, not in between. So I usually set it for 2 minutes and then wait 30 seconds before doing my quick release. Note that it will take about 10 minutes for the pressure to build before the timer starts counting down.) As soon as the 2.5 minutes under pressure is complete, immediately release the pressure. (Don’t get distracted! You do not want to leave it any longer than this!) Immediately (and carefully) remove the lid. Don’t let it sit on keep warm with the lid on as it will over cook. It’s fine for it to sit on keep warm once the lid is removed.
  6. Adjust: When you open the pot the risotto will look very runny, almost like soup. Just give it a stir and wait a minute, and the texture should be loose but not soupy or dry. If the risotto is not cooked through all the way, add a little more boiling hot broth and leave on saute for another few minutes, but make sure to keep stirring so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. When the rice is al dente, stir in more stock as needed to get a creamy texture, then stir in the butter and parmesan if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add a touch of lemon juice if you like.
  7. Garnish: Serve with fresh parsley or basil and more parmesan cheese.

My original notes from August 4, 2019:

I tried making risotto in the instant pot a few months ago, and I got distracted and forgot to release the pressure immediately after it was done cooking. The result: mush. It tasted good but the texture was awful. Derek wouldn’t touch it. But I finally got up the nerve to try it again.

Alma and I looked at various combinations in the book Vegan Under Pressure and she chose the spinach risotto, but then I forgot to buy spinach and had some mushrooms to use up, so I decided to make the mushroom risotto instead. (Sorry Alma.) I didn’t really follow the Vegan Under Pressure recipe, but I did use it for inspiration. The recipe above is based on Jill Nussinow’s original recipe, but it is changed in quite a few ways. I use way, way more fresh mushrooms and I don’t pre-soak my mushrooms or sundried tomatoes. I also cut the cooking time in half.

Timing: Nussinow’s recipe says to cook under pressure for 5 minutes, but I was nervous about getting mush again, so I decided to start with 3 minutes. And 3 minutes was definitely enough. Derek said it might be worth trying 2.5 minutes next time. And this was with almost boiling vegetable stock. If your stock is not hot, I imagine you’d need even less time under pressure, since it will take longer to come to pressure.

On a second attempt I used warm (not hot) broth and cooked it for 2.5 minutes and it was definitely not cooked through. I had to saute quite a bit and it ended up burning on the bottom. On a third attempt I released slightly before the 3 minutes were up and it still wasn’t cooked (but the brand of rice was different). On a fourth attempt I used warm (not hot) broth and cooked it for 2 minutes + 40 seconds before starting quick release and it was cooked plenty, maybe slightly overcooked. Maybe it depends on how much liquid you use? I used 5 cups on this last attempt. Maybe with 4 cups you need more time? Almost all online recipes I can find call for 5 minutes + 4 cups of broth for a mushroom risotto with 2 cups of rice. Weird. If you prefer your dente more al dente then to be on the safe side just cook it for 2 minutes under pressure, and finish any last cooking that is necessary using the saute function.

It took me about 4 minutes of venting for the pressure to drop completely, even with the quick release. At that point the risotto was cooked well, but quite dry. I had to add more than a cup of broth after I opened it up to get the right consistency. Thus I have increased the broth amount in my recipe.

I forgot to time how long it took to come to pressure. I think it took somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes? So maybe 5-10 minutes + 2.5 minutes + 4 minutes + a few minutes to stir in the broth and butter and parmesan and serve it. So once you do your prep, saute the onions, add all the ingredients, and get the lid on the pot it seems like the risotto would be ready approximately 15 to 20 minutes after you press start? But that time is almost entirely hands off. It’s definitely an improvement over stovetop risotto in my book.

Dried mushrooms: I didn’t have real dried porcini mushrooms, so instead I used some local French mushrooms from the farmer’s market. The man who gathered them and sold them to me told me that they’re cheaper than porcinis but taste similar. I did use true porcini powder.

Rehydrating the mushrooms and sundried tomatoes: Nussinow has you soak the porcinis and tomatoes to rehydrate them, but I figured if the rice can go from rock hard to soft in the pressure cooker, then shouldn’t the vegetables be able to do the same? I skipped the soaking step and it worked out fine. I thought I might need to compensate with extra broth, but I used extra fresh mushrooms (which are mostly water), so I think it evened out.

Review: Everyone liked this recipe. Alma scarfed it up, which shocked me because she’s never eaten more than one bite of risotto before, and when we were looking at recipes she was dead set against the mushroom variation. Derek and I both enjoyed it as well. It’s true comfort food. Now I want to try some of Nussinow’s other variations, like the spring saffron risotto with peas and asparagus, the summer risotto with green beans and tomatoes, or the winter squash and kale risotto. Yum.

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Instant Pot Lasagna Soup

February 17, 2019 at 11:50 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Instant Pot, Italian, Menus, Monthly menu plan, One pot wonders, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Spring recipes, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

I am a member of the Instant Pot Vegan Recipe group on Facebook, and almost every week someone raves about this recipe for Lasagna Soup from Vegan Richa. I like lasagna, but it always takes so long to make. A fast version in the pressure cooker? Sounds good to me!

I’ve made the recipe a couple of times now, with a few modifications (see below). The recipe is pretty fast. You basically just have to chop the onions and other veggies and measure out all the ingredients. Everyone liked it pretty well (even 4-year-old Alma who is normally very suspicious of new “mixed” dishes and Derek who typically disdains soup). It’s surprising how filling it is given that it only calls for 5 ounces of noodles for 2 to 3 servings.  Normally Derek alone will eat at least 4 ounces of noodles! The first time I made it I think we even had a little bit of leftovers! I guess the lentils and veggies and broth make it filling. Read the rest of this entry »

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The best pesto, and sore arms

June 17, 2018 at 9:13 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cooking tips, Italian, Sauce/dressing, Summer recipes, Website / blog)

I got a ton of fresh basil from my CSA this week, so I decided to make pesto. I followed this “best pesto” recipe from Serious Eats. Wow was it hard work! I like that it gives the amount of basil leaves by weight, but the recipe did not prepare me for how much work it would be. It took a huge amount of effort to grind all those basil leaves down by hand. Maybe it was because I was using a big thai mortar and pestle instead of the little white (marble?) one they show in the video? By the end I could barely grip the mortar any more. And I never did get my basil leaves as fine as they show in their photos. The pesto did taste really good though (even though I didn’t have any Fiore Sardo, and used all parmesan, and left out the final 2 tablespoons of olive oil).

Alma tasted the pesto but wouldn’t eat it. I froze the bulk of it in two small glass jars.

I have more basil. I might try making the same recipe in the food processor, and see how different it tastes to me. Maybe I’ll even freeze my basil overnight first.

I’m out of pine nuts though. Maybe I’ll try making the next batch of pesto with sunflower seeds instead? Or maybe I’ll just freeze my basil (in oil?) and save it in the freezer for some other recipe.

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Saffron cauliflower with raisins and olives

July 2, 2016 at 3:09 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, Fall recipes, Italian, Ottolenghi, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

This is a standard Sicilian combination that I’ve seen in many cookbooks. Sometimes the recipe also includes pine nuts, anchovies, garlic, basil, tomatoes, pasta, and/or parmesan. I’ve tried many different variants, but I’m never that excited by the dish. It’s flavorful, but somehow just not my preferred flavors. But a student of mine from Iran gave me a ton of saffron as a gift and I was trying to figure out what to do with it. I came across this Ottolenghi recipe in Plenty, and was surprised to see that—unlike other recipes which usually call for only a pinch or 1/8 tsp. of saffron— his version calls for 1.5 teaspoons (!?!) of saffron. I decided to give it a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pumpkin risotto with sage and arugula

December 31, 2014 at 4:30 pm (Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Grains, Italian, Meyer & Romano, Necessarily nonvegan, Starches, unrated, Winter recipes)

I’m doing an end-of-the-year pantry cleaning, and wanted to use up some risotto rice. Derek and I looked at a couple of different recipes and finally decided on this pumpkin risotto recipe from the Union Square Cookbook. The recipe first has you make a pumpkin broth using standard vegetable broth ingredients (onion, leek, celery, carrots, etc.) as well as 2 cups canned pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Once the broth is made, you make the risotto, adding diced winter squash along with the rice, and then tossing in fresh sage, arugula, and mozzarella right before serving. Read the rest of this entry »

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Saucy Italian baked eggs

May 27, 2014 at 6:38 pm (breakfast, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Italian, Necessarily nonvegan, One pot wonders, Ottolenghi, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Summer recipes, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

I came across this recipe for saucy Italian baked eggs on a random blog, and immediately started drooling. I’ve been craving tomato sauce lately and this recipe is basically an egg baked in a big ramekin of marinara sauce with a little mozzarella and basil for garnish. It even looked easy enough that Derek could make it himself. Read the rest of this entry »

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Whole wheat penne with masses of broccoli, green olives, and pine nuts

November 9, 2013 at 12:02 am (C (1 star, edible), Cruciferous rich, Deborah Madison, Italian, Pasta, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

One of my students recently visited Russia and brought me back a beautiful box of pine nuts. We were trying to decide what to make with them when I found this recipe in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers. I was excited because it calls for either oregano or marjoram. I really like marjoram, but have almost no recipes that use it.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Babbo chickpea bruschetta

July 25, 2013 at 11:45 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Derek's faves, Italian)

We were trying to think of a quick appetizer that would work well with a summer squash, basil, tomato pasta salad.  I suggested a chickpea salad and Derek instead suggested making chickpea bruschetta.  He’s had the dish several times at Babbo in NYC and always liked it. He didn’t follow the recipe amounts too carefully and he used minced garlic instead of sliced and chopped kalamata olives instead of tapenade. Nonetheless, he said it tasted quite similar to the “real thing.”  The rosemary was essential, as without it the chickpeas seemed just a little one note.  I thought that a dash of cumin would be nice as well, but Derek didn’t want to risk messing up a perfectly nice recipe.  Next time!

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What I’ve been cooking: Spring 2013

May 12, 2013 at 2:17 pm (Alice Medrich, Beans, Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Indian, Italian, Menus, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Website / blog)

I can’t believe it, but I haven’t posted a proper recipe to this blog since Spring 2013.  At this point my list of recipes to blog about has grown so long that I have despaired of ever posting them all.  So instead I decided to just do one quick smorgasbord post. Read the rest of this entry »

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Escarole and beans in tomato sauce

October 16, 2012 at 7:14 pm (A (4 stars, love), Beans, Beans and greens, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Italian, Meyer & Romano, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes)

Derek and I used to love the escarole and beans appetizer at Girasole in Pittsburgh.  It consisted of braised escarole and white beans in a rich tomato sauce.  It was hearty, warming, and satisfying.  I hadn’t thought about it for years, until this week I saw a green that looked a lot like escarole at the farmer’s market.  I asked the farmer what it was and he called it Endivien—the German word for endive.  I asked him if you could cook with it and he said Germans only ever eat it raw in salads.  But it looked similar enough that I decided to try making escarole and beans with it.  There are tons of recipes online for escarole and white bean soup, and a few for escarole and bean dishes, but none seem to call for tomato sauce.  So I decided not to try to follow a recipe.  Nonetheless, my beans and greens came out quite well. This is a relatively simple, one-pot supper. It’s reasonably fast to make, hearty and satisfying. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fennel braised in vegetable broth

October 3, 2012 at 10:10 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Derek's faves, French, Italian, Vegetable dishes)

I was planning on making white bean, fennel, and rosemary soup this weekend, but I overcooked my white beans and so I ended up making a white bean and rosemary puree with the beans.  But what to do with the fennel?  I remember making (and loving) a braised fennel recipe from Jack Bishop’s Italian Vegetarian cookbook many years ago, but for some reason I never made it again.  I considered making the same recipe tonight, but I didn’t have any white wine open.  Instead, I roughly followed this epicurious recipe, except rather than braising my fennel in chicken broth I used vegetable broth. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ciambotta, Italian Ratatouille

July 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Summer recipes, unrated, Vegetable dishes) ()

My main failing as a vegetarian is that I’ve never been able to abide eggplant.  But recently I’ve eaten it a few times without minding it so much.  I ate a very tasty tiny roasted eggplant in Tokyo, and when Derek and I went to Copenhagen recently a friend of his invited us for dinner and served not one but two dishes with eggplant in them.  I ate both and didn’t even really mind the eggplant!  So I decided to be brave recently and added a small eggplant to a lasagne I was making.  I used Cook’s Illustrated suggested cooking method of dicing it, sprinkling it with salt, placing it on a plate with coffee filters (except I didn’t have any so used a paper towel) and microwaving it until it’s slightly shriveled and dried out.  I didn’t even notice it in the lasagne, so I decided to push the limits a bit more and try this Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Ciambotta, which they say is an Italian ratatouille-like stew.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Asparagus with gremolata, lemon, and olive oil

April 25, 2012 at 10:02 am (Italian, Spring recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetable dishes, Website / blog)

This post is about another recipe I found on the New York Times, in Martha Rose Shulman’s Recipes for Health series.  Besides being really tasty, asparagus is a nutritional power house.  And its one of the first fresh green vegetables that is available here in the spring.  (Okay, actually the asparagus here is usually white, but I don’t like it very much, and always try to find green asparagus.)  I usually roast asparagus and then drizzle it with balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese, but I had a big bunch of parsley in the fridge and decided to try something new—steamed asparagus with gremolata. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sardinian chickpea, fennel, and tomato soup

February 11, 2012 at 10:18 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Della Croce, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Italian, Monthly menu plan, One pot wonders, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, soup, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) (, )

This recipe from The Vegetarian Table: Italy (by Julia Della Croce) is for a Sardinian version of pasta e fagioli.  It didn’t look too exciting to me.   I like all the ingredients, but there didn’t seem to be anything to give it punch.  But a friend told me it was one of his favorite recipes from the cookbook, so I figured I’d give it a try.  It turned out it was delicious—much more than the sum of its parts.  I have no idea why. Even Derek, who complained bitterly about me making soup again, liked it a lot. Read the rest of this entry »

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Simple Italian lentil soup

February 6, 2012 at 2:39 pm (Beans, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Della Croce, Fall recipes, Italian, Julia, soup, Winter recipes)

I have a lot of recipes for lentil soup on my blog already.  I have three recipes that call for brown lentils (my mom’s recipe, a simple version with only five ingredients, and a version with quinoa), plus three recipes for red lentil soup (Turkish, curried, and one with lemon and spinach).  So I have no idea why I decided to try another pretty basic looking lentil soup recipe.  This one comes from Julia Della Croce’s cookbook The Vegetarian Table: Italy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Socca (chickpea flour flatbread)

December 4, 2011 at 1:41 pm (breakfast, Fall recipes, Italian, Spring recipes, unrated, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

I bought a big bag of chickpea flour (called besan in India) over a year ago, used it once in a recipe, and then didn’t touch it again.  I decided it’s been sitting long enough, so I went searching for recipes that called for chickpea flour.  The obvious first recipe to try was socca, a simple flatbread made from chickpea flour, olive oil, and liberal amounts of salt and pepper.  I actually had a version of socca a few years ago at a bakery in Florence, but there they call it Torta di Ceci. (In other parts of Italy they often call it Farinata).  Whatever the name, despite the rave reviews online, the version I got at the bakery in Florence had a somewhat odd texture (more creamy than crisp) and not all that much flavor.  Maybe a homemade version would be better.  I used Mark Bittman’s recipe on the New York Times website. Read the rest of this entry »

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Whole grain pasta with salsa cruda

August 23, 2011 at 9:51 pm (C (1 star, edible), Italian, Pasta, Peter Berley, Sauce/dressing, Starches, Summer recipes)

It’s finally gotten hot in Saarbruecken, so I decided to make this uncooked pasta sauce from the Summer section of Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast.  The sauce is made of raw, chopped tomatoes, olive oil, parsley, basil, chives, balsamic vinegar, and minced garlic.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Spring vegetable pasta

May 22, 2011 at 7:50 pm (C (1 star, edible), Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Pasta, Spring recipes, Starches)

It’s unusual to find a light, vegetable-inspired recipe on the Cook’s Illustrated website, so I was intrigued when I saw their recent recipe for a spring pasta dish with leeks, asparagus, peas, mint, chive, and lemon.  The ingredient list sounded delicious, and the technique was interesting as well.  They toast the pasta in the oil and then cook it in a small amount of liquid, like risotto.  The sauce is made from just vegetable broth, a moderate amount of olive oil, and white wine, and they claim it is “light but lustrous and creamy”.  Supposedly the starch from the pasta helps it thicken up. Read the rest of this entry »

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Curried cauliflower with penne, peas, and chickpeas

December 24, 2010 at 8:21 pm (AMA, Beans, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, Italian, Pasta, Starches)

This AMA recipe is a strange combination of a standard Indian curried cauliflower dish with peas and chickpeas, and a standard Italian cauliflower dish with parmesan, raisins, and pinenuts.  It also has tomato sauce.  I love curried cauliflower, but I’ve never been that excited about the sweet Italian cauliflower dish. (I’ve tried several versions, including one in Bishop’s Italian Vegetarian Kitchen and this Sicilian recipe from 101 cookbooks).  But I was curious to find out how I would like the combination of the two recipes.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Chili pasta with arugula and coriander seeds

September 2, 2010 at 4:15 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Dark leafy greens, Italian, Other, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches)

This recipe comes from the cookbook Rancho la Puerta, by Bill Wavrin.  I was intrigued by the idea of a somewhat Italian-style pasta but with coriander seeds and chilis as the main flavoring.  I made a few modifications though.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Artisanal balsamic vinegar… not

July 24, 2010 at 7:29 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Dessert, Ice cream & toppings, Italian, Sauce/dressing, Summer recipes, unrated)

We had friends over for dinner the other night, and Derek wanted to make a summery dessert.  He decided on panna cotta. He considered making green tea or earl grey panna cotta, but in the end he decided that he shouldn’t mess around on his first attempt, and made plain vanilla panna cotta.  He thought it sounded a bit boring though, and so he decided to top the panna cotta with fresh strawberries and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  I only had cheap supermarket balsamic vinegar though, and so we decided to reduce it to make it sweeter, less harsh, and more syrupy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Farro and yellow soybean risotto with spinach

March 24, 2010 at 12:33 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Beans and greens, Dark leafy greens, Grains, Italian, Peter Berley, Soybeans & edamame, Spring recipes, Starches)

It’s that time of year again.  As Passover approaches I try my best to do a Spring pantry cleaning, using up all the grains and beans that I purchased in the previous year but never got around to using.  I bought a large bag of dry yellow soybeans at the Asian store when I first moved to Saarbruecken, and I suspect that the two cups still in my cupboard are from that original batch.  I could have just cooked them up and eaten them with nutritional yeast and soy sauce, as I normally do, but I was in the mood for something different.  I looked around on the web, but found very few recipes, and almost nothing of interest.  The Farm Cookbook has a couple recipes for soybeans that I remember from my childhood, but the only one that I considered trying was the recipe for barbecued soybeans (kind of like baked beans).  Then I found this recipe in the Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, by Peter Berley, for a risotto with black soybeans and spring white wheat.  I subbed in my yellow soybeans for the black ones, and used farro for the wheatberries.  The recipe also calls for fresh sage, but I used what I had on hand — fresh oregano.

The recipe says to cook the soybeans and wheat berries separately from the rice.  Perhaps because my soybeans were quite old, by the time the soybeans were soft, the farro was extremely well-cooked — with the innards exploding through the husks.  I didn’t have any vegetable broth, so I used bouillon cubes.  The recipe says to use 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage, but I put in more oregano, and then after the dish was cooked, I put in about another Tbsp of fresh oregano.  (I think almost all fresh herbs taste best added at the very end.)  The recipe calls for 4 Tbsp olive oil, but I think I used 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1-2? Tbsp butter.  Berley says to stir in 1 Tbsp olive oil at the very end, but I tasted the risotto and it tasted so good I didn’t bother to add the extra olive oil.  I think I may have also reduced the salt.

Berley says to cook the risotto in a 2-3 quart saucepan, and I used my 3-quart wide casserole pan.  When it came to adding the spinach, however, it was extremely difficult to get it incorporated into the risotto.  Even just adding small handfuls at a time, it kept popping out and getting all over the place.  If I make this again, I’ll make it in either my big dutch oven or maybe in a 5-quart pan.

I really liked the combination of the arborio rice and the exploded farro kernels.  Berley calls the combination of arborio rice with whole grains and beans “new wave risotto”.  I actually think I might prefer it to the old wave.  There weren’t a lot of soybeans, and you couldn’t really taste them per se, but they added a nice textural contrast and a little…heft.  I’m usually not a big fan of spinach, but I actually really liked the spinach in this dish.  Derek always likes spinach, and as expected he thought it was good.  The first time I served it, he said it was tasty but he was a bit concerned about the quantity of risotto remaining.  Berley says it makes 4-6 servings, but I would say six very large servings.  Derek’s anxiety, however, was unfounded.  We easily polished off all six servings.  I actually wouldn’t have minded having it one more time!

Rating: B+
Derek: B+

Update:

I liked this recipe a lot, and I still had soybeans and farro left, so I decided to try another recipe from the Modern Vegetarian Kitchen:  Spelt, black soybeans, and vegetable casserole.  The casserole calls for carrots, mushrooms, celery, canned tomatoes and cabbage.  The combination didn’t sound particularly appetizing, but I liked the risotto so I figured it was worth a shot.  I cooked my (yellow) soybeans until soft, then added the farro and cooked until it was al dente.  Meanwhile I sauteed all the veggies until they started to caramelize.  (I used all the olive oil and salt called for.) Next Berley says to add the tomatoes and some of the cooking liquid from the grain/bean pot and bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.  It seemed like a bad idea.  At this point the cabbage was nice and crisp and caramelized, but I didn’t think the cabbage would be so appetizing after simmering it for 30 minutes.  I did it anyway.  In the end, I didn’t care for the dish that much.  There wasn’t anything wrong with it exactly, but neither Derek nor I were particularly interested in eating it.  It just was blah. We had one or two servings each, then I gave away the remaining quart of casserole/stew to a hungry grad student.

Rating: C

Update December 2010:

I made this recipe again, doubling it this time.   I was out of farro so used kamut instead.  Also I forgot to chop up the spinach, and the long, stringy pieces of spinach were pretty unappetizing.  The dish was also underseasoned this time.  Without enough salt and pepper it’s not nearly as tasty.  Derek wouldn’t even eat the leftovers–I had to finish them off myself.  I’ll have to try again with farro, chopped spinach, and enough seasoning.

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Campanelle with two mushrooms and rosemary

February 9, 2010 at 3:30 pm (C (1 star, edible), Italian, Jack Bishop, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

I asked Derek what he wanted for dinner, and he very quickly replied “mushrooms”.  Perhaps his decision was influenced by the very tasty mushroom soup I made last week.  I got out the cookbooks and started looking for mushroom recipe.  I found a bulgur mushroom pilaf that I plan on trying, and a pasta dish in Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook, which I’d made once before.  Based on the note in the cookbook I hadn’t been that excited about it, but I wasn’t sure how carefully I had followed the recipe, and I decided to try it again.  Below is the recipe, with my modifications and my version of the instructions.

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 pound white button mushrooms
  • 3/4 pound campanelle, orecchiette, or small shells
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about .8 ounces)
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish

Instructions

  1. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta.
  2. Place the porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with 1 cup hot water.  Soak until softened, about 20 minutes.
  3. Chop the onion, garlic, and rosemary.  Start cooking the onion.  In a large saute pan heat the butter and oil.  Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and rosemary and cook until the garlic is golden, about 1 minute more.
  4. While the onion cooks, thinly slice the mushrooms.  When the garlic is done cooking, add the mushrooms to the saute pan.  Saute until golden brown and the liquid they give off has evaporated, about 8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. When the water comes to a boil, add salt to taste and the pasta.  Cook until al dente and then drain.
  6. While the pasta cooks, prepare the porcinis.  Carefully lift the mushrooms from the liquid.  Wash them if they feel gritty.  Chop them.  Add the choped porcini mushrooms to the pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to release their flavor.  Strain the soaking liquid through a sieve into the pan, and bring to a boil.  Cover and remove from the heat.
  7. When the pasta is done, add it to the mushrooms along with the cheese and parsley.  Toss over medium-low heat just until the cheese melts and the pasta absorbs the liquid in the pan.  Serve immediately.

My notes

Based on the post it note comment I had stuck in the cookbook, I upped the garlic from 2 medium cloves to 2 large cloves, and increased the rosemary from 1 tsp. to 1.5 tsp.  The recipe recommends orecchiette, but I didn’t have any so used campanelle instead.  Also, the original recipe calls for 1 pound of pasta, but we always find that the pasta to sauce ratio in Bishop’s recipes is too high, so I reduced the pasta to 3/4 pound.

The recipe worked fine.  All the instructions seem correct and the recipe came out as (I imagine) it was intended.  But I didn’t care for it.  Even increasing the rosemary and adding more as a garnish, I couldn’t taste much rosemary flavor.  The flavor of the mushrooms didn’t excite me, and I found the dish overall a bit boring.  I had to add more cheese to get it to taste like much at all. I also tried adding a little soy sauce, but it was too strong for the delicate flavors.  My post it note from my last attempt sums it up:  “Okay, not great.  Bland at first, improved by adding more rosemary.  Recipe calls for too much pasta, use 3/4 pound.  Not creamy enough to warrant all that butter.”  I’ve tried a number of mushroom pasta dishes in the last few years, and none of them has excited me.  Maybe I just don’t like mushrooms and pasta?  Or maybe (as Derek claims) I just don’t know how to cook mushrooms!

Derek liked it more than me.  He happily went for seconds, and said I should make it again.  I froze the last serving and Derek ate it for dinner the night we got back from our overseas flight from Austin.  He said it was still good, even after it had been frozen and defrosted in the microwave.

Rating: B-

Derek: B

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Cacio e Pepe

February 5, 2010 at 8:12 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Italian, Necessarily nonvegan, Pasta, Spring recipes, Starches, unrated, Winter recipes)

Derek had had a really excellent version of cacio e pepe in one of Mario Batali’s restaurants, and was very excited about trying it.  Mario Batali’s version has quite a bit of olive oil and some butter, but the Cook’s Illustrated recipe looked unusually light for a cream pasta.  They cook the pasta in very little water so that the water ends up very starchy, and can be used to help make the sauce more cohesive.  We decided to give it a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tri-color winter salad with kumquats

January 1, 2010 at 11:06 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Italian, Jack Bishop, Salads, Winter recipes)

Before I met Derek, he used to eat frequently at Cafe Sam, in Pittsburgh.  One of his favorite dishes was a radicchio, arugula, and endive salad served with feta cheese and hard boiled eggs.  I was planning to try to replicate this salad, and bought all the ingredients to do so, but as I was checking out at the Turkish grocery store near my house, one of the “seasonal fruits” on display at the checkout stand caught my eye.

A few years ago I went to the Vegetarian Summerfest with my friend Annette, and we had a blast. One of my most distinctive memories from the summerfest is of Dr. Michael Greger asking us “What’s by far the healthiest citrus fruit?”. But no one in a room full of nutrition buffs could answer the question.  His answer, it turns out, was the kumquat.  He argued that it’s the healthiest because you eat the whole thing, rather than discarding the pith and peel like with other citrus fruits.  According to Greger, the bitter flavors in the pith and peel come from a multitude of uber-healthy substances.  Greger exhorted us to never eat another lemon, lime, or orange without first zesting the fruit, and adding the zest to our food.  I can’t recall what he said to do with the zest, but I imagine it could be good in yogurt, smoothies, rice dishes, breakfast cereal–even in tea or ice water!  I was pretty good about zesting all my citrus for a while, but eventually I forgot all about his citrus chastisements.  Until, that is, this week, when I saw those kumquats at City Basaar.  I bought a handful to bring home, and decided to ditch the feta and egg in this salad in favor of thinly sliced kumquats.

Four years ago: the best lemon bars ever

Read the rest of this entry »

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Saffron Risotto

January 1, 2010 at 9:21 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Grains, Italian, Jack Bishop, Necessarily nonvegan, Spring recipes, unrated, Winter recipes)

My friend Alex and I took a walk along the river Saar this evening.  Despite the cold, the damp, the dark, and the mist, I had a lovely walk.  In the course of our conversation, we started talking about saffron, and I realized I’d never posted one of our favorite risotto’s to my blog:   saffron risotto.  This dish is plain, but very satisfying. The daisy-yellow color and creamy consistency make me feel like I’m eating macaroni and cheese. There’s just something about saffron that tastes like comfort food to me, even though I never had it growing up.  I can’t actually remember the first time I ever ate saffron, but it very well might have been the first time we made this saffron risotto!

The recipe we typically use is based on a recipe from Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. The saffron flavor is maximized by dissolving it in a little hot stock then adding it to the rice toward the end of the cooking time.  Bishop’s recipe is good, but quite rich.  We usually cut down on the butter quite a bit.

Below I’ve compared Jack Bishop’s recipe to the saffron risotto recipe in Cook’s Illustrated’s The Best Light Recipe.   I believe Jack Bishop works for Cook’s Illustrated, so it’s a bit odd that the recipe aren’t more similar. Read the rest of this entry »

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Spicy cauliflower simmered in red wine

December 25, 2009 at 11:17 pm (C (1 star, edible), Cruciferous rich, Italian, Jack Bishop, Vegetable dishes)

I love cauliflower, but other than cauliflower curry, I actually don’t have any standby recipes for it.  I was looking for something new to try, and I found this recipe in which the cauliflower is simmered in red wine instead of water.  It sounded interesting, and, as an added bonus, it would give me a chance to use up the red wine that we often have lying around from unfinished bottles. The recipe is from Jack Bishop’s The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Roasted cauliflower with tomato and green olives

December 13, 2009 at 6:58 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, Italian, Meyer & Romano, Vegetable dishes)

This roasted cauliflower dish was the second dish we made last week from the Second Helpings from Union Square Cafe cookbook.  It’s similar in spirit to pasta puttanesca, but the base is cauliflower rather than pasta. Read the rest of this entry »

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Whole wheat linguine with chard, tomatoes, and chickpeas

November 1, 2009 at 11:53 pm (Beans, Beans and greens, Cook's Illustrated, Dark leafy greens, Italian, My brain, Pasta, Starches, unrated)

This recipe is based on the Cook’s Illustrated beans and greens recipe.  I used to make it with collards or kale, but since I can’t get those greens here I made it with swiss chard and added tomatoes, which blend nicely with the acidity of the chard.  Normally I add kalamata olives but I didn’t have any so I added a few spoonsfuls of capers instead.  I didn’t have any white beans so subbed in chickpeas.

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
8 cloves garlic, 5 cloves sliced thin lengthwise, 3 cloves minced (1 Tbs.)
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 medium red onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
1/2-2/3 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
20 ounces chard, stems halved lengthwise and sliced thinly and leaves sliced into ribbons
3/4 cups vegetable broth
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with juice
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped (or 3 Tbs. capers)
10-12 ounces whole wheat spaghetti or linguine
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oil and sliced garlic in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring and turning frequently, until light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic to plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  2. Add onion and chard stems to pan; cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add half of chard to pan; using tongs, toss occasionally, until starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add remaining chard, broth, tomatoes, and salt; cover (pan will be very full); increase heat to high and bring to strong simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, tossing once, until chard is completely wilted. Stir in beans and olives or capers.
  4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in dutch oven or 5-6 quart pan over high heat. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is just shy of al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add the greens mixture to pasta, set over medium-high heat, and toss to combine. Cook until pasta absorbs most of liquid, about 2 minutes. Season with black pepper to taste.  Serve immediately, passing garlic chips and parmesan separately.

Note: By draining the pasta before its al dente, and finishing cooking in the brothy sauce, the pasta absorbs the flavors of the sauce and release its residual starch, which helps to thicken the sauce slightly.

Derek really loved this dish, even without the olives.  I thought it was reasonably flavorful, but I’m never as excited about beans and greens as he is.

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Pasta and Summer Squash with Tomatoes, Basil, and Pine Nuts

July 20, 2009 at 12:33 pm (A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Monthly menu plan, Pasta, Starches, Summer recipes) ()

I made this recipe tonight and liked it so much I decided to repost it.  It was originally posted on August 17, 2006.

I’ve often tried to make this sort of light/summery pasta dish without a lot of success. Unless I use a large amount of olive oil or parmesan in the past the dish has always seemed rather bland. But this recipe is light and delicious! This is based on a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, but I cut down on oil and pasta, and increased the amounts of squash and seasonings. I give options for a number of ingredients depending on how rich, spicy, starchy etc. you want your dinner to be. Read the rest of this entry »

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Summer rice salad

July 19, 2009 at 6:45 am (C (1 star, edible), Italian, Jack Bishop, Salads, Starches, Summer recipes)

I was looking for something to do with some yellow and red bell peppers, and I found a recipe in Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook for a summer salad made with arborio rice.  I normally just use arborio rice for risotto, so I was excited about trying something new with it.  The rice is boiled in salted water like pasta, until al dente (about 16 minutes), and then mixed with a vinaigrette and allowed to cool before the vegetables and herbs are mixed in.

Bishop says to peel and seeds the tomatoes and cucumber, but I just seeded the tomatoes, and peeled neither.  If I made this again, I wouldn’t even bother to seed the tomatoes. I think the pulpy parts would add more tomato flavor.  My cucumbers were the little tiny ones that have small seeds–maybe if you have big, waxy American cucumbers it would be worth seeding and peeling them.   I didn’t have fresh parsley, but I doubled the basil to two tablespoons.  I also forgot to add the one garlic clove that Bishop calls for. The salad tasted okay, but was a bit boring, and the ratio of rice to vegetables seemed too high.  I added one red bell pepper, another kirby cucumber, and two more small tomatoes to the salad.  The extra veggies helped, but it was still a little boring.  Derek thought it needed pesto, and I agree that it definitely needed more than 2 Tbs. of herbs.  After my tweaks the salad was pleasant eaten with scrambled eggs and garlicky chard for lunch, but I wouldn’t make it again without making some additional changes.

Here are the ingredients, with my suggested changes:

  • 1.5 cups Arborio rice
  • salt
  • 1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 small, ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound)
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 small kirby cucumbers, diced
  • 10 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 Tbs. minced parsley
  • 2 Tbs. minced basil leaves

Rating: B-

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Roasted tomato pasta sauce

June 6, 2009 at 7:55 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Italian, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches, Summer recipes)

Sitting on my counter yesterday were a number of cherry tomatoes that had started to go a bit soft.  They were still good, but not fresh enough to eat out of hand.  I thought I would turn them into a nice (and fast) pasta sauce, by roasting them in the oven on a cookie sheet.  I roughly followed the instructions in a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, but I halved the recipe and made a few changes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 shallot, sliced thin [try 3]
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil [try 3 Tbs.]
  • 2 pounds cherry tomatoes (about 3 pints), each tomato halved pole to pole [try 2.5 pounds]
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt + 1 Tbs. salt for pasta water
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes [try heaping 1/2 tsp.]
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1.5 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin [try 6]
  • 1 pound whole wheat rigatoni [try 10 oz]
  • 1/4 cup torn basil leaves
  • parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice the shallots thinly.
  3. In a large bowl, gently toss the tomatoes with the olive oil (except for 1 tsp., which you should set aside), salt, pepper flakes, black pepper, sugar, vinegar, and garlic. Spread in even layer on rimmed baking sheet (about 17 by 12 inches).  In the same bowl, toss shallots with the remaining teaspoon oil; scatter shallots over tomatoes.
  4. Roast until edges of shallots begin to brown and tomato skins are slightly shriveled (tomatoes should retain their shape), 35 to 40 minutes. (Do not stir tomatoes during roasting.) Remove tomatoes from oven and cool 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. While tomatoes cook, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large stockpot. Just before removing tomatoes from oven, stir 1 Tbs. salt and pasta into boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain pasta and add to the large bowl you used for the tomatoes. Using a metal spatula, scrape the tomato mixture into the bowl on top of the pasta. Add the basil and toss to combine. Serve immediately, sprinkling cheese over individual bowls.

My notes:

I didn’t have enough tomatoes so I halved the recipe.  Still, I didn’t have enough cherry tomatoes so I also used some small, dark-brown tomatoes I had bought for sandwiches.  I mis-read the shallot instructions, and just mixed the slices in with all the other ingredients, rather than lying them on top of the tomatoes.  The (halved) recipe calls for 1/2 pound of pasta but I thought that seemed like too much for the amount of sauce, so I made 1/3 pound.

My tomatoes cooked significantly faster than they were supposed to.  I think it was due to a combination of factors:  I halved the recipe, so the cookie sheet wasn’t as full;  I left the fan on in my oven; and my cookie sheet is a very dark black.  According to CI, the halved recipe was supposed to serve 2 to 3, but I thought that the amount of sauce was a little skimpy even for two people. For two people I think next time I would use 1.5 pounds tomatoes, and up all the other ingredients by 50%, except the olive oil.

The sauce was quite good–the tomatoes were still quite pulpy and clung to the pasta, but despite not really being saucy they did taste like a sauce.  I was afraid that the tomato skins would be tough or annoying, but I didn’t even notice them.  The sauce had a very roasted flavor, from the browned bits of shallot and tomato skin.  I would make this recipe again, but next time I would serve something else substantial and low-calorie alongside it.  I think I could eat infinite bowls of pasta and this tomato sauce without feeling full.  Maybe a white bean soup or a chickpea salad would be a nice accompaniment, or a big bowl of steamed vegetables tossed with lemon juice and fresh herbs?

Attempt #2:  On a second try I made the full recipe, but it still didn’t really fill my cookie sheet, so next time I’ll try 2.5 pounds of tomatoes.  I didn’t have shallots, so used a small red onion instead, which was also good.  I served the pasta sauce with polenta and a dish of zucchini and eggplant and egg in a little Thai red curry.  It was a nice dinner.

Update Aug 3, 2012:  I used 2.25 pounds of large cherry tomatoes (actually called “pearl” tomatoes), and cut the oil slightly to 3.33 Tbs.  I increased the chili flakes to a slightly heaping 1/2 tsp., and used only 10 oz. of pasta, but otherwise followed the recipe as stated.  It came out well.  The tomatoes clung to the pasta and made a nice (but slightly oily) sauce.  The sugar and vinegar gave the sauce a nice sweet and sour element.  Derek loved it.  He said it tasted like a pasta he’d get for lunch at Apero, the little Italian-run shop near our house.  I thought that there could be slightly more tomatoes for 10 ounces of pasta (probably 2.5 pounds), but Derek thought the ratio was perfect, if anything a tad too saucy.  He said if I increase the tomatoes to 2.5 pounds I should increase the pasta to 12 ounces.  I liked the shallots a lot.  Next time I’ll use three.  And I’ll use only 3 Tbs. of olive oil.    Note to self:  Make sure not to cook the tomatoes too much.  The halves should get slightly shriveled but maintain their rounded shape, not collapse and shrivel up completely.  I think it helped that I used a light grey cookie sheet this time, not my black one.

Cook’s Illustrated has an interesting sounding variant with goat cheese instead of parmesan (4 oz, about 1/2 cup crumbled) and 1 large bunch arugula, torn into bite-sized pieces (about 4 cups loosely packed).  The arugula is tossed with the hot pasta to wilt it, and the cheese is sprinkled over individual bowls.

With 10 pounds of pasta, 2.25 pounds of tomatoes, and 3.33 Tbs. of oil this recipe made four servings of about 425 calories each.  With one ounce of parmeggiano per serving it would total 535 calories (17% protein, 33% fat, and 50% carbs).

Rating: B (very tasty, but a tad ordinary)

Derek: A-

Update Aug 2019: I made this for dinner with very ripe, soft tomatoes from my CSA (not cherry tomatoes). I only roughly followed the recipe, but Derek liked it a lot. He said he loved the sweetness along with the salty brininess of kalamata olives (which I served with it).

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Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta

January 5, 2009 at 6:02 am (101 cookbooks, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, Italian, Pasta, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

Whenever I ask Derek what veggies he wants me to get at the store he invariably asks for the same thing:  broccoli and cauliflower.  I have a few recipes that are my regular weeknight standbys for these vegetables (sesame noodles, pan-fried broccoli, stuffed hashbrowns, and cauliflower curry), but I’d like a few more recipes to add to the rotation.  I found this recipe for Sicilian broccoli and cauliflower pasta on 101 cookbooks, and it looked like something Derek would love.   Heidi warns that it is a large recipe, but I decided to make the whole thing nonetheless.  Because it’s such a big recipe, the instructions say to saute the broccoli, cauliflower, and onions in separate batches.  Between all the chopping and sauteing, this was a pretty time consuming recipe.  It’s definitely not a quick week night meal, which is what I was looking for.  The recipe, however, is competently done—the final pasta came out just as I imagine it was supposed to.  The vegetables were well cooked, the onions and garlic created a nice flavor base, I could taste the saffron and a touch of sweet from the raisins, the olive oil and pine nuts added a nice mouth-feel without the dish tasting heavy, and the fresh parsley added a final touch of freshness.  My only complaint is that I couldn’t taste the rosemary, and I think the saffron should be soaked in warm water before adding it to the dish.  But otherwise the recipe is fine as is. Read the rest of this entry »

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