Tag Archive: Pasta


Spaghetti with ShrimpIt’s finally Spring, at least, I think. With the sudden rush of sunshine and warm weather, I find myself feeling like something fresh and flavorful. Spring is my favorite season by far and I always almost forget how wonderful it is – every year, until it happens again ๐Ÿ™‚ This season is proving to be warmer by the day, and perhaps even more delightful is the fact that a lot of fruit and veggies seem to be in season suddenly as well. Ahh Spring, how did I forget you? And how I remember you now that you’re actually here.

I find people underrating seafood these days, so it’s only fitting this post involve the fresh, salty cuisine. Other than being devastatingly delicious, shrimp tend to pack enough flavor that you don’t need a huge amount. I found this recipe in a “quick & easy”-themed Fine Cooking magazine. Quick? Shrimp cooks in like 3 minutes, so check. Easy? Definitely. Other than some chopping at the beginning and a lot of stirring in between, this was easy enough. I did up the veggie content and mix a few things up recipe-wise, but here’s my version. The best part? The cream sauce. The recipe was titled ‘shrimp & pasta with a “light” curry cream sauce’ so I took this to mean light in content, but rich in taste; I accomplished this by quadrupling the amount of curry I added (I’m pretty sure moCreamst people do this too…)

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have a problem. My problem is with cream. Seriously, WHY did we make the stuff? Oh yeah because it’s amazing, because it takes things like sauce, dip, dessert, or a cup of iced coffee and makes it simply spectacular, I’d go so far as to say divine. I love to hate cream because it keeps adding to the comfortable layer already around my waist ๐Ÿ˜‰ but thank god they make low-fat versions of the sinful stuff and sell it in little itty bitty containers, otherwise I might be a little rounder about now. My secret ingredient? That’s right, the cream. No lie. Because what IS sauce without it? I’ll tell you: it’s runny , it’s grim, it’s lacking in texture and depth – but WITH cream? Ahh, then we’ve hit culinary nirvana, again. Remember that a little goes a long way and for this sauce, it’s more than enough.

Pasta + veggies = boring … Pasta + veggies + shrimp? Mmm … pasta + veggies + shrimp … + cream sauce? Now we’re talking ๐Ÿ˜€

Spiced Shrimp with Soy Beans, Basil, and Mushrooms in a Light Curry Cream Sauce

Ingredients

(for pasta)

1 package spaghetti or linguinicurry-powder

1 package frozen & shelled edamame (soybeans), defrosted

1 package mushrooms (any), stemmed & sliced

1 package frozen mixed veggies (like peppers, or a wok mix with corn, carrots, snap peas, etc.)

4 garlic cloves, sliced

1 package large shrimp, peeled & deveinedChiffonade-Basil

2 Tbs. sesame seeds

1 Tbs. chili flakes

olive oil

coarse sea salt

(for sauce)

1/3 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup dry vermouth (or white wine)

1 cup creamEdamame

4 Tbs. yellow curry powder (sub any other curry powder)

1 lime

cooking oil

sea salt & chili flakes

fresh Basil leaves for serving, chiffonade

(1) Fill a large pot with water. Add a pinch of salt and a spoonful of olive oil. Cover and set over medium-high heat until at a rolling boil. (2) In a large saute pan or skillet, heat 2 Tbs. cooking oil over medium-high heat. When hot (and oil is shimmering), add the garlic and mushrooms, stirring occasionally until browned, about 8 minutes. (3) In a medium bowl, season shrimp with the sesame seeds, sea salt, and chili flakes. (4) Add the frozen veggie mix and endamame to the skillet and cook another 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, push the veggie ingredients to the side of the skillet and add shrimp and cook, stirring often until semi-pink but not completely cooked through (3 minutes max). (5) Add broth and vermouth, lowering the heat to maintain a simmer and, stirring occasionally, let the liquid reduce by half. (6) Once the large pot of water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Juice the lime over the pasta and stir until moistened. Cover to keep warm and set aside (7) Add the curry powder and cream to the skillet, mixing well, and let the mixture bubble another 2-3 minutes, until sauce is thickened. (8) Pour curry sauce with shrimp and veggies over thShrimpe pasta and stir to combine. Season to taste with sea salt and chili flakes. Serve steamin’ in bowl garnished with a generous pile of fresh Basil leaves.

Serves 4

Well, it looks so time-consuming here when I spell it out step-by-step, but just re-thinking making this recipe gives me this strange desire to cook similar things… involving seafood + cream… hmm like seared scallops with creamy pea puree, or something like that (!)

My question: What is your favorite dish with cream in it?

Seriously, I want to know.

Yes, ice cream counts.

5.6.2014

Pre-Spring Revelry: Crab + Pasta

I know, two seafood posts in a row-I must be living closer to the ocean, right? Yes. Turns out this yummy genre of salty creatures are a pretty easy way to add protein to any meal I end up making. I’ve found all sorts of seafood treats dwell in the pasta_eaterfrozen section too, de-finned, de-veined, de-shelled, ready to cook and eat. And unlike some other meat, anything from shrimp to fish steaks cook through in maybe 3 or 4 minutes. And the (other) good thing about buying frozen seafood? Other than the cheaper part ๐Ÿ™‚ Food-borne illness and other nastiness like parasites can’t survive frost. So you can be assured it will not make you sick, which is nice to skip worrying about entirely. The main plus for me, being so proximately close to the source of all this seaness now, is the quality which is much improved…maybe everything is just better in Kรธbenhavn ๐Ÿ˜€

I first came across this recipe way back when I still had my Tyler’s Ultimate cookbook. My initial impression after tasting (back when I didn’t like seafood all that much) was so wonderful that I remembered where I’d seen this recipe and looked it back up for this occasion. It’s always nice to make dishes you already know will taste amazing. Using frozen crab meat makes preparation super easy. I bought frozen leg/arms meat, already shelled so all you have to do is defrost and cook in some bubbling sauce (or wine:)) for three minutes or so before tossing with pasta. If you’re averse to using fresh Mint, I encourage you to make an exception with this dish, the herb compliments the crab so wonderfully you barely notice it’s “mintiness.” I managed to see some reviews of this recipe in my quest to find it online and I have to say, there were some serious crab-pasta haters ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Honestly, instead of blaming the recipe, blame the cook! Or at least the method of preparation crabs_meatthat made the food so unsuitable to your taste ๐Ÿ˜›

The star ingredient in this dish? Yes, it would have to be the crab, because it just ups the ante a bit on the recipe as a whole. And crab meat is subtly tasty. I love how red the flesh turns when it’s cooked ๐Ÿ™‚ All I can say is, it will not be another 6 months before I have crab again! And these are always such imposing little critters when you see them scuttling across the beach! I try not to think of Sebastian from The Little Mermaid as I visualize the rosy crustaceans simmering in a garlicky broth ๐Ÿ™‚ So many possibilities with crab too! Like: crab tacos, maybe? Crab lasagna ๐Ÿ™‚ or crab on toast, brilliant!

Fresh Mint & Peppered Pasta with Buttered Artichokes, Parmesan, and Crab

Ingredients

(for pasta)Artichoke_Botanicals

1 package fettuccine or linguine

water

sea salt

(for sauce)

8 oz frozen crab meat, defrosted & de-shelled

1 block of Parmesan (or other aged cheese), grated

1 bunch of fresh mint, minced

1 can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped

1 cup dry white wine

cracked black pepper

5 Tbs. butter

1/4 cup olive oil

(1) Fill a large pot with salted water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. While the pasta water readies, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. (2) Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let the mixture thicken, about 5 minutes. (3) Add butter, white wine, and crab meat. Bring the heat to medium and simmer, covered until the crab meat is cooked, 3-4 minutes. (4) Lower the heat to low. Add artichoke, fresh mint, and 1/3 of the grated cheese, stirring until just combined. (5) Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt & pepper. crab_posterServe hot garnished with extra grated cheese, fresh mint sprigs , & cracked pepper if desired.

Serves 4

Mmm…briny, savory, herby richness (is there enough adverbs there? ;)) doesn’t seem to get old. What to make next? Watch out salty crustaceans, I’m just beginning…

My question: what is your favorite pasta dish involving seafood?

I’m wondering what the consensus is…

3.25.13

Killer Vodka Sauce }:)

Ahh, where has all my time gone? Once it was Fall and then that was gone, then it was the holidays and that was over before I knew it…now we’re in 2013 and I find myself asking, where has all the time gone?! It has been FAR too long since my last poster_pastapost but I can’t recall when I’ve been busier. For any fellow culinarians who actually reads this blog from time to time, I apologize for my absence, but I have been cooking in the meantime!

I’ve (somehow) managed to finish off this semester on the 10th of January and now I am preparing for a big move with my little family to Copenhagen! Yes, things are looking up, moving forward, and at a pace that is almost too fast for me to keep up but hey, I’ll keep trying ๐Ÿ™‚

In anticipation of moving to a new city, I have taken up the task of liquidating my pantry, which is just as complicated as it sounds ๐Ÿ˜‰ ah…the things you find in the freezer! In addition to making meals out of few (and fewer) ingredients, I have discovered that if you’re ever lacking in flavor, there are 2 things that will make up for it, no matter what: alcohol and cheese. Does it matter what alcohol, or what cheese? No, because as soon as you add it to any meal it suddenly goes up a notch in quality, taste, and appeal – but that may just be me ๐Ÿ˜›

I’m also on a whole-wheat kick I guess you could say, because it makes me feel a bit better about all the pasta I’m eating. Sure, it doesn’t taste the same but there’s (often empty) carbohydrate calories and then there’s whole grain carbohydrate calories!! Seriously do yourself a favor, if you don’t like whole-wheat stuff, get over it. I get it with bread because there’s a serious taste difference there but you’d be amazed what other whole wheat products you can substitute for your normal carbohdrate needs–tortillas, crackers, pasta, cereal, flour, rice–we were meant to be eating this stuff!vodka-shot

So, the star ingredient in this recipe, any guesses? Yes, it’s the vodka. And what better way to use hard liquor you have no desire of drinking yourself? I think in general, vodka sauce has been underrated and under-appreciated for quite some time. Now I love tomatoes, no doubt, but sometimes tomato sauce just needs a little something, something more than basil or cream ๐Ÿ˜€ If I were ever to make/write/publish a cookbook, some version of vodka sauce would be included because it’s just that awesome.

This recipe is as simple as it gets: pasta, tomato, onion, milk, butter, vodka – tadaa! Dinner is served. I looked the vodka sauce up online under the search criteria “easy vodka sauce” because I simply don’t have the time to mess around with different styles between packing boxes and making sure my baby doesn’t eat any more cardboard or masking tape.. I also ended up embellishing the pasta dish itself with some of my favorite veggies because we all need protein! So yes, vegetarian Italian cuisine begets me this week and what a splendid surprise it was to make and to taste. I will definitely cook this again, probably with more vodka next time ๐Ÿ˜‰

Whole-Wheat Chickpea & Artichoke Pasta with Homemade Vodka Sauce

Ingredients

(for the pasta)pasta_wholewheat

whole-wheat fusilli (or any other curly pasta)

1 can chickpeas, drained

1 can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped

1 cup grated Parmesan (or other aged cheese)

3-4 green onions, minced

(for the sauce)

1 can chopped/diced tomatoes (in juice)

1 onion, chopped

3 Tbs. butter

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 cup milk (or cream)

salt & cracked peppersauce_vodka

(1) Fill a large pot with salted water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. (2) While waiting on the water, begin the sauce. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter & onion. Cook, stirring often until the onion has softened, about 4-5 minutes. (3) Add the tomatoes, sugar, and vodka. Lower the heat slightly and simmer everything until the sauce has thickened and been slightly reduced, about 10-15 minutes. (4) When the pasta water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain. (5) When the vodka sauce has thickened somewhat, add the milk and lower the heat so the sauce is no longer boiling. Let cook another 5 minutes or so until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper. (6) Return the cooked pasta to the pot and add chickpeas, minced green onions, and artichoke hearts, mixing until combined. (7) When ready to eat, pour all of the vodka sauce over the pasta. Stir. Add Parmesan, reserving some for serving. Can be garnished with fresh parsley or more cracked pepper, if desired.

Serves 4copenhagen_poster

Eating warm Italian food almost makes me forget how cooold it is outside ๐Ÿ˜€

My next task, and most likely my next post, will be even more “economical” as I’ll be working with an even smaller budget and limited ingredients. Luckily I see this as a challenge so wish me luck!

Let’s see how fast I can become sick of canned tomatoes ๐Ÿ˜‰

My question: what is the yummiest sauce on pasta, in your opinion?

It can be hot or cold, and pesto totally counts..

1.20.2013

Herbivorous Hรธstfest

In Danish, hรธstfest literally means “harvest party” which is the perfect word for this season with Fall having made an entrance and the air already a bit chillier. As a species that was probably once accustomed to hibernation :D, like most mammals, I suppose an increased appetite can be expected. As for me, the sooner it gets colder I’m craving more filling meals. I’ve always loved eating meat, probably because I am a carnivore by nature ๐Ÿ™‚ but after some reflection, I’ve noticed that most of my posts have meat in them. Having noticed this perhaps natural popularity of meat dishes, it’s true that vegetarian food is just as good and often healthier, so I decided to devote this post to vegetarian food everywhere. Here are three of my latest recipes that happen to be completely meat-free.

The melon-cucumber salad is a recipe idea of mine, including the honey mustard vinaigrette, which turned out to be the best part ๐Ÿ™‚ The roasted tomato and pepper soup recipe is from the legendary Soup Bible (which can be found on Amazon) and is full of brilliant, if not slightly time-consuming, soup ideas ๐Ÿ˜‰ The bulgur recipe is also a creation of mine and makes use of pretty much exactly what was left in our fridge and cupboards after a week or so of kitchen chaos. The fruity/peppery and honey/salty combinations of flavors seemed to get better after every bite, or maybe that was just me ๐Ÿ™‚

The star ingredient in all of these recipes is the miso, which I was finally able to procure at the Chinese grocer. Miso is basically fermented soybeans and as unappetizing as that may sound, it comes in a few different colors and has a pleasant salty taste. It’s a Japanese staple that is full of protein and high in vitamins and minerals. I was able to do some experimentation with the saltish stuff, which helps when you have a chunk since they only sell it in bulk ๐Ÿ˜€ I think it adds a rich and almost roasted flavor to all sorts of things, including dressings. If you can’t find miso, no worries there, just season as wisely as you wish with salt.

Roasted Pepper & Tomato Soup with Tortellini

Ingredients

8 – 10 tomatoes, on the vine

3 bell peppers, any color

3 sweet peppers, any color

1 Thai chili

3 yellow onions

4 cups vegetable broth

1 box of dried tortellini (with cheese and/or veggie filling)

1 tsp. sugar

1 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Tbs. red or yellow miso (optional)

sea salt & cracked pepper

sunflower oil

(1) Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius (or 450 Fahrenheit). Line a large oven pan with baking paper. Half the onions, tomatoes, and all of the peppers, removing the seeds from the peppers (but not the tomatoes!) (2) Add 2 Tbs. of oil to the pan and then all of the halved veggies, stirring to coat. (3) When the oven is preheated, put the pan on the top rack and let roast until the skins of the peppers have browned and are beginning to peel, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. (4) In a large pot, stir together the sugar, miso, garlic powder, and broth, warming over medium heat. (5) Remove the peels from the onions and the browned skins from the peppers (it’s okay to leave the tomato skins on). Using a blender, puree the roasted vegetables before adding to the soup pot. (6) Bring the soup to a boil and add tortellini, cooking until pasta is al dente, 10-15 minutes. Serve topped with a dollop of creme fraiche, dried herbs, or scrambled eggs ๐Ÿ™‚

Serves 6

Spiced Bulgur with Mango, Miso & Pickledย  Ginger

Ingredients

(for bulgur)

2 cups bulgur wheat (coarse or finely ground)

4 cups onion (or vegetable) broth

1/2 cup pickled ginger, chopped

1/2 cucumber, peeled & chopped

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup dried green mango, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded & sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeded & sliced

(for dressing)

3 Tbs. yellow miso

2 Tbs. rice vinegar

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. apricot jam (or other jam)

3 Tbs. lemon juice

2 – 3 dried chilies (like Pequin or African Bird’s Eye), crushed

1 Tbs. brown sugar

1 Tbs. soy sauce

1 tsp. garlic powder

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Cook bulgur uncovered in salted broth according to package instructions; this usually involves 1 part bulgur to 2 parts broth, for 10-14 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with fork. (2) In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the dressing, miso through garlic powder and stir well; set aside. (3) Next add all of the peppers, green onions, mango, cucumber, and ginger to the bulgur and mix. (4) When ready to serve, add the dressing and stir until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be served warm or cold.

Serves 4

Melon-Cucumber Saladย  with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Ingredients

(for salad)

1 small honeydew melon, skinned, seeded & cut into chunks

1 cucumber, cut into chunks

6 cups mixed greens (like baby spinach, arugula, & red-leaf)

4 sweet peppers, seeded & thinly sliced

1 red onion, peeled & thinly sliced

(for vinaigrette)

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 Tbs. paprika

1 Tbs. yellow miso

3 Tbs. honey

3 Tbs. Dijon mustard

2 Tbs. milk (or cream)

1/2 Tbs. mustard seeds

1/2 Tbs. onion powder

1/2 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 lemon, juiced

(1) Make sure all the greens are washed and dried before tossing with the peppers, onion, melon, and cucumber. Cover and chill until ready to serve. (2) To make the honey mustard, combine all of the ingredients – white wine through lemon juice- in a sealable jar or tupperwareย and shake until blended. Can be kept chilled in the fridge for up to 2 months ๐Ÿ™‚ (3) When ready to eat, toss the salad again with the dressing and serve immediately.

Serves 4

So those are my offerings to the harvest gods and vegetarians everywhere ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s amazing how the earth just grows all sorts of differently delicious plants and countless other things for us to eat. I think being human has never been better ๐Ÿ˜›

My question:

What is your favorite vegetarian dish to eat?

10.8.12

Lemony Pasta meets Peppered Bacon

I am back from Barcelona and have had some wonderfully spiced and flavorful foods during my time there. I believe we could all take some pointers from the Spaniards on how to cook food as it seems they love the process–the seasoning, the roasting, the aging, the frying–as much as I do ๐Ÿ˜€ For now I have renewed adoration for the tasty variations of thinly sliced and salted meats, be it Serrano ham, bacon, and (still my absolute favorite) prosciutto. Mmmm.. Somehow I am STILL craving citrus in this, the sixth month of my pregnancy, and decided to make a dish that had both light and rich elements, plenty of fiber (’cause I can’t get enough of that these days), vegetables, and some peppered protein.

The original version of this dish I got from next month’s edition of Eating Well, while I did add the bacon, cauliflower, and double the cheese (cheese!) I also like my pasta to have a little more moisture so I used 3 eggs in addition to olive oil and lemon juice for the sauce. I remember reading in authentic Italian cooking magazines about the practice of adding beaten eggs to pasta dishes to contribute texture (and protein), just remember that when you do so the pasta should be steaming hot. Anyway, so the title of my recipe may be elaborate, but I’m feeling a little extravagant these days so why shouldn’t my verbage? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Although it does describe the dish very well with its mix of richness and freshness (what I mean is enough fat and vegetables, ’cause we all need a bit of both)..

The star ingredient in this recipe is the bacon. Why? Because bacon is already awesome on its own and contributes this awesomeness to anything you may add it to. Maybe it’s the American in me that just loves the taste of bacon, so much it might be criminal ๐Ÿ˜‰ So it amps up your cholesterol, that just means we don’t need to be eating it all the time ๐Ÿ˜ฆ but I have been inspired with all the (yes, fatty) salted meats I had the pleasure of sampling in Spain so I thought I’d use its mystical powers to add a little attitude (ahem, sodium) to this vegetable-filled dish.

Lemony Linguine with Sautรฉed Leeks, Peppered Bacon, & Steamed Cauliflower

Ingredients

3 lemons

1 head of cauliflower

1 packet of sliced bacon

1 bunch of leeks, white and pale green parts chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced

1 packet (18 oz or 500 g) of whole-wheat pasta

1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

3 eggs, beaten

olive oil

sea salt & ground black pepper

(1) Fill the bottom of a large pot with 2 inches of salted water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. In the meantime, wash and trim the head of cauliflower, breaking into small florets. When the water is boiling, put all cauliflower pieces into a strainer and place in the pot, cover with lid, and steam the vegetables until soft, 5-7 minutes. Remove cauliflower, set aside, and cover. (2) Add more water to the pot until it is about halfway full (and a pinch more salt). Bring to a boil for the pasta. Meanwhile zest 2 of the lemons and reserve for juicing, cut the remaining lemon into wedges for serving. (3) Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add bacon and fry 3-5 minutes, turning once and seasoning with plenty of pepper until bacon is cooked (not crispy). Remove from pan and put on a plate lined with paper towels. Cover to keep from drying out (and any stray snacking). (4) In the frying pan heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil. Add the chopped leek and minced garlic, cooking until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. (5) When the pot of salted water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and return pasta to the pot, immediately stirring in the beaten eggs. Over very low heat, add the cauliflower, lemon zest, 1/3 of the fresh parsley, the leeks, and use a pair of scissors to cut the bacon into medium-sized pieces as you add it to pasta. Season liberally with salt and pepper and add 3 Tbs. olive oil for moisture (or more if needed), and half of the cheese. Mix well. (6) When ready to dish up, remove pasta from heat. Juice 2 of the lemons into pasta, stir, and divide among 4 bowls. Garnish with a generous layer of grated cheese, ground pepper, and a pinch of minced parsley. Serve with lemon wedges on the side

Serves 4

So once again, pasta has proven to be one of those versatile, hearty, and healthy dishes that’s simple to prepare and easy to eat! As the (chilly) month of February comes around, I will need to come up with some more economically-minded recipes (not that bacon isn’t cheap…) to fit my dismal winter budget. Wish me luck with that ๐Ÿ˜€

My question: What is your favorite (fattiest) meat to eat?

I’m thinking some of the more tastefully sinful cuts…prosciutto, lamb chops, (and yes, bacon) or anything else that packs a punch (of flavor I mean;-)

1.29.12

Cajun-Style Burgers, minus the Grill

In my never-ending quest for meal variation, I decided this week to make good ol’ burgers for dinner alongside a different version of chilled pasta salad. Not only am I (and baby:-) craving red meat, but I was also finally able to lay my hands on some ground beef and jumped at the chance to cook something that would at least give me the illusion of summertime, cheesy grilled burgers, without the grill :/ And how does one accomplish that? I got two words for you: high heat. That’s basically what a grill does, cooking food over conditions of high heat but the flames are direct so when using a (slightly lamer) frying pan, one has to try a little harder to ‘recreate’ grill conditions. Trust me, it’s possible.

Cajun seasoning does wonders for any plain hunk of meat so I highly recommend it for making burgers; the paprika made the patties taste a little sweet while the cayenne gave it spiciness, a very interesting flavor combination if I may add. Frying thick slices of tomatoes adds a bit of excitement to the burger presentation (not to mention taste) but just make sure to brown both sides of the tomato slices and then promptly remove them from the frying pan before they get uselessly mushy, because nobody likes that.

This colorful version of pasta salad is based on a recipe from Cooking Light and involves roasted red peppers, fresh mint, and Brazil nuts. With access to copious amounts of fresh mint, it seemed like a no-brainer to me but if you aren’t a huge fan of mint then I’d recommend some other fresh herbs, or just more basil :] I decided to include the burger and pasta salad recipes separately for the sake of simplicity. As for the star ingredient, I’d have to say it’s the fried tomatoes because they’re just wonderful–easy to make, greater to taste–it seems flavor only increases in vegetables you take the time to roast (or fry!!)

Baby Bowtie Pasta Salad with Fresh Mint, Roasted Red Peppers, and Brazil Nuts

Ingredients

(for the salad)

1 lb. baby bowtie pasta

1 jar roasted red peppers, seeded & chopped

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup Brazil nuts, chopped

1/4 cup golden raisins, softened

(for the vinaigrette)

1 bunch fresh mint, minced

1 bunch fresh basil, minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs. rice vinegar

3 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. milk

2 Tbs. lime juice

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package instructions until al dente, drain, and then rinse thoroughly with cold water. (2) Combine all ingredients for the vinaigrette (minced mint through lime juice) in a small bowl, whisking well with a fork; season to taste with salt & pepper. (3) To assemble the salad, mix the cooked pasta in a large bowl with all remaining ingredients, including the vinaigrette. Stir everything together very well, adding more lime juice for moisture if needed. Refrigerate salad until ready to serve.

Serves 4

Cajun-Spiced Burgers with Fried Tomatoes, Red Onion, and Swiss Cheese

Ingredients

1 lb. ground beef

3 eggs, beaten

8 slices of Swiss cheese

4 large burger buns

1 red onion, thinly sliced

2 tomatoes, thickly sliced

2 Tbs. soy sauce

salt & cracked pepper

1 packet Cajun spice blend (or make blend: 3 Tbs. ground cumin, 3 Tbs. dried oregano, 2 Tbs. garlic powder, 3 Tbs. sweet paprika, 2 tsp. salt, 1 Tbs. cracked pepper, 2 Tbs. chili powder, 1 Tbs. onion powder, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper)

(1) In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, Cajun seasoning, and beaten eggs; refrigerate for about 30 minutes. (2) Heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat and fry the tomato slices, browning both sides before putting on a separate plate; keep covered until ready to serve burgers (3) Form the meat mixture into 4 thick burger patties and reheat the pan with another tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add burger patties and cook 8-10 minutes total, flipping when the sides have browned before adding two slices of Swiss cheese on each patty; burgers will be medium to medium-well when done and cheese should be melted. Let sit covered with foil for at least 3 minutes before serving. (4) To assemble burgers, toast the buns beforehand and add a patty to each, topping with warm slices of fried tomatoes, red onion, and ketchup, if desired.

Serves 4

So at last I satisfy my burger cravings and only managed to destroy half the kitchen in the process (okay, so I destroyed all of it }:-) My next endeavor will have to be something just as simple, another old-school meal reminiscent of the American food I’m missing out on over here, something with melted cheese too…

My question(s): what are your favorite burger toppings? And what’s the best cheese to melt on burgers?

I’m thinking anything classically delicious ๐Ÿ™‚

11.16.11

A Little Bit of Class

Next week I’ll be moving into my own apartment (yay, finally!) a little ways out of the city so these are the last few days I’m sharing a kitchen with another household. As such, I wanted to prepare a meal for our hosts as a way to thank them for putting up with crazy students for tenants/roommates over the last 2 1/2 months. My original plans to make something big and home-style changed when I realized just how much work that involved (and what little time I actually had to be cooking this week) so instead I went for a recipe that was simple, fast, and classy–a fanciful dish if you will, that makes use of some unusual ingredients. I shall explain what I mean ๐Ÿ™‚

My inspiration for cooking this recipe in particular came from our host’s amazing garden; in this garden there’s a beautifully huge rhubarb plant (and I mean huge) with big leaves and bright red stalks that is still clinging to life as it gets colder and colder, rainier and rainier every day :-[ I was flipping through some old recipes I’d stockpiled from the States and came across a rather unique pasta dish from Cucina La Italiana that uses fresh pasta and a Rhubarb-Dill sauce; when I saw it, I thought–this is it!!

The original recipe was vegetarian but when I mentioned this small fact to the males I witnessed some frowning and head shakes so I bulked the meal up with little cubes of ham (or as they say in Danish, skinke) which were already cooked and naturally sweet to go along with the rhubarb sauce. The Cucina recipe called for making your own pasta which I would absolutely attempt were it not for the incredible amount of time and necessary equipment you would need to do so (next time Skye, next time…) Luckily for me fresh pasta is still easy to attain and can be found in the refrigerated section of the market (and it cooks much faster than the dried stuff). The part of this recipe you must fully commit yourself to is the sauce, and it’s pretty easy in my opinion, that and it’s the most fun to make–just stirring, adding, and thickening. I love the pinkish color Rhubarb gives food and with a touch of white wine, some fresh dill, and plenty of butter I think this meal has a bit of class (love that word) and lots of deliciousness }:-)

The star ingredient in this recipe is (can you guess?) rhubarb!! If you haven’t worked with this plant before (and it is indeed a plant, looks kinda like a massive thing of lettuce but it’s definitely not) just make sure you don’t eat the leaves as they’re slightly toxic :[ the stalks however–the crispest, most colorful part of the plant–are what you should focus on; you can coarsely chop the rhubarb stalks for the sauce and cook over medium heat so the sugars will slowly release and the pieces will naturally soften too. The best part is it takes no time at all…

Ham and Pine Nut Linguine with a Rhubarb-Dill Sauce

Ingredients

(for the pasta)

16 oz. fresh linguine

1/2 lb. fully-cooked ham (cubed)

1 package (1/2 cup) pine nuts

1 cup golden raisins

1 bunch fresh dill, minced

2 Tbs. butter

(for the sauce)

1 cup white wine

2 medium stalks of rhubarb

2 cups cream

4 shallots, thinly sliced

2 Tbs. butter

flour

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Soak the golden raisins in a bowl with hot water for 15 minutes until softened, then drain and set aside. Coarsely chop the pine nuts or crush with a can while still in the bag (it’s easier:-). Thoroughly wash the rhubarb stalks and split lengthwise, split again, and then coarsely chop into smaller pieces. (2) To make the sauce, heat the cream, shallots, and white wine over medium heat until simmering; simmer an additional 2 minutes before adding all the rhubarb pieces. Let sauce cook until rhubarb is softened, about 10 minutes. Mix 3 Tbs. of flour in a cup with warm water to smooth out any lumps and then stir into the sauce. Whisking often, add 2 Tbs. butter and cook the sauce until thickened, 5-8 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. (3) In a large saute pan, melt 1 Tbs. butter and add cubes of ham, cooking over high heat to brown the sides (add a little white wine if the ham starts to stick too much). When browned, move the ham bits to the side of the pan and melt another tablespoon of butter in the center, adding all the pine nuts and stirring occasionally until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Lower the heat and mix in softened raisins and fresh dill, stirring well; let cook for 1 minute and then cover and remove from heat. (4) Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook until soft, about 4 minutes, stirring to prevent the strands from sticking together. Drain pasta and return to pot, adding the ham and pine nut mixture. (5) When ready to serve, mix all of the sauce with the cooked linguine, stirring well to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish plates of pasta with little sprigs of dill.

Serves 4

Well, I’m pleased to have made something as colorful and luxurious as this dish, but next week I will have to go back to utilitarian cooking :-(I won’t even have pots, or silverware hmmm…) I’m thinking with all this room for possibility, the outlook seems promising, so wish me luck!

My question: What is another sugary/sweet sauce that goes well with pasta?

10.12.11

Summer has finally arrived here it seems and man is it hot (and humid)! Without an A/C in sight ๐Ÿ˜‰ I decided it would be best to make some cold food that could chill in the fridge until it was needed. Pasta salad is still one of my favorite foods and simply I couldn’t resist the urge to make a different version that involved some other ingredients than what I normally use. Using a ready-made white Mornay sauce as a base for the dressing ensured that the salad had a creamy texture and was less likely to dry out in the fridge (luckily that’s still an easy fix; I’d recommend adding a little white wine if in need of some moisture).

I realize I’m a tad obsessed with Dill but the herb is very popular over here and it’s in everything–dressings, schnapps, seafood–they sell it frozen in bags already chopped at the supermarket so it’s very easy to use ๐Ÿ™‚ The star ingredient in this recipe was the capers, which are awfully tiny little things but pack a lot of flavor. I always thought capers were seeds or dried fruit like peppercorns, but turns out they’re actually little premature flower buds (even cuter, right? At least tastier) Using some of the caper juice in the vinaigrette adds a briny taste to the salad that I think compliments the sweetness of the sausage and pickled onions. There is a cacophony of sausages made over here so I used mini pork & chicken sausages which were already cooked and brown in minutes.

My advice for anyone replicating this dish, don’t be shy with seasoning; taste as you go (imperative) and adjust accordingly. The pasta should not be overcooked as it absorbs a lot of moisture anyway and the dish may need to be dressed a couple of times if you plan on eating it all week like me ๐Ÿ™‚ Adding 1-2 Tbs. more paprika contributes a little spice to the salad and you can substitute any procurable veggies–olives, celery, golden raisins (I know it’s not a veggie but still), chickpeas, corn, peppers, spinach–I’m telling you, the combinations are boundless }:-)

Chilled Pasta Salad with Dill, Chicken Sausage, & Pickled Onions

Ingredients

(for the salad)

1 lb. baby shell pasta (or elbow macaroni)

1 packet of chicken sausage

1 jar of small pickled onions, halved

1 jar of capers, with juice

2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 bunch of fresh Dill, minced (or 4 Tbs. frozen)

(for the vinaigrette)

1 1/2 cups white sauce, Mornay or Bรฉchamel

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 Tbs. cider vinegar

2 Tbs. paprika

1 Tbs. lemon juice

olive oil

seas salt & cracked pepper

(1) Boil the pasta in salted water until cooked al dente; drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Put the pasta in a large bowl and mix with a tsp. of olive oil and a little bit of cracked pepper. (2) In a frying pan, warm some olive oil over medium-high heat and cook the chicken sausages until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and let cool a couple of minutes before cutting the sausages into smaller pieces. (3) Add the tomatoes, pickled onions, capers, and cooked sausage to the pasta, mixing well. (4) To make the vinaigrette, whisk together all ingredients from the white sauce through the lemon juice in a small bowl, adding 1 Tbs. of olive oil and leftover caper juice, stirring until well blended. (5) Stir the vinaigrette into the pasta salad, season with salt & pepper; cover and refrigerate until chilled, 20-30 minutes. Serve cold with thin slices of bread (or even colder beer:-)

Serves 4

I’ve got to deviate away from pasta at some point, lovely carbohydrate as it is, so I’m thinking of making a salad recipe of a greener nature…there’s still a month left of Summer so it would probably be advisable to stick to colder food anyway. Ah, the choices!

My question: What is the best chilled side dish you’ve ever tasted? It doesnt have to be pasta…

8.04.11

Soupy Coalescence

“An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup…”

-H.L. Mencken

So I’m an idealist then ๐Ÿ™‚ or at least a cook dedicated to making better soup, as they say. Cloudy, rainy weather tend to increase the desire for hot, brothy food, but it’s the simplicity of soup recipes that make up the main attraction for me. And with so many cultural and regional variations, one is never short of new ideas. I have made Asian, Jewish, and Italian soups–spicy, salty, and creamy soups and, honestly, I have yet to come across a soup that I don’t like…most likely impossible ๐Ÿ˜‰

Lately I’ve been keen to try out another soup recipe, sort of this idea I had that involves a combination of minestrone and tomato meatball soup; the final version I ended up making was a bit more elaborative than that and included baby pasta (at least that’s what I like to call it), bell peppers, and ground pork. I have newfound esteem for this last ingredient in particular because last weekend I visited a pig farm and got to see the adorable (and probably delicious) piglets that were born there by the hundreds every week. In my modest opinion, pork is cut-rate, lean, and tasty }:-) so I will be employing its scrumptiousness wherever I can.

The star ingredient in this recipe is the crushed tomatoes because it kicks up the flavor of the broth a notch; too much tomatoes will overpower all the other ingredients but the right amount compliments the garlic and peppers in the dish. Adding milk to the soup at the end of cooking gives it a creaminess that I think surpasses the usual broth of vegetable soups. Like everything, the soup needs a bit of seasoning to get to the suitable taste, but I ‘m happy to have come up with another recipe that is both hearty and healthy; now I’m curious to see how long it lasts…

Creamy Tomato Pasta Soup with Peas, Peppers, and Pork Meatballs

Ingredients

(for soup)

1 lb. stellini pasta (‘little stars’) or ditalini

3 cups frozen peas

1 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

6 cups chicken broth

2 Tbs. lemon juice

2 cups white wine

1 tsp. garlic salt (or powder)

4 Tbs. fresh Parsley, minced

1 can crushed tomatoes

2 cups milk

butter

(for meatballs)

1 lb. ground pork

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 Tbs. fresh Parsley, chopped

3 eggs, beaten

4 garlic cloves, chopped

flour

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) In a blender combine the ground pork, chopped onion, fresh Parsley, garlic, and the beaten eggs; season with salt and pepper and blend until the mixture is smooth and sticking together. Dusting your hands with plenty of flour, mold the meat mixture into meatballs about the size of small marbles and place on a plate.ย  (2) Heat 2 Tbs. butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and 3 minced garlic cloves; let cook until aromatic, 2-3 minutes. (3) Add 2 Tbs. white wine to the pan and then arrange as many meatballs as it will fit; cook the meatballs in batches until all of them are done, browning both sides (should cook through in 8-10 minutes) and adding tablespoons of white wine as you go to prevent sticking. Set the cooked meatballs aside and cover. (4) In a large pot, heat the appropriate amount of salted water to a boil and add the pasta; cook until al dente and then drain, putting in a separate bowl. Mix in 1 Tbs. butter and cover the pasta. (5) Add the bell peppers to the onion mixture and let cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Return the large pot to the stove and warm the chicken broth and 2 cups of water over medium heat until steaming; add the peas and crushed tomatoes, cooking another 10 minutes. (6) Lower the heat and add the lemon juice and 1 cup (or what’s left;) of the white wine, simmering another 5 minutes. Add cooked pasta to the soup and stir in 3 Tbs. fresh Parsley and 2 cups milk. Remove from heat and serve immediately in bowls with 5 or 6 meatballs and a layer of cracked pepper over the top (can be stored for a rainy day in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks:-)

Serves 8

It’s likely my craving for this steamy food will subside with all the sunny summer weather heading our way, so now I’m thinking something cold, flavorful, and filling…oh, the choices };-)

My question: What was the tastiest minestrone soup you ever had? (and we’ve all had some of this vegetable goodness…) What made it the best?

7.26.11

Oodles of Noodles

When it rains (which is a lot), I find myself craving hot food ]:| This week I wanted to make a noodle dish that contained some of the salty, spicy elements from Asian cooking complete with plenty of broth (…the more the better). Asian food encompasses some of the best hot dishes that involve both noodles and broth. I love the soupy, herbaceous, peppery combinations that can be made from just a handful of ingredients. With a full kitchen at my disposal, I elaborated on my original ideas about the recipe in an effort to make something uniquely flavorful (but still steaming hot!)

The meal I ended up making most closely resembles the Chinese ramen recipe Shลyu which contains soy sauce, chicken/vegetable broth, curly noodles, and green onions. But there is always room for variation and adaption when working with dishes like this since the recipes themselves take on a regional forms depending on the ingredients available.ย  Many of the recipes are closely kept secrets so I suppose I’m taking my liberty in sharing mine ;] but hey, it was so tasty (and easy!) I felt compelled .

Since the vegetarian version of this dish is a bit lacking, I made my recipe with meat from a rotisserie chicken which I tore into manageable pieces before mixing into the broth. It’s almost too easy (and fairly inexpensive), to buy a rotisserie chicken which is already cooked and already spiced; the only hard (what I mean is messy) part is dividing the chicken up into portions and pulling out all the greasy bones yourself (trust me, if you like crispy chicken skin like I do, the job is not so bad…) One rotisserie chicken makes two meals as well as a hefty snack which I always do right after tearing it all apart because I’m already pretty greasy at that point };)

The star ingredient of this dish is the scrambled eggs. Why? While certainly contributing some texture to the meal (not to mention protein), scrambled eggs taste delicious (de-licious!), especially when topping noodles and curry. Maybe it’s the South African blood in me, but there is something devilishly delectable about eggs in curry, or some combination thereof. My advice for replicating this dish would be to use any fresh ingredients available–asparagus, peas, mushrooms, bean sprouts, celery, onions, cauliflower-anything you can soften and stir-fry will add only flavor (and nourishment:-)

Spicy Chicken Noodles with Green Beans, Green Onions & Scrambled Eggs

Ingredients

2 packets of ramen noodles

1 bunch of green onions, finely chopped

2 cups frozen (or fresh) green beans, chopped

2 cups of rotisserie chicken meat, torn into small pieces

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbs. dried Basil

1 Tbs. spicy mustard

1 Tbs. soy sauce

1 tsp.ย sriracha sauce

1 Tbs. rice vinegar

1 Tbs. lime juice

1 Tbs. yellow curry powder

1 cube chicken bullion (or 2 cups chicken broth)

3 eggs, beaten

olive oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat; when hot, add the garlic, and 1/2 of the green onions, cooking for 3-4 minutes. Next add the green beans, cooking another 3 minutes. (2) In a separate pot, bring the proper amount of salted water to a boil and cook the ramen until soft, about 3 minutes; remove from heat and set aside. (3) Stir in all of the ingredients from dried Basil through chicken bullion and add 1/2 cup water, mixing well. Let cook 5-6 minutes until the broth is reduced (if the mixture becomes too dry, add some water from the noodles). (4) In a small frying pan, heat 1 tsp. olive oil over medium heat. Pour beaten eggs into the pan and whirl around to make an even layer. Brown both sides of the omelette, flipping once in between (this may get messy, but that’s alright). When done transfer eggs to a cutting board and let cool before cutting into strips. (5) Next, add the cooked ramen and chicken pieces to the vegetables and lower the heat, simmering until heated throughout (and preferably steaming:-). Stir in the remaining green onions, setting aside some for garnish. Serve the meal in bowls, topped with a generous portion of scrambled egg strips, a sprinkle of green onions, and a dot of sriracha.

Serves 4

I don’t think I’m alone when I say sriracha sauce is one of my favorite condiments (if not my favorite); you just can’t beat that bite! As the rain will persist this week, I’ll have to come up with some other meals that are hot and soupy enough to hold me over ๐Ÿ˜‰

My question: What is your favorite form of hot sauce?

Tabasco? Sriracha? Frank’s Red Hot…Chipotle, Green chile, Harissa, Jalapeno…

7.18.11