Italian meatball soup with orzo, spinach, and carrots

I went the extra mile for this recipe I adapted from dashrecipes.com!  I had the time this afternoon so I made a vegetable soup stock from scratch, using leeks, celery, garlic, and carrots, seasoned with bay leaf, fresh tarragon, and thyme. For additional flavor, I added a teaspoon of organic Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base. If not for that detour, this recipe would be quick and easy. Of course, to save time, I used the carrots from the stock in the meatball soup, and saved the rest of the vegetables for puréeing later. I will add the purée to the remaining stock for flavor.  I recommend serving this soup with a simple salad or hot crusty bread for a light supper.

Italian Meatball Soup with Orzo, Spinach and Carrots
INGREDIENTS:

1⁄2 lb ground sirloin
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
5 1/2 cups light chicken broth (reduced-sodium, fat-free)
2 cups fresh spinach (no stems)
3⁄4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1/2 cup chopped carrot
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

1. In small bowl, combine ground sirloin, egg, Panko, cheese, basil, and onion powder. Using a teaspoon, shape into 1-inch balls.

2. In a large saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add meatballs and cook 10 minutes on simmer. Stir in the orzo and carrot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the meatballs are done. About a minute before the meatballs are done, add the spinach. Serve topped with additional Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

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lotsa tomato! baked quinoa patties

I took a break from the blog but I didn’t stop cooking! I’ve been experimenting with this recipe from 101cookbooks.com. First I tried it straight but it came out too coarse. Then, on the second try,  I put in some blackbeans, salsa, and cheese, and it was moister but still coarse. On the third try I remembered that my aunt adds a tomato to her shrimp fritters to make them moist, so chopped up half a tomato and put it in with the original recipe. It did come out moist but still coarse. I finally realized what I should do is reduce the amount of whole wheat breadcrumbs in the recipe.  I served it with tomato salsa and arugula and plum tomatoes. Is lotsa tomato, like we say in Jamaica. But I love tomatoes. And this is the season for them.

Baked Quinoa Patties

2 1/2 cups / 12 oz /340 g cooked quinoa, at room temperature (1 cup raw quinoa)
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/3 cup/ .5 oz /15 g finely chopped fresh chives
1/3 cup /.5 oz /15 g finely chopped fresh dill
1 cup / 1.5 oz /45 g finely chopped kale
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon (toasted) cumin
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup / 3.5 oz /100 g whole grain bread crumbs, plus more if needed
water or a bit of flour, if needed
1/3 cup / .5 oz / 15 g crumbled feta (optional)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400F / 200C.

Combine the quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the chives, dill, kale, onion, garlic, and cumin. Stir well.

Add the baking powder and bread crumbs, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. Gently stir in the feta. I’ve left out the feta cheese and it had no noticeable difference.

I used a one-third cup measure to make 11 patties. To make the patties moister, 101cookbooks recommends adding another beaten egg or water one tablespoon at a time to the quinoa mixture.  To make it dryer, add flour, one tablespoon at a time.

Generously spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, and arrange the patties with a bit of space between each. Bake for ~20 minutes, or until the bottoms are brown. Flip the patties over and bake for another 5 minutes.

Enjoy hot, or allow to cool to room temperature on a cooling rack. Makes about a dozen patties. It tastes pretty good hot or cold.

pasta al pomodoro crudo

 

I found this recipe on a blog but for the life of me, I can’t remember whose. I usually make a note but I forgot to do it this time. It’s real simple; the tomatoes and seasonings aren’t cooked at all. They get warmed up by the pasta. I’ve changed it a bit because I like my pasta dry unless the pasta sauce is thick.  However, I found that with the addition of salt, the tomatoes “spring water” as we say in Jamaica. So, to keep the tomatoes from making juice, I would salt the tomatoes before mixing them with the seasoning to leach out the water. Draining them on paper towels afterwards helps too. And I added the mozzarella cheese. It melts so beautifully in the heat of the pasta into delicious stringy bits that cling to the pasta. This is definitely quick and easy, and it’s going to be part of my week-night dinner menus from now on!

Pasta al Pomodoro Crudo

  • 4 medium to large tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and put through a garlic press (use more or less according to taste)
  • 1 cup chopped basil
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pasta, such as angel  hair, spaghetti, spaghettini, linguine, or other thin types of pasta
  • 1/4-1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese, grated  (I used Parmesan and Romano, and I recommend it)

In a large bowl sprinkle salt on tomato pieces and toss. Put tomatoes on paper-towel lined tray and let it drain 15 minutes.

Put drained tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley, and oil in a food processor and pulse until combined. The mixture should be chunky.  Add salt and pepper to taste, then set aside.

Cook 1 lb  pasta in salted water. Cook according to package directions until al dente.  Drain well and divide pasta into four bowls. Put mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup of sauce over each bowl of pasta and toss thoroughly.  Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Cook’s note: Add chopped turkey pastrami or prosciutto to the pasta, if desired.

P.S. Robin Jean Marie wrote to say that her recipe is the basis for this one! See Spaghetti with Raw Tomato Sauce at Bringing Europe Home. Thanks, Robin!

leek potato soup

I’ve been so busy lately, too busy to blog. What sacrilege. But I’ve a good excuse;  I’m writing a final paper for my summer reading teacher course. I was very ambitious and started a new course at the same time I started a new job. The course is almost over and I can breathe easier now that summer academy is over. So I whipped up this soup from a recipe courtesy of Irene Phaksuwan. I love my new soup bowl! I bought it in Chinatown because I needed some deep Chinese soup bowls to replace the shallow soup plates that I have. You have to dig into a soup, if you’re Chinese because Chinese soups are hearty and full of noodles, meat, and vegetables; we don’t skim soups delicately with a spoon. This Leek Potato Soup is hearty–and it’s all vegetarian.

Leek Potato Soup

Ingredients
2 leeks, washed, and outer leaves removed, chopped into 1 inch lengths
2 1/2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup celery, chopped with leaves
3 small carrots, scraped and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
1 sprig thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Head the oil in a large dutch pot over medium heat. Put leeks, potatoes, celery, carrots and garlic in the oil and stir-fry until tender about 3 minutes. Add the broth, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Cook 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.

If you wish, thicken the soup. Spoon half the vegetables into the work bowl of a food processor and process until the vegetables are the consistency of thick soup. Return processed vegetables to the soup. Serve hot with a salad on the side or a hot crusty whole grain bread.

grilled chicken with cucumber relish

That red sauce is  a little dollop of harissa that I cannot do without whenever I grill chicken. Plus a couple of twists of Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning. The chicken is yummy and juicy, lightly spiced. I loved the cucumber relish with this; it was slightly spicy, crunchy, and fresh tasting. I high recommend it as an accompaniment with other grilled meats and sandwiches. In fact, I made it again the other night for a light supper as an accompaniment for a grilled-mozzarella-cheese-and-turkey-pastrami-basil-pesto sandwich! (What a mouthful. It was delicious too!) I couldn’t call this quick and easy since the chicken had to marinate overnight. But with a little planning ahead, it can be done, because this chicken cooks up quick and easy in the George Foreman grill. And on a hot summer night, the Foreman grill does not heat up an already hot, non-air conditioned, New York kitchen!

Grilled Chicken with Cucumber Relish (adapted from allrecipes.com)

INGREDIENTS:

For the relish:
1 cucumber – peeled, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/8 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional

For the chicken seasoning:
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (or substitute 2 skinless boneless chicken thighs for 2 chicken breasts)

Mixed greens to serve

DIRECTIONS:
1. Split the chicken breast in half horizontally. Cut the larger piece in half. In a small bowl, mix the cumin and chili powder with the olive oil. Rub the mixture onto the chicken, and place in a shallow dish. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour.

Cook’s Note: Defrost the chicken in the refrigerator the night before. The next day, prep the chicken and refrigerate all day! Come home and do the grill…

2. In a medium bowl, prepare the relish by mixing together the cucumber, parsley, chopped onion, bell pepper, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
3. Prepare the grill for medium heat.
4. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill chicken 8 minutes per side, or until juices run clear. The chicken should register an internal temperature of 165˚F on an instant read thermometer.

Cook’s Note: I used the George Foreman grill, which requires no preparation. Grill the chicken pieces in the Foreman grill for 4-5 minutes for thighs, 3-4 minutes for breasts, or until they register an internal temperature of 165˚F on an instant read thermometer.

Serve chicken on a bed of mixed greens with cucumber relish and harissa on the side. Give a couple twists of Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning all over the plate.

pressed tofu with garlic mint sauce

After all my dietary sins this week, I atoned for it with this meal. I felt quite virtuous about it, too; a good Catholic enjoys doing penance. The tofu was quite tasty–slightly lemon-y, mint-y, and garlic-y.  It’s a tad redder than it should be because I got over-enthusiastic with the paprika. Nevertheless,  I enjoyed the garlic mint sauce, but I would ramp up the flavors, as I have noted in the recipe. I like to follow a recipe exactly the first time I try it, but I was a bit alarmed by the directions in the original. It said to press the tofu  while it was cooking by weighting it down with another skillet and a large can of tomatoes. My top skillet got hot and I worried about heating an unopened can of tomatoes. It’s far safer to press the tofu before cooking, so I’ve given directions how to do this.

Pressed Tofu with Garlic Mint Sauce

Ingredients:

2 packs firm tofu, cut into 3/4 inch slices
4-6 cloves garlic
1 1/2 -2 teaspoons salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
lemon zest from 1 lemon
3 tbs lemon juice (half a lemon)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 cup vegetable broth

Directions:

1. In a large bowl or dish, make the marinade. First, mash garlic and salt together into a paste. Combine with mint, lemon zest, lemon juice, paprika, and 1/2 cup vegetable broth and mix. Set aside.

2. Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with 2 layers of paper towels and place tofu in a single layer on top. Cover the tofu with more paper towels. Place another large rimmed baking sheet on top of the paper towels. Weight down the baking sheet with canned goods or books or both. Let sit for 20 minutes until tofu slices are flattened and the paper towels are soaked.

3. Place tofu slices into marinade, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

4. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Heat skillet on medium.  Gently shake tofu slices to shake off excess marinade, and place them in the pan to brown, about 4 minutes per side. You may need to do this in batches. Save the marinade.

5. After you remove the last batch of tofu, add the reserved marinade and the remaining 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Simmer until the sauce is reduced by one third. Pour garlic-mint sauce over the tofu slices. Serve with hot rice and eat Chinese-style with chopsticks!

a simple tomato sauce with penne

I hate to waste food. I had  grape tomatoes that we never ate because we got tired of salads, and half a package of penne languishing in the cupboard. Then I got inspired by a recipe I saw on Skinnytaste and came up with my own version of pasta with fresh tomato sauce.  It all came together in one skillet. It wasn’t bad!

Simple Tomato Sauce with Penne
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2  pounds grape tomatoes, halved (3 cups)
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt and fresh pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil plus
Chopped parsley and scallion to garnish, optional

4.5 oz. pasta, e.g. penne
1 cup mozzarella cheese or Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions
In a large nonstick pan, heat the oil on medium high heat. Sauté the garlic, onion, and peppers until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover the pan and add the chopped basil. Cover and cook 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside. Spoon pasta into a bowl, add 1/4 cup of cheese and a cupful of tomato sauce. Toss. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and scallion, if desired.

warm pasta salad with corn and zucchini

Last year,  I bought a coupon on Amazon Local for a home-cooked Italian meal with Sandra Catena, The Feisty Italian. She came to our old apartment to teach us how to cook the meal. One of the simplest and most delicious courses was the pasta, dressed simply with cubes of mozzarella cheese. The cheese melted in the heat of the spaghetti–a quick and easy version of mac and cheese!  I remembered that when I made this dish. This is a great one dish meatless meal–and it cooked up in about half an hour. To save time, I skipped the fresh corn and used frozen. The oil I didn’t use to fry the zucchini I used to flavor the pasta. Then I dressed it up with mozzarella cheese, a delicious lesson learned from Sandra.

Warm Pasta Salad with Corn and Zucchini (adapted from Skinnytaste.com)

Ingredients
2-4 teaspoons olive oil
4 cups sliced zucchini (2 medium zucchini sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds)
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (3 ears of corn)
1/2 cup red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red or yellow sweet bell pepper, thinly sliced
8 oz uncooked pasta
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
1/3 cup “black Italian olives” (I used kalamata)
1/2 to 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
8 basil leaves, chopped
Cooking spray
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation:

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain cooked pasta and set aside.

Spray cooking spray in a large skillet and heat it over medium high heat. You will need to cook the zucchini in two batches. Place the zucchini rounds in a single layer in the skillet. Cook 5 minutes on one side until roasted, then turn and cook again for 5 more minutes. Remove zucchini and set aside. Spray the pan again and put in another layer of zucchini rounds. Repeat.

Remove zucchini and add 2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Add the onion, peppers, and corn. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the pan-fried zucchini, pasta, pepper flakes, vinegar, olives, cheese, and basil. Sprinkle a teaspoon or two of olive oil. Add salt to taste. Toss. Spoon onto plates and sprinkle freshly ground pepper on top.

southwestern cheese panini

I adapted this recipe from Eating Well. It takes about 25 minutes to prepare and cook. According to the website, one panini sandwich serving contains 330 calories. I imagine that if you use cooking spray instead of oil, the calories may be even less–how much, I don’t know, but hey, every little bit counts! What I also liked about it was that it was flavorful without having to use additional salt. I recommend serving it with a salad, such as strawberries, baby spinach, dried cranberries, and almonds.

Southwestern Cheese Panini
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

4 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese or Pepper Jack cheese
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion (or a combination of onion, scallion, and chopped cilantro)
1/4-1/2 cup prepared salsa, drained of excess liquid, if chunky salsa
1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeño pepper, (optional)
8 slices whole-wheat bread or multi-grain bread
2 teaspoons canola oil or cooking spray

Preparation

  1. Have four 15-ounce cans and a medium skillet (not nonstick) ready by the stove.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cheese, zucchini, carrot, onion, salsa, jalapeño (if using). Put one slice of bread on the work surface. Scoop about 1/2 cup of the zucchini mixture on the bread. Top with another slice of bread. Cook’s Note: I used Pepper Jack cheese and multi-grain bread which I think add more flavor and texture to the panini.
  3. Heat 1 teaspoon oil, if using, or spray a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray, over medium heat.  Place the panini in the non-stick skillet. Weigh it down with the medium skillet with the 4 cans. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove the top skillet with the cans. Reduce the heat to medium low and flip the panini. Replace the top skillet. Cook until the second side is golden, 1-3 minutes more. Repeat with another teaspoon oil, if using, and another panini.

white beans with potatoes, kalamata olives, and sun-dried tomatoes

Now this wasn’t hard to make; it just took longer.  Although it isn’t in the Quick and Easy category, it is perfect for a Sunday dinner when I have more time to cook. This recipe was originally called  White Beans and Lemon Potatoes with Olives and Tomatoes in Robin Robertson’s Vegan on the Cheap. It can either be a vegetable side or a main meal with a salad and another vegetable. I recommend roasted asparagus. This recipe doesn’t really need a lot of salt because of the tanginess of the lemon/lime juice and the olives, white beans, and sun-dried tomatoes.

Make 4 servings

White Beans with Potatoes, Kalamata Olives, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Ingredients
2 pounds small white or Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
1×15.5 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
6-8 oven dried tomatoes cut into 1/4 inch strips (I used sun-dried tomatoes in oil)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
juice of 1 lemon or 1/2 lime

Preparation
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Lightly oil a 9×13 inch baking pan. Add the potatoes and garlic, drizzle with a little oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake until tender, about 40-45 minutes.

Remove the potatoes from the oven. Add the beans, tomatoes, parsley, olives, and lemon or lime juice. Drizzle with a little more olive oil if needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine, then return to the oven to heat through, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Variations

  • Add sautéed spinach or other cooked vegetable to make a one-dish meal.
  • Substitute ripe black olives for the kalamata olives.
  • Add capers and/or chopped sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil.