rotini with ratatouille style vegetables

Rotini with Ratatouille-Style Vegetables (adapted from Shine)
Started to feel a touch of cabin-fever today! I went for a walk to the neighborhood market. It was drizzling, and the stores and restaurants on Amsterdam Avenue were starting to reopen. Still no word on when the subway will come back online or when power will be restored downtown. So, when I am stressed, I cook (or bake). This one is a great vegetarian recipe, but I can see adding ground turkey or ground beef to this would make it a hearty dish that Andy would appreciate more! Asian eggplants are either long and purple or small, round, and green. I used the long purple ones.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced, slices cut crosswise in thirds
2 cups button mushrooms, halved
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
red pepper flakes
coarse kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 x 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
3/4 cup dry white wine
pinch sugar
2 Asian eggplants, cut lengthwise into thirds (can use zucchini)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried
12 ounces multigrain rotini pasta (can use fusilli)
1/3 cup fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Preparation
In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat the 2 tablespoons oil. Add the onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, thyme, and a pinch of red pepper flakes; sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Sauté until the peppers are tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the tomatoes with juice, and break them up with a spatula. Add the wine and simmer to blend flavors, 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a pinch of sugar if the sauce tastes too acidic.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct-heat grilling over medium-high heat, or preheat the broiler. Arrange the eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet, brush both sides with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to the grill rack, cover, and grill until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Or broil until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Cut the eggplant and zucchini into bite-size pieces and add to the sauce. Add the basil.

Cook’s Note: I used the George Foreman grill, brushing the cut side with a little olive oil.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir well, and cook until al dente, about 11 minutes. Drain the pasta, and then sauce and toss to coat. Return to the pot. Sprinkle generously with cheese and serve right away.

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!

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.

pappardelle with mushrooms, rosemary, and light tomato sauce, redux

I’m stubborn. Especially when I like a recipe and it doesn’t work the first time around.

It’s been a challenging week. Just as I was getting used to the rhythm of work, I started an online course last week. I’m keeping up with the assignments but not getting much sleep. It’s been tempting to eat out or to eat prepared foods from the supermarket, and so far I have not given in–though we did eat out once this week, and I told myself it’s just because it’s hump-day.  I am still determined to cook healthy low fat low carb meals, but now they have to be quick and easy recipes or they don’t make it into my kitchen! Still, I was stressed out enough that I needed some baking therapy.  I made Martha Stewart’s white butter cake recipe again, but this time I added strawberries to it. It tasted fine but that recipe needs to be revisited too. The strawberries sank to the bottom. I saw somewhere on the internet to dust the fruit lightly with flour to prevent this from happening. Does anyone knows if this really works?

Pappardelle with (Wild) Mushrooms, Rosemary, and Light Tomato Sauce (adapted from Dana Slotkin)

Serves 8 as a side dish or 4 as a main course

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra ­virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 large red onion, minced
2 garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (15­ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup low ­sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half (It doesn’t need it; I left it out)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound homemade or store­ bought pappardelle (or other wide pasta)
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms, washed well and sliced (I used baby bellas)
Grated Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper, for serving

Preparation
1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over low heat and sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine, increase the heat to medium, and simmer until the wine has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and rosemary and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. Add the broth and cook until thickened slightly, about 10 more minutes. Stir in the cream, if desired; simmer for one more minute, and season with salt and pepper.

Cook’s Note: I had some grape tomatoes that I wanted to use up. I sliced them in half and added them to the onion and garlic mixture. You can never have too many tomatoes!

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

3. Transfer the sauce to a blender and blend the sauce; keep warm.

4. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until it is tender but still al dente; drain (do not rinse) it and set aside.

5. While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat and sauté the mushrooms until they are golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

6. Add the tomato sauce and pasta to the skillet, tossing to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. With a large serving fork, twirl the pasta and transfer it to serving bowls. Top each portion with extra sauce and grated Parmesan cheese. I added a few twists of freshly ground Trader Joe’s four peppercorn mix. I served it with a fresh salad and Hugo’s sushi vinaigrette salad dressing.

it’s humpday so it’s spinach pesto

I found this simple and delicious recipe on domestic diva, MD. I made some changes because AJ is allergic to walnuts but not pecans. I like it spicy so I added the garlic and red pepper flakes. It’s delicious served on top of Trader Joe’s Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Ravioli with a salad on the side. It’s perfect for a quick and easy humpday dinner!

Ingredients

3 cups fresh spinach, washed and drained
1/3 cup pecans (originally walnuts)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tablespoon  lemon juice
1/4  cup olive oil, less if desired
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a food processor, add the spinach, nuts, parmesan, garlic, pepper flakes, and lemon juice.
  2. Start the food processor and drizzle olive oil into the feed tube until you reach your desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. To store, place in small jars and leave room at the top. Cover with a thin layer of olive oil. This will help your pesto stay green.

pappardelle with mushrooms, rosemary, and tomatoes

Looking for a quick and easy pasta dish for a weeknight dinner? This one is perfect! However, the dish came out drier than expected. I prefer a more sauce-y product and if you do too, then double the sauce recipe. It is mild and very flavorful. For more bite, add red pepper flakes to taste. This is a vegetarian dish but don’t let that stop you from trying it!   The guys in my family object to eating their vegetables without some protein, so I added a cupful of slivered turkey ham to the pasta.

Pappardelle with  mushrooms, rosemary, and tomatoes
(from DanaSlatkin.com)

Serves 8 as a side dish or 4 as a main course

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra ­virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, minced 2 garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine (I substituted 1/2 cup apple juice. White grape juice is fine too.)
1 (15­ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice (I recommend any flavored diced tomatoes.)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup low ­sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half (optional. Using it will result in a pale sauce.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound homemade or store ­bought pappardelle, or other wide pasta (I used garlic and herb pappardelle)
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms, washed well
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Preparation:

1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over low heat and sauté the shallot and garlic until fragrant and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine, increase the heat to medium, and simmer until the wine has reduced by three ­quarters, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and rosemary and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. Add the broth and cook until thickened slightly, about 10 more minutes. Stir in the cream, if desired; simmer for one more minute, and season with salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
3. Transfer the sauce to a blender and blend the sauce; keep warm.
4. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until it is tender but still al dente; drain (do not rinse) it and set aside.
5. While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat and sauté the mushrooms until they are golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season them lightly with salt and pepper. Cook’s Note: I added a cupful of slivered turkey ham slices to the mushrooms.
6. Add the tomato sauce and pasta to the skillet, tossing to blend. With a large serving fork, twirl the pasta and transfer it to serving bowls. Top each portion with extra sauce [Cook’s Note: if there is any!] and grated Parmesan cheese.

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the Hot Italian

It sounds like a come-on, doesn’t it? But I’m talking about spicy Italian cooking here! Now, I’ve done things like spaghetti,  lasagna, and pizza. Sandra, the Feisty Italian chef told me some things about Italian food that I didn’t know. First, pizza isn’t real Italian food. That’s like chow mein isn’t real Chinese food either. The second thing Sandra explained was that Italians only eat lasagna on feast days. I was too ashamed to mention what a horrible thing the Thai have done to spaghetti sauce (ketchup is the main ingredient. Shudder.).

I went grocery shopping for ingredients mainly at Trader Joe’s on Broadway. On Wednesday afternoon, I picked up ciabatta bread, basil, eggplant, peppers, tomato paste, romaine lettuce, fresh mozzarella cheese, and rigatoni all for just $19.02. At Fairway I got a jar of hot cherry peppers, two 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes, a zucchini, and dried parsley. I decided to treat us to sparkling apple cider so that came to $14.96. I bought four chicken breasts with the bone-in and skin-on @$1.99 per pound and a small bottle of apple cider vinegar for $1.00. The cost of the meal came up to just over $40.00.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to cook from an Italian so I bought this coupon from AmazonLocal for a three course Italian meal for up to four people cooked right in our apartment for $99.00.  AJ invited his friend Robin. Then The Feisty Italian cook Sandra Catena came on Thursday afternoon to the Teeny Tiny Apartment. Sandra proceeded to show us how to make a delicious home-style Italian meal in two hours. I learned the difference between EVOO and OO. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is the most expensive and is very light and delicate, best suited for salads. Olive Oil is better for cooking. So here it is.

The Hot Italian: A Three Course Italian Meal (by Sandra Catena, The Feisty Italian)

Romaine Lettuce Salad with Vinegar and Oil
1 pound romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1 loaf Italian bread (e.g. ciabatta)

Rigatoni Pasta with Marinara Sauce and Vegetables
1 pound rigatoni
1 cup mozzarella cheese, coarsely chopped
Salt
Olive Oil
2 quarts water
Olive oil

Marinara Sauce
1 medium eggplant
1 medium zucchini
1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 onion, minced
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
8 whole fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped (1 teaspoon dried)
1 sprig fresh oregano (1/4 teaspoon dried oregano)
1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes (peperoncino)
Olive oil

Chicken with Hot Cherry Peppers
4 chicken breasts (skin on, bone in)
1/4 cup salt
4 cups water
1 (16 oz) jar hot cherry peppers

  1. Brine chicken breasts in cold water to cover and 1/4 cup salt for 2 hours before cooking.
  2. Peel off the leafy top of the eggplant and cut off both ends. Make 3 horizontal cuts in the eggplant from the bulbous end at the bottom. Make 3 vertical cuts in the eggplant. Slice into thin strips. Cut off the top and bottom of the zucchini. Split it in half lengthwise. Split each length down the middle. Thinly slice each length crosswise. Put in a large bowl and set aside. Slice the peppers into thin strips. Add to the bowl and set aside.
  3. Mince the onion and the garlic.
  4. In a large pot, put the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Cook on high heat until it is bubbling. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes or until thickened.
  5. In a large skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes to develop the flavors.  Add the cut-up vegetables. Toss and stir until thoroughly cooked through, about 20 minutes. Spoon the vegetables and liquid into the tomato sauce. Add the parsley and and oregano. Do not wash out the skillet.  Let the marinara sauce with vegetables cook an additional 20 minutes or until thickened. Turn off the heat.  Add the whole basil leaves and stir.
  6. To the (unwashed) skillet add the chicken and peppers with liquid. Cover and cook over medium heat, turning chicken occasionally, until cooked, about 35-40 minutes. Remove the skin and discard. Cook’s Tip: I would reduce the cooking time for the chicken to 25-30 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165˚F on an instant read thermometer. Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken.
  7. Cook one pound of rigatoni in a large pot of water seasoned with a teaspoon of olive oil and salt. Cook as directed on the package. Drain. Put about a cupful of pasta in a medium bowl. Spoon marinara sauce over and toss in a few chunks of the mozzarella cheese.
  8. Coarsely chop the lettuce. Add the vinegar and olive oil and toss to coat thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with slices of ciabatta bread.

To serve, start with the salad and the bread. Then proceed to the pasta. Fill a bowl with a cup of rigatoni, a ladleful of marinara sauce with vegetables, and a tablespoon of mozzarella cheese.  Serve the chicken last. The salad was crisp and tart. The pasta was superb; al dente and the sauce, mm-m! It was infused with fresh vegetable flavor–rather like a ratatouille. Oh darn. I forgot to take a picture of the chicken when it was cooked. I was so hungry, I was halfway through the pasta when I remembered to take a picture of it. After the pasta I was too full to eat more than a mouthful of chicken. Today, AJ ate all the leftover chicken so I have no pictures of it at all!

chicken and fennel meatballs

I liked the fact this recipe said to pinch off a bit and cook it up, taste it, and adjust seasoning. And that’s what I did.  I increased the amount of fennel, black pepper, and garlic, and I used egg whites instead of whole eggs. It wasn’t bad. I didn’t make the salsa verde because I couldn’t find the tinned tomatillos. Instead I bought a jar of Classico Cabernet Marinara and threw into it some leftover broccoli. This recipe comes from a Canadian magazine City Palate.ca. Thanks for the magazine, Ardis!

Serves six.

Meatballs
Extra virgin olive oil/cooking spray
2 lb ground chicken
2 tablespoons fennel seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoon kosher or coarse salt
1/2 cup finely chopped bacon (didn’t say cooked or raw, so raw it must be!)
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped (sub cilantro)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white wine
2 egg whites

Salsa Verde
1 can tomatillos
2-3 serrano chilies, seeded and chopped
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only
salt to taste
olive oil to drizzle

Spaghetti, cooked (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Drizzle a medium casserole dish with olive oil and set it aside.
  2. Place the chicken in a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix the ingredients together with your hands until they are just combined, making sure not to over mix. The mixture should feel slightly tacky and wet. Pinch off a small piece, flatten it out and cook it in the oven. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the mixture accordingly.
  3. Form the mixture into 1-1/2-inch balls and place them in the prepared casserole dish. Bake the meatballs, rotating the dish halfway through cooking, for 20 minutes until golden brown and fully cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the salsa verde. In a blender, purée the tomatoes. Then add the chilies, cilantro, and salt. Continue to blend until the cilantro is finely chopped but not completely puréed. Transfer the meatballs to a sauté pan, our the salsa verde over them and warm through. Serve drizzled with olive oil. Eat with cooked spaghetti, if you wish.