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.

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fettucine with quick bolognese sauce

Fettucine with Quick Bolognese Sauce (Adapted from Shine)
Hurricane Sandy’s coming. The skies have been leaden and gray all day, expectant with rain. I joined a whole lot of other New Yorkers stocking up on water, batteries, and lamps. I went to the market to stock up the pantry, too. So we wait for Sandy’s arrival tomorrow, and I thought, it will be a good night for comfort food.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 38 minutes
Total time: 48 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 lb. ground beef (I used lean ground turkey)
2 oz pancetta, finely chopped (I used bacon)
coarse kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes in juice
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
2 cups green peas, frozen
12 oz dried fettucine (can use egg pappardelle)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, for serving

Preparation

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the oil. Add the onion and sauté until it softens and begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the ground turkey and bacon. Season with salt and pepper and sauté, breaking up the meat with a spatula. Cook the meat just until it is no longer pink. Add the wine to the meat mixture and boil until it has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with juice, broth, cream, and nutmeg. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer. Break up the tomatoes and stir occasionally, until slightly thickened and the flavors are blended, about 30 minutes. Ten minutes before the sauce is ready, add the frozen peas to the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir well, and cook until just tender, about 5-7 minutes for al dente. Drain the pasta, and then return to the same pot. Add the sauce and toss to coat.
  4. Divide among 4 bowls. Sprinkle each with thyme and cheese. Serve right away, passing more cheese alongside.

toasted orzo risotto with corn, thyme, tarragon, and chives

The secret to this deliciously simple dish is the orzo. For best results, this tiny pasta must be al dente. And I recommend making it with a vegetable stock because it tastes so much better! As the orzo absorbed the stock, it turned brown. If you use water, the orzo will be white. I insist that all the ingredients must be fresh: fresh corn, thyme, tarragon, chives, garlic, lemon, and shallot. It’s surprisingly sweet but tangy, with a faint peppery flavor from the tarragon. To get the corn off the cob, I used a sharp knife to slice the kernels off the cob, then lightly chopped them to separate them. Be careful when you do this;  I put the cob lengthwise on the cutting board and sliced downward.  I added tarragon and chives because the thyme was already in the recipe, but I think experimenting with a combination of fresh herbs would be delicious. Savory Simple recommends Penzey’s Sunny Paris Spice for seasoning, but I think it is only available by mail order. I just used salt and pepper, which is simple and easy. Like this recipe. The whole thing took 25 minutes to prep and cook.

Toasted Orzo Risotto with Corn, Thyme, Tarragon, and Chives (adapted from Savory Simple)
Makes  2 entrees or 4 side dishes

Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup shallots, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup orzo
1 ear of sweet corn, approximately 3/4 cup kernels (see note)
Juice of 1 lemon
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, leaves only, minced fine
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced fine
1 3/4 water or homemade stock
salt & pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Preparation

  1. In a 10 inch skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds Add the orzo to the pan and turn the heat up to medium. Allow the orzo to toast while stirring. You can go lighter or darker with the toasting. As the orzo browns, it will develop a nutty flavor.
  2. Turn down the heat to medium-low and stir in the corn kernels, lemon juice, thyme, tarragon, and chives. Add 1/4 cup of water or stock. Stir frequently to prevent the orzo from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the liquid is absorbed, add another 1/4 cup liquid. Repeat until a total of 1 1/2 cups liquid is added  to the pan and is absorbed by the orzo. Reserve the last 1/4 cup.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the last of the water or stock, pine nuts (if using) and salt and pepper to taste.

blackened whitefish with sautéed corn with cherry tomatoes

Another Friday in Lent and today’s menu included: blackened whitefish with sautéed corn with cherry tomatoes, roasted vegetables, and steamed broccoli. I adapted this fish recipe from a recipe for blackened catfish in the Cooking Light Eat Smart Guide: 200-Calorie cookbook. The fish was just cooked and the spice added a delicious burned texture that contrasted with the delicate flakes of fish. What more can I say? I love burned toast too…

Blackened Whitefish

Ingredients

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground red pepper
¼  teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
4 (6 oz) white fish fillets, e.g. catfish, tilapia, basa

Preparation

  1. Combine thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, red pepper and salt in a small bowl. Cook’s Tip: This will only be enough spice to rub onto one side of each fillet. If the spice mixture isn’t dry because of the fresh thyme, heat it up in a dry skillet. The spices may darken.
  2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Brush both sides of the fillets with remaining teaspoon olive oil. Rub one side of the fillets with spice mixture. Add to pan and cook 3 minutes on each side or until fillets flake easily with a fork. Cook’s Tip: For a low calorie alternative I grilled the fish in the George Foreman grill, about 2 minutes per fillet.
  3. Serve with sautéed corn with cherry tomatoes.

Sautéed Corn with Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 minced garlic cloves
2 cups fresh corn kernels (can be frozen or tinned)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped scallions
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh minced thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
salt and pepper

Preparation

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add corn and tomatoes then cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat. Stir in the scallions, vinegar, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm or at room temperature with blackened white fish or as a condiment for steak tacos.