creamy lemon pappardelle

March 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

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We didn’t have cable growing up. Aka no real food shows and definitely no Food Network. So it’s curious to me why my family fell in love with Giada, but we did. We have a bunch of her cookbooks, my favorite being Everyday Italian. And we cooked her recipes regularly. It probably had something to do with our love for pasta, or maybe my mom’s love that pasta pleased everyone at the table. Giada’s primavera and lemon pasta became staples in our house and I still make them regularly now, six years later. Her lemon pasta was the inspiration for my recipe this week.

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I had some leftover crème fraîche in the house that I wanted to incorporate into the lemon pasta idea. The result was that same fresh lemon punch with an indulgent creaminess. You can use any pasta in this recipe but I find sometimes a change up in noodles can make the same old recipe feel different. The pappardelle made it feel a lot more gourmet than a simple weeknight meal.

Serves 2
6 oz. pappardelle (or any pasta for that matter)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup crème fraîche
1 lemon, juice and zest
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme

Boil water for pasta and cook according to package. Reserve just a touch of the pasta water. While the pasta is cooking heat a small sauce pan over medium heat. Sauté olive oil and shallot for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl whisk together crème fraîche, lemon juice, lemon zest, parmesan, lemon pepper, basil and thyme.

Combine everything together: pasta, cream sauce and garlic. Mix until combined. If the pasta gets too sticky, add a bit of the reserved pasta water.

brussel sprout & kale stir-fry

March 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Have you ever had that awful moment in the kitchen when you’re following a recipe and you make a couple tweaks and then when you finish, it’s just not what you wanted it to be; it’s just not good? You second-guess whether it was the original recipe or whether it was the changes you made. Do you try the recipe again and follow it exactly? I’m usually not one to make a recipe again that I didn’t like. There are so many options out there; it’s hard to put more sweat and time into a recipe that you most likely won’t like again. Unfortunately, outcomes like this are inevitable. However, the upside is sometimes the changes we make in the moment have a wonderful outcome.

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I follow the Sprouted Kitchen blog pretty religiously. So when this post went up about soba noodles and brussel sprouts, I knew I would make it. Only problem, when I started reading the recipe I found out the kale was raw, more like an Asian noodle salad. I was thinking it would be a stir-fry. I don’t mind kale, it’s not my favorite, but if it’s cooked and mixed in with other things it’s just fine. So I improvised, I would make a stir-fry! And what came out of this little endeavor was a lovely recipe that I was really happy with. No awful outcome or rethinking if I should have followed the directions exactly. I was so happy with the changes I made. That is what’s so great about experimenting in the kitchen, yes there will be major mistakes, dinners to throw out, but sometimes you stumble upon something you really enjoy, that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. I was lucky with this meal and happy to share my interpretation with you!

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Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen
Serves 4

1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 cups kale, stems discarded and chopped
12 brussel sprouts, sliced
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
4 green onions, sliced

I find it best with a stir-fry to have everything chopped and ready. Once you start cooking the time goes by quickly and you want to be prepared.

Follow the package instructions for the pasta but undercook by a minute or two. You will add the pasta to the stir-fry at the end where it will cook a little longer and you don’t want it to be mushy.

Heat sesame oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Once the pan is completely hot add the shallot and saute for 1 minute. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add kale and brussel sprouts and saute for 2 min. Add rice vinegar and soy sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes or until everything is limp. Toss in the cooked pasta and stir until combined. Add green onions on top when ready to serve.

crostini, fruit & company

March 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

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You know when you make that perfect treat for company. Everyone is wowed by how good it is. They make little comments about how you should be a chef and oh isn’t this just the best thing. When deep down you know it had nothing to do with talent, it was simply just a delicious, incredibly easy recipe. It’s a lovely feeling. It’s also these types of recipes that need to be shared with everyone!

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My boyfriend’s family came to visit a few weekends ago. I always love when we have company and I can cook a bunch of food, set a nice table, and open a couple of bottles of wine. My only complaint about hosting is that I try to limit the amount of cooking I have to do that day. I want to relax with company once they arrive and enjoy good food. So although most of the things we had that day were cold plates, they were still tasty and adored by everyone. There was a highlight, a new recipe, a risk I only like to make on one item when company comes, ricotta crostini with roasted grapes. And this was the wow recipe of the night.

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Crostini is a classic small plate but just recently I’ve seen so many recipes where ricotta and fruit are being added into the mix of toppings. I’ve tried a bunch of different toppings but these two recipes below are the fruit standouts.

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Grape & Thyme Crostini
This recipes is from Alexandra’s Kitchen

crusty bread, sliced
olive oil
ricotta
grapes
thyme
salt

Pear & Walnut Crostini
This recipe is from Martha Stewart

crusty bread, sliced
olive oil
ricotta
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and lightly chopped
1 pear, thinly sliced
honey

If you have a panini press or George Foreman, I find these are ideal for making crostini. If you don’t, a grill or oven works too.

Press: Drizzle a bit of olive oil on one side of the sliced bread and place the oil side face down on the panini press. Add another touch of olive oil to the topside and repeat on all pieces of bread. Press the bread for 5 minutes until you get a crusty brown surface.

Oven: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a baking sheet, drizzle a bit of olive oil and place the slices of bread on the pan. Drizzle each slice with a bit more olive oil and bake for 6-8 minutes, or until the bread is crisp to the touch. You won’t get as much color this way, so make sure you don’t leave the bread in the oven too long.

For the grape crostini, preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, toss together grapes, a touch of olive oil and a pinch of salt; just enough to coat. Then add the thyme, pull some thyme off the stems and add a few full stems to the bowl. Toss everything onto a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 8 minutes. If you cook too long, the grapes will split open and lose their juices. Set aside and let cool.

For the pear crostini, in a small sauté pan over medium heat, place the lightly chopped walnuts. Toast until they become fragrant and are lightly browned. Remove from heat and cool.

Once you have your bread and walnuts toasted and your grapes are roasted, you’re ready to assemble. Spread a large spoonful of ricotta on each slice of bread. Top half of the bread with the roasted grapes and thyme (discard the thyme stems). Top the other bead with a couple slices of pear, a few walnuts and a drizzle of honey.

Serve together on one big platter!

red pepper & balsamic pilaf

March 11, 2013 § 2 Comments

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As a kid I can always remember having a bunch of options at the dinner table. There was a grain, protein and big salad, every night. I admire my mom for taking that much time to make us so many things to choose from. At the time, I didn’t always eat everything she made, but I can appreciate the effort now.

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I found as soon as I started cooking in my own house that making a bunch of different sides every night was not only exhausting, it was way too much food. I would have a whole week of prepared food in my fridge after cooking one night, which doesn’t sound horrible, but when it’s the same thing four days straight, it’s not pleasant. So I quickly moved to making one dish a night that tried to incorporate everything together.

One of the go to grains of my childhood was rice pilaf. It’s a flavor that I never out grew. I don’t buy it regularly, but when I do, I wonder why I don’t always keep it in the house. It’s great on it’s own, I could eat a whole bowl of it, but I found a great recipe to add some lovely additions, which make it a real meal.

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You’ll find that I add balsamic and olive oil to most things, it’s a flavor profile that works well with a wide variety of ingredients. It adds just enough kick to this recipe and the red pepper is the perfect crunch. Rekindling childhood memories is always enjoyable cooking, so when I need a taste of home I put a big pot of rice pilaf on the stove and let the water do the rest.

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This recipe is inspired by Kashi’s Mediterranean Rice Pilaf
Serves 4, with a little something else on the side.

1 box of rice pilaf (Near East is my favorite)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 cup zucchini, diced*
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

Dressing
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
touch of salt and pepper

In a medium pot, bring 1 3/4 cup of water and 1/2 tablespoon of oil to a boil. Add the contents of the rice pilaf and make sure the water returns to a boil before covering and simmering on low for 20-25 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, in a small sauté pan, toast the almonds over medium heat, until they are lightly browned; stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a small bowl, mix all the dressing ingredients together: garlic, thyme, olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper.

In a large serving bowl, combine the rice, red pepper and onion. Then pour in the dressing and mix until combined. Toss in the sliced basil and almonds. Serve warm.

*You’ll notice in the recipe I made, I used red onion instead of zucchini. I have made this recipe a few times and have decided that I much prefer the zucchini. The red onion is a bit overpowering. If you are an onion fan, you don’t need more than a 1/4 of a cup!

creamed honey

March 7, 2013 § 1 Comment

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Creamed honey. I discovered this little treat on a trip to San Francisco this past year. We were up early one morning, wandering the Ferry Building Marketplace, enjoying a waffle and coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee. Amazing waffles and coffee by the way. We chose the place based on the 25 people waiting in line. The crowd knows best. Their waffles are covered in melted sugar and wrapped in paper to eat on the go. With our mouths and stomachs happy, we wandered through the vendors on the waterfront; lots of olive oils, balsamics, donuts for 50 cents, little trinkets and teas. And then there was honey, a huge wall of it, all sorts of flavors and textures. I’d never really known there was such a thing as flavored honey. It might have seemed like the safe choice at the time, but I’m so glad we picked it, plain creamed honey.

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I’m still not sure the difference behind making raw honey and creamed honey, but basically creamed honey is made of small crystals, which make it a spreadable joy. I spread it on a lot of things now, but the best and simplest so far has been on toast. I just spread a bit of butter to soften the bread and a large dab of creamed honey. It’s quick, it’s delicious and just a touch sweet. I now always have a jar in our cupboard.

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roasted tomato israeli couscous

March 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Just under a year ago I discovered Israeli couscous in Trader Joes. I’ve made regular couscous plenty of times but Israeli couscous, never. It’s a much larger grain and looked more like orzo than rice. I grabbed it off the shelf and haven’t looked back. I use it constantly. I even use it as a replacement for brown rice or even pasta in many recipes. It has a creaminess to it that most rices don’t have and it makes any meal feel a little bit more decadent.

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This recipe has become a staple in our house; it’s just so simple. It can be made in 20 minutes if you have the roasted tomatoes and pesto already on hand. I have found that roasted tomatoes add so much flavor to a dish. And they’re very versatile, I plop them in pastas and salads. There is usually a jar or two in my fridge at all times.

And so, on Friday nights typically, when it has been a long week and I’m ready to settle in for the night, this is my go to meal. It’s great on cold nights when you want to hold and enjoy a warm bowl of food.

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Serves 2
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup Israeli couscous
1 1/3 cup water
1/4 cup pesto* (recipe below, see note)
1 cup roasted tomatoes (recipe below)
Parmesan for sprinkling

*There are a lot of great pestos out there, already made and easy to pull out of the cupboard. My go to is Pastene, but any will do in this recipe. If you do have the extra time, a homemade recipe is a nice touch.

Set a pot over medium high heat. Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and Israeli couscous to the pot and stir to coat the rice. Sauté the couscous for 3-4 minutes until it becomes slightly brown, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat the water in the microwave for about 2 minutes, or until it just starts to bubble.

Add the water to the couscous and make sure the water comes back to a boil before covering and turning the heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Once the rice is cooked add the pesto to the pot and stir until combined. Pour the couscous into a serving bowl and toss in the roasted tomatoes. Then grate a little bit of Parmesan all over the top.

This recipe originates from Heidi’s Super Natural Every Day cookbook, with a few minor adjustments.

Roasted Tomatoes (makes 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl toss together all the ingredients: tomatoes, olive oil, salt and sugar. Mix until everything is coated. Spread out onto a baking sheet, flipping all the tomatoes so that the inside is face up.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until the edges of the tomatoes shrivel up.

Basil Pesto
2 cups fresh basil
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/3 cup olive oil

Toast walnuts in a sauté pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Combine the basil, walnuts and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until everything is loosely diced. Slowly pour in the olive oil and pulse until smooth. Stir in parmesan until combined.

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