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Carolyn

Sara

Sara and me

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Erik Larson’s tome, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. This book covers the “reign” of Winston Churchill during the height of WWII. You’ll learn so much more about him. About the war. About the inner workings of the British government, including political. I’m a great admirer of the late Mr. Churchill. One of my more recent trips to England I visited Chartwell, the family home and where Winston died. If you’ve never been there, do add it to your itinerary next time. Beautiful grounds, including the small studio he used to paint.

Ken Follett is one of my fav authors, and I pre-ordered his newest, The Evening and the Morning (Kingsbridge), which is a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth: A Novel (Kingsbridge), my all-time favorite book I’ve ever read. Time period: 975 to about 1007 or so. Give or take. It follows a poor, but eager and intelligent builder as he earns his trade. It’s about his loves. His failures. The families all around, and much about the ever-present church (and its leaders, some honest, many not). Could hardly put the book down. Love Follett’s style of writing.

Every so often I read a romance of some kind. Historical ones mostly. And most I don’t include them here. But one I liked a lot is The Secrets of Saffron Hall by Clare Marchant. It happens to be very inexpensive right now on amazon, on Kindle, in case you’re interested. It jumps from 1538 and to 2019. Having to do with a precious book, a Book of Hours, and what secrets it contains. The growing of saffron plays large here and both romance in Tudor times and a tenuous marriage in current time, but nearly all of it takes place at a Tudor castle. Loved the book.

The book Where the Blind Horse Sings: Love and Healing at an Animal Sanctuary shares the story of a number of animals brought to an animal sanctuary in the Catskills. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll enjoy the stories, each animal bringing more to the human-animal relationship than you might even guess. Profound stories of love of animals. Not a long book; I think I got it as a bargain book from bookbub.

The title caught my attention on this one: Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim by Sabeeha Rehman. She’s written her own autobiography, beginning when she was a young child in Pakistan, to her eventual settling in New York. It’s about the Muslim experience. Their beliefs, their customs and traditions, told in a very pleasing and informational way. She marries in American Pakistani Muslim (an arranged marriage) and it’s the story of everything. Nothing much is left out of the journey she made, and still makes. She became a kind of activist for her religion, trying to bring Muslim customs to integrate into American culture (not always an easy task). Her husband is a doctor; she a hospital administrator. Likely you’ll learn more than you thought about Muslims. Very well written. Enjoyed it very much.

Finished Chinn’s story, The English Wife. What a great read. Could hardly put it down. I’m reading 3-4 books a week these days, and am so happy when I have a book I can’t wait to get back to. Really the story is about two sisters. Partly in Norwich, England, then in Newfoundland. One there, one here. And some of it takes place during WWII in Norwich, and much of it Newfoundland, then, and more recent. I loved the part of the book that took place on 9/11 when flights were diverted to Newfoundland. Family secrets, family lies, much anger between the sisters. There’s romance. There’s war. There is love of family. Particularly I savored the descriptions of Newfoundland, mostly rock, if you’ve never been there. It’s a twisted tale, by that I mean the family secrets which become the undoing. It’s a bargain on amazon right now, as I write this.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

Jamie Ford has written another good one, Love and Other Consolation Prizes. Remember, he wrote The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Loved that book. This one takes on a rather ugly part of America’s past, when Chinese people were treated like trinkets. Ernest Young is such a boy, who ends up being a “prize” at an event, and with great angst, ends up as a kind of servant at a high-class bordello in Seattle. Yet, the women and girls there become HIS family. He is intelligent and learns many lessons. Eventually, when society women battle to close down such houses of ill repute, he leaves that life, with his wife. They have children. The bulk of the book is about the early years around the turn of the 20th century, then you pick up the threads nearing the end of his life, and his wife’s. There are any number of small mysteries, which unravel with a word here or there – you know that word foreshadowing? Really interesting read.

In between more literary novels, I bought a comedic memoir . . . Juliette Sobanet’s Meet Me in Paris. There’s the falling apart of a marriage (and divorce), but in the inbetween, she decides to take a trip (sans husband) around Europe to get her head straight. The kind of tour that would drive me crazy, but it was one night, maybe two at each major city. She knew no one, but soon enough bonds with  three other women. Then she has a chance-meeting of a young Frenchman who had been an exchange student in her home town. They’d lost touch, yet there were definitely sparks there, never realized. Some of the touristy stuff was trite, I must say, although the women do try to take in all the major sites, if only for a few minutes. There is plenty of humor. Some steamy stuff too as she meets up with the young man in another city. Apparently it’s a happy-ever-after story. Great literature it is not, but it was a fun romp, so to speak.

Recently finished Thomas Nelson’s The Hideaway. It seems like there are SO many novels out there about families finding, inheriting or otherwise going to an old house with memories. Especially ones on the water. With stories to tell. It’s a great way to introduce some light mystery to the telling of some other family story. In this case it’s Sara’s grandmother who was enigmatic in every way. And Sara inherits the run-down, ramshackle B&B on Mobile Bay. Cute story with lots of twists and turns.

Also just finished James Conroyd Martin’s Fortune’s Child: A Novel of Empress Theodora (Book 1 of 2). Theodora grew up the daughter of a circus performer, but then moved onto “the boards,” as acting was called back in Byzantine times (Constantinople, 6th century). She always had high expectations – she just “knew” she was going to accomplish great things. She was an occasional prostitute, a mistress, and then, behold, the son of Emperor Justin is mesmerized by her beauty, takes her on, and makes her his wife, amid much royal machinations. A young eunuch also plays large in the story too, a man hopelessly in love with Thea, but knows his love can never be returned or fulfilled. He becomes an historian to the Empress. Quite a story – much of it chronicles her early life and not a lot of it in Constantinople. But riveting story.

I’m doing SO much reading of late. Read this book in one day. The Glass Hotel: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel. Loosely based on the story of Bernie Madoff (Ponzi scheme), it tells a novelized version of a man with incredible power and charisma who gathers a group of willing partners. It’s about the people he cuckolded, and the people who took him down. At the beginning drugs come into play and I almost didn’t continue, but that was a very short section. Well worth reading. Lots to discuss if you’re looking for a book club read.

Once in awhile I read a poignant animal story, as you know if you’ve followed this sidebar for any length of time. Craig & Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other by Craig Gross, tells the story of his military duty in Afghanistan, in a war zone. And how his unit befriended a dog, a stray, and how that dog really did become his lifeline.

Cara Wall’s new book, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel. It tells the story of two couples. The two husbands become co-pastors of a New York City church. The wives? Oh my, are they ever different. They don’t abide. The husbands try to get a grip on their jobs, pastoring, preaching, and keeping the wives happy.

Loved-loved Gregory Buford’s humorous memoir, Kept: An American Househusband in India. He aims to be a U.S. diplomat, takes the tests and fails. On a whim, his wife takes the test and is hired. Their first assignment: Chennai, India. They spent two years there, with his much-loved wife going off to do diplomatic duties (albeit at a low level – everyone must pay their dues at the beginning) and Greg is left at home to deal with the servants, the house, the beggars, the nanny, the construction next door, shopping, and also partly caring for their infant.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Shirley Ann Grau’s book, The Keepers of the House. Hmmm. Much to think about. [from an amazon review]: There is a reason it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Seven generations of Howlands have lived on this rural Alabama plantation in good times and bad. It tells the story of this family from the time its patriarch settled the land in the early 1800s to the mid-20th century.

Marie Martin wrote Harbored Secrets. From amazon: In May of 1935, Blinny Platt’s homestead shack burns to the ground forever leaving her family asunder, scattering them like the embers flew on the Montana wind. She was only 8, sent away and in charge of her little sister. She could handle that because Platts take care of Platts. However, it is the hidden secrets of her parents smoldering beneath the charred remains that haunts Blinny until 1982.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

Alan Hlad has written quite a novel. From true life. The Long Flight Home. It tells the story based on family history, of the homing pigeons that were used in Britain during WWII that flew back and forth across the English Channel into German-occupied France. It’s a heartwarming story. Heart-wrenching sometimes. War is an awful thing no matter which side you’re on when it comes to how it affects everyday people. You’ll learn a lot about pigeons, but also about love. Great read.

Riveted to Katie Munnick’s novel The Heart Beats in Secret. It begins in Scotland in 1940. A woman, a single mother. A journey across the sea. Then her daughter’s story, and finally the granddaughter’s story, when she inherits her grandmother’s old cottage back in Scotland. Plenty of mother-daughter dysfunction. But it comes right in the end.

Sarah Vallance has written a book about her devastating brain injury. Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain. What a story. What a saga of her recovery. And how she did it. An open wide sharing of her angst, her anger, her journey. Well worth reading. If you have anyone who has suffered a brain injury, it would be wise reading.

Just love all of Amy Harmon’s books. This one is no exception. Where the Lost Wander: A Novel. A pioneer story of a young woman made a widow on the trail to the west. 1850s. As it was in life, tragedies occur. But there is caring and love too. Loved it.

Read Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers. After leaving her childhood home of Switzerland, young Marta Schneider dreams of one day owning a boardinghouse, until marriage and motherhood change her ambitions. Determined to give her family a better life, she vows to raise strong children. But her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, creating repercussions that will echo for generations.

Esther Freud’s book The Sea House: A Novel is about a small village on England’s southern coast.  The book is about love found, love lost, love sometimes found again, sometimes not. About how fleeting it can be or seem.

Amor Towles’ book, Rules of Civility: A Novel was quite a read. It’s NYC, 1937. Twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent [Kon-TENT she iterates to many] is in a Greenwich Village jazz bar when a handsome banker happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. What an adorable book. True story about Stacey’s 20 years with a feisty but lovable barn owl.

Loved The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella. It takes place in the middle of WWII in Naples. A young British officer, Captain James Gould, is sent to Naples to wade through the zilions of applications from soldiers to marry local Italian women (and presumably take them back to England when the war ends).

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald. So interesting. Jill is  young, with a newly minted degree in library science at a time when the economy was very slow. She accepts a position in a minimum security prison in Ohio.

The Walls of Lucca by Steve Physioc. A novel that takes place in between WWI and II about a weary Italian soldier.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. A novel about Croatia in the aftermath of their more recent wars.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

Having read all of Kristin Hannah’s books, I knew I’d read her latest too: Between Sisters: A Novel.  Two sisters, raised by the same mother but different fathers. At a young age a rift occurs and the sisters go their own way.

Just finished Matt McCarthy’s book The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year. It tells the true life story of his first year as an intern at a New York hospital.

Also read Karen Harper’s book The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The time frame is 1890s onward, at Sandringham, when Charlotte Bill (a real person) was hired by the Duke and Duchess of York, to care for their children.

Also read Roger Swindell’s Mendelevski’s Box. It’s an historical novel about the aftermath of WWII in impoverished Amsterdam.

Also read a very quirky non-fiction book: The Perfect Gentleman: The remarkable life of Dr. James Miranda Barry by June Rose. This is a biography about a person who lived in the mid-1800s. He was a surgeon; graduated from Edinburgh Medical School at the age of 14. Joined the British Army as a medical officer then sent off to South Africa and many other tropical outposts during his career.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with her distant heritage.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. It’s about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the breadwinners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt.  You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. 

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who  lacks self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. Sweet story.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee. Everyone should read this one.

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. DIdn’t like it much, but others do.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on November 8th, 2020.

pasta_alla_vodka

Ever had vodka sauce over pasta? SO delicious.

Back last month when my grandson Vaughan was staying with me, he prepared an additional dinner. His signature dish. Can you imagine a 13-year old having his own “signature dish?” He’s prepared it for many sections of the family, and to family friends too. I’d not been there on any of those occasions, so he offered to make it for the two of us. He asked if I had any sausage to serve along with it – I did. You can see the Italian sausage coins in the back side of the plate above. It was not cooked with the sauce, but provided some protein for the meal.

He prepared the sauce. I had a box of Capello’s almond pasta (which is the best non-wheat pasta I’ve had) in the freezer, so I used it (in photo above). I didn’t use all the pasta, so had enough to make a second pasta dish (up soon), a Rachel Ray dish with pancetta and radicchio. Vaughan really prefers rigatoni with this (because the large tubes will hold a lot more sauce per bite); I didn’t have any, so we used penne for his.

vaughan_making_pasta_vodka_sauceAnyway, what I will say is that my kitchen was a big mess when we got done. Vaughan did the sauce; I cooked both of the pastas and prepared the Italian sausage. We had 4 burners going (because my pasta needed to be cooked separately from the penne). Today I discovered a splatter of vodka sauce on a container somewhat near the kitchen range – I hadn’t noticed it at the time. That sauce went everywhere.

There’s Vaughan at left – he was grating Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I suggested to him that we get everything out and ready, so when he started making the sauce, we’d be prepared to serve when it was done. The recipe calls for a shallot, garlic, tomato paste (not tomato sauce), red pepper flakes, cream (not a lot) and the grated cheese. The sauce is prepared in a large skillet – and a warning – don’t stir too vigorously or you, too, will get sauce in various places near your stove.

vodka_sauceThe sauce comes together very quickly once you begin. First the shallot and garlic cook over a very low heat in butter (you do not want even golden browned garlic). If I were making this, I’d cook the shallot first and add the garlic during the last minute so there would be no chance of burning the garlic. Then you add the tomato paste, red pepper flakes and the vodka (only 2 T). At the last you add in the cream and some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce a little bit, and some Parm. The pasta is stirred into the sauce on the stove, but off heat (NOT poured on top on your plate), and when you serve it, add more Parm on top and if you think of it, sprinkle a few basil leaves for garnish. I had some, but didn’t realize the recipe called for it.

The sauce takes little time – Vaughan was very diligent keeping the sauce stirred frequently. That’s a ceramic pan, so nothing stuck to it at all. Thank you, Vaughan, for making dinner! So delicious!

What’s GOOD: such a flavorful sauce. The tomato paste gives it lots of character. Vaughan said he’s made it using tomato sauce and it’s definitely not as good. So be sure to use tomato paste.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. Fabulous pasta sauce.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pasta alla Vodka

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Delish
Serving Size: 4

3 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot — minced
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 cup tomato paste — do not use tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons vodka
kosher salt
1 pound pasta — such as penne or rigatoni
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons basil — torn, for garnish

NOTE: It’s important to save the pasta cooking water as some of it is used in the sauce.
1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until paste has coated shallots and garlic and is beginning to darken, 5 minutes.
2. Add vodka to pot and stir to incorporate, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Turn off heat.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water before draining.
4. Return sauce to medium heat and add 1/4 cup of pasta water and heavy cream, stirring to combine. Add half the Parmesan and stir until melted. Turn off heat and stir in cooked pasta. Fold in remaining Parmesan, adding more pasta water (about a tablespoon at a time) if the sauce is looking dry. Season with salt if needed. Serve topped with more Parmesan and torn basil leaves.
Per Serving: 647 Calories; 21g Fat (30.3% calories from fat); 17g Protein; 93g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 57mg Cholesterol; 105mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 64mg Calcium; 5mg Iron; 637mg Potassium; 266mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Vegetarian, on April 24th, 2020.

mushroom_masala

A vegetarian Indian entrée. Full of meaty mushrooms and sauce.

It’s not news here that I enjoy Indian food. So, lacking the ability to go visit a restaurant these days (although take-out is certainly an option), I took the problem into my own hands and tried something new in my own kitchen. As I write this (actually about 3 weeks ago) I’m having others go grocery shopping for me. My neighbor went to Costco and I asked for mushrooms. I got a one-pound box. Lots. More than I’d usually use. But instead of making a vegetable side dish and mushroom soup, I had this recipe in my head. I found the original recipe online and adapted it to my somewhat limited Indian-spiced kitchen. And oh, this was wonderful. The original was made in the instant pot. I chose not to; no particular reason. I just thought a longer, slower cooking would provide more flavor.

What I didn’t have was Kashmiri red chili powder. No-can-do. But I had New Mexican chile powder, which has really rich, deep flavor. I also didn’t have dried fenugreek leaves. My little bottle of fenugreek is likely 15 years old, and it’s not leaves anyway, so that got left out altogether. I didn’t have cashews, either, so instead of a cashew-cream to drizzle on top I used yogurt mixed with milk. And a little sour cream. Probably not authentic. Oh well. In these times of self-quarantine, we do the best we can, right?

Ghee was melted in a big pot, then onion was added and lightly sautéed until translucent. Then I added fresh ginger and garlic. The mushrooms were added then, but as expected, the mixture was quite dry. I stirred it a bit, added the turmeric, then the fairly big jar of passatta tomatoes (a kind of puree). That gave plenty of liquid. I added the chile powder, stirred, then the garam masala and salt. After cooking just slightly, I put a lid on it and put the pot in the oven for about 2 hours at a low-low temperature. I thought the mixture was too thick to cook well over the heat of a gas burner – the oven provided gentle but all-around heat.

Meanwhile, I made a small pot of rice in my instant pot. I’ve read that if you slightly undercook rice, it doesn’t get absorbed so much as a carb. And that if you make it ahead and refrigerate overnight, it also allows less absorption. Sounds good to me. Making rice in the instant pot is so incredibly easy – if nothing else, I want you to remember this part:

Instant Pot Rice: add 1 cup rice (I used basmati), 1 1/4 cups water or broth, a tablespoon of fat (combo of butter and EVOO) and a big pinch of salt to the Instant Pot. Cook on pressure for 3 minutes. Vent immediately, remove lid and allow to cool.

I made this masala the day before I ate it  – kind of like soup – always better if allowed to chill overnight. I have nothing but time on my hands these days, so that was no big deal. The next day it was so simple to scoop out a bit of rice into a bowl, spoon an ample portion of the mushroom masala on top, then heat in the microwave for 2 minutes on high. Meanwhile I made the yogurt cream to drizzle and chopped up the cilantro. Done. As I write this, it’s been my lunch for 3 days in a row and I’m not at all tired of it.

What’s GOOD: oh, the flavor for sure. Mushrooms have umami, one of those enhanced flavor profiles, and it comes through in spades here. Very satisfying. The rice (made as paragraphed above) was still just slightly chewy which I liked, and the mushroom mixture was just so good. Altogether delicious.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. A bunch of cutting of mushrooms, but that’s all.

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Mushroom Masala

Recipe By: Adapted from Ministry of Curry blog, 2020
Serving Size: 5

1 pound mushrooms — rinsed, blotted dry and sliced
1 tablespoon ghee — or EVOO
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 large yellow onion — minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger — grated
2 teaspoons garlic — minced
1 1/2 cups tomato puree — or same amount of peeled fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 tablespoon red chili powder — [I used New Mexico, though that would not be traditional]
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon milk — or half and half
Cilantro leaves chopped for garnish
INSTANT POT RICE:
1 cup basmati rice
1 1/4 cups water — or broth
2 teaspoons ghee
2 teaspoons EVOO
2 pinches salt

1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
2. In a large pot (that has a good fitting lid) heat ghee over medium heat. Add onion, stir and saute over low heat for 4-6 minutes until onion is translucent. Add ginger and garlic and continue stirring for about a minutes.
3. Add the sliced mushrooms and stir well, then add the tomatoes. Add turmeric, chile powder, garam masala and salt.
4. Put lid on pot and bake for about 2 hours. Remove from oven, cool and allow to refrigerate overnight, if time permits. Reheat over low heat until bubbling.
5. INSTANT POT RICE: To instant pot add rice, water/broth, ghee and EVOO. Pressure cook rice on high for 3 minutes. Vent and cool. May be served immediately or chill overnight. To serve: Scoop about 1/3 to 1/2 cup rice into each serving plate or bowl, then top with ample portion of mushroom masala.
5. Meanwhile, mix yogurt with milk and drizzle on top, then add chopped cilantro.
Per Serving: 324 Calories; 15g Fat (39.7% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 776mg Sodium.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on April 12th, 2020.

broccoli_spaghetti

This recipe has such an interesting story. I hope you’ll read it to learn why it’s called “Stop Trying So Hard” Broccoli Spaghetti.

Reading other blogs is a favorite pastime for me. And Food52 is one of them, with the staff there posting sometimes 4-6 stories a day. And perhaps because I had so much time on my hands the day I read this story, I read more of them than usual. I might have breezed by it just because I don’t eat much pasta. But I did click through (and am so glad I did, as the story is just so fun) and read the short saga of a young chef, James Park, who moved away from his home in South Korea to New York City. Some years had past and he hadn’t made the time to fly home to visit his family. Finally, his family decided to visit him. He went into semi-panic mode. He lives in a tiny, tiny Manhattan apartment and he needed to house them (his mother, father and brother) in the space. And he needed to cook for them. As the arrival became closer he mapped out what he would do with them, partly being tourists and he thought he’d take them to some of his favorite restaurant haunts, assuming they’d be impressed not only with the food, but with his now-prodigious knowledge of food. Uh, no. It didn’t happen that way. They didn’t want American food at all. They wanted to eat Korean food.

The chef never mentioned how difficult it must have been to sleep everyone in his small home space, but he did mention the various restaurants he took his family to, encouraging them to order particular dishes that were his favorites.

But I’ll back up. Arriving at his apartment from the airport with his family in tow:

“. . .per my mother’s request for pasta, I made my signature dish of penne, rosemary-infused oil, charred Italian sausage, and lots of Parmesan cheese—a weeknight go-to for me. This pasta was, in many ways, a reflection of various flavor-building techniques I had learned in culinary school. I wanted them to taste it, to see what their new chef son had learned during our years apart. Aiming to impress, I plated the pasta with extra Parm and garnished with fried rosemary, a flourish of freshly cracked black pepper.”

Her response (he obviously wanted, desperately, to impress his mother) was that this certainly wasn’t what she had been hoping for. She took a bite and said this is good, but she wanted that “other thing.” The one that was white and creamy. She said, you were eating it once when we were FaceTiming.

“. . . To many older Koreans, especially those of my mom’s generation, “pasta” is a dish with long noodles, pretty much always spaghetti, drenched in either tomato or cream sauce. Koreans love their cream pastas. Now that I think back on it, oil-based pastas, like the one I had just made, were not something my family would’ve ever associated with pasta.”

So, on their last morning there, he dug into his memory and tried to recall what he might have been eating during that long-ago phone call and pulled ingredients from his pantry and frig. His mother took a bite and made a satisfying sound of contentment. Yes, this is it, she said. It rated a 10 out of 10 in his mother’s eye. So Chef Park named this Simple Stop-Trying-So-Hard Broccoli Spaghetti, obviously referring to his wanting so hard to impress his family (mother) and finally resorting to something he threw together.

broccoli_spaghetti_cookingWith that kind of story, the recipe had been percolating in my head for the last 2 weeks or so. I had a big bunch of broccoli. I had some thin linguine (my fav). I had milk. And I had lemons. (My Meyer lemon tree is absolutely drooping from the weight of so many lemons.) This recipe is kind of incongruous – adding milk into a pot full of broccoli and onion? Doesn’t even sound good (oh, but it is).

Really, the only change I made was to double the amount of broccoli, and I also cut some of the stem to add in as well. So mine had more broccoli per serving. Not a bad thing.

What’s GOOD: how easy it is to make as long as you have broccoli. This is a dish you could throw together in less than 30 minutes. I don’t buy frozen broccoli, but I’m sure you could make it with that as well. Good flavor, although it’s somewhat bland (just know that if you make this) – with the only highlight the red chili flakes that give this a little zip. I think I’d try to make more “sauce” if you can call it that. When you add in a bit of the pasta water, usually it helps thicken some of the liquid, but mine didn’t do that very well. Since I’m into comfort food these days, this definitely filled the bill, so to speak. The milky consistency was actually quite good. Next time I might add just a tetch of chicken broth granules to the milky broth, but it wouldn’t be a necessary thing. It’s good just the way it is.

What’s NOT: not a thing as long as you have broccoli, pasta, lemon zest and milk. Everything else will likely be in your pantry already (onion, red chili flakes, Parm, garlic powder, butter, oil, fresh garlic). I noticed the leftover pasta had soaked up all the remaining milk, so I may need to add a bit more for reheating.

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Simple Stop-Trying-So-Hard Broccoli Spaghetti

Recipe By: James Park, NYC chef
Serving Size: 4

8 ounces pasta — like spaghetti
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic — half sliced and half crushed
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 medium onion — sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
1 teaspoon lemon zest — or more
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Melt butter and olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat. When butter is melt, add sliced and crushed garlic and red pepper flakes until they are fragrant. Stir occasionally to make sure garlic and red pepper flakes don’t get burnt.
2. Once they are fragrant, add sliced onion and broccoli florets. Season them with salt and pepper. Toss everything until onions are translucent and florets are tender but still firm, for 3-4 minutes. Add lemon zest at the end and quickly toss everything again until it’s fragrant.
3. Add whole milk to the pot with salt and garlic powder and let it simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, cook pasta in heavily salted water, occasionally stirring, until very al dente (2–3 minutes less than package directions). Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
5. Using tongs, add pasta to milk broth. Cook everything over high heat and bring everything together with pasta water and Parmesan for a minute, or until the pasta is cooked when you taste, “al dente” if you can.
6. Serve pasta with freshly cracked black pepper and more grated Parmesan cheese.
Per Serving: 391 Calories; 13g Fat (29.6% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 28mg Cholesterol; 404mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, Vegetarian, on March 25th, 2020.

veg_sheetpan_bowl_arugula_wh_beans

A great combo of flavors – all tasty by themselves, but tossed with a light balsamic dressing, it takes it to a tastier level.

When this veggie bowl was served to me I was certain I wasn’t going to care for it. I was at a cooking class, and often this instructor includes a vegetarian entrée at her classes. Then I took a bite, and decided it was really quite wonderful. I don’t eat very many beans (carbs) and I definitely don’t eat hardly any potatoes, either (more carbs) so I ate a bite or two of those things and devoured the rest of the bowl. It’s the dressing that pulls it all together.

Truly, I love sheetpan dinners – and this one is very easy – it’s just done in stages – pine nuts first (and removed), then potatoes and garlic, and zucchini last. Meanwhile, you make up the dressing – adding the roasted garlic to it once you take the sheetpan out of the oven. The arugula adds a lovely texture to this – making it equally a salad rather than just roasted vegetables, and as I mentioned, the dressing just enhances it all. When I make it myself, I’ll probably use sweet potatoes since they are healthier for me.

I’ve adjusted the recipe to use fewer potatoes (and added the sweet potato option). Do chop up the arugula – if it’s mature arugula it can be quite unruly to eat – easier to eat if chopped. The cold halved tomatoes also add a nice textural contrast. Making it for myself I’d add more zucchini and fewer beans, but that’s totally up to you. I don’t think you can buy half cans of cannellini beans!

What’s GOOD: for me the dressing brought all the various ingredients together and made it more of a salad than a sheetpan dinner, exactly. Loved the dressing element. Liked the contrast using chopped arugula and fresh tomatoes.

What’s NOT: only that it helps to have everything out and ready when you start – you make this in stages, but still, all on one pan. Yeah!

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Sheetpan Veggie Bowl with Cannellini Beans and Arugula

Recipe By: Cooking class with Susan V, 2/2020
Serving Size: 4

1/4 cup pine nuts
1 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes — cut into 1-inch cubes (or substitute sweet potatoes)
4 cloves garlic — unpeeled
1/4 cup olive oil — divided
3/4 teaspoon salt — divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper — divided
2 zucchini — quartered and cut into 1-inch slices
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
15 ounces canned cannellini beans — drained and rinsed
3 cups baby arugula — chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes — halved

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200 degrees C).
2. Spread pine nuts on a sheetpan; roast until golden and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
3. Place potatoes and garlic on the sheetpan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bake 20 minutes. Add zucchini and rosemary, toss, then continue roasting until vegetables are tender and browned, about 20 minutes. Let cool about 5-10 minutes.
4. Squeeze roasted garlic out of its skin into a small bowl, mashing it slightly with a fork. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, balsamic vinegar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; whisk to combine.
5. Toss roasted potatoes and zucchini in a large bowl with beans, chopped arugula, tomatoes, and dressing. Serve in bowls sprinkled with toasted pine nuts.
Per Serving: 670 Calories; 19g Fat (25.0% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 97g Carbohydrate; 20g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 436mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, Vegetarian, on December 7th, 2019.

potato_pie_montlucon_slice

Montluçon just means this pie’s origins are French. This is a marvelous brunch dish, or hearty entrée for a holiday breakfast. Or a light Sunday supper, even.

Having made this about 4-5 months ago and having taken pictures of it, I was finally getting around to doing something with the photos. I thought I’d posted this recipe years and years ago – because I’ve been making this forever (I believe I made this the first time in 1981), and I was going to update the photos. But I certainly can’t find any post on my blog about it. I served it to a group of friends who came to my house to watch a movie. It was a fund-raising event I did for my P.E.O. chapter in which they bid on coming to my home to watch The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie. Our book group had read it a few years ago, and the movie is available on amazon prime (I think that’s where I found it) and I’d serve lunch. So, I prepared a meal suitable for the movie title – potato pie.

The recipe came from an ancient French cookbook I had (or still have somewhere) from Sunset Magazine. How many times have I made it? Probably 15-20 times. It was a frequent entrée I served over the years when Dave and I did brunch on our boat. We’d invite a group of friends (4 guests plus us) for an early morning sail on a Saturday or Sunday (after church), we’d brew up a big pot of strong coffee, I’d have fresh fruit, maybe sausages, maybe a green salad, and after we’d enjoyed a late morning brunch I’d serve some kind of dessert. And champagne would be a featured item on the menu. Normally I prepared the pie the night before, let it sit out on the kitchen counter overnight to cool, took it to the boat and reheated it in the small oven onboard. Once heated I’d pour in the additional cream through the little window in the piecrust that was called for in the recipe, let the cream soak in a bit, then slice it and serve.

potato_pie_wholeThere’s nothing all that unusual about it – a rich, buttery pie crust is made. You can use the most recent pie crust recipe I posted in 2018 that uses some cornstarch. It was a winner of a recipe. You’ll need to double the recipe to get enough for a top crust too. The top crust is important – it holds in the moisture so the potatoes steam-cook. Do notice, there is no cheese in this recipe.

The potatoes are thinly sliced (use the food processor so they’re evenly sliced, or a hand-held slicer), layered with salt and pepper, then the top crust is affixed. Cut a hole in the center so the steam can escape and pour in most of the cream. Bake until golden brown, then when you’ve removed it from the oven you add the extra cream, as I mentioned. Be sure to use enough salt – potatoes require a LOT of it.

What’s GOOD: can be made ahead and reheated. Wonderful flavor. Rich. Hearty. Different.

What’s NOT: only if you’re on a carb-restricted diet, it wouldn’t be so good for you! This is a tried and true recipe. Surprisingly it doesn’t have all that many calories – moderate fat grams, however.

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Potato Pie Montlucon

Recipe By: old Sunset magazine cookbook about France
Serving Size: 8

2 each pie crusts (9 inch) — to make one double crust pie
4 1/2 cups russet potatoes — thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons onion — minced
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter

1. Prepare the pastry dough. I use a short crust dough, make one half slightly larger than the other and chill. Roll out the larger piece to fit into a 9-inch pie pan, or a 9-inch cake pan, or even a springform pan.
2. In a large bowl mix together the sliced potatoes, onion, salt and pepper. Arrange the potatoes compactly in the pastry shell. Pour in 3/4 cup of heavy cream and dot the potatoes with the 1 T. of butter.
3. Roll out the remaining pastry and fit over the potatoes, sealing the edges. Cut a 1-inch diameter round hole in the center of the pastry. Brush top of pastry with some of the remaining heavy cream, which gives it a lovely glaze.
4. Preheat oven to 375°, and bake the pie, uncovered, for an hour and 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Remove from the oven and pour (through the hole in the middle) as much of the remaining cream as the pie will hold. Allow it to sit for a few minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.
5. If making this ahead, do not add the cream at the end, but cool the pie, cover and refrigerate until the next day. Reheat the pie in a 350° oven for 50 minutes. Then add the cream and allow to sit for just a minute of two to allow the cream to absorb. Cut into wedges and serve.
Per Serving: 384 Calories; 25g Fat (57.2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 45mg Cholesterol; 456mg Sodium.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on August 8th, 2018.

mushroom_asparagus_garlic_sauce_shirataki

You know about shirataki noodles? They’re a pseudo-pasta. They contain zip-zero-nada carbs.

Many years ago when shirataki noodles became more widely available, I bought some for my DH and me to try. Since he was a Type 1 diabetic, any suggestions on how to reduce carbs was a good thing in his world (and hence, mine). We prepared them according to the package directions, and I served them with some kind of sauce (don’t remember what). We thought they tasted awful. They had a kind of musty taste and the texture was mushy. Yuk. Well, since then, since I’ve gone on the Gundry (Plant Paradox) diet, I’ve learned more about these shirataki noodles (Gundry calls them fool-dles) and have followed his method of preparation (which isn’t much more work, but there are 3 steps to it – rinsing, cooking, drying). I decided to give them another try, and was very surprised at how good they tasted this time. You can find them in most mainstream grocery stores, usually in the refrigerated Asian section – they come in a flat pack, clear. There are a few brands out there – I used Miracle Noodles. They also come in a spaghetti shape and rice shape. What’s nice, is that the noodle becomes zero calories (they are made from an Asian yam and apparently they just slip through your digestive track without metabolizing, hence zero calories).

Now, you need to know, I love mushrooms. I’ll eat them just about anytime, although I rarely eat them raw (like in a salad). But cook them in a little oil and butter, salt and pepper, and I’m a happy camper. I love mushroom soup, and this came about because I had about a cup of mushroom soup without cream in my refrigerator. So I started with that and enhanced the mixture with more ingredients, and this soup was created. Since you won’t want to prepare a whole recipe of that soup, I’ve re-arranged it here with all the ingredients from the soup, plus the enhancements I added.

When I made it, it served two and I was tickled to have a second portion to have as leftovers. But here, I’ve started you off with 2 packages of shirataki noodles (I used the fettuccine shape) so it will make 4 portions, I believe. If you’re feeding a starving teenager, then this amount of shirataki may not satisfy. You can easily make this with regular pasta. I’m just telling you how I’m able to eat it with this carb-free diet I’m on.

This sauce comes together in a hurry – although you DO want to utilize some dried mushrooms in this (they have a LOT of flavor, believe it or not), and they need to be soaked in warm water for at least half an hour. But the rest of the preparation is just chopping and slicing the various ingredients. And then combining them at the right time. You don’t have to use asparagus, but I had some in my refrigerator and thought they added a lovely texture and flavor to the dish.

What’s GOOD: the mushroom flavor is very prominent (a good thing for me anyway), and I loved all the different textures of the different mushrooms. And the asparagus. And the shirataki. As long as you don’t overcook the shirataki, they also have good texture. Overcook them, and they become mushy. Obviously, don’t do that!

What’s NOT: there is a bit of prepping – all the slicing and dicing, but truly it’s not that time consuming.

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Mushroom and Asparagus Shirataki [Pasta]

Recipe By: my own concoction
Serving Size: 4

12 ounces shirataki noodles — (I used fettucine shape) 6 ounce packages serve two
SAUCE:
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 medium onion — diced
1 large shallot — minced
1 large leek — cleaned, chopped
1 ounce dried mushrooms — cleaned, reconstituted in water for 30 minutes
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms — cleaned, sliced thickly
4 ounces shiitake mushroom — stems removed, chopped
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1/2 pound fresh asparagus — (use small stemmed ones) cleaned, chopped in 1″ lengths
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 large garlic clove — minced
1 cup low sodium chicken broth — or more if needed
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream — or half and half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — optional
3 tablespoons Italian parsley — minced EVOO to drizzle on top (optional)

1. NOODLES: Drain fluid from shirataki noodle package. Place noodles in colander and rinse well under tap water for 1- 2 minutes, using your fingers to move the noodles around. (Alternately, rinse for one minute, then place them in a clean bowl, fill with cold water and allow to rest for about 5 minutes, swishing them around once or twice.) Drain noodles.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add a sprinkle of salt and cook the noodles for 1-3 minutes (read package directions) until they are not quite done. If you overcook them they will be mushy. Cooked just under-done, they’ll be similar to al dente pasta. Drain and place noodles out on paper towels to dry. Move them around a little so they all will dry. Allow to sit at room temp while you prepare the sauce.
3. SAUCE: In a large skillet over medium heat, pour in EVOO and when hot add onion and shallot. Cook, stirring frequently, until both are translucent and mostly cooked through. Add fresh mushrooms and dried mushrooms (discarding the soaking liquid) and cook for 1-2 minutes until mushrooms have begun to cook through. Add fresh garlic and cook 3-4 minutes, then add chicken broth. Add fresh asparagus. Allow sauce to cook for 2-4 minutes, simmering. Test the asparagus to see that it is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add butter and cream and bring to a simmer. Add the noodles and allow mixture to simmer until the noodles are hot throughout.
4. SERVE: Using tongs, scoop up equal portions of noodles on plates and then spoon the sauce on top, dividing equally. Grate fresh nutmeg over the top, then sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and fresh parsley. Serve immediately. You may also add a drizzle of EVOO on top as extra flavor.
Per Serving: 389 Calories; 24g Fat (51.6% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 9g Dietary Fiber; 56mg Cholesterol; 366mg Sodium.

Posted in Vegetarian, on April 29th, 2018.

savory_teff_tart_chard_sweet_potatoes

No, it’s not pizza. Sort of looks like it, with some arugula on top. It’s a grain type crust with a filling that contains caramelized onions, sweet potatoes, Feta cheese and Swiss chard.

When I was served this tart, I’d only heard the name teff. Knew nothing about it. Had never tasted it. It bakes up kind of dark (see the crust at the back edge?) and it’s crunchy. Even though the grains are tiny, they don’t dissolve, but they remain crunchy through the baking. I liked that part. Teff is an ancient grain and is full of iron, in case you need some in your diet. It’s a carb, of course. You can buy both the grains (whole, tiny little things) or you can buy teff flour. In this recipe, don’t use teff flour, only the grains.teff_grains

There at right you can see a photo of the grains. It’s hard to get a perspective with the photo – but those grains are about the size of poppy seeds. Golden brown, obviously.

teff_grains_pkgSo the crust you make here contains regular flour too, along with salt, butter and ice water to bring it together. You make it, then chill it for a bit, to make it easier to roll out and get into a tart pan. Use a tart pan with a removable bottom. You can press the pastry some to get it up into the edges. It’s chilled for a bit again, then you pre-bake it, blind bake with foil inside and filled with pie weights or dried beans. The only caution with this tart has to do with the baking . . . After baking for about 10 minutes, lift a corner of the foil. If any of the tart shell sticks to the foil, bake another 1-2 minutes and check again. It shouldn’t take much more than that. If it sticks, the shell isn’t quite cooked through and will get soggy.

Meanwhile you will have started on the filling. Sweet potatoes need to be baked, then cooled, peeled and chopped into small pieces. Red onions need to be rendered and caramelized, which takes awhile. Balsamic vinegar is added to the sweet potato mixture and another little jot added to the Swiss chard mixture. Some Feta is crumbled up and you use eggs to hold the filling together. Those things are layered in a particular order, then the tart is baked for 25-30 minutes, then the caramelized onions are added on top. They warm up just from the temperature of the tart coming out of the oven. Garnish the top with some arugula and serve warm. Or it can be served at room temp, but I’d recommend the warm version. The recipe came from Tarla Fallgatter, at a recent cooking class.

What’s GOOD: the crunch of the teff, for sure. Liked the combination of sweet potatoes and Swiss chard, plus the little bit of Feta. And the super-sweet caramelized onion add a lovely flavor. Altogether delish.

What’s NOT: this takes a bit of work on all counts – baking the potatoes, making the crust and blind-baking it, chopping  up all the other ingredients and cooking both the Swiss chard part separately from the sweet potato part. Just more work than you might think.

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Savory Teff Tart with Swiss Chard, Sweet Potato and Feta

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 8

CRUST:
1 cup teff grains — see notes (not teff flour)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces unsalted butter — cold, cut into pieces
4 tablespoons ice water — or up to 1 T. more
FILLING:
2 medium sweet potatoes — roasted until tender, cooled, peeled, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium red onions — peeled, halved, sliced 1/4″ thick
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large garlic cloves — peeled, chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard — (large quantity)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 ounces Feta cheese — crumbled
1 pinch red chili flakes
2 large eggs
freshly ground black pepper
arugula, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Notes: do seek out teff grains, not teff flour. It may be hard to find, although you can buy it on amazon if you’re inclined to order there. Health food stores will likely have it and probably Whole Foods.
1. CRUST: Combine teff, flour and salt in food processor. Pulse in butter and add just enough ice water to form a dough. Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes. Roll dough into a 14-inch circle and unroll over an 11-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Chill tart. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake tart blind, lined with foil and filled with pie weights or dried beans. Test tart at 10 minutes by lifting up an edge of the foil. If the dough sticks, bake another minute. Test again until the foil doesn’t stick – approximately 10-12 minutes. Cool on a rack and remove pie weights and foil carefully.
2. Heat olive oil in saute pan and add onions, stirring, and cook until onions wilt and develop a dark-brown color, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low, partially cover pan with foil and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have caramelized. Add balsamic vinegar and stir until it evaporates and glazes the onions. Set aside for later.
3. Remove onions and set aside. Add second amount of olive oil to the pan and stir in garlic. Cook just until fragrant. Add swiss chard and cook on medium heat until completely wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with second quantity of balsamic vinegar, tossing it until the vinegar cooks away. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
4. Add most of the feta cheese to the chard mixture along with eggs and a pinch of red chilii flakes. Spread this mixture into the bottom of the crust. Top with sweet potato pieces and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
5. Bake the tart on a flat baking sheet until cheese is nicely browned, 25-30 minutes. Spoon onions over the top of the tart, allowing bits of cheese to peek through. Let tart cool slightly, about 10 minutes, then remove the tart rim. Sprinkle arugula on top if desired. Slice and serve warm, or at room temperature.
Per Serving: 446 Calories; 25g Fat (45.5% calories from fat); 22g Protein; 46g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 109mg Cholesterol; 349mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Vegetarian, Veggies/sides, on April 1st, 2018.

zucchini_patties_feta_dill

Tender little pancake-shaped fritters of shredded zucchini, onion, Feta and topped with a dollop of yogurt. Make sure you add the dill!

Some years ago I made a version of this, Turkish Zucchini Pancakes, and liked them. Those, that I made in 2008 contained tons of green onions instead of white onion, and had 4 eggs in the batch and included chopped walnuts too. I don’t know why I don’t make some version of these more often, because I love them. They could easily (for me anyway) be dinner. I’d have about 4 of them, I suppose. These are quite thin, and they’re fragile-tender. They’re full of flavor (from the onions, dill, the spice rub and Italian parsley), and once cooked, they have a lovely (but tender) texture. There is a bit of flour added to help hold them together (plus an egg and egg yolk).

Do start an hour or so ahead as you need to salt the grated zucchini and let it sit a bit, to give off some of their water before you start to mix up the batter. The onions (chopped) need to be squeezed of their extra fluid also. Then you can mix up everything, including about 1/2 cup of Feta. Speaking of Feta, Tarla Fallgatter, the cooking instructor who made these recently, recommended Bulgarian Feta. She buys it at a local ethnic market, and prefers it because it’s lower in sodium and she likes the flavor of Bulgarian over others. So, the batter is formed into thin patties, and you can work as you go – do some for the first batch and while they’re frying, form more rounds of them.

Into a big frying pan they go with some olive oil (you’ll likely need to add more olive oil with each subsequent batch you fry). This recipe makes 16-18 of the pancakes, but they’re thin, so surely you’d have 2 per person, or more. For an entrée you’d have 4-5 per person, I’d guess. Maybe more if your crowd is really hungry. Anyway, they take about 5 minutes per side to get golden brown. Transfer them to paper towels to drain. If you make as you go, you’d be serving them immediately. Otherwise, put them on a paper-lined rack on a tray and keep them in a 250°F oven while you finish preparing them all. Because they are thin pancakes, they’ll cool off way too fast.

Meanwhile you chop up some fresh dill for the pretty-factor. DILL is essential in these – there are just food combinations that are made in heaven – zucchini-yogurt-dill is one. To serve, make them pretty with a dollop of the yogurt and garnish with a little sprig of dill on top. My mouth is watering . . . . .

What’s GOOD: the pancakes are delicate and tender. Full of flavor and satisfying. I would think these could be prepared and frozen too, then reheated in a toaster oven easily enough. If you have a bumper crop of zucchini this could be a great make-ahead dish. This would go nicely with a roast (lamb or pork I’m thinking), or all by itself.

What’s NOT: really nothing except that you do need to drain the zucchini and onion so start a bit ahead of when you’re going to prepare them.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Zucchini Patties with Feta

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 8

2 1/2 cups zucchini — coarsely grated (about 3 medium)
1 teaspoon salt — divided use
1 teaspoon spice rub — or use a combo of Mediterranean spices/herbs
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup all purpose flour — (or more)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup olive oil — (about)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — with dill to garnish

1. Toss zucchini and 1/2 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer to sieve. Press out excess liquid; place zucchini in dry bowl. Chop the onion finely and gather it into a couple of paper towels and allow to drain for a couple of minutes, then squeeze to extract some of the liquid from the onions. Add onion in with zucchini. Mix in egg, yolk, 1/2 cup flour, cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix in parsley and dill. If batter is very wet, add more flour by spoonfuls.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls into skillet. Fry patties until golden, 5 minutes per side, adding more olive oil oil as needed. Transfer to paper towels. Serve immediately or keep warm by placing patties on paper towels on a rack, on a baking sheet in a 225°F oven. Serve with yogurt and garnish with dill.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Place on baking sheet, cover, and chill. Rewarm uncovered in 350°F oven 12 minutes.
Per Serving: 218 Calories; 18g Fat (73.9% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 67mg Cholesterol; 396mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, Vegetarian, on December 23rd, 2017.

delicata_squash_blue_arugula_salad

The kind of salad you could make as  your dinner – it’s definitely filling enough and satisfying, though it doesn’t have any meat in it!

Do you buy Delicata squash very often? I don’t – although my local Trader Joe’s has them – they do have a season and now’s the time. It has a delicate (hence the name Delicata?) rind (meaning that it’s not tough and thick, like the skin on a butternut squash, which you have to remove). In this case, you get to eat the rind – where a lot of the nutrition lies.

Image result for delicata squash

The squashes are cut into rings and halved then roasted in a hot oven for about 20 minutes. It’s easier to remove the seeds then – after they’ve cooled for 10 minutes or so. Mix up the vinaigrette while you’re baking the squash, and get out the blue cheese.

This recipe came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, and she had purchased some German blue cheese – called Grand Blue (currently available at Trader Joe’s). This cheese is not the mouth-stinging, deep flavored type, but it’s mild, without any tannins. It’s not of the soft blue style (like Brie) either, as it’s the normal crumbly type, but I liked it a LOT. I can’t eat regular blue straight – it’s just too strong for me, which makes it perfect, to my way of thinking for a salad. I love blue cheese in a salad, though. I’m just not fond of the ultra-strong flavored type unless it’s “cut” with a toasted baguette slice or fruit or something else with it.

When Tarla served it, the squash was still slightly warm. She tossed the arugula salad with the salad dressing, added the dried cranberries and pecans, then plated each salad with 2-3 half-rings of the squash and a lovely wedge of the Grand Blue. If you wanted to take this to a gathering, I’d chop the squash into smaller pieces, as well as the cheese and toss it all together in a large bowl. The only difficulty with that is that some people won’t get a full portion of the squash or the cheese.

What’s GOOD: the mild flavor of the squash was perfect with the arugula salad. Loved the addition of dried cranberries and pecans. I particularly liked the mild blue cheese with it also. Very pretty to look at, would make a lovely holiday salad. It’s also quite filling, so would be (for me, anyway) a perfect dinner all by itself.

What’s NOT: nothing, other than having to roast the squash and mess with removing seeds and strings, etc.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Delicata Squash Salad with Arugula, Blue Cheese and Pecans

Recipe By: from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter
Serving Size: 6

6 ounces arugula — wild, if possible
4 Delicata squash — cut in 1/2″ rings (skin on)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 ounces blue cheese — use a soft one like Castel or Grand Blue (use more if your desire)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pecans — whole, toasted, or pumpkin seeds
VINAIGRETTE:
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 teaspoons honey mustard
6 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Shake the vinaigrette ingredients together in a jar and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss squash rings with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and roast them until tender, turning once, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.
3. Toss arugula with vinaigrette to coat the leaves, add dried cranberries and pecans. Divide the arugula between the plates. Add the roasted delicata squash rings to each serving and place a small wedge of the blue cheese on the side.
Per Serving: 347 Calories; 33g Fat (83.9% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 28mg Cholesterol; 556mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, Vegetarian, Veggies/sides, on November 3rd, 2017.

nutted_wild_rice_salad

That photo just doesn’t do justice to this rice salad. Even though I use Photoshop to crop and work with my photos, sometimes you just can’t make brown food look wonderful. 

Behind the scenes of any blog, or maybe I should say a food blog with recipes, is a whole lot of file administration. You might not think so, but there are many, many steps to getting a story written, photos worked on, sized correctly, inserted in the right places, recipe itself prepared, stripped of formatting, uploaded and then put into a finished format on the blog. It’s not seamless. And all that is to say that this recipe that I made months ago somehow got lost in the mix. At least it didn’t get deleted. I can’t even remember when I made this (photo properties says I took the photo on August 5th), or for what family occasion (it was probably our group family birthday we do about that time of year). I wouldn’t have made it just for myself; that I know. But as soon as I glanced at the photo, I remembered eating it, and my mouth was watering.

The recipe came from cooks.com and has no attribution. But I used some white rice in it too, so am not sure where I found the recipe, or if I adapted it myself. In years past, I’ve made the Silver Palate’s wild rice salad numerous times (but never written up here), and I have another one here on my blog from a museum restaurant in D.C. The Mitsitam. And yet another one that’s a copycat one from a local restaurant here in my neck of the woods that contained fresh corn. But this one is just a simple-enough wild rice and white rice salad enhanced with pecans, golden raisins, green onions, orange juice and zest. And it’s downright delicious.

I won’t tell you that this salad is cinchy quick – it has several steps, and you have to watch the rice carefully that it doesn’t overcook. That would be a crime, since you want the wild rice to still have some tooth. But once the rice is made, the other ingredients are straight forward and easy. A lovely honey vinaigrette is added and it can sit for awhile. You can eat it warm or cold, and leftovers are still good, although the pecans sometimes get a bit soft. But worth making? Yes.

What’s GOOD: a great salad for a crowd. Can be made ahead. Delicious warm or cold, or room temp. Leftovers still taste good, too. Of all my wild rice salads I’ve made, this probably wasn’t my favorite, but I liked the orange zest and juice in it. And the green onions.

What’s NOT: a few steps to make, but not hard at all.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Nutted Wild Rice Salad

Recipe By: adapted from cooks.com
Serving Size: 8

1 cup long grain white rice
1/2 cup wild rice — raw
5 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup pecans — toasted
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 whole orange — ZESTED & juiced
1/4 cup honey
4 whole green onions — thinly sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar — or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste

1. Strain wild rice in strainer and run cold water over it. Rinse the rice thoroughly.
2. Place wild rice in heavy saucepan. Add stock (or water) and bring to to a rapid boil. Adjust heat to simmer and cook uncovered for 30+ minutes until rice is just barely cooked through. Do not overcook.
3. In another pot, cook white rice in water until it’s barely done – do not overcook. Drain, transfer both rices to a bowl and stir in butter and oil.
4. Combine the orange juice and honey; stir to combine. Add all remaining ingredients, adjusting for seasonings, or more vinegar, or orange juice. Let mixture stand for about 2 hours to allow flavors to develop. Taste rice for seasonings. Serve at room temp.
Per Serving: 404 Calories; 19g Fat (41.0% calories from fat); 12g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 361mg Sodium.

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