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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2022, I’m still doing 99% of the blogging and holding out hope that these two lovely and excellent cooks will participate. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

Have only begun Geraldine Brooks’ brand new book, Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loving it so far. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel (no, not Hannah). Certainly a little-known chunk of history about a woman who becomes a master forger during WWII to help get Jewish children out of France. Not easy to read, meaning the difficulty of anyone finding the means and place to DO the forgery and right under the noses of the Nazis. Really good read.

Liane Moriarty’s first novel, Three Wishes, follows the travails of adult triplets, so different, yet similar in many ways. Two are identical, the third is not. So alike, and so not. It takes you through a series of heart-wrenching events, seemingly unrelated, but ones that could bring a family to its breaking point and test the bonds of love and strength.

Recently I’ve read both of Erin French’s books, her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, and since then her memoir, Finding Freedom. About her life growing up (difficult) about her coming of age mostly working in the family diner, flipper burgers and fries (and learning how much she liked to cook). Now she’s a very successful restaurant entrepreneur (The Lost Kitchen is also the name of her restaurant) in the miniscule town of Freedom, Maine. She’s not a classically trained chef, but she’s terrifically creative. See her TV series on Discover+ if you subscribe.

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy. To say that this book stretched my comfort zone is the least of it . . .think about a time in the not very distant future, when global warming has done it’s worst and nearly all animals are extinct. No bird song in the air or fish in the sea. There’s this woman, Franny, who is on a quest to follow the very small, but last migration of arctic terns, who fly from pole to pole each year. She somehow sees this migration as a paean to her own life (of many travails). Is this book a foretelling of what our world will be like?  There’s a lot of angst going on here in this book, with her marriage, with her career, with her perpetual need for travel . . . always needing to go somewhere else other than staying at home and finding peace and happiness there. Then this final, gritty, illegal at-sea voyage trying to find the terns. Very much worth reading if you can stomach the sadness in it. Soul-searching is a common denominator here, but then aren’t a lot of books?

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife. A German Kommandant enters the picture in this tiny berg in France. Knowing her husband is in a camp, most likely a death camp, she compromises her morals to save the picture and possibly save her husband’s life. Jump to somewhat current day and the painting, which has survived all these years, and is in the hands of a young widow who has an extraordinary connection with the painting. A lawsuit ensues having to do with art stolen by the Nazis and a convoluted trail of how the painting traveled in the intervening years. Even though this was WWI, not WWII, but the law encompasses the past. It’s a heart-wrenching story. There’s a love interest too. Well worth reading. Would make a good book club read.

Memoirs are such fun, especially if you really enjoy/love the author. This was the case as I read Rachael Ray 50, an ode to  her age. So I read online, Rachael discloses more about her personal life in this book than she has done in her many other cookbooks. I really enjoyed reading the book, as she told stories about her growing up, including some of her mother’s recipes and from other family members. She and her family eat tons of pasta, so lots of the recipes I probably won’t prepare, but okay, I still enjoyed reading all the stories.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus. I’m not a gardener at all, but I found the story just fascinating. It chronicles the love story between a young couple, human ones, not trees, one a Greek, one a Turk and their relationship (verboten back in the 70s). It goes back and forth between the 70s (when the real conflict was going on) and current day (2010ish). Loved this book from page one to the last.

If you’re a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, you’ll find his newest book a league apart. Klara and the Sun. It takes place in the near future when we humans can go to a store and buy an AF (artificial friend). These robotic humanoid “things” have knowledge and personalities. The book follows along as a family buys Klara, an AF with perhaps a better personality than some. She has feelings, but not very many needs. The reader never really “sees” Klara except for a few descriptions of her human-type shape. You get into Klara’s brain (her PC chip) and know how she feels about her family. Her main job is to be a friend to the daughter, Josie, who has some kind of unnamed illness. The AF must spend a part of every day in the sunshine (some kind of hidden solar unit must be within Klara). There are any number of other characters in the story (mostly human, not AFs) which add dimension. I was quite mesmerized by the story and am in awe at the creativity of this author. Loved the book. May not be for everyone. I’m not a science fiction fan at all, but this was believable. And you’ll fall in love with Klara who wants so much to be wanted and loved.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however. The husband and wife own a tennis school (this takes place in Australia) and the children grow up surrounded by tennis everything. The children don’t necessarily get along. The parents haven’t always gotten along, either, although through many years the parents were quite besotted with each other, to the detriment of the parenting. Much travail from all the family members. But oh what a story. It had me riveted and wondering, until the last 5 pages of so when the resolution occurs. Big surprise.

Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas, but then he discovers two of his work-camp-mates had hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Oh my goodness, such a tangled web. Fascinating, and Amor Towles has such a way with words. His sentences are like blooming flower vines, with metaphors in nearly every sentence. Such a gifted writer.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean. Oh there are plenty of twists and turns. Couldn’t put it down.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride. She moves to San Francisco and becomes the bride, and mother to the man’s young child. But all is not right with the world. Sophie senses an undercurrent about her husband’s life. He’s elusive, leaves her alone for days on end, doesn’t share her bed, and she begins to feel the only reason he wanted a wife was to care for the child. Then the world turns upside down with the 1906 earthquake. And then there’s more. . . and more. . . very gripping read.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration. Oh the various twists this book can give you. There’s a guy she meets, but she’s keeping her boyfriend at home on the string, sort of. Then there’s the desk itself, that has history. Oh my, does it have history. Really interesting story, light reading.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip. That kind of thing. You’ll find out what happened to one particular woman who thought she had nothing left to live for. Good read. Very different. A bit space-agey. Sort of time travel, but not really. But yes, maybe.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it. There is much angst about it all. Much wringing of hands, some tears on her part. Nice book; good read.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

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. 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. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave 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 Appetizers, Soups, Vegetarian, on June 16th, 2022.

Simply the best kind of refreshing first course for summertime. If you haven’t got good, ripe tomatoes or watermelon yet, save this to make in a month or two.

A post from Carolyn. So, a couple of weeks ago I hosted a small fund-raising event at my home. It’s the third time or fourth time we’ve had a wine tasting fund-raiser on my patio. I think we skipped a year, 2020, when we were all housebound from Covid lockdowns. About 10 of my dear PEO sisters bid on attending the event this year. The money all goes to philanthropies to help young women get an education; and we who host pay for the food or activities and the bid money goes to the philanthropies.

I had two co-hostesses, Linda and Lois, and they made most of the food. I made sangria (recipe coming up) and I also made another batch of the tres leches cake I posted a few weeks ago. The one made with pineapple, coconut milk, rum, etc. I made some asparagus appetizers, then we had some Spanish meatballs, and also a baguette slice appetizer. All those recipes coming up soon.

The weather was okay – maybe we should be happy it wasn’t blisteringly hot as that would have been miserable. It was about 70, and we sat outside the whole time. I’d figured out the menu some months ago and decided to go with a Spanish wine and tapas theme. After having the sangria (from Spanish rose cava), we moved on to an appetizer, then we served this lovely gazpacho. I love gazpacho. I found a great website just chock full of tapas recipes, called Spanish Sabores. Most of the recipes came from that website, however all of them had a few modifications so I feel quite comfortable posting them. If you’re ever wanting to do a tapas night, do go to that website for ideas. The couple who post are just the cutest!

So, this recipe. I told Lois to buy really good tomatoes, and to find a ripe watermelon. That’s not always easy, and this was in May, so it’s possible neither would be great, but I sent Lois to my favorite independent grocery store where I can rely, always, on their good produce. She talked to the produce guy and he helped her pick out the best. When in doubt, buy Roma tomatoes as they generally have good flavor year-around.

The gazpacho is so easy to make – whiz up most of the ingredients in a blender, put it through a fine-mesh sieve (or not, if you want more texture) and then add the watermelon and mint, then taste for seasoning. After Lois made it, I tasted it and decided it needed a tiny bit more salt, a bit of sugar (because I could taste the bitterness of the green bell pepper) and then I added some balsamic vinegar. A tetch. Really just a tetch. Oh, perfection. In this soup, you really can taste the tomatoes, the watermelon, the bell pepper. The other ingredients just add layers of flavor.

What’s GOOD: so fresh, and refreshing. Easy to make. Do taste it at the end to add salt, maybe, or a bit of sugar, or the balsamic vinegar (very little). You can make it ahead, too.

What’s NOT: only that you need to seek out and find really ripe (tasty) produce to go into it. Don’t compromise on that or the soup won’t be great.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Watermelon Mint Gazpacho

Recipe By: Adapted from Spanish Sabores blog
Serving Size: 8

6 large tomatoes — very ripe, roughly cut into large chunks
1/2 cup green bell pepper
2 small cloves garlic — cut into a few pieces
1 small onion — roughly chopped
3 cups watermelon — ripe, roughly chopped with seeds removed
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons EVOO
4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar — or maybe up to 2 tsp
1 teaspoon sugar — or more to taste (optional)
2/3 cup fresh mint leaves — plus more for garnish

NOTE: If you prefer your gazpacho thicker, do not strain, or use a wider-mesh strainer to retain more of the tomato pulp. You can also top each glass with a little sherry vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, a watermelon ball and a mint leaf.
1. Wash and chop the tomatoes, pepper, and onion. Make sure you are using the best quality fruits and vegetables possible since gazpacho is a raw dish.
2. Blend the tomatoes, green pepper, onion, and garlic until completely pureed.
3. Strain the blended vegetable juice through a fine mesh strainer. (Or not, if you prefer a thicker consistency.)
4. Everything should pass through except for a layer of seeds and skin. Discard this.
5. Add the vegetable juice back to the blender and add the watermelon. Blend again until completely pureed.
6. Add salt to taste (go easy, you can always add more later), and sherry vinegar and blend. Suit your own taste on how much vinegar – and it depends upon the ripeness of the fruit and vegetables used.
7. Finally, slowly add in the EVOO (better olive oil means better gazpacho) as the blender is running. Add balsamic vinegar and sugar and blend until smooth.
8. Taste the gazpacho for salt and vinegar and adjust if necessary. Then, add two to four ice cubes (depending on how thin you like your gazpacho – when we made it we used no ice). Let them melt for a few minutes in the blender and then add a handful of fresh mint and blend for the last time. Can be made the day before; keep chilled.
9. Taste for salt and serve ice cold in glasses, garnished with a mint leaf.
Per Serving: 87 Calories; 4g Fat (35.8% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 9mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 36mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 392mg Potassium; 44mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, Vegetarian, on April 21st, 2022.

Just good vegetable soup – tons of broccoli, a little bit of wild rice and some cheese.

A post from Carolyn. There’s a local restaurant near where I live that always has broccoli cheese soup on the menu. And I’ve had it many times, but the last couple of times it was so thick and gluey (with cheese) I was concerned about choking on it. Not a fun feeling. But when I read something about broccoli cheese soup a couple of weeks ago I just decided I needed to make some at home. And I wanted a little bit of fiber of some kind. Since I had some wild rice on my pantry shelf, that’s what it became. Not broccoli cheese soup; not thickened. Not gluey with cheese!

I rounded up a few recipes and chose the best from them. I made this soup very high in broccoli and relatively low in cheese, and also not a whole lot of broth or milk in it. You definitely know you’re having broccoli with some cheese. And the wild rice gives it a really nice chewy consistency. You can make this in the Instant Pot if you’d like (and one or two of the recipes I consulted had you do that). I had time, so I made it in my big round Le Creuset pot. Low and slow.

It’s the usual kind of start to a soup – onion, carrots, celery, and I had leeks, so they went in there too (good flavor). After sweating them a bit, I added chicken broth, dry marjoram, salt and pepper, some wild rice and let it cook about 10 minutes. Then I added the broccoli (all chopped up into little florets) and basmati rice and let that cook for another 15-20 minutes until both rice ingredients were just barely tender. It came off heat, I added heavy cream, some half and half, some sharp cheddar and reheated it briefly to let the cheese melt. Then served it with some grated cheddar on top, some pine nuts (toasted) and a flicker or Italian parsley.

Is this soup going to blow your socks off? Probably not, but it was delicious (not low in calorie, I’ll add, with all that dairy in it), but a cup of it was plenty for a serving.

What’s GOOD: all the veggies – liked the texture both of the veggies and the rice (wild and white). Very filling, even though it doesn’t have any meat protein in it. I liked it a lot. Yes, I’d make it again. I made enough to freeze several cups for another time. One cup is a sufficient serving.

What’s NOT: really nothing – liked this soup a lot. If you don’t have leeks leave them out. It uses a lot of broccoli.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Broccoli Wild Rice Soup with Pine Nuts

Serving Size: 10

1 1/2 tablespoons EVOO
1 large yellow onion — chopped
3 large carrots — peeled, sliced
2 1/2 cups celery — chopped
2 medium leeks — cleaned, chopped
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth — or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup wild rice
1/3 cup basmati rice
8 cups fresh broccoli — trimmed, chopped, stems chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups half and half
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese — grated
6 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts — toasted

1. In a large soup pot over medium heat add EVOO. Then add onions and leeks. Allow to sweat, turning heat down as needed, while you chop the carrots and celery. Add those to the pot. Add the broccoli, wild rice, salt, pepper, marjoram, heavy cream and chicken broth. If the vegetables aren’t covered with liquid, add water or milk to the pot to just barely cover the vegetables.
2. Bring the mixture to a very low simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add white rice and continue cooking for another 20 minutes. Taste the rice to make sure it’s barely tender. A little bite to it is good, but not crunchy.
3. At the very end, add half and half and grated cheddar (or you may add the cheese as a garnish), and bring back to a simmer. Serve at this point or cool and refrigerate. If you’d like a thicker soup, remove about 3 cups of the soup and use an immersion blender to puree and add back into the soup.
4. When serving add Italian parsley to the top. Optional garnishes: croutons, diced red bell pepper, pesto, more grated cheese. You could also add chopped rotisserie chicken. You could also use coconut milk in lieu of heavy cream and/or the half and half. If you use Trader Joe’s brand it won’t have much of a coconut milk taste.
Per Serving: 519 Calories; 37g Fat (60.9% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 91mg Cholesterol; 932mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 530mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 1030mg Potassium; 504mg Phosphorus.

Posted in easy, Pasta, Vegetarian, on April 7th, 2022.

Creamy pasta with luscious lemon flavor and arugula. And cheese. Yummy Parmigiano-Reggiano. A post from Carolyn, but it’s really from my friend Linda.

Linda says: I spent the weekend with my friends Carolyn & Dave many years ago in Palm Desert, California. I picked up a book called “Cooking for Mr. Latte” by Amanda Hesser, a writer [and later editor] for the New York Times food section. I made this recipe finally and it was outstanding. The pasta I used was imported lemon linguine. I added extra lemon zest, Parmesan & arugula. My suggestion is to taste and adjust to your preference. I thought it needed more of everything, except lemon juice. The pepper is important!

From Carolyn: the book from Amanda Hesser is just so cute – it’s about her meeting her (now) husband, and their courtship. He wasn’t much into food, and of course, she was/is. Yet he managed to pull recipes from his back pocket (you’d have to read the book to learn about his cooking), so each chapter tells a little story of their courtship, then bookended with a recipe. Some are his, and most are hers.

When Linda visited me last fall  at the desert house, we went shopping at Home Goods, and she picked up a package of lemon linguine. Now . . . this recipe doesn’t call for “lemon linguine,” just linguine, but hey, if you can find lemon linguine (it might be available at World Market), use it. I bought a package of that lemon linguine too, the same time she did, and I need to try it. As you know, I don’t eat much pasta, but this would be a special occasion.

What’s GOOD: Linda says it was outstanding. That’s enough said! Easy too.

What’s NOT: only that you need arugula and crème fraiche on hand.

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Linguine with Meyer Lemon Zest, Crème Fraiche and Parm

Recipe By: Adapted from Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser
Serving Size: 4

Sea Salt
1 pound linguine — lemon flavored if you can find it
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
2 Meyer lemons — zest and juice
2 1/2 cups arugula — roughly chopped
1/2 cup crème fraiche
Lots of freshly ground black pepper

1. Fill a large pot with water and season with lots of salt – enough that you can taste the salt. Bring it to a boil. Add the linguine and cook until al dente (still firm and not quite cooked through).
2. While it cooks, finely grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into a large serving bowl. Zest the lemons into the bowl, then add the arugula.
3. Scoop out about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Juice one of the lemons and set aside.
4. Drain the pasta and turn it out into the serving bowl with the cheese, lemon zest and arugula. Working quickly, sprinkle over the lemon juice and a little pasta water. Add crème fraiche, then begin to fold all of the ingredients together. Fold over and over again until the pasta is slicked with sauce, the cheese is fully melted, the arugula wilted and the flavors harmonized. Season with plenty of ground black pepper. Taste a strand of linguine, then add more lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper and creme fraiche, as needed. Or add more grated cheese if it’s needed. If the sauce is a bit too sticky, add a little more pasta water and mix again. [Notes from Linda: she added more lemon zest, arugula, cheese and pepper – she didn’t think it needed more lemon juice or the creme fraiche – but then, this recipe is very adaptable to your own individual taste.]
Per Serving: 783 Calories; 29g Fat (34.1% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 91g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 78mg Cholesterol; 753mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 752mg Calcium; 5mg Iron; 394mg Potassium; 636mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, Vegetarian, on March 25th, 2022.

Another recipe from my friend Linda

A post from Carolyn. My dear friend Linda is an avid cook. There are any number of recipes of hers on my blog and she so nicely asked if I wanted a couple more recipes to post, favorites of hers. I said of course! This soup, made popular by Ina Garten, actually has different beginnings. It’s from Bobbi Brown, the originator of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. The recipe is in one of Ina’s cookbooks, but at Food & Wine they introduced the recipe (from Ina) but said that it was from Bobbi Brown. Who knew . . . I went online to read a bit more about Brown – she’s married with three sons – lives in New Jersey and she and her husband recently renovated an old hotel there and it re-opened as one a couple or three years ago. Click on the link above, to Wikipedia, if you’re interested in knowing more.

French Green de Puy Lentils Texture Picture | Free Photograph | Photos Public DomainThe one important note here – it’s necessary that you find and  use French Le Puy lentils. Sometimes they’re a bit harder to find. They hold their shape after cooking. You know that orange lentils dissolve once cooked. Here you want the distinct shape and texture of the lentil. Online it says Walmart and Target both carry French/Le Puy. So does amazon.

Anyway, the soup is quite straight forward – soak the lentils, cook onions, garlic and leeks until tender, then add celery and carrots. Broth, tomato paste and lentils are added and cooked for about an hour, then you add some red wine. Always a flavorful addition to hearty soups. Season it well – sometimes lentils need more salt than you might think. This soup has garlic, thyme and cumin in it. You can drizzle the top of the soup with olive oil and grate some Parm on top too. As with all soups (IMHO) they’re better if made a day ahead. The recipe indicates this keeps for two days. Huh? Just two days? Surely lentil and vegetable soup would keep more than two days; not sure why that would be the case. Thank you, Linda, for the recipe and the soup photo.

What’s GOOD: Linda says this soup is just wonderful. Not hard to make. Good, deep flavor. Freezes well too.

What’s NOT: only that you need to find Le Puy lentils. Buy two so you have some when you want to make this again.

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French Lentil and Vegetable Soup

Recipe By: Ina Garten (and from Bobbi Brown)
Serving Size: 8

1 pound lentils — Le Puy French type, picked over and rinsed
Boiling water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil — plus more for serving
3 large onions — chopped
3 medium garlic cloves — minced
2 large leeks — white and tender green parts only, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme — chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
8 celery ribs — cut into 1/2-inch dice
6 medium carrots — cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 quarts low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons dry red wine — or red wine vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese — for serving

1. In a large heatproof bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions, garlic, leeks, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper and the thyme and cumin and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.
3. Add the celery and carrots and cook until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste and lentils to the pot. Increase the heat to high, cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce the heat to moderate and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 1 hour. Stir in the red wine and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan.
4. To Make Ahead: The soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Let return to room temperature and reheat gently, adding more stock to adjust the consistency if necessary.
Per Serving: 379 Calories; 10g Fat (22.4% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 9g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 158mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 83mg Calcium; 6mg Iron; 1050mg Potassium; 315mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Vegetarian, on July 8th, 2021.

Utter deliciousness. Is that a word? Should be if it’s not.

A post from Carolyn. You will want to make these. They’re actually quite easy. My granddaughter Taylor has moved in with me because she’s in nursing school at Concordia University here in SoCal. When she finishes her 13-month accelerated nursing program she’ll have her second bachelor’s degree, this one a B.S.N. (nursing). Her first B.S. is in hospital administration. She drove down from NorCal with her good friend Quinn, to keep her company, and I wanted to have dinner for them before Quinn got on a plane to fly home.

So, dinner. My other granddaughter, Sabrina, got me onto a new (to me) blog called Half Baked Harvest. Tieghan is a very gifted and prolific food blogger – she puts together the most interesting combinations of food, and the photography definitely intrigues my taste buds. The impetus of my version was her post about these vegetarian enchiladas. I made some changes to her recipe, however. I added a sweet potato and a yellow squash to the roasted veggies. I didn’t add chipotle (I like chipotle, but thought the mixture had enough heat from the pepper jack, which was quite hot). I didn’t add honey, either. I also used more cheese. And I totally forgot to add all the garnishes (avocado, sour cream for instance). Tieghan is a wizard with garnishes.

The vegetables are roasted – I didn’t buy fresh corn – I used frozen, defrosted – so they aren’t showing up in the photo. I forgot to halve the poblanos. Next time I wouldn’t keep the onions intact as they needed to be separated once adding to the enchiladas, but you can do what you prefer. Really, these enchiladas could be called calabacitas enchiladas, but for sure some Southwestern cooking gurus would lambast me since calabacitas is a vegetable dish, not a Mexican enchilada . . . oh well. Do you ever have these kinds of conversations with yourself? Like my head was going . . . if these are made with flour tortillas, then they become a burrito, don’t they? instead of an enchilada. Corn tortillas = enchiladas; flour tortillas = burritos?? Or the one about calabacitas maybe I should call this calabacitas enchiladas. Or, no, calabacitas burritos. Oh dear, never mind. (telling my brain to be quiet!)

Prepping the veggies was easy – a bit of EVOO, salt and pepper and into a hot oven they went for about 30 minutes. I skinned the poblanos, chopped them up, grated the cheeses and I was in biz. I used a brand of thick salsa verde – a bit is poured into a baking pan/dish, then you make the enchiladas. Now, I used flour tortillas (I prefer them to corn) but you can use either. The veggie mixture with the cheese is put in the center of a tortilla and rolled up, seam side down in the pan. More salsa verde is spread on top (not a lot – just enough to moisten all of the top of the enchiladas), and a little more cheese and back into a hot oven they go. I baked them at 400°F for about 20 minutes (because the veggies were cooled to room temp when I constructed them). If the veggies are still hot from the roasting pan, you could probably bake them less time.

This version made 7 enchiladas. My guests ate two per person; I had one. I suppose it depends on what size tortillas you use. More hungry appetites will want two per person, so keep that in mind if you make this. If your family is sensitive to heat, use regular jack, not pepper jack.

As I said, utter deliciousness. Everybody’s plate was slicked clean.  I served it with a green side salad. I was a bit alarmed at the calorie count on this, AND the sodium. It appears it comes from the flour tortillas, as I had no choice on size. So I hope these really aren’t this high in both.

What’s GOOD: cheesy and veggie goodness. Quinn thought she might be able to fool her growing boys with eating more veggies. You could add some chicken to these if you wanted protein in them. I loved the flavors from the veggies – and the smoked paprika. And the poblano – I love the depth of flavor from that variety of chile pepper. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing really – it does take a bit of time to roast the veggies, but it was a relatively simple dinner to prepare once that was done.

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Roasted Poblano Corn and Squash Enchiladas with Cheese

Recipe By: adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Serving Size: 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup corn — or use fresh corn
2 whole poblano peppers — halved
1 small zucchini — chopped
1 small yellow squash — chopped
1 yellow onion — cut in wedges
4 whole garlic cloves — peeled
1 small sweet potato — peeled, 1/2″ cubed
3 cups salsa verde — store bought, chunky
1 chipotle chilies in adobo — optional – chopped (or 1/2 tablespoon chipotle chili powder)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 cup fresh cilantro — chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil — chopped
7 flour tortillas — or corn tortillas, 8″ size
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese — grated
1/2 cup pepper jack cheese — or regular jack, grated
Garnishes: avocado, yogurt or sour cream, cilantro, lime wedges

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2. Arrange the corn, poblano, sweet potato, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then toss with your hands. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the vegetables have a light char.
3. Remove the corn kernels from the cob, de-seed the poblano peppers and chop, along with the onions and garlic. Add everything back to the baking sheet and toss with 1 cup salsa verde, the chipotle, paprika, half the cheese, the cilantro, and basil.
4. Reduce oven temp to 400°F.
4. Pour a cup of the salsa verde into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Tip the dish to cover. On a plastic cutting board or plate, place tortilla, then spoon the vegetable-cheese filling down the center; roll and place the tortillas, seam side down, into the baking dish. Pour the remaining salsa verde over top of the enchiladas. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes, OR until the cheese has melted and just beginning to get golden brown. If vegetable mixture is at room temp, baking may take longer. Top with various garnishes and serve.
Yield: “7 enchiladas”
Per Serving (sodium and calorie levels seem exceedingly high – probably from the tortillas – even though I specified the size, it doesn’t recognize that part): 647 Calories; 37g Fat (52.1% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 53g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 77mg Cholesterol; 2047mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 553mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 859mg Potassium; 511mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on March 30th, 2021.

corn_poblano_chile_lasagna_baked

A combination that is positively made in heaven. Lasagna with a Southwest twist.

Linda_T2My good friend Linda, who lives about 50 miles south of me, (pictured at right) spent a few days with me out in Palm Desert. (We’ve been friends for about 30 years.) We agreed ahead of time that we’d maybe go out to lunch, and would cook dinner in. She cooked dinner one night, and I did it the following evening. This is what Linda made – and oh my goodness – is it ever good. There are a number of recipes here on this blog from my friend Linda, who is an excellent cook. If you do a search (search box top left on my home page) for “Linda,” all of her recipes should come up.

corn_poblano_before_baking

There’s the casserole before baking.

Since I try to reduce carbs, this was a super-treat for me. Lasagna in any form is a treat. But corn and poblano sounded so good. Linda said she was served this lasagna at the home of a friend, and she was SO enamored with it, she wouldn’t leave until the hostess gave her the recipe. Linda has made it many times since then, and has altered the original recipe a little bit.

The original recipe came from Marcela Valladolid (Food Network). In the comments many people increased the number of zucchini, onion, and increased the corn too. And increased the peppers. She did all of those things, and Linda also added just a little bit more to the corn and cream mixture too.

corn_poblano_lasagna_servingSo what is it? It’s lasagna noodles layered with roasted poblano (pasilla) chiles, thinly sliced (and cooked) zucchini, a mixture of corn and cream, and plenty of grated Mozzarella cheese. Linda had made it the morning we went to Palm Desert. She took it in a Rachael Ray Lasagna Lugger, Marine Blue Stripe Casserole Carrier, 13X9. If you don’t own one of these, you should – they are just the best out there. I bought the carrier for her several years ago. I own one too, and it’s rated highly for keeping the temp of things (both hot or cold) better than most other carriers out there.

mex_chop_saladSo I didn’t see all the work that went into making this (yes, it’s a lot), but then making any kind of lasagna is a labor of love, I think! It went into the oven and baked for about 50 minutes, then we turned on the broiler, and it took only a few minutes to get the top really golden brown.

Linda also made Mexican Chopped Salad, a Phillis Carey recipe (picture at right) I’ve had on my blog since 2007. I hadn’t made that salad in a long time, and it went so well with the Southwest style lasagna.

What’s GOOD: the unusual flavors for a lasagna. SO tasty. Different. Worth all the work, Linda says. I absolutely love the unique flavor of poblano/pasilla chiles, so this was a winner in my book!

What’s NOT: This recipe takes a lot of time to make and assemble, requires the use of lots of pots and dishes, plus it’s high fat with cream. The carb count on this is off the charts. You could try to cut this into 10 servings, but I assure you, hungry eaters will go back for a second portion if you do that.

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Corn and Poblano Lasagna

Recipe By: Marcela Valladolid, Food Network
Serving Size: 8

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic — minced
2 1/2 cups frozen corn — thawed, may use fire-roasted style
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large white onion — thinly sliced (on Mandoline preferably)
8 medium poblano chiles — also called pasilla, charred, peeled, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips, or use 4-5 if they’re very large
2 medium zucchini — halved crosswise, then thinly sliced, preferably on Mandoline
12 lasagna noodles — plus a couple extra in case of breakage during cooking
3 cups mozzarella cheese — grated, or Oaxaca cheese, reserving 1 cup for the top of the casserole.

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add two-thirds of the garlic and the corn and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream. Add dried thyme. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes for the flavors to incorporate. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and season with the thyme and some salt and pepper, and puree until smooth. Pour out into a 6-cup measuring cup/bowl, so you can measure how much you pour onto each layer.
3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and cook for 1 minute. Mix in the poblano strips and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes for the flavors to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.
4. Reserve one cup of the grated cheese to put on the top.
5. Spread about one-quarter of the corn mixture over the bottom of an 11-by-8-inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Spread one-quarter of the poblano mixture and one-quarter of the cheese over the pasta. Repeat the layering three more times. Add cheese to top layer. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the casserole (inside dimensions – this is to keep the cheese from sticking to the foil) then cover casserole with foil.
6. Bake until the pasta is cooked and tender, about 50 minutes. Remove the foil and turn up the oven temperature to broil. Broil until golden brown and bubbly, 5 to 8 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.
Per Serving (this calorie count is too high – I think the recipe program doesn’t interpret the pasta correctly – I think it’s more like 750 calories per serving – still high, but more reasonable than this): 1138 Calories; 55g Fat (43.1% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 121g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 169mg Cholesterol; 466mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 2mcg Vitamin D; 542mg Calcium; 5mg Iron; 685mg Potassium; 668mg Phosphorus.

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.

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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.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

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!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

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.

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