I could watch hours of Barefoot Contessa. I adore Ina Garten and her grandmotherly qualities, but she hooks me with the recipes – they are spectacularly pragmatic when they need to be, and fussy when they should be. That, to me, is cooking. I was watching her show the other week when she made this Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter recipe, and as a lover of Truffles without the pocketbook to buy them, appreciated the short cut. It was delicious. I jazzed it up by sauteing onion and green pepper ahead of making the sauce, and then incorporated to the pasta right before serving. And then I realized that this is a base cream sauce: cream warmed, with a little bit of butter and Parmesan, but without the fuss of calling it Alfredo and using an entire stick of butter. So I tried my hand at it again, eliminating the Truffle Butter (okay, $9 for 3 oz. of truffle butter is way better than $300 for 1/2 oz. of actual truffle, but it’s still a splurge), and added more vegetable and shrimp. It’s a bit of a Julia recipe (meaning, I’m no test kitchen cook), so beware if you recreate this at home…it’s a lot about experimentation. Hope you and yours are doing well, and enjoying the holiday season.
Creamy Papardelle with Shrimp, Tomatoes, and Spinach
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, slivered
10 grape tomatoes, quartered
3 cups fresh spinach
1/3 pound shrimp (if not already cooked, cook ahead). To get more shrimp bites, buy more shrimp or cut them into smaller pieces (say, three pieces per shrimp if medium sized shrimp)
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 (8.82-ounce) package Papardelle dried pasta or other egg fettuccine
2 ounces Parmesan, shaved thin with a vegetable peeler
Add 1 tablespoon salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large (12-inch) saute pan, saute the onions on medium heat until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add a pinch of kosher salt. Add shrimp (pre-cooked, and cut into smaller pieces if you’d like) and tomatoes. Cook for about a minute. Add 1/4 cups of cream and spinach. Lower heat to medium low and stir, wilting the spinach, about 5 minutes. Once spinach is wilted, empty contents of pan into bowl and set aside.
Your water should be boiling by now, so add your noodles if they require 7+ minutes. If they are the 3 minute cooking noodles, add your noodles after the next step.
In the same saute pan you used for the vegetables and shrimp, add 1/2 cup cream and heat over medium heat until it comes to a simmer. Add the 2 tablespoons of butter and stir. Once the butter is melted, add a generous pinch of salt and season with pepper. Lower the heat to very low. If you have the 3 minute cooking noodles, add those to boiling water now.
When the noodles are done cooking, remove the noodles from water and add to cream sauce, stirring the noodles into the cream sauce as you go.* As the pasta absorbs the sauce, add as much of the reserved cooking water, as necessary, to keep the pasta very creamy.
Add the shrimp, tomato, onion and spinach mixture to noodles and stir until incorporated. Serve hot.
*This is a new technique for me, and I think it’s awesome. I’m a picky person about sauce and wanting the whole noodle to be covered in cream, so adding a little noodle at a time and stirring between batches gets the job done for me. If this is too painstakingly slow, drain pasta as you normally would, but reserve some of the pasta water to add back into the pasta cream sauce.
The cherry tomatoes are in! For the last two weeks, I’ve been going out every couple of days to grab a handful of ripe cherry tomatoes to make simple and light summer dishes, and found a new favorite. Cherry tomatoes quartered with a handful of chickpeas, some fresh basil, a tablespoon of good olive oil, and either balsamic vinegar or a red wine vinegar and white wine vinegar mixture. It’s simple yet flavorful. To make it more of a meal, I’ll put in pearled mozzarella and toasted bread (or croutons). The dish has plenty of variations – a google search of ‘cherry tomato chickpea salad’ will turn up some interesting results to find the flavors one prefers. Read More
Summer is officially coming to a close: The Minnesota State Fair opened last week, I purchased textbooks for my last Fall semester courses (unless I go back for a PhD…just kidding), and the basil, cucumber and zucchini are bountiful. It’s been a fast summer – I feel like I kicked it off with a hospital stay (admitted May 3rd) and then spent all summer tending to (read: annoyingly fretting over) my new diet, trying to figure out what I can get away with eating and how to make what I’m supposed to eat taste good. I still haven’t touched red meat, nearly eliminated pasta (it’s a treat now, which is so sad), and make all of my meals plant-based. But I will tell you this, eating a variety of veg this summer became easier once the basil came in, to make batches of pesto (recipe here) for the week and mix it in with just about anything – on a tomato and mozzarella sandwich, mixed with sauteed onions and chickpeas, or on a piece of toast with melted Parmesan.
Zucchini is a new veg in my kitchen – I’ve never cooked or baked with it before (though I have, certainly, eaten it before), and until this year have never planted it. BUT, there was a recipe for Zucchini Fritters in last month’s Bon Appetit that made me think twice about zucchini as a potential staple around here. I used this recipe and they turned out beautifully – crisp on the outside and hot and gooey in the inside. I do detest frying anything in my kitchen, so am going to use the same recipe but try my hand at baking these this week.
Do you remember in the movie Julie & Julia when Julie proclaims braised cucumbers are a revelation? Kudos to Nora Ephron for that line, because as I looked at the stack of cucumbers growing in the garden, I knew to pull out Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and try braised cucumbers. Her recipe, unfortunately, takes up to an hour of prep, which I did not have, so took a few suggestions from the web. I peeled the cucumber, cut in half the long way (to create two long half-cucumbers), spooned out the seeds and cut to create these inch-thick crescent moon shaped pieces. I put two tablespoons of butter in a saute pan and over med-high heat for twelve minutes or so, stirred until soaked with butter, hot, and beginning to brown. I’m pretty sure I ruined whatever nutritional content the cucumber had, but they did not taste like the cold cucumber in an un-inspired salad.
Good luck with the return-to-school season, getting through all the produce that this hot week is going to produce, and staying cool.
I’ve been eating a lot of cauliflower and lentils lately. Cauliflower is relatively inexpensive for how much you get, and soaks up any spices or sauces you mix with it, which I consider a fabulous quality in a vegetable. Lentils are a great source of fiber, and while I never thought I would get used to them, I’ve taken to cooking a batch (1 cup cooked, then refrigerated) so I can easily add pre-cooked lentils to whatever I’m making. As I was going through Pinterest a few weeks back, I came across the recipe for Lentil Cauliflower Picnic Salad. Delicious. I made it for the homecoming dinner of my college friend Hannah (who FINALLY returned back to Minnesota from living on the West coast), who endorses my approval of this picnic salad. Hello combination of beautiful cauliflower and lentils, and welcome home Hannah!
A good egg salad sandwich is nothing to sneeze at. It’s simple, quick, and hits all of the right food notes to get you feeling like it was something substantial without really being so. I make this when it’s just me in the house with no one to impress.
Hard Boiled Eggs
Put 2 eggs* into a 1-quart saucepan, then add enough cold water to cover by 1/2 inch. Bring water to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to moderately high and cook eggs at a gentle boil, uncovered, 10 minutes. Pour off hot water. If using eggs right away, shake pan gently so eggs bump into one another (to crack shells). Run cold water into pot to stop cooking. Let eggs stand in cold water 15 minutes, adding more cold water or ice to keep water cold.
Egg Salad Sandwich
Roughly chop boiled eggs (after peeled and cooled) and mix with 2 tablespoons mayonnaise or vegenaise. I like to add a pickle, diced to small cubes, to give it more dimension and texture. You can add sliced avocado or mashed great northern beans to add some fat and fiber. Tomatoes and light lettuce like Bibb go great with egg salad. Serve on whole grain bread or English muffin.
*I find 2 eggs will serve 1 person. If you want to make more eggs for later, hard boiled eggs will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Rhubarb reminds me of Montana, where my parents were raised and my (closest-in-age) brother and I were born. As soon as I pull out the juicy red stalk from the plant, the tart spring scent instantly puts me in the farmhouse where my dad was born and my Grandpa Frank lived until his passing, almost 12 years ago. As rhubarb boils and bakes away the tartness and turns it to a sweet perfume, my memories travel a handful of miles West to my Aunt Eunice’s house, where as a kid I remember her always in her kitchen – if not in her sewing room – baking or braising something delicious. As for actual rhubarb planted, harvested and baked up in either of those homes, I’m unsure. Though I have a hard time imagining any of my Aunts not baking a rhubarb something during my childhood.
But rhubarb is hearty and thrives in Minnesota, specifically in my back driveway in a ten gallon bucket. I neglect the thing for the whole year except for the one month it produces fruit. I love a good strawberry rhubarb pie, but this year changed it up to make jam, ice cream and cobbler. The jam is so easy and you can find the recipe here. I wouldn’t change a thing.
The same recipe for jam had an ice cream recipe along with it, and while a little more consuming than my strawberry ice cream recipe, I went for it and oh for the love of all that is good, this ice cream is just perfect. I made this cobbler a few weeks back when it was still cold here, temperatures hovering in the fifties and sixties in May and wanted something to warm me up. This cobbler recipe was wonderful. The only change I made was to substitute 1 cup whole grain flour in the 2 cups of all purpose flour called for – I was worried substituting both cups of all-purpose for whole wheat would change the recipe. The small change was nice and I love the little bit of nutty whole grain flour with the sweetness of the fruit.
I love tacos. They are the easiest weeknight meal and you can get a lot of veggies into dinner without having to make a side dish. But now that I’m not eating red meat and keeping a close eye on incorporating beans and whole grains at lunch and dinner, I had to find an alternate to my typical ground beef taco. This recipe for Quinoa Black Bean Tacos is a winner. The earthy seasoning for the quinoa, bright flavors of the pico de gallo and creamy avocado made me not miss my old taco recipe so much. Oh, and it’s VEGAN. Who knew?
I am now officially on a high fiber diet, taking in around 30 grams of fiber per day. The first week after the hospital was all about bland foods (pancakes, applesauce, etc.), and then after that, I slowly transitioned to my current high fiber diet. I thought a lot about food before – and certainly do now – but in a whole different way. I read somewhere in my “fiber research” that eating a whole food diet means looking at the grocery store like a pharmacy…everything you put in your basket should play a critical role in your diet. I am happy to follow this advice versus some of the others (like the “No meat, no dairy, no alcohol, no fried foods, no sugar, no processed or packaged foods” diet I read about). I’m eating whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables….and quite a bit of each at lunch and dinner. No red or processed meat, and other meat (chicken) is at a minimum. But I’m allowing myself a little bit of wiggle room on the sugar and flour thing because if I followed that, I would never be able to eat a slice of cake again in my life, and that would be wrong. Read More
Three weeks ago I woke up with a distended belly, and for three days let my body try to figure it out only to find myself in front of a doctor hunched over in pain, nearly in tears. I was told to eat fiber, and fiber only – that should clear it up. The pain lessened over a few days, but came back isolated and specific to my lower left abdomen. This was now ten days into some rather uncomfortable gut-specific pains, so went to another doctor who sent me straight to the hospital for a CT scan and orders to go to the ER if the findings came back with diverticulitis. After a CT scan, they concluded the pain was specific to diverticulitis and I had a possible abscess to boot. I was shuffled to the ER, then transferred to the hospital for a heavy dose of antibiotics and a diet of starvation. Three days and two nights later, I was discharged and went home for a ten day diet of soft foods – white bread, mac and cheese, overly boiled peas…basically, anything you can squish with your finger was okay to eat. I spent that time reading up on diverticulitis and met a nutritionist, finding that there is one big thing that had to change: my diet. Read More
Frank was in Colorado last weekend fly fishing with friends in the mountains, which left me to cook anything I wanted over four evenings. I, of course, ate plenty of meals with leeks (leek pizza, leek pasta, leek sandwich, leek egg bake), but I hadn’t yet (as in ever) cooked eggplant. While I have grown it for the last two years in my garden, I always gave the beautiful ripe fruit away throughout August and September when it’s at its peak, but never so much as dared to cut it into slices, dip the slices into egg wash, cover with bread crumbs and bake for 25 minutes at 475 degrees. Never, not once. I probably thought it was too time consuming when I read those steps, or at some point in my life someone told me eggplant tastes like tofu. Eggplant does not taste like tofu. This recipe is so simple and delicious I may have to make Frank try it.
I made fresh bread the day before, so assembled the eggplant while the bread baked, and once the bread was done, slid the eggplant into the oven to bake. The actual sandwich assembly part was a snap – I had an open jar of tomato sauce in the fridge, so spooned the sauce on the pieces of bread, placing baked eggplant slices on top of the sauce and topping with slices of mozzarella. While I ate a more than generous portion for one person, I watched The Sessions, which was such an interesting and moving story. Helen Hunt was fantastic in it.
Next time, I’ll add more mozzarella. Hope you have a great weekend!
If you’ve been following this quiet little food blog for a while (first and foremost, thank you), you’ll know I don’t cook anything out of the ordinary. My food mantra – or cooking purpose – is to cook meals at home that are fresh and quick enough to make everyday, using ingredients that are as local as can be. Even with both of us in graduate school and one of us showing up home from class on a week night at 9:30, we still make dinner from scratch. It’s an important way for us to connect after a long day, and as we near five years together, the kitchen is still where some of our most important conversations take place, all while food is cooking on the stove. Cooking at home has never been about making anything overly fancy, or pushing my culinary skills – I started this blog as a way to commit myself to learn how to cook so I would not find myself at thirty eating spaghetti every other night, or relying on a freezer full of frozen meals. But sometimes, I find a recipe that pushes my skills a little further, or I eat something at a restaurant that inspires a new way to think about cooking, or in this case, I fall in love with a beautiful pot and find myself wanting to know more about how to use that. That being a tagine. Read More
My dear friend from college, Irene Wood, makes beautiful jewelry and today (until Midnight!) is offering 40% off her pieces. You can see all of her work here at History + Industry. As a recent owner of three new necklaces, I have to say these pieces are stunning and make what sometimes feels like a boring black or gray dress feel glamorous.
About a year ago my dad and stepmom bought me an ebelskiver pan for my birthday and like so many food-related things, was forgotten while wedding and graduate school took priority. Last weekend, however, after a relaxing Sunday afternoon nap while some Golf tournament was on, I had a hankering for something sweet. I pulled out the unassuming – almost like an egg poacher – Ebelskiver pan and the book they had given me on how to make what I consider Gushers for adults with a sweet tooth. Ebelskivers are essentially pancake balls with filling. They are quick to whip up, cook in a flash on the stove top, and are versatile for a crowd on a weekend morning. Much like making Swedish pancakes, they are a delectable breakfast treat you can dress up however you please. For my first attempt, I used Nutella for the inside treat, but there are numerous fillings to now explore (any kind of jam, honey, diced fruit, etc.). To find yourself an Ebelskiver pan, mine is from Williams-Sonoma, which you can get here, along with the pre-mix batter if that gets you started. This chocolate filled Ebelskiver recipe, with direction on how to make from scratch, is next on my list. If you’re at all inclined to try making these, I would start with any video on youtube.com that shows the making of these – it’s tempting once the dough sets on the bottom to quickly flip over to cook the other side, but aesthetically, it looks so much better to do it the Danish way. This video seems pretty authentic to me.
It seems impossible that I haven’t posted about making a plain, simple, minimalist tomato sauce. As a child raised on jarred Classico for the average hurried dinnertime meal or a robust from-scratch bolognese on the weekend, adjusting my palate to the ripe cooked tomato striped of all fancy detractors was an adjustment.
The cookbooks I read all treated the diced tomato with onion and garlic stewed for twenty minutes as the chief recipe, but I was less convinced until I cracked the nut: meat or vodka. Don’t get me wrong – there is a time for this parred down tomato sauce, but I think it should be reserved for summer, when you have the ripest tomatoes in your hands with a bunch of basil growing in the pot outside the back door. It is a recipe for a dinner in the late summer sun when it’s hotter than hell and you want something to refresh, not comfort.
But for now, it’s snowing out side my window and Spring – let alone summer – feels far away. The key to dressing up the simple tomato sauce (using canned tomato, of course) is to add spicy Italian sausage with fusilli, or add vodka with penne and make yourself a proper wintertime pasta. I love the recipe from Slate.com, which you can get in full here. If I can get away with it, I’ll cook this recipe exactly as stated but add two cups of baby spinach, thrown in the sauce just before adding the noodles. But if Frank has his way, we begin the recipe first with a 1/4 pound of Italian sausage, before adding the onion, etc.
It’s been a while. Frank and I are both part time graduate students with full time jobs, and life has been feeling a bit…squeezed. As a perfectionist who is not wholly excited or adept at managing big changes, the first two months of the semester were harder than I was anticipating. Getting my mind back into conceptual this and that, losing a lot of free time and juggling schedules was all a bit overwhelming at first. But I love school and my program, and am getting the hang of it. Having this girl as my study buddy doesn’t hurt.
While most of our meals are cooked at home (though we have eaten more delivery pizza in the last 3 months than all of last year), cooking feels so much more perfunctory than before. It’s about making a dinner that will taste good and can be thrown in the oven to reheat the next night. But this Chicken Pot Pie recipe from Dinner, A Love Story has been an easy dinner to add to the rotation that feels somewhat special every time.
It’s fairly simple to make without a lot of ingredients, and reheats beautifully. I followed the recipe from their new(ish) cookbook, which is to assemble the whole thing in a pie dish, versus individual ramekins. Frank and I have taken to eating half on the first night, and reheating it at 375 degrees (with foil on) the next night for 25 minutes or so. Remove foil for the last 5 minutes and let the top crisp up. For the chicken, I have been boiling chicken, which is still the greatest trick learned this year.