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Summer Pesto Salad

This makes a nice dinner but also a good cold salad to take to potlucks, BBQs, and picnics.

For the pesto sauce:

  • A bunch of “cooking greens” – assorted leaves of kale, chard, etc.
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves (broken down into smaller pieces)
  • the green parts of 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup (about) grated Parmesan or Gran Padano
  • olive oil (good kind for salads, not for cooking)

Cut or tear the green leafy part off the stems (de-rib), and then into smaller pieces. Steam (or sauté quickly, if you prefer) the greens for about 5 minutes, until sightly limp. Chop up walnuts and garlic. Add greens, garlic, nuts, and scallions into food processor. Blend while adding olive oil until the mixture becomes smooth. Add in the grated cheese (unless using the pesto later), and mix together. Continue reading

Gold Zucchini Pasta

Here’s something to do with the zucchini/golden summer squash that should be piling up by now. You can throw  this together quickly – either a dish for two people or one person who likes leftovers (hello, lunch).

What you need:
1 medium golden zucchini, or it can be a regular green one too, shredded (by hand on your cheese grater or in a food processor if you have it)
About 1 cup dry fusili pasta (estimate)
About 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary (fresh)
1/2 cup or so of panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Manchego (more if you like)
1 Tbs olive oil

What to do: (Note: I did not measure when I made this, so this is all speculation based on memory.) Continue reading

Quick Hit: Dip into Dressing a Cool Spring Dish

If you’ve ever found yourself with leftover pot luck contributions, like say, some goat cheese yogurt dip, you might consider this a useful idea: Take said dip and turn it into a dressing for your cool Spring salad in just one handy step (not counting prepping the veggies). Continue reading

Quick Hit: Pantry Item Remix

Not too long ago, a visitor left some food items in my pantry that might not otherwise appear in my kitchen in that combination.  Along with a half jar of orange marmalade, my fridge now was host to about three-fourths of a jar of pre-made tomato basil pasta sauce, as well as two bell pepper halves – one orange and one red. While I don’t usually use ready-made pasta sauce, I don’t like to let food go to waste either, and it’s easy to improve upon jarred pasta sauces and tailor them to your taste.

Not looking to play a round of stump the cook, I opted to leave the orange marmalade out of it. If you don’t want to use that for breakfast, you can probably improvise a nice orange glaze for your next chicken or pork dish.

Instead, after roughly dicing the two pepper halves and letting the sauce come to a slow simmer in a largish pot over medium-low heat, I added the peppers, as well as:

  • two carrots, cut into half-circles (I like them a bit chunky but you can opt for thin circles if you have the knife dexterity – or dice the carrots),
  • about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon capers,
  • a spring or two of fresh oregano (greek),
  • one small anchovy fillet (the kind that come in those tiny cans or in small glasses),
  • and a splash of sherry (optional – you could try red wine too).

Stir well, and let the sauce simmer on low heat until the flavors have melded and the vegetables have reached the state of tenderness you prefer. This can be anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. Keep stirring occasionally and make sure the heat is not too high or things might burn. Note that thicker carrots will take longer, and if you don’t like too much crunch there, you should consider pre-cooking them a bit before adding them to the sauce.

Serve the sauce over spaghetti or fettuccine or even farfalle or similar robust pasta. I like a high ratio of noodle to sauce but you know what you like best. Add grated Parmesan if you like.

I tried a similar sauce set up at a later date but with a large can of whole tomatoes instead of the jarred sauce. For that variation I used one grated carrot, half a diced onion, about 1 to 1.5 Tbsp of butter, and at the end, some capers and black olive tapenade (a sort of olive paste). Also delicious, but then I’m very easily swayed by pasta dishes.

Cabbage Two Ways (Hey, it’s not spring yet)

I made these two cabbage variations last month, when cabbage was the main green I had to work with. Now that we’re past the frozen February, I was hesitant to post about cabbage yet again, but then I noticed that pasta and cabbage dishes are having a little moment, apparently. First I saw this post by Kickpleat, featuring a comforting cabbage dish very similar to what I have been playing around with. And then the Kitchn posted this recipe for pizzoccheri – yes, that’s pasta, potatoes, and cabbage! – and I felt vindicated in my own attempts at this pairing. See, cabbage is a comfort food, especially when paired with pasta. Clearly, the Poles and Italians know this.

Cabbage the first: You’ll need a small head of green cabbage (or about 1/2 of a large one), shredded; one small onion, diced. Start those first on high heat in a hot pan with some canola oil. Let things brown a bit, say for five to seven minutes, stirring only occasionally, then add a generous splash of white wine (or dry vermouth), along with some sea salt and herb de Provence. Turn heat to low, cover the pan, and let the cabbage braise until it softens and becomes slightly sweet. Meanwhile, cook about 8 oz. of linguine, fettuccine, or spaghetti according to directions. Turn off heat, stir about 1/4 cup sour cream into the cabbage – just enough to help make a bit of sauce – then mix the drained pasta with a good amount of the cabbage in a bowl (you want to have some leftover cabbage for the second round). Serve with a fried egg on top, if you want.

Cabbage the second: Take about 1 cup of leftover braised sour-cream cabbage (see above); a scant 1 cup (dry) of small pasta shells; a 15 oz can chickpeas; some fresh parsley, chopped; and sriracha to taste. Cook the shells, rinse the chickpeas, and then mix cabbage and chickpeas and shells (still warm), toss in the chopped parsley and sriracha; salt to taste. Serve at room temperature or heat up a bit in a microwave for lunch at the office the next day.

Working with Leftovers: Savory Muffin Makeover

Not every recipe is a success. I’ve made beer-based quick breads before with good results but when I opted to bake a cheesy beer bread batter in muffin form, the savory muffins were a disappointment: too dry and bitter for my tastes. Loathe to throw out something that contained so much good cheese, I stuck the remaining four beer-cheese muffins into the freezer and ignored them for months.

The savory muffins reemerged from behind the frozen peas during a burst of cleaning frenzy, and once again I almost tossed them. The long wait in the freezer had not made them any more enticing (go figure). Because I really hate to waste food, I gave the muffins a defrosting grace period, hoping that would push me to find some way to use at least one or two of them.

The moment of revelation came thanks to serendipitous positioning: while defrosting in the fridge, the savory muffins sat next to a container of leftover black beans that had been seasoned in a pan with onions and garlic and oregano. The obvious answer to the unwanted muffin problem was staring me in the face. Continue reading

One Sweet Potato Is a Meal

On days when I just don’t want to expend a lot of thought on dinner  – and yes, there are those days – I turn to my fall and winter standby, the sweet potato. One medium sweet potato is a meal, and requires very little fuss. My favorite go-to preparation is to scrub the potato and then cut it either into slices (like fries) or rounds or wedges; whatever seems easiest depending on the tuber’s shape.

Toss the pieces with olive oil and the spice of your choice. I really like going spicy with sweet potatoes so I usually opt for smoked paprika or chili powder, often in combination with cumin. But curry powder or any Indian spice combo would work just as well. As might nutmeg and cinnamon, I suppose. Salt and pepper, and spread the pieces out on a baking sheet – use parchment paper to make clean up even easier – and roast/bake at somewhere around 350 or 375 degrees until crispy and browning. Depending on your oven and the size of the potato this should take about 30 -40 minutes or so. If you’re feeling industrious, flip the pieces about half way through.

Serve this with a herb yogurt sauce. Continue reading

Mashed Potato Remix

Sometimes leftovers surprise you. I started out with a version of Bubble & Squeak – also known as mashed potatoes fried up with cabbage or other leftover roasted veggies. Already, we’re in leftover territory, although I made this dish as the original meal using homemade mashed potatoes and braised chopped cabbage.  A good meal for fall and winter but one I got tired of after dinner #1.

So, what to do with the leftover leftovers? Continue reading

Cool Rice Salad for Hot Days

For days when it’s just too hot to contemplate cooking, it’s good to have some meals on hand that are filling but don’t require actual cooking. The trick with this one is that you have to plan ahead a bit because the two main components do require the hot stove as well as time – well unless the chickpeas come from the can, which is a good idea in a pinch. Continue reading

Cooking the Pantry – Winter Pasta Edition

At times, it becomes glaringly necessary to clear out some aged items from your pantry or fridge. I had a quarter (approx) bottle of blue cheese dressing sitting in the fridge that needed to be used. Bottled blue cheese dressing is not one of my favorites (I inherited that bottle) but I also hate to throw out food items, so I was looking for a way to use this up. I also had a small acorn squash quietly hogging the fruit bowl, and wondered if it might work with the blue cheese. Some Internet searching confirmed that winter squash and blue cheese is a possible combination, and an experiment commenced. Continue reading