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Quick Spring Lunch: Fusilli with Scallions, Peas, and Goat Cheese

Actually, the title says it all. This makes a quick lunch, especially if you have the pasta already cooked. This is barely a recipe, and I didn’t really measure anything, so use your judgment as to the ratio of pasta to scallions, peas, and cheese.

What’s in it:

  • 8 – 12 oz pasta (fusilli), cooked (how much really depends on how hungry you are)
  • 2 – 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup peas (cooked along with the pasta)
  • chopped chives – about 1 Tbs (optional)
  • fresh goat cheese (at least 1/4 cup, more if you love goat cheese)

Brown scallions in butter and olive oil over medium high, let things get a bit crispy. Add in the cooked fusilli and peas. Stir. If you have them, add some fresh chives too. Serve in a deep plate (pasta bowl), topped with crumbles of fresh goat cheese. Toss a bit so the cheese can meld with the warm pasta. Bask in the Spring feeling (though you could make this dish all through summer and fall, it feels spring-like, and scallions are great in spring).

Classic Broccolini Pasta

This is makes a good dish for the transition from winter to spring.

What you need: a bunch of broccolini (or a stalk or two of broccoli), one or two garlic cloves, some olive and walnut oil, a bit of dry vermouth or white wine (or water), red pepper flakes, and spaghetti.

Method:
Cut the thicker stems of the broccolini into small pieces and boil them along with the pasta. Chop the rest of the broccolini into bite-size pieces. While the pasta cooks, saute the broccolini pieces in about 1 -2 Tbs of olive and/or walnut oil over medium heat.

After 5 minutes or so, add minced garlic, then add a good splash of vermouth, cover the pan and turn the heat down a bit; let things steam. Add red pepper flakes towards the end of cooking, along with a pat of butter to finish (optional). Also optional: adding some chopped walnut or almonds.

Finally, add the drained pasta and stems to the pan, along with a splash of pasta water, stir to combine evenly. Salt and pepper to taste; serve with Pecorino or Spanish cheese or Parmesan.

Quick Hit: Fusilli and Peas (Secret Sauce)

Aka, how to make a quick, velvety pea sauce.

This is very easy, and I didn’t really measure anything. Take some frozen peas (about 1 cup), and gently heat them in a pan with a little pat of butter and a tablespoon or two of water, or chicken or veggie broth. Once the peas are defrosted, blend them with some crumbled feta. I used my stick/immersion blender but you could do this in a food processor too. Taste as you go so you get the right balance of sweet and salty – I think I used about 1/4 cup feta or less. I also added some sriracha to taste.

Use this sauce on fusilli or other ridged pasta (rigatoni or cavatappi perhaps). You can liven it up the next day for lunch by adding a few Sungold tomatoes (the little sweet orange ones), halved or whole, to the pan when you reheat the pasta and pea sauce.

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

Sunny Summer Pasta (Corn and Sungold Tomatoes)

Since the farm stands are still overflowing with lush summer produce, here is a meal that you can put together fairly quickly and that rewards you with the look and taste of full summer.

What you need:

  • about 6 – 8 oz (1/2 box/bag) Rigatoni, Penne, or similar pasta,
  • about 1/2 to 1 pint Sungold tomatoes (the small orange ones, sweet), halved,
  • 3 ears of sweet corn,
  • 1/4 cup ricotta (or maybe some fresh mozzarella),
  • some springs of fresh herbs like parsley, dill, or herb fennel aka sweet fennel (look that one up, it’s interesting);

This makes enough for 3-4 servings (next day lunch!).

What to do:
Cook the pasta, and once it’s done, be sure to save some of the pasta water; about 1/2 a cup or so. While the pasta is cooking, strip the kernels off the corn cobs. Then sauté the corn in some butter with the herbs (I used herb fennel here) for a few minutes – you want to start this only when the pasta is done, or almost so, so that you’ll have the pasta water on hand when you need it.

Now add about 1/4 cup pasta water (enough to cover) and some white wine or dry vermouth (optional) to the corn, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the kernels are tender. Add the pasta, stir everything together, and add chopped parsley (if using). Stir in 1/4 cup or so of ricotta, and the tomatoes. Turn off the heat and let everything warm through for a bit. Salt and pepper to taste. Heap on a plate and eat on a balcony or patio, if possible. Or just open the window a bit, unless it’s one of those hot humid days. In that case, enjoy your fan or AC and bask in the plateful of summer from your cooking efforts.

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

Spring Fling: Cavatappi with Green Asparagus

After many months of winter squash, stored potatoes, and nothing green except kale and cabbage, I’m always particularly excited when the first spring produce appears at my farmer’s market (radishes! asparagus! scallions!). Since these portents of the new growing season also stick around into June, I don’t feel too bad for letting this entry sit around since early May. So even though it’s now almost summer, and we have the mugginess to prove it, here is a quick dinner to help you celebrate that first tender green asparagus. I’ve been making variations of this for a few weeks now.

Note: Cavatappi are a sort of corkscrew-looking pasta that look a bit like someone took a penne noodle, stretched and then twisted it. They hold all sorts of sauces well, and small lengths of asparagus can snuggle into their twists.

What’s involved: 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.

Delicious Delicata

The delicata squash – I first encountered it at my farmer’s market, where I picked it up at random because I was tired of the reliable standby butternut squash and recently disappointed by the acorn squash as well. It has a friendly look to it – striped, thin-skinned,  and on the smallish side, its shaped a bit like a zucchini or eggplant.

It is, as far as I can tell, the unknown squash – so far, no one I have mentioned this delicious squash to has heard of it. After I picked in an experimental frame of mind, I searched the food blogs for inspiration on how to deal with it. The Kitchn had this recipe for dip and I went with it because it seemed easy. Once I tried it, I never looked for another delicata squash recipe idea because it was so very delicious. In December, I made this at least five times in as many weeks. If you can find a delicata, make this now. Bring it to your next pot-luck party.

Apart from using it as a dip, this works wonderfully as a pasta sauce.

If you find yourself without milk, cream, and Gruyère, take heart. One variation I found to be very successful was to use a bit of butter instead of the milk, and then to add a triangle of the Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss Original spreadable cheese (one triangle for a smallish squash, two won’t go amiss here). An excellent, smoothly creamy cheesy dip that works excellently on crostini as well as penne pasta or farfalle or even elbow mac.

Make the delicata squash your new friend if you haven’t met before. It is well worth it.