One Pot Pasta Dinner

It’s a new year, and I’m still trying to adjust.

I don’t tend to make resolutions because I find that January, right in the thick of winter with still so far to go until spring, is the absolute worse time of year to resolve to do anything. You start out so optimistic and enthusiastic that this year, things will be different, but then the polar vortex suddenly reappears and you endure a string of cold, gray, miserable days, and the toes of all your shoes and cuffs of all your pants get covered in salt and you just throw your hands up in the air and say screw it, who cares if this year is just as crappy as the last one?

What I mean to say is that winter beats the resolve right out of me, and I prefer not to fail at things before I’ve been given a proper chance to succeed. Instead, I like to pick one goal for the year. An attainable, measurable thing that I can do, not a lifestyle or personality change that must be both reached and then maintained. One thing, and I have all year to accomplish it. Something that takes some work, but is manageable. Last year, it was to run a full marathon. I did that in December; it was hard, but rewarding. This year, I want to have a piece of writing published. Essay, article, story, poem. Any piece of writing in any publication that is not a personal blog. That’s it. I can do that.

My only other intention for the year is to simply slow down a bit. Last year came and went in such a flash that I still can’t fully wrap my head around the fact that it is over and I’m already 13 days into a new year. I worked a lot, too much and too hard. I beat myself up physically, from both work and marathon training. We bought a house. We tried (and failed) to sell a house. We moved, and moving is the worst. I slept terribly. I worried constantly. I stressed myself out way too often.

This year, I’m giving myself permission to just sit back and relax a little more often. I’m taking an hour each morning to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and a book and delay responding to emails or answering phone calls. Nearly everything in life can wait an hour. I’m trying to do things more when I want to, because I want to, and less out of an obligation to myself, to an imagined other, to some confused sense of timeliness. On my days off, I am no longer looking back at my day and admonishing myself for doing nothing. I read. I cleaned up the house. I took the dog for a long walk. These are somethings. These are not nothings. I will not judge myself for how I choose to spend my time. It is my time. I can do whatever I want with it, and this year I will.

Aiding in my effort to take more time to relax and restore, is the One Pot cookbook my mother-in-law gave me as a holiday gift. Though we upgraded in overall space and comfort with the move to a new house last fall, we downgraded in terms of kitchen modernity, and find ourselves living without a dishwasher for the first time since college. Washing dishes is a pain in the butt and a huge time suck, so cutting out any extra pots, pans, bowls and other items from the nightly dish load is definitely a big positive for me. So far, I found most of the recipes we have made from this cookbook to be simple, relatively quick, and really quite delicious. The following Linguine with Tomato and Basil may be my favorite for both how incredibly easy it is to make and how wonderful it tastes.


Linguine With Tomato and Basil

What You’ll Need:

  • 12 ounces linguine
  • 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 online, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (it was pretty spicy, would recommend only 1/4 tsp)
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 2 tbsp EVOO, plus more for serving
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups of water
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving

What You’ll Do:

  • In a large sauté pam, combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and the water.
  • Bring to boil over high heat.
  • Cook, stirring frequently with tongs until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper and garnish with torn basil
  • Serve with oil and cheese if desired.

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Summertime Pasta With Squash and Corn

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Dan and I are getting ready to move. We have three weeks before we close on our new place, and while we don’t absolutely have to be moved out of our current house by that point, we want to get this place up on the market, so we’re doing our best to shoot for that three week timeframe. Moving is so overwhelming. No matter how many times you’ve done it in the past, it always feels as massive and daunting an undertaking as it did the time before. Our house is in a state of organized chaos. Since most of our packing, cleaning, moving preparation has to occur in the evenings when we are both home from work, we are definitely going to need some quick and easy meals for the weeks to come.

First up, this Summertime Pasta with Squash and Corn. The recipe calls for rigatoni, but I didn’t have that on hand, so I went with tri-colored rotini. Despite the use of butter, this pasta tastes really light and fresh. I definitely recommend using fresh corn that you cut straight off the cob, and a sweet corn pairs particularly well with the squash flavors. I used regular crookneck squash, but I think any kind of summer squash would work. It’s very quick, very tasty, and very likely something we’ll be eating again and again in the weeks to follow.

~C.

Whole Grain Pasta with Red Wine, Red Bean, and Portobello Ragout

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The name of this recipe makes it sound more labor intensive than it actually is. It’s really quite easy to throw together and I was shocked by how good it was. You can easily make it vegan by just leaving off the cheese, but if you aren’t concerned about the vegan-ness of it all, then definitely include the grated Gruyere. To borrow a term from every cooking competition show that has every existed, it really elevates the dish.

This is another recipe from my newest cookbook purchase, Fresh Food Fast, and it even comes from the winter section! So cook it up on a cold night and serve with a big glass of wine.

~C.

What You’ll Need:

  • Sea salt
  • 12 ounces whole wheat penne or other small pasta
  • 2 tbps extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced red oinion
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 7 fresh sage leaves, chopped (I didn’t have this and just used some dried sage)
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 dry red wine
  • 1 can (14 ounce) whole peeled tomatoes with juice, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can (15 ounce) red kidney beans, with liquid
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese for garnish
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley for garnish

What You’ll Do:

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil to cook pasta.
  • In a pan, warm oil over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Saute onion, garlic, sage and 1 tsp salt, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes.
  • Raise the heat and add the mushrooms and paprika. Saute until the mushrooms soften, roughly 2 minutes.
  • Add wine to the mushroom mixture and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, and continue boiling for about 2 minutes, until slightly thickened.
  • Add tomatoes with their juice, beans with their liquid and the soy sauce. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until liquid reduces to a rich sauce. This takes about 10 minutes.
  • Serve the cooked pasta topped with the ragout, and sprinkled with cheese and parsley.

Yogurt Primavera

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I suppose if you are going to have an abundance of a particular type of food, vegetables are a pretty good option. Five minutes and a little bit of balsamic vinegar, and you’ve got a salad. Soy sauce and a bit of rice and, bam, you’re eating stir fry. Break out some herbs and a little parmesan and in no time at all you could be enjoying a delicious pasta primavera.

This particular primavera uses yogurt to create its “cream” base. If you prefer your sauce on the thicker side, I would specifically recommend Greek yogurt. In the past, I’ve done a makeshift version of this recipe using Greek yogurt (I didn’t really follow the actual recipe, just kind of went by memory and feel) and found that worked better than the regular plain yogurt I used this time around. It was still tasty, just a little thin for my liking.

I’ll copy the recipe as it is listed, but really the idea here is to use whatever vegetables you have on hand. My primavera included zucchini, yellow squash, snap peas, spring onions and kohlrabi. The recipe calls for chicken broth, but you can definitely use vegetable broth instead. I also added a good bit of chopped garlic when I made this, because garlic and I are basically best friends.

Happy eating!

~C.

Yogurt Primavera

Ingredients

1 cup reduced chicken broth

1 tbsp cornstarch

6 ounces peas in pod, shelled

2 ounces carrots, approximately 1/2 cup diced

2 ounces zucchini, approximately 1/2 cup diced

2 ounces squash, approximately 1/2 cup diced

2 ounces small button mushrooms, approximately 1/2 cup sliced

1 cup low-fat plain yogurt

1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley

2 tbsp finely shredded fresh basil leaves

Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Pour 1/4 cup of broth into a small bowl or cup, and stir in cornstarch until dissolved. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring remaining broth to a boil over moderate heat.

Add vegetables and simmer until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes.

Stir in broth-cornstarch mixture, the yogurt, Parmesan, and herbs.

Simmer just until thick, 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour sauce over cooked pasta.

Season with black pepper to taste.

{recipe from Pasta Light}

Pesto Perfection

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Come with me on a little journey to my culinary past.

It was a beautiful summer evening, in the year of the basil trees. My high school BFF, C, and her now-husband were visiting, and in an act of classic gender division, the men went off golfing and C and I stayed home to fix dinner and gossip over multiple glasses of wine. Because basil was so plentiful, we decided to make my mother-in-law’s pesto, a simple recipe that calls for basil, olive oil, parmesan and pine nuts. As we cooked and chatted, we munched on the extra pine nuts. Eventually the guys came home, we had a delicious dinner, enjoyed the rest of the weekend visit and woke up to a Monday morning that was not unlike all the Mondays that had come before it. Except for the fact that my breakfast tasted like copper and acid in my mouth. And so did my lunch. And my dinner. And all of my meals the following day. I had hit my head the week before and after a couple days of food tasting like pennies, D started to worry that something might be seriously wrong. After a bit of Internet sleuthing and a call to C to discover that she too had been tasting pennies for days, we learned of a condition called pine mouth, wherein consuming pine nuts can leave a metallic taste in your month for multiple weeks! It was brutal, but it taught me a very important lesson: never ever make a recipe that uses pine nuts. I have since substituted walnuts into that particular pesto recipe.

When I first decided to start this blog, I purchased an amazing cookbook called Cooking From The Farmer’s Market (at some point I’ll do a larger review, but I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in seasonal cooking. It’s fantastic!). My most recent batch of pesto was a combination of the recipe I’ve been using for a few years now, and a new recipe I got from this book. One of my favorite things about pesto is that you can make so many different varieties. I’ve made kale pesto in the past. I’ve seen recipes for pestos that use chard, dandelion greens, sun dried tomatoes. There are so many options. Cooking From The Farmer’s Market uses arugula and mint in its recipe, but I ended up using basil instead because I didn’t have any arugula at the time. I also added in some walnuts just because I like a little bit of crunch and a slightly nutty flavor. That’s what is so great about pesto: once you have a basic recipe to work from, you can be as inventive as you want with the flavors. You can vary the greens and the seasonings. You can make it thicker or thinner. More cheesy or more oily. Whatever suits your mood and your tastes. It’s a great dish to keep experimenting with until you find the pesto that is perfect for you.

~C.

Arugula-Mint Pesto

Ingredients

5 cups of packed arugula (or basil)

3/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 shaved aged hard cheese such as Parmesan

2 cloves of garlic

Zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 Tbsp lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lb pasta of your choice

Preparation

In a blender or food processor, combine arugula, mint, olive oil, cheese, garlic, lemon, zest and salt and pepper to taste.

Blend until smooth. 

Stir in 1 Tbsp of lemon juice. 

Taste and adjust seasoning. 

Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Cook pasta and reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water. 

Toss the pesto with the pasta. 

Thin out with small amount of pasta water if needed. 

Taste and season with salt, pepper and the additional 1 Tbsp of lemon juice. 

Sprinkle with cheese and serve right away. 

Perfect Last Minute Pasta

Thursday nights are a little weird in our house. I’m usually working late and D doesn’t get back from class until close to 11pm, so the night often proceeds like this: come in, throw my bags on the floor and immediately kick off my shoes, plop down on the couch and sigh very loudly out of frustration, get up, put shoes back on, take dog for a desperately needed walk, come back home and throw together whatever will be super quick and easy for dinner, eat while watching TV, fall asleep on couch.

On nights when I’m just cooking for one, easy is my main priority, and it doesn’t get much easier than this Creamy Avocado Pasta from Two Peas & Their Pod. As is my way, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but the end result was still delicious. I only had half an avocado left over from a sandwich I made earlier in the day, so I essentially cut the recipe in half, except that I actually ended up adding more garlic than the recipe calls for because I just really like garlic. I didn’t have any lime, so I used lemon instead and that worked fine, though I would suggest using a little less juice than is called for if you are substituting with lemon.

The recipe tells you to blend all of your ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth, but I have no room for additional steps or extra items to clean in my Thursday night cooking. I just mashed up the avocado as much as I could and found that the heat from the pasta helped to smooth it all out when I mixed everything together. Add a little salt and a bit of parmesan at the end and you have  last-minute pasta perfection!

~C.