Tag Archives: pasta

Eggplant Relish Pasta Sauce/Crostini

28 Aug

Leftover pasta tossed with eggplant relish and feta

Anyone who knows me is aware of my love of purple, so it should come as no surprise that when I saw bright purple mini-eggplants at the farmers market, I had to buy a couple.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a plan for what I would actually do with them, so a week or so went by before I got around to finding a recipe to use them in.  Luckily the eggplants were still usable, and I found a very yummy-sounding recipe in Emeril Lagasse’s “Farm to Fork” for Eggplant Relish Crostini.  I had some miscellaneous pasta leftover, so decided to use this relish type thing as a topping/sauce for pasta instead of on bread.  There are lots of rumors about eggplant being hard to get right as it can remain bitter when cooked, but this was pretty simple, and absolutely delicious.  The eggplant shrinks down a lot, so it doesn’t make a huge amount, and next time I will definitely make more and buy some bread to make the crostini.  I used sundried tomatoes instead of roasted red peppers because I had those in my fridge, but the tomato flavor really came through and were one of the highlights of the dish, so I would use them again instead of red peppers.  This does have a quite long list of ingredients, but most of the ingredients are fridge/pantry staples anyway, so this could be an easy weeknight dinner or a great party appetizer served on toasted bread.

Eggplant Relish Crostini/Pasta Sauce
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s Farm to Fork
Makes about 3 1/2 cups relish

Equipment: Knife, peeler, frying pan, wooden spoon,

Ingredients
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds eggplant (about 2 large), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes stored in olive oil (about 3 from a jar)
1 1/2 tablespoons basil leaves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped nonpareil capers
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper/red pepper flakes
Crumbled feta cheese for garnish
French bread brushed with olive oil and toasted (for crostini)

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan or skillet over medium-high heat.  Add half of the cubed eggplant and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Cook, stirring often, until eggplant is tender and caramelized, about 8-10 minutes. Remove to a bowl and repeat with the remaining eggplant.  Set eggplant aside until cooled to room temperature.

Add all of the remaining ingredients to the cooled eggplant (except feta and bread, if using), and stir gently to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  Set relish aside for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to mingle.  To serve, toss with pasta and top with crumbled feta, or serve on toasted rounds of bread drizzled with olive oil and topped with feta.

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Summer Vegetable Pastas

20 Jun

Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream

Taking a break from the plethora of potluck recipes (don’t worry, they will be back- I made amazing grilled ricotta chicken and homemade guacamole for our BBQ this weekend), I thought it would be nice to showcase some summery pasta dishes, using the fresh spring vegetables that are miraculously avaliable everywhere now.  Plus, clearly I can’t go a week without making some kind of pasta concoction, and I figure the addition of mounds of veggies helps me justify eating half a pound of pasta in one sitting.

So many vegetables- Pasta wtih Snap Peas, Asparagus and Goat Cheese

The first recipe is for pasta with prosciutto, snap peas, cream and mint, and I immediately bookmarked it when I saw it on Food 52 a couple of weeks ago.  Not only did I already have prosciutto in the fridge, but I love snap peas, AND it gave me an opportunity to use the first of the mint in our ever-burgeoning herb garden.  It may seem like this has a lot of things going on, but all of the flavors compliment each other nicely, and the snap peas add a crunch which is unexpected in a pasta dish.  I enjoyed that the mint added an extra fresh springy flavor, but if you don’t love mint in savory dishes this would be almost as delicious without it.  Despite having quite a few ingredients, this really just requires some chopping and then throwing everything into a pan, and it came together in pretty much the time it takes to boil and cook  the pasta.

After my discovery of this great combination of flavors I used leftover snap peas and some asparagus I had in the fridge for another summer-inspired pasta dish.  I was out of prosciutto and omitted the cream in this dish, but added goat cheese and fresh basil (also from our herb garden!) for an even simpler version.  Both recipes come together in under half an hour and are great uses of summer vegetables, so go down to your farmers market and get shopping!

Our herb garden! The basil is doing slightly better than the parsley. The mint is separate as apparently it is mean and overtakes everything.

Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream
Adapted from Food 52
Serves 4

Equipment: Saucepan, frying pan, wooden spoon or spatula, knife

Ingredients:
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound prosciutto shank, finely diced (regular thin prosciutto works too)
4 shallots or 1/2 onion, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound fresh snap peas, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
3/4 pounds small pasta such as farfalle, penne, or orechiette
Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by chopping your vegetables. Put a pan of salted water on to boil.  Add pasta whenever it is boiling, but start to get your sauce ready in the meantime.  Do this by heating the olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan- when it is warm add the garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant but not burnt.  Add prosciutto and cook an additional 3-4 minutes (if using thin prosciutto cook only 1-2 minutes).  Add the shallots or onions and cook until they are beginning to soften, 3-4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

With about 3 or 4 minutes left until the pasta is ready, add the peas to the frying pan.  After 2-3 minutes add the cream and quickly bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add the cheese, stir in, and reduce heat to low.  Drain the pasta when it is ready, and toss everything together in a big bowl. Add the chopped mint, garnish with more Parmesan cheese, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Pasta with Snap Peas, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese
Serves 2

Equipment: Saucepan, frying pan, wooden spoon or spatula, knife

Ingredients:
6 oz fresh snap peas (really however much you want- I used half of a 12 oz bag), chopped
1/2 bunch fresh asparagus, tough ends discarded and then chopped
1 clove garlic
4 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/8 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Put salted pasta water on to boil and chop your vegetables.  Add the pasta to the water when it is boiling, and heat up olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  When the oil is warm add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Next add the snap peas and asparagus, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to the vegetables.  Turn down the heat if the vegetables begin to brown while you wait for the pasta to cook.  Drain pasta when it is ready, reserving some of the pasta water.  Immediately toss with the vegetables, goat cheese, basil, and Parmesan.  If the sauce needs thinning add some of the pasta water, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately with more Parmesan to garnish.

Mushroom Lasagna

23 Apr

Finshed mushroom lasagna!

The Spice household has gone away to the mountains in Virginia for Easter weekend, and while other members of the family have productive things to do (sorry Gina, that 25 pg essay you’re writing next to me looks fascinating), I decided to use this time and my parent’s food budget to make delicious things for all of us.  I wanted to make a large dish that I usually wouldn’t make for myself, and following the success of my vegetable lasagna decided to go the baked-pasta/lasagna route again.  I found this recipe while browsing through one of my idol Ina Garten’s cookbooks, and thought it fit the bill perfectly.  Once I saw that Smitten Kitchen has also tried and had great success with this, I was completely sold.

Mmmmushrooms

To say the lasagna lived up to expectations would be an understatement- it was delicious and the four of us easily polished off the entire thing.  This is simpler than most lasagnas, as the layers are only a bechamel sauce, sauteed mushrooms, and Parmesan, but the simplicity really lets all of the flavors meld together beautifully.  The creamy sauce and Parmesan highlight the mushrooms and I didn’t feel like it was missing meat or tomato sauce at all.  This took about 2 hours to make start to finish, but only about an hour of preparation before it goes in the oven, and this was without any help chopping or assembling from my dear family.  The one complaint I have was that it used quite a few pots and pans for something that seems so simple- this was mainly because Ina suggests you heat the milk before making the bechamel, which adds a step but is probably necessary when making such a large quantity of sauce. I added a clove of garlic as per Smitten Kitchen’s suggestion and did a mixture of cremini and portobello mushrooms, but otherwise kept the recipe intact.

Mushroom Lasagna
From Ina Garten

Equipment: Knife, Baking dish (8×12 or 9×13), large pot, saucepan, frying pan

Ingredients:
Salt
Olive oil
3/4 pound dried lasagna noodles
1 large clove garlic, minced
4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 pounds cremini or portobello mushrooms (I used 3 portobellos and the rest cremini)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375 (I waited to do this until after the noodles were cooked and bechamel started).  Bring a large pot of water to boil, with some salt and oil.  Add the noodles and cook for 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside- if you feel they are going to stick a lot drizzle a bit more oil on them once drained.

Make the bechamel/white sauce: Bring milk and garlic to a simmer in a saucepan or heat in the microwave.  Melt one stick of butter in a large pot (I reused the pot the noodles cooked in). When the foam from the butter has subsided, add the flour over low heat, and whisk constantly for about a minute.  Start adding the milk into this mixture a little bit at a time.  When you add the first bit of milk, the mixture may clump and you will think you have gone wrong.  You haven’t.  Just keep adding the milk and stirring after each addition until the milk is all added and you have a thick white sauce.  Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and adjust seasonings to taste.  Take off heat and set aside.

Prepare mushrooms:  Discard the stems of the portobellos and trim stems of creminis. Slice mushrooms into 1/4 inch thick pieces.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a frying pan or saucepan, and sautee half of the mushrooms with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, until they are releasing some liquid.  Remove those mushrooms into a bowl and repeat with 2 more tablespoons olive oil, butter, and remaining mushrooms.

To assemble:  Spread some sauce in the bottom of your baking dish, followed by a layer of noodles.  Then spread 1/4 of remaining sauce on top of noodles, followed by 1/3 of the mushrooms, and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Repeat this twice.  For the final layer, top the noodles with remaining white sauce and another 1/4-1/3 cup Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 45 minutes, until top is browned and sauce is bubbling.  If you can resist digging in right away, let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.  We did not let it rest and it was still excellent.

Cous Cous Salad and Simple Vinaigrette

30 Mar
Not wah cous cous, yum cous cous!

Cous cous always brings me back to my boarding school days, where we had a kitchen with a fridge, microwave, and kettle, but no hob (I actually don’t remember the American word for a hob- burner/burner ring perhaps?).  Since we had a kettle you could boil water and prepare pasta in the microwave, or, more easily, cous cous.  Cous cous and pesto was a very popular boarding school staple, and I still always buy it when I’m stocking up my kitchen since it’s a great accompaniment to meat or fish dishes, and also pretty filling on its own.  The other night I made a whole package of pre-seasoned cous cous to go with my teriyaki chicken tenders, and then used the cold leftovers to toss with some vegetables and reuse as a lunch salad.  I put some cherry tomatoes, avocado, and spinach in with the cold cous cous, then topped it all with my favorite simple vinaigrette.  Other than the possibility of the spinach/lettuce wilting a little if you over-dress this, it keeps very well in the fridge for a few days, so make a big batch and use it as a side dish or lunch all week!

The vinaigrette is what I always have in a glass beaker in the kitchen for whenever I get the urge to have a salad with whatever else I’m eating (last week I actually put a salad on a pizza. I know this defeats the purpose of a salad, but it was delish.)  I can’t really provide specific measurements, but will give an estimate below, and make sure to taste it and add some more oil, vinegar, etc, until it is right for you.  Then pour over salads, halved avocados, cous cous, whatever you want!  Oh and, a note on the cous cous.  Be careful when you open the package, those beads will get everywhere if they are spilled. Wah cous cous.

Cous Cous Salad
Serves 4 as side dish or lunch

Ingredients:
1 package Near East Cous Cous (the varieties with garlic/herb seasoning are good), or other cous cous with about 4 servings, cooked and cooled
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, diced
3 oz baby spinach
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette, recipe follows

Place cous cous, cherry tomatoes, and avocado in a large bowl and toss together, breaking up any large lumps of cous cous. Add the spinach drizzle with vinaigrette, then toss everything together again.  Taste and add more vinaigrette if needed.


Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, put through a garlic press or very finely minced
1 tablespoon lemon or orange juice
Salt and pepper

Put all ingredients in a mason jar or glass beaker and shake well.  Taste and adjust according to your own preference.

Classic Marinara Sauce

23 Jan

Yay homemade sauce! So impressive.

Italy is pretty.

Italian food is one of my favorite cuisines to eat, mainly because it involves so much pasta and cheese and sauces and general deliciousness.  My aunt and uncle have a cottage in Tuscany, and up until a few years ago my cousin also had a small apartment in Siena, which is easily my favorite city in Italy, although admittedly I’m biased by all of my idyllic vacations spent walking around the city eating gelato and drinking Campari soda while sitting on the main piazza. It is pretty hard to find Italian food anywhere in the U.S. that is as simple and fresh as the rustic food you would find in Siena or the villages in Tuscany, but that certainly won’t stop me from eating as much of it as possibly.  Sadly, I’m not sure of many restaurants here that serve wild boar stew or black truffle bruschetta (at least for less than about 15 dollars a serving), but luckily there are many widely avaliable recipes for simple meat preparations and sauces. Sidenote: wild boar is seriously delicious, but not the most reassuring thing to hear sniffling around the grape vines after dark when you are sleeping in a garage-turned-bedroom 20 feet away.

Vegetable pizza. Slightly non-pizza shaped, don't judge.

This is a recipe for a classic tomato marinara sauce from Giada de Laurentiis’ cookbook Everyday Italian.  I made this the other day in preparation for making a vegetable lasagna from the same book, which I will post very soon. You need to set aside a bit of time to make this, but other than chopping the vegetables all you have to do is let the sauce reduce for a while as you go about your day (doing more productive things than I tend to on a weekend, I’m sure).  I recommend making this whole recipe, which makes 8 cups of sauce, as you can freeze half of it, and it keeps well in the fridge for a week or so.  Since this is so simple it is very versatile- you could use it just on pasta, in a lasagna, or as a pizza sauce.  It is more chunky than a traditional marinara you might find in a jar, but trust me, this makes it even better.  I’ve given recipes for the sauce, as well as a pizza I made recently using the leftovers I had in the fridge.

Marinara Sauce
From Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis, makes 8 cups

Equipment: Large saucepan, knife, wooden spoon
Ingredients:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped (or one large onion)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 32-oz cans crushed tomatoes (or use whole tomatoes and crush them with your hands before adding)
2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.

Vegetable Pizza
Serves 1-2

Equipment: Sheet pan, knife
Ingredients:
8 oz pizza dough (this is one half a store-bought pizza dough, such as from Trader Joes)
1/2 to 1 cup marinara sauce (depending on how big the pizza turns out)
1 yellow squash or zucchini
2 oz sliced white mushrooms
About 1/4 of a 6 oz bag of baby spinach
Shredded Mozzarella cheese
Grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450. If the dough has been in the fridge, leave it to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes.  Chop the squash into thin rounds. Then spray the sheet pan with olive oil and stretch/roll the dough into a rectangular shape (it should be pretty thin). Lay the squash slices on the dough, followed by the mushrooms, and spread the spinach on top.  Top with a generous layer of mozzarella cheese, and grate a bit of Parmesan on top of that.  Cook at 450 for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is bubbling and crust is brown.