It was at the end of a long three weeks of baking, prepping, shopping, comparing prices and shopping again for a women’s conference luncheon (for 300!), when we had the occasion to have over some family who had come into town unexpectedly. What to serve? While elaborate dishes can be fun to make if you are in the right mood, I was not in the right mood for such a recipe. So my husband and I opened up our brains and creativity to pull together what we call Pasta Jumble. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it contains just about whatever you have in your refrigerator. But it all starts with a box of small, shaped pasta. My favorite is campanelle–a trumpet-shaped pasta with a fluted edge, but do try and keep in your pantry interesting shaped pastas. They go on sale quite often.
This may vary depending on what vegetables and other items you have in your fridge; I’ll list what has gone into the above dish. This serves 6-8, amply.
1 lb. box shaped pasta (this is “campanelle”)
1 bell pepper, red or yellow
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 white or yellow onion
8 oz. frozen white corn
about 10 Spanish olives (pimimiento-stuffed green olives), sliced (We usually use 1/3 small can of chopped black olives, but had run out. So we substituted.)
1/4 pound good-quality bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4″ strips
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped into small pieces (about 1/2″ dice)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, cut into smaller pieces (about 1/4″ dice, approximately)
2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken (we buy it at Costco, take it off the bone and pack it into freezer bags for a quick meal–one chicken yields about 4 bags)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper
red wine vinegar
Boil pasta until nearly tender (al dente), drain well, then place into large mixing bowl. While pasta cooks, fry bacon until cooked, but not dark or too crisp; drain on paper towels. And while that cooks, melt butter and olive oil together and add onion and bell pepper; cook until tender, about 5-8 minutes.
Add corn, olives, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, black beans, cooked bacon, sauteed vegetables, fresh tomatoes to the pasta, and toss lightly to mix.
A proper vinaigrette could be made here, but instead I’ll include the cheater method: glob some olive oil over the mixture (about 1/4 cup), two to three shakes of vinegar (roughly 2 Tablespoons), a squirt of mustard, salt and pepper, and stir. Add cayenne to taste (we’re wimpy–about 1/4 teaspoon for this amount). Add more salt and pepper if needed.
This year for Christmas we gave all our children panini grills. Why? Because we like ours so much. It wasn’t expensive–in the $35 range–and it seems to work fine.
But before we had one, I used two pans and big can of food. Improvise!
Basics are: buy good bread, creamy-melty cheese (buffalo mozzarella or baby swiss). Brush one side with real olive oil, load it up, place another oiled piece of bread on top (oil sides out to the grill), then grill, pressing down with the handle to compress the sandwich. We keep a spatula nearby to make sure the oiled bread doesn’t come shooting out the front of the hot grill.
First Favorite Combination: Cheese, Fresh Basil Leaves, Roma Tomato. This tastes just like summer. Really.
Before Grilling–all lined up
Next Favorite Combination: Cheese, Sauteed Apples, Cranberries, Prosciutto and Sugared Walnuts. I subscribe to a menu from Olive & Gourmando, an eatery in Montreal, Canada which serves lots of panini. This was one of their combinations.
If you are lucky enough to know someone with an apple tree in their yard, beg for some of their late-harvest Granny Smith apples. Cut them up into thin slices, saute lightly in about 1 Tablespoon of real butter and some sliced cranberries. Add a dash of cinnamon.
Bread loaded with apples, prosciutto, walnuts and cheese.
Don’t you love how the apples are pinky on the edges from the cranberries?
Recently my sister came to visit and while I was more than happy to go out for dinner every night (my husband was gone and I like doing that), there came a time when we were both ready to stay in. What to cook? I’d just been reading Dorie Greenspan’s blog, where she gave the recipe for her Beggar’s Linguini, from her new book Around My French Table. I’m really enjoying this cookbook–a good investment.
This sounded great to both of us, and I already had most of the ingredients. Basically it’s a sauce made from browned butter, golden raisins, pistachios and chopped almonds, tossed with some parmesan and some grated orange rind. It has a rich, yet not overly heavy, taste. I made it again the next week for Dave and we were both angling to have the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Cynthia and I served it with fresh broccoli, lightly marinated salmon, grilled on the barbeque. Since Ms. Greenspan has already printed the recipe on her blog, I don’t feel the need to reproduce it here. Click on the link to get the story of how she found this, and the recipe. However, even though she says it doesn’t reheat well–I liked it fine the next day for lunch.
This is no rocket science.
Buy chocolate blobs at Michaels (I think they have three different flavors), or melting chocolate bricks (Stater’s Brothers), or melting chocolate cups (grocery store).
Buy pretzel rods (I found Snyders at Walmart and at Stater’s). Look at bags and buy the bag with the least broken sticks–but after being dipped, they’re good too. Notice the mess–you can always clean up later.
Buy sprinkley things. Buy skinny bags for pretzels (Michaels). Follow the pictures below.
My daughter likes to use a tall cup. Before laying them down, take a spoon and stroke the chocolate off one side, then lay the pretzel down on that side. If you don’t stroke some off–it makes a gigantic puddle. Sometimes I throw the cake sprinkles on right now.
Take a fork, dip it into the contrasting chocolate and wiggle it over the pretzel rods. A thinner (warmer) chocolate consistency is better. My mother just ate her last two from Christmas, so obviously they keep a long time.
The ONLY tricky thing here is not over-microwaving the chocolate. Then you have sludge. If this happens, stir in a spoonful of plain shortening into the chocolate, stirring well. You may have to add a couple of spoonfuls if you’ve really nuked the chocolate too long. But that should fix it.
Then after they’re set (doesn’t take too long), load them up into their little bags and tie the top with a ribbon.
When I saw the movie Julie/Julia, I really wanted that recipe for the bruschetta Julie and her husband eat in the first scenes. Of course, he was acting, but the way he went over the moon for the crisp slices of baguette topped with fresh tomato made it all the more appealing.
We’d had some “bruschetta pomodora” together, Dave and I, on our last trip to Italy in Montepulciano–a little town in the hills (above).
I’d also had a wonderful version earlier, while lunching in Florence (above). All of those appeared to depend on fresh tomatoes (not grocery store), good quality bread, and high-grade olive oil, and not much else.
Fast forward to today. A perfect trio of happenings all conspired to deliver to our dinner plates the same meal. First, some ciabatta bread from Kneaders Bakery in Orem, Utah had survived the trip home, and after a sojourn in the freezer, Dave pulled it out trying to decide what to do with it. Second, our neighbor, Julie, had too many tomatoes and brought over two large red toms along with a handful of little yellow pears tomatoes. Third, a version of this recipe appeared in the Sunday Magazine and I ripped it out immediately.
2 large red tomatoes, handful of golden pear tomatoes, or 2 lbs. assorted heirloom/garden tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed through a press (if you do that, scrape what’s left behind, and press it through again)
1/4 to 1/2 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced (adjust as needed–we used about 10 leaves from our garden plant)
3 Tbsp red-wine vinegar (or several splashes)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and fresh pepper
Place the tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil and the basil into a medium bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
Prepare the crostini. You can either follow the directions in the linked recipe (it’s on this site), or grill it on the outside barbeque grill, or do what Dave did: lay out the thinly sliced bread (about 3/8″ thick) on a cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil, and broil under high heat until golden brown and crisp. He took out the center crostini that were done first and redistributed the others more evenly under the heat.
Build your bruschetta: mound the tomatoes, including some of their juices, up onto the bread and eat immediately. We made each delicious serving at the time of eating, as the bread quickly soaks up the juices and would get soggy if it sat at all.
Optional: add in about 1/2 thinly sliced red onion. We decided that our servings in Italy didn’t have onion, so we left it out.
Another Optional: place a slice of fresh mozzerella cheese (the kind that’s sold with liquid around it–a soggy looking thing) on top of the crostini before you place the tomatoes over it. We had that, and the meal was amazing. And we weren’t even acting!
History of the Terms (from Wikipedia):
Bruschetta (Italian pronunciation: [brusˈketta]) is an appetizer from central Italy whose origin dates to at least the 15th century. It consists of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Variations may include toppings of spicy red pepper, tomato, vegetables, beans, cured meat, and/or cheese; the most popular recipe outside of Italy involves basil, fresh tomato, garlic and onion or mozzarella. Bruschetta is usually served as a snack or appetizer.
And this interesting note: Following a semantic shift, some Americans use the word “bruschetta” to refer to the topping instead of the dish. Many grocery store chains in the United States sell bottled “bruschetta,” which is typically tomatoes, onion, garlic, and herbs.
Definitely not as good as the one we enjoyed tonight.
I first read this recipe in the New York Times, in a special article on summer salads with recipes by Martha Rose Shulman. I subjected Dave, my husband, to a series of these, and he declared this one to be a winner. It’s pretty–green and red–and crunchy, but not a wildly out of control crunch–just pleasant fresh vegetable munching. While this is a summer salad, I could also see it served as cold side dish at a holiday buffet, as the colors are so beautiful. Regarding the “optional” feta cheese: we tried it both ways–with and without. Adding the feta cheese brings a creaminess, a certain “mouth” satisfaction to the dish. I recommend it.
For the salad:
1 cup quinoa, cooked (I made it with chicken broth, but water works as well. Click **here** for basic quinoa cooking directions.)
1/2 of a 16-ounce bag of WHITE frozen corn
1 small red onion (about 1/3 cup), cut in small dice
1 red bell pepper, cut in small dice
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery, from the tender inner stalks
4 or 5 radishes, sliced
1/2 cup fresh or thawed frozen edamame
2 ounces mild feta, cut in small dice (about 1/2 cup), or crumbled. I buy the bricks, then crumble it.
1/2 jalapeño chile, seeds and membranes removed, minced finely
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 small lime, depending on size)
1 garlic clove, finely minced or pureed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Soak the onion in cold water to cover for five minutes. Drain, rinse and drain on paper towels. **I have no idea why this step is here, but I did it. Must be some kitchen chemistry.
Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and toss with the salad. Serve.
Yield: Serves four main dish, and six side dish servings.
Advance preparation: The quinoa freezes well and the assembled salad will keep for a day in the refrigerator.
Here’s our version. I served it with a delicious foccacia from the local bakery, which was topped with tomatoes, potatoes and dill. We were full after our meal, and our leftovers the next day were even better.
Nutritional information per serving (four servings): 359 calories; 18 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 43 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams dietary fiber; 25 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during cooking); 10 grams protein
First off, this is taken from the Los Angeles Times, from an article written about the Immaculate Heart Center and their new cookbook. That’s just to keep the copyright gods squared away. I think I’d like to buy this cookbook as this recipe was such an intriguing and interesting standout, that I can’t wait to try some of their others.
I’ve cooked so much with the Lemon Vinaigrette recipe on this site, that the shift of the acidic flavor in this one to an apple cider vinegar was very refreshing and I quite liked it. Where to buy Lentils de Puy, the small French lentils called for? Amazingly, my Ralph’s supermarket has been carrying them in the specialty food section. They cook up quickly and keep their shape. I’ve become a fan. If you want to store this for another day, I’d not add the tomatoes until you serve it.
Total time: 50 minutes, plus cooling and chilling times
1 cup French green or brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup white wine vinegar or cider vinegar, plus more for drizzling
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and strained
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup fresh parsley
2 cups cherry or other little tomatoes, halved
Place the lentils in a large saucepan and fill with water to cover by 2 inches. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes, then drain the lentils and transfer them to a medium bowl. Season the lentils with one-fourth teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper and drizzle over about 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Taste the lentils, and adjust the seasoning or vinegar, or both, if desired. Set aside the lentils to cool, stirring occasionally.
In a large saucepan, combine the rinsed quinoa with 2 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pot and reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cooking until the grain is soft and translucent, about 15 to 20 minutes. The water should be absorbed; if not entirely absorbed, drain any excess. Remove from heat and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of oil on the grain and stir gently.
In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, one-fourth cup vinegar, one-half cup olive oil, one-fourth teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper. Taste and add additional seasoning if desired.
Stir the cooled lentils in with the quinoa in the large bowl. Stir in the dressing, then cover and chill the salad for at least 1 hour.
Just before serving, stir in the mint, parsley and tomatoes and check the seasoning. Drizzle with a bit more vinegar and oil.
Each serving: 387 calories; 13 grams protein; 40 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams fiber; 20 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 3 grams sugar; 202 mg. sodium.
“A Place at the Table” is available for $35 plus shipping at http://www.immaculateheartcenter.org.
It was about 104 degrees that day in Montreal. We were pretty weary tourists and it was only one o’clock in the afternoon. We found Olive et Gourmando (351 rue St-Paul ouest) and stood in line only briefly before being awarded a table. Then we went up and chose from the menu written above the counter on a blackboard, or looked at the specials lined up in their case. We both pointed to this salad because it looked so fresh, so refreshing. We handed them our ticket with our table number written on it, and in about 5 minutes they delivered our food. I took a photo and hoped to recreate it at home. I think I have a reasonable facsimile. It goes together in about 10 minutes. Serve with a good French loaf, or that package of mini-pita pockets from Trader Joe’s from the back of the freezer (which we did).
Have on hand:
1 14 oz. can garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1 medium zucchini, scrubbed and cut into 1/2″ chunks
thin slices from the end of a washed fennel bulb, about 3/4 of a medium bulb
red grapes, about 15, sliced in half
roasted red peppers in a jar (from Trader Joe’s, or equivalent)–about 3-4 pieces, julienned
feta cheese, about one-half of an 8 oz. brick, crumbled and rinsed (about 1 cup’s worth)
flat leaf parsley (also called Italian parsley), chopped coarsely
curly leaf parsley, chopped finely
one recipe of Lemon Vinaigrette
extra olive oil for sauteing
As ingredients are assembled, place into medium bowl (in no particular order), although you may want to keep the tomatoes separate and put on top, in case you want to keep this for another day.
In a small skillet, pour 1 Tablespoon olive oil and lightly saute the zucchini until just barely golden. You want them firm, but with the edge of crispness taken off. Repeat for the fennel slices, so they are on the verge of soft. Place into bowl. Add in all of the rest of the ingredients; toss with vinaigrette and serve.
This is mine, below. Theirs is above (and prettier, with all that parsley).
When I was in high school, our Spanish teacher, Miss Azevedo, corralled the class to join her at another teacher’s house for some real paella. She’d provide the ingredients, one of which was saffron. We talked about this spice as she stood and stirred the seafood, the broth and the rice together, and she admitted that she couldn’t afford the REAL saffron. Instead she had a packet of “fake” saffron that she’d bought in Spain on her last trip home and brought it back with her.
That idea–that saffron was expensive beyond belief–stuck with me for more than 40 years. This belief was confirmed by sightings of jars of saffron in the store–a regular sized jar with a thread or two of saffron for a whopping price. It never made it into my spice cupboard, until one day in Trader Joe’s I saw Spanish saffron in a small jar with a cork for a lid at a very affordable price. I bought two.
So when I went hunting for a new recipe to make tonight with my frozen Costco halibut steaks, I found this in Mark Bittman’s book How to Cook Everything. Creamy Saffron Sauce. Given that I was now the proud possessor of some actual saffron threads (as well as having leftover Greek yogurt from dinner at the beginning of the week) I was in business. We enjoyed it–hope you will too, as it’s another quick and easy dinner.
1 cup yogurt, preferable whole milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
small pinch cayenne pepper
1 shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or more to taste (roughly 1-2 Tablespoons)
In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt with some salt and pepper, the cayenne and the shallot. Rub the saffron threads between your fingers to crush them, then stir it into the yogurt miexture. Let sit for about 20 minutes. [It's like watching a Polaroid photo develop--the sauce starts to turn this fabulousy yummy shade of yellow from the saffron. I kept giving it a whisk or two to help it along.] Alternatively you can let it sit for up to 2 hours in the refridgerator. Just before serving, add the lemon juice, then taste and adjust the seasoning. It mainly needed more salt, in my estimation.
2 halibut steaks (about 3/4 pound)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
If halibut is frozen, let thaw, then rinse and pat dry.
Sprinkle the halibut with salt and pepper. Put the butter and olive oil in a large [nonstick] skillet over medium heat. When the butter melts, swirl it around the pan, then add the fish and cook gently, turning once or twice until a thin-bladed knife meets little resistance when inserted into the thickest part; this weill generally be less than 10 minutes.
Same dish! Different position! It’s so you can see the Pearl Couscous up close, and see the pine nuts and sultanas–which are really just golden raisins. You can buy all three of these items at Trader Joe’s (my apologies if you don’t have one. . . Mom? Let me know and I’ll send you some).
Look for this box. It’s called “Israeli Couscous” on the box, but I knew if I put that in a post, I’d be deluged with spam–not the eating kind. Next to it is a bag of Toasted Pignolias (toasted pinenuts). Don’t buy the un-toasted kind–this is so much better.
1 8 oz. box pearl couscous, aka Israeli Couscous
1 shallot, finely minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
handful (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup) of pinenuts (can substitute shelled pistachios if you like)
handful of sultanas (golden raisins–I buy those at Trader Joe’s as well–much fresher)
1 can chicken broth (about 1 3/4 cup)
Melt the butter and olive oil together in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the finely minced shallot and stir until tender, but not brown. Add the package of couscous, stirring for 1-2 minutes until it is well coated and blended with the shallots. Pour in a can of chicken broth, cover with a lid, and simmer over low heat for about 10-12 minutes until pearl couscous is tender. You may need an extra minute or two–taste to see if it’s ready.
When couscous is tender, stir in the sultanas and the pinenuts, and recover for another 2-3 minutes (approx) until the raisins plump up and look integral to the mixture. Yield: About 4 servings.