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Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

You guys!  It RAINED today!  Ok, fine, it was just a drizzle, but I am thrilled–thrilled–I tell you!  And when it rains, you know what that means.

Soup!  Hearty, comforting, fortifying soup that warms the toes and makes you feel all cozy on the inside.  And, from my last post, you know I’m on a mission to eat more vegetables on a daily basis.   An easy way to do that is to make a soup loaded with vegetables and plenty of flavor from chicken stock and a fat dollop of pesto.

The great thing about minestrone is there really isn’t a set recipe–use some seasonal vegetables, add some beans (Canellini is the usual, but red kidney beans or fava beans would work well), tomatoes, a little pasta or rice, and some homemade chicken or vegetable stock and you’ll have yourself a fine soup.   And, once all your vegetables are chopped, this comes together really quickly–especially if you’re cheating like me and using canned beans (gasp!).  This recipe makes about 4 quarts–about 8 dinner-sized servings of soup, but it freezes very nicely for lunches.

BBB Garden Minestrone Soup

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 2 leeks, sliced into half-moons
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup peeled and sliced carrots
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large red bell pepper, 1/2″ dice
  • 5 small Yukon Gold or Red potatoes, 1/2″ dice (appx. 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-14 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced into half-moons
  • 1-14 ounce can Canellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup whole wheat pasta–any small pasta will do, such as shells or fusilli
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Optional:  Pesto or grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Heat a large soup pot on medium heat and add oil.  Add onions, leeks, celery, carrots, thyme and bay leaf.  Sweat vegetables for 4-6 minutes, until onions are translucent and glossy.
  2. Add bell pepper, potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, and chicken stock.  Raise heat to medium-high and bring soup to a low boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add zucchini, beans and pasta and simmer for another 10-12 minutes, until pasta is tender.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with pesto or Parmesan cheese.

(I told you it was easy!)

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There are certainly days where the thought of spending more than 30 minutes in the kitchen making dinner makes me feel kind of cranky.  We’re still recovering from a busy weekend and my focus was on laundry this afternoon, so it was all about something that would turn out a tasty dinner without much fuss. 

The great thing about this pasta is that everything that goes in this dish, for the most part, are shelf-stable items (well, yes, once the jars are open, they do need to go into the fridge) so you can be prepared to make this at the drop of a hat when, say, the mountains of dirty towels and socks are threatening to collapse and bury small children alive and making a meal is barely a thought in your head.  Whole-wheat spaghetti, sundried tomatoes packed in oil, capers, pine nuts, garlic and breadcrumbs all come together quickly and painlessly, and it pairs perfectly with either a lightly dressed salad or roasted asparagus. 

Sundried Tomato, Caper & Pine Nut Spaghetti

  • 1 box whole wheat spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 1/4 cups breadcrumbs
  • Grated parmesan, optional
  1. Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil and cook whole wheat spaghetti to box instructions (8-10 minutes).
  2. While the pasta is boiling, heat a large skillet on medium heat and add olive oil.
  3. Add garlic, thyme, and pine nuts to skillet, and saute until garlic is lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add sundried tomatoes and capers and stir until heated through, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add breadcrumbs and stir in until crumbs have absorbed the oils, and toss occasionally to toast breadcrumbs.
  6. Drain pasta and rinse;  add to skillet and toss spaghetti with sauce until well coated with breadcrumbs. 
  7. Serve with parmesan if desired.

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pesto1

There’s a booth at the Calabasas Farmer’s Market, tucked way in the back, that’s easy to walk past if you’re not paying attention;  they caught my eye a few weeks ago, and they have quickly become one of my favorite stops on Saturday morning, as they sell hefty, fat bunches of fresh herbs, 6 for $5.  You can mix and match, so I always come home with basil, parsley, cilantro and usually some green onions or radishes (also on the 6-for-5 table).  This time, since I had planned for making tomato sauce to freeze this week, I needed basil, and went ahead and bought more than I could ever use in a batch of sauce.

A quick check of my fridge confirmed that I had everything I needed:  it was time to make some pesto.

Pesto may be really one of the few things I can just keep on eating by the spoonful.  There’s just something about the fresh green hint-of-anise of  basil, the hot bite of raw garlic, the earthiness of the pine nuts and the sharpness from the Parmesan (or Pecorino, if you’re being a traditionalist) that is absolutely delightful to me.  It’s remarkably versatile, from a pasta sauce to being stirred into a steaming bowl of minestrone, or mixed in with mayonnaise to make a sandwich or a burger more interesting.

If you’re up for doing something the way it was once done, you can follow the description noted by Waverly Root in The Food of Italy:

The soul of pesto is basil, and the patience and care characteristic of Genoese cooking appear from the very start of pesto making in the meticulous preparation of the basil. It is first deprived of its stems and central veins; only the deveined leaves go into the mortar in which it will be ground. Pesto makers are adamant on this point: no one can chop the ingredients fine enough; they must be ground, and, it is specified, in a marble mortar (with a pestle “of good wood,” one recipe adds, but does not insist on any specific sort of wood). You begin by crushing the basil leaves carefully with coarse kitchen salt and a clove of garlic. The tender green color of this mixture is your guide for the rest of the process. It should be maintained as the other ingredients are added; if it weakens, put in more basil. Next you add equal parts of young Sardinian pecorino cheese and old Parmesan (if you want a stronger taste, increase the proportion of the sharp Sardinian cheese; if you want it milder, decrease it). As you grind this with the rest, add olive oil (preferably Ligurian) drop by drop until you have achieved the desired density (you may want it thicker for soup than for pasta). The last ingredient is pine nuts (some persons use walnuts instead), which must also be crushed so thoroughly that they become so indistinguishable part of the whole pungent creamy mass.

Or, pull out the food processor.

pesto2

This is one of those things I really don’t use a recipe, but this is a pretty basic ratio:

3 cups fresh washed basil leaves

2 cloves of garlic (I like mine garlicky, I’ll use about 4-6 cloves)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

1/2 cup toasted Pine Nuts

1/2 to 1 cup olive oil (use less if you want more of a paste)

salt to taste (expect around 1/2 to 1 tsp)

Put basil, garlic, pine nuts, and cheese in processor and pulse while drizzling in olive oil until pesto is a desired consistency.  Stir in salt and use immediately, or pour into an air-tight container.  To keep your pesto from turning dark on the exposed surface, pour a layer of olive oil on top, just enough to cover the pesto fully. It will be good in your refrigerator for a week, or if you plan to use it later, pesto can easily be frozen.

pesto3

Make a batch before basil goes completely out of season.



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One of the things that Choo and I love to do during the summer is to go to the Hollywood Bowl.  There’s something about sitting outside to see a great show, and it seems that no matter how hot the day has been, once the sun sets behind the hills, the air cools just enough to want you to snuggle up with your sweetie.  Besides, half the fun is being able to pack a picnic basket loaded with goodies and wine (one of my favorite summertime wines:  New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc).

This was one of the items I’ve made for a Hollywood Bowl picnic, and yes, it was just one of those things that I pulled a bunch of stuff out of the fridge and threw it together.  And, it’s a great dish to make when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen–it’s just a few minutes of boiling water to cook the pasta, and that’s it.

tortellinisalad

It looks fancy, but it’s so much easier than you think.

Tortellini Salad, serves 2 as a light main dish

1 9 ounce package fresh Cheese Tortellini

1/2 cup Marinated Artichoke Heart quarters, cut in half (don’t rinse!)

1/4 cup Kalamata Olives (or any other olives that you like will do just fine)

1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, preferrably Sun Gold or Sweet 100, cut in half

2 Green Onions, sliced finely

1/4 cup fresh Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley, chopped

3-4 sprigs fresh Thyme, leaves removed from any woody stems

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper, as desired

Cook tortellini to package directions (boiling water, about 3 minutes), drain, rinse, and cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, toss together artichoke hearts, olives, cherry tomatoes, green onions, parsley, and thyme; squeeze juice of 1/2 a lemon over the vegetables.  Add tortellini, and drizzle in a few tablespoons of olive oil–just enough to coat everything lightly–season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss again.  It can be eaten right away, but it’s best if it sits in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.

This is particularly good served with grilled chicken, or if you’re looking to make this a more substantial dish, chopped salami and/or fresh mozzarella can be added.  Fire-roasted red bell peppers or grilled asparagus would also be delicious and pretty tossed in, if you’re looking for more vegetables to add.

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