mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

tomato, tuna pasta dish . . .

DSCN8892I was browsing the NYTimes cooking section today and came upon this recipe by Julia Moskin: a tomato, tuna pasta dish. As I read through all the comments, there were cooks who didn’t like canned tuna fish with tomatoes and preferred mozzarella cheese instead. There were those who complained it wasn’t tasty enough and added more garlic, more lemon, and so on and so on. One comment caught my eye because instead of garden ripe tomatoes (which we all know are not in season yet,) she used a fresh marinara sauce.

So, to Whole Foods I went where I picked up a container of said marinara sauce, a box of fusilli pasta (spirals) and two pots of herbs (cilantro and thyme) to add to my other two that I potted up the other day (parsley and basil.) I couldn’t decide whether or not to make it for dinner tonight or tomorrow night until it was already 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

So, I decided to make the dish anyhow – even though I didn’t have hours to let the recipe mixture marinate for 3 hours. I figured that if we ate around 6:15, it would still have over an hour and a half to do its magic. Here are the things that I added: a finely minced garlic clove (on my new box grater which is so much easier to use than my 30 year old one with large holes;) grated lemon zest (which was optional) and some fresh lemon juice (a one inch slice;) two kinds of olives (green pimiento and kalamata – about a scant fourth cup of each; a LOT of fresh herbs cut up with a small pair of scissors (basil, cilantro, parsley;) and a healthy spoonful of capers.

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The canned tuna I bought at Whole Foods was “wild caught” tuna “with a line.” The marinara sauce was more runny than whole tomatoes cut up but it’s very tasty if you add a spoonful of sugar to it before using. I added some salt and pepper to the mixture and picked up a spoon to taste it with a little trepidation. WOW!! It tasted incredibly good!

When we’re about ready to eat supper, I’ll boil up some fusilli pasta and drain it well, add some freshly grated parmesan cheese to the hot pasta, and then, because there’s a lot of sauce, I’ll plate the pasta into our bowls and spoon the tomato tuna mixture on top and gently mix it together. This way, I can better control the ratio of sauce to pasta. Oh, and I sprinkled some crushed red pepper into the sauce before combining it with the pasta.

I’m happy to report that G. and I both enjoyed this new dish – and thought it was tasty and light – the lemon juice and zest in the sauce were just terrific! I’ll make this again in August when the first tomatoes start to ripen – or with freshly harvested (and hoarded) Supersweet 100 cherry tomatoes and Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. Can’t wait!

 

 

 

 

 

angel hair pasta with garlicky fava beans. . .

DSCN8879Tonight, I’m preparing a simple pasta dish with fava beans. If you have ever eaten fava beans, you know how delicate and tasty they can be. If you have ever prepared fava beans, you know how many steps it takes before those little nuggets of tender beans are ready for eating.

They’re in season right now and I found a handful of them at Whole Foods the other day. They’ve been in the fridge and I thought today is the day to prepare them, no matter what. First, the thick pod needs to be slit open with your fingers and the little pods of beans shelled out of the pods. Next the beans with their white opaque covering require being parboiled in boiling water for about five minutes. Once they are drained and rinsed under cold water, the final task of preparing them takes place: that is, pulling apart the white rubbery covering and shelling the tender bright green beans into a small bowl. I say small bowl because it takes a lot of fava beans in the pod to harvest a small cupful or handful of the fava beans to actually eat.

Be that as it may, I find the exercise rewarding, especially when I chop up two large cloves of garlic and heat them in some melted unsalted butter in a skillet and add the shelled, shelled beans in the mix to warm them up a little. I sprinkle on some truffle salt (yeah!) and a little black pepper. I scoop them up just when they are warm in the garlicky butter mix and hold them aside.

Then, I prepare the Alfredo sauce that I think I invented but probably not: I melt more butter into a clean skillet, sprinkle in a little flour and whisk it together. Then add some fresh light cream that I shake up beforehand just to make sure it’s creamy and pour some into the pan. I whisk the butter roue and cream so that it is a light consistency – not pasty – and then sprinkle in some shredded parmesan cheese. I taste it with a small spoon and it tastes pretty divine. Turn off the heat, pour it into a bowl and add a little more cream if it looks too thick.

When suppertime is near, I boil a pot of water with salt in it, cook about a third of a box of angel hair noodles and take it out after about five minutes of cooking time. I drain it WELL – because there’s nothing worse than soupy pasta to spoil the dish.

Once the pasta is well drained, I heat up the parmesan alfredo sauce in a large skillet, add the angel hair pasta and stir gently to combine. I taste for thickness of the sauce (not too) in relationship to the amount of parmesan cheese. I’ll add more cheese if it tastes too bland and more cream if needed.

Around the sides of the pasta, I’ll spoon the fava bean garlic mixture, sprinkle on some black pepper, chopped fresh parsley growing near the kitchen sink. and finally, some pieces of fresh basil, cut with scissors at the last minute.

If this doesn’t taste delicious, I don’t know what will. Happy Spring!

 

salad insalata . . .

fullsizeoutput_760A few days ago, I noticed an article in the NYTimes called “The best green salad I ever ate,” and had to try it out. This recipe calls for multiple kinds of greens (which I found at the local Vietnamese food market on Saturday.) When I brought them home, I soaked Boston lettuce, romaine and watercress in a large red mixing bowl, changed out the water a few times and stored them in a plastic bag in the fridge.

This morning, I took them out and cut the bases off, rinsing the leaves 3 times in tepid water, colder water and then cold water. I spun dried them in a salad spinner and put them into a fresh plastic bag to chill in the fridge.

I then made the salad dressing that called for adding warm water to the vinaigrette. Besides minced shallots and garlic, I added sherry wine vinegar, two kinds of mustard and some local honey that a piano customer gave G. from his own hives.

We ate the salad tonight and G. said it tasted “pure.”  It was tasty but it wasn’t the “best” green salad I ever had. With the remaining crisp greens in the fridge, I think I might add a little more honey and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the dressing.

If you want to try it, please let me know if you think it’s the “best green salad you ever ate.”

 

orange roast chicken with sweet potatoes. . .

DSCN8856Last week, I saw a post featuring a scrumptious-looking chicken tagine, made by my daughter, C. – and wanted to try something similar to it. Because I don’t have a tagine pot, but I thought I would roast the bird in a pan that would hold onions, carrots, sweet potatoes and golden raisins (G. loves those!)

So, instead of a long braise as a tagine which probably stews/steams the chicken, I opted for a roasted chicken with most of the same trimmings as the tagine recipe called for. For the small fresh chicken that I started with, I cut it into half, dried the skin and pan grilled the halves on both sides. I then added large pieces of cut up onion, carrots and peeled wedges of sweet potatoes. While it was sizzling on the stove, I zested a large navel orange on top of the bird and then broke apart the orange into juicy bits that I tucked into the pan around the vegetables and under the chicken. While the oven preheated to 400 degrees, I added a handful of golden raisins into the vegetables. Lastly, I spread some soft unsalted butter on the chicken and sprinkled it with truffle salt and pepper. Roasted for about 45 minutes. It looked divine!

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A small green salad with cherry tomatoes, red onion and a sparky vinaigrette completed our dinner.

 

 

 

roast beets, oranges, avocado & hazelnut supper . . .

DSCN8809As a fresh start this Spring, I’ve been reading about how to both lighten up our meals and making them more tasty. I wouldn’t go as far as to say we’re going vegetarian, but I’d like to expand possibilities that we’ll enjoy and reign in somen of our rich food consumption.

Tonight, I followed a recipe that I came across in “Gjelina” a cookbook from a restaurant located in Venice, California. Here’s the recipe I followed (and adapted:)51OkbwZQteL._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_

  1.  Roast cleaned six orange and dark red beets in a pot with a layer of water, covered with aluminum foil at 375 degrees for an hour and fifteen minutes. When done, I poured them into some cold tap water, skinned them with a vegetable peeler and cut them into bite size pieces.
  2. Peeled and harvested orange segments from a large navel orange and a blood orange. The “supreme” segments rested in a bowl with their juice.
  3. Made a dressing containing 2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar, 2 Tablespoons orange juice, 2 Tablespoons of honey, 4 Tablespoons of olive oil – whisked together and tasted for balance of sweet and sour flavors.
  4. In shallow bowls, I divided the beets of dark and light segments; sprinkled the beets with the orange segments, cut up a whole avocado and sliced up segments, half for each serving.
  5. During the cooking time for the beets, I heated up some roasted hazelnuts until golden brown, wrapping them securely in paper towel and crushing the warm nuts with the bottom of a small saucepan.
  6. Sprinkled the warm nuts on the vegetables and then poured the sherry vinegar dressing gently over the dish.

On the side, I cooked a box of parmesan couscous, adding a little more butter and parmesan cheese at the end while moistening it with a little more water.

So, our supper was simple, tasty and satisfying. We also had about half a quart of leftover vegetables to store away in the fridge to have for lunch tomorrow or to add to our dinner salad.

A good start to a fresh take – or a fresh start to a good take! More to come!

angel hair pasta primavera. . .

DSCN8798.jpgFor supper tonight, I made a tasty dish that required 2 skillets and a saucepan. It didn’t take a lot of effort and used ingredients I already had in the fridge.

  1. Angel hair pasta: boil a pot of water with salt; cook about 1/3 box of angel hair pasta until tender (about 6-8 minutes.) Drain well and rinse under cold water.
  2. In a large skillet, heat up butter and olive oil. Add to it chopped shallots and cook gently; add broccoli florets (1 cup) and snow peas (1/2 cup.) Saute until cooked, adding a little garlic salt and water to steam it when it’s almost cooked – remove from the heat.
  3. In a smaller skillet, melt a tablespoon and a half of butter. Add a tablespoon of flour and blend in with the melted butter. Add a little whole milk and thicken. Add 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese, blend and then add about 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Hold until pasta is cooked and well drained. Add pasta (cut up to make handling easier) to the sauce and mix well. Remove from heat.
  4. Place the vegetables over med-hi heat again and add about a cup of frozen petite peas and stir until almost cooked. Then add a cup of pre-cooked shrimp (tails removed) until shrimp, peas, broccoli and snow peas are heated through and steaming.

Plate in bowls: add the pasta in Alfredo sauce first; then strain and add vegetable shrimp mixture on top. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese. It was tasty, not too heavy or thick and the fresh greens reminded us that Spring is here!

 

ricotta gnocchi in Meyer lemon sauce. . .

DSCN8782Today, I picked up a couple of handfuls of fresh ricotta gnocchi at Whole Foods. I first thought I’d use some homemade tomato sauce that was in the freezer. Then, as dinnertime grew closer, I thought I’d make an alfredo sauce with parmesan, Meyer lemon zest and juice.

Before I started the sauce, I heated up some unsalted butter and sauteed half a chopped shallot until golden. Added half a bag of baby spinach and cooked it until soft. Sprinkled a little ground nutmeg on top. Put the spinach into a dish and rinsed out the skillet.

To the clean, dried skillet, I added a tablespoon of butter, a tablespoon or so of flour sprinkled to make a bechamel sauce and smoothed the flour until it was blended. Added a splash of whole milk – would have used cream if I had it, but thought it might okay with freshly grated parmesan, a drop of honey and the Meyer lemon zest and juice. I also added a swath of truffle salt. Yum!

It took a little tasting to get the proportion of lemon juice and parmesan cheese to taste right – but it came out really well. I turned off the heat under the sauce. In the meantime, I trimmed and cooked artichokes from Trader Joe’s in a large pot.

When ready to eat, we took our time eating the artichokes first, dipped in a curry mayonnaise dip of Hellmann’s, curry powder and beau monde powder. Once we were enjoying the hearts, I turned the boiling water up for cooking the gnocchi. Into the salted water, the gnocchi cooked and rose to the top, added a glass of cold water and it rose again. When I was certain the pasta was cooked, I drained it really well, shaking the colander over the sink, and added it gently into the alfredo sauce. Spooned over the hot pasta, I plated it into our shallow bowls and added the sauteed spinach on the side. More parmesan was grated over the top and our dinner was ready. Yum!

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“baked spinach artichoke pasta” . . .

DSCN8769Every once in awhile, I look at the NYT cooking suggestions for the week. This dish looked interesting: shell pasta with spinach and artichoke hearts in a cream sauce and parmesan cheese. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

At the store, it took me awhile to find medium pasta shells on the bottom shelf – couldn’t get over how many different shapes of pasta there available, just in a grocery store! I already had a pack of fresh baby spinach to finish up in the fridge. I picked up a can of Cento quartered artichokes in water and a jar of Prego light Alfredo sauce instead of 2 cups of heavy cream called for in the recipe.

In a skillet, I cooked the fresh spinach with chopped garlic in olive oil and a pat of unsalted butter. Took it out and put in a bowl. Reheated the skillet and cut up more garlic – in more olive oil and butter, I drained the artichoke hearts really well and then pressed them in a clean paper towel to release all the water. Then, I sauteed them until golden brown and sprinkled them with some parmesan cheese. Added the spinach back in and combined the two vegetables.

I boiled a cup of dried medium pasta shells for about ten minutes until they were between al dente and tender. Drained them well too before heating up the jar of Prego alfredo sauce and adding the pasta. Mixed gently together with some more parmesan cheese (2 tablespoons.)

In a white fluted oval casserole sprayed with Pam, I placed the spinach and artichoke hearts on the bottom and then poured the pasta in sauce on top. With a large spoon, I gently mixed the ingredients together and sprinkled some parmesan cheese on top. ( I know there sounds like a lot of cheese in this dish but mostly small sprinkles of cheese. . . )

I put the casserole in a 350 degree oven for almost half an hour. I wanted to see if the proportion of pasta to sauce was good – not too cheesy – along with the spinach and artichoke hearts. The balance was good – and a little salty although I didn’t add any salt: might have been the sauce or the parmesan cheese?

glorified pasta with shrimp . . .

fullsizeoutput_67bThe other day at Whole Foods, I bought some fresh pasta: a nest of “lemon parsley” fettucine. Fancy, huh? I thought I’d try it out with an alfredo sauce and fresh spinach and shrimp on top.

The pasta takes about 9-11 minutes to cook. While the water is boiling, I’ll make the sauce: In a skillet, I’ll melt half a stick of unsalted butter, add a cup of heavy whipping cream and half a pack of Philadelphia cream cheese. After it has melted together and combined, I’ll add a teaspoon of finely chopped garlic, Lawry’s garlic salt and a little cracked pepper and nutmeg.

In a separate skillet, I’ll melt more butter and cook some chopped shallot and sliced fresh Shitake mushroom. Be sure to cook the mushrooms through and through. Take them out of the skillet and to more melted butter, cook large peeled and deveined shrimp in chopped garlic and sprinkle a little dried parsley on the shrimp until it is just cooked and still tender. Add the mushrooms back into the shrimp and stir in two handfuls of baby spinach. Stir until the spinach is wilted with the shrimp.

Drain the fettucine very well and stir it into the alfredo sauce to combine. In large shallow bowls, plate the alfredo fettucine and spoon the spinach shrimp over the top. Hand grate parmesan on top and serve.

 

Yep, there must be enough high cholesterol ingredients in this dish to use up your quota for a month! But, what the heck, you only live once and besides, daylight savings time will take away an hour this weekend, right?! So, enjoy!

grilled brie and apple sandwich for lunch. . .

DSCN8754While G. went outside to clearing the snow accumulation this morning, I prepared our lunch of grilled sandwiches. His was grilled black forest ham and cheddar cheese with dijon mustard. Mine was brie cheese and thin slices of honey crisp apple.

Simple to make and tasty!