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

Tag: mushrooms

zucchini mushroom pasta for dinner . . .

DSCN0656DSCN0655I’ve been reducing the amount of red meat that we eat although it isn’t always easy. For instance, I usually use meatballs made of beef for spaghetti. Sometimes, though, I’ll rescue some zucchini from the vegetable bin and some mushrooms reaching out to be cooked: you know, still good to eat but not looking their best.

Since there was a sale this morning at the grocery store of three jars of Ragu traditional spaghetti sauce for $5, I thought I’d use half of one for dinner tonight (and freeze the rest.) Into the cart went a box of angel hair pasta as well. I already have a wedge of parmesan to grate on top when we’re ready to eat.

I trimmed the zucchini ends off, rinsed them under cold water and sliced them in three, lengthwise. Then, I piled them up on each other and cut narrow strips on a slant with a sharp knife. The mushrooms took a quick rinse also and I cut them in thick slices, sauteeing them in a little butter and oil until golden brown. I set them aside in a small dish and heated up some olive oil, cooking the zucchini on medium-high heat until they wllted slightly, sprinkling them with some Lawry’s garlic salt.

I let the cooked zucchini and mushrooms cool on the stove until it was supper time. I often do some sous-chef cooking during the day which provides a head start to putting dinner on the table. This is especially convenient on evenings that G. goes to visit his mother at the nursing home. When we’re almost ready to eat, I’ll boil a pot of water and cook up some angel hair pasta, heat up half a jar of the Ragu sauce separately and plate a couple of wood-fired pottery plates with a slight bowl to them.

The well-drained angel hair will go into the bowls first. A thin layer of sauce on top, the reheated zucchini and mushrooms on top and another ladle of sauce around the edge of the pasta. The cheese grater and chunk of parmesan goes in its own bowl for us to help ourselves at the table.

Bon Appetit!


spinach salad with bacon and eggs. . .

NYTimes photo of Melissa Clark's salad. . .

NYTimes photo of Melissa Clark’s salad. . .

I’ve been avoiding eggs for weeks while taking a prescription to get my cholesterol numbers down. Later this morning, I’m visiting my doctor and will see whether my numbers have improved after six weeks of egg and animal protein semi-fasting.

Afterwards tonight, I plan to have a light dinner of a robust spinach salad made from Melissa Clark’s recipe that appeared in the NYTimes today. It looks like just what the doctor didn’t order – but which I’m going to have as a mini treat for having been so disciplined. Then tomorrow, back on the wagon again!

I remember making a warm spinach salad with thickly sliced fresh mushrooms and bacon in the 80’s. This one reminds me of that same recipe, even the vinaigrette ingredients. Maybe I’ll do that and skip the eggs tonight, whaddya think?

a ‘not-turkey’ dinner . . .

Dinner 4

Tonight I prepared a one-dish supper similar to Japanese Sukiyaki:

  1. Sauteed fresh scallions, garlic, spinach, bean sprouts and snow peas- added a little soy/mirin/dashi sauce; set aside.
  2. Soaked 2 packets of dried cellophane noodles until soft, cut into pieces and sauteed in clean pan with a little vegetable oil – added 1 tablespoon soy and mirin with a dab of sugar – mixed well and set it aside. dinner 1
  3. Marinated two thin-sliced ribeye pieces of beef in soy and mirin – heated grill on top of stove, seared over high heat, took off grill and added a little light brown sugar – then seared the other side of the beef until just cooked, rare to medium rare and removed to a cutting board. Dinner 2
  4. In skillet, mixed together the fried cellophane noodles with the vegetables and heated until steaming, then put into a shallow serving bowl.
  5. Sliced the rare ribeye into strips and placed on top of the vegetable noodle mixture.
  6. Served and ate with chopsticks along with a very cold beer.

“Not-turkey” never tasted so good!


shepherd’s pie . . .

shepherd's pie

Instead of making hamburgers tonight, I decided to make a shepherd’s pie. There are some shortcuts along the way and I thought maybe I’d write them down in this post. First of all, I’ve been learning from watching a lot of cooking shows to keep flavors separate until you want to blend them. So, instead of frying the ground beef with onions, I cut up a whole onion and browned it in some oil and butter after two garlic cloves had been toasted and removed. Then, I cut up three huge button mushrooms into chunks and added them to the browning onions. I scooped them into a separate bowl while I browned the beef in the skillet, breaking it up so that it browned evenly. (Dropped the spatula on the floor, flinging onions around twice!) Then, added the chunky onions and mushrooms, gently folding them into the beef. Sprinkled with Maldon salt and cracked pepper. Finally, I made some mashed potatoes, enriched with milk and butter, smoothed over the top of the meat, onion and mushroom mixture, dotted with butter and sprinkled lightly with parmesan cheese.

Washed and dried my favorite fluted baking dish that I bought years ago in Gloucester. It’s just the right size to hold a casserole dish for two. Plus, it’s so elegant on the serving board when we have dinner. There’s a huge bag of fresh spinach that C. brought from the organic farm last weekend that I’ve been meaning to cook before this. I thought I’d heat up a few garlic cloves and cook a mound of it in the skillet, letting it disappear to almost nothing as fresh spinach is wont to do. Then, drain the liquid out of it, cut it up in the skillet with a sharp knife and add some light cream, a little salt and pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to dress it up a little.creamed spinach

I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been dropping things and finding the logistics of cooking from a wheelchair more challenging these days. Maybe it’s because it is getting near the tail end of the dozen weeks that I’ve had my cast on and I’m impatient to have it off next week. My short fuse might also be due to the many dishes that I’ve been cooking of late–a cumulative culinary journey that has occupied me during these long days sitting on the couch for most days since February when I broke my ankle.

The weather is turning warmer, the light so much brighter and it will be nice to be able to navigate the stairs so that I can go outside more often. G. has been doing heavy lifting for grocery shopping, getting things out of the pantry, raising and lowering the shades, doing the laundry and helping me all day long, with good humor and so much patience. We will enjoy our supper tonight together and, as usual, give thanks for the simple things in life.

shepherd's pie from the oven




homemade pizza . . .

homemade mushroom pizza . . .

homemade mushroom pizza . . .

For the past few years, I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making home-made pizzas. When we had a winter rental more than two years ago in Rockport, MA., I ordered Jim Lahey’s book on making pizzas along with a pizza stone but never got around to following up. We are still looking for that pizza stone downstairs somewhere, but I ordered a second one which arrived last night. (If the first one turns up, I’ll give it to C.) My interest to make homemade pizza was piqued once again last week when a full page article by Sam Sifton appeared in the  NYTimes food section. In the online article, there was a video that showed a Brooklyn pizza maker handling the dough (gently,) putting on tomato sauce (sparingly) that was made just from canned tomatoes, not a prepared salty-full-of-additives-and-preservatives-jarred-pizza sauce; and thin slabs of fresh mozzarella cheese. Fresh basil leaves were placed on top of the baked pizza after it came out of the oven.

an online margherita pizza photo

an online margherita pizza photo

Simple tomato/cheese pizzas (Margherita) are my favorite kind of pizza, I think–just very simple and clean, chewy but not heavy. So this morning, I followed the NYTimes recipe for pizza dough that combines Italian pizza flour (00) and regular flour with yeast, water, salt and olive oil. Jim Lahey just uses all-purpose flour.

The key to making tender pizza dough is the same instruction for making tender scones, rolls or bread: handle gently and as little as possible. When you push out the dough, or let it stretch to make the pizza later on, you’re supposed to handle it “like a baby.” Gently does it. A very little bit of tomato sauce is added, then fresh cheese. Flour the surface that you make the pizza on so you can transfer it easily onto a wooden or bamboo peel (a flat surface with a long handle.)DSCN6364

fresh basil and pizza dough

fresh basil and pizza dough

In the meantime, a pizza stone is gradually heating up in an oven turned up from an initial heat of 350 degrees to 400 and then finally to 500 degrees. Open the oven, stand back and slide the pizza from the peel to the heated stone. Some recipes say to turn off the oven and turn on the broiler on high to “broil” the pizza (Lahey) if you have an electric stove. Sam Sifton in the NYTimes article says to just let it bake at 500 degrees for five to eight minutes, watching it carefully. When the pizza is baked, use the peel to remove it from the stone and onto a board where you can add fresh basil leaves and cut it into serving pieces.

DSCN6366I guess it seemed daunting to make pizzas from scratch because of the equipment required: having to bake it on a pizza stone so that the crust would be light and crispy; transferring it with the use of a large peel, etc. etc. In fact, dear reader, the stone was about $15 and the bamboo peel cost about $12 on with free shipping (I have Amazon Prime.) Oh, and I ordered the special Italian pizza flour (00) last week online too. These three ingredients/tools are what I have been waiting for to make pizzas that will hopefully taste like those $18-$22 babies in specialty pizza restaurants (of which there are NONE in the working-class town that I live in–but I have been treated to them in Minneapolis when I visit family there.)

When it came time to assemble the pizzas, I was surprised (chagrined) to find the plastic wrap sticking to the dough. I had to peel it off and knead the dough a little with some extra flour. Then, the hardest part was getting the “baby” yeast dough to thin out and stay stretched out rather than shrinking back again as soon as you let go of it. So, I ended up with a pizza about ten inches in diameter, not twelve. I added a little tomato sauce made from pureeing San Marzano tomatoes with a little olive oil and salt in the Vitamix. There’s plenty of this tomato “sauce” to use later in the week on cappellini pasta with shrimp or to decorate another round of eggplant parmigiana.

The pizza on the stone in a 500 degree oven didn’t bake as fast as the experts said it would. After fifteen minutes, I turned off the oven and turned on the broiler to finish cooking the mushrooms and cheese on top of the pizza. Meanwhile, there were crumbs, flour and basil leaves decorating the front of my clothes and all over the kitchen floor. By the time G. returned home, I was more than a little cranky, mollified later only by the clean taste of the pizza once we got it off the stone and onto a board. Half a glass of ice-cold Miller Lite beer helped a little too. Was it worth it?

Sort of, I would respond, knowing that there’s another pizza dough resting in the fridge for a second trial run at this sometime later this week!

a slice of mushroom pizza . . .

a slice of mushroom pizza . . .