August – Corn Cob Pasta Salad

August – Corn Cob Pasta Salad

Did your neighborhood participate in National Night Out on August 1st? National Night Out happens across the U.S. and is intended to bring neighbors together and promote relationships with local fire and police. Our own had a block party, it was easy to block the street since we live on a cul-de-sac. We roped off the street at 6 pm and let the kids roller skate and play basketball. It was a wonderful party, a chance to catch up with our neighbors, share some good food and wine. Our elected officials, local police and firemen took the opportunity to come around to introduce themselves and update us on civic events and trainings.

My contribution to the party was this vegetarian pasta salad. This is a perfect make ahead salad for warm days, I was able to make it in the cool of the morning and let the flavors mingle. Leftovers were even better for lunch the next day. There is no mayonnaise so you don’t have to worry about spoilage. It would be a great side for a summer BBQ.

Why do I call it corn cob pasta salad? Because the first step is to make a “broth” from the leftover cobs. I’ve read about this technique when making corn chowders, the cobs (once the kernels are removed) flavor the stock and give an extra flavor boost to the soup. Start by cooking the ears of corn in boiling water, then remove them after 4 or 5 minutes (when the corn is cooked to your liking), cut the kernels from the cobs, and return the ’empty’ cobs to the boiling water for another 30 minutes. The result is a mild corn flavored broth in which you cook the pasta. A corny stock.

You could use any shape of pasta, I used rotelle (wagon wheels) because I thought it would be fun for the kids and easy to eat off a paper plate.

Once the pasta is cooked and drained, I mixed it with the corn kernels, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped red onion, black beans, halved pitted black olives, shredded mozzarella, and lots of chopped parsley. The seasonings are light and simple, some red pepper, salt, vinegar, and olive oil. Since there is no mayonnaise, you don’t have to worry about food poisoning if it sits out for a couple of hours on a picnic table.

Corn Cob Pasta Salad

This makes a lot of salad, suitable for sharing at a large gathering for a 8 – 12. You could add fresh spinach to stretch it even further.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ears of fresh corn, cleaned
  • 1 lb box of dried pasta, your choice of shape
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • 12 black olives, halved or sliced
  • 2 cups of shredded mozzarella
  • 1 bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar depending on strength
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper

Method:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Add the corn to the pot, turn down the heat when it comes back to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes until it is cooked to your liking.
  3. Use tongs or another utensil to remove the corn from the pot.
  4. Cool the corn until you can handle it and cut the kernels from the cob, reserve.
  5. Salt the boiling water well and add the cobs back to the pot, simmer for 30 minutes on low heat.
  6. Remove the cobs from the water and skim any silk that might be floating in your corn broth. Bring the water back to the boil.
  7. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook as per the package directions.
  8. Meanwhile combine the corn kernels, tomatoes, drained black beans, red onion, and olives in a large bowl.
  9. Drain the cooked pasta, cool slightly (don’t rinse, I add a tablespoon of olive oil to keep it from sticking together) and add to the bowl with the other ingredients and add the pinch of red pepper.
  10. Add the olive oil and vinegar, toss together, taste for salt.
  11. Mix in the chopped parsley and mozzarella once completely cool.
  12. Taste again and add any additional seasonings that might be needed.

Also nice in the salad would be chopped red or orange pepper, I actually forgot to add them but think the pepper would be a flavorful and colorful addition. Finely minced garlic would also be good if you are serving only adults. What about hominy? Then it would be a triple corn salad…broth, fresh kernels, and hominy. This recipe is only a basic template for a world of flavors and your imagination.

March – 3 Pepper Pasta with Garlic

March – 3 Pepper Pasta with Garlic

Sometimes the best recipes come out of necessity, this time the need for a quick dinner with minimal ingredients (the fridge was almost bare). We were away over the weekend, arriving home on Sunday night hungry from a long drive. Something was required almost instantly before true bad humor hit. This recipe will do it for you…it literally took only 15 minutes from the time the pasta water came to a boil. Apart from pantry staples (a box of dried pasta, garlic, olive oil, parmesan, black pepper, salt, and red pepper flakes) only 2 sweet fresh red peppers are required. Don’t have red peppers in the fridge? Use Brussels sprouts or cabbage or winter squash (you will need to peel and cut them into quite small cubes) or red onion or fresh tomatoes in summer. If you have fresh herbs on hand or in the garden, toss them in at the end. What about basil with tomatoes, mint with carrots or peas, cilantro with frozen corn? Be inventive! It’s nice to have a color contrast but certainly not required.

3 Pepper Pasta

The 3 types of pepper in this recipe come from red peppers, a good pinch of red pepper flakes, and a generous grinding of black pepper.

You will have dinner on the table faster than it would take you to run to the deli for takeout.

3 Pepper Pasta with Garlic – serves 4 to 6 generously

Ingredients:

  • Dried pasta of your choice, I used a 1 lb. box of fusilli
  • 2 fresh red peppers, cored and seeded, then cut into julienne sticks
  • 4 – 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • kosher salt
  • Pinch or about 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (more if you want spicy)
  • Generous grind of black pepper, or about 1/2 teaspoon
  • Chopped parsley or other herb (optional), about 1/2 cup
  • Freshly ground parmesan or other hard cheese

Method:

  1. First bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a couple of teaspoons of salt. Pasta water should taste like the sea.
  2. While the water is coming to a boil, slice the red peppers and mince the garlic.
  3. Once the water comes to a boil, add your pasta and set a timer. The fusilli required 13 minutes for al dente. Since I planned to cook it with the red peppers at the end, I wanted a little bite left in it.
  4. Put a saucepan, large enough to hold the cooked pasta, over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and heat until it starts to shimmer.
  5. Add the fresh red pepper and pepper flakes, saute until it begins to soften (about 5 minutes)
  6. Add the garlic, turn down the heat as you want the garlic to soften but not brown.
  7. When the pasta is cooked, reserve about 1 cup of cooking liquid and drain the rest.
  8. Add the pasta to the saucepan with the peppers and garlic. Turn up the heat a bit and stir, add the reserved cooking water by tablespoons until the pasta softens a bit more and glistens. (You will probably not need the full cup.)
  9. Drizzle with more olive oil, grind the black pepper over the top, add the parsley and grated parmesan.

Dinner is served!

Add the red peppers to the hot pan along with the red pepper flakes

Softened Red Peppers

Add the pasta to the red peppers

Chopped Parsley

Pasta with red peppers, black pepper, garlic and parsley

Finish with freshly grated cheese

This recipe is similar to one of my very first posts for pasta with peas, another pantry staple this time from the freezer.

I am taking this to share with fellow bloggers at Fiesta Friday, over at Angie’s. Can you believe it is #163! Click on the link to see what everyone else is bringing to the party.

February – Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

February – Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs, it’s a meal I consider one of the ultimate winter comfort foods. It is certainly a classic. Remember that scene from Lady and the Tramp? A classic! The original calls for ground beef, eggs and breadcrumbs. But what about replacing those meatballs with ground turkey and ricotta? I’ve done this before with turkey burgers and recently saw the same idea using meatballs in a new cookbook, Small Victories (see the link below). No breadcrumbs or eggs required. Even better, these are baked, not fried. The meatballs are moist and flavorful, full of fresh herbs. You could serve them with zoodles (spiralized zucchini noodles) for the ultimate gluten free dinner. This easy recipe makes enough meatballs to freeze a batch for a future meal, any leftover tomato sauce is delicious with baked eggs for brunch.

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Pasta

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Pasta

This recipe makes a large sheet pan of meatballs, 6-8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 28-ox cans of whole peeled Italian tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red or white wine or water
  • 7 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 garlic cloves, 4 thinly sliced and 3 minced
  • kosher salt
  • 1 cup of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh Italian flat leaved parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
  • 2 lb. of ground dark meat turkey

Method:

Meatballs

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Drizzle the baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and smear to cover the sheet.
  2. In a large bowl combine the minced garlic, basil, parsley, ricotta, parmesan, turkey and 1 tablespoon salt. Mix everything together until well blended, not too roughly.
  3. Use your hands to to form golf ball sized meatballs, you can wet your hands to prevent it from sticking. Transfer the meatballs to the lined baking sheet. It is ok if they are fairly close together or lightly touching.
  4. Drizzle the meatballs with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bake until browned and firm, about 25 minutes.

    Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

    Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

While the meatballs are baking, start the sauce.

Sauce

  1. Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl and crush them, the easiest way is with your hands.
  2. Add the wine or water to one of the cans and swish it around, add it to the second can again rinsing to clean out any remaining tomato and add it to the bowl.
  3. Warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook about one minute (make sure it does not burn). Add the tomatoes and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer for about 10-20 minutes.

To finish

Finished Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Finished Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

  1. Remove the desired number of meatballs from the baking tray with tongs and gently add them to the simmering sauce.
  2. Cook for at least another 10 minutes for the flavors to meld, but they can go longer (up to an hour according the recipe but I wouldn’t leave them so long).
Tomato Sauce with Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Tomato Sauce with Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Any leftover meatballs can be frozen.

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs, Tomato Sauce and Pasta

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs, Tomato Sauce and Pasta

This recipe came from the excellent cook book Small Victories by Julia Turshen.

Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Cheese

Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Cheese

Flyng Frisbee Quinn

Flying Frisbee Quinn with Leo and Mazee on a winter beach

I am taking this comforting winter dish to Fiesta Friday #161 hosted by Angie. Her cohost this week is Laura @ Feast Wisely. Click on the link to join the fun and read the recipes brought to the virtual party by other bloggers.

October – Pasta with cauliflower, artichokes and parmesan oil

October – Pasta with cauliflower, artichokes and parmesan oil

Sometimes the best things happen by accident. I’m talking about the inspiration that hit when a bag of frozen artichoke hearts fell out of the freezer, that kind of “ah-ha” moment. You laugh, but cooking to me is an art. It’s one that is unselfish and fleeting (unless it is captured on the pages of a blog), it’s designed to bring pleasure to others but is gone in a few hours. And so, like a good painting, I don’t really have a recipe. This recipe was completely spontaneous; I made it up as I went along. If you always cook from a recipe, try it sometime. It is very freeing. Pasta is one of those dishes that will lend itself to this kind of spontaneity because it is a blank canvas. Of course there are many wonderful classical dishes, but then those last minute “clean out the fridge or freezer” dishes can also be delicious.

So, frozen artichokes in hand, I went searching for what else might be lurking about needing to be added to my work of art. The fridge had half a head of cauliflower, a red pepper, and some Parmigiano Reggiano, the counter a jar of Parmesan oil, and in the cupboard I found half used packages of penne and fusilli. I always have onions and garlic available. Ready to go.

Pasta with Cauliflower, Artichoke Hearts, and Parmesan Oil

  • 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and drained well on paper towels
  • 1/2 large head of cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil – divided
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • About 3/4 pound of pasta of your choice. I had 1/3 box of penne and 1/3 box of fusilli left in the cupboard.
  • Parmesan oil, or good olive oil for finishing

    Parmesan Olive Oil

    Parmesan Olive Oil

  • Freshly grated Parmesan for serving.
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat for your pasta, start this first since the rest will cook fairly quickly.
  2. When boiling, add your pasta. If they have different cooking times, stagger adding them so they finish at the same time. Turn down the heat if it looks like it will boil over (the starch in the pasta sometimes does that). Cook to al dente. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water before draining, do not rinse.
  3. Meanwhile, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil on medium high heat in a very large skillet.
  4. Add the chopped onions and cook until softened and beginning to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Turn down the heat if it is browning too quickly.
  5. Turn the heat down to medium (if you haven’t done this already) and add the garlic, sauté for about a minute, then add the red pepper. When the pepper begins to soften, turn the contents of the skillet into a large heatproof bowl.

    Sauteed onions and garlic

    Sauteed onions and garlic

  6. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet on medium high heat. When shimmering, add the cauliflower. Cook for about 5 minutes or until beginning to caramelize. Add the red pepper and continue to cook for a few minutes until they soften. Turn the cauliflower and red pepper into the bowl with the onions.

    Sauteed cauliflower and red pepper

    Sauteed cauliflower and red pepper

  7. Add the artichoke hearts to the skillet. Move the artichoke hearts down against the bottom of the skillet so they begin to brown. You may need to add a touch more oil at this point. Cook for anther minute or so.

    Sauteed artichoke hearts

    Sautéed artichoke hearts

  8. Add the onions, garlic, cauliflower, and red pepper back to the skillet. Stir.
  9. Add the pasta. Toss again and slowly add some of the reserved cooking water to moisten the mix. You don’t want it swimming but don’t want it to be dry. The starch in the cooking water will help bind things together.
  10. Turn into a warm serving bowl.

    Pasta with Cauliflower. Artichoke Hearts and Parmesan

    Pasta with Cauliflower. Artichoke Hearts and Parmesan

  11. When serving, drizzle with Parmesan oil or good quality olive oil and shred some fresh parmesan on top of each.

    Pasta with Parmesan Olive Oil

    Pasta with Parmesan Olive Oil

Serve with a tossed green salad.

Pasta with Parmesan Oil

Pasta with Parmesan Oil

I’m taking this to share on Fiesta Friday #91. Come join the fun at a virtual blogging party hosted by Angie of The Novice Gardener. The co-hosts this week are Juju @ cookingwithauntjuju and Indira @ I’ll Cook, You Wash.

March in Oakland – A Walk in the Neighborhood and Pasta with Spring Peas

March in Oakland – A Walk in the Neighborhood and Pasta with Spring Peas

Oakland is a thriving, vibrant, multicultural hub a few minutes from San Francisco. I know it gets a lot of bad press; like any major city it has its problems. However, there is another side to Oakland. I’ve lived here for over 25 years and am proud of how far the city has come.

Berkeley has the reputation as the “foodie” capital of California, but I would argue that Oakland is catching up. This Friday is the first day of spring and, although the East coast is still struggling with the effects of a horrible winter, it has already sprung here in Oakland.

On a recent Saturday I was inspired to take some pictures in my neighborhood. All of these pictures were taken only a few blocks of my home. Within an easy stroll are several top rated restaurants, a dozen smaller ones, a wonderful bakery, Trader Joe’s, two drug stores, several coffee shops, four places dedicated to fitness, a donut shop, a year round Saturday farmer’s market, and Lake Merritt. Lake Merritt is a jewel in the middle of Oakland, the oldest bird sanctuary in the U.S. It’s a salt water lake, open to the bay, home to migrating birds of many species; and a favorite of walkers, runners and running groups.

But, back to the pictures.

A few from the Oakland Grand Lake Farmer’s Market:

Outdoor seating and folks enjoying the lovely warm weather on a Saturday morning.

Of course our Aussie ladies had to come along for the walk.

Casey and Quinn

Casey and Quinn

Lake Merritt is just over three miles in circumference. On my side you will find a grassy park with a children’s play area. On the other side are some man made islands for the birds, Children’s Fairyland, a botanical garden, and a large community garden.

The gardens this time of year are amazaing.

Did you wonder when I was going to get to the recipe? This is a variation of a classic pasta dish for spring, this time with snap and snow peas plus some tendrils.

Pasta with Spring Peas (serves 4-6 as a main course)

  • Pasta – 1 lb. (regular or gluten free), your choice of shape
  • Olive oil or softened butter – 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup)
  • 2 cups of combined snap and/or snow peas, strings removed and sliced diagonally
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup of eadible pea tendrils, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, torn into large pieces
  • Parmesan – grated, about a cup plus more for serving
  • Salt
  • Pepper to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt (kosher) until it tastes like the sea. Toss in your pasta and cook according to the package directions, tasting to make sure it is done to your liking.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil or butter in a large skillet.
  3. Add the garlic and cook on medium-low heat until softened (about 3 minutes), add the snap or snow peas and saute for about 2 minutes until they turn bright green.
  4. Drain your pasta, reserving about a cup of the starchy cooking liquid. Do not rinse the pasta.
  5. Add the pasta to the skillet and increase the heat to medium high, toss then add the pea tendrils and continue to cook for about 30 seconds until just wilted. Add cooking water if it appears dry.
  6. Add the cheese and toss again. If the mixture still looks dry, add a bit more cooking water.
  7. Garnish with more parmesan for serving.

IMG_2819

The cooking water contains starch, which turns butter (or olive oil) and cheese into a creamy sauce. Don’t add too much as you don’t want it to be watery. Taste to see if it needs more salt.

Turn into a warm serving bowl or individual plates. Garnish with the chopped mint and grate some additional cheese on the top.

Pasta with peas and pea tendrils

Pasta with peas and pea tendrils

I think my friends at Fiesta Friday will enjoy the pictures. Please join us at Angie’s, the Novice Gardener.

Fiesta Friday

Fiesta Friday

Happiness is a warm spot in the sun!

Lucy

Lucy