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.

August – Fruit and Cucumber Salsa

August – Fruit and Cucumber Salsa

I don’t think summer is the season for fancy cooking. It is the time for salads of all kinds, melon and prosciutto, yogurt with fresh fruit and berries, juicy sliced tomatoes, BBQ, veggies on the grill, and chilled wine. The spotlight should be on highlighting the glory of the best local and seasonal ingredients, cooked (or not cooked) with a few fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.

That being said, sometimes the food needs a little embellishing. Maybe you are expecting company or it is a special holiday weekend. I want to introduce the idea of a fruit salsa to go with those amazing grilled dishes. We are all familiar with a tomato based salsa but peaches, nectarines, watermelon, and mangos all make excellent salsas. If you live in Hawaii or the tropics, pineapples are also a good choice (I don’t think they are worth eating elsewhere…sorry Dole).

fruit salsa

fruit salsa

Use whatever is freshest and perfectly ripe but not mushy. This is a very loose recipe but I will give some general directions. I think the essentials are sweet, crisp, spicy heat, sharpness, acid, and salt. In the salsa shown above the peaches provide sweet, the cucumber is crisp, the chilis are heat, the onion sharp, and lime juice acid.

Ingredients

  • Fresh fruit, cut into cubes – I used 4 peaches
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled if necessary and cubed to the same size
  • 1 – 2 hot chilis – seeded and cut into small cubes, I used 1 jalapeno and 1 small red chili
  • 1/2 red onion – chopped finely
  • squeeze of lime juice
  • salt to taste

Again this is a very flexible list. If you have a ripe avocado, add it. What about a mix of fruit? Watermelon with tomatoes is a winner. Apples would be good in the fall. Have some fresh basil on hand? Wonderful! Cilantro? Yum! Mint? Oh my! See what I mean?

Notice that there is no oil in this salsa? None is needed. It is a good way to get an extra serving of fruits and vegetables deliciously without any additional fat.

Peach and Cucumber Salsa

Peach and Cucumber Salsa

I am taking this to share at Fiesta Friday #131, hosted by Angie. This weeks co-hosts are Su @ Su’s Healthy Living and Laura @ Feast Wisely. Click on the link to read the posts and join the party.

May – Spring Carrot Soup

May – Spring Carrot Soup

This soup came about because of my book club. It was my turn to host, we had decided on a salad pot luck. Because spring weather can be unpredictable here, I thought something warming would go well with all those wonderful cold salads. And I have to say that this soup was a big success. It is, by far, the best carrot soup I have ever tasted, without exception. This soup is not too sweet, not too strong, has amazing color, and the carrot flavor doesn’t hit you over the head. It is just right! It’s rich and thick without any butter or cream. In fact, this soup is both vegetarian and vegan. Plus, it has turmeric which is good for your immune system. You could call it a spring tonic is a bowl.

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Many recipes for carrot soup use vegetable or chicken stock, or even carrot juice as a base. I find those liquids completely overwhelm the flavors of the carrots. It’s better to use water, especially if the only choice is a packaged stock from the store. For this soup I used coconut water. It gave a subtle coconut flavor that married well with the ginger, turmeric and curry but let the carrots shine through. This recipe doesn’t use any cream (coconut or other) but you wouldn’t guess it. It’s thick and rich without all that fat. Serve it hot or chilled on a a warm day.

I did add a swirl of coconut cream and a sprinkle of carrot chips to each bowl just before serving.

This recipe will serve 8-10. Any extra soup will freeze well.

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs. of carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 large leeks, well washed and trimmed – use only the white and light green parts
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and coarsly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground curry powder
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 7-8 cups of coconut water, a bit more if you find it is too thick
  • Optional: coconut cream and a few carrot chips to finish

Method

  1. Place a large pot over medium heat, add the coconut oil and allow it to melt. Add the leeks, shallot, onion and garlic to the oil. Cook for 10 minutes until softened but not brown.
  2. Add the carrots, turmeric, curry powder, ginger, and lemon zest to the pot. Cook until the carrots begin to soften and all starts to have the most amazing aroma. This will take 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add the coconut water, bring to a boil and cover loosely. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes until the carrots are completely soft and the stock looks murky.
    Carrot Soup

    Carrot Soup

    Carrot Soup - ready for blending

    Carrot Soup – ready for blending

  4. Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool before blending in batches to a smooth consistency. I don’t recommend blending soup while it is hot, you may end up burning yourself and having most of the soup on the ceiling. For extra protection cover the blender with a tea towel.

    Cover your blender with a tea towel

    Cover your blender with a tea towel

  5. Pour the soup back into a pot and heat before serving (or serve chilled).
Carrot Soup

Carrot Soup

This soup is so wonderful that I think I will take it to the Fiesta Friday party at Angie’s blog. Come by the site by clicking here to see the wonderful food delicious treats other bloggers have brought to Fiesta Friday #121.

I am wishing all my readers a Memorial Day weekend filled with family, friends, BBQ, fun and gratitude. Gratitude to all those who have died defending our freedom while serving in the U.S. military. We grieve for them and their loved ones.

February – Out-of-Season Tomato Flavor Booster

February – Out-of-Season Tomato Flavor Booster

I try, as much as possible, to cook and eat seasonally. Seasonal produce is more flavorful, has more nutrients, and hasn’t traveled for miles thus increasing its carbon footprint. I also enjoy the anticipation of the first strawberries or asparagus or squash or tomatoes. But…sometime in the midst of winter I miss tomatoes. In an effort to satisfy this craving I tried a recipe recently posted in the New York Times. The author (Amanda Cohen from Dirt Candy) claimed that tomatoes don’t have to be eaten in season to taste good. Frankly I was dubious, but willing to give it a try. IMG_4133

These tomatoes were available at my local Trader Joe’s, organic but from Mexico. They look better in the picture, definitely more red than they did in the package. Eating one sliced in a sandwich was a ho-hum experience. Amanda’s method is to slow roast them in olive oil, with the added benefit of that lovely tomato flavored oil. It’s almost like making a confit. The resulting tomatoes can be used in a tomato sauce or chopped on a bruschetta.

Following is her method. I will be posting the a recipe for her Roasted Tomato-Coconut Sauce.

Roasted Out-of-Season Tomatoes

  • 2 1/2 pounds of tomatoes (any kind)
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 slices of peeled ginger, about 1/8 inch thick
  • 2-3 sprigs of basil or other fresh herb
  • 5-6 cups of extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Heat oven to 275 degrees F (she recommended 250 degrees F but in my oven that was too low, every oven is different).
  2. If using large tomatoes, cut them in half. If using cherry tomatoes, leave them whole.
  3. Combine tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and basil in a baking dish that will hold the tomatoes in one layer.
  4.  Pour over them enough olive oil to to reach almost to the top of the tomatoes.
  5. Transfer to the oven and bake for at least 2 hours, mine took an extra 30 minutes. The tomatoes should start to collapse and be showing some brown spots.
  6. Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and let the tomatoes cool. Drain the oil into a separate container. Refrigerate or freeze the tomatoes.
Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes

The tomatoes will last for a week in the fridge, the olive oil for about 2 weeks. For longer storage you can freeze the tomatoes. I made 2 batches and reused the oil. That gave it an even more concentrated tomato flavor.

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes

And, what do I think? How were they? I would say that they will rival most good quality canned tomatoes. Cooking didn’t improve the color but it did concentrate the flavor. They needed a lot of salt, a touch of sugar, and a drop of lemon juice to round things out. Mid-summer tomatoes would be amazing, I will make several batches this coming summer to store in the freezer for times of cravings such as this. I imagine the olive oil would be even more flavorful as well.

On a bruschetta I paired a chopped tomato with ricotta (soft goat cheese would also be good) and an arugula salad dressed with lemon, tomato oil, salt and garlic. A drizzle of tomato oil completed it. IMG_4135

Dress the arugula salad with lots of lemon juice, tomato olive oil, garlic and salt. The tomatoes need all those flavor boosters. Baby kale would also be good here.

February – Pan-Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Capers and Tomatoes

February – Pan-Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Capers and Tomatoes

Cauliflower is very much the vegetable of the moment. If you haven’t tried roasting it yet, you are in for an amazing transformation. You won’t recognize it as the same vegetable. My usual method is to coat it with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, and roast in the oven at 425 degrees F. for about 30-40 minutes, turning once. You end up with the most amazingly crispy caramelized bits on the edges. But, every once in a awhile, the oven is not an option. You might have something already there at a different temperature. Here they are browned in a heavy skillet on top of the stove. It was even faster and the results were delicious.

Pan-Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Tomatoes & Capers

(serves 2 as a main dish)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of red chile flakes
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, sliced into steaks about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons of capers (soaked and rinsed with water if salted), drained
  • Chopped Italian parsley for serving

 

Pan Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Tomatoes and Capers

Pan Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Tomatoes and Capers

  1. Trim the bottom of the cauliflower, but keep some of the stem to keep the florets intact. Cut the cauliflower into 1/2 to 3/4 inch steaks through the middle, as much as possible keeping some of the stalk on each slice. You will have some extra florets from the ends, you can use them to fill in the skillet.
    Sliced Cauliflower

    Sliced Cauliflower

    IMG_4083

  2. Heat the olive oil in a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the garlic and chili flakes and swirl until fragrant, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
  4. Add the cauliflower steaks in one layer, filling the pan and making sure they touch it. Add any extra florets to any gaps.IMG_4085
  5. Sprinkle with salt
  6. Cook without turning until caramelized on the bottom, about 8 minutes. Then flip and turn to brown the other side, another 8 to 10 minutes. During the last few minutes, add the tomatoes and capers.
  7. Adjust the seasoning, scatter with parsley and serve. You can serve this directly in the skillet.

 

IMG_4086

 

We were all out of parsley (and it was raining too hard to run into the garden) so I scattered arugula on top when I added the tomatoes and capers. It wilted nicely on the top just like it would on pizza.

Recipe slightly adapted from Root to Stalk Cooking by Tara Duggan. I highly recommend this book as she has suggestions for using the whole vegetable, not just the familiar parts.

I’m taking this to the part at Fiesta Friday #107, come investigate the lovely dishes on the buffet at Angie’s. Our co-hosts this week are Margy @ La Petite Casserole and Su @ Su’s Healthy Living.