bacon “leafy green” tomato pasta

August 27, 2014 § 63 Comments

bacon lettuce tomato pasta

There is something exceptionally comforting about a bowl of pasta tossed with your favorite ingredients.   Even in the summertime a lovely herbaceous parsley pesto with a sprinkling of dry chili flakes is a perfect way to wind down and and enjoy the end of a hot summer day.  BLT sandwiches happen to be a favorite around here, so why not toss the ingredients together with a nice pasta such as mezze penne?  Rather than lettuce we used spinach.  Bacon “leafy green” tomato pasta.

garden fresh cherry tomatoes

The steps are quite simple.  You put eight slices of center cut bacon in a large skillet over medium heat and a pot of water on the stove to boil.  After the bacon is cooked to a crisp remove from the skillet and set aside.  Prepare the pesto and set aside.  Leave the kitchen for five minutes with both a pile of cooked bacon sitting on the counter and your hungry sixteen year old son sitting at the kitchen table with his computer.  Return to the kitchen and find there are only 4 slices left!  What?  Yes, that is exactly what happened.  Our BLT pasta only had a total of four slices of bacon.  Although wonderfully delicious, next time I make this (and I will) I’ll keep a better eye on that bacon!

parsley pesto

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 pound mezze penne pasta
  • 8 center cut bacon slices
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

pesto

  • handful fresh parsley (about 1 cup once it is finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt (about 1/2 teaspoon)

Put a large pot of water on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add bacon; cook 6 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, slice and set aside.  Keep the skillet on the stove (no heat) with the bacon fat in it.

To make the pesto, put the parsley, parmesan, garlic, and salt in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds to combine.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then pulse again.  Drizzle in the olive oil while the machine is running just long enough to incorporate the oil.  Set aside while waiting for the pasta to cook.

Reheat skillet and add tomatoes to the bacon drippings;  cook 3 minutes or until tomatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

Drain the penne and return to the pot.  Toss with the pesto sauce until well coated.  Add the tomatoes and spinach to pasta and gently toss.

Serve with crumbled bacon and a sprinkling of parmesan.

 

 

plum kuchen

August 21, 2014 § 77 Comments

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Plum season is upon us and it is time to bake a delicious plum cake!   I don’t typically do a whole lot of baking. I’m more of a savory kind of person as opposed to sweet (unless it’s a fruity pie or cake).  This is the kind of dessert that gets me baking, especially with stone fruit in season.  The wonderful thing about this cake is as the fruit bakes on top, the plums soften into a jammy consistency, which contrasts nicely with the light bready cake underneath.

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I was bit surprised when I released the edge of the 9-inch spring form pan and the cake was only an inch and a half tall.  Not what I expected, but still humbly impressive with it’s beautfiully baked plums.  As it turns out I liked the thin cake, it was much lighter, a little less decadent.   Although there are several ways to make plum kuchen this recipe is wonderfully rustic and light. You could use a mix of black, red and yellow plums for contrasting flavor and color, or forego the plums and use your favorite stone fruit, such as apricots or peaches.

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 – 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cups plue 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt (a pinch)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 7 tablespoon butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup milk (I use full fat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-1/2 pounds plums, quartered and pitted
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Combine flour, 2 tablespoon sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, 1/8 teaspoon salt and cardamom in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Cut in 4 tablespoons butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Combine milk, vanilla and egg in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Add milk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until combined.

Spoon batter onto a 9-inch (prepared) springform pan.  Arrange plums in a circular patter over batter.   Combine remaining 2/3 cup sugar, remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and lemon rind in a small bowl, stirring well.  Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter either on stovetop or microwave and stir into sugar mixture.  Sprinkle plums evenly with sugar mixture.  Bake at 425°F for 35 minutes or until browned and bubble.  Cool in pan 1 hour on a wire rack before removing springform.

radish leaf pesto

August 15, 2014 § 85 Comments

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Did you know you can make a delicious pesto sauce with radish leaves?  Up until now I always tossed the leaves into the compost bin without much thought.  I brought home two fresh bunches of radishes from the market the other day and the greens were wonderfully alive, crisp and vibrantly green; I just had to use them instead of throwing them away.

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Radish leaves don’t stay fresh for very long, and it’s best to separate them from the roots soon after harvesting or bringing them home from the market. Wash, dry and store the leaves like other salad greens and eat them within a day or two.

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Garlic, fresh oregano, lemon juice, almonds, red pepper flakes and parmesan are all you need to add to your radish leaves for this wonderful pesto.  So, instead of throwing out the greens when you buy a bunch of radishes, turn them into a delicious pesto.

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To blanch almonds simply drop raw almonds into boiling water for one minute.  Drain and rinse with cold water and the skins slip off effortlessly when pinched.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 2 cups lightly packed radish leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup blanched whole almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound linguine

Put the radish leaves, garlic, oregano, lemon juice, blanched almonds, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes in a food processor and pulse to form a coarse purée.  With the motor running, pour in the olive oil and process until smooth.  Add half the cheese and pulse a few more times.  Taste and add more salt or pepper if you like.  Set aside until ready to dress the pasta.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook until al dente.  Scoop out 3 cups of the cooking liquid and reserve, drain the pasta.

After draining the pasta return to the cooking pot, add the pesto, and gently fold together.  Add reserved pasta water as needed to keep the consistency creamy rather than sticky.  Serve in shallow pasta bowls right away, with the remaining cheese on the side.

green beans with eggs, jalapeño and cilantro

August 12, 2014 § 44 Comments

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Young and tender green beans are in the markets right now.  Typically we steam them until just soft and simply dress them with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  This has such a lovely combination of textures and flavors with the soft scrambled egg, tender green beans, spicy jalapeño and nutty pecans.  I found this recipe skimming through a 2011 Food & Wine magazine.  Apparently, this is a Georgian dish called lobio (bean dish). The Georgian word ‘lobio’ means ‘beans’ and there are a number of varieties of lobio dishes. This green lobio dish is typically served cool, but with its buttery scrambled eggs and tender green beans, it’s equally delicious hot. We served it warm and it was wonderful.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 pound green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro, plus small sprigs for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans (or walnuts)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 small red chile, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill seeds, ground

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the green beans until tender, 6 minutes. Drain and let cool. Transfer to a bowl.

In a large skillet, melt the butter in the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the eggs are scrambled, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs to the beans.

Stir in the chopped cilantro, pecans, garlic, jalapeño, red chile and dill seeds. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro sprigs just before serving.

The green lobio can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours.

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apricot thyme galette

August 8, 2014 § 105 Comments

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With a nice bunch of apricots on hand I decided to bake this tangy, scarcely sweet galette for dessert.  I have a weakness for galettes.  I love the ease of preparation and the rustic look with it’s imperfect folds and uneven edges.  And I’ve been a little obsessed with adding herbs to baked goods and desserts.  Thyme pairs quite nicely with apricots in this charming galette.

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I always look forward to the weekend because I love preparing dinner when I have time to work slow and relaxed.  Saturday is ideal to cook something a little more complicated and time consuming.  And that was exactly what I had in mind last Saturday.  I made the apricot galette in the morning and went about my day expecting to return to the kitchen early afternoon to prepare dinner; calm and collected.

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It’s a good thing I made the galette in the morning because time slipped away and as it turns out, this was dinner last Saturday night, and we loved it.  Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • single pie crust recipe
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 pounds firm ripe apricots, pitted and cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 400°F.   Place your prepared pie dough onto a a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Combine cornstarch and 2 tablespoons sugar; sprinkle over dough, leaving a 2-inch border.  Arrange apricots spikelike on top of cornstarch mixture, leaving a 2-inch border.  Fold edges of dough over apricots (dough will only partially cover apricots).   Combine jam and honey and warm either on stovetop or microwave.  Brush jam mixture over apricots and dough edges.  Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.   Bake at 400°F for 35 minutes or until crust browns.  Remove from oven, spring with thyme.  Cool 10 minutes.

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herbal baby pea salad

August 4, 2014 § 72 Comments

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This summer I have been a salad making machine.  Not only salads with leafy greens, but this type of salad too.  Here we have an herbal (parsley, basil and mint) pea salad tossed in a tangy Greek yogurt dressing.   You could use fresh peas if you steamed or boiled them first.  I used thawed baby peas and they were perfectly tender and sweet.

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This recipe comes from Ethan Stowell.  A respectable chef who owns NINE restaurants in the Seattle area, one of which is cleverly named “How to Cook a Wolf”.  According to their website,  “How to Cook a Wolf pays homage to MFK Fisher and the philosophy of taking simple ingredients and transforming them into culinary splendor. The food is uncomplicated and rustic. It’s an ever-changing menu of Italian inspired small plates”.  My kind of cooking, and my kind of place.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded mint leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound frozen baby peas, thawed
  • 3 large seedless cucumbers,peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced 1/2 inch thick

In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt with the lemon juice and olive oil. Add the parsley,  basil and mint; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the peas and cucumbers and serve.

summer vegetable tortilla soup

July 31, 2014 § 81 Comments

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Grilled bread salad, roasted zucchini with ricotta and mint and tomato pie are a few of my recent posts.  All very delicious and flavorful, however, much time doesn’t need to pass before I find myself spicing things up in the kitchen again. Cooking is like that for me.  It’s very cyclical.  Weeks go by and I find myself preparing  fresh, colorful and delectable foods from the Mediterranean region, like chicken cutlets with tomatoes and capers, tzatziki and cucumber salads. Then my palate shifts.  I start to crave comfort foods, like mac and cheese, roast chicken with mashed potatoes and savory pies.  My poor family, they never know what to expect.  One day we are enjoying a nice subtle quiche and salad and the next I’ve put together a jalapeño ladened vegetable soup.  Pow!  I always return to South of the Border. Mexico. I love Mexican food and I crave it.

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For this spicy vegetable soup I used zucchini, summer squash, tomatillos, tomatoes and jalapeño.  We also added chicken and chicken stock, but I think the soup would be wonderful keeping it vegetarian.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • sea salt
  •  cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 6 cups mixed fresh vegetables (such as zucchini, yellow squash, tomatillos, jalapeño, tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 cups shredded chicken (or not)

f o r    t h e    t o p p i n g

  • 3 handfuls tortilla chips, crushed
  • 1 cup crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • lime wedges
  • cilantro sprigs

Put the oil in a large soup pot, add the onions and a pinch of salt, and cook over medium-high heat until the onions are soft and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili powder and cook for another minute or so.  Stir in the tomato paste, add the stock, and bring to a simmer.

Add the vegetables to the stock, starting with the longer cooking ones first, such as chiles and tomatillo.  Simmer for a few minutes and then add the squash and tomatoes, along with 1/2 of the cilantro.  Simmer the soup until all the vegetables are tender, 15 to 35 minutes, depending on what you’re adding and how small you have cut them.  Add the chicken and simmer for another few minutes to heat through.  Taste and adjust with more salt as needed.

To serve, divide the soup amount wide soup bowls and top with the rest of the cilantro, some crushed tortilla chips, crumbled cheese and a drizzle of sour cream.  Let each diner squeeze lime juice over the soup at the table.

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This soup is wonderful with loads of fresh vegetables and herbs in a savory broth. Try any combination of vegetables that you like, though be sure to include the tomatoes, which helps flavor the broth.

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