Category: Pasta

“You Won’t Miss the Meat!”

November 2, 2011

Hi.  It’s nice to be back here again.  Talking about food.  Including a recipe.  Thanks for your patience.  I misplaced my blogging mojo but I seem to have found it again.  Phew.  Now please pardon me while I jump up on my high horse for a moment.

The title of this post is one of the things I hate hearing most when it comes to vegetarian food.  “You won’t miss the meat!”  I see it in print, I hear it come out of chefs’ mouths and it makes me crazy.  I will say it to anyone who asks, I say it in my classes, and I’ve said it here, but the way to approach a switch to the vegetarian diet or even a vegetarian meal is not about substituting.  You can’t take a plate with a steak, baked potato, and green beans, and then just swap out the steak for tofu.  The vegetarian diet requires a shift in thinking – no longer being so hung up on protein and envisioning your plate differently.

For the people who embrace this philosophy, our way of eating can be exhilarating.  So many choices!  So much delicious food!  New cuisines!  But the bulk of our country, even though the message is coming through louder and clearer that we need to reduce our meat intake for a variety of reasons, still sees vegetarian food as boring or needs to find a way to substitute for the lack of meat.  There are all  kinds of fake meat out there and people are choking it down hoping it will taste like what they really want to eat, or it will give them the protein they are terrified they won’t get if they don’t have meat.  And here is where I must remind you that I am not trying to convert anyone.  As I always say, my own husband eats meat.  I just want to help people find their way to a delicious dinner (and breakfast, lunch and a treat).

Thud.  That was me sliding off my high horse.  Now, I don’t use a lot of fake meat.  Why?  Because I never liked meat.  I haven’t had it in 25 years.  Meat’s flavor and texture is not something I am trying to replace in my food.  This is a reason that I never have in the past, and never will in the future buy a Tofurkey.  But sometimes you pause.  I’ve been a bit obsessed with making orecchiete with broccoli rabe and sausage recently.  Maybe this is my body’s cry for protein.  Who knows.  But, of course, I have been unable to find broccoli rabe when I need it.  So I persevered and bought something I never had before – Field Roast Italian Sausages – and kept it really simple.

Good canned tomatoes simmered down with some onion and garlic, sliced rounds of sausage (without their plastic casings) sautéed in a pan, ear-shaped noodles in salty water boiled away, and mozzarella cheese grated.  A heavy foil-covered pan went into the oven and 30 minutes later we had a hearty and tasty dinner.  It’s good to be back here.  Thanks again for all the support.

(Because I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, there is a big backlog of what I was writing about one, two, and three years ago.  I will pick my favorites and highlight them in a separate post today or tomorrow.)

Baked Orecchiete with (Veg) Sausage and Tomato Basil Sauce
Dana Treat Original
Serves 6-8

Field roast is sold in links of 4, I only used 3 of them in this dish.  I’ve also made this same dish with a more penne shaped pasta and it worked great as well.  A 28-ounce can of tomatoes will be enough sauce for this dish but it is a bit dry.  If you like your pasta saucier, add another 14-ounce can.  Finally, you may wonder why I would suggest you buy canned whole tomatoes and then purée them rather than just buy puréed tomatoes.  I once read that the lesser quality tomatoes end up in diced and puréed cans because you can’t see their imperfections.  For this reason, this article said, it’s best to buy the whole ones, so that is what I do.

Olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. dried oregano
28-ounce can whole tomatoes
3 links Field Roast vegetarian sausage, Italian style
1 pound orecchiete pasta
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated, divided
½ cup fresh basil leaves, slivered, plus extra whole leaves for garnish
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Have a 9×13-inch baking dish handy.

Place a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onion and a large pinch of salt.  Stir and allow to cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and the dried herbs.  Cook for another 3 minutes.  Meanwhile purée the tomatoes.  If you have an immersion blender, you can stick the wand directly into the can – just be careful.  Otherwise, pour the can into a blender and blend until smooth.  (If you want to do neither of those things, you can crush the tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pot, the sauce will be chunkier.)  Carefully pour the tomatoes into the saucepan (they will splatter), give the sauce a good stir, and turn the heat down to medium low.  Allow to simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened.  Set aside.

Heat a medium non-stick sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the slices of sausage and allow to cook, turning occasionally, until the slices are browned.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Pour in the pasta and allow to cook until just shy of al dente.  (The pasta will continue to cook once it goes in the oven, so be sure to undercook it a bit.)  Drain well and return to the pot.  Pour in the sauce and toss to coat well.  Stir in the sausage and the basil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon half of the pasta into the dish.  Sprinkle on half the mozzarella.  Spoon the other half of of the pasta and top with the remaining cheese.  Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven.  Bake for 25 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another five minutes.  Allow to sit for five minutes or so before serving.

Pilaf as a Main

August 30, 2011

Randy and I have sort of a don’t ask/don’t tell approach to my cookbook collection.  As in, don’t ask me if I have bought any new ones lately and I don’t tell you.  Sometimes eyebrows are raised.  Sometimes mental measurements are taken on the diminishing space on the “overflow” shelf.  Sometimes heads shake.  As in, no, no, no, not another one.

But here is the thing.  I am kind of a girly girl.  I like to dress up and I like nice things.  I could very easily be collecting shoes or purses or expensive perfumes.  Instead I collect cookbooks.  Relatively inexpensive and something I use every day.  Whenever he starts to comment I remind him, oh so gently, that his life is greatly enriched by the fact that we are surrounded by so many wonderful books with so many wonderful recipes and so much of the wonderful food I make comes from these wonderful books.

Tonight our dinner came from one of my newest acquisitions – Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume.  The book was written by the chef of an Eastern Mediterranean restaurant in London’s Mayfair neighborhood.  In bookstores, I pick up Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cookbooks all the time – those are the cuisines I miss most from our year in London and is difficult to find decent restaurants in Seattle.  Most of the books I peruse have too many meat dishes for me to buy them.  Although this book has a meat and poultry chapter, as well as one for fish, there are still so many tempting recipes for me to try in those pages.  And not just mezze.

I tell you this because the book happened to be sitting near us as we ate and Randy put down his fork (put down his fork!), picked up the book (picked up a cookbook!), and started reading through the recipes, voicing aloud the ones that sounded good to him (!!!).  In other words, this dish was that good.  If you know Randy, and if you read here often enough you probably feel like you do, unsolicited praise means a dish is out of sight.  Actually picking up a book and requesting dishes to be made out of it it is unheard of.

This pilaf is the third thing I have made out of the book (the soup I made last night is next up on the blog), and all have been incredible.  And in need of serious tweaking.  I’m not sure if this is the result of a restaurant chef writing a home cookbook or if something happened when the British measurements got transcribed into American ones, but if I didn’t know a thing or two about cooking, I probably would have thrown the book across the kitchen in frustration.  Of course, I am far from an expert about this kind of cuisine, but I do know that 1½ cups of rice and 3 ounces of pasta will need much more than 2 cups of liquid to turn out all right.

So, I’ve tweaked.  And I’m giving you the tweaked recipe.  I changed the proportions, I used spaghetti instead of vermicelli (angel hair is what I normally use but my little market up the street didn’t have it and what’s more, we both liked the thicker strands of pasta in there).  I added spice where there was none and some additional shallots.  This dish is probably meant to be a side dish along side some lamb or chicken.  We ate it as a main course alongside the previously mentioned soup and some perfect steamed green beans.  The author says it is street food, Turkish-style.  Both Randy and I say it is food we could eat everyday and be completely happy.

One Year Ago:  Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Cream Frosting
Two Years Ago:  Mixed Berry Spoon Cake

Pilaf with Vermicelli, Chickpeas, Apricots, and Pistachios
Adapted from Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume
Serves 4-6

I have a large spice cabinet and I actually have something called Turkish spice mix, bought at a farmers’ market.  This dish needs something so, assuming you do not have Turkish spice, you can add pinches of cumin, coriander, even a bit of curry.  Fennel would be fine too.  And lots of black pepper. 

2 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 shallots, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of saffron
2 tsp. Turkish spice mix
3 ounces vermicelli pasta (or angel hair or spaghetti), broken into 1-inch lengths
1½ cups Arborio rice
1 cup cooked chickpeas (I used canned)
½ cup chopped dried apricots
4 cups vegetable stock or water
½ cup coarsely chopped pistachios
Chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat.  Melt the butter, then add the shallots and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté, stirring frequently, until starting to turn golden, about 4 minutes.  Stir in saffron and the spices.  Add the vermicelli and stir continuously until the pasta starts to turn golden.  It burns easily so be careful.  Add the rice, chickpeas, and apricots and stir to coat the rice with the fat and the spices.  Pour in stock (or water) and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid.  Cook over low heat for 20 minutes.  Check for water a couple of times as you might need to add more.

When the rice is tender, add the pistachios and turn off the heat.  Cover the saucepan with a clean kitchen towel and replace the lid.  Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes – this will allow the the rice to cook further and become more fluffy.

One more thought:  My dish was not particularly fluffy.  I didn’t mind, it was stick to your ribs hearty which is nice for a main course.  Arborio rice, the one that was called for in this recipe and which is also used to make risotto, is starchy and heavier than a basmati.  I imagine that if you use basmati or jasmine, you will end up with a fluffier pilaf.  Let me know if you try?

Cleaning out the Fridge

August 23, 2011

By the time you read this post, I will be long gone.  It’s the end of August and that means, every other year, that we are in Sun Valley with my parents.  This is a sweet trip for me.  I have been going to that lovely mountain town since I was 11 years old.  When I was younger, it was hot days and cold nights, hours spent at the pool, horse back riding, river rafting, time spent with camp friends, and teenage boys who were my crushes.  Nowadays it is hot days and cold nights, hours spent at the pool, going on slides at the playground, splashing in the town fountain, time spent with my family, and very young boys who are my children.  My life has changed plenty, Sun Valley is mostly the same.

Leaving town means leaving a refrigerator and that means doing your very best to make sure that refrigerator is next to empty.  I had some goodies to use up and I came up with a truly delicious pasta to do so.  I see posts like this frequently and I wonder, why on earth would I make your dish?  I am never going to have those same odds and ends on hand.  But this is a dish worth shopping for.  As Spencer, my four-year-old, is fond of saying, “For reals life.”

Orecchiette with Roasted Tomatoes and Corn

Dana Treat Original
Serves 3-4

The inspiration for this dish was ingredients on hand, plus a long-ago cut out recipe for a pasta with Brie cheese to make it creamy.  It is best to remove the rind in this dish.  If you Brie is super soft, just pop it in the freezer for about 10 minutes and it will slice right off.  I also had a blue cheese in the refrigerator and I contemplated using that in the pasta instead of the Brie.  Finally, the “stuff” to pasta ratio is high here – you could bulk up the pasta to feed more people and leave the “stuff” the same.

2 cups cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1½ cups fresh corn kernels (from 1 large cob)
2 ounces Brie cheese, rind removed, cut into ½-inch cubes
½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn
8 ounces orecchiette

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Place the cherry tomatoes on a small baking sheet and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper and, using your hands, mix well.  Pop in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.  Remove and scrape into a large bowl.

Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium heat.  Pour in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add the shallots along with a large pinch of salt.  Sauté, stirring frequently, until soft, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the thyme, followed by the corn.  Continue to cook until fragrant and the corn is soft, about another 3 minutes.  Remove and scrape the corn mixture into the same bowl with the tomatoes.  Put the cheese and the basil in there as well.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Pour in the orecchiette and cook until al dente, according to the package directions.  Taste to make sure.  Using a slotted spoon, scoop the pasta into the bowl with the other ingredients.  Stir gently, adding some of the pasta water if it seems to dry.


Birthday Dinner

July 27, 2011

Thank you to all of you who entered to win the Keurig coffee maker.  I asked my contact there to pick a number between 1 and 239.  She told me that her favorite number is 2, so she picked comment #222.  Francesca wrote:

I moved from Italy to California where I am trying to colonize the locals. My husband has already been assimilated and happily consumes copious amounts of olive oil (the good stuff) and aceto balsamico tradizionale.

It seems fitting that an Italian won a great coffee maker, does it not?  Francesca, I will be sending you an email!

It seems these days that social media is a common topic.  People like to talk about the pros and cons of things like Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, etc.  I have very specific uses for Facebook and Twitter.  Keeping up with far-flung friends (Facebook), directing people to my blog, networking in the Seattle food community, and getting answers to cooking and dining questions (Twitter), and making sure I get as many birthday wishes as possible (both).  If you have ever felt down on a birthday, then you probably aren’t on Facebook or Twitter.  Yesterday was my 41st (bummer), on a Tuesday (bummer), and it was raining (double bummer).  If that doesn’t sound depressing, then I don’t know what does.  But through the magic of the internet, I got so much love and attention that my little Leo heart was full.

Now you might be wondering why I cooked on my birthday.  Did I mention that it was my 41st, on a Tuesday, and it was raining?  Plus, my brother is fond of saying that the best vegetarian restaurant in Seattle is actually my house.  Would I be the most arrogant person in the world if I said that I agree?  I’m not saying the best food in the city can be eaten here – far from it – but if you are going to take me out for veg food, I’d rather eat my cooking.  Plus, I like to cook.

Sometimes I feel like I should only post grand recipes here.  Like blow your socks off things that I have spent hours in the kitchen making.  Never mind that I don’t make things like that all that often (unless we are talking dessert) and that the truth is, I am a huge fan of simple dishes.   If something tastes great and doesn’t take a lot of effort, I will sing its praises.  From the feedback I get about my recipes here and requests for upcoming classes, I would say that many of you are wanting more and more “weeknight” type recipes.  So here you go.

I know much of America thinks that we vegetarians eat only pasta and salad.  It is true that I eat a lot of salad but the last pasta recipe I posted was way back in February.  I do crave it in the summer when fresh and light sounds just right and I want to keep cooking time to a minimum.  Here, lots of fresh herbs were pureed with some olive oil and garlic – think pesto without the nuts or cheese.  I tossed warm pasta with that mixture and then stirred in cherry tomato halves and Kalamata olive quarters.  The whole dish got a healthy sprinkling of Pecorino cheese which is truly a favorite of mine.  It took about 15 minutes start to finish and the dish can sit for hours before serving.  Pretty perfect weeknight meal – even for a birthday.

Two Years Ago: Indian Spiced Chickpea Salad with Yogurt and Herbs
Three Years Ago: Creamy Eggplant with Peas

Penne with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, and Pecorino
Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 6

1 pound penne
½ cup olive oil
1 cup basil leaves
½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tsp. coarsely chopped thyme leaves
2 tsp. coarsely chopped marjoram leaves
Kosher salt
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
1 cup coarsely grated Pecorino cheese (about 3 ounces)
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the penne and cook according to package directions until the pasta is just al dente.  Drain and allow to cool slightly.

Place the herbs, garlic, and olive oil in the bowl of a mini food processor or the jar of a blender and purée.  Stir in a large pinch of salt and scrape the purée into a large pasta bowl.  Pour in the pasta and toss well to coat, you may need to add a bit of olive oil if the pasta seems to dry.  Stir in the tomatoes and olives and let stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes for the flavors to develop.  Just before serving, add the Pecorino and season to taste with pepper.  Toss well.   (Can be made up to 2 hours ahead.)

Lasagne, Day Two

February 8, 2011

I will admit, lasagne is not as pretty on day two.  This one in particular because it has some broccoli in it and that vibrant green fades to dull army yuck after a night in the refrigerator.  Still, this was a big hit at Saturday’s yoga retreat and I got multiple requests for the recipe.  Lasagne is not something I make often but it is the perfect thing to make when you need to feed a lot of people.  The tricky thing for me is finding a recipe that isn’t a total gut bomb.  I knew these yogis would be hungry after a two hour hot yoga class (I certainly was) but no one wants to undo all that good-for-your-body yoga with a bad-for-your-body lasagne.

Many lasagne recipes use a béchamel sauce (which is a cream sauce with a roux base) and while those certainly taste good, they are not the healthiest.  I try to avoid that type of lasagne but what you are often left with are the boring lasagnes or the “super quick” ones that rely on lots of cheese and bottled sauce.  I thought this was a really good version.  The filling is quick-sautéed red bell peppers mixed with steamed broccoli and ricotta.  Broccoli might sound weird in a ricotta filling but I thought it was terrific.

Make no mistake. You are not going to find this dish at a wellness spa.  But here is a good example of how I like to eat.  There is regular ricotta, regular mozzarella, and regular Parmesan in there – I find the low fat versions of those things to be disgusting.  I just used a lighter hand with the cheese.  I doubled this recipe and I had way too much broccoli, so I am adjusting the recipe below.  I have never had success with those no boil lasagne noodles, but I bought mine at Whole Foods this time (their brand, super inexpensive) and they became meltingly tender in the oven.  The sauce here was a star.  I’m a big fan of sundried tomatoes in general but had never used them in a sauce.  Turns out they lend a smokiness and depth to an otherwise simple sauce.

All in all, this was a wonderful dish.  One I would make for gatherings big and small.

Lasagne Previously on Dana Treat: Lasagne with Eggplant and Chard
One Year Ago: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Two Years Ago: Mushroom Enchiladas

Red, White, and Green Lasagne
Adapted from Gourmet
Serves 8

I assembled the entire lasagne the day before and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.  I baked it for an additional 20 minutes or so.

Olive oil
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 pound broccoli, cut into florets
1 box dry no-boil lasagne noodles (you won’t need all the noodles)
8 ounces mozzarella, grated
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rich Winter Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)

Put a large skillet over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the peppers and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté, stirring occasionally, until peppers are crisp-tender, about 7 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly.  Put the ricotta into a large bowl and stir in the peppers.  Steam the broccoli until crisp-tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly, then give it a rough chop.  Stir into ricotta mixture and season to taste with pepper and salt.

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Pour 1 cup tomato sauce into a baking dish, 13 by 9 by 2 inches, and line the bottom with lasagne sheets, not overlapping.  Drop about 1½ cups ricotta mixture by spoonfuls onto pasta and gently spread with back of a spoon.  Sprinkle ¼ of the mozzarella and ¼ of the Parmesan over ricotta mixture.  Make two more layers in the same way, beginning and ending with pasta.  Spread remaining sauce over pasta (you may have a bit left over), making sure the pasta is completely covered, and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.

Cover dish tightly with foil, tenting slightly to prevent foil from touching top layer, and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake lasagne 10 minutes more, or until top is bubbling.  Let lasagne stand 5 minutes before serving.

Rich Winter Tomato Sauce
Makes about 3 cups

The recipe instructs you to use a food mill to purée the sauce but I don’t have one.  I used my handheld immersion blender.  It was fairly chunky but I liked that.

½ cup packed dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
1 cup boiling water
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. butter
28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice
1 tsp. sugar

In a small bowl soak dried tomatoes in boiling water 30 minutes and drain.  While tomatoes are soaking, heat a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add butter and when melted, add onion and a large pinch of salt.  Once soft, about 5 minutes, add the garlic and stir another 3 minutes.  Pour in the tomatoes and the sugar and another pinch of salt and cook, stirring often to break up the tomatoes, until thickened, about 30 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Use an immersion blender, a food mill, or a traditional blender to purée sauce.

« Older Posts Newer Posts »