Here’s another recipe that was deep in my archives that I still absolutely love, but needed a photo makeover! This is the time of year when I am furiously trying to maximize my consumption of all things summer. The seasonal window for some of my favorite foods is just too short, especially tomatoes. In my classes July through September, I always feature at least two recipes with the beloved tomato and I beg everyone to enjoy them while they last because fresh tomatoes won’t be appearing in my kitchen until the following summer.Continue reading
I receive a lot of requests for recipes – more entrees, more low-carb, more “kid-friendly” (I don’t like that phrase, by the way), and the most popular, easy. The term easy means different things to different people. In my opinion, easy means not complicated, something that a cook of any skill level can successfully prepare. Or perhaps easy implies very few steps. But what I have deduced is that most of my students think that easy implies “quick,” as in quick to put together and minimal hands-on time.
My vacation is coming to an end today, like all good things do. But there’s always next time. We were incredibly lucky with the weather this week. It never rained and the humidity was almost nonexistent. This is important because there were lots of children present and we wanted them all outside and not on their devices.
Pasta has come a long way since I was a child, especially in the last few years. There used to be limited options beyond typical durum wheat pasta. Possibly you could find whole wheat, but that was about it. Now there are so many choices including spelt, quinoa, brown rice, gluten-free blends, corn and, miraculously, grain-free. I have had all of the above and whereas I think they are all good, Cappello’s grain-free pasta recently blew my mind. My daughter was home for spring break and she bought some for dinner one night. I’ll tell you the truth, I wouldn’t have even tried it because I would assume a grain-free pasta would be a mess plus it’s crazy expensive (I mean CRAZY.) But if you have to be grain-free, pasta is a food that you might kill for. Anyway, it was fantastic. Or maybe I just wanted to love it after I found out how much she spent.
I grew up eating pasta 3-4 times per week. Monday it was often in a soup, Tuesday or Thursday was baked ziti, Friday was linguine aglio e olio, and Sunday was either ravioli or my grandmother’s homemade pasta with her sauce. We are Italian, so no one ever complained or thought it was strange that we ate so much of it. But now I consider pasta an occasional treat because I believe it is a processed food with a significant amount of carbohydrates. There is nothing wrong with complex carbohydrates, i.e. those paired with fiber and/or protein. Complex carbs, as opposed to simple carbs, are good for you and we need them for energy. But it is quite easy to overeat pasta, especially if you consider that a serving size is 1 cup of cooked pasta. Overeating carbohydrates is what gets us into trouble. When our blood sugar spikes, insulin is released to scoop it all up and let me repeat myself, insulin is a pro-inflammatory, fat-storage hormone. What’s the moral of this story? Don’t go crazy with pasta. Eat a small portion, and even better, stretch it out with lots of nutrient-dense vegetables.
This is a lovely pasta recipe which utilizes the new spring produce coming out in the markets. I love the combination of asparagus, peas, mint and lemon. It’s so bright and fresh. According to Eating Well, asparagus is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. Peas and grains make a complete protein, so if you wanted to serve this without any additional protein you could. My whole family, including the picky one, loves this pasta.
I think this would be nice for Easter lunch with poultry, lamb or ham. It’s easy enough though that you could whip this up for a weeknight dinner, too. For those of you not eating pasta, the vegetable mixture is terrific mixed with cooked brown rice or quinoa. I have also added a leek to this recipe. Just clean it really well, thinly slice it and sauté it before adding asparagus. A handful or two of spinach leaves would also be delicious. Adding dark green leafies is never wrong. And a few toasted pine nuts would add some nice crunch, if desired. Why didn’t I write all these suggestions into the recipe? Because I know people don’t like recipes with a lot of ingredients. This dish tastes excellent as is written, but feel free to improvise.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to save some pasta water before draining the pasta. That starchy, flavorful water is so valuable! It is the key ingredient to keep this from being dry, otherwise the inclination might be to add oil to the pasta to moisten it. If you are dairy-free, feel free to eliminate the cheese altogether, but do add a little extra salt. The pasta I used in these photos is Trader Joe’s gluten-free quinoa and brown rice fusilli. Check out this post here for how to perfectly cook gluten-free pasta!
1 pound medium asparagus, tough ends trimmed, stalks cut into 1 ½ -inch pieces
zest of 1 lemon
3 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
kosher salt for the pasta water
¾ pound pasta, such as penne
1 ½ cups peas (frozen is fine)
3 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter or organic Earth Balance
⅓ cup grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese
In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the asparagus and sauté, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest, garlic, red pepper, sea salt and pepper and sauté until garlic is fragrant to heat through, 1 minute. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook until just before it reaches al dente. Remove 2 cups of the pasta water and set aside. Add the peas to the pasta pot and stir. Drain pasta and peas.
Return skillet to medium heat. Transfer pasta and peas to the skillet with the mint. Add 1 cup reserved pasta water and stir everything to combine well. You may need a little more with gluten-free pasta. Simmer until pasta is al dente, about 3-5 minutes. Add additional pasta water if desired. Stir in butter and cheese and taste for seasoning. If you don't add cheese, you may need a little extra salt.
In the summer, you can substitute chopped zucchini for half the asparagus. Halved cherry tomatoes are also nice sautéed with the vegetables. See my notes in the blog for other ways to change up this recipe.
A couple of years ago, delicata squash were nowhere to be found. Where did they come from and how did I exist on Thanksgivings past without them? They are now my favorite winter squash. Delicata squashes seem fancy, but they’re a Thanksgiving cook’s dream come true: seasonal, delicious, versatile and NO PEELING! And you can eat the skin! My favorite fall salad in the last decade is this Roasted Delicata Squash and Apple Salad. It’s on my menu again this year and I personally fill up most of my dinner plate with it, I love it that much.
But last year, I taught this delicata squash side dish in my Thanksgiving classes and I had a new crush. Sweet and tender squash rounds, as pretty as can be, with a sweet-tart-crunchy-juicy relish are the perfect side next to roasted turkey. And it’s such a beautiful presentation. I could even do without cranberry sauce and just eat this relish. I don’t normally mention nutrition too much when discussing Thanksgiving because it’s the one day I let that go. But this dish is definitely lighter fare and tops in vitamins, fiber and antioxidants.
And it makes the best leftovers! The next day I chop up the squash and toss it with the relish and either put it on top of greens or quinoa. A little feta is nice, too. Whereas some Thanksgiving recipes are one-hit wonders, this one I can make all fall for weeknight dinners or dinner parties.
Here’s your game plan:
Seed pomegranate 2 days before and refrigerate.
Wash, dry and cut squash the day before and refrigerate.
Make relish day the day before and refrigerate.
Roast squash before the turkey goes in the oven and allow to sit at room temperature until serving. Then you’re just assembling right before dinner.
Tune in on Thursday for another planning post — 2 weeks and counting!
I love summer rolls — crunchy, fresh, and flavorful all wrapped in a delicate rice paper wrapper. Summer rolls are one of those things I never thought I could make at home. The wrappers, the rolling, the sauce! Not only are they way easier than I imagined, but they can be quite the nutritious dish to boot. Filled with loads of raw veggies and herbs, a summer roll is like a salad all wrapped up in a neat little package. In the video above, I go a pretty traditional route with avocado, cabbage, carrots and herbs, but also I use less traditional roasted sweet potato sticks and shredded Brussels sprouts. Rice paper is so neutral. Who says you couldn’t put a cobb salad in there or poached chicken, corn, cabbage and barbecue sauce? I say the sky’s the limit and can we talk about perfect these would be for school lunches?! Per-fect!
If you want to make these in advance, cover them with a damp paper towel and refrigerate for ideally up to one day, but I’ve even kept them 2 or 3 days.
8 (8-inch) rice paper rounds, plus additional in case some tear
1 large sweet potato, (peeled if desired) and cut into ¼” matchsticks
unrefined coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
sea salt and black pepper to taste
4 medium brussels sprouts, thinly sliced or shredded
¼ head of small red cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
2 medium carrots, shredded, grated, or julienned
1 large avocado, cut into thin slices
handful each of fresh mint leaves, basil leaves and cilantro leaves
Other possibilities: cooked shrimp, chicken, tempeh or tofu, cooked rice noodles
To make the sauce: whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl or a glass jar and set aside. *
To make the summer rolls: Drizzle the sweet potatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 18-20 minutes until tender.
Fill a shallow baking dish or a skillet with warm water. Soak 1 rice paper round (make sure there are no holes) in warm water until pliable, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the water and transfer to a plate or cutting board.
Spread 2 teaspoons of peanut sauce on the rice paper (or omit and use as a dip once rolls are assembled) and top with 2-3 large mint leaves, 1-2 large basil leaves, a pinch of cilantro leaves, a
pinch each of the Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and carrot, a few sticks of sweet potato, and a couple of avocado slices, taking care not to overstuff. Roll up rice paper tightly around filling, folding in sides and continue rolling.
Transfer summer roll to a plate and cover with dampened paper towels.
Make the remaining rolls in the same manner. Serve rolls halved on the diagonal.
Store in the fridge covered with a damp paper towel 2-3 days.
* Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature and re-emulsify before using.
You are going to have so much fun making these summer rolls!
We had such a lovely getaway in Palm Springs with the kids this weekend. My husband, who designs and builds houses, likes to go to a few days of Modernism Week every year and we decided to make a little family trip of it this time. My kids are exposed to a lot of talk about food because of what I do, but my husband also discusses his business with them, too. I wouldn’t say they could go out and build a house tomorrow, but they have an understanding of architecture and design.
So it was kind of funny to me when my kids would walk into a home on a tour this weekend or a show, and people would be shocked to see them. “Oh my word! We have children here!” The first time I heard this, I figured the kids weren’t welcome. But I was very wrong. “How nice to see children appreciate design!” I was proud of the kids because they were well-behaved and seemingly interested. And it made me think about how the experience was a little analogous to food and eating. I always tell my students that part of the process of creating a healthful eater is simply exposing the kids to a wide variety of nutritious food. Another critical part of the process is modeling good eating habits. One day it will all click with them and they’ll end up surprising you!
I am flexible with Mr. Picky though. Sometimes I will make something like this couscous with dried apricots and herbs for dinner, but leave a little plain couscous and apricots for him on the side. I usually encourage, but often insist, that he at least try the dish with all the herbs and such. Sometimes he will and sometimes he won’t, but this strategy works well for me since I can accommodate him a little without my having to make a second meal. And the message that I am sending is that eventually he will eat like the rest of us.
Mr. Picky happens to like couscous and dried apricots and if he’s really hungry, he’ll eat the herbs and all. He won’t eat it mixed with the Moroccan chicken I posted on Friday. He will eat them separately though. No problem here, although I personally like couscous as an accompaniment to soak up something juicy and saucy. Other than that, my girls will take leftovers in their lunch boxes with some feta and maybe a little extra lemon juice and olive oil. Yum!
Couscous is like a busy person’s dream come true. You pour really hot water or stock on it with a little salt and perhaps some olive oil and presto! Ten minutes later you have a nice fluffy side dish. I know that couscous is processed durum wheat flour and not a whole grain, but there’s still a decent amount of fiber in it and you can also find whole wheat couscous if that’s important to you. Of course you can also make this recipe with quinoa if you want a gluten-free version which I have done many times. In fact, I’ve often said to people who haven’t tried quinoa that you can take your favorite couscous dish and sub quinoa. Only you cook them differently. But you knew that. And there are other ways to mix this recipe up — dried cherries or raisins instead of the apricots, pistachios or chopped almonds instead of the sliced almonds, parsley instead of the cilantro or just use all of one herb. This is an easy recipe to let your personal taste be your guide!
I hope you all had a merry Christmas! We’ve had such an amazing few days with my family in New York. Christmas Eve is always such a special night and this year was no exception, with 94 of us at my aunt’s house for dinner. NINETY-FOUR. And four ladies announcing they are expecting so we’ll be 98 next year? My aunt is an absolute genius to be able to orchestrate a sit-down pot-luck for so many. I swear she could run a small country. Heck, she could probably run THIS country! We were in four different rooms eating 7 or 8 different types of fish (and a few veggies for good measure.) Although it’s really not about the food for me, instead my favorite moment of the evening is listening to all the little ones sing around the Christmas tree watching the staircase in hopes that Santa makes an appearance, which he always does. Then everyone screams and the flash bulbs go off as if there were paparazzi in the house. It never gets old for me.
Christmas Day is always the perfect balance to the evening before. It’s quieter, just 17 of us at my parents’ house and my mom is in charge. We always start the meal with tortellini in chicken broth, which my kids love. Then she makes a beef tenderloin with a red wine sauce, stuffed mushrooms, green beans with shallots and a green salad. This year I was hoping to add these amazing potatoes to the menu. I made them for Jenni Kayne’s holiday cooking class a few weeks ago and I knew they would be perfect with my mom’s menu. They would actually be perfect with almost any menu! But I’ll admit, I bailed at the last minute, thinking we had plenty of food already, I was a little tired from having gone to bed at 2:00 in the morning, and no one would care if we had or didn’t have potatoes on Christmas. Really, everyone looks forward to all the cookies after dinner anyway.
Alas, I still would love to share this recipe with you because I know you will love it and I know you will find a place for it in one of your upcoming weeknight dinners or even for something as special as New Year’s Eve. I love crispy, roasted potatoes plain and simple, but these have an extra umph from the gremolata. Gremolata is an Italian garnish traditionally made with finely chopped fresh parsley, raw garlic and grated lemon zest. I’ve had it before on osso buco, roasted vegetables and even pasta. It’s just bursting with flavor and freshness and makes ordinary potatoes out of this world. I love it! For this version of gremolata, I added a little orange zest, crushed red peppers, and fresh mint and thyme, all of which I adore with potatoes. I also made the gremolata once with a little fresh rosemary instead of the thyme and dropped the chili flakes just because — also delicious!
Try and find these teeny fingerling potatoes if you can. They are so creamy and super easy to use since you just just have to wash and dry them, no peeling, no chopping. BUT, if your market only offers Yukon Gold or red skinned potatoes, go for it. They’ll still be delicious.
I am hoping you are finding time to rest and restore your energy this week. Acting like a superhero is totally overrated and people who look like they do it all don’t, and if they do, they’re exhausted. Being a good parent or a good host/hostess or a good cook is good enough. Sounds like a good new year’s resolution for me for 2014!
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (about half an orange)
⅓ cup fresh parsley leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
2 heaping Tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, minced or grated
a pinch of red pepper flakes
2 pounds small fingerling potatoes, washed, dried and halved (leave whole if they are only an inch or so long)
3 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
Make the gremolata: in a small bowl mix together the zests, herbs, garlic and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
Place the potatoes on the prepared baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Spread the potatoes in an even layer and sprinkle with ¾ teaspoon of sea salt and black pepper to taste. Place in the oven for 35 minutes.
After 35 minutes, remove the potatoes from the oven and add another tablespoon of olive oil and half the gremolata. Toss until well combined. Place back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender and golden.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving bowl. Toss with the remaining gremolata and taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with an extra pinch of salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.