Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

Pasta E Fagioli Salad with Fennel

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

I promised you a recipe using the Florence fennel I harvested the other day, and for a change, I’m delivering in a timely fashion.  Fresh produce waits for no one!  This salad is a take on a traditional Italian dish, Pasta E Fagioli, or pasta and beans.  Mediterranean peasant food is my all time favorite.  If I have to be more specific, then it would the simple practical Tuscan dishes which utilize fresh seasonal produce, cheese, hearty breads, and leftovers.

My sister, the world traveler, just gifted me this tin of cold pressed organic olive oil she picked up on a recent trip to Cyprus. I thought this recipe would be worthy of such a high quality olive oil. Some day I would love to visit Greece and Italy, but for now I’ll have to live vicariously through my sister’s traipsing around.

Pasta e Fagioli Salad with Fennel
4 ounces whole wheat penne (1 1/2 cup dry)
1  15 oz can Cannellini Beans (of course, I recommend organic)
1/2 medium bulb Florence fennel, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste (I used a little more than a teaspoon of salt)
Small bunch of greens of your choice

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  I’m always sure to salt my cooking water because I hate bland pasta.

Combine the beans, fennel, tomatoes, onion, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a roomy bowl.

Drain the pasta and toss with the bean mixture. Place greens on a platter or plates, and spoon mixture on top. Garnish with chiffonaded basil.

I would have preferred to use my favorite arugula, but my current planting isn’t ready yet. I still had a little bit of spinach left in the garden, so that’s what I was stuck with.  Cress would be a good choice for greens also.  I guess I like anything with a bit of a peppery bite.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp Salad with Snow Peas & Orzo

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

This recipe was born out of an overabundance of snow peas and cilantro in my garden, although I’m positive I can’t have been the first to throw these flavors together.  My guys were gone, and I wanted a quick, light summer meal for one.  They wouldn’t eat this in a million years…. even if they were starving. Bart won’t eat cilantro or raw snow peas, Kelie won’t eat anything that swims, and I’m positive Kuyler would have a problem with the whole combination. Thank heavens they leave me from time to time, so I can eat foods I like.

I get raw shrimp in the shell and cook it myself.  I think the flavor is far superior, and it only takes a couple of minutes to dunk them in boiling water until they begin to curl and turn pink, then toss them in a bowl of ice water to chill. Feel free to use your favorite shrimp.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp Salad with Snow Peas & Orzo
1/2 cup orzo, cooked according to package directions
3 to 4 ounces cooked and chilled shrimp (6 to 8 shrimp depending on size)
3/4 cup raw snow peas, cut in half
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt & pepper to taste

Whisk together olive oil and lime juice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  In a bowl, toss vinaigrette together with orzo, shrimp, snow peas, and cilantro.  The amount of cilantro is entirely up to personal taste.  Serves one as a meal, or two if serving as a side dish.

Pasta with Summer Vegetables Pesto and Feta

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

One of the things I love about eating in the summer is the ability to throw together quick, healthy dishes using fresh, local ingredients. I’m especially fond of one skillet meals which take only minutes to prepare, leaving more time to go outside and play in my gardens.  We’ll call this particular recipe a variation on a theme, and I’ll show you how you can change it up, depending on the ingredients you have on hand.

The dish revolves around whole wheat pasta, seasonal vegetables, and some type of protein.  By changing the veggies and protein, the dish can be completely transformed. The version I give below is rather Italian.  Early this fall I might go with squash, arugula, sage, and goat cheese. Another fall combo is carrots, Brussels sprouts, pancetta or bacon, and pecorino cheese. In the spring you could go with fettuccine, asparagus, parsley, and Gorgonzola. I’ve even been known to use eggs as my protein, but cheese is my favorite. Some of the fresh cheese I make includes chèvre, mozzarella, and queso blanco.  We’ll talk about cheese at some later date! If you would like something a little heartier, you can use leftover chicken, shrimp, or red meat as your protein. Just remember, the point of this recipe is to be quick, so use leftovers!

Pasta with Summer Vegetables Pesto and Feta
1/2 an onion, roughly chopped or sliced
2 to 4 baby zucchini, halved and sliced lengthwise
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
8 ounces organic whole wheat pasta, cooked and drained
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 to 4 tablespoons pesto
4 ounces feta, cut into cubes
Olive oil for cooking

Once you have your ingredients chopped, sliced, and cubed, assemble them next to your skillet. Cooking will go really fast.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in your skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and cook for about 30 seconds. Next add zucchini and garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Add pasta and half the tomatoes and cook for 30 seconds to a minute, or until everything is heated through.  Finally, add pesto, feta, and the last half of the tomatoes.  Stir everything together to thoroughly mix and then pull it off the heat.

Pesto Pasta Salad

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Last week I promised a recipe for the pasta verde made with the chlorophyll I showed you how to extract.  This pesto pasta salad is what I made to take to a 4th of July family reunion.  Before I give you the recipe, I hope you’ll humor me while I wax nostalgic for a moment.

I’ve been attending this annual picnic since I was 12 years old.  The side of my family involved is my paternal grandmother’s.  There were originally 8 kids, but this year we’re down to the last 3 siblings.   The two youngest are 79 and 80, and my grandma is the eldest at 93.  I know our culture worships youth and beauty, but thanks to my grandma I’ve come to realize there is a certain beauty and youthfulness to old age.  Isn’t my grandma beautiful!

OK, on to our recipe. All measurements are approximate. Feel free to increase, decrease, substitute, or omit anything you like (or don’t like).

Pesto Pasta Salad
1 pound fresh or frozen pasta verde
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup Kalamata olives
1 to 1 1/2 cups feta cheese, cubed
1/4 to 1/2 cup pine nuts
Basil for garnishing

Pesto Dressing
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
1/8 cup pesto
Salt to taste

Whisk oil, vinegar, and pesto together. Season to taste. Toss dressing together with pasta, tomatoes, olives, and cheese. Sprinkle pine nuts over top of salad and garnish with basil.

At my youngest son’s request, I also made a strawberry cake for the picnic.  I’ll post a recipe for the cake later this week.  Would you be able to refuse a request from a face like this?

Pasta Verde

Monday, June 28th, 2010

I have a problem…. I freely admit it…. I’m a pasta addict. I’ll eat the stuff in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors. I’ll eat it with red sauce, green sauce, white sauce, no sauce!.  I don’t know if I’ve ever met a pasta I wouldn’t eat.

One of my favorite cookbooks (and I have way too many) is The Pasta Bible. If you like to make pasta, and make it frequently, then I highly recommend adding this book to your collection. The spine of my book is broken, if that tells you anything about how much I’ve used it.

Like any good addict, I’ve also got paraphernalia to accompany my addiction. My husband is my enabler. He gave me my paraphernalia as a Christmas gift about 14 years ago. My paraphernalia is a Cuisinart pasta extruder.  The machine has been discontinued, but the company that made it for  Cuisinart  is still around, and they manufacture a similar Lello pasta maker. Even better, Lello’s machine costs much less than mine did. Fourteen years of service is a great testimonial to this work horse of a pasta machine. Also, if you own a Kitchen Aid mixer, I’ve been hearing great things about the pasta attachment available for use with it.

The following recipe works great for my machine, which does all the hard work. All I have to do is dump the ingredients into the mixing bowl and let it mix for several minutes. Then I stand there and cut the pasta to the desired length as it comes out of the extruding die. Assuming most of you don’t have a machine, I should probably provide a tutorial on making pasta by hand. The gal who wrote this tutorial uses a hand crank machine, but you can use a rolling pin.

This pasta’s  vibrant green color comes from chlorophyll.  If you missed it, you can learn how to extract chlorophyll in my previous post

Pasta Verde

4 cups durum semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 eggs
1/4 cup chlorophyll

Place the eggs and chlorophyll in a measuring cup and mix together.  You need exactly 1 cup of liquid. If needed, add enough water to the mixture to bring it up to 1 cup.

Add your liquid ingredients to your dry ingredients according to the method you are using (make a well in the flour and add the liquid ingredients to the well if you are making pasta by hand). It should look something like this when you’re finished mixing.

Once your pasta dough is mixed you can roll it out and cut it, or in my case stand there and cut the pasta as it comes out of the machine.  I made rigatoni.

A few comments on my ingredients.  I try to use as many local and organic ingredients as possible. However, I live in a rather remote community where organics can be difficult to obtain.  I use organic, free range eggs from my own flock, but organic semolina is a difficult animal to locate and I’ve been forced to have it shipped in. A great place for organic grains and flours is Heartland Mill out of Kansas.

Extracting Chlorophyll from Leafy Greens

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Chlorophyll extraction is considered an advanced cooking technique, which I think is ridiculous considering how easy it is.  I was surprised to discover that you can’t find much on the Interwebs about chlorophyll in cooking.  You ask, “Chlorophyll in cooking?  Huh?”  Chlorophyll imparts a beautiful green, tasteless color to foods. Additionally, it is very healthy.  If you’d like to do some further reading, here’s more information on chlorophyll than you ever wanted to know.

I’m going to cover chlorophyll in two parts.  Part 1 will be extraction. In Part 2 I’ll show you how to use chlorophyll to make gorgeous Pasta Verde. Also, I’ll follow up with a recipe using the pasta to make a  salad I’m planning to take to an annual family reunion on the 4th of July.

I hate waste.  When my spinach or arugula bolts I have a problem with pulling it up and throwing it on the compost pile.  Using bolted greens to extract chlorophyll is my solution to “wasting” the leafy greens that I go through so much trouble to grow in my  little garden.

This morning after the dew had dried, I cut the spinach stalks and stripped the leaves.  I ended up with a little over half a pound of spinach.  I plant small 18 x 18 inch square patches of spinach and arugula several times throughout the growing season, so I almost always have some available.  I have two  favorite varieties of spinach.  Monstrueux De Viroflay, an old French Heirloom variety,  is planted in the cooler temperatures of spring, and again in early fall for overwintering.   Summer Perfection, a heat tolerant variety from Renee’s Garden Seeds,  is planted once summer temperatures gear up.

The next step is to macerate the spinach with some water.  I used about 2 cups of water for my half pound of spinach, placed it in my food processor, and whizzed the behoozit out of it (thanks to my friend Tina for that wonderful new addition to my vocabulary).

Once the greens are processed, strain the pulp through a jelly bag or a couple of layers of fine cheesecloth or butter muslin to obtain a deep, dark green juice.  Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the pulp. The pulp is what my compost pile finally gets.

This next part is the cool part! Place the juice in a heavy, stainless steel sauce pan and gently heat over medium heat to approximately 150 degrees. Be careful not to let it get too hot.  What you’ll be watching for is the chlorophyll to separate from the water portion of the juice.  You know you’re there when it looks sort of like algae floating in murky green pond water.

Remove from heat and pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Press very gently on the green paste in the strainer to remove some of the excess water (which I throw on my compost pile). The green paste is your chlorophyll. If you won’t be using it immediately, cover and store in the refrigerator.  It’s best if used within a couple of days.  I’ve never done it before, but some day I plan to experiment to see if it will freeze well.  I got about 1/4 cup of chlorophyll from the half pound of spinach.  1/4 cup is what will be needed for a batch of Pasta Verde.