Tag Archives: pasta

Beet and mushroom pesto

beet pestoHello from icy and snowy Toronto! Otto and I are so happy to be here to celebrate Ukrainian Christmas with my family. Tonight we’ll have our 12-course Christmas Eve dinner, and today’s Meatless Monday dish was inspired by borscht and mushroom dumplings that are part of it (and by far my favorite or all 12).

The other day I had 5 steamed beets ready to make into creamed beets but got sidetracked, and 2 portobello mushrooms that were already sliced and sauteed and didn’t quite make it to be the gravy as intended for this unamitastic vegetarian nut loaf. The next day, I got to thinking how great the flavor combination is of the just slightly tart but salty borscht is with the earthy mushroom dumplings, so why not make it into a pesto, right? For a bit more earthiness, I added in a handful of walnuts, but unlike most pestos, I left out the cheese. However, I’m sure a little parmesan wouldn’t hurt. I added a dollop of ricotta once I served it.

I did make one mistake, though…I put it on a delicate mushroom ravioli. The problem with that was that the raviolis took over, and they fell apart as I tried to toss them with the pesto (hence no photo). I froze half of the pesto for another time, and next time around, I’ll use farfalle (as discussed here: the pasta that’s dumpling-like without being a dumpling), although I’m sure any pasta that’s not filled would do.

Beet and Mushroom Pesto, makes about 2 cups

- 2 portobello mushroom caps, sliced thin and sauteed in some butter until they’ve let go of their liquid
- one large beet, steamed, peeled, and diced
- two cloves of garlic
- one small handful of walnuts
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, pulse together two cloves of fresh garlic and a handful of walnuts (toasted, if you’d like). Add in the beets and mushrooms and pulse some more. Then, with the food processor running, add some olive oil in (about 2 tablespoons or so? more if you like it runnier, but you can always adjust later) and a few splashes of vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix with whatever you’d like. If you are mixing it into a pasta dish, save some pasta water to help loosen and distribute the pesto nicely.

All Real, Picky Eater Fooling Vegetarian Meatballs

Last year, I finally made these vegetarian burgers and there was no looking back. They taste fantastic, every ingredient is recognizable and I can pronounce it (unlike the jibberish on those packages of soy-based ground ‘beef’), and I’ve found the mixture freezes well and makes a meatball that tricked a picky 6-year-old I know. One time while in my care last spring, I actually fed them to her as an experiment to see if she would notice. She didn’t. And I smiled to myself smugly.

The context was likely what made these seem like the real deal. I made sure there was lots of tomato sauce and cheese to cover the meatballs and the spaghetti. Context is everything, right? I used to eat these tofu hot dogs from street vendors in Toronto, and they really didn’t taste much different when they were smothered in about 7 toppings (Toronto hot dog vendors all easily have about 20 to choose from, including this corn relish I could never bring myself to taste.) Then again, texture can blow your cover, no matter how good the context. Those tofu dogs weren’t entirely convincing because they were sort of putty-ish. Maybe there’s a better description out there…I don’t know. Anyway, vegetarian meatballs from the store tend to have this spongey kind of texture, right? I can’t remember because it’s been a while. Thankfully these meatballs have a nice texture that’s slightly varied, thanks to the ground mixture of grains, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.

Here’s what I do: Continue reading

Leftover Santorini Fava Purée

Some people do cleanses to tune up their bodies. Well Adam and I are doing a bit of a non-essential spending cleanse to tune up our finances. We’re committed to ending this year as financial rockstars, but we have a ways to go– and we’re gonna have fun doing it, dammit!

Yesterday Adam even suggested we create some sort of points system and make it into a game. I think I could gain an advantage with what I’ve been doing in the kitchen. I’m calling this week ‘shopping the pantry week.’ I’ve come up with a list of new and old favorite recipes to try, and with each I must use up what’s been sitting on my pantry shelves for, in some cases, years. First up, a fresh batch of Santorini Fava Purée, which I made last year and still had plenty of beans for another round.

While I love this dip, let’s be honest. It’s no cheesy spinach artichoke dip decadence that’s devoured in a sitting. It’s super wholesome and it’s likely you’ll have your fill after a few spoonfuls, which means there will be leftovers. So I came up with two dishes that use the dip in other ways. First is a pasta dish, and my recipe for that is below. A few days after I made the pasta, I had another idea. To spread some warmed purée on a fresh baguette and finish with some thin-sliced red onions, black olives, and feta; it was satisfying and flavorful, and reminded me of a vegetarian version of the pashtet sandwich that made me so happy during my pregnant days.

Anyway, this is how I made the pasta, which took just a few minutes to put together. Enjoy! Continue reading

Tuning up the Meatless Monday lunch

I’m full of good intentions on Mondays. Since January, I’ve started my week by rolling out of my cozy bed and getting to the gym for my favorite class (it’s hard getting there, but I never regret how amazing I feel by 7:30!). I get to the office an hour early and through my day, I’m setting goals for the week and checking things off my list. By dinnertime, I’m working on something fun and meatless to (hopefully) blog about afterward. I’m in bed by 10 with ginger tea, and out cold about 15 minutes later. All very good, right?

The thing I need to work on, though, is lunch. While dinners have gotten healthier and more creative, I’m in a bit of a slump with either egg salad on toast from the office kitchen, or something either unhealthy or expensive (or both) from a place nearby. I have a new goal for my well-intended Mondays: homemade meatless lunches to get excited about.

This is something I whipped up last night and it reheated nicely. I boiled up 1/2 a pound of whole wheat penne and added bite-sized pieces of kale (I love love love kale) for the last 3 minutes of cooking. I tossed this with a can of drained/rinsed chickpeas, a handful of pitted Kalamata olives, just a little bit of feta, and olive oil. And since I made so much, Tuesday will be as good as Monday. This has me thinking about other pasta/legume/vegetable/scant bit of cheese combinations. Maybe pasta with cannellini beans, a bitter green, and parmesan? Or navy beans, shredded beets, and goats cheese?

To Bologna for Bolognese

Several years ago, I had quite the plum job working at a design trade magazine where I got to travel to furniture shows and spot trends, meet designers, go to parties. It was one fine job….of course I was broke because I made very little money, but I was getting stamps in my passport and traveling to places like Helsinki, so it didn’t matter. For two consecutive Septembers, I was assigned to cover a chair show–yes, all chairs, and several buildings full of them!–in Udine, a small city in northern Italy. It was just a few days long, so in both instances I added vacation time and spent more time in Italy–first in Rome, then Florence.

One of the things I loved about those trips was that I was by myself…it was pure ‘me’ time and I did everything on a whim and I wrote in this little black Moleskin book and I would sit alone in restaurants and observe others and try to figure out their stories. I’m so glad I never held back from doing those trips because I had nobody to come along with me. To be alone with my self, I think, was an important part of growing up. Does that make sense?

Anyway, one morning in Florence, I woke up and decided to get on a train to Bologna for Bolognese. (How very Eat Pray Love of me, I know, but let it be known that this was well before the book was published.) I got there in time for lunch and didn’t spend too much time looking for the perfect place. Thankfully, I was lucky and it was delicious. Looking at this picture of my plate, I see I had my  New Yorker food issue with me. The funny thing is that I never read the New Yorker, but those two September trips coincided with the food issue on the newsstands, and I bought them at the airport and took the week to read them cover to cover.

I’ve wanted to make Bolognese sauce ever since and finally took on the challenge on a very rainy day. The recipe calls for very little in the vegetable department, and I have to say that it went against my  instinct to load up the sauce with all sorts of carrots and other roughage. But after tasting the results, I’m going to insist that you get your greens and beta carotene in the insalata mista and let this be the meat sauce that it’s intended to be.

This is a recipe adapted from one I found on Cook’s Country subscriber-only website (a bargain at $3.95 a month). The recipe involves a slow cooker, but I decided to just use the ingredients list and use my Dutch oven on the stove. I love my slow cooker, but I love my Dutch oven more, hence my decision (see more below on this). Continue reading

A few ways to fall for frozen peas

It took me years and two Brits to get over my dislike of peas. My mother, while she is and always has been a fantastic cook, subjected us to canned peas as children , and it wasn’t so much the flavor as the texture that really put me off. (Just to clarify, this does not include fresh peas, which I would eat straight from the plants in my baba’s garden. And another thing, I’m sure that without six little mouths to feed, my mother is off the canned variety too.) I assumed frozen peas were just as bad, until I saw Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver use them with such flair. And something I only recently realized: like my lentils, I enjoy my peas either pureed or with a bit of bite.

Given that there’s just about nothing green at the farmer’s market these days, bags of Trader Joes frozen peas are keeping me from going completely pale (or broke…I think they’re just $2 a bag!). Here are a few of my favorite recipes….do you have any to share?

Nigella’s recipe for Pea and Pesto Soup was what got me over the pea aversion.

Jamie uses frozen peas all the time, and although I haven’t tried the Pasta Shells with Bacon and Peas, I will soon enough.

This recipe for Minty Pea Dip is inspired by Jamie. We had something very similar during the cocktail hour at our wedding….I loved the taste and the color!

Mashed Green Peas go with just about anything, and these come together much faster than other mashed vegetables.

And finally, my own combination: whole wheat pasta, goats cheese or ricotta, peas (barely cooked, of course), and garlic scape pesto (which I froze last June). Any pesto–mmmm, maybe a minty one?–will do.

(Image via Flickr)

When life gives you pumpkins…

A few weeks ago, this article on NPR was making its rounds. The one-sentence version: in Ukraine, when a woman gives a man a pumpkin, it means she will not marry him. My astute and witty cousin Michael’s response to the article: “It seems Ukrainian men never discovered how to make pumpkin pie.”

So very true. Setbacks = Opportunities in the form of pie. Or whoopie pies. Or gnocchi, or soup, or brownies for that matter. And pumpkin is dense with nutrients including Vitamin A, iron, and potassium, to boot. And just in case you’re wondering–I was and got my answer here–the canned variety holds its nutrients as much as fresh pumpkin (just make sure it’s 100% pure and not the pie filling). I’ll be keeping extra cans on hand for these recipes:

These Pumpkin Swirl Brownies don’t look too difficult to make, and most of the ingredients are pantry staples.

This simple Vegan Pumpkin Soup looks like a great start for all sorts of variations. Maybe some turmeric and cumin-spiced croutons on top?

Turkey Pumpkin Chili + Pumpkin Cornbread = my kind of college football-watching food.

Adam and I love creamy pastas, and this Pumpkin Sauce looks like a quick weeknight fix. I would make a side of some garlicky kale or brocoli rabe to balance it out. Pumpkin Gnocchi is more of a weekend project, and I could see some crumbled sausage mixed into this too.

Finally, this recipe for Pumpkin and Feta Muffins calls for fresh pumpkin or butternut squash, but I’m sure the finished product is worth the effort. How delish would these be for breakfast on Thanksgiving Day? I’m not sure I’m that ambitious, but I could definitely make a Pumpkin Pie Smoothie before heading out to the Macy’s Parade.

I left out a pumpkin pie recipe, but that’s being saved for another post. I’m so excited to share my good friend Fred’s recipe in a few days!

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