Monday, January 31, 2011

Za Jiang Mein

I found this recipe months back on FoodMayhem, and I instantly knew I would be making it very soon. Ground pork and sweet bean sauce? I'm all over it.

I loved the way it turned out, but I'm not sure I prepared it correctly, as it ended up being so salty that my lips were burning and my hands swelled up. I think next time I might have to water down the bean sauce so that I can still wear my wedding ring after dinner, but this was definitely a tasty addition to the weekly menu.

Za Jiang Mein
(from FoodMayhem)

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 scallions, chopped
1 pound ground pork
1 (6oz) can sweet bean sauce
1/2 cup water
3 1/2 tablespoons ground bean sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
serve with noodles

1. Heat oil in a large deep pan or wok on medium high heat. Saute scallions until lightly golden.

2. Add pork and break up lumps with a spatula as you stir until all has turned evenly brown and no pink is left.

3. Add sweet bean sauce, water, ground bean sauce, and sugar. Stir occasionally as you let sauce cook down to desired consistency, about 5 minutes. It should be pretty thick and viscous. Serve with noodles.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Curried Coconut Butternut Squash Soup with Red Lentils and Clams

I'm always looking for new ways to eat clams and mussels beyond the usual (but very satisfying) steamed seafood with herbs or over pasta, so when I found this dish while perusing the internet, I knew I had to make it. I had a butternut squash lying around that needed to be eaten, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out a new clam dish.

Curried Coconut Butternut Squash Soup with Red Lentils and Clams
(from La Tartine Gourmande)

1 lb 2 oz red kuri squash (or butternut!), seeded and diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced (5 oz)
1 leek, white part only, chopped
1 celery branch, chopped
1 zucchini (7 oz), cut in pieces
3 cups water
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) red lentils
1 shallot, chopped
1 tsp ground curry
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 + 1/8 cups coconut milk
A splash white wine
20 clams (about 4 to 5 clams per person)
Chopped parsley
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. In a large pot, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add the shallot, leek and celery. Sweat for 2 minutes, until soft, making sure that the vegetables never brown. Then add the ground cumin and curry, and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
2. Add the rest of the vegetables and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add the water, salt and pepper and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft.
4. Mix the soup. Check the seasoning, and add the coconut milk. Keep warm.
5. In the meantime, cook the red lentils (1/2 cup lentils requires 1.5 cups water, plus salt; cook until soft, most of the water will be absorbed; set aside).
6. Cook the clams with a splash of white wine on high heat, covered, until they are open; set aside.
7. Add the lentils to the soup; mix well.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kale Slaw

I've always been a huge fan of coleslaw, but when I moved here in 2004, I found a slaw I enjoy even more at the local Moscow Food Co-Op. If you aren't familiar with it, the Co-Op is like a local version of Whole Foods, but in my opinion, better. It's a smaller store than the mainstream organic/health food stores, but the sense of community that's missing from larger, corporate stores is what makes it my favorite place to shop...

...and eat! In addition to a brand new salad bar showcasing local greens and toppings ranging from baked tofu to flax seeds, they have great sandwiches and deli side dishes.

My favorite dish is the kale slaw, which is never truly the same batch each time. I'm sure this would annoy some, but I like the different flavor combinations that each deli worker produces. I've played around with flavors to make my own variation at home, but you can try anything from pureed cashews as a base for the dressing (I've done this and it's fantastic) or tossing in some crumbled tofu along with the vegetables.

Kale Slaw (Inspired by the Moscow Co-Op's famous slaw)

1 bunch curly leaf kale, torn into pieces and stems discarded
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup grated carrots
2 tbsp. chopped cashews
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
3 tbsp. mayonnaise (I use Veganaise to keep the recipe vegan)
1/2 tsp. minced ginger

1. Combine kale, red cabbage, cashews, and carrots in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients well and pour over vegetables. Toss to coat. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to four days.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mediterranean Orzo

I have to admit that I really do love rice, and I eat stir fries enough to know that rice can be particularly filling and satisfying. However, orzo is a pasta that many people mistake for rice, and I have never EVER been one to turn down pasta, no matter the shape or texture. I've already written about my addiction to pasta, but I can't stress enough that not only is it filling, but it's also one of the most versatile staples around. I know a lot of people who never cook, and honestly, I think pasta could convert the apprehensive. Toss with some olive oil, garlic, pasta and Parmesan, and you have a great meal.

This is definitely one of those "choose your own adventure" dishes, so I'm only including a recipe as a precaution. In this incarnation, I used a vegetable orzo I found out our local co-op, made of beets, spinach, and carrots. Honestly, you could sub out the chickpeas for cannellini, the feta for Parmesan, etc. The possibilities are endless, and if you're a vegetarian, don't toss chicken on top!

Mediterranean Orzo

1 cup orzo
1 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chickpeas
3/4 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, whole
2 cups baby spinach, packed
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1. Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain.
2. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and stir for a few moments, until fragrant. Add chickpeas and tomatoes to the pan and stir, cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add spinach to pan and remove from heat, stirring until spinach just begins to wilt. Toss pasta into the pan to combine, then taste for salt and pepper. Serve with feta cheese sprinkled on top.

BBQ Portabella Quesadillas

Simple cheese or chicken quesadillas make a great dinner, but I wanted something a little off the beaten path recently, so I decided on a BBQ mushroom quesadilla. Meaty mushrooms, tangy BBQ sauce...who could resist? This made a wonderful, healthy meatless dinner with a bit of fresh guacamole.

BBQ Portabella Quesadillas
Recipe from

1/2 cup prepared barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1 pound portobello mushroom caps, (about 5 medium), gills removed, diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
4 8- to 10-inch whole-wheat tortillas
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1. Combine barbecue sauce, tomato paste, vinegar and chipotle in a medium bowl.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring, until the onion and mushrooms are beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the bowl with the barbecue sauce; stir to combine. Wipe out the pan.

3. Place tortillas on a work surface. Spread 3 tablespoons cheese on half of each tortilla and top with one-fourth (about 1/2 cup) of the filling. Fold tortillas in half, pressing gently to flatten.

4. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in the pan over medium heat. Add 2 quesadillas and cook, turning once, until golden on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and quesadillas. Cut each quesadilla into wedges and serve.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Baked Falafel with Tzatziki

I'm a huge fan of falafel, but I'm not such a huge fan of greasy falafel, so I prefer to bake these little balls (or, if you're me, patties) of goodness. Luck would have it that baking falafel also makes it healthier...two birds, one stone.

Baked Falafel
(Recipe adapted from this site)

1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, minced
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. baking powder
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and coat a baking sheet or dish with cooking spray. Mash chickpeas with a mortar and pestle. Add onions and garlic and combine. Add remaining ingredients and combine.

2. Shape mixture into balls (or, if you're like me, flat discs for easier consumption) and place in baking dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve on whole wheat pita with chopped tomatoes and tzatziki sauce (recipe follows).

Tzatziki Sauce

1 c. nonfat Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cucumber, seeded and diced
1 tsp. fresh chopped dill
1/2 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Chill for at least one hour for flavors to marry, and serve.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Artichoke and Fire Roasted Pepper Couscous

Have you ever fire roasted bell peppers? I know it's convenient to buy the bottled peppers from the grocery store, but it's inexpensive and easy to simply do it yourself. I buy a big bag of mixed bell peppers from Costco and roast them for weekly meals, and it definitely saves me some dough.

Now here's the thing: I have an electric oven, so my instructions for "fire" roasting are for all of those people out there who are frustrated with instructions calling for an open flame. It's bad enough having to use an electric stove and oven, so I figured I'd offer my tips for overcoming this kitchen obstacle.

First, cut the tops and bottoms off your bell peppers, cut them in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds and membranes. Next, cut the peppers into big slices and arrange on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast the peppers (outside skin up) in a preheated broiler for 15-20 minutes, or until blackened. Remove the peppers from the baking sheet and put them in a brown paper bag or ziploc bag. Leave to steam for 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Remove the blackened skins from the peppers and slice into strips. Roasted pepper strips will last up to five days in your fridge (alternatively, you can freeze them).

I love simply eating roasted bell peppers out of the container, but I also love them in salads and pasta dishes. They add a bit of sweet flavor and color to any dish, but below is one of my favorite ways to use bell peppers.

Artichoke and Fire Roasted Pepper Couscous

1 1/4 c. low sodium chicken broth or chicken stock
1 c. couscous
1 tsp. olive oil
1-13.75 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2/3 cup roasted red pepper strips
1 tbsp. capers, rinsed
Fresh ground black pepper

1. Heat chicken broth or stock in a saucepan until boiling. Add couscous, remove from heat, and cover five minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork.

2. Combine olive oil, chopped artichoke hearts, red peppers, capers, and black pepper with couscous, and serve immediately.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Clara's Pasta with Peas

Have you seen the YouTube episodes documenting Depression era recipes, hosted by the very adorable Clara Cannucciari? Well, you need to. The second I started watching one of these videos, I knew instantly that Clara grew up in Chicago. The accent was a dead give away, but she also sounded JUST like my own grandmother and seemed to cook similar dishes to her. She also cuts things with a paring knife--no chopping board or chef's knife--and my mother used to do the same. Watching these videos was like watching a familiar friend. Needless to say, I was hooked after just one episode.

This is my favorite recipe from Clara's series, as it combines some of my most beloved flavors. Now, I know it seems strange to use canned peas when frozen is so much better for you, and it probably seems odd to pair pasta with potatoes, but just go with it. JUST.GO.WITH.IT. Here's the video recipe:

Apparently, there is a book out you can buy from Amazon, and I think I might just have to pick it up!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pesto Penne with Cherry Tomatoes

I like to keep a few handy staples on hand for quick dinners, so I usually make large batches of pesto and pasta sauces, and then freeze them in individual ziploc bags. For this meal, I also happened to roast a whole pound of whole cherry tomatoes earlier on in the week, so dinner was a snap to assemble.

Pesto Penne with Cherry Tomatoes

2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 tsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 tbsp. pesto
1/4 cup pasta water
6 oz. whole wheat penne

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine cherry tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Pour out onto a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions. After draining pasta and reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water, return pasta to the same pot and toss with pesto and roasted tomatoes. Add pasta water a smidge at a time if mixture needs thinning out. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

Note: For a quick and easy pesto recipe, click here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

I think I may be becoming a pasta-holic. Are there meetings for such an addiction? Not that I'd attend them since I'm still in denial. I remember not really enjoying this particular dish as a child, but as my tastes matured in adulthood, I realized that perhaps I did actually enjoy it, I just resisted. Why would I resist? Well...see above. I knew it would turn into an addiction that refused to not be fueled.

Sophia Loren once said "everything you see I owe to spaghetti," and I'm inclined to believe her. There's something simple yet decadent, hearty, and absolutely worth it about a big pile of noodles lightly coated in delicious sauce. And, of course, I always think of this image of her cooking in a gorgeous dress with fiery red hair (many people make fun of me for wearing 1950s style dresses in the kitchen, but hey, if Sophia Loren did it):

Linguine with White Clam Sauce
(Okay, I admit I didn't have linguine...only thin spaghetti. Hush, now)

1/2 package whole wheat linguine
2 6.5 oz. cans chopped clams, drained with liquid reserved
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 c. white wine
2/3 cup skim milk
3 tbsp. all-p flour
Salt and pepper
Parmesan and chopped parsley, to serve

1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Heat olive oil and butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and clams to the skillet and cook until garlic is fragrant. Increase heat to medium high, add lemon juice and white wine to the pan, along with one cup of reserved canned clam liquid. Simmer until liquid is reduced by half and turn heat down to medium low.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain (do NOT rinse). In a bowl or measuring cup, combine flour and milk. Add mixture to skillet and heat through 3-4 minutes, or until sauce mixture thickens. Add more canned clam juice to thin out, if necessary, and taste for salt and pepper. Pour pasta into skillet and toss to combine. Serve with fresh chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mussels Marinara with Pasta

I adore mussels. I adore pasta. I adore mussels and pasta. You can see where I'm headed with this. I'm lucky to have a pretty adventurous hubby, and even though he was a little worried about trying this dish, he ended up loving it. Whew! Next up: clams!!

I should apologize for the horrible quality of the photo for this post, but I changed out the lightbulbs in my kitchen, and I just can't seem to get any photos right. Maybe one of these days I'll figure it out.

Mussels Marinara with Pasta
(From The Best Italian Classics)

1 lb. mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
1 cup white wine
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 canned cups crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
8 oz. whole wheat pasta

1. In a pot, simmer white wine, garlic, and bay leaf for 3-4 minutes. Turn heat up to high and add mussels to the pot and cover. Cook 4-8 minutes, or until the mussels open up. Remove mussels and set aside.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions.

3. Turn heat down to medium. Add olive oil and tomatoes to the pan, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Add fresh basil and mussels to the pot to heat through, and pour mussels and sauce over pasta. Lightly toss to combine. Serve.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Homemade Pasta with Shrimp, Slow Roasted Tomatoes, and Truffle Oil

I mostly eat whole wheat pasta these days, but when I'm in the mood for some traditional pasta, nothing beats making it yourself. I've talked to a lot of people who are afraid of the process (or, in fact, dread it), so I figured I'd include some photos that might help people visualize just how simple a process making pasta really is.

1. You start with 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour and 4 eggs (at room temperature). Pour your flour out onto a flat, very clean surface like a countertop, and create a well in the middle of the flour. This is where you'll pour the eggs in. See Photo 1 below.

Photo 1.

2. Work the flour and eggs together by hand. At first you might think the mixture will never actually come together, but have a little patience and enjoy using your hands and getting dirty. Knead the dough once it does come together by folding it in half and pressing down hard. Ten minutes of kneading is usually the magic number for me. Once the dough is nice and kneaded, sprinkle a little flour on it and put a bowl over the dough. Let rest for at least 30 minutes. See Photo 2 for what the dough will look like once it has rested and risen.

Photo 2.

3. Cut the dough into 4 equal parts. See Photo 3.

Photo 3.

4. Take each dough section, one by one, and roll through pasta machine on each setting (1-6). You can also roll out the dough by hand using a rolling pin. Once rolled out, run pasta sheets through pasta cutter. See Photo 4 below.

Photo 4.

5. Arrange pasta on a pasta drying rack or on a clean counter surface. Let dry out for about an hour (or two!). See Photo 5.

Photo 5.

Now that you have wonderful fresh pasta, here's a great way to use it!

Pasta with Shrimp, Slow Roasted Tomatoes, and Truffle Oil

1 1/2 c. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. fresh pasta
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. truffle oil
Chopped, fresh Italian parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine halved tomatoes, salt, pepper, and 1 tsp. olive oil. Toss to coat and pour onto a baking sheet. Bake in oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

2. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add garlic and shrimp to pan. Cook shrimp 2 minutes a side, or until pink (This is also the point at which I start boiling the pasta for 2-3 minutes). Add slow roasted tomatoes to the skillet and toss mixture. Drizzle truffle oil over shrimp mixture and toss to coat. Remove from heat and add cooked pasta to the skillet. Serve with Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

Winter is the time to eat loads of butternut squash, and I know I certainly do. One of my favorite things about squash is its versatility, and while I love it roasted, I also love it pureed in soups and sauces. Since I also happen to be a major pasta fanatic, a pasta sauce with butternut squash was a logical choice for a cold and snowy winter treat.

Butternut Squash Sauce for Pasta
(Recipe from Simply Recipes)

1 butternut squash weighing about 2 1/2 pounds
8 ounces of bow-tie pasta
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/3 cup of chopped shallots
1/2 cup of packed, freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Water as needed to thin the sauce


1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the butternut squash lengthwise in half* and scoop out the guts and seeds and discard them. Pour 1/4 cup of water into a pyrex or ceramic baking dish and place the butternut squash halves cut side down. Bake for 40 minutes or until a fork easily pierces the squash. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Scoop out the squash flesh from the skins and purée with a blender (work in batches or place in a bowl and use a hand blender). Discard the skins.

2. Fill a pot with water and salt (1 tablespoon of salt for every 2 quarts of water). Set over high heat to bring to a hard boil. Add the pasta and cook at a hard boil, uncovered until al dente.

3. While the pasta is cooking, pour the olive oil into a wide skillet on medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the butternut squash purée and cook for about a minute, mixing it in with the shallots. Add the cream, a tablespoon at a time, slowly stirring it in to incorporate and to avoid lumps. Stir in the Parmesan. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add water (or chicken stock) to thin to the consistency you want. Take off heat and add the parsley and lemon juice. Cover the pan to keep warm.

4. Check pasta. When ready (al dente) drain and plate. Pour the sauce over the pasta. Garnish with a little extra parsley and Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Curried Parsnip and Chickpea Puree

It's eleven degrees outside currently, and school won't be back in session until 11 January, so of course, I'm cooking up a storm (never have I been so on top of updating my blog). It's been great to work exclusively from home, and I have been alternating between writing, reading, and cooking happily for over a week now.

I have also combed through some old cookbooks and cooking magazines that have been collecting dust for months (okay, years), and I was pleasantly surprised to find a puree recipe from an early 1990s Reader's Digest cookbook titled Live Longer Cookbook. My grandfather always gifted my family with a subscription to Reader's Digest, and I'm pretty sure this cookbook ended up in our house after some kind of subscription promotion. Some of the information is outdated, of course, and the suggestion that you microwave all vegetables to "retain" nutrients is obviously not a great pearl of wisdom, but some of the side dish and sauce recipes are pretty decent, and none asks for fat free sour cream (I really think this is an oxymoron).

I served the puree with a simple, herb-baked tilapia and green beans, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ian actually enjoyed the dish. Definitely a keeper.

Curried Parsnip and Chickpea Puree
(ever so slightly adapted from the Live Longer Cookbook)

1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 baby carrots, thinly sliced
1 lb. parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
14.5 oz can low-sodium tomatoes (with juice)
1/2 c. chickpeas
2 tbsp. plain nonfat Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Stir in garlic and curry powder, then add the carrot, parsnips, and tomatoes. Cook, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the parsnips are just tender. Add chickpeas and cook, covered, about 5 more minutes.

2. Combine mixture in a food processor or blender, along with yogurt and s/p. Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Baked Lemon Shrimp

Here's another fast and easy weeknight meal that can be assembled in a flash. I use a lot of shrimp in my house, and when I get tired of serving shrimp with pasta, I turn to baking them and serving with wild rice and veggies. If you like, you can also serve this with crusty bread instead of rice, but I just love the way the rice soaks up the lemon garlic sauce.

Baked Lemon Shrimp

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and de-veined
Juice of one lemon
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire
2 tbsp. butter, melted
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put shrimp in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to coat. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until shrimp is cooked through. Serve with wild rice and veggies.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Cilantro Shrimp and Rice

Start your New Year off with a healthy (but still flavorful) dinner full of color and texture. It's yet another shrimp and rice dish, but this one happens to be one of the hubby's favorites. It's truly excellent served atop a bed of brown rice and veggies, making it a really quick meal to assemble.

Cilantro Shrimp (from Cooking Light)

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
3 cups (1-inch) slices green onions
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 1/2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste) or hot sauce
2 cups chopped fresh cilantro
3 cups hot cooked brown rice

1. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat; add oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add onions, ginger, and garlic to pan; stir-fry 1 minute. Add shrimp; stir-fry 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce and chile paste; stir-fry 1 minute or until shrimp are done. Remove pan from heat; add cilantro, stirring constantly until cilantro wilts. Serve over rice.