Mediterranean Penne Salad

Passover's over, so we're back to carbs! Hoorah! Last night I threw together this great pasta salad from the most recent Cooking Light. It's got lots of yummy Mediterranean flavors, like olives and goat cheese, plus roasted vegetables which add a ton of flavor. The dressing is also super delicious -- tangy and the tiniest bit sweet. This is a great warm-weather meal and would make a delightful addition to any picnic, potluck, or other summertime party.

Mediterranean Roasted Asparagus and Tomato Penne Salad with Goat Cheese
From Cooking Light
  • 2 cups uncooked penne
  • One bunch asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • One pint cherry tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
Preheat oven to 400 F. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside. Place asparagus and tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss gently to coat and arrange in a single layer. Bake for 6-10 minutes or until asparagus is tender and tomatoes have begun to burst. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

Combine shallots, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, herbes de Provence, and honey in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, stirring constantly with the whisk. Stir in a big pinch of salt and pepper.

Place pasta, asparagus, tomato, olives, and arugula in a large bowl. Toss. Drizzle dressing over pasta mixture and toss again. Sprinkle with goat cheese. Serve immediately, or cover and chill for 2 hours for a cold pasta salad.

New Potato and Chive Frittata

Shalom, everybody! I hope that Passover is treating you well so far, and that your leavened bread cravings are few and far between. I'm not Jewish, but the boyfriend is, so in our apartment we are chametz-free until next Tuesday evening. Let me tell you, it is difficult to be a vegetarian during Passover. Not only is bread forbidden, other no-no's include all grains, legumes, and corn. That doesn't leave much to work with when meat isn't an option. But we've been doing all right and managed to host a lovely seder on Monday evening anyway.

Walter was excited about the seder

Today's recipe was a casual mid-Passover meal we had last night. Made simply from potatoes, eggs, chives, salt, and pepper, this frittata still manages to be delicious. (I meant to include some asparagus in it, and I'm still putting that as an option in the recipe, but my asparagus went bad in the fridge so I had to leave it out last night, as you can see in the picture.)

This frittata is a total snap to prepare (once you've got your potatoes sliced up). And it goes great with matzo!

New Potato and Chive Frittata
  • 1 1/2 pounds new potatoes, washed and sliced thinly
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)
  • 8 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
Place the potatoes in a steamer basket and steam for 3 minutes. Add the asparagus, if using, and steam an additional minute. (Just steam the potatoes for 4 minutes straight if not including asparagus.) Remove from heat.

Preheat your broiler. Meanwhile, coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high. Add the potatoes (and asparagus) to the skillet and cook a few minutes or until the potatoes are just starting to turn golden brown. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle the chives onto the potatoes. Add the eggs to the skillet, turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes or until the eggs are mostly set. Uncover the skillet and place it under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until the top is just beginning to brown. Cut into 4 wedges and serve.

Uighur Noodles with Peppers and Sweet Potatoes

Between yesterday's post and today's, I think I've really got a good colorful meals thing going on. This one's a quick and easy weeknight meal -- I find that Asian noodle dishes are really good for that (and for some reason I always end up making them on Thursdays, when I'm starting to run out of steam for the week). For those of you who don't read the news, Uighurs are a minority ethnic group living in northwestern China. Their cuisine is very different from most Chinese cooking and uses an interesting mix of spices that sometimes resembles a blend of Indian and Middle Eastern flavors. Try it!

Uighur Noodles with Peppers and Sweet Potatoes
From Vegetarian Times
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 8-oz package dried udon noodles, cooked and set aside, or 12-oz package precooked udon noodles
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
Place sweet potato cubes in microwave-safe bowl, and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Microwave on high power 4 minutes.

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell peppers, and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add garlic, cumin, coriander, and Aleppo pepper, and cook 1 minute more. Stir in sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and 1 cup water. Cover, bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to medium-low. Uncover and cook 10 to 12 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender. Stir in noodles, and season with salt if needed. Serve garnished with cilantro.

Caribbean Succotash

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. I got sick last week, Joe was out of town for work, and since I had no one to take care of me (*sad trombone*) I ended up just eating a lot of frozen meals and feeling generally depressed about my state of affairs. This week I am much improved and in the mood for fresh food that will bring me fully back to health. Check out this Caribbean succotash I made for dinner last night -- so colorful! My mom always used to say that the more colors there are on your plate, the better your meal is for you. So this succotash must be positively bursting with nutrients out the wazoo. And so tasty! The recipe said to serve as a side dish with fish or chicken, but I made it a meal in itself served over brown rice.

Caribbean Succotash
From Bon Appetit
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen double-peeled fava beans, butter beans, or baby lima beans (about 9 ounces), thawed
  • 3/4 cup diced peeled carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 cup diced unpeeled Persian cucumber or English hothouse cucumber
  • 3/4 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • Large pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Cook beans in large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer beans to a medium bowl. Add diced carrots to same saucepan of boiling water; cook until carrots are tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and transfer carrots to small bowl.

Heat oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion, diced zucchini, diced bell pepper, pressed garlic cloves, and minced fresh thyme. Saute until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add corn, diced cucumber, and reserved carrots; stir 1 minute. Add beans, coconut milk, cayenne pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Stir until heated through, about 1 minute. Season succotash to taste with salt and pepper.

Orange-Blueberry Muffins

Joe's out of town this week for work (again... sad face) so I've been pretty bored at home in the evenings. Yeah, I've got Walter for company, but while dogs are good for cuddling they are abysmal at conversation and board games. Last night I decided to while away the hours baking some muffins to bring into the office. Naturally, I turned immediately to the best-ever baking cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, and made the very first recipe: orange-blueberry muffins. They were so delicious that I sent only 2/3 of them to the office and squirreled the rest of them away in the freezer so Joe can try them when he gets home.

Orange-Blueberry Muffins
From Baking: From My Home to Yours
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • About 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup blueberries--fresh, preferably, or frozen (not thawed)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Pour the orange juice into a large glass measuring cup or a bowl and pour in enough buttermilk to make 1 cup. Whisk in the eggs, honey, and melted butter.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of orange strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough--the batter will be lumpy and bubbly, and that's just the way it should be. Stir in the blueberries. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. When fully baked, the tops of the muffins will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins will come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Serving: The muffins are great warm or at room temperature and they're particularly great split, toasted, and spread with butter or jam.

Storing: Like all muffins, these are best eaten the day they are made. If you want to keep them, wrap them airtight and pop them into the freezer, where they'll keep for up to 2 months; rewarm in a 350-degree-F oven, if you'd like, or split and toast them.

Spring Risotto

I can't even remember the last time I made risotto. It used to be the thing when I was in high school. For some reason I remember making a lot of risottos in my mom's kitchen. Maybe because it's not hard to make, but it's so labor intensive it makes you feel like you accomplished something pretty grown-up? I'm not sure. Either way, I'm really glad I gave this risotto from this month's Cooking Light a try. It tastes way more unhealthy than it is -- always a good thing. Plus, I'm pretty sure I burned like 400 calories just from all the stirring. That's possible, right?

Spring Risotto
From Cooking Light
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (2 teaspoons if using a non-stick pan)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ounce shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add asparagus, and cook for 2 minutes. Drain. Bring 2 cups water and broth to a simmer in the same saucepan.

Meanwhile, heat another large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, and swirl to coat. Add onion; cook 4 minutes. Add garlic, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in rice, edamame, and salt; cook for 1 minute. Stir in 1 cup broth mixture; cook for 4 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed before adding more (about 20-25 minutes total).

Stir in asparagus, cream cheese, and pepper; cook 1 minute. Spoon risotto into 4 bowls. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese; sprinkle evenly with thyme.

Fried Udon Noodles

Sometimes I make a dish fairly frequently (in other words, more than twice -- I don't usually repeat things) but forget to blog about it the first few go-rounds. Then I'm making it for, like, the third or fourth time, and I'm shocked that I haven't put it up on the blog yet. This is one of those. There's not a lot of description needed. It's just a really easy and yummy noodle dish from my homegirl Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Life. Perfect for a weeknight, especially when you're craving something comfort food-y. Great with baked tofu, whether you make it yourself while you cook the noodles or happen to have some pre-made on hand.

Fried Udon Noodles
Paraphrased from The Kind Life
  • 8 oz package dry udon noodles
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 head of green cabbage, sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • Baked tofu, for serving (optional) (if making yourself, see instructions in this recipe)
Cook the udon noodles in boiling water according to package instructions. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the sliced cabbage and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Add a little water if the cabbage starts to stick or burn. Remove to a plate. Heat the other tablespoon of oil and add the sliced onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and paprika. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add a little water and scrape up the paprika to make a thick creamy sauce coating the onions. Add the cabbage back to the pan, along with the noodles. Toss to combine, adjust salt and pepper if needed, and serve (with baked tofu if desired).