Baked Spinach-Artichoke Pasta

8 Jan

Here’s a nice recipe I got from the New York Times. It’s not a dieter’s delight, that’s for sure, with heavy cream and lots of cheese. But it sure is good! The recipe suggests cooking the pasta until just shy of al dente, because it will continue to cook in the sauce as it bakes.

The red pepper gives the sauce a little zing, but not enough to make it spicy.

The Times suggests you can use kale or mustard greens instead of the spinach, use other cheese combos, add mustard or carametlized onions, or top with crumbled bacon (which, being kosher, I would never do!)

Ingredients:

Kosher salt
8 oz. medium pasta shells
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
10 oz. fresh baby spinach or frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained
1 (14-oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
2 cups heavy cream
4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
Black pepper
4 oz. grated mozzarella cheese (about 1 cup)

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions until 2 minutes short of al dente. Drain and reserve.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the spinach little by little until wilted, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chopped artichokes.

Stir in the cream and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir in the Parmesan until melted.

Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the cooked pasta (or transfer the pasta and the sauce to a large bowl to mix). The liquid might appear wet and loose but it will thicken as it bakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the pasta to a 2-quart casserole dish or individual casseroles or ramekins. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and bake until bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. If you like you can broil for a few minutes until the cheese is browned in spots.

Cool slightly befoere serving.

Serves 4 to 6

Date-Nut Bars

17 Nov

This is a nice recipe to indulge yourself with while you’re blue about having to stay indoors and isolate yourself during the pandemic. Especially if you were ever seduced by those big bags of pitted dates at Costco and are now wondering what the heck to do with all of them. They’re easy to make and really delicious.

Ingredients:

¾ cup flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped nuts
1 cup sliced dates
1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Beat eggs, and beat in sugar gradually. Stir in the nuts, dates and vanilla, and then the dry ingredients.

Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking pan and line the bottom with a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. Spread the batter in the pan. Bake about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Invert onto a wire rack and peel off the waxed or parchment paper. Cut into strips about 2 inches by 1 inch.

Makes 32 bars

A new roasted butternut squash soup

2 Nov

A few weeks ago I told you about a humongous butternut squash that I used to make a vegetable dish with onions and za’atar and a vegetarian chili. I froze the rest to use in soup. Well, last week I made the soup, and it is dee-lish! It has fewer spices than many such soups, so the flavor of the squash really comes through.

The recipe is adapted from one by Lindsay Funston, deputy editor at the “delish” online food magazine.

I didn’t have fresh thyme so I used dried. I had only small potatoes so I used three (and because they were “new” potatoes I didn’t peel them). The recipe called for chicken broth but I used vegetable broth, and I found I needed more like 6 or 8 cups, rather than the 4 cups the recipe called for, to get the soup the right consistency; it was still nice and thick.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (about 3 cups)
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, chopped
1 Tbs. fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried thyme) — plus more for garnish
6-8 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet, toss butternut squash and potatoes with 2 Tbs. olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, 30 minutes.

In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion, celery and carrot and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Season generously with salt, pepper and thyme.

Add the roasted squash and potatoes and then the broth. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until all the vegetables are soft. Blend until creamy using an immersion blender (or do in small batches in a blender), adding additional brtoth or water if it seems too thick.

Serve garnished with fresh thyme. A dollop of sour cream on top would also be nice.

Serves 6 to 8

Roast Chicken with Garlic, Lime and Cranberry Onions

25 Oct

This is delicious, but it’s not a dieter’s delight. The onions and cranberries soak up all the tasty chicken fat that you would normally discard (or save for another use) after roasting the chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 8 to 12 chicken pieces (any combination)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. fresh minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt (ignore if using kosher chicken)
  • ½ tsp. fresh ground pepper or to taste
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup lime juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the onions over the bottom of an oiled roasting pan.

Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and rub with the olive oil, then the garlic. Combine the spices and rub all over the chicken pieces. Arrange the chicken skin side up over the onions and roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the roasting pan and stir the cranberries into the onions. Place the chicken back in the pan, skin side down and roast for 10 minutes more.

Turn the chicken over again, drizzle with the lime juice, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes more, until the top is nicely browned.

Serve immediately with the chicken arranged on a serving platter on a bed of the cranberry onions.

Serves 6 to 8

Roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za’atar

13 Oct

Here is a great recipe from the fabulous Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I love this cookbook, because everything I have made from it has been delicious – but I admit I have not made too many of the recipes because a lot of them are very involved and use a lot of sometimes-hard-to-find ingredients.

This one is relatively simple, and these days, tahini and za’atar (a Middle Eastern herb/spice blend) are relatively easy to find. If you don’t have a Middle Eastern grocery in your area, you can order them online.

The book calls for the squash to be roasted with the skin on. I did not do this because I started with a gigantic butternut squash. In addition to this dish, I made a batch of Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili and froze a bunch of squash cubes to make another soup when the chili is gone. So I used butternut squash cubes instead of wedges and they work perfectly fine. You can save some time and energy by buying pre-peeled and pre-cut squash cubes.

The dish has an interesting combination of flavors, colors and textures. It works well as an appetizer or as a side dish.

I changed the directions slightly, because the onions take less time to roast than the squash, so rather than starting them at the same time, I suggest roasting the squash alone first, then adding the onions.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash (about 2¼ lb.), cut into ¾-in. x 2.5-inch wedges
2 red onions, cut vertically into 1¼-inch wedges
3½ Tbs. olive oil
3½ Tbs. light tahini paste
1½ Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. water
1 small clove garlic, crushed and chopped fine
3½ Tbs. pine nuts
1 Tbs. za’atar
1 Tbs. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Put the squash in a large mixing bowl, add 3 Tbs. of the oil, 1 tsp. salt and some black pepper and toss well. Spread on a baking sheet with the skin facing down and roast for 30 to 40 minutes (peeled cubes may take a little less time).

After 15 minutes, add the onions, and stir well to get the onions coated with the oil. Stir frequently so everything cooks evenly. When the squash and the onions are fully cooked and have browned somewhat, reove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Make the sauce: place the tahini in a small bowl and add the lemon juice, water, garlic and ¼ tsp. salt. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary.

Put the remaining 1½ tsp. oil into a small frying pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and ½ tsp. salt and cook for about 2 minutes until the nuts are golden brown (be careful, because they can burn really easily!) Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts and oil to a small bowl to stop the cooking.

To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter and drizzle over the tahini. Sprinkle the pine nuts and their oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.

Serves 4


Peanut kale

18 Aug

Kale is super-plentiful right now, maybe in your backyard garden, in your friends’ gardens, or — if you must — in farm markets and supermarkets. This easy and tasty recipe can be served either as a side dish or as a salad, either warm or at room temperature. It’s adapted from a recipe by Kathy Patalsky that I found online when I was looking for something to do with a big bunch of kale.

Ingredients:

4 cups of kale, chopped, stems removed (1 large bunch)
1 Tbs. peanut butter
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. brown rice syrup, agave nectar, honey or maple syrup
Ground black pepper to taste
½ cup red or white sweet onion, thinly sliced|
Optional (but recommended):
½ tsp. chopped ginger
A few dashes cayenne pepper
½ tsp. chopped garlic

Directions:

 Put all ingredients except kale in a large pot and stir to combine. Add the kale, cover the pot, and heat over high flame for just a minute or two until the small amount of liquid starts to boil. Turn off the heat, and shake the pot a few times with the lid on. Wait a minute, then remove the lid and stir well (but gently). The steam will have wilted the kale enough to make it tender; stir just enough to make sure all of it has come in contact with the sauce.

Serve immediately or keep for a few hours and serve at room temperature.

Serves 2

A Sunday Twofer: Zucchini-Tomato Salad and Pesto

9 Aug

zucchini tomato pesto salad

A friend had given us a giant zucchini, one that will probably feed us for at least three meals, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. She had also given us some lovely tomatoes. And I had half an onion in the fridge. So I was really happy to see a recipe in the paper just a day or so ago for a zucchini, tomato and basil salad.

Problem was I had no fresh basil. Another friend had given us a big bag of basil a few weeks earlier, and I had already turned it into pesto! No worries; I decided to make the salad using pesto and a little red wine vinegar instead of the basil and vinaigrette. It worked great!

I also discovered I had already run the tomato, zucchini and basil salad recipe, or one very much like it, in 2013, the year I started this blog.

I figured if I’m now going to give you the variation using pesto, I should give you the pesto recipe as well, because it’s so easy. So the basil recipe follows the salad recipe. I usually make half a batch, using two cups of basil, and then freeze the pesto in small amounts (enough to make a nice pasta sauce for two to four people). Freeze it in an ice cube tray, if you have one, then save the frozen cubes in a plastic freezer bag.

Of course you can use store-bought pesto if you don’t want to make your own.

In 2013 I also wrote about what to do with too much basil. It was one of my earliest pieces for this blog. You can find it here.

Zucchini and Tomato Salad with Pesto

Ingredients:

2 – 3 small zucchini or an equivalent amount from a large zucchini, sliced or diced
3 plum tomatoes or an equivalent amount of cherry/grape tomatoes, chopped
½ small onion, sliced thin
1 Tbs. fresh parsley or 1 tsp. dried parsley
2 Tbs. pesto, homemade or jarred
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving.

Serves 4

Basic Pesto

Ingredients:

4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
¾ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
6 cloves garlic, or more to taste
¼ cup olive oil
Warm water as needed
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In the bowl of a food processor, combine all the ingredients and pulse until smooth but not a paste. Adjust seasonings and pulse again to mix. Add a little bit of warm water if it seems too thick.

If you don’t want to serve it all at once, freeze it in small quantities (an ice cube tray is a great way to do this).

Serve either warm or at room temperature. You might want to thin the pesto with a little milk or cream before using it as a sauce.

Makes 2 cups (enough to serve 8 or more as a pasta sauce)

Spicy Red Lentil Soup

30 Jul

lentil soup spicy

Yes, loyal readers, I do sometimes make something other than lentil soup, even though I’ve posted many variations on this theme lately. Reasons abound: lentil soups are my husband’s favorites, they’re easy to make in whatever variation you choose, and lentils are really healthful. Most lentil soup recipes make a lot, so you can refrigerate or freeze leftovers and enjoy many meals (unless you’re making it for company).

This one is interesting because it uses bulgur in addition to lentils. The original recipe came from the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, but I varied it a bit. The original called for twice as much bulgur, which made the soup too thick — I had to add lots more water while it was cooking just to keep it liquid. It also suggested more chili flakes, which made it too spicy even for me, a spice-lover! A half-teaspoon is ample, but vary this according to your taste.

The soup gets very thick when you store leftovers in the fridge, but you shouldn’t need to add water; it loosens up when you reheat it.

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
½  chili flakes (or to taste)
3 Tbs. tomato paste (half a small can)
10 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups red lentils
1 cup bulgur
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili flakes, tomato paste and stock. Stir well and bring to a boil.

Add the lentils and bulgur and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. If it’s too thick, add some water.

Puree half the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender and return it to the saucepan. Stir well and cook another few minutes before serving.

Serves 8 to 12

Fried Rice

13 Jul

Fried rice

This is more a method than a recipe, so take the amounts given below a little loosely.

Basically this is a great way to use up leftover rice and vegetables — and also chicken or beef, though those are not essential.

In my house, there are usually only two of us for dinner and it’s hard to make some things in small amounts. Stir-fried vegetables is one of those things, since you need a decent variety of veggies, and by the time to slice up even a small amount of half-a-dozen kinds of vegetable,  you’ve got more than you need for two side-dish servings.

Ditto with rice. My go-to rice-making method calls for 1 cup of rice, which makes enough for 4 servings, so we almost always have leftovers.

The other day I served rice and stir-fried veggies and I intentionally prepared more vegetables than I’d need so that I’d have some to use the next day with the leftover rice in a dish of fried rice. I used a small onion (sliced vertically), a few strips of red pepper, a quarter-pound of sliced mushrooms, a small summer squash (sliced), about a cup and a half of snow peas and three stalks of bok choy (sliced).

I also used bean sprouts, but I didn’t add them in with the other vegetables because they cook so quickly and get overcooked easily. When the vegetables for the first night’s dinner were almost done, I took out and set aside half of them for use the next day in the fried rice. Then I added the bean sprouts to my dish of stir-fried veg. and cooked for just a minute or so more The next day, when I made the fried rice, I added some fresh bean sprouts (and also a sliced scallion) to the leftover stir-fried vegetables.

Use any combination of vegetables that appeals to you; good choices include onion, mushrooms, snow peas, red pepper, broccoli, sliced bok choy, zucchini, sliced celery, matchstick carrots. Chop the vegetables into small pices. Stir-fry the veggies according to how much cooking time they need; start with the onion, followed by mushrooms, then do broccoli, red pepper, snow peas, celery, bok choy, carrots, etc. If you use bean sprouts and scallion, add them last because they take next-to-no-time to cook.

Make a thin pancake out of a beaten egg and slice it into threads. Alternately, you can scramble the egg and chop the cooked egg into small pieces.

The fried rice comes together very quickly as you heat a little bit of oil then fry up the cooked rice, the cooked veggies and the egg shreds. Finish with a little soy sauce and you’ve got a great supper!

Ingredients

1 egg
1½ to 2 cups cooked white or brown rice
2 cups chopped mixed stir-fried vegetables
1 cup leftover chicken or thinly-sliced cooked beef (optional)
1-2 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 Tbs. soy sauce

Directions

Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Whisk the egg, and when the pan is hot, add a few teaspoons of oil and heat for 10 seconds, then add the egg and swirl it into a pancake. When it is firm but not brown, flip it quickly to set the other side and then slide out onto a plate. Roll the flat sheet of egg into a tube and slice. Set aside.

Heat the rest of the oil and add the rice, stirring quickly to coat it with the oil. Add in the vegetables and the chicken or beef if you use it, and the egg slices and stir to heat everything evenly. Add the soy sauce and stir for another minute or so to coat everything in the pan, then serve.

Serves 2

 

Moroccan Carrot, Lentil and Prune Soup

14 Jun

lentil soup with prunes

This is a soup with an intriguing flavor that crosses Moroccan influences with the flavors of tzimmis, a slow-cooked European Jewish melange of sweet potatoes, carrots and prunes. If you like tzimmis you’ll love it! The recipe comes from the Sunsweet Prunes people.

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. canola oil
1 onion, diced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground turmeric
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
3 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup dried lentils
½ cup pitted prunes, chopped
1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. chopped parsley
1 Tbs. chopped cilantro
Pinch salt and pepper

Directions:

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onions and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, overed, for 5 to 7 minutes until onions are softened.

Increase heat to medium. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric and cinnamon and cook for 1 minute. Add carrots, garlic and one-third cup water. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes; add a little water if the vegetables start to stick.

Add lentils and prunes and mix well. Stir in the tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Stir in stock and reduce heat. Simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables and lentils are tender.

Stir in lemon juice, cilantro, parsley, salt and pepper.

Ladle into warm soup bowls and serve immediately.

(Note: If you prefer a smoother texture, puree the soup with an immersion blender.)