28 September 2012

no-cook pasta sauces

I crave pasta all of the time; even when I come home starving, I would rather wait for a pot of water to boil and cook some pasta than grab whatever is handy in the cupboard (usually tortillas).  However, it's nice to not have to turn it into a big project when you're in a hurry, very hungry, or just generally being cheap with your food.  Here are some of my favorite quick add-ins to turn pasta from a beautiful snack into a delicious meal:

  • Whisk together the juice and zest of one lemon, 1/8 cup of grated Parmesan, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper in a serving bowl.  Add freshly cooked capellini and serve.  
  • Combine chopped sun-dried tomatoes, chopped arugula, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Add freshly cooked pasta and sprinkle with Pecorino cheese.
  • Drain a can of tuna and toss with pasta, vegetable broth, a bit of pasta water, olive oil, salt and pepper, toasted pine nuts, spinach leaves, kalamata olives, and a dash of lemon juice.
  • Add chopped bits of butter, grated Parmesan, and chopped herbs with salt and pepper to pasta shape.
  • Toss strands with fresh minced garlic, olive oil, lime juice, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt with fresh chopped herbs (I like cilantro). Grated some Parmesan cheese over the top.  
  • Toss the ingredients of a Caprese salad (fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, garlic, olive oil salt, and pepper) with a cooked pasta shape like rotini or medium macaroni shell

25 September 2012

Scotsman's Gin and Tonic

The name for this drink is derived from the original homeland of Hendrick's Gin, a lovely concoction that adds rose and cucumber essence to an otherwise very traditional, juniper-heavy gin.  It is a tad expensive, and I am very cheap.  So, I use New Amsterdam gin, which has a lighter, more citrusy flavor, and add the rose and cucumber myself.  I think the result is fresher, and it's certainly easy to make.

Scotsman’s G & T

Serves 1

2 oz. gin
2 slices cucumber
1 scant tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon rose water
Tonic water
Lemon slice for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the cucumber with the sugar.  Add the gin, rosewater, and some ice and shake vigorously.  Pour into a glass over a couple of ice cubes, top with tonic water, and float a lemon slice on top.

21 September 2012

A Salvadorian Feast!

Why?  I don't know...I thought it would be a good excuse to fried up some bread with things stuffed into it.  Doesn't that sound delicious?  I did get some help from my new friends at http://www.pupusarecipe.com with the basic technique, and the traditional accompaniments, salsa rioja and curtido, are two new staples in my fridge.  Enjoy!

Black Bean Pupusas

Makes about 36

2 cans (15 oz.) black beans
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
2 teaspoon salt
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 cup chopped onion

In a blender, blend beans; add water a little bit at a time if too thick.

In a large frying pan over medium heat,  heat the oil and saute onion, garlic, and salt until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Lower to medium low heat, add beans, and cook for about 1 hour, or until beans have thickened up. Let cool; beans should look like playdough. If beans are too runny, cook longer.


6 cups of "Maseca" corn flour (used to make tortillas and tamale filling)
4 cups of water

Mix the flour and water in a large bowl, adding flour little by little mixing until the dough is plyable. Dough should be thick enough to make a smooth ball. If flour sticks to your hands, add more water.

Make Pupusas!

Preheat a flat pan on medim heat.  Pan is hot enough when drops of water bounce in pan.  Make a ball of dough the size of a plum and mold it to resemble a little "bowl".

Put 2 tablespoons of mixture in the center of the "bowl".  Close the dough carefully making sure all the mixture is covered.

Flatten with a tortilla press (can be purchased or improvise by using 2 plates). Make sure pupusa is no thicker than 1/2 cm.  Add a little canola oil to the  hot pan and cook for 4 minutes each side.

Salsa Rioja

Makes about 2 cups
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Serrano or jalapeño chile pepper, chopped 
2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped 
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and chile and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.  Stir in the tomatoes and oregano and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.  Puree the tomato sauce in a blender until smooth, adding a little water if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir in cilantro if using and serve.

Curtido (cabbage salad)

Serves 4

1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, grated
1 quart boiling water
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons dried oregano

Combine the cabbage and carrot in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over the mixture. Allow the mixture to steep for 5 minutes; drain well. Return the cabbage and carrots to the bowl. Mix in the green onion, vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, and oregano. Toss until all ingredients are combined. Chill for 20 minutes before serving.

18 September 2012

Lavender Lemonade

I stole the basic idea for this cocktail from Root Down in downtown Denver.  Like everything else I had that night, it seemed like a good idea that was executed in a rather bland fashion, and I suspected I could do it better at home.  And of course, I'm using my own lemon-infused vodka, which helps give it a little more oompf.

Lavender Lemonade

Serves 1

1 oz. lemon vodka
1 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. simple syrup
Four sprigs fresh lavender
4 mint leaves

Muddle the lavender and mint in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.  Add remaining ingredients and plenty of ice; shake vigorously and strain into a glass over fresh ice.

14 September 2012

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

Another recipe born of necessity--remember that summer squash "lasagna"?  Well, I didn't want to use the bumpy tops and bottoms of the tomatoes (see above), so I diced them and placed them in a bowl.  I was going to make pico de gallo, but I've been doing that all summer, and although it is a good excuse to make margaritas, it was getting kind of old.  I started throwing other scraps I had in the fridge and freezer, and this filling, tasty salad came together.  I highly recommend it as leftovers--the longer it sits, the stronger the flavors are.

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

Serves 4-6

This salad takes little more than a few minutes to assemble if you already have cooked lentils and grains on hand.  I like to cook large batches of lentils and wheat berries, both things that take a while to cook, and freeze them in 1 cup portions for this very purpose.  They can thaw overnight in the refrigerator or in a couple of minutes in the microwave.  Use whatever fresh vegetables you have on hand to round out the salad; my list is only a suggestion.

1 cup brown lentils, cooked
1 cup wheat berries, cooked
1 cup quinoa, cooked
1 large garlic clove, minced
½ red onion, finely diced
½ cucumber, peeled and diced
1 medium tomato, cored and chopped
1 ear of fresh corn, scraped off the cob
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Large handful chopped fresh herbs--basil, parsley, oregano, dill, in any combination

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and minced garlic.  Place all other ingredients in a large serving bowl, pour dressing on top, and stir to coat.  Can be served cold or at room temperature.

11 September 2012

Summer Squash "Lasagna"

This recipe is friendly to all you gluten-free types out there, but the real reason I developed it is because I have so much summer squash I don't know what to do with it all.  Anyone who has ever grown these tender yellow tubes know what I'm talking about.  So, instead of using lasagna noodles, I use sliced squash.  If zucchini is your garden problem, use that instead. You could also throw in some no-bake noodles underneath if you can't live without the carbs, but as a professed carb queen, I can tell you that I really don't miss them in this recipe.

Summer Squash “Lasagna”

Makes 12 pieces

…or you could use zucchini.  Add this to the list of recipes developed to survive the onslaught of these summer beauties that just seem to take over the garden from July to October.

4 large summer squash, cut into ½ -inch thick “coins”
4 large tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
8 oz. ricotta cheese
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Dried oregano, salt and crushed red pepper flakes
Cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

You can skip this step if you’re pressed for time, but it will help keep the moisture content down: lay all squash and tomato slices out in single layers on thick paper towels or flour sack towels, salt lightly, and place another layer of paper/ flour sack towels on top.  Allow to sit at least 30 minutes before building your lasagna.  This releases the excess water from the vegetables so they don’t become a soup in the oven.

I threw in a green tomato that had fallen off the vine early.

Oil a large lasagna pan with extra virgin olive oil.  Start layering: squash coins on the bottom, a tomato slice on top of each squash coin.  Add a little salt, red pepper, and dried oregano on top, then small blobs of ricotta on each tomato slice, followed by a very thin scattering of some mozzarella.  Continue in this fashion, pressing down to compact the cheese as you go, until you’re out of all the squash and tomatoes--your last layer should be vegetables.  Scatter the fresh basil all over the top, then cover with remaining (should be the majority of the 4 cups) mozzarella.

Cover the pan with foil, allowing a little space at the top so it doesn’t stick to the cheese.  Bake at 375°F for 40 minutes.  Uncover, raise temperature to 425°F, and bake another 20 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and some of the extra liquid in the pan has reduced to more of a sauce.

07 September 2012

Late summer tastes: raspberry-yogurt cake

We have a rather dense snarl of raspberry bushes in the back yard, and they actually become a bit of a burden this time of year (I know, boo hoo!).  Once we have spent the hour it takes to pick them all, we need to use them up quickly before the next round comes ripe (usually in two days).  This cake developed out of the need to use raspberries and has turned out to be a simple, quick treat for unexpected guests. It's actually adapted from a recipe by Annie's Eats that a friend pinned on Pinterest.  It's also great for breakfast with a little more yogurt on the side...


Raspberry-Yogurt Cake
Serves 6-8
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups fresh raspberries (or blackberries, if you prefer)
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Lightly grease and flour and 10-inch springform pan.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt and vanilla until well blended. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the liquid ingredients. Fold together gently until evenly mixed and no streaks remain, being careful not to over mix. Spread the batter into the prepared pan in an even layer. Dot the top of the batter with the raspberries.
Bake until the topping is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Remove the sides of the springform pan. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.  

...and after!