Farfalle with Ricotta and Spinach

I have been trying to make some of the recipes from my collection of Cooks Illustrated magazines. Over the years, I have mostly read them but since time was often scarce, I didn’t try too many of them. Now that I have more time, I am pulling them out and seeing what recipes sound interesting. Tonight I made Farfalle with Ricotta and Spinach that was printed int he May-June 2014 issue. I cut back on the quantity since I was only making enough for Paula and myself. Here is what you will need if you want to try it for you and someone else:

  • 6 ounces of ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces of farfalle
  • 8 ounces of chopped baby spinach
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne
  • 1 ounce of heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce (1/4 cup) of grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Whisk 3 ounces of the ricotta, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Set aside.
  2. Bring water to a boil. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt and cook until the pasta is al dente. Reserve 1/1 cup of the cooking water. Stir the spinach into the pot with the pasta and cook until wilted, about 30 seconds. Drain pasta and spinach and return to the pot.
  3. Wile the pasta cooks, heat remaining tablespoon of oil, garlic, nutmeg and cayenne in a saucepan over medium heat until fragrant. This should take about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining 3 ounces of ricotta, cream, lemon zest, lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of salt until smooth.
  4. Add the ricotta mixture-cream mixture and Parmesan to the pasta and toss to combine. Let pasta rest, tossing frequently, until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 3 minutes. Adjust consistency with the pasta water as needed.
  5. Transfer the pasta mixture to a serving platter and dot with the ricotta mixture that was made in step one and serve.

Pierogis and Sausage

Tonight I made a simple meal for Paula and myself. It was Pierogis and Italian Sausage. We had several Italian sausage in  the freezer so I decided to use them. I bought a package of frozen pierogis along with a red pepper and a Vidalia onion. We already had the garlic at home. I also had some basil leftover from the tomato sauce that I had made on Sunday.

First, I brought a large pot of salted water to a boil. I cooked the pierogi as the label directs and reserved 3/4 cup cooking water before draining the pierogis.

Then I heated 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. I cooked two links of Italian sausage with the casings removed. As I cooked the sausage, I used a spatula to break it up and cooked the sausage until it was browned. This took about 6 to 8 minutes. I reduced the heat to medium and added 1 red bell peppers that had been sliced, 1 Vidalia onion that I thinly sliced, 3 cloves of garlic that I had smashed and a few red pepper flakes. I continued to cook everything, stirring until the vegetables are tender, about 7-8 minutes. Finally, I seasoned with some salt.

Lastly, I added the pierogi to the skillet and tossed them with the sausage and vegetables. I put 1 tablespoon of butter and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water in the pan. I cooked everything over medium heat, stirring gently, until the butter melts, adding more cooking water as needed to loosen. Before serving, I stirred in the basil.

This was a very tasty meal and really easy to make. Paula and I enjoyed it. We had a delicious meal before she headed off to work.

Corn Cakes and Hot Dogs

We have some good hot dogs in the freezer and so I decided to make a few for Paula and I tonight. I also decided that it would be good to make something different to go with them and so I decided to make a recipe that I found in the June issue of Cooking Light. Corn Cakes with Bacon and Turmeric Yogurt. I even topped the corn cakes with some pea shoots that were left over from our meal on Tuesday.

Ingredients:

  • 2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped
  • 1 can of corn kernels
  • 1 1/4 cups of finely chopped yellow squash
  • 1/4 cup chopped of green onions (white parts only)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup of plain yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 plus an additional 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt (not Greek-style)
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Reserve the drippings in the skillet.

Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the corn and squash to the drippings. Cook until lightly charred, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool for about 5-10 minutes. Add the onions, eggs, cornmeal, pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the cooked bacon to the corn mixture. Stir to combine and allow the mixture to stand for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the mixture is resting, stir the yogurt, maple syrup, turmeric, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat the skillet over medium heat. Using a 1/4 cup measuring container, drop the corn mixture into the skillet. Flatten slightly with a spatula and cook until firm and browned, about 2 minutes per side. Serve with turmeric-yogurt mixture.

This recipe will make approximately 12 small corn cakes. If you can’t use all of the mixture in one meal, it will save for a few days in the refrigerator.

Meatless Sauce for friends

Paula and I met with our friends from “dinner group” today. It was our turn to bring the main dish. Some of our friends are vegetarian so I chose a recipe for a hearty “meat-less” tomato sauce to make. It was a recipe that I found in the most recent issue of Cooks Illustrated. Everyone enjoyed the meal and we even had enough left over for Paula and I to enjoy the sauce for dinner again in the future. Everyone likes pasta (most of the time…) so if you have some vegetarians coming over for dinner, you may want to try this sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces of cremini mushrooms
  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 5 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup of tomato paste
  • 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil

Pulse the mushrooms in a food processor until they are chopped into 1/4 inch pieces, about 8-10 pulses.

Heat 5 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for 10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally. The mushrooms should lose most of their moisture and start to brown.

Pulse the onion in the food processor until it is finely chopped with the pieces about 1/4-inch in size. Add the onion to the Dutch oven and cook. Stir occasionally until the onions are softened, about 5-6 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, mix 1 tablespoon of the oil with the oregano, red pepper and garlic in a small bowl. After the onion has softened, push the onion-mushroom mixture to the side of the Dutch oven. Add the garlic mixture to the middle of the pot and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in the tomatoes and the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil using high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pulse the chickpeas in the food processor. Transfer the chickpeas to a mesh strainer. Run water over the chickpeas until the water turns clear. Add the chickpeas to the sauce. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.

Add the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over the pasta of your choice.

I cooked several pounds of linguine to serve with the sauce for our friends. This sauce is incredibly easy to make. You don’t even have to use a lot of pots. You chop everything in the food processor and you don’t even have to rinse between uses! The chickpeas and mushrooms make it a hearty sauce and you might even fool your guests in to thinking that they are eating a meat sauce!

 

Delicious Risotto Dish

Paula and I had our friend Fiona over for dinner tonight. She is a student at UNC and we try to make her dinner a few times each semester. I chose a recipe that I found in the May Rachael Ray magazine called Thai-Style Lime Risotto with Pork and Coconut. It seemed like an interesting take on risotto, which is usually thought of as an Italian dish. It turned out to be quite tasty and the three of us enjoyed it very much. It requires a bit of an effort so you might want to make this dish on a night when you have a little bit of time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 1/4 cup canned of coconut milk
  • 6-10 ounces of pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 teaspoons of canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (plus 1 tablespoon) of Thai green curry paste
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 2 tablespoon of mirin (rice wine)
  • 3 ounces of baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon of  lime zest plus 1 tablespoon of lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs, such as basil, mint or cilantro

In a saucepan with a lid, mix the stock and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and then keep covered over low heat.

Season the pork with salt and pepper. In a deep, medium nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 3 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring often, until the pork is cooked through for an additional 2 minutes. Transfer the pork to a small bowl.

In the skillet, heat the remaining 2 more teaspoons of the oil over medium. Add the shallot and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the rice. Add the mirin and the remaining 1 tablespoon of  curry paste. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 30 seconds.

Add 3/4 cup of the stock mixture. Cook, stirring, until almost absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Add another 3/4 cup of the stock and continue to stir periodically until the liquid is almost absorbed and the rice is al dente. It should take about 18 minutes to cook the rice. During the last few minutes of cooking, stir in the pork, spinach and lime juice. Top with the herbs and lime zest.

 

Spring Pasta Dish

Tonight I made a simple pasta dish for Paula and myself. It was described in the May issue of Cooking Light and called Pea Pappardelle Pasta. I had bought the sugar snap peas and ricotta salata cheese for another recipe and it was just sitting in the refrigerator. I thought that it would be a good opportunity to use those ingredients before they spoiled. I had to make one small change since I was not able to find the pea shoots or watercress. But it still tasted quite good. One final note is that the ingredients listed below are the quantities that I used for making a meal for just the two of us.

Ingredients:

 

  • 4-6 ounces of fresh sugar snap peas
  • 8 ounces of uncooked dried egg pappardelle pasta or fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup of frozen green peas, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup of pea shoots (or watercress if you cannot find the pea shoots)
  • 2 ounces of ricotta salata or pecorino romano cheese, shaved (about 2/3 cup)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high. Add the sugar snap peas and frozen peas. Cook until bright green, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, place all of theĀ  peas in a bowl of ice water. If you desire, you can cut the sugar snap peas in half although I didn’t do that.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes or until al dente.

In a large bowl, combine oil, rind, juice, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Stir with a whisk. Add the pasta mixture, snap peas, and pea shoots. Toss to coat. Top with the the cheese.

Since it is hard to get everything mixed well – the peas tend to fall at the bottom – I suggest that you plate this dish separately for everyone. Mix up the noodles with the oil, rind, juice salt and pepper. Place the noodle on each plate. Then top with the peas, pea shoots and cheese. Not only will the dish look good when everyone sees it but people won’t have to go hunting for the peas.

Simple Meal tonight…

I made a simple meal for Paula and I tonight. It was a recipe called Zucchini and Shrimp Cakes that I found in the May issue of Cooking Light. The recipe only calls for a small amount of shrimp but combined with the zucchini, the flavor comes through quite well. The recipe also calls for making a simple snap pea relish to brighten up the dish. If you want to try it, here, is what you will need:

  • 1 cup chopped sugar snap peas
  • 1/4 cup diced Vidalia or other sweet onion
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 medium zucchini, trimmed (about 1 lb.)
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 4-6 ounces large fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined, and finely chopped
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Combine the snap peas, onion, 1 tablespoon oil, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper in a bowl. Let stand 10 minutes.

Shred the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Place the shredded zucchini on a clean kitchen towel and squeeze well to remove excess liquid. Combine the zucchini, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, panko, shrimp, and egg in a bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Spoon 1/4 cup zucchini mixture loosely into a dry measuring cup. Add the mixture to pan and flatten slightly. Repeat procedure to form 8 cakes. Cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Serve cakes with the snap pea mixture.

We had some fresh beets in the refrigerator so I cut them up and roasted them as our vegetable. This was not difficult to do and it added some extra color to the meal.

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