Tag Archives: Cooking

Butterbean Pesto Pasta

9 Jul

Fresh pesto is always worth making and is quite easy. Pesto can be made with many combinations of herbs, nuts, cheese, and lemon juice or vinegar. The classic Genovese pesto is basil pesto: masses of fresh basil, lemon juice, garlic, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, pepper, and (optional) pine nuts crushed together in a mortar and pestle or food processor.

I mixed my homemade pesto with whole wheat pasta shells and fresh butterbeans from the Farmer’s market: summer and freshness embodied (and excellent with a Riesling). Enjoy!

Fresh Butterbean Pesto Pasta

Ghetto Nutella

16 Apr

I love nutella, a chocolate-hazelnut spread. European children eat nutella like American children eat peanut butter. I had a craving for it one night this week, but didn’t feel like running to the grocery store. So I threw some chocolate chips in a small bowl with a dollop of peanut butter and microwaved for 45 seconds. After a quick mix, I spread the mixture on graham crackers. Delicious! This spread would be even better with better quality chocolate and other nut spread (almond butter, cashew butter….).


review: Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen

23 Mar

It is usually a bit to soon to judge a TV show based only on the pilot, but I’m going to do so anyway. Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen, on the Syfy Channel, has too much stressful drama and not enough food for my taste. It reminds me of Dinner Impossible, where beating the clock is the main driving force of the plot, not the food or even the characters.

Each episode features Marcel and his team designing and executing a menu for a catered event. In the first episode, the team has four days to work on a benefit event. The client is portrayed as a stereotypical spoiled SoCal housewife, and Marcel clashes with the event designer. Much more interesting than the picky clients and potentially inadequate team members, is the molecular gastronomy, or highly scientific, toy-happy method of cooking that Marcel employs. Unfortunately, the emphasis on the human drama meant that one of the featured dishes wasn’t even mentioned in the planning or execution stages; it only appeared at the party.

The show does do a good job of defining food terms and explaining the science, but it’s no Good Food, Diary of a Foodie, or MythBusters.  I will try a few more episodes to see how it shakes out, but this show needs more kitchen and less bitchin.


Mark Bittman’s “The Minimalist”

6 Mar

I just finished watching Mark Bittman’s new TV show, The Minimalist on the Cooking Channel. I am a fan of his podcast, but unfortunately, rarely remember to read his New York Times column. The good news is that Bittman’s half-hour show has all the dry humor and fabulous, easy recipes as his fun podcast. The bad news is that the show appears to be several of his video-podcasts smooshed together. (Although they may be filming extra segments for the TV show, I wasn’t able to find out.) The first episode was all pasta recipes, and I definitely recognized two segments from his podcast. However, the last recipe was new-to-me and fascinating. He made a risotto-style pasta, using the same technique of slowly adding stock to the pasta and veggies to create a creamy sauce all in one pot. So unless you have seen every last one of Bittman’s podcasts, I recommend checking out The Minimalist in its TV incarnation. Bittman’s recipes are fuss-free and healthy, just what we all need more of in our lives.

Easy Homemade Cranberry Relish

23 Dec

Cranberry relish from a can will never set foot in my house. Instead, this super simple orange-cranberry relish is our holiday favorite. Start by zesting one orange. Set the zest aside and peel the orange. Then take a bag of fresh cranberries (or frozen would probably work too) and put them in a food processor (after washing, of course), add 1/4 cup of sugar, and chunks of the orange flesh. Blitz until the consistency you like. Taste for sweetness, you may need to add more sugar (or honey or maple syrup). Put the relish in a festive bowl and mix in some of the orange zest. Sprinkle the rest of the zest on top. Done!

Play with the proportions there is nothing magical about this recipe. You can’t go wrong when mixing orange, cranberry, and sugar!

Orange-Cranberry Relish

Orange-Cranberry Relish

Fall Pumpkin Lasagna

3 Nov

The farmer’s market is full of fabulous  fall vegetables and fruit: pumpkins, kale, turnips, pears, and butternut squash. This being Georgia, we also have the last remaining tomatoes and peppers as well. To celebrate the fall, I decided to make fall pumpkin lasagna for some friends. I had a  sage and butternut squash lasagna once and it was wonderful. This receipe is loosely based on that.

pumpkins ready for chopping and roasting

My first step was to roast the pumpkins. Well, actually, my first step was to forget the ricotta cheese at the store, which changed my plan slightly. Back to pumpkin roasting- because pumpkins are very hard to cut,  this time I tried microwaving the whole pumpkins for 5-6 minutes. Be very careful in this step. Microwaving the pumpkins for more than 5 minutes might result in exploding and/or cracking pumpkins. The pumpkins will be very hot and the stem will fall off easily.

This quick zap softened the pumpkins enough that I didn’t cut my hand off in the process of cutting them half. Scoop out the seeds for roasting later.  I rubbed a little bit of olive oil on the inside and roasted them in a 400-450 degree oven until soft (30-40 minutes?). Meanwhile, chop onions and carmelize them in a saute pan. 

Roasted pumpkin cooling on the window sill at dusk.

As the pumpkins finish roasting, begin making a basic white sauce. Melt approximately 4 tablespoons of butter in a saute pan (I set aside the carmelized onions and reused the pan. This means more flavor and less dishes to wash.) Once the butter is melted, slowly sprinkle in approximately 4 tablespoons of white flour, stirring as you go.

cooking butter and flour to make a white sauce

Cook the combination flour/butter for a few minutes, then slowly whisk in milk. I used skim milk, because that is what I had on hand. Use whatever you have in the frig. Once combined, add whatever cheese you would like. I used soft goat cheese, parmesan, and mozzarella. Remember, the cheese will thicken the sauce so if it gets too thick, whisk in more milk. Add any herbs you would like. I used oregano. Sage would be perfect with this receipe.

goat cheese melting in the white sauce

While making the white sauce, slice the kale (or other quick-cooking leafy green) into ribbons and steam the greens. Once the pumpkins are roasted and cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Add the carmelized onions, salt, pepper, and chopped basil (or other favorite herb). In  a 9×13 inch pan, layer the pumpkin mixture, the cooked kale, and sliced portabella mushrooms, putting no-bake lasagna noodles on the bottom, top, and in between each layer of vegetables. Also put a thin layer of the white sauce on top of each vegetable layer. Make sure each of the noodles is fully covered, or they won’t bake. It wouldn’t hurt to put a trickle of water in the bottom of the pan, to prevent drying. Cover the lasagna in aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.

The finished lasagna

a close-up of the layers of fall lasagna

Freestyle Fashion Pumpkin Soup

25 Oct

Pumpkin soup is a fantastic, warm, hearty meal for fall. My version is not sweet, but it can be adapted in many ways.  Soups are some of the easiest meals to freestyle fashion. This recipe makes roughly three dinner size portions and is awesome with some crusty bread and goat cheese.

Take three small pumpkins and cut them in half. This part is a bitch. I am a distance swimmer with considerable upper body strength, and I find it nearly impossible. Use a very sharp, thin knife, and keep your fingers clear of the work. Next time, I will be experimenting with microwaving the pumpkins whole to soften them a little bit before cutting into them. This will be delicate, because I don’t want them exploding all over the microwave. If you try this, definitely puncture the skin before attempting this.

Once you have the pumpkins cut in half, scoop out the seeds and set them aside. I microwaved the pumpkin halves for 5 minutes on high to shorten the time in the oven. Be careful- they will be hot!. Smear olive oil on the inside of the pumpkin halves and roast them in a 400 degree oven until they are soft. This may take up to 30-40-50 minutes depending on if you pre-microwaved and the thickness of the pumpkin.

While the pumpkin is roasting, slice and saute an onion in a little bit of olive oil. After about 10-20 minutes slice portabella mushrooms and add them to the saute pan. The moisture in the mushrooms will require you to stir frequently. Red or green bell peppers or chilies would be a great addition to the saute.

Remove the pumpkin seeds from the inner flesh, toss them with a little bit of salt and pepper, and spread them out on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake them in a 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

Once the pumpkins are roasted and cool enough to handle, scoop out the inner flesh into a blender. Add several teaspoons of smoked paprika, cumin, salt, and black pepper. Start small and add as you blend. You can always add more, but you can never remove. Add liquid as necessary to make the blender work. I use water to keep it healthy, but stock, milk, or cream would only add more depth of flavor. Blend until completely smooth. Check spice and seasoning levels and adjust as necessary. Stir in sautéed vegetables. Top with roasted pumpkin seeds. Delicious warm or room temperature.

To freestyle this recipe, change up the sautéed veggies and spices. Curry powder or garam masala would make it sweet and spicy. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger would make it taste like pumpkin pie. Any of your favorite spices would be good on the pumpkin seeds as well. Crumbled bacon would be really good, but less healthy and not vegetarian. This time, I swirled chopped arugula into my bowl for crunch and kick.

Good Food

11 Oct

I adore the KCRW show “Good Food“. (KCRW is the NPR affliate in Santa Monica, CA.) Each week, Chef Evan Kleiman delights with interviews, restaurant recommendations, and fabulous recipes. This week, she interviewed Chef Rene Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen, which was recently named the best restaurant in the world. (no pressure). Listen to the interview on their website here. The fascinating part for me was listening Redzepi talk about his own version of freestyle fashion- he insists that his chefs cook a spontaneous dish once a week to keep their creativity flowing.

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