I found this picture on the camera the other day:I asked J, “Why did you take this picture?”
J asked me, “Why did you put a glass of basil in the cupboard?”
Well, for about a million reasons, of course! First, you all convinced me that I should keep my basil on the counter in a vase of water–and hey! That really works! Second, the counter was messy and I needed a little more space. Third…well, ok, two reasons.
When there’s more basil than I have room for, it’s pesto time. At this time of year, if you have a glut of basil yourself, consider making a big batch of pesto and freezing it in ice cube trays. (Not because you’d limit yourself to one cube of pesto, of course–just because it defrosts more quickly than if you freeze it in a bigger block.) And if you’re making pesto to freeze, it might as well double as dinner, right?This is, to me, the perfect pesto. It’s saucy and flavorful with no one component overwhelming the others. It tastes like summer, which we’ll appreciate with nostalgia soon. But for the moment, why not enjoy it with whole wheat pasta and summer’s perfect Sungold tomatoes? Continue reading →
The lazy cook in me was intrigued by the baked pasta recipe that appeared on Smitten Kitchen today. Because the pasta it used was orzo and (why did I never think of this before?) the orzo can be baked without pre-boiling, thereby saving you six minutes and the washing of an extra pot. You’re welcome.Deb’s recipe, adapted from our favorite Yotam Ottolenghi, is for a cheesy (just-cheesy-enough, she says) bake with the usual Ottolenghian flourishes of lemon zest and oregano. And it sounds lovely. But once I started browning perfect summer vegetables–eggplant, zucchini, peppers, falling-apart fragrant tomatoes–I couldn’t bear to adulterate them much. (If your tomatoes are less than perfect, by all means try out the original recipe’s suggestion to jazz them up with a few tablespoons of chopped oregano and the zest of a lemon; you could even add that chopped mozzarella.) For me, whole wheat orzo, salt, and the heat of the oven were enough to make the pan of vegetables a hearty late-summer meal. I crumbled feta on top at the end and browned it under the broiler, but it’s perfectly delicious without the cheese. A tomato salad on the side provided a sweet little bite of acid to compliment the richness of the cooked vegetables. (The Indigo Rose tomatoes were almost too pretty to eat. Almost.)Continue reading →
The tomatoes are purple, broad-bottomed, flecked with green. These are not my backyard Sungolds. They’re Cherokee Purple heirlooms, hefty in my hand, and they come from east of the mountains where it actually gets hot. They’re rare visitors in my kitchen, but I know just what to do with them today.Continue reading →
Although I couldn’t grow a beefsteak tomato in a hundred years in my Seattle backyard, the smallest varieties grow reasonably well in a warm year (read: not this year). So I’ve had the opportunity to get to know and love cherry tomatoes of every color. The reds are reliable, the yellow pears add variety, the purpley-blacks are tangy and sweet. But the loveliest of them all, for both flavor and looks, is the orange-bright Sungold tomato. Use them here if you have them. Grow them next year if you don’t.This is my kind of pasta dish because it’s equal parts vegetables and pasta. Continue reading →
There are currently only three chickens in our backyard flock: Ducky, Feather, and Feather. Yes, two Feathers, both black. I’ll gloss over the details of what happened to the original black Feather, and just tell you that when we got chicks the following spring, my oldest exclaimed in delight: “This time we have two Feathers!” And so we do.
The Girls (by which, at the moment, I mean the three chickens, not the three little girls who live inside with us; it does get confusing sometimes) usually keep us amply supplied with eggs. Today we had run out, though, so I was pleased that an afternoon visit to the coop yielded the two eggs I needed to make this recipe. Taking fresh-laid eggs straight to the table never gets old for me.
Make new friends, but keep the old. Do you know that song? It’s a round. One is silver and the other’s gold.
I made a lot of new friends this week. What more is there to life, really? I went to the BlogHer Food conference here in Seattle and a few things came to my attention. First, I like food bloggers just as much in real life as I like them on the internet. (There is an automatic bond among people who spend the day in serious contemplation of what to eat next, I think.) Second, I learned some photography basics for producing better pictures than the iPhone snapshots you see here–which I will put into practice some day when I have loads more time, maybe. And, honestly, I came home refreshed and grateful for my family after spending most of two whole daytimes away from my girls for the first time in more than a year.
I ate plenty of great food this week, but I was glad to be back in my own kitchen tonight. I used a favorite trick of mine for squeezing more vegetables into our meal by blending broccoli into a pureed sauce for pasta and more broccoli. I don’t know if this is technically a “pesto” but it is green and saucy, so there you go. I didn’t use cheese in it, so this dish is vegan if you leave out the feta.
This is an easily-deconstructed meal if you care about that sort of thing: J & I had it all, the girls had plain pasta and broccoli (they declined the green “dip”–I thought I was so smart with that spin!), and the baby had pasta, broccoli, and as many olives as we’d give her. Go figure. The broccoli pesto would also be just right dolloped over a pizza or spread onto crostini, or even as a dip for crackers or other vegetables.
When I first meet J, in college, I was wowed by his prowess in the kitchen. He had two specialties: one was a fried egg sandwich, and the other a box of Spanish rice to which he added a can of black beans and shredded cheddar cheese. He made it look so easy. I was smitten.
Later our shared cooking repertoire expanded quite significantly, but J remains a man with a specialty. These days it’s a perfectly grilled side of salmon or an impeccable vinaigrette, but for a few years (about a decade ago) J’s claim to fame in the kitchen was pasta puttanesca. He’d whip up a pan on nights when we both worked late and were too tired to deal with the CSA vegetables or walk three blocks to the nearest restaurant.
We were pleasantly reminded of those pasta puttanesca days tonight with this dish from the NY Times Recipes for Health series. The genius improvement, though, is that this recipe incorporates another family favorite: roasted cauliflower. We used whole wheat pasta because we’re crunchy like that (and it was great), but you do what you like.
What kind of dinner party do you like to throw? What is your ideal number of guests? Do you have a few go-to dinner party dishes?
I like a big, casual potluck, myself. (Or a casual dinner for a few close friends. Notice the theme here? Casual.) We don’t throw nearly enough big parties these days, but I’d like to change that. The beauty of a summer potluck is the ease: clear off the counters, park a big bucket of ice or a keg in the back yard, ask a few neighbors to contribute lawn chairs. I’m ready. All we need now are some warm, sunny evenings.
I’m happy to announce that I’m gearing up for my real-life party plans by attending a Virtual Vegan Potluck this Saturday. Tune in for my contribution (we’ll be rolling brown rice sushi, speaking of fun dinner party ideas), then hop around the table to see what else is cooking. I can promise that we will all come away with enough recipe inspiration to get us through a summer’s worth of potlucks.
As it happens, a cold soba noodle salad is one of the dishes I like to take to potlucks now and then. It’s easy to make, you can toss in whatever veggies you have handy, and the pasta easily stretches it to feed a crowd. Maybe you toss in some tofu, maybe not. I haven’t had a go-to dressing for my salad, though; sometimes I just did rice vinegar and sesame oil, other times a so-so peanut sauce. That all changed this week.I love An Unrefined Vegan’s spicy almond sauce, and I hereby declare it the dressing that shall adorn my soba salads all summer long. It was great to start with, but I doubled the almond butter and the spice because I am decadent like that, and the resulting dressing is even more creamy, spicy, and rich. You won’t be sorry if you invite me to your potluck this summer. Feel free to request this dish; I’ll be making it a lot, it keeps and travels well, and it’s as good cold as it is warm. Continue reading Buckwheat Soba Salad with Spicy Almond Sauce (click for recipe)
It turns out that it’s no big deal to make homemade vegan pasta. No eggs? No problem. You can apparently even make pasta with just flour and water alone, but I fancied things up with a splash of olive oil to replace the richness of the eggs and a spoonful of turmeric for color.
I made these noodles to serve in my zippy noodle curry, but they would certainly stand up well to other sauces. They are a bit less sturdy than the egg noodles, so I would advise letting them dry out for a little while before you cook them so they don’t end up mushy. We draped towels over all the kitchen cabinets and hung noodles everywhere while I was cooking dinner, and that seemed like plenty of drying time.
Last night we bundled up for our first outdoor dinner of the season. Met the neighbors on the front steps, let the kids get dirty, slurped hot noodles with a fresh spring pesto. It’s not summer yet, but it’s coming.
Parsley is always one of the early springtime arrivals in my garden, but my plants are still just unfurling and getting their footing. This pesto made use of a lonely green bunch of store parsley. I like to keep parsley around for the perky boost it gives to the flavor and color of many dishes. But in this pesto, it’s the star of the show. And it made for a flavorful and nearly effortless dinner; I just whirled the pesto in the food processor while my pasta boiled.