Category Archives: Pasta

Garlic Scape Pesto with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Garlic Scapes.  Who knew they even existed?  They are not the kind of thing you generally see on a grocery store shelf and people very rarely know what they are unless they garden or belong to a CSA.  I will be completely honest that I had never seen them before joining our farm share — and I love to cook with unique ingredients.  So technically speaking, the garlic scape is the green stalk of a young garlic plant.  (They continue to exist when the plant matures, they just aren’t really edible any more.)  Obviously, they have a very garlicky flavor, but are somewhat like a cross between garlic and a curly, dense scallion.

As I was making the pesto last night, I began to think of the many uses for it.  It is truly delicious and I think I like it more than regular basil pesto.  On the simplest level, toss some of the warm scape pesto with hot pasta and you have a treat.  We did that last night with some local asparagus, which made a great, light dinner.  (BTW, I am not eating wheat right now, so I had the Bionaturae gluten-free spaghetti and it was delicious.  Highly recommend it for those off gluten or wheat.)  The kids absolutely devoured it and wanted more.

But other than pasta, the possibilities are endless — mixed in with sour cream and/or cream cheese for a dip or spread, as a sauce on a white pizza with fresh mozzarella, in omelets, mixed into soups or tomato sauces, extended with a bit of lemon juice or vinegar for a salad dressing, tossed with veggies for roasting, mixed with white beans and sausage for a warm salad, used as a basis for a pasta salad, spread on toasts or bruschetta for a quick appetizer (or on a sandwich), or mixed into hummus or white bean dip, etc.

The pesto keeps well in the refrigerator and it is also easily frozen so you can enjoy it when the garlic scapes are no longer around. This version is nut-free for my allergic daughter, but I love the richness of the toasted pumpkin seeds. I’m sure any type of nuts or seeds would work, however.

Get to the farmer’s market now and ask around for garlic scapes.  If you are like me, you will want to eat this directly off the spoon.

Garlic Scape Pesto with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

15 garlic scapes, trimmed and roughly chopped
3/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1 cup olive oil
1 t salt
Freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

1.  In the bowl of a food processor, add garlic scapes, toasted pumpkin seeds, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Process until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary.

2.  Place into a small bowl and stir in parmesan cheese.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

 

Slow Roasted Plum Tomato Sauce

As much as I love to cook, there are some kitchen tasks that I find absolutely awful.  Emptying the dishwasher is one.  It is one of those tasks that I simply hate.  It probably has something to do with the fact that all of my cabinets and drawers are overflowing with various cooking tools, serving pieces, bakeware, and appliances — and every time I empty the dishwasher I have to unstack all of my leaning towers of cookware to find homes for things.  If everything in my kitchen is clean at one time, I literally have no room for it all.  Thankfully that doesn’t happen often.

dsc_9625

My other hated tasks include anything that is fussy — like peeling pearl onions, pitting cherries, or stuffing little new potatoes or cherry tomatoes for appetizers (Which I have done exactly one time each.  Never again.)  This list most definitely includes peeling tomatoes.  I love buying lots of extra tomatoes in the summer to freeze or make sauce, but I hate the thought of spending an afternoon in the kitchen scoring, parboiling, coring, and peeling tomatoes.

I usually do it because the thought of not having those tomatoes for my soups and sauces all winter long is too terrible.  And let’s face it, for many preparations you just don’t want little tomato skin sticks in your recipes.  So I suck it up and while I’m doing it, I try to channel my grandmother who would process tomatoes for what seemed like weeks on end every summer.  The shelves in her basement were lined with the literal fruits of her labor.

dsc_9637

But whenever I get a chance, I do everything in my power to skip that step.  This year,  I wanted to try a slow roasted sauce that didn’t force me to process all those extra pounds of tomatoes.  I was really pleased with the result — the skins almost melt away after hours in the slow oven and once pureed, you’d never know they were there.  And feel free to flavor the sauce any way you see fit.  Obviously you could use a lot more herbs, add other vegetables (like eggplant, fresh fennel, or zucchini, etc.), cook ground beef, veal, or sausage in the final product for meat sauce, or go the fra diavlo route and spice it up with red pepper flakes or chiles.

All you need is a really big roasting pan (like what you would use for a big turkey), lots of time in the oven with the occasional stir, and a blender or immersion blender.  And I promise, you won’t burn one finger trying to peel a hot tomato.

dsc_9648

Slow Roasted Plum Tomato Sauce with Basil

Makes about 3 or 4 large jars ( or 10-12 cups of sauce)

1-2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2-4 sweet peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped
8-10 pounds of Roma Tomatoes (that was about 36 large ones for me), cored and halved
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
3 t sea salt
1-2 t freshly ground pepper
2 t dried oregano
1 t fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
3-4 T red wine
Additional Salt, Pepper, and Sugar/Honey to taste
2 big handfuls of basil, chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  In a very large roasting pan, combine the onion, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, olive oil, honey, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano, fennel, and bay leaves.

2.  Roast tomato mixture in preheated oven for 5-6 hours, stirring every hour or so.  Put your feet up and read a book while your house starts to smell delicious. Or more likely, clean your house and fold some laundry.

3.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly.  Remove bay leaves.  Puree with immersion blender or in traditional blender (cool mixutre a little more if using a traditional blender and be very careful to keep lid off slightly and covered with a towel so the steam can escape).

4.  Add red wine and taste for seasoning –adding more salt or pepper if needed.  And if your tomatoes are on the acidic side, you might need to add more honey or sugar.

5.  Stir in chopped basil and serve as is or put in containers to freeze.

dsc_9687

Pasta with Fresh Peas, Basil, and Mint

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that summer cooking is almost every bit as good as summer lovin’. Actually, I think it might be what replaces the thrill of summer lovin’ when you get old and boring.  Because seriously, heirloom tomatoes covered with olive oil and basil? Or fresh sweet corn dripping with butter and salt?  I really don’t need to say more, do I?

The beautiful, fresh, exploding with flavor summer ingredients speak for themselves so nicely that we just don’t need to do much to them.  It is the time of year when simplicity rules — save the 20 ingredient dinner recipes for winter when you are struggling to drain some flavor from the cardboard produce from Mexico.  No offense to Mexico — because I am quite sure your tomatoes are wonderful when you eat them there, but once they get to us, they suck.

dsc_8596-1

And I know I say this all the time, but when you cook simply with local ingredients your kids will start to love all different kinds of vegetables.  This recipe is a case in point:  my daughter “hates” peas.  Can’t stand them.  “Pretend gags” when she eats them.  Cried when she heard I was making pasta (her favorite!) with peas in it.  How could I possibly take the thing she enjoys the most on the planet and render it unpalatable by adding peas?  Well, she tried the peas in this recipe.  Guess what?  Loved them.  It is like fresh vegetables are simply not the same things as their evil commercially-frozen twins.

dsc_8606

Shelling the peas takes a bit of time … but the recipe is so easy that it really is the only prep involved.  And the kids love to help with this job.  Just make sure you give them a REALLY big bowl to do it in or your peas will be rolling around the floor like marbles.   And get extra peas because the kids were eating them raw out of the bowl.   Which is something I so distinctly remember doing with my grandmother — sitting on the back porch and shelling peas or lima beans from the garden and sneaking a few here and there.  Those are the vivid memories I want my kids to have of childhood summers … because some day, when they are beyond the days of camp boyfriends and summers spent working at the beach counting their collective hook-ups, they will settle down and taste some fresh summer peas and feel positively orgasmic.

Pasta with Fresh Peas, Basil, and Mint

Serves 4-6

1 lb. of whole wheat pasta
2-3 cups of freshly shelled peas
Small bunch of fresh basil, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
Small bunch of fresh mint, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2-1 cup of freshly grated parmesan
Salt and Pepper to taste

1.  Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water.  When the pasta has about 30-45 seconds remaining, throw in the peas and cook.  Drain pasta and peas immediately and leave a bit of the water clinging to the pasta.  Return it to the pan and turn the heat off to the burner (the residual heat on the stove is usually enough to finish the dish).

2.  Toss the pasta and peas with olive oil and garlic and  stir to combine.  Add in the grated parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.

3.  When ready to serve, toss with freshly chopped basil and mint.  Serve with additional parmesan.

dsc_8615

Spring Pasta Salad with Aparagus, Spinach, and Mint

One of the best things about belonging to your local Community Supported Agriculture farm (CSA) is how quickly the season gears up — and how big your box of veggies gets.   Our first few distributions of the summer season are teasers.  Just yesterday, we got eight sprigs of basil — yet the smell was enough to make me giddy thinking of the big bags that we will get in July and August.  Our smallish bunches of asparagus have given way to much bigger bunches and I’m already over my head in spinach and rhubarb.  And the radishes, how I love the radishes — they are eaten the minute they get in the house. (Given all this talk of wonderful produce, I should give a shout out to my fantastic CSA, Village Acres Farm.)

dsc_7654

You quickly start to plan meals based on what needs to be used, rather than what you are in the mood for.  But I find that it allows you to become much more creative in the kitchen — matching what you have with what sounds good.  This dish is a perfect example.  We were invited to a friend’s house for a party and I decided that morning to make a pasta salad.  A quick survey of the fridge revealed lots of spinach, a big bunch of asparagus, and some lovely green onions.  And the backyard mint patch was taking hold in a way that only mint knows how to do.  It definitely couldn’t be a vinegar-based dressing though — these ingredients called for lemons.

dsc_7678

And so I flew by the seat of my pants but it came together really nicely — in about 30 minutes flat.  It would make a great picnic side dish, but also a nice vegetarian main course on a summer night.  I think the asparagus could easily be swapped out for green beans once asparagus season ends.  Serve it to me with a nice Sauvignon Blanc and I might just give you a hug.  After I eat my radish and soft butter sandwiches and my rhubarb ice cream, of course.

Spring Pasta Salad with Asparagus, Spinach, and Mint

Serves 8

1 bunch of asparagus, stemmed and cut into one inch pieces
4 or 5 green onions
1 small bunch of mint
1 cup of spinach (packed), stemmed and chopped
2 lemons, zested and juiced
3/4 cup of olive oil
Sea Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan
1 cup of sunflower seeds or pine nuts, toasted
1 lb. of whole wheat pasta (I used rigatoni, but penne or a similar type would be great)

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Prepare a medium bowl with an ice bath (just lots of ice and water, really).  Cook asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes and remove quickly and place into the ice bath to stop the cooking.  When most of the ice has melted, remove asparagus with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to dry.

2.  In the same pot of boiling water, cook the pasta according to package directions.

3.  Meanwhile, make the dressing.  In the food processor, combine 2 or 3 green onions (in chunks), zest of two lemons, juice of two lemons (about 1/4 cup), olive oil, 1-2 tablespoons of mint (packed), 2 teaspoons of salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Process until smooth and place dressing in a large bowl.

4.  Drain pasta well and pour into bowl with dressing.  It is good to do this while the pasta is still hot because it will soak up the dressing.  Toss well and let cool slightly.

5.  Chop remaining 2 or 3 green onions, spinach, and 2 tablespoons of mint.  Mix into pasta and dressing.  Add cooked asparagus, 1/2 cup of parmesan, and toss well.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

6.  Chill for several hours (if possible) for flavors to mix and dressing to absorb into pasta.

7.  When ready to serve, give it a good stir and make sure there is enough dressing.  If not, add a little more olive oil.  Season more if necessary.  Mix in toasted sunflower seeds or pine nuts, and garnish top with additional chopped mint, green onions, and parmesan cheese if desired.

dsc_7726

Pasta with Tomatoes, Spinach, Ricotta Salata, and Toasted Sunflower Seeds

I have hit the point in the year where I am officially out of my summer tomatoes.  And my strawberry jam (which makes everyone very unhappy).  I never freeze enough because I am always limited to my meager amount of freezer space.  So I have to either learn to can or buy a deep freeze — both things that are on my to-do list.  Anyway, I had to buy canned tomatoes at the store the other day and it sort of pisses me off.  It’s not that they are terrible — there are some really excellent canned tomatoes; it just seems so unnecessary given the piles of tomatoes at the end of summer.  So, this year, I am officially promising to freeze more.  Maybe.  

So this dish was inspired by both my CSA box this week which was full of spinach, as well as the noticeably empty hole in my freezer that used to hold the tomatoes.  I make a version of this all summer long when tomatoes are plentiful and it is especially good with the heirlooms (if you are willing to part with them for sauce).  In a pinch, I just chop them up and don’t even peel them.  If you are using fresh tomatoes, feel free to cook the sauce less so it retains those bright tomato flavors.   

dsc_6593

And the other thing I love about this pasta dish (and really anything with a big pile of cooked greens in it) is that it is a one-bowl meal.  A salad is a great companion; but I always figure that I am eating my “salad” in a condensed form cooked right in the dish.  And my daughter loves the fact that she can eat about four bites of spinach and it equals one huge spinach salad.  

One ingredient note here… Ricotta Salata is a dried and salted form of ricotta.  It is hard cheese that crumbles very nicely and is very mild (similar in texture — but not flavor — to a firm feta cheese).  It is wonderful in salads and pasta.  If you cannot find it, I would substitute Parmesan or Romano, although it won’t be quite the same.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Spinach, Ricotta Salata, and Toasted Sunflower Seeds

Serves 4-6

2 T Olive Oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
28 oz. can of chopped or crushed tomatoes (or fresh)
Salt and Pepper
Pinch of sugar (optional)
2 T fresh oregano, stems removed and chopped
1/2 cup of toasted sunflower seeds (or Pine Nuts if you don’t have allergy issues)
10-12 oz. of whole wheat pasta (we used Fusilli, but any kind will work)
5-6 oz. of Ricotta Salata
4 packed cups of spinach (washed, stemmed, and chopped)

1.  Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add garlic, onions, and a few red pepper flakes (optional) and saute for 3-5 minutes until softened a bit. 

2.  Add tomatoes, oregano, a pinch of sugar (if your tomatoes need it), and some salt and pepper to season.  Simmer sauce for 10-15 minutes. (Less if using fresh tomatoes.)

3.  Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Cook pasta according to package directions.

4.  Add chopped spinach to tomato sauce and stir it in.  Allow the spinach to wilt and cook down.  (It will seem like too much, but it will be fine.)  Remove sauce from heat.

5.  When pasta is done, drain and return to large pot.  (Don’t drain your pasta too thoroughly, a little of the pasta water helps the sauce stick.)  Add tomato/spinach sauce from saute pan and toss over the heat so the sauce “cooks” into the pasta a bit.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

6.  When ready to serve, crumble most of the Ricotta Salata into the pasta and add the sunflower seeds (or pine nuts).  Toss well and season more if necessary.  Serve the pasta with a bit of additional Ricotta Salata on top and some fresh oregano.  

dsc_6630

Spring Pasta with Brown Butter, Asparagus, Peas, and Chanterelle Mushrooms

I often think that my laziness has been great fuel for my cooking creativity.   There are so many days when I stare into my pantry (while my two year old desperately attempts to clutch every box of crackers in it) and think that there is absolutely nothing to cook.  And then I walk away and go back in again.  And then I look at my kids and can’t stand the thought of a late afternoon trip to the grocery store with both children, trying to do three point turns in the race car cart, fulfilling bagel requests, and praying to the grocery store Gods that the check out lines are no more than two deep.

So that’s when I go for pasta.  These type of quick pasta dinners are mid-week staples around here.  They are great for a night off from meat, can easily be made into a “one bowl” kind of meal with veggies included, they usually require no grocery store trips, and are super quick.  And there is something about spring and summer that just seems to call out for light pasta meals with fresh vegetables.  And aside from the asparagus and herbs, this was basically a pantry meal.  But there are plenty of nights where we have basically the same dish with peas and pasta with a nice salad on the side.  

dsc_5836

So, I give you pasta.  The meal that preserves your sanity.

Spring Pasta with Brown Butter, Asparagus, Peas, and Chanterelle Mushrooms (serves 4 with leftovers)

10 oz. dried pasta (this is about 2/3 of a package and any kind will do, we used whole grain thin spaghetti)
1/2 oz. package of dried mushrooms (I had chanterelles, any kind of dried mushrooms are great pantry staples though)
1 cup of white wine or water
1 bunch of aparagus
Fresh Chervil or other herbs (flat leaf parsley would be great too, or skip it)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons)
Frozen Peas
1 cup of grated Parmesan
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar/Olive Oil

1.  Put a large pot of cold water on the stove and salt it generously (it’s imperative to salt your pasta water well — that’s where a lot of flavor comes from).

2.  Take one cup of wine or water and heat it in a small bowl for about a minute in the microwave.  Add dried mushrooms to heated wine/water and let soak for about 30 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, prep your asparagus by washing them and removing tough ends (snap where it breaks easily and you should be good).  Cut asparagus into 1 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.

4.  Chop 2 cloves garlic and fresh chervil/herbs (if using).

5.  Grate parmesan.

6.  Heat a saute pan over medium heat.  Add 1/2 stick of butter and melt.  Stir constantly after it has melted.  Your goal is brown butter — which will smell nutty and fragrant.  If you cook it too much, it will definitely burn (I’ve done it plenty of times, just start over).  It should take about 2-3 minutes.  When it starts to smell nicely, just keep stirring and as it turns brownish, remove from heat immediately.  Stir in chopped garlic and set aside.

7.  Bring pasta water to the boil.  

8.  If you feel like it, remove mushrooms from wine/water, chop them, and then strain the liquid through a coffee filter and set aside (you can use it on the pasta).  If you don’t feel like it, just squeeze the mushrooms to remove any liquid and chop roughly.  You can use some white wine or just a little of the pasta water in place of mushroom liquid.

9.  When water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions.  At the same time, put your saute pan with brown butter and garlic back on the heat and reheat it to medium-high.  

10.  Saute asparagus in brown butter/garlic mixture until tender and bright green.  Add some frozen peas, chopped mushrooms, and 1/4 cup of either the mushroom soaking liquid or wine (or scoop out some of the pasta water).  Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper.  Remove from heat.

11.  Drain pasta when done.  Put pasta back in pasta pot on the stove and dump contents of saute pan (brown butter, asparagus, peas, mushrooms, and liquid) onto drained pasta.  Stir in grated parmesan, fresh chervil/herbs, and extra salt and pepper to taste (and some extra mushroom liquid/wine/pasta water if it is too dry).

12.  Stir well when serving b/c the veggies have a tendency to sink to the bottom.  Plate the pasta and veggies, sprinkle with some extra parm, and drizzle with a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil (if you like, I find the fruitiness of the olive oil goes nicely with the nuttiness of the brown butter).  

dsc_5847