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Meatless Monday: Caprese Salad

29 Aug IMG_4006

Well the tomato plants in my mother’s backyard are producing like crazy, which means lots of tomatoes for me! Fortunately, this fits right into my current lazy, gadget-deprived cooking style (I really can’t wait to move into the new apartment!) as I’ve been making lots of Caprese salads.

I don’t know if anyone gets super-technical about what actually constitutes a Caprese salad, so I figured I’d look it up on that paragon of accuracy, Wikipedia. Turns out a Caprese Salad, or Insalata Caprese, means “salad in the style of Capri” and originated in the region of Campania in southern Italy. “Officially” it’s comprised of buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil topped with salt and olive oil.

Enough “technically speaking.” What’s awesome about Caprese salad is that it takes virtually no time to prepare, highlights gorgeous seasonal produce and can be completely adapted to suit your palate and ingredients. Right now, the cherry tomatoes are beating the full-size ones to ripeness, so I’ve been using a mixture of those and an heirloom variety called a Black Plum. I simply slice the tomatoes (with a serrated knife), arrange them on plates, then roughly chop some basil, tear up some mozzarella (I’ve been using Ciliegine mozzarella since its size is comparable to the tomatoes) and distribute them evenly over the tomatoes. Then a drizzle of olive oil, and a drizzle of balsamic, a sprinkle of Kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper and we’re ready to eat! (Don’t forget to soak up the juices with a nice crusty bread!)

And a bonus: Caprese sandwich! I spread some pesto onto a dry, pita-like bread, constructed a mini Caprese salad on top, then added a bit of roast turkey. Delicious! (Or so I’m told- I sent that one to work with Adam. He deserved a reward for taking all the salad pictures!)

Meatless Monday: Cheesy Chard and Pasta Gratin

22 Aug IMG_4044

During the summer, my mom’s favorite activity seems to be giving away vegetables. Now that I’m back in the Midwest (or thereabouts), I’ve become one of the lucky benefactors of her garden’s overwhelming productivity. Unfortunately, I missed all of the asparagus, but she never fails to foist bags full of chard and tomatoes and peppers on me whenever she gets the chance.

Not that I’m (really) complaining- it sure beats buying all my produce at Whole Foods (especially given my current, unemployed state). But each time it starts a race against the clock- how do I use all these lovely, backyard garden-grown vegetables before they go bad?

For the chard, this required an exploration of the internets: tomatoes are easy to turn into a tasty caprese salad, but I don’t have much experience with chard. Luckily, I managed to stumble upon a recipe that looked perfect for me: covering vegetables in cheese is always my favorite solution!

Mom was sweet and gave me the chard already separated

Chard and Cheese Pasta Gratin

adapted from Girl Interrupted Eating

I’ve made this dish twice now and all I can say is it’s one of those where you can play around with the ingredients/quantities to suit your tastes. I upped the amount of cheese sauce the second time around since I used whole grain pasta, which tends to absorb more moisture.

Ingredients:

10 Chard leaves, separated

1 Small onion, finely chopped

2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped

12 oz. Whole grain pasta

1 T Butter

1 T Flour

2 c Milk

2 T Whole grain mustard

8 oz. Extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2/3 for sauce, 1/3 for topping)

Breadcrumbs

Salt and Pepper

Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain.
  • Finely slice the stalks and greens from the chard.
  • Saute the stalks with the onion until softened, then add the garlic and finally the leaves. Allow the leaves to wilt,  then set aside.
  • Create a roux, then slowly add the milk, stirring to prevent lumps. (My sauce was quite thin, but it worked just fine since the whole dish gets baked and the pasta absorbs a lot of the moisture.)
  • Slowly add 2/3 of the shredded cheese, stirring in a figure 8 to prevent clumping. After all the cheese is melted, stir in the mustard.
  • Mix the greens with the pasta, then transfer to a 9″x 11″x 2″ baking dish.
  • Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and greens.
  • Top with salt and pepper, breadcrumbs, and the remaining cheese.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the top is starting to crisp, then broil for 3-5 minutes to give it that nice bit of color.

Valentine’s Day Dinner: One Post, Three Recipes

21 Feb IMG_3169

I’m a really bad planner. Or, a really good planner, but a really bad follow through-er. I made all kinds of Valentine’s Day plans. Not that I’m super mushy about this holiday, but I do like it when I have an excuse to be silly and cute. (You should have seen the amount of pink and red I managed to pack into my wardrobe last weekend.) Of course, all of my adorable plans got a little tricky since a) I work at a chocolate store and b) I’m not good at timing.

The plan was actually pretty straightforward- since I was working the whole weekend, Adam cooked me dinner on Sunday, and then I cooked him dinner on Monday.

Adam made pasta and butternut squash in a creamy cheesy sauce

My dinner was where it became a bit more complicated: while he stuck to a fairly simple pasta/ butternut squash recipe, I wanted to make something fancy. And of course, since it was on a Monday, I couldn’t do out-of-the-ordinary by cooking steak with red peppercorns or something. An email from Tasting Table had me salivating over this french onion fondue, but that didn’t really seem like enough for a meal that I wanted to be special.  Then, I stumbled across this  leek and artichoke bread pudding that I’d apparently bookmarked at some point. I figured I should do something light/vegetable-y/not cheese-based too, so a nice light mushroom salad seemed like the right fit. (I know that The Melting Pot is a bit cliche or tacky or something, but they used to make a mushroom salad that was amazing, and now they don’t even sell the seasoning blend for it anymore. I’m still mourning the loss.) And, even though I’ve never before made a bread pudding, I decided to add another one to the menu because this Chocolate Bread Pudding looked too good to pass up (more on dessert later). So I managed to plan a menu, and it didn’t even require an excessive shopping list: I was totally on the right track!

But, again, I work at a chocolate store: Valentine’s Day weekend was a marathon of 9 and 10 hour days. On Monday, I started cooking about 2 hours after I had planned to start, which means dinner wasn’t ready until 3 hours after I thought it would be ready (cooking always takes longer than I expect) and dessert got pushed back to Tuesday.

Cooking and presents and lipstick shower messages

Regardless of the shortcomings of my plan, we ended up with a delicious meal (and leftovers for the rest of the week). I even managed to wake up early and make pancakes before the boy left for work. So while I might get a bit over-ambitious at times, at least there was a lot of yummy food.

French Onion Fondue

(adapted from Tasting Table)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

4 onions, thinly sliced

1/8 cup dry sherry

1/8 cup sherry vinegar

1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce

a good sprinkle of thyme

salt and pepper

3/4 cup vegetable stock

2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère (yes, I halved everything else and left this the same- it’s cheese)

chopped parsley

bread for scooping

Directions:

In a large pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the onions and cook for about 2 hours, until deeply browned, stirring frequently.

Stir in sherry, sherry vinegar, Worcestershire, thyme and salt and pepper. Allow the liquid to reduce slightly (about 2 minutes) before adding the vegetable stock. Continue to cook and reduce, about 5 minutes.

Preheat the broiler. Transfer onions to glass pie dish and cover with the Gruyère. Broil for a few minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Garnish with the parsley and allow to cool slightly before serving.

*A note- we had so much of this left over that I tried to turn it into onion soup: what a disaster! In trying to compensate for blandness I added way too much sherry vinegar: I have no idea how Adam ate a whole bowl of it!

Leek and Artichoke Bread Pudding

(Adapted from Five and Spice)

Ingredients

About 6 (loosely packed) cups of 1-inch cubes of stale bread

1 Tbs. butter (plus more for greasing the baking pan)

2 medium leeks, sliced into thin coins (only the white and light green parts, well cleaned)

1 can of artichoke hearts, drained and cut into thin slices

1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 large eggs

2 1/4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly grated black pepper

Directions

In a large frying pan, heat your butter over medium heat until it is melted and starting to bubble. Stir in the leeks and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have begun to brown. Then, turn the heat down to very low and let them cook another 10 minutes, until they are nicely caramelized.

In the meantime, heat your oven to 350F, spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes, until just lightly golden. Take them out of the oven and transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Once the leeks are caramelized, stir them in with the bread cubes, then add the artichokes and the cheeses and toss everything together.

Butter an 8 inch square baking pan well, then put the bread, vegetable, cheese mixture into the pan, pressing it down a little to get everything to fit. (Bread cubes will be poking up above the top of the pan though.)

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour 3/4s of this mixture into the bread in the pan. Let it rest about 10 minutes, then pour in the rest of the egg mixture and let it rest 5 minutes more – you should still have edges of bread cube sticking up out of the egg-milk mixture, these will become a crispy crust.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until it is set and the top is browned. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

*Note- I had my doubts  about the amount of bread sticking up above the liquid, but those parts turned into lovely crispy decadent croutons! Also, being a bread pudding neophyte, I made only two tiny adjustments to Emily’s recipe- my lemon refused to zest, so I used juice instead, and my loaf pan wasn’t big enough for this recipe, so I switched to the square pan.

Fresh Mushroom Salad

(from Giada De Laurentiis, via La Dolce Bacon)

Ingredients:

8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, cleaned/trimmed and thinly sliced

a small handful of fresh parsley, chopped

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8  cup lemon juice

salt and pepper

parmesan

Directions:

In a medium salad bowl, mix together the mushrooms and parsley.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and lemon juice until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add the oil mixture to the salad bowl and toss until all the ingredients are coated. At this point you can place the mushroom salad in the refrigerator to allow the mushrooms to marinate a bit. When ready to serve, add some freshly grated parmesan.

Meatless Monday: the Jar of Artichokes

8 Feb ready for the final broil

You know how there’s always one jar in your pantry whose sole purpose is to taunt you? It just stares at you every time you open the cabinet door as if to say, “You’re never going to find a use for me, are you?” And you acknowledge its presence, thinking, “Oh yeah, I need to use that sometime,” and then promptly ignore it as you close the cabinet again.

For me, it’s been a jar of ‘Trader Giotto’s Artichoke Antipasto.’ The label describes it as “an artichoke spread with extra virgin olive oil.” Seems innocent enough. I’m sure I just grabbed it one day at Trader Joe’s, no doubt thinking it would be a key component for some simple but as-yet-unplanned meal in the future. Then it sat in my cabinet. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, it might have been sitting in Adam’s cabinet this whole time. Regardless, when we moved in together five months ago the jar moved with us, and it’s been sitting in our new cabinet ever since.

At least it was until yesterday. With no plans for Meatless Monday and a strong disinclination to move my car from its perfect parking spot, I decided to go back to basics and make a simple bruschetta. Sure, fresh tomatoes and basil would have been lovely, but given that it’s winter and I really needed to find a use for this jar of artichokes, I decided it would work.

olive oil-brushed, garlic-rubbed, freshly toasted bread slices

beginning the topping process

the finished product

And it did. I put my leftover ricotta to good use and topped some pieces with the artichoke spread and others with some of the tomato jam (with garlic and rosemary) that my mother made with her abundance of tomatoes. The ‘Artichoke Antipasto’ was not exactly what I expected (more vinegar-y than artichoke-y) but the ricotta helped mellow it a bit. The result was quite satisfactory- a light, fresh-tasting meal with minimal mess and no meat. Of course, now I have to figure out how to use up the rest of it since the half-empty jar is just sitting in my fridge, staring at me…

 

Meatless Monday Recap: Roasted Potato Leek Soup or Ina Garten, I love you!

1 Feb Roasted Potato Leek Soup

Oh how I love the Barefoot Contessa. Let’s be honest- who among us doesn’t dream about running away to the Hamptons to run a specialty food store? No? Just me? Whatever- regardless of your feelings about the buttercream queen, you are going to love this soup. Seriously. Love it. I’ve been a bit lackadaisical in my praise for some recipes I’ve tried recently, but this one gets a standing ovation. I should have known Ina wouldn’t let me down.

I saw this Roasted Potato Leek soup months ago on an episode called Comfort Classics Closeup. I wanted to try it immediately, but decided to wait until I got the immersion blender that I knew my mother had planned for my Hannukah gift.

It was so worth the wait.

Somehow, my soup ended up tasting like a bowlful of liquefied sour cream and onion potato chips- in an amazing way. On the Food Network website the recipe had four stars out of five, but a quick read-through of the reviews revealed mostly raves, with a few disgruntled failures mixed in. Just to make sure that it wasn’t going to end up “very bland” (as described by the most recent reviewer), I tried one of the potato pieces post-roasting: tasted just like latkes (a thought that Adam immediately echoed when he walked in the door, “it smells like latkes in here!”). Of course, now I’m just looking forward to trying the Cheesy Soup that popped up in the ‘similar recipes’ sidebar, although Robert Irvine could never hold the place in my heart that Ina does.

A few notes, before the recipe:

~The ‘cook time’ is supposedly 1 hour 35 minutes, but it took me 3 hours start to finish. I’m certainly not a speedy cook, but this is also definitely not a quick recipe.

~I’d never used leeks before last night- I was completely surprised when I pulled apart the leaves and found mud between the layers! Katie Goodman of goodLife {eats} provides great step-by-step instructions (with photos!) for cleaning leeks. While I’ve never had a problem with cutting onions, the leeks definitely had the inside of my nose stinging. Hooray for trying new vegetables!

I had no idea leeks were so huge!

~I did try to make the crispy shallots for on top, but they just didn’t turn out crispy. At all. I’m going to blame my lack of a candy thermometer and say that the shallots are probably lovely when done properly, but I didn’t really mourn their absence (because this soup is awesome). If it hadn’t been Meatless Monday I might have followed some of the suggestions in the comments section and topped the soup with some crispy bacon, just for fun.

trying to fry shallots

waiting for shallots to get crispy

~My grocery store didn’t have crème fraîche and my specialty store was out, so I just substituted 1/2 cup lowfat sour cream and 1/2 cup half & half- turned out just fine.

~Finally- I was a little confused because there were no instructions concerning when to add the butter. This is, after all, an Ina Garten recipe- how could there be no butter involved? After searching the ingredients list several times, however, I was reassured that this wasn’t an oversight, and I comforted myself by adding some extra parmesan, just to be safe.

Anway, here’s the recipe that will have you swooning. Enjoy!

Roasted Potato Leek Soup
(from foodnetwork.com)

Ingredients:

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (I needed three leeks)

1/4 cup good olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 cups baby arugula, lightly packed

1/2 cup dry white wine, plus extra for serving (I used a Schmitt Sohne reisling that’s been floating around since our housewarming; it worked just fine)

6 to 7 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (I subbed vegetable stock, as usual)

3/4 cup heavy cream

8 ounces creme fraiche (or 1/2 cup sour cream plus 1/2 cup half &half)

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan (I used about 1/2 cup), plus extra for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the potatoes and leeks in a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Spread the vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, turning them a few times during cooking, until very tender.

leeks and potatoes getting roast-y in the oven

Add the arugula and toss to combine. Roast for 4 to 5 more minutes, until the arugula is wilted. Remove the pan from the oven and place over 2 burners. Stir in the wine and 1 cup of the chicken stock and cook over low heat, scraping up any crispy roasted bits sticking to the pan. (I ended up adding a bit more of the stock at this point because I was having difficulty loosening up all the yummy bits.)

maybe the only benefit of my electric cooktop- it's flat (though not at all level)

Transfer the vegetables to a large pot; add the pan liquid and about 5 cups of the stock.

roasted veggies and vegetable stock

Use an immersion blender to create a puree, then add enough of the remaining 1 to 2 cups of stock to make a thick soup.

immersion blender in action

Add the cream, creme fraiche, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and check the seasonings. (The one note I would make here- taste the soup before adding the 2 teaspoons of salt: it might already be salty enough.)

adding in the creaminess

When ready to serve, reheat the soup gently and whisk in 2 tablespoons white wine (I added a bit more) and the grated parmesan. Serve hot with an extra grating of parmesan.

(Given the richness of the soup, I served it with a simple arugula salad- just baby arugula tossed in olive oil, lemon juice and a little salt, topped with shaved parmesan and some freshly ground pepper. It provided a really nice balance to the rich, creamy soup. Plus, you know, vitamins.)

Meatless Monday Recap: Cheddar Beer Soup

25 Jan IMG_2759

In case you don’t know me, there’s something you should probably be aware of: I really like cheese. I like cheese so much that when I mentioned to Adam that I should probably consume more calcium he just looked at me, flabbergasted. I keep our refrigerator constantly stocked with at least four different kinds of cheese, and one of my life goals (shared with Mags) is to have a huge wheel of parmigiano-reggiano in my kitchen. That’s how much I like cheese. So really, going meatless on Mondays isn’t all that difficult- I just make cheese-based meals instead.

Since it’s been so ridiculously cold out recently, I decided that a soup would be nice, and I wanted to try making a cheddar/beer soup. Christine Van Bloem, owner of The Kitchen Studio in Frederick, has been tweeting about the upcoming ‘Cooking with Beer‘ class she’s teaching and I couldn’t get the thought of cheese-based soup out of my mind. Unfortunately, the class isn’t until March, so I was on my own to figure out how to satisfy that craving.

A quick search of the interwebs turned up plenty of recipe options. The top-rated offering on Allrecipes was a little more complicated than what I was going for, so I settled on a simple-looking Newcastle Brown Ale Cheddar Soup. In retrospect, it might have been better to go with something a little more complex, as I was a little dissatisfied with the soup’s flavor. Nevertheless, it satisfied my craving for a cheesy main dish (and even snuck in some nutrition in the form of cauliflower). So, here it is, with my little tweaks.

Onions and cheese and beer, oh my!
Newcastle Brown Ale Cheddar Soup
(from About.com, with minor adjustments)

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

1 T butter

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 T Worcestershire sauce

12 oz. Newcastle Brown Ale

14 1/2 oz. vegetable broth (subbed for chicken broth to keep recipe meat-free)

3 T cornstarch

2 cups half & half

2 cups shredded cheddar

salt and pepper

dash of nutmeg

pinch of cayenne

dash of ground mustard

Put cauliflower in a small saucepan, cover in water, and cook over medium heat until tender, ~10 minutes. Drain.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and Worcestershire sauce, cook until the onion begins to soften, then add the garlic. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and translucent. Add the beer and bring to a boil. Add the vegetable broth, allow to return to a boil before stirring in the cauliflower.

Combine the cornstarch with 3T of water in a small bowl; set aside.

Stir the cheese and half & half into the soup until the cheese is completely melted. Add the cornstarch mixture and continue stirring until the soup thickens.

Enjoy!

 

Blockheads and Mobile Blogging

15 Jan

image

Adam and I decided pretty last-minute that we wanted to come to the city this weekend. We were planning to come up sometime this month, but found out Tuesday that Maggie would be here this weekend, along with one of our other college friends, so decided to just go for it. Our ‘plans’ all revolved around meeting up with friends; no shows or restaurants or sightseeing, just people. Since Adam grew up outside the city and I spent a post-college year living in Brooklyn we don’t really feel the need to do the tourist thing.

And that’s why, Thursday night, after an afternoon of driving, we wound up in a steamy little restaurant on the upper west side. Two of my high school friends from Ohio are living in the city and, given that we’re all fairly recent college graduates with degrees in things like theatre and dance and sociology, we wanted to meet some place fairly inexpensive. Of course, Adam reminded me that ‘cheap drinks’ in NYC are still expensive compared to what we’re used to; that’s why I was so pleasantly surprised by the $3 margaritas on the Blockheads menu.

I’m not trying to do a restaurant review here. Just saying that it was great to get to hang out with old friends, and it was just a bonus that there were free chips and cheap margaritas.

Dinner for David or Feeding a Hungry College Student

12 Jan Manicotti

Adam’s brother David stopped by last week, on his way back to college from winter break. I generally consider having a guest to be a good excuse for cooking something fun, but this was a little more complicated. While David isn’t particularly picky about his food, Adam made sure to emphasize that quantity should be a key factor in my menu planning. So I spent a while poring over my cookbooks and decided on something that would fit the bill: The Illustrated Kitchen Bible‘s Spinach and Ricotta Manicotti. I thought it would be like making a lasagna: little did I know what I was getting myself into…

Of course, since I couldn’t just make manicotti, I decided to start with dessert. I figured something simple and basic would be my safest bet, so I chose The Illustrated Quick Cook‘s Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownies (I happened to have an abundance of hazelnuts sitting in my baking cabinet).

parchment paper-lined 13"x9"x2" pan

First, I lined my pan with parchment paper, something that always causes me more aggravation than it probably should.

melting butter and chocolate

Next, I melted a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips with 12T of butter in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. After cooling for 20 minutes, I added 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 4 eggs. Then came the 1 3/4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup of cocoa powder and finally, 1 cup of coarsely chopped hazelnuts. After spreading the mixture evenly in the prepared pan, I stuck it in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes and moved on to other things.

chocolate and hazelnut brownies

(Note: after 16 minutes I took the pan out of the oven. After cooling in the pan, I discovered that they were still incredibly gooey towards the center. I stuck the pan back in the oven for a few minutes, until they were a less suspicious consistency.)

Once I had the brownies in the oven, I moved on to whipping up a quick vinaigrette dressing, also from The Illustrated Kitchen Bible. I figured a big salad with some homemade dressing would be the perfect accompaniment to the manicotti. The recipe was straightforward: whisk together 3T wine vinegar and 1T Dijon mustard (I did the garlic vinaigrette variation, so I added 1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste and mixed with a little salt). Then I slowly poured in 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, whisking the entire time, and seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper. True to its word, the vinaigrette did not separate, even after being stored in the refrigerator for several days.

a bay leaf and a clove-stuck onion, simmering in milk

With the accessories out of the way, it was time to tackle the main course. Before I could start on any real prep or assembly, I had to make a Béchamel sauce. Luckily, my cookbook had very clear instructions and the process ended up being far less complicated than I expected.Then came the manicotti.

my bursting manicotti

I realized I was screwed sometime during the rinsing process. For whatever reason, the massive pasta tubes were starting to stick together. Now, in order to stuff them with my spinach/egg/ricotta/parmesan mixture, I had to pry the tubes open without tearing the fairly fragile pasta. That endeavor was fairly unsuccessful; in the end I was just happy to get everything into the pan without becoming a complete disaster.

chopping celery for the red sauce

Because one sauce is not enough, my next step was putting together a tomato-based sauce to complement the creamy Béchamel. The red sauce consisted of canned crushed tomatoes, combined with onion, celery, garlic, vegetable stock and fresh basil. Fairly straightforward and tasty, although in the future I think I would leave out the celery; I wasn’t a huge fan of the crispy chunks in the pasta.

Once the tomato sauce reduced a bit, I finished assembling the manicotti. The Béchamel sauce was the first layer on top of the stuffed pasta. Next was the tomato sauce and finally, a generous layer of shredded parmesan. After half an hour in the oven it was bubbly and delicious looking. (And that was a mere five hours after I started the day’s cooking.) Happily, it all seemed worth it- I think David had three servings of manicotti, so it’s a good thing I didn’t go for individual Cornish game hens or something (though I think in the future I’ll probably just stick to lasagna).

all done!

New Year’s Day Part 2: Dinner

8 Jan Leftover shrimp bowl

My first dinner of 2011 was decidedly less fun than my first breakfast, largely due to the fact that Adam was at work: I don’t particularly enjoy eating alone. Luckily, our NYE tapas created leftovers that were enticing enough to cheer me up. I just cooked up some pasta and tossed it with spinach and some of the leftover shrimp. I microwaved the shrimp briefly on medium heat, then added the pasta to the bowl they were already in to take advantage of their spicy garlic-y juices. The fresh spinach I just threw in at the end, and stuck a lid over the bowl to capture a bit of the steam so the spinach would wilt. Since the shrimp already had plenty of flavor I just topped my pasta bowl with a few dabs of butter, a spritz of lemon juice and some parmesan. I know there are old Italian rules about seafood and cheese but I tend to ignore those. An easy and satisfying meal- just what I expect from good leftovers.

pasta with garlic/hot pepper shrimp, spinach, lemon juice and parmesan

New Year’s Eve, Tapas-Style

7 Jan New Year's Eve Tapas

I have a terrible track record for making New Year’s Eve plans, and this year was no different. Adam and I had a couple of party options, but I really didn’t like the idea of driving to Annapolis or DC, so in the end we decided to just stay home. Of course, since we didn’t actually make that decision until about 4PM on December 31st, there was a flurry of last minute planning. I tasked Adam with looking through recipes while I was at work, to get an idea of what he might want to cook.

I should have known that was a bad plan.

my cookbook shelf- not that scary

Apparently my cookbook shelf was too overwhelming for him, and he was nowhere near making a decision by the time I got home around 5. Luckily, he had managed to find something that appealed to him: ‘mushrooms on toast with Manchego cheese.’ It happened to be in the ‘tapas’ section of The Illustrated Quick Cook (another winter solstice present from my parents).Tapas! Great- it’s quick, it’s easy, and the quantities won’t be too ridiculous. Now we just had to pick out a couple more recipes…

We settled on a spinach dish, a shrimp dish, and some roasted potatoes. Unfortunately, by the time we got our act together The Common Market was closed, so our shrimp selection was going to be limited to what they had a Giant. Sigh. Add to the schedule: endure chiding from my father about eating South American shrimp.

Back at the apartment we had our work cut out for us. Adam was on mushroom toast duty so I started with the potatoes, since they would take the longest to cook. Washed, cut into wedges, then into the oven (after a generous drizzle of olive oil and a liberal sprinkling of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, dried rosemary and thyme).

my basic roasted potatoes- redskinned potatoes cut into small wedges and liberally seasoned

Peeling the shrimp was probably the most time-consuming task. I was doing that the entire time Adam was chopping/seasoning/cooking the mushrooms. I was following another Quick Cook recipe, this one calling for cooking the shrimp in olive oil, sherry, sliced garlic and red pepper flakes. Yum!

shrimp with garlic and hot pepper- straightforward and delicious

While the shrimp cooked, I prepared the final Quick Cook portion of the meal. ‘Spinach, pine nuts, and raisins’ required a quick toasting of the raisins and pine nuts in olive oil, followed by the addition of a few tablespoons of sherry, then adding spinach and paprika (I used cayenne) until wilted. Easy.

spinach with pine nuts, raisins and a cayenne kick

That’s when I finally let Adam put the ‘mushrooms on toast’ in the oven for a quick bake so the cheese (we substituted parmesan for Manchego) could get melty and delicious.

chopped mushrooms cooked with olive oil, garlic, sherry, cayenne and parsley, on top of marble rye and topped with parmesan

Somehow, our timing worked out perfectly. Everything arrived on the table hot and delicious, and we weren’t thoroughly aggravated with each other from working together in our rather tiny kitchen (although that might have more to do with the vodka-orange juice-lemon/lime-seltzer concoctions we were drinking at the time).

note the half-empty glass in the background

 

Regardless of the last minute-y-ness of it all, the result was delicious.

Happy New Year indeed!

 

*A note on the pictures- We made this dinner on Dec. 31st. I decided to start this blog on Jan 1st. Sorry for the lack of cooking-in-progress shots!*

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