All Posts Tagged ‘Vegetarian

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sunday dinner: ricotta toast with lemon, basil & honey

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Confession: I spent four hours at brunch today. There was champagne and oysters and an over the top fancy Upper East Side location. There were socialites and wannabe socialites and older men with uncomfortably young ‘companions’ and botox as far as the eye could see. Also, André Leon Talley. And it was glorious. And all of this was after a breakfast of bacon and eggs and my breakfast food soulmate, a perfectly toasted english muffin. Go big or go home, am I right?

Needless to say, it was a day of indulgence, so by the time I got around to planning dinner, I just couldn’t commit to a full meal. I couldn’t go entirely without food, that’s just silly; but I didn’t need a meat and potatoes situation.

Enter ricotta toast. It’s light and crunchy and creamy and perfect for when you’re in the mood for snacking. Add in basil and lemon zest for freshness and a little pepper and honey to round it out. Simple and delicious and just filling enough for a day that mostly consisted of eating fancy food surrounded by fancy people.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Ricotta Toast with Lemon, Basil & Honey

sourdough bread (two slices per person)
ricotta cheese
4-6 leaves fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon zest
extra virgin olive oil
honey
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Set your oven on broil and move one rack to the top position. While the oven is warming, brush each slice of bread on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. When the oven is ready, place the slices of bread directly on the oven rack and toast until golden brown, approximately two minutes per side. Watch the bread closely; they can go from nicely browned to burnt in a matter of seconds.

Remove toast from the oven, and when it’s cool enough to handle, spread a liberal amount of ricotta on each slice. Season with salt and pepper, then top with the chopped basil and lemon zest. Just before serving, drizzle with a touch of olive oil and honey.

I paired these little gems with some olives and cornichons (fancy French pickles are the business, no?) and a few slices of prosciutto. These would also go nicely with a bright, citrusy green salad or on their own with a crisp glass of rose.

It’s dinner but not — perfect for a day when you don’t want to commit to a full meal, when grazing is the name of the game. Enjoy!

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sunday dinner: bucatini with butter-roasted tomato sauce.

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We are a Bon Appétit family. Some people are Food & Wine families, some people are Cook’s Illustrated or Saveur families, some people are like what are you talking about we don’t categorize ourselves by what cooking magazine we subscribe to, you crazy person. And that’s all fine.

But since I was a little kid, we’ve always been a Bon Appétit family. We’d sit around our kitchen island as a family and pour over the issue when it arrived each month, trying different recipes, the best of which were torn from the magazine and saved in my mother’s bubble gum pink recipe binder. We still have every November Thanksgiving issue, displayed proudly on a special shelf in my parents’ pantry. They are our culinary bibles. There are recipes from those issues that I know by heart, that I cherish on the same level as family mementos. They are my family mementos. When I went off to college, it wasn’t with a subscription to Cosmo or Seventeen or Us Weekly, it was with a subscription to Bon Appétit. The one that I still have today, 16 years later.

Bucatini with Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce is one of my favorite BA recipes from recent years, one that I make on Sundays when I want something simple and satisfying, and when I want my apartment to smell like my non-existent Italian grandmother has been cooking all day. Except she hasn’t because this baby is ready and on the table in under an hour.

Is there a better culinary phrase than ‘butter-roasted’? I think not. It implies homey, rich, comforting. And when you combine it with the sweetness of roasted tomatoes, the umami of garlic and anchovies (it’s not fishy, I promise), and the toothsome quality of bucatini (spaghetti’s portlier cousin), it makes for a hearty, warm dish with just a hint of spice.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Bucatini with Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce

You will need:

1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
6 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
2 anchovy fillets packed in oil
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dash of balsamic vinegar
12 oz. box of bucatini (spaghetti also works)
Grated parmesan reggiano

Kitchen equipment: 13×9 inch baking dish, large pot for cooking pasta

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is warming, open your can of tomatoes and using your hands, crush the tomatoes and place them in the baking dish. Be careful as you do this; the tomatoes are likely to squirt juice all over the place as you crush them, potentially ruining your kitchen counter and/or your favorite Sunday sweater. Aprons all around, mmm’k?

Once all the tomatoes are properly crushed, discard the tomato liquid and the can. Next, peel and trim your garlic cloves and give them a good whack with the back of your chef’s knife to crush them. The original recipe that was my inspiration for this called for eight cloves — that’s a little too aggressive for me, so I ended up using six. If you love garlic, go for the full eight; if you want a milder garlic flavor, maybe only use four. You do you.

Add the crushed garlic cloves to the tomatoes, spreading evenly in a single layer across the dish. Next, toss in two anchovy fillets, then add the butter cubes, nestling them into the tomatoes in an even layer. Finally, top with the red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper.

When the oven is ready, place your baking dish on the middle rack of the oven and roast for 40-45 minutes, stirring once about half way through the cooking time.

While the sauce is cooking, heat a large pot of salted water on high until boiling, then add your pasta and cook per package instructions. When the pasta is ready, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

When the sauce is done, the garlic should be very soft and the tomatoes should look a bit like jam. Remove from the oven, and using a fork or a potato masher, blend the sauce to mash the garlic and the tomatoes. Add a few dashes of balsamic vinegar and stir to incorporate. This adds a bit of sweetness to balance the salty/buttery flavor of the anchovies and the, well, butter.

To finish the dish, add the cooked sauce and the reserved pasta water to the pasta in the pot and heat on medium-high for 2-3 minutes, stirring and tossing regularly. When the sauce clings to the pasta and the pasta water is cooked down, you’re good to go.

Plate the pasta and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy with a full-bodied red wine and a crusty baguette…and perhaps the new issue of Bon Appétit. You know that’s what I’ll be doing.

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sunday dinner: best of summer salad & avocado feta toasts.

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It’s that time of year, folks. The dog days of summer — that perfect time when the days are long and the sun is high and clouds are sparse. The summer in New York has been glorious, GLORIOUS I tell you, which is completely unexpected and I thank my lucky stars each and every day for such atypical temperatures. This is my kind of polar vortex, people.

This time of year also means that when I food shop, I’m spendin’ my dollahs at the farmer’s market, y’all. The farm stands are positively bursting with fresh produce around here, and it is divine. You haven’t really eaten a tomato until you’ve eaten a farmer’s market tomato in the month of August. Real talk.

If you’re doing it right, meals this time of year require little cooking (if any) and they should heavily feature fresh vegetables (mostly tomatoes, the tomatoes in these parts are unreal this time of year). And this little ditty fits the bill just perfectly. The salad is fresh and bright (the addition of parsley and mint to the salad greens takes it to another level, promise), and the toasts round out the meal with creamy and salty and a little crunch. Roasting lemons was new for me, but it added such a lovely citrus flavor to the salad and also provided a bit of crunch — a new age crouton, if you will. If I had a back patio, I’d be enjoying this with a bottle of wine, a little Glenn Miller Orchestra Pandora station, and a summer sunset. Sososo good.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Best of Summer Salad with Roasted Lemons & Avocado Feta Toasts

Best of Summer Salad (adapted from Bon Appetit)
1 carton mixed small tomatoes, halved
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, torn if large
1 cup arugula or other fresh salad greens
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roasted Lemons
1 lemon, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced, seeds removed
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lemon Vinaigrette (adapted from Martha Stewart)
juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon course salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Avocado & Feta Toasts (makes 4 toasts)
2 slices multigrain bread, cut on the diagonal
½ avocado, sliced
4 slices feta cheese, preferably bulgarian feta but french or greek will do
8 arugula leaves
olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

First things first. The lemons and the toasts are going to take the longest, so we need to get those going so we can focus on everything else. For the lemons, preheat the oven to 325 and at the same time, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil on the stove. Once boiling, drop the lemon slices in the water and cook for two minutes. This takes the bitterness out of the lemons so when they roast, they’ll take on a sweet, citrus flavor. While the lemons are cooking, quickly chop the sage. Strain the lemons from the water and spread onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toss thoroughly with the sage, sugar and olive oil, then season well with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until dry and slightly browned.

Once the lemons are in the oven, grab another baking sheet and lay your toasts out in a single layer. Brush each toast with olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper. Place the toasts in the oven with the lemons and cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until the toasts are nicely brown and crisp.

While the lemons and toasts are in the oven, slice the tomatoes and onions and throw ’em in a big bowl with all of the greens (parsley, mint, arugula). Season veggies and greens with freshly ground salt and pepper and set aside.

Next, let’s make some vinaigrette. Now, you can totally use your favorite store bought dressing if you don’t want to go through the trouble of making your own, but the freshness of this vinaigrette is the perfect compliment to the veggies and greens, so I highly recommend taking the time. The easiest way to make the dressing is to combine the lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a jar or lidded container and shake to combine until the sugar and salt are dissolved into the liquid. Then, add the olive oil and shake again until combined. Taste and adjust ingredients if necessary.

When the lemons are fully cooked, remove from oven and allow to cool for approximately 10 minutes. Once cool enough to touch, remove from baking sheet and add to the bowl with the veggies and greens.

Finally, just before the toasts come out of the oven, slice the avocado and feta and set aside.

Dress the salad with your preferred amount of lemon vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper.

Place one piece of feta and 1-2 slices of avocado on each toast, then top each toast with a few leaves of arugula. Drizzle each toast with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Serve toasts along side the salad, and don’t forget a big ol’ glass of wine (it’s summer, so rosé is the obvious choice). This meal is light but filling, the perfect celebration of summer’s best ingredients. Enjoy!

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quick tip: weeknight pasta.

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Since I didn’t do a Sunday Dinner post this week, I thought I could smoosh a food-related post into a quick tip and no one would notice (or you would and you’d be like, whatever, she’s cooky, and you’d move on with your life). The truth is, however, this really is one of the fastest meals you can pull together and it’s deeeee-licious. It’s also great for a weeknight because you probably have a lot of these ingredients in your pantry already so it requires minimal shopping, and you can tailor it to what you like (or what you have on hand) quite easily. I’ve been cooking this since I was in college, so even those of you with minimal cooking ability can pull this off with aplomb.

Here we go.

Weeknight Mediterranean Pasta

You will need:

pasta (I used pappardelle because it’s what I had, but you could use practically any kind of pasta)
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, chopped
red chili flakes

Plus any combination of the below ingredients:

artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
tomatoes, chopped
black, green or kalamata olives, sliced
capers
sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
fresh arugula or spinach
basil

Top with one of the following:

goat cheese
feta

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water per the package directions, strain and set aside. While the pasta is cooking, sauté the garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes (you want it to soften slightly but not brown). Add the rest of the ingredients you’re using to the pan (except the arugula, spinach, and/or basil) and sauté until warmed through, stirring often. Add one swirl of the balsamic vinegar around the pan and sprinkle in the red chili flakes to your taste.

When the ‘sauce’ is warmed through, add the pasta to the pan and stir to coat. Just before you’re ready to serve, add the arugula, spinach and/or basil so it just has time to wilt.

Dish into bowls, top with the cheese of your choice and voilà! A delectable Mediterranean pasta in under ten minutes. Enjoy!

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sunday dinner: spice-roasted sweet potato tacos with honey & lime.

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Growing up in a tiny mountain town in Colorado with a father who grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa, there weren’t many meals that didn’t include some form of meat. Our weekly dinner menu was a veritable buffet of steak and chicken and my meaty favorite, barbecued pork ribs. Don’t get me wrong, we ate our fair share of vegetables too (I was never a child that needed my veggies hidden in my food…I’ve been eating brussels sprouts willingly long before they were showing up on every menu in NYC), but if a vegetarian dinner option was ever considered, the standard response from my dear father was always, ‘where’s the beef?’ (thanks for that one, Wendy’s). Alas, vegetables remained a side dish throughout most of my youth.

Now that I’m grown and taking care of myself, I don’t have the voice of my father in my ear any longer when planning meals, so I can be a bit more flexible in my choices. I’m not going too crazy here, I’m still a carnivore in my bones (sorry, vegans), but I do try to incorporate at least a few vegetarian meals into my menu each week. I find that vegetables are so versatile, with the right spices and cooking treatment, you can turn out a meal that is both as filling as a meat-based dish and just as delicious.

Case in point, this little ditty here. First of all you should know that I have a deep love of tacos. Put anything in a tortilla and toss some guac and hot sauce on top and I’m a happy girl. I used to make a version of this when I was in college (in quesadilla form), and I always loved it. The combination of the sweetness of the sweet potatoes with the saltiness of the goat cheese plus the freshness of the lime — it’s a truly delicious winner. Throw in the smokiness of the paprika and it almost has a BBQ flavor to it.

No matter whether you’re a regular meat eater or you’re dedicated to your veggies, you’ll enjoy this take on the beloved taco, no doubt returning to the stove for seconds (and thirds if we’re being honest).

Spice-Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos with Honey & Lime, adapted from Cooking Classy

You will need:

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small yellow onion, cut in half and sliced into thin half moons
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can sweet corn, drained
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Fixin’s:

1 avocado, chopped
fresh goat cheese
fresh cilantro, chopped
hot sauce
corn or flour tortillas, warmed

OK, let’s do this. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and take out a large baking sheet. Spread your diced sweet potatoes out on the baking sheet in a single layer, and toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Combine the cumin, paprika, coriander and cayenne pepper in a small bowl and sprinkle spice mixture over sweet potatoes. Season with sea salt and black pepper and toss until sweet potatoes are thoroughly coated with the spices (I recommend using two forks to do this so you don’t get the cayenne pepper on your hands. If you use your hands, wash them thoroughly with soap and hot water immediately). Roast the sweet potatoes for about 15 minutes, tossing once half way through the cooking process. Once cooked, turn off the oven and leave sweet potatoes inside to keep warm until you need them.

While the sweet potatoes are roasting, heat the other 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or sauté pan. Once hot, add the onions and cook until very soft and golden brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one additional minute. Then, add the beans and corn and stir to incorporate.

When the veggies are warm, add the honey and lime, and if you like, a few dashes of hot sauce (I very like). Stir to incorporate and cook 2-3 minutes until liquid reduces. Add the sweet potatoes to the rest of the veggies and stir. Taste to ensure seasoning is sufficient and try not to swoon (it’s that good, I swear).

Warm tortillas in the microwave between two damp paper towels for 30 seconds. Dish the veggies onto your tortillas and top with additional hot sauce, a squeeze of lime, the goat cheese, the chopped avocado, and the cilantro. Try to keep yourself from shoveling it into your mouth before you get to the table because it is so, so very delicious.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to go the taco route, this would be great in a tortilla-less bowl format with all the fixin’s on top.

Enjoy! Hooray vegetables!

 

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sunday dinner: spring vegetable pasta.

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Oh, weekends. Let me count the ways you are wonderful (why you gotta be so short?). It is glorious in fair Brooklyn today; the sun is shining, the air is light, and there’s a beautiful lazy quality to the day. I just don’t want it to end because this is living, people, and I want to live it right.

This spring vegetable pasta is perfect for days like these — comes together quickly, packs a lot of flavor into just a few ingredients, and is easily alterable to suit whatever your vegetable fancy. Not feeling peas? Use asparagus instead. Don’t like asparagus? Throw in some artichoke hearts. Any ol’ vegetable will do. You can have whatever you liiiiiiiike (just ask T.I.).

Spring Vegetable Pasta with Lemon & Ricotta

You will need:

sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
½ stick unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, white & pale green parts only
2 lemons
½ pound sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut in half (you can use frozen peas as a substitute and/or literally any other vegetables)
¾ pound dried pappardelle pasta (or other flat egg noodles)
½ cup fresh ricotta cheese
¾ cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese

Before you start cooking, the first thing you need to do is prepare the leeks. And by prepare, I mean clean them because they are dirty, dirty vegetables. The last thing you want is to bite into your delicious spring pasta and get a mouthful of dirt instead, so this is a worthy step. To clean them thoroughly, first take a sharp knife and cut off the dark green stalks on both of your leeks (you only want to cook the white and pale green parts). You should be left with two 4 to 6 inch long stalks that resemble giant green onions. Cut each of these stalks in half length-wise (you should now have four 4 to 6 inch long stalks that are half-moon shaped). Next, thinly slice each leek across the stalk into small half-moons about 1/8 inch wide. Grab a large bowl and fill with cold water, then place all of your sliced leeks in the water. Swirl them around with your hands to clean. The leeks will float, and as you stir them, the dirt will settle in the bottom of the bowl. Leave the leeks in the water to soak and clean further until you’re ready to cook them. 

Next, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is heating, take a large skillet and melt the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is fully melted, add the leeks (I usually just grab them from the water and shake them a bit before putting them in the pan, but you can use a strainer or a slotted spoon too) and a pinch of salt. Cook the leeks, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium, and continue to cook until very tender, about another 5 minutes. Turn heat to low and finely grate zest of the two lemons directly over the leeks in the skillet, followed by a generous seasoning of pepper

When the water is boiling, add the peas and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes. Transfer peas to skillet using a strainer or slotted spoon. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes (you want the pasta to still have a little ‘bite’ to it since it will cook more in the skillet). When the pasta is cooked, transfer to the skillet using tongs or a strainer, but do not drain the pasta water. 

With the heat still on low, gradually stir in ½ cup pasta water, followed by the ricotta cheese and about half of the pecorino, followed by up to another ½ cup of pasta water if it’s looking a little dry. Toss the mixture until the pasta is coated and the sauce is creamy. Turn off the heat, and dish the pasta into a serving bowl, topping with the rest of the pecorino and another grind of fresh pepper. Serve immediately. 

Maybe enjoy it barefoot on your patio with a glass of wine and the last golden light of the day. That’s where I’ll be. Come on over, I’ll save you a seat. 

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