BLT Pasta

At least once a week during the summer, I make pasta for dinner. Normally it’s pesto, because it’s basil season and hands down it’s my favorite meal; I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week and I would never grow tired of it. But sometimes it’s fun to change it up!

Once in a blue moon, I’ll order a BLT for lunch as I always find cooking bacon at home leaves the smell lingering way longer than it takes to actually eat it. But making this dish in the summer when you can open the windows was worth the bacon-smelling kitchen! Although I had regular penne in the cupboard, I decided to try the mezze (mini) penne that is suggested, and with grape tomatoes on the counter and baby spinach in the fridge, it was a quick and easy weeknight dinner!

blt pasta

BLT Pasta
This recipe originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Cooking Light.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: about 1 2/3 cups)

8 ounces uncooked mezze penne pasta
6 center-cut bacon slices
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (6-ounce) package baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ounce fresh Romano cheese, finely grated (about 1/4 cup)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 6 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add tomatoes and salt to drippings in pan; cook 3 minutes or until tomatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Add spinach and pasta to pan; cook 1 minute or just until spinach begins to wilt, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle pasta with bacon, pepper, and cheese.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: A Super Easy Method to Separate Eggs
A friend sent me this video of how to separate eggs with a water bottle. I was skeptical even after watching the video, because it looked so easy, I didn’t think there was a way that it work. So one morning before scrambling my eggs I decided to try it. And it really works! It just scoops it up! I will definitely do this next time I need to separate eggs!

You can watch the video here.

Number 200

200What began during a March blizzard in 2011 as a creative way to get my adventures in the kitchen out into the world has developed into a weekly ritual of cooking and writing. In three years’ time, you’ve come along with me to specialty food shops in Florida, our local agricultural fair, and the sites of New York; my birthday tribute to Julia Child (when the electricity went out); I Mad Men’d myself for cocktails and Caesar salad; I’ve passed along family recipes, recipes I’ve created, and of course those from Cooking Light.

Despite being a pretty good home cook, I know there always is room to grow and for improvement. I recently made pancakes for my nephew who dubbed them good and gobbled them up, but when I bit into them, I realized I had forgotten the sugar! Well, at least my audience was happy! Just like everything in life, I am always learning and all I can do is to keep trying and mastering my craft. A big thank you to all who have been with me along the way, and a special thank you to Marta T., my very first follower who wasn’t related to me! And I can’t let this post escape with without thanking the Eater of the House, who has withstood experimental, delicious (and not so delicious), and really late dinners because of my writing and cooking! He is my first test taster, so nothing goes here without his seal of approval!

So since this is Post #200, I decided to give myself a reprieve this week and revisit my favorite pie recipe since it’s August and peach season. What better way to celebrate these beautiful golden orbs than with a pie?

peach pie

I can’t take credit for this pie; my Mom baked this beauty!


Crumbly Peach Pie
2/3 cup sugar (scant)
3/8 cup (6 Tablespoons) flour
1/3 cup (5 Tablespoons) butter (scant)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg 6-8 peach halves, skinned

Mix the ingredients together and place half of the mixture at the bottom of a ready-to-bake pie crust. Place the peach halves on top and add the remainder of the crumbly mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden.

To peel peaches: Fill a large pan with water and bring to a boil. In the sink, fill a large bowl with extra cold water. When the water has come to a boil, add the peaches one at a time and let it sit in the water for about 45 seconds to a minute. (The timing is very important, as you don’t want the peaches to cook.) Transfer immediately to the bowl of cold water. If everything goes well, you should be able to slip off the skins easily with your fingers. If you find they don’t, you can stick them in the hot water a little bit longer.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Tourterelle, New Haven, Vermont
For my 200th post, I thought I would give you a little peek at food in other kitchens in the state. Tourterelle is one of my favorite local restaurants that is one where we go for special occasions. The Eater of the House took me out a couple of weeks ago as a thank you for the pick up and drop off during a hiking excursion. French in theme, it’s a little country house that has a beautiful bar and several rooms where you can dine solo, à deux, or with a party.

I wasn’t very hungry that night, but that didn’t stop us from ordering the Salade de Homard (lobster salad), chunks of lobster with crunchy kohlrabi, radishes, a thin buttermilk dressing, and topped with puffed polenta. I could have eaten three of those alone! For my entrée, I ordered the Crêpe à la St Jacques, a thinly folded crepe with fresh sea scallops and wild mushrooms in a thin wine sauce. (If I were at home, I would have licked my plate!)

Unless it’s going to our local pub, I like to go to restaurants that serve food I can’t or won’t make at home. I know I will never even attempt to make crêpes at home, so this was a lovely evening out with absolutely delicious food. So this week, let someone else do the cooking and tell me about your adventures!
lobstercrepe

Spiced Chicken Thighs and Parsley Couscous

I’ve really gotten into spice rubs for meat lately. Easier and less messy than marinades, they are a nice way to spice up (no pun intended) a boring piece of meat, with spices and herbs that already are in the cupboard.

This was an easy Sunday dinner. Always one for looking for simplicity, by browning and roasting the chicken in the same pan, it makes a one-dish supper–less cleanup! I had Israeli couscous in the cupboard, so I used that, which made it more of a pasta side dish. If you’re looking for a gluten-free alternative, quinoa or rice can certainly be used. Served with the first corn of the season, it was a delicious meal and the leftover chicken was perfect on my salads for lunch!

herbed chix

Spiced Chicken Thighs and Parsley Couscous
This recipe originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Sip on a cool glass of ginger lemonade for just 32 cents per serving: Bring 4 cups water and 1/3 cup sliced fresh ginger to a boil in a medium saucepan; remove from heat. Steep 30 minutes. Strain; discard solids. Mix the liquid with the juice of 2 large lemons and 3 tablepoons honey. Serve over ice.

Serves 4 (serving size: 2 thighs and about 1/2 cup couscous)

2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed and skinned (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2/3 cup uncooked couscous
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Combine cumin, sugar, chili powder, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper, lemon rind, and black pepper in a small bowl; rub spice mixture over both sides of chicken. Heat a large ovenproof skillet or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken to pan, placing it skin side down; cook 5 minutes on each side or until chicken is browned. (If necessary, work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.) Transfer pan to oven. Bake chicken at 425° for 14 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from pan; let stand 10 minutes before serving.

3. While chicken rests, heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add couscous and garlic to pan; cook 2 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring frequently. Carefully stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and chicken stock. Bring liquid to a boil. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 4 minutes (avoid opening the lid). Fluff couscous with a fork, and stir in parsley and lemon juice.

summer_box1MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Lovethesecretingredient.net
Far be it for me to think I’m the only food blog out there worth reading (there are zillions out there, so I know I’m only a teeny spec in the cyber world!). But I came across Mary Frances’s blog, Love the Secret Ingredient, a couple of years ago, and have thoroughly enjoyed reading her adventures in the kitchen since then. She cooks a little bit like me; I have this in the fridge, what can I make?

She’s had a project for the last few months that I really admire: seasonal food boxes, all to benefit Feed the Children. I ordered the summer box (pictured), and received a delicious spice rub, some yummy salsa, and other goodies. And the box was totally gluten-free. This sort of project is totally out of my realm, so I’m excited to find something foodie related–and impressed she took her blog and food interest to the next level!

I’ll be ordering the fall box soon! Check it Mary Frances’s blog at www.lovethesecretingredient.net.

Summertime and the Cooking is Easy

morningWith all due respect to George Gershwin, Vermont this summer has seen waves of hot, hot, hot weather; so humid and sticky that all I want to do is sit in the river. On days like these, I find my appetite isn’t normal, so I try to make salads that are light, yet protein-filled enough so I don’t walk away hungry.

True Nicoise salad has tomatoes, olives, fava beans, and even anchovies. Mine is a bit different, adding some boiled potatoes, radishes that I had on hand, and a salmon salad I made which is just canned salmon, lemon juice, and some capers. I love salads that have a little bit of this and that, so you, too, can create your own riff on the salad, adding your own favorite vegetables and protein. If you’re a vegetarian, you can make a white bean salad in place of the salmon. The vinaigrette recipe will probably make more dressing than you need, but it will keep for at least a week if not longer in a cool spot in your kitchen or in the fridge.

misenplaceI created this salad to take on my annual trek to Lake George with friends a few weeks ago for a simple and delicious lunch. And it is one that is easy to tote if you’re going to the beach or for a picnic. See? >>>

Of course, soon after I wrote this recipe, the temperatures turned and I could finally turn on the oven again. So in the meantime, I’ll tuck this away for the next time we take a trip to the lake or the heat comes back–whichever comes first.

salad
MVK’s Nicoise Salad
2 red peppers, thinly sliced
1-2 cups green beans, steamed
4 small red potatoes, boiled and cubed
4 radishes, sliced into fourths
3 hard-boiled eggs

Salmon or tuna salad: tossed with fresh lemon juice and capers (optional)

Vegetarian option: One can of white beans, toss with a little bit of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and chopped herbs.

Vinaigrette: 2/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar (or a vinegar of your choice), 1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, ½ shallot (a couple teaspoons), finely chopped (optional). Whisk together.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Speaking of Summertime. . . 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less

The title sounds like an infomercial, but seven years ago, when Mark Bittman was still working for the Dining section of the New York Times, he produced this masterpiece; 101 super simple recipes for summer. This has been a savior ever since for those nights I’m not sure what to make, it’s too hot, or I need some creativity.

The recipes run the gamut: meat, vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan. And they are all so simple, that the 10 minutes is true. Cook up some bratwurst with apples and serve with coleslaw (#59) or saute shredded zucchini in olive oil, adding garlic and chopped herbs. Serve over pasta. (#45) Or Bittman’s own version of Nicoise Salad (#34) Lightly steam haricot verts, green beans, or asparagus. Arrange on a plate with chickpeas, good canned tuna, hard-cooked eggs, a green salad, sliced cucumber and tomato. Dress with oil and vinegar.

You can find the article here, 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less.

Peanutty Soba Noodles

rainbowI’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I always have a hard time bringing myself to buy some prepared foods if I know I can make it at home less expensively. If it’s the end of the week and the cupboards are bare, I sometimes go to a local supermarket to pick up something for lunch. This isn’t your usual IGA, it’s a high-end supermarket with a wonderful deli that carries lots of specialty cheeses, meats, and salads. And high-end equals high prices.

In the deli case, you can find small containers of egg, ham, and turkey salads, some with prices that range more than $7 a pound. They also make other specialty noodle salads: Thai, sesame, and peanut, with equally high prices. You get the idea, ridiculously expensive, since you can make a batch of egg salad or peanut noodles for a crowd for half the cost of one lunch.

This is my version of peanut noodles, one that is relatively inexpensive and which doesn’t require refrigeration immediately if you take it to a picnic. (Please note, this should be refrigerated at some point!) I made it for a picnic dinner a few weeks ago, and the Eater of the House took one bite and declared it delicious. This can be served as a meatless entrée or side dish, or add some tofu or grilled chicken to it to bulk it up. I wanted more veggies than noodles, but feel free to add more (or less) of either or both if you like. Experiment with other vegetables, maybe the crunch of kohlrabi? Or substitute another bean for the edamame. If you are eating gluten-free, look for gluten-free soba noodles (they are out there) or substitute rice noodles.

noodle saladPeanutty Soba Noodles

Baby carrots are perfect for making match-stick pieces! You can get shelled edamame in the freezer section; just put in a bowl and defrost for a little while. They thaw fairly quickly. 

8 oz. soba noodles, cooked and drained
1 TBS canola oil
1 c. shelled edamame
2 c. cucumber, peeled, halved, and seeded, sliced into half-moons
1 c. carrots, sliced into match sticks
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
Chopped scallions, a couple tablespoons

Peanut Sauce
¼ c. peanut butter (preferably chunky)
2 TBS rice wine vinegar
2+ TBS hot water
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce or tamari
Sriracha sauce, to taste (optional)

1. Cook the soba noodles according to the directions. Rinse, add to a large mixing bowl, and toss with the canola oil.

2. Add the edamame, cucumber, carrots, and red pepper and toss.

3. In a small bowl, add all the ingredients for the peanut sauce and whisk. You want this fairly thin, add more hot water until you get the consistency you like.

4. Add half of the sauce to the noodles and veggies. Toss together and top with the scallions.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: David Sedaris

sedarisOne of my favorite writers is David Sedaris. While he normally doesn’t write about food and dining, he was recently interviewed on the NPR show, “The Splendid Table,” by host Lynne Rossetto Kasper. The interview was great fun and I appreciated the conversation about dining, family dinners, what his dinner table is like now, and his obsession with his Fitbit. You can read the transcript or listen to the interview by going here.

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs

My apologies for no food photo for this week, but I made the chicken to enjoy at our week of evening outdoor music! I think Mother Nature put on a better show this evening than the actual act!

My apologies for no food photo for this week, but I made the chicken recipe to enjoy at a week of evening outdoor music! I think Mother Nature put on a better show this evening than the actual act!

When I find a recipe I love, I tend to hold on to it and bring it into my cooking repertoire without looking back. This recipe is one of the best marinades out there, and you know I love it because I’ve been making it at least once every summer since it first appeared in Cooking Light in 2005!

Chicken legs are inexpensive and take well to marinades. Most everything on the ingredient list I have in the cupboard, so it’s just a matter of getting out the measuring spoons and pouring everything into a plastic bag. I’ve never used basil oil, just canola or vegetable oil, and I’ve also omitted the onion powder. It works well if you’re grilling or even roasting the chicken. The directions say to marinate for two hours, but I’ve marinated for a day and they’re still delicious.

I like to cook the chicken the night before, so there is cold chicken ready for a picnic the next day!

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
This recipe first appeared in the June 2005 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 drumsticks)

1 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons basil oil
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
8 chicken drumsticks (about 2 1/4 pounds), skinned
Cooking spray
Green onion strips (optional)

1. Combine the first 11 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 2 hours, turning bag occasionally.

2. Prepare grill.

3. Remove chicken from bag, reserving marinade. Place reserved marinade in a small saucepan; cook over medium heat 3 minutes. Place chicken on grill coated with cooking spray; grill 30 minutes or until chicken is done, turning and basting occasionally with reserved marinade. Garnish with green onion strips, if desired.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week

gluten-freeGluten-free foods seem to be popping up everywhere; there is a gluten-free crust pizza at our pizza shop in our little town, you see it on labels from everything to crackers to meat (yes!), and the aisle that used to be reserved for “international foods” in the grocery store is now all gluten-free. I know restaurants have been hit hard by this food trend, and I read this article with interest last month in the New York Times about how the city’s high-end Italian restaurants are dealing with this. You can read the article here.

 

 

Forget No Gluten, No Dairy, and Your Diet: It’s Strawberry Shortcake Time!

berries
The strawberry season in Vermont consists of, if we’re lucky, two and a half weeks. With all due respect to California and Florida, you don’t know strawberries until you’ve had a Vermont one in July. Red, ripe, and juicy, set aside the sugar; they are sweet just on their own. I’m lucky there is a farm about three miles away and I can either pick my own or buzz up and get a couple of quarts to tide me over for the next couple of days, and to freeze, so I can have a little bit of summer in the colder months.

When I was growing up, there was always one night that we would have strawberry shortcake for dinner. That’s right, nothing but strawberry shortcake. And despite everything I know nutrition-wise, I have continued this tradition. I just can’t let a July evening go by without making biscuits and homemade whipped cream with fresh strawberries.

This is the way I grew up eating it, a bit biscuit-like “cake,” split it in the middle, fill the middle with whipped cream and lots of berries, and then top with more whipped cream and berries. While the Egg Biscuit Cake is from The New England Cookbook, by Brooke Dojny, the assembling instructions and whipped cream recipe are my own.

Luckily for myself and the eater of the house, the heat and humidity finally broke, so much so I needed to turn on the oven to warm up the kitchen! My suggestion would be if you have a small family to either make this for a dinner party or instead of making a cake, divide into drop biscuits. It really doesn’t last past a day. But then, there is always breakfast!

strawHomemade Strawberry Shortcake
1+ quart of strawberries, hulled and sliced (set aside eight perfect berries)

Egg Biscuit Cake
This cake recipe is published in The New England Cookbook by Brooke Dojny, 1999.

2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into about 10 pieces
1 egg
½ cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Generously grease an 8-inch cake pan.

2. Pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Distribute the butter over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture looks crumbly. Whisk the egg with the milk in a glass measuring cup. With the motor running, pour the milk mixture through the feed tube and process just until the dough begins to clump together. (To make the dough by hand, whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl, work in the cold butter with your fingertips, add the egg and milk and stir with a large fork to make a soft dough.) Scrape out onto a lightly floured board, knead lightly a few times, and roll or pat into an 8-inch round. (The dough can be prepared several hours ahead and refrigerated at this point.)

3. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, patting it gently to the edges. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 22 to 26 minutes until the shortcake is pale golden brown on top. Cool in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes.

Homemade Whipped Cream
1 pint of heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pour the cream into a large bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla. With a hand mixer set on high, beat the cream until stiff peaks form—about 6 minutes or so. Set aside.

To assemble
Take the shortcake out of the pan and carefully slice it in half horizontally and divide. With the bottom of the shortcake, add some whipped cream and berries. Add the top of the shortcake, add more berries, whipped cream, and dot with the reserved whole berries.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week

Look at this gorgeous kale patch!

Look at this gorgeous kale patch!

Before I went home to a ton of strawberries, the Eater of the House and myself were lucky enough to be invited for a front-row seat to watch our local Fourth of July parade at our friends, Jo and Emmett’s house. Both eaters, readers, cooks, and artists, Emmett took me on a tour of his flower and vegetable gardens as I looked with envy. Living here on Bunny Hill, vegetables had a way of not making it to the dinner table, so I gave up vegetable gardening a long time ago.

Jo pointed out the kale and said she already had made my kale chips once this season, which reminded me I needed to make a batch myself!

So this week’s endorsement is make some kale chips! They are healthy, delicious, and low in calories–a terrific snack to counter-balance the shortcake!