Black Bean Salad with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes, Corn, Almonds, and Lemon Zest


This is another great recipe adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day. Swanson, whose blog 101 Cookbooks is an amazing source of ideas and inspiration, makes food that is healthy, wholesome, a little quirky, always delicious, and never preachy.

The great thing about her vegetarian recipes is how amenable they are to your tastes. You can substitute chicken for tofu, or add shrimp, or beef, or pork, and the dishes will still be great.

For this recipe, I added local corn and the farfalle. Since Hurricane Irene, our farmers need all the help we can give them. Though NYC was mostly spared, many of the farmers and growers who bring the literal fruits of their labor every week to us were not. Almost no farm was left untouched by the flooding.

Support local and please make a donation here.

Ingredients:

1 pint of Sun Gold tomatoes (cherry or grape tomatoes work too), halved

Salt and pepper

Granulated cane sugar

Olive oil

3/4 cup of raw almonds, halved width-wise

1 cup of corn kernels (about two ears)

2 15-ounce cans of black beans, rinsed and drained

1/3 pound of farfalle, prepared according to package directions

The grated zest of one lemon

The juice of one lemon

1/4 pound of French feta, crumbled

How to prepare:

1. Preheat your oven to 350°.

2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the tomato halves over the sheet and sprinkle them liberally with salt and sugar. Drizzle the halves with olive oil. Toss everything together so that the tomatoes are evenly coated in the oil, salt, and sugar. Arrange the tomatoes cut-side up. Roast them until they have shrunken, and have begun to caramelize around their edges, about 45 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and when they are cool, scrape them into a large bowl along with all their caramelized juices.

3. Meanwhile, heat the almonds in a single layer in a large cast-iron skillet set over medium heat. Toss them around every couple of minutes until they are fragrant and toasty. Be sure to monitor the nuts closely; they can burn in a minute! When the almond halves are toasted, add them to the same large bowl as the tomatoes.

4. Wipe out the skillet and add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Heat the pan over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Add the corn, and toss the kernels in the hot oil until they begin to brown. Add the corn to the same large bowl as the almonds and tomatoes.

5. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and drizzle everything with olive oil. Toss everything together well. Adjust the seasoning and serve.

Penne al Pomodoro Crudo (Penne with Raw Tomato Sauce)


Indian summer, that strange spike in temperature and humidity that occurs following the first frost. Okay, so maybe we haven’t had a first frost yet, but the weather in the Mid-Atlantic has been so screwy lately that it makes me feel like anything goes.

I just know that it has been pretty warm out, warm enough to make me still crave food that minimally requires use of my stove.

Pomodoro crudo is the simplest of sauces, and an excellent way to savor the very last of this season’s tomatoes. I used a big, fat heirloom tomato, the jolie-laide of summer fruit. A little gnarly, very misshapen, but incredibly full, flavorful, and delicious.

And it goes without saying that the better your core ingredients, the better the sauce will be.

Ingredients:

About 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of very good, very ripe tomatoes

1 clove of garlic, lightly crushed

About 2 tablespoons of excellent extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Fresh basil

About 1/3 pound of dried penne

How to prepare:

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.

2. Set up a large ice water bath.

3. When the water begins to boil, score an X on the bottom of each tomato. Drop the tomatoes gently into the boiling water and leave them in for about 20-30 seconds, depending on how big your tomatoes are. Remove them carefully from the boiling water, and slip them into the ice water bath. You should now be able to easily remove the skin of each tomato.

4. Once all the tomatoes are peeled, cut them in half and remove the seeds. Chop each tomato, and transfer everything to a medium-sized bowl. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper to taste (you can salt liberally). Add the olive oil and the crushed clove of garlic. Stir everything together, and let the sauce sit covered and undisturbed on the counter for about 30 minutes.

5. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the penne and cook it until it is just slightly under-al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Toss everything together, and remove the garlic clove.

The pasta should begin to absorb some of the excess liquid in the sauce.

Hand-tear a handful of basil and add it to pasta. Toss again, and serve.

Penne with Pan-Roasted Zucchini and Red Chili Pepper Flakes


Have you ever polished off all the vegetables that you bought at the market with no waste and nothing thrown out? It rarely happen to me as I am an over-exuberant market shopper. I also forget that I sometimes go out, leaving the contents of my fridge and pantry to wait another day.

But I did it on Sunday! Polishing off 8 ears of corn, and the last of the zucchini in the bottom of the crisper! Go me!

Ingredients:

1/3 pound of penne

2 zucchini, cut into equal-sized irregular pieces

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Red chili pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

1 lemon, cut into halves

Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

How to prepare:

1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. When it starts to boil, add the penne. It should take about ten minutes to cook.

2. After you add the penne to the water, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet until it begins to shimmer. Add the zucchini. Cook it until it is browned and caramelized on all sides. Right before the penne is done, add as many red chili pepper flakes as you like.

3. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the penne directly into the skillet with the zucchini. Stir everything together to combine, scraping up the fond at the bottom of the pan. There should have been enough pasta water clinging to the penne that you don’t need to add anymore to the pan. If you find the pasta is looking a little dry, add some more pasta water from the pot. Adjust the seasoning, but be aware that the Pecorino will add saltiness as well.

4. Divide the pasta into two bowls. Squeeze one half of a lemon over each portion. Top with cheese and serve immediately.

Farfalle with Yogurt and Zucchini


Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve dabbled in Ayurvedic cooking.

I don’t remember exactly what drew me to it. I think I liked the idea of eating according to your mind-body type. There was something medieval about it, like eating to balance bodily humors but without the phlegm!

Ayurveda has three divisions called doshas which correspond to space and air (vata), fire and water (pitta), and water and earth (kapha). A balanced person is someone who has all three doshas in harmony, but most of us tend to have more of one or two, or less of one than another. By eating foods associated with the doshas that you are deficient in, you can work towards regaining balance.

Okay, that might be a ridiculous over-simplification of Ayurveda (and probably inaccurate as such), but that is also as far as I got. The only other things that I remember is that hing is a really smelly thing to have in the kitchen, and that I should eat a lot of yogurt.

This recipe from Food & Wine made me think of that. One might consider using yogurt as a savory sauce to be a little strange, but it is actually quite wonderful. Warm, the sauce is thick and creamy. Cooler, it becomes thicker, but it is still tasty.

I modified the recipe slightly. I also changed the proportions and cooking times from the original to keep the zucchini vividly green. It is also a good way to use all the nice zucchini that has been in the market lately.

This recipe will serve 2.

Ingredients:

1/3 pound of dried farfalle

1 medium zucchini, coarsely shredded

1 knob of butter

1 cup of whole-milk Greek yogurt

1/4 cup of grated Pecorino (optional)

Salt and pepper

Grated nutmeg

How to prepare:

1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta.

2. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. When it has melted completely, turn off the heat and add the yogurt. Stir the yogurt and the butter together until the sauce is nice and smooth. Add the Pecorino if you have it, along with a good grating of nutmeg. Grind some fresh pepper into the sauce, and adjust the seasoning if it needs more salt.

3. Just right before the pasta is al dente, add the grated zucchini to the pot. Cook the zucchini for 30 seconds before draining it very well. The zucchini will hold a lot of water, so make sure you give your colander a few good shakes before returning everything back to the pot. Add the sauce and toss well. Serve immediately.

Lemon Pasta Salad with Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes and Feta


This is another great pasta salad recipe from Epicurious
. I didn’t deviate from it too much. I changed some of the proportions for the dressing, and substituted chives for the green onions (sometimes green onions can be really overwhelming).

Also, the recipe calls for red cherry tomatoes and for red bell pepper, but as I prefer more contrasting colors, I opted for the deliciously sugar-sweet Sun Gold.

Ingredients:

For the dressing:

7 tablespoons of good extra-virgin olive oil

The juice of two lemons

The zest of two lemons

1 fat clove of garlic, grated

1 to 1 1/2 heaping tablespoons of coarse-grain Dijon mustard

For the rest:

1 pound of penne

1 pint of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, quartered (or halved if they are small)

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 cup of crumbled French feta (I sometimes find Greek feta too salty)

1 bunch of chives, finely chopped

How to prepare:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the penne and cook it until it is al dente.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the ingredients for the dressing together in a large mixing bowl. A Microplane grater is terrific for both the lemon zest, and for grating the garlic.

3. When the pasta is done, drain it and rinse it with cold water to cool it down quickly. Drain the pasta again and add it to the dressing, along with the tomatoes and the bell pepper. Toss all of the ingredients together, making sure that the pasta is well-coated. Add the crumbled cheese and the chives. Toss again. The cheese, the chives, and the vegetables should be evenly distributed throughout the salad. Adjust the seasoning if needed (depending on how salty the mustard and the feta are, you might not have to).

Pack it up for the party, or eat it immediately.

Penne with Tuna, Basil, and Lemon Zest

This recipe comes from Epicurious. It is a terrific example of how the fewest number of ingredients, and the simplest preparation, can taste really divine.

For this, you’re going to want to find some really good tuna. Not the water-packed stuff, but the luscious olive oil-packed kind. The tuna belly, line or pole-caught stuff. Preferably from Italy, or Spain. You want the stuff that tapas bars in Spain serve out of a can with a toothpick, and charge you money for.

The best tuna recommendations can be found here. This is a great little recipe to have in your repertoire. Tuna is a good staple to have in the pantry, and dinner can be on the table in just a few delicious minutes.

Ingredients:

1/2 pound of penne

The zest and juice of one lemon

1 clove of garlic, grated

1 big handful of basil leaves, coarsely cut into strips

6 ounces of good quality, olive oil-packed tuna

How to prepare:

1. Set a large pot of heavily salted water to boil. When it starts to boil, add the penne.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, grated garlic, and tuna with the oil from the can or the jar. If you think there might be too much olive oil, pour off some of it into a small bowl or ramekin. You can always add more as needed. As you combine the ingredients together, break up any larger chunks of tuna into smaller one.

3. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the bowl full of the other ingredients. Toss everything together so that the pasta is well-coated with the sauce. Add the basil, and toss again. Adjust the seasoning if needed, and serve immediately.

Penne with Hot Italian Beef Sausage and Arugula


This is probably my favorite way to cook the terrific sausage that I get from my CSA. I originally got the idea from Epicurious, but have long since dispensed with the recipe itself.

First, I set a big pot of heavily salted water to boil (as salty as the Mediterranean, so it goes), and I preheat my oven to 350°. When the water starts to boil, I add the penne. I figure about 1/2 a pound of penne to 1 pound of sausage. You can cook your sausage any way you like; I put mine in the oven for about 10 minutes, about as long as it takes to cook the pasta. Drain your pasta, and return it to the warm pot. Slice the sausage at an angle, and add it to your drained pasta. Toss the pasta and sausage together with a good handful or two of arugula leaves (the residual heat should wilt the greens just enough), a drizzle of olive oil, a couple grinds of the peppermill, and the juice of one lemon. Top with freshly grated Dry Jack cheese (I find for this recipe, the more coarsely grated the cheese, the better).

Divide everything equally into warmed bowls, and enjoy!

Chicken Florentine


Last night, I had some chicken breast in the fridge that I had to do something with, along with some baby spinach and a nice wedge of Parmesan. As I was thinking, this image of sliced, pan-fried chicken smothered in cream sauce on a bed of fettucini suddenly came floating up to the surface of my mind.

Before I knew it, I had recreated a night at the Olive Garden.

How did this happen? It was as if I had taken a trip on the High School Nostalgia Express. Maybe I was subconsciously channeling those commercials that have been airing on television lately for the Olive Garden cooking school in Tuscany. The one where they presumably teach students how to make American Chain-Restaurant food in middle of the rolling Tuscan hills.

Because Chicken Florentine is really American. As American as apple pie. You’ll never find it in Italy. It is interesting to note though that, historically speaking, the origins of “Florentine” preparation trace their roots back to Florence-born Catherine de’Medici and her legendary merry band of French cooks. What made a dish “Florentine” was not the spinach, but the white sauce that her French cooks made: the besciamella, or béchamel.

It’s anyone’s guess how spinach got involved in all of this.

But just because Chicken Florentine might find its roots more in Hoboken than Florence, that doesn’t necessarily make it bad. In fact, on a cold spring night, it’s pretty darn good.

God bless the USA!

Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup of flour

Salt and pepper

4 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of butter

1/2 cup of white wine

2 packed cups of baby spinach

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups of heavy cream

1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan

A healthy pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 pound of dried fettucini

How to prepare:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

2. In the meanwhile, pat the chicken breast dry with paper towels. Sprinkle each breast liberally with salt and pepper on all sides. Dredge them in the flour, and shake off any excess. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it is shimmering. Add the chicken breasts to the pan in a single layer. Pan-fry them until they are golden-brown on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer them to a plate while you prepare the rest of the dish.

3. Your water should be boiling by now. Add the fettucini and boil them until they are al dente. Drain the pasta and set aside if it is done before all the other elements.

4. While the fettucini is boiling, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the white wine to the pan, stirring to scrape up and dissolve any of the browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Add the spinach and the garlic. When the spinach has wilted slightly, add the cream, Parmesan, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Simmer the mixture, stirring often, until the sauce has begun to thicken. Adjust the seasoning carefully (the cheese should add a fair amount of saltiness).

5. Cut each chicken breast into half-inch slices. Mound a quarter of the fettucini in a warm pasta bowl. Top the fettucini with a sliced chicken breast and spoon a quarter of the sauce on top. For a little brightness, you could serve the bowls with a nice, fat lemon wedge to squeeze.

Cavatappi with Pepperoni and Green Bell Pepper


Hello Middle-America, how are ya’?

This recipe from Food and Wine was a good way to use up a pile of leftover pepperoni in the fridge. It was fast, it was easy, and it tasted almost exactly like a Supreme Pizza Hut pan pizza without the cheese. Whoo hoo!

Ingredients:

8 ounces of cavatappi

4 ounces of pepperoni, sliced in half

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

16 ounces of canned diced tomatoes

Salt and pepper

How to prepare:

1. Prepare the pasta according to directions. Make sure to reserve some of the pasta cooking water before draining the cavatappi.

2. While the pasta is boiling, heat the pepperoni slices in a large skillet over medium heat until they just begin to brown. Remove the slices from the skillet and transfer them to a paper towel-covered plate to drain. Wipe out the excess fat from the skillet with another paper towel.

3. In the same skillet, heat the tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and the green pepper. Sauté the vegetables until the onions are translucent and the peppers are beginning to soften. Add the minced garlic to the skillet and cook for about 30 seconds longer. Now add the diced tomatoes to the vegetables. Stir to combine everything before covering the pan with a lid. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes, adding some of the pasta water if the sauce looks like it needs it.

4. After the sauce has thickened, adjust the seasoning to your taste. Toss the pasta and the pepperoni with the sauce. Serve.

Macaroni and Cheese with Sliced Hot Dogs

Is it? Could it possible be?

Oh, yes. It’s macaroni and cheese. With hot dogs.

Don’t be a food snob. You know you want it.

Ingredients:

8 ounces of dry pasta

3 tablespoons of butter, plus 1 tablespoon

1/4 cup of flour

2 cups of milk

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

8 ounces of grated cheese (I used raw milk cheddar)

4 hot dogs, sliced into 1/4-inch wide coins (I used beef hot dogs from my meat CSA)

1/2 cup of breadcrumbs

How to prepare:

1. Preheat your oven to 350°.

2. Prepare the pasta according to directions, but drain the pasta just right before it’s al dente.

3. Now, while your pasta is boiling, prepare the béchamel. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and stir them both together to make a roux. Continue to heat the roux until the flour starts to just brown. Add the milk a little bit at a time, stirring constantly as you add it. It will seize up when you add the first little bit of liquid, but will relax the more you stir it. Add the nutmeg after you have added all 2 cups of milk. Continue to stir and stir and stir. Don’t worry about adjusting the seasoning; the cheese and hot dogs should add enough sodium. Once the béchamel has thickened to a nice, smooth white sauce, turn off the heat and move the saucepan off of the burner.

4. Combine the pasta, the cheese, the sauce, and the hot dogs in a large bowl. Pour the mixture into a good-sized baking dish.

5. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and mix it with the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 30-35 minutes until brown and bubbly. Serve with a good, heaping side of Midwestern nostalgia.