This Baked Pasta with Meatballs and Olives is a recipe I wouldn't necessarily make this time of year. It's a rather hearty meal that I prefer during cooler months. Usually, by now... by May, it's getting warmer and nice enough to be outdoors occasionally for dinner. By this time, I should be composing salads and wondering when the radishes will be big enough to pick and add to the greens. I should be purchasing strawberries at the grocery for a strawberry-rhubarb tart -- all things I had hoped to do while my family visited from Ohio for four days.
But we had yet another snow this past week. And although we were lucky here in St. Paul, Minnesota, not to receive snow that needed shoveling as many near-by communities did, our snow was mixed with a cold, constant rain that lasted for days. All of the meals I prepared for my family were baked in the oven. Nothing was grilled outdoors, and there was no sitting on the patio under warm spring sunshine. The way this year has gone so far, we may be eating hearty pasta dishes well into July...
Baked Pasta with Meatballs and Olives
+ adapted recipe from the Food Network +
• Kosher salt
• 1 pound rigatoni
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for brushing
• 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
• Pinch of red pepper flakes
• 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, crushed with your hands
• 1 15-ounch can plum tomatoes, crushed, or 2 cups of homemade tomato sauce
• 4 large sprigs of basil
• 9 ounces pancetta, diced and browned
• 2 cups meatballs, cooked and halved (the recipe I use HERE)
• 1 cups sliced, roasted, red peppers
• 1 cup chopped black or green, pitted olives (I used green French Picholine)
• 3 cups grated, mild Provolone cheese
• 1 cup freshly grated ricotta salata
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
2. Cook the rigatoni to package directions; drain.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes; cook until the garlic just begins to color. Add the large can of crushed plum tomatoes, and the small can of crushed plum tomatoes (or the 2 cups of fresh tomato sauce). Rinse out the tomato containers with a total 1 cup of water, and add this water to the skillet along with the sprigs of fresh basil. Simmer the mixture, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Discard the basil sprigs and season the mixture with salt.
4. Stir the browned pancetta into the sauce, then add the meatballs, roasted peppers, and olives.
5. Brush a large 3 to 4-quart baking dish with olive oil. Add the cooked pasta to the tomato sauce, along with half of the grated provolone and half of the ricotta salata. Mix gently, then spoon into the baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over top of pasta.
6. Bake pasta on the center rack of the oven for 30 minutes (the original recipe called for baking at 450˚F for 15 minutes, but I prefer baking longer at a lower temp).
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I still consider myself "on break" from Living Tastefully, finishing up my grueling painting project and preparing for the onslaught of out-of-town family next week (which I am actually looking forward to very much!). But I just wanted to share one of the meals I recently made. I loved it! And if you're looking for a non-meat recipe, you should definitely try this. Quinoa, as you may know, is now a huge favorite of mine. Quinoa Veggie Burger with Roasted Red Pepper Relish
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"Grown-up" Tuna Noodle Casserole before baking
Time has slipped away from me lately. Seems I've been busy with things that have kept out of my kitchen more than I like. We've still had some great meals, but I haven't been taking photos. I just made one of the best risottos that I've ever eaten, but you know how it goes with risotto -- you want to eat it the moment that last ladle-full of broth is stirred into the pot. Plus, I had people (yes, you're correct in assuming it was family) who would openly voice their major discontent at not eating immediately. Stopping for a photo shoot would have been impossible, and possibly dangerous.
One dish I've made recently -- twice in the span of one week -- is this Grown-up Tuna Noodle Casserole. We are crazy for it! The "grown-up" must come from the wine that's added to the sauce and possibly the addition of capers to the recipe; adult comfort food, for sure. I substituted sweet sherry for the wine the first time I made it, and dry sherry the second. This tuna noodle casserole is also the reason I have been putting cremini mushrooms in just about everything lately (e.g. Potato and Mushroom Tortes)
. So, with an outlook of continuing to be busy with stuff -- a possible painting project, a requested hand-knit, and a new range installation this week [yay!] -- I will forward you to the recipe for Grown-up Tuna Noodle Casserole from the Kitchn. recipe >>> GROWN-UP TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE
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My Individual Potato and Mushroom Tortes were inspired by a recent lunch I had at The Lynn on Bryant in Minneapolis. I have visited this new, little restaurant twice in the past week (Oh-so-good!) If you live in the Twin Cities, or if you are visiting, you must go. First time there, I had a breakfast of soft boiled eggs and toast batons. And most recently for lunch, I ordered The Lynn's Potato and Mushroom Torte.
I'm a stickler when it comes to pastry crust -- there are so many bad crusts out there! But everything about this "torte", from the crust to the filling, was perfect. Perfect enough for me to come back home to my own kitchen and start recreating the lunch I had just eaten.
I baked four individual tortes in 3 3/4-inch tart pans, but a single 9- to 10-inch tart pan can be substituted. NOTE: The only change, if using a larger tart pan, would be to increase the mushroom filling by 1 1/2 times the amount -- 12-ounces of cremini mushrooms instead of the 8-ounces I used to fill the four individual tortes. Adjust amount of other ingredients in the filling accordingly.
Each torte has a rich, buttery double crust with a layer of mashed Yukon Gold potatoes -- made with a healthy combination of olive oil and buttermilk -- and a disk of goat cheese pressed into the center. The final layer of finely-minced, sherry mushrooms is topped off by another round of flaky pastry.
And there is nothing I would change in my version of this delicious vegetarian torte. The little, individual servings would be spectacular on a spring luncheon or brunch menu. I made all of the components the day before baking, making assembly the day of much less time-consuming.
• 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 10 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed
• 1 large egg, beaten to break-up yolk
• Ice water, if needed
For the Mushroom Filling:
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 large shallot, finely chopped
• 8-ounces cremini mushrooms, finely diced ( see NOTE above)
• 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
• Dry sherry
• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the Potato Filling:
• 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• Kosher Salt
• 4 disks of goat cheese, sliced 1/2-inch-thick (6 disks if making one large torte)
• Extra virgin olive oil (I used Nicholas Alziari Nicoise Olive Oil. Any olive oil with a mild, buttery flavor would work well here)
• Kosher salt
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
TO MAKE the CRUST:
1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour and salt briefly. Add the cubed butter and pulse, in short bursts, until the size of small peas. Add the egg and pulse. If the dough does not start to come together, add ice water while pulsing, one teaspoon at a time. (I added 3 teaspoons of ice water to my dough before the dough started to come together.) Do not over-process.
2. Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap, flatten into a large disc, wrap completely in plastic and place in refrigerator to chill at least 2 hours.
TO MAKE the MUSHROOM FILLING:
1. Drizzle olive oil onto a skillet and warm over medium heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms; cook, while stirring occasionally, until the shallots are translucent and the mushrooms begin to soften.
2. Stir the dried thyme into the mixture, then add a generous splash (to your liking) of the dry sherry. Continue to cook and stir over medium-low heat until most of the moisture has evaporated. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and remove from the heat. Transfer to a container, and when it has cooled, place container in refrigerator until assembly.
TO MAKE the POTATO FILLING:
1. Place the potatoes in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium and simmer until tender. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and return to the pot.
2. Over low heat, gently mash the potatoes and add a good drizzle of olive oil, then buttermilk to achieve a somewhat creamy consistency. Add salt to taste.
3. Transfer the mashed potatoes to a container and cool to room temperature; store in refrigerator until assembly.
PREHEAT OVEN to 425˚F
1. Divide the dough into eight wedges (If making one large torte, divide dough into two pieces). Roll one wedge in-between two pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper, lightly dusting the dough on both sides with flour. Roll dough into a disk 1/8-inch thick. Transfer dough to a tart pan and gently press into the pan. Do not stretch the dough. Using the rolling pin, trim the dough along the top edge of the tart tin. Place tin in refrigerator to keep cold and continue to line the remaining tart tins with dough.
2. In a small bowl, gently whisk an egg. Set aside.
3. Take the chilled mashed potatoes and fill each tart shell half full (see photo). You will not need all of the mashed potatoes. Press a disk of goat cheese into the center of each mashed potato filling. Divide the reserved mushroom mixture evenly between the tart tins and gently spread to cover the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle each torte with a little kosher salt, then drizzle each with about 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.
4. Roll the remaining wedges of pastry dough to top the tortes. Using a drinking straw, stamp a little hole in the center of the rolled dough (or use a sharp knife to make a couple of small slits once the top dough has been placed over the filling). This will allow steam to escape while baking. Brush the top edge of the dough in the tart pans using the reserved beaten egg. Place the rolled dough on top, centering the small stamped hole. Gently press the dough against the egg-brushed edge of pastry in the tart pan and using the rolling pin, trim the torte of the excess pastry dough.
5. Place the tortes on a jelly-roll pan and slide onto the middle shelf of the pre-heated oven. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until the dough is golden. Remove from oven and transfer tortes to a rack. Allow to cool briefly, then unmold and serve with a green salad.
* I ate a left-over, refrigerated Potato and Mushroom Torte, out-of-hand this morning for breakfast... and it was still delicious!
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Come January 1st, I am ready for a radical change in my diet. There's no arguing this -- December is full of meals, desserts, and drinks that should not be consumed on a regular basis. Right now, I do not want to eat one more cookie or see one more carton of heavy cream on the shelf of my refrigerator. Bring on bowls of oranges, clementines, and grapefruit!
These Sweet Potato and Quinoa Cakes with Black Beans are the start of my new, healthy regimen. I veered slightly from the original recipe, working with what I had on hand in my kitchen. I used gold quinoa instead of the red that was called for. And, instead of whole cumin and ground coriander, I substituted 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 2 teaspoons dried cilantro. When pan-frying the cakes, be sure to get a nice brown crust on the exterior; it helps to hold these delicate cakes together. Oh... and the only thing I'd change? I'd double the recipe the next time. I can eat a lot of these!
recipe by Betsy Nelson and featured in Experience Life | Jan/Feb 2013
• 1 tablespoon coconut oil, plus additional for frying croquettes
• 1 medium sweet potato, peeled, grated, rinsed in cold water, and patted dry
• 1/2 cup finely-diced red bell pepper
• 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
• 1 cup finely-diced yellow onion
• 2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds (I used 1 teaspoon ground cumin)
• 1 tablespoon ground coriander (I used 2 teaspoons dried cilantro)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 cup cooked red quinoa (I used gold quinoa)
• Salsa and sour cream for serving
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil in a large sauté pan. Add the grated sweet potato, bell pepper, jalapeño, and yellow onion. Stir over medium heat until the vegetables have softened; about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander and continue to sauté the vegetables until they are fully-cooked. Add the salt.
2. Stir the black beans and quinoa into the vegetable mixture. Take 1/3 of the mixture and purée in a food processor; return purée to the vegetables in the sauté pan and combine thoroughly. Shape the mixture into small patties. Heat additional coconut oil in a skillet and over medium heat, cook the croquettes until brown and crusty; flip and brown the other side. Keep the croquettes warm in the oven until ready to serve.
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I had never eaten fish tacos until a trip to Healdsburg, California, a little over a year ago. Yes, I know... it's hard to believe (should I even admit to it?). My daughter and I found a little Mexican restaurant right in the heart of Healdsburg where we ended up for lunch every day of our stay in that sweet town.
Now, whenever I'm at a restaurant that has fish tacos on the menu, I will most likely try them. None, however, seem to hold a candle to the tacos I ate in Healdsburg, forcing me to start making my own. This was my latest attempt. My family loved them and I thought they were pretty darn good.
+ an adapted recipe from Simply Recipes +
• 1 pound fish fillets (recipe recommends hailbut -- I used tilapia)
• Salt & pepper
• Olive oil
* 12 corn tortillas (3 per person)
• Salsa (I used a purchased Mango Salsa)
• 2 ripe avocados
• Red cabbage, thinly sliced -- about 3 cups
• 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
• Diced tomatoes
• Lime wedges
1. In a bowl, combine cabbage and vinegar. Add salt to taste, approximately 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon. Slice or cubes avocados; drizzle with lime juice and set aside.
2. To warm corn tortillas: Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add a tortilla and heat until air pockets form; flip tortilla and heat the other side. Remove onto a plate and quickly fold tortilla. Repeat with the other tortillas.
3. Salt and pepper the fish. Heat some olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook until just cooked through. Do not over-cook.
4. Assemble tacos with cabbage, avocados, salsa, fish, dice tomatoes, and a squeeze of lime juice.
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Back in the 70's when I lived in Missouri while attending the Kansas City Art Institute, followed by two years in New Jersey where my husband took a job just outside of NYC, and finally the past 26 years in St. Paul, Minnesota, I have been visited almost every year by Renate -- a childhood friend from my hometown of Amana, Iowa. I look forward to these reunions. Not only do I get to see Renate and hear about what she's been doing lately, but also because I take a break from the every day -- which means I get out of my kitchen. During a visit in April, Renate and I spent a morning at an antiques flea market and an afternoon at a craft fair. We also spent a lot of our time dining out at different restaurants in different parts of the Twin Cities. In fact, we stopped at a local "French Bistro" three times -- one time eating dinner at the bar, another time lunch in the dining room, and the third for appetizers and drinks on the patio. On one visit we both had a bowl of French Onion Soup, which led me to ask... Why don't I make this more often? When Renate returned home and I was again spending the days in my kitchen, the first thing I made was a big pot of French Onion Soup. And for the recipe, I turned to Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, of course.
Another Paris Moment, I'd have to say...
Recipe from Julia Child | Mastering The Art of French Cooking
"The onions for an onion soup need a long slow cooking in butter and oil, then a long, slow simmering in stock for them to develop the deep, rich flavor which characterizes a perfect brew. You should therefore count on 2 1/2 hours at least from start to finish." J.C.
FOR 6 to 8 SERVINGS
• 1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced yellow onions
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 1 tablespoon oil
• A heavy-bottomed, 4-quart covered saucepan
Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in the covered saucepan for 15 minutes.
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon sugar (it helps the onions to brown)
Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.
• 3 tablespoons flour
Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.
• 2 quarts boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of boiling water and 1 quart of stock of bouillon.
• 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
• Salt and pepper to taste
Off the heat, blend in the boiling liquid. Add the wine, and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Correct the seasoning.
Set aside onion soup, uncovered, until ready to serve. Then reheat to the simmer.
• 3 tablespoons cognac
• Rounds of hard-toasted French bread, spread on one side with grated cheese and sprinkled with drops of olive oil. Browned under a hot broiler before serving.
• 1 to 2 cups grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese
Just before serving, stir in the cognac. Pour into soup cups over the round of bread, and pass the grated cheese.
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We've started a new tradition at our house... dinner by the fire. My original plan was to invite friends once a week beginning the first of the year, to dine on a small table in front of our fireplace. Unfortunately, time has escaped me. I don't know why it's been so difficult to get this event under-way. But here it is, the first of March and we've only just hosted the first dinner in our living room. It's also going to take a little tweaking. It gets HOT sitting directly in front of a blazing fire... ouch! The next dinner might have candles lit in the fireplace instead. Not quite the same ambiance, but certainly a lot cooler! I served Apple & Ham Risotto for this inaugural dinner, along with a salad, crusty bread, and a flourless chocolate cake for dessert
. Will I make the Apple & Ham Risotto again? Absolutely.
:: Apple & Ham RISOTTO
recipe adapted from An Apple Harvest: Recipes & Orchard Lore by Frank Browning and Sharon Silva
• 5 cups no-salt-added chicken broth
• 3 to 4 ounces country ham, preferably in 1 slice (may substitute pancetta, prosciutto, or smoked turkey)
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• a few sage leaves, plus more for garnish
• 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
• 3/4 cup semi-dry hard apple cider ( I like Crispin)
• 1 large firm apple ( I used an organic Braeburn )
• 1 ounce freshly grated Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
• Coarse salt for finishing
• Freshly ground black pepper
To cook risotto: In large saucepan, heat broth over medium heat. Cut ham into 1/4-inch dice to yield 6 to 8 tablespoons. In large saute pan, melt 2 table-spoons butter over medium heat. Add a few sage leaves. Add ham and rice. Stir to coat. Add cider. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until cider is almost evaporated. Add 1/2 cup hot broth. Cook, stirring, until broth is almost absorbed. Repeat with more additions of broth, allowing them to be absorbed before adding more. (Note: You don't have to stir continuously; when level of liquid goes below rice, add liquid and stir to incorporate.) To prepare apple: Meanwhile, peel and core apple. Cut three-quarters of apple into very small dice to yield 3/4 cup. Cut remaining quarter of apple into very thin slices. In small skillet or saute pan, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add diced apple. Cook, stirring, for 4 to 6 minutes or until lightly brown but not mushy. Transfer to bowl. Cover to keep warm. Add apple slices to skillet. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes or until slightly browned.
To add apple: Add sauteed diced apple to risotto with last addition of broth. (Note: Cooking risotto should take 20 to 23 minutes total; rice should be creamy and liquid should be absorbed. You might not need all of broth.) Remove from heat. Cover. Let stand for 3 minutes.
To serve: Divide among individual wide, shallow bowls. Using vegetable peeler, shave a few curls of asiago cheese over each portion. Add sprinkling of salt and pepper. Top with apple slices. Garnish with sage leaves. Serve warm.
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As much as I enjoy the holiday season, I am always ready for it to be over. I like the clean, sparseness of January. The decorations are down, the tree is removed from our living space, and there is usually bright, white daylight bouncing off the snow and illuminating the rooms; altho' that doesn't seem to be the case this year with our lack of snow cover and unwinter-like temperatures. Another change once we enter January -- fewer cartons of heavy cream in my refrigerator. I miss the baking, but not the consumption of rich desserts and meals that seem too common in December. Salads with crisp lettuces and citrus is what I crave.
These Salmon-and-Spinach Cakes are going to be dinner tonight, along with a salad of greens, oranges, red onion, and toasted almonds. I think they'd also be great as part of a brunch menu.
+ Salmon-and-Spinach Cakes +
recipe by Marcia Kiesel via Food & Wine
• 1 1/2 pound large Yukon Gold potatoes
• 5 ounces fresh baby spinach
• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus additional for garnish
• 1 1/2 pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
• 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
• 1/4 cup minced onion
• Vegetable oil, for frying
1. In a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with water. Simmer over moderately high heat until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and let cool. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/4-inch dice. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of water over moderately high heat. Add the spinach in batches; cook until wilted. Drain, squeeze dry, and coarsely chop.
3. In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, the jalapeno, and the chopped dill; season with salt.
4. Put the salmon in a food processor and pulse a few times, until chopped. Pulse in the cream until incorporated. Add the salmon to the potatoes. Stir in the spinach and onion and season with salt. Form the mixture into 12 patties.
5. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1/8-inch of oil. Add half of the cakes and fry over high heat until lightly browned on the bottom, 1 minute. Reduce the heat to moderately high and cook until well-browned, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook for another 3 minutes, until browned. Repeat with the remaining cakes, adding more oil to the skillet as needed. Garnish the salmon cakes with the dill sprigs and serve with the sauce.
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I miss summer and all of the fresh, local produce that's available that time of year. I miss grilling burgers and fish outdoors, I miss tomatoes and berries, and their incomparable fresh-from-the-vine flavor. But one thing I now welcome with open arms is making an entire meal in one pot. This soup of hash brown potatoes, chopped cabbage, and slices of smoked sausage is a big favorite of mine. Serve it with a really good, crusty bread spread with salted butter...yum.
• 1 medium onion
• 1 rib celery
• 1/4 head cabbage
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 pound frozen hash brown potatoes
• 4 cups chicken broth
• 2 cups water
• 1/3 cup sour cream
• 1 tablespoon flour
• 1/4 cup milk
• 1 large smoked sausage link, cut into 1/4-inch slices
• Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating
• freshly chopped chives, optional
1. Chop the onion and the celery. Shred enough cabbage to make one cup.
2. Melt the butter over medium heat. Add onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion looks transparent, about 10 minutes.
3. Stir in the cabbage and potatoes, then add the chicken broth and the water. Cook over high heat until the mixture boils then simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Mix together sour cream and flour; add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir the sour cream mixture and the sausage into the soup; heat.
5. Serve the soup with a generous grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a sprinkling of chives, if desired.
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