Posts tagged ‘pasta’

Barbecue Hit: Giada’s Mediterranean Salad

I spent too much of yesterday agonizing over a barbecue.  It was my church’s women’s fellowship barbecue and, being new to the area and all, I really wanted to go.  Attendees were supposed to bring their own meat to grill and something to share.  First issue: I thought it was pretty silly to go to the store to buy meat and, more than likely, a roll, for a single person.  I don’t have hamburgers (or turkey burgers, or veggie burgers, or hot dogs) in my freezer waiting for occasions like this.  Nor do I want to.  So I agonized over whether to go to the store so I would have something for the grill.  Second issue: Then I debated over what to get-should I get meat? Veggie burgers? Vegetables to grill?  When possible, I don’t like to introduce myself as “Emily the not-quite-but-almost-vegetarian”.  If the conversation gets there then fine, but it’s not the point of my existence.  So, really the whole debate was about what first impression I wanted to make.

In the end, I brought nothing but Mediterranean Salad (and I am getting to the part with the recipe).  I hoped that no one would notice that I hadn’t brought anything for the grill.  Know what?  No one did.  There were so many pasta salads and bean salads and fruit salads and Mexican dips that no one noticed that my full plate didn’t have anything from the grill or any meat.  I had a really good time spending the evening conversing about things other than my eating habits.

What to bring to share was much easier for me to figure out.  I knew right away what I wanted to make.  Last year, before I was really into cooking, I saw Giada De Laurentiis make this Mediterranean Salad on Everyday Italian.  It was a big hit at last night’s get together.

mediterrean salad

The dish contains Israeli/Mediterranean couscous, which I’ve found at food co-ops and Whole Foods  It’s a small pasta, different from “normal” couscous.  The recipe says any small pasta will work, but I’ve been so happy with the couscous that I’ve never tried it.  Add in some broth,* garlic, lemon juice and zest, fresh mint, fresh basil and dried cranberries and it’s a delicious side salad (or meal, if I have my way).  Check it out.

*Switch out the chicken broth for vegetable broth and this dish is vegetarian.

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August 29, 2009 at 7:13 am

Needs Work:Rach’s Creamy Pasta with Spinach and Fried Capers

Last night for dinner I tried out another Rachael Ray recipe (seems like there’s been a lot of her, sorry).  Creamy Pasta with Spinach and Fried Capers is a fine dish, but it needs some work.

pasta

The dish was, as promised, easy to make.  The taste is pretty bland overall, though the capers add a nice kick when you get one.  Next time I might add more capers and sauce (it’s creamy, but there’s not a lot to go around).  Today, while heating up the leftovers it occurred to me what would really make this meal good:  Sausage.  Guess it’s a good thing I haven’t gone vegetarian yet.

August 27, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Room For Improvement: “Mac ‘n’ Goat Cheese”

Last week was the final week (I hope) of last minute menu planning and food shopping.  I decided to make a recipe without reading it through and, as a result, found it to be less than I’d hoped for.

The recipe, Mac ‘n’ Goat Cheese, is from Everyday with Rachael Ray.  I liked it because it’s simple and includes some of my favorite ingredients: pasta, garlic, cherry tomatoes, spinach, cheese (we replaced the goat cheese with feta) and walnuts.   Plus it was vegetarian and I really need to work towards deliberately planning vegetarian meals.   Now, before I shower Rachael with criticism, I must confess that I didn’t follow the directions completely.  I cooked a pound of pasta (because I hate having a box with just a little bit of pasta in it!) but I neglected to increase all the other ingredients.

The dish came out fine otherwise however, and since we had tons of leftovers, I cooked up more spinach and garlic for the second night and added it in.  The problem with this “Mac ‘n’ Cheese” is that it isn’t really mac and cheese…it’s more like pasta salad.  The dish never gets baked (despite the misleading picture of the macaroni in a baking dish in the magazine) so the cheese doesn’t melt, and there’s nothing crunchy.  For a pasta salad, it was good.  But I wanted to make mac ‘n’ cheese.  In fact, my Man and I ate the leftovers cold. Granted, if I’d read the recipe all the way through before cooking it, I would’ve know this.

If I wanted to make this pasta salad again, I’d probably increase the amount of garlic, cheese, nuts and especially tomatoes and spinach even further.  I think a few sliced black olives would be a nice addition as well.  I’d also switch out the pasta for whole wheat pasta, which would leave me feeling less guilty for eating the same meal for dinner three nights in a row.  If you’re craving really good mac ‘n’ cheese instead of pasta salad though I would definitely re-recommend Cheese Lovers 5 Cheese Mac and Cheese.

July 18, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Things My Man and I Disagreed On While Making Dinner

My wonderful Man, in the interest of being creative and encouraging my interest in cooking, decided we should create a spaghetti bake with breaded chicken for dinner last evening.  We’re getting married in 4 months (!!!!!) but we’ve definitely got our own ways of doing things, especially in the kitchen.

Things my man and I disagreed on while cooking dinner:

  1. How much counter space was required to bread chicken
  2. How large to cut the chicken
  3. The order of ingredients for breading chicken
  4. How much oil to cut the chicken in
  5. When to turn over the chicken
  6. Whether or not to mince the garlic
  7. The amount of water to cook the spaghetti in
  8. The usefulness of a cheese grater
  9. How much attention needed to be paid to the green beans

In the end though, dinner was delicious, and we’re still in love.

February 20, 2009 at 9:22 am 3 comments

Have I Made This Before?

My apologies to those who are pretty sure I’ve made this recipe already…olive oil, garlic, canned tomatoes…I’m sure its starting to sound familiar to any frequent readers of my blog.  Nevertheless, that’s the direction this recipe’s headed;  I’m just warning you.  However, it does satisfy my new promise to myself: vegetarian lunches.

This recipe is adapted from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook: 350 Essential Recipes for Inspired Everyday Eating by Jack Bishop.  I borrowed the cookbook from the library, but may have to purchase soon because I really like it.  It’s different from other vegetarian cookbooks I’ve used because none of the recipes include tofu, tempeh, or seitan, which I’m sure are all well and good, if you like them, but my foray into vegetarianism hasn’t quite gotten that bold.  The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook is full of variations of normal sounding food made with normal sounding, generally ordinary and accessible ingredients.

Anyway, without further ado: Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Olives and Capers

You’ll need:
Extra-virgin olive oil (about 3 tbsp.)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped*
1 3.8-ounce can sliced black olives
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
1 lb. spaghetti (I used whole wheat spaghetti)
Salt, to taste

*The original recipe lists canned whole tomatoes, chopped but if I make this recipe again I may use canned diced tomatoes because chopping the whole tomatoes was a rather messy experience.  But its up to you.

  1. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Add garlic and red pepper flimg_0336akes and cook over medium heat until the garlic is cooked, about 2 minutes
  3. Add the tomatoes, olives and capers to the skillet.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften and the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.
  4. Toss the spaghetti with the tomato sauce and mix well.
  5. Serve.

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As you may be able to tell from the photo, my pasta turned into little one inch sized pieces by time I was done cooking it and then reheated it once (timing was a little off at my house).  I don’t know why, perhaps because it’s whole wheat pasta? Or I overcooked the pasta?  Anyone else ever have this experience?

February 9, 2009 at 9:34 pm

This week’s lunch

As I hinted in my previous post, I made Rachael Ray’s Not-sagna Pasta Toss today to bring to school for lunch this week.  The meal is supposed to mimic the taste of lasagna without all the work and does a decent job of it.  I think its unhealthy to get too bogged down in following recipes to the letter (unlike the unhappy author of the second comment on this page) , so I made the following alterations (and still produced a quite yummy pot of pasta).

  • My grocery store didn’t have ground sirloin, so I purchased ground beef.  If you don’t like ground beef, do something really crazy like using ground turkey.  You’re eating it, use something you like.
  • I could eat pasta every day if my family would let me, but to enrich the nutrition a bit I used whole wheat pasta.  Also, our store didn’t have campanelle, so I used rotini.  Short, curly pasta is short curly pasta.
  • We didn’t have an open bottle of red wine, so I skipped it.  Yes, red wine would probably deepen the taste a little, but skipping it isn’t going to ruin the dish and I’m not opening a bottle just for a half cup
  • I used dried, jarred basil which is certainly not my first choice, but for the sake of budget and such, I made due.
  • My amounts were a little off.  I hate recipes that leave you with a tiny bit of something left in the box, so I used a box of pasta (13.5 ounces…why it wasn’t a pound to begin with, I’ll never know) and a container of ricotta cheese, which was closer to 1 3/4 cups…what was I going to do with a 1/4 cup of ricotta left over?

All that said, if you believe I followed the recipe at all, I think it’s pretty tasty.

It got very mixed reviews on the Food Network page, despite the final score of 4 stars. Some people compare it to Hamburger Helper, which I guess is a bad thing if you don’t like Hamburger Helper.  But it’s from 30 Minute Meals, not a gourmet cookbook, so I’m not inclined to be too critical of it.  Some people said it was really bland but I guess I’m not picky.  Others suggested adding mozzarella cheese, which I definitely think would be a plus.  Maybe I’ll remember to try that next time. I will say that the sauce is pretty thin, my sister’s one complaint, but some of that may be due to the aforementioned disproportion of ingredients.

Finally, if you’re going to make this recipe please, please note that it does not serve 4.  It serves 8.  I fed my family of four and put aside 4 containers to take to school.  If you’re not serving high school boys, I would strongly suggest halving the recipe (though then you’re stuck with half a container of ricotta…)

Overall, its good.  It’s warm, it’s filling and it makes a good lunch for school.  I’d make it again.

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January 5, 2009 at 5:43 pm


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