TERIYAKI PASTA SALAD: So Pretty, So Easy, So Scrumptious!

teriyaki pasta salad textRecently, I had a fabulous pasta salad topped with teriyaki sauce. The promised recipe never came, so I decided to create my own. The most difficult thing was developing the right taste for the dressing. (You can, of course, buy bottled teriyaki sauce, but as I keep saying, I like cooking from scratch so I know what’s in my food.)

This is a very forgiving recipe – if you don’t like certain ingredients, just exchange them for something else.

NOTE: Unless you have a problem with cashews (or any other nut), I highly encourage you to add them. The salty crunch made all the difference.

TERIYAKI PASTA SALAD – makes about 6 cups

  • 1/2 lb mini farfalle pasta (bowties) (or any other pasta you prefer)
  • 4 oz Chinese peapods
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 4 scallions
  • 1  11-oz can Mandarin Oranges in light syrup
  • 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce, divided – recipe follows
  • about 1/2 cup salted cashews, either halved or coarsely chopped

Have teriyaki sauce prepared before starting salad – use homemade (recipe follows) or purchased.

Bring 2 quarts of water to boil in a large saucepan. Add 1 tsp salt and pasta. Cook to the al dente stage. (Don’t cook it longer – the pasta will continue to soften as the teriyaki sauce gets absorbed.) For the mini farfalle it took 7 minutes, but time will vary with type of pasta.

Drain and rinse to stop cooking process. Shake to remove excess water and empty into large bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce and let absorb while preparing the rest of the salad. teriyake sauce3Bring about 1½ inches of water to a boil in the now empty saucepan and add peapods. Let boil for 2 minutes – SET A TIMER! (You don’t want to over cook!) Drain and rinse to stop cooking process.

Remove any strings from peapods by laying them flat and slicing one peapod tip away from you, stopping just before cutting through. pea pods1Pull the peapod body towards you. If there’s a string, it will come away from the peapod.pea pods2 Then rotate the peapod 180º and do the exact same thing to the other tip to remove string on the other side. (Sometimes there are strings on both sides – they’re unpleasant to eat.)

Cut peapods into bite-sized pieces. Add to pasta bowl.

Cut red pepper into bite-sized pieces. Add to pasta bowl.

Slice white and green parts of scallions. Add to pasta bowl.

Drain oranges, shaking to remove excess water. Add to pasta bowl. teriyake sauce4At serving time, add remaining 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce and cashews. Stir to combine. Serve immediately.

TERIYAKI SAUCE – makes about 3/4 cup

  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 T Mirin sweet wine vinegar (often in the Asian section of the market)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated (or 1/8 tsp dried, but fresh is best)
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

In a small saucepan with burner off, put cornstarch and sugar. Stir to blend. Add in Mirin and mix well, smashing any lumps. teriyake sauce1Add in soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil. Turn on burner to medium and stir while bringing to a boil. Turn down heat to keep a simmer. Continue cooking until thickened – about 4-5 minutes.teriyake sauce2There will be a little teriyaki sauce leftover. Save it to revive leftover Teriyaki Pasta Salad, freeze it, or use it on something else. (Waste not, want not!!!)

 

 

 

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SPINACH-CHEESE STRATA: Perfect Any Time Of Day!

spinach cheese strata textOne thing I love about egg dishes is they can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – kind of a one-size-fits-all meal of the food world. (Even though one size does NOT fit all in the clothing world!)

This SPINACH-CHEESE STRATA is very fast to prepare…even faster if you take a couple of shortcuts: 1) buy frozen spinach and, 2) buy bread (rather than making it). I’m a little paranoid about the cleanliness of frozen spinach, since I know how dirty fresh can be, so I buy fresh. Also, I like to bake my own bread and often have extra in the freezer. But that’s just me.

Bonus: it’s a make ahead dish – always a plus for me. That way, I can prepare it in the morning (or even the night before), leaving explicit instructions with my husband. Explicit!

SPINACH-CHEESE STRATA – makes about 6 servings

  • about 11  1/2″ slices of day old French bread (or less if it’s a fat loaf)
  • 2 T butter + more for spreading on bread
  • 2 bunches fresh spinach (or 12 oz frozen cut spinach)
  • 1/4 cup shallots, minced
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp black pepper, divided
  • 1 tsp + 1/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1½ cups (3½ oz) Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 6 eggs
  • 1¾ cup half & half

The bread should be stale. If you plan ahead you can leave slices on a wire rack overnight. If you didn’t have time to do that, simply bake in the oven at 225º Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes, flipping halfway through. (Don’t toast them – it’s not the same thing!)

Butter one side of all the stale bread slices.strata14If you’re using fresh spinach, thoroughly wash, dry, and coarsely chop. If you’re using frozen, thaw.

Melt the 2 T butter in a Dutch oven (if using frozen spinach, then use a skillet). Add shallots and sauté 3 minutes to soften. strata13Add in spinach, 1/2 tsp black pepper, and 1 tsp salt. strata15Cook over medium heat, stirring until spinach is wilted – about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.strata16In the now empty pan, pour in the white wine. Cook over medium/high to reduce it to 1/4 cup. This happens fairly quickly so keep an eye on it. Remove from heat.

Butter an 8″ x 8″ pan (I use Pyrex). Cover bottom with buttered bread (butter side up).strata9 Spread on half of the spinach. strata10Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese. strata11Add another layer of bread, the remaining spinach, and 1/2 cup cheese.strata6 In a bowl or large measuring cup for easy pouring, whisk the eggs, half & half, reduced wine, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp black pepper. Pour on top of spinach/bread/cheese. strata7Cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto food. Weigh it down with whatever will fit. (I use another 8″ x 8″ pan weighted with bowls). strata17Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

To bake, remove plastic wrap. Sprinkle on remaining 1/2 cup cheese. strata2Bake at 325º F for 50-55 minutes, until starting to brown (I bake for 50 minutes). Remove from oven and let set about 15 minutes before serving.strata3

 

 

 

SKILLET PORTOBELLO-BROCCOLI-PASTA DINNER – Easy Clean-up!!!

skillet porto-broc-pasta textI love skillet dinners – everything is cooked in the one pan. They’re generally fast and easy, and this one is particularly tasty!

As so often happens in my kitchen, this recipe began as an America’s Test Kitchen recipe. I changed so many things (including making it vegetarian), that it became virtually unrecognizable. I’m claiming it as my own! (Feel free to tweak to make it your own.)

PORTOBELLO-BROCCOLI-PASTA – serves about 5

  • 2 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 3 Portobello mushrooms
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 onion (about 1½ cups), chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 8 oz uncooked pasta (small elbow or mini penne, which I prefer)
  • 1½ cups vegetable stock (to make my recipe, click VEGETABLE STOCK)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2½ cups raw broccoli, bite sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, rinsed & chopped
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup (1½ oz) Pecorino-Romano cheese, grated

NOTE:  I prefer mini penne pasta because the tubular shape allows the sauce to be trapped, and the mini version makes it easy to eat with a spoon. However, mini penne (Barilla makes it) isn’t always carried in markets.

ADDITIONAL NOTE:  I like to use Portobello mushrooms so I can cut them in 1″ pieces. But if you can’t find them, use 14½ ounces of crimini mushrooms. Cut them into large pieces – and you can use the stems.

Wash Portobellos and discard stems (they’re too tough to eat, unlike the crimini). skillet 1Cut into 1″ pieces.skillet 2In a 12″ skillet, heat 1 T oil over medium/high flame. Add in mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. skillet 4Remove mushrooms and extruded liquid to bowl and set aside. skillet 3Heat remaining 1 T oil in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add in onions and salt. Sauté 4-5 minutes, until cooked but not browned.skillet 5 Add in garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Turn off heat. Add oregano, red pepper flakes, uncooked pasta, vegetable stock, and the water.skillet 6 Turn heat to high and let cook, uncovered, about 12 minutes (stirring now and then) – until most of liquid has cooked out. skillet 9Add in the broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, and Kalamata olives. skillet 10Cover and cook over medium/high for 2 minutes to steam broccoli (it will turn bright green). Don’t overcook.skillet 11Decrease flame to low and add in cream and Pecorino. Stir to blend and let cook uncovered about 1 minute to heat through. Turn off heat and taste for seasoning (I like to add 1/2 tsp salt.) Cover, and let set 5 minutes before serving.

BLACK BEAN BURGERS: Firm And Flavorful!

black bean burgers text

The biggest complaint about Black Bean Burgers seems to be that they tend to be mushy. You load up your bun with toppings, take a bite, and immediately the “burger” squirts out the sides.

So I went on yet another quest, this time to firm up the Black Bean Burger. The key was to remove some of the moisture from the beans by quickly heating them in the oven. 4 minutes at 350º F was just right. Any longer and they over-dried. Then I coarsely chopped half of them to expose the creamy insides to act as a binder, and left the other half whole for the heft. I added cornmeal to absorb excess moisture. Finally, the egg acted as a heavy-duty binder.

Note:  The mixture for BLACK BEAN BURGERS freezes very well. If you like this recipe (try it first), next time double or triple it, then freeze in portion sizes for future use. Thaw, and fry as directed.

BLACK BEAN BURGERS – makes 2 patties

  • 1  15-oz can black beans
  • 1/4 cup fine grind cornmeal (if you can’t find fine grind, use medium)black bean burgers2
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 2 T fresh minced cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black ground pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil, divided

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Drain and rinse beans. Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake 4 minutes in preheated 350º F oven to remove some of the moisture. Moisture = mushy burgers. (Don’t overbake or the beans will be too dried out.) Immediately pour half (it doesn’t have to be exact) the beans into a mixing bowl and the other half onto a cutting board. Don’t leave them on the cookie sheet or they’ll continue to dry from the heated sheet.  Coarsely chop the beans on the cutting board. black bean burgers7Put the chopped beans in the bowl and add in remaining ingredients. Stir to blend. black bean burgers4Cover and refrigerate at least an hour, preferably several hours.

When it’s time to cook, heat 1 tsp oil on medium/high in a nonstick skillet. Divide mixture into 2  1/2″ thick patties, pressing in on edges so they’re not raggedy. They’re kind of fragile so I find it’s best to place the formed patties on a plate, then nudge them onto the skillet. Cook about 4 minutes, until bottom is well browned. (Don’t lift up to check for browning until 4 minutes or they’ll crumble.)black bean burgers9Flip burgers and add remaining 1 tsp oil to skillet. (I flip them onto another spatula then nudge them onto the skillet.) Cook about another 4 minutes, until well browned. Once both sides are well browned, the crust holds them together.