BROCCOLI GARLIC PASTA: Fast & Easy

broccoli garlic pasta9 textBroccoli Garlic Pasta is a new addition to my list of favorite dinners. It’s one of those recipes that I create in order to use up an ingredient that would soon be going bad – in this case, it was mushrooms. I threw in other items I had on hand – the pièce de résistance being the Feta cheese, which made all the difference.

Note: If you make your own pasta (which I do), use a 1 cup flour recipe – more than that is too much pasta for the sauce in this recipe.

BROCCOLI GARLIC PASTA – makes about 6 cups or so

  • 6 oz uncooked pasta (I use spaghetti noodles)
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 cups raw broccoli, bite-sized pieces
  • 2 T garlic, pressed (use less if you don’t like a lot of garlic)
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 5 oz (2 cups) mushrooms, chopped (I use white mushrooms)
  • 1/2 cup (about 4) scallions, green & white part, sliced
  • 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 T flour
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (I use vermouth)
  • 1 cup cream
  • 6 oz Feta cheese (I use fat-free), crumbled
  • 2½ oz (1 cup) Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (or any hard cheese)
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped

In a large pot, cook the pasta until almost done (al dente) – you want it undercooked so it can absorb the sauce. Drain.

Into the now empty pot, heat the butter and oil. Add in the broccoli, garlic, red pepper, mushrooms, scallions, and red pepper flakes. Over medium/high flame, sauté veggies for 1-2 minutes. broccoli garlic pasta8Kill heat and sprinkle on flour. Over low flame, stir 1-2 minutes to slightly thicken the liquid and cook-off the flour taste. broccoli garlic pasta7Add in the wine and cream. Cook over medium heat about 1 minute. broccoli garlic pasta1Stir in the Feta, Pecorino, and parsley. Stir in the pasta and heat through. Pour into serving bowl (or let remain in pot), cover, and let set for about 5 minutes to allow pasta to absorb the liquid and thicken up.broccoli garlic pasta3

 

ANGEL FOOD CAKE – Devilishly Delicious!

angel food cake2 text haloDue to my frugal nature (some may say, ‘cheap’), I found myself with an abundance of frozen egg whites. It turns out there are many more recipes that call for an extra egg yoke than an extra egg white. Due to my aforementioned frugal nature, I froze the unused whites rather than throw out perfectly good food.

I’d always scoffed at the humble angel food cake – it just seemed so blah. However, I had an America’s Test Kitchen recipe that called for 12 egg whites in their angel food cake. This would make a significant dent in my frozen egg white stockpile, so I made it.

I was stunned at how good it was.  A bonus being there are a lot less calories in an angel food cake compared to an equal sized slice of an iced butter cake.

Note: Ideally, you should use an angel food cake pan because it’s tubular, thus providing more surface area for the batter to climb and attach to. Also, it has little legs to allow air to flow underneath as the cake cools. (Angel food cakes are cooled upside down so they don’t collapse.) Use a bundt pan, if you don’t have the proper pan and elevate it.angel food cake1ANGEL FOOD CAKE

  • 3 oz (1 cup) cake flour
  • 10 oz (1½ cups) granulated sugar,  divided
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 egg whites
  • 1½ tsp vanilla
  • 1½ tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 325º Fahrenheit.

Make a liner for the cake pan bottom by placing the pan on parchment paper open side up. Run a pencil around the outside of the pan bottom and cut out the circle. Flip the pan so the bottom of the pan is up, and place the cut-out circle on top. Firmly hold the parchment in place and trace the center tube outline with a pencil. Cut out and discard this inner circle. Very lightly grease the BOTTOM ONLY of the cake pan. (Don’t grease the sides – the batter needs to be able to grip it in order to rise.) Line the bottom of the cake pan with the parchment and press it down. The parchment will help the cake release.angel food cake4Into a bowl, sift together the cake flour and 5 oz (3/4 cup) of the sugar. Set aside.

Into another bowl mix together the remaining 5 oz (3/4 cup) sugar, the cream of tartar, and the salt. Set aside.

Into a small bowl, mix together the vanilla, lemon juice, and almond extract. Set aside.

Pour the egg whites into the large bowl of your standing electric mixer. Beat on medium. Large bubbles will form at first, then they’ll decrease in size after about a minute. angel food cake8With the mixer still running on medium, start adding the sugar/cream of tartar mixture to the whites 1 tablespoon at a time. angel food cake5Once all the sugar/tartar has been added, increase mixer speed to high until soft peaks form. Turn off machine, pour in the vanilla mixture, then quickly mix together on low. angel food cake6Here’s where your jaw may drop. If you read other angel food cake recipes, they’ll tell you to FOLD in the flour mixture gently in order not to deflate the meringue. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to bother. Simply add 3 T of the flour mix to the batter through a sieve, then turn your mixer on the lowest speed for a few seconds to incorporate the flour, running a spatula along the sides and bottom of the bowl.angel food cake7 Turn off the mixer, then add another 3 T flour to the batter, turn on the machine to low and mix to incorporate for a few seconds. Continue until all the flour is added and incorporated.

Once all the flour is incorporated, gently pour batter into the cake pan, smoothing top. Rap pan a couple of times on the counter to dislodge any air bubbles (I’m not sure if this is a myth, but it can’t hurt.)angel food cake9 Put into the oven and bake about 45-50 minutes – until golden brown and cake springs back when you press it with your finger.angel food cake10 Remove from oven and immediately turn upside-down. Let cake remain like this until completely cooled – about 3 hours. angel food cake1When cool, run a dull knife around the sides of the cake (including the tube), making sure you get all the way to the bottom. Flip the cake onto a plate – hopefully, the cake will fall out. (If not, run the knife around again.) Carefully, remove the parchment and let cake sit to completely cool before serving.angel food cake11 fixed

FOCACCIA-OMELETTE SANDWICH: A Mouth Watering Meal!

focaccia sandwich2 textA new family favorite is my Focaccia-Omelette Sandwich, which makes a tasty breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

While it’s extremely easy to make, the focaccia needs at least 5 hours of rise-time, so planning ahead is crucial. You don’t want to short-change this time period since this is when flavor and gluten development occur.

Note: Use a metal pan to bake the focaccia, if possible, to promote a crispy crust.

FOCACCIA – OMELETTE SANDWICH

  • 3¼ cup (400 grams) bread flour
  • 1½ tsp (4 grams) dry yeast
  • 3/4 tsp granulated sugar
  • 14 oz (1+2/3 cup) (380 ml) water, room temperature
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt (or 3/4 tsp table salt)
  • 6 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • toppings such as olives, sliced shallots
  • 2 tsp dried oregano, divided
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 10 eggs
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 T fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 oz Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 6 oz Fontina cheese, shredded
  • 1 large tomato, sliced

Place the flour, yeast, and sugar in the work bowl of your food processor. Turn machine on and drizzle in the water through the pour-spout. Mix for 2 minutes, then let rest for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the kosher salt and run machine for another 2 minutes.focaccia sandwich8 Pour 2 T olive oil into a rectangular or square container with sides at least 3″ high, covering the bottom and sides. (The square corners train the dough somewhat and help it fill the corners of the baking pan. If you don’t have a container like this, just use an oiled deep bowl.) The dough is going to rise very high, then collapse somewhat. Cover container and let rise 5½ – 6 hours. Note the low height of the dough when I pour it in. focaccia sandwich16Here’s after 2½ hours:focaccia sandwich5 After about 4 hours it starts to collapse a bit – this is normal. focaccia sandwich6After dough has been rising for 5 hours, preheat oven to 500º Fahrenheit, rack in the middle position. If you have a baking stone or steel (I use a steel), place it on rack as the oven preheats.

After dough has been rising for at least 5½ hours, spread 2 T olive oil on the bottom and sides of a metal 9½” x 13″ metal pan. (I know, I know – the pan has, obviously, seen better days!) focaccia sandwich9Note how bubbly the dough is: focaccia sandwich7Gently pour the dough into the prepared pan, nudging the dough into the corners – try not to deflate the dough. focaccia sandwich10If you’re using toppings such as olives or slices shallots, sprinkle them on, lightly pressing them into the dough. Let dough set uncovered for 20 minutes. focaccia sandwich11Brush 2 T olive oil over dough, then sprinkle on 1 tsp oregano, pepper, and salt. focaccia sandwich12Place in 500º F preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until well browned on top and sides have pulled away from the edges a bit. Remove from oven and let rest in pan for about 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.focaccia sandwich13Decrease oven temperature to 350º F, leaving oven door open to expedite the oven temperature drop.

During that 10 minutes, beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add in the red pepper, basil, Feta, table salt, and the remaining 1 tsp oregano. Beat mixture to blend. After removing focaccia from pan, line the bottom and sides of the empty pan with parchment. Brush a light coating of olive oil on the parchment, then pour in the egg mixture. Place in the oven at 350º F and bake until egg mixture is no longer wet – about 12-15 minutes.focaccia sandwich15 While omelette is baking, remove focaccia to a cutting board. Using a long bread knife, very carefully slice bread in half horizontally. (Take your time – the edges are crispy, making it difficult. I’ve found it best to cut into the bread only – not in and out, which tends to tear the bread.)focaccia sandwich14 Once the bread is completely sliced through, leave it together to retain its heat.

After removing the omelette, let it rest in the pan for 15 minutes to set. You can use this time to slice the tomatoes and shred the Fontina.

When the omelette has set, remove the top of the focaccia and set it aside, cut side down. Sprinkle 1/3 of the Fontina cheese over the bottom half. (The cheese is going to serve as a glue to hold everything together.) Remove the omelette from the pan by using the parchment to lift it. Set it beside the bottom half of the focaccia, long sides next to each other. Carefully peel the parchment away from the sides – I use a knife help separate the egg from the parchment.

Fold the long side of the parchment that’s next to the bread under to get it out of the way. Using the 2 short sides parchment ears, lift and flip the omelette on top of the focaccia bottom. Peel away and discard the parchment.

Sprinkle 1/2 of the remaining Fontina on top of the omelette. Layer on the sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle on remaining Fontina and cover with the focaccia top.

If you like, you can place the entire sandwich on a cookie sheet and heat at 400º F for about 10 minutes to crisp it up, or you can go ahead and slice it up as is.

 

STUFFED SQUASH SOUP: Hearty & Filling!

stuffed squash soup textThis soup started out as a Stuffed Squash recipe I was developing. I had a lot of leftover filling and, as it was on the bland side, knew we weren’t going to eat it. But as regular readers may know – I HATE waste!!! There was no way I was going to throw it out.

So, I put on my thinking cap. The filling was a mixture of butternut squash, mushrooms, chickpeas, rice, dried cranberries, pecans, and a shallot. An omelette was my first thought…but, no.

Then it occurred to me – SOUP! One can of whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, and an onion later I had an amazing dinner. The result was a delightful blend of textures and flavors.

When life sends you lemons, make lemonade.

STUFFED SQUASH SOUP – makes about 10 cups

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice (I use Trader Joe’s 3 Rice Medley)
  • 1½ T olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 T pressed garlic
  • 8 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp table salt)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 15 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 28 oz can whole tomatoes, chopped
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Wash and dry the butternut squash. You’re going to need to cut it in half lengthwise. In order to prevent injury, soften the squash a bit by microwaving it for 3 minutes ONLY. (You don’t need to pierce it.) Turn it over and zap it for another 30 seconds. Slice it in half lengthwise and place halves cut side down on a rimmed cookie sheet. Bake in 375º F oven for about 25 minutes – until flesh can be pierced with a knife. butternut squash soup9Let cool enough to handle. Scrape out and discard seeds and fibers. Cut into 1/2″ slices, then cut away the peel. Cut flesh into 1/2″ cubes. butternut squash soup10While squash is cooking, cook the rice.

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add in onions and cook for 4 minutes, stirring often. skillet 5Add in shallot, garlic, mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes over medium/high flame, stirring often. stuffed squash soup2Add in squash, rice, garbanzo beans, cranberries, pecans, thyme, chopped tomatoes and it’s juice, tomato sauce, and water. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered.stuffed squash soup1 Stir in cilantro, adjust seasoning if needed, and serve.

 

TERIYAKI TOFU NOODLE BOWLS: As Good As I Remember!

noodle bowl textMy family has fond memories of the teriyaki noodle bowls from a local restaurant that closed years ago. Not only did they serve meat choices, but they offered perfectly grilled tofu, too. It was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  Topping it off was a luscious, thick teriyaki sauce.

After a recent, nostalgic discussion of these noodle bowls, I decided to try and recreate it. It took a few attempts with the sauce, but I finally got it right. Of course, me being me, I made the noodles, too.

TERIYAKI TOFU NOODLE BOWLS – serves about 3

  • about 21 oz extra firm tofu
  • 1 T sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • 3 carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced in 1/4″ pieces
  • 5 scallions – green & white parts, sliced into 1/4″ pieces
  • 3 cups broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup teriyaki sauce (recipe follows)
  • about 6 oz purchased soba noodles, or homemade (recipe follows)
  • about 3 T vegetable oil

Drain tofu blocks and press between 2 plates to extrude water for about 30 minutes. Set something with a little weight on top of the upper plate to speed up the process. Pour off water as it accumulates.

Preheat oven to 200º Fahrenheit.

Slice tofu into 1/2″ thick pieces. The thickness is important – too thin and the tofu can easily become rubbery. Then cut into the size you like. I prefer my pieces to be about 1″ x 1½” x 1/2″.noodle bowl4 Liberally coat a nonstick skillet with oil. Heat oil over medium/high until shimmering. Add in tofu and leave undisturbed for at least a minute before moving them. (I suggest using a splatter screen to reduce fallout.) When the tofu is browned on the bottom, flip and cook the other side.noodle bowl5 Remove to a baking sheet and leave in the preheated oven to keep warm until the veggies and noodles are cooked.

Heat the teriyaki sauce. (Recipe below)

Insert a steamer basket into a pot with 1/2″ water at the bottom and place carrots, celery, scallions, and broccoli. Cover and turn heat to high. Immediately set timer and steam for 3 minutes. Remove veggies to a large bowl. noodle bowl2Bring 2 quarts of water to a full boil. Add noodles (recipe follows) and cook until done – about 5 minutes for homemade.noodle bowl6 Drain and add noodles to bowl with veggies.

Add in the tofu, sesame seeds, and as much teriyaki sauce as you like. Mix all together and serve in bowls.

TERIYAKI SAUCE – make 1½ cups

  • 2½ T cornstarch
  • 4 T (2 oz) Mirin sweet cooking rice wine
  • 1 cup (8¼ oz) low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp ginger powder (fresh is best)
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 cup (6 oz) dark brown sugar

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until thickened.noodle bowl3

Store unused teriyaki sauce in refrigerator for future use.

NOODLES – makes 3 servings

Note: If you don’t have buckwheat flour, then use 8½ oz (2 cups) all-purpose flour

Additional note: There are many excellent youtube videos demonstrating how to make pasta. It’s very helpful to see it being done.

  • 2½ oz (1/2 cup) buckwheat flour
  • 7½ oz (1½ cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T olive oil
  • water, as needed

Place the flours, eggs, and olive oil in the food processor with steel blade in place. Process to blend. Check the consistency of the dough – it will probably be too dry at this point. You want it to not fall apart when squeezed. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to start. Process about 15 seconds and check consistency. Add water a small amount at a time until dough holds together and is tacky but not sticky. (If you add too much water, just sprinkle in more flour.) The pictures show me making spinach fettuccine, but the idea is the same.fettuccine, spinach9 Form dough into 4 balls and place in the processor with lid. Let rest for at least 30 minutes. fettuccine, spinach10Using a hand crank pasta machine, roll out dough to one setting thicker than for normal fettuccine (it’s #4 setting on my Atlas machine).fettuccine, spinach4 Use the fettuccine blades to cut. fettuccine, spinach5

MASHED POTATO CAKES: Crunchy Outside, Creamy Inside!!!

mashed pot cakes textI’ve rarely met a potato dish I didn’t like. However, I was never very happy with homemade potato cakes. There’s a slight difference between potato patties, latkes, hashbrowns, and pancakes. I’ve tried making them all and never been very happy with any…until America’s Test Kitchen came to the rescue.

Their idea was to NOT use leftover mashed potatoes because the consistency will vary from batch to batch – ranging from dry to mushy.  Rather, use a recipe specifically developed for patties. Another brilliant idea was to coat the cakes with panko, which gives them a nice crunch without all the oil.

MASHED POTATO CAKES – makes 8 patties

  • 2½ lbs russet potatoes
  • 1 T + 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 whole egg
  • about 2 cups panko crumbs
  • about 6 T vegetable oil for frying
  • optional:  toppings such as sour cream, ketchup, aioli sauce

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4″ slices. Put into pot and add enough water to cover potatoes with 1″ water. Add in the 1 T salt. Bring to boil and cook 10 minutes. mashed pot cakes6Drain, then return potatoes to pot or large bowl. mashed pot cakes7Mash potatoes until smooth and let cool about 10 minutes.

Add the Parmesan, egg yolk, chives, 3/4 tsp salt, and pepper to the pot and mash all together. Let cool 1 hour. mashed pot cakes8Form 8  3″ patties – they’ll each need about 1/2 cup’s worth of potatoes. Make sure to press the patties together firmly so they don’t fall apart. mashed pot cakes9Beat the whole egg with a fork and pour onto a plate. Pour the panko onto another plate. Dip each pattie on both sides into the egg, followed by the panko. mashed pot cakes3mashed pot cakes4Set all the patties aside for 5 minutes before frying.

Preheat oven to 200º Fahrenheit oven.

Heat 3 T oil over medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet and place 4 of the patties. Fry until bottom is golden brown (about 3 minutes), then flip and fry until golden brown. mashed pot cakes5Place on a cookie sheet and keep warm in the 200º F oven. Cook the remaining 4 patties in the same manner. Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven until ready to eat.

 

 

WHITE BEAN & ‘SAUSAGE’ SOUP: Perfect For Those Chilly Nights!

sausage soup textLet me start by pointing out the quotation marks around the word SAUSAGE mean imitation. (For you carnivores, you can use real sausage.)

White Bean & ‘Sausage’ Soup is one of those recipes that can be made in 30 minutes – ideal for those nights when you have little time and/or desire to cook. This has become one of my family’s favorites, especially when served with a homemade Italian Bread Loaf.

WHITE BEAN & ‘SAUSAGE’ SOUP – makes about 7½ cups

  • 1 T olive oil
  • about 1 lb imitation sausage – my favorite for this recipe is made by Beyond Meatsausage soup5
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 4 cups vegetarian stock (homemade recipe: vegetarian stock)
  • 15 oz can white beans, rinsed
  • 1½ cups canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 cups (about 3 oz) fresh spinach, chopped
  • optional – Parmesan cheese, grated

Chop imitation sausage into bite sized pieces. Heat oil in a Dutch oven and cook ‘sausage’ over a medium heat for about 4 minutes.sausage soup1 Add in onion, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Cook 3-5 minutes – until onions are softened. sausage soup2Add in stock, beans, tomatoes, salt, and black pepper. Bring to boil, cover, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer for 15 minutes.sausage soup3 Stir in spinach off heat and check for seasoning (I add another 1/2 tsp salt). sausage soup4Sprinkle servings with Parmesan, if desired.