Janet here: After admitting my little magazine recipe-ripping, um, problem, I started 2012 with a new plan. I would start actually cooking some of these recipes and then, if I like them, put them in a neat little notebook. Last week I dutifully bought my notebook, complete with plastic sleeves to stick the pages in and dividers so I can organize them by categories. I was so pleased with myself.
But then it was time to attack the pile, a daunting task for sure because it is a mini-mountain by now. Happily we were having another couple for dinner so I found a new way of doing pesto, using almonds rather than pine nuts…..Result? Brilliant and a total keeper. Into its nice plastic sleeve it goes.
Almond Pesto with Beans Linguine
from Food Network Magazine
1/2 cup unsalted roasted almonds
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 cups fresh parsley
1 1/2 cups fresh basil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
12 ounces linguine
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a pot of salted water for the linguine to a boil.
Make the pesto by pulsing the almonds and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the parsley, basil and Parmesan; pulse some more until the herbs are chopped. With the motor running drizzle in the olive oil until blended.
Transfer to a large bowl and add the ricotta and olives.
Cook the linguine, adding the beans for the last two minutes. Reserve one cup of the cooking water; then drain the pasta and beans. Add to the bowl with the pesto and toss to coat. Add the chopped tomatoes and as much of the reserved cooking water as you like to have the perfect combination. Salt and pepper to taste.
We had friends visiting Saturday night who we hadn’t seen in a number of years. In other words, the premium was on catching up, not cooking. Which doesn’t mean I didn’t want to serve something tasty. (In fact, I think the bar gets even higher when you’re cooking for someone you haven’t seen in a while don’t you? Kind of a culinary version of dress to impress…)
Anyway, this casserole features orzo, which is a pasta I only discovered a few years ago but fell in love with. I’m not sure if it’s the shape or size but orzo just tastes better than a lot of other pastas. And I think it also allows other flavors to come out more fully. It doesn’t overwhelm.
The casserole also features pesto, which is one of my favorite sauces ever. Again, not overwhelming but totally flavorful. You can make it yourself, using Rachel’s recipe) or buy some (which, I’m not gonna lie, is what I did this time).
You’re going to have to trust me on how marvelous this casserole looks. By the time it came out of the oven, just a little alcohol had been consumed….and taking a photo was no longer on my to-do list.
serves 6, more if a side dish
1 pound orzo
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 orange bell pepper, cored and diced
1 onion, minced
2/3 cup pesto
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9X13 baking pan.
Boil some water and cook the orzo until al dente. Drain. Put back in the large pot.
While the orzo is cooking, saute the onion, garlic and pepper in some olive oil until the vegetables start to get soft. Add to the orzo in the pot.
Stir in the pesto and mozzarella into the pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Spread into the baking pan, sprinkle the Parmesan on top and baked for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the orzo is done. Serve it up.
Janet here: I grew up in a house where St. Patty’s Day was a big deal. My mother’s father, Michael Aloysius Martin, emigrated from Ireland to the States as a young man so she took the day seriously, requiring that we all wear something green. I also remember her drawing green freckles on my nose and that I actually went to school that way. Needless to say I not one of the cool kids.
Not surprisingly, we always had corned beef and cabbage on St. Patty’s Day. I remember liking it, although as I look back on it I wonder why. Everything was boiled for God’s sake.
As a vegetarian, I no longer think corned beef on St. Patty’s Day. I do, however, love cabbage, especially served in this tasty, meatless meal inspired by one of my go-to early vegetarian cookbooks, The Moosewood Cookbook. The sauteed cabbage with onions and caraway seeds adds a wonderful zip to the comforting mashed potatoes. Enjoy and Erin Ga Bragh!
4 medium potatoes, cut into pieces, skin on
2 tablespoons butter (this is not a time for olive oil my friends)
1 plus cups diced onion
about 3 cups of sliced cabbage
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
3/4 teaspoon dill
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups low fat cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream.
2 teaspoons sunflower seeds
paprika to taste
After cutting the potatoes into boiling pieces, add to water and boil until just done. Drain and put into a bowl with the cottage cheese, sour cream, dill and salt and pepper. Mash up into mashed potatoes.
While the potatoes are cooking, saute the onions for a couple of minutes. Add the caraway seeds and cabbage and saute until the cabbage and onions are just done. Add to the bowl of mashed potatoes with the cider vinegar. Mix well.
Place into a casserole. Sprinkle sunflower seeds and paprika to taste on top. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot.
I’m so glad you, John and M (vicariously or is it secondhand?) enjoyed the leftover burritos last week. First, how great are leftovers? It’s so wonderful to come in the door after a grueling day at work, or in your case school, and know there is something nutritious to eat just a microwave away. I wish I had been more organized as a young working mother to figure this out. It wasn’t until I started my gig in Albany (I work out of town two to four days a week creating magazines) that I started cooking ahead and making dishes that had leftovers for the rest of the week. Stuuuupid. How I would have loved to have done this in the days of juggling a job and young children. I hope you learn from my mistakes. The key to good meals during the week is smart cooking on the weekends.
Anyway on to the burritos. I don’t think my burritos are particularly spectacular and they change just about every time I make them. It all depends what’s in the house. These particular burritos featured black beans (a personal favorite of mine), corn, dirty rice (that I made from a box so there’s THAT confession; it wasn’t from scratch), chili powder, hot sauce, some guacamole, grated sharp cheddar, sour cream and salsa. Mix it all together in a bowl, wrap it in a tortilla, pop it in the oven, and voila, instant filling dinner.
I have also made burritos with refried beans, jalapenos, ground turkey and all of the above. I think that’s what I like about them so much: You can do just about whatever you want within certain perameters, it’s fast and it’s nutritious. What are your favorite burrito fillings?
Janet here: I have a fairly new friend who I found through a shared love of music. Without going into all the details, let’s just say that Jean helped reintroduce me to a part of my musical world that I had left unsatisfied for 30 years. It’s been great.
Sadly, in August her husband of many years died of cancer. Jean is understandably bereft. We’ve tried to help a bit by playing together more frequently, but the other thing we immediately jumped to was food. Without even thinking about it, Lisa and I added bringing dinner to the musical nights out. We jumped to this without discussion, without forethought.
While of course there’s no way Lisa and I can make up for Jean’s loss, this whole thing has made me think again about the healing quality of food. It doesn’t really matter what the food is, of course; instead it’s the act of cooking for someone else and bringing them sustenance. And then it’s the shared moment of sitting down together and eating. We pass the food around the table, talk of other things and suddenly, for just a moment, everything seems bearable.
We are playing together again this week. Lisa is bringing vegetable lasagna and I will bring roasted vegetable soup. We will play trios, laugh and talk, and then we will eat. And when we leave, we will leave our food behind for Jean to reheat, and she will remember once again that she is not alone.
Janet here: I have been obsessed with pasta recently, most particularly with pasta that doesn’t have a single thing red saucy about it. I grew up with marinara sauce and meat sauce and I loved it for years, but now I am all about pasta that has everything BUT red sauce in it the same way that my favorite pizza does not have any red sauce at all. What is that about?
Anyway this pasta takes about 10 minutes to pull together and if you love walnuts and olives, you’re going to like this. I hadn’t made this before so I’m still tinkering a bit. Perhaps kalamata olives next time? Anyway, I hope you like it.
Pasta with Walnuts/Olives and Capers
3/4 pound pasta (I used farfalle because I like how it looks but fusilli could work too)
about 1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons diced garlic (about 1 large clove)
2 heaping teaspoons capers, drained
1/2 cup black olives, drained and cut in half (pitted obviously)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup pecorino cheese, grated
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Cook the pasta. While it’s boiling, pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and saute the walnuts and garlic, stirring so the nuts don’t get black and the garlic doesn’t burn. Then add the bread crumbs and stir until slightly browned. Take it off the heat and add the cheese, olives and capers.
After draining the pasta, mix the whole mess together, adding perhaps some more grated cheese because when do you ever get enough cheese, and the rest of the olive oil. You can always add a little more olive oil if it seems dry.