Dinner in a Blink: Pasta with Chèvre, Asparagus & Mint

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I love Jamie Oliver, but I was cursing him as my attempt to make his recipe for ravioli with minted-asparagus, potatoes and mascarpone went up in flames this last weekend. I wont get into details other than to say that the whole thing ended up being a real big mess and I was nearly forced to go to my Jamie Oliver-themed potluck party empty handed (I substituted with his easy and excellent “Chocolate Pots” at the 11th hour. When in doubt, bring chocolate!). Despite my ill-fated ravioli-making endeavor, I really can’t stay mad at Jamie because the combination of flavors inspired by his recipe — tangy-creamy chèvre, sweet asparagus, and bright herbs — is quite wonderful and works perfectly as a quick and delightfully spring-y pasta dish that comes together nearly as quickly as boxed mac and cheese. This combo would be equally great on crostini, as a topping for pizza or melted inside a grilled panini.

BTW: I’ll make sure to nudge Simran to share the recipe for Jamie’s ricotta and herb stuffed mushrooms that she made for the potluck — they were great!

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Simply Sauteed Garlicky Pea Shoots

Simple Garlicky Sauteed Pea Shoots by A Little Yumminess

Pea Shoots_Alemany Farmers Market

Simple, sauteed pea shoots have turned out to be one of our favorite vegetable side dishes this spring. They almost always land on our table when we see them at dim sum, but we hadn’t really thought about cooking them at home until recently. They are tender and sweet and they cook almost instantly in a hot saute pan.  What I like most about them is that they have the softness of sauteed spinach, but the stems have just a bit of bite which makes them a little more interesting to eat. And since my boys already like peas, eating another part of the plant has been kind of a fun discovery for them. What would even be more fun is getting some peas going in our garden and then harvesting both the young shoots and the pods for a real garden to table experience. There you go — another thing to add to our to do list.

While not available in most supermarkets as far as I can tell, you will probably find an abundance of pea shoots seasonally at your local farmer’s market or most well-stocked Asian markets. This is truly a lovely taste of spring.
Simple Garlicky Sauteed Pea Shoots
  1. Wash pea shoots well and drain. Discard any shoots that look wilted or have larger, tougher stems. Roughly chop the pea shoots (about  2″ intervals is fine, but the size is not fussy ). Keep in mind that the shoots shrink considerably as they cook, they are roughly half to a third of the volume after cooking.
  2. Peel 2 garlic cloves. Crush them but leave them whole.
  3. Heat up a saute pan with 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil. When the pan is hot, add the crushed garlic cloves and saute them for 2 minutes until they become fragrant and start to turn golden.
  4. Toss in your washed, chopped pea shoots. Be careful since any remaining water clinging to the pea shoots may spatter when you add them to a hot pan. Saute until pea shoots are wilted (about 2-3 minutes). Sprinkle with sea salt to taste and serve.

You might also like these simple and delicious veggie sides: Mythili’s Edamame with Coconut, Cumin and Chilli, Simplest Snap Peas, Carrot Raita, Indian Spiced Spinach, Bakesale Betty’s Killer Mayo-Free Coleslaw

Michael Ruhlman’s Tomato Water Pasta

If you can dice a tomato and boil water then this pasta is for you, courtesy of chef Michael Ruhlman. More of a technique than a recipe, it’s the perfect way to showcase a few gorgeous end of summer tomatoes. Don’t let the simplicity of this fool you, this is real-deal pasta. We’ve heard it’s one of Chewbacca’s favorites when he has friends around for dinner. Like Chewbacca, I love the technique of macerating the tomatoes and making a sauce from their juices fortified with a little butter, then tossing in the chopped tomato at the last minute to keep that fresh tomato flavor and texture. You can put this one together in just minutes, your kids will scarf it up — what’s not to love?

Invite some friends and serve this with some garlicky sauteed shrimp our favorite zucchini carpaccio and you are set for a great summer supper!

Get the recipe and a how-to video right here from Michael Ruhlman’s website.

When Life Gives You Leftovers, Make Fried Rice

My favorite food is the food my dad makes for me. He’s as apt to make an involved, multi-course chinese meal as a big pot of rustic minestrone soup. It’s hard to pick an all-time favorite, but for sentimental reasons his “international fried rice” holds a special place in my heart. The spirit of this dish really represents my dad: thrifty, inventive, laid back, homey.

The key is the rice which must be a few days old (ideally a little dried out from being in the refrigerator). The next critical component are your leftovers which can be of any international variety. I’ve seen my dad throw in everything from black bean sauce chicken to Indian take out and even on occasion, spaghetti. Some of my favorite versions of all time were cooked on the final mornings of camping trips, in a cast iron skillet over a campfire. (Yes, my family cooked rice on camping trips.). Some of you may have boundaries for crazy food combinations, but I find fried rice has virtually no limits.

After watching may dad dozens and dozens of times, I started making fried rice in college and have kept on ever since. It shows up on our table often as breakfast, lunch or dinner. Depending on what you include, it can be an “all in one meal” that even picky kids like my son will happily eat. So the next time you find yourself with a random assortment of otherwise uninspiring leftovers, consider making your own contribution to the genre of international fried rice.

Dad’s International Fried Rice

There are probably as many methods of fried rice making as there are fried rice makers, but this is how I do it:

1. Make your omelet by beating a couple of eggs well (I usually add a pinch of salt and some finely minced chives if I have some). Cook in a lightly oiled plan until set. Flip and cook through. Rough chop and set aside. (if your omelet turns out more like scrambled eggs, no worries since you’re chopping it up anyway.

2. Dice your various leftovers and set aside. You want to eliminate any excess sauce from your leftovers which will take away from the crispy, fluffy yumminess of the final dish. If I don’t have leftover cooked vegetables on hand, I usually just throw in some frozen peas in the last 5 minutes of cooking and let them warm through.

4. Drizzle a little more oil in the pan and let it get quite hot. Break up your rice into the pan. Ideally, your rice will be a couple of days old and dried out. Let it warm through and take the time to let it get a crispy in places. I’ve learned over the years, that it’s worth not short changing this step. Letting a bit of the rice get golden and crispy makes all the difference. Sprinkle the rice ever so gently with some soy sauce. If you have some grated ginger on hand (which you will if you use this handy little trick), add some in and fry along with the rice.

5. Add in your diced leftovers and vegetables. Toss well and let warm through. Add your chopped omelet (and optional frozen peas). Toss well and warm though.

6. Taste and season to taste with whatever combination of sauces you like. I sometimes use a few drops of sesame oil, and a light touch of oyster sauce or chili paste depending on how flavorful the leftovers were. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and scallion.

Cooking with Luisa – Taquitos

My friend Luisa, who taught me how to make Sopa De Tortilla recently, also taught me how to make Taquitos.  Taquitos are a Mexican dish made of rolled-up tortillas with a filling. The filled tortilla is fried and served with a variety of toppings.  Luisa demonstrated the dish with store-bought rotisserie chicken but these little crunchy rolls can be easily made vegetarian by using beans and cheese or any other vegetable of your (or your kids’) liking.  A side of rice and beans will complete this meal.  I am thinking these are a good vehicle for any kind of leftovers – I may try them with leftover curry one day! 🙂  Could work for school lunches and this will be a tasty addition to your birthday party buffet.

I am looking forward to my next lesson in Mexican home-cooking with Luisa.

Serves 2 adults and 2 kids

Ingredients

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed (leftovers or store bought rotisserie)

10 small corn tortillas

Vegetable oil for shallow frying taquitos

Garnish with:

1 cup salsa (store bought or home-made, red or green)

1 diced avocado

Sour cream or yogurt

Feta or queso fresco

  1. Place 1-2 tbsp of shredded chicken at the center of tortilla and roll up like a cigar
  2. Secure the roll with a toothpick and place the taquito in the heated oil (use a large frying pan or fry in batches)
  3. Fry on all sides till golden brown and crispy
  4. Garnish with toppings of choice (kids will enjoy this!)

If you make the taquitos ahead of time you can re-heat them in the oven and add the garnishes right before serving.

Sweet Potato Chips

Shopping list: 1 sweet potato, kosher salt, oil

We were having lunch at home, just the usual stuff (sandwich, fruit). Then I spied a lonely sweet potato on our counter and remembered mentally bookmarking the sweet potato chips recipe on KidAppeal. Worth a try!  Some mixed results on this one — the thin slices are  finicky! Some chips got too dark and others were still a little chewy while a few were just right. Which was exactly Jenna’s caveat.

My son was excited to try them and happily gobbled up all the chips that made the cut. Anytime he says “more please” to vegetables (it’s been tough going lately – he’s two and a half!), it’s a good thing.

Sweet Potato Chips (adapted from KidAppeal)

  1. Brush a thin coat of oil on a cookie sheet, put into a 450 oven for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, wash and slice one sweet potato into very thin rounds (as thin as you can, the key to the whole thing I think). Our mandolin slicer has gone missing, so I had a chance to practice my knife skills!
  3. Lay out the chips on the hot cookie sheet (don’t let them overlap), lightly brush tops with oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and whatever else strikes your fancy. I’m guessing Simran would put a pinch of something spicy!
  4. Bake at 450 for 5 minutes. I flipped the chips, turned my cookie sheet, and stepped down the temperature to 425 (mine were browning too quickly) to bake another 5 minutes (peeking once or twice).
  5. If they are still a little chewy in the center at this point, turn the cookie sheet once again and crank the oven down to 300 — and give them a few minutes to hang out to continue drying out without getting more color.
  6. When they are lightly browned (but not dark), the edges have curled, and the tops look pretty dry remove them to a rack to cool. They will continue crisping up as they cool. Taste and add a little more seasoning if you please.

So, you do have to be attentive on this one, but there’s nothing too hard here cooking-wise…. and they’re actually OK if they’re not perfectly crisp, but crispy is definitely better. Make a lonely sweet potato’s day and give these chips  a try sometime soon. I’d love to know how it goes for you.