Monthly Archives: June 2013

Pasta Salad with Tuna and Peas

IMG_8939

As a kid, I remember my mother being a busy woman.  For years, she put her career on hold to raise three kids while pursuing her Masters degree, making sure a homemade meal was on the table every night (family dinners were very important to my folks), and basically being there for all of us kids for whatever we needed and wanted.  While I may not have appreciated it in the way I should have then, I certainly do now as an adult taking care of my own family.  When she did return to work, she was the gym teacher at our local school and she went from stay at home mom to working mom who still did everything plus worked.  (Did I mention that I went to a K-12 school?!  I know, they hardly even exist anymore and perhaps never did near Philadelphia.)

She and my father juggled family life plus making sure that one if not both of them were present at ALL of our sporting events and extracurriculars (three kids + 2-3 sports per year = CRAZINESS).  So occasionally, my dad would fill in on the dinner piece.  My recollection of dad’s cooking skills included grilling, fishsticks, and frozen vegetables.  In spite of all the wins, for some reason, my brain vividly remembers the one major fail: burning the peas.  The scent of burning peas is so imprinted on my brain that I immediately begin to taste the char in my mouth.  To be fair, it was probably only once that my father almost burned the house down with this particular pea adventure.  But it did enough to make me resist and avoid peas at all costs up until about 3 years ago.  Why 3 years ago?  I can only attribute this change of heart to the ever changing palate, that continues to evolve and mature even if I do not.

I have grown to love, love peas and I toss them into whatever dish I can that makes sense.  They’re so sweet and pretty, adding great flavor and color to many dishes.  This dish combines my love of pasta with some of my other favorites.  For me, this is the quintessential easy lunch that combines peas, mayo, tuna, celery, carrots and pasta.

  • 3 C. pasta
  • 2 ribs of celery with tops, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 C. frozen peas, thawed
  • 3/4 C. mayonnaise
  • 1/2 C. sour cream
  • 2 cans tuna, drained
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 3 T. chopped parsley

Cook pasta according to directions.  Rinse under cold water.  Set aside while mixing the dressing.

In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, sour cream, salt, pepper and parsley.  Add veggies and tuna.  Break tuna up into small chunks.  Add pasta.  Mix thoroughly.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

IMG_8927 IMG_8928 IMG_8932

Advertisements

Four Bean and Grilled Corn Salsa

IMG_8972

BPA in cans.  Arsenic in apple juice.  Say No to GMO’s!  Corn Syrup is evil.  Sugar is evil’s cousin.  For me, in the craziness of motherhood and my brain’s incredible ability to be at full-capacity pretty much 99% of the time, I sometimes feel that I am physically incapable of digesting any new information.  Pathetic, huh?

Side story…  My brother used to watch “Married with Children” constantly, much to my mother’s chagrin.    Al Bundy was disgusting to her, pretty much standing for exactly the opposite of everything she and my father believed and tried to instill in us kids.  But he watched it religiously, and I am pretty certain that he has seen every episode.  Anyhow, in one particular episode, Kelly Bundy was smart for some reason.  Well, Bud was helping her to pass some test.  But there was a graphic, as she was learning new information like e=mc2, things like her name, her birthdate, her home address were being pushed out of her brain to make room for the intellectual stuff.  Well, to make a long story short, sometimes I feel like Kelly Bundy — between politics, research on educational stuff for my kids, worrying about the future for my kids, work stuff, my own goals and aspirations, trying to give my family a balanced diet amidst all the GMO horror, I feel like my brain is going to explode.  🙂

So when I feel like I am mentally capable, I try to make the healthiest, informed choices for my family and me.  At a party recently, I had a really delicious bean dip.  And I was all set to make something like it when my brain began to actually apply some of the floating information.  I decided to make the dip, but not use anything canned and try to use as much non-GMO products I could access easily.  I’ll be honest, breadmaking is actually 10x easier than accomplishing this feat, but I did… And it is delicious. (disclaimer: if you make this, and I hope you do, but you decide to use canned beans, I WILL NOT JUDGE YOU.  It was stinking hard not to use the canned stuff…  It’s so convenient and saves soooo much time.  Just replace all the beans with 1 can.)  🙂

  • 2 ears of corn, shucked
  • 1/2 C. dried cannellini beans (or one can)
  • 1/2 C. dried black beans (or one can)
  • 1/2 C. small white beans (or one can)
  • 1/2 C. black eye beans (or one can)
  • 1-2 jalapeños, finely diced (adjust according to how spicy you like it)
  • 1 clove garlic, grated (if you have a zester or hand grater, it works perfectly.  If not, just use a press)
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 large red pepper, finely diced (or one small)
  • 1/3 C. olive oil
  • 1/3 C. red wine vinegar
  • 1 T. sugar
  • juice and zest of 2 limes
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt (if you are using canned beans, only use 1 tsp.)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 3 T. parsley, minced (could sub cilantro)

To rehydrate and cook the beans.  Place beans in separate bowls and cover with twice the amount of boiling water.  Cover and let sit for 4 hours (yes, excruciating).  Another disclaimer: I have never done beans in this way. I researched a ton, but modified the process a little.  This is the way that worked for me but I am by no means an expert.

IMG_8960

After the 4 hours, drain water and place beans in a large pot, cover with 2-3 times the amount of liquid. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer and cook for 45-60 minutes.  Drain, rinse with cool water and set aside.

Grill the corn.  Shuck the corn and remove all silk.  Place corn on grill preheated to high and cook for a total of 10 minutes, turning every 3 minutes to char each side.  At this point, resist the urge to devour the corn now.  You may want to make an extra ear because the smell of it is so irresistible.  It took every fiber of my being not to slather it with butter and salt and gobble it all down.  And I would have, but then I would have had to go back out for more corn and I didn’t feel like doing that.  😦  Cut corn from cob.

IMG_8961

In a large bowl, combine olive pil, vinegar, lime juice and zest, garlic, sugar, salt, black pepper, cumin and parsley.  Combine.  Add beans, red pepper, jalapeño, onion, and corn.  Stir thoroughly.

Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight for best flavor.  Serve with your favorite corn chip.   Would also be a fantastic, low fat topping for salad in place of dressing.

Perfect, Chewy, Crusty Pizza Dough

IMG_8919

Making pizza at home has always been one of my favorite things to do, as a child and an adult.  I have such fond memories rolling out the dough, topping it with whatever combinations of toppings were available, and my mother hoping that there would be enough cheese left after all my sampling.  My mother would buy the tubes of dough or bags of frozen dough balls or sometimes making fresh for make-your-own-pizza night.  No matter what the dough was like, pizza night was always fun.  Maybe it was the pizza, or perhaps the playing with my food, or possibly even that it meant a relaxed family dinner (and if I was lucky enough, a movie in front of the tv!).

As a mother, I have learned to appreciate this culinary family tradition for different reasons, watching through the motherhood lens my daughter taste testing the cheese, me moving the cheese out of reach so there would be enough for the actual pizza, experimenting with a variety of toppings, and her waiting impatiently for the pizzas to cook (and cool).  But for some reason, the tube dough just doesn’t taste as good as it did when I was a kid.  And I still don’t have enough patience waiting for the frozen dough to thaw.  I have tried to make my own dough at home for years and have been only moderately successful.  And when I say moderately, I mean I get the dough to rise properly and it’s edible.  But beyond that, it’s been underwhelming.  No one is doing that happy dance you do when something is so delicious you just can’t help to wiggle and smile in contentment.

So I started to buy my dough from my favorite local pizza joint.  (Did you know that your fave pizza place will sell you the dough?  It costs roughly a $1.50-$2 for a large ball, which will yield about 2 thin crust pizzas or 4 individual size.  This is really GREAT in a pinch!)  Believe me, I love that dough, it’s actually rather perfect, but the foodie and perfectionist in me has always been disappointed in my failure to create a homemade dough that was worth the effort.

Until now…  Until I discovered and began my love affair with semolina flour.  Yup, semolina flour strikes again…  Breads, pastas, and now pizza dough?!  For all the reasons why it’s so perfect in bread and pasta, it is also the right choice for pizza dough.  Chewy, crusty with unique taste…  It’s actually what most pizza joints actually use in their own dough.  I’ve been experimenting and testing ratios and measurements for what feels like an eternity and now, I give you that gift…

  • 1 1/2 C. warm water (turn your tap on and run for a couple minutes until it’s warm to the touch_
  • 1 packet of yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. honey
  • 3 C. all-purpose flour (or whole wheat if you prefer)
  • 1 C. semolina flour
  • Corn meal for dusting the pizza pan
  • Olive oil for the bowl as the dough rises

In a glass measuring cup, combine water, yeast and honey.  Make sure the yeast dissolves completely.  It should look life this:

IMG_8887IMG_8888

Pour into mixing bowl and add semolina flour and mix.

IMG_8890

Add all purpose flour one cup at a time, mixing after each addition until the dough comes together pulling away from the sides of the bowl.  It will be slightly gummy and sticky to the touch.

IMG_8891 IMG_8892

Turn dough out onto well floured surface.  Knead for 5 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky and is smooth (literally like a baby’s bottom).

IMG_8894

Push with the heels of your hands into the dough.

IMG_8898

Fold dough over and tun 1/4 turn clockwise and repeat.

IMG_8895IMG_8897

After about 5 minutes, the dough should look like this:

IMG_8901

Liberally oil your mixing bowl with olive oil.  Return dough to bowl and toss around to make sure it’s fully coated with oil.

IMG_8902

Cover with a clean dishtowel and put in a warm location and let rise until it doubles in size.  Now that it’s summer, your kitchen window is probably a perfect place.  (Me, this time, I took my bowl and placed it on a table outside in the shade on my porch while I weeded my garden and it was perfect.)

IMG_8904 IMG_8905

Turn out onto floured surface.  The dough will look airy and light.  Divide into desired chunks.  I would quarter it and it makes 4 medium thin pizzas.

IMG_8908

At this point, you could go a lot of directions.

Pizza

IMG_8919

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  I have a cast iron pizza stone, which I place in the oven to preheat with the oven.  I prepare my pizza on a pizza peel and slide it onto the hot stone in the oven.  This ensures that the dough starts to cook immediately.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and golden.  If you don’t have these tools, don’t worry, use a cookie sheet and the results will still be great.  You may need to cook for a minute longer to ensure that the bottom gets nice and crusty.

Pizza Roll:

IMG_8924

To make this: roll out the dough as you would for pizza.  Spread sauce, leaving a 1 inch border around.  Top with your desired toppings.  Carefully roll the dough into a log.  Use water to seal the edges.  Place on pizza pan seam side down.  Bake for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees.

IMG_8911 IMG_8912 IMG_8914

Individual pizzas:

IMG_7457 IMG_7458

The skies the limit!!  Enjoy!

Honey Whole Wheat Bread (adapted from www.allrecipes.com)

IMG_6715

This bread was the catalyst for my all-things-homemade-and-from-scratch mission. I had never made bread before, but had always envied my mother’s breadmaking skills. Just a quick side note: my mom makes the most incredible bread for the holidays, a bread our family has dubbed “christmas bread”. It doesn’t look like a christmas tree, doesn’t look particularly festive, but for some reason, we only eat it during the holidays, thus the name. On a basic level, it is raisin bread. But in the foodie description world, it is a flakey, tender, flavorful bread that is perfectly dotted with raisins and presented in a double layer braid fashion. It’s not only beautiful, it is hands-down my all-time favorite bread. Perfect toasted and slathered with butter. Yum. Now I want some. It reminds me of my mom, the holidays, family, winter and all things near and dear to me. That recipe will be upcoming, guess when? For the holidays.

Okay, back to honey whole wheat… Anyhow, I was always scared of bread and yeast. Well, not the bread, but definitely the yeast. I had heard it was delicate, fragile, temperamental. And breadmaking was time consuming. And that kneading? No way, Jose. It was much easier to watch my mom make the bread and for me to eat it.

But I was wrong, so wrong. Making bread is actually quite easy, but like anything, it takes a little practice, so don’t be upset or too hard on yourself if it doesn’t turn out perfectly the first time. I will share with you though in hindsight, when it doesn’t come out perfectly, it’s for 3 reasons: 1) impatience. Waiting sucks, it really does. And when a bread needs to rise twice and you are anxiously waiting in anticipation and thinking about sinking your teeth into that yummy deliciousness, hours can seem like days. 2) impatience. Patience really is a virtue, especially in the bread world. And 3) you killed the yeast. Did I really say that? Yes, and it is harder to do than you think. Maybe you got a dud of a batch. Or perhaps your water was too warm. Or maybe you didn’t feed it enough. Yes, yeast is alive and needs to be fed. Or maybe your warm space for proofing was too warm. Up until the moment you bake the bread, you can kill the yeast. Be gentle. Be kind to the yeast. 🙂

I found this recipe for Simple Whole Wheat Bread on allrecipes.com. After making it a couple times following the recipe to a T, I decided I wanted it more wheaty. (I know that’s not a word, but I’m going with it.) So I modified it slightly, but only slightly, because it is a pretty perfect, easy recipe as it is.

  • 3 C. warm water (I just turn my tap water to hot and let it run for minute)
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 1/3 C. honey
  • 2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 3 C. whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 C. honey
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 1/2 C. whole wheat flour
  • more all-purpose flour for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Thoroughly dissolve yeast in water. Add honey and stir. Pour mixture into a mixing bowl. Add all-purpose flour. Using your dough hook, mix. Add 3 C. whole wheat flour. Tilt the mixer and let sit, uncovered for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Add 3 T. melted butter, 1/3 C. honey and salt. Mix thoroughly. Add 2 C. whole wheat flour. Continue to add the remaining 1 1/2- 2 C. whole wheat flour until the dough is pulling away from the sides. It should be slightly sticky but not gooey. Turn out onto well-floured surface (make sure to scrape it all out) Knead for 5 minutes. Oil the mixing bowl thoroughly. Toss the dough and coat with the oil. Cover and put in a warm place to rise. It should double in size. (Tip: if you don’t have a nice warm place, when you begin this step, turn your oven to warm for 5 minutes and then turn off. Place bowl in the oven to rise. Make sure it’s not too warm, otherwise you run the risk of killing your yeast this late in the game). Rising should take about an hour.

Punch dough down, divide into three even chunks. Spray three 9×5 bread loaves and place dough in each. Let dough rise for a second time until it tops the pans by an inch.

Preheat oven to 350. Bake for 25 minutes. Do not overbake. When done, brush tops with melted butter so it doesn’t dry out. Cool slightly before removing from pans and turning onto cooling rack to finish cooling.

IMG_6710 IMG_6714

Veggie Lasagna

IMG_8387

I am in a constant quest to get more veggies into my family and am always trying to figure out creative, yummy ways to do so.  This veggie lasagna balances it all — sheets of fresh, tender pasta layered with a “ragu” of veggies, tofu, and homemade tomato sauce, and just enough cheese to make it worth it.  The best part of this recipe is how versatile it is…  It’s a great way to use up whatever veggies you have in the crisper and is really flexible depending on what you like.

But wait, before you instantly think of omitting the tofu, consider this: tofu is a chameleon food.  It takes on whatever flavors you give it and it is an excellent source of protein and nutrients.  It is the perfect substitute for meat.  And I promise you, you won’t miss the meat.

Oh wait, have I ever introduced you to my pasta machine?  My very thoughtful and loving husband (yes, he does regularly read my blog), upgraded my pasta tools recently with the gift of an Atlas Marcato hand crank machine AND an Atlas Marcato pasta extruder.  I am in pasta heaven and here she is…  Isn’t she beautiful?

IMG_8372

And now that you’ve had the proper introduction…  🙂 After rolling out the sheets of dough, cut them into manageable pieces as shown here:

IMG_8379 IMG_8381

  • 16, 3 x 4 pieces of fresh lasagna noodles (or 12 of the boxed variety).  Use my semolina pasta recipe.
  • 10 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

The sauce:

  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and cubed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 1 package of tofu, dried of excess liquid and cubed into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2, 16 oz. cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 T. red pepper flakes (if you’re cooking for kids, I will give you a tip below on how to kill two birds with one culinary stone)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

The filling:

  • 1, 16 oz. container of cottage cheese (can use ricotta if you prefer, but I like cottage cheese here)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 bag (or one can) of artichokes, chopped finely
  • 4 T. each of fresh basil and parsley, chopped

I begin by preparing all the veggies first so I don’t have to stop and chop anything and mess up my groove.

IMG_8356

Boil pasta water.  If you are using boxed noodles,

In a very large skillet (the largest you have), heat 1 T. butter and 1 T. olive oil over medium high heat.  Add onion and carrot, season with salt and pepper and sweat until tender.  (Sweat is a term for cooking the veggies soft but not browning, slowly drawing the moisture out.)  Add garlic and eggplant and cook until soft.  (If you are using fresh pasta, drop it in now, only cook for 3-4 minutes or until it floats to the top.)  Add tofu last and cook for 3 minutes.  Add tomato sauce.  *** do not add red pepper flakes yet, I didn’t forget.

IMG_8357

IMG_8378

 

While the sauce is simmering, mix together the filling:

IMG_8377

 

Drain the pasta thoroughly.  You don’t want excess water to ruin your perfect sauce and filling.  You might cry.  Or, if you’re not a crier like me (I’m known to cry only 2-3 times a year) at least kick yourself for while and obsess over how it could have been perfect.  Did I mention I have OCD tendencies?

Now, begin the lasagna layering…

FOR THE KIDS: I pull 4 pieces of the homemade noodle (2 of the boxed) and make my 4 year old a non hot pepper flake lasagna before I add the spice to the rest of the sauce.  Begin with a little sauce on the bottom, a layer of noodle, a thin later of filling, sauce, and then cheese.  Repeat.  This is a two layer lasagna.

IMG_8383

 

Now that the kids’ version is done, go ahead and add that red pepper flake to the sauce.  Stir to combine.  Same as with the kids’ lasagna, start with sauce on the bottom, noodles, filling, sauce, cheese.  Repeat.  Note: the fresh noodles should lay perfectly sideways and I do two layers because it’s so thin.

IMG_8385

Note:

  • To make Gluten Free, substitute noodles.  This would make a fantastic stuffed shell and there are some really good GF pasta shells.  Remember to only cook them half way otherwise they will get mushy quick.

Shrimp and Angel Hair Pasta in a Lemon, Garlic and Caper Sauce

IMG_8292

On a Friday night about 10 years ago when my now husband, then boyfriend were living together, we received a call from his parents at dinnertime asking us to drive them to Atlantic City at 9 pm to meet his mother’s sister and her daughter for a last minute visit.  Argh.  But, a little storytelling…  My mother-in-law is an interesting person.  Her family escaped from North Korea to South Korea when she was a child and then as an adult with her own family, she left South Korea for the United States.  With both journeys she left most of her family behind and it would be decades until she would be reunited with her mother, sister, and other loved ones.  Okay, so how does this related to shrimp and angel hair pasta in a lemon, garlic, and caper sauce?

Well, it was on this impromptu and important trip to Caesars Palace in Atlantic City, NJ to reunite with family whom she hadn’t seen in years that I first had a taste of a similar dish, of which my recipe is loosely based.  At 11:00 pm in one of the many hotel restaurants, we ordered appetizers and shrimp scampi pasta.  And as I sat surrounded by a flurry of very loud, excited Korean conversation, none of which I understood, my only real option was to eat.  And so I did.  While family members caught up on lost time, I sampled all the food.  The shrimp scampi pasta was yummy but as I recall it, I remember the thick linguini covered in a really garlicky, heavy with a lemon butter sauce and spotted with some lonely shrimp.  But don’t get me wrong, it was tasty and I ate it but as my memory recalls it, I wanted to make a lighter, fresher version.  And here it is.

My recipe uses shell on jumbo shrimp (but no heads because I just can’t do that.  Remember my phobia of food that looks like it did in it’s original form?), fresh angel hair pasta made from a blend of semolina and all purpose flour and a sauce of homemade shrimp stock, lemon zest and juice, lots of garlic, salty briny capers, and fresh basil and parsley.  Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine is and I just ate it two days  ago but now I want it again.

Don’t be intimidated by the shell on shrimp…  I’ll show you how easy it is to clean and devein them.  Plus the shells do make a delicious stock.  If you don’t have the time/energy/inclination towards fresh pasta, use your favorite boxed, just remember to make sure to cook the pasta 90% of the way through and then throw it in the skillet to finish cooking in the sauce to ensure the most flavorful final product.

Here’s how I make it:

  • 1 lb. angel hair pasta (I make my own Semolina Pasta recipe, but feel free to use whatever you want)
  • 1 lb. shrimp with shells, cleaned and shelled.  Reserve the shells for the stock.
  • 1/2 C. shrimp stock (or white wine) – recipe below
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 2 T. capers, drained and chopped
  • 1 T. red pepper flakes (optional or less if you don’t like as much heat)
  • 2 T. fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 T. fresh parsley, chopped

Clean and devein the shrimp.  Take a pair of kitchen shears and cut along the middle lengthwise deep enough to get to the digestive tract.  Pull out and remove, if necessary.  Have a saucepan handy to put the shells and tails in.  Once ready, set the shrimp aside and squeeze with the juice of half a lemon.

IMG_8278 IMG_8275 IMG_8276

Shrimp stock:

  • shells from one pound of shrimp
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 1 carrot, halved
  • 1 celery stock, halved
  • 1 tsp. whole peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • water to cover

IMG_8284

Place all ingredients in stockpot.  Don’t worry about trimming, you’ll strain the stock later.  Bring to boil then reduce to hard simmer and cover.  Cook for 20 minutes (or until your ready to start cooking the shrimp).

Boil pasta water.  If you’re using boxed pasta, drop the pasta in now because the shrimp and sauce won’t take more than 5-7 minutes to finish.  If you’re using fresh, wait to drop the pasta in until the shrimp is cooked through because the angel hair will cook in literally 2 minutes.

Place 1 T. of butter and 1 T. olive oil in pan over medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add shrimp, season with salt and pepper.  Add remaining lemon zest and juice.  Cook shrimp for until pink on the first side (about 2 minutes), then flip.  Cook another two minutes.  (this is when you would drop your fresh pasta in the boiling water.)  Add capers.  Add shrimp stock.  Cook for 1 minute to allow flavors to combine.  Add pasta and using tongs, coat completely in sauce.  Top with basil and parsley. Serve and enjoy!

IMG_8286IMG_8287

(If you don’t have one the ^^ gadgets, I highly recommend.  I got mine for $2 at Marshall’s and it saves me a lot of time and burned fingers from retrieving lemon seeds.  Digression: isn’t it strange how lemons have so many more seeds than limes?)

IMG_8288

Notes:

  • Make it Gluten Free by using your favorite GF pasta, everything else is fine.
%d bloggers like this: