Tag Archives: pasta

spaghetti & meatballs with a vegan (and gluten free!) twist: zucchini spaghetti and beanballs with fresh marinara + vegan ‘parmesan’ cheese

zucchini spaghetti and vegan beanballs

I came home the other week with a book called “Raw Food Detox Diet,” and I’d be lying if I said that James didn’t look just a wee bit petrified.

No, I am not on some fad diet (nor do I think the raw ‘movement’ is a fad, but I digress), but you may have noticed I’ve again been slightly scarce around here lately, and that’s because now that we are settled in to our new-ish house and hometown, we’ve been up to our usual hijinx of visitors, entertaining, eating, and drinking. We had visitors staying with us for a solid 4 weeks straight (not all the same ones, mind you), and when people arrive to your new spot the last thing you want to do is go to bed early and eat salad.

No. You’ll want to go wine tasting, and while we’re at it — toss in a cheese plate. You’ll have a hankering to make baby back ribs (3 separate times!), throw marinated flank steak, spatchcocked chicken, and lamb burgers on the grill, and whip up a ‘vodka bolognese’ (with beef and pancetta) as a birthday dinner for a dear friend. There will also be cake at said birthday dinner, and a morning spent mixing up fresh bloodies to enjoy poolside. There will be a lot of indulgences, and not much restraint. The Diem will be Carpe’d, every single day, to the absolute very fullest extent.

So after lots of meat, cheese, wine, beer, and bread (because I failed to mention the brick oven pizza place down the road we’ve been hitting up on the reg), I was left feeling a bit bleh. I, by all natural inclination, am not a huge meat eater, and after feeling like I consumed more animal products in a month than I have in some entire seasons passed, I began to feel a bit queasy.

photo3

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not like grandma used to make: chicken noodle soup with baby bok choy, snow peas, and rice noodles in a ginger, garlic, and lemon broth

chicken noodle soup with snow peas, baby bok choy, and rice noodles

In the past three weekends I’ve had the immense pleasure of:

1) hosting 2 of our favorite Los-Angelenos for a weekend of concerts & friends
2) hosting one of my bridesmaids and her fabulous boyfriend from Austin, and
3) flying SFO-NYC, driving five hours north to Lake Placid, and witnessing two of the most good natured and hilarous people I know get hitched.

chicken noodle soup with baby bok choy, snow peas, rice noodles, ginger & garlic - chopping the carrots

It’s been a pretty special few weeks, and with the tally of free weekends we’ve had since we’ve moved here still hovering at a whopping three (….since March!….), I can’t deny the fact that though this upcoming weekend will hold no knockout dinners (Outerlands, you killed it once again), no afternoons spent drinking white sangria whilst in the grips of a fierce game of bocce (because I can’t not take a visitor to our favorite Sausalito haunt), and no tear stained napkins after one amazingly talented groom-to-be took out his guitar and sang his own flawless rendition of the most touching Avett Brother’s song while we swayed to the last of the daylight amongst the tall Adirondack pines….

It’s a weekend I am fervently anticipating.

chicken noodle soup with baby bok choy, snow peas, rice noodles, ginger & garlic - snow peas cut and ready

(Major brownies points for that last one folks. Maje.)

chicken noodle soup with baby bok choy, snow peas, rice noodles, ginger & garlic - washing the bok choy

By now I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me say how busy we’ve been (whine, whine, whiiiine!!), and trust…. I’m tired of saying it myself.  But we are finally facing down the second half of a week that will be capped off with *just* a weekend – just one of the plain old vanilla kind, spent here in the city, in and around the neighborhood we now call home, and hopefully punctuated and permeated with all of those fantastic things that make a muted weekend so sweet.

chicken noodle soup with baby bok choy, snow peas, rice noodles, ginger & garlic - fresh rice noodles

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insignificant as they might be: old school spaghetti and meatballs and a simple tomato sauce (with lamb, pork, and beef)

the best old school spaghetti and meatballs and a simple tomato sauce, by cory at eatandrelish.com

I was all set yesterday to tell you about one of my favorite things to make and eat when  I crave something simple, nostalgic, and just so freaking tasty, but then….suddenly these meatballs just weren’t important anymore.  There is nothing more to say that hasn’t already been said about the tragic events of yesterday, and I can’t pretend to be eloquent enough to put into proper words that sick feeling we all carry in our guts, or the fiery rage we have yet to be able to direct at any one person or organization.

whol garlic ready to be minced

A marathon runner, I am most definitely am not, but being from Cape Cod, the Boston Marathon is an event that I grew up with, and one that has served as a point of pride and celebration for Bostonians and Massachusetts residents alike.  At any marathon, there are of course the elite competitors, those more casual “weekend warrior” athletes, the yearly pacemakers and medal collectors, and the slew of first-timer-gotta-knock-it-off-the-ole-bucket-list runners. There are those who come to stand on the sidelines and cheer for someone who is running to support a cause that is dear to their hearts, and those who come every year to cheer for no one in particular, but instead for everyone who impressively puts their mental and physical reserves to the test by donning a number and vowing to finish.

starting to cook down the grated onion and tomato paste

The entire event encapsulates just so much good, and encourages and fosters a strong bond within the community; on Marathon Monday, it’s not just about physical fitness and the fanfare of winning a first place medal, but about the words of encouragement, the triumphant faces of those who’ve overcome and endured a massive  commitment, and the brotherhood that comes along with sharing a struggle. Essentially, so many things that make up the Boston way. The American way. For a monster to come in and senselessly and cowardly take that away from the runners, from Boston, and from all of us….is soul crushing.

bright green parsley

President Obama said today “If you want to know who we are, who America is, how we respond to evil — that’s it: selflessly, compassionately, unafraid.” I know my hometown of Boston is woven of a strong and hardy bunch, and that they will, eventually, recover.  Even still, it’s of little solace in sad times like these, and my heart and mind, along with the rest of the country, and the world, will continue to be with the people and families who were so deeply affected by this despicable and senseless act.

always lots of grated parmesan cheese

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a predictable friday spectacle: summer scallop pasta with fresh tomatoes, leeks, and prosciutto

 

I think most people would agree that Friday is the best of the seven days that we have to choose from, but there’s a little something that occurs every Friday, just before seven in the morning, that consistently and without fail continues to get my knickers in a twist.

That something is the weekly trash collection, and though normally something so benign, necessary, and actually helpful shouldn’t be a bother, I can never seem to remember that it’s collection day until I hear that big creaky trash truck turn down our back alley.

Inevitably, Friday morning at six-fifty-four in the AM, you’ll find me barreling out the back door barefooted and in my pajamas struggling to keep a weeks worth of trash bags from touching my legs while chasing the trash truck as it passes right by our empty barrels.  At that point I’ll usually remember that it’s also the recycling pickup day, and I’ll have to sweet talk the busy trash team into holding up their whole operation just so I can dash back inside to retrieve our overflowing recycling bin.

What’s that you say? Why not just put the trash in the bins as we go? Or, at the very least, the night before? Well my friends, while in New York about the worst thing to happen to your trash would be a human dumpster-diver rummaging around in hopes that you threw anything out of actual value out with your banana peels and peach pits, here we have to worry that said dumpster diver will be big, brown, and furry, and have a knack for cracking open full garbage barrels as if they were Kinder Eggs.

That’s right – a bear will come and turn that whole alley upside down if you so much as think about putting your trash out a few minutes too early.

(Ahem…see this post for how I learned that lesson.)

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the moment is now: shaved brussels sprouts and toasted whole wheat israeli couscous with sour cherries & bacon

As I get older (–sob–), I am aspiring to make a conscious and deliberate effort to live more in the moment.  Not so much in the approach of being careless or making reckless decisions (no – that’s what college was for), but rather to direct my intentions towards savoring the time I am blessed with in the present, instead of always wishing to fast-forward my life to a point in time ahead of me still.

It’s a terrible affliction I think many people have, whether or not it’s realized.  That unfortunate habit of always lusting after another time and place; one that’s perceived to be more enjoyable than where we are just now.  Maybe it’s wearing blinders at work while focusing on a vacation that’s three weeks away, or wishing the time between now and the weekend to disappear, or even dwelling on just how much you wish you were wearing flip flops and cut-offs – four months from now.

And of course it’s perfectly fine to look forward to these things – after all, we all need some type of carrot in front of our noses to keep on keepin’ on – but what I’m trying to say is that I want to spend more time enjoying the view.  Rather than wishing my life away in a blur of weekends, vacations, and carefree moments, or than feeling overwhelmed about stretches of time without excitement, I want to focus on the little pockets of sparkle that dot our daily lives.  Instead of waking up on Tuesday with the a case of ‘I wish it was Fridays,’ I might as well roll over to the brighter side of the bed.

I may as well enjoy where I’m at.

Savor those few dusky moments in bed just before the alarm sounds, when the whole fam is in that blissful hazy-awake-but-not-really mode.  Spend an extra moment soaking in the neon sunrise, and take pleasure that the forecast is brimming with those golden rays.  Look forward to making a surprise dinner at home.  Be excited about a business meeting, and energized at it’s possibilities.  Paint my nails pink with gold glitter, just because I want to wear something sparkly.  Laugh at the pug chasing her tail.  Make a lemon pie.  

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adjusting to the grind: whole wheat orzo & broccoli pesto salad with lemon & creme fraiche

Was it really only one week ago that I was fluffing and fretting about which sparkly shirt to wear to ring in twenty twelve?  Only one week ago that the holiday spirit was still swirling around town in the form of twinkling lights and eggnog flavored cocktail specials?  It’s sixty degrees here in Boulder, and though that in itself is a really (really) great thing in my book, I can’t help but notice how it adds to the swift kick in the rear that is the end to the holiday season.  This week the fluffing and fretting has been all about opening and sorting that stack of mail and bills (which frighteningly are on my desk imitating The Leaning Tower of Pisa) and clearing the fridge of leftover holiday treats to make room for some decidedly more waistline friendly fare.

That magical week that exists between Christmas and New Years Day is a wormhole; where you put mimosas, apple pie, and yuletide cheer in one end, out the other comes resolutions, hot yoga, and lots – and lots – of tofu.  It’s a new beginning, however as invigorating as that is it never ceases to amaze me how justlikethat the merriment and carefree spirit of the holidays comes to one grinding and impossible to ignore halt.  What if I’m not done with my eggnog just yet?  And while we’re at it, I’d like another gingersnap.

Please.

I’ve been feeling the ‘grind’ that we’re meant to get back to even more so; on Monday, I woke up with an only somewhat subdued version of the flu, and also had to face down something I’d been dreading since the day our little ankle-biter waltzed into our lives – her spay appointment.  If you’re privy to the disaster that we went through last August, I’m sure you can envision the basket case that was living in my house,  wearing my clothes, and imitating Cory.  Add in two stuffed up nostrils, one fiercely sore throat, and a belly full of awful ache, and that basket case took an extra dose of crazy and was one bad day away from the loony bin.  Luckily our veterinarian is amazing, and the sweet staff managed to placate me with promises of delivering a healthy puglet missing only a square patch of hair on her tiny belly and some unwanted reproductive bits.  Promises were kept, and both the pug and I had a couple of days of much needed recouping.

And much needed broccoli eating.  As promised, I’ve been tinkering around in the kitchen not making pies, heavy meat based dishes, or things containing superfluous bacon – no, I’ve been keeping up my part of the New-Year-New-Me bargain and instead have been dishing out some lighter veggie fare.  Simple, fresh, fast, and healthy – things easy to make whilst recovering from some holiday excess (who, me?) and also while battling my unwelcome ailment.  This orzo salad had a bit of everything I was looking for – fresh crunchy broccoli, savory and filling pesto, and whole wheat orzo that transforms what would generally be labeled a side dish a great excuse for a hearty lunch.

The broccoli is blanched until it’s the brightest emerald green, and some of it is wizzed about with pinenuts and a bit of Parmesan to make a delicious yet nontraditional pesto.  The addition of a spoonful of creme fraiche is a bit naughty, but hey – someone has to keep the holiday spirit around, right?

In truth, the amount is so negligible that after its distribution the richness and body it adds is worth it.  This is not just your average wet and mushy pasta salad – it’s fresh and bright and full of whole grains, and the lemon lends a summery taste that is exactly what I felt like cozying up with after weeks of braised, basted, and baked.  This is truly great – an easy recipe to file away for picnics, potlucks, or Sunday brunches.

Broccoli, whole wheat, and lemon for the New Year.  And creme fraiche.  Now this, I can handle.

Whole Wheat Orzo with Broccoli Pesto, Lemon, and Creme Fraiche
Adapted just barely from Super Natural Every Day, by Heidi Swanson
Serves 6

This is the perfect side salad to bring to a picnic, dinner, or brunch, as besides the fact it is totally delicious, it is also really easy to pack up and transport.

Heidi’s recipe includes stirring in a whole sliced avocado just as you are stirring the whole salad together; I thought the pesto and creme fraiche added the perfect amount of slight creaminess, and decided to omit the avocado as I thought the flavor and texture would get lost.  I loved the way that mine turned out, but encourage you to try it however you like.

This is a wonderful cookbook, and one that I find myself consulting quite often when looking for innovative ideas for side dishes, meat free mains, and interesting whole grain desserts.  If you’re into that sort of thing (get into it!), you should totally get your hands on a copy.

sea salt
1 1/2 cups (9 oz / 255 g) whole wheat orzo
5 cups (11 oz / 310 g) raw broccoli cut into small florets and stems
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2/3 cup (3.5 oz / 100 g) pine nuts*
1/3 cup (.5 oz / 15 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (2 oz / 60 g) crème fraîche
zest of 1 lemon

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt generously, add the orzo, and cook according to the package instructions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain well again.

In the meantime, cook the broccoli. Bring 3/4 cup (180 ml)of  water and a large pinch of salt to a boil in a large pot.  Stir in the broccoli, and cover and cook for just over one minute – just long enough to take the raw bite out of the broccoli but that it still retains it’s bright green color.  Drain the broccoli quickly and run it under cold water until it’s fully cooled (this will stop the cooking and help it keep that gorgeous green color).  Set aside.

Make the pesto.  In the bowl of a food processor, combine 2 cups ( 7 oz / 200 g) of the cooked broccoli florets, the garlic, most of the pine nuts (reserve a small handful), the Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the lemon juice.  Drizzle in the olive oil and crème fraîche, and pulse the mixture until smooth.  You will have a light green pesto that is similar in consistency to a more traditional basil type, but just a bit less oily.

When you are ready to serve the salad, toss the orzo and remaining cooked broccoli florets with about two-thirds of the broccoli pesto and the lemon zest.   Toss, and if desired add the rest of the broccoli pesto for a stronger flavor, or a bit of warm water for a thinner consistency (I did not do either; I thought the salad was perfect with ⅔ of the pesto and saved the rest for sandwiches).  Add salt to taste, and garnish the top of the salad with the remaining small handful of pine nuts.

Salad will save, covered in the refrigerator, for 3-4 days.

*Heidi recommends you toast the pine nuts; I am lazy and decided to leave mine raw & untoasted.

shaken, not stirred: the slanted door’s shaking beef

I’ve been fortunate enough to eat at The Slanted Door in San Francisco twice now, and both experiences have nothing short of transcendent.  I love almost nothing more in life than really, really good Vietnamese food, and The Slanted Door is (in my opinion) absolutely outstanding.  It also happens to be located at the far end of The Ferry Building, which is the perfect venue for waddling around after you’ve just stuffed yourself to the gills with things like honey-hoisin spareribs and shrimp springrolls.

Once you’ve eaten there, it’s obvious why even for lunch they are booked out weeks in advance and the wait time for a bar seat can be upwards of two hours.  Even on a weekday, as the scent of toasty ginger and garlic spills out into the wide hallways of the adjacent enclosed building throngs of people mob the hostess stand to proffer their firstborn for a table.  Every item on the menu is well thought out and crafted using extremely fresh, local ingredients, and the portions are always perfectly generous.  As many days in San Fran can be, both times I have dined there the weather has been, well — less than desirable: cold, wet, and foggy (hate to admit it…but it is).  Although those three descriptors are none that I normally wish any day to be, they are however the perfect conditions for big brothy bowls of noodles and steaming seafood claypots; that is, the perfect day for a cozy hot meal of The Slanted Door’s grub.

When I first saw Shaking Beef on the lunch menu, I wrinkled my nose and quickly returned my attention to nursing my sriracha spiked bloody mary (which by the way is fantastic, if you’re curious).  Shaking beef?  To me, those words conjured up a scene whereupon a platter of wiggling and jiggling beef would come bursting through the double doors of the kitchen and careen towards me, held high above the waiter’s shoulder, while the other patrons stared in both curiosity and disgust and then I would realize – horrifyingly enough – that the offensive dish in question was actually, my lunch.  I’d immediately passed over it and not given it much thought, until months later when I read that it was one of their signature, and most popular, dishes.

After a bit of investigation, I realized my fears had been totally unfounded; descriptor be damned in this case, as the beef in Shaking Beef is decidedly inanimate from start to finish.  ‘Shaking’ refers to the way that the hot wok is maneuvered after the cubed beef has formed a crisp crust from resting on the blistering metal; the wok is jerked in a back and forth motion to release the beef, and then tossed back and forth to incorporate it and all it’s juicy goodness with the other ingredients.  Ah-ha!

This is so easy to make, and even though at first glance the ingredient list looks fussy, it really isn’t.  Ex the salt, pepper, sugar, canola oil, and soy sauce (which you probably already have on hand), you’ll just need to scoop a few fresh ingredients, and stock up on a couple others that after using here, you will surely use again.  The combination of these – the rice wine vinegar and fish sauce – gives that delicious salty-sweet edge to the dish and transforms it from run of the mill stirfry to knock-your-socks-off good.  They key here is getting the wok searingly hot before tossing in the beef to let it brown and crust up;  you have to work quickly after that to avoid overcooking the beef, but if you have everything in place, chopped and ready to go, it’s totally easy.

The salty marinated meat is perfect with the lightly crunchy vegetables and the slight bitterness of the watercress.  The noodles, while not included in the original recipe, are soft and slippery and just the thing needed to sop up the extra delicious sauce.  Served with a crisp white wine or a bottle of unfiltered sake (the option we went with, which I highly recommend), this is an absolute home run.  In spite of the beef, it’s not heavy or overly greasy, and the butter added in boils down to only ½ tablespoon per serving – totally negligible in my book.

Disclaimer: Before anyone points it out, I am very aware that the font on the paper background is not written in Thai, and hope that my being extremely generic in using paper with an Asian language (admittedly, I’m not sure which it is) for this Southeast Asian dish doesn’t offend anyone.  I simply loved the paper and thought it would look nice with a bowl of noodles, though I did realize after the fact that it could be offensive to some.  I am sorry.

Shaking Beef
Serves 4
Adapted from Charles Phan from the Slanted Door Restaurant, San Francisco

I added and changed a few things here that I think added to the dish overall.  Instead of the filet mignon that Phan calls for (which is a really pricey cut for a stir-fry), I used a good quality grass-fed top sirloin, and it was perfect at medium rare – juicy, tender, and very flavorful.  I suspect that you could use any flavorful cut that benefits from a quick cooking time over very high heat (but go for the filet if you want to be extra fancy).  I also added in one thinly sliced red bell pepper (for some color and crunch) and 2 green thai chilies, for a bit of heat.  Finally, I served this in a big bowl over glass noodles (aka bean thread noodles) and the watercress, to make it less of a salad, and more of a noodle-salad dinner.  I’m so glad I did that as I did not feel the need for anything other than this bowl for dinner (no additional sides or the usual side salad).  Refer to the link for the original recipe without my edits.  If you are unfamiliar with glass noodles, you can read more about them here: glass noodles

Cooking this in 2 – or even 4 – separate batches is absolutely necessary.  If you try to cram too much in the wok, the meat will not brown, and that is the whole point of Shaking Beef.  If you are making this for 2 people, I still suggest halving the recipe and still cooking it in two batches.

This is really, really delicious.  It’s a great way to change things up from just your average steak night, and since you are using little bites of it, you tend to eat less than you would just sitting down to a big t-bone.  The veggies are fresh and vibrant, and you’re left feeling full but not uncomfortably so since the glass noodles are so light.

1 1/2 to 2 pounds top sirloin, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1” cubes*
5 garlic cloves, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup rice-wine vinegar
1/4 cup rice wine or white wine (I used white wine – the savignon blanc I was already drinking)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce*
Juice of 1 medium lime + 1 extra lime cut into wedges for serving
2 bunches watercress (or 1 small head red leaf lettuce, separated into leaves – try to use watercress)
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2 thai green chilis, minced (optional)
3 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 package glass noodles
sriracha sauce (optional, for serving)

tools – large wok

In large bowl or ziplock bag, place the meat, garlic, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours and no more than 12.

When your meat is marinated and you are ready to cook, whisk together rice-wine vinegar, wine, soy sauce, fish sauce, and 1 tablespoon sugar.  In a small ramekin, whisk together lime juice, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper – this is a lime sauce you will pass around with the finished dish.

Prepare the glass noodles according to the package instructions; generally glass noodles only require a quick boil, about 4 minutes.  When they are cooked (they will be tender with a tiny bit of bite), reserve them to the side, and place just a tiny splash of canola oil in them (and then toss them with your hands) to keep them from sticking together.

Divide the glass noodles between the four bowls, and top each with a fourth of the watercress.

Divide the meat into 2 portions.  In a wok or large skillet over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil until smoking, then add 1 portion meat in one layer (be careful – it will spatter). Sear until a brown crust forms on the underside of the beef, about 2 minutes, then flip to brown on the other side, another 2 minutes; your meat will be just about medium rare at this point.  Add half of the red onion, red pepper, diced chili, and scallions, and sauté, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/3 cup of the vinegar mixture and shake pan to release beef, stirring if necessary.  Finally, add 1 tablespoon butter, shaking the pan until the butter melts.

Remove the mixture and divide between two of the prepared bowls.  Repeat with remaining portion of meat and remaining onions, red pepper, chilis, scallions, vinegar mixture, and butter, and divide between the remaining 2 bowls.

Serve with lime dipping sauce to pass around, and extra lime wedges for squeezing.  Pass a bottle of sriracha sauce if you wish for extra heat.

*Very important! Fish sauce adds this incredible flavor that you really can’t put your finger on.  It is not at all fishy and will really elevate the whole dish.  Pick up a bottle at a grocery store that has a well-stocked asian section, in any Asian grocery, or as a last resort find it online – I prefer the Golden Boy brand.