I’m trying hard to remember to cut recipes in half. There are only two of us, and I hate throwing food away. Making potato salad for only two people with no leftovers may seem counterproductive, but just how often can you eat from that big bowl of potato salad before you don’t want to see potato salad again for a long time?
Tossing food is not only a waste of the food, but a waste of the time it took to prepare it. It’s nice to have leftovers but sometimes leftovers just make me tired.
I admit to borrowing recipes that sound good, and I have a hard time remembering to halve everything while cooking. So whenever I use someone else’s recipe, I immediately change the ingredients to half of what is called for and make a note that I did it. It’s really easy to ruin an entire dish by forgetting to cut something in half. Like the salt. And it’s a simple thing to convert a recipe back to feed four people.
Easiest pasta ever
Easiest pasta ever!
When all you can get in the grocery at this time of year are winter tomatoes that look pretty pathetic, don’t give up on tomatoes.
Quarter two tomatoes and toss with a few slices of onion, a smashed garlic clove, and a solid drizzle of olive oil. Roast in a 375 oven in a sided broiler pan or jelly roll pan for about 3-35 minutes. When cooled somewhat, roughly chop, season to taste with salt and pepper and toss with hot pasta. Top with fresh parmesan and serve with crusty Italian bread and a fresh salad for a tasty, easy meal.
A riff on the recipe: roast any other vegetables that sound good such as eggplant or summer squash.
Something happens when you roast or grill vegetables. Even though we don’t think of vegetables as being sweet, they do have sugars and when roasted, these sugars caramelize and take them from delicious to divine. It’s easy to do, fairly quick, and can provide a myriad of tastes to eat alone or add to other dishes.
Combining them with creamy pasta is my go-to when I have dribs and drabs of vegetables coming in from the garden. It seems every time I go out to the garden, I come in with a basket of small zucchini, an eggplant, a pepper or two. This is a great way to use them together.
Just about any sturdy vegetable can easily be roasted to make an entirely different taste than when fresh. Asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, beets and even garlic. Once they are roasted, chop and add to a pasta of your choice, season with parmesan or other cheese.
To roast, preheat oven to 375. Drizzle a broiler or jelly roll pan with olive oil. Cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Toss with olive oil and herbs of choice. Spread out on pan and roast until tender when pierced with a fork. Carrots, beets and parsnips will take a little longer than summer squash or broccoli so plan accordingly, adding the softer vegetables mid-way through roasting. Or roast seperately.
Roasted Broccoli and Carrots with Grain or Pasta
1 c. broccoli florets ½ pkg. baby carrots 3 T. olive oil 1 clove garlic, minced ½ small onion, sliced ½ c. cooked farro, quinoa, rice, bulgur or millet. Or pasta. 1 t. balsamic vinegar ¼ c. parmesan cheese ¼ c. toasted pecans, pepitas or sunflower seeds
Preheat oven to 375. In a sided roasting pan (broiler pan works well), add the carrots and drizzle with 1 t. olive oil. Roast until a fork inserts with ease, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, salt generously and put aside in a bowl. Add broccoli to pan, drizzle with 1 T. olive oil and roast until crisp-tender, about 30 minutes. Salt and add to carrots.
Add the last tablespoon olive oil to a saute pan and saute the onion and garlic until soft. Coarsely chop the vegetables and put in a large bowl. Add the onions, garlic and grain or pasta to the vegetables, sprinkle with the balsamic vinegar and parmesan. Top with nuts or seeds and serve warm or at room temperature. Use your imagination to add other ingredients like pine nuts, roasted peppers, sauteed mushrooms, etc.
I know many of us reach for mashed potatoes when longing for comfort food. I reach for noodles. Any kind of noodles. Nothing delights me more than to find leftover noodles in the fridge because the possibilities are endless.
It’s so easy to make a delectable dish with only a few additions. All it takes to start is a bowl of cooked noodles. Add vegetables, sauces and proteins for a complete meal. Whatever your taste preference – Chinese, Italian, Indian, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian, Thai, Tibetan, Vietnamese. It seems every culture has a favorite noodle dish.
I like to keep a few commercial sauces in the pantry, just in case I don’t have time to whip up a sauce of my own. Thai peanut satay sauce tossed with cooked fettucini or egg noodles, a couple of torn basil leaves and you have an “almost” pad thai.
Lovely leftover linguini or angel hair noodles tossed with sesame oil, soy sauce and a little sambal olek (garlic chile paste) make as good a cold noodle dish as any you find at an Asian food truck. All you need is the little white turtle box to look completely authentic.
Hot spaghetti noodles dressed with chopped fresh tomato, minced garlic, minced fresh basil and olive oil create a quick Italian noodle specialty that tastes like summer.
The types of noodles are endless, from long pasta like fettuccine and linguini to rice-shaped orzo to bowties and elbows. Asian noodles widen your repertoire with cellophane, Canton, and ramen noodles. The additions are also limitless – be creative with whatever you find in the fridge. Or, simply do as I do and heat leftover noodles, drizzle with olive oil and garlic salt and toss with parmesan. Mmmmm.
Here’s a kitchen hack I learned from a professional chef:
Cook your noodles until they are not quite done. A little less than al dente if you use that as a guide. When you drain them, do it over a measuring cup and save the pasta water. When you are ready to sauce your noodles, make the sauce and add the noodles. Then add about the same amount of pasta water as sauce. Heat everything gently. The noodles will finish cooking and the sauce will be velvety and delicious. You can certainly use broth instead of pasta water, but the water from draining the noodles thickens and adds extra flavor.
Also, when cooking noodles, salt the water more than you think necessary. Don’t put oil in the water. Put the noodles into rapidly boiling water and stir them for a while to separate. Turn down the heat and cook, watching them and tasting until they are ready. You can throw a piece of pasta against the wall, the old Italian way, and if it sticks, it’s done. Seriously, keep tasting.
Once done, return them to the cooking pot, drizzle with a little olive oil and put the lid on to keep them from becoming sticky.
Here are a few recipes to get you started:
2 minced garlic cloves 1 T. olive oil 1 c. fresh mushrooms ½ basket cherry tomatoes halved ½ roasted red pepper, chopped (jarred is fine) ¼ c. parmesan
Sauté garlic in stock. Add mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add rest of ingredients and cook 2-3 minutes. Add cooked penne pasta (or your choice), mix in enough leftover pasta water to make a creamy dressing.
Pasta with Fresh Herbed Ricotta
2 c. fresh spinach rinsed and stemmed 1 c. ricotta 2 scallions minced ¼ c. packed basil leaves, minced 1 tomato, chopped 1 T. parsley, chopped 2 T. olive oil ½ lb farfalle
Blanch spinach in salted water for about a minute. Drain, cool, pat dry and chop. Put the ricotta in a large bowl and beat with a fork until smooth. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, except the pasta. Cook the farfalle, saving the water. Toss with the cheese mixture, adding pasta water as necessary to make it creamy.
Caramelized onion pasta
2 T. olive oil 1 large onion, very thinly sliced 3 garlic cloves, minced 1 t. red pepper flakes (or to taste) 2 T. tomato paste (about half a can) 6 oz. pasta of choice (penne works well)
Heat olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally until they become totally softened and caramelized with golden-brown fried edges, 15 to 20 minutes.
Add red pepper and garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly to prevent scorching until the tomato paste has turned from bright red to deep brick red, about 2 minutes.
Remove from heat. Cook pasta until just a bit chewier than al dente. Mix with sauce and ½ c. pasta water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring to coat each piece of pasta. Cook until the sauce is thick and sticky, 3 to 5 minutes.
Oh, how those glimpses into spring taunt us. Days when the sun is shining and the temperature goes above 45 degrees. They are far between right now, but when they do come, my fingers literally get itchy to be plunged into the dirt. Cold though it is, it still feels good.
I’m one of the worst offenders when it comes to jumping the gun on the season, but there are certainly things we can do when we get those softened breezes. Here are a few tips to get you started when you can be in the garden for a couple of hours.
Leave mulch in place
If you’ve mulched over the tops of your perennials, don’t be too fast to remove it. Wait until the tulips begin to bloom. Remove whatever you can by hand and then use a strong spray of water to remove the rest from the crown. Be sure to keep three inches of organic mulch on the ground around the plant for the growing season.
Prune winter dieback
Yes, you can warm up your pruners! Prune winter dieback while the plants are still semi-dormant to take full use of the sap and nutrient flow in spring. Dead areas of stems will be obvious by their color. Prune just below the dead area, aiming to cut just above an outward facing bud. Also, prune for a pleasing shape.
Cut back ornamental grasses
As soon as the weather permits being outside comfortably, cut back all ornamental grass foliage left on for the winter. Be sure to do this before new growth starts. This will make it easier than trying to sort through the new foliage and will keep from damaging it.
Recycle for the garden
Start recycling for the garden. Save paper towel, bathroom tissue or gift paper rolls and cut into 3-inch lengths to use for seed starting or as collars around early transplants to prevent cutworm damage. Make a mini-greenhouse by bending coat hangers into arches to fit in a seedling flat. Cover with plastic.
Leave garden debris in place
Even though spring clean-up feels really good, don’t be too eager to rake the area under shrubs and groundcovers clean of leaves and organic debris. Nature doesn’t do this, so mimic the woods and leave the natural mulch in place. This not only helps the health of the plants by providing nutrients as the materials decompose, but it also gives birds an excellent hunting ground. And the plants will come up through the mulch just fine.
Set up your cold frame
There’s no need to have a fancy set-up. Simply placing bricks, cement blocks or even hay bales and putting a discarded window across them will give you a superb planting spot for early vegetables. There is absolutely nothing quite as sweet as fresh spinach, especially when coupled with the earliest of perennial onions. Make sure to give it a south or southeast exposure with some wind deflection.
A deliciously easy recipe for early spring spinach (or any green)
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ pound whole grain spaghetti
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
½ pound fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
Red-pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
½ T. fresh lemon juice
½ c. grated Parmesan, Asiago or smoked gouda cheese
Cook pasta in salted water to al dente. Drain, reserving one cup of the pasta water.
Saute onion and garlic in oil until tender but not caramelized. Add pasta, reserved cooking water, butter to the onion and garlic. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and red pepper, stirring until the spinach wilts. Add rest of ingredients, stirring until the cheese begins to melt. Season to taste. Serve with more cheese if desired and garlic toast. Enjoy!