Friday, March 21, 2008

Fettucine with Creamy Red Pepper-Feta Sauce

Every good blogger has back-up recipes lurking around their computer.  For every recipe that gets posted, about five or more actually get made.  For me, there never seems to be a common thread to the dishes which don't make it on to the blog.  Sometimes they have a long recipe which requires too much typing or sometimes they just don't grab me at the time they are made.  Still, they are useful in times like this when life has just been too busy to blog.  

This recipe was good, but it wasn't great.  If I make it again, and I might as the components appeal to me, I will roast my own peppers and use a block of feta bought in water.  I used dry crumbles, and the sauce just didn't quite work as a result.  There were little flecks of feta that were unappealing, and I do love feta in any shape or form.
So... from my personal archives I do present... Fettucine with Creamy Red Pepper-Feta Sauce! A decent and quick weekday meal which may, with a few adjustments, become something quite delicious. Oh, and do excuse the frozen vegetable side.  It is utterly forgetable, but desperate nights call for desperate measures!  :) 

Fettucine with Creamy Red Pepper-Feta Sauce
The Food You Crave
Ellie Krieger
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 16 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth to make vegetarian)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese or a six ounce block
1 lb whole wheat fettucine
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute onion and garlic until soft, about ten minutes.  Add roasted peppers and saute until heated through.  Remove from heat, and let cool slightly.  Place mixture in the bowl of a food processor with stock and all but two tablespoons of the feta.  Process until smooth, about thirty seconds.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.  Toss pasta with sauce, adding pasta water by the tablespoon, if needed.  Sauce should cling nicely to the pasta.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Divide among pasta bowls.  Sprinkle with parsley and remaining feta cheese. 

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Vegetarian Cassoulet

M. and I love French food.  But, being vegetarian, there's a limit to how much I can enjoy the traditionally meat-heavy cuisine.  Desserts are no problem, but usually the stews and main dishes involve an animal prepared in some shape or form.  This recipe in the current issue of Gourmet caught my eye, and was put on the menu immediately.  

The dish was pretty simple to prepare, however I got a late start which meant dinner ended up on the table later then I'd expected.  Made with dried beans (prepared the night before), it came together in about an hour and a half (chopping an cooking time included).  The bread crumbs were delicious... definitely a key element to the dish.  Unfortunately, I was unusually heavy handed with the salt which did affect our enjoyment of the dish somewhat.  And, I can't claim that this picture is headed to any food photography hall of fame any time soon.  But, this is certainly a dish I will repeat in the future for its speed, homeyness and warm winter comfort.  

Vegetarian Cassoulet
Gourmet March 2008
Serves 4-6
Active time 30 minutes, start to finish 1 hr 15 minutes

A leek, carrot and celery mirepoix, cooked until tender with rich white beans, gets a crisp, crunchy texture and delightfully rustic flavor from a garlicky bread-crumb topping flecked with parsley. 

For cassoulet
3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into one inch pieces
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
1 turkish bay leaf
1/4 tsp cloves
3 19 oz cans of cannellini or Great Northern beans rinsed and drained
1 quart of water

For garlic crumbs
4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic 
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Make Cassoulet
Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into half inch pieces, then wash well and pat dry
Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer partially covered, stirring occasionally until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.  

Make Garlic crumbs while Cassoulet Simmers
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in the middle.  
Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated.  Spread in a baking pan, and toast in oven stirring once halfway through until crisp and golden, 12-15 minutes.  
Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley. 

Finish Cassoulet
Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf.  Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth. Season with  salt and pepper.  Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.  

Monday, March 10, 2008

Under the Weather Chicken-less Chicken Soup

I woke up today feeling a bit under the weather.  Sore throat, tired, headachey and just blah.  But, due to one of the children I work with also being under the weather, I had the fortuitous luck to be able to go back to bed and spend the morning at home.  And I wanted soup.  

I grabbed a couple carrots, an onion, celery and a few cloves of garlic, and within a half an hour I had something soothingly reminiscent of that traditional feel better food Chicken Soup. Obviously, there's no chicken in my soup.  But I'd like to think it will help me feel better. 

Under the Weather Chickenless Chicken Soup
Serves 4 - 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 celery stems, washed and sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small head of broccoli, or one half larger head, florets separated
4 cloves of garlic
3 cups of vegetable broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup canned chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

Heat olive oil in large saucepan.  Chop onion, and saute on medium-high heat.  Add carrots and celery, and saute until vegetables are tender.  Add broccoli and garlic.  Cook for two minutes, and then add vegetable broth and diced tomatoes.  Add chickpeas and seasonings, and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender and soup is hot.  Enjoy. 

Sunday, March 02, 2008

M cooks.

I've had some stressful days related to work lately. Nothing that won't resolve itself in the end, but it has affected my time in the kitchen. Last Wednesday was such a day. I received a wonderful text from M. offering to make me dinner. I gleefully accepted.

There are no recipes to share, since M. makes things up as he goes along. But this meal was truly excellent, both in taste and in the fact it was prepared for me. Being cooked for mid-week was truly a delightful treat.

Top left - rainbow chard chopped and cooked in a little olive oil with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Top right - sliced portabello mushrooms glazed with basalmic vinegar and red wine.
Bottom right - M explored millet for the first time. He toasted the grains dry, and then created a pilaf by cooking them in vegetable broth, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper as well as a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
Bottom left - Heirloom (Good Mother Stollard) beans that were soaked, and cooked with a little salt.

We (particularly M.) are all about cooking heirloom beans lately. They are uniquely delicious, and have helped us realize that the merits of cooking dried beans from scratch. Cooking dried beans does take planning and forethought, but the results blow canned beans right out of the water. We got our first batch from, but a quick google search for heirloom beans will bring up a variety of sources from which they can be obtained. Heirloom beans cost a little more, but taste so much better!