The last several days were like a blur. I made too many cookies, ate things other people made that I didn’t like (green bean casserole with little hot dog chunks, bad jello salad with beet pieces and funeral potatoes – that’s a Utah thing ), skipped meals, ran around doing a million things. It was busy, it was hectic, it was crazy. But today, I wanted to come home and eat something I made because dang it, my worst effort had to be better than a casserole made of macerated hot dogs (I have HUGE issues with hot dogs, it’s a long story). I had leftover baked chicken from last night and a couple of Zucchinis in the fridge. I decided it would be great to take out my mandolin (the cooking kind, not the musical instrument) and use the zucchini as the noodle and make some kind of a filling with the chicken and other veggies. It turned out pretty great and it was fast too. Total time with prep and baking under 45 minutes. It sure beats the beet jello salad (pun intended).
There are days when things get super hectic. Today was one of those days. Time got away from me and I had to prepare dinner quickly. This is one of those dishes that packs a punch nutritionally along with exceptional taste and all that under 30 minutes. I had picked up some great food bargains at the grocery earlier which included gorgeous red, yellow and orange bell peppers and fresh flat leafed parsley. Armed with all these colors and textures I was ready for a quick meal of pepper pesto. “Pesto” in Italian means to pound or crush, basically what you’d do with a mortar and pestle. You can make a “pesto” out of a myriad of combinations not just the traditional Basil Pesto. Roasting the vegetables intensifies the flavors and makes the pesto a rich and delicious delicacy. This one was definitely a winner!
Here’s the recipe:
Roasted Sweet Pepper Pesto and Chicken Pasta
5-6 variety of red, orange and yellow bell peppers cut into large chunks
1 large red onion, cut into chunks
6 whole cloves of garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup rough chopped flat leafed Parsley
16 oz Fuscilli, bow tie or a curly noodle
1 cup cooked chicken, cut into small pieces
In a large 5 quart pan bring water and salt to boil for the pasta. In the meantime cut the bell peppers and onion into large chunks, toss with salt and pepper and a little drizzle of olive oil and place in a large cookie sheet. In a small ramekin or oven safe bowl, place the whole, peeled cloves of garlic and pour in 1/2 cup of olive oil. Place ramekin in the corner of the cookie sheet filled with the peppers and onions and roast at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Take out the roasted peppers and onions and place them into a food processor, add the whole garlic cloves and the Parmesan cheese. Turn on the food processor and drizzle in the garlic flavor oil, reserving a couple of tablespoons. The peppers and onions should get blended well. Add in 1/2 cup roughly chopped flat leafed parsley and pulse a few times to incorporate.
In a large skillet heat the reserved garlic flavored olive oil and add the pesto mixture and stir for a few minutes. Add in chicken and cooked pasta and toss together. Serve immediately and enjoy.
One of the most vivid memories I have of visiting Greece as a teenager is the amazing food. Everything tasted wonderful and different from foods that I was used to at that time. I loved the pastries, the meats and the delicate flavors. It’s during that trip that I began a serious love affair with Spanakopita, a crispy, delicate and delicious Spinach Pie. I seriously could eat huge quantities of Spanakopita. Every year in September, my city has a big Greek Festival. I try to go annually to load up on Greek delicacies that I don’t have time to make. For years I used to pig out on Spanakopita at the festival, when finally a few years ago I got smart. I decided that I’d asked all of my Greek friends to give me their very best versions of Spanakopita recipes so I could try them all. My friends were very helpful and passed on several recipes and over the last several years I’ve combined the things I liked from all of them to come up with this current recipe. Some families like to make Spanakopita in a large pan and cut them into squares, while others prefer to make them into triangle shapes. I love the versatility of the triangle shape since it’s so portable and because I can freeze them and bake them up individually (or a whole bunch) whenever I have a craving!
Here’s the recipe:
Spanakopita ~ Greek Spinach Triangles
1 box Fillo Dough
2 pounds frozen chopped Spinach (you can use fresh but in this recipe there is very little difference)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil (I like to use fresh basil)
1 tsp dill
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (you can use dry thyme)
1 tsp kosher salt
5 stalks of Scallions
7 oz crumbled Feta
1/2 cup Ricotta
1/2 cup Cottage cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
3/4 lb (3 sticks) of unsalted butter
4 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Defrost Spinach and squeeze out all excess water and set aside. In a large skillet heat olive oil and saute onions, scallions, garlic, salt and herbs. After onions are tender, add Spinach to the mixture and stir fry for a few minutes. Take off heat and pour it into a large bowl. Add eggs, cheeses and lemon juice to the Spinach mixture. Stir to mix well.
Take out Fillo dough from package and put them on a cookie sheet and cover with a damp paper towel so they don’t dry out. Melt 3 sticks of butter in a microwave safe bowl and get a pastry brush. Place a piece of Fillo dough on a large cutting board and brush it with melted butter, working quickly so the fillo doesn’t dry out, place another sheet on top and brush that with butter as well. Repeat with three sheets of Fillo. Using a pizza cutter, cut three equal long strips on the Fillo. Place a large 1 1/2 tablespoon of spinach filling on the top of one of the strips and fold it at an angle so it forms a triangle. Keep folding the triangle onto itself until all the filling is enclosed in a triangular shape. Place it on a cookie sheet and brush the completed triangle with melted butter. Repeat the procedure withe the other two strips. Continue making triangles with three sheets of buttered Fillo at a time. Should yield about 42-46 individual Spanakopitas. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Serve warm.
It’s Spring Break time. My house is full of 8 hungry college students who arrived famished from a road trip. I decided to use the Spinach Basil Pesto http://kolpona.com/2012/03/17/spinach-basil-pesto/ I just put together to come up with a pasta dish. It turned out great if the empty plates were any indication.
Here’s the recipe:
Spinach Chicken Alfredo
16 oz of Fettuccine
3 whole cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
4 tablespoons of Spinach Basil Pesto (see recipe)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons of flour
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups of cooked chicken cut into pieces
large handful of fresh Spinach leaves
1 pint of Heavy Cream
2 cups of whole milk
1 cup of Parmiaggiano Reggiano Cheese
1/2 cup of Mozzarella cheese
In a 5 quart pan boil water with 5- 6 tablespoons of salt (should be like sea water) and cook pasta for about 8 minutes. In the mean time, in a large skillet heat olive oil and butter. Add salt, fresh cracked pepper and minced garlic and sauté about a minute until garlic releases its fragrance. Add spinach pesto and stir for about 30 seconds. Add flour to the mixture and cook for about a minute to get the starchy flour smell out. Slowly begin to add heavy cream and whole milk and stir until mixture begins to thicken. This should take about 3-4 minutes. When mixture has thickened nicely, add parmiaggiano Reggiano and mozzarella and stir until melted and incorporated into a smooth sauce. Add chicken to the mixture. Add in cooked pasta and toss. Serve warm with fresh grated cheese on top.
My friend Diane Hubbard told me that she was inspired to make Preserved Lemons http://kolpona.com/2012/03/08/preserved-lemons/ and now she wanted more recipes that used Preserved Lemons besides North African or Middle Eastern dishes. I took that as a challenge and decided that for tonight’s dinner I was going to make a dish with Preserved Lemons and anything else I had on hand in the kitchen, WITHOUT going to the grocery store. It felt like a pasta kind of night. A few minutes after cooking dinner, our friends Tasi and Soloa dropped by.
They ate all the pasta, Banana bread from this morning, Onion Dill bread from yesterday, Double Chocolate Chili cookies and took home some Lentil soup I’d made. I love feeding people who like to eat. Let me tell you, when two big Samoans come over from the gym, they can eat some stuff. So, Diane here’s a recipe inspired by you. Tasi and Soloa seem to think it’s pretty darn good and I think it’s a keeper. By the way, it serves a family of 6 or two hungry Samoans.
Ingredients at a glance.
Saute shrimp in olive oil with a little salt, garlic and ginger. Take it out as soon it barely turns light pink.
In the remaining oil add tablespoon of butter.
Finished pasta dish.
Here’s the recipe:
Lemon Artichoke Shrimp Pasta
1 lb of pasta (Linguine, Spaghetti, Fettucine – I only had Spaghetti on hand so I used that, next time I think I will use Linguine)
8-10 Large Shrimp, cleaned with tail on
3 whole garlic cloves minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tomato, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound young Asparagus, trimmed
4 oz jar of marinated Artichoke hearts
1/2 preserved lemon, rinsed and chopped
1 tsp Rosemary, chopped
1/4 cup chopped flat leafed Parsley
1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled Feta
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
In a 5 quart stock pot boil water with 5 tablespoons of salt (should be like sea water salty) for the pasta and cook pasta according to package directions.
In a large skillet heat olive oil and saute shrimp, salt, garlic and ginger until the Shrimp turn into a light pink shade, about 1 minute or so. Take Shrimp out of the pan and set aside. In the same oil add tablespoon of butter. Add chopped onion, preserved lemon and tomato along with Rosemary and fresh cracked pepper and saute 2-3 minutes until flavors are released and onions are translucent. Add roughly chopped artichoke hearts and asparagus tips and the tender parts of the stem cut into 1 inch pieces and saute another 2-3 minutes. Add the Shrimp back into the mixture and saute an additional minute or until the Shrimp is cooked through. Toss in Feta Cheese and stir then add the pasta, Parmigiano Reggiano and Parsley and toss to coat. Take off heat and serve immediately.
I was first introduced to Macaroni Pie when I met my husband. It is one of those comfort foods that is part of most Sunday dinners and holiday dinners in Barbados. I fell in the love with the spicy undertones and the tangy bites of the cheese sauce and the firm yet tender texture of the pasta. Its like snuggling into a quilt fresh and hot from the dryer on a cold, snowy day; heavenly!! Over the last 26 years of our marriage, I’ve developed my own version of the Macaroni Pie. Adding and tweaking things until it has become a family classic!
A mixture of olive oil and butter is a great combination that adds depth and flavor. It’s a great base for the vegetables to saute in and for the sauce!
After the vegetables are sauteed add flour to make a roux. A roux is basically a way to thicken a sauce using a starch (in this case flour) Don’t worry if it looks slightly lumpy because as you add the milk and keep stirring it turns into a smooth thickened mixture.
Add the flour into the sauteed mixture and stir it in quickly to avoid lumps.
After the milk mixture begins to thicken add the cheeses and stir in. It will melt and turn into an amazing and delicious sauce.
Add pasta into the sauce and pour into a 9″ x 13″ in pan and top with Parmesan cheese and Panko breading. I love Panko because it becomes crunchy and delicious when baked without adding any additional fat. If you decide to use regular bread crumbs add a couple of tablespoons of butter to the bread crumbs before spreading it over the top of the pasta.
Wish you could smell this. It’s the perfect crunch on the top with cheesy goodness on the inside.
Nothing like the perfect comfort food!
Here’s the recipe:
1 16 oz box of mini Fusicili or elbow macaroni
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
5 green onions
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic , minced
1 tsp Chili ( like Shiracha)
1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 cup grated Sharp cheddar
1 cup grated mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup Japanese bread crumbs (Panko)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese
Preheat over to 350 degrees.
In a large 6 quart pan bring water to boil. Liberally salt the water (2-3 tablespoons) add pasta and cook about 7 minutes until pasta is al dente. Drain.
In a sauce pan heat butter and olive oil together. Add green onion, yellow onion and red bell pepper and stir fry 2-3 minutes. When onions are translucent, add the garlic and stir fry an additional minute. Add salt, fresh cracked pepper, mustard and chili sauce. Stir together another minute or so and add flour to the mixture, quickly stir in all the flour, when its incorporated, slowly begin to pour in the milk and keep stirring. Mixture should start to thicken. Add Mozzarella, Sharp cheddar and Parmesan stir until cheese is melted. The sauce should be flavorful and smooth. Add pasta to the mixture and pour into a sprayed 9 x 13 baking pan. Sprinkle Panko and Parmesan cheese evenly over the pasta and bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm.