Tag Archives: Pasta

Chicken & Radicchio Pasta Salad

Post # 200.

Amazing–it feels like just yesterday that I decided to make an apple pie (well, two–I’ve never been the type to do things by halves) and then blog it!  But, 200 posts later, I’m still loving the blogging world!

I also added a new page to the blog today–called “Top 100”.  It’s a list from the New York Times naming the top 100 novels from 1923–present.  I’ve started using it as an inspiration when I want to combine what I’m reading by chance (read: books I choose based on their titles and covers alone) with something that will definitely enrich my selection and hopefully make me a little smarter, too.  And nerdier?  Definitely.  So check it out and let me know if you’ve read any of them, and which ones you think I should tackle next.

In last week’s CSA box we received a head of radicchio, which I had never tried before.  When I googled it and discovered that is it very bitter, I got a little nervous.  I am frankly just not a fan of bitter greens, so I knew I’d have to cook this to make it palatable.

And of course I was also hoping to somehow make it beyond palatable into something more delicious.  I adapted this pasta salad recipe from Food & Wine’s Best of the Best Cookbook Recipes, from Laura Pensiero’s Hudson Valley Mediterranean.  Her mantra is:

Eat healthy, enjoy food, live well, and never sacrifice flavor.

Now that is a mantra I can get behind.

Chicken & Radicchio Pasta Salad Printable Recipe Card

  • 8 oz dry whole-wheat pasta (I used macaroni)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small head radicchio, shredded (for a shredding tutorial, go here)
  • 12 oz chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 C frozen peas
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or 1/2 t dried garlic)
  • 1 1/2 t mustard (I used Trader Joe’s Hot and Sweet Mustard–mmm)
  • 1/2 C chicken broth
  • 1/4 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente.  Drain and place in a large bowl–this is where the entire salad is going to end up, so make sure there’s enough room.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet, and saute the onion until translucent and beginning to brown.  Add the radicchio and saute for a few more minutes until it cooks down, but not until it’s totally limp.  Add the onions and radicchio to the pasta bowl, and mix.  Now is a good time to add the frozen peas, too–the hot pasta will defrost ’em.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and add the other tablespoon of olive oil to the (now empty) skillet.  Cook the garlic until fragrant (30 seconds or so), and add the chicken, saute until golden brown and cooked through.  Add the mustard and chicken broth, and cook until the broth reduces volume by half.  Lastly, pour in the Parmesan cheese and stir until it melts and forms a nice, thick sauce.

Add the chicken mixture to the macaroni bowl.  Mix.  Taste.  Be surprised that the radicchio, though bitter, isn’t bad.  Taste again.  Salt and pepper to taste, toss it one more time, and steal one more taste.

Yum.  Serve either warm, at room temperature, or cool.  It is totes up to you.

I really enjoyed this pasta dish–definitely an entrée and not a side, and full of different textures.  The radicchio was still bitter, but not overwhelming.  I had this for lunch today with half of a grilled zucchini and a roasted beet: vegetable city.

For people who don’t need to use up their CSA veggies and don’t like bitter greens, you can make this recipe with spinach or Swiss chard, too.  But if you can, give radicchio a chance (because it’s always good to add some variety in your diet!).

Speaking of CSA boxes, say hello to week seven:

And say hello to radicchio number two–guess I’ll have to find another cooked radicchio recipe for this week, too.  Any suggestions?

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Filed under Entrees, Salads

Refrigerator Review: Spinach and Pasta Frittata

When a woman leaves her husband alone in their apartment for a week while she goes to visit her parents, several things will appear to be true upon her return:

  1. The kitchen table, counter, and stove top will have clearly not been wiped down since she left;
  2. Her cat will have apparently contracted some kind of UTI or bladder issue, and will now be lingering piteously around the cat box;
  3. The vet bill for said cat will cost $192; and
  4. The refrigerator will be full of half-finished man foods that need to be used ASAP or they will go terribly, terribly bad.

Despite ridiculous vet bills (wish I could just give him some cranberry juice and leave it at that) and leftovers I’m not sure what to do with (a lot of cooked spaghetti, 1/2 lb of uncooked ground turkey, and wilty spinach), it’s really nice to be home.  So when the opportunity came to cook Fritz a nice meal while impressing him with my ability to turn what he calls “an empty fridge” into something delicious, I jumped on it.  I want to be a leftover magician.

Hello, frittata.

Spinach and Pasta Frittata

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey (you could also use chicken, beef, sausage, whatever)
  • 1/2 t smoked paprika (alright, I’m obsessed)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 handfuls spinach (1/2 C cooked spinach)
  • 1/2 lb-3/4 lb cooked whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 5-7 eggs, depending on how much pasta you have
  • 1/3 C skim milk
  • 1/2 C grated cheddar cheese

I didn’t take an “ingredients shot” this time, because, let’s be honest–it’s really difficult to make a pile of leftovers look appealing.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the butter in an oven-safe pan (we are gonna cook the entire frittata in this pan) over medium heat and saute the onion until soft and translucent.  Add the ground turkey and cook thoroughly, then flavor it with the salt and paprika.

Next, toss in two handfuls of spinach and stir in until they are wilted.  Add the spaghetti on top, and combine.

Crack the eggs into a separate bowl, and add the milk and cheese.

Whisk until light, and pour over the top of the spaghetti mixture.

Bake in the oven on the medium rack until the eggs no longer look runny, and the edges are brown and crispy, about fifteen minutes.  I also turned on the broiler for the last few minutes to get a nice, browned top–it’s always nice to have a little crunch!

This came out really nicely.  The best thing about a frittata like this is that you can literally make it however you want–add different vegetables, meat, spices, sauces, whatever!  It’s perfect for a leftovers dinner or even a leftovers breakfast.

The smoked paprika also gave it a nice smoky flavor that I now want to eat in everything.  I’m obsessed.  I can’t stop.

Fritz took one look and said, “that looks gourmet!”.  He also said that it didn’t taste “leftover” at all.

Success.

Henry, who has been traumatized from his visit to the vet, has taken refuge in a pile of cardboard by the door waiting to be recycled.  I spotted him by the tail–poor baby.

We also just watched the movie Funny People, which I actually liked a lot despite its large quantity of genital-based humor.  Adam Sandler is so nice to watch when he is playing a serious character, and I thought it ended up being quite moving and thought-provoking.  Anyone else out there enjoy that movie?

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Filed under Breakfast, Entrees

Summer Picnic Pasta Salad

What a beautiful weekend.  Seriously.  I don’t even care that I didn’t study nearly enough for my final and most likely didn’t do that well, judging from the despair I felt while gaping at the first page.  But, that’s all over with (I’m sure I didn’t fail) and now we can just move on to the next test, and meanwhile I’ll just start enjoying summer (or spring…you know.  I get excited).

Four fun things that happened recently:

1) We went to my BFF Jen’s house for a mother’s day/birthday BBQ, and I brought my go-to “summer is here!” pasta salad.

I’m pretty excited for warm weather.

BBQ weather.

That’s why I married a South African.  Strictly for the BBQ.

2)  Jen’s mom gave us the rights to a pile o’ firewood that they had for their old fire pit, which has been replaced by one that burns sterno.

3) Fritz bought a fire pit on sale at Home Depot.

Let the marshmallow toasting begin!

4)  Jen’s mom also gave us a backup battery for our new camera, because she accidentally bought the wrong size for her new camera.  Score!

Love that woman.  And not just for the presents.

But let’s get back to the pasta salad.  It’s based on a recipe my old roommate in college used to make, and now it’s a staple for any grillin’ adventure that may take place.  I love it.  I’m obsessed with it.  It’s easy, it’s versatile, it uses whatever ingredients you have in the house, it’s healthy, and everyone likes it.

What else do you want from me?  I’m giving you a gift here!  Free of charge!

Summer Picnic Pasta Salad

  • 1 box whole-wheat penne (or you can use any other pasta shape, but I always stick with penne, ’cause the peas fit so perfectly inside)
  • 1 C frozen peas
  • 1/2 C grated carrot
  • 1/2 C sliced artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 C chopped sun-dried tomatoes (sometimes I use halved grape tomatoes, around 1 C)
  • 1 small can sliced black olives
  • 3-5 T olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar (1/4 C? 1/3 C? I never measure–just pour over and taste, taste, taste until you like it!)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 T light italian dressing–I only use this occasionally, when I’m trying to finish off a bottle or the pasta tastes a bit dry.  You definitely don’t need it!

Cook the pasta according to directions, and drain it. 

Speaking of pasta, I feel like I’ve been totally cheated!  The Barilla pasta I used to use is only 51% whole-wheat, and I just noticed it.  So not cool, Barilla.  I grabbed a few America’s Choice store brand whole-wheat pasta, which is made with all durum semolina flour, and I felt better.  Plus it was on sale, and I love a sale.

Dump the pasta in a bowl and add the frozen peas, which cools it to room temperature quite nicely.  Add the rest of your toppings of choice, then start dressing it. 

Not exactly the most helpful recipe, I know, but seriously, all you need is the idea.  I usually drizzle the olive oil over the top, mix that in, and then go to town with the balsamic.  Once I get the right taste, I salt and pepper it just a touch.  The artichoke hearts and olives add a nice touch of brine and the sun-dried tomatoes!  Just yum.

This is good.  Guh–ood.  Not to mention that eating this pasta salad fills me with the joy that is a summer BBQ.

So come over and hang out at my new fire pit!  Who needs to study, anyway?

Here’s the birthday girl herself:

And blowing out her birthday candles:

Happy birthday, Jenny!  Next time this year, we’ll be graduating!

It was a good day.  Nothin’ like a BBQ to take my mind off of life.

What’s your go-to dish for a summer picnic?

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Filed under Salads

Year of the Vegetable (and Pasta Puttanesca)

I have very exciting news.

News that involves vegetables.  Many vegetables, coming to me once a week in a box from a farm just a little further east on Long Island.  A CSA box.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a system where the consumer (that’s me) buys directly from a farmer (that’s them).  It’s a bit expensive for our budget, but I talked Fritz into letting us try it this year.  It averages out to about $21 a week (our grocery budget is around $50 a week).

From June 1st ’till the end of November we will be picking up a box of CSA veggies from a drop-off point close by our apartment.  I’m really excited because I can’t wait to have fresh-picked local vegetables at my disposal for 26 weeks.  I’m also looking forward to learning how to use some new vegetables that I’ve never had the opportunity to use–the farm grows over 100 varieties of vegetables, and they promise 6-10 different types of vegetables in each box.  Of course, I am a little nervous about getting stuck with a giant pile of kale every week for 26 weeks–but their list of last year’s boxes has a lot of variety, so I remain hopeful.  I also have wanted to really dive into making us eat a lot more fresh and green vegetables this year, so with this system I’m stuck finding a way to use what I’ve been given (plus I hate wasting food and I love a challenge so…).

The farm we are using is called the Golden Earthworm Organic Farm, and here’s their website if you want to learn more about CSA or their farm: thegoldenearthworm.com

In other exciting vegetable news, our baby tomato plants are growing like wildfire.  On some advice from Mom, I knew I needed to thin them out ASAP since a lot more of them were growing than I anticipated.  I bought some peat pots for $1.50 and got to work.

To prepare the pots, poke a hole in the bottom, fill with potting soil, and drench with water until the pots are saturated.  Transplant the babies, and voila!

Obviously I would rather not be transplanting baby plants when they are this small, but the pots got overcrowded really fast and I didn’t have much of a choice.  Hopefully now with more room these 14 plants will prove their worth (’cause I’m dreaming about fresh salsa and canning tomato sauce already).

I think that Henry also considers himself their watchdog/mother/guardian angel.  He’s constantly watching over them, sniffing them, and not yet eating them.

Not yet.

Lastly, here’s a recipe for a fresh  new pasta sauce I tried for the first time ever tonight: pasta puttanesca.  It’s quick and simple (and I left out the anchovies, so it’s not fishy), and I absolutely loved it.  I normally don’t even like olives, but between the brine and the bright bites of parsley that I harvested from our herb garden (already!? I know!!), it was my favorite pasta sauce ever.

Pasta Puttanesca (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

  • 1 box whole-wheat angel hair pasta, cooked according to directions
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (I only had dried garlic so I did my best)
  • 1 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 C black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 C minced fresh parsley
  • 1 T capers (optional–I didn’t have them)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to directions on box.

Over medium heat, saute the garlic in the olive oil.  Before it starts to brown, add the olives, red pepper flakes, and tomatoes.  Let the sauce simmer until it begins to thicken, then add the parsley.  Flavor with salt and pepper to taste.

Dinner was conceptualized and on the table in less than 20 minutes, including picture time.  Love when that happens.

Light and fresh is really the best way to describe this meal.  Sprinkle some fresh parsley on top for a springtime finish.  We also added a dash of grated parmesan cheese–serious yum.  Fritz did wish that he had some chicken in there.  Sometimes I forget that there are other people in this household who crave meat in their meals–sorry Fritz.  It’s an easy addition for next time, though.

Fritz and I are watching a movie called Creation about Charles Darwin’s life.  I strongly recommend it, even to those of you out there who aren’t giant nerds.  And especially those of you who are (Mom!).

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Filed under Entrees, Vegetarian

Meatless Mondays!? Angel Hair Pasta in Lime Cream Sauce with “Not Your Grandmother’s” Brussels

This’ll be a quick post because I need to go study soon, but it’s a good one!  I’ve been thinking lately about how to continue improving our diet, and a few weeks ago the idea of “meatless Mondays” popped into my head.  I had to consider how well that would go over with Fritz (today he sadly said “I hate Mondays”), but finally decided to just go ahead and try it out.  When asked to comment on our first weekly meatless dinner, Fritz said it was “delicious and successful”–good sign!.  We actually eat vegetarian meals a lot, but I want to try to make them a bit more standard fare.

Angel Hair Pasta in Lime Cream Sauce (adapted from Vegetarian Times, Sept ’10 issue)

  • 1 box angel hair pasta
  • 3/4 C light cream cheese
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced and 1 t zest
  • 1/8 C dried parsley

 

Fritz and I both love creamy cheesy pasta sauce (who doesn’t, really), but being roughly 6 million calories of fat per serving, they are a thing of the somewhat distant past.  However, when I found this recipe which substitutes light cream cheese for both of the above ingredients, I knew I’d have to try it.

Cook the pasta according to package directions (I left out any oil and salt in the pasta water because I knew there’d be a lot added later), drain, and set aside.  Reserve 1/2 C cooking water.  In a saucepan, melt the cream cheese with the oil, lime juice, zest and parsley over low heat.  Add the cooking water to the sauce, add the pasta, and toss to coat.  Season with a sprinkle of black pepper and serve immediately.

 To go with the pasta, I decided to make some brussel sprouts.  In my less-healthy eating past, I’ve always made them with a liberal amount of bacon for a great flavor.  This time, I decided to go with some Indian spices–I like to think of spices as “free taste”, as opposed to salt, sugar, and fat, all of which Americans love to use as flavor and are decidedly not free.

“Not Your Grandmother’s” Brussels

  • 10-15 brussel sprouts
  • dash of sugar
  • 1/8 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t curry powder
  • 1/8 t coriander

 

Prepare the sprouts by rinsing them, cutting off the ends, and removing the outside (more bitter) leaves.  I halve the smaller ones and quarter the bigger ones, so they crisp up on the outsides without getting too mushy on the inside. 

In a small frying pan, saute the brussel sprouts in a small dash of olive oil until they start to brown.  Add 1/8 C water and cover for a few minutes until the water cooks off.  Remove cover and add sugar to cut some of the bitterness, along with the other spices.  Cook until the spices are fragrant, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss on a plate with your pasta and you are ready to go.

 

Go enjoy your first “Meatless Monday”!  See you for another vegetarian meal next week.

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Filed under Entrees, Side Dishes