Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Side: Chilled Pasta Salad with Basil Cucumber Ribbons

Difficulty: Easy

Prep/Cook Time: 20 min

Chill Time: 30 min

Serves (4)

This dish stays true to the simplicity of traditional pasta salad, yet offers a bolder appeal and elegance. With vibrant flavors and distinct textures, each ingredient can be tasted for its full potential. Don't let the chill time steer you away. Prepare the meal up to 24 hrs ahead of time, and when ready to serve, top with shaved cucumber ribbons for some added pizazz.

Ingredients: 8 oz spaghetti, 1 cucumber, 2 small onions, 1 1/3 cup sweet peas, 2 medium tomatoes, 1 cup sliced olives, basil, salt, pepper, romano cheese for topping, and your favorite Italian dressing

Bring water to boil and cook spaghetti until al dente. Once cooked, drain spaghetti and spread out on plate for faster cooling. Place plate in refrigerator.

Slice onions. Place in lightly oiled pan with peas over medium heat. Heat onions and peas until onions begin to soften and peas are soft (about 10 min). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. We want the onions to keep most of their brightness and crunch--so be careful to not overcook them. Remove peas and onions from pan and spread out on plate. Place plate in the refrigerator.

Slice tomatoes into chunks. Slice olives. Place tomatoes and olives in refrigerator.

Peel cucumber. Slice cucumber in half. Using a potato peeler, peel cucumber into strips until you reach the seeds. Sprinkle cucumber peels with basil. Refrigerate.

After 30 min, remove all ingredients from refrigerator and combine in large bowl. Mix with your favorite Italian dressing. Plate spaghetti. Roll cucumber peels to make tubes (it's fine if some tubes unroll). Arrange on top of spaghetti. Top with grated romano cheese.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Entrée: Spaghetti with Romano Spinach Cream Sauce and Seasoned Asparagus

Difficulty: Medium

Prep Time: 5-10 min

Cook Time: 30 min

Serves (4)

Pretend you're French for a moment and try not to be afraid of butter. You can go back to your olive or coconut oil tomorrow, but tonight we need butter in both the cream sauce and the asparagus--no exceptions. This dish is built on layers--beginning with a hint of bacon in the cream sauce, to the spinach and sauteed onions, on up to the seasoned asparagus. Each bite is as good as the last.

Ingredients: 8 oz spaghetti or linguine, 2 small onions, 2-3 cups spinach (fresh or frozen), 6 oz bacon, 1 small bunch of asparagus (about 1/2 lb), 1 1/2 cups milk, 1/2 cup grated romano cheese, 4-6 tbsp butter, 2 rounded tbsp flour, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, romano for topping

Slice onions. Sautee in large pan with oil over medium heat. Remove from pan and set aside. Cook bacon in the same pan until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and set on paper towel to absorb the grease. Discard most of the bacon grease in the pan--leaving some behind for flavor.

While bacon is cooking, bring water to boil and cook spaghetti until al dente. Drain.

Wash the asparagus. Slice the bottom inch off. Place 2-3 tbsp of butter in a separate pan over medium heat. Once butter begins to sizzle, place asparagus in pan and generously season with salt, pepper, and garlic. Gently roll asparagus in pan to evenly cook all sides. Cook until sides begin to shrivel and brown (about 10 min). Once cooked, the asparagus can stay in the pan (burner off) while you prepare the other ingredients.

Chop bacon into small bits. Return to original pan. Add spinach, onions, milk, and 2-3 tbsp of butter. Dissolve 2 heaping tbsp of flour in water and pour into pan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Stir in 1/2 cup grated romano cheese and 1/4 tsp garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add spaghetti to pan and toss until evenly mixed. Top with asparagus and freshly grated romano.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dessert: Apple Shortbread Crisp

Difficulty: Medium

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time 35-45 min

Serves (12)

My dad loves shortbread. He also loves apple pie. Combine the two? Amazingness. Switch your traditional pie crust for the buttery delicacy of shortbread, and top with a simple crumb topping. So the apples and topping don't compete for sweet attention, use whole wheat flour and oats for a muted topping that compliments, but doesn't overpower.

Ingredients: Shortbread 2 cups flour, 1 cup butter*, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp nutmeg Apple Filling 6 cups sliced apples (about 7 medium), 1/2 cup sugar, 1-2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg Crumb Topping 1 cup oats, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup softened butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon

*chilled and sliced into pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine all ingredients for shortbread in large bowl and work with hands into small crumbs (no larger than pea sized). Pour and press mixture into 13x9 pan. Poke shortbread with a fork several times throughout. Place in over for 15 min. (We're pre-baking the shortbread so it doesn't absorb too much of the juice from the apples.)

While shortbread is cooking, peel, core, and slice apples. Combine with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. After 15 min, reduce heat to 350 and remove shortbread from oven.

In a medium bowl, combine ingredients for topping. Pour apples over shortbread. Pour crumb topping over apples and spread evenly. Place pan back in over until sides of crumb topping begin to brown and apples are soft (about 35-45 min).