Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Spaghetti alla Carbonara without Bacon!

I was recently back in Boston, and I got yelled at for not blogging much since moving to California.  My defense was that I've been cooking pretty boring stuff, mostly simple salads with a side of pasta.  However, friends said they missed the food pics, so I decided to find a dinner to write about.

Before writing about the new pasta recipe I tried, I just wanted to take a minute and say that California produce has been a revelation!  In particular, fresh figs are amazing! My officemate bought a pint of figs at our hospital farmers' market, and I asked her what she would do with them.  She looked at me quizzically and said, "Just eat them."  I bought a pint for myself the following week.  Not sure I would be able to use all of them, I offered them around the office and was surprised when one person took one and bit into it.  I didn't know you could just bite into figs!  I had seen figs in jams and spreads as well as roasted in dishes, but for some reason, I thought they needed to be cooked or peeled or something.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that they are delicious on their own right from the market.  Figs are now one of my favorite salad accents.

I've been making a lot of pestos, but I flipped through my cookbooks for something different.  In Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, I found an intriguing recipe variation under "Spaghetti alla Carbonara" that made the usually bacon-y dish meatless.  I was skeptical, but it was easy and delicious.  Coating the spaghetti with eggs and cheese made for a rich sauce, and the browned zucchini added nice depth of flavor.  This recipe is a definite keeper!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara without Bacon
adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz spaghetti
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 small onion, diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Combine olive oil, zucchini, and onion in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Cook, stiring frequently until the zucchini browns, about 10 minutes.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in the bowl.

3. Salt the boiling water and cook pasta until tender but firm. When done, drain it and toss it immediately with the egg-cheese mixture.  Add zucchini-onion mixture.  Season with lots of pepper and add salt to taste.  Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings
Active time: 30 minutes

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pasta with Cauliflower

Whew!  That was a long break from blogging!  Well, there are lots of excuses, but let's just move on to celebrating the produce of my new home state, California!

My husband has tried for years to get me to move here with promises of great weather, but he really should have spent more time talk to the produce.  There's a great farmer's market at my hospital, and last week, I couldn't pass up a purple cauliflower!  It was so pretty!

I found a simple recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, Simply Recipes.  I made some changes to suit my husband's tastes, mostly substituting capers for anchovies and adding some toasted almonds.  With recipes like this, we're definitely making some headway in eating more vegetables and less meat, which was one of my new year's resolutions.

Pasta with Cauliflower
adapted from Simply Recipes

1 onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tbsp capers Olive oil
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 large head of cauliflower, core removed and discarded, florets coarsely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 pound shaped pasta (e.g. elbow, gemelli, corkscrew, bowtie)
2 cups fresh or canned tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 tbsp unsalted butter

  1. Put a large pot of salted water for the pasta on the stove to boil.   Cook the pasta, uncovered, in salted boiling water until 2 minutes less than the pasta package's cooking directions.  Drain the pasta from the cooking water and reserve.
  2. Heat 2 tbsps olive oil in the skillet on medium low heat. Add the onions, garlic, and capers.  Cook for 5 minutes, until the onions are soft. Remove from heat. 
  3. Add the cauliflower, stir infrequently, allowing the cauliflower edges to brown. Cook until the cauliflower florets are lightly browned, 3-5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  4. Dissolve tomato paste in 1/2 cup of water. Lower the heat to low. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and capers, stir to combine well. Cook, uncovered, on low heat, until the cauliflower is tender.  
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the cauliflower mixture. Stir in about half of the parsley, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan, almonds, and butter.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pasta with Spinach, White Beans, and Walnuts

I'm probably not the only one who is looking to eat less meat.  It's a growing trend in America.  Last year, my efforts ended up being a lot of pasta and cheese, which doesn't seem that healthy either. So, I've been experimenting with non-meat proteins for the last few weeks.

I bought some tempeh from the grocery store the other day. I initially cubed it into a veggie stir-fry, but when I went for a taste, it had an off-putting flavor.  I couldn't pinpoint what it was, but I just didn't like it.  I crumbled all the tempeh cubes so the pieces would be smaller, and the crumbled tempeh ended up absorbing more of the sauce.  In the end, I think the dish was salvaged, but I'm not anxious to try tempeh again soon.

I did some research and decided to try cooking with nuts.  For those who know my favorite American Chinese takeout dish (chicken with cashew nuts without the cashew nuts), my cooking with nuts might seem strange, but I've had some good experience with pine nuts or chopped pecans or walnuts in salads.  I went to the internet and found this recipe on the Martha Stewart web site.  It also has beans in it, so it has even more non-meat protein.  Score!

I replaced the original recipe's arugula with spinach since that's what I had in the refrigerator.  This dish got two thumbs up form the husband, and I think it will be a staple for weeknight meals this year!

Pasta with Spinach, White Beans, and Walnuts
adapted from marthastewart.com

16 ounces gemelli or farfalle
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter
1 pound spinach
1 can (15 ounces) small white beans or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted if desired

  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain pasta, and set aside.
  2. Place pasta pot over medium heat. Add garlic and 1 tablespoon butter; cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add spinach to pot; toss just until wilted. Add beans, pasta, and remaining 3 tablespoons butter; season with salt and pepper. Toss, adding enough reserved water to mixture to coat pasta. Garnish with walnuts.
Yields: 4 servings
Total time: 20 to 30 minutes