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Mom’s Pasta Salad

This pasta salad has been a family favorite for years. It’s good cold — we’ve brought it to 2 picnics this weekend — but it’s even better warmed up if you are near a microwave. It’s a great way to use up leftover meat and vegetables, and it will feed a crowd (or a husband for a week if you go out of town).  It’s easy to halve if you don’t want that much food, but I know I can eat this for several days in a row before I get tired of it.

The recipe is very flexible, so it ends up being a little different each time. This time I used leftover roast beef, roasted broccoli and cherry tomatoes, and some boiled round “Parisian” carrots, along with a combination of rotini and rigatoni because I only had part of a box of each.

pasta salad

2-3 cups chopped vegetables of your choice (such as lightly steamed or roasted broccoli, cherry or sundried tomatoes, green peppers, etc.)

1 lb. box pasta, cooked according to directions in salted water

2 cups chopped cooked meat (leftover beef, chicken or pork)

6 strips cooked bacon, crumbled

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Dressing:

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup olive oil

2 tsp salt (or to taste)

2 tsp ground pepper

1 Tbsp dried parsley

2 Tbsp dried basil

3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

Whisk the dressing ingredients together and toss with warm drained pasta and the rest of the ingredients. Chill. Serve cold or warmed up in the microwave.

Upside Down Glazed Almond Poppyseed Muffins

A few years ago I was working in Cannon Beach, Oregon, and the bakery there had these upside down glazed almond poppyseed muffins. I thought they were delicious and tried to get the recipe. They wouldn’t give it to me, so I found a muffin recipe online, turned them upside down and glazed them. The next summer when I went back to the bakery, I found that I actually liked my own version better. I would never have thought to glaze the bottoms of the muffins, but it does make sense–usually the top of the muffin is the favorite part, this turns the bottoms into the best part (and there is more of it)!

upside down muffin

1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs, separated

1 tsp lemon zest

1 1/2 tsp almond extract

1 1/3 cup flour

1 1/8 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice + almost 1/2 cup milk)

2 1/2 Tbsp poppy seeds

Glaze:

2+ cups icing sugar

1 tsp lemon extract (or juice)

water

Cream the butter and sugar. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each. Add zest and almond extract. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Mix until just combined. Fold in poppy seeds. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until peaks are stiff. Gently fold into batter.

Thoroughly grease and flour 9 of the muffin spaces in the tin. Fill with batter to the tops. Bake at 350 degrees for about 18 min, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly on a wire rack. While they are still warm, mix the icing sugar, lemon extract, and enough water to thin the glaze so that it is runny. Place a pan or sheet of waxed paper under the rack to catch the drips and drizzle the glaze all over the bottoms and sides of the muffins.

muffins in tin

muffins on rack

These ones needed a little more glaze…

glazed muffins

That’s better.  The whole bottom surface should have a thin coating.

muffin

Well, I may not need to go back for the muffins, but I do miss Cannon Beach. Can’t wait to visit again someday…

Cannon Beach

cannon beach

haystack rock

tide out

tide pools

rock with starfish

2 starfish

birds at sunset

sunset with haystack rock

dusk with haystack rock

Herb Stuffed Tomatoes

Another yummy stuffed vegetable, this one with Provencal-style flavors.

stuffed tomatoes

4 medium tomatoes (ripe but still firm)

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

12 oil-cured olives, pitted and chopped (you could try Kalamatas instead if you don’t have oil-cured)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano

3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint

1 1/2 Tbsp capers, chopped if large (and rinsed first if packed in salt)

salt and pepper

Trim a small slice off the top of the tomatoes. Scoop out the seeds and most of the flesh, leaving a tomato shell. Sprinkle some salt in the tomato and let it sit upside down to drain.

Saute the onion, garlic and olives in 1 Tbsp oil over low heat until the onion is softened. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste. Wipe the insides of the tomatoes with paper towel and fill them with the stuffing, so that it forms a small lightly packed mound over the top. Place them in a greased dish and drizzle with the remaining 1 Tbsp oil. Bake at 325 degrees F for 35-45 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened. Serve hot or warm.

(Recipe from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi)

Green and Red Salad

Sometimes I miss all the restaurant choices I left back in Chicago, but then other days I have something for lunch at home that is so delicious it more that makes up for that–like this salad. We got some special oil and vinegar at the Olive Cart in St. Joseph. This combination of lemon avocado oil with strawberry white balsamic is so delightful!

It is unlikely that I will find any restaurant that I can afford to eat at on a regular basis where I will get a salad as delicious as this one (especially with as much avocado as I want).  For lack of a better name, I’m calling it green and red salad, since everything but the cheese was green or red…or close enough.

salad

Mix equal parts lemon avocado oil and strawberry balsamic vinegar.  Drizzle over baby romaine and toss to coat. Add red grapes, slices of avocado, and crumbled feta. (I added toasted pecans later too, but they missed out on the picture.)

oil and vinegar

Grape Leaf Pie

If you like stuffed grape leaves (dolmas), this is a really interesting and delicious alternative. The grape leaves form the crust, and the filling includes rice flour, fresh herbs, yogurt, and pine nuts.  I’ll need to try this again sometime when I can get some fresh local grape leaves. They grow everywhere here, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them at the farmers’ market.  This worked just fine with grape leaves from a jar though.

grape leaf pie

20-25 grape leaves (I’m not sure how many I used, but it was a lot less than this – I doubled the recipe to make 2 pies and still had half a jar of leaves…but maybe mine were exceptionally large)

4 shallots, finely chopped

4 Tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 Tbsp butter, melted

1 cup Greek or plain yogurt (you can make plain yogurt thicker like Greek yogurt by placing it in a coffee filter in a strainer over a bowl for 30 min or so, but either kind of yogurt should work fine), plus more for serving

2 1/2 Tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted

1/2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill

4 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint

grated zest of 1 lemon

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper

1/2 cup rice flour

3 Tbsp panko breadcrumbs

Place the grape leaves in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for 10 minutes before draining and patting dry on a towel. Use scissors to trim off the hard bit of stalk from the base of each leaf.

Saute the shallots in 1 Tbsp oil for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Take a pie plate and lay the grape leaves over the bottom and sides so they are slightly overlapping and hanging over the sides of the dish. Add 2 Tbsp oil to the melted butter and use 2/3 of it to brush the leaves in the dish.

Mix together the shallots, yogurt, pine nuts, herbs, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Add rice flour and mix well to make a paste. Spread it over the leaves in the dish and fold the overhanging leaves over the top. Finish covering the rest of the paste with more grape leaves. Brush with the rest of the butter/oil mixture. Top with the panko breadcrumbs and drizzle with remaining 1 Tbsp oil.

Bake at 375 degrees F for about 40 min, until the grape leaves get crispy and the breadcrumbs start to brown. Let rest for at least 10 min before slicing and serving with plain yogurt.  You can also serve it at room temperature.

grape leave pie slice

(Recipe adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi)

Whole Grain Waffles with Fresh Fruit, Nuts and Honey

We’ve been trying lots of waffle recipes lately and I really liked this one with fresh fruit, a little honey, and some toasted pecans. It’s also the healthiest of the waffle recipes that we’ve tried so far. You can mix up the dry ingredients in a bowl the night before to save some time in the morning.

whole grain waffle

1/2 cup flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup quick cooking oats

1 Tbsp yellow corn meal

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 cup milk

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1 Tbsp oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

Mix the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Preheat the waffle maker on medium heat and use about 1/2 cup batter per waffle (or follow the directions for your waffle maker). Top with fresh fruit, a bit of honey, roasted pecans, and a bit of whipped cream.

The recipe makes 4 waffles. If you have some left over you can put them in the freezer and reheat them in the toaster oven.

Homemade Oreos

These are very similar to actual Oreo cookies, but bigger, and (I think) better.

oreos

1 cup butter (2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled slightly

1 egg

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

Filling:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 2/3 cups icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 Tbsp milk

pinch kosher salt (omit if butter is salted)

Combine the melted butter and sugar and mix well. Add the vanilla and chocolate. Add the egg. Mix until fully incorporated. In another bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda.  Stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture with a wooden spoon. When it gets too firm to stir, use your hands to finish mixing. Let the dough sit at room temperature for an hour.

Shape the dough into a log on a sheet of parchment or wax paper. The log should be about 10 inches long and about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll the log in the paper and roll it on the table to make it smoother. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm. (You might need to keep rolling it every once in a while to help it keep its round shape.) If you are making it ahead of time, it can be wrapped well in plastic at this point and refrigerated for a week, or frozen (and then thawed overnight in the fridge before using).

Cut the dough into 1/4 inch-thick slices and place them an inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 325 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes, and take them out of the oven as soon as they are firm to the touch (you need to poke them in the middle to test them rather than judging by the color). Let them cool on the baking sheet until they are warm or room temperature before filling them.

To make the filling, beat the butter until smooth, add the icing sugar and vanilla and mix until smooth, then add the milk and salt and mix until smooth. Use about 1 Tbsp of filling on a cookie and press it down with a second cookie to make a sandwich.

(Recipe adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang)

Carrot-Lentil Soup

This is a soup that I make over and over again. It’s very easy to make (it’s from a kids’ cookbook), it’s healthy, inexpensive, easily adapted, and tasty. It’s also handy when you want a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian/vegan option. We served this at our wedding as an alternative to the pasta for friends who had one or several of those dietary restrictions. You can use any kind of lentils in this soup. I usually use regular brown lentils, but red ones will cook faster. And, like most soups, it freezes well so you can make it ahead of time.

Image

1 Tbsp oil

1 onion, sliced or chopped fine

1 lb. carrots, sliced or chopped

1/2 cup lentils

5 cups broth (vegetable, chicken, beef, or a combination)

1 tsp ground coriander

3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large pot and fry onion until it starts to brown. Add the carrots and fry gently for 4-5 minutes, until they start to soften.

Meanwhile, put the lentils in a small bowl and cover with water. Pour off any bits that float. Rinse the lentils in a sieve and pour into the pot with the broth and coriander and a little salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cover the pot. Let simmer gently for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked. Add the chopped parsley. Blend or puree all or part of the soup.

I like to puree the soup right in the pot with an immersion blender, but you could also let it cool a bit and carefully blend it in a regular blender (probably just a bit at a time). You can also push some of the soup through a sieve with a wooden spoon and add it back to the soup to thicken it up.

(Recipe adapted from 50 Recipes for Kids to Cook by Judy Williams)

Focaccia

Ever since I went to Italy, I have been hoping to find a recipe for a little round of focaccia like the one I ate for breakfast in Cinque Terra. The thing that stood out most to me about it was the very fine salt that was on it. Maybe I just need finer ground salt…anyway, I’ve been trying different recipes over the years and so far this is my favorite.  I made one with the vegetables and one without, but I only took a picture of this one. The plain one went into the freezer and was eaten later without a trace…or a photo.

focaccia

2 3/4 cups bread flour

3/4 tsp sea salt

1 tsp instant yeast

1 1/3 cups ice water

2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing

fresh rosemary, chopped

Mix flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add water and mix thoroughly. Add 1 Tbsp oil and mix well. The dough should be slightly stiff, slightly sticky, but wet enough to stir. Brush the top with olive oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 3-10 hours. Remove from the fridge and let the dough rise, covered, at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours. Stir it once partway through the rise.

Coat 2 small (9 inch or smaller) or 1 large (10 inch) round cake pan with oil. Gently scrape the dough into the pan(s), being careful not to deflate it more than necessary. Drizzle 1 Tbsp oil over the dough and use your fingers to gently stretch the dough out to the rim of the pan (it may spring back but that’s ok). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate another 4 to 24 hours (the longer time will give it more flavor). Remove from the fridge and let rise at room temperature until puffy and almost doubled in size 2-3 hours.

Remove the plastic wrap, brush the dough with olive oil mixed with chopped rosemary, create some dimples in the dough with your fingers, sprinkle with sea salt and bake at 475 degrees F for about 30 minutes, until top is browned. Cool pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes then remove the bread from the pan and let it finish cooling on the rack.

If you want to add other toppings, press them into the dough before baking. In the picture above I used halved cherry tomatoes and diced red onions. You could also add crispy cubes of fried pancetta to that, or use other vegetables and herbs. Focaccia is best fresh from the oven, but if I have more than I’m going to eat that day, I cut it up and put it in the freezer and then warm it up in the toaster oven by the slice. It’s almost as good as fresh.

(Recipe adapted from The Glorious Vegetables of Italy by Domenica Marchetti)

Everything Salad

This is a good summer salad, for when you have lots of fresh herbs, tomatoes, and cucumber.

everything salad

To make the creamy herb dressing:

1 cup fresh mint

1/2 cup fresh basil

1 cup fresh parsley

1/4 cup fresh chives

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

salt and pepper

Blend the herbs and sour cream in a food processor (or chop all the herbs by hand and mix together). Add the mayonnaise and season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the salad:

Romaine lettuce, in bite sized pieces

Diced tomatoes

Diced cucumbers

Handful of shredded arugula (or rocket) leaves

A bit of chopped fresh parsley

A bit of chopped fresh mint

Few spoonfuls of dressing

Crumbled feta cheese

Croutons (preferably homemade)

everything salad

To make homemade croutons, toss bread cubes with a bit of oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 325 degrees F for about 30-40 minutes, or until golden and crispy.

(Recipe adapted from The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur)