Saturday, November 26, 2011

Roasted Vegetables on Spaghetti with Pesto

Roasting has quickly become one of my favorite ways to prepare veggies. Before roasting, I marinate them with a mix of spices, herbs and oil. It helps bring out the flavors and also helps with the caramelization process.
This particular recipe has roasted bell peppers, onions and cherry tomatoes served on top of a bed of pasta with Pesto, but you can use any vegetables you like. I like to roast my vegetables under the broiler.
Serve the roasted vegetables on top of pasta with Pesto, and the mouth-watering combination of the bitter basil and caramelized veggies will have you scraping the last bits from the bottom of your bowl.

2 large bell peppers, cut in strips (any color will do, I like to use orange or red just for the color)
1 large white onion, cut in strips
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half (any tomatoes work too)
1/2 cup Basil and Spinach Pesto
1 pound spaghetti (any pasta will do)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp thyme

Chop all your vegetables and put in a large bowl. Sprinkle with oregano, basil, smoked paprika, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and the olive oil. (You can also use a prepackaged Italian herb mix instead.) Mix well, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for about 1 hour.
Boil and drain your pasta according to the package instructions, then mix in the pesto.
Spread the vegetables on a foil-covered baking pan, then place under a medium-high broiler setting (4 to 5 inches from the top) for 20 minutes, or until the vegetable skin starts to wrinkle and you see small burnt spots.

Put a bed of pasta with pesto in a bowl and cover it with a large scoop of the roasted vegetables. You can also sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Photograph by Michael Findley

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Homemade Pizza Sauce

When it comes to pizza, it’s all about the dough and the sauce. It’s almost impossible to choose the wrong toppings, when you’ve taken care of those two things.
This is a sweet, slow-cooked pizza sauce with fresh basil and oregano I grew in my backyard.
I didn’t add any salt to the sauce, but because most of the meat toppings are salty on their own, you won't miss it.

Ingredients: Makes enough sauce for three to four 12” pizzas
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 large white onion, chopped
4 tbs fresh basil, chopped
2 tbs fresh oregano, chopped
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp pepper
2 bay leaves

Melt the butter in a large saucepan.
Add onion and saute for a couple of minutes.
Add garlic and saute for another minute.
Add chopped basil and oregano and stir for about a minute.
Add the tomato paste and incorporate fully into the sauce.
Add the brown sugar, olive oil and the rest of the spices.
Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then add the crushed tomatoes and the bay leaves.
Simmer for about 40 minutes with the cover slightly ajar.

Photograph by Michael Findley 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Basil and Spinach Pesto

This year I’m growing basil in my backyard. I have yet to figure out how to freeze fresh basil without it turning black from freezer burn, so instead I’m making several batches of pesto which will freeze better.
I started harvesting my basil three months ago. Within two weeks of picking the leaves, the basil plants were even bigger and leafier.
Basil pesto is super easy to make and can be used in so many different ways. Mix it with any kind of pasta or spread it on sliced toasted french bread as a base for bruschetta. You can also dollop some on top of baked potatoes or make a pesto pizza.
In this recipe I added spinach to increase the volume, without affecting the taste. Use 1 part spinach for every 2 parts basil.

2 cups basil leaves, packed
1 cup spinach leaves, packed (Optional)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup walnuts
3 tbs chopped garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper to taste

In a hot pan, stirring constantly, toast the pine nuts and walnuts until they turn golden brown.
Add the basil and spinach leaves to a food processor along with the nuts and garlic. Pulse a few times till well combined. Add the cheese and pulse. Slowly add the oil until it’s completely absorbed, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Update (2011-11-12):
A great way to store the pesto for quick and easy re-use is to freeze it in ice-cube trays. When the pesto has frozen completely, empty the pesto cubes into a ziplock bag and return to the freezer. Now you can quickly access the pesto when you need it. I found that mixing the frozen cubes with the pasta just after its been drained and still hot, allows it to melt and coat all the pasta. 1 cube per person seems to work for me, but you may like more pesto with your pasta.

Now I can enjoy pesto all winter, long after the summer growing season has ended.

Photograph by Michael Findley

Friday, September 2, 2011

Arroz Chaufa (Fried Rice)

When you think of fried rice, you usually think of a side dish to some Asian saucy meat, or just something thrown in for the purpose of soaking up the sauce. But in my house, fried rice is the main dish, a complete meal on its own.
And when you see what all goes into making it, I think you’ll agree. It truly is a complete meal. It has fiber (rice), meats (ham, chicken, bacon), vegetables (green onion, mushroom) and egg.
Don’t be afraid to go crazy with your veggies either, this is the perfect dish for doing so. I also like to use julienned carrot, sweet peas, bean sprouts, snow peas, whole kernel corn, broccoli, and celery. This is a good way to use veggies that might go bad.
I didn’t use garlic in this particular recipe (amazing if you’ve read any of my other recipes) and although I missed it, I think it held its own with just the ginger. The nice thing about fried rice is that you can make it a dozen different ways and never get tired of it.
I’m not sure, but I think the term chaufa originated in Peru. It means Asian style food. Paired with the Spanish word for rice — arroz — the dish gets its name.
This recipe is a lot simpler to make if you own a wok. Without it, you’ll probably use several pans.

4 cups cooked white rice
3 eggs, scrambled
1 cup chopped ham
1 cup chopped green onions
1/2 to 1 cup shredded chicken
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, chopped
4 tbs thinly sliced and chopped ginger
1 tsp salt
1 cup cooked and shredded chicken breasts
4 large slices fried and crumbled bacon
3 tbs soy sauce

Cook the bacon to you liking, then put on paper towels to drain.
Drain the grease into a small container but leave a little in the pan to cook the scrambled eggs. Remove the scrambled eggs into a separate bowl. Add a little olive oil or bacon grease to the pan and saute all vegetables. Don’t overcook.
Add the rice and mix everything well. Add soy sauce, scrambled eggs, and shredded chicken. Mix well.

Prepared on 2011-06-08 (Tulsa, OK), Photographs by Michael Findley

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

I’ve been wanting to try veggie burgers for years now, but I thought if they weren’t going to taste as good as regular hamburgers, then why bother?
But I stand corrected. Even though they don’t taste like meat, these patties were so good that after I ate my burger and fries, I ate 3 patties all by themselves. Now I plan to use this same recipe to make meatballs for spaghetti sometime soon.  I can already taste the marinara sauce on the black bean meatballs.
I’ve seen them made with various different beans and lentils, but I chose to use black beans because I thought they might look closer to real beef.  After I looked at the pictures I was surprised at how much these patties look like my mom’s meat patties with vegetables.
Serve this burger along with some crispy potato wedges for a truly yummy meal.

Ingredients:  Makes 8 bean patties
2 15 oz cans black beans
1 1/2 cups Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 large white onion
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili
2 tbs crushed garlic
1/2 tsp pepper
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped yellow and red bell pepper
1 large jalapeño, seeded and roughly chopped

Drain and rinse the beans. Pour into a bowl and smash with a fork.
In a food processor place the cilantro, parsley, onion, seeded jalapeños, garlic, and bell peppers.
Pulse a few times until everything is well chopped.
Add the spices and half the mashed beans. Pulse a few more times. Don’t puree the mixture, just mix it well.
Empty the contents of the food processor back to the bowl with the beans and mix thoroughly with fork. Add the eggs and bread crumbs. Mix everything well with a fork and form patties.
Heat olive in a large pan on medium-low heat. Cook patties till they’re golden brown and crusty on the outside.

Prepared on 2011-08-20 (Tulsa, OK), Photographs by Michael Findley