Category Archives: Main Dish

Pesto Pasta Salad with Juliet Tomatoes

Pesto Pasta Salad

I had my first taste of Hillside Farms‘ baby Roma tomatoes last summer, at the beginning of my local food adventures.  The moment that first Juliet tomato burst in my mouth was an epiphany. It tasted like sunshine, sweeter than any tomato I’d ever eaten.

I had been skeptical about the locavore movement until then, but with that one bite I finally understood what the “eat local” hoopla was about. A year later, I’ve certainly bought into the local food movement. And my heart still pitter-pats every time I see Hillside Farms’ Juliet tomatoes in my Local Box.

If I don’t eat them straight out of the package, I enjoy using Juliet tomatoes in a simple pasta salad with pesto dressing. I almost always have goat cheese and the ingredients for homemade pesto in my fridge during the summer months, and this salad is one of my favorite things to cook on nights when Juliet tomatoes arrive in the Local Box.

This salad is as versatile as it is easy to prepare. I’ve added olives, chopped green onions, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, baby spinach, grilled chicken breast, and even chopped raw baby squash to this salad, all with good results. It’s a terrific base for whatever I’m craving along with those sweet little tomatoes from Hillside Farms.

Pesto Pasta Salad with Juliet Tomatoes (serves two as a main dish as written;  serves more if you stretch it by adding more veggies or meats)

1/2 lb. farfalle, penne, or conchiglie pasta
1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 pint Juliet tomatoes
4 ounces goat cheese

Cook and drain pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, prepare pesto sauce by combining basil, grated cheese, olive oil, and minced garlic and one teaspoon of salt in a food processor. Pulse for about 90 seconds, until pesto is uniform in texture. Set pesto aside until the cooked, drained pasta is cool to the touch. After that, mix the pasta and pesto sauce in a serving dish.

Put the goat cheese in the freezer for a few minutes while you slice the cherry tomatoes in half. (Chilling the soft cheese makes much easier to break up later.) Add the sliced tomatoes to the dressed pasta, then use a butter knife to chip the cold goat cheese into the salad. Gently stir the finished salad to combine all the ingredients and chill it for at least an hour in the fridge before serving.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

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My Husband’s Favorite Pasta

It was my husband Rami who first introduced me to “Death by Garlic” Pasta a few years ago. That was before we were married, when he liked to impress me by cooking on date night at his place. (It worked.)

I remember those days fondly: Rami would cook in the kitchen of his bachelor pad, and we would spend Friday night eating garlicky penne, drinking a $5 bottle of wine and watching old movies. We ate this flavorful pasta dozens of times when we were dating. Even though it’s very garlicky, it is ideal for dates since it’s nearly impossible to screw up, no matter how distracted you are by your honey.

Now that Rami and I have our own home, Death by Garlic Pasta is a staple in our weeknight rotation of easy recipes. We’ve adapted the original recipe over the years for our maturing tastes–we use $15 wine instead of the real cheap stuff!– but our nostalgia for this dish remains the same. It will always be the comfort food of our courtship.

You must use fresh minced garlic in this recipe or it tastes pretty bland. The garlic I used is from Fruitful Hill Farm in Bastrop, Texas. It is the sweetest and strongest garlic I’ve ever tasted and the bulbs are huge. Don’t be intimidated by peeling and mincing a whole bulb of garlic, it will just take a few minutes and the taste is totally worth it. Here’s a great instructional video if you’re new to using fresh garlic:

Death by Garlic Pasta (Rami’s Favorite) (serves 6)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
16 cloves of garlic
one head of kale, radicchio or chard
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese, plus extra to garnish
16 oz. package penne or bowtie pasta

Peel and mince garlic. Chop parsley. Wash and dry whatever greens you choose to use and tear out any tough stems. Fill a large pot with 8-10 cups of water and bring it to a boil.

In a large skillet or saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add minced garlic. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon so that garlic cooks evenly. Meanwhile, chop greens into bite-sized pieces and add them to the pan along with the salt and red pepper flakes. Stir the greens and cook for about five minutes. Once the pan begins to look dry, pour in the wine. Continue to cook the greens until they are completely wilted and the wine has mostly cooked off, about five more minutes. Turn the burner heat to low.

Boil the penne according to the package directions, ours took seven minutes. Drain the cooked pasta and transfer it to a large bowl. Stir into the pasta the cooked garlic and greens along with the grated cheese. Serve, garnishing each serving with additional grated cheese.

Poetic Potato and Chickpea Curry

I spent most of my work day today thinking about musical form and rhythm, and researching poetic forms. So when I got home and started writing about this curry recipe, a limerick happened!

There once was a mild chickpea curry.
That I liked to make in a hurry.
With potatoes and rice,
Tomatoes and spice,
It’s so easy there’s nary a worry.

Then, a haiku:

Potato curry,
Yellow and satisfying,
Tastes good over rice.

Now I can’t write about this dish– or much else– without it turning into a poem, so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead. I hope that you enjoy this super-easy, mild curry!

Potato Chickpea Curry (serves 4)
3 yukon potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (one can, drained)
1/2 cup skim milk or rice milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
cilantro to garnish
4 cups cooked basmati rice*

Put chopped potatoes in a large pot with a lid and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and set aside.

Put a tablespoon of olive oil into the pot and saute the garlic and yellow onion over medium heat until they are very soft. Add the cooked potatoes and remaining ingredients and stir. Bring the liquid to a boil, turn the heat down to low, and allow the curry to simmer for 15 minutes before serving over rice. Garnish with cilantro.

*I’m terrible at cooking rice, so I always ask my husband Rami to do it. He found this great instructional video “Perfect Basmati Rice” over at Show Me the Curry, and it’s his new favorite method.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog, “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Rustic Radish Tart

The best thing about springtime in Texas is the long, sunny evening, when the temperature hovers in the mid-70s, the breeze rustles the live oaks, and our whole yard is bathed in golden light. (Well, the asphalt parking lot outside our apartment is bathed in golden light.) I love cooking at this time of year because it’s easy to put a meal on the table before sunset. It’s also cool enough to run the oven without making the house sweaty.

For all these reasons and more, Texas spring is the perfect time of year to make this rustic radish tart.  It’s easy and quick to toss together on a weeknight, and it travels well on a cheeseboard for a picnic in the yard.

The inspiration for this tart came from the vibrant radishes in season now from several local farms; these pink beauties came from West Austin Roots, just two miles from the capitol building. The radishes are the star of the show here, and tangy goat cheese, sweet onions, thinly-sliced apples, and a sweet thread of honey over top of the tart balance out their spice.

If you need to have dinner on the table quickly, I recommend making the pie crust for this recipe ahead of time on the weekend or, if you must, use store-bought. For tonight’s meal, I was able to roll out my pie crust, slice the onions, radishes and apples, and assemble the tarts while the oven was preheating. I got nice clean edges on my tart crust by trimming the dough into a circle with a pizza cutter after I rolled it flat.

Rustic Radish Tart (makes one, 9-inch tart)
Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup very cold shortening or butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons ice water

Filling:
4 oz. goat cheese
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to garnish
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
6 pink beauty radishes, tops and stringy roots removed, sliced very thin
1/2 granny smith apple, cored and sliced very thin
1/2 yellow onion, sliced very thin
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt

Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten

Prepare pie crust: Put flour, salt and butter into a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until mixture is crumbly and blended. (The largest pieces of butter should be about the size of green peas, completely coated in flour.)  Add ice water one tablespoon at a time, continuing to blend dough, until its consistency is even. Form dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. The dough will keep in the fridge up to 48 hours, and in the freezer for about a month.

To make the tart: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Stir together the goat cheese, olive oil and one tablespoon of fresh ground pepper. Slice onion, radishes and apple.

After the pie crust dough is chilled, roll it out on a floured surface until it’s about 11-inches across. Transfer the rolled dough to the prepared cookie sheet. Spread goat cheese mixture on the pie crust to within an inch or two of the edge.  Top cheese with sliced onions, radishes and apples, then fold the edges of the crust over the toppings to create the tart shape. Sprinkle the tart with salt and fresh ground pepper. Drizzle honey over the fruits and veggies and brush crust with egg wash before baking for 20-25 minutes, until crust is golden brown and shiny.

If you want to have a parking lot picnic like we did tonight, keep the tart on the parchment paper after cooking for easy transport.

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Two salads, one dressing

Salad with roasted beets, orange, cilantro, lettuce, and dandelion greens

The thermometer on my porch tells me that spring in Texas is over. The highs have  been in the 80s all week, and I have been compulsively checking the weather forecast for some sign that the Texas summer isn’t really starting yet. Today’s overcast skies and cool breezes give me hope. And did you know that some parts of the country had a blizzard this week? There must be hope for a spring snow day in Austin, right??

I probably won’t hold my breath. One good thing about this season-straddling weather is the simultaneous availability of local avocados, tomatoes, cilantro, citrus, beets, spring greens and winter greens. Having so many beautiful veggies together in my fridge a sign from above to make salad.

This week I created two new salad recipes that each come together in about 10 minutes, no cooking required. (Roast the beets ahead of time!) Each recipe makes an easy vegan main dish for two, or the perfect starter for a dinner party for 6.

The first recipe uses winter flavors of roasted beet, orange segments, and bitter greens for oomph. The second recipe is a classic guacamole salad, with cumin, cayenne and green garlic for heat since jalapenos aren’t in season yet. The inspiration for both salad dressings came from Elise Bauer’s Orange and Beet Salad Recipe. Her dressing base of olive oil and wine vinegar is genius in that she adds a little powdered mustard to help the dressing emulsify. I added some local ingredients–like Round Rock honey and cilantro from Naegelin farms– to her dressing recipe to enhance the flavors of the veggies and help them shine in each salad. I also opted for Texas pecans and dandelion greens in my version of the beet salad. You can’t beat the nutty pecan flavor against the pucker of bitter dandelion greens.

Salad of Roasted Beets, Oranges, Dandelion Greens
1 head red leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bite sized pieces
1 bunch dandelion greens, washed and torn into bite sized pieces
3 beets, roasted and skins removed, chopped (Do this ahead of time so they are cool!!)
2 navel oranges, peeled and segmented
1/4 cup pecan halves
Dressing:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare all veggies and fruits and combine in a large bowl. Whiz the dressing ingredients together in a blender, or mix them together in a small jar. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss, serve immediately.

Salad of Avocado, Tomato, Cilantro and Green Onion
1 head green leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bite sized pieces
1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped
1 bunch green onions, white part reserved, green parts chopped
1 bunch green garlic, white part reserved, green parts chopped
2 avocados, peeled with pits removed, chopped
3 tomatoes, cored and chopped
Dressing:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
white parts from one bunch green garlic
white parts from one bunch green onions
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare all veggies and combine in a large bowl, reserving the white stalks of the green garlic and green onions for use in the dressing. Combine stalks with remaining dressing ingredients in a blender and pulse until veggies are completely pureed and dressing emulsifies. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss, serve immediately.

Spaghetti with Raw Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti with raw tomato sauce

When I Googled “Raw Tomato Sauce” and came across Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s recipe for an easy, no-cook pasta sauce, I thought it might be too good to be true. I love her radio show, and the recipes posted on the website usually work well for me. Still, who would guess that raw tomatoes, a few herbs and a little olive oil could come together to create such a fresh, flavorful sauce for pasta? And in less time than it takes to heat up a jar of sauce on the stove? I didn’t, but I’m glad I gave her recipe a shot. It’s a weeknight winner, especially with fresh, early spring tomatoes from Gundermann Farms and green garlic from Texas Daily Harvest.

Tomatoes from Gundermann Farms

For my own version of this dish, I stuck to Lynne’s ingredient list pretty closely and altered the method to fit my busy schedule. Instead of basil, I tossed in a handful of the tops from my green garlic (shallot tops would have been nice, too). And to save time, instead of dicing the tomatoes by hand as she suggests, I gave them a rough chop and tossed the pieces along with all the other ingredients- even the garlic clove- in the food processor.  One minute of whirring later, voilà! Pico de pasta sauce.

To serve, I tossed the raw pasta sauce with two servings of just-cooked spaghetti and grated 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese over the top. The heat from the spaghetti warmed the sauce through and melted the cheese.

I’m not going to lie, the pasta sauce probably would have tasted better if I had basil on hand to use in addition to the green garlic tops. As it was, it was a quick and easy  dinner that dirtied just two prep dishes total. It’s hard to argue with that! I’ll probably add this recipe, or variations of it, to my regular weeknight rotation going into summer. As soon as I find a version that sticks, I’ll share it with you! Until then, here’s Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s recipe.

Turnip & Collard Green Frittata

Picture of frittata

Frittatas are one of the most powerful tools in the home cook’s arsenal. They are extremely forgiving and easy to adapt to whatever ingredients are in the fridge. Plus, you can serve a frittata at pretty much any meal. Pair it with muffins and fruit salad, and there’s brunch. With crunchy green salad and wine, dinner is served.

Lately I’ve been turning to frittatas at the end of the week to use up the veggies straggling in the crisper drawer, both for quick dinners and make-ahead breakfasts. No matter what specific ingredients I have on hand, I always make frittatas using the same basic formula:

  • 2 cups chopped, cooked vegetables, onions, potatoes or meat
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup liquid dairy- milk, cream, or half and half
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese
  • salt, pepper, garlic and other spices to taste

The recipe fills a 9-inch deep dish pie pan and bakes up in a 325 degree oven for 50 minutes

For this particular frittata, I took inspiration from the traditional southern preparation of turnips and collard greens and I paired those cruciferous veggies with garlic and heavy cream. Some Romano cheese added a bit of bite to the recipe, and I opted to use a mix of duck and chicken eggs since that’s what I had available. Next time we get turnips and collards in the local box, I’m planning to make this dish again and add some smoky bacon to the mix– I’ll just fry it up at the start of preparation and use the bacon fat to saute the veggies.

Picture of Frittata Ingredients

Turnip and Collard Green Frittata
yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:
olive oil
1 yellow onion
2 turnips
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch collard greens
6 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup shredded Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:
Peel and dice onion, turnips and garlic cloves. Chop stems off of collard greens, wash the leaves thoroughly, and chop them into 1/4 inch ribbons. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and use olive oil to grease a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan.

In a heavy bottomed skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Saute chopped onions, garlic and turnips until they begin to soften. Add the chopped collard greens to the skillet, and cook them with the other vegetables until they are wilted and soft. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.

Beat the eggs and cream together in a large mixing bowl. Fold in the cooked vegetables, cheese, salt and pepper to the egg mixture and pour frittata batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes in preheated oven, until eggs are firm.

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”