Asparagus Mushroom Pasta w/Pecorino

I just keep modifying this recipe with the hopes of perfection, but to be honest since it includes two of my favorite vegetables, asparagus and mushrooms, along with some melty cheese and some salty cheese, it starts out pretty far ahead of the game.

D&D_1340_iPhoneThis is also great left over for lunch, but you must heat it very slowly in the microwave and stir very often or heat up the oven feature on the toasted oven and put it in there to reheat. Otherwise, the sauce breaks – it still tastes good, but it is not the same.

olive oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small-ish yellow onions
1 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced*

8 ozs penne pasta
1 pound asparagus,  trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ozs mascarpone
Parmesan, for serving
Lemons

Heat a pot of boiling water, and salt well. Add asparagus and cook until bright green and crisp tender – kind of the al dente of asparagus. Remove asparagus from water and set aside. Once the asparagus is finished, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

In a sauté pan, melt butter and add a little olive oil and then add garlic and cook over low heat while garlic softens and flavors the oil/butter. Add the sliced mushroom and sauté on medium until they’ve released their juices and most of that liquid evaporates.

Add the asparagus to the mushrooms. Turn the heat to low. then add the container of mascarpone cheese. Stir until it is melted and coats the vegetables. Add cooked pasta and mix together. Add the zest and juice of one lemon and then add a handful of freshly grated Pecorino cheese and stir again.D&D_2242

Serve with extra Pecorino and more lemon wedges for serving.

*Buy whole mushrooms and slice yourself. Pre-sliced mushrooms are an abomination.

When I know I am making this dish, or one similar, I usually cook the asparagus/pasta one day, typically when I’m cooking pasta for something else too. Then the bag of pasta/asparagus is ready when I’m ready for pasta. I drop in in a colander and run very hot water over it for a minute or two and let drain completely. D&D_1318

Modified several times based on a recipe by Giada de Laurentiis.

Savory Ham & Swiss Cheesecake

The MotH has a problem with me calling this a cheesecake because that just makes everyone thing dessert and I do, really, get that. But when you preface the name with savory, I hope people can somehow make the transition.D&D_2297

Definition of a cheesecake – having a firm custard-like texture, with cream cheese, cottage cheese, or both. Well, that fits.

But when get right down to it – this has an almost (almost) obscene amount of cream cheese and eggs which is what most cheesecakes do.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 cups oyster crackers
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
7 large eggs
2 cups grated Swiss cheese (about 8 ounces) + some
1 cup 1/2-inch cubes ham + some
3 minced scallions
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Preheat oven to 300°F. Brush 9 inch diameter springform pan with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Finely grind oyster crackers in the food processor. Mix cracker crumbs, Parmesan and 5 tablespoons melted butter in food processor to blend. Reserve 1/2 cup crumb mixture for topping; press remainder onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

D&D_2336In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and eggs until smooth. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour filling into crust. Sprinkle reserved 1/2 cup crumbs over. Place cheesecake on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until filling no longer moves in center when pan is gently shaken, about 2 hours. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make Ahead: can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand 2 hours at room temperature before serving. We are going to stretch this for a day for Thanksgiving, but I am pretty confident in it (see hurricane story below).

I made this the first time in 2004. It was really good. Not sure what the occasion was and we went to the MotH’s parents’ house just around the corner*, but here is the key point: We all liked it and – just to bury the lede – it was a great leftover after Hurricane Ivan took us out mostly. No, really. Just keep the fridge closed and things can stay safely in there for a day or so. This really worked, and to be honest, you do not want any kind of warm food right after a hurricane – um, ever. That is why Mandarin oranges are my go to food after a hurricane. Even at room temperature, they just rock.

That said, I have not made this since 2004 – likely out of an odd sense of “perhaps this is not a good idea,” but I am totally feeling out of hurricane season at this point. Thankfully, we dodged a big bullet in Irma, and Nate was just annoying, but no really biggie.

Source: Bon Appetit ? – will find out.
Sept 2004 – Leftover for Ivan
November 2017 for Thanksgiving

2 day method – crust mixture one day, cream cheese mixture next, assemble third and bake, serve at room temperature the next day.

Very good, yes, if I do say so myself, but my unsuspecting family testers said so. But both the MotH and is brother approved of my suggestion of serving with hot sauce – brand: Crystal.
Why Crystal? – heat, but also flavor and it does not completely blow your palate like Tabasco – which I also like, in certain applications, but not this one. The Boy has other opinions on hot sauce that usually include habaneros.

Crust is really crumbly on sides – and totally messy the entire time I was dealing with. Maybe just do bottom crust and topping – needs work, but the flavor is really good – just reduce the amount by probably half (?).

Next time with minced fresh jalapeño (The Boy) – another thought or a little pepper jelly would not go amiss at this point. Oh, pepper jelly on the top as a thin layer?? Maybe going too far afield. Nope, I don’t think so.

Or with pan-roasted mushrooms and spinach (or cress) as long as all the liquid is cooked out of both in a ruthless sort of manner. Little Dijon swirled in?
This could be a great Easter appetizer too.

Okay – and the work hack version with the cranberry horseradish relish was a revelation. Not a bad thing at all. Another really good option for some spice with this cheesecake.

D&D_1418_iPhoneAnd what to do with the rest of the oyster crackers – must be something, right?

*Might sound like a nightmare to some, but my in-laws are just the best. I love them dearly – always will. The Boy and I are very fortunate.

Hummus Wrap

I just can not bring myself to purchase hummus. No matter what – I think it because I am too cheap. It is just so damn easy to make hummus at home and no what any banana-pants cookbook or chef says – canned garbanzo beans are really just fine. Buy the Publix brand and just make your life so much simpler.

Again, this is a recipe from my vegetarian 1990s and I still make it all the time. The thing about this recipe is balance. I think even the banana-pants (read: fancy) chefs would agree to that.

Hummus ~
2 lemons, zested & juiced
2 cloves of garlic
1-15 ozs. can garbanzo beans
1 Tbs tahini or there abouts
kosher salt
water
olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, whirl up the garlic cloves until minced. Rinse the garbanzo beans in a colander, getting rid of the canning liquid* and add to food processor. Pulse a couple of times. Add lemon zest and lemon juice and pulse again. Add tahini and adjust the thickness of the hummus with a little water if necessary. Then add a little bit of really good olive oil**, because it is just a lovely thing. Taste as you go along.

Then here is the important part: Put the hummus in the fridge. Yes, this takes advanced planning, but you need to make your hummus a day ahead at the least. Let the flavors mix and then let the hummus sit out and try again – cold hummus will tell you nothing. No cold food ever tastes at its best unless it is, maybe, ice cream, but I am not even sure about that. Does it need more lemon, more salt, some sumac, a little freshly ground black pepper? Or is it just spiffy the way it is?

The Rest of the Stuff ~
Sun-dried tomato tortilla, warmed
Red onion, sliced and sautéed in a little olive oil, soft, but keep them red, splash of vinegar – red wine, or course
Crimini mushrooms, sautéed until juices are dry and well salted and peppered
Spinach (from the salad bar at the Publix)#

So this turned into more of a project than I expected, but the outcome was just lovely. I made the hummus, onions, and, mushrooms ahead of time and they hung out in the fridge for a couple of days. Did keep munching on those onions though – they were really good. Kind of pickled onions that were just a little soft.

Take a warm tortilla and spread with homemade hummus down the middle. Add the red onions and mushrooms down the middle. Top with spinach. Then do your best to roll the tortilla. I am not good at this – at all, but it worked well enough that I will get better over time. I’m sure (nope).

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Next time: feta, sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, but well-drained), artichoke hearts, roasted asparagus, hearts of palm. All these are just questions really. I could just go on and on. I really think these will make great lunch hacks, but I must pack all the items in small containers and keep them separate until it is time for lunch. Read: need new “tupperware” containers and lots of them. And I must toast or heat the tortilla  – that seems to be necessary.

November 2017 – Idea for the wrap from Ree Drummond.

*Know this is a controversial thing, but we’ll get there. I just do not like the taste. Sorry, vegan Aquafaba. Eeww.

**California Olive Ranch – Everyday. I can now get this at my Publix – very happy!

#When you only need a little greens for a sandwich or two, the salad bar can be a very good thing. If I am making a couple of spinach quiches – then I buy bags, but otherwise the salad bar is your friend.

2YA – Cheddar Pecan Crisps

One Pot Spaghetti

This recipe appealed to me because, in my small mind, spaghetti is always best as a left over. Kind of like meatloaf. I do not like warm meatloaf on a plate (isn’t meatloaf just such a strange word?), nor do I like spaghetti with sauce the day I make it. It does not really matter if it is my pasta sauce (vegetarian) or a meat sauce – it is always way (!) better when it sits in the fridge for a day or two.

My favorite way to eat spaghetti, which was always with a meat sauce when I was growing up, was a day later, reheated in a small pot on the stove – and then at the end, my mom would stir in small chunks of cheddar (a cheese she never skimped on – ever). So melty cheddar, meat sauce, soft noodles, and lovely goodness.

This recipe gets right down to that point. Cooking the pasta in the sauce makes a big difference, but I will still argue that waiting that one more painful day will make it just perfection. Let us just say, that I am right because I did it that way and it was just about everything I remember from the left-over spaghetti-ness of my childhood.*

1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 large sweet onion (softball-sized onion)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups water
15 ozs can tomato sauce
15 ozs can diced tomatoes with juice
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs dried basil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
12 ozs spaghetti, broken in half
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 Tbs chopped parsley

In a large potter medium high heat cook beef and onion until soft. Add garlic and stir for a minute or two. Drain fat (there was not much).

Add water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil. Add spaghetti and stir. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook, stirring often, until noodles are cooked through, 15 minutes or so.

Stir in Parmesan and parsley before serving.

3 November 2017 – Tasty, but in my opinion needs more tomato flavor. Maybe use crushed tomatoes instead of diced. The Boy like the taste of it. Maybe a bit of tomato paste while adding the garlic?

Hoping the reheat on the next day will make it even better. This certainly will not be the last time I make it. And I can report now – yes – later is always better with spaghetti.

Can not wait to take it to lunch with some shredded extra sharp cheddar. That should just be the thing. This apple does not fall far from my childhood tree. D&D_2234

*Why does this come up so often? Because childhood food is really good food. That is why.

My Favorite Mushroom Asparagus Pasta … so far.

This is a recipe that I got from Giada Delaurentiis. No, I realize that I am so spelling that wrong. I am sure, maybe. I have eliminated walnuts from the original recipe and added garlic and some onions but the basic recipe is still the most important part: 1/2 pound of ridged pasta – penne. Lots of mushrooms – about a pound and then a pound of asparagus cut into pieces. And the most part is the mascarpone. Heavenly. Of course & Parmesan as always, and with me some fresh lemon zest and lemon juice to brighten up any creamy kind of pasta. You really do not need salt for this, in my mind. If you do the lemon thing. Which pretty much do every time. I do need a lemon zester at the office – who does that – no. one. except, maybe, me. Is that a bad thing or does that just make me the food snob that everyone thinks I am? Not sure. Sigh.D&D_2242

8 ozs penne pasta
olive oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small-ish yellow onions
1 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced*
1 bundle of asparagus, a pound or s,  trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ozs mascarpone
Parmesan, for serving
Lemons

Heat a pot of boiling water, and salt well. Add asparagus and cook until bright green and crisp tender – kind of the al dente of asparagus. Remove asparagus from water and set aside. Once the asparagus is finished, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

In a sauté pan, melt butter and add a little olive oil. Add the sliced mushroom and sauté until they’ve released their juices and most of that liquid evaporates. Add garlic and sauté for another minute more.

Add the asparagus to the mushrooms. Then add the container of mascarpone cheese. Stir until it is melted and coats the vegetables . Add cooked pasta and mix together. Add a handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and stir again.

Serve with extra Parmesan for serving. A lemon wedge would not go amiss here.

*Buy whole mushrooms and slice yourself. Pre-sliced mushrooms are an abomination. Purchase cremini if you have the option. Just saying.

Tomato Soup

I am hard pressed to think of a tomato soup I won’t at least try^. It is my favorite kind of soup to make, granted I prefer a bisque and in my mind, most bisques do fine with out the cream. Somehow when you get to the point of adding cream, I taste the soup, and it does not seem necessary. Also, this makes reheating a little less precarious.D&D_2185

2 Tbs olive oil
3 small yellow onions, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried basil
32 ozs water with about a heaping tsp of Better than Bouillon* (veg)- heated
2 – 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes with the juice
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
1 1/2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

garnish – chives? parsley? scallions? chevre? croutons? grilled cheese croutons?

In a large pot heat olive oil. Add onions and cook until soft, add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute until soft, but not browned. Add dried herbs and stir for 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes with juice and crush the tomatoes with a potato masher. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce to low, add sun-dried tomatoes and simmer 30 minutes. Let cool briefly, add balsamic vinegar, and then purée with an immersion blender. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed. A little swirl of good olive oil can be very nice.

Garnish with chives and cheese toasts. Or what ever floats your boat.

Serves 6 (I really think more than that)

^Exception – any tomato based soup with meat in it. I am a real vegetarian when it comes to soup – just don’t like the texture of meat in a soup. Blech.

*This stuff keeps forever the fridge. Thanks America’s Test Kitchen for the recommendation.

Well, this soup seemed to be made just in time. The Boy had a head cold with a sore throat and this was just the thing for him. It also made plenty enough that I could take two meals worth to the office. It became my favorite lunch hack of October I think. I made a blue cheese/cheddar toast to put into the soup at work and it was really very good.

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Tomato Soup Lunch Hack

Next time, I’ll see if someone would like to split it with me, because it is quite a lot for just me and The Boy. But sharing is always a good thing, I think.

I think my only problem were the tomato seeds – maybe I should press it through a fine mesh strainer next time. We’ll see. There are so many other tomato soup recipes to try, it might be a while till I get back to this one. But it will definitely stay in the rotation, especially since it can be made any time of year – yeah – canned tomatoes!

Hummus Cheddar Iceberg Sandwich

This might just be a sandwich born of desperation or poverty or both. This is simple sandwich but the flavors mix well together, but only if you make the hummus a day ahead – again a flavor-melding-together kind of thing.D&D_2110

For hummus, here is what I do:

Rinse a can of garbanzo beans* – really rinse them well. This is a key step. While they are draining, mince two cloves of garlic in the food processor, add the garbanzo beans, and the juice of two decent-sized lemons. You can add less, but why would you? Add two big tablespoons of tahini, making sure it’s mixed well because of its maddening habit of separating. Add a pinch of salt and whirl away. If it needs it, add a little water to make it smoother. That’s it. Pretty simple really. Then wait till tomorrow to eat it. Advanced planning required. This is so not optional.

Then the rest is just as simple. White bread (although a good wheat bread or Italian bread would not go amiss here either), with a little Duke’s mayonnaise, a good slather of hummus, sliced cheddar (I got it from the deli this time) and a bit of crunchy iceberg lettuce. Dead simple and really amazingly good.

 

*Yes, yes, you can certainly do this with dried garbanzo beans, but most of the time, I just opt for a can of beans – quicker, easier, and well, it works with my way of making good food.