Monday, October 31, 2016

Deconstructed Pesto Pasta Primavera

Want pesto, but not all the oil? Chop and add all of the traditional pesto ingredients plus just enough oil to flavor. Pro tip: the addition of parsley helps to keep this “pesto” green. It’s not essential, but your pesto will turn brown shortly after preparing if you leave the parsley out.

3/4 pound rotini pasta, any type
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for topping (if desired)
2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
1 medium summer squash or zucchini, cut into strips similar in size to the pasta (¼” x  ¼” x 1”)
1 head of broccoli, cut stalk portion in strips (¼” x  ¼” x 1”) and head portion into 1” florets
¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
2/3 cup finely chopped basil (do NOT pack when measuring)
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley (do NOT pack when measuring), optional
Juice of ½ a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ pound cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
¼ cup toasted pine nuts, optional

  1. Boil pasta in salted water according to package instructions until al dente. If using gluten-free or high protein pastas, rinse pasta at the end of cooking.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add garlic and stir; add squash and broccoli before garlic browns and still well. Sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are cooked but broccoli is still slightly crisp.
  3. Add pasta and crushed red pepper flakes to the vegetables and reheat pasta. Add a few tablespoons of water to the pan if the pasta is sticking. Add basil, parsley and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Portion into bowls and top with tomatoes and pine nuts. If desired, drizzle with a bit more olive oil. 

Makes 4 large servings

Substitutions: You can substitute chopped walnuts for pine nuts. You can also substitute other vegetables—like colored bell peppers, carrots, asparagus, and cauliflower—for the vegetables used in this recipe.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Red Lentil and Vegetable Soup with Fried Scallions

This soup reheats well, so I make a large batch and store whatever I won’t eat within a weeks’ time in 2 cup containers in the freezer. This makes it easy to take for lunch or reheat for a quick weeknight meal. It is delicious served over brown rice or with whole grain bread, crackers or pita.

4 tablespoons olive oil*
1 large, or 2 medium onions, ¼ to ½-inch dice
2 stalks celery, ¼ to ½-inch dice
4 medium carrots, ¼ to ½-inch dice
1 cup diced sweet potato, potato, or winter squash
1 cup ¼ to ½-inch diced summer squash or zucchini
6 tablespoons finely minced cilantro stems and roots
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
28-ounces tomato sauce (low-sodium, if possible)
2 cups red lentils
2 small limes, juiced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 scallions, sliced thinly on a bias

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 6 to 8 quart stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, stirring occasionally. If onions begin to cook to quickly and stick or become deep brown in spots, turn heat down to medium.
  2. While onion is cooking, chop and add celery, carrots, sweet potato, summer squash and cilantro stems, 1 teaspoon salt, turmeric and cumin to the pot, continuing to stir occasionally. If the vegetables begin to brown or stick, cover with a lid. Cook for 5 min.
  3. Add tomato sauce, 8 cups of water and lentils. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low and cover with a lid; soup should be simmering (lightly bubbling). Cook for 30 minutes. Stir frequently for the first 10 minutes or lentils will stick to the bottom of the pot.
  4. When the soup is nearly done, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over high heat. When oil just starts to smoke, add in scallions and stir-fry until the edges crisp and brown slightly. Remove scallions from pan and set aside for garnishing.
  5. Season soup to taste with lime juice, salt and pepper.
  6. Serve soup sprinkled with scallions. Stir remaining scallions into the soup when you’re putting the soup away after dinner.

*If you prefer crunchy scallions, heat enough oil to truly fry the scallions (about 1 cup) and cook the scallions in 2 batches. You can scoop the scallions out of the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Reserve the leftover oil for other uses; it is great for salad dressings, pastas, and drizzled over baked potatoes or roasted vegetables.

Makes: 18 cups (9 bowls)

Monday, October 10, 2016

WSJ Interview: Making Sense of the Salt Shaker

I have been asked to do several interviews on salt (aka. sodium) in food recently, and wanted to share the one that was published most recently in the Wall Street Journal on September 27, "Making Sense of the Salt Shaker."

This story gives some interesting tips and tricks to reduce sodium intake without sacrificing flavor--including highlighting the method I use to properly season the food that I cook with salt. Clearly, the beef chili example used in the recipe was not my choosing, but the technique works well for anything that you can stir and season: think soups, stews, sauces, or a pot of beans. 

Please try this out and share your thoughts in the comments!