Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kale Pasta Carbonara

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This is one of the best pasta dishes we have ever made.  It's rich, it's creamy, it's hearty, and it's simple - everything you can ask for in a dinner.  When we stumbled upon this recipe, we had memories of making pasta carbonara (which traditionally has bacon in it) prior to becoming vegetarian and our mouths started watering immediately.  We liked that this version didn't try to add fake bacon but instead derived its rich and umami packed flavor from real food.

The secret to this recipe is using soy sauce and smoked paprika to bring a deep a smoky flavor to the dish.  Meanwhile, the kale adds a great crunch and helps make the dish more filling and complete.  After making this dish multiple times, we also decided that this is the time to use the best fresh pasta you can find.  Dried pasta just doesn't have the richness and smoothness that helps make this dish so amazing.  We are able to find fresh cut pasta at our local Whole Foods and at a local pizza and pasta shop, and hopefully you are able to find some too (in a pinch prepackaged fresh pasta at a grocery store would work).

While this dish is elegant and perfect for a date-night dinner, it couldn't be easier to throw together.  After sautéing the kale onion and spices, they are tossed together with the cooked pasta, fresh eggs, and parmesan cheese.  Give this recipe a try this weekend and it will soon be a staple dinner in your house!

Sunday, December 2, 2012


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When we are in the mood to experiment with a new dish we often try combinations of recipes from our cookbooks.  For this dish we wanted to do a spin on the Middle Eastern dish shakshuka (meaning "a mixture") - eggs poached in a tomato-onion sauce.  For our take on it, we were looking to add more veggies to make it a heartier main dish and after seeing a recipe in Cooks Illustrated for eggs florentine decided to add spinach.

While any tomato sauce would work in this dish, we used some sauce that we made over the summer with fresh cherry tomatoes and basil.  These bright flavors paired perfectly with smoky cumin and smoked paprika, caramelized onions and garlic, and plenty of spinach.  After simmering the tomato sauce for a while to let all the flavors meld, we carefully cracked eggs into the sauce and gently simmered for a few minutes until the eggs were just soft boiled (set whites and just set yokes).

This dish is especially simple because you probably have all of the ingredients on hand and can put it together in no time (you can even start with tomato sauce made for a pasta night and just add the spices).  Served with crusty bread to sop up all of the sauce this is an easy and delicious meal for any night of the week!


1tbs olive oil
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin, or to taste
2 tsp smoked paprika, or to taste
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed
4 cups of tomato sauce or canned tomatoes (any kind thats good)
4 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in heavy, wide pot over medium heat and add onions.  Saute until golden brown, then add garlic and spices.  Continue cooking, stirring often, until very fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add thawed spinach and cook for 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Add tomato sauce and simmer for 10 minutes (or longer) to allow flavors to combine.

Just before serving, create 4 wells in the sauce and carefully crack 1 egg into each well.  Put a lid on the pot and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how well done you want the eggs.

Ladle whole eggs and plenty of sauce into bowls and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Serves 2.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Carrot Gnocchi with Sage and Brown Butter

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It's pretty amazing how simple ingredients, when treated right, can turn into something so delicious.  In this case, just five ingredients - carrots, flour, sage, oil, and butter - are combined into a truly wonderful meal - carrot gnocchi.  We've always been a little intimidated to make classic potato gnocchi because great gnocchi must hold together well yet be light and airy.  When we first came across this recipe as Joanne's choice for the food matters project though, it seemed accessible and straightforward so we gave it a try.

By substituting carrots for potatoes or cheese, these gnocchi become quite sweet and very tender.  They were easy to put together and as long as you don't over mix them (which would build up too much gluten), they seem pretty foolproof.

Meanwhile, the simple brown butter and sage sauce is a perfect savory compliment.  Brown butter is nothing but butter and olive oil cooked until slightly browned and richly flavored.  Adding some sage leaves to this combination makes it all the better.  While cooking the gnocchi in batches (to avoid crowding and cooling the water), toss the finished gnocchi with the sauce to let them get a little crispy on the outside - a great contrast of texture to the soft and chewy center.

Pick up some carrots and sage and warm up your next cold evening with this delicious dish.

Carrot Gnocchi with Sage and Brown Butter
From The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman

1 lb carrots, cut into large pieces
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter
5-7 leaves of fresh sage, roughly chopped

Place carrots in cold water with a pinch of salt and bring to boil.  Boil until very soft, about 45 minutes, then drain.  Return carrots to pot and let them dry over low heat for 10 minutes.  Puree carrots in food processor or by hand and add nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste.

Combine flours in mixing bowl and remove 1/4 of it.  Add carrots to mixing bowl and stir until just combined.  Pinch off a piece of the dough and boil it to make sure it holds its shape.  If it falls apart add more flour to mixture until gnocchi just holds together.

Turn dough onto floured surface and roll into 1/2-inch ropes.  Cut rope into 1-inch pieces and score with a fork to provide grooves which will hold sauce.  Arrange gnocchi, without them touching, on a baking sheet covered with a towel.  (At this point the gnocchi can be frozen on the sheet pan, then transferred to a plastic bag for 3 months.  Do not thaw before boiling.)  Refrigerate for 20 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and heat oil, butter, and over medium low heat in a large skillet.  Cook a few gnocchi at a time in boiling water until 1 minute after they rise to the surface.  Transfer cooked gnocchi to skillet with sauce and repeat with remaining gnocchi.

Serve immediately.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sweet Potato Tempura

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This past weekend we had friends over for a great sushi-making dinner party.  Vegetable sushi rolls have recently become one of our favorite entertaining dishes, as it's fun to make in a large group and much of the prep work can be done ahead of time - cooking the rice, prepping the vegetables, making the sauces.  And of course, making one of the best side dishes for sushi - tempura!

As it turns out, this weeks food matters project recipe was sweet potato and corn fritters, thus sweet potato tempura was a perfect recipe twist.

Tempura batter is incredibly versatile and can be used to add a perfect crunch to anything you fry.  We chose sweet potatoes because of their sweet flavor and contrast between soft interiors and crunchy shells created by the tempura batter.  It would be equally good with any number of other vegetables, including broccoli, onions, asparagus, carrots, green beens, and cauliflower.

We wanted to make the tempura ahead of time so we weren't making a mess while guests were over and in doing so stumbled upon a great trick to ensuring perfectly cooked vegetables.  After frying the sweet potatoes we put them on a cooling rack in a hot oven to keep them warm.  This also helped finish cooking the insides (which were slightly hard after frying) which resulted in super creamy interiors yet perfectly crisp exteriors.

Grab some local vegetables at your market and give this fun side dish a try!  Also check out Bittman's Sweet Potato and Corn Fritters on Dinner with Aura.