Friday, July 31, 2009

Linguine with Goat Cheese-Lemon-Almond Sauce

This is the perfect opportunity to showcase one of the things I do best in the kitchen: use stray leftover ingredients from previous meals to make a new, completely different concoction.

You'll probably recognize several of these components from the Couscous and Zucchini post: tomatoes, lemon, goat cheese, zucchini. After I tasted the lemony sauce I spooned over the stuffed zucchini, I knew I wanted to try making a pasta sauce version - that basically entailed thinning it out a bit with more white whine, and adjusting the amount of lemony-ness (I thought that the juice of a whole lemon was a bit too acidic last time, so I only used half of the juice, and added a little lemon zest to add flavor without adding acidity).

This is one of the best ways to reduce food waste and save money when you're eating at home. The basic methodology is to take a quick metal inventory of what you have in the fridge, think a little about what you're craving (I was, as always, craving pasta), and try to make those two things mesh. It's not as hard as you think. Occasionally, you'll have a few things sitting around that just won't work together, but generally, a smattering of leftover veggies and a dried carb or two can be the start of something wonderful.



Serves about 2

6 oz. whole wheat linguine
1 medium zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
several handfuls grape tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic
2 T. olive oil
1/2 small log of goat cheese
1 big spoonful light sour cream
big glug white wine
2 T. butter
freshly chopped parsley
small handful sliced almonds
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper to taste


Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a nonstick skillet. Place the zucchini rounds in a single layer and cook, seasoning with salt and pepper, until they are nicely browned on one side. Flip them over and add the tomatoes, seasoning a little more. Cook the zucchini and tomatoes until the tomatoes have begun to wrinkle. Set aside and keep warm.


Meanwhile, cook the linguine until al dente. Drain and set aside. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and cook the garlic until it's fragrant. Pour in the white wine, and add the sour cream, goat cheese, almonds, lemon juice and zest, and parsley. Whisk together over medium heat until hot and melted.


Stir the linguine noodles into the goat cheese sauce and toss until coated. Place in a serving bowl and make a nest in the middle of the pasta. Spoon some zucchini and tomato mixture in the nest. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Unstoppable Cherry Almond Cobbler

Did the fact that it was just little ol' me, home alone on a humdrum Wednesday night, stop me?

Did the fact that it's - hello - bikini season stop me?

Did the fact that I had to pit 2 pounds of cherries without one of those snazzy cherry-pitter-things, or the fact that my kitchen was destined to look like an SVU murder scene, or my sheer post-work exhaustion stop me?

No! No, my friends. This is the Cherry Almond Cobbler That Would Not Be Stopped.

And that's why you love me. (Full disclosure: the hole in the above photo was taken before I came back for the second round.

Ever since cherry season arrived, I've been preoccupied with baking a cherry...something. I was all set to make a pie tonight when I realized that I left my rolling pin at Jess' house, after a night of grilled pizza (it was so good the first time, we just had to do it again) - um, who leaves their rolling pin at their friends' house?!? (Dear Elizabeth, GET A LIFE.)

But not to worry - there's more than one way to skin a cat, and there's more than one way to top some baked cherries. A quick Google search yielded a cherry cobbler recipe from my own personal American (Natural Cooking) Idol, Heidi Swanson ("American Natural Cooking Idol" would make for a much less entertaining show, although I think it could do wonders for the obesity epidemic).

I won't belabor this post with reprinting her recipe - you can find it here. My only changes were to substitute light sour cream for the buttermilk (only because I knew I'd use the sour cream again, and I'd never use the buttermilk); I used all-purpose flour instead of whole wheat (didn't have any WW on hand), and I used plain old flour instead of corn starch to toss with the cherries. Also, Heidi mixed her nuts in with the dough, and I sprinkled my sliced almonds on top.

I don't even know what to say about this cobbler, except that it was amazing. The cherries could not have been fresher or more delicious, the recipe was perfect, and I enjoyed it sitting on my porch with a glass of white wine. Life is just a bowl of...well, you know.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Couscous-Stuffed Zucchini with Chevre Sauce

by Elizabeth Stephens

O, Chevre, you were surely ne'er meant to be eaten
By the likes of us humans who're long past our teatin.'
But when you've been churned, so pearly and white,
You make every recipe an udder delight.

I try to ignore you, but you traipse in unbidden,
You jump right in my cart - oh, who am I kiddin'?
You know I couldn't stop loving you if I tried.
While your hand is upper, my hands are just tied.

You're creamy and succulent in your unaged glory,
You and Fig on a cracker - now that's a love story.
At my Trader Joe's I can find you quite cheaply,
Though for your piquant flavor, I'd pay quite steeply.

I wish you could know how exactly I feel -
How I long to shower you with bright lemon peel.
You've no brain and no pulse and nary a soul,
Yet here I sit writing, chevre, it's you I extol.



two medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise
handful grape cherries, quartered
1/2 c. dry cousous
1/2 white onion, diced
about a dozen kalamata olives, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 T. olive oil
1/2 a small log of goat cheese
1/2 c. white wine
1 big tablespoon light sour cream
fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
juice of one lemon


Using a spoon, scrape out a little of the middle of the 3 out of the 4 zucchini halves. Chop the remaining 4th one into small pieces. Place the 3 hollow ones in a baking dish and season with a little salt and pepper.


Preheat the oven to 375. On the stovetop, cook the couscous in 1 cup of water. Cover and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Cook the onions until they start to get some color.


Add the zucchini pieces (the small cut up ones), garlic, olives and tomatoes to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook until everything has some color. Stir in the couscous and cook for another minute.


Spoon some couscous mixture into the hollowed out zucchini, smashing it in. Pile a little more on top. Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.


While the zucchini are baking, heat the white wine in a saucepan. Add the sour cream, goat cheese, lemon juice, and parsley. Whish over medium-low heat until smooth. Bring the heat up until it's simmering, and cook for a few minutes, until it thickens. Keep warm.


Place the zucchini on a plate. Spoon the goat cheese sauce over them. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stir-Fried Three-Bean Rice Noodles

I'm sort of having an Asian food moment. It's had its ups and downs so far; I seem to use a heavy hand with ginger, and always underestimate how much soy sauce I actually want, but overall my trials and errors have pretty much satisfied my Far East cravings.

I bought these super-thin rice noodles on a total whim, knowing only I had found a great deal on fresh snap peas and intended on eating them as soon as possible. Rice pasta tastes very similar to regular pasta, but it definitely does add a little something special to an Asian dish. My intent was to stir-fry them until they were a little crisp - this didn't happen. In fact, the stir-frying action basically just tore them into smaller pieces, so I quickly abandoned that plan and just mixed them up with the beans as fast as possible.

Once I added the right amount of soy sauce to this dish (a lot), it was really good - without the saltiness of the soy sauce, the bite of the ginger and the cayenne was just too overpowering. I loved the crispness of all the fresh beans, and of course I can never get enough of my beloved chickpeas. I'd love to try this with some toasted nuts next time.



Makes 5-6 servings

1 package Thai rice noodles
handful grean snap peas, fresh
handful green beans, trimmed
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly
1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
3 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 T. minced fresh ginger root
couple splashes rice wine vinegar
soy sauce to taste
salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste


Heat the olive oil in your largest skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onion, red pepper, and carrot, seasoning with a little salt and pepper and cayenne pepper, until slightly softened. Add garlic and ginger and cook until frangrant. Add vinegar and cook until evaporated slightly.


Meanwhile, boil the snap peas and green beans in a large pot of water until crisp-tender. Remove water from heat and put in rice noodles. Allow to sit in the water until softened but not mushy. Drain.


Add the noodles, beans, and chickpeas, and soy sauce to skillet. Stir-fry a few minutes until everything is incorporated. Trasfer to a plate and serving platter or plate and enjoy!

I actually ate some leftovers with a scrambled egg piled on top for some added protein - it was a nice addition; of course you could scramble it right in the pan, too.

It's safe to say I have a long road of Asian-cooking-technique perfecting ahead of me, but I be it'll be a tasty journey.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Night Light: Carrot & White Bean Salad

I bought a large hunk of Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese about, oh...five days ago. We're talking a seriously large hunk here.
Despite its imposing size, I've managed to whittle said hunk down to about a quarter of its former dinosaurian glory over the past week. I'd come home hungry and "nibble" (gobble) a few pieces; I packed a couple slices in my lunch to supplement my leftover-tofu-and-pasta (I need calcium!); occasionally I'd have a cheese nightcap just before bed. So you can see how my cheddar mountain was soon made into a molehill.

It was precisely because of my cheesy transgressions that I wanted to cook something vegetarian, healthy, and preferably dairy-free (aside from a little butter - but a little butter never hurt anybody). This dovetailed nicely with my recent preoccupation with a post I saw on - a carrot, dill, and white bean salad. I absolutely love everything renowned blogger and cookbook author Heidi Swanson says, does, cooks, or eats, so I was excited to whip up a quick and nutritious homage to her.

Trader Joe's - always unpredictable - did not have dill, so I used my beloved parsley instead. Other than that, I didn't really alter her recipe except to combine it with an idea from another one of her posts, which was to serve it over a bed of spinach while it was hot, making the spinach leaves wilt ever so slightly. Voila - a perfectly easy, simple, inexpensive, and healthy meal.



handful raw baby spinach leaves
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1/4 white onion, finely diced
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut on the bias
1 can white kidney (cannellini) beans
freshly chopped parsley
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper
2 T. honey
more olive oil if you need it
sliced almonds

baguette and butter for serving (optional)


Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the shallots and onion until they begin to soften, seasoning with a little salt and pepper. Add the carrot, and cook until all three ingredients have some color, stirring occasionally.


Meanwhile, drain and thoroughly rinse the beans. Set aside. Arrange the spinach leaves on a plate or serving platter.


Add the lemon juice, parsley, some more seasoning, the beans, honey, and some almonds to the pan. Give it a shake. Let it cook for a few more minutes. Pour the contents of the pan over the spinach leaves (or spoon it out if you're doing it in individual servings), and top with a little more parsley and almonds. Enjoy!

This came out so wonderfully. I can't say I'm really surprised, since everything Heidi does is perfect and glorious, but I don't think I ever would have come up with this dish on my own. It's so simple and rustic, but so perfectly balanced. It would make an excellent side dish for salmon or roasted chicken, and I'm sure it's great chilled (as I'll find out tomorrow). I really don't think I'd change a thing - although I'm excited to try this again when I can actually get my hands on some dill.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Simple Pea Pesto

Mmmm, peas! Mmmm, pesto! Mmmm, pasta!

The Three P's came together quickly and deliciously in this summer-light pasta dish. I had been wanting to make pea pesto for awhile now, having seen several recipes for it floating around the blogosphere. I happened to have a half-bag of frozen peas and some pasta sitting around, so getting the rest of the ingredients was a cinch.

A lot of pea pestos are made with fresh mint, but I actually hate fresh mint (which is so sad, because I really, really want to like tabbouleh!), so I just went with the traditional basil and parsley combination. The flavors of the basil and peas worked well together; the only thing I might change next time is to cook the garlic in a little oil first - the raw garlic was a bit overpowering for my taste (and I do love my garlic).

My pesto came out very chunky, considering I don't have a food processor, and frankly don't have the patience to chop things super-finely by hand, but the chunkiness really allows you to taste each disparate flavor in the sauce. I have a feeling the pesto will only be better the longer it sits (in fact, I'm about to test this theory since I'm going to have some of the leftovers for my lunch). Only 30 more minutes until the generally-accepted lunch time of 12:00 pm! (I get hungry every single day at exactly 10:15 am. It's excruciating.)


whole wheat capellini or other pasta
1 1/2 c. frozen peas
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
big handful basil leaves, finely chopped
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. pine nuts, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


Boil the pasta in salted water in a large pot. Using a colander or handled strainer, set the frozen peas so they're resting in the pasta water (or alternately, just boil them separately or microwave them). When they're tender, mash them. Cook pasta until al dente, then drain.


Meanwhile, combine all the other ingredients (including the now-mashed peas) in a large mixing bowl and mix until well-combined. Place in the pot you cooked the pasta in, then pour the pasta on top of the pesto while still hot and stir to mix.


Serve with a few reserved peas and pine nuts scattered on top. Enjoy!

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gingery Tofu and Cabbage Stir-Fry

Sometimes, I'm ambivalent about what I want to make, agonizing over every ingredient and flipping through endless magazines for inspiration. And sometimes, like with this stir-fry, inspiration hits me as soon as I see an ingredient.

I knew I would have a ton of leftover cabbage from the fish tacos, and I immediately knew I wanted to make a brown rice and tofu stir-fry. I've been meaning to cook something with an Asian flair lately, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so.

I had to pick up the soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, but being long-lasting staples, I wasn't worried, especially since I had most of what I needed on hand. The one thing I really wanted was sesame oil, which Dominick's didn't have, but I used olive oil and it still came out tasty.

Cabbage, in my humble opinion, is an under-used and under-appreciated ingredient. The one downside is that, being one person, it's almost impossible to use an entire head of cabbage (I see why it's a staple in the peasant soups of Europe - it's cheap and plentiful!). Unlike spinach and the like, cabbage really stands up to high heat and strong flavors, making it perfect in a spicy and gingery Asian dish. I really used a heavy hand with the ginger in mine, but if you like your ginger subtler, just tone it down a bit.

I was thrilled that I finally successfully fried tofu to a lovely golden brown - normally I just stir it in and wonder why it doesn't firm up and get some color (the key is frying it in a dry pan before you put it in a dish). It really enhanced the texture and allowed it to hold up through the vigorous stir-fry process.

Overall, this came out really nicely, and it was a great healthy end to a weekend of delicious indulgence at various barbeques and bars. I hope you put your own twist on this stir-fry (chicken, perhaps?) and enjoy it as much as I did.



1 cup dry brown rice
2 cups water
a little salt

1/2 a large head of green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 large white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced in rings
1-2 tsp. freshly grated ginger root
3 cloves of garlic
3 T. olive oil (or you could use vegetable or sesame oil)
a few good shakes of rice wine vinegar
1/4 c. reduced-sodium soy sauce, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
1/3 of a block of extra-firm tofu, sliced and patted very dry

fresh chopped cilantro for garnishing
raw cashews for garnish (optional: I needed to use some up, but they definitely added a nice crunch. You could also use unsalted peanuts)


Cook the brown rice in the water with a little salt, covered, according to package directions. Set aside. When as much of the moisture is squeezed out of the tofu as you can manage (pressing gently between paper towels), heat a large skillet over medium high heat and fry the tofu for a few minutes on each side, not moving it around, until it gets golden brown on each side. Remove from pan and set aside.


Using the same pan, add the olive oil and let it heat up for a minute, then add the onion, carrot, and bell pepper. Cook for a few minutes, seasoning with a little salt and pepper and red pepper flakes (I went easy on the salt all the way through this dish because I knew I was going to season it later with the soy sauce).


Add the cabbage and add a little more salt/pepper/red pepper flakes. If your stir-fry looks too dry, add a little more oil. Cook for a few minutes, until the cabbage begins to soften. Add the vinegar and stir-fry everything for a few minutes. When the cabbage has gotten even softer, add the ginger and garlic. Stir-fry a little more.


When the garlic and ginger are fragrant, stir in the rice and the soy sauce and stir-fry a little more. Add the tofu at the very end, careful not to break it up too much with the stirring. If it needs a little more soy sauce, add it. Serve, garnishing with the cilantro and cashews, and enjoy!

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fish Tacos, Cheating at Dessert & Inexplicably, Cheese Grits

How great are fish tacos?!

Pretty great. This was my first attempt at fish tacos (obviously, since that's what this whole blog is about), and I think overall they came out all right! In retrospect, I would've liked more heat - either by pumping up the cayenne in the breadcrumbs or just by throwing some hot sauce on top of the whole thing!

I kept these pretty traditional, with shredded cabbage and sour cream, but you could of course add any taco topping you like - or leave out anything you don't like. This is an easy, quick meal that - despite the frying - I'm convinced is still fairly healthy. Obviously you could grill the fish and they would still be delish.



3 fresh tilapia filets
3 large flour tortillas (or 6 small ones)
2 eggs, beaten
juice of two limes
various spices: salt, pepper, coriander, chili powder, cayenne powder, etc. (just experiment)
peanut oil for frying
Ian's bread crumbs, regular (not Italian-seasoned)
the salsa of your choosing
fresh shredded cabbage
shredded cheddar or Mexican-blend cheese
1/2 c. sour cream
handful cilantro leaves, chopped


Make the fish-frying assembly line: place the flour on one plate, the eggs (mixed with the juice of one lime), and the breadcrumbs (seasoned with a generous smattering of spices, including salt) onto another plate. Have a fourth plate, covered in a few paper towels, ready for when the fish come out of the pan. Heat the peanut oil in a semi-deep pan over pretty high heat (we put ours on an 8 out of 10 setting).


While the oil is heating, bread the fish: dredge in flour, then lime-egg, then breadcrumbs. Shake off excess. When the oil splatters a bit when you drop a few water droplets in it, it's ready. Fry the fish until the first side is golden-brown. Flip and fry the other side. Remove from the oil and drain on the paper towels. When all the fish is fried, cut it into slices.


Mix the sour cream with the juice of one lime and the chopped cilantro. Assemble the tacos in the tortillas: the fish and any toppings of your choosing! (Shredded cabbage is traditional, but you could use lettuce.) Enjoy!

Here's what Taylor had to say about the fish tacos:

"When Elizabeth said she wanted to make fish tacos for dinner I was psyched because I knew they'd taste great. And the meal didn't disappoint. I couldn't help but notice how evenly the fish was fried despite our not having a deep fryer. When I pan fry things they usually end up either undercooked or with little black areas here and there. Not so with this panko breaded tilapia.

Also included in the taco were cabbage, something I would never have thought to add but provided a nice crunchy texture, and a dill cream sauce that went nicely with salsa to add flavor. I reduced it to a few scraps of tortilla in what seemed like 30 seconds.

After that came the pound cake with strawberries and whipped cream that Eliz just whipped up on the spot. I think that pretty much speaks for itself. Best meal of the week for me. Thanks!"

(Not too shabby!)

When the LeCroys and I cook together, we hardly ever plan for dessert, but inevitably we sit around watching Top Chef and end up wanting more food! This time I came prepared with a little sweet treat in tow. This is the easiest dessert in the world - and probably one of my favorite sweets of all time! Since strawberry season is in full swing - and is sadly all too short - I wanted to make use of them while I could.

The one "homemade" aspect of this dessert is the whipped cream, which - once I found out heavy cream can be whipped in a matter of minutes - I never intend to buy again. Why get the creepy aerosol can when you can just make your own so simply?



1 store-bought angel food cake (or you could use pound cake)
1 small container heavy whipping cream
1 container strawberries (or berries of your choice)
a few pinches sugar


Slice the berries and sprinkle with a little sugar, tossing to coat. Allow to sit for a little while in the sugar.


Slice the cake.


Using an electric hand mixer in a deep bowl, add a little sugar (about 1 T.) to the cream, and whip it until it becomes...whipped cream (a few minutes). Top each slice of cake with the berries and cream. Enjoy!

This last recipe I included simply because one of my goals in life, should I ever achieve my dreams of becoming a culinary superstar, is to convince the world above the Mason-Dixon line that cheese grits are the food of the gods! Everyone I know who's tried grits says the same thing: "They just seemed so bland." Um...DUH! That's why you put butter and cheese in them, people! I grew up eating cheese grits almost every weekend for breakfast, and they are still one of my favorite ways to start a Saturday morning. I hope if you ever get the chance to try real, homemade cheese grits, you'll begin to love them as much as I do. With a couple of quick-fried eggs (and some bacon or sausage, if you're feeling ambitious), they're hot, filling, and deserving of way more credit than they get!



1 c. water
3 tablespoon dry grits
1 hunk cheddar cheese (about 3 ounces?), cut into small pieces
chunk of butter
salt and pepper
2 eggs
a little more butter
a little more salt and pepper for the eggs


Bring the water to a boil. Stir in the grits and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the grits begin to thicken. Stir in the cheese and butter, and stir until the cheese is completely melted. Season with salt and pepper. Pour out onto a plate.


Meanwhile, cook the eggs in a small pat of butter, seasoning with salt and pepper (I did mine with the whites cooked and the yolks runny, but you could scramble or poach them, whatever you like). Serve atop the grits. Enjoy!

LeCroys, thanks for hosting and allowing me to watch your glorious television!

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

San Marzano Vodka Sauce Two Ways

I've been hearing some things here and there lately about San Marzano tomatoes. They're tomatoes grown in (you guessed it) San Marzano (that's in Italy, which explains my immediate and ever-burgeoning obsession).

I found them in Whole Foods (damn you Whole Foods and your amazing selection of hard-to-find-and-expensive-and-delicious-things!), and of course grabbed a big can. I wasn't sure if they'd make a difference in the taste of my sauce, especially since I was planning on making vodka sauce, where the creaminess can overpower the tomato-y-ness anyway.

When I opened the can, I took a little spoonful just as it was, to see if I could taste a difference between the San Marzano beauties and their average American cousins. I could not. But the can was attractive, and the name is so fun to say, I can't promise I really cared at that point. Then I embarked on what would become the best vodka sauce of MY LIFE! Behold its rustic simplicity:



2 T. olive oil
1 medium white onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, cut into small pieces
glug of red wine
1 large can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
3/4 c. vodka
1 small container heavy cream (8 oz.)
fresh chopped parsley
fresh chopped oregano
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes

Yes, friends, that's all it takes to make a sauce that, I daresay, would make a boyfriend propose, a friend declare her undying love for your demon cat, or perhaps just make you fantasize about its every nuance for days on end.

It's a sauce so good that even I, an over-ingredienter if ever there were one, could just have a (giant) bowl of nothing but rigatoni swathed in this saintly, silky, sinful sauce. (Seriously, after I tasted it, I felt like I needed to go to confession).

Well, enough of that filthy talk! Let's talk about the tricks I taught this sauce to do: for its first act, it made what could've been a much-too-healthy summer lasagna into a coma-inducing, wine-absorbing moanfest. And for the finale but a few days later? Another hearty, and arguably a more heathful, easy Italian treat.

Before we get carried away, here's how you combine the above ingredients into a pot of heaven:


Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook them until they begin to soften. Add the onions, season a tad more, and cook until they begin to get soft too, and just keep cooking until the mixture begins to get a little color. Don't be afraid of the color. Just go with it.


Add in the glug of red wine, scraping any oil/carrot/onion residue off the bottom of the pan. Cook until it evaporates a bit and soaks into the veggies. Pour in the tomatoes and the vodka. Add the fresh herbs, red pepper flakes, and some more salt and pepper. [NOTE: the San Marzano tomatoes I got had no salt added, so make sure that if yours do, you go easier on the salt you add to the dish.] Stir and cook over medium-high heat until the mixture thickens a bit.


When the sauce has reduced a bit, lower the heat and stir in the cream. Just go with it. You can make it up on the treadmill later. Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Cook a little more if the sauce seems thin.


Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce until smooth (you could also use a food processor or regular blender). Taste one last time and make sure the seasoning is spot-on. Pat yourself on the back and prepare for an orgiastic feast.

This isn't the first thing I made with the SMVS, but it photographed well, thus receives higher placement on the blog. Another ingredient I'd been meaning to experiment with are Cubanelle peppers. I saw Rachael Ray make something with them once, and being a pepper fanatic in general, I was jonesing to try them. They have a really interesting flavor; slightly spicy (reminiscent of poblanos but with much less heat), but with the pleasantly clean, bitter bite of a green bell pepper. Their flesh is thin yet crisp, making them really satisfying to bite into when paired with something creamy, like the white beans in this dish.

I was really happy with the way this came out: fresh, hearty yet light (a paradox I've been getting right a lot lately - go me!), and rife with layers of subtle flavors and a pleasing range of textures. The only thing I'd do differently next time is cut the red bell peppers into smaller pieces, as the big slices kept slapping me in the side of the face when I'd try to get a forkful in.



glug olive oil
2 cloves garlic
several dashes white wine vinegar (or other vinegar, whatever you have)
about 6 oz. whole wheat linguine noodles
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 cubanelle peppers, sliced into thin rings
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1 cup prepared San Marzano vodka sauce
2 medium shallots
palmful green olives, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated parmesan


Boil the water for the linguine. Cook linguine until al dente. Drain, and set aside. Heat the leftover San Marzano sauce in the pan you just cooked the pasta in. Throw in the pasta, while still hot, and stir until the pasta is coated.


Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, shallots, and tomatoes to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions start to get translucent and the tomatoes soften a bit.


Add the peppers to the pan. Add the vinegar and season a little more. Shake the pan and cook until the peppers begin to get soft. Add the olives and beans. Shake the pan a bit more and cook until everything is hot, the tomatoes are partially broken down, and the peppers are done to your liking (cook longer if you like softer peppers).


Spoon the pepper-bean mixture over the linguine and sauce. Top with grated parmesan. Serve and enjoy!

The SMVS actually made its debut in my Summer Squash Lasagna, that I shared with my lovely ex-co-worker and not-ex-friend, Megan (who loves to cook herself). While in my mind this lasagna was feather-light, crisp, and even healthy, in reality it was - while mega-delicious - rich, cheesy, and indulgent (not bad qualities, really).

Megan stopped by Pastoral, a fantastic cheese and wine boutique, before coming over, and the fromagiers there guided her to an unaged asiago cheese, which was just perfect with all the other elements of the lasagna. The squash and zucchini just seemed to melt right into the layers of cheese, fresh pasta, and creamy sauce. One piece, a glass or two of wine, and well, cancel your Friday night plans, my friends - you're hitting the sack early in a gloriously cheesy haze.



12 oz. fresh egg lasagna noodles [NOTE: when using fresh lasagna noodles, you don't need to pre-boil them]
1 batch San Marzano vodka sauce (I had a about a cup leftover, but you could use more or less)
1 T. olive oil
1 container button mushrooms, sliced thinly
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise then sliced
1 large yellow squash, sliced into thin rounds
2 smallish zucchini squash, sliced into thin rounds
1 15-oz. container ricotta cheese
freshly grated parmesan (a lot)
fresh asiago cheese, diced (substitute mozzarella or another melty cheese)
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly
fresh oregano, chopped (a lot)
fresh chopped parsley (don't be shy)
2 eggs, beaten


Toss the squash and zucchini with a little salt and place in a colander to drain (over a bowl or the sink) while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.


In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, asiago cheese, most of the oregano and parsley, some salt and pepper, and the beaten eggs. Set aside.


In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the mushrooms and leeks, adding a little salt and pepper and the rest of the oregano and parsley, until everything has some nice color and the liquid from the mushrooms has thoroughly evaporated. Set aside.


Spread a little vodka sauce on the bottom of the lasagna dish (this prevents sticking). Place a layer of noodles on top. Spread some of the ricotta mixture on top. Then layer some of the squash and zucchini on top of that. Top with some vodka sauce.


Preheat the oven to 375. Place another layer of noodles on top. Follow with another layer of the ricotta mixture. Top that with the mushroom-leek mixture. Top with some vodka sauce.


Repeat the layering of noodles, ricotta, squash/zucchini, then sauce. At this point, if you have enough noodles and fillings to make one more layer, do that. Top everything with the sliced mozzarella. Bake the lasagna at 375 until mozzarella is browned and the edges are bubbly. Allow to "rest" for about 15 minutes (this lets it sort of congeal), then slice into rectangles. Serve and enjoy!

We served it with a fresh green salad (to balance out the gooey layers of goodness) and a crisp white wine. It was a fantastic evening on the porch - excellent company, as always. (Thanks, Meg!)

In conclusion, it's really worth the time and minimal effort it takes to make your own vodka sauce - especially if you're a vodka sauce enthusiast (read: junkie) like myself. This one is one to memorize. Then when people drop by and you have a steaming hot platter of rigatoni alla vodka, and your guests ooh and aah and say, "Whereever did you get this recipe?" you'll just shrug and say, "Oh, this old thing?"

Thanks to Megan for the cheese and the conversation, and as always to my readers! More soon...

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