April 30, 2010

Baking for Good.


Remember those bake sales of old?  The ones in elementary school that you would forget about until the night before when you made your mother scramble to make 3 dozen cupcakes because store bought baked goods just would not do?  Well now that we're "all grown up" the wonderful ladies over at Big Girls, Small Kitchen have partnered with Baking for Good for an extra special bake sale just in time for Mother's Day.  This Virtual Bake Sale for Pediatric Cancer is raising money for The Valerie Fund, a nonprofit that provides support for the comprehensive healthcare of children with cancer and blood disorders.  Baking for Good donates 15% of every purchase on their site to a charity of the purchaser’s choice, plus Phoebe and Cara are offering an extra 5% donation to The Valerie Fund when people purchase the BGSK M&M Blondies, even if another charity is selected as the primary recipient of the donation. These ladies have some serious skill in their small kitchens – don’t miss this great chance to buy some yummy treats for your mom AND make a difference!

April 26, 2010

Back in Action

What can I say?  It’s been an eventful few weeks!  The biggest thing that happened was that Sam and I got engaged (yay!) and with that came a dizzying week of dinners out and quick meals eaten at home after drinks with friends.  The ring was on tour, and now I’m in full wedding planning mode.  We barely made it to the grocery store last week, but after a weekend with my parents and a short “stocking up” trip to the more friendly and less expensive Jersey food stores, we’re back in action.  So what was on the menu tonight?  A classic yogurt quiche filled to the brim with onions, asparagus, and spinach - nice and warm on this wet April night.  Nothing too fancy, but the yogurt gives the quiche a lightness unlike others I’ve tried.  I caramelized the onions and sautéed the spinach before assembling the quiche, which gave it a nice depth of flavor, plus I didn’t use too much cheese so the vegetables really shown through.  The whole thing took a bit longer than usual to cook – the spinach gave off a lot of liquid – but it was a great combination.  Feel free to substitute as many vegetables as you want!

Vegetable Yogurt Quiche

9 in unbaked pie shell
1c. shredded swiss cheese
½ onion, thinly sliced and carmelized
8 asparagus spears, cut into 1 in. pieces
1 bag spinach, sautéed
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. plain yogurt
¾ cup milk
salt & pepper
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat the oven to 375 F.
Sprinkle swiss cheese, asparagus, spinach and onion over the bottom of the pie shell. Whisk together eggs, yogurt, milk, salt, and pepper. Pour into pie shell. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and a dash of pepper.  Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  The quiche should be set.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

April 13, 2010

Sunday Night Dinner

It’s spring! It’s finally, and really spring!  You know it.  You can smell it in the air.  It’s that perfect time of year just before it turns hot and muggy in the city.  And I’m vowing to take advantage of all the goodness that Spring has to offer.  
So now onto another pasta entry.  I know, you’re probably tired of pasta, but I’m not.  Plus, it’s about the only thing I can cook for a crowd it my tiny “kitchen”.  I just didn’t want this weekend to end, and like most Sundays, I invited people over so that I could forget it would be Monday again in just a few hours.  We would make fresh pasta!  For five! It would be perfect.  Sam went to work.  And after almost two hours of kneading and rolling out and cutting the almost two pounds of pasta, we basically had dough again.  The strands wouldn’t dry, and as soon as they touched, they stuck together like glue.  I finally had to tell Sam it was time to give up.  Our guests had arrived and we hadn’t started any other part of the meal.  It was not a pretty sight. 
So off to D’Agastino Sam went, and I made the delicious lemon sauce for the (store bought) pasta.  It ended up being fine and I thankfully have understanding friends, but it was just another instance when sometimes, the kitchen just beats you.  

Lemony Linguini for Five (adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis)

2/3 c. olive oil
½ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ c. grated fresh Parmesan
½ c. grated percorino
lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
salt & pepper
1 ½ lb dried linguini

In a large bowl, whisk the oil, cheeses, lemon juice, salt & pepper, and zest. Set aside.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package. Drain and reserve 1/3 c. of cooked pasta water.  Add the pasta to the lemon sauce and toss to until it is completely coated.  Add the pasta water if the pasta needs more liquid.  Serve with grated parm, pepper and lemon zest.

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

2 bunches asparagus
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
½ lb. thinly sliced Prosciutto
grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut off the woody ends of the asparagus and place in a large roasting pan.  Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the asparagus and top with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat them completely.  Place in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes until tender.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Wrap each spear with a small piece of Prosciutto and serve with grated parm.

April 5, 2010

Pasta Siciliana, a Neighborhood Favorite

There’s a tiny Italian take-out place near us in the West Village that is just amazing.  Now, I’m from New Jersey, the land of the cheesy Italian take-out joints, so I was skeptical when we first walked into Pepe Verde three years ago.  I was used to baked ziti that came burned and so full of cheese that it could give you a dairy allergy, but Pepe is different.  They turn out incredible dishes night after night from a kitchen that is barely bigger than my own.  You just put your order in at the counter and wait for your meal at one of their 7 tables with a plastic cup of wine, or order out on those nights that you want to eat at home, but just can’t seem to fathom cooking.  
Pepe Verde’s best dishes are its simplest; the pesto is creamy perfection and the eggplant parm is a weighty piece of expertly tiered, thinly sliced eggplant, red sauce and mozzarella.  But the dish that kept Sam and I coming back was the Pasta Siciliana.  With its combination of eggplant, tomatoes, and olives topped with a cool spoonful of ricotta, it was a rustic, salty, and sweet fresh dish that I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to recreate.  The ingredients seemed simple enough, but there was a special “Pepe” flavor that I just couldn’t seem to place. 
Nevertheless, last week, I finally attempted our favorite dish, and although it was wonderful, flavorful and delicious, it still lacked that special Pepe something. I guess we'll just have to keep going back for our Siciliana fix.

Pasta Siciliana
Serves 2-4

2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1 in. cubes
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, sliced
½ c. thinly sliced pitted black olives
2 tbsp. ricotta, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the cherry tomatoes and eggplant on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and toss to coat the vegetables.  Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes or until they are tender and the eggplant is golden.  Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes to cool.  Process until just finely chopped in a food processor.  In a pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and add the sliced garlic.  Saute for 2-3 minutes until fragrant then add the diced tomatoes.  Add in the eggplant and tomato mixture to the pan and combine.  Season to taste and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the sliced olives and let simmer for another 5 minutes.  Serve over your choice of pasta and top with parmesan and a dollop of ricotta.