Category Archives: dinner

Orzo with Summer Squash, Zucchini, and Almonds

My favorite part of having a successful summer garden a few years ago was the prolific summer squash plant. I eat summer squash like there is no tomorrow, every summer. I made this light-ish dinner this weekend to get through the heat (it’s great served cold). I also realized that my new apartment does not have a microwave, so I had to eat cold anyway 🙂

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A deep, seasoned cast-iron worked well for this recipe. Mine is about 12″ across and it fit everything, though I did halve the recipe. Start the orzo water and preheat the oven for the almonds before you start prepping the squash/zucchini. If the orzo is done way before the rest, that’s okay; be sure to cook it al dente so it doesn’t get too soft once you add it to the rest of the food. Toast the almonds then turn off the oven, since you won’t need it again.

Orzo with Summer Squash, Zucchini, and Almonds
Adapted from Orzo with Summer Squash and Toasted Hazelnuts on Epicurious. I’ll try hazelnuts next time. Also note the dice size of the zucchini and summer squash–smaller than you might expect, but it makes for better cooking time.

3/4 cup orzo
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/3-inch dice
~ 1/2 teaspoon salt
~ 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
~1 tsp dried parsley
~1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
~2 teaspoons lemon juice (lemon zest would definitely be better)

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Cook orzo in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain orzo in a colander. While orzo is cooking, toast almonds (6-8 minutes).

While orzo and almonds are cooking, heat butter and oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté onion, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini, yellow squash, salt, and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in nuts, parsley, basil, and lemon juice.

Add cooked orzo to skillet and stir gently. If mixture seems dry, moisten with some reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*I ate my leftovers with chopped up cold chicken breast and it was great together!

Secret Ingredient Pesto

Homemade secret-ingredient pesto

I love, love, love margherita pizza. Last week, I indulged myself on the way home from school and bought some basil (and roma tomatoes and whole milk mozzarella in ball form and whole wheat pizza dough) to make my favorite pizza…one day, I’ll remember to take pictures before I gobble it up. Luckily I had some leftover basil–a real treat in January in Boston–so I got to making a batch of pesto that only needed a bit of basil to make it work.

This pesto is not “real” pesto. It uses almonds instead of pine nuts and more spinach than basil. But since pine nuts and basil are such a luxury to come by, I think this is a perfect low-cost and high-deliciousness option! You could also use walnuts instead of almonds–I’ve seen that on other food blogs, though I’ve never tried it myself. If you don’t adore garlic, you might cut it down to 2 cloves.

I took Farm Girl Fare’s recommendation and tried this mixed with some rinsed garbanzo beans and chopped roma tomatoes, and OH MAN–it was divine and suprisingly filling! I’ve been using it this week for chicken sandwiches, too. So flexible and so flavorful.

Secret Ingredient Pesto
Adapted from Farm Girl Fare’s Recipe for Pesto.

1/4 cup toasted almonds
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Olive oil
3/4 cup frozen spinach, thawed
Bunch of basil (I had about 1 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine the toasted almonds and the garlic and process until finely chopped. Add about 2 tsp olive oil, the spinach, and the basil, and process. Add olive oil as needed to get the paste-y texture–it will probably end up being about a tablespoon. Taste (with processor OFF, haha!) and add salt and pepper as needed.

Try not to eat it all straight off the spoon!

This was really hard not to eat off the spoon.

Pork Tenderloin with Honey Mustard Balsamic Glaze

This one’s incredibly simple considering how fancy it looks and tastes…and how quickly you can throw it together. Mike made it last week when we made the Roasted Stuffed Baby Portobellos; this afternoon I made it and served it (to myself) with steamed broccoli.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

It helps a lot if you have a cast iron grill pan. Mike advised grilling these on the stovetop for about 3 minutes per side to get some beauteous grill marks (and maybe that sunset look above!), then putting the whole pan with the meat in it in the oven for about 5-15 minutes (depending on your meat). Without a grill pan, I’m not sure how to adapt it–perhaps you’d just start it in the oven and sacrifice the grilled look.

Pork Tenderloin with Honey Mustard Balsamic Glaze
Note that the amounts I listed for the mustard, vinegar, and honey are EXTREMELY approximate, as I didn’t measure at all–I went by sight and then taste.

2.5 pounds pork tenderloin (my pack contained two equal-size tenderloins)
~2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (regular yellow would work, too)
~2 tsp balsamic vinegar
~1 Tbsp honey
~1 tsp dried basil
Salt and pepper

Cut the tenderloins into serving-sized portions. Mine came to 6 3-inch long pieces, plus 2 ends about 4 inches long (but thin). Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, balsamic vinegar, honey, and basil. Taste. Add more of whatever flavor needs to be stronger. It should have a good balance between the acidity (vinegar/mustard) and sweetness (honey). Pour this mixture into a large plastic zippered bag. Add the meat to the bag, seal it, and smush the meat around to evenly coat each piece. Set aside.

Start heating the grill pan over medium-high heat and turn on the oven to about 350 degrees F. Once the pan is very hot (give it at least 5 minutes), gently place each piece of pork in the pan. Try to fit all of them. After 3 minutes, flip. After another 3 minutes, place the entire pan into the oven. After 5 minutes, remove from the oven and let sit for 2 minutes. Check one piece to see if done; the inside should be just barely pinkish. If still raw, put back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Check again and replace in the stove if necessary. Remember to let them sit out of the oven for at least 2 minutes when checking.

Enjoy!

Pork Tenderloin with Broccoli

Moosewood Restaurant’s Tamale Pie

I’ve mentioned a few times before that the best thing I’ve learned about cooking during my informal training (that is, living with Mike) is the flexibility of any recipe I find. I *used* to think that if I picked a recipe I wanted, I needed to go to the grocery store and buy every single thing in order to end up with a palatable dish. Nowadays, I shoot for about 25% of the same ingredients, and then anything above that is a bonus!

Moosewood Restaurant has released a few cookbooks that I’ve heard about but never actually held in my hands. I googled a few recipes as a way of deciding whether or not I’d buy my own copy. This recipe for Tamale Pie is from their low-fat cookbook, though I’m not sure it is particularly low-fat in any way. Essentially, it’s a bunch of vegetables with a bit of cheese covered by cornbread. And it’s GOOD. It’s vegetarian, though you could add cooked meat if you wanted to–maybe ground beef, or sausage, or bacon…yum.

The version of the recipe I came across calls for onions, garlic, carrots, yellow and red bell peppers, zucchini, chiles, crushed tomatoes, and beans. I had onions, garlic, carrots, a green bell pepper, golden acorn squash, dried ancho chiles, crushed tomatoes, and frozen corn on hand instead…so I went with it! I think any kind of veggie would work, really, as long as you dice it and let it cook for an appropriate amount of time. Essentially, onions should go in first, other veggies in the middle, and tomatoes last.

Since there is a lot of wait time between each step, I didn’t cut everything ahead of time–I just prepped the vegetables for the next step while the latest set was cooking down. I made the topping batter after I added the tomatoes, too, so everything came together nicely. From beginning to end, this took about an hour to assemble, then 30 minutes to bake.

Tamale Pie
Adapted from Cloudberry Quark’s adaptation of Moosewood’s recipe for Tamale Pie.

2 tsp olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
3 tbsp minced garlic (5 cloves)
2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1½ tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 cup water
2-3 medium carrots, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 golden acorn squash, seeded, peeled, diced
½ small dried ancho chile (ground up)
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
About 2 cups frozen corn
salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated cheddar

¾ cup cornmeal
1 tbsp unbleached white flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
2 egg whites, beaten
½ cup nonfat buttermilk (I used Lactaid milk with 1 tsp of lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes)
2 tsp canola oil (I used olive oil but canola is probably better)

Over medium heat, cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil with a big pinch of salt, covered, for about 10 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, Italian seasoning, the water to prevent sticking, and the carrots. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Add bell pepper, squash, chile, and another big pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 10 more minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and corn, a big pinch of salt, cover, cook for 10 minutes. If it looks very wet, remove the cover half-way through. After a few minutes, taste; if it needs more salt, add it. Add pepper to taste. While it’s cooking, prepare the topping (see below). Remove from heat.

Coat a casserole dish with cooking spray or butter and spread the vegetable mixture on the bottom. Sprinkle cheese on top.

Topping:
In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, mix together the beaten egg whites, buttermilk, and oil. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just mixed. Pour the batter over the vegetable mixture, spreading gently with a rubber spatula. Make sure your dish has enough room above the topping for it to rise. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 400°F, until the top is golden.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, Prosciutto, and Feta Pizza

I’ve been cooking a ton over the past few weeks, but I’ve been woefully disappointed with what I’ve made. I tried an apple-walnut bread, a cherry clafoutis (finally), pan-fried fish, and various other goodies…and really, nothing has come out with any of the *WOW* that I like to post on here with.

I have, on the other hand, made those walnut chocolate chip cookies three times more.

Last week, I figured it was time to use up some of the goodies that had been sitting around for a while. I found a recipe for a pizza using a bunch of the ingredients we just so happened to have on hand: butternut squash, prosciutto, and feta, in particular. We’d also just picked up some GIANT pizza-sized pita bread at Whole Foods.

Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, Prosciutto, and Feta Pizza

Lo and behold, Roasted Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, Prosciutto, and Feta Pizza. This recipe was time-consuming–roasting and caramelizing do take a while–but the product was pretty good. I found it much, much better the next day after the flavors had some time to meld.

So for the sake of experimentation, here’s the recipe in the way I used it:

Roasted Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, Prosciutto, and Feta Pizza
Adapted from Palate To Pen’s Roasted Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions and Prosciutto White Pizza.

*You should caramelize the onions and roast the squash at the same time so that they finish together!*

Squash-Onion White Sauce
(This makes twice as much sauce as I needed for two pizzas, so feel free to halve if you want to use half of the squash for something else.)

1 butternut squash, unpeeled, sliced, with seeds scraped out
2 Tbsp butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
2 medium onions
6 Tbsp olive oil
Rosemary, fresh or dried, to taste
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place 1 Tbsp butter, half of garlic, and salt and pepper in each “bowl” part of the squash. Place flesh-side (bowl-side) up on a baking sheet and roast for 45-60 minutes. I scooped out the butter/garlic mix after 45 minutes, set it aside, and flipped the squash flesh-side down for the last 15 minutes.

While squash is roasting, heat oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Slice onions into spear-like shapes and spread in hot oil. Sprinkle rosemary on top. After onions start to become translucent (about 5 minutes), reduce heat to low. Toss every few minutes for about 45-60 minutes until caramel-colored.

When onions and squash are about 15 minutes from finishing, start preparing white sauce by melting butter over medium heat in a skillet. Add flour and whisk until flour is golden, then reduce heat to low. Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to stir until thickened. Keep warm.

Once squash and onions are finished: scoop squash flesh into blender with reserved butter-garlic mixture, caramelized onions, and white sauce. Pulse until blended.

Prosciutto for topping
You can work on this while waiting for squash/onions.

2 Tbsp oil
1/4 lb prosciutto, sliced into 1-inch pieces

Heat oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add prosciutto in a single layer and fry until brownish-red; flip if necessary. Remove and place on paper towels or paper bags to drain excess oil.

To assemble pizza:

2 pita pizzas or pre-baked doughs
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Squash-Onion sauce
Prosciutto

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F, then simply spread the sauce on each pita, sprinkle cheese, then add prosciutto and feta. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, until pitas are golden-brown. Remove, let rest for a few minutes, slice, and serve!