Tag 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 🙂


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!


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.


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.

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.

Pumpkin Gnocchi

I bought a sugar pumpkin at Shaw’s last weekend because it looked so cute and was something like 69 cents/pound. I made pumpkin cookies from canned puree last weekend for a brunch, but they weren’t that great and I thought I’d save posting that recipe until I found a way to improve it.

I settled on pumpkin gnocchi for the raw pumpkin; it would also be my first foray into making my own pumpkin puree. Of course my calling it “gnocchi” was a bit of a lightning rod in this house, since Mike kept insisting that gnocchi isn’t gnocchi unless it’s made with potatoes, and I seriously needed help because I had no idea what the dough was supposed to be like.

This recipe is extremely approximate, because your pumpkin may be differently sized and I didn’t actually think to weigh my pumpkin before cooking it OR to weigh/measure the puree after making it. So consider it a lesson in “cooking by feel” instead of cooking as an exact science. It also takes into account the fact that your ingredients will change depending on the weather. It was rainy yesterday, so I probably used more flour than you would on a hot dry day in Arizona.

I ate these with a quick sauce of lightly browned butter with garlic and dried sage. In the future I think i’d use a bit of cream and some fresh sage, and definitely sprinkle with some parmesan.

I LOVED the color of the cut pumpkins an the puree. Check these out:

All in all, I guess this is sort of a halfway-there post. A work in progress! A masterpiece in the making! I still think it’s worth trying out though, for funs and for the sake of using pumpkin in a new way.

And it looks cool, too!

Pumpkin Gnocchi
Project inspired by my new favorite food blog, CSA Delivery. Recipe adapted from Cookography’s Pumpkin Gnocchi. Pumpkin puree technique from The Kitchn’s advice on making pumpkin puree.

1 sugar pumpkin
Olive oil
3 cups flour (to start!)
1 egg

1. To make pumpkin puree: remove pumpkin stem (easiest just to snap it off), then quarter pumpkin. Scoop out seeds and stringy parts. Bake quarters, inside-up, on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 60 minutes (can vary from 45-90 based on thickness of pumpkin flesh). Remove from oven and turn the pumpkins down, reassembling halves, then return to oven for another 10 minutes. The flesh should be soft when pressed with a fork. Peel skin off using a spoon (like with ginger), then remove leftover stringy bits. Break up into pieces and process in food processor until smooth, consistent texture. Press puree through a mesh sieve into a mixing bowl.

2. Add flour and spices to puree and mix until dough forms. You may need to add a lot more flour depending on the moisture of the pumpkin and the environment. It should be a soft dough, but not sticky. Divide the dough into 6-8 evenly sized balls and roll each out into a 1-inch thick rope. Gently press each rope with fork tines (to make texture), then cut each rope into 1-inch wide pieces.

3. Add the gnocchi to a pot of boiling water and cook until they float to the surface. Drain and serve with sauce.

Panko-Coated Fried Eggplant

For last week’s dinner party, I needed to find a vegetarian entree that would be filling and delicious. I hate to say it, but that has never been an easy task for me. Pasta is an option, but it’s never filling enough to have a true “portion,” and I always crash and feel starving again after an hour.

Mike, being the former vegetarian and uber-talented food-idea-man that he is, came up with fried eggplant as a hearty, tasty meat alternative for dinner with Becca and Kiki. It’s simple, but looks fancy, and it really is great!

Whenever you “bread” anything, be it chicken or eggplant, you’ should set up a “dredge/egg wash/bread” station. The first layer is flour–we used whole wheat, since it was all we had. Your egg wash will form a glue when added over the flour. The general rule of thumb is 1 tsp of water per egg yolk. As for the bread crumbs, I’m a huge fan of panko (Japanese bread crumbs), which you can sometimes find with other bread crumbs and sometimes in the Asian section.

(You’ll have to forgive me that all of these pictures were taken at night, so the light is a little off.)

You should use a fair amount of oil–maybe 1/2 inch deep in the pan? You want it to be pretty hot when you fry the eggplants so they don’t get soggy; I set my gas stove to one notch above medium. As always, be very careful around the hot oil!

Enough little tips. Time for some cooking!

Panko-Coated Fried Eggplant
Serves 6-8

2 eggplants, sliced into 1-inch wide medallions
1 cup flour, any kind
4 egg yolks
4 tsp water
2 cups panko
Olive oil (a lot)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Paper towels (or plain brown paper bag)

Prepare your breading station by pouring the flour and panko into separate dishes. Quickly whisk the egg yolks and water in another dish. One by one, dredge each medallion of eggplant in the flour, brushing off as much flour as you can. Quickly dip the eggplant in the egg wash, then into the bread crumbs. Thoroughly coat the eggplant in crumbs by pressing the crumbs on. Set aside until you’ve finished all of the medallions.

Lay out a few layers of paper towels next to the stove.

Fill a large saute pan with enough oil to be about 1/2-inch deep. Heat over medium-high until shimmering. VERY GENTLY place each medallion in the oil; you should be able to fit about 4. Don’t overcrowd the pan or they won’t fry correctly. The oil should be bubbling moderately vigorously, but not spattering out of the pan–adjust heat as necessary. Fry first side for about 4 minutes or until bottoms are golden-brown, then very gently flip and fry for another 3-4 minutes.

When you remove each medallion, immediately place it on the paper towels and quickly sprinkle salt and pepper on top. The hot oil will suck up the salt and make these really delicious. When somewhat cooled (after about 2 minutes), these are ready to serve!

*Note that with 2 eggplants, this turns into a good 4 batches in the pan, so you might want to serve and eat the first set, then finish cooking them after dinner.

Squash and Zucchini Marinara

When I planned my kitchen garden this year, I greatly underestimated the amount of sunlight my little corner of the yard would get over the course of the summer. As a result it’s flush with pole beans, mustard greens, beets, spinach and chard (although the last two never grew, argh!), instead of tomatoes, cukes, and summer squash.

Sometime in July I noticed some suspicious “weeds” in the soil, but since I’d been away for a week I actually noticed that their leaves looked a lot like those characteristic of squash (and zucchini, and pumpkins, and everything else in the Cucurbita family). HALLELUJAH!

They haven’t actually developed fruit yet, probably because of the incredibly rainy first half of the summer, but it put me in the mood for summer squash. This dish is one of my favorite ways to do several things: use summer squash, eat warm vegetables, and pretend to eat lots and lots of guilt-free pasta.

The trick is to slice the squash and zucchini with a vegetable peeler, then leave the inner seed-y cores for another meal. It takes a couple of minutes per squash to make the “pasta.”

Kiki loved this part of our meal last week and I should have posted this a while ago so she could make it at home. Props go to Mike for the recipe, of course, who came up with this last winter (or at least shared it with me then).

Squash and Zucchini Marinara
Serves 4-6

~2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 red onion, diced
1 shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can petite diced tomatoes, juice reserved
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp dried basil (Italian seasoning mix would work, too)
Capful of vermouth or vodka
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 oz. shaved Parmesan

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in the bottom of a 2-quart saucepan until shimmering, then saute onion and shallot with a few pinches of salt and pepper for 3-4 minutes, until soft. Add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. Add diced tomatoes and saute for about 2 minutes, then add reserved juice, crushed tomatoes, dried basil, vermouth, and a few more pinches of salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes.

While simmering sauce, create squash and zucchini pasta by slicing thin with a vegetable peeler. Reserve the seed-y cores for another meal.

When sauce is almost done, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a saute pan. Add squash and zucchini and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add sauce to pan and toss to coat. Cook for about 2 minutes, then serve with shaved Parmesan.

Adding salt, pepper, and other seasonings is best when done in “layers.” In other words, add flavor every time you add a “set” of ingredients.