Summer vegetable orzo

Our freezer always has tons of little odds and ends that I couldn’t bear to throw out. Problem is, I often forget what’s in there or can’t figure out a use for it, like the five or so egg yolks that were leftover from some baking project. Finally, though, the three tablespoons of pesto (from a batch I made at the height of summer), got put to good use in this vegetable orzo. With red pepper, tomatoes, zucchini and fresh mozzarella, it captures the flavors of summer, just as we head into fall.

Summer Vegetable Orzo, adapted from epicurious

8 ounces orzo (about 1 1/3 cups)
5 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
2 medium zucchini or summer squash (about 9 ounces total), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 red or yellow bell pepper, quartered
3 tablespoons pesto
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 heirloom tomatoes (8 to 10 ounces total), cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Cook orzo in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Transfer to large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon oil.
Whisk 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon vinegar in small bowl. Brush zucchini and bell pepper with oil mixture, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Whisk pesto, lime juice, 3 1/2 tablespoons oil, and 2 tablespoons vinegar in small bowl for pesto vinaigrette.
Broil zucchini and bell pepper until crisptender, about 8 minutes per side (Alternatively, these can be grilled). Transfer to work surface and let cool. Chop zucchini and bell pepper; add to bowl with orzo. Add vinaigrette, tomatoes, sliced basil, and mozzarella; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve cold or at room temperature.

September 23, 2008 at 8:45 pm Leave a comment

Saffron risotto with butternut squash

A while ago (sorry, Richard!) I got an e-mail from a friend telling me about one of his friend’s horrendous food allergies and asking me if I had any recipes he could use. I started thinking about it, but then law school started and I never followed up. The first thing that came to mind, though, was risotto, and all this time I’ve been thinking about when I’d get the chance to make it. This weekend I finally used a recipe I bookmarked some time ago. I absolutely love all of the components, but together, I wasn’t sold. The sweetness of the squash didn’t work for me with the rest of the ingredients. It was still good, just not as good as the asparagus or butternut squash and sage variations I’ve made in the past (which all follow the same basic method).

I’m really tired/feeling lazy, so here’s the link to the recipe. I followed it fairly closely except for using bacon and cutting down the proportions a little. I think swapping the squash for shrimp would be very good.

September 15, 2008 at 9:59 pm 1 comment

Clean out the fridge pasta

Law school has started and every student group is having its initial meetings this week. To get us there, organizers promise free food, which means that over two days I’ve eaten pizza three times. Right now I feel like I’d be happy if I never had pizza from a cardboard box again. So tonight I was determined to come home and cook a real meal. We had all sorts of random stuff that I wanted to use up, so I found a pasta recipe that would cover the bacon, cheese and sour cream we had on hand. To that I added zucchini, tomato, a shallot and some spices. It was like an amped-up macaroni and cheese, and it was delicious! I’m already looking forward to lunch tomorrow.

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

6 slices bacon
1 shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, cubed in 1/2-inch pieces
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 box (14.5-16 oz.) elbow noodles

1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
3/4 cup grated monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp parsley

Cook pasta according to package directions. Cook bacon in large skillet until crispy. Remove to plate lined with paper towels and drain. Remove some grease from skillet to leave about 1-2 tbl. Saute shallots and garlic briefly, then add zucchini. Saute about 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in tomatoes and remove from heat. Cover to keep warm.
To make sauce, combine sour cream, butter, wine or broth and spices and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and whisk in cheeses until smooth. Toss together pasta and vegetables, then toss with sauce.

September 11, 2008 at 10:23 pm Leave a comment

Cucumber and egg salad sandwiches

I absolutely love egg salad, but I know it’s probably ridiculously fattening. This version supplements with chunks of cucumbers to add a little crunch and bulk. We have a bunch of cucumbers in the fridge right now from our CSA, so this was a good way to use a few and have lunches to take to work/school.

Cucumber and Egg Salad, adapted from allrecipes

5 eggs
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons mayo
1 tablespoon dill

Hard-boil eggs (cover eggs with cold water, bring to boil and then cover and simmer for 10 minutes). Run cool water over and cool. Chop eggs and combine with rest of ingredients. Add salt and pepper if desired.

September 9, 2008 at 6:23 pm Leave a comment

Crowder pea hummus

When I picked up our vegetables this week, there was a different type of pea in it than the purple hull we’ve been getting. One of the farmers said they were crowder peas, and gave me a few ideas to use them, including hummus. That turned out to be great advice since they were pretty similar to chickpeas. The color isn’t pretty, but the recipe I adapted from gave it a nice flavor.

Now for one of the worst pictures to appear on my blog (granted, the screen has totally died on our camera, so I’m shooting rather blindly):

Crowder Pea Hummus, adapted from this recipe

2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 small or one large clove garlic
3-4 cups crowder peas, simmered about 30 minutes until tender
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8-1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8-1/4 cup cold water
Salt and pepper to taste

Strip rosemary leaves from stems, discard stems, and place leaves in the bowl of a food processor. Add garlic and pulse until finely chopped. Pour in the peas and a little water; process until evenly blended.
With food processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil, scraping sides of the bowl as necessary. Pour in balsamic vinegar and process until evenly blended. Taste, and add more vinegar, 1 tablespoon at a time, as desired. Pour in the water and process to make a spreadable consistency. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill before serving.

September 1, 2008 at 8:34 pm Leave a comment

Watermelon and cucumber salad

I kind of picked some weird recipes to use up the diverse box of fruits and vegetables we got this week. And on this one, we were just “eh.” I think I’d prefer a different mix of seasonings, as the watermelon and cucumber work well together on their own but this dish just seemed to have too much going on. We served it alongside a very good steak prepared by my husband and jazzed up with a Penzey’s grill blend.

Cucumber and Watermelon Salad with Hoisin-Lime Dressing, recipe here

1 1/2 large English hothouse cucumbers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
3 cups 1/2-inch cubes seeded watermelon
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup coarsely chopped lightly salted dry-roasted peanuts

Combine cucumbers and watermelon in medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 15 minutes and up to 4 hours. Drain; discard liquid.
Whisk lime juice and hoisin sauce in small bowl to blend. Pour dressing over cucumber-watermelon mixture and toss gently. Season salad to taste with pepper. Sprinkle salad with cilantro, mint, and then peanuts. Serve immediately.

August 28, 2008 at 2:24 pm Leave a comment

Sweet pepper pasta

In all the craziness over the past few weeks, I think my cooking skills actually atrophied. When I finally got back into it, I actually burnt some rice. And then I screwed up a very easy cake that I had made before without incident. I was kind of dreading getting back into a cooking routine, but the box of produce we got at the farmers’ market Saturday cheered me up. There were several colorful peppers, a watermelon, two other melons, cucumbers, okra, potatoes and apples. I suppose this signals a changing season is about upon us.

To use all the peppers except the purple one (apparently when you cook them they lose their color), we made this delicious pasta. I wasn’t sure it would be very flavorful since it had so few ingredients, but that turned out to not be a problem.

Sweet Peppers with Chicken Sausage and Pasta, adapted from this recipe

4 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large red and yellow bell peppers (3 lb.), cut into 2-inch-long julienne
1/2 cup dry white wine
14.5 oz. penne (1 box Barilla Plus)
3-4 links chicken sausage, cooked according to package directions and sliced

Fresh Parmesan

Cook garlic in oil in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until golden. Add peppers, wine, and salt and pepper to taste, then cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
While peppers are cooking, cook pasta in a 6-qt. pot of boiling salted water until al dente and drain. Toss pasta with peppers, add chicken sausage and season with salt and pepper.

Dust each serving with freshly grated Parmesan.

August 26, 2008 at 11:16 pm 1 comment

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Weekly menu

-Sesame chicken
-Black bean burgers with sweet potato fries
-Salad with hot bacon dressing and corn on the cob
-Tomato and bacon frittata