Posts made in July, 2013

Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Mascarpone

This pasta looks a lot more sinful than it is. It’s creamy without a heavy cream sauce and it’s comforting without leaving you feeling like you overindulged. And even better: it’s simple.

Start by setting a pasta pot of water on the stove to boil. You’ll want to start cooking the pasta while the mushrooms cook. Try to time it so that the pasta is ready about the same time as the mushrooms so that you can add the pasta directly to the pan of mushrooms. It’s better if the mushrooms are ready before the pasta. Also, be sure to cook the pasta just to al dente. It will continue cooking when you add it to the mushrooms.

pasta

The recipe below is for 1/2 pound of fettuccine. Double everything if you’re doing the entire pound.

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Sauté:

1/2 pound of shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and chopped.

(You can certainly do more mushrooms, if you want, or you can switch up the mushrooms. I used shiitake, because I happened to have those on hand from the farmers’ market.) 

Let the mushrooms cook until they are nicely browned and they have released all of their moisture. Remember: don’t salt the mushrooms until they have started to brown. If you salt too soon, the salt with pull the liquid out of the mushrooms too quickly. Always let them brown first.

Once they are nice and brown, add:

Salt and pepper
A few splashes of white wine

I say a few splashes, because you really need just enough to get all of those brown bits off the bottom of the pan and give the mushrooms some more flavor. Let them cook until most of the wine has been absorbed. Turn the heat down to medium low and then add:

about 3 generous spoon fulls of mascarpone cheese

Reduce or add mascarpone to achieve the level of creaminess you want. You may want to add a ladle of pasta water to help make the mascarpone thinner.

Once the mascarpone had melted down, add the pasta to the saute pan and let if all cook together for a minute. Then poor it into a large pasta bowl and, using tongs, toss it all together. If you wish, add:

1/4 cup of parmesan or Romano cheese.

Give it another toss and then top with:

Fresh basil and parsley, chopped. 

And that’s it. The mushrooms and wine give the sauce such a wonderful flavor that you won’t miss that heavy cream sauce.

 

 

 

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Homemade Tortilla Chips

You can’t have summer without salsa. And what’s salsa without some tortilla chips? I don’t mind buying tortilla chips here and there. In fact, you can buy some excellent ones at the Worthington Farmers Market. But a local bag of tortilla chips can cost up to $4. The “natural” organic ones at the store aren’t much cheaper. The really cheap ones contain ingredients that I don’t like to eat. If I’m going to eat chips, I want them to be as simple as possible. And as for cost, I already spend a lot of money on food, so anytime I can save money, I’m all for it. So here are my reasons to start making your own tortilla chips:

  1. It costs less. I buy a package of corn tortillas from Whole Foods for a little over $1. That’s certainly less than any of the better quality chips that you can find out there. 
  2. You’re in control of the amount of salt and oil.
  3. These are baked, not fried, so you need less oil.
  4. The corn tortillas I buy have three simple ingredients: ground corn, water and trace of lime. And since I use olive oil, I’m in control of the type of oil, as well.
  5. You can only fit so many on a cookie sheet at one time. This is a good thing, because with an entire bag of chips in front of you, it’s easy to lose track of how many you’re eating. Since you can only bake so many at a time, you won’t eat as many.

I don’t recommend doing this if you’re feeding a crowd, unless you do a lot of batches ahead of time. But for a weeknight salsa treat, these are wonderful.

So, how to make them:

Preheat the oven to 350.

Start with small, round corn tortillas. Be sure to get the simple corn tortillas, not the corn flour tortillas. Cut each tortilla into four pieces. Spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet.

Sprinkle with kosher salt or sea salt (course is best). Drizzle with olive oil. You can do it without oil. I personally prefer a little olive oil on mine, but you really don’t need much. Just a quick drizzle.

Bake in the oven for 8-9 minutes. They come out crunchy and ready for that big bowl of salsa.

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Zucchini-Carrot Bread

When I first heard of zucchini bread, I thought it sounded odd. This was during my not-quite-as-adventurous food days. I was in college and my roommate’s grandmother sent her back to our apartment with a loaf. I was hesitant to try it, but after my first bite, I was hooked. It’s so moist and so glorious that I can’t wait for the first sign of zucchini at the market every summer.

The following recipe is based off of one found in Sur la Table’s cookbook Eating Local. As usual, I’ve made some adjustments. Though I’m not including it in the below recipe, the book uses 1/2 a cup of minced candied ginger. It is a wonderful addition, and if you happen to have some, do add it. I don’t often have it on hand, so I don’t usually use it.

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And so, the recipe:

Preheat the oven to 325. Coat two loaf pans with butter or cooking spray. (I, personally, prefer butter.)

Stir together:

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour*
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

In a separate bowl, whisk:

3 eggs

Whisk in:

1 cup of canola or safflower oil
1 1/2 cups brown sugar*

2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly ground ginger

Once the sugar has dissolved, whisk in:

1 cup of grated carrots**
1 cup of grated zucchini**

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture all at once. Stir just until blended. Divide the batter into the two loaf pans. Bake about 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let it sit in the pans for ten minutes before removing the bread from the pan and cooling it on a rack.

Once the bread has cooled, you can freeze a loaf, if need be.

*One of my goals this summer is to try and tweak this recipe even more and use less sugar and white flour. If I succeed, I will post it here.

**I use my food processor to shred the carrot and zucchini. I’ve used a box grater before, but it’s time consuming. If you have a food processor, use it.

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To Soy or Not to Soy

Most food is straightforward. It’s either good for you or not. But when it comes to soy, everything I read seems to say something different. Some people praise soy. They say it’s a wonderful vegetable protein that has been proven to lower the risk of heart disease, cholesterol, and cancer. Japanese women eat a lot of soy, after all, and they have much lower rates of breast cancer than westerners. Yet other sources say that soy actually increases your risk of cancer, can cause infertility, and developmental problems in children. Is anyone else really confused?

After reading a lot of various articles over the past year, I’ve figured a few things out:

First of all, there are two different kinds of soy.

Unfermented Soy

This includes tofu, soymilk, soybeans and the various forms of soy powder found in a lot of processed foods. Unfermented soy contains phytochemicals, which are used to protect the plant from predators. During the fermentation process, these phytochemicals are removed. The phytochemicals in unfermented soy, however, can cause a breakdown of your immune system. Unfermented soy also contains isoflavones, a.ka. plant estrogens. The bottom line is that scientists don’t know yet what these estrogens do to our bodies. And as for the fact that Japanese women have lower risks of cancer, well, there are so many other parts of their daily lifestyles that are vastly different than the typical American’s that it’s hard to say that soy, and only soy, is the reason.

Fermented Soy

This includes soy sauce, miso, tempeh and natto. This soy is actually good for you, and that’s something all scientists and nutritionists can agree on. Why? The fermentation process lowers the levels of isoflavones and phytochemicals.

So should you avoid unfermented soy? From what I’ve read (and I’m certainly not an expert), women with a family history of breast cancer should avoid it, men hoping to father children should limit it, and parents should be very cautious feeding it to children. Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of tofu, so avoiding that is easy for me. Same with soymilk. And I try not to buy anything that has soybeans or soy powder in it. As for the fermented soys, thank goodness soy sauce is on that list, for I really can’t imagine life without it. And I have yet to cook with miso or tempeh, but plan on incorporating that into recipes soon.

Here’s some further reading, for anyone who’s interested:

http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/2009/08/is_soy_healthy

http://www.livestrong.com/article/470624-what-is-unfermented-soy/

 

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Summer Squash Risotto

Risotto

One of my favorite comfort foods, this time with summer flavors.

Simply follow my Basic Risotto Recipe, but make the following changes:

  • Use vegetable broth instead of chicken.
  • Use two varieties of squash for the vegetable
  • At the end, stir in fresh basil and lemon zest

Some directions:

Sauté the squash first in olive oil. You can use any summer squash. I used one zucchini and a pattypan squash, and I thought the pattypan worked particularly well with this recipe. I also chopped the zucchini but cut the pattypan into thick strips, just for some variety. Both shapes worked well. Sauté until they’re just barely tender, but still have a bite. Remove from the pan.

In the same pan, follow the instructions in the above link to make the risotto.

Towards the end, once the rice is tender and it’s time to stir in the parmesan or Romano cheese, add the squash to the rice, along with a handful of basil leaves, chopped into strips, and the zest of 1/2 a lemon. Now, this time when I made the risotto, I also stirred in a spoonful of Mascarpone cheese, just for the heck of it. The result? It certainly gave it a nice creamy texture, but I don’t think it’s necessary  The risotto is wonderful on its on, without the Mascarpone.

Garnish with Parmesan or Romano cheese and fresh ground pepper.

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