Fancy Grilled Cheese

Fancy Grilled Cheese, Mexican-Style

I used to have a general menu plan for the week because I thought it would be easier to impose some sort of boundaries on meals (“Oh, it’s meatloaf night!” so that’s what I make . . . well, not exactly meatloaf around here, but you know what I mean) and make sure I am not making, say, pasta, three nights in a row (which is completely within the realm of possibility).

Sunday: Wild Card (Scott usually cooks Sunday nights)

Monday: Tofu or some other kind of soy

Tuesday: Soup

Wednesday: Salad

Thursday: Eggs

Friday: Pizza or sandwiches

Saturday: Pasta

This, like many of my other Ordnung fueled plans, fell by the wayside except for Fridays. I still typically make pizza or sandwiches (my definition of sandwich is quite broad . . . it includes fajitas, quesadillas and burritos, for example). This particular Friday, I was paging through Everyday Greens, San Francisco chef Annie Somerville’s follow-up to the more complicated Fields of Greens. I have many favorite recipes from Somerville. I don’t let a summer pass without making Spicy Corn and Chick-pea Soup with Chiles, for example. The first time my dear friend Susan invited us over for dinner maybe 15 years ago, she and her husband Tom made the time consuming but delicious Port Wine and Mushroom Lasagna. The fact that I remember it speaks volumes for the recipe and its execution. The recipes are almost always complex, but well worth the effort. I digress with my food nostalgia, however.

The sandwich recipe I landed on this particular Friday was for grilled cheese . . . but not just any grilled cheese . . . a grilled-poblano-and-onion-with-cheddar-and-cilantro-pesto grilled cheese.

Truth be told, I made one plain old sharp white cheddar grilled cheese because I didn’t think Alia would be willing to stray from her beloved standard. Luca almost choked on a poblano that was hotter than I expected so he also ate part of the plain one. Scott and I happily devoured an entire sandwich each.

If you don’t make this particular one, consider making up your own custom fancy grilled cheese. Have a few stray mushrooms kicking around the crisper? Make a carmelized-onion-sauteed-mushroom-cheddar grilled cheese. It’s summertime which means there is copious amounts of zucchini. How about fried shredded zucchini, basil and caramelized onions (again!)? Clean out your vegetable drawer. Substitute vegetables for half the cheese . . . hear applause from your family and nutritionist!

Grilled Mexican Sandwich with Poblano Chilies and Cheddar

adapted from Annie Somerville’s Everyday Greens

makes 4 sandwiches

1/2 large red onion peeled and sliced into 1/2 ” thick rings

1 poblano chile

Garlic oil (Steep two minced cloves of garlic in 1/2 cup olive oil for 30 minutes. Strain out the garlic and reserve for the cilantro pesto. Store remaining oil in a glass jar in the fridge.)

Salt and pepper

8 slices of whole wheat bread (I bought a homemade loaf at our local co-op)

6-8 ounces sharp white cheddar, thinly sliced or grated

Cilantro pesto (Throw about 1/2 the chopped garlic from the garlic oil, a handful of cilantro leaves (about 1/2 cup), a couple glugs of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lime juice in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Taste and season with salt)

Unsalted butter, softened (for grilling the sandwiches)

Heat a gas grill to medium. Brush the onion slices and poblano with garlic oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you have a  grill skillet, place the whole poblano and onion slices in the skillet and grill onions until tender (about 3-4 minutes on each side) and poblano until the skin is charred and blistered. Alternately, stick a skewer or two through the onion rings to keep them together and place on the grill. Carefully turn after 3-4 minutes. When the poblano is done, place it in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap or in a paper bag. When cool, peel, cut in half and seed. Put the onions and chile in a bowl and give one more sprinkle of salt and a grind of pepper.

Place 4 slices of bread on a work surface. Layer cheese, poblano and onion on top and drizzle with cilantro pesto. Leave the fancy stuff off 1-2 sandwiches as needed. Place the other 4 slices of bread on top of the sandwiches and spread with butter. Place the sandwiches, buttered side down, in a skillet or on a griddle heated to medium. Then, spread the top side with butter. Place a lid on the frying pan to help the cheese to melt. Cook until golden, 4-5 minutes, then turn and cook the other side. Serve immediately with a romaine, radish and avocado salad with a lime vinaigrette on the side.


Me:     A- (It is STILL grilled cheese, thus the -.)

Scott: B+

Luca: A (“even though it was too spicy for me”)

Alia:   lots of B+s (this is a rating of a plain grilled cheese)


Can I Make It Up to You With a Simple, Tasty Chickpea Salad Recipe?

Where have I been?

I’m not sure.

First, I went to a brutal yoga workshop . . . I know ‘brutal’ and ‘yoga’ aren’t supposed to go together, but it was. Good, but brutal with a long recovery.

Then, the end of school. If you have ever taught school at any level, you know what this means. Or if you have ever attended school, you know what this means.

Then, the gutter and window cleaning project? Yes. Really. And, kids released from the confines of school and daycare  . . . need I say more?

All the more reason to keep plugging away at writing about cooking for my family. The blog keeps me honest and inspires me to explore. It’s like you all are looking over my shoulder while I hurry around our kitchen to get a healthy, tasty, vegetarian meal on the table most nights.

This particular night was a yoga night, which usually means a Jimmy John’s #6 or the Yoga Special. One of my favorite chickpea salads has been hanging around in my head lately. I decided to throw it together before I left for my practice. It takes all of 10 minutes if you have the beans cooked or canned beans on hand (I do think it is worth it to make your own chickpeas . . . they don’t have that weird, funky, canned chickpea smell and they have some structure to them). The taste is not a cheap, 10 minute taste, I promise.

Right after I threw this salad together, Alia walked in the kitchen and asked for a bite. I hesitated because I thought she would spit it out. Instead I balanced a chickpea laced with flecks of parsley and mint on a fork and fed it to her. She chewed thoughtfully with her usually silky smooth brow furrowed and proclaimed, “I wike it. It’s sour. Maybe you can make this for me for lunch sometime.” Then she admonished me for not offering her more.

Knock me over with a feather . . . or something.

Chickpea Salad (without or with Roasted Red Peppers)

adapted from Deborah Madison’s brilliant Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

serves 4 as a side or a part of a platter including hard boiled eggs, thin slices of Manchego, tomato wedges and toasted, crusty bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with a respectable extra virgin olive oil

3 cups of cooked chickpeas, rinsed if canned (about 2 15-ounce cans)
1/4 cup of parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons of chopped mint
3 tablespoons of capers, rinsed
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Toss the the chickpeas with herbs and the capers in a medium size bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar, salt, garlic and olive oil. Pour over the chickpea mixture and combine. Serve immediately, or refrigerate it for a day to allow the flavors to magically meld.

Note: The original recipe also has two large, roasted red peppers cut into strips added. I have made it with the peppers on occasion. You see, I am not a big bell pepper fan . . . especially green ones. *Shudder* I can tolerate the other colors, but, given a choice, I leave them out. So, if you are partial, by all means throw those in as well.


Me:  A+ of course. You don’t have chickpea salads knocking around in your head unless they are really, really good.

Scott: N/A (He did not eat it this particular time, but has liked it very much in the past.)

Luca: N/A (Chickpeas make him gag.)

Alia: Another A+ of course. She asked me to make it for her for lunch (see above) – a time reserved for macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese. That is saying something!

Lettuce Wrap Lunatic

Zesty lime and peanut lettuce wraps

Where have I been? How is it that I have missed the lettuce wrap craze? Heck, even the cattle wrastler Pioneer Woman has a recipe for tofu lettuce wraps. I have not been to P.F. Chang’s so maybe that explains it. And, ‘low-carb’ is not a hyphenated word you hear around our house often. I did witness one of my friends ordering a Jimmy John’s sandwich wrapped in lettuce once. “LETTUCE instead of BREAD?!” I thought. “What the hell?”.

Mea maxima culpe (because mea culpe isn’t enough here).

After I made one batch of the filling for these wraps, I ate half of it before it even hit the table. This required me to fry up another pound of tofu. We ate the wraps for dinner, then I had them for breakfast and the last bit for lunch the next day. To say I love these is an understatement . . . I love these more than cheese or ice cream  . . .

Or pie. Yes, I typed ‘pie’.

Thai-Style Tofu Lettuce Wraps

serves 4 generously

adapted from The Cozy Apron


1 pound extra-firm or firm tofu, cut into slabs, blotted dry with paper towel and crumbled
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
2 scallions, white and light green parts, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon vegetarian oyster sauce (The original recipe calls for fish sauce. I think you could also use soy sauce or hoisin.)
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
Pinch black pepper

Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the crumbled tofu, seasoning with a pinch of salt. Resist the urge to stir the tofu. Let it fry for at least 5 minutes. Stir when you see the edges of some of the crumbles brown. I use a metal spatula to scoop up the bits that stick. If you let it get somewhat crispy, there should be minimal sticking. Cook until most of the tofu bits are light to medium brown. The key here is not disturbing it too much.

In a medium-large bowl, add the cooked and cooled tofu; next add the remainder of the ingredients, and toss all together until well combined; set aside while you prepare the dipping sauce.

Sweetly Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

makes about 1/2 cup (More than enough for the wraps. The original recipe is double this. I really don’t like it when there is a lot of sauce leftover because it inevitably sits in the fridge until I throw it away one month later. Yes, I could go out of my way to find something to do with it. Sometimes I do. But, more often it goes to waste.)

1/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3/4 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon sriracha

In a medium bowl (or a food processor), combine all ingredients and gently whisk together to combine; at first the sauce may look “broken”, but it will come together- just continue to whisk until smooth and creamy; set aside until ready to serve with wraps.

To Serve

2 tablespoons dry roasted peanuts, chopped, for garnish
1 lime, cut into 4 wedges for garnish
20 Romaine leaves, bottom half of the leaves’ hard “rib” portions removed

Fill boat-shaped Romaine leaves with the tofu mixture. Top with peanut sauce, chopped peanuts and a squeeze of lime juice. Swoon accordingly.

I served sauteed and steamed broccoli on the side.


Me:  A++ (To infinity, really)

Scott:  B (He is not a big fan of the spines in Romaine, so this may have something to do with his ratings. I could see serving the crumbled tofu in a tortilla or over noodles the avoid the lettuce spine avoidance.)

Luca:  B+ (“This is exotic.” Then he choked on a red pepper flake so I think that may have something to with the rating.)

Alia:  A++ (And, she meant it this time. I did serve hers over rice because I didn’t want to argue about the lettuce.)

Breaking News: Potato Topples Tomato in Soup Cage Match

The new go-to potato soup

“I like this better than tomato soup.” You read that right. Roasted Tomato Bisquehas enjoyed favorite soup status in our house for years now . . . YEARS. But, last night, it was unexpectedly dethroned. The fall came out of nowhere. Luca sat quietly next to me slurping his Kartoffelrahmsuppe (say that three times fast) and the proclamation was handed down . . . “A++” . . . then, “May I have another bowl, please?” Then, “Can I take this for lunch tomorrow?”

I had high hopes for this soup for myself – potato soup with the spicy bite of horseradish. I have found typical potato leek soup to be a bit subtle and uninspired, so when I can across this recipe last week, I worked into the menu as soon as I could.

I did make some tweaks based on availability of ingredients. I had time to stop at one grocery store – Schnucks – and they did not have celery root, so I used celery. I thought of substituting turnips, but the ones they had were unappealingly rubbery. The celery was fine, but I will try celery root if I can locate some next time. I used thyme instead of marjoram and cut some of the fat by decreasing the amount of butter and using half and half instead of heavy cream. It is a very smooth creamy soup. Next time, I will probably add some chunks of potato . . . maybe even some small roasted cauliflower florets . . . for some textural contrast.

And, next time I will be certain to make more of the new house favorite.

Spiced Potato Soup (Kartoffelrahmsuppe)

adapted from Saveur

4 main course servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
½ leek, white and light green parts only, cut into 1″ slices
1 rib celery, finely chopped (The original called for celery root. The grocery store I stopped at didn’t have it, so I went with celery.)
1 ¼ lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2″ chunks
2⅔ cups vegetable stock (I mixed 2  2/3 cups water with 1 teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon)
1 ¼ cups half and half (The original recipe called for heavy cream which is unecessary . . . I think you could even use 2% milk.)
1 1/2  tablespoon prepared horseradish (You may also use fresh.)
1 ½ tsp. finely chopped thyme (The original called for marjoram, but I have loads of thyme growing in the backyard.)
2 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. finely chopped chives
Caramelized onions, for garnish

Heat butter in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium heat; add garlic, onion, leek, celery and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, stock, cream, celery root, horseradish, thyme, cloves, and bay leaves, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Remove bay leaves and cloves. Remove from heat, and using an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor, purée soup until smooth and frothy. To serve, ladle soup into 4 bowls, and garnish with chives and caramelized onions.

Serve with chunks of whole wheat baguette and butter.


Me:  A (I love the flavor the horseradish gives the soup.)

Scott:  A (“Definitely an A.”)

Luca:  A++ (There was discussion of infinity, so I think this soup earns Luca’s top rating.)

Alia:  A (She said, “Two As” in fact.)

Around the World in Lentil Soup

Lovely lentils

Lentil soup, let me count the ways. Soup featuring the humble lentil is a vegetarian cliché, I know. But, it is a cliché for a reason. Like tofu, like other legumes, lentils easily take on any flavor profile. So, I make lentil minestrone, Mexican lentil . . . how about curried lentil soup . . . or French?

I added a new one to the repertoire last night – Spicy Moroccan Lentil Soup with Tomatoes and Herbs. I was very indecisive about dinner. It must be the change in season or a low-yield trip to the farmers market (you have to get there before 10 around here or you are stuck with sweet potatoes and scallions) because I find myself at a loss for dinner ideas this week. Last night, I did something crazy . . . crazy for someone who has a tendency to control . . . I picked up A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen and opened it up. That’s the dish I made for dinner. Call it fate or kismet or whatever, but I had almost all the ingredients I needed for the soup.

This recipe as written is easy – measure, chop and dump. I made it a little more complicated to develop more flavor. It is still simple. The prep time is quick, but it does take some time to cook so plan accordingly.

Where to next? I think Thailand is nice this time of year.

Spicy Moroccan Lentil Soup with Tomatoes and Herbs

adapted from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen

Four generous main course servings

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion finely chopped

4 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

4 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground tumeric

pinch of cayenne, or more to taste

1 1/4 cups French lentils (the original recipe called for brown lentils, which I did not have)

1/4 cup red lentils (these can be omitted – I added them to thicken the soup a bit)

6 cups water

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)

Salt, to taste (I think I added about 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt)

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large soup pot. I use a 6 quart Dutch oven. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and saute until soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add ginger, garlic and scallions. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the spices – paprikas, cumin, tumeric, cayenne (if using) – and stir for a minute more. Add the lentils, water, tomatoes and salt.

Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the lentils are soft and the soup has thickened. Add the parsley and cilantro. Taste and add salt if needed. The flavors should pop . . . make sure it is seasoned or it will be bland.

I served the soup with packaged garlic naan.


Me:  A- (It has good flavor, but I still wanted a little more.)

Scott:  A (“Definitely an A.”)

Luca:  B+

Alia:  A+ (I am not sure how seriously you should take this. She did finish her soup, which says something.)



The Gateway Tofu Recipe

Tasty Tofu Guaranteed

Back when I was in high school, there was lots of talk about marijuana being a “gateway drug.” You smoke a little weed then, before you know it, you are plunged into a scene from “Sid and Nancy.”

If you try this recipe, I doubt you will find yourself curled up in front of a PETA headquarters on a Saturday morning after a protest of an industrial farm complex in Oklahoma. I do think you will see (if you don’t already know) that tofu can be tasty. You may even commit to eating one meatless meal a week as the Meatless Monday campaign suggests.


The amount of evidence that eating less meat is better for you and the planet we inhabit is overwhelming. Michael Pollan has extensively researched and written about our food system and came to the following simple recommendation: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He explains further, “populations that eat like modern-day Americans — lots of highly processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, lots of refined grains — suffer high rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. But populations that eat more traditional diets don’t. Our great-grandmas knew what they were doing.”

Mark Bittman is another advocate of what has been called the flexitarian “diet” (I put diet in quotes because this is not a weight loss plan, but rather a way of eating).  He, along with Pollan, has written extensively about the effects of  factory farming, a deeply flawed system that gobbles up resources in the name of widely available cheap meat. “Growing meat (it’s hard to use the word “raising” when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it’s a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.”

Even chicken came under fire recently. Nicholas Kristof recently wrote about “new scientific studies suggesting that poultry on factory farms are routinely fed caffeine, active ingredients of Tylenol and Benadryl, banned antibiotics and even arsenic.” So along with eating local, ethically raised meat, why not incorporate some meatless options into your cooking repertoire? It isn’t painful, I promise. This particular dish earned A ratings from everyone in my family – the picky 4 year-old, the 8 year-old food critic, and the meat and potatoes vegetarian spouse. Even cattle-raising Pioneer Woman has posted some tofu recipes this year.

Try this  . . . or any other recipe I have shared here. I promise you won’t find yourself in a Vegetarians Anonymous meeting any time soon. You will, however, be taking steps towards creating a healthier family and planet.

Spicy Basil Tofu and Noodles

adapted from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen

Serves 4 generously

1/4 cup low sodium tamari or soy sauce

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (You may need a little more.)

1 serrano chile, seeds and ribs removed, then minced

1 pound extra-firm or firm tofu, cut into slabs, blotted dry with paper towel and crumbled

4 medium garlic cloves, minced

2 small heads broccoli broken in small florets

12 ounces Chinese noodles

1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh Thai or Genovese basil (I prefer the Thai basil for this dish.)

Put a large pot of water on high heat on the cook top to boil the noodles.

Combine soy sauce, water, and brown sugar in a small bowl, stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve.

Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until shimmers. Add the crumbled tofu, seasoning with a pinch of salt. Resist the urge to stir the tofu. Let it fry for at least 5 minutes. Stir when you see the edges of some of the crumbles brown. Cook until most of the tofu bits are light to medium brown. The key here is not disturbing too much. After the tofu is cooked, toss in the garlic and chile and cook until fragrant – less than a minute. Transfer the tofu mixture to a bowl.

Heat about a teaspoon of vegetable oil in the skillet over medium high heat. Add broccoli florets and a pinch of salt and stir fry until bright green and brown in spots. Put 1/4 water in the frying pan and cover. Steam broccoli to desired tenderness.

When broccoli is done, put a few tablespoons of salt into the boiling water. Put noodles in and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. We found out the hard way that Chinese noodles cook fast. Overcook them and they are a gloppy mess. I start tasting them 2 minutes in. You could also try this with linguine pasta if you can’t get your hands on Chinese noodles. The linguine takes longer to cook – about 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the tofu mixture and cooked noodles into the skillet with the broccoli. Add the soy sauce-brown sugar mixture and carefully stir to combine. Incorporate the basil. Serve immediately.


Me:  A+  (One of my favorite tofu dishes. I love, love the basil.)

Scott:  A (He wasn’t here for dinner, but said “I love it!” after eating leftovers for lunch.)

Luca:  A (Just an A, not an A+)

Alia:  A+, B+ (“The best rating I give.”)

A Little Taste of Freedom in the Form of Polenta, Mushrooms and an Egg

The Runaway Mom Antidote

Do you ever think about what life will be like when (and if) your kids move out of the house? I know this may be a blasphemous thought in perfect mommy land because we aren’t supposed to think of day-to-day life without our little miracles. They ARE little miracles, don’t get me wrong.

But, man, they can be little buzz kills too.

There are two things I won’t miss when Luca and Alia make their way out into the world. One is negotiating every single act during the course of the day – getting up, putting clothes on, brushing teeth, choosing breakfast, eating breakfast, playing, not playing, putting stuff away, putting shoes on, taking shoes off, getting in the car, blowing noses, washing faces, flushing the toilet . . . EVERYTHING. I know many parents see these as mini “teachable moments,” but by 10 a.m. I am all taught out. Teaching tank is empty. Dry as a bone. I shouldn’t be surprised that all I can do after the final negotiation of the day – bedtime – is stare at the wall, then pass out into a deep, dark slumber only to wake up and do it all over again.

The other thing I won’t miss is tailoring meals to their tastes. It can’t be “too spicy.” Luca will surely ferret that out. If I put any kind of crunchy green or fresh tomato in a dish, I know Alia will resist. I don’t leave this stuff out though . . . because I want them to keep trying things. But, when I choose something to make, potential negative reactions are always in the back of my head. Or not. Sometimes, I am completely surprised that one of them doesn’t like something. Take the bowl of goodness pictured above. Cheesy, creamy polenta topped with oven roasted mushrooms and a fried egg. “How could this be wrong?” I thought. Last time I made it, there was a mutiny at our dining room table . . . there was crying and gagging and wrinkled noses. And, I can’t even write about the Dan Dan Noodle drama. It’s still too raw. I almost took my pot of scrumptious noodles and ran away from home.

So to keep myself put I sometimes make anything I want and do what I swore I would never do – make two (somewhat) different meals. Last night, the kids got the yoga special without the yoga and I made myself  Parmesan Polenta with Fried Eggs and Roasted Mushrooms. This recipe was a revelation to me the first time I made it. I discovered roasting mushrooms is the best way to prepare them. Their texture becomes satisfyingly chewy and dense, a great contrast to the soft polenta. This method of making polenta is brilliant. No laborious stirring at the cook top – just mix, bring to a boil and simmer.

And, everybody was content. The eggs and hash browns were gobbled up by the two miracle/buzz kills while I savored my little bowl of heaven and felt happy that they will be around for a while longer.

Parmesan Polenta with Eggs and Roasted Mushrooms
adapted from The Kitchn
Serves 3

For mushrooms:
1 lb mushrooms (I use cremini.)
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

For polenta:
1/2 cup polenta
1 cup milk
1 cup water
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

To finish:
3 eggs
chopped fresh herb of your choice for garnish (I have used chives and basil. Flat leaf Italian parsley would be good as well.)

Preheat oven to 475.

Cut mushrooms into quarters. Toss mushrooms with oil, pepper flakes, and salt on a baking sheet. Spread in single layer and roast until browned, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk polenta, milk, water, and salt together in saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, covered. After reaching a boil, turn heat to low and let sit with lid cracked for 15 minutes.

While polenta is cooking, heat about 1 teaspoon olive oil a cast  skillet over medium heat and crack the eggs so that they are sunny side up. Season with salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium low and put a lid on the skillet. Cook for about 4-5 minutes until everything is set.  Flip the eggs and cook to desired doneness. I like mine over medium – whites firm and the yolk somewhat runny.

Mix Parmesan into polenta. Spoon polenta into a shallow bowl. Top with 1/3 mushrooms and one egg. Garnish with chopped herb(s) of your choice.


Me:  A+ (This is a perfect bowl of food. One of my favorites.)


Spagittata - frittata with a backbone

Luca asked me what we were having for dinner last night. “A frittata with pasta,” I informed him. “We could call it a spagittata,” he suggested. (I am heartened by the fact that he likes to make up words as much as I do.) Luca then went on to tell me how excited he was because he is not crazy about frittata, but add some pasta and he may be sold on the concept. I could toss some pasta with sliced shoe leather and he would be sold on the concept. The kid loves his pasta.

In its first morph, the spagittata did not live up to expectations. When trying a new recipe, I attempt to stick to the original as much as possible the first time around. Then, I rate it (out of 5 stars) and note possible changes for next time. This time I made three changes out of necessity and prudence . . . I should have listened to my gut and made two more for the sake of flavor. The recipe calls for arugula, which excited me because I love arugula and I happened to be at Kroger when the produce people were marking it down drastically. A good sized container went from $5 to .75. When I got home, I discovered it was too far gone to use. Into the compost bin it went. I had a bit of spinach in the fridge so I used that instead. The original recipe also calls for 2/3 cup of cream – copious amounts of cream the little, old German woman in me decided. So, I cut that down to 1/3 cup. And, there is the ONE cup of Parmesan. I reduced that to 1/2 cup.

The resulting spagittata made Luca imitate this commercial:

which brings me to what I should have done. I should have substituted basil for the mint because as is, the thing tasted like a not-as-strong egg version of a peppermint patty. It needed more salt as well. The thing with frittatas (or is it frittati?) is, it is difficult to check seasoning because it is mostly raw eggs. There have been times when I have under and over seasoned. This time was under. And, it doesn’t matter if you add salt when it is on the plate. It is too late to infuse the eggs with those precious little grains of flavor boost.

I’m not done with this recipe yet. I will try, try again – mostly because I can’t let a good, made-up name go to waste.

adapted from Fine Cooking
serves 6
Kosher salt
3 oz. uncooked dried spaghetti (or 1-1/3 cups cooked)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large or 2 small shallots, trimmed, peeled, and thinly sliced crosswise
2 oz. (about 2 cups lightly packed) fresh spinach, stemmed and chopped
8 large eggs (preferably at room temperature)
1/3 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (use the large holes on a box grater)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint (Next time I will use basil instead – see above.)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons sliced chives

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water according to package directions. Drain well and let cool. Transfer to a medium bowl.

In an ovenproof 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbs. of the olive oil and 1/2 Tbs. of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened and lightly golden, about 8?minutes. Add the arugula and toss with tongs until wilted, about 1 minute. With a heatproof spatula, scrape the arugula mixture and any fat left in the pan into the bowl with the pasta. Toss lightly to combine.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, 1/2 tsp. salt (I will increase this to 1 teaspoon next time), and several grinds of pepper. Add the pasta mixture, Parmesan, mint, parsley, and chives. Mix gently but thoroughly.

Heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and 1/2 Tbs. butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, add the egg mixture. Use the heatproof spatula to gently distribute the ingredients evenly. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the eggs have set just along the outside edge of the pan, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the frittata is puffed, golden, and set, 22 to 24 minutes.

Let the frittata cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes. Run the spatula gently around the edge and underneath the frittata, and slide it onto a cutting board. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with pan-fried and steamed broccoli.

While the frittata baked, I broke two bunches of broccoli into bite-size florets and sauteed them in 1/2-1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan. I seasoned the broccoli with about 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a few grind of pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes. When it turned bright green and was brown in spots, I put a few tablespoons of water in the pan and put a lid on it and steamed to desired tenderness. This is my favorite way to prepare broccoli!  


Scott:  B (“It needs something.”)

Me:  B- (See above for explanation)

Luca:  B- (See above for explanation)

Alia:  A? (I am not sure she really thought it was an A. She ate it all, but it was a dessert night so that could explain it.)

Presto Pasta

A quick pasta for Monday night

Our dinners the past three nights wouldn’t go over well with the Paleofolks. Pasta and pasta and more pasta.

My excuse? The pantry is bare. We made our Easter trek to just outside of Hermann, MO where my mother-in-law has a house. Coloring eggs, egg hunts and the sacred Easter lasagna are standard out there. Another standard is coming home on Sunday night to a sparse pantry and funky smelling fridge. We made a stop at Trader Joe’s in St. Louis (Do you know Aldi owns Trader Joe’s? I kid you not!) and picked up a few things, but I have not been on a full-scale, farmers market + four store shopping trip yet.

This pasta doesn’t taste like a “cupboards are bare” type of dinner though . . . creamy, spicy, hardy and quick. Presto Pasta!

Farfalle with “Sausage,” Tomatoes and Cream

adapted from Epicurious

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped onion, about 1 small

2 Trader Joe’s Sausage-less Sausage (The original recipe calls for 1 lb Italian sausage. You can also omit.)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree (I use Muir Glen Fire Roasted)

1/4 cup whipping cream (The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup. I have found that 1/4 is plenty.)

1 pound farfalle (bow-tie pasta)

1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh basil

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion with a pinch of salt and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add crumbled “sausage” and sauté until lightly browned. Add garlic and crushed red pepper cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute. Dump (not the most eloquent word, but I was getting tired of using ‘add’) in tomatoes and cream. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sausage mixture thickens, 3 minutes or more. I let it simmer for about 1/2 an hour while I worked on the rest of the meal. Season to taste with salt and pepper before adding the pasta. Make sure it is well seasoned because you are adding 1 lb of pasta that is dying for some flavor.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to same pot. Add “sausage” – tomato – cream mixture and toss over medium-low heat until sauce coats pasta, adding reserved cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if mixture is dry. Transfer pasta to serving dish. Sprinkle with basil. Serve, passing cheese separately.


Me:    A

Scott: A

Luca:  A

Alia: A