Tag Archives: spinach

One-Pot Pasta

pasta pot

Sometimes you need to be able to throw everything into a pot and call it a meal.

I had one of those days yesterday. April was taunting me with one of its proverbial showers when I’d already grown re-accustomed to the warm North Carolina spring and my sewing machine wasn’t cooperating and I was grumpy and the pimple on my chin was growing large enough to declare autonomy. Basically, in no mood for cooking. Or human interaction, for that matter.

The last time I had this dish it was made for me by a dear friend, and I find that when I need a lift, summoning up a fond food memory often does the trick. (With the proper meal accompaniment, of course.)

Now that I’ve made it myself, I am officially a convert. The pasta starch imparts a creamy texture to the sauce and the steps could not be easier. It’s a meal worth sharing, and I am grateful that I was able to share it with my friend — and now with you.

plated pasta

I adapted my recipe from this one.

One-Pot Pasta
Serves 4

12 ounces linguine
16-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups fresh spinach
1 onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups water
4 sprigs basil, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Parmesan cheese

1) Combine first eight ingredients in a pot wide enough to allow the pasta to lie flat against the bottom. Add 2 sprigs of basil and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
2) Put the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Stir regularly for about 10 minutes.
3) Serve the pasta with the remaining 2 sprigs of basil, drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

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Butternut Squash & Crispy Sage Savory Tart

butternut tart

butternut tart slice

A Sunday night followed by a Monday off holds such promise for a prolonged evening meal with several courses and a luxe bottle of $15 wine.

Even when you’re dining alone.

Moving to NYC solo (or, frankly, under any circumstances), you may have heard, is not for the faint of heart, the codependent, the wary-of-public-transportation. Despite the endless number of people I encounter everyday, I have never experienced a living situation as profoundly lonely as life here. I’ve always considered myself an independent person, but existing here means I also have to be an entertaining one — to myself.

Many of you have heard the trials of city singledom, whether from me or from Girls or from Sex and the City or from the countless movies that portray Strong Female Leads Living in Metropolitan Areas (with absurdly, unrealistically large apartments) who are secretly desperately lonely. (Presumably because they have invested too much in their careers and not enough in their romances? Can we possibly try for new plotlines in 2013, please? There is not a small number of us who seek more than one objective in life and balance them all just fine.)

But if you haven’t heard about dating in NYC, I’m not going to regale you with the specific foibles and follies. It’s been covered, I think, and also my parents read this blog. I will say, however, that it is incredibly taxing despite what seems like overwhelmingly good odds. I mean, there are 8 million people in this city, and based on my very precise Algorithm of Eligible Bachelors Dwelling in the Five Boroughs, there must be a solid 10,000 who meet basic criteria.

As it turns out, though, basic criteria is not enough. Because as you can imagine, 10,000 men is a challenge to weed through. And every one I meet, I think “Oh yes, this is one is acceptable. But I bet I could find one who also understands my deep and sustained love for the emo music I listened to in high school.” (See: The Paradox of Choice.) (Also, that’s just an example. I definitely don’t listen to emo anymore! Seriously! I don’t!) I, too, am a victim of too much choice, the possibility of someone somehow better existing too tantalizing to pass up, as I found out recently after being rejected by an unemployed man who’s “too busy” for a second date.

So, more often than not, I find myself “stuck” with, well, myself.

Living in NYC solo means needing to enjoy dating the only person I can rely on 100% of the time. It means I take myself out to dinner, buy myself a nice new outfit, make myself an extravagant meal that, under circumstances involving another person, would be considered a downright romantic one.

I cannot recommend that kind of meal enough. Dining alone, living alone, travelling alone, is the kind of soul-satisfying, sometimes saddening/maddening, always reflective activity that reminds me that I am enough. That I will never be a lot of things, but I will always be enough things. At the very least, I crack myself up, especially toward the end of the night/glass. I can’t always say that about my dates.

Last night, I made myself this tart. It’d be great with a side salad, but when you’re dating yourself, you hardly need to impress anyone with the number of vegetables you’ve consumed in a given day. In fact, the best way to show your appreciation for you is to cut yourself another slice.

Tart Dough:
Makes 2 12-inch tarts
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup ice-cold water

1) Cut the butter into the flour with your fingers or with a stand mixer. Pour in the water slowly, until the dough begins to clump. (Mix for 30 seconds or less if using a mixer.)
2) Divide the dough in two and create two balls of dough. Wrap with plastic and compress into disks. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Tart Filling:
Note: This recipe makes enough to fill one tart. Double the recipe if you want two!
olive oil
1/2 butternut squash, peeled & sliced thinly width-wise
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups of fresh spinach
1/2 cup of ricotta
parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon of water
about 15 leaves of sage
salt & pepper
2 teaspoons of canola oil

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay butternut squash slices on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt on both sides of the slices. Roast squash for about 20 minutes, or until tender.
2) Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Combine the spinach, ricotta, and some salt and pepper in a bowl.
3) Once the squash is removed from the oven, lower the oven heat to 375 degrees. Remove one of the tart dough sections from the fridge and roll into a circle with a rolling pin until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
4) Spread ricotta cheese/spinach mixture over the chilled tart, leaving a border of 1 and 1/2 inches. Place butternut squash slices in one layer over top of the mixture, again leaving a border. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
5) Fold the border over the squash layers to make a crust. Mix the egg and water together and brush gently over the crust. Place the tart on the lower rack in the oven and cook for 45 to 55 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
6) Heat canola oil in a pan over medium heat. Place in a few leaves of sage at a time, fry for about 5 seconds each, then place on a paper-towel lined plate. Sprinkle over the tart.

Spinach & Tomato Tortellini Soup

It’s that time of year. Of life, actually. A point where I must begin to make decisions to secure gainful employment, financial security and a place to live that isn’t with, or funded by, my parents. So far it’s been rather anticlimactic. Moments of Zen-like calm precede 90-minute job-seeking marathons, followed by thoughts like, “Maybe I should just hang out in Europe for a bit.” And then, again, calm–most prevalent and seemingly illogical considering the state of “this economy.” (Cue dark organ music)

I often feel like the New York Times article “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” personified, the question mark perpetually superimposed over everything I see and touch, like those index cards my high school Spanish teacher stuck on every object in her room, identifying their Spanish names. “La television” and “el escritorio.” Except there’s no clear answer this time. I get to fill in the blank.

Impressively and patiently, my parents take it all in stride. Some days, I inundate my dad’s inbox with new plans of jobs and internships, of English-teaching opportunities, of I-want-to-be-Samantha-Brown aspirations. “What do you want to do [with your life] today?” is one of his common greetings.

What I want is an opportunity that will foster, rather than contain, my enthusiasm, cause a snowball effect where I stumble over my words and letters and phrases with the wanting, the craving to get them out fast enough so I can hurry up and do more and see more and say more and have my life be an endless run-on sentence instead of a question mark or, even worse, a period.

Yes, that’s what I want. Lots and lots of doing with only the most promising of punctuation.

So you can see what we’re dealing with here. My mind fluctuates more than spring weather in North Carolina. Speaking of which…

I made this soup when the weather was cold. (By my definition–we’re talking 50 degrees or so.) Now, the weather is warm. Miraculously, this soup is well-suited for both occasions, hearty with its bean backbone and springy with its fresh basil freckles.

This recipe is from The Italian Momma of pizza and pesto fame. It won’t be the last you see of her, not by a long shot.

Spinach & Tomato Tortellini Soup:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces chicken broth
16 ounces of water (use chicken broth container to measure)
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
16 ounces frozen tortellini
16 ounces canned, diced tomatoes, with the juice
16 ounces canned cannellini beans
10 ounces spinach, washed and stemmed
10 basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

1) In a large pot (I used my Dutch oven), saute garlic in oil and butter for about two minutes on medium-low heat.
2) Add broth, water and bouillon cubes to the pot and bring to a boil. Add frozen tortellini and cook for half the directed cooking time written on the package. (Around five minutes.)
3) Add tomatoes and juice, reduce heat to simmer for a few more minutes. Stir in spinach, beans and basil, and simmer for another minute. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grated cheese.

Green Lentil “Burgers”

Today felt like spring in Chapel Hill. Fortunately, I had the ideal warmer-weather meal to pair with my day of porch sitting (among more productive pursuits)–a fresh sandwich chock full of veggies and protein and other Healthy Things That Actually Taste Delicious.

To be fair, I actually eat these lentil “burgers” year-round. They’re too tasty to be seasonal. They just seemed particularly relevant today.

The recipe was inspired by my friend Miri Leigh, who has a wonderful food blog and far more food expertise than I. She got the recipe from Mark Bittman, who has some of the best recipes around. Lots of brilliance in that bunch, I tell ya.

Green Lentil “Burgers”:
1/2 cup uncooked green lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 green onion
1 cup spinach leaves, rinsed and dried
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 carrot, grated
1 small yellow zucchini, grated
3 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 egg
1/2 cup oats
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1) Place the lentils in a medium pot and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until tender. (About 30 minutes.) Drain.
2) Pulse the garlic and scallions in a food processor until well-grated. Add the lentils and all remaining ingredients, except the breadcrumbs, into the food processor. Combine well. (Without a food processor, you just need to mash everything together. It’ll take a bit longer, but it’s worth the effort!)
3) Mix breadcrumbs into the mixture, then refrigerate for 30 minutes. The lentil mixture will be wet, but dries off a bit in the fridge.
4) Heat olive oil in a pan. Form patties with the lentil mixture and place in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. (Once I’ve flipped mine, I add mozzarella cheese to the cooked side.) Place onto a paper towel-lined plate to remove excess oil.

I serve my lentil burgers on toasted whole wheat buns and plate them with salad (when I’m feeling healthy) and sweet potato fries (when I’m feeling American). Oh, and sometimes I top them with curry mayonnaise. (Curry seasoning + mayo).

Dessert can be decadent after such a nutritionally-balanced dinner. But that post is for tomorrow…

Couscous with Curried Baked Lamb



I am turkied-out. Following my last post, my family ate turkey in so many different combinations that I began to think I’d be perpetually tripping out on tryptophan. We had traditional Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, ABC sandwiches with turkey (I also added cranberry sauce and substituted the apples for apple pie filling), turkey & cranberry sauce quesadillas and vegetable soup with turkey broth.

When I left my family’s house today, I vowed not to consume another meal involving turkey until all the tryptophan left my system and rendered me alert once again.

This recipe fit the bill. In fact, this recipe didn’t involve any foods I consumed on Thanksgiving, but still contained a few seasonal ingredients. (Yay local squash!)  Plus, it allowed me to use up more veggies that I had in my apartment fridge–feel free to substitute or remove any of the vegetables. Or opt for the vegetarian version, sans the lamb. The crucial feature of this meal is the spices, really.

I combined two different recipes to create this one. I liked the idea of baking the lamb, and I love curried anything. So here’s the best of both worlds.

Couscous with Curried Baked Lamb:
1/2 acorn squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 eggplant, diced
olive oil
1 pound ground lamb
1/2 cup golden raisins
a few tablespoons of vinegar
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups baby spinach
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup couscous
1 & 1/2 cups boiling water

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the diced squash and eggplant with olive oil and roast on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes while preparing other ingredients.
2) In a bowl, combine raisins and vinegar. Set aside.
3) Cook lamb over medium heat with a sprinkle of olive oil until browned throughly. Spoon out lamb onto a paper towel-covered plate, saving the liquid fat from the lamb.
4) Add onion and bell pepper to pan, cook for five minutes. Add garlic. Let brown. Reduce heat, add spices, tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook until thickened. Remove squash and eggplant from oven.
5) Stir in spinach to pan and let wilt slightly, then combine lamb, drained raisins, roasted squash and eggplant. Cook for another two minutes.
6) Place the lamb mixture in a cake pan. Sprinkle with feta cheese and bake for 20 minutes.
7) In the last ten minutes of cooking time, pour couscous into a medium-sized saucepan (with lid). Pour in boiling water, stir with a fork. Cover with the lid and stir again in five minutes. Water should be absorbed.
8 ) Place 1/2 cup cooked couscous into a bowl, top with baked lamb.

Spinach Orzo with Pine Nuts & Feta Cheese



It’s another one of “those” weeks. Loaded with projects and exams and everything that senior year promised to deliver, delivered.

I’m possessed by this overwhelming feeling that I either a) should be living somewhere else, such as London, or b) should be doing something else, such as cooking all day under the ruse of “learning.” I value my university education, I do. But what if, at this very moment, I’m not actually fulfilling my purpose? Or, even more horrifying, what if I’m meant to spend the rest of my life pyschoanalyzing the moment instead of enjoying it?

With these thoughts flooding my mind during the past week, I’ve been self-medicating with inordinate amounts of pasta. Didn’t you hear? Psychologists recommend dealing with your feelings by eating them.

Recipe from here. Just happened to be exactly what I was craving.

Spinach Orzo with Pine Nuts & Feta Cheese:
1 (16 ounce) package uncooked orzo
1/2 C. olive oil
2 TB. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, diced
a few leaves of fresh basil
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 C. pine nuts
1 (10 ounce) bag baby spinach
1/8 C. balsamic vinegar
8 ounces package crumbled feta cheese
1/2 fresh tomato, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1) Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. (Until firm.) Drain, transfer to a mixing bowl, and set aside.
2) Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat, stirring to blend. Stir in garlic, basil, and red pepper flakes, and reduce heat to medium.
3) Stir in pine nuts and cook until lightly browned. Add spinach, cover, and cook on low heat for 5 minutes, or until spinach is wilted.
4) Toss spinach mixture with orzo pasta.
5) Portion onto serving plates with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese, chopped tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

What’s your pity party meal?