Tag Archives: tomato

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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Baked Eggplant, Tomato & Feta with Polenta

“Great restaurants are, of course, nothing but mouth-brothels. There is no point in going to them if one intends to keep one’s belt buckled.”
– Frederic Raphael

It’s not that I have forsaken cooking in pursuit of other, more easily acquired (and dare I say wanton?), meals. I haven’t. Sure, the occasional Chinese food delivery threatens my resolve, and the even less frequent meat loaf sandwich convinces me of my own culinary inadequacy, but I do still cook.

Unfortunately, prolific eating does not always lead to prolific writing. On the contrary, my food-induced comas compel me to do very little of anything, which is further indication that my restaurant reviewing career would not be especially promising. (Unless Instagram-friendly reviews were considered pithy rather than lazy.) Similarly, the food I eat out does not always inspire me so much as enable me to continue eating out.

So, my homemade meals of late have been basic. Vegetarian. Wholesome. I am still wholly capable of making indulgent foods, but mine is a city of indulgences, and sometimes I just crave simplicity. And that’s what home is for these days.

This recipe comes from One Big Table, which is as much about American food and material culture as it is about recipes. I highly recommend buying a copy. I especially love all the amazing vegetable dishes. (Cooking veggies tends to be where my creativity wanes.)

Baked Eggplant, Tomato & Feta with Polenta
Serves 4
1/4 cup olive oil
1 eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 garlic clove, minced
sea salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 cup diced tomatoes (I used canned)
pepper
4 ounces/1 cup feta cheese
1 dish of polenta

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a pan, heat olive oil to medium heat, then add eggplant and garlic. Cook until browned and slightly tender, then season with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of oregano.
2) Pour eggplant into an 8 x 8 inch glass or ceramic baking dish, then cover with diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, and remaining oregano. Sprinkle feta on top, then cover the dish with foil. Bake until cheese begins to melt (25 to 30 minutes).
3) Meanwhile, prepare the polenta according to the package’s directions.
4) Remove the eggplant dish from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes. Heat a pan to medium heat and grease with butter or olive oil. Slice pieces of polenta and fry on each side for 2 to 3 minutes.
5) Place polenta on a plate, then top with eggplant and tomato dish. Serve warm.

Beef Chili and Cheddar Cornbread

I’ve nearly been swallowed by this city in the best, all-consuming sense of the word. I have no other excuse.

I celebrated my one-month work anniversary. It snowed in October. I turned 23.

And this recipe is the best meal I’ve posted yet. Seriously.

Beef Chili:
2 large onions, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 carrots, diced (I also roasted ’em)
2 pounds ground beef
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon crumbled dry oregano
Dried red pepper flakes, to taste
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 1/4 cups beef broth
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 8-ounce cans kidney beans
2 red bell peppers, chopped (I roasted these, too)

1) In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat and cook the onions in it for 5 to 10 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and carrots and cook for one minute more.
2) Raise the heat to medium and add the beef, stirring and breaking up any lumps until it is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Add the diced tomatoes, broth and Worcestershire sauce and simmer the chili, covered, for 35 to 40 minutes.
3) Add the kidney beans, bell peppers, salt and pepper to taste and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, until the bell peppers are tender.

Cheddar Cornbread:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups milk
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the pan
8 ounces aged extra-sharp Cheddar, grated, divided

1) Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter. With a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Mix in 2 cups of the cheddar and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
2) Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.
3) Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheddar. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and cut into large squares. Serve warm.

Recipes based on this beef chili recipe and this cheddar cornbread recipe.

Tomato & Mango Salsa


It’s really difficult for me to construct legible sentences right now. ‘CAUSE I’M BOOKING MY TICKET FOR MUNICH. I really want to abuse the exclamation point and assault the keyboard with my hands to construct made-up expletives, but I’m refraining from both. I will say this, however: I am ecstatic. And beneath that excitement, I’m harboring a whole gallon of tears in thinking about leaving this place.

This place. Oh, this place. I believe this blog entry sums it up nicely, with a freshman perspective that still resonates with me, sans a few perceptions that desperately needed three more years of college. (And now they get to face “real” adulthood, lucky them.) My favorite line is “Maybe Disney is the happiest place on earth for some people, but mine is right here, with Roy Williams as our Mickey Mouse.” I always used to say that when I gave tours, because I absolutely mean(t) it. I’m leaving here happier than I was when I entered, which is quite an endorsement when I consider how much more I know about the world now. Like Disney World, however, I can’t stay here forever, nor should I. How else will I know what’s Out There?

So, yes, I could cry (and I will). I could cry for what I’m leaving behind, for who I’m leaving behind, but the real value is in what I’m bringing with me. And those things make me smile. It’s like Kurt Vonnegut said:

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

I can’t promise I’ll remember this bit of wisdom when I’m throwing my mortarboard into the air and hugging my beautiful friends and packing up the last of my clothes before boarding a plane to Munich, but I promise I’ll follow up those tears with a healthy dose of laughter. What’s Next could be even better than What’s Now, and I refuse to preface the future with an excess of sadness.

In other news, I made this salsa just in time for Cinco de Mayo, a holiday whose significance I always forget.

A Cinco de Mayo celebration. That also makes me smile.

Tomato & Mango Salsa:
Makes about eight cups of salsa
4 cloves of garlic
2 jalapeños, roughly chopped and de-seeded to desired heat level
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
a few sprigs of cilantro
fresh oregano (optional)
4 small mangoes, diced
4 medium tomatoes, diced (I also blanched them first)
1 lime
1 tablespoon sugar
salt & pepper to taste

1) In a food processor, mince the garlic. Add the jalapeños, onions, cilantro and oregano and pulse until the onions are diced well.
2) In a large bowl, combine the mangoes and tomatoes with the jalapeño and onion mixture. Squeeze the lime over the top.
3) Stir in sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate–this salsa is best served cold.

I eat this salsa with tortilla chips and black bean quesadillas. I think it’d be wonderful with grilled fish, though. I’ll keep you posted. Or maybe you can tell me?

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.

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.

Roasted Tomatoes

I love coming home to bowls overflowing with tomatoes–their variegated colors and sizes scream potential. Particularly as fall rolls in (or, in the case of NC, drags in), I savor every last opportunity to eat local ‘maters. And when they’re from my mom’s own garden? Well, let’s just say entered my car with great alacrity.

Roasted tomatoes taste simple and sweet alone or on top of salads. Or, as pictured above, with feta cheese and basil. Or on sandwiches. Or anything, really. Just prepare for a warm kitchen afternoon, and you’re good to go.

Roasted Tomatoes:
tomatoes
salt & pepper
olive oil
assorted spices, if desired

1) Slice tomatoes in half and place on cookie sheet (with a lip). Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2) Put in oven at 200 degrees for 4 to 5 hours, or until roasted to desired texture. (I like ’em caramelized, but a still a bit juicy.) Done!