Macaroni & Cheese and Foil Baked Salmon (Guest post by my two daughters, again…)


As I posted on the last blog post, I am smoothly, but slowly recovering from my hysterectomy surgery.  I feel very fortunate to have my 14 and 13 year old daughters take care of me the past few weeks, but they are starting back with their new school year tomorrow!!!  Never have I felt so sad and the feeling of making up some lame excuses to keep them home with me is very tempting… granted, all for selfish reasons.

Last night my daughters cooked Macaroni & Cheese and Foil Baked Salmon (both Giada De Laurentiis’ recipes) and they were absolutely divine!! They were both interested in cooking and baking, but I have seen their confidence grow cooking in the kitchen in the last month.  Well, let me have my daughters tell you about it:

AAfter that chicken jambalaya stunt, I felt a little more confident and willing to try more recipes. I like macaroni and cheese but making it from scratch was a first for me, so I decided on that. And then salmon is my favorite fish (self-explanatory). We started with the macaroni and cheese and used up all the milk in the house. The salmon was all right too, but I was a bit squeamish because I was never comfortable with handling animal protein. But they both turned out fine (actually, more than fine) and I overstuffed myself at the dinner table. I will definitely make the macaroni and cheese again, but salmon is up in the air because I am not a fan of handling meat. But experience is how we all learn, I guess.

JWe’re back! This time my sister and I made Mac and Cheese and Foil Baked Salmon. Luckily, nobody in my family is allergic to anything in these recipes, so we didn’t have to change anything or find different recipes like last time. This time cooking was fairly easy, maybe because the recipes were simple or because I’m getting more comfortable in the kitchen. The Mac and Cheese was pretty straightforward. Noodles + cheesy saucy goodness = majestic heavenly magic. It was  gooey on the inside while the edges were crispy. I believe that there’s no such thing as too much cheese, and this recipe just proves my point. It went very well with the Foil Baked Salmon. The salmon with the tomatoes and onions (the recipe actually called for shallots but we didn’t have any so we just used onions) tasted just as magnificent as the mac and cheese. I will most definitely be making this again, and soon. I think I’ll have to revisit this recipe often to fuel my new cheesy, fishy addiction. Really though, if I haven’t made it clear yet, it’s so fantastical that you’ll have dreams about it so I advise you to double the recipe so you can have some more the next day and relive the dream.  Okay, maybe I’m getting a little carried away. As you can tell, I get very emotional when it comes to food. Maybe I should stop talking now.

Macaroni and Cheese:

6 servings:

  • Butter, for greasing dish
  • 12 ounces wide egg noodles
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for pasta water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (packed) grated Fontina
  • 3/4 cup (packed) finely grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup (packed) grated mozzarella
  • 4 ounces cooked ham, diced, optional
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

**Ham was omitted from our recipe.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Butter a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Drain well, but do not rinse.

Whisk the cream, milk, flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in large bowl to blend. Stir in 1 cup Fontina, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/2 cup mozzarella, ham, if using, and parsley. Add the noodles and toss to coat. Transfer the noodle mixture to the prepared baking dish. Toss the remaining 1 cup Fontina, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 1/4 cup mozzarella in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the noodle mixture. Bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheese melts and begins to brown on top, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Foil Baked Salmon:

4 servings:

  • 4 (5 ounces each) salmon fillets
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped, or 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, drained
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Sprinkle salmon with 2 teaspoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir the tomatoes, shallots, 2 tablespoons of oil, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

Place a salmon fillet, oiled side down, atop a sheet of foil. Wrap the ends of the foil to form a spiral shape. Spoon the tomato mixture over the salmon. Fold the sides of the foil over the fish and tomato mixture, covering completely; seal the packets closed. Place the foil packet on a heavy large baking sheet. Repeat until all of the salmon have been individually wrapped in foil and placed on the baking sheet. Bake until the salmon is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Using a large metal spatula, transfer the foil packets to plates and serve.



Black and Orange Halloween Pasta (aka Black Linguine with Roasted Squash and Peppers)

I don’t enjoy Halloween at all, I know, call me Ms. Hallo-Scrooge or whatever.  I never enjoyed it and I never will.  When my children were little I grudgingly took them out for trick or treating, and I never give out candies/treats.  Yup, throw an egg or two at my car window if you want, but seriously, not my favorite “holiday”, I care less.  I also hate to think this candy gorging tradition has spread around the world making other children fat and sick, ugh!!!  

I can dislike and not support this tradition, however, I’m a good sport, a darn good sport.  I don’t want to ruin my children’s fun so last year I made these fun savory Halloween food.  As long as I don’t have to make sickeningly sweet Halloween treats with orange and black dye I’m fine.  This year since my children are getting a little older I made this Black and Orange Halloween Pasta!


Serves 6 main course:

  • 2 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 2 orange bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1lb black linguine or spaghetti (squid or cuttlefish ink pasta)
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
  • Accompaniment:

    grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle.
  • Toss squash and bell peppers with garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, oil, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a 17- by 11-inch 4-sided sheet pan. Roast, stirring once, until vegetables are just tender and browned in spots, 25 to 35 minutes.
  • While vegetables finish roasting, cook linguine in a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return to pot.
  • Remove sheet pan from oven and pour reserved water over vegetables, stirring to loosen from pan. Stir in olives, then add vegetable mixture to pasta in pot and toss to combine.

** I used 1 lb butternut squash & 1 lb kabocha squash, and used fettuccine instead of linguine.

I bought this squid ink fettuccine from Amazon.

My opinion: I never cooked with squid ink pasta before; when I cooked this pasta it started to smell of ocean or fish market.  However, I assure you that it doesn’t taste like the ocean nor fish market.  It has a very very subtle fishy flavor, but it’s not strong at all. 

Now, let me tell you about this Black & Orange Halloween Pasta; this is so very delicious!  I loved the roasted squash (the sweetness with the savory flavor all infused into one!), and sliced garlic and peppers gave their own distinct flavors out as they roasted.  This can easily become my comfort food!  I preferred kabocha squash over butternut squash (that’s just a personal preference) because kabocha squash is firmer and sweeter.  I think kabocha gave a bit more layer in the flavor along with garlic and peppers. 

Crock Pot Lasagna

You will be seeing a lot more slow cooker/crockpot recipes from now on.  Today’s weather has been cool, but as the weather becomes warmer slow cooker will be my savior!  Today’s recipe came from here.  I adapted a bit, but it’s still the same as this recipe.   Lasagna is my husband’s favorite dish and let’s see how this stack up to the traditional oven baked lasagna! 


1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 yellow sweet bell pepper, cleaned & diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
29 oz can tomato sauce (or your favorite tomato sauce, could be store bought or home made)
8 oz pkg. lasagna noodles, uncooked
3-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese & 1/2 cup extra mozzarella for topping
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups ricotta
**you can add salt & pepper, adjust to your taste

1. Spray the inside of the crock-pot with cooking spray
2. Brown the ground beef, and sauté onion, garlic and pepper.
3. Stir the tomato sauce in with the ground beef mixture.
4. Spread 1/4 of the meat sauce on the bottom of the crock-pot
5. Arrange 1/3 of the uncooked noodles over the sauce (I usually break them up so they fit better)
6. Combine the cheeses in a bowl. Spoon 1/3 of the cheeses over the noodles.
7. Repeat these layers twice or three times.
8. Top with remaining sauce.
9. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours and low for 1-1/2 hours. Or, you can start with high as you prepare the sauce, and once everything is in the crockpot, set to low and cook for 5 hours.  In the last 10 minutes of cooking  sprinkle the 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella. 
10. Let the lasagna stand in the crock-pot with the lid off for at least 10 minutes.

My opinion:

I didn’t have high expectation for this.  I was curious so I decided to make this.  However, this was actually good, in fact really good!!  Wow, I was surprised, seriously.   Everyone loved it and I got a “seal of approval” from my husband!  The lasagna pasta was not al dente, it was more on a “well done” side, however, I think maybe I can adjust the time.  You can prepare the sauce the night before, assemble everything in the morning and when you come back from work you’ll have a warm lasagna waiting for you!! 

I still like the oven baked lasagna, really, nothing can beat the oven baked, but this slow cooker version isn’t a shabby substitute, it’s a really good substitute!

Linguine with Wilted Cabbage and Ham

I wasn’t planning on posting this recipe.  I made this for tonight’s dinner thinking “I have left over cabbage, good! I can finally use it up!”  My intention was to use up the cabbage and feed my family something substantial without resorting to my usual rice, nori, Japanese egg and potstickers (my go to dinner food when I don’t feel like cooking or don’t have any inspiration left in me). 

I go to the Whole Foods Market frequently (it’s an American based organic market.  I believe there are few in and around London, UK).  I picked up this weeks circular (flyer with store sales and coupons) and saw the Linguine with Wilted Cabbage and Ham recipe.  I didn’t want to use the ham so I used bacon instead.  We really loved the taste of bacon and cabbage in this linguine recipe I decided I had to post this on the blog!!


I made few adjustments and also doubled the recipe (since my husband usually takes lunch from home). 


1 pound Linguine, cooked
12 ounce bacon (I usually get the non-nitrate bacons, slice into bite size); if you rather use ham cut about 1/2 pound into bite size pieces.
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1/4 head red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for serving
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Cook the linguine until al dente.  Cook the bacon in a pan until the fat is rendered.  Scoop up the bacon and drain the fat on a plate with paper towel.  Leave about 1/4 cup of bacon fat in the pan (either discard the rest of fat or transfer in a glass jar to be used later). 

Add onions and garlic to the pan with bacon fat and sauté until onions are translucent.  Add both cabbages and cook over medium-high heat mixing well.  Cover and reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring halfway through, until wilted and tender. 

Add linguine, 1/4 cup pasta water (or more to moisten), Pecorino and pepper to the cabbage mixture.  Toss to combine and serve.  Garnish with more cheese, if you like. 

My opinion:  Not a low fat recipe, but oh so delicious!  If you are concerned about fat from bacon, use ham instead.  My children are not the biggest fans of cabbage, but they really loved this dish!  I made extra so that my husband can take some to work, but also for my lunch.  I can’t wait to eat this tomorrow!! 

Pasta with Pumpkin, Sausage, and Cavolo Nero

We are having a very unusual weather nowadays, it actually feels like Fall!!!  In the past years, it felt like we somehow bypassed Fall and went straight from Summer to Winter.  It’s nice just wearing my light sweater and going out, rather than wearing jackets or coats.  

Anyway, a little while ago my cousin gave me a squash (looked like a cross between a butternut squash and a pumpkin) and I found this recipe from Fine Cooking (yes, again).  I made this for our dinner last night,  this such a delicious meal and Fall-like you have to try it!! 


Kosher salt
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed if using links
1 Tbs. olive oil (optional)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cups 3/4-inch-diced peeled, seeded pumpkin
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1-1/2 cups lower-salt chicken broth
10 oz. cavolo nero kale (aka Lacinato, black, or dinosaur kale), trimmed, ribs removed, leaves cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz. dried campanelle pasta
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.
In a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until mostly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Push the sausage towards the edge of the skillet and add the olive oil if the center of the pan is dry (this will depend on the amount of fat in the sausage). Add the onion and cook until golden and the sausage is well browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin, wine, garlic, and marjoram and cook until the wine evaporates, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 3/4 cup of the broth and cook until the pumpkin is almost tender, about 8 minutes. Add the kale and the remaining 3/4 cup broth, cover, and cook until the pumpkin and kale are tender, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water and then drain well. Add the pasta to the skillet with enough of the pasta water to coat the pasta and vegetables generously. Stir in the Parmigiano and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with additional Parmigiano.

My opinion: If you had noticed in my opinion section, in many places I mention how I enjoy various textures and multi-layered flavors.  This is one of them: you can imagine from the textures of squash, kale and pasta (all soft after cooking, but so different).  Even the flavors are diverse, but they all come together as one. No one flavor is dominant, but you can taste them.    This is pretty simple to make, and I bet everyone will love this dish.  My youngest daughter was a bit apprehensive at first so she asked for a smaller serving, after finishing her bowl of pasta she went back for a 2nd serving! 

Timpano Di Maccheroni (The Mythic Pasta Dome)

This is my last installment from our birthday bash (yes, no more birthday bash recipes, sigh of relief, right?!).  I was actually very nervous about making this, but my little nephew loves spaghetti and meatballs, but we’re also celebrating 2 more birthdays so I wanted to have a little twist to it.  Well, as it turned out, it was a “big” twist”.  If you type in “Timpano Di Maccheroni” in the search engine, you’ll see various images and recipes.  As any sites will tell you many people will remember this dish from Stanley Tucci’s movie “Big Night” where the 2 brothers desperate to save their restaurant serves their rendition of Timpano Di Maccheroni.  

My recipe came from renowned Italian-American chef, Mario Batali (and to be honest, I like Mario 1. because he is a good chef, but most of all 2. Anthony Bourdain really likes Mario!!  Don’t call me lame, it’s just a fact. 


This dish is not your everyday dish.  You need to prepare in advance because it involves several recipes.  You have the dough that becomes the encasement dome, besciamella (white) sauce, meatballs, and Neapolitan meat ragu).  You can always use your own version of white sauce, ragu, and meatballs (or if you don’t have time, use the store bought ones), but I personally think these recipes are superb!  You can always make them 1 or 2 days in advance and marry them up on the day of your big event. 

Once again, I will give you an advance warning:  this is a very lengthy post due to having several recipes!!!  Let me give you the recipes for all the sauces and meatballs, and I’ll have the recipe for the actual dome. 

Ragu Napoletano (Neapolitan Meat Ragu)

· 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
· 1/2 lb boneless veal shoulder, cut into chunks
· 1/2 lb boneless beef chuck, cut into chunks
· kosher salt
· fresh ground black pepper
· 1 onion, finely chopped
· 3/4 cup dry red wine
· 2 (28 ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes, with juice,passed through a food mill ( you can use canned crushed tomatoes too)
· 1/2 lb italian sweet sausage (I used hot) I didn’t use this
· 1 pinch hot red pepper flakes

In a large pasta pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil until smoking
Season the veal and beef with salt and pepper to taste and sear 5 or 6 pieces at a time over medium heat, until dark golden brown.
Remove to a plate and repeat with remaining meat chunks (if using ground chuck, be sure to drain any excess grease from pan).
Add the onion to the pan and sauté, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits.
Cook until the onions are golden brown and very soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the wine, browned meat chunks, tomatoes, sausages, and pepper flakes and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 2 ½-3 hours, stirring occasionally and skimming off the fat as necessary.
Remove from the heat and remove meat and sausages from sauce.
Cover well and save for another meal. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and allow to cool
** This ragu reminded me of my old landlady in grad school.  She was 80 something, first generation Sicilian-American; she was always cooking and she constantly wanted to feed me.

Polpette Alla Napoletana (Neapolitan Meatballs)

· 3 cups day old bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
· 1 1/4 lbs ground beef
· 3 eggs, beaten
· 3 cloves garlic, minced
· 3/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
· 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
· 1/4 cup pine nuts, baked for 8 minutes in a 400 degree oven (I omitted this due to allergy issues)
· 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
· 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
· 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a shallow bowl, soak the bread cubes in water to cover for a minute or two.
Drain the bread cubes and squeeze with your fingers to press out the excess moisture (make sure you do this well).
In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, beef, eggs, garlic, pecorino, parsley, toasted pine nuts, salt and pepper, and mix with your hands to incorporate.
With wet hands, form the mixture into 12-15 meatballs, each smaller than a tennis ball, but larger than a golf ball. (I made mine a bit smaller)
In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Add the meatballs and working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan, cook until deep golden brown on all side, about 10 minutes.  (If it makes it easier, just bake the meatballs in a 400F oven.  Just line them up neatly on a cookie sheet.  This is what I did and worked very well).
(If you have any leftovers you can always add them to the ragu later and eat with pasta).
**Make sure to use good quality Pecorino cheese.  Makes all the difference with taste!!

Besciamella Sauce
· 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
· 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
· 3 cups whole milk
· 2 teaspoons kosher salt
· 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Heat butter in a medium saucepan until melted.
Add flour, stirring until smooth.
Cook gently over medium heat until light golden brown, 6-7 minutes.
· Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until almost boiling.
Add milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth.
If lumps begin to form, you need to adjust the heat up a bit higher.
Bring to a boil, and cook for 30 seconds, continuing to stir. (You may have to stir for more than 30 seconds, just make sure until the sauce begins to coat the back of the spoon).
· Remove from the heat and season with salt and nutmeg.

  • Timpano Di Maccheroni

  • Dough
    • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 6 ounces lard or 6 ounces butter or 6 ounces vegetable shortening
    • 4 egg yolks
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (end of dough ingredients)
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 1/2 cups toasted breadcrumbs (4 ounces)
    • 2 lbs rigatoni pasta or 2 lbs ziti pasta
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 quart metal mixing bowl
    For the assembly
    • 2 1/2 cups ragu napoletano
    • 2 cups freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
    • 1 -1 1/2 cup besciamella sauce
    • 1/2 lb prosciutto, cut into 1/4 inch dice
    • 3 gratings nutmeg
    • 12 polpette alla napoletana

    To make the dough :  Place the flour on a wooden work surface (any clean kitchen counter will be fine), make a well in the top (I just did this part in a large stainless steel bowl).

    Cut the butter or shortening into 1/4 inch pieces and place in the center of the well with the yolks, salt and a teaspoon of ice water. 

    Mix well with the tips of your fingers to form a lumpy mass (you may have to add more ice water depending on how dry the dough is). 

    Bring together as a dough and knead for 4-5 minutes.  (it helps to have a clean counter space to do this kneading process). 


    Wrap in plastic and set aside in the fridge for about 30 minutes. 

    Roll out the dough to a large circle 1/4 inch thick.

    Butter the metal bowl and dust thickly with the toasted bread crumbs. 


    Line the buttered bowl completely with the sheet of dough, with a 1-1/2 inch edge overhang.  (It helps to roll the dough with the roller to transfer to the bowl).


    Boil 6 quarts of water in a large pot, then add 2 Tablespoons salt.  Cook the rigatoni/ziti in the boiling water, 3 minutes less than the package instructions state.  Drain and refresh under cold running water – until cold, 2-3 minutes.  Toss with olive oil, and set aside.

    Mix half of the cooked rigatoni/ziti with half of the Besciamella, 1/4 cup of Parmigiano, the prosciutto, and nutmeg.  Fill the dome with this mixture.


    Mix the remaining cooked rigatoni/ziti with 2-1/2 cups meat sauce and 1/2 cup Parmiagiano, mix in the meatballs (about 12-14) and fill the dome.  Sprinkle with some of the grated Parmiagiano.  (Make sure you gently press down so that there won’t be empty pockets while this bakes in the oven). 


    Fold the extra pasta over the whole thing, and press gently to seal. 


    Cover the open top with foil and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes in a preheated 375F oven. 

    Remove from the oven, remove the foil, and let it sit for about 10 minutes.  Invert onto a large serving platter, without removing the bowl.  Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes, then carefully loosen the dough around the sides with a knife, and knock with your knuckles to release the bowl (Mine came out just fine without doing all these).  Let it sit without the bowl for additional 15-20 minutes. 

    Serve with remaining Parmigiano on the side and extra sauce. 


    My opinion:  First of all, CONGRATULATIONS!!! if you read this far!!!  After making this, I felt like I could do anything!!  I won’t lie to you.  This was a big feat.  The amount of preparation it took was time consuming, but once again, you can save yourself some time and use the store bought stuff.  I do not have any regrets making this dish.  In my personal opinion, it was very very very worth it!!  The marriage between the dome crust, besciamella sauce, meat ragu and meatballs turned out great;  just make sure to add extra ragu when you eat!!

  • Pasta with Lentils and Kale

    It has been so hot the past few days, I lost the motivation to cook.  We had this surge of hot and humid weather here in Philadelphia.  This made me dread the upcoming Summer months – I seriously do not do well in hot weather, so my cooking will be very sparse (maybe close to non-existence) during the Summer…
    I still felt the humidity today, but after we had a big rainstorm pass through here, the temperature has gone down just a little bit.  Thus, I felt I can cook something today, and I’m sure my family appreciated some home-cooked meal!
    Today’s recipe came from “Gourmet Italian Kitchen” magazine.  At first glance, lentils and kale in pasta doesn’t sound too appetizing, however, this was very tasty.  The secret to this dish is the caramelized onions.  According to the magazine, “their rich sweetness rounds out the earthiness of the lentils and kale.”
    I do have to agree with the magazine, I wasn’t sure if my kids will eat this, but they had seconds, and that says something about this lentil and kale dish!


    1/2 cup small green lentils
    2 cups water
    5 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    2 medium onions, thinly sliced
    1 pound kale
    1 pound dried short tubular pasta
    Toasted Crumbs for Pasta (see below for recipe)
    Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

    Simmer lentils in 2 cups water with 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan, uncovered, adding more water if necessary to keep lentils barely covered, until tender but to falling apart, 20-30 minutes.  Remove from heat and season with salt.

    While lentils simmer, heat 3 Tablespoons oil in a 12 inch heavy skillet over medium high heat until it shimmers, then sauté onion with 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring, 1 minute.  Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and golden (stir more frequently toward end of cooking), about 20 minutes.  Remove lid and increase heat to medium, then cook, stirring frequently, until onion is golden brown, 5-10 minutes more.  Stir in lentils, including their liquid, and simmer, scraping up and brown bit, 1 minute.  Season with salt and pepper.

    While onion cooks, cut out and discard stems and center ribs from kale and coarsely chop leaves.  Start cooking pasta in a 6-8 quart pot of well salted boiling water, according to package instructions. 
    Seven minutes before pasta is finished cooking, stir in kale and boil, uncovered, until pasta is al dente. 

    Reserve about 1 cup pasta cooking liquid, then drain pasta and kale in a colander.  Add pasta mixture to lentils along with about 1/3 cup of pasta cooking liquid (or enough to keep pasta moist) and cook over medium high heat, tossing, 1 minute.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with remaining 2 Tablespoons oil. 

    ** Lentils and onions can be cooked and combined up to 5 days ahead and chilled.  Reheat over low heat, thinning with water as necessary.
    Kale can be washed and trimmed 1 day ahead and chilled in a sealed plastic bag lined with dampened paper towels. 

    Toasted Crumbs for Pasta: the original recipe called for old sourdough bread and made into crumbs in a blender.  However, for saving time, I just used panko.
    Bake 2 cups of panko crumbs in 350F oven for about 10-15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden.  Pour them into a bowl, and drizzle with 3 Tablespoons of olive oil – toss well.  Season crumbs with salt. 

    My opinion: It looks like such a simple dish, but as you can see from the recipe, it’s a bit tedious.  However, if you separate the tasks this dish is well worth it.  Toasted crumbs add an unique taste and texture to the pasta – my family loved this addition! I call this a power food because of kale and lentils!  This will be a great dish to potluck or when you are making large quantity (just double or triple the amount).

    Spaghetti with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Pine Nuts

    I told you I’m a garlic lover, I think if vampires exists (which by the way, don’t exist – thought you would want to know) I can kill them with one breath from a mile away!  Whoever found garlic bulbs should be given an eternal recognition!  This recipe calls for a lot of garlic – yay!!  This is the type of recipe that reminds me of a wholesome rustic Italian meal somewhere in the rural village of Italy.  I can imagine myself eating this pasta with a good glass of wine over looking the vineyard in Tuscany or sitting in a quaint outdoor garden surrounded by flowers and plants with close friends to share the meal with. 

    1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
    1 pound spaghetti
    3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    8-10 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
    1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
    1/4 cup minced fresh parsley (optional)
    salt and pepper to taste
    grated Parmesan or crumbled ricotta salata (optional)

    Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a heat proof bowl, cover with boiling water, and set aside to soften for about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring a large covered pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente. 
    While the pasta cooks, in a small pan on low heat or in a microwave-safe bowl, heat the oil and garlic until golden.  Set aside.  Drain the sun-dried tomatoes, reserving the soaking liquid.  Cut the tomatoes into thin strips. 
    When the pasta is done, drain it and place in a serving bowl.  Add the cooked garlic, sun-dried tomato strips, pine nuts, and parsley.  Toss well.  Stir in some of the reserved sun-dried tomato liquid to moisten the pasta, if needed.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve hot, topped with grated cheese if you like. 

    My opinion: Lovely fragrant garlic in olive oil, deep sun-dried tomato flavour, and fresh nutty pine nuts!  Seriously, what else do I need???   When I cooked the garlic in the olive oil, I added the sliced sun-dried tomatoes which, I think, made the tomatoes more tasty.   I did not add parsley, and also added freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese.   I made a side of salad with lime, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper dressing.

    Pasta with Artichoke Hearts & Feta, and Marmalade Carrots

    I never was a big artichoke person, or even really liked artichoke.  The extent of artichoke was the canned kind that I mashed it to make artichoke dips.  I’ve been orienting myself gradually with artichokes, few weeks ago I actually  steamed up some artichokes and ate them with mayo and balsamic dip (which was really yummy).  There are so many foods where you either like or don’t like them, and maybe artichoke is one of them.  I have grown to like artichoke and appreciate the flavour, but I also know some people who don’t like the taste of artichoke. 


    Pasta with Artichoke Hearts & Feta: serves 4-6
    1 pound pasta
    2 cups chopped onions
    3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
    2 teaspoons dried oregano
    3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    2 –  14 ounce cans of artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
    1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
    1-1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese

    Bring a large covered pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
    Meanwhile, in a skillet on medium-high heat, cook the onions, garlic, and oregano in the oil, stirring frequently, until the onions soften and are turning brown at the edges, about 7 minutes.  Add the artichoke hearts and cook until heated through, a couple of minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. 
    When the pasta is done, drain it, reserving 1-1/2 cups of the pasta-cooking liquid.  In a serving bowl, whisk the reserved liquid into the feta until smooth.  Add the pasta and the artichoke mixture and toss.

    My opinion: I added extra garlic (what can I say, I’m a garlic lover!), didn’t add parsley (because I forgot to buy some), and instead of using canned artichokes, I got frozen artichoke hearts from my organic market (I personally thought it tasted much better than the canned variety).  Just a lovely blend of garlic, creamy feta and artichoke, seriously, what’s not to like?   Once again, if you’re not an artichoke lover, or even likes artichoke, you may not enjoy this, but I say, give it a chance, be dare, and try it out!

    Marmalade-Glazed Carrots: serves 4
    3 cups peeled and cut carrots (1/2 inch slices)
    1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or butter
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup water
    1/4 cup orange  marmalade
    lemon wedges

    In a large skillet on medium-high heat, cook the carrots in the oil for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the salt and water and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes, until the carrots are crisp-tender.  Add the orange marmalade and stir until the carrots are well coated and glistening.  Serve with lemon wedges (a splash of lemon juice cuts the sweetness just a bit). 
    My opinion: When Steve ate the carrots, he said he really liked it.  His exact wording “What’s not to like? carrots with butter and sugar!”  I told him there are no butter and sugar, just marmalade, and he was genuinely surprised.  I did use olive oil to cook the carrots, and didn’t have to use the lemon juice.  I think the level of sweetness depends on which brand of marmalade you purchase, but the one I got wasn’t sugary sweet (which I prefer).

    Fettuccine with Fresh Herbs and Fresh Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

    Okay, back to Moosewood recipes!  The more I cook vegetarian, I thank God for fresh vegetables and herbs, but also for those animals providing us with precious milk to make dairies!!!  Yes, I am truly convinced I cannot be a Vegan nor I choose to (unless I somehow become allergic to all dairy products). This is in no way putting Vegans down, but it’s a simple realization that I cannot part with my dairies.   Today’s menu was fresh, fresh, fresh!!  I almost wished I had an outdoor patio or a nice deck with trees surrounding us so that we could have eaten this dinner outdoors. 
    Fettuccine with Fresh Herbs: serves 4-6
    1 pound fettuccine or other pasta
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
    1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
    1/2 cup minced fresh basil
    1/2 cup minced chives or scallions
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)

    Bring a large covered pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
    Meanwhile, prepare the garlic and herbs.  Warm the oil in a small pan on low heat. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute until the garlic is golden; don’t let it brown.  Add the herbs and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat, ladle about 1/2 cup of the hot pasta-cooking water into the pan, and set aside.
    When the pasta is done, drain it.  Place the drained pasta in a serving bowl, add the herb and oil mixture and the salt and pepper, and toss well.  Toss in some grated cheese if you like.  Serve right away. 

    My opinion: The burst of fragrance  when I added the herbs in the oil was so aromatic!  It made me want to just bathe in this herbal oil:-)  A great Summer time pasta dish.  You can pretty much add fresh herbs (ie. oregano, thyme, mint, etc).  You’re only cooking for 30 seconds so the herbs still retain their freshness. 

    Fresh Tomato & Mozzarella Salad: serves 4-6
    2 pounds tomatoes
    12 ounces fresh mozzarella
    1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    black pepper

    Cut the tomatoes into 1/2 inch dice (about 4 cups).  Cut the mozzarella into 1/2 inch dice (about 1-1/2 cups).  Put them in a large serving bowl.  Add the basil.  Stir in the olive oil and the salt.  Add pepper to taste.  Serve at room temperature. 

    My opinion: As you can see from my picture I arranged it a bit different.  Instead of dicing I sliced the tomatoes and mozzarella.  I also added sliced cucumbers.  I arranged them in a spiral, alternating between tomato, cheese and cucumber.  Sprinkled my flavorful  Himalayan pink salt, black pepper, and chopped basil, and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.   This is also a wonderful Summer time salad, and the taste of tomatoes and other ingredients go really well together.  It’s truly a perfect union!