Simple Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula, and Breadcrumbs

You won’t regret buying out of season tomatoes with this fresh and easy pasta recipe. Hint: a little roasting will do the trick.

Easy Gemelli Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes

If you’re like me and can’t resist buying hothouse grape tomatoes in the middle of the winter – even when we know better – this recipe will address any buyer’s remorse. It’s not the fault of the tomatoes, of course. They do look irresistible, but looks can be deceiving with these plump and oh-so-red tomatoes, which often disappoint in the flavor department when they are out of season. Not to worry – this recipe allows for a little off-season tomato indulgence with no regrets. Thanks to slow roasting, they will deflate from their impossible pertness to a more relaxed version of themselves, and any hibernating juices and natural sugars will be released. Along with a little simple seasoning to give them some oomph, and you will have a sunny and versatile condiment to beat the winter blues.

Add roasted tomatoes to sauces and salads, use as a topping on pizza and crostini, or toss with pasta. In this recipe, I take advantage of the sludgy sheen of olive oil and tomato juice left behind in the pan after roasting. To sop up the flavorful oil, I sprinkle a layer of breadcrumbs over the pan to absorb the juices and toast the crumbs in the oven until golden. They are a delicious extra touch and garnish to this light and fresh pasta dish.

Gemelli with Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula, and Olive Oil Breadcrumbs

Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves 4

1 pound grape tomatoes
3 garlic whole cloves, unpeeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 thyme sprigs
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound gemelli or fusilli
2 large handfuls of arugula, about 3 cups

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Scatter the tomatoes and garlic cloves on a rimmed baking sheet. Add the oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and stir to coat. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the tomatoes and transfer to the oven. Roast until the tomatoes are softened and begin to release their juices, about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the oven and discard the thyme sprigs. When cool enough to handle, peel the skin away from the garlic and finely chop the cloves. Transfer the tomatoes and garlic to a large serving bowl.

2. Reduce the oven heat to 350°F. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on the same baking sheet and stir to coat in the residual olive oil. Return the baking pan to the oven and cook until the breadcrumbs are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes (they will brown quickly so watch them carefully). Remove and immediately transfer the breadcrumbs to a small bowl to stop them from cooking. Cool for 5 minutes and then stir in the 2 tablespoons cheese.

3. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Scoop out 1/2 cup cooking water and then drain the pasta.

4. Add the pasta, arugula, half of the breadcrumbs, and the 1/3 cup cheese to the tomatoes and toss to combine. If the pasta is a little dry, add some of the reserved water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until moistened to your preference. Divide the pasta between serving plates. Garnish with the remaining breadcrumbs and freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately

Winter Citrus Quinoa Salad

There is no better time to have a salad than in the winter. Yep, that’s right: Salads aren’t just summer fare. When the cold weather settles in, it’s even more important to get our daily dose of vitamins and nutrients. Luckily, winter brings its own produce rock stars – from glistening citrus to sturdy greens, hardy crucifers, and root vegetables. Shredded, chopped, and juiced, these ingredients can be layered into hefty salads laden with dried fruit, nuts, and seeds and dubbed a complete meal.

This hearty salad is inspired by tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern bulgur salad liberally mixed with lemon, garlic, and gads of fresh herbs. In this recipe, the bulgur is switched out with quinoa, a nutrient-rich seed, which is high in protein and gluten-free, and can be prepared like a grain. A shower of herbs and shredded red cabbage add crisp texture and flavor, while a variety of peppers and dried fruit add heat and sweetness.

The key to making this salad is to taste as you build it. There should be a balance of citrus, fragrance, heat, and spice – as well as a balance of textures. Quinoa requires a good amount of seasoning for good flavor, so season the quinoa before adding it to the salad. You will also find that the flavors of the salad will meld if it can sit for an hour or two before serving. No worries about wilting, the sturdy veggies in the salad will stay fresh and crisp.

Winter Citrus Quinoa Salad

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes plus chilling time
Serves: 6 as a side dish or salad

Extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups red quinoa
3 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 large poblano pepper, seeded, finely diced
1 yellow or red bell pepper, seeded, finely diced
1 cup finely shredded red cabbage
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley, leaves chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro sprigs, leaves chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped if large
1 garlic clove, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1. Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve and thoroughly drain.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the quinoa and cook for 1 minute to lightly toast the seeds, stirring frequently. Carefully add the water (it will sizzle). Bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered, over medium-low heat until the quinoa is tender and releases its germ, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the quinoa and transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the lime juice, 1 teaspoon salt, the cumin, paprika, coriander, and cayenne. Stir to combine and cool to room temperature.
3. Add the scallions, peppers, cabbage, parsley, cilantro, raisins, garlic, orange juice, and Tabasco. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Farmers Market Chicken Dinner

chicken platter tastefood

Grilled Chicken, Garlic Scapes, Potatoes, Lambs Lettuce, Lemon, Roasted Garlic

A trip to the farmers market yielded the ingredients to assemble this spring dinner. It didn’t require much: one chicken, a bunch of green garlic, potatoes and lambs lettuce. A good glugg of olive oil, a head of garlic, and a lemon plucked from our tree was all that was needed to bring this meal together. And a skillet and a grill.

chicken skillet

Green garlic is young garlic and resembles thick spring onions. Its flavor is buttery and milder than garlic cloves, and it’s delicious roasted and braised. In this preparation, the bulbs and white stalks were tucked under the chicken which nestled in a skillet surrounded by potatoes and the garlic head. The green garlic tips were chopped and tumbled with lemon zest, oil and a pinch of sea salt, for a bright gremolata garnish – and no waste. Lambs lettuce is mild and pleasantly nutty and best simply dressed so as not to overwhelm its delicate flavor. I dressed it lightly with oil and lemon and scattered it around the carved chicken. And the roasted head of garlic? Squeezed into the pan juices for deep flavor and a rich final touch.

garlic scapes

Roasted Chicken Platter with Potatoes, Garlic Scapes and Lemony Lambs Lettuce

The beauty of this recipe is its ease of preparation and one-skillet method. The veggies and chicken roast together – either on the grill or in the oven. Other vegetables such as onions and carrots may easily be substituted. Serves 4.

1 (4 pound) chicken
Salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound garlic scapes
1 pound small yukon gold potatoes, halved crosswise
1 large head of garlic, outer layers of skin removed, top trimmed by 1/2 inch to expose the cloves.
1 untreated lemon, halved

Salad:
6 ounces lambs lettuce (mache)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. If you have time, season the chicken all over including inside the cavity with salt. Place in a bowl or on a rimmed dish and refrigerate uncovered for a few hours. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. Drizzle and coat with olive oil. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
2. Prepare a grill for indirect cooking over medium-high heat (about 400°F/ 200°C). If using an oven, preheat to 400°F.
3. Snip off the green stalks of the garlic scapes and set aside. Place the bulbs, the potatoes and garlic head in a large bowl. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Toss to coat, then dump the vegetables into a large cast iron skillet (or grill-proof baking dish). Nestle the chicken into the center of the vegetables, breast-side up. Roast over indirect medium-high heat until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through, 1 to 1 1/4 hours, basting occasionally with pan juices and rotating the pan from time to time to ensure even cooking. Remove from heat and transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Let rest for 15 minutes.
4. While the chicken rests, squeeze the roasted garlic into the pan and gently mix around to combine with the juices and vegetables.
5. Finely chop the green garlic  tips and place in a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest and juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine.
6. Place the lambs lettuce in a large bowl. Whisk the oil, lemon juice, mustard and salt in a small bowl. Add to the lambs lettuce and toss to coat.
7. Carve the chicken into serving pieces and arrange on a large serving platter. Arrange the roasted potatoes and garlic scapes around the chicken. Scatter the lambs lettuce around the chicken and vegetables. Spoon some of the pan juices over the chicken and vegetables and sprinkle with the gremolata.

Roasted Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup

Butternut Squash Soup tastefoodButternut Squash, Apples, Cider, Spice 

There is something magical about roasted butternut squash. Its orange flesh softens into a sweet and nutty squidginess, which is easily transformed into a puree. It’s hard to believe something so rich and sugary can be loaded with nutrients and betacarotene, but so it is. One cup of butternut squash provides a glutton’s worth of Vitamins A, B, and C, as well as potassium, fiber and manganese. When roasted, its natural sugars are coaxed out and gently caramelized, accentuating the squash’s inherent nutty flavor – simply delicious with a pinch of salt. In this recipe, roasted butternut mingles with its fall buddies – apples, cider and loads of warm spices – yielding an essential autumn soup.

Spicy Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup

Serve as a starter to any meal, including Thanksgiving dinner. If you are entertaining a crowd, consider small servings in little cups or demi-tasse as a light hors d’oeuvre. Pumpkin may be substituted for the squash. I prefer small hokkaido pumpkins.

Serves 4 to 6 in bowls or 8 to 12 in small cups.

1 medium butternut squash (or 1 large hokkaido pumpkin) about 2 pounds
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, cut in 1/2-inch dice
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Heat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Lightly brush the exposed flesh with olive oil. Place squash, cut-side-down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the flesh is fork tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened without coloring, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the apple, curry powder, cumin, coriander and cayenne.  Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the squash and chicken stock. (There should be just enough stock to cover the squash and apples. If needed, add additional stock to cover). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until the apples are very soft, about 20 minutes.

Carefully puree the soup in batches in a food processor (or with an immersion blender). Return to the pot. The soup should be thick. Thin it to your desired consistency with the apple cider. Stir in the brown sugar, salt and pepper. Warm thoroughly over medium-low heat and taste for seasoning. Serve warm, garnished with fresh cilantro leaves.

Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Tartare with Balsamic Syrup

tomato tartare verrines tastefood

Taking its cue from Insalata Caprese, the magical trio of tomato, mozzarella and basil gets dressed up in these elegant yet simple verrines. A diced medley of colorful heirloom tomatoes is topped with creamy buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil, then laced with rich balsamic syrup. A plank of olive oil crostini completes this fresh and light dish. Make this summery appetizer when the garden is abundant with ripe tomatoes and it’s too hot to cook in the kitchen.

Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Tartare with Balsamic Syrup
Makes 8 servings.

Syrup:
1/2 cup balsamic syrup
1 garlic clove, lightly smashed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Crostini:
8 slices of baguette, cut 4-inches in length by 1/4-inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, lightly smashed

2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, seeded, cut in 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces buffalo mozzarella
8 large basil leaves

For the syrup:
Place the vinegar, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until syrupy in consistency and reduced by 1/3. Discard garlic clove. Transfer syrup to a bowl and cool to room temperature.

For the crostini:
Preheat oven broiler or grill. Brush baguette slices with olive oil. Rub with garlic clove and lightly sprinkle with salt. Arrange in one layer on a baking tray and broil until lightly golden on both sides, turning once. (Or grill until lightly charred on both sides). Set aside.

Place the tomatoes in a bowl. Add oil, salt, sugar and black pepper. Gently stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. Divide the tomatoes evenly between 8 glasses. Top with a spoonful of mozzarella. Drizzle with 1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic syrup.

Stack the basil leaves. Roll up the stack lengthwise and thinly slice the roll to chiffonade the basil. Sprinkle the basil over the tomatoes. Serve immediately with crostini.

Cooking for your Health: Asparagus Mimosa with Quinoa

Asparagus mimosa tastefood

~ Asparagus, Quinoa, Egg, Lemon, Mint, Olive Oil ~

As you can see, this is not a crazy savory cocktail to be confused with the brunch-friendly champagne and orange juice beverage. Mimosa in French culinary terms refers to finely grated or seived hard-cooked eggs frequently used to dust salads and vegetables or as a component of deviled eggs. You might understand why the eloquent-minded Français would prefer the term “mimosa” for such a preparation. Not only is it poetic and mellifluous, it’s also apt: the crumbled canary yellow yolk of the egg resembles the brilliant mimosa flower which blooms in early Spring. Spring is also the time for asparagus, and asparagus dusted with mimosa is a popular and elegant preparation. I took this recipe one step further and turned it into a healthy yet light main dish, serving the asparagus on a bed of nutrient- rich quinoa tossed with olive oil, lemon and mint. I dare say it would make a wonderful addition to any brunch menu – accompanied by champagne and orange juice (naturally).

Asparagus Mimosa with Quinoa
Serves 3 to 4

1 cup red quinoa
Salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound thin asparagus, woody ends trimmed
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1 large egg, hardboiled
Sea salt flakes

Place quinoa, 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until the quinoa grains are tender and release their white “tail”. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat. Set aside to cool slightly.

Heat oven broiler. Arrange asparagus in one layer on a rimmed baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly season with salt. Turn to coat. Broil on the top shelf until crisp tender, 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan once.

Add 1 tablespoon mint and 1 teaspoon lemon zest to the quinoa. Stir to combine. Spoon the quinoa onto a serving plate. Place the asparagus on top of the quinoa. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over the asparagus and quinoa. Press the egg through a sieve with medium-sized holes over the asparagus. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes, additional mint and lemon zest. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cooking for your Health: Smoked Salmon Tartare

~ Smoked Salmon, Greek Yogurt, Lemon, Dill, Chives, Whole Grain Bread ~

Party food can be healthy, too. In fact, during the festive season, it’s important to have a few healthy recipes up our sleeves that are fancy enough to be invited to the holiday table while balancing the season’s excess. Smoked Salmon Tartare is a perfect multi-tasking appetizer: It has fresh, bold flavors, is rich in protein, B vitamins, and calcium and is low-fat to boot. It may be dressed up and served on brioche toasts, or kept more casual, presented on baguette slices, or, in this case, whole grain pumpernickel bread. Garnish it with fresh herbs and lemon, and don’t forget to pass the champagne – it’s the party season, after all.

Smoked Salmon Tartare

For best results, finely chop the salmon, onion and chives in similar minced size. I prefer to do this by hand with a knife, rather than use a food processor, which will often create a paste.

8 ounces smoked salmon, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
Whole wheat or pumpernickel rounds
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Finely dice the smoked salmon. Transfer to a bowl. Fold in the onion, yogurt and lemon juice. Add the dill and chives and gently combine. Mound spoonfuls of the salmon on pumpernickel or whole wheat rounds. Sprinkle with sea salt (to taste) and freshly ground black pepper. Serve garnished with lemon segments.