Linguine with White Beans and Tuna

I am moving away from San Francisco at the end of May, so I’ve been trying to enjoy the city as much as possible.  I have an ever-growing list of places to go and people to see!  I’ve balanced my galavanting with extra shifts at work, and while it’s been nice to be able to fund my frolics, I have no time left to take care of myself.  These days, I feel accomplished if I eat 2 homemade meals a day.

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I modified a recipe from Bon Appetit to make a quick and easy lunch dish earlier this week.  This pasta salad of sorts can be served warm or cold.  If serving warm, I’d suggest sauteeing yellow onion and wilting the spinach, rather than fresh red onion and greens.  I did a sort of awkward in-between version with wilted spinach and raw red onion.  You could also mix things up by using whole wheat or spinach noodles.

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Linguine with White Beans and Tuna

Serves 4

  • 8 ounces linguine
  • 10 ounces canned tuna packed in water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • 2 cups spinach
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped

Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and rinse under cold water.

Meanwhile, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Flake tuna into the bowl.  Add spinach, pasta, beans, and onion.  Toss gently to coat.  Season lightly with additional pepper.

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This was a great meal to pack up and take to the studio with me.  With beans and tuna, it’s full of protein… Just what I need when I’m on the run!

I’m looking forward to a day off on Sunday.  I’m having some friends over for brunch (Tiramisu pancakes!), and then intend to spend the rest of the day in the kitchen.  I’ll get ready for another busy week by preparing some nice, healthy, home cooked food!

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Happy eating!

-C

Spinach, Pesto and Sausage Pizza

Pizza is often used to teach math, especially fractions and percentages.

I recently finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which, for one year, Kingsolver and her family ate almost entirely locally. They live on a farm which enables them to raise poultry and tend an incredible garden. At the end of each chapter, Kingsolver’s daughter Camille shared her thoughts, recipes, and seasonal weekly meal plans. I was inspired by the Kingsolver’s weekly pizza night to make my own pizza as close to 100% from scratch as possible.

Let’s see how I did with my “pizza math”.

The Elements

  • Crust
  • Sauce
  • Pesto
  • Cheese
  • Sausage
  • Spinach

Crust: 100% made from scratch

Pizza Dough, pre-rise

Pizza Dough, pre-rise

I often purchase pre-made pizza dough from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to have on hand to make pizza at home. But this time, I overcame my “fear” of yeast, and whipped up Camille’s recipe for pizza dough.

It was so easy, and delicious!

Note to self: make your own dough more often…

Sauce: 50% made from scratch

Pizza sauce ingredients

Pizza sauce ingredients

For the sauce, I followed my typical “recipe,” which involves throwing canned tomatoes and some seasoning into a pan. I used 1 can of tomato sauce, 1 can of diced tomatoes (I like my sauce chunky!) 1/2 cup red wine, a generous sprinkling of dried basil, a dash of red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Combine all ingredients and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes.

Combined sauce, simmering

Combined sauce, simmering

While I have taken the step away from pre-made tomato sauces, opting instead to make my own from canned (no salt added) tomatoes, I give myself 50% on this one because I have yet to take the step towards canning my own tomato sauce. This is a definite goal for me this summer! I plan to grow tomatoes again this year (and maybe one or two other vegetables, but that is a story for another day), and I will definitely be canning my own 100% from scratch tomato sauce.

Pesto: 100% made from scratch

Pesto ingredients

Pesto ingredients

Our favorite pizza from Mellow Mushroom (our go-to take out pizza place) is Kosmic Karma, tomato sauce base topped with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, and a pesto swirl.

When I asked my husband what he wanted on our pizza, he asked me to recreate the Kosmic Karma. I was pleasantly surprised to find nice, local basil at the store, and jumped on the opportunity to make my own pesto, using walnuts instead of pine nuts (since that is what I had on hand).

Raw Basil Pesto

Raw Basil Pesto

Raw Basil Pesto

Inspired by Edible Perspective

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender and puree until smooth. Add water as needed to reach desired consistency (I used 3 Tablespoons).

Pre-baked pizza

Pre-baked pizza

The Toppings: 0% made from scratch

I decided to add a bit of sausage to our Kosmic Karma imitation. I used a Tuscan sausage made in-house at my local Whole Foods using local pork. While I am happy with this choice of meat, no from-scratch points for me here… though I’m not sure I will ever reach the point of making my own sausage…

As for cheese, I chose mozzarella and goats milk feta. Kingsolver has a chapter on cheese making, which peaked my interest in this unexplored area of kitchen science. Kath makes it look easy… I might be ordering rennet and experimenting with cheesemongering in the near future…

His and Hers pizza slices

His and Hers pizza slices

The spinach also gets 0% made from scratch since it was neither local nor home grown…

So, let’s add things up:

“Made From Scratch” Pizza Math

  • Crust – 100%
  • Sauce – 50%
  • Pesto – 100%
  • Cheese – 0%
  • Sausage – 0%
  • Spinach – 0%

Total: 41.67% made from scratch

Delicious!

Delicious!

Had I made this without the sausage, my percentage would have been much higher… Not bad for my first foray into homemade crust.

This pizza was delicious, and it gave me great joy to know that I had made so many of the elements from scratch. The added time spent making crust, sauce, and pesto was time well spent in the kitchen.

What are your favorite pizza toppings?

-L

Further Lessons Learned in the Kitchen – Patience

Spending hours in the kitchen not only results in food that nourishes the body, but it is a process that nourishes my soul. It is time that allows me to disconnect from technology, from other concerns, and to focus on the task at hand.

Kale, Cabbage, and Quinoa Salad

Kale, Cabbage, and Quinoa Salad

It is also a time for me to experience powerful learning moments. In the kitchen, I have learned the value of process, as well as the value of failure. Most recently, I have been reminded of the value of patience.

Weeks ago, I picked up a bag of hazelnuts at the store, thinking about how incredible it would be to make hazelnut butter. Hazelnut butter soon turned into Nutella. So, last Saturday, after breakfast and crosswords with my husband, I placed 2 cups of hazelnuts into the oven for a quick 10 minute roast in order to loosen the skins.

I slowly and painfully** rubbed the skins off of the nuts, and placed them into the food processor.

Roasted hazelnuts

Roasted hazelnuts

**Do not do as I did and use your bare fingers…it will create a slight blister. Use the “kitchen towel” technique!

Once the hazelnuts were pulsed into a coarse meal, I added a few teaspoons of raw cacao, and kept on blending…. and blending… and blending…

Pulsed hazelnuts

Pulsed hazelnuts

But unlike when I have made other nut butters, that magic moment when things get creamy kept illuding me. Getting frustrated, I figured that I must need to add some moisture, so I added one, and then two, tablespoons of almond milk. The mixture became moist, but not smooth and creamy. Deciding that Nutella was no longer an option, I threw some dates into the mix and made “Nutella Bites.”

They aren’t great, but they are edible. I need to tweak some things before this recipe is “shareable.”

Nutella Bites

Nutella Bites

Curious to learn where I went wrong, I sat down and started to research (something that would have served me well before my experiment began…). I learned from Oh She Glows that I lacked the necessary patience. Getting the mixture to that creamy place can take a full 15 – 20 minutes of constant processing.

So, my failed attempt at making Nutella, just like my failed attempt at making yogurt, was due to a lack of patience… And yet, the next day, I sliced, roasted, peeled, chopped, and simmered ingredient after ingredient to make a delicious, healthy, and hearty quinoa, cabbage, and kale salad, inspired by Ashley’s quinoa salad and Sarah B’s braised cabbage.

I documented the process with my iPhone, and the finished result was so beautiful, I just had to take some “real” photos to share this creation. On a slow Sunday afternoon, creating this colorful salad was a labor of love.

Sliced Cabbage

Sliced Cabbage

A 3 pound head of cabbage (the smallest I could find) is a LOT. I braised the whole head, but used only about half in this salad.

Cut in half and roasted for 10 minutes, then seeded, peeled, and cubed

Butternut Squash – Cut in half and roasted for 10 minutes, then seeded, peeled, and cubed, and roasted for an additional 15 – 20 minutes.

Squash is easier to deal with once it is softened.

Peeling a blood orange

Peeling a blood orange

Blood oranges are so beautiful – one of nature’s many delights!

Combine sliced kale, chopped orange, and chickpeas

Combine sliced kale, chopped orange, chickpeas, and dressing

I took at least an hour preparing this hearty salad that provided me with meals all week long. It occurred to me after the fact that while I continue to procrastinate my experiments in bread making because “it takes too long,” the active time to make bread is far less than the time I spent making this “easy” salad.

Add ~2 cups cooked quinoa

Add ~2 cups cooked quinoa

It’s all a matter of perception, I guess. Something about working with vegetables relaxes me. I love chopping them. Fresh herbs, however, often intimidate me with their “laborious” preparation process (i.e. washing, drying, and chopping). Clearly, my mental perception is slightly skewed.

Toss in squash

Toss in squash

Awareness is the first step, though, so fresh herb chopping and bread making loom on the horizon.

Braised cabbage

Braised cabbage

Perhaps because of the time and attention it took to prepare this salad, I delighted in eating it for lunch or dinner each day last week.

Last but not least, toasted pecans

Last but not least, toasted pecans

My patience was rewarded! With so many textures and flavors, this salad was great. I look forward to repeating it with variations here and there.

What lessons have you learned in the kitchen?

-L

Vegetable Risotto

Bowl of Risotto

Vegetable Risotto

I remember the first time I ever made risotto.  Lindsey and I were visiting our aunt in California, and helped her make risotto for dinner.  At the time, it seemed like a very long, laborious process, but now I really enjoy making it.  I also just love risotto!  It’s creamy and delicious.

This recipe can be made using different vegetables, and would be great with some herbs thrown in.  It should include 1/4 cup of fresh mint.  Unfortunately for me, the herb selection when I went grocery shopping was less than fabulous.   I’m posting what I made, but encourage you to take creative liberties!

Risotto in Bowl

Loved the peas

Vegetable Risotto

Serves 4

  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 lb zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 cups frozen baby peas
  • 2/3 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the broth and wine in a saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer, and maintain over low heat.  In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, or until all grains are coated.  Add 2 cups of the simmering broth mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed, about 3-4 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Add another cup of broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed.  Repeat until all broth has been added.

While the rice is cooking, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the zucchini and saute until softened, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the peas, cooking until heated through, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.

After about 20-25 minutes, when the rice is tender and creamy but still al dente at the center, stir in the sauteed vegetables.  Cook for 1 minute to heat through.  Stir in the cheese, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pot of Risotto

Great big pot of rice!

This was a great, filling recipe.  It makes a sizable batch, so I had plenty of leftovers for lunches.  So convenient!

Have you ever made risotto before?  What is your favorite kind?

Happy Eating!

-C

“Homesick Texan” Carnitas and Slaw

Within the past few years, a really great grocery service has opened here in Charlottesville (and now serving Richmond and Northern Virginia, too!). Relay Foods sources their groceries from local vendors, including farms and bakeries as well as bigger grocery stores. You order online, and pick up at locations around town (or pay more for delivery).

I have known about and deeply respected Relay for a while now, but I had not ordered from them until last week, when I remembered that Relay makes it possible to get produce and meat from local farms when the City Market is not in session.

Carnitas taco with cabbage slaw

Carnitas taco with cabbage slaw

Perusing the Relay site for my first order, I was inspired by the wide selection of local pork, and decided to make carnitas, my husband’s favorite Tex-mex meat. Carnitas means “little meats” and is basically just slow-cooked chunks of pork that are often shredded once they finish cooking.

I turned to The Homesick Texan Cookbook for inspiration and direction on both the carnitas and a cabbage slaw.

Hokmesick Texan cookbook

After a year and a half in Charlottesville, we have developed a little “crew” of friends, made up of two other young married couples. It’s been so nice to have a got-to group for casual dinners, drinks after work, game nights, and TV show viewings. Since I ordered more than enough pork for two, my husband and I invited a few friends over for a lovely Saturday dinner to help us enjoy our feast! I set up a taco bar and let everyone assemble their own plates.

taco bar

You can find my recipe for both carnitas and the cabbage slaw over on Cotter Crunch today, where I helped Lindsay out with a guest post.

Enjoy!

-L