Balsamic Tomato Sauce And Simple Nectarine Salad

Change is hard. Necessary, but hard. Miguel left his job of 4 years last week. He started a job at a different advertising agency this week, which is offering him an amazing opportunity he could not say no to. But I think any kind of major life change is like changing schools. You miss your old friends, your old routine, the familiarity of it all. But eventually you make new friends, find a new routine (or that’s what I keep telling myself), but that doesn’t make the transition time any less unsettling. So since we’re a package deal, the change feels like a big deal for me too. We’re in a bit of a transition time.

The reason I bring that up is because Miguel took a couple days off before his new job Balsamic Tomato Sauce and Simple Nectarine Saladstarted, and I made this for dinner. This is a meal I’ve made actually quite a few times since delicious cherry tomatoes appeared at the market, but I decided to post it after talking to a friend, who is also a nurse, recently. We were talking about how difficult it can be to make dinner after a long day, especially since our long day can be 14+ hours with commute. She said she doesn’t want to spend much time cooking dinner after work (who does), but is tired of take out. I timed myself when I made this meal and it took 30 minutes start to table, and I wasn’t trying to set any land speed records either. It does take a bit of planning to make sure you have everything in the house but I’ll usually spend about 30 minutes planning meals on my day off so I hardly have to think when dinner rolls around.

This dish was very loosely inspired by a cherry tomato marinade for meat, but the two recipes are so different it isn’t even worth posting a link. I made two servings, since I didn’t need lunch for the next day, but the recipe is easily double-able. I prefer to cook vegetarian, but you could add some sausages if you’d like to add meat.

  • 1.5 pints whole cherry tomatoes
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2.5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound penne
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta
  • 2 large handfuls arugula
  • 1 nectarine, pit removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup parsley, coarsely chopped

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When the pan is warm, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute shallots for about 3-5 minutes, until softened and translucent. Add your minced garlic, saute for another minute until fragrant. Add your cherry tomatoes. Allow the cherry tomatoes to cook for about 10 minutes (you’ll see the skin start to wrinkle), stirring frequently. Meanwhile, set a pot of water to boil for the pasta.

While the cherry tomatoes cook, put two large handfuls of arugula in a small bowl. Coarsely chop your nectarine and add to the bowl. Set a small non-stick pan to medium heat and toast the walnuts for 5-10 minutes. When toasted add the bowl with the arugula. Dress the salad with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.

While the walnuts toast, use the back of your spoon to smash the cherry tomatoes to form a sauce. Allow the sauce to reduce for about 10 minutes.

While the sauce reduces, use the same non-stick pan you used to toast your walnuts to toast the pine nuts. Allow to toast for about 5 minutes then tip in to a medium sized bowl. By now the water should be boiling. Cook your pasta according to package directions. With about 1 minute left on your pasta timer, use a ladle to put 1 ladle-ful of the pasta water in the same bowl as the pine nuts. Drain your pasta, add to the bowl with pasta water and pine nuts.

Stir in the balsamic vinegar to your reduced pasta sauce. Pour over the pasta, toss to coat evenly. Crumble the feta cheese on top. Enjoy!

Spiced Eggplant and Bulgur Salad

So I’m hoping this list of semi-unusual ingredients and ingredients that need some sort of Eggplan, Bulgur, Salad, Vegetarianchopping or toasting won’t completely steer you away from trying this recipe. The recipe below is an adaptation from another recipe (link below), and since I found it, it is my go-to for cooking eggplant, one of my favorite treats in the summer. And please resist the urge to roll on the ground laughing if you knew me as a kid when I wouldn’t eat vegetables, let alone an eggplant. And for the girl whose least favorite thing on this planet is to chop herbs (I realize how random this is), the fact I will willingly chop herbs for this salad speaks to the deliciousness factor. The salty olives, the sweet tomatoes and meaty eggplant are a divine combination.

ImageAnd now that Hugo has become a little more manageable, I actually have time to pour myself a glass of wine and make a dinner that doesn’t require me throwing down whatever I’m doing to stop the dog from whatever he’s doing. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love this dog. He’s so sweet and so much fun to have around. And I know how biased I am, but he is beyond smart. I knew when Miguel and I got Hugo that it would be a change, but I didn’t realized how much of a change it would be. But we’re starting to find our new normal, something I wasn’t sure we’d find in the first few days (read weeks) we had him. I guess it’s like when people have kids, and they say you can’t imagine what it’s like until you have one. I guess the same has been true for us with Hugo, you don’t know what it’s like to have a toddler with a hammer in your house, until said toddler is trying to get through the TV cabinet to the puppy in the window (HIS REFLECTION).

Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped preserved lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut in to 1” pieces
  • 1.5 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/2 cup black lentils
  • 3 cups water, divided
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped kalmata olives
  • 1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400˚. In a small bowl, combine preserved lemon and next 7 ingredients. Whisk well with a fork. Place your chopped vegetables in a 9 x 13 baking dish lined with parchment paper and coat the vegetables evenly with your spice mixture. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are staring to brown and the eggplant is pieced easily with a fork, but still has a bit of texture to it.

While the eggplant and tomatoes cook, cook the lentils by bringing 1.5 cups water to a boil. When you reach a rolling boil, add the lentils, cover, turn the heat to medium-low and cook until the lentils are tender, about 15 minutes. When tender, drain in to a colander, rinse with cool water and set aside to cool.

Set a kettle of water to boil and place the bulgur in a heat-proof bowl. When the water has boiled, use a measuring cup to pour 1 1/2 cup water over the bulgur. Cover and set aside for about 30 minutes, until the bulgur has softened and absorbed all the water.

Place your remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add your cooled lentils, bulgur and roasted vegetables. Stir well. You may need to add a couple glugs of olive oil to moisten up the bulgur, I used my favorite meyer lemon olive oil. Add salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste.

Easy Summer Squash Lasagna

I love lasagna. I mean, who doesn’t? Pasta smothered in cheesy goodness, with more cheese goodness on top and oh yeah, maybe some vegetables in between. When I’ve made lasagna in the past, it is usually an all afternoon process, in which I seem to dirty every pan and bowl in my house. Sometimes it’s fun to spend a lot of time putting a dish together, it’s never fun doing all the dishes afterwards.

The moral of this story is to always trust your first instinct! I was going to make this exact dish last week, but decided to use the same components, save for having the white beans whole rather than puréed, but went against my better Lasagna, summer squashinstinct and made it with linguine instead. While the flavors were good, it was so liquid-y I knew it would be better in lasagna form. And not to toot my own horn, but this turned our really well (toot toot!). When I was telling people I put the vegetables and noodles in the pan raw, allowing the liquid from the vegetables to cook the noodles, I was told that apparently this is already a thing. I thought I was pretty smart, because it worked perfectly. And skipping the vegetable and noodle prep means this took 30 minutes from first chop to oven!

I realize it’s not exactly lasagna weather, but who doesn’t love summer squash?!

Ricotta mixture:

  • 15 oz. part skim Ricotta cheese
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil

Vegetables:

  • 2 large (or 3 small) yellow crookneck squash
  • 5 small (or 3 large) zucchini
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped oregano

White Bean Mixture:

  • 2 15 oz. cans cannellini beans
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon

12 lasagna noodles, uncooked

1/2 cup grated mozarella cheese

Use the slicer attachment of a food processor to make 1/4” slices of both types of squash. Add squash to a large bowl with chopped oregano and mix well.

Purée the white beans, lemon juice and zest and salt in the food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil until you have a hummus-like consistency. Set aside.

Add the ricotta, mozzarella, eggs and fresh basil to a small bowl and use a fork to combine. Set aside.

Spread about 1 cup of white bean mixture in the bottom of a 9” x 13” baking dish. Cover with 4 lasagna noodles, 3 lengthwise in the pan, and 1 perpendicular to those three. Top with about 1/3 of your ricotta mixture, then about 1/4 of the vegetables. Don’t worry about the vegetables overlapping, just make sure the layer is roughly even. Cover the vegetables with 1/3 of the remaining white bean mixture, and top with another 4 lasagna noodles. Repeat the layering of ricotta, vegetables and white bean mixture until you have used all the lasagna noodles. Cover the last layer of lasagna noodles with the remaining 1/4 of the sliced vegetables. Cover the top layer of vegetables with 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese.

Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the noodles pierce easily with a fork. Remove the foil, and allow the cheese to slightly brown, about 10 minutes.

Blackberry Almond Cake

I’m back!! Miguel and I were on stay-cation last week. My stay-cation consisted of filling 12Blackberry, Almond cake contractor bags with the old plants that had consumed our patio and made it completely unusable, removing flagstones older than myself and then moving in 1800 lb. of gravel and 5 bags of planting soil. Oh, and Miguel rebuilt the fence. So relaxing! Needless to say, after days of hard labor, neither of us wanted to labor over a stove for even 5 seconds. Three things cure all that ails you after a long day: cocktails, cured meat products, and take out.

But I’m back in the kitchen this week. A couple recipes that I had hoped to post here need a bit more refinement, but this one made the grade. I guess third times the charm. There is a slight irony that I even made a cake after our vacation-like eating habits last week, but the berries at Whole Foods were crying out to be baked in to a cake. Frankly, I’m shocked this cake even emerged from the oven not burnt to a crisp with this little puppy running around. Hugo is adorable but I swear everything takes me twice as long when he’s awake. Now I understand when parents say they can only get anything done when their kid is asleep! Not that a puppy and a human child are equivalent, but you know what I’m saying.  I hope you enjoy this summer-y berry dessert.

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1.5 cups almond meal
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Juice (about 1/4 c.) and zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 oz. Greek yogurt
  • 9 oz. blackberries

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Coat a 9” round baking pan thoroughly with non-stick cooking spray.

Add the whole wheat flour, almond meal, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder to a small bowl. Stir well to combine.

Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, yogurt and vanilla extract together in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Add your dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and use a whisk to combine thoroughly.

Rinse and dry your whole blackberries and toss in 1 tbsp of whole wheat flower. This will prevent the blackberries from discoloring your cake. Fold in gently with a spatula. Spread the batter evenly in your baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake has only a few dry crumbs attached. (Truth be told, I’m not exactly sure how long my cake cooked. When I’m chasing after that dog, something strange happens to the time-space continuum.)

Cool the cake in the pan for about 10 minutes then flip on to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Serve as-is, with fresh berries or whipped cream.

Phyllo Dough Pizza

My husband and I picked up our puppy last Saturday! His name is Hugo, he’s a IMG_0627Brittany, and he’s 8 weeks old. I know everyone says their puppy is the cutest/smartest, but seriously this dog is so cute and smart (when he’s not peeing in the house or trying to electrocute himself on lamp cords). He learned to fetch in 5 minutes!

I did not realize how much work a puppy can be. I thought he’s be this cute this puppy, which he is, who just wants to cuddle all the time, which he does, who only wakes up to eat or use the bathroom–oh how wrong I was! He basically runs amok 90% of the time and then passes out dead asleep mid-stride. Those of you with dogs are I’m sure laughing at how naive I was. I thought we’d be getting the equivalent of a newborn, I didn’t know we were getting a toddler!

So these days, I don’t really have the luxury of standing in front of the stove to Pizza, Vegetariancook for an extended period of time. Unspeakable things would be happening to my house if I took my eyes off this pup for that long. So I wanted to make something for dinner last night that wouldn’t burn when I had to drop everything and scoop up the puppy to run him outside. This literally took 20 minutes to throw together (minus the time to defrost the phyllo), and I’m happy to report that Hugo sat semi-patiently and watched me put dinner together.

  • 1 roll phyllo dough
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced 1/4” thick
  • 1/2 cup feta crumbles
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Freshly grated Parmesan
  • Lemon extra virgin olive oil (regular olive oil works fine too)

*Phyllo dough are paper-thin sheets made from unleavened flour. You’ll find it in the freezer section, and when defrosted it is actually quite easy to work with. Just make sure you leave it out to defrost for a few hours before you need to work with it. The roll I buy measures 13” x 18”. I cut the large sheets in half to measure 9” x 13”.

Preheat the oven to 400˚. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place 3 sheets of phyllo dough on the baking sheet. Brush the whole sheets of phyllo with olive oil. Place another 3 sheets of phyllo dough on top, and brush with olive oil. Repeat until you have used all the phyllo, the roll I buy has 20 sheets. Sprinkle the cheese on top, leaving a crush of about 1/2”, and cover the cheese with your tomato slices. Spread the fresh herbs evenly over your tomatoes and grate a tablespoon or two of Parmesan over the tomatoes and herbs. Brush the crust of the phyllo with a bit more olive oil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the crush is golden brown and the cheese has melted. Serves 4.

Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes

A few coworkers had asked me about recipe ideas for a healthy workday lunch. I consider myself the Queen of Leftovers since that is pretty much all I take for Quinoa, Tomatoes, Vegetarianlunch when I’m working. Working 12 hour days means it’s nearly impossible to get anything done besides working, eating and sleeping, and the last thing I feel like doing after getting home from work is figuring out what I have to take for lunch the next day. Prepacked containers of leftovers that I throw in my lunch bag make life much simpler. So I make an obscene amount of food for dinner when I’m off work with the intention of packing the leftovers for lunches. Let’s be honest, the non-cafeteria options where I work are less-than-healthy fast food, which is ironic for a hospital. And in the land of nursing, you’re not always sure when–or for how long–you’re going to be able to get off unit, not to mention having to then stand in line for food, leaving you with approximately 2.38 minutes  to eat lunch. Basically, leftovers just makes lunch easier and healthier.

This recipe made approximately 6-7 servings, so if you don’t want that many stuffed tomatoes in your house, I would cut the quinoa ingredients in half. And while they’re great hot out of the oven, they taste good cold for leftovers the next day.

  • 15 tomatoes
  • 1.25 cups dry quinoa
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup feta crumbles
  • 1/3 cup fresh chopped basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 egg whites
  • Freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400˚. Line two 9 x 13 baking dishes with parchment paper. Cut the tops off each tomato and discard. Using a spoon, remove the inner seeds and flesh of the tomato, leaving you with what looks like a little tomato bowl.

Warm a small saucepan to medium heat. Add your dry quinoa, and allow to toast for about 5-7 minutes, until you see a bit of browning on the quinoa kernels. Once the quinoa is equally toasted, add your 2.5 cups of water (be careful it will splatter). Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and allow to cook for about 10-15 minutes, until you see the white germ of the quinoa kernels separating from the rest of the kernel, telling you that your quinoa is done. Set aside to cool.

Combine the fennel, pine nuts, feta, basil, sun dried tomatoes and salt together in a large bowl. Add your cooked quinoa and toss the ingredients together. Add the egg whites and mix again. (The egg whites will prevent the mixture from getting dry when it bakes in the oven.) Fill each tomato bowl with the quinoa mixture. Leave about an inch or two of room between each tomato in your baking dish. Grate as much Parmesan as you’d like over the top of each tomato.

Cover your baking dishes with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the flesh of the tomato is starting to peel slightly away. Uncover and cook from another 5 minutes to get the top nice and crispy.

 

Soba Noodle Soup with Miso Eggplant

This recipe was actually inspired by my neighbor, Naomi! We went for a hike Soba noodles, eggplant, soupyesterday, and got to talking about a new market down the street, Driver’s Market. It’s a family owned market, which carries family-owned products and local produce, yay! If you’re ever in Sausalito, you’ve got to check it out. We got to talking about how nice it is to have such a wonderful market just a few blocks away, and somehow we got to talking about eggplant, which led to talking about miso grilled eggplant. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, which led to a Japanese lunch just down the street, which led to an Asian-inspired dinner.  The weather turned from shorts and t-shirts to why-am-i-wearing-two-jackets (quite literally) in a matter of 6 hours, so a comforting bowl of soup seemed appropriate.

  • 8 oz. soba noodles
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2” piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 lbs. boy choy, ends removed
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1.5 cups frozen edemame
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped in half
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1” pieces
  • Toasted sesame seeds (optional)
  • 2 green onions, sliced

Miso glaze:

  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 heaping tbsp white miso
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil

Preheat the oven to 400˚. Combine all the ingredients for the miso glaze in a small bowl and whisk with a fork. In a 9 x 13 roasting pan, pour the glaze over your chopped eggplant and still well to coat all the pieces evenly. Roast until eggplant is tender and beginning to brown, about 20-25 minutes.

While the eggplant roasts, bring about 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to medium heat in a Dutch oven or other large pot. Add the minced garlic and stir frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the grated ginger and cook until fragrant, about another minute. Add your boy choy to the pot, stir to mix up the garlic and ginger, cover and allow to steam for about 3-5 minutes. When the leaves of the bok choy are just starting to wilt but the thick part of the stem is still firm, add the vegetable stock and water to the pan and bring to a gentle simmer. When the stock reaches a simmer, add your edemame, mushrooms and soba noodles, cover and turn off the burner. The residual heat will cook the noodles. (Note: the noodles I bought only needed to cook for 3 minutes, some brands of noodles need to cook longer. If that is the case, I would cook them for about 1 minute at a simmer and then turn the heat off.)

Add the miso eggplant to your soup and stir. Ladle portions in to bowls, top with green onions and toasted sesame seeds.