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!


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.

Quinoa and Kale Salad

My birthday is coming up next week. I’m turning 31 and starting to wonder how I became a “grown up”. Besides the year I got married, this was probably the biggest year of my life. Since my last birthday my husband and I bought a house, and did a mini-renovation in less than two weeks (they were carpeting our stairs as we moved in), an experience which probably took a couple years off our lives. I never knew I’d want to know so much about the differences between hardwood floors. We traveled to Paris, a city I found hard to leave at the end of our stay, where we fell in love with the architecture, culture and food. We experienced a handful of different regions in Italy, learning that loving food and eating local is the norm and a way of life there. I learned that jury duty–6 weeks of it to be exact–is not as exciting as movies make it out to be. And our new puppy (read starter baby) was born on March 21st, and we bring him or her home on May 18th! We figure if we don’t screw up a puppy, we’re safe not screwing up a human baby. What a year! This time last year I had no idea that these experiences were ahead of me and it’s exciting to sit here wondering what I new things I will learn between now and my next birthday.Kale, quinoa

Now for how this relates to my post: my aunt took me out to celebrate my birthday at a new restaurant near my house yesterday, Fast Food Français, and since we were celebrating, some day drinking and dessert seemed appropriate. So I was ready for something light and healthy for dinner. And since eight out of ten times when I ask Miguel what he wants for dinner he says “salad”, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to make him salad for dinner. This recipe serves 6 as a side, 3 as a main dish. Unlike other types of greens that get mushy, kale salad holds up very well for leftovers.

  • 2 bunches lacinato kale, large stems removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, diagonally sliced into 1/2” pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups quinoa (makes 2.5 cups of cooked quinoa)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • sesame seeds
  • 1 avocado, slices
  • Crumbled feta (optional)

Lemon-Tahini Dressing

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 4 lemons
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup Tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, ground finely in a mortar & pestle
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Bring a small saucepan to medium heat. When the pan is warm, add your dry quinoa and toast for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, about every minute or so. After your quinoa has been evenly toasted, add water to the pan. Be careful, I’ve found when I’m adding water to a pan after toasting quinoa, the hot water has a tendency to sputter. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, until you can see the white germ around the quinoa, telling you that it’s done cooking. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes when it’s done cooking.

Bring a pot of water to boil in a large saucepan. When you reach a rolling boil, blanch your asparagus slices for 3 minutes, until crisp tender. Drain in to a colander and rinse will cool water to stop them from overcooking.

Put your sliced kale in a very large bowl. Mix the ingredients for your dressing together in a small bowl and whisk with a fork. Pour about half of the dressing over the kale. Get in there with your clean hands and literally massage the dressing in to the kale. I know it sounds crazy and weird, but trust me, the kale will better absorb your dressing this way. Reserve the other half of your dressing.

Add your chopped fennel bulb, minced shallots, blanched asparagus, cooled quinoa, toasted almonds, and a couple tablespoons of sesame seeds to the sliced kale. Use the reserved dressing to dress the rest of your salad. Toss to coat. Top with a few avocado slices and some crumbled feta if you’d like. Enjoy!

Carrot and Beet Salad with Orange-Miso Dressing

When I was first starting to cook, I would spread out about 100 cookbooks around me, Beets, carrots, orange-miso dressinglooking for a recipe that interested me. And, inevitably, I would find some sort of side dish that sounded delicious, but wasn’t a complete meal in and of itself. Then I would spend more time trying to find a main dish that would go with this side dish I had gotten myself so set on. It would drive me crazy and usually got to be a very complicated process (if you can’t already tell).

So I wouldn’t want to post this side dish and have you all think, ‘This sounds great, but what do I do with it!!’ I’ve made this salad a number of times, and most times I’ve served it with quinoa patties or quinoa cakes from one of my favorite bloggers (and one of the nicest people ever), Marin Mama Cooks. For a lighter dinner or lunch, you could even throw in as much cooked quinoa as you’d like in to the salad itself. Or, if you’re not a big quinoa fan, a couple hard boiled eggs in the salad might work well for lunch or a light dinner too. Chicken cooked your favorite way would make this a complete meal, as would a simple pasta with store-bought pesto (or homemade if you’re feeling like it).

  • 1 bunch beets, peeled and chopped in to 1/2” pieces
  • 4 carrots, peeled, chopped in to 1/2” slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground peppper
  • Arugula
  • Sesame seeds

Orange-miso dressing

  • Juice of 1/2 a navel orange
  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey

Preheat your oven to 425˚. Make sure that your carrots and beets are roughly the same sizes so that they will cook evenly and be finished cooking at the same side.

In a 8 x 8 square baking dish, coat your vegetables with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with about 1/2 tsp of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Bake the vegetables for roughly 40 minutes, until they are crisp tender. Use a fork to test when your carrots and beets are done, the fork should need a bit of force to pierce the vegetables but it should go all the way through.

While the vegetables cook, combine the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and whisk well with a fork. Put as much arugula as you’d like in a bowl, I used about 3 big handfuls of arugula and I still had a bit of dressing left over. When the vegetables are done cooking, set them aside for about 5 minutes to cool before putting them in the bowl with your arugula. Add about a tablespoon of sesame seeds over the top of your salad, and pour the dressing over. Toss to coat and enjoy!

Spinach, Lentil & Feta Phyllo Mini Pies

I love to eat seasonally. There is the hippie factor that your produce has less distance Spinach, Lentil & Feta Phyllo Mini Piesto travel when it’s in season, but produce tastes its best when it’s eaten during its intended season. A ripe peach in July immediately reminds me of warm summer days and baseball games. The first bite of butternut squash in the fall conjures images of crisp, falling leaves, a fire in the fire place, and, of course, football. (There may be a sports-related theme here, I’m a sports nut if you didn’t already get that.)

The winter can get a little more tricky when it comes to eating seasonal produce. Lots of broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, chard, chard, and did I say chard? Basically, things that are in season all year but to me have become “winter food”. And I have to get a little bit creative, which is were this recipe comes in.

Jaime Oliver is one of my favorite chefs. He has an easy going style that I try to emulate. His recipes often don’t have exact measurements nor do they have exact cooking times. Cooking isn’t exact, and it doesn’t have to be. Most of the time, if you add a little bit extra of this or that, things are going to turn out just fine. I was given his cookbook, Meals in Minutes, and it contains recipes for full meals: an entrée, a side and dessert and, for they most part, they’re pretty healthy. And they really do only take minutes! This recipe was inspired from his book. My recipe may seem a little complicated but it truly does come together in about 20-30 minutes.

  • 1/2 lb spinach
  • 3 egg whites (you can use 3 full eggs if you like things a little more egg-y)
  • 2/3 c toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 c black lentils (about 1 cup dry lentils)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 6 oz crumbled feta
  • 2 oz grated gruyere
  • 1 roll whole wheat phyllo dough* (If you can’t fine whole wheat phyllo, non-whole wheat works just fine.)

*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. If it isn’t totally defrosted, you’ll want to throw it against a wall (I may have learned that the hard way). The roll I buy measures 13” x 18”. I cut the large sheets in to to quarters to make sheets that are about 6.5” x 9”.

Preheat the oven to 400˚.

Bring a medium sauté pan to medium heat with a couple glugs of olive oil. When the pan is warm, wilt the spinach for about 10 minutes. When the spinach is good and wilted, tip in to a medium bowl and set aside. While the spinach wilts, toast your pine nuts.

Rinse the black lentils with cool water. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Spinach, Lentil and Feta Phyllo Mini PiesAdd the lentils, cover, reduce the heat to low, and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft but still have a slight crunch. Rinse with cool water, and add to the bowl with your wilted spinach.

Add the toasted pine nuts, lemon zest, feta, gruyere, dried oregano and egg whites to the bowl with your spinach and lentils. Mix well. Feta is very salty so I wouldn’t add extra salt here, but you can if you like more salt.

Each mini pies uses 3 thin sheets of phyllo. Place the phyllo sheets over the middle of one well of your 12 cup muffin pan. Gently press the phyllo down in to the well, but you don’t need to be exact as the filling will press the phyllo in to place. Add enough spinach, lentil & feta mixture to fill to the top of the well. Fold the corners of the phyllo dough over the filling. You really can fold the phyllo however you’d like, all that matters is the filling is covered. Once all 12 mini pies are assembled, brush the top with olive oil. Cook in your 400˚ oven for 20 minutes, or until the tops of the mini pies are golden brown.

I paired this meal with a salad of beets, carrots and arugula with an orange-miso dressing. I was really excited how it turned out, so I will post the recipe later on today.