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!

Spring Vegetable Pasta

Happy Spring! Time for open windows, baseball on the television (Go Giants!), flowers blooming and brighter evenings.

This recipe came about because I couldn’t think of anything to make. I was driving to my hair appointment today, drowning myself in a vicious cycle of what-if-people-dont-like-my-posts, when it hit me, I need to like what I post if anyone else is going to like it. And I need to stop being so hard on myself. We women as a whole tend to over-analyze and torture ourselves, I think we all need to knock it off.

If you know me and read this, you’ll know I’m slightly A-type (I am an ICU nurse after all so it’s not my fault.) I strive for the illusion of “perfect”. My husband said something brilliant the other day while I was trying to pan fry some white fish and, as the white fish was dissolving in to half-cooked blobs and I was ready to throw myself on the ground/throw the fish against the wall, he said something along the lines of “You have to screw up to get to the good stuff.” And then I realized there is no “perfect”, you really do have to screw up to get to the good stuff. Pasta, pancetta, fava beans, asparagus

So in the name of spring when things start over again, I’m going to be a little less hard on myself. Ok, so maybe that will start tomorrow since I’ve spent the better part of the evening agonizing over this blog post, but I’m trying! How can you be hard on yourself while you’re writing about trying not to be hard on yourself? My brain hurts.

Spring means asparagus, and I honestly have no idea why I chose to cook fava beans. Probably because I’ve never cooked them before and thought I’d give it a whirl. The best part of this recipe was that it cost $20, and would have fed 4 if Miguel hadn’t exercised literally 4 times in one day and could eat the contents of our refrigerator (that’s for another post). Prep to table this took 45 minutes, so I think this qualifies as “weeknight” material.

  • 1 lb. fava beans*
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch asparagus (Snap the hard-to-chew end off and slice on the diagonal in to 1/2” pieces)
  • 1 spring onion, white and light green parts only, sliced and finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb with fronds (Set fronds aside and cut the bulb in half and finely slice.)
  • 10 oz. pappardelle pasta (I used Community Grains whole wheat pasta again because I am obsessed with it.)
  • Zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 oz. pancetta (If you’re getting your pancetta from the deli counter, make sure to ask them to slice it paper thin.)

* A note about fava beans: You will find fava beans in their pods, they look like overgrown sweet peas. They are sweeter with a smoother texture than most other beans. I found the easiest way to remove the beans from the pod was to snap one end off with my fingers, then peel the pod back in a circular motion, picking the beans out as you go. But really, there is no right way to do it. One pound of fava bean pods yielded slightly less than 1 cup of beans.

Preheat the oven to 400˚. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, lay out your pancetta slices in one layer. Bake until the edges are golden and beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. (Note: I use a convection oven, so in a non-convention oven, this might take a few minutes longer.) Chop the crisped pancetta into bite-sized pieces. Transfer to your serving bowl.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the olive oil. When the butter and olive oil are warm, add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Be careful not to have the pan too warm or your garlic will burn–fast. Add your spring onion and allow to cook until soft and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Then add the chopped fennel to the pan, along with the fresh thyme and lemon zest and juice. Sauté until the fennel has softened, about 10 minutes. Add the fennel mixture to the bowl with the pancetta.

Bring a pot of water to boil in a medium saucepan. When you reach a rolling boil, add the fava beans and asparagus pieces. Blanch for 3 minutes, or until crisp tender, but be careful not to overcook. Drain in to a strainer and rinse with cool water. Add to the bowl with your fennel mixture and pancetta.

Refill your saucepan, add about 1 tsp of kosher salt and about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cook your pasta according to package directions. When there is about 1 minute left on your timer, use a ladle to remove about 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and add to your serving bowl. When the pasta is done, drain, and add to your vegetable and pancetta mixture. Toss well and serve.

Happy Spring!