I have got a serious case of spring fever.

The past week has been gorgeous (50-60 degrees and sunny) and the last thing I’ve wanted to do is stay inside and cook. There hasn’t been anything too crazy going on in this kitchen of mine. I’ve been going for long walks or runs with friends, eating lunch outside, and sporting a v-neck shaped sunburn on my chest. A few months of winter and already I forgot the importance of suntan lotion. Sheesh.

Most things I’ve cooked this week have been quick and easy, and this dish is no exception. It caught my eye in last month’s Bon Appetite. It’s no secret that I love to take green vegetables for a dip in egg yolk.

This meal was alright. I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying that it reminded me a bit too much of pub food. It was kinda mushy, and a little on the bland side. If you’ve got any ideas for pepping it up, let me know!

An easier, healthier, and (I think) tastier way to enjoy eggs and greens: Roasted Asparagus with an Over-Easy Egg (or Two)

SUNNY-SIDE-UP-EGGS ON MUSTARD-CREAMED SPINACH WITH CRISPY CRUMBS (adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2011)

If you want to make breadcrumbs quick, preheat your oven to 350 and bake a slice or two of bread in there for 10-20 minutes.

I adapted this recipe in three ways: 1) I cooked the eggs in butter rather than olive oil because I think it tastes better. 2) The original recipe called for crustless breadcrumbs, but I figured I’d throw the crusts in there too. I can’t imagine that had major bearing on the end product. 3) I used heavy cream instead of half and half, because I can’t imagine using half and half for anything else before it expires. Waste not, want not.

Serves 2

Ingredients

1/2 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs made from country-style bread

5 teaspoons Dijon mustard, divided

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 teaspoons butter

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 9-ounce package fresh spinach leaves (most bundled large-leaf spinach weighs 9 oz)

3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Salt and pepper

2 large eggs

Fresh thyme sprigs (for garnish)

Recipe

Preheat oven to 400. Put breadcrumbs, 2 teaspoons mustard, oil, and mustard seeds in a bowl and toss to coat. Place breadcrumb mixture on a baking sheet and bake until they become crisp and golden.

While your crumbs bake, add a few tablespoons water to a large skillet. Add spinach. Place over high heat and toss until spinach wilts (a couple of minutes). Put wilted spinach and liquid in a sieve placed on top of a bowl and press out liquid. Set aside.

Heat a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add wilted spinach, 3 teaspoons mustard, cream, and chopped thyme. Stir over medium heat until ingredients combine and sauce thickens a bit (a few minutes). Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Take out a medium skillet and heat over medium heat. Once hot, add your butter. Add the eggs and cover immediately with a lid. Turn heat up to medium high. They should be done within 2-4 minutes. Just keep checking on them periodically. I like them when they are a little bit white on top (about 3 1/2 minutes)

Divide spinach between two bowls. Place one egg on top of each pile of spinach, and place thyme sprigs and a little extra pepper on top. Serve with crusty bread, if you like.

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Pasta Puttanesca

February 20, 2011

We celebrated my good friend Kristina’s birthday this weekend. We had a blast out on the town and started our evening right: in a stylish bar, with our very first real martinis.

I ordered mine Extra Dirty because I love olive juice and also because it sounds cool. After I ordered it, my friend David said, “Oh, aren’t you fancy?” And I said, “Well David, it takes a certain kind of person to order an extra dirty martini at a classy bar.” To which David responded, “What kind of person? Oh, right, an extra dirty one.” Here are David and Will at a burrito place much later that evening.

Midnights spent at late night burrito places sometimes lead to very difficult mornings. But I regret nothing. On top of the hours of fun we had around town, the extra dirty martini I had reminded me of a wonderful recipe I found for Pasta Puttanesca.

Pasta Puttanesca is a sauce made from tomatoes, black olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, and herbs. It cooks quickly (less than 30 minutes, actually) and is extremely fragrant and delciious.

Puttanesca literally translates to “in the style of the whore” in Italian. There are various explanations for this name. Some say that Italian prostitutes made this aromatic sauce to lure men into their houses of ill repute. Others claim this sauce was made by Italian housewives who wanted to finish making dinner quickly to attend to other nighttime activities. Either way, this is one of my new favorite winter time dishes. Particularly if you must attend to other nighttime activities.

PASTA PUTTANESCA (adapted from Mark Bittman’s Pasta Puttanesca)

I doubled the sauce in this recipe so we’d have extra to take for lunch and to spread over chicken later in the week. I like a lot of sauce on my pasta, so this made about 5 servings of sauce.

Ingredients

  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 or more cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
  • 6 or more anchovy fillets
  • Two 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup pitted black olives, preferably oil-cured
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 pound linguine or other long pasta
  • Chopped fresh parsley, oregano, marjoram or basil leaves for garnish, optional

Recipe

Salt a pot of boiling water and bring it to a boil. Heat a large saucepan on medium low heat (Don’t try to heat it any higher of the anchovies will explode when you add them. Trust me). Add your olive oil, then add garlic and anchovies. Saute a few minutes until garlic is lightly browned.

Drain your tomatoes and tear them into smaller pieces with your hands (be careful not to squirt tomato juice everywhere). Add to the saucepan with a little salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium high, cooking and stirring occasionally until the tomatoes break down (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to a simmer and add capers, olives, and red pepper flakes.

Cook your pasta to al dente. Toss pasta with sauce. Garnish with fresh herbs, if you like. Enjoy.

I don’t like to ever think of anything I make as “dietetic” because that word really takes the oomph out of a meal. I’d prefer to to call some meals “choices more appropriate than others after the holidays.” One such lunch I really enjoy is to roast a bunch of asparagus and dip them into some rich and runny egg yolks.

But, you say, making over easy eggs is hard! I thought it was too until Alton Brown taught me the simple but extremely underpublicized over-easy egg secret. Get your pan hot, put a little butter in and let it foam, crack your eggs in, and immediately place a lid over the pan. The eggs will steam their way into being over easy without any flipping involved! Check them every minute or so. They’re done after 2-4 minutes. Slide them onto a plate and sprinkle on some salt and pepper and you’re good to go.

I have a remarkable tolerance for eating huge amounts of produce, so if the prospect of eating an entire bunch of asparagus makes you gasp, please feel free to use a half a bunch, or whatever you’d like.

Other uses for eggs: Eggs Baked In Tomato Sauce

ROASTED ASPARAGUS WITH AN OVER-EASY EGG (OR TWO) (adapted from Nigella Lawson)

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 bunch asparagus

EVOO

Salt & pepper

Small pat of butter (I use about a teaspoon) or cooking spray

1-2 eggs

Recipe

Preheat oven to 425. Trim bottoms off asparagus and arrange asparagus onto a cookie sheet lines with aluminum foil. Pour some EVOO onto your hands, then rub your hands over the asparagus. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 12-15 minutes if they are thin, 18-20 minutes if they are thick. You just want to cook them until they are a little bit brown in a few places.

When your asparagus are done, heat a pan on medium heat. Once hot, add your butter or cooking spray. Add the eggs and cover immediately with a lid. Turn heat up to medium high. They should be done within 2-4 minutes. Just keep checking on them periodically. I like them when they are a little bit white on top (about 3 1/2 minutes).

Celery root is the fugliest thing that’s been in my kitchen.

When I brought it up to the cashier at Sunflower, she said, “What… is that?”

But it’s tasty. And when caramelizing, it fills the kitchen with the most delicious, anise-like scent.

I find that during the holidays, my food desires alternate between things doused in chocolate and/or caramel and/or peppermint, and things that are healthy and hearty. I’ll show you how I most recently indulged my chocolate craving next post (oh, it’s a good one).

If you’re looking for something healthy and hearty, try this out. It’s even a vegan dish. I only realized it in hindsight. And it’s low calorie and high fiber. In fact, there’s only one problem with this dish. I’ll give you a hint that starts out like this: “Beans, beans are good for your heart…”

For more vegan recipes check out my vegan page

LENTILS WITH CARAMELIZED CELERY ROOT AND PARSLEY (adapted only slightly from Martha Stewart Living, December 2010)

You will ideally find and use French lentils for this (which are a bit thicker and heartier than regular lentils) but regular lentils are what I used and they worked just fine.

Ingredients

2 cups cold water

3/4 cup lentils

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium celery root (about 1 pound) washed well, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 small shallot, minced

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Recipe

1. Bring water and lentils to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, and gently simmer, partially covered, until lentils are just tender, 25-30 minutes. Drain lentils and transfer to a medium bowl.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium nonstick high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook celery root, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, 18-20 minutes.

3. Add celery root to bowl with lentils. Stir in parsley, lemon juice, shallot, and salt and pepper to taste. Let cool. Divide among 4 bowls.

Make this. Seriously. Make it right now. Even if you are not a zucchini-lover (Will and I are not), you need to make this. It is amazing. Healthier and more delicious (the latter much more important than the former) than its  straight-up spaghetti counterpart. Even if you think, “Ugh, a dietetic version of spaghetti.” you should still make it. Because it is one of the greatest things I have ever made. No lie.

I had some goat cheese in my fridge so I substituted it for the parmesan called for in Michael Chiarello and smittenkitchen’s recipes. It worked beautifully, and I have difficulty believing that parmesan could be any better. The goat cheese is subtle enough to be balance the delicate zucchini instead of overpowering it. Plus, the creaminess from melted goat cheese is an added bonus.

Well, what more is there to say? Oh, I know. If you look closely in the first picture you can see the worst sunburn of my life. To the armpit. Ouch.

ZUCCHINI SPAGHETTI WITH GOAT CHEESE (adapted from Michael Chiarello’s Spaghetti Squared: Pasta with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Zucchini and smittenkitchen.com’s Zucchini Strand Spaghetti)

Ingredients

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 lb whole-wheat spaghetti

3/4 lb zucchini

1/4 cup EVOO

2 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves

6 oz goat cheese, plus a bit more for sprinkling

Recipe

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt.

Cut zucchini with the fine french fry cutter on a mandoline or (if you don’t have a mandoline like me) peel into long, thin strips with a vegetable peeler. Season with salt and pepper. Add spaghetti to boiling water.

While you wait for the spaghetti to cook, heat 1/4 cup EVOO in a small skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add garlic and saute briefly until light brown. Add the red pepper flakes. Quickly mix in the basil and remove from the heat. When the spaghetti is al dente, drain through a colander.

Pour pasta into a warm serving bowl. Add the zucchini, garlic/basil mixture, and the goat cheese. Toss well. Serve with a few crumbles of goat cheese on top.

We had a few days glorious days of Spring out here last week. 60 degree weather, blue skies, birds chirping. It was the peak of loveliness. Today is 40 degrees and cloudy, but I’m still fantasizing about the days of sun and hiking and BBQs and… the farmer’s market of course! Those fantastic days where you can just sit on down with a bunch of delicious produce and just eat a meal raw fruit and vegetables. Or I could, anyway. In honor of my longing, I thought I’d share with you my favorite late Spring/early Summer meal. It comes together quickly and is simple and good.

All my favorite things to eat are simple and good. Unfussy, I suppose. A piece of chocolate. Fresh baked bread with butter. Fresh tomatoes with a little salt eaten like apples. Plain olives. I love complex flavor palates, but when you really come down to it, all I want it something well made and uncomplicated. Just like this lovely meal. Enjoy!

OPEN-FACED ROASTED TOMATO AND GOAT CHEESE SANDWICH

(Serves 2)

Ingredients

4 roasted tomato halves

6 oz goat cheese

1 loaf crusty french demi baguette

Olive oil

4 large fresh basil leaves

Salt & Pepper

Recipe

Slice tomatoes into halves. Make roasted tomatoes for the sandwich and make roasted asparagus for the side. Place loaf of french bread in the oven for last 5 minutes while tomatoes and asparagus cook so bread becomes nice and hot. Take bread out of oven, cut in half. Then slice bread lengthwise. Spread each piece with goat cheese. Salt and pepper the goat cheese generously. Place basil leaves on top of goat cheese. Place roasted tomatoes on top of goat cheese. Drizzle with olive oil. Enjoy!

Eggs Baked In Tomato Sauce

February 19, 2010

Now that I’ve shown you My Grandma Rose’s Pasta Sauce, let me show you something you can do with it that’s a little unexpected.I love this dish because it’s easy to make, healthy, and (most importantly) delicious. The more you make this easy pasta sauce, the quicker it comes together. I can make this whole dish in about 10 minutes prep time and 5 minutes in the oven!

Alice Waters always says that you should “let the ingredients speak for themselves.” This means, buy really good ingredients and you don’t have to do that much to them for your meal to taste great. A dish like this is ideal for ingredients like that.

If you use the kind from the store, use a really good kind. Cento or San Marzano are my favorites. Also, if you buy canned tomatoes from the store, you should always buy canned whole tomatoes, even if what you’re really going for is crushed. Companies always use their best quality tomatoes for canned whole tomatoes. The ones that don’t look as nice are what go into crushed or pureed. It takes a little extra effort to chop them, but to me, its worth it for a better quality ingredient of the same price. Here’s a picture of some tomatoes I canned using my friend Katherine’s instructions a while back.

Well friends,  I think I’ll head out now. It’s cold outside and I’ve got something nice and hot to dig in to. YUM.

Quick link to the sauce: My Grandma Rose’s Pasta Sauce

EGGS BAKED IN TOMATO SAUCE (serves 1)

Adapted from Baked Eggs in Tomato Parmesan Sauce in Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food

Thanks to Will’s brother, Joe for pointing out the benefits of reducing the cooking time on these.

Ingredients

1.5-2 cups of My Grandma Rose’s Pasta Sauce

2 eggs

1/4 cup parmesan or mozzarella cheese

Salt

Pepper

Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a 14-180z baking dish on a baking sheet.  Make the pasta sauce or, if already made, just heat it up in a saucepan. When hot, take the baking sheet + dish out of the oven and put about 3/4 the sauce in the baking dish. Make two little circles or “nests” in the sauce with a spoon and put one egg in each nest. Cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake covered 4-5 mins or uncovered 7-10 mins until whites are opaque but yolks are still runny. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with nice crusty bread.