Simple Pasta Sauce

Hello pasta lovers– I’m with you on this– what’s more warming and homey tan a bowl of pasta with a fresh tangy sauce??

Saw this recipe in a Food & Wine magazine and realized I had all I needed on hand in the kitchen.  That’s what’s so nice about it– no fancy ingredients and ready in less than 30 minutes.  Perfect for a busy weekday dinner.

SIMPLE PASTA SAUCE
your favorite pasta
2 tab. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
salt
1 tab. butter
1 tsp. dried basil
garnish: parmesan & fresh basil or marjoram*

Heat the olive oil in a deep pot.  Add in the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until it is soft.  Add in the grated carrot and minced garlic and cook 1 minute more.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes and salt to taste.  Simmer on low for 20 minutes, covered with a lid.

While it’s simmering, cook your favorite pasta (we did fresh tortellini).

Then stir the butter and basil into the sauce.  Serve over hot cooked pasta. Garnish with basil & parmesan.

*I used marjoram because it grows year round with no help from me, in the side yard.

Mexican Cobb Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

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Hi all– We are trying to get a little jump on summer here.  It’s been warm and my thoughts are already on summer break, lazing in bed mornings with a book, lunch dates with friends, weekend beach walks, dinner out under the maples in the backyard…  It’s all about slowing down, less rush.

And salads.  A bright salad for dinner, makes it seem like summer.  Fresh colorful veggies, salty bacon and cheese.  And tart cilantro lime dressing.  It isn’t June yet, but with this salad on the table, it feels like summer!

MEXICAN COBB SALAD WITH CILANTRO LIME DRESSING

Salad:
4 cups leafy greens
3 small tomatoes, cut in quarters
1 firm avocado, peeled and cut in chunks
1/2 cup fresh (or frozen) corn kernels
1 Persian cucumber, sliced thin
3 strips of bacon, fried & crumbled
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed
2 hard boiled eggs, cut in half
1/3  cup cortijo cheese*

Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tab. lime juice (about 1 large lime)
2 tab. cilantro, chopped fine
1/2 tsp. sugar
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

This is easy.  Spread the lettuces out on a platter and spoon the other ingredients on top.  Done!

For the dressing, put the olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, sugar and salt & pepper into a container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake til it’s thoroughly blended and drizzle over the salad.

Great served with a chunk of cornbread– or if there’s no time to bake, a handful of crispy tortilla chips. Dinner for two.  Enjoy!

*I didn’t have cortijo cheese in the fridge, so used feta.

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Tomato Ricotta Tart

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Hello all– Since we are tardy tomato planters around here, we still have a bit of a crop coming in out back.  So when the teachers at school had a TGIF last Friday to celebrate the first two weeks of school completed with no major mishaps, I grabbed a few tomatoes from the yard (And some orange ones from the market) to make this happy tart.

You know all those bright colors just look like cheerful food.  And the salty feta, pungent rosemary and flaky pastry.  It’s just fine to go with a glass of wine and lots of frenetic, noisy conversation.  (thanks Kim for making us all laugh and Maryann for having us all in– it was the best!)

TOMATO RICOTTA TART

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (1/2 package)
4 oz. feta cheese
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped to bits
1 tsp. chopped rosemary (or your favorite herb)
plus a sprig of rosemary for garnish
1 pint cherry tomatoes,* sliced in rounds
a couple shakes of garlic salt
2 tab. olive oil
1/4 tsp more chopped rosemary

Defrost the sheet of puff pastry (I left it overnight in the fridge)– and then carefully unfold it and set it onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Score a border about 1/2″ in from the edge of the pastry.  And poke the center inside the border all across with the the tines of a fork.

Then pop the pastry into a 400 degree oven for just ten minutes until the pastry browns.

Take if from the oven and sprinkle on the feta.  Top that with the roasted red pepper bits.  Sprinkle the 1 tsp. chopped rosemary over the top and then settle on the sliced tomatoes.

Sprinkle on a few shakes of garlic salt and put it bake into the 400 degree oven for about 5 to 10 minutes more.

Take it out and drizzle on the olive oil.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 tsp. of chopped rosemary and garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary.

Good served hot or room temperature.  Enjoy!!

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White Bean & Bacon Tomato Soup

DSC00443Hello all– There’s not usually bacon hanging around in our fridge.  But when the kids are coming home for a visit, I head straight for the market and get all the things they like to eat. Including bacon.  Lots of it.

So now they’ve come and gone for Christmas/New Years.  And there’s still a bit of bacon lingering in our kitchen.  What better to do with it, than a big pot of white bean & bacon tomato soup?  It’s one of those warm & cozy soups– sweet little beans, salty bacon and all that rich tomato holding it all together.  With a slab of brown bread and a crunchy salad, it’s dinner.

WHITE BEAN & BACON TOMATO SOUP
1/3 pound bacon (about 6 slices), cut to bits
2 onions, chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tab. fresh thyme leaves
2 late bay leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
several grinds of fresh pepper
28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
14 oz. can petit cut tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
2 14 oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed in a strainer
garnish– thyme sprigs & grade parmesan romano

Cook the cut bacon in a soup pot until lightly browned.  Remove the bacon.  Pour out all but 3 tab. of the bacon fat from the pot.

Add the cut onions to the pot.  When they are lightly browned, add in the garlic, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper.  Cook a minute more.

Then add in the crushed tomatoes, petit cut tomatoes, chicken broth and cannellini beans. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes.

Serve it up hot topped with grated parmesan romano cheese and a sprig of thyme just to make it pretty.

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Browned Eggplant with Tomatoes, Olives & Feta

IMG_2050Hi there– I found this recipe in a magazine while I was sitting waiting at the ophthalmologist’s office for an eye exam.  (I guess a good recipe is some small compensation for a trip to the doctor!!)  Tempted as I was to tear out the page with the instructions, I took my waiting to time to commit it to memory (more of less) and here it is!

We’ve still got summer tomatoes at the market and who can resist a happy purple eggplant?  Made it up for dinner with some grilled talpia and a seedy chunk of bread.  Just about right for a warm end of the summer evening…

BROWNED EGGPLANT WITH TOMATOES, OLIVES & FETA
1 plump purple eggplant
1/4 cup olive oil
1 green heirloom tomato
1 red heirloom tomato
1/2 cup feta with herbs & garlic, cut in chunks
1/2 cup mixed olives
a splash more olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (cut if large)
salt & freshly ground pepper

IMG_2032Cut the eggplant into 1/4″ slices and set them on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet.  Put it under the broiler on medium heat for 5 minutes and then flip the pieces of eggplant and broil for 5 minutes more.  (I had the rack about 10″ below the broiling unit– keep your eye on it so it doesn’t burn!)

While the eggplant is cooking, slice the tomatoes into pretty thin slices.

When he eggplant is done, brush both sides with the 1/4 cup olive oil and arrange the slices on a plate with the tomatoes.  Scatter the olives, feta and basil over the top of it all and give it a good splash of olive oil and a little sprinkle of salt & pepper.

Makes plenty for 4 people (maybe 6).

Saucy Tomato Chicken with Pasta

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Hello there– We all know that actually cooking up a  dinner isn’t nearly as hard as figuring out what to fix for dinner and making sure you have all you need to fix it.  That’s why I like this simple dish– Look at the ingredients.  Chances are you have everything you need already sitting in your kitchen.

So when I come in the dinner about 5:00 and just start thinking oh yeah–dinner.  This dish saves the day.  Bright and fresh, it’s a good one.

SAUCY TOMATO CHICKEN WITH PASTA
2 boneless chicken breasts
splash olive oil
a few shakes of garlic salt
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tab. cornstarch
2 cans petit cut tomatoes*
14 oz. can chicken broth
1 tsp. dried basil
8 oz. of your favorite pasta
garnish of parmesan

Heat the olive oil in a skillet while you slice the chicken breasts horizontally to make thin fillets.  Cook the chicken in the hot oil for 2 minutes on each side to brown it, giving it a sprinkle of garlic salt.  Remove the chicken from the pan.

In the hot skillet cook the onion (add a bit of oil if it seems dry) for 5 minutes, adding the garlic to cook the last minute.  Then stir  the cornstarch into the pan coating the onions.  Keep the heat on high and add the chicken broth, can of tomatoes and dried basil.  And keep at a low simmer while the sauce thickens– about  5 minutes.

Put the pasta on to cook and while that cooking, return the chicken to the skillet with the tomato mixture and cover the top with a lid.  Simmer on the lowest setting for about 10 minutes until the chicken is tender.

Serve up the pasta topped with the chicken and sauce– You can grate a bit of parmesan on top to finish it off.

Rosemary Tomato Pork Cutlets

IMG_8186Hello all– I’m so glad we have a hearty rosemary bush out in our side yard– not thanks to us– The family who lived here before us 20 years ago planted it and we’ve been reaping the bounty every since.  So here’s a simple, savory dish that takes advantage of a fresh sprig of rosemary.  It’s quick and easy for dinner in a hurry.

ROSEMARY TOMATO PORK CUTLETS
4 pork cutlets (about 1/2″ thick)
splash olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. rosemary, minced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 can petit cut tomatoes with garlic & herbs

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and then toss in the pork cutlets.  Brown them on medium high for just 2 to 3 minutes per side, until they are just browned.  Move them over to a baking dish.

Into the same sauté pan add the onion and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the onion stats to brown (if the pan seems dry add a bit more olive oil).  then stir in the garlic, rosemary and oregano and cook 2 minutes more.  Then pour in the tomatoes and mix well.

Pour the tomato mixture over the pork chops in the baking dish and pop it into a 425 degree over for just 8 to 10 minutes (depending on how thick your pork it cut).

It’s great with a big bowl of pasta, a pile of mashed potatoes or herbed couscous…