Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Faux Carb: Veggie Spaghetti

I love pasta. I would eat it every day — and nearly did, for a long time, until my body realized that middle age was approaching and began to protest. A little nutritional experimentation made it clear: If I didn't cut way back on bread and pasta, I'd have to upsize my jeans annually going forward.

Fewer carbs. No problem. Except my kids — like many — love carbs above all else. And there are so many delicious foods that just beg to be served atop a a pillowy pile of linguine, or poured over a bed of rice to soak up a lovely sauce.

Enter faux carbs, like Zucchini Pasta or this Veggie Spaghetti, which swaps in long strips of zucchini and carrot to replace pasta threads.

The trick to making it satisfying? Don't pretend it's pasta!

Enjoy it for what it is: a tasty vegetable dish, and a delicious delivery vehicle for what you love with your pasta. Stir in tomato sauce and top with grated Parmesan and great meatballs, for example, and you have a lighter take on a family favorite. Mix in a bit of pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and cooked chicken strips and you have a deliciously comforting — and healthy — meal.

I especially savor a purely vegetarian preparation: It's surprisingly filling. If you can get your hands on good-looking basil this time of year, it will have your heart singing songs of spring.

Eating more faux carbs has my family eating more vegetables, obviously. And when I do sit down to a plate of perfect pasta, I savor every single bite.

Veggie Spaghetti

Vary the vegetables depending on your taste and what's available. I often make a variation of this with just zucchini, which slices up in a flash with a mandoline and is especially satisfying dressed in a simple sauce and served with turkey meatballs or chicken sausage. This is also delicious with pesto or your favorite tomato sauce.

1 1/2 pounds zucchini
1/2 pound carrots
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
freshly chopped herbs such as basil, oregano, or mint
Parmesan cheese
chopped black olives (optional)

Peel carrots and wash zucchini well. Cut into long, thin spaghetti-like threads — a mandoline is easiest, but you can do it with a knife.

In large skillet, heat a bit of olive oil over medium heat. Add halved cherry tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly charred. Remove tomatoes from pan and set aside.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat, then add minced garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds or so. Stir in carrots, add a spoonful of water, cover, and cook for 2 minutes. Add zucchini, another splash of water if it looks dry, cover, and cook for 3 minutes more.

Uncover skillet and cook, stirring, another 2 to 4 minutes or until vegetables are done to your liking. Stir in tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Serve garnished with fresh herbs, Parmesan cheese, and olives, if using.

Kid-friendly tip: Stir in something your child knows and loves — pesto, perhaps — to boost the odds she'll try it. You can set out tomatoes, olives, cheese, chicken strips, and other toppings in small bowls and let her choose what to add to her plate.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Blood Orange Cupcakes

Here's a cheers to hearts, sweetness ... and pink food. This is a little recipe that might trigger your love for something different than the artificial color Red 40: Blood orange juice with powdered sugar, covering a cupcake with lemon zest and dry raspberry powder.

This is my second experiment with natural colors to celebrate today: The first was the pasta with passion sauce, pretty but not easy to love if beets are not in your repertoire of loved foods.

But if you're still have time to prepare more than a treat for your Valentines, here are some suggestions from our collection f recipes, as romantic as a flower: rose ganache, rose meringue clouds,  lavender and chamomile truffles, all from Darienne's collection of delicacies.

Oh, and of course, Happy Valentine's!

Blood Orange and Raspberry Dust Cupcake 

Blood oranges are in season in California. It's possible to freeze the juice if your cake will be celebrating other dates other than Valentine's.

1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons blood orange juice
2 tablespoons dried raspberries, ground
2 large eggs
1/2 cup 2% milk
1 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, sifted with the flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Juice from 2 blood oranges
Enough powdered sugar to make a thick glaze

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare muffin pan with cupcake liners.

In a bowl, mix sugar and canola oil until it's a creamy texture. Gradually mix in eggs, juice, milk, and zest. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir to combine.

Pour batter into baking cups, filling until two-thirds full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

To prepare glaze, stir powdered sugar into blood orange juice until thick. Spoon glaze over finished cupcakes. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bella Notte Red Sauce

Valentine's spirit started to fly around here when I was watching a commercial break reminding me of the cuteness of The Lady and The Tramp. And that Bella Note song, and ... the unforgettable night of two dogs and one plate. But neither the pasta nor the meatballs triggered my disposition to run to the kitchen. The red sauce actually was the one to make me go to Trader Joe's, as fast as I could.

Of course the Italian chef of the movie would never make that sauce from cans or jars, right?

Before this, I tried many recipes for a tasty tomato sauce, but none was good enough to make me forget about the tomato pelatti  from Italy ready to be prepared in my kitchen. Or the sometimes delicious ready-made sauces that abound in the shelves of Trader Joe's.

This sauce made my kids happy and they were fascinated to see the once-upon-a-time tomatoes turned into sauce by being processed with an old-school food mill. I used organic tomatoes from Mexico — a shorter trip to California than the Italian ones from a can. Can't wait for the tomato season to start here as I am daydreaming about a sauce made of heirloom tomatoes. Then I will happily repeat this recipe of homemade pasta here: Semolina and Farro Togliolini.

This recipe was inspired by Alton's Brown roasting method. I hope this will inspire you too. I always think that there's no trouble on the comfort brought from food. But when made from scratch, the red sauce will maybe bring romantic notes to your table, or maybe just the feeling that you've traveled to Italy — or whatever inspirations suit your Valentine's dreams.

Red Sauce Bella Notte

There's a big debate about seeds, peels and tomatoes when making tomato sauce. I tested with and without seeds, and the results were very similar. I also read that what really matters is the pot material: Some advocate the use of non-reactive materials such as tempered glass or enamel. THis time I used pyrex and a Le Creuset baking dish. Some believe that there's no need to worry about seeds, and that the nonnas in old Italy will cook good tomato sauce in any pot, with lots of love. 

4 pounds roma tomatoes
5 cloves of garlic (if you find the giant garlic from California, even better)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Garlic-infused olive oil to drizzle
Kosher salt to taste
Oregano, to taste
Thyme, to taste
4 bay leaves
Fresh basil to garnish (optional)
1/2 cup of wine (optional, your choice of red or white)
Caramelized yellow onion to garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 F. Coat baking dishes with olive oil. Halve tomatoes and put them with the open side facing up on the baking dish. Sprinkle with salt, herbs and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for two hours, checking and turning after the first hour. After two hours raise the oven temperature to 400 F and roast for about 15 to 30 minutes more.

Remove and process the tomatoes with a food mill to get rid of skins and seeds. It's possible to do this with a sieve, pressing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. (I used seeds and skins to make a topping for a bruschetta.)

Heat the sauce in a saucepan and add wine. Cook on high heat for about 3 minutes, and simmer for about 7 minutes more. Adjust salt and other spices if you need to. If you need a little bit of sweetness added, half a teaspoon of raw sugar will do the trick.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Mystery Soup Game

It looks like sweet potatoes, carrots, or maybe pumpkin cream. But after tasting it, all were curious about its different flavors and textures and started to try to figure out its ingredients.

That's how our table-dinner-game "Guess what's in the mystery soup" began here, and it's become a successful and fun way to coax kids to eat a second serving — or maybe even a third — of something they usually are not so interested in!

We've played the game every Monday since winter began, and the kids' repertoire of ingredients (and even mine) is growing. After tasting one spoonful of soup, the players can guess one ingredient. If it's correct, we add to the list. The one who makes the most correct guesses can choose a treat for dessert.

Next week, the winner of the most challenges will get to take part in preparing the soup, and I hope it will be lots of fun. The boys also talked about Ratatouille, the movie, and could not stop thinking about watching it again to try to figure what was in the soup cooked by the little chef, the rat.

I believe any soup is good for the game, as long as you process it with a blender before serving. For now, our recipe for a soup that had amazing reviews here:

Mystery Soup Number 1

I cook the soup in a pressure cooker to make sure the vitamins won't fly away. If using a regular stockpot, double the cooking time.

1 tablespoon olive oil
a little flour
1/2 leek, chopped
1 cup yellow split peas
2 cloves garlic
Salt to taste
4 cups water
1 teaspoon dry basil
1 cup your favorite recipe (or jar) of tomato sauce

Heat olive oil and add flour, mixing it to prepare the base of the soup. When almost brown, add leeks and let them cook until transparent. Add minced garlic and then split peas, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add salt, then water and tomato sauce.

Cook for 35 minutes in a pressure cooker or just over an hour, until all the ingredients are soft. Process with a hand blender and serve with a swirl of Greek yogurt or cream.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...