Creamy Goat Cheese Tomato Pasta

I am a total sucker for a creamy tomato sauce. Unfortunately, they tend to be a little disappointing. This is the exception.

The goat cheese flavor is pretty pronounced, so if you’re not a fan, this one isn’t for you. The original is here, but I made lots of changes (chief among them: cutting out the bacon – sundrieds really fill that meaty, umami slot for me). That said, the technique is the same and I might employ it in the future. As a plus, this comes together very quickly.

2 shallots, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
100 g (roughly) oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained and sliced thin, oil reserved
2 T white wine
1 14.5 oz/400 g can stewed tomatoes
1 small pinch salt
1 small pinch sugar
1/4 t dried oregano
1 large pinch dried red pepper flakes
1 lb/500 g short pasta (1/4 c pasta water reserved before draining)
3-4 oz/100-125 g spreadable goat cheese (Ziegenfrischkäse)
lots of torn basil leaves

Heat a deep skillet over medium low heat and warm 1-2 T reserved sundried tomato oil. When oil shimmers, add shallots, garlic and sundried tomatoes and stir frequently until shallots and garlic are tender (3 minutes). Add wine and cook until 3/4 reduced (and the boozy smell is gone). Add canned tomatoes, salt, sugar, oregano and red pepper flakes and reduce heat to low. Stir to combine, crushing tomatoes with spoon. Allow sauce to simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, then remove from heat and set aside.

Cook and drain pasta, returning it quickly to the pot off the heat. Add goat cheese to pasta and stir well to coat. When goat cheese is well distributed, pour in tomato sauce, again stirring very well. If sauce seems too thick, add a little pasta water to loosen it to your desired texture. Add torn basil and stir until just distributed. Serve immediately.

Bok Choy Lime Stir Fry

For New Year’s Eve, we got together with some friends and had Raclette and homemade Feuerzangenbowle. This was delicious, but my digestion was still mad at me due to the 12-hour flight home from Singapore I’d subjected it to the day before. We needed something a little less indulgent, but it still needed to taste good. Cliff was craving bok choy, but neither of us wanted meat, so this was our vegan version of our other bok choy adventure. It was exquisite and didn’t even taste virtuous.

2 T sesame oil
2 bunches green onions, white and light greens sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 in/5 cm ginger, minced
6 heads baby bok choy, cleaned and chopped
pinch salt
1/2 t ground white pepper
1 T hoisin sauce
1/4 c Shao Xing wine
1 T dark soy sauce
2 T light soy sauce
juice of two limes
steamed brown rice

Heat 1 T oil in wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add onions, garlic and ginger and stir frequently until starting to get tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add rest of oil and bok choy, stirring to coat with oil (bok choy will shrink down quickly). Add salt & pepper. Whisk hoisin, wine, soy sauces and lime juice together and add to wok, stirring frequently. Keep stirring until liquids are distributed and about half-reduced and bok choy is tender-crisp. Serve immediately over brown rice.

Dijon Braised Brussels Sprouts

I think our oven is on its last legs. Things just aren’t baking or roasting right. This is especially unfortunate, as we’re moving into prime roasty/bakey season. So, our go-to plan for brussels sprouts (olive oil, salt, pepper, roast) is no longer a no-brainer. But steaming is a little…blah.

Enter braising. I’ve never really done this (to my knowledge), so I appreciated the clear instructions in this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I made a couple of small alterations, and that’s what I’m posting here.

1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 lb/500 g brussels sprouts, trimmed
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 T heavy cream
1 T smooth dijon mustard (or more to taste)
2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Heat oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, add butter and when butter melts, add sprouts and arrange in a single layer, cut-side down (if they don’t all fit, brown in batches, then add all for next steps). Sprinkle with salt and pepper and allow them to cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add shallots and garlic, stir and cook until they soften slightly. Add wine and broth and bring to a simmer, lower heat to medium-low, then cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until sprouts are easily pierced with a knife.

When sprouts are cooked, remove them from the skillet with a slotted spoon, leaving the liquid behind. Add cream and simmer for 3 minutes, then whisk in mustard. Adjust seasoning as necessary, add sprouts back to skillet to heat through and coat with sauce.

Little Spinach Pies (a riff on Spanakopita)

Little Spinach PiesAt the Donaumarkt on Saturday we spotted fresh baby spinach for sale. We didn’t know quite what was going to happen with it, but we knew it’s not there all the time and the odds were not good we’d see in there again in a couple weeks at our next opportunity for locally-sourced produce. So we snapped up a kilogram and tried to think up some tasty plans for it. Continue reading Little Spinach Pies (a riff on Spanakopita)

Pumpkin Risotto

I made a lot of pumpkin purée last fall, which took up residence in the freezer. In an effort to continue the meat detox from our KC trip and clear out some of the longer-term freezer occupants, finally got to try this recipe. As I already have neutral pumpkin purée (so I can go sweet or savory), I changed a few aspects of the original and the recipe below will reflect what I did.

This risotto has a texture that is completely extraordinary. As in many things involving pumpkin, it’s subtly sweet and velvety. While cooking, it becomes much saucier than I’m used to. I think that makes it extra important that you let it rest, covered and off the burner, after finishing.

2 T olive oil
2 large or 3 small shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 c/500 g arborio rice
1 c white wine
1/2 t coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 t dried thyme
5-6 c/1.25-1.5 l chicken or vegetable broth (must be at a simmer when added to rice)
1 c/250 g pumpkin purée
1 c/250 g grated parmesan cheese, divided
2 T butter

In a wide, deep lidded skillet, heat oil to medium. Sauté the shallots and garlic to just tender, then add rice to skillet, stirring frequently and coating well with oil.

Add white wine to skillet and, stirring constantly, cook until liquid is almost completely cooked off. Add pepper and thyme, lower heat to low, stir and start adding broth by the ladle. When one ladleful cooks off, add another, stirring all the time.

When about two thirds of the broth is added, stir in the pumpkin purée. The texture will change and the sauce will become quite thick and possibly splattery. Right before the last broth addition, turn the burner off and add the cheese and butter.

After stirring in the last bit of broth, put the lid on the skillet, take it off the hot burner and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Baba Ghanouj (Roasted Eggplant Dip)

This eggplant dip seems complicated but is ridiculously easy. It was too hot to really cook for a few weeks this August. That made things difficult, as I love to cook and don’t particularly care for raw food. Cliff is an avowed hater of eggplant, so it took a little cajoling to get his buy-in on this one. Even eggplant haters should give this one a shot, though. Much of the texture-weirdness that people have against eggplant is mitigated through the roasting and mashing. Plus, it’s ridiculously easy to make if you roast the eggplant with plenty of time to cool. The original recipe is here, but the changes I made are listed below.

1-2 large purple eggplants, about 2 lbs
3 T olive oil
2-3 T tahini
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 t ground cumin
juice of 1 lemon
pinch smoked hot paprika
salt to taste
2 T chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise, puncture the skin several times with a fork and rub all over with olive oil. Roast on a baking sheet, cut side down, until very tender, 30-40 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Scoop the cooled eggplant flesh out of the skins and combine with the rest of the ingredients, except parsley. Baba Ghanouj, not yet blendedMash everything together with a fork or put it all in a blender and pulse until combined but not completely smooth. Serve topped with parsley as a dip with pita or raw vegetables.

Kire ka Raita

It’s kinda redonkulous how easy this recipe is. We first made it at our cooking course a few months ago.

500 g yogurt
half a cucumber
salt
pepper
ground cumin

Grate the cucumber. Drain out most/all the liquid. Mix in with the other ingredients. Serve cold.

See what I mean? That’s it. Dead easy. Here are my ingredient modifications:

250 g Greek-style yogurt
a big cucumber
salt
pepper
ground cumin
pinch (freshly) ground cardamom
pinch of some kind of ground hot red pepper (cayenne, paprika, whatever)

I like it heavier on the cuke flavor and with a bit more zing to it, so I go big on the cumin and the pepper. Be careful with that cardamom — it can take over very easily (and if that’s what you want, rock on). I shredded the cuke with our KitchenAid and then let the shreds drain in a colander for twenty or thirty minutes, squeezing them occasionally.

We usually count on the raita at indian restaurants to cool off a mouth on fire, when we can convince the waiter that we’re not German and can handle a proper vindaloo — which is not every time.