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Archive for the ‘Pastas and Rice’ Category

Once upon a time, in the Golden State of California, a little girl grew up basking in the radiant rays of sunshine. Her little cozy ranch house boasted a mini orchard with succulent fruits like apples, oranges, kumquats, & avocados.  The organic garden her mother cultivated gave life to fresh tomatoes, basil, squash, and yam greens.  These essential greens (and reds, and yellows) nurtured her little body & soul, and she grew up to be a vegetarian.

In a land 2500 miles away in the heartland of America, a little boy grew up in the wholesome state of Ohio. There, the people were jolly and warm, and the meals big and hearty. Juicy steaks & creamy potatoes gave the boy strong bones & muscles, and he grew up to be an “equal opportunity eater”, more commonly known as an omnivore.

Two decades later, the playful hands of fate brought this little girl and boy together in the concrete jungle of New York City. As different as they were in their diets, they shared a common love for food (and each other), so they often had to get creative with their flexitarian menus and two-pot meals. Until one day, a Fairy Chefmother, Giada DeLaurentiis, waved her magic spatula and showed them a recipe that was vegetarian but tasted like meat. The little girl and boy devoured the dish completely, and lived happily until the next meal.

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This is my variation on Giada’s Rigatoni with Vegetarian Bolognese. I opted to make my tomato base from scratch, substituted seasonal spring ramps for onions, and picked my favorite herbs – thyme, basil & tarragon. What I kept constant (and believe it’s critical to) is the mascarpone and the mushrooms, which give it the  “meaty” taste that serves to trick all carnivores!

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 pound rigatoni (I made my own fresh pasta!) but you can use dry as well
  • 2-3 tomatos, diced
  • 4 oz mixed mushrooms (I used a baby bella and oyster, but porcini, king oyster, chinese black, and portabello will work just as well)
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 bunch ramps, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a pinch of each dried herbs: thyme, basil, tarragon (can also use rosemary, oregano, marjoram, or fresh herbs)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  •  2-3 dollops of mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 c of vegetarian broth
  • Olive oil – for cooking
  • grated parmesan cheese (to finish)

Putting it all together:

  1. Cook the diced tomatoes and ramps in a 3-4 qt pot with some olive oil, until tomatoes are very soft and become concentrated
  2. Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the carrots, bell pepper, and mushrooms until finely chopped
  3. In a skillet, heat up some olive oil. Transfer the finely chopped into the skillet, season with salt & pepper & herbs, and cook for 5-7 minutes, until vegetables are cooked.
  4. Add broth and bring the vegetables to a boil. Then simmer until the liquid is reduced by half (takes about 10 min)
  5. Fold in mascarpone cheese until well-integrated
  6. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook until tender but al dente (3-5 min for fresh, 8-10 for dry)
  7. Drain the pasta and transfer to the vegetable bolognese sauce. Mix well, adding some pasta liquid if mixture is dry.
  8. Sprinkle with parmesan and take a huge satisfying bite into it!

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Surprise! It’s me!!! Miss me? Because I’ve missed you dearly. It’s been too long since I’ve been here and I am appalled at how delinquent I’ve been, and surprised at how much I have really missed the blogosphere.

I think I rather like surprises. It’s the element of the unexpected; the feeling of wonder and astonishment. It represents endless possibilties for you to chance upon, but truly embracing it requires lots of bravery and a sense of adventure. We are all familiar with the pleasant surprises in everyday life – a surprise party, unexpected flowers from a significant other, or a welcome phone call from a long-lost friend. But what about the surprises that aren’t so agreeable? The ones that throw your plans off course and make you spin around at a loss?

I woke up Friday morning to such a surprise – a shroud of furious white storm spinning outside my window, threatening my  flight to Vegas for the weekend. Still in bed, I checked my iPhone dejectedly as flight after flight showed cancelled statuses. As I got ready for work, Surprise! A text from my coworker: “Office closed for the day due to storm. Yay!” With work out of the way, I decided to head straight to Newark Airport to ensure my spot on a non-cancelled flight. On the NJ Transit Train, I optimistically looked out the window as the snow started to lighten up into gentle wispy flakes. Then Surprise! A text from Brian: “Honey, check your flight status. I think your flight has been cancelled.” WHAT?! But what was a girl to do? I continued on my way and hoped to sweet talk my way into another flight.

Newark Airport was mayhem that day. Lines long enough to compete with the queues of Disneyworld, and irate airline workers and customers cursing one another out in voices loud enough to compete with the noise volume of a trading floor.  But at the Continental counter, another Surprise! The gracious rep took a look at Brian’s Platinum Elite status on my boarding pass, typed in a bunch of keys, produced another boarding pass and said “I went out on a limb and put you on the ONLY Newark-Vegas flight that is flying out today. It’s boarding now but you can still make it if you run. Now RUUUN!” I passed the security checkpoint in a daze, picked up my snowboots and ran in my socks to the boarding gate and into the airplane just as they closed the cabin doors behind me. Then it was my turn to text Brian: “Surprise! I got on a flight and I’m landing even earlier than I’m supposed to!”

So you see, I do like surprises. They keep you on your toes, sprinkle some adventure into the everyday mundane, and in the end, things usually turn out all right.

Take these Paella Cakes for example. This recipe started out as Risotto Balls, but as I started cooking the arborio rice, my mind drifted back to thoughts of Spain and the unforgettable stations of paella cooked in the largest pans I’d ever seen, and all of a sudden, I found myself chopping up veggies, adding in tomato paste and red wine, and finally saffron water (a bit out of usual order). But I had already made the “surprise” filling that was meant to go into the milder flavored risotto balls – a tangy, creamy mango-cream cheese stuffing that I wasn’t so sure would go well with the bold flavors of the paella.  So I made some with and some without.  At the end of the day, it was clear that the ones with the surprise filling were the winners. Although at that point, it was impossible to tell which one was avec or sans, so we had no option but to pick them at random, and Be Surprised!

Surprise! Paella Cakes

You will need:

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1.5 c. veggie stock
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced into coins
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 4-6 oz bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 c. of red wine
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • paprika
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 c. cream cheese
  • 1 mango, diced
  • lime zest
  • lime juice
  • cayenne pepper
  • lots of bread crumbs (regular or panko – I tried both)

Surprise Yourself:

  • Dry fry saffron threads over low heat, crumble into small bowl of water (about 3 tsp of hot water) and infuse
  • Pour in some olive oil. Cook leeks over medium heat until soft and aromatic. Add all the veggies (bell peppers, zucchini, mushroom) and cook for another few minutes
  • Add rice and cook until coated with veggies and glossy. Add stock, tomato paste, tomatoes, saffron water, paprika, cayenne, red pepper flakes, and bring to a boil
  • Simmer for 15-20 min until rice is completely cooked. Let cool
  • Meanwhile, make the surprise filling by mixing in cream cheese, mango, lime zest and lime juice

  • Spread a bed of bread crumbs over working surface. Divide the rice mixture into walnut sized portions and form into cakes. With your thumb, make a ditch into the center of the rice and spoon in a little of the filling and seal the cake
  • Roll cake around in bread crumbs until covered and place on oiled baking dish
  • Bake at 400 for around 20 min until golden brown

If you want to shake things up, make some with and some without filling and decide for yourself which is tastier! Now pour a glass of Rioja and enjoy!

And if you have any leftover paella (like I did) you just pour more Rioja and enjoy the Paella in its purest delightful form!

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Happy 2010! Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season filled with food, festivities, and lots of love. My own Holiday has been chock full of excitement, ranging from wholesome over-eating with the family, to drunken debauchery merry-making (I hope none of my Mother’s friends are reading this) with friends, to a romantic New Years Eve with live music by the fireplace at Caffe Vivaldi with the Mister. So riding on the high of this seemingly non-stop vacation (please never stop!) I thought I’d start off the new year with one of my favorite exciting experiments of 2009. May I present…

The Battle Of the Gnocchis


If you type into the Google Machine “Pumpkin Gnocchi“, you’ll find lots of wonderful recipes by recipe sites and food bloggers with slight variations on how to make the gnocchi. You’ll also see that it is usually complemented with a lemony, buttery Brown Butter Sage Sauce. So I thought I’d change things up by bringing 2 new challengers into the game, and see if they can claim the title of sauce king over the reigning Butter Sage.

But before we begin the competition, I’d like to introduce you to the Pumpkin Gnocchi. A close relative of the classic Potato Gnocchi, Pumpkin Gnocchi is a delicious wonder with golden good looks and a sweet personality. She delights almost everyone she meets and is surprisingly easy and fun to make! Today, she has volunteered herself to be served with the 3 sauce competitors. To create Pumpkin Gnocchi, all you need are:

  • 1 can of pureed pumpkin (I used a 15 oz can)
  • 2 cups of flour (plus a little extra when you’re rolling the dough)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cups of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • A generous sprinkling of salt & pepper
  • Cooking Oil

Making the Gnocchi: Combine the flour and pumpkin together, add the spices and seasoning, fold in the egg, and finally the parmesan cheese to give it a pop of flavor. On a floured surface, roll dough into long, 1/2 inch ropes, cut into 1 inch pieces. In a pot, bring lots of water to a boil, add in some cooking oil to prevent sticking, and slowly drop the gnocchi and cook in batches until they float on top (it’s very quick – maybe 3-5 minutes). And there you go, easy, delicious, foolproof gnocchi! So without further ado, let the games begin!

Reigning Champion: Brown Butter Sage Sauce

This sauce is a complete classic. The lemony flavor of the sage and savory butter melts together with the Pumpkin Gnocchi to create an irresistible combination. It’s the quickest sauce to make and does not fail to please.

Round 1: In a saucepan, melt 1 stick of Salted Butter in low heat, chop up 4-6 Sage Leaves and cook in the butter until the aroma of sage fills your nose. Add 1-2 Tbsp of the Starchy Water used to cook Gnocchi to thicken the sauce, and pour over the Pumpkin Gnocchi. Garnish with Parmesan Flakes and additional Sage Leaves on top.

Contender #1: Spinach Pesto Sauce

This Spinach Pesto Sauce is nutty, flavorful, and so well-balanced that it puts anyone who comes into contact with it in danger of overeating! He boasts of healthy ingredients that bring out the sweetness of the Pumpkin Gnocchi. He takes slightly longer to prepare but is well worth the short wait!

Round 2: In a mini food processor, pulse together 1/4 cup Olive Oil, 1-2 scoops of Pine Nuts, 1 handful of Chopped Basil, and a sprinkling of Salt & Pepper until it reaches a fine consistency, but not slushy.  In a saucepan, heat some cooking oil, and saute the Spinach until cooked. Add in the pesto mixture, cook for another 1-2 minutes, and pour over the Pumpkin Gnocchi.

Contender #2: Smokey Marinara Sauce

This Challenger is a bit of a free spirit and wild card. Never one to conform to tradition, he encompasses different cultural flavors and brings his big hearty taste and spicy smoky flavor to the competition.

Round 3: In a saucepan over medium heat, pour in 1 can of Diced Tomatoes (I used Trader Joes Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles). Add in 1-2 finely chopped Jalapenos, a generous pouring of Red Wine, and a few shakes of Ancho Chili Powder, Chipotle Chili Powder, and Cayenne Chili Powder. Simmer for 5-10 minutes and pour over Pumpkin Gnocchi.

The Verdict:

So did the Brown Butter Sage Sauce reign as the incumbent, or did one of the challengers take the crown? Brian and I sniffed, tasted, and devoure. And after careful deliberation, Brian ruled that the Butter Sage Sauce was still the best, affirming why it remains the most popular accompaniment. I on the other hand, could not stop eating the Spinach Pesto Sauce and deemed that one the winner. We both agreed that while the Smoky Marinara Sauce was delicious, its strong flavors overpowered instead of complemented the Pumpkin Gnocchi. So the final verdict is that: While the Brown Butter Sage Sauce remains a strong contender, there’s a new sauce in town that threatens its throne! Which will it be? You decide!

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Every year approximately 2 months before Christmas, I start getting giddy with excitement. So powerful is this Holiday for me that I am unshaken by the spooky merrry-making of Halloween, and I glaze past Thanksgiving with a grateful heart, but all the while looking ahead to Christmas Festivities.

This year however, I promised myself I would pay proper homage to the aforementioned two fabulous holidays and celebrate them whole-heartedly. So in all the frenzy of brainstorming creative costumes for Halloween, and planning a hearty Thanksgiving Feast, I forgot to get excited about Christmas! (*Gasp!*)

It took me until now – a mere 2 weeks before my favorite holiday of the year – to dawn with the realization that It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas. 

THE Tree @ Rockefeller - This is on my way to work everyday 🙂

Camels in Rockefeller Center? I'm still trying to figure this one out...something about the 3 wise men? Someone please enlighten me!

Even my office building is participating in the Christmas Spirit by bringing out these gorgeous bright red ornaments!

Christmas everywhere you go. This picture was sent to me by Brian, on business in the UK. 100s of Santas gathering underneath the Edinburgh Castle!

So now that the Christmas Spirit has fully consumed me, I feel compelled to create dishes evoking memories of Christmas past. Chestnuts have always been one of my favorite winter munchies. The sweet succulent delights conjure images of the family enjoying these roasted delicacies while gathering ’round to watch movies in our pajamas.  We found so many ways to enjoy them – drizzled with honey, sprinkled with salt, dipped in soy sauce.  But in all these years of savoring them, I’ve never actually created a dish with them. So last night, I decided to work it into a simple weeknight pasta dish – letting the sweet smoky flavor of the chestnuts mingle with the savory taste of the mushrooms, and tying it all up with the peppery zest of the arugula and buttery nuttiness of parmesan cheese!

Gathering the Goodies:

  • 3/4 cup of roasted chestnuts (recipe to follow), chopped
  • 4-6 oz of pappardelle, tagliatelle or similar egg pasta
  • 1-2 cups of arugula, washed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 6 chinese black mushrooms, soaked for 20 minutes until soft, and sliced
  • 1/4 cup shaved/grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Oil, to cook
  • a pinch of dried tarragon
  • 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1-2 tsp soy sauce

Getting Into the Spirit:

  1. Prepare the Chestnuts: Cut the shell with an “X” where the shell bulges outward. Place the chestnuts in a dish and completely cover with water and soak for 20 minutes. Place in a baking dish and roast at 400  for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven, peel, and chop!
  2. Bring water to a boil, season with salt, and boil the egg pasta for 6-8 min, until cooked.Drain and toss with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.
  3. Saute the sliced mushrooms in oil and a little bit of soy sauce until the aroma fills the air
  4. Pour in the egg mixture and scramble everything up.
  5. Add the chopped chestnuts and cook for another few minutes. Stir in the pasta and the remaining olive oil and mix until everything is well coated.
  6. Add in half of the parmesan cheese, and sprinkle in tarragon and more salt & pepper to season.
  7. Turn the heat on low, add in the arugula and toss some more, making sure the arugula does not actually cook and stays crisp.
  8. Scoop onto a plate, decorate with more parmesan flakes, and fill your tummy with Christmas!

 

Variations:

  • If you don’t have or don’t like black mushrooms, Portabello, oyster, or white mushrooms would be just as tasty
  • If you can’t eat mushrooms, try other meaty veggies like eggplant.  Other proteins like tofu or soy protein veggie “meat” products would blend well too.
  • Try substituting spinach or even cabbage for arugula (although the cabbage would be better when well cooked)
  • Indulge yourself and make a buttery cream sauce with herbs like tarragon, basil, thyme, or sage
  • No one should be a scrooge, but if you can’t stand chestnuts (say it aint so), you can also use hazelnuts, walnuts, or almonds

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Once upon a time, there was a little Eggplant who lived in the produce section of the Japanese Market. Eggplant’s dream was to be part of a Sushi Roll. Alas, whenever Sushi Making took place, Eggplant was never selected as a candidate. He looked on forlornly as his friends Avocado and Cucumber were repeated picked, and puffed resentfully when he was passed over for the smelly fishy Tuna.

One day, an Experimental Chef came wandering into the Japanese Market looking for inspiration. She wanted a weeknight dinner dish that was quick, easy to make, yet delectable. As she passed by the Eggplant, he called out to her, “Oh pick me, pick me! Take me home and make me into a sushi roll!”

The Experimental Chef was skeptical. “But sushi ingredients are usually fresh and raw. You would have to be cooked. And how would I flavor you to complement the rice and nori?” Eggplant replied, “But aren’t you an EXPERIMENTAL Chef? Isn’t it your business to figure these things out?” At a loss for a good comeback, the Chef shrugged, put the Eggplant into her basket, and headed home to figure out how to tackle this challenge.

After some pondering, the Experimental Chef went to work, mixing up sauce potions, cooking the Eggplant and it’s friend the Beech Mushroom, and rolling the sushi. As she took a bite into the roll, a smile spread across her face. She thanked the Eggplant for reaching out to her, and vowed to share this wonderful recipe with the world.

That night, the Eggplant sat in Shelly’s Belly, content that he had fulfilled his lifelong wish. He hoped that his brothers and sisters would also make an appearance in a sushi roll sometime soon.

The Eggplant

Beech Mushrooms (selected companion for the Eggplant)

Eggplant & Friends:

  • 3 Japanese Eggplants, sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch strips
  • 1 handful of Beech Mushrooms
  • 2 cups Long Grain Rice
  • 4 large pieces of Toasted Nori Seaweed
  • 1/3 cup Rice Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Mild Miso
  • 3 Tbsp Ponzu Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Mirin
  • 3 Tbsp Agave Nectar
  • Toasted Sesame Seed, to dress
  • Peanut Sauce or Mayonnaise, to garnish

Roll With It!

  1. Make the Sushi Rice. Proportion – 2 cups Long Grain Rice + 2 cups water + 1/3 cup Rice Vinegar + 1 Tsp Mirin + 1 Tbsp Agave Nectar. You can make this in a rice cooker or on a stove top. I prefer to stick it in the rice cooker – fluffy perfection every time!
  2. Create a Saute Sauce Potion with: 1 Tbsp Miso + 3 Tbsp Ponzu + 1 Tbsp Mirin + 2 Tbsp Agave Nectar
  3. Heat up a frying pan with some canola oil. Saute the Eggplant with half of the sauce until fully cooked. Take eggplant out and set aside in a small bowl
  4. Saute the Beech Mushrooms with the same sauce until cooked. Set aside in another bowl
  5. Set a Nori Sheet on a flat surface. Take about 1/2 cup of the cooked rice and spread on half of the sushi.  Place the eggplant and mushroom on top. Sprinkle with Sesame Seeds and roll the sushi, using small amount of smashed rice to glue it together at the end.
  6. Drizzle with Peanut Sauce or Mayo (optional). Cut into desirable pieces, and enjoy with pleasure!

Variations:

  • I really think this could have used some greens – something like spinach or watercress would have been great!
  • Other cool veggies I’d like to try: Bamboo shoots, shitake mushrooms, celery, zucchini, roasted bell peppers, yams.
  • Instead of rice, I think it’d be interesting to use mashed potatoes or hummus.
  • Try some other sauces – what about a citrusy vinaigrette, or maybe a mildly curry flavored mix?

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Thanksgiving – the gathering of loved ones, the expressing of gratitude, the stuffing of food!

Did you, like me, abandon your calorie count and gorge yourselves at your spectacular Thanksgiving Feast? Are you as tired of leftovers as I am?  Does your stomach groan when it hears the words “Gravy”, “Gratin”, and “Casserole”?

If so, I thought I’d spare you all the recipes of the fluffy sweet potato souffle and the cheesy eggplant zucchini gratin and post a dish that is still related to this holiday, but may not have been on your Thanksgiving table.

Chinese Sticky Rice (also known as Nuo Mi Fan) has been a tradition in my family since well as long as I can remember. Instead of the traditional bread cubes or cornbread, we make our stuffing with good old rice!  What’s not to love? It’s a dish that’s aromatically fragrant, infused with ingredients that trigger your “umami” tastebuds, and a refreshingly healthy choice next to all the bubbling cheese and sugary pies. I’ll admit, it’s a time consuming recipe, but worth every minute. AND it’s not just for Thanksgiving, which means you can enjoy it…right now (or more accurately in 3 hours)!

Our Thanksgiving Feast (Chinese Minestrone Soup, Eggplant Zucchini Gratin, Sweet Potato Souffle, Stuffed Mushrooms, Sticky Rice, and Sesame Peanut Noodles (surprisingly the most popular dish of the night!)

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 cups short grained sticky rice
  • 2 cups veggie broth
  • 1 handful chinese black mushrooms (soaked in water until soft), sliced
  • 3-4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp chili sauce
  • 1 cup Morningstar veggie sausage crumbles
  • 1 cup of frozen mixed corn/peas/carrots (or you can use fresh ones)
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • canola oil (to cook with)

Sticking Together:

  1. Soak the sticky rice in cold water for 2 hours (make sure water completely covers the rice by at least 1 inch in excess).
  2. Indulge yourself and catch up on some blog reading or tv shows while rice is soaking 🙂
  3. In a frying pan or wok, heat up some canola oil and throw in the sliced mushrooms and Morningstar crumbles adding in just a tad bit of soy sauce and salt & pepper. Stir fry until you can smell the aroma of the black mushrooms.
  4. Add in the corn/peas/carrots/veggie mix and continue to stir fry for a couple minutes
  5. Drain the sticky rice and add to the pan/wok.
  6. Stir in the remaining soy sauce, sesame oil, chili sauce, and half of the cilantro until rice is well coated and mixed
  7. Now, add the veggie broth, making sure rice is mostly covered. Turn the heat to medium low, cover with a lid, and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  8. When the rice is done, all liquid should be absorbed and it should have a soft, sticky consistency.
  9. Next, mix everything up again, add in any last minute flavoring, garnish with the rest of cilantro, and…Bon Appetit!

Variations:

  • Like fried rice, you can add in any of your favorite ingredients. I’d advise that the black mushroom remain a staple because it adds so much flavor but here are some other suggestions: Water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, snow peas, cabbage, spinach, hard tofu cubes, leeks.
  • Feel free to add in other spices and flavors that strike your fancy, like curry, five spice, oyster sauce, or sweet chili sauce.
  • Take some seaweed wrappers and wrap them inside like sushi for a twist
  • Wrap them in some spring roll wrappers and you’ll have yourself a Chinese burrito!
  • If you’re in the mood for something sweet instead, simply swap the soy sauce and savory ingredients for agave infused water and raisins, dates, and red bean paste.

And if you’ve made it this far down, I’d like to express my deepest Thanksgiving thanks to all of you! The support I’ve gotten and the friendships I’ve made through this blog has added so much flavor and excitement to my life. So I’m passing on this 09 blog appreciation award to all of you before 2009 ends! Thanks to Kristy for passing this along to me.  Kristy’s enthusiasm in the kitchen and her effervescent personality is just infectious. She has been such an inspiration and her blog is full of delights and surprises, so give it a visit if you haven’t yet!

I also received this awesome Peas Love Carrots award from Mathea. Mae is a truly original artist and total trendsetter, even though she emphasizes that she is not “hip”. Her ideas are astonishing, her writing is whimsical, and her creations are imaginatively exceptional. I’m hoping she won’t get mad at me for not 100% following the rules and posting 7 odd facts about me. I’ve already done that and I’m afraid posting 7 more will really make all of you wonder if I’m quite right in the head. However, I will pass on the blog love to people I haven’t had a chance to pass on an award yet.

  1. Kristy @ My Little Space – I think the above says it all!
  2. Sanjana @ Ko Rasoi This is a girl who knows how to make extraordinary food and has a warm personality to match
  3. Noelle @ A Singer In the Kitchen Someone who shares my predicament/adventure of having a carnivorous man in the house
  4. Rochelle @ Acquired Flavor Delicious and original recipes, complemented with mouthwatering drool-inducing photos 
  5. Divina @ Sense and Serendipity Stumble upon some serendipitous posts on nutritious dishes – you’ll be happy you did!
  6. Penny @ Jeroxie Her posts will make you feel like you are right there living through all her adventures
  7. Joy @ joylicious Make some discoveries in the joy of food!

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DSCN0646Inspired by a delicious, couldn’t-stop-eating-it pasta salad from a catered lunch event, I decided to create a creamy pasta dish based on 2 hero ingredients – Leeks and Mushrooms.

Leeks have long been one of my favorite ingredients to work with. Sweeter and more subtle than its onion cousin, leeks add depth and complexity to any dish with its delicate, buttery flavor and silky texture.  And there’s nothing more mouth-watering than the hearty flavor of earthy mushrooms to whet your appetite. For my adaptation, I decided to braise the leeks and mushrooms in broth and red wine, and complete the dish with a creamy tarragon sauce for a French twist.  Tarragon, next to Basil and Cilantro, is one of my favorite herbs. Its aromatic sweet smell permeates the kitchen while you cook, and its hearty, almost meaty flavor adds dimension and mystery. Finally, I chose Farfalle for its beautiful butterfly shape and suitability with cream sauces.

Ingredients:

  • Approx 6-8 oz of Farfalle Pasta
  • 1/2-1 leek, thinly sliced (focusing on the white or light green part, which is the most tender)
  • 1 pkg of crimimi/baby bella mushrooms, quartered
  • Tarragon
  • Vegetable broth
  • Heavy Cream or Half & Half (I prefer the non-fat kind)
  • Red Wine (I used Pinot Noir)
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Swiss Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper (i like using Fleur De Sol – any type)

1. Prepare the pasta – flavor water with salt, boil for 10-15 min until al dente, drain, sprinkle with a little oil, toss, and set aside.
2. Saute the leeks with butter, fleur de sol (or just salt), black pepper, and a little broth until leeks are tender and the aroma fills the kitchen, taking care not to overcook the leeks (brown leeks are not yummy).  Remove from heat and set aside.
3 Saute the mushrooms with butter, salt & pepper. When mushrooms start to brown and soften, add broth, wine, a pinch of tarragon. Cover, and braise for about 6-8 minutes (simmer on low heat) until mushrooms are thoroughly flavored.
4. Add the leeks and Farfalle. Add some cream, more broth and red wine and another pinch of tarragon.  Turn to low heat and let sauce thicken. Toss in 1/5 cup of parmesan cheese and 2 oz of grated swiss cheese. Mix well and serve hot!

DSCN0640

Subsitution Suggestions:

  1. Substitute red wine with port or sherry to add a sweeter flavor. Try dry white wine for a milder taste.
  2. For an Italian twist, try Basil instead of Tarragon
  3. Mushroom varietals like portabella, white, oyster, would all work in this dish
  4. Replace Swiss Cheese with any of the following: Gruyere, Fontina, Mozzarella, Edam, Gouda, Pecorino, Romano. Or skip it altogether. It’ll be just as good!
  5. If you’re an Omnivore (like Brian), you can add chicken strips
  6. If you’re a Buddhist Veggie (like my parents – meaning you don’t eat Onion/Garlic/Leeks) you can use Asparagus instead.
  7. For a fresh citrus kick of flavor, grate some lemon zest on top

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