Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Baked penne with roasted mixed vegetables

I recently took a trip to visit some college friends in Madison, Wisconsin. While there I teamed up to make dinner with my friend Anna, the author of the food blog Dining and Opining, which discusses both recipes and the historical, environmental, political,cultural and health impacts of food.

Since Anna and her husband Justin are vegetarians, I needed to find a vegetarian recipe. They also requested that I make something that could use up as many of the vegetables they had received in their most recent CSA (community-supported agriculture) box, as they were going out of town for week.

To meet these requirements I decided to use a baked penne with roasted vegetables recipe by Giada DeLaurentiis, though I did not follow it closely. Giada's recipe calls for the following vegetables:
2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cremini mushrooms, halved
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips

I used the following vegetables, since they were what we had available:
1 summer squash, cut into one inch cubes
1 zucchini, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch wide strips
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into one inch strips
About a dozen white button mushrooms, sliced
2 heads garlic, peeled
About a bushel of kale, stems chopped and leaves separated
About 2 dozen sungold tomatoes

One of the fun things about this recipe is that you can choose pretty much whatever vegetables you want to add and it will still turn out well. I've had it with Giada's recommended veggies and my blend and they both turned out delicious. The only thing I would change from my version would be to remove the kale stems, as they were a bit too tough and didn't fit the consistency of the dish. The garlic cloves added a lot of flavor to the dish; I'm kind of shocked there was no garlic at all in the original recipe. The carrots gave it a nice little crunch.

Your preferred blend of vegetables
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix or herbs de Provence
1 pound penne pasta
3 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
2. On a baking sheet, toss the vegetables with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.
4. In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.
5. Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.

The Results

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Goat cheese stuffed burgers

For dinner tonight I made turkey burgers stuffed with goat cheese and spinach. This recipe uses the turkey burgers I posted a few weeks ago, with a goat cheese, cream cheese and chopped spinach stuffing which I found on This is one of my favorite dishes that I've made for the blog thus far. The burgers were nice and juicy and the warm, melted cheese filling made it literally burst with flavor. I'd highly recommend trying these out. They would work just as well with beef as they did with the turkey.

For the meat:
1 1/4 ground turkey (I use the 93% fat free, because the 99% is too dry)
Zest of one lemon
About 1/4 of a large red onion, finely diced
A dash of each of the following: dijon mustard, soy sauce, sriracha hot sauce, salt, pepper, basil and crushed red pepper flakes.

For the filling:
4 ounces goat cheese
2 ounces cream cheese
1/2 a package of frozen chopped spinach

1. Mix the burger ingredients and make them into 8 relatively thin patties. 
2. Mix the filling ingredients. Place about a quarter of the filling onto four of the patties.
3. Top each of the patties with another and pinch the edges closed to seal. (I could have done a better job with this, as the cheese started leaking out while they were cooking. This only affects the presentation, not the taste, so don't worry too much if it happens.)
4. Heat the grill or a lightly oiled skillet to medium-high heat. Cook the burgers until they are cooked through. (Because these are turkey burgers, you really need to make sure they are aren't pink in the middle or they could make you sick. The large quantity of seasonings I used help keep the burgers juicy even when they're well-done. If you're using beef instead, cook to your preference.) 

The Results

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Skillet cornbread

I made this skillet cornbread to go along with the chili I posted last week. The recipe comes from the Food Network. I was happy with how this recipe turned out, as it made a very nice accompaniment for the chili.

1 1/4 cups coarsely ground cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and place a 9-inch cast iron skillet inside to heat while you make the batter.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk in the milk, buttermilk, and eggs. Whisk in almost all of the melted butter, reserving about 1 tablespoon for the skillet later on.
3. Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Coat the bottom and sides of the hot skillet with the remaining butter. 
4. Pour the batter into the skillet and place it in the center of the oven. Bake until the center is firm and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and serve.

The Results

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

White bean chicken chili

For dinner on Sunday I decided to make white bean chicken chili and skillet cornbread. I was inspired by the amazing chili at Ted's Bulletin on 8th Street SE in Washington, DC. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't tried it yet. My version is based on a recipe from This turned out very well, though it wasn't quite as good as the stuff at Ted's. I'll be posting the recipe and pictures for the cornbread in a couple days. This recipe is easy enough to make, you just need to let it simmer for a long time to let it thicken and for the flavors to blend. Definitely worth a try if you're a chili fan.

3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes 
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups yellow onions, chopped (about 2 medium onions)
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds ground chicken (not extra lean breast meat)
2-26 oz. boxes Pomi* chopped tomatoes or two 28 oz. cans chopped or diced tomatoes
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon sugar
1-15 oz. can small Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1. Make spice mixture by combining chili powder, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, oregano, cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon salt in small bowl. Mix well and set aside next to stove.
2. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed nonreactive pot over medium heat. Add onions and red bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring to prevent garlic from burning, about two minutes more.
3. Increase heat to medium high and add the ground chicken and spice mixture. As the chicken cooks, use a wooden spoon to break the meat into very small clumps; cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
4.  Add tomatoes, chicken broth, remaining teaspoon salt and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered (set lid ajar so steam has a few inches to escape), for about one hour, stirring occasionally.
5. Stir in white beans and let simmer, uncovered, for about 50 minutes more, or until meat is tender and flavors are well combined. For a soupier chili, you can add additional water. For a thicker chili, simmer uncovered until desired consistency is reached. Taste and add salt if necessary.

The Results