Recipe du Jour: Springtime Pasta Primavera

6982594724_91e5f0cfaa_o I try to eat in season.  It’s cheaper to do so, and once the farmer’s market starts, it’s hard not to be drawn in by the delicious looking vegetables.  Something that I don’t get to eat often is asparagus.  It definitely strikes me as a spring vegetable, and the spring is so short where I live that the season never seems to last long enough to work.  But I guess thanks to the mild winter, plants are cropping up earlier, and lasting longer.

Anyway, this means that a couple weeks ago, I acquired some local asparagus, and then later at the farmer’s market, a pound of local broccoli.  I used some of the asparagus as a side for our Easter ham, but I still had some, and a lot of celebrations had caused us to eat out a lot.  So I needed something that would use up these vegetables before they went off, and what better way than pairing with pasta.

This is really more of an idea than a recipe.  My friend Erin and I did a similar dish for one of our weekly dinner nights some time ago, but I’ve kept the idea around since then.  I normally don’t improvise when I cook, preparing to follow a recipe, even if it’s a mental one or adding certain things until it tastes right.  I’m not confident enough to wing it.  But this is little more than a saute, and has lots of room for using things up.  I also enjoy the chance to exercise my presentation skills, playing with colors in my food.  (Apologies for the fuzzy photo.)

Ingredients:

  • Pasta of your choice (I used whole wheat penne)
  • Asparagus cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • Broccoli cut the same
  • Diced onion
  • Carrot matchsticks
  • Red bell pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Broth of some kind
  • Herbs/spices
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Cook pasta to your taste.  Saute the asparagus, broccoli, and onion in the olive oil until they start softening a little.  Add some broth and cover.  Cook until crisp-tender.  Add garlic, bell pepper, and carrots.  Season with salt, pepper, and herbs, and cook until fragrant.  Serve over pasta, sprinkled with parmesan.

Notes:

If you use a veggie broth, this dish is a good vegetarian dish, and even with chicken broth, it’s a nice veggie heavy dish, something that I don’t eat as often as I should.  Since it’s more idea than recipe, it’s also great for using up things that you may have left in the fridge.  I could have added leftover meat, for example, or changed out the veggies.  I actually forgot to add any herbs or spices when I made it this last time, so it was a bit plain, but still very filling.

Advertisements

Recipe du Jour: Garlic Cheesy Bread

7106208965_8612eeb765_o There is a local Italian restaurant called Victoria’s, where they have a bubbly cheesy bread that they serve with marinara and Alfredo sauces.  The cheese is thick and gooey, with the edges having a slight char to them.  It’s fantastic, and while the pasta at Victoria’s is great, this is the thing I always have to eat.  Always.

Well, after one of the Weekly Girl Dinner Nights, I had some leftover Alfredo, some leftover french bread, and some leftover mozzarella.  I also had some leftover marinara from ordering pizza that week as well.  So, I decided to try to duplicate the Victoria’s cheesy bread.

Ingredients:

  • Leftover french bread, cut in half as for a sandwich, and then into smaller pieces to fit on the cookie sheet
  • Mozzarella, shredded
  • Garlic powder
  • Butter (optional)
  • Marinara and Alfredo sauces

Directions:

Arrange the bread on a cookie sheet, and preheat the oven to about 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spread the butter on each piece of bread and sprinkle with garlic powder.  Heap the mozzarella onto each piece.  Place in the oven and cook until the cheese is bubbly and browning on top.  (You may want to turn on the broiler if you’re worried about the bottom burning before the top is brown.)  Serve with sauces on the side.

Notes:

The pieces in the photo look so dark because I forgot to put the garlic powder on before the mozzarella (I wasn’t sure I’d have enough cheese), so I ended up sprinkling it on top.  Don’t do that!  Not only does it burn funny, the burned garlic powder has a strong taste that isn’t very appealing.  But the rest of it?  The rest of it is awesome!

Also, try mixing the two sauces together before using it on your bread.  Delicious!

Gardening 2012: April Update

7106205859_ba7727fc31_o

So, last we heard, I had only sketched up my plan for my garden this year.  Now, I actually have the plants.  I purchased a bunch of new ceramic pots for my plants, along with dirt and fertilizers.  I actually took a ruler along to make sure the pots I got were deep enough.  Surprisingly, the pots that I reached for first were all too small.  That could have been a contributing factor to my previous failures.  I also switched to all ceramic, as my experience with plastic pots has been bad.  The plastic gets destroyed by my climate, and they always seem to have a “water saving tray” which ends up just a home for spiders and filth, as well as a great place for root rot.

I tried to avoid terra cotta as much as I could.  I have a touch sensitivity that makes it uncomfortable to touch things like chalkboards (ironic since I have to teach at a chalkboard), slate tiles, and certain other rock like surfaces that are both smooth and rough at the same time.  It’s not debilitating, it’s just uncomfortable, and I can force myself to work through it.  Terra cotta triggers this as well.  So, when I can, I try to get glazed pots.  But I can’t deny that terra cotta is not only effective, but it’s also a very cheap option, which glazed pots are not.  (With soil and fertilizers, everything came out to almost $300.  I justify it by saying I won’t need to buy new soil or fertilizers for a few years.)
7106206761_e07df12502_oThe plants were acquired the same day at my local farmer’s market.  I didn’t ask if the plants were organic (remember, I value local over organic.)  I’m also actually avoiding heirloom plants right now.  Heirlooms are great, and I believe they should be preserved, but I’ve also heard that they’re finicky for newbie growers, and not very many varieties are great for containers.  While I was at it, I also re-potted all my indoor plants, as they had been in cramped plastic containers for some time.

These pictures were taken just after everything had been planted.  Unfortunately, we’ve had strong storms lately, so the poor things have gotten rather beaten.  One of the tomatoes is barely hanging on, and the herbs are turning yellow.  I’m not sure if it’s wind damage right, over/under watering, or just too much sun.  The temperatures have been mostly mild, though it’s been cool the past couple days, which has caused some concern, since most of the plants are heat loving.
7106207995_d2f9a12de2_oAll I can do right now is keep watering, maybe a little pruning, maybe a little fertilizing.  If they get a little too hot out front, I can move them to the back.  They won’t be as pretty, and the birds tend to attack them more in the back, so I’ll have to put up netting.  I’m hoping not to have to do that, but we’ll have to just wait and see.

Update on Life

I haven’t been posting a lot lately.  I would apologize, but life’s been pretty busy.  I’ve been doing a lot of paperwork in prep for my new job, and just doing my daily routines.  I will be getting some new posts up in the near future.  I do have a lot to post about, especially as we get closer to the end of the semester.  My garden’s been planted, I’ve been trying new recipes, and I’m planning to do a complete fashion makeover in the weeks before my new job.  Switching from academia to industry is going to be a tough transition, but I’ll be sure to keep you all aware of what’s going on as much as I can.