Kale Salad with Apples, White Cheddar and Candied Bacon

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Dare I post another kale salad? I mean, seriously, this is now the third incarnation of this cruciferous salad and neither of my other two were very popular if I’m judging by the comments (which I am).  And I’ve got Apple Bread waiting in the wings, surely a more desirable topic.

However, I shall forge ahead for a couple of reasons. First, it was requested by my lovely book-reading ladies. One, a salad-avoider, finished it and declared it “good”.  A glowing recommendation indeed coming from her. Also, there’s Candied Bacon.  Total game-changer people. Just go with it. The white cheddar, apples and maple dressing took nothing away from the star but are likewise totally appreciated.

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We love kale salad in these parts. We devour it weekly, but we know we’re not normal.  If you’re not sold on kale as a salad green, let me offer some suggestions.  First, make sure you take out the stems. I go so far as to remove some of the thicker veins from the leaves as well.  Next, make sure you slice it thinly, shredding it into fine noodle-like leaves.  Also use ample dressing (without overdressing, be sure to taste test). Or, if you can find it, use baby kale. I was lucky to find a baby kale and spinach mix. Finally, if there’s no way you’re ever going to enjoy kale in a salad, use spinach. And don’t feel guilty. It may be getting annoyingly trendy. And besides, there’s a dark side.

If you serve it before beef brisket with mashed potatoes, scalloped tomatoes and a bacon-Brussels sprout hash, even better. Follow up with Ina’s Berry Crostata. All that’s needed is some wine, a classic novel and a long sunny Sunday afternoon.

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Kale Salad, Redux

Inspired by a snowy President’s Day evening in a local bistro and Diane A Broad, whose gorgeous blog keyed me into the main star.

  • 1 large package baby kale or spinach (about 6 cups)
  • 4-6 strips candied bacon
  • 1/4 cup, or so, brown sugar (for the bacon)
  • 1/2 cup shaved white cheddar
  • 1 apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • maple dressing to taste (recipe follows)

1. To candy the bacon, preheat oven to 375º. Line a baking tray with parchment or foil.  Place brown sugar on a plate and press the bacon pieces into it until some of it adheres.  Place on baking tray and bake for 13-18 minutes or until crispy.  Watch carefully to avoid burning.  Place bacon on a cookie rack over foil to allow grease to drip off.  As it cools, it will crisp more.  Chop and set aside.  (While you’re at it, I doubt you’d regret using the whole package, for there will be curious and deserving creatures sniffing about.)

2. For the dressing, add the following to a jar and shake.

  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • a couple of drops of good balsamic vinegar (optional)

Taste and adjust.  If it’s too tart, add olive oil or more maple syrup.  If it’s not sweet enough, add more maple syrup. If it’s bland, add vinegar.  Blah, blah, blah…you know the drill.

Toss kale leaves in a few tablespoons dressing, being careful not to overdress (taste as you go).  Add apples and toss.  Sprinkle with bacon and white cheddar.  Serve.

Apple Bread is next.  I promise.

Posted in salads | Tagged | 4 Comments

Whole Wheat Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Kale

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If last week’s Daube Provençal was a comforting and multi-stepped (but totally worth it) labor of love, let this week’s post serve as its complete, though no less delicious, antithesis.

It’s vegetarian, so counteracts any meat-eating guilt (I am my father’s daughter after all). It’s wintry in flavors so it still comforts sufficiently to drive away some of the chill brought on by that white stuff that continues to fall (and fall-one more time for good measure-and fall). Finally, this recipe makes up in simplicity for the night before prep and several hour braise of the Daube (I love that word-pronounce it like “dobe” please). You do, however, have to allow a good bit of time, say at least 45 minutes, to caramelize the onions. The nice thing is, you don’t have to constantly hover over them. Check back every few minutes to stir and adjust the flame. Fold a load of laundry, read a chapter, toast some pine nuts, whatever floats your boat. You’ll be eating in no time.

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Adapted from Dinner: a Love Story (my constant counter top inspiration). Makes about 3 servings, since I halved Jenny’s recipe.

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 box whole wheat shells (I love me some Gia Russa)
  • 2-3 large kale leaves, shredded*
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • grated parmesan
  • toasted pine nuts to garnish (optional)

1. Start caramelizing the onions about 45 minutes before you want to eat. To do so, cook them over medium-low heat, in the olive oil, stirring every few minutes (you could sprinkle some salt and pepper here to taste, but the end result is so flavorful, it’s almost necessary).

2. About 25 minutes in, start heating your salted pasta water and cook according to package directions.  Reserve about a 1/4 cup pasta water.

3. Once the onions are nicely caramelized, add the kale (see below), toss to combine and cook for another five minutes, or until wilted. Do your best to separate the mixture as its tendency will be to clump.

4. Add the cooked pasta, and if it seems a bit dry, some pasta water.  Finish with the balsamic vinegar.

5. Add lots of Parmesan cheese to taste and top with the toasted pine nuts (see link in ingredient list for toasting). Yum!

*I shred kale almost weekly for salads and often have some waiting in my salad spinner in the fridge.  To shred it, fold the leaf in half and tear out the stem.  Next, roll it like a cigar and thinly slice (as you would basil, called a chiffonade-Oh how fancy I am!).

Need further caramelized onion inspiration? Allow me to suggest Pissaladière or crostini. Perhaps for your Oscar Party (go Matthew!)? Nothing but good ever came of a caramelized onion.

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Posted in pasta, vegetarian | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Daube Provençal a.k.a South of France Beef Stew

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How’s that for a comeback? I’ve been gone from this blogging world for well over two months now (eek!), but I figured this comforting deliciousness is as good a reason as any to return. I may have lost my readers, but I’m gaining a recipe.  This needs to be recorded before I forget what I did.

So here I am. And here it is.

But first, une petite histoire

Paris, 2006. Norma, Helen, my mom, myself. Chez Agnès. We go for dinner, sent by our guru, Rick Steves. Tiny bistro, one woman cooking, serving, hostessing, you get the idea, and her dog. “Asseyez-vous” (Sit there). Intimidated, I beg myself, please don’t let my french fail me now. Agnès does not allow us to order a Côte du Rhone. “Non, le Bordeaux.” Bordeaux it is. We order, we wait, I speak hesitant French.  Enter young American couple. Agnès, impatient (well, she is alone there), shouts across the room to me, “you, who speaks French, tell him this daube has been cooking since noon!”

And with that, we are in. We are the last to leave, she and her Corsican neighbor (le terreuriste she lovingly calls him) join us for wine and laughs. She bids us adieu with small tins of foie gras. One of the top five magical evenings of my life was the result of translating a statement about this beef stew.

I have no idea if Agnès and her pooch are still there.

But like I said, here I am and here it is.  Maybe it’ll warm you.

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Adapted from Melissa D’Arabian and Joanne Harris’ My French Kitchen.  Serves 6.

  • two pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 inch pieces (fat removed)
  • 4 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 8 (or so) carrots, cut into thick slices
  • 2 cups Côtes du Rhône wine (any good red wine)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 package cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence (or dried thyme)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • handful chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • a few glugs olive oil

1. The night before, marinate the beef pieces, one of the sliced onions and half of the carrots in the wine, vinegar, and bay leaves.

2. The next day, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and pat the beef pieces dry, reserving the marinade and vegetables.  Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over a medium flame and brown the bacon pieces until crisp. Remove to a plate and brown the meat in batches a couple of minutes per side.  Remove to a plate, add more olive oil as needed and repeat.

3. Once beef is browned, add the reserved marinade mixture to the pot, along with the beef, bacon, the remaining onion, smashed garlic and herbes de Provence or thyme.  Scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add a couple of cups or so of water but do not to submerge the beef completely, rather make sure the liquid comes about 2/3 up the beef.  Add the orange zest, nestle the rosemary sprigs in the liquid, cover and place in the oven.

4. Check the liquid level after an hour to make sure not too much has evaporated.  Add water as needed.

5. After another hour, add the tomatoes, mushrooms, and the rest of the carrots. Sprinkle with the flour and mix in.

6. Return to oven for another hour or so.

7. Remove from oven, skim fat from top and add chopped parsley. Serve with Melissa’s macaronade, which I think definitely benefits from the doubling of cheese.

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This may or may not be summer, as opposed to winter, in Provence.  Okay, it is.

Posted in Main dishes, provencal | Tagged | 15 Comments

Celery Salad with Kale, Parmesan and Apples

When at first I was inspired to post another version of my favorite fall side, the ubiquitous Kale Salad, I felt as though there was nothing new to say on the topic.  What, really, can little ‘ole me add to all this kale chatter?

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Not a whole lot, it turns out.  But really the beauty of this recipe lies not in the kale but in the celery.

Huh? Did I just say celery?  Hear me out.  Celery is that vegetable that I always end up tossing.  I buy it for one recipe, usually soup or marinara, and as good as my intentions are (the popular South Beach Diet snack with Laughing Cow cheese perhaps), I never manage to use it.  I’m betting this is a universal dilemma.

Enter Ina’s Celery and Parmesan Salad.  I started with her recipe and added the kale and apples since I was serving a crowd. And guess what. I managed to use all of my celery and create a healthy ( and dare I say refreshing?) side dish to go with Wendy’s baked pasta for our latest book club gathering.

This one’s a keeper folks.  I’ll never throw away celery again.

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For the salad

  • 5 cups thinly sliced celery and chopped celery leaves
  • 3 large leaves thinly sliced kale
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 lemon
  • shaved parmesan cheese

For the dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Start by very thinly slicing your celery.  I broke out my rarely used mandolin for this task but you could just use a very sharp knife.

Place in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt.  Allow to crisp in the fridge as you whisk the dressing ingredients together.  Pour enough of the dressing over the celery to coat and continue to crisp in the fridge while you shred the kale.

Add the kale to the celery and toss.

Just before serving, spread the celery and kale mixture on a platter and top with walnuts, sliced apples and Parmesan cheese.

Posted in salads | Tagged | 2 Comments

Zucchini Pie

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It may be fall on the calendar, but it’s still summer in my kitchen.  As much as I’m looking forward to soups, braises and cider-based dishes, I just can’t go there while temps are in the mid 70s.

And since zucchini, at least in these parts, is still in abundance in the farmers markets and the grocery stores, why not make use?

This particular version of zucchini goodness is from a Real Simple magazine recipe that I clipped years ago.  I hadn’t made it until this summer (opting instead for another one on the same page, a goat cheesey yellow squash custard) but lo and behold it’s been my favorite easy go-to side dish of the summer.  And it’s delicious warmed over.  Fortunately this one will play well into fall since it’s an oven baked dish that can be eaten straight from the oven, or made in advance to eat at room temperature.

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Zucchini Pie 

barely adapted from Real Simple magazine
  • 3 cups zucchini grated (about 2 medium)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup grated provolone cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 4 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, reserving 1 tablespoon of the parmesan cheese.

Spoon into a 10 inch pie plate or a square casserole dish that has been coated with cooking spray.

Bake for 45-50 or until slightly browned.  Sprinkle the reserved parmesan over top and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

 

Posted in sides, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Fish Tacos, Spanish Style (¡Olé!)

Granted, I don’t live in Paris or Provence. Or Ireland, Cape Cod or Saugatuck. Or any of the myriad other locales that regularly fill my residential fantasies.

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But I do live in Ann Arbor, which is pretty great.  And I need to start appreciating that. Much like the lyric of the fabulous Sheryl Crow-“it’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got”.  A tough but important little lesson to learn.

So when I was trying to figure out something profound and interesting to say about fish tacos, and repeatedly coming up empty (other than the usual, Man, were they good!), I decided that this would be an opportunity to start a semi-regular feature on my town, its businesses and unique little spots and nooks that make it such a great place to live.

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The fish, pollock that is, which served as the star ingredient, was purchased at Monahan’s Seafood in the charming enclave of Kerrytown.

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Not only do they have deliciously fresh fish on offer (it ain’t cheap) but they have a quite packed lunch counter that serves the best fish and chips I’ve had this far from the Atlantic.

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It can take some effort to manage a spot here on a Farmers Market Saturday, since Kerrytown is the sight of the twice-weekly and massive local event (more on that later, if this is indeed going to be, and I hope that it is, a regular feature here).

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So the boyfriend had no idea that he’d be taking my camera when he went off to Market for his weekly provisions on Sunday morning .  We had already consumed the fish tacos before I decided to feature Monahan’s.  He did the embarrassing photo bombing for once instead of me but I think he secretly liked contributing.  He was a very good sport. All on-site pictures were taken by him. Nice job Samuel!

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The fish tacos were eaten by us both.  And I love me some fish tacos.  These were slightly different from the usual, with the Spanish flavors, inspired by a recently acquired giant vat of Marcona almonds as well as a recipe I saw on the Rachael Ray shows months ago.  I don’t know how I remembered it but it must have struck me.  Searching on her website is no easy task.  Searching Grilled Romesco Sauce yields over 1,700 results on her site alone. Something’s wrong there.  Anyways, so I desperately need to upload my version of this recipe before I lose it again.

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There’s plenty of worthwhile steps here, from pickling onions to blackening red peppers and tomatoes, so make these on Saturday.

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The leftovers made a mighty delicious salad the next day. So good in fact, that I just might skip the tortilla next time.

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Fish Tacos, Spanish Style

For the toppings

  • 1/2 small red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • handful chopped parsley
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced and pickled (see below)
  • juice of 1/2 a lime (or lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper

First, pickle the onions.  Bring 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons red wine or cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Reduce to simmer and add the onions. Simmer for about 20 minutes and while you move on to the next task.  Remove onions to a small bowl to cool.

Next, whisk an easy vinaigrette for the slaw using the honey, lime juice, salt and pepper and olive oil. Add to sliced cabbage and chopped parsley.  Allow to sit until serving time.

For the Romesco Sauce

  • 1 slice white bread, toasted (I used an English muffin!)
  • 1 whole head garlic
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 serrano chili
  • 1 red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup Marcona almonds
  • 2 splashes Sherry vinegar
  • fresh thyme (optional)
  • olive oil

Preheat oven to 400°. Slice the top off the garlic head and place on enough foil to wrap it. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap the head and roast in the oven for 20 minutes.  This can happen while you’re grilling the veggies.  Allow to cool, then squeeze each clove out of its skin and place in a food processor.

Grill the red peppers (and the serrano) whole  on your outdoor grill or directly on, one at a time, on your stove top burner, making sure to turn until almost every bit is black. Place on counter and cover with a large bowl so that they steam (thank you to the brilliant Joanne Weir for that tip!)

Preheat a stainless steel skillet over a medium high flame and add the tomatoes whole.   Turn until blistered, but not totally blackened, on all sides and allow to steam with the peppers.  In the same skillet add a little olive oil and grill the onion chunks on all sides so that they blacken a bit.  Cool.

Cut the peppers in half and remove the inside and the stem. Next, peel the peppers using your hands and scraping with a knife. Some black bits are okay.  Also peel what you can of the tomatoes but don’t worry about getting all the skin off since they’re going in a food processor.

Add vegetables to a food processor along with the toasted bread, Marcona almonds, sherry vinegar, garlic, thyme and salt and pepper.  Pulse and stream in  about a 1/4 cup of olive oil until thickened but not totally smooth (about 5 pulses). You will have lots of leftover romesco which is good with crackers, tortillas or on salmon burgers.

For the tacos

  • 1 1/2 or 2 lbs. pollock (or any fish in the cod family)
  • 1 package whole grain tortillas
  • seafood seasoning
  • smoked paprika (optional)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • olive oil for pan grilling

Dry the fish with paper towels and sprinkle with seafood seasoning, salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (if using).  Allow to sit for a few minutes while you prepare the toppings.

Pre-heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet.  Add fish and cook for about 4 minutes per side or until flaky.  Add the juice of the lemon at the end.

Now you are ready to assemble your tacos.  Blister tortillas over a burner (or heat in microwave for a few seconds) and wrap in a kitchen towel.

tortilla + fish + cabbage slaw + pickled onions + romesco sauce + squeeze of lime = one amazing taco (and one long recipe).

I served them with wedged limes and lemons and a kale salad with avocado and some of the pickled onions.

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Posted in Main dishes, Seafood | 7 Comments

Classic Pesto with Grilled Bread

Something about starting the school year gives me a distinct and unquenchable desire to take a vacation.  It must have something to do with the impending loss of freedom and gain of anxiety (not to mention those cruel early morning wake-ups).

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Today was my last day of freedom and I chose to spend it in the completion of summer chores and enjoyment of leisurely activities. Balance, right? It was a busy day.

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1. Two morning hours on the patio reading and coffee drinking (check)

2. Weeding and lilac trimming (check)

3. Laundry/ironing (not complete but will get me through the week)

4. Wash last of 7 windows and blinds (not check, will have to wait)

5. Library and bank (check)

5. Duck visiting, more reading (check)

6. Make pesto (check)

7. Write this here blog post (workin’ on it)

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Classic Basil Pesto

Makes one cup. Adapted from Giada de Laurentis.

Even though I’ve been following this recipe for years, my early summer attempts at pesto-making were bitter and unpleasant failures.  I thought I was cool, that I didn’t need to check the recipe.  I’m a foodie I told myself. I know what’s in pesto. Blah, blah, blah.

I read recently that if you make a recipe often, you tend to wing it more and more and get further and further away from the original, until it’s just not right anymore.  I think that was my issue with pesto.  So, back to the recipe for more precise measurements.  As it should, it turned out perfectly.  I used a mix of walnuts and pine nuts, a bit less olive oil, and Romano instead of Parmesan, but other than that, it’s pretty close to Giada’s original. And it works.

  • 2 cups basil, packed*
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts and/or walnuts (not each, but total), toasted**
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

1. Place all ingredients except the olive oil and cheese in a food processor.  Pulse and slowly add the olive oil in a drizzle until the pesto comes together.  It will seem quite runny, but not to worry, the cheese will thicken it.

2. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the cheese.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste (I usually don’t need to since the cheese gives it quite a salty taste).

Pesto freezes nicely in a Ziploc bag but they say not to add the cheese if you’re freezing it.  I usually forget to leave out the cheese and the world doesn’t end.

If you’re not going to use it all immediately, store with plastic wrap touching the pesto, as you would guacamole, and it should keep a few days in your fridge.

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*If you want to make pesto regularly, measure out the 2 cups basil using a measuring cup, then transfer to one of your often used bowls so that next time, you know just to fill that bowl.

**I toast nuts in my toaster oven (350°) for a few minutes. Keep your eye on them because I have burned many a nut!  You could also do so in a small dry skillet on your stove top.

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And so, Grilled Bread!

This had been the culinary revelation of my summer and the easiest way to add a starch to a grilled dinner with summer salads.

Ready, set, go!

  • baguette
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • salt and pepper

Slice your baguette lengthwise and cut into large-ish pieces.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill for only a minute or two (when your meat is resting perhaps).

If you want to get fancy, you can rub the bread with garlic and/or tomato (Pan Catalan!) when it comes off the grill, but I usually don’t bother.

This is a great use for day old bread (buy it cheap and freeze it for this purpose) and is so dang good! My friend Dave thought this was the best part of my Paella dinner earlier in the summer.

Need more Pesto inspiration?

  • Use as the dressing (thin with a bit more olive oil) for a Caprese Salad.
  • Mix with goat cheese and use as a Crostini topping.
  • Add to pasta or gnocchi (but also add a glug of pasta water to help it adhere)
  • Use as the sauce for a shrimp and goat cheese pizza
  • Make the basil balsamic chicken topped with fresh arugula that Rachael made in 7 minutes when her talk show debuted (this is still a great weeknight meal!)
  • Dollop on veggie soup
  • And S’s favorite use, as a cracker topping, straight from the bowl.

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Well, I guess I gotta go to bed.  I’m off to the penitentiary (not bright, but early).

Bonne nuit.

Posted in appetizers, snackies, vegetarian | 8 Comments