Tag Archives: parmesan

Romantic Mains to Impress

10 Feb

Even though I am not currently dating someone special… I still like to cook something nice, even if it’s just for myself.

After all, Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate LOVE and there are many ways to express and celebrate love – love towards your parents, love towards your kids, love towards your siblings, love towards your pets, love towards your partner, love towards your neighbors, your family in general, your co-workers, your friends and most of all, LOVE TOWARDS YOURSELF.  Because, if you don’t love yourself, how do you expect others to love you too???

Here are a few ideas I have cooked in the past to impress a few loved ones…  hope you choose to make one to impress YOURSELF!!!

Cheese, Spinach and Mushroom Manicotti

My Plate

Roasted Stuffed Tomatoes over Pasta

Roasted Stuffed Tomatoes - 3 tom

Spinach-Stuffed Mushrooms

My Maggiano's Mushrooms

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Bake

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Asparagus Tart

ASparagus Tart - Before 2 KFC

Korean Seasoned Tofu

Sesame Sauce

Chame’s Spinach Salad with Figs and Blue Cheese

Chame's Salad

Poached Pears with Blue Cheese and Almond Praline

pear-w-blue-cheese-2-comp

Quinoa Pasta with Baby Spinach

14 Jan

I love pastas… and when trying to do gluten-free for a few weeks, I crave it more and more each day.

We found this new pasta over at Costco – QUINOA PASTA!! I was skeptical at first, but it’s awesome! Cooks just the same and even better, I might add, than Tinkyada Rice Pasta, which for years has been my gluten-free pasta of choice. It withstands being left in hot water better than rice pasta.

This is a great recipe that combines pasta and salad all rolled into one… it’s basically pasta, salad and vinaigrette. It’s easy to make, delicious to eat, fast as it takes as long as the pasta takes cooking and even works great for company. I am planning to make this for someone new I’ve been seeing lately. Shhhhhh!!!! But, that’s just between you and me, OK??

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QUINOA PASTA WITH BABY SPINACH

2 heaping cups of dry quinoa pasta
4-5 large handful baby spinach
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2-3 tbs of olive oil
The zest of 1 lemon
The juice of ½ of that same lemon
¼ cup parmesan cheese, optional
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and cook pasta according to the package directions. I usually boil the pasta for about 7-8 minutes, kill the heat, cover the pot and allow the pasta to continue cooking in the hot water.
  2. In a skillet over mdium-low heat, add about 2tbs of olive oil and the 2 garlic cloves. The garlic will infuse the oil with its taste. Allow the garlic to cook a bit in the hot oil, but don’t fry it, cook it just until it starts to change colors. Take the garlic pieces out and discard them. Turn off the heat and add the lemon zest, the juice and season with salt and pepper. Mix together and keep in hold until the pasta is done.
  3. Drain the pasta and return to the same pot. Add the baby spinach and the olive oil/lemon mixture. Toss well to combine. The heat of the pot and the pasta will start to wilt a bit the spinach. It’s possible you may need to add the spinach in batches, but that’s ok. I like that some of the spinach wilts more than others.
  4. Add an additional drizzle of olive oil and the parmesan cheese, if using. Toss one last time to combine and serve immediately.

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Bake

11 Nov

I will be honest… I learned this recipe from somewhere on the Internet. The thing is… I can’t remember where or who to give the credit to.

I made this recipe for the first time about 3 years ago when I was staying with my sister for the birth of my nephew, who turned 3 recently. I was craving eggplant… and I wanted an easy way to make it without frying it, which you all know is my favorite eggplant preparation. I did it at home in Puerto Rico and also at my sister’s after scoring a huge bag of eggplants at The Boys Farmer’s Market.

I vaguely remembered what I did the initial time I made it. So who knows, maybe I did came up with THIS version after all.

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Eggplant and Goat Cheese Bake

1 medium eggplant, find one as light as possible, peeled and diced
1 pint of grape tomatoes, divided, all cut in half
1 tbs of dried basil, I use freeze dried
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 ounces of goat cheese
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, optional
Brown Rice Fettuccini, I use Tinkyada brand
  1. In an oven-proof dish place all the diced eggplant pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, minced garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss all to combine well.
  2. Add over the eggplant half of the grape tomatoes that you’ve cut in half already. Leave aside the rest of the tomatoes.
  3. Sprinkle the dried basil over the tomatoes. Add the goat cheese inc crumbles over the tomatoes. Drizzle a final stream of olive oil over everything and a last sprinkle of salt and pepper to make sure everything is well seasoned.

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4.  Place in a 375F oven for about 40 minutes. Turn off the oven.

5.  Boil water to make the pasta according to the package directions. I use Brown Rice pasta, but you can use your favorite brand/kind

6.  Drain the pasta, return to the pot and add the eggplant bake. Mix well to combine. Add Parmesan cheese, if using. Add the fresh tomatoes you set aside earlier. This adds an element of freshness that contrasts really nice with the creaminess of the baked eggplant.

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Serve with your favorite salad and baked plantains on the side…  This is so easy to make ahead and just re-heat when you’re boiling the pasta.  Easy dinner without a lot of tending to it.

Kick-butt Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

29 Oct

I think the Internet is a wonderful thing… I was planning the menu for my nephew’s 2nd birthday and we had decided to make a vegetarian lasagna and a meat lasagna. I wish my sister would have been satisfied with just the vegetarian lasagna, but she insisted to have something for the non-vegetarians – as if they could not eat my vegetarian one. I was not thrilled about the idea, but someone else was in charge of that dish.

Then, my competitive nature kicked in… I am the aunt of this kid. I have a vegetarian blog. I want to ensure that most people on this party prefer the vegetarian lasagna to the non-veggie one. I want my vegetarian lasagna to BLOW THE HEAD OUT OF THE WATER of that meaty lasagna. This is not about converting anyone to becoming vegetarian. This has nothing to do with the person making the other lasagna. This is a statement… a statement that a delicious lasagna does not need to have meat in it. And not only I wanted to make delicious lasagna… but preferred over a meaty one.

So I decided to throw the challenge to my friends on the internet. I posted my challenge on Serious Eats Talk section. I wanted to see if I could get some inspiration from the folks out there… many of them non-vegetarian who might have some pretty awesome ideas on what to serve. My initial idea was my Spinach and Almond Lasagna in a White Sauce, but I was game to making something more complex.

Kenji, one of the editors of Serious Eats rose to the challenge… not only giving me ideas for this mega-lasagna- throw down I had going on in my head, but actually coming up with a recipe and making it in the middle of the night. Literally… he was cooking at 2AM in the morning. He mixed spinach and mushrooms and gave me some pointers on the technique to use no-boil lasagna noodles. I was so excited by all the recommendations… but I was most impressed and baffled by the fact that Kenji thanked me personally for inspiring him to make this lasagna he had never planned on making.

So of course, this is the lasagna I made for my nephew’s birthday. I cooked all the components and assembled the lasagna the night before. We baked it the night of the party. The people were enticed and almost hypnotized by the smells coming out of the kitchen that night. My sister was impressed by the mushroom mixture. The lasagna already had a following even before we hit the oven.

We baked the meaty lasagnas first… because I just did not want my vegetarian lasagna to be “contaminated” by the smells or potential platter of the meaty ones. So my lasagna had little time to rest before we actually served it. This is how it went:

  • Someone who’s not vegetarian decided to wait until our lasagna was baked off because they were waiting to try ours. She was hoping everyone would fill up on the meaty one so there would be more of the vegetarian one for her to eat.
  • A vegetarian guest was so appreciative that we had something she could eat blindly.
  • I was serving my lasagna, mostly to avoid serving utensil cross-contamination… and when people got to my lasagna they were mostly regretting they had served themselves such a large piece of meaty lasagna. Some people divided their meaty lasagna piece with someone else so they could serve themselves also a large piece of our veggie lasagna.
  • My intention is not to convert anyone into vegetarianism, but someone told me they would become vegetarian if I would cook for them every day. And they invited me to make this lasagna again at their home… because they could not believe I had tried that recipe for the first time on a house full of guests. I was that confident on Kenji’s recipe and my skills…

Here is a picture of my version of the lasagna… but I rather share with you Kenji’s pictures, as well as his recipe. I made some modifications as he used an egg and my mom and I do not eat eggs. So here is the link to the original recipe and my adapted version.

Photo courtesy of J. Kenji López-Alt and Serious Eats

KENJI’s KICK-BUTT SPINACH AND MUSHROOM LASAGNA

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing baking dish, divided
3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 pounds washed fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound cottage cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, divided
1 package (15 sheets) no-boil whole-wheat lasagna noodles
24 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
2 medium shallots, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons fresh juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons spelt or whole-wheat flour
2 cups whole milk
1 bag of shredded Italian blend cheeses
12 ounces whole milk mozzarella, grated, divided
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until foaming subsides. Add garlic and 1 shallot and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach in batches, allowing previous batch to wilt before adding next. I saved a handful of fresh spinach on the side. I thought I had read it as part of the recipe, but now I can’t see it anywhere…
  3. Once the spinach is in the skillet and wilted, add 1 cup heavy cream. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a strong simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until thick and reduced, about 15 minutes. Add nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. While spinach is cooking, combine cottage cheese and 6 tablespoons parsley in the bowl of a food processor. I was suppoed to mix this in a food processor, but I totally skipped this step… and just mixed the cottage cheese with chopped parsley by hand in a bowl. I was just not into dirtying something else…
  5. Combine the cooked spinach and cottage cheese mixture in a large bowl. Also, now add the handful of uncooked chopped spinach. Mix well.
  6. Meanwhile, place lasagna noodles in a 8- by 13-inch baking dish and cover with warm water. Allow to soak, agitating occasionally to prevent sticking, until lightly softened, about 15 minutes. Transfer in a single layer to a clean kitchen towel to dry.
  7. While noodles soak, wipe out spinach pot and return to medium-high heat. Add 3 more tablespoons butter and heat until melted. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and mushrooms start to sizzle, about 10 minutes. Add the other shallot and thyme and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and softened, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and lemon juice and stir to combine. Add remaining heavy cream. Bring to a simmer, and cook until lightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to another bowl. It’s amazing how quickly the cream in the mushrooms thicken in comparison to the spinach…
  8. Wipe out pot and return to medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and heat until melted. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until light golden blond. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Stir in 2/3rds of the bag of shredded Italian cheese blend and parmesan, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. To assemble lasagna, dry the 8- by 13-inch baking dish and grease with butter. Add 1 cup cheese sauce to bottom of dish. Lay three noodles on top of it, spacing them evenly across the bottom of the dish (there will be some gaps between each noodle and the edge of the pan. This is fine). Top noodles with a bit more sauce and add an even layer of half the mushroom mixture, add some of the shredded cheese and parmesan, then top with another three noodles. Add a bit of sauce again, top with half of spinach/cottage cheese mixture, add some of the shredded cheese and parmesan, then top with another three noodles. Repeat layers with remaining mushroom mixture, spinach mixture, and noodles, ending with a layer of noodles. Pour remaining cheese sauce over top and spread evenly. Sprinkle any remaining shredded cheese and parmesan and place slices of fresh mozzarella evenly over top.
  10. Bake until lasagna is bubbling around the edges, about 20 minutes. If you made the lasagna the night before like I did, allow 30 minutes in the oven to make sure the inside is cooked. Switch broiler on and broil until top is lightly browned, and stay close. It’s no fun going thru all this trouble just to scorch the top of your lasagna…
  11. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Photo courtesy of J. Kenji López-Alt and Serious Eats

We rounded up the menu with a green mesclun salad they sell at The Boys with Avocado and Tomato and a Citrus Ceasar Dressing.  We also served Baked Plantains and Garlic/Parsley Bread.

Thanks Kenji for going above and beyond the call of duty on this one… I was expecting just a combination of ingredients/flavors and maybe a link to a past recipe. Instead, you developed something utterly delicious for me and our guests to enjoy. In my eyes… the VEGETARIAN LASAGNA WON!!!! And that’s all thanks to you…

Hummus

30 Aug

There used to be a time when people paid me money for this Hummus…  Annie Mariel, Laura, Ana Yolanda, Angie, Denisse, Elinor, Lillian – they all have sung the praises of this hummus recipe. That’s why I had not shared it as such in this blog.  Now that I am sort of retired from the pseudo-catering business, I feel comfortable posting it here.

It’s funny that I do not like to eat beans necessarily, but I learned to love hummus.  My version is special because I like it lemony…  to me this is what makes this recipe better than those store-bought hummus.  Hope you learn or teach someone  to love legumes by making this recipe…

 

HUMMUS

1 can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans – I still have not been able to figure out how to make the garbanzo beans from scratch
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
juice of one lime
about 1/2 cup of olive oil – enough to make the mixture as creamy as possible
1 clove of garlic, minced
¼ cup of water, optional
salt and pepper to taste
a dash of paprika
 

I usually make this recipe eye-balling all the ingredients…  so this is my best attempt to give your measurements and proportions.

  1. Rinse the garbanzo beans. 
  2. Place garbanzo beans, cheese, garlic, lime juice salt, pepper, paprika and some of the olive oil in a food processor.
  3. Pulse until the mixture is creamy.  If the mixture is not as creamy as it should be, add the water and a bit more olive oil in small increments until you reach the texture you seek.

 

A friend and ex-neighbor from Israel told me the lemony kick is very much in line with the way they make hummus in Israel.  I remember eating a lot of hummus in Israel and it was all delicious!!!!

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