Life | Table | Uncategorized

Monday Meal

June 20, 2011
I love trying new recipes and expanding my food repertoire. There's just one tiny obstacle: the reality of time. In reality, I have a job that generally requires me to leave my before 7:45 in the morning; during a typical week I don't ever get home before 6:00 and often walk in the door after 7:00. 
This is not an unusual dilemma…..most of my friends, acquaintances, and colleagues also work (or study) between 40 and 60 hours a week.
I refuse to eat dinner out for the sake of time. If I am spending time with friends over a meal, fine. But I have fully boycotted eating out or relying on fast food simply to save effort. Among other reasons, eating out tends to be both less healthful and more expensive than cooking. 
So how does one balance a desire for healthful, beautiful food with the reality of a crazy work week? Building an arsenal of quick yet healthful recipes takes time, but there are many healthful, creative, lovely meals that can be prepared with a minimum of time and effort.
For a while, Mondays around here will be dedicated to these kinds of recipes. I'm determined to build my repertoire and I hope you'll share in my search! For now, I'm going to share one of my go-to week-night meals.
Pasta with Veggies and Basil
1/2 a bell pepper
1/2 a red onion
Fresh basil leaves
Garlic
Pepper
Olive oil
Farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
Mozzarella cheese
Tomatoes
Fill a small pot with hot water. Add 2 tablespoons (all measurements are approximate) of olive oil and stir. Let the water come to a full, rolling boil and then add pasta. Let the pasta boil for about 9 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Wash and chop the bell pepper, red onion, and fresh basil leaves. Place the chopped vegetables and basil in a medium frying-pan with about 1/8 cup of olive oil. Sprinkle generously with garlic and pepper. Saute on a medium-low heat until onions are transparent and peppers are pliable. 
Meanwhile, chop tomatoes. Place in a cereal-size bowl. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese over the tomatoes. When the pasta is done, drain well and add to the bowl. Add sauteed vegetables. Stir. (The vegetables and pasta should be hot enough to melt the cheese.) Enjoy!

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Life | Table | Uncategorized

Mission: Lasagna

January 16, 2011

I am currently on a cooking tear. But the recent changes in my life mean that I only really have to time to savor cooking on the weekends. On the weekends, then, I'm trying to prepare food that I can use and enjoy throughout the week.

The French Bread was a wonderful example of this. But man cannot live by bread alone. So yesterday, I set out to make one of my favorite meals in the world.

First I cut the recipe for this wonderful marinara sauce in half. Note: I didn't include meat in this sauce this time.

Then I started to build my lasagna. I covered the bottom of a 9" x 13" glass baking dish with a layer of sauce. Then I covered the sauce with a layer of lasagna noodles. I spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese on the noodles and then covered the noodles and ricotta cheese with a layer of mozzarella cheese. After creating three sauce/noodles/cheese layers, I added a final layer of sauce and sprinkled Parmesan cheese generously on top.

I covered the top with foil, sealing the edges tightly. Then I baked it at 400 degrees for 75 minutes. (I checked the lasagna after an hour, testing the texture of the noodles with a fork. Since the noodles seemed a bit stiff still, I let the lasagna cook for another 15 minutes. The cooking time would probably vary between 60 and 90 minutes depending on the oven.)

My roommates and I tackled the result. The lasagna, paired with white wine, French Bread, Butterfinger ice-cream, and a lot of laughter, was divine. The second positive: lunch and dinner for part of the week is already prepared.

 Lasagna

1 4 lb. bottle of Traditional Prego
15 oz tomato sauce
6 oz tomato paste
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup white wine (The original recipe calls for red wine, which is probably a better choice. I only had white available)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 tbl. dried oregano
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 finely chopped garlic clove
1 tbl. olive oil
2 tsp pepper

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil in a large stock pot until the onions become transparent. Add the remaining ingredients and adjust amounts to taste. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Layer sauce, noodles, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese. A regular baking dish should be able to accommodate three layers of each. Cover the result with a final layer of sauce and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees for 60-90 minutes, until noodles reach desired texture. (Test with fork.)

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