48. J’s Brie-Basil Pasta

J and I went to an academic summer camp when we were both 17; I think it was the first time I felt surrounded by so many intelligent and interesting people in the same small place. J and I remained friends over the years, seeing each other when we happened to be in the same city. He came to my wedding and gave me a recipe card RSVP that only said “let’s talk about this one in person…” – eventually, he sent me the following recipe, but cautioned me to wait through the winter months before I attempted it, because fresh tomatoes and fresh basil were key to the meal.

1. 4 large ripe tomatoes cut into 1/2 inch cubes

2. I pound Brie, rind removed, broken into irregular smallish pieces

3. 1 cup fresh basil leaves rinsed, patted dry and cut into strips

4. 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced

5. 1 cup best quality olive oil

6. 1/2 teaspoon salt

7. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8. 1 1/2 pound linguine 9or other pasta)

9. Fresh grated parmigiana-Reggiano

At least 2 hours before serving combine 1-7 in large serving bowl. I usually cover and let sit at room temperature to blend flavors. Also, I put the Brie in the freezer for about 10 minutes before trying to remove the rind. Putting in the freezer helps make it firmer and easier to remove. Otherwise you tend to lose a lot of the Brie as the rind does not come off very well.

Boil the linguine. When done, toss with the tomato mixture. Add grated cheese as desired.

I chose to make this recipe on a day when Husband and I were going to an outdoor festival and I knew we’d be hungry and ready for something savory and fresh when we got home – it helped us resist the funnel cake and fried chicken at the festival, which can’t hurt, right? After a truly spectacular breezy Sunday afternoon, we returned to the bowl of spicings and cheese and tomatoes: I’d frozen the brie for too long, so instead of breaking it into pieces I’d shaved the rind off with a knife and grated the whole thing into the bowl. We made fettuccine and the whole house filled with the pungent Brie scent and the snap of garlic. We twirled the pasta noodles and our lips got coated in cheesy sauce. I used all the fresh basil we had in our garden, which was good timing because the little bucket we’ve been growing herbs in is now swamped with water from recent rains. Hopefully it will dry out and grow back, because this might be my favorite dish yet. I didn’t get quite as much brie as he suggested (I did 8 ounces, plus a spare ounce of goat cheese I had lying around, for one pound of pasta) but I bet it would have been delightful if I had.

What is the quintessential dish of summer for you? I cannot imagine a flavor more summery than basil and tomato, cheese and garlic all rolled together and eaten with the window open and the twilight breeze blowing through the house.

43. Childhood “Loaded”Mashed Potatoes

As a kid, I was fascinated by state-changed foods. I thought that pancake batter puffing into soft, thick cakes was magical; liquid to solid was pretty common. More strange still was solid to liquid, when my mother and I would make mashed potatoes. I couldn’t imagine how those hard, brown lumps turned into the fluffy cloud-like mashed potatoes I loved.

When I was 10 or 11, my parents instituted a rule when I had to cook a meal every week during the summer – it was both to teach me, keep me busy, and help my mom a little. One of my first variations on my mom’s normal recipes was my idea for “loaded” mashed potatoes: namely, normal mashed potatoes full of onions, bacon, and cheese. I clearly have been a girl who loves rich food for a long time.

So, Husband and I were making salmon with potatoes as a side the other evening, when I realized I wanted mashed potatoes – salmon with a little mashed potato on the side was just EVERYTHING for a moment there. So, I boiled a bunch of sliced fingerling potatoes, fried bacon with shallots, and poured it all into my newly-acquired stand mixer. At first I was worried that leaving skins on the potatoes was going to ruin the look, but when I threw a bit of cheddar and a pat of butter in with them, the potatoes whipped up wonderfully. They were thick and had chunks in them, which isn’t nearly like the bright white potato-flake mashed potatoes of my thanksgiving memories, but they felt hearty and flavorful anyway.

It’s this kind of memories that are coming back when I cook more – sure, I love me a pile of take-out chinese food (hello crab rangoons) but it doesn’t hold as many home memories as getting in the kitchen and putting something together. My family only ate out as a treat when I was growing up, probably for money reasons, and while my young adulthood has been filled with eating in restaurants, I am really reconnecting to the way time in the kitchen calms me, employs the problem-solving parts of my brain, and saves me money.

No formal recipe for loaded mashed potatoes; I just recommend boiling the cut potatoes at least 20 minutes, and add proportions of “baked potato ingredients” to your mixer as you feel led.

What recipe have you re-discovered lately? Do you remember specific kitchen moments when you encounter a familiar ingredient or craving? Feel free to comment and tell me about it. 🙂

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So important to boil them long enough… then you get to go wild.

42. Kristin’s Zucchini Bread

27This recipe, like the Avocado Bread from Khadija, was one I found while trying to clean out my cupboards. You know how after a while you have amassed the odds and ends of many different recipes and you have ingredients you didn’t even remember you bought? This summer I’m hoping to get rid of those odds and ends via recipes from blogs I respect, like this one: http://www.yellowblissroad.com/zucchini-bread-recipe/ Yellow Bliss Road is a great example of someone who has turned her passion into a full time job, but who also just produces a really great product.

I found grating zucchini (one of the two ingredients I was trying to finish up; also had a lonely almost-empty bag of flour) very soothing, but I ran into a problem: no eggs in the house! After a quick google search for egg substitutes, I thought I would throw in some applesauce… no go for that either. For a girl who claims to be clearing out the cupboards, I seem to be doing an awful lot of running out of things!

What I did have, however, were two sad neglected apples. I cut them into pieces and grated them straight into my pile of zucchini shavings, added all the other ingredients, and hoped for the best. The result? DELICIOUS. Like, maybe my new favorite sweet bread. It’s moist in the middle but has some integrity to it, and caramelized-crunchy on the exterior… I was totally pleased. Probably even better with eggs, like Kristin intended, but I’m quite pleased. When life gives you no eggs or applesauce, you can still turn old zucchini and apples into the perfect breakfast treat.

38. L’s Lazy Day Lasagna

So, lasagna and I have a complex relationship. On the one hand, I am transported by ricotta, sauce, and noodles – the whole thing screams comfort and is an ideal dish for hiding layers of good veggies. However, I seem to manage to mess it up: watery sauce, too crunchy noodles, pans that don’t neatly fit all of my noodle layers.

L, one of Husband’s friends from Americorps, sent me a promising recipe for lasagna for a “lazy day”, and in my perusal of pinterest I discovered an irresistible variation: the lasagna roll-up. With the roll-up, I got the same tasty fillings but hopefully I could manage the baking stage better? The challenge appealed to me. (I have no pictures of it, sadly, but next time I make it, I’ll update the page!)

As always, I made some tweaks to L’s recipe, but the big one was trying “whole wheat” lasagna noodles giving to me by a friend last week. These noodles came out chewier than average noodles, but I appreciated that when I was spooning filling onto the noodle, rolling them up, and filling a casserole dish with them. I even put pepperonis on top!

I would do the roll-up again, and I enjoy the simplicity of L’s recipe, but I’d encourage you to tweak this the second, third, or fourth time you make it – I made it again with a spinach/alfredo/chicken filling and it was lovely! So it goes when revamping and making recipes your own.

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An example of past lasagna messes… delicious but definitely messy.

L’s Lazy Day Lasagne

 

6 ounces lasagne noodles

ÂĽ tsp dried oregano, crushed

one 15.5 ounces can spaghetti sauce

one cup cottage cheese

one 6 ounce package sliced mozzarella cheese
cook noodles in boiling salted water following package directions; drain. Add oregano to spaghetti sauce. In greased 10x6x1.5 inche baking dish, make layers in order half each noodles, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese slices, and spaghetti sauce. Repeat. Bake in oven at 375` about 30 minutes. Let stand 10 min before serving, serves 4.

34. J’s Sausage Gravy

I don’t remember when I met Husband’s aunt J – it feels like I’ve always known her. She’s the family member who lives closest to us (though she is moving away soon!) and one of the sassiest, strongest women I’ve ever met. She works a management job, which I have very few female role models who do this; she’s also a blast to hang out with and provided us with a good bit of the furniture in our house. Clearly, a wonderful person to know.

For breakfast last weekend, I whipped up this sausage gravy – I was worried that using coconut milk would make it weird and it sort of did; the mixture was a lot thicker than I expected from my Mom’s gravy as a kid, and the tiny back-of-throat sweetness of the gravy was not normal, but the flavor over all was so good that I devoured those biscuits like they were going out of style. I was never a big gravy girl, always a little picky and dubious about sauces, but I’m coming around to this one, especially when it has so much actual sausage in it and isn’t just a roux made of drippings. I would see this as part of a main course over biscuits or toast, not just a sauce on the side. Kept me full and happy for a whole morning of gardening and cleaning.

J’s Sausage Gravy

 

 

  • 1 lb. spicy pork sausage
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ to 1 cup of milk
  • salt and pepper, cayenne pepper.

 

Brown sausage; when fully cooked add butter and let it melt. Add flour 1 tbsp. at a time until all sausage covered lightly. Slowly add salt, pepper, cayenne, to your liking. Cook over medium-low heat; serve over biscuits/toast; top with your favorite hot sauce.

32. C’s Banana Bread

When we were kids, my mom would make banana nut bread that she gave to the neighbors for Christmas. She also made some for us, thankfully, but I remember that while she wouldn’t necessarily stand at the fence and chat for hours with our neighbors, that one time each year she ventured over with foil-wrapped loaves and shared with them. My mother taught me how to have neighbors, which I’m now learning in my own house, in a new city, where that can sometimes be a challenge.

I really don’t know how to make friends with people just because they live next door to me, it turns out. What I do know, however, is that the outside of banana nut bread, when done right, is chewy, not really crunchy or soft but instead almost caramelized. It’s the best part of the bread, though obviously the moist interior is as good or better than any fancy-store muffin or sweet bread you can find.

From my kitchen, I can see my neighbor’s dog tearing around the square of lawn like a banshee. From my kitchen, I can see my other neighbor working on his truck, or another neighbor grilling some dinner. From here, I can take the overly ripe bananas that have somehow survived Husband’s fruit obsession and mash them with other foods, creating the pasty mixture that browns up into that enviable chewy crust. 

This particular recipe isn’t my mother’s; I found one online, substituted pecans for walnuts, and made a brown butter glaze to make sure the top was extra rich. It turned out thick and sturdy, able to hold up in a toaster, and because I had only one banana ready, I added applesauce and so it’s a two-fruit treat.

C’s Banana Bread

2 Bananas, very ripe (or one banana and one little single-serving tub of applesauce)

2 Eggs, large

1 1/3 cups All-purpose flour

1/4 tsp Baking powder

1/2 tsp Baking soda

3/4 tsp Salt, fine grain

2/3 cup Sugar

1/2 cup Pecans

5 1/3 tbsp Butter, unsalted

Combine sugar and butter; cream together. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix the baking powder, baking soda, and flour in a separate bowl. Add slowly while stirring to the butter mixture. Mash bananas and add with the pecans to the mixture; put into a loaf pan and bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes.

 

If you want to brown butter, here’s a technique to use; I added sugar to mine once it was done, to make a glaze, but I just eyeballed it and would suggest you do the same. http://www.thekitchn.com/basic-techniques-how-to-brown-77018

31. E’s One-Pan Pasta

E and I were both a little puzzled by the lack of community when we each moved to a new town for graduate school. We lived in apartment buildings next to each other and met through school; Husband was far away and E was single so we became each other’s frequent companion for grocery trips and long walks and chats about everything new that was happening to us. We were around each other so often that one jokester in our program told me that I didn’t have a boyfriend, that I’d just given E a boy’s name in my phone and texted her constantly.

One of my cherished memories was that she and I would each struggle to cook for one; we had many favorite foods but no recipe is anything but cumbersome in single-serving quantities. Instead, we’d each make large batches that we’d eat on for days, but for a little while, we would also box up some of whatever we made and trade: she’d get some spicy peanut soup and I’d get shepherd’s pie; she’d get mushroom enchiladas and I’d get sweet potato-topped pizza.

After graduate school, E moved to the neighboring state, and came to the wedding as one of my bridesmaids. Her eye for color and style was essential as we prepped the barn and set out all the decorations. Husband’s grandmother couldn’t stop telling me how beautiful E was that evening – from her stylish glasses down to her strappy shoes, she had created a wonderful bridesmaid ensemble. All my girls picked their own dresses, just sticking with the theme of “some kind of green hue” – the result was eclectic perfection.

She sent me a simple recipe for one-pan pasta, which I’d never tried. I use two pans usually: the pot for boiling the pasta, and the frying pan for sizzling up some homemade tomato or alfredo sauce. This pasta looked so good and light that I made it as a side with a different recipe, Chicken Scampi, and it was truly a breeze: chopping the tomatoes, onion, and garlic takes a bit of time, but as long as the onion pieces aren’t thick, don’t worry about dicing them small: as they boiled, they became almost noodle-like and added to the bulk of the pasta. I didn’t have shredded parmesan, so I cut a sizeable hunk of garlic-and-herb goat cheese, maybe 1.5 ounces, and stirred it into the pot – the slight amount of remaining water swirled through the soft cheese and made a very light coating sauce. With the scampi, it was extra good, but I’d eat it by itself (as I’m sure E does; she’s a vegetarian and is always finding delicious, filling ways to avoid meat).

I do wish E still lived close enough for me to bring over a bowl of steaming noodles, but it’s nice that she shared the recipe with me – a long-distance form of food-sharing.

E’s One Pan Pasta

12 ounces linguine

12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

1 onion (thinly sliced)

4 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons salt

ÂĽ teaspoon pepper

4 cups water

 

Combine into a big pan, boil mixture, stir frequently, until water is nearly evaporated. Add shredded parmesan cheese!