Tag Archives: pine nuts

School Supplies & 10 Minute Pasta

9 Aug

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I went to Target yesterday. Oh, let me preface that and say: school starts next week and I went to Target yesterday. It. Was. Nuts. At one point Rob looked like he was about to straight-arm a 7-year old just to get to the crayons. I stood at a safe distance while he ventured in and out of the school supply section with Bear Grylls-like prowess, emerging triumphantly with the 64-pack of colors with the sharpener in the back. Rob was unscathed, but as we walked away with the echoes of children crying, yelling, running, my eyes widened with what awaits me in the coming week.

It’s funny; the teacher supply section is not at all near the kids supply section. It is quiet in the teacher section and the glossy books happily stand, emitting joy and hope of future learning. Among one of them, standing out like a beacon of necessity, was Color Me Calm 100 Coloring Templates for Meditation and Relaxation. An adult, Zen coloring book which intends to “help bring you to a relaxed emotional state as a way to self-soothe.” Not so much a teacher resource, but definitely a teacher necessity.

People, do not pass “go,” do not pick up $200, summer is over and all signs point directly to Back To School.

Which, of course, makes me reminisce on the summer. It was a fun, busy, and traveling break, visiting my sister in New Orleans, my friends in SoCal, and hitting every state in New England. Rob and I went to a couple weddings, camped in Maine (praying the lightning storm wouldn’t kill us in the tent – well, I prayed, Rob thought it was cool), backpacked and camped in New Hampshire (cooked a quinoa and cod salad on a rock in the middle of the forest), made it to the top of Mt. Washington, and discovered the wonderfully quaint (and delicious) town of Stowe, Vermont. We spent time with both of our families, relaxing in Connecticut, wine tasting and dining on the North Fork, and currently we are finishing this shooting match back in Jacksonville by lying on the couch as much as possible before time runs out.

While we were very blessed to have such an eventful summer, we are also aware that the whirlwind days of school and deployments are right around the corner.

When Rob deployments coincide with the start of the school year, I kind of fall into a cooking rut. It’s just me (and Sig) in the house; so cooking a full-fledged meal, with leftovers, seems a bit superfluous. My nights can consist of popcorn, wasabi peas, peanuts, and if it was a bad day at work, frozen black truffle cheese pizza. If I’m at all feeling the effect of those really trying days, I’ll even resort to my famous microwaved nachos (organic blue corn chips and shredded jack/cheddar cheese nuked for 30 seconds, then topped with too many drips of Tapatio). But being determined to make this new school year a healthier start, I did a solo-dinner test run.

With Jacksonville’s heat historically lasting well into October, a culinary silver lining is that farm-fresh tomatoes are ripe, fruity, brightly acidic, and will be perfect for a good while now. Another thing about the heat is that spending anytime outside is next to dreadful, and sitting inside gaining cooking inspiration from my many cookbooks is ideal. So after reading Tina Nordstrom’s Scandinavian Cooking recipe for Gnudi with Sage-Roasted Tomatoes and Caramelized Butter, I was inspired.

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When inspiration strikes, I act quickly. My waiting-too-late-to-figure-out-dinner-when-Rob-is-on-a-night-flight hunger made me made me act even more quickly. Thus born was the 5-ingredient, 10-Minute Pasta dinner suitable for a solo meal, elegant enough for quick company, yet comforting and fresh enough to leave anyone feeling last-bite-satisfied.

Ms. Nordsrom has a thing for browned (caramelized) butter, and I don’t blame her. The stuff is awesome. Fabulous, even. And frankly, I don’t use it enough. So here’s my interpretation:

While waiting for 3 tbsp of unsalted butter to heat, melt, and brown in a large pan over med-high heat (browned = the kitchen starts to smell like popcorn and the happy, sputtering butter sound immediately ceases), slice a good pint of farm-fresh grape tomatoes in half. Tossing them into the pan with the butter, the acid from the tomatoes immediately starts to release and emulsify with the fat, creating a silky and fragrant sauce. Seasoning with s&p is key here. I also added about ¼ tsp red pepper flakes, because I’m spicy like that, but it’s not necessary to the dish. Add whole wheat spaghetti (not my favorite, but works oh-so-well here with its nuttiness becoming a star flavor) into a separate pot of salted boiling water. Once cooked through, add the pasta to the tomatoes, and thoroughly toss over low heat. If needed to thin the mixture, add ¼ c of the starchy pasta cooking water to the pan. Adding ¼ c freshly, and very roughly chopped Italian parsley, as well as 3 tbsp of toasted pine nuts into the pan finishes the dish.

This meal was so perfect – super easy, unbelievably tasty with brown butter/pine nut/ wheat pasta nuttiness and tomato-tanginess leaving a lasting buttery taste, cut only by the fresh grassiness of parsley.   I don’t make pasta meals all that often, but this one will absolutely be a back to school staple.

On a side note, that Zen adult coloring book, it is so much fun. Of course I bought it! A supposed calming resource in the teacher’s resource section provided right before school starts? Completely worth the try. Then again, so is the pasta. Back to school or not, this is an end-of-summer recipe homerun for just one, two, or a few to devour!

Enjoy!

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What a Birthday

5 Jul

There’s a school of thought that the infamous “they” proclaim which says the way you are on New Years Day is what shapes the way you’ll be the entire year.   That, among other reasons is why I like to wake up rested, sans hangover, on New Years Day.  I’m hoping the same mindset goes for the 4th of July – the way the 4th is spent will shape the rest of the summer.  If it’s true (and being that I like to occasionally make up my own silly superstitions and pass them on so others will become similarly superstitious), then Rob and I are in for a summertime treat.

Our 4th of July started out with sunshine and ended with sparklers.  We had a perfect day – simple, humble, and just enough of our own festivities to make the day special.  The sun woke us up later than usual (thank you, Sig, for not barking at 5:something in the morning!), and proceeded to draw us up the Oregon Coast towards Cape Perpetua.  The almost 3-mile hike is straight uphill with switchbacks completely up and down.  It helps that the mountain faces the south, thus blocking the Arctic Ocean winds, but doesn’t make the climb any less strenuous.  Climbing only a couple feet behind Rob, my face was level with the small of his back and I could clearly see the sweat soaking through his quickly-turning-darker-shades-of-green shirt.  At one point the sweat turned to stink.

“Oh, well I don’t have any deodorant on,” said like that was totally normal.

“Why wouldn’t you put on deodorant this morning when you knew we were going hiking?”

“Because I’m clean.”

Ok then.

Notwithstanding the climb, it brought us to a view that can only be described with a noise.  A gasping “wow” under the breath might suffice.  Or maybe a low whistle would do.  But if I had to use words, I would only need one: freakingamazing.

We stayed at the top for a while, sitting on stone look-out fence, quietly chatting but mostly not, hoping to see a whale and soaking in the sun with un-SPF-protected skin.  The sea was not nearly calm, but from way up high it looked like dark, etched glass.  The lava-rock cliff beneath us showed millions of years of growth with succulents and wildflowers singing with bees and birds doing their biological jobs, despite the national holiday.  The tropical view made a contrasting picture with the mountain pines standing like tall, skinny guards bordering the horizon.  It made us long for a tropical drink and a bowl of chili at the same time.  A zucchini salad at the bottom of the mountain would have to do.  With our pasty Oregon skin starting to burn, and stomachs starting to growl, we made the trek down the mountain, and a beeline towards the nearest picnic table.

Eating with bamboo forks right out of the bowl, we devoured the salad.  And not just because we were hungry.  The combination of grilled zucchini, sweet cranberries, tangy goat cheese, and pop-in-your-mouth pine nuts made for the perfect outdoor travel lunch.  One of my favorite things to do in the summertime is grill zucchini with olive oil, s&p, and a sprinkling of dried oregano; it’s a great side dish, or even a snack.  But this way may be my new favorite.

Like I tend to do in cars, I fell asleep on the ride home.  We had hotdogs and hamburgers for dinner, and lit our sparkler centerpiece after dusk, waving the wands around like little kids.  At that moment, Sig was probably the most mature out of the bunch.  It was a 4th for the books.

Grilled Zucchini Salad (serves 2 hungry hikers)

  • 2 med-large zucchini, sliced lengthwise 
  • ¼ c dried cranberries
  • ¼ c toasted pine nuts (I toast mine in a dry pan over high heat)
  • 3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  • few leaves of basil, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • s&p

On a large grill-pan, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil.  Prepare the zucchini by drizzling the other tbps of olive oil, oregano, and s&p over the slices.  When the grill is hot (the oil will shimmer like the sun reflecting off the ocean), place the zucchini on the grill cut-side down.  Leave to grill – and do not bother – until brown grill-marks appear, about 5 minutes.  Flip zucchini and grill until the veg is just tender, but still has bite.  Set zucchini aside to cool.

When cool, slice the zucchini lengthwise again (now, there should be 8 slices).  Slice those into bite-sized pieces, like little triangles.  Pour into a bowl, and add the cranberries, nuts, and goat cheese.  Mix well, taste for seasoning, and top with basil.

Enjoy!  

 

 

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