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This is one of those simple but incredibly delicious dishes that taste like they could be from a restaurant. You know those kind? They’re kind of ridiculously easy and only have a few simple ingredients, but they come together into gorgeous, soul-satisfying dishes.

This one is definitely good enough for company, but it’s easy enough that I could make it as a complete cooking novice in college. I don’t know where the original recipe comes from, but I’ve kind of adapted it along the way anyway, so basically it’s my own creation.

What makes it so great is all of the grape tomatoes. Fresh, bright, and consistently flavorful, grape tomatoes are my go-to tomato of choice when I don’t have tomatoes growing in my garden (which is most of the year). I’m lucky enough to have a bit of an overwhelming bounty of grape tomatoes (and regular tomatoes, for that matter) coming in from my back yard at the moment, so I’ve been searching for recipes to use them up. This old standby of mine came to mind right away.

I used a good amount of those lovely yellow grape tomatoes, which is why the sauce in the photos is the color it is (it kind of blends in with the color of the pasta)- if you use all red tomatoes, the sauce will be pinkish.

It’s so easy – cook up some sweet Italian sausage, onion and garlic, slice a whole bunch of grape tomatoes in half and throw them in the pot, cook it down, and finish with some cream and basil. Easy peasy. And oh so yummy. One note – I used whole wheat spaghetti this time, which is fine, but because it’s such a chunky sauce, it really works best with a shorter pasta like farfalle, rotini, or gemelli.

Creamy Pasta with Grape Tomatoes and Sausage

From: unknown/me!

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 pints grape tomatoes, halved (I used a mix of red and yellow grape tomatoes

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound pasta (short pasta works best)

1. In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, cook sausage and red pepper flakes. Sauté about 5 minutes, breaking up the sausage into small pieces, until the sausage is no longer pink. Add the onion and garlic and cook a few minutes more, until the onion is soft.

2. Add the grape tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are collapsed and very saucy, 5 – 10 minutes. Add cream and parmesan and simmer 5 minutes more. Stir in basil.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta in well-salted water according to package directions. Drain and serve pasta with the sauce and more parmesan cheese.

On Fridays, my husband can come home for lunch (he works 15 minutes away), so I like to make a hot meal to give him some variety from his regular cold sandwiches. He never knows what he’ll come home to – sometimes it’s a tuna melt, sometimes it’s a stew, sometimes it’s soup. Today, it was curried lentils in tomato sauce over brown rice.

I’m on a avoid-sugar-and-white-flour kick right now, and I’m trying to stay away from bread altogether.  I’ve found that cutting bread from my diet makes lunchtime tricky, so I’ve been sifting through the healthy vegetarian recipes on MarthaStewart.com searching for easy, interesting dishes that would work well for lunch – and that’s where I found this.

Granted, eating a super healthy lunch may take a bit more planning than slapping together my beloved peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but it is rewarding. Tucking into this bowl of hearty, flavorful and nutritious lentils was pretty great. It’s spicy and delicious, with just the right amount of kick. It’s very filling, and it’s loaded with good-for-you nutrients like folate, potassium and iron. Lentils are also a good source of fiber and protein. A meal that’s both incredibly healthy and incredibly delicious?  I don’t want to brag, but there were some high fives after lunch.

Curried Lentils in Tomato Sauce

Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart Everyday Food, March 2007

  • 2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and picked over*
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 piece fresh ginger (2 inches long), peeled and finely grated (my piece was big and fat so there was a lot of ginger)
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (optional – I used it)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 jar (26 ounces) best-quality store-bought tomato sauce (I used Prego Chunky Garden Combo)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish (optional)
  • Cooked brown rice, for serving
  1. In a medium pot, combine lentils with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 20 – 30 minutes, topping off water as needed. Lentils are done when easily mashed with a fork.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and ginger; season with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add spices; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds.
  4. Add tomato sauce, lentils, and 1 cup water. Simmer until slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Test lentils – if they are still a bit gritty as mine were, add another half cup of water and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. When the lentils are ready, stir in lime juice and cilantro; season with salt.

*The original recipe called for 2 cans of lentils, rinsed and drained.

All together, now: yummmm!

This was a yummy, hearty, delicious bowl of comfort food goodness. And it was healthy! I used whole wheat penne and the dish is loaded with veggies. Plus it’s meat-free, but you won’t notice it – my husband was shocked when I pointed out that there was no meat. He didn’t miss it at all, and this is a guy who needs meat to consider it a complete dinner. This pasta is extremely satisfying and filling and very flavorful. It’s one of those rare pasta dishes that you can eat your fill and thoroughly enjoy each delicious bite and walk away without feeling bloated or heavy.

I’ll say it again: yum! I need to make this again soon. It’s a perfect fall dish and comes together very easily, but it’s so complex and flavorful that you’d think it came from a restaurant.

Penne alla Norma

Adapted from Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast
Serves: 4 to 6 Prep time: 20 minutesTotal time: 20 minutes
 

Coarse Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound penne rigate (I used whole wheat)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch chunks

2 pints grape tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 cup water, plus more as needed

1/2 cup firmly packed torn fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

  1.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente – I set my timer for one minute less than the shortest time in the directions. Drain pasta and return to pot.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add eggplant; season generously with salt and pepper. Cover, and cook until eggplant begins to release its juices, about 5 minutes. Uncover; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes (if mixture begins to brown too much on the bottom of the pan, add up to a few tablespoons of water, and scrape up bits with a wooden spoon).
  4. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and 1/4 cup water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add tomato mixture and basil to pot, and toss with pasta; briefly reheat over medium-low if necessary. To serve, divide among bowls; top each with a dollop of ricotta, and garnish with additional basil and a couple grinds of black pepper.

Wow, you guys. It has been 9 months since I last posted. Life, and my job, got a bit crazy there for a while. Well, I’m back! And I’m going to do my best to stay on top of this.

So, to kick my little blog into the new year, I bring you a delicious, easy, and unusual dish: spiced couscous and chicken, from the Food Network magazine. I won a subscription to the magazine in a giveaway offered on Beantown Baker’s blog a few months ago. I’m so thrilled I won because the magazine is awesome. I’ve made some dynamite recipes out of the four issues I’ve received so far, and I have a bunch of others on my to do list.

I’ve made this dish twice, and my husband and I love it. It’s easy to put together and it has a wonderful spiciness from the cinnamon and nutmeg. The dish seems to have an Moroccan-influenced flavor, which is very different from our usual fare and a great way to add some variety to our diet. We use Tabasco on this since I’ve never managed to find harissa in the grocery store, and I love that each person adds hot sauce to their own plate according to their tastes. I like mine fairly spicy, but I make liberal use of the Greek yogurt to cool things down again.

The first time I made this, I used Israeli couscous since that’s all I had, even though the recipe called for the regular kind. I made it again with regular couscous, but I decided I like the Israeli kind better.  The original recipe uses only 1 cup of the water, so a lot of that tasty cinnamon and ginger stays in the pot, but my way cooks the pasta in all of the water, so none of the tasty spicy goodness gets wasted. That alteration is reflected in the recipe below. (If you want to use regular couscous, the original recipe is available on the Food Network website.)

The photos depict regular couscous, however, because I guess I didn’t take pictures the first time I made this.

Spiced Couscous and Chicken

Adapted from Food Network Magazine, October 2010

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 1/3 cups Israeli couscous

2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, separated

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup golden raisins

4 scallions, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped

1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for topping

Greek yogurt and harissa, Tabasco, or other hot sauce, for topping

1. In a large sauce pan, sauté the couscous with 1 tablespoon of butter until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add 1 3/4 cups boiling water, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ginger, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 12 minutes. In the last 4 minutes of the cooking time, quickly stir in the carrots and replace cover.

2. While the couscous is cooking, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add raisins, almonds, scallions, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. Cook, stirring, until the almonds are lightly toasted and the raisins are puffed up and it all smells irresistibly fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the chopped cilantro.

3. In a large bowl, mix together couscous, shredded chicken, and almond mixture. Serve topped with a dollop of yogurt, a sprinkling of cilantro and a shake or two of hot sauce, if desired.

Serves four.

I love Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine. My cousins gave us a subscription as an engagement present about two years ago and ever since then I’ve been hooked. So when I found out that there’s an Everyday Food app for my iPhone, and that it was only a buck, of course I bought it. And I generally only stick to the free apps, so you know this was special.

The app isn’t perfect, but it gives me easy access to recipies from issues that came out before I was a subscriber, and that makes me happy. And it stores an alphebetized list of the recepies I’ve saved, so it’s easy to find my favorites again, which is extremely helpful. On more than one occasion there has been a frantic search for a missing issue of Everyday Food that had a recipe I wanted to try, or – even worse! – a recipe I already tried and loved but didn’t copy down yet. So hopefully the app will cut down on that, although it doesn’t seem to include recipes from the latest issues.

Plus it has a “dinner tonight” tab, which gives you a new recipe every day, so I’ve discovered some tasty-looking recipes that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I love that each recipe has a pretty photo of the food, just like the website or the magazine. I hate not knowing what the dish is supposed to look like.

And you can search through the archives for a particular ingredient. I wish it had a browsing feature though, I’d like to just scroll through their archives without narrowing it down by an arbitrary ingredient.

It was through this app that I discovered the recipe for gemelli with sausage, swiss chard and pine nuts. It looked interesting and very very easy, but it had so few ingredients I didn’t really expect much from it. I wanted to try it because it was something new (and it looked like it be a cinch to throw together), but I thought it’d be one of those recipes that I try and then forget about.

Obviously, I was wrong. It was fantastic. I was actually blown away. The flavors were surprisingly complex for so few ingredients (I think we have the sausage to thank for that), and it was very savory and satisfying. I couldn’t stop raving about how much I enjoyed the dish, and I don’t usually compliment my own cooking that way. I was just so surprised at how tasty this was, given how ridiculously simple it was to put together.

Gemelli with Sausage, Swiss Chard and Pine Nuts

From Martha Stewart Everyday Food (unfortunately the app doesn’t say which issue)

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/3 cup pine nuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 lb mild Italian sausage, casings removed

1 lb Swiss chard, tough stems removed*, leaves cut into thin strips

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and Pepper

1 lb gemelli or other short pasta

3/4 cup raisins, plumped in boiling water and drained**

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I think I used 1/2 cup) ***

Directions

1. In a large skillet, toast pine nuts over medium-high heat, shaking the pan to toast evenly, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from skillet.

2. In the same skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage, and cook, breaking it up with a fork, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add chard, garlic, and pepper; cook, tossing, until chard wilts, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover to keep warm.

3. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions, about 12 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain pasta. Return pasta to pot.

4. Add sausage mixture to pasta with 1/2 cup reserved cooking water, raisins, toasted pine nuts, and cheese; toss to combine. Add more cooking water if pasta seems dry. Serve with more Parmesan.

*and feed to your guinea pig if you have one!

** I almost left the raisins out, and I’m so glad I didn’t. They added a pleasant sweetness to the dish, and they really complimented the sausage. I let them sit in the boiling water for a minute or two before draining and adding them to the dish.

*** I use freshly grated Asiago, which is cheaper than fresh Parmesan (especially Parmesan imported from Italy) but I really can’t taste the difference. I wouldn’t recommend the pre-grated parmesan in a green can – it just wouldn’t give you the awesome flavor that the fresh cheese will.