The Traditional Pasta Cacao e Pepe
We’ve been rewatching Somebody Feed Phil with Phil Rosenthal and recently came to his Venice episode and binge watched Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy. During Tucci’s Rome show, he visited Japanese chef Kotaro Noda’s Bistro 64. Chef Noda made the classic Roman dish, Cacio e Pepe.
While we were watching it in the morning, my mouth was watering and I knew what we were having for dinner. I adore pasta (and actually most carb rich foods). To me a bowl of pasta is comfort food therefore, I don’t need an excuse to make it. It took me a couple replays of the segment to get the ingredients and technique down.
A Humble Dish
This is a truly simple and humble dish with six ingredients… seven if you count the pasta water. The stars of the dish are freshly ground pepper, Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses. In 15-minutes you could have this meal.
Looking for another quick and simple meal? Try a bread salad from Tuscany, Panzanella.
- 8 oz Spaghetti
- 1-2 cups salted pasta water
- 3-4 Tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon freshly grown black pepper
- 1 cup finely grated Pecorino
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
- - Cook spaghetti according to the directions adding a generous helping of salt to the water.
- - Drain pasta reserving 1-2 cups of pasta water.
- - Melt butter in large pan stirring in the pepper toasting for a minute.
- - Add a cup of the pasta water and bring to a simmer.
- - Add pasta then slowing add in cheeses tossing together until a "creamy" sauce forms. If the pasta is too dry then incorporate more of the pasta.
- - Finish the dish with more freshly ground pepper.
A fresh and simple meal: roasted vegetable hummus tart.
Folks have it in their minds that preparing good food has to be hard. Good food doesn’t have to be complex. Simple is just as good and often even better. We tend to overthink food. Yes, there are some recipes that complex in terms of techniques, tools, and/or ingredients, but for the most part, simpler is better. Making a veggie hummus tart for dinner. Simple, fresh ingredients.
There is nothing easier than making this roasted veggie hummus tart. All the ingredients are stars in this recipe. Start with simple, fresh ingredients you may have on hand. Chopped up some red peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes and/or eggplant with some fresh chopped basil. Add olive oil with salt and pepper tossing. The end result is delicious roasted veg which will be the topping for the tart. Spread hummus – store bought or homemade – on the baked puff pastry then top with the roasted veg. Perfection. This dish can be served warm or cold.
Roasted Vegetable Hummus Tart Recipe
Roasted Vegetable Hummus Tart
- 2 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon chopped basil
- 2-4 cups mixed chopped vegetables such as peppers, red onion, tomatoes, and zucchini
- 1 sheet of puff pastry (room temperature)
- 1 container plain hummus
- Preheat oven to 430F.
- Place chopped basil and vegetables in a bowl.
- Drizzle the oil over the vegetables and basil adding a dash of kosher salt and a few generous turns of the pepper grinder then toss.
- Spread the mixture on the medium roasting tray lined with foil roasting for 20-25 minutes.
- Prepare the puff pastry sheet by scoring an inch border around the sheet and prick the middle with a fork a few times to stop it puffing up too much.
- Cover with dish towel and place in the fridge until the roasted veg is done.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and top with the hummus, then top with the roast vegetables.
We all have them. The meal that is your go-to dinner when no one feels like cooking, didn’t go to the grocery store, or don’t want to order delivery. For us, it is black bean quesadillas. We can always count on them filling out bellies quickly and easily. It is a simple and quick meal made in 15 minutes with a handful of items I always have on hand:
- minced garlic
- canned black beans
- canned tomatoes with green chiles
- canned “Mexican” corn
- fresh cilantro
- shredded cheddar cheese
- flour tortillas
I do my best to keep my pantry stocked and fridge filled with essential fresh veg for moments listed in the previous paragraph. I always have a bottle of minced garlic, limes, and fresh cilantro in the fridge since I cook them with 3-4 times a week. I don’t know if flour tortillas go off, but they seem to last forever and we haven’t die yet.
Kitchen Tip: To keep herbs fresh put trimmed herbs in a jar filled with cold water, put a plastic bag over it, and keep in fridge changing the water every 3 days or so.
The key to lazy meals is knowing what works for you and building your pantry around it. Our schedules are hectic though we try to keep them in check. There are days dinner is the last on my mind and having a list of go-to meals I can throw together in 15 is wonderful. Take out is great, but it does take a toll on your waistline and wallet.
Back to our go-to meal of black bean quesadilla which was based on a recipe from Real Simple magazine from years ago and has evolved. It is flexible as to how you make it. It is what I call a drain and dump meal. I like to add a splash of lime juice just to the bean mixture for a zing. We add cheese, but it tastes nice without cheese making a good vegan meal.
Looking for other quick meals? Have a look here.
What’s your go-to meal?
- - 1 tablespoons minced garlic
- - 1 can black beans
- - 1 can tomatoes with green chiles
- - 1 can "Mexican" corn
- - Handful fresh cilantro
- - 2-3 handfuls shredded cheddar cheese
- - 4 flour tortillas
- - Preheat broiler.
- - Heat pan with a splash of olive oil.
- - Drain and rise black beans and corn. Add tomatoes on top.
- - Chop cilantro.
- - Add garlic to pan cooking for a minute or until brownish.
- - Add black beans, tomatoes, corn, and cilantro to pan cooking for 5 or so minutes.
- - Using a slotted spoon arrange bean mixture on to tortillas topping with cheese then folding into a half-moon shape.
- - Broil until cheese is melted or until slightly browned.
A New Classic: Vegetarian Cassoulet
We all know the class French dish, cassoulet, with pork, chicken, and sausage. It is perfect on a winter’s evening for dinner. But what if you aren’t eating meat? A vegetarian cassoulet is a delicious non-meat alternative to this rich traditional version. While is without meat, it doesn’t lack flavor and fills you up. And what makes this dish even better than the original? It is simple to make and can be on the table in under an hour. The dish is respectable enough to serve on Sunday and to company. Even my meat loving guys enjoy this dish not missing the meat.
Simple Ingredient for Big Flavor
Simple ingredients you may have in your fridge and pantry. It is leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, ground clove, and canned cannelloni beans. I like to use fresh herbs even in winter, but you can substitute dried herbs. I bring my herbs inside keeping them in my mud room so I have fresh thyme, parsley, rosemary, and oregano to use in my cooking. I was fortunate when I made this vegetarian cassoulet last I had fresh leeks from my garden. They were little ones, but so good. I took pride in using them in my dish. The cassoulet has a garlic breadcrumb topping. Depending if I have stale homemade bread, I will make my own or I use store bought bread crumbs.
This really is a meaty dish. You can serve it with a salad and a baguette.
- - 3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
- - 4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
- - 3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
- - 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- - 1/4 cup olive oil
- - 4 thyme sprigs
- - 2 parsley sprigs
- - 1 bay leaf
- -1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- - 3 cans cannellini rinsed and drained
- - 1 quart water
- For garlic crumbs
- - 4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
- - 1/3 cup olive oil
- - 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- - 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1. Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.
- 2. Wash well and pat dry. Salad spinner is helpful.
- 3. Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes.
- 4. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.
- 5. Make garlic crumbs while cassoulet simmers.
- 6. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
- 7. Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated.
- 8. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
- 9. Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.
- 10. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf.
- 11. Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth.
- 12. Season with salt and pepper.
- 13. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.
Dining at a Turkish restaurant, you are usually served a wonderful warm bread called Turkish Pide Bread. It is moist and chewy perfect for hummus and other fresh salads served. My husband grew up eating Turkish Pide Bread in the Netherlands straight from the market stalls. They would eat it with raclette or as they would call it gourmet. We make ours without cheese. It usually is a grilled meat feast where I insist on having a salad and fresh veg to dip in the various sauces. For the past 20 years, when we have gourmet, it would be with French bread. And in the most recent past, I have been making the baguettes with success. My husband mentioned how nice it would be to have the Turkish Pide Bread.
Overcoming Fear of Yeast
I decided to find a recipe and make it. Overcoming my fear of yeast bread making. It was surprisedly very easy. All it is is flour, yeast, salt, water, and Everything Bagel seasoning.
I have been experimenting with proofing my breads. Usually, I leave them out, but I decided to try and making a proofing oven in my oven without a proofing setting. It worked. I turned my oven to the lowest setting which is 170F. When it is ready, I put my dough in a metal bowl with a damp kitchen towel in the oven and shut it off leaving it to do a first proof for an hour or longer. It really works! I’m now making all of my breads this way and have cutdown production time by half. I’m now making my no-knead bread in a day instead of over two days.
Ready to make two loaves of Turkish Pide Bread?
- - 500 grams quality brand of all-purpose flour (or 3.5 cups)
- - 7 grams dried yeast (or 1 teaspoon or 1 packet)
- - teaspoon salt
- -1.5 cups warm water
- - Olive oil to grease bowl for proofing
- - 1 egg yolk
- - 1 tablespoon olive oil
- - As much of Everything Bagel seasoning as you want
- 1. Turn oven onto lowest setting.
- 2. Combine flour, yeast, and salt in mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add warm water. Use a wooden spoon to mix ingredients then your hands to bring the dough together.
- 3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface kneading for 15 minutes until it is elastic and smooth.
- 4. Brush the metal bowl with oil then place the dough in the bowl coating it with oil.
- 5. Spray kitchen towel with water making it damp then cover the bowl with it.
- 6. Place bowl in oven and turn oven off letting the dough proof for an hour or until it doubles in size.
- 7. Remove dough.
- 8. Put a baking tray on the middle shelf then preheat oven to 450F/230C.
- 9. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half then flatten slightly with hands not making it too thin.
- 10. Place pieces on separate parchment paper then stretch into a rectangle.
- 11. Cover with damp cloth for 15 minutes.
- 12. Polk holes in the dough.
- 13. Whisk oil and egg yolk and brush on the pieces then sprinkle with Everything Bagel seasoning.
- 14. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Simple Roasted Sweet Potato Lentil Feta Salad
For the past two weeks, it has been hot here in Newport. Our house doesn’t have air conditioning – units or central – it can get pretty toasty. Not a pleasurable environment to cook anything, but we still have to eat. This is a super simple tasty summer meal. Or nice side to chicken or fish.
I have a Phillips Air Flyer. It makes french fries, baked potatoes, chicken, and donuts. Today, I decided to see if I could roast veg in it. I didn’t want to turn the oven onto 400 and roast for 30-40 minutes. The kitchen was already 86 degrees so adding to the heat doesn’t seem ideal. I chopped up peeled sweet potatoes, carrots, and red onion then combined them with some oil olive and a pinch of chili flakes. Preheat the Air Fryer at 360 or 375 depending on your Air Flyer running it for 10 minutes. Add the veg into the basket. Cook for 10min, shake, then another 5-10min. An air flyer is a worthy investment. Fried foods without the fat and mess.
Let’s talk about lentils. My pantry is stocked with a few different types of lentils such as brown, yellow, and French. This recipe calls for French lentils which can be hard to find. Some grocery stores s stock them, but your best bet is a health food store where they have self-serve bins of beans and lentils. That’s where I found the French lentils was at my local A Mart which is a regional well-stocked natural food store in Newport.
To cook lentils, weight what you need out, rinse, then put in a saucepan. Add the lentils, a bay leaf, salt, and water making sure it covers the lentils. Put on the stove with the lid on high for about 20-30 minutes. Test it along the way. I’m bad at setting timers so I have guess and test.
The question of cheese arises. You can use goat or cow’s milk feta for a vegetarian meal. To make it vegan, you can omit the feta or use a vegan feta cheese. Any way you serve it, it will be tasty.
Roasted Sweet Potato Lentil Feta Salad is super easy to make and is a quick, healthy summer dinner. Want more plant-based recipes? Go here.
Roasted Sweet Potato Lentil Feta Salad
- - 2 large carrots, cut into cubes or sliced baby carrots
- - 1 red onion, finely sliced
- - 2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled cut into cubes
- - 3 tbsp olive oil
- - Pinch dried chilli flakes
- - 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- - Pinch of salt
- - 250g cooked French lentils
- - 1 Bay Leaf
- - Feta, crumbled
- - 2-4 hand full of greens
- - Preheat the oven to 400F or 300C. See post for Air Fryer instructions.
- - Put the carrot, onion and sweet potato in a large shallow baking tray, drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and the chili flakes.
- - Roast for 30 mins, turning occasionally, or until tender and turning golden.
- - Make the lentils according to the pack instructions adding salt and bay leaf.
- - Serve lentil on a bed of greens.
- - Top with the roasted vegetables and crumbled feta.
- - Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and olive oil.