Tag Archives: pasta sauce

Epicurean Evenings

29 Oct
My education and career trajectory is in clinical nutrition, dietary management, and healthcare business strategy, but cooking is definitely my passion. I love the creativity of decadent ingredients, plate presentations, fresh flavors, and lingering over home cooked meals filled with spirited conversation.  My enthusiasm for food, at times, mingles with my love of writing, and that dwells in the core of my spirit.
I have several outlets to feed that need, and at one point I spent time writing for a food and wine magazine. Sometimes my editor (and friend) Katherine would come over to chat about upcoming assignments. I was not inconvenienced by having to answer the door when Katherine stopped by. Always welcome and with a quick “hello I’m here” knock, in she came.

A few years ago on a cool fall afternoon she popped in. A few steps in the door she stopped, her head slowly floated back as her eyes closed, and drew in a deep breath. Then her eyes slowly opened and she said “I just love coming into the house of an epicurean. It always smells so good!”

At the time I wasn’t completely sure what an epicurean was. When I finally understood what it meant, the comment from Katherine turned into an intuitive compliment-one that I savor to this day. What is an epicurean? If you go to the dictionary you will find something like this:

adjective
1. fond of or adapted to luxury or indulgence in sensual pleasures; having luxurious tastes or habits, especially in eating.
Yup, that describes me. I am an epicurean. But what was I cooking on that cool fall afternoon that elicited such a reaction from Katherine? I was teaching myself how to make a brown butter sauce. Dinner that evening included wild mushroom ravioli, and I had decided to stretch my skills by learning a new sauce.
Want to know how to make a brown butter sauce? You’ll be happy you did-it has endless possibilities! High quality European butter is the key here. I always use unsalted for 2 reasons: Salt is a preservative, so unsalted butter is fresher, and I like to adjust my own seasonings.

So here is what I did. Into a heavy bottomed sauce pan, I started melting a half pound of lovely french butter on low heat.


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Soon the butter started to brown. I began removing the foam to clarify the sauce. The aroma that began filling the house was amazing. Warm, nutty, rich!

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My sauce continued to deepen. The flavors were concentrating. And the scents wafting around the house were incredible. I kept stirring.

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Do not walk away from this sauce, as it can burn quickly. Let it deepen slowly and keep your eye on it. But that is it. Simple.

The real beauty in this sauce is the ability to adjust it to any taste. You can add garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, almost anything to customize it to your taste. Add it at any point while browning the sauce. How easy is that? Fabulous!!

The first time I made the sauce, I drizzled it over wild mushroom ravioli and sprinkled it with some fresh parmesan cheese. Since I like acid, I also drizzled a balsamic reduction over the ravioli as well. A garnish of fresh basil perfected the balance. I added a salad and some crusty bread. It was a decadent dinner.

I continue to use the brown butter sauce for a variety of finishes. What can you do with it? Send me an email and let me know!

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Snap

13 Jun

Want dinner in a snap?  I think it is possible to put a healthy dinner on the table in less time than going to the drive thru.  Yes, a healthy dinner can be on the table in about half an hour.  With planning.

Sure it takes planning.  But that can be done while standing in line, waiting for a dentist appointment, or waking up with that morning cup of coffee.  It can be as simple as jotting down notes.  I use my smart phone to make my grocery list, and that advance planning helps me get through the store in a snap.

Sometimes planning is just a simple trip to the freezer to pull something out in the morning to cook in the evening.  Let me tell you how simple planning helped me with a healthy home cooked meal last week.

In the morning, I pulled some chicken out of the freezer and popped in the fridge.  By the time I came home from work, the chicken was thawed.  I fired up the grill, lightly seasoned the chicken, ans tossed it on the grill to cook.  The chicken breasts were thinly cut, so I knew they would cook quickly.

In the meantime, I put a pot of water on the stove for some pasta.  Angel hair pasta cooks quickly, so I pulled that from the pantry. It would be perfect with the leftover pasta sauce in the fridge  I took some frozen asparagus from the freezer, and thought it would round out dinner nicely.

The pasta cooked in about 5 minutes.  I also tossed frozen peas (I warmed them with the sauce) into the pasta for a little color. The chicken was done in about 20 minutes.  I let it rest for a few minutes, then sliced the breasts thin.  (Culinary side note:  meat is more tender when allowed to rest.  I time my proteins to be done 10 minutes before everything else.  I then drizzle olive oil over the meat, cover with foil, and let rest). The asparagus went into the microwave.

With a little planning, I had a healthy dinner on the table on a weeknight in about 30 minutes.  what can you make with little time on a weeknight?

Dinner in a snap.  Grilled chicken, angel hair pasta with cheese pea sauce, and asparagus.  YUM!

Dinner in a snap. Grilled chicken, angel hair pasta with cheese pea sauce, and asparagus. YUM!

Roasted Pasta Sauce

21 Sep
Roasted baby peppers!  yum!

Baby peppers! Perfect for roasting! Yum!

Tonight I made pasta for dinner. I roasted the sauce. Yes, that’s right. And it was fabulous. Absolutely fabulous!

Here we go. I had a taste for pasta Primavera. A Primavera sauce is a vegetable sauce usually associated with fresh, or seasonal, chunky cut vegetables. I wanted a light supper.  Nothing heavy and fatty. I needed bright, light, and colorful.   Something not only packed with flavor, but loaded with beneficial nutrients too.

And as you know, I love to use what i have on hand. That is my creativity springboard.  For some reason, that absolutely energizes me.  I started pulling vegetables out of the fridge and pantry.  For a special flavor twist, I decided to roast my sauce instead of cooking it on the stove top.  I cut up my veggies  and dumped them into a big mixing bowl.  Next I sprinkled them with pepper, both red and black, salt, herb de Provence, olive oil, and a tiny drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

A good starting point.  Chunky chopped vegetables!

A good starting point. Chunky chopped vegetables!

Next, I gave the mixture a good minute of stirring with a big wooden spoon.  Then I put it into a glass roasting pan that was about 2″ deep.  I sprinkled the vegetables with a little more salt and pepper, and tossed the pan into a preheated 375 degree oven.

In the meantime, Denis popped open a bottle of wine.  We sipped a glass of a yummy big bold red, and chatted with my son a bit.  The boys set the table.  I put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.  We had fresh pasta that was in the freezer, and that cooks pretty quickly.

Into the oven it goes!

Into the oven it goes!

In 30 minutes, I pulled the veggies out of the oven.  They had cooked down, so there was a good bit of what my grandmother called “vegetable liquor” in the pan.  There was just enough liquid for a perfect sauce.  I poured it over the cooked pasta, and voila!  A super yummy light dinner was ready.  Onto the table it went with some crusty bread.  It was a colorful healthy vegetarian dinner.   I am sharing my recipe with you, but customize it using your own palate as a flavor compass.

Amy’s Pasta Primavera

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Then start cutting…

1 large zucchini, cut into chunky quarters

1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1 large container fresh bella mushrooms, sliced

1 large container button mushrooms, sliced

3 large or a dozen small bell peppers, deseeded and sliced

6 green onions, sliced in 1/2 inch intervals from the whites to the tip of the green

8 ounces arugula (2 big handfuls)

8 ounces baby spinach

1/4 cup olive oil

3-4 T. balsamic vinegar

2 T. Herb de Provence

salt and pepper to taste

Mix together in large mixing bowl.  Add salt,  pepper, red pepper flakes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Herb de Provence and any seasoning to taste.

Pasta of choice-cooked (I used fresh ricotta penne)

Bread of choice

Toss this on the table for an incredibly mouthwatering meal loaded with flavor and packed with antioxidants and nutrients!  The great thing about this recipe is that it can be totally customized.

I am a moody garnisher.  Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don’t.  It depends on the flow of my day and, as always, time allowed.  Sometimes my creative juices and energy match, other times I just need to get something, anything, on the table.  But with this beautiful bounty of vegetables, my creativity ran wild,  and I garnished with chunks of creamy mozzarella cheese, some shredded zippy parmesan cheese, and fresh from the garden basil with a chiffonade cut.  It was simply wonderful!

This is the dish headed to the table.  Pasta with roasted sauce.  Super Yum!

This is the dish headed to the table. Pasta with roasted sauce. Super Yum!