Cacio e Pepe Panzanella

Lately in all this hot weather, I’ve been craving salads for dinner– anything else feels too heavy– but even salads have to have some heft to them in order to feel satisfying. Enter the panzanella: a salad that’s a good 30-40% homemade crouton, which (let’s face it) is often the very best part.

This salad from Food52 has it all– freshly-toasted croutons tossed in a cheesy, peppery dressing (hence the “cacio e pepe” moniker), sweet corn, tangy tomatoes, and a nice big ball of burrata to bring it all together and make it feel indulgent. I’ve made it twice already and foresee eating this a lot this summer, even if it does involve turning on my oven in this weather!

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Spinach Cheese Puffs

spinach-puffs.jpg

I think I may have mentioned before that I love appetizers and hors d’oeuvres. Just love them. My favorite kind of work event is one where they serve drinks and “heavy appetizers” or “passed hors d’oeuvres,” because I know that there’ll be something involving cheese, bacon, or some kind of pastry… sometimes all three. So naturally I like to have a few recipes for similar items in my repertoire for when I want to host my own delicious event.

This particular recipe was born out of the need to come up with something that I could make ahead of time and that would be able to survive for several hours in a hot car before being served at a casual barbecue. That meant most cheese- or meat-based items were out, and any fresh vegetables were similarly not going to work. I decided that the best option was something with puff pastry, and once I noticed the half-empty package of fresh baby spinach slowly wilting in my refrigerator, the decision was made!

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Farfalle with Bacon, Beans, and Cabbage

cabbage-pasta

Let me be upfront with you– this is not a pretty dish. It’s beige and sloppy-looking and won’t win any beauty contests. It won’t amaze your tastebuds with new and exciting flavors, either. But on the plus side, it’s reasonably healthy, quick and easy to make, and is basically the epitome of comfort food for a wintry evening. Also, it’s delicious, so you should make it.

While I’m sure the combination of beans, bacon, and cabbage has been around for a while, I somehow didn’t “discover” it until recently, when I was googling dinner ideas and came across a recipe in the Washington Post.┬áI’ve adapted it to drastically┬áincrease the cabbage (and thus my perception of its healthiness), but aside from that it’s good as-is. The smokiness of the bacon combines with the creaminess of the beans to give it a really hearty flavor, and the cabbage just kind of melts into the dish, adding bulk but not hitting you in the face with cabbage-y flavor or odor. With plenty of black pepper and parmesan cheese, I’ve eaten this repeatedly this past winter, and regret nothing.

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Vodka Sauce

vodka-sauce-done

I know it’s traditional to serve vodka sauce with penne, but all I had in the house was farfalle, so I went with that. But the sauce is really the star here, and always will be– spicy, creamy, rich but with bright tomato flavor, it’s a perfect comfort food. Plus, it’s made with pantry staples (the original recipe called for shallots and fresh tomatoes, but I think the modified one is just as tasty) and is quick and easy enough for a weeknight dinner!

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No-Stir Brussels Sprout Risotto With Bacon

brussels-risotto

As fall finally gets into full swing, my dinner preferences are slowly switching over from refreshing, crunchy foods and sharp flavors to more mellow, filling dishes like casseroles and risottos. This one is rich, creamy, flavorful– and full of vegetables, so you don’t need to feel guilty about enjoying it. And with ingredients like bacon, onions, Parmesan cheese, Brussels sprouts, and white wine, what’s not to enjoy?

The best part (well, other than the bacon) is that the recipe skips the tedious “add a ladleful of stock, stir until absorbed, add a ladleful of stock…” steps that you usually get with risotto, and instead utilizes the oven to make the whole process a snap. This is a great weeknight meal or side dish, and I definitely foresee myself making it (or variations of it) again and again.

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Garlic Scape Frittata

scape frittata scapes

Garlic scapes! My new favorite vegetable! I first tried them last year when I was intrigued by their elegant swirliness at a farmer’s market, but I didn’t really know what to do with them– I chopped them up for potato salad and thought they were fine, used a few more in pesto and was underwhelmed, and wasn’t sure what else to do. But this year I decided to branch out a little and tried sauteeing them with just a little oil, salt, and pepper… talk about a burst of flavor! The garlicky sharpness that’s present in the raw scapes is mellowed perfectly as they’re exposed to heat, and I’ve taken to eating them like I would green beans, as a side dish at dinner.

However, this time I was looking for something with a little more heft, and threw together this frittata. The eggs go nicely with the sweetness and garlic flavor of the scapes, and this would make a nice light lunch with a green salad, a slice of crusty bread, and a glass of white wine.

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