One-Pot Pasta Puttanesca

This One-Pot Pasta Puttanesca is a game changer! Everything cooks in one pot and is delicious and cooked exactly right. I already am a fan of sheet-pan cooking, but when I tried this pasta I became an evangelist. It’s absolutely brilliant. No more worrying about if your sauce and pasta are both ready at the same time.

Since we are all confined to our homes, I am spending even more time than usual looking at recipes. I saw this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, the kitchn.com. Apparently it was developed by a Martha Stewart chef and it truly is magical. Even in these days of difficult-to-come-by groceries, I had all of the ingredients on hand. I did make a couple of changes to the original. The recipe called for 1 Tablespoon of salt which was too much especially when adding olives and capers. And for some reason, the original recipe said to only use 12 ounces of pasta when most boxed dry pasta come in 1 pound increments. Those were easy fixes to make.

This definitely is something that will make it into my regular rotation of dinners. It is just so easy, with minimal clean-up – ONE POT! And everything was cooked perfectly. I had baked bread earlier in the day so along with a glass of delicious red wine, my husband and I feasted. Really, you MUST try this.

For the recipe to work, you need a large shallowish pan like the Staub Heritage All-Day Pan or this Lodge enameled cast iron pan. I love my Staub pan and use it constantly. These pans are perfect for braising and go from the stove-top to the oven. If you are setting up your kitchen or looking to replace pots and pans, you can’t go wrong with either of these. (And I receive no remuneration for saying this.) You also need to use pasta made from wheat. The starch from the pasta will combine with the water to thicken and form a creamy sauce. This won’t happen with a vegetable-based pasta and the cooking time would be off.

Make this One-Pot Pasta Puttanesca for your next Meatless Monday.

How we’re managing isolation

My husband and I are in that vulnerable category of over 60 and with underlying health issues. So we are being very careful about social distancing. In addition to our normal home activities and chores, we have added some things. We are each taking advantage of free online lecture series, some of which are quite wonderful.

Not being able to use the gym in our building has meant getting creative with workouts. You can find us walking our long hallways (we live in a condo) and running stairs. Not much competition with our neighbors so far. And I have started a weights program and actually am developing arm definition! We do crossword puzzles together and I just started a wonderful 1,000-page biography of Winston Churchill by Andrew Roberts. That will clearly keep me busy for some time to come. Our beautiful, sweet cat is getting very, very spoiled having us constantly at her beck and call.

And I do needlepoint and my husband is a “maker.” None of this makes up for the loss of social interaction or the freedom of movement, but maybe I’ll come out of confinement a little smarter, healthier and having created something beautiful.

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 pound of dry pasta like a linguine

About 12 ounces of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/2 cup pitted and halved olives (I used a mixture of Kalamatos and green olives)

1/4 cup capers, drained

1/2 cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) red pepper flakes

4.5 cups warm tap water

Optional

Grated Parmesan, Asiago or Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Put all of the ingredients into the pot and bring to a boil on high heat.

Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, swishing the pasta around to keep it from sticking and to distribute the ingredients. I find that using tongs is best for this.

Turn off the heat and mix thoroughly. Add some additional chopped parsley and the cheese, if using to serve.

Note:

My husband requested that I add a protein and I happened to have some shrimp in my freezer. I added about a dozen shrimp during the final three minutes. Personally, I would have been fine without it so this would make a perfect meatless Monday meal.

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African Peanut Soup

Rich in flavor and robust with sweet potato chunks and kale, this creamy, spicy soup is sure to please. This African Peanut Soup is a riff on the West African Maafe or peanut stew. A perfect Meatless Monday meal that comes together in no time.

As we are all sheltering in place trying to avoid contracting and spreading the Novel Coronavirus, eating healthily and satisfyingly has become even more important. Grocery shopping has become increasingly difficult so it is good to find delicious recipes that make use of as many pantry staples as possible. And the vivid colors and flavors of this African Peanut Soup can cheer anyone out of their boredom.

I searched the web and found many variations for this ground nut soup, although many of the ingredients were the same, appearing in different quantities. There also were versions with chicken or beef, but I wanted something meatless, that was easy to put together and packed a punch. Ultimately, I made a few changes to the recipe, in part, because it turned out that I was missing an ingredient and wasn’t about to go to the store to get it. With a couple of tweaks, I was able to make an acceptable work-around. But you be the judge. Give this soup a try.

We can all get through this pandemic.

For more healthy pantry soup ideas:

Lentil Soup

Mediterranean Style Lentil Soup

Karhi, a Yogurt Sauce (Also eaten as a soup over rice)

Greek Red Lentil Soup

Carrot and Harissa Soup

Recipe

Servings: 4 to 6 with rice

Ingredients

1.5 tablespoons peanut oil oil (or high heat oil such as Canola or Grapeseed)

1 large onion, diced

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

4 cups vegetable broth, plus more as needed (I didn’t need more)

3/4 to 1 cup creamy or chunky natural unsweetened peanut butter

1 cup finely chopped or ground canned tomatoes

2 tablespoon maple syrup

1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, diced (about 20 ounces total weight)

1 bunch curly kale leaves or collard greens, torn off of the stem into bite sized pieces

1 to 2 rounded teaspoons Sriracha or other hot sauce or to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

For Serving

Cooked rice

Roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Fresh cilantro or parsley

Directions

  1. Coat the bottom of a large pot with the oil and place over medium heat.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Saute the onion, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until soft and translucent.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, cardamom and jalapeno. Cook everything for about 1 minute more, until fragrant.
  4. Add the broth, peanut butter, chopped tomatoes and maple syrup to the pot. Stir well to fully blend everything. Add the sweet potato, raise the heat, and bring the liquid to a boil.
  5. Lower the heat and allow the soup to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. You can thin the soup with some extra broth or water if it becomes too thick. Mine didn’t.
  6. Stir in the kale. You may need to add a bit at a time and let each addition wilt to make room for the next.
  7. Let the mixture continue simmering for 5 to 10 minutes, until the kale is tender and the soup is thick.
  8. Remove the pot from heat and season the soup with salt, pepper and Sriracha to taste. Adjust any other seasonings to your liking.
  9. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a scoop of rice, chopped peanuts and cilantro. Serve.

Italian Polenta Cookies

Everyone is looking for comfort right now, as well as ways to fill unaccustomed time at home. Baking makes your house smell absolutely safe, warm and inviting. But even after the aromas have dissipated, the delight of eating something delicious that you made lingers on. These Italian Polenta Cookies fit that description perfectly.

Grocery shopping has become challenging in the Time of Coronavirus. Many items are out of stock and getting deliveries scheduled can now take days (if at all) instead of hours. And who knows what will actually arrive when the delivery comes? I admit it. My pantry could probably survive the Zombie Apocalypse, but even I need to buy certain fresh staples like eggs, milk and produce.

In looking for some treat to make for my husband and me (because don’t we all need a little sweetness in our lives?) I came back to this recipe from David Lebovitz that I had seen about 18 months ago. I really love the not-overly-sweet variety of Italian cookies and I especially like cookies made from cornmeal or polenta. They just have this extra somethin’ somethin’. There is the zing of lemon with that slight crunch and flavor of the polenta. These Italian Polenta Cookies are perfect for afternoon tea, with a glass of Vin Santo or a cup of coffee.

Recipe

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

3 tablespoons water

3/4 cup (90g) dried currant or another dried fruit, such as chopped cranberries or cherries

3 tablespoons eau-de-vie or grappa (I used Amaretto since I had neither grappa nor eau-de-vie)

1 3/4 cups (250g) flour

1 cup (160g) fine (or instant) polenta

3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar, plus more for finishing the cookies

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

8 tablespoons (4oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Directions

Heat the water in a small saucepan until it starts to boil. Turn off the heat and add the currants, or other dried fruit, and liqueur. Set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour. (They can be plumped a day or two in advance.)


In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and baking powder. (You can also make this dough in a large bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.)

In a medium bowl, mix together the egg and the egg yolks, then stir in the melted butter and lemon zest.

Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir together for about a minute, until they’re well-combined. Add the currants and any liquid, and beat them in at medium speed for about 30 seconds.

Remove the dough from the bowl, wrap it in plastic wrap, flatten it into a disk, and chill until firm, about an hour. (The dough can be made 2-3 days in advance, and baked later.)

To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

On a lightly floured counter top, pinch off tablespoon-sized pieces of dough, roll them into little logs (you may need to flour your hands as the dough can be slightly sticky), then press the logs gently to flatten them a bit, and pinch the ends to taper them. Place them on the baking sheet about an inch (3cm) apart, to allow for some spreading. Sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar.

Bake the cookies until golden brown across the top, about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets in the oven midway during baking. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack.

Storage: The cookies can be kept up to one week in an airtight container at room temperature.

For other wonderful cookie options:

Lavender Mint Shortbread Cookies

Vegan Italian Chocolate Cookies

Tahini Cookies

Salted Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies

Chewy Molasses Cookies

Tehina Shortbread Cookies

Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers

Like many people, my husband and I try to eat healthily. Since we cook and eat almost all of our meals at home, this is fairly easy to do. We also try to keep a balance of vegetarian vs. meat-based meals. These Indian-spiced lentil burgers will make Meatless Mondays anything but boring.

As it happens, Andrew and I have both been home sick for the past 10+ days. No Novel Corona Virus, but very bad colds and coughs. It’s pretty easy to get down and out right now, so I am paying special attention to creating interesting and healthy meals. And as anyone who has had a terrible cold knows, the taste buds are one of the first casualties.

So when I came across this recipe for Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers with a Cilantro Chutney, I immediately perked up. I figured, rightly so as it turned out, that there would be enough flavor here to break through even my currently stuffed nose. I had all of the ingredients needed for the burgers, but unfortunately was short on ingredients for the chutney. The ingredients for the chutney can be found below, but I actually used a delicious onion chutney that I happened to have on hand instead. You can also purchase Indian Cilantro or Mint Chutney which should be equally delicious and one less thing to have to put together yourself. When you are coming home from work or are not feeling your best, simplicity is key.

I happen to love Indian food and the particular mix of seasonings given here. However, the recipe is pretty flexible. It is really the method and proportions that count. So if you prefer a more Mediterranean set of flavorings, just swap out the cumin, turmeric and coriander for the seasonings of choice. And instead of a delicious chutney, use a tomato-based or pesto spread on your bun. If you are going the Asian route, spread on some Teriyaki sauce or Peanut Sauce.

By using a food processor to do the main chopping, and the speed with which red lentils cook, this dish comes together pretty quickly. You do need to refrigerate the patties before cooking them, however. Because of that, you can either throw these together in the morning before you leave for work or make the patties the night before.

These burgers are not going to fool you into thinking you are eating meat. So junk that notion and enjoy them for the deliciousness that they are.

Recipe

Yield: 4 burgers

INGREDIENTS

For the Chutney:

  • 1/2 small bunch cilantro, stems and leaves coarsely chopped to make 2 packed cups 
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice, from about 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon oil 
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt

For the burgers:

  • 1 cup dry red lentils 
  • 2 teaspoons table salt, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, thickly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 2-inch piece ginger root, unpeeled, cut into thin slices
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for broiling the burgers
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons fine, dry breadcrumbs

Garnishes: Optional

  • 4 hamburger buns or similar rolls
  • 4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • Chutney (Onion, Mango, Mint, Coriander)
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 4 lettuce leaves, a handful of sprouts, or greens of your choice
  • Quickly pickled onion

Make the chutney, if using: In a food processor, puree the cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth “ish”, scraping down the sides of the bowl two or three times. The mixture will still have some texture but should be predominately smooth. 

Transfer to a small bowl. Don’t wipe out the food processor. You’ll use it again in a second.

Pick over the lentils: Spread the lentils on a baking sheet and pick out small stones or pieces of dirt if there are any. Place them in a sieve and run them under cold water to rinse them. Drain. 

Cook the lentils: In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt and the lentils to a boil. Adjust the heat to a low boil and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until tender, but not mushy. 

At this point they should still hold their shape somewhat, though you will notice that the outer husks may have separated. Drain well in a fine-mesh colander or sieve. 

Chop the vegetables: While the lentils are cooking and draining, pulse the onion, garlic, ginger, and carrot in the food processor until finely chopped. (If you are using a different flavor profile, you can omit the ginger.)

Cook the vegetables and spices: In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chopped vegetables and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, and 3/4 teaspoon salt and cook for 30 seconds to bloom the spices. Turn off the burner and remove the pan from the heat.

Mash the lentils: Stir the well-drained lentils into the still-warm vegetables in the skillet. With a fork or potato masher, mash about half the mixture, leaving the other half intact.

Clear a space on one side of the skillet and add the eggs. Beat them well with a fork, and stir them into the lentils. Add the breadcrumbs and stir again. Let the mixture cool enough for you to handle and form into patties.

Form the patties: Form the lentil mixture into 4 patties that are about 4-inches across. Brush lightly with oil. Refrigerate the patties, uncovered, for 30 minutes or overnight.

Cook the burgers: Set a rack 4 to 6-inches from the broiler element and preheat the broiler. Using a well-seasoned cast-iron pan or a baking sheet lined with foil, heat the pan in the hot oven. Brush the tops of the patties with oil and place onto the hot pan. There should be a nice sizzle. Broil for 6 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn carefully, brush with more oil, and brown on the other side (another 5 to 6 minutes.)

Serve the burgers: You can lightly toast the buns if you like. Then spread some of the yogurt and chutney/sauce on the two halves. Place the burgers on top. Top with sliced cucumbers and lettuce or greens of your choice. And while these certainly didn’t need it, I could see adding a slice of cheese on top if I were going with a Mediterranean profile.

For other Meatless Monday ideas:

Cauliflower Fried “Rice” with Tofu

Butternut Squash and Arugula Pizza

Roasted Tomato Soup

Sheet Pan Honey(Agave)-Sesame Tofu and Green Beans

Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta Tart

Tofu Coconut Curry

Hamantaschen and Purim

It’s almost Purim! Bring on the noisemakers, costumes and treats! And Purim wouldn’t be a celebration without Hamantaschen. Imagine a flavorful dough, shaped like a triangle and stuffed with all kinds of delicious fillings. Traditionally, these sweet treats were filled with poppy seeds or lekvar (prune paste). But now, anything goes. Growing up, my son’s favorite filling was (and remains) Nutella. I also love apricot, almond paste, or even blueberry with lemon zest. Whatever you choose to fill your hamantaschen with, just enjoy them.

I’m not usually boastful, but these are simply THE BEST Hamantaschen that you will ever eat.

Why Hamantaschen?

The name, Hamantaschen, which is Yiddish, translates as Haman’s Pockets. It’s not really known why these treats came to be associated with Purim. But one story is that Hamantaschen resemble the tri-cornered hat Haman wore. Or maybe his pockets filled with bribes to spies. In Hebrew these delectable sweets are referred to as Haman’s “Ears.” But who was Haman and why do we remember him? The evil Haman was the royal vizier in the court of the Persian King Ahasuerus. He was out to exterminate the Jewish People.

When Do We Celebrate Purim?

Purim is celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (this year on March 9-10). This is the day following our deliverance from the evil decree. It is a time of merriment and satire much like April Fool’s Day. There is often a carnival and both adults and children dress up in costumes and swing noisemakers to scare off our enemies. In addition, the Book of Esther (Megillah) is recited publicly and we all boo every time Haman’s name is mentioned.

The Purim Story in Brief

Why does the Purim story resonate today? The Megillah is perhaps, the first written story about classic anti-Semitism. In the 4th century B.C.E., Ahasuerus, chooses the beautiful and brave Esther, a Jew, for his wife and queen. Haman, arrogant and egotistical, starts whispering in the king’s ear that because the Jews are different, they must be suspect and should be killed. Thankfully, Haman’s plans are foiled by Mordecai, an advisor to the king and Esther‘s cousin and adopted father. The day of deliverance was celebrated with a day of feasting and rejoicing for Jews.

So in addition to eating many special treats and reading the Megillah, Jews are commanded (Esther 9:18) to send out gifts of food or drink, and to make gifts to charity. 

While my son never wanted to dress up for Halloween, he always donned costumes for Purim as did I. And like so many Jewish girls, I always wanted to be Queen Esther, the brave and smart savior of our people.

Relevance today

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism was not wiped out along with Haman. Even after 6 million Jews were butchered during the Shoah, our enemies are still whispering lies and committing acts of violence and hatred against our people. So while Jews everywhere will celebrate Purim this year, we will also remain vigilant against the Hamans of this world.

Recipe

I always look first to Gloria Kaufer Greene for my Jewish Holiday recipes. I have tweaked the original recipe and those changes are reflected below.

Yield: About 2 dozen (Can be doubled)

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter or non-dairy buttery sticks, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Zest and juice of one medium navel orange (Up to 3 Tablespoons of juice, as needed)

1.5 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

Do-Ahead

Cream the butter (non-dairy sticks) with the sugar using a food processor or electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, zest and vanilla until well combined.

Add the flour, salt, baking powder and baking sugar and mix until mixed through. Add orange juice, as needed. (If the dough seems really dry and won’t form, I add the juice to get a smooth dough.)

Form the dough into a thick disk, wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours. (You can make the dough up to 3 days ahead.)

Baking

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/8-inch thick. (I like to roll out 1/2 of the dough at a time to make it easier to handle.)

Cut out circles that are 3-inches in diameter. You can use a clean, empty tuna can or a glass if you don’t have a cookie cutter. Re-use scraps until almost all of the dough is used up. I wouldn’t re-roll more than once.

Scoop a generous teaspoon of whatever filling you are using into the center of each circle. (I like to set things up like an assembly line, with my fillings all lined up and ready to go to make this go more quickly.)

Fold up the edges of each circle in thirds to form an open triangle with some of the filling showing. Using my finger and some cold water, I then “paint” the pinched edges both to seal them and to smooth them. You don’t want your hamantaschen opening up in the oven. They may taste fine, but the look will be disappointing.

Place the hamantaschen on baking sheet lined with a silicon baking sheet or parchment paper. Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Fillings

I am happy to use bought fillings which I then add special touches to. You want a filling that is thick enough to hold up to baking without running all over. I like to use either Solo brand or Love N’ Bake. Some of my favorite fillings are Nutella, apricot pastry filling, almond pastry filling and Lekvar or prune filling.

I always add a bit of orange zest to my apricot and prune filling and place a few sliced almonds on top of the almond filling. Nutella needs nothing added, but on occasion I have been known to add a few mini-chocolate chips.

Below is a wonderful poppy seed filling, which I will make from scratch. Obviously, if you are using multiple fillings, you will either have left-over filling or gee, I dunno, you may need to make additional batches to hand out to lucky friends and family! (Left-over filling can be used in yeast-based pastries or in little tarts.)

Best Poppy Seed Filling – Ever

1 cup (About 5 ounces poppy seeds

1/2 cup dairy or non-dairy milk

1/2 cup honey or agave

1/4 cup dark raisins

1 Tablespoon butter or non-dairy buttery sticks

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Grind the poppy seeds using a coffee or spice grinder. You can do this with a mortar and pestle, but it will be more work.
  2. Place the ground poppy seeds into a small saucepan with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes or until the mixture is very thick and almost all of the liquid has been absorbed.
  4. Remove the filling from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Chill the filling before using for best results. This can be made up to 3 days ahead as well.