Lemony Seafood Pasta Salad

This winter has been especially frightful.  I can’t even begin to image what it has been like for people living in the midwest or northeast who have been utterly beaten down with snow.  I survived Snomageddon 2010 and know the misery that comes when the forecast calls for accumulations measured in feet instead of inches.  Y’all have my sympathies.

While I can’t personally help you dig out from Snowpocalypse 2011, I can offer you a recipe that will have you imagining a land of picnics and potlucks, warm breezes and sunny skies, and flip flops and halter tops.

Don’t forget to take along some imaginary sunscreen.

Lemony Seafood Pasta Salad

Adapted from Pam Anderson’s Perfect One Dish Dinners

BAH Note:  If you showed up to a potluck at my house with this dish, you would earn a special place in my heart.  I kept tweaking the dressing because the lemons I used were extremely sour.  I had to add agave nectar to balance the extreme puckering produced by my produce.  Feel free to add a minced clove of garlic to the dressing to turn up the flavor. And if you like your dressing with more olive oil, add it.  I purposely scaled the olive oil down to suit my tastes (Pam’s recipes calls for 1/2 cup).

BAT Tip: When you cut up the raw shrimp, you want the pieces to be approximately the same size as the scallops so they cook in the same amount of time. And yes, as unconventional as it may seem to cook your seafood with your pasta, it works beautifully.

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound small pasta
  • 1/2 pound bay scallops
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled, and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut into halves
  • 7 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • dried oregano

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, and garlic (if using).  Slowly whisk in the olive oil.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.  Set the dressing aside.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions until it is just al dente, approximately 10 to 12 minutes depending on your pasta.  Add the seafood to the pasta pot and cook for one to two minutes until the shrimp and scallops are just cooked and opaque.  Drain the pasta and seafood without rinsing and transfer them to a large bowl to cool slightly.

Just before serving, mix the tomatoes, feta, and oregano into the bowl with the pasta.  Add the dressing and stir to combine.

{printable recipe}

Michael Symon’s Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese and I have a long history together. I grew up with the blue boxed variety and then moved into the realm of frozen cheesy pasta goodness.  Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but in a pinch both Stouffer’s and Trader Joe’s have a mighty fine frozen mac and cheese product.  And I suspect that someone, somewhere, has passed one of these off as homemade.  I’m not saying I’ve ever done that.  I’m just speculating that it has happened.  The thing about that is as easy as frozen mac and cheese is, homemade is not much more work.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I boil water?
  • Can I carefully measure out hot cooking water?
  • Can I pour cream into a saucepan cook it down?
  • Can I shred cheese?
  • Can I mix together pasta, cream, cheese, and cooking water?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you can make macaroni and cheese.  And not just any mac and cheese.  This is Michael Symon’s mac and cheese (MSmac).  With no disrespect to the recipes I’ve tried from Martha, Ina, and Deb, this might just be the best mac and cheese I’ve ever made.  Why is that?

First: I prefer stovetop mac and cheese over one that is oven baked. MSmac goes directly from stovetop to plate so my mac and cheese needs can be met in no more time than it takes to make the sauce and cook the pasta.

Second: I don’t want to spend $$$$ on three, four, or five different cheeses.  MSmac calls for one cheese and while it’s fancier than American or Cheddar, it won’t break the week’s food budget.

Third: MSmac has a rich, silky cheese sauce.  There are no lumps, clumps, or globs to dampen my mac and cheese enjoyment.

Fourth: MSmac has bacon.  Does that really require an explanation?

Fifth: There really isn’t a fifth reason since bacon trumps anything else I could say.

I first discovered MSmac thanks to Alice at Savory Sweet Life.  She wrote about it and I knew that it would not be long before MSmac and I found ourselves alone together.  It was our destiny to find one another across the Intewebs.  And let me tell you, destiny does not like to wait.  Now that destiny has brought me together with MSmac, I don’t know what could ever tear us apart.  This is what I want when all the little things in my day go wrong.  This is how I want to console myself when the Universe is conspiring against me.  This is my definition of comfort food.

Perhaps MSmac is right for you?

Disclaimer:  Side effects of MSmac are mild to moderate and include eating it straight from the pot and licking cheese sauce off of serving utensils.  Consult professional help for sauces requiring 30 minutes or more to reduce.

Mac & Cheese

Adapted from Chef Michael Symon

BAH Note: I’ve scaled this down because having the full recipe’s worth of this in my house is dangerous.  In my opinion, this is best served as a side so you can enjoy a smaller serving and not feel completely wicked.  But it can just as easily be your main course.  You’ll want to be sure to use a nonstick saucepan and watch your heat so that the cream doesn’t scorch or boil over.

BAH Tip:  I’m bad at guestimating when liquids have reduced, so to check I carefully poured the hot cream into a 2 cup liquid measuring cup to gauge my progress.  It’s really about the volume of the cream more than it is about how long it takes.  Just be patient and don’t rush the process.

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/4 pound bacon, fried, drained, and crumbled
  • 1/2 pound short pasta
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

Bring cream and rosemary to a low boil over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Keep at a low boil, stirring frequently, until reduced by half and thickened, approximately 25 minutes.

While the cream is reducing, cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid before draining the pasta.

When the cream has reduced, add the pasta and grated Gruyere and stir to combine.  Add pasta water until the sauce is as loose as you like.  Stir in the crumbled bacon, taste for seasoning, and add salt to taste.

{printable recipe}

Food Memories – Alice’s Tuna Casserole

Have I mentioned how much I admire Alice Currah?  Not only is she a wife and mother of three, but she also maintains two blogs (Savory Sweet Life and Everyday Alice) and is now a contributor to PBS’s Kitchen Explorers.  How she finds the time to do all these things, I will never know.  As impressive as those time management feats are, they aren’t why I admire Alice.

I admire Alice for speaking difficult truths, for honoring her own convictions, for owning her opinions, for encouraging others to follow their passions, for being both a vocal critic and an ardent cheerleader, for reminding us to be authentic, and for being one of the warmest, most welcoming people I have ever met. I truly feel lucky to have met her in person and seen the passion she has for what she does and for this community of food bloggers.

When I read her Tuna Casserole post on PBS Kitchen Explorers, I ached to have it as part of the Food Memories project.  She eloquently conveyed how her food memories played a huge role in her life.  I connected with this story in a lot of ways and I really loved how she honored her early experiences with food.  I am honored that Alice is allowing me to share it with you here.

Alice’s Tuna Casserole

Cooking and baking has always been a part of who I am.  My mother and father had to work twelve hour days to put food on the table.  Having six kids was challenging and they did their best to make sure we were clothed, fed, and had a roof over our heads.  The food wasn’t glamorous but it sustained and nourished our bodies.  My mother would often prepare a big one pot dish before leaving for work, which would be waiting for us on the stove top for dinner.  Most of the time these dishes were very basic and accompanied by warmed rice made in a rice cooker.

Although our family certainly qualified for public assistance, the prideful part of my father seemed to always override the need for more food in our cupboards.  Nevertheless we managed, partly because of my resourceful grandmother who would occasionally bring us bags of groceries she received from the local food bank; bags of canned and boxed goods in white labels with black letters.  These canned and boxed government issued foods would become my pantry, which started my love affair with cooking and baking.

I had to be resourceful, creative, and flexible – a philosophy which would apply to every aspect of my life including working in the kitchen.  My mother was not home to teach me to cook, but watching cooking shows on PBS planted seeds in my heart.  Although we never had any of the ingredients on hand to make anything I watched on television, I would experiment with what we did have on hand.  I developed my first recipe at eight years old.  I opened up a few cans of tuna, cooked some packaged pasta, stirred in some frozen peas, and mixed everything in a bath of shredded cheese, milk, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.  To top this casserole off, I crumbled Shredded Wheat cereal over a 9×13 baking dish and dinner was served.  My siblings and I devoured my no recipe-recipe and soon I was known as the cook of the family.

I learned to bake from my neighbor, Alice (I was actually named after her).  She was an elderly lady who never married and we considered her our American grandmother.  Her yard was covered in fruit trees and a vegetable garden we looked forward to eating from every time we visited. Every year she would take us kids to the local strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry farms to pick fresh seasonal fruit.  She then would bake the best pies and pastries in the world for us to enjoy.  Her love of baking and teaching was passed on to me as if I were her granddaughter, for which I will always be indebted.

Today my three beautiful children – Abbi (9), Mimi (7), and Eli (2) – and I cook and bake together all the time.  From the moment each of them was able to hold a spoon I’ve tried to teach them the basics of cooking and baking, and encouraged them to discover their own way.  They’re developing their own creative flare with what they make.  My husband Rob and I love watching them explore their potential in the kitchen, burnt cookies and all.

I’m an avid home cook and baker.  The advice, recipes, and stories I’ll be sharing with you are from everyday moments and experiences – not from culinary training or professional expertise.  I believe in being creative, resourceful, and flexible.  This is the approach I will share with you here and on my personal food blog: Savory Sweet Life.

I’m thrilled to be a weekly food contributor as part of the PBS Parents team along with my partner, Aviva Goldfarb.  I’m most looking forward to hearing your stories, recipes, tips, and ideas of food you love and how you incorporate it into your daily routine.  My hope is that we can become friends- learning and growing from each other.  I don’t have all the answers but I’m more than happy to share with you what I do know.  I also plan on reaching out to the PBS Parents Kitchen Explorers community for your ideas and perhaps even showcase them on one of my weekly posts.  I invite you to become an active participant in our newly launched community.  Together we will laugh, commiserate, and share family-friendly food our families will love and enjoy!

Reminiscent of my childhood, here’s is an updated version of my tuna noodle casserole recipe.  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Reprinted with permission of Alice Currah

BAH Note:   I am a sucker for tuna noodle casserole.  It is one of my most comforting  guilty pleasures.  There, I feel much better getting that out in the open.

  • 6 oz dried curly egg noodles
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 oz package sliced mushrooms
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 8 oz package shredded medium Cheddar cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 2 (5-oz) cans solid white albacore tuna in water, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup potato chips, gently crushed into smaller pieces

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cook noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions until al dente.  Drain noodles and set aside.

Sauté onion in butter in a 12″ heavy skillet over medium heat for five minutes.  Add mushrooms, celery, and salt and cook for five minutes longer.  Stir in water and bouillon cubes.

In a small bowl, whisk milk and cornstarch until completely dissolved.  Add the milk mixture and 3/4 cup of cheese to the skillet and stir everything until well incorporated and sauce is nice and thick.

Add noodles, peas and tuna and gently fold them in. Season with pepper and additional salt to taste.  Sprinkle remaining cheese and crushed potato chips evenly on top.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.

{printable recipe}

Ragu

Penne with Mushrooms

Would it surprise you if I said that for most of my life, I thought ragu meant the spaghetti sauce that came in the jar with the picture of a gondola?  Tragic, I know.  It’s a wonder that I have any kitchen skills after years of being exposed to high levels of prepackaged food radiation.  I have since come to appreciate that a ragu is traditionally a sauce of ground beef, tomatoes, onions, celery, carrots, white wine, and seasoning.  But I struggle with homemade pasta sauces, maybe because I’m so accustomed to eating the jarred stuff, after making a few modifications of course.  So instead of trying to master a traditional ragu, I decided to give mushroom ragu a try. Continue reading “Ragu”

Tyler’s Bolognese

Bolognese and Parm

Have you ever printed out a recipe to try because it looked so good when you saw it made on tv?  And have you ever let so much time lapse between when you saw it on tv and when you made it that you don’t remember what it was supposed to look like?  I do.  That’s the problem with printing recipes out and putting them in folders and then forgetting about them.  I forget everything about them.  I forget what the chef said about texture and thickness, how he described the final dish, and I’m kind of flying blind. I’ll be honest with you, I get mixed results when I’m flying blind.  Sometimes I stick the landing.  Other times I fall flat on my face.  And sometimes, in my best interpretation of Kerri Strug’s 1996 Olympic vault, I get both feet under me just long enough to complete the exercise and then hobble off the competition floor with the assistance of a burly Romanian coach.

So with my apologies to Tyler Florence, this probably isn’t exactly what you’d get if he made you his Bolognese Sauce.  Because I know he totally sticks that landing and I’m only just starting to work on mine.

Bolognese Sauce

Adapted from Tyler Florence

BAH Note:  I’d never actually had Bolognese sauce before I made this recipe so I don’t know how thick or thin the sauce was supposed to be.  I wish I would have cooked it longer so that the liquid had reduced even more because even after 90 minutes of simmering, it was a bit soupy.  Also, I’d start off with 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon first and see how you like it.  You can always add more to get a more pronounced flavor, but you can’t take it out once it’s in there.

  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
  • 2 large or 4 small carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 pounds ground beef, pork, and veal mix
  • 1 28 ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed (by hand)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper

Puree the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in a food processor until smooth.  Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add vegetables and cook for five minutes.  Add the ground beef mixture to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the meat is brown.  Once the meat browns, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, milk, broth, and cinnamon to the pot.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 90 minutes until the sauce reduces and the meat is quite tender.  Stir in the butter and season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Serve over your favorite pasta garnished with grated Parmesan.

{printable recipe}

Splurge

Tagliarelle
The crappy economy makes it hard to feel like even an occasional splurge is ok.  But my wise friend Jeannie rightly pointed out that living in fear is not really living.  So from time to time I remind myself of that and try to work a special treat into the kitchen or pantry.  Maybe it’s a bottle of finishing oil to give dishes a lovely punctuation, a bar of extra dark chocolate to savor, or a small order of sushi for The Mistah to enjoy.  Most recently it was a container of white truffle butter and fancy pasta. Continue reading “Splurge”

Superstar

Penne With Vodka Sauce

Part of the appeal that blogging holds for me is the community of people who cook and write about it for no reason other than the fact that they love it.  Because the reality of the situation is that the chances of being the next [fill in your favorite superstar food blogger here] are pretty slim.  Blogging is definitely not a get rich quick scheme.  To the contrary, it’s a lot of work if you’re going to take it seriously. Continue reading “Superstar”

Notes on a Recipe – Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese Pasta

RoastRedPepperJars

This is another one of those Cooking Light recipes that’s been hanging around for years waiting for its moment in the spotlight. Now that it has made its debut, the reviews are in.

“Strong performance in the role of quick weeknight dish” says Wendi. In the time it took to boil water and cook the pasta, the sauce was done. We did go off script and use jarred roasted red peppers instead of roasting peppers in the The Mistah says, “Effective use of the supporting cast.” This is almost a one pot recipe. Most of the action takes place in the blender making for easy clean up.

I see lots of potential in this dish and think it is destined to return for future appearances.

Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese Pasta

Cooking Light

  • 3 large red bell peppers (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 4 cups hot cooked bow tie pasta (8 ounces uncooked, I used whole grain ziti to make this SB friendly)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese

Preheat broiler.

Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin side up, on a foil lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 8 minutes or until blackened. Place peppers in a zip top plastic bag and seal. Let stand 20 minutes. Peel and place peppers in a blender.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Add garlic mixture, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, broth, and next five ingredients (through red pepper flakes) to blender with peppers; process until smooth. Combine bell pepper mixture and basil with pasta. Sprinkle with cheese.

{Printable Recipe}

Undecided

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I can’t decide if I like this recipe or not. Maybe it needs a different cheese because the smoked Gouda seemed to overwhelm everthing else. Other than a cheese substitution, would you make any other changes?

Ziti Baked with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Smoked Gouda

Cooking Light Pasta

  • 8 ounces uncooked ziti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 14.5 ounces canned diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, with juices
  • 10 ounces canned Italian seasoned diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded smoked Gouda, divided

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well.

Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute 2 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add spinach to pan and cook 30 seconds or until spinach wilts, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Add pasta and 3/4 cup cheese to tomato mixture.  Toss well to combine.

Spoon pasta mixture in 5 individual, or 1 large, casserole dish lightly coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle evenly with 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

{Printable Recipe}