This time of year, this type of dish comes to mind; fresh vegetables always remind us of spring. We like to toss together a combination of vegetables and mix it together with some pasta and wine and have a light meal. Shrimp is a nice touch as well. However, this time we went a little berserk in the vegetable aisle of the supermarket and decided to add pretty much everything that came to mind. At one point during the cooking we felt some concern that there were too many vegetables as they seemed to be piling over the edge of the pot and the pasta had yet to be added (thus the “extravaganza” in the name, and it was no longer what one would call “light”), but this proved to be not an issue at all. The dish turned out to be a resounding success and all of the flavors worked really well together. We couldn’t stop piling extra helpings onto our plates and still have plenty of leftovers, which will make the next few days that much better. Here’s how we did it:
Vegetable Pasta Salad
As the weather starts to get nicer, it’s hard to stay in the kitchen cooking, which is why we sometimes make a few cold dishes which can last for a few days, and don’t need heating to eat. This one is an old favorite, and is a variation on an old Mollie Katzen recipe (it has varied quite a bit over the years). The key flavor which ties it all together is the fresh basil. It can serve a lot of people; goes well at potlucks, or is easily refrigerated for eating over several days (though it may go quickly; it’s hard not to go for more) Here is our version.
Chicken and rice pilaf
This is a recipe that I have been making for years. I am uncertain to its source, but this is how I make it. It works well as a good meal in one pot, and great for serving a many people as it is easily scalable to create more. I have tried a number of variations but almost always go back to this basic recipe. It is very easy and people usually go back for seconds (or more). Continue reading
Mustard Chicken with Squash and Potatoes
This recipe came about one night out of ingredients that were already in the house. We were hungry, but the store was closed. I thawed out some chicken pieces and quickly threw this together. It has since evolved a little and now has become a staple. It goes well with kale and mushrooms as a side dish, as the sauce tends to bleed over and the flavors augment each other. This a good easy dish, and is great on a cold night or anytime.
Kale with mushrooms
We have gotten into the habit of eating a lot of Kale. This vegetable is chock full of nutrients and if prepared properly, it can be very delicious. Here’s a simple recipe that we use on a regular basis. It can be used as a side dish for just about anything; not only does it add color to the plate, but there are never any leftovers! Continue reading
Steak and vegetable skewers with couscous
On the first sunny Saturday of spring, the urge to grill was too great to resist. In the area of safe experimentation, I used a similar recipe that I had used in the past for swordfish. A good marinade seems to be something that can transfer from one medium to another, so I’ll probably use it again, maybe with some other sort of meat, or maybe with none. However, for the sake of simplicity I will describe how I made it this time. The meat and vegetables are served as one dish together, either on or beside the couscous.
Panzanella is another wonderful traditional Tuscan dish, made from items in the garden and stale or dry bread. We discovered it in the beautiful city of Montalcino. After viewing some absolutely stunning views from atop the castle, we wandered and found a nice little café for a glass of the city’s specialty wine, Brunello. On a whim we ordered this dish and it was perfect, and refreshing. We had to learn how to make it as soon as we returned home. It is served at room temperature. Below is a rough recipe. I have added a few things that may not be traditional (e.g, the mustard) but it can be modified to taste. Continue reading
One of our absolute favorites is soup that we learned about in Tuscany, known as Ribollita. This is a traditional peasant dish that is generally made up of beans, tomatoes, and whatever is in the garden, and some stale bread. It is delicous, filling, and very healthy. I love making this. This recipe is made up of a combination of ones I have found online, with a few personal touches (especially adding more and more garlic!) Continue reading
Beef with Wine and Mushrooms
This is a simple recipe, the genesis of which was created on a cold New Year’s day. All the stores were closed, so looking through the cabinets and the freezer produced enough for a delicious meal. It has since been slightly modified to add more ingredients. Choosing which wine to add depends on your taste, following the rule that if it is good enough to drink, it is good enough to add to a meal. The updated version is here. Continue reading