Semolina Dumplings with Stuffed Mushrooms and Arugula Salad

Continuing my love of pasta, I’ve discovered a way to make a pasta-type dish but without all the kneading, rolling, and cutting of dough. These semolina dumplings take a little while, but involve nothing more than sprinkling water over semolina flour. Plus, they are sturdy enough to stand up to a spicy tomato vodka sauce!

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I started off by placing the semolina flour in a shallow dish. Then, I just drizzle water over the flour, shake the pan, and scoop out the dumplings.

Semolina Flour

After drying slightly, the dumplings need to boil for just a few minutes, and then are ready to add to the sauce.

Semolina Dumplings

This sauce is spicy and almost a little bitter from the vodka, but it is a great combination with the chewy semolina dumplings!

Tomato Vodka Sauce

Semolina Dumplings with Tomato Vodka Sauce

3 cups semolina flour
1-2 cups of water
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can of crushed tomatoes (28 ounces), preferably San Marzano
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup vodka
1/4 cup almond milk or vegan cream
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Start the sauce by heating the olive oil over medium heat in a wide sauce pan, then adding the onion and garlic to saute until lightly browned. Add the red pepper flakes and saute for another minute then add the vodka. Cook for about 3 minutes. Next add the crushed tomatoes, and cover. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce for at least 20 minutes, or as long as it takes you to prepare the dumplings. Just before adding the first batch of dumplings, add the cream and adjust salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes if you’d like a spicier sauce.
  2. Put the semolina flour into a shallow dish or plate, and have the water in a glass or measuring cup.
  3. Make small wells in the semolina flour, and then dribble a small amount of water (maybe 1-2 tsp) into each well. Allow the water to sit for about 5 seconds, or until absorbed by the semolina flour.
  4. Shake the dish lightly, then scoop out the dumplings and place on a sheet pan to dry. Repeat until the semolina flour is gone.
  5. Cook the semolina dumplings in batches by gently adding them to well-salted boiling water. Stir once to make sure they aren’t sticking, and then scoop out with a pasta spoon or strainer, placing immediately into the sauce and stirring to coat the dumplings.
  6. Continue until all the dumplings are cooked, and serve with a fresh green salad.

I always feel like I should have a little extra veggies with the dumplings, so I like the combination of a nice arugula salad and stuffed mushrooms.

First, I remove the stems from the mushrooms, and place the caps in an oiled baking dish.

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The stems get minced up, and sauteed along with some minced garlic.

Mushrooms sauteing

I love fresh parsley, so I usually chop that up to add to the mushroom mixture. You could also use fresh basil, or of course dried parsley or basil.

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Next, I added some white wine, followed by some bread crumbs.

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After the breadcrumbs absorb all the liquid, the filling goes into the mushroom caps.

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The mushrooms are baked until they are browned and the stuffing is crunchy. These are perfect as an appetizer, or even an entire meal. 🙂

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For the arugula salad, I love mixing lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper, then tossing the simple dressing with fresh arugula (or spinach).

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Stuffed Mushrooms

8 ounces whole button mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 cup bread crumbs, plus extra if needed
2 Tbsp vegan Parmesan cheese (or real, if desired)
1/2 cup white wine
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems. Brush a baking dish with 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, then place the mushroom caps into the dish, stem side up. Mince the remaining mushroom stems.
  2. In a saute pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes, being sure not to brown it too much. Add the minced mushroom stems and 1/4 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. Saute for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is softened and fragrant. Add the parsley and cook for another minute.
  4. Next add the white wine. Bring to a light simmer, then remove from the heat.
  5. Mix in the Parmesan, if using, and about half of the bread crumbs, stirring to combine. Continue adding bread crumbs until you have a moist mixture that holds together if pressed into a ball. Taste and add salt or pepper if needed.
  6. Use a small spoon to place a scoop of the mixture into each mushroom cap, pressing as needed to hold the mixture together and in place.
  7. Cook the mushrooms for about 15 minutes, then check for browning. You want the mushroom caps to be browned and the stuffing to be crusty on top.
  8. Serve as an appetizer or with an entree as a side dish.

Simple Arugula Salad

One small container of fresh arugula
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Coarse sea salt
Optional, 1/4 cup shredded vegan or real Parmesan cheese

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle the lemon juice and olive oil over the arugula. Next, add lots of freshly ground pepper and about 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt (use less if you have a finely grained sea salt). Add the cheese if using. Toss to combine, and taste to adjust salt and pepper if needed.

This simple salad pairs perfectly with any pasta dish or vegetarian pizza. Serves 4.

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Summery Dinner with Bruschetta and Watermelon Salad

Recently, Jon and I had some friends over for dinner. Since it was a hot summer evening, making something that didn’t involve the oven or stove being on for hours seemed like a good idea. Still feeling inspired by our recent Italian adventure (I will finish writing about it!), I decided to make bruschetta with two toppings and a watermelon salad.

The first bruschetta topping was made from tomatoes and basil that came fresh from the farmers market, along with garlic, olive oil, and salt. So easy, but so yummy.

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The second bruschetta topping was made from cannellini beans, and included onions, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and of course, olive oil. It was inspired by a recipe in Gina Stipo’s Ecco la Cucina. It’s not exactly the most photogenic dish, but it definitely tastes good!

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Finally, I decided to add a summery watermelon salad to balance out all the bread I knew we would be eating. The salad includes feta (real cheese, hence the “mostly” vegan), parsley, mint, and pepper, with a dressing made from red onions, lime juice, and olive oil.

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With Jon, Liz, and Arushi helping to oil and grill the bread, it was a fun and easy dinner!

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Bruschetta with Tomatoes

3 large tomatoes (not Roma; use heirloom or other flavorful tomatoes)
4 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
Bunch of fresh basil
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Crusty bread, brushed with olive oil and grilled

Chop the large tomatoes, discarding of loose seeds and extra liquid. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half (thirds, if larger). Place all the tomatoes into a bowl

Julienne the basil, and add to the chopped tomatoes. Add 3-4 Tbsp olive oil and the garlic, then salt and pepper to taste. Allow the flavors to meld together at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

While the tomatoes are resting, slice the bread. Brush each side with olive oil. Grill the bread on each side until there are nice grill marks.

Taste the tomato mixture and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve family style with a platter of bread and the bowl of tomatoes, allowing everyone to top their own bruschetta. Make sure you have lots of napkins available, as it can be a little messy!

White Bean Hummus

Inspired by Gina Stipo’s Crostini con Cannellini in Ecco la Cucina

1/2 onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups cooked cannellini beans (drain and rinse if using canned)
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary, chopped
1-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
4 Tbsp olive oil, plus more
Salt

Sauté the onion and garlic with a little salt in olive oil until softened. Add the cannellini beans, thyme, and rosemary, and cook for several minutes.

Mash the beans with a fork, then add the olive oil and 1 Tbsp vinegar, and mix together. You can add more olive oil to make a smoother hummus. Taste, and add salt if needed. If you want to add a little sharpness, add the rest of the vinegar.

Serve on grilled bread that has been brushed with olive oil. Drizzle with very good olive oil just before serving.

Watermelon Feta Salad
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer

8-10 cups diced watermelon
6 ounces crumbled feta
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
Zest of 2 limes
Juice of 3 limes
1/4 cup mint, chopped
1/4 parsley, chopped
4 Tbsp olive oil
Pepper to taste

Put the onion slices in the lime juice and allow to soak for at least 15 minutes. Mix together the rest of the ingredients, except for the olive oil.

Add the onions and the lime juice, along with the olive oil. Mix all the ingredients together, and season with pepper, if desired.

Cooking Class in Tuscany

After spending another day in Rome and doing some additional sight-seeing, including visiting the Colosseum and Imperial Forum, it was off to Tuscany to meet up with my family.
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We had a fun dinner the first night prepared by Gina Stipo, our culinary host for the week, that included salad with fennel fronds, farro, yummy cheese, and of course wine. The next morning after admiring the beautiful views from the villa, it was off to our Ecco La Cucina cooking class!

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The menu was truly a feast, including cheese soufflé on a pear salad, freshly made pasta with artichokes, roasted rabbit, asparagus, and biscotti. Yum!

We started off by preparing the rabbit, which was roasted with oil-cured olives, chunks of orange, sage, rosemary, and white wine. Getting it ready for roasting was as easy as putting the rabbit in a roasting pan, burying all the flavorings under it, pouring white wine over it all, and then sticking it in the oven. I think there might have been some liberal doses of olive oil, as well.

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Like any good meal, this one started by making dessert early on. Gina had us prepare two flavors of biscotti: orange almond, and orange anise seed. I’ve made orange almond before, but the orange anise seed was amazing– of course, I am quite fond of licorice-flavored food!

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We also added sugar, orange zest, baking powder (which is vanilla-scented in Tuscany!), and almonds for the first batch. The second batch used the same ingredients, except we swapped out anise seeds for the almonds.

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Once the dough was formed, most of us got a chance to roll out a log of biscotti. The biscotti then went into the oven for the first baking.

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Next, we processed all of the artichokes for the pasta sauce – no canned artichokes here! Before this, the only artichokes I had ever tried to prepare were to be steamed and the leaves eaten with butter. It was surprisingly easy to peel off the tough outer leaves, clean the inside, and quarter the hearts for the sauce. Of course, it might have been slightly easier with Gina demonstrating the proper technique and results!

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One of the really fun things about the class was how Gina got everyone involved in the preparation, not just the practiced cooks. Jon even proved his fitness as a sous chef with his expert garlic chopping. 🙂

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After the artichokes were prepared and the garlic was chopped, we started a simple sauce for the pasta with butter, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and the artichoke hearts. Mom was the expert lemon squeezer.

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Next it was on to the really fun part of the class–making homemade pasta to go with the artichoke sauce! We mixed together flour and eggs, eventually forming a dough. Gina showed us how to make a well in the flour and use our fingers to start the dough.

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After everyone took turns kneading the pasta dough, it was time to roll it out. I have a pasta roller attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer, and always thought using a hand roller would be really difficult and require you to grow an extra limb to manage it and the pasta. That was not the case, though it helped that there were lots of people to maneuver the dough once it got really long.

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Once the dough was rolled out to the right thickness, it was on to the chitarra to cut the spaghetti. This part was really fun: you sprinkled semolina onto the chitarra, placed a piece of dough on it, and then used a rolling pin to cut the noodles using the wires of the chitarra. In a lot of ways, this part was easier than using my pasta attachments. The spaghetti just falls neatly under the wires, so you don’t have to worry about catching all the pieces (and stepping on the pieces that inevitably fall on the floor).

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Pretty little piles of spaghetti!
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Earlier in the class we had prepared cheese flans to go on top of a pear salad. While the pasta was being cut, the flans came out of the oven and were placed on the salad for a delicious starter.

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We headed out to a beautiful covered terrace to start our meal with the cheese flans.

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After whetting our appetites, it was back to the kitchen to finish the pasta. Once the pasta was cooked it went into the pan with the artichoke sauce and a little of the cooking water to thicken the sauce.

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A little cheese was mixed in, then it was back to the terrace to eat pasta. Yeah!

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While we were enjoying the pasta, the rabbit miraculously made its way to the table along with some asparagus. Even though none of the rabbit made it to my plate, it looked delicious!

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After all this food, it was hard to imagine there was still dessert. The biscotti was “well-guarded” (and maybe adequately sampled!) so there was plenty left for us to enjoy.

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The biscotti was served with Vin Santo and fresh strawberries. It was a perfect end to the meal and a fun and informative cooking class!

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Stay tuned for more posts from our Italian adventure! 🙂

Falafel with Tabbouleh

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I decided on Friday night to make Jon a Mediterranean feast. After eating out several times last week for work, I was ready for some homemade food!

I started off the tabbouleh by boiling some veggie broth and then pouring it over whole wheat couscous. While the couscous steamed, I chopped up lots of veggies: green onions, cucumber, carrots, and a red pepper. I also chopped up lots of fresh parsley for both the tabbouleh and the falafel. I whisked up a dressing using olive oil, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper. Once the couscous had cooled, I mixed in all the veggies along with the dressing, and then placed in it the fridge to absorb all the flavors.
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Next I started the mix for the falafel using my trusty cuisinart. Garbanzo beans, green onions, parsley, cumin, turmeric, lemon juice, baking powder, and a flax egg all went into the cuisinart and got blended together. Next I added small amounts of flour until a wet dough was formed.
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Previously when I had made falafel, Jon’s feedback had been “they aren’t crunchy enough”. So, it being Friday night, I decided to pan fry the falafel in olive oil….this is something that does not happen very often in my kitchen!
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As each batch of falafel finished, they went on a paper towel to absorb some of the excess oil.
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Once the falafel was finished, we were ready to eat! Jon toasted up some pita bread, and we added some hummus that was already in the fridge, making it a true feast. The falafel was even crispy enough for Jon!

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Tabbouleh Salad
1 1/4 cup whole wheat couscous
1 1/4 cup hot veggie broth
3 green onions, finely chopped
Large bunch parsley, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon (should give you about 1/4 cup juice)
Additional lemon juice to taste
Salt and pepper

Place the couscous in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the hot broth over it, then cover. Allow the couscous to absorb the broth for about 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, then add salt and pepper to taste. If you like a more tart salad, add additional lemon juice to taste–I added about 1/8 cup more.

Once the couscous has cooled, mix in the chopped veggies and parsley, then pour the dressing over the couscous-veggie mixture. Stir gently to combine, then cover and place in the fridge. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. This salad also holds up well…it was great for lunch the next day.

Homemade Falafel

16 ounce can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
3 green onions, chopped
Large bunch of parsley, chopped
1 flax egg (mix 1 Tbsp ground flax seed in 3 Tbsp water)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup whole wheat flour, plus additional
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for frying

Place all ingredients except the flour into a cuisinart mixer, and blend to combine. Blend in the flour, adding more flour as needed to make a wet dough. Don’t over mix.

Heat 1/2″ olive oil in a skillet. Place small balls of the falafel dough in the oil. This is easiest using a spoon to form the falafel, then scooping them into the oil with a spatula. Allow to fry for a few minutes before flipping them. Cook until browned and crispy on all sides. Place on paper towels to drain, then serve immediately.

Quinoa Watercress Salad

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Last night with both Jon and I feeling under the weather, I decided we needed a dinner with lots of healthy ingredients. This salad definitely fits that description! It contains quinoa, watercress (or arugula if you prefer), fresh peppers, and the dressing includes fresh orange juice.

I started off by cooking the quinoa. While the quinoa was cooking, I mixed up the dressing: zesting and juicing two oranges and a lime, adding in some rice vinegar, a little sugar to balance the flavors, salt and pepper, and a dash of olive oil. Into this mixture went thinly slice red onion, diced red pepper, and cannellini beans.

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After the quinoa had absorbed all the water, it went into the fridge to cool. Meanwhile, I cleaned and prepared the watercress and added it to the veggie mixture. This bowl also went into the fridge to stay cool.

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Once the quinoa had cooled, I mixed everything together in this beautiful wood salad bowl that my sister gave me. Although you could serve it immediately, it’s really better to let the quinoa absorb the dressing.

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The salad tasted great, and we both felt healthier after eating it!

Quinoa Watercress Salad
(Adapted from Forks Over Knives)

1.5 cups quinoa, rinsed
4 cups watercress or arugula
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, diced
2 cups cooked cannellini beans (or one 15oz can)

Boil 3 cups of water. Add the quinoa and reduce the heat. The quinoa will take 15-20 minutes to absorb all the water. Once the quinoa is cooked, spread it on a plate in the fridge to cool.

Make the dressing with the zest and juices, rice vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, and pepper. The original recipe did not include the sugar or oil, but I found the dressing too bitter without it. Maybe it was just my fruit! Add the onions, red pepper, beans, and watercress and mix gently to coat.

After the quinoa has cooled, add it to the vegetable mixture and combine. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour before serving.
Note: This salad also holds up really well overnight. I had some for lunch today and everything was still crisp and flavorful.

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Zucchini pasta with salad and crusty bread

My parents were visiting this weekend, so of course I wanted to make dinner for them one night! We started off Saturday by going to the farmers market and exploring around. Going to the farmers market with my mom and dad is much more amusing than going on my own!

After perusing the farmers market, I decided to make pappardelle with slow roasted zucchini sauce and a salad with tok choy (yes, tok choy, not bok choy). We also went to an Italian festival that afternoon where we picked up a nice loaf of ciabatta bread to go with dinner.

I started off the pasta sauce by slicing the zucchini into very thin rounds, and tossing it in a pan with olive oil, vegan butter, and lots of minced garlic. Then the zucchini cooked down for a long time….it gets kind of ugly but super tasty.

While the zucchini was cooking, I used the tok choy and a minced red pepper to make a yummy salad. This was made much easier by my mom volunteering to clean and destem the tok choy. I also decided to mix up my own dressing with some Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, lime juice, Persian lime olive oil, and salt and pepper.

Once the zucchini had cooked down and the pasta was cooked, I added a little rice vinegar to add a little tang, then tossed in the cooked pasta. Lots of freshly chopped parsley got mixed in for a nice pop of freshness and greenness. Then, dinner was ready to serve! It was a fun dinner to linger over, especially with some Railyard that was fetched by Jon and dad from one of our favorite breweries, Wynkoop Brewery.

My favorite dish was actually the salad–I think tok choy is one of my new favorite greens! Plus, it was fun to have my parents visiting to top off our 2 weeks of family fun. 🙂

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Zucchini panzanella

For a recent potluck at work, I decided to make panzanella. I bought tomatoes and everything, but since the potluck was on Friday, the tomatoes got used up in other meals earlier in the week. Late Thursday night after Jon and I got home, I realized that I needed to make something but didn’t have all the ingredients for what I had been planning. One of the only downsides of our new place is that grocery stores are not nearly as convenient–at our old house we had 2 within a 3 minute drive. Well, at 9pm I was not about to go to the store, so creativity had to take over!

I still had the bread and basil that I had originally planned to use, and of course I had onions and olive oil. I also had some zucchini left over, so I decided to try making my salad with zucchini instead of tomatoes.

I chopped everything up, making sure to chop the onions finely. Then, I mixed up a dressing with red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper. I didn’t want the bread to get soggy overnight so I mixed everything together an hour before the potluck. It was unique and pretty tasty!

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