Categories
Crockpot Main Dish

There are ‘polenta’ of options for this pork dish

Pork Ragu over Creamy Polenta
Slow-cooked pork ragu is served over a creamy polenta to create a delicious, warm dinner with tons of flavor.

It’s amazing how much variety we have at our fingertips at our local grocery stores.

There are so many options and ingredients that you’d think no one could ever miss out on finding something they wanted, but as is sometimes the case, I hit a brick wall with this week’s recipe.

I’ve been eyeing this recipe for a pork ragu served over creamy polenta, but when I looked at our grocery store, the only polenta I could get was the pre-made kind that definitely isn’t creamy.

So I turned to the Internet to find a solution. Surely there had to be a locally available ingredient I could use to make creamy polenta.

Of course, someone had the solution: coarse grind cornmeal. And I figured out that Bob’s Red Mill makes just such a product, and it was available right here! The website I found claimed that you just used coarse grind cornmeal the same way you use polenta, so I immediately bought a bag. 

And it worked…sort of. If you can’t find actual polenta like I couldn’t, here’s my advice: buy the coarse grind cornmeal, but double the amount of it rather than substituting it one-to-one with the polenta.

I was so ready to eat when I took the lid off my pot of polenta and realized it was more in the “soupy” category than the “creamy” one. So, if you decide to make the swap, I highly encourage you to use three cups coarse cornmeal so you can get dinner on the table on time.

This comes from the blog “White Plate, Blank Slate.” You can find the original at http://whiteplateblankslate.com/pork-ragu-with-creamy-polenta. I modified the recipe by changing up the spices a bit and by using a crockpot instead of the stovetop for the bulk of the cook time.

Pork Ragu over Creamy Polenta
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Pork Ragu over Creamy Polenta

Slow-cooked pork ragu is served over a creamy polenta to create a delicious, warm dinner with tons of flavor.
Course Main Course
Keyword asparagus, bay leaves, creamy polenta, crockpot, crushed tomatoes, garlic, parmesan, pork butt, pork shoulder, rosemary, thyme

Ingredients

Ragu Ingredients

  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine I used a Cabernet-savignon
  • 28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes
  • 3 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves

Creamy Polenta Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk I used skim
  • 4 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse polenta or 3 cups coarse grind cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup parmesan grated, plus more for serving
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cut any excess fat off of the pork shoulder and then cut it into three large pieces. Season them with salt and pepper.
  • Heat the canola oil over medium heat in a stock pot or Dutch oven and saute, turning each piece to evenly brown each side.
  • Remove the pork from the pot and place in a large crockpot and drain off any accumulated fat.
  • Add the onions to the pot and saute until they are soft. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and saute for about five minutes. Pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot to deglaze it. Cook for another five minutes and then add the tomatoes, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves, smashing the tomatoes as you stir.
  • Add the mixture, along with two cups of water, to the pork in the crockpot. Cook for two and one-half to three hours on high or five to six hours on low.
  • When the pork is done, shred it with two forks, and stir it back into the sauce, adding salt and pepper to taste and removing the bay leaves.
  • For the polenta, add the milk and chicken stock to a stock pot or Dutch oven and bring to a very low boil. Add the polenta or corn meal, whisking constantly as you add it. Once the polenta is well-combined, place a lid on the pot and remove it from heat. Don’t open it again until 20 minutes have elapsed.
  • Remove the lid and add the butter and parmesan cheese, whisking until everything is well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve the ragu over top of the polenta in bowls, topping with a bit more parmesan.

This was so, so good, and it made a ton of food. We’ve been enjoying lots of leftovers over the past week, and the ragu would be great as a freezer meal, as well.

I’m sure plenty of polenta purists would say that I didn’t really come up with a worthy substitute, but I’d say that being able to swipe my credit card locally instead of online made it worth it. Plus, it was darn delicious, so polenta or not, this recipe earned an A-plus in my book.

This piece first appeared in print on Oct. 21, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Main Dish

This Greek pasta dish ‘itsio’ good, you have to try it

Pastitsio is a pasta dish that incorporates two different kinds of meat in a tomato sauce with warm spices and a delicious bechamel sauce on top.

It’s not often I can stump Joey with a recipe.

He’s the king of the spice cabinet and my go to when I know a recipe needs “something,” but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

So when I managed to completely confuse him this week, I was a little proud of myself. Well, I was actually proud of TV chef Ina Garten, but who’s counting?

The dish I put in front of my husband? A delicious, tomato-y pasta. The secret ingredient? Cinnamon.

Now, I know that sounds insane, but trust me when I say it gave this dish a deep, fall-like flavor profile that made it tough not to want seconds, and it is definitely worth a try, although I will warn you this is not a quick recipe. Be ready to have a couple hours to blow on creating this amazing dish.

While this week’s recipe is Garten’s creation, I found it on the blog “Vodka and Biscuits.” You can find the original post at http://www.vodkaandbiscuits.com/2016/10/07/ina-gartens-pastitsio/. I added extra garlic, oregano and thyme and used pork in my version.

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Pastitsio

Pastitsio is a pasta dish that incorporates two different kinds of meat in a tomato sauce with warm spices and a delicious bechamel sauce on top.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Greek
Keyword cinnamon, dry red wine, garlic, ground beef, ground pork, oregano, parmesan, thyme, tomatoes, yellow onion

Ingredients

Meat Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound pork
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine I used pinot noir
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 28- ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper

Bechamel Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk I used skim
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan divided
  • 5.3- ounce container plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 pound tubular pasta I used penne

Instructions

  • In a large pot or deep skillet, cook the onion, ground beef and pork (crumbling the meat as you go) until the meat is cooked through and the onions are soft. Drain any excess fat from the pan.
  • Stir in the wine and saute until it is absorbed into the mixture. Add the garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme and cayenne and saute another two minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices, along with the salt and pepper. Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring regularly and squishing the tomatoes so that they break down into a sauce.
  • After the sauce has been simmering around 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • For the bechamel, start by melting the butter over medium heat in a sauce pan. Once it is melted, stir in the flour and cook for about two minutes. Whisk in the milk and continue stirring constantly, raising the heat to bring the mixture to a low simmer (just below boiling).
  • Continue stirring until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the nutmeg, salt, pepper and 3/4 cup of the grated parmesan. Once the cheese melts, remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the Greek yogurt.
  • While your bechamel comes together, boil your pasta according to package directions to al dente. After draining, mix it into the tomato sauce.
  • Now it’s time for assembly. In a deep nine-by-13-inch pan, spread the tomato/pasta mixture evenly. Drizzle the bechamel over the top, and then finish off with the rest of the grated parmesan. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is browned and the mixture is bubbly.
  • Serve with some crusty bread.

This does take quite awhile to come together, but it makes plenty for a big family meal, and it got rave reviews at our table. It also reheated great for leftovers. 

It may have a few surprising ingredients, but it was still a home run for dinner at our house.

Plus, if you have a spices expert, it might be fun to play your own version of “stump the chump.” Even if they lose, they’ll still win with a great meal.

This piece first appeared in print on Sept. 9, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Main Dish

Explore new ‘pasta’bilities with avocados

Spinach avocado pasta is a great summer dish with lots of fresh flavors, including some roasted tomatoes on top.

There’s a running joke that the people in my generation, Millennials, are completely obsessed with avocados.

In our house, we fit the stereotype, although we rarely eat them on toast. The truth is, avocados are more popular with our generation, because it was in the late 1990s that trade restrictions started to ease for avocados to be imported into the United States and Canada, and a 2015 Super Bowl ad then made Americans start flocking to get their “avocados from Mexico.” (Did you sing the jingle in your head when you read it?)

According to the Canadian restaurant chain Quesada on its website, 90% of the avocados eaten in the United States come from Mexico, whereas past generations had to settle for the shortened growing season in California.

Basically, we now have access to fresh avocados year-round, and they’re cheaper than before, too, so Millennials just happened to be at the exact right time in American history to enjoy the creamy, green fruits. I decided to use avocados in a little different application this week that is absolutely perfect for summer—as a pasta sauce ingredient.

I found this recipe on the blog “Healthy Fitness Meals.” You can find the original post at https://healthyfitnessmeals.com/spinach-and-avocado-pasta-recipe/. I changed up some ingredients, added others, and chose to saute the tomatoes instead of incorporating them raw, like the original author did.

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Spinach Avocado Pasta

Spinach avocado pasta is a great summer dish with lots of fresh flavors, including some roasted tomatoes on top.
Course Main Course
Keyword avocado, spaghetti, spinach, tomatoes, vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes halved, if large
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Boil the pasta according to the package directions, and reserve about 1/4-cup of the pasta water before draining it.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley and oregano and stir to coat the tomatoes with oil. Saute the tomatoes, stirring regularly, until they start to burst or give up their juices, then remove them from the heat.
  • Meanwhile, add the avocado, spinach, garlic, one tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to a food processor or blender and process until smooth, adding some of the pasta water, one tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is smooth and to your preferred consistency. Taste it and add more salt and pepper, if desired.
  • Stir the pasta and sauce together until it is well coated, and then serve, topping each scoop with some of the cherry tomatoes, along with the juices from the pan.

I have to admit, eating avocados, whose taste I generally associate with flavors like cumin and red pepper, along with Italian spices was a bit weird, but I really liked it.

It was fresh and light and perfect for a summer meal. If you did want to make it heavier, serving this with some grilled chicken would be fantastic, too.

And even if it was a little cliché for a 30-something to make an avocado dish, I’ll be easily ignoring any snickering. Those earlier generations just didn’t know what they were missing.

This piece first appeared in print on June 24, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Main Dish Uncategorized

Recipe proves you don’t know ‘lentil’ you try

Lentil meatballs in curry sauce is a delicious meatless meal with a rich sauce and lots of great, rustic flavors.

Well, I did it to myself again. I noticed a lonely bag of 60-cent lentils sitting at my local grocery store, and I decided to bring them home and figure out what to make with them.

I mean, 60 cents? Who can resist such a bargain?

I’ve only made lentils once before, for a soup, so I’m not sure why I thought it was a good idea to buy more, but then, of course, I doubled down and chose what appeared to be a pretty involved recipe to use them in.

But let me tell you what: it was so worth it. This was so delicious, so if you’re ready to undertake a cooking adventure with me, I’d encourage you to give this a shot.

The recipe I tried comes from a blog named after its author, “Bianca Zapatka.” You can find the original post at https://biancazapatka.com/en/lentil-meatballs-curry-sauce/. I added some more spices to my version.

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Lentil Meatballs in Curry Sauce

Lentil meatballs in curry sauce is a delicious meatless meal with a rich sauce and lots of great, rustic flavors.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword coconut milk, curry, gingerbread, lentils, meatless, red bell pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, vegan

Ingredients

Meatball Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dried coriander
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs

Curry Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or use olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger grated (or sub 1/4 teaspoon dried ginger)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 3 large tomatoes diced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons red chili flakes

Instructions

  • Cook the lentils according to package directions. (Don’t worry if they get a little mushy—you’re going to process them anyway.)
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • For the meatballs, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion until it’s soft, and then add the garlic and remove the skillet from the heat when it browns slightly.
  • Add all of the meatball ingredients to a food processor or blender and process to a coarse consistency. There will probably still be some whole lentils in there, and that’s perfectly fine. Taste the filling and add any more spices, if necessary.
  • If the mixture is too wet to hold together, add more breadcrumbs until it reaches a consistency where it will. Set the mixture aside for about 10 minutes to let it cool down before handling it.
  • Have a bowl of water handy and shape the mixture with wet hands into about one-inch balls and place them on the prepared baking sheet. They can be fairly crowded but not touching. Brush them with some additional olive oil and bake for 30 minutes, turning them halfway through.
  • While the meatballs cook, start on the curry sauce. Using the same skillet as before, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook them until soft.
  • Add the garlic, ginger, cumin and curry powder, and stir to combine. Once the garlic is slightly browned, add the tomatoes, water, coconut milk, salt and chili flakes.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat. Place a lid on the skillet and let it cook for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Transfer the sauce to a blender or food processor and blend until it’s smooth. Pour the sauce back into the skillet and let it cook for a few minutes to thicken a bit, and taste it to see if it needs more seasoning.
  • When the meatballs are finished, drop them into the skillet with the curry sauce and then serve over cooked rice with some pita or naan bread on the side.

I added quite a bit more spice to my version, because I like spicy curry sauce. If you’re more in the mild camp, I’d encourage you to look up the original recipe and follow those amounts a bit more closely.

This was such a great meatless meal, because you honestly don’t notice that there isn’t meat in it. The “meatballs” aren’t meat-like in consistency at all, but they have great flavor. They’re a bit like a soft hushpuppy.

And while Joey was pretty skeptical watching me cook my lentils, he was totally on board once dinner finally hit the table. My forays into discount shopping sometimes freak him out a bit.

But now I still have half a bag of lentils to try to use. We’ll have to see what I come up with next.

This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 6, 2020.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Main Dish Salad Side Dish

Making a cold version of tacos isn’t mission im’pasta’ble

Taco pasta salad has lots of taco flavors—from fresh spinach and tomatoes to cheese and salsa—while being versatile enough to be served cold, warm or hot.

I was unloading some groceries a few evenings ago, and Joey came to inspect what I was pulling out of the bags.

Noting that there was a salsa I don’t normally buy, a container of tomatoes and a box of pasta, he immediately asked what new recipe I was trying for dinner.

After being the guinea pig for this column for eight years, he knows an experiment when he sees one.

“It’s a pasta salad,” I told him.

His eyebrows raised. The word “salad” generally comes with things he hates—mostly raw onions and mayonnaise.

“No. This is a taco pasta salad,” I quickly amended.

His eyebrows did not go down. He was not convinced, but he said he’d trust me on this one and waited, eying me suspiciously from the dining room, while I put together my new concoction.

I found this idea when I was looking for a good summer dinner dish, and this recipe is actually a combination of two others, one from Beth Pierce over at “Small Town Woman” and another from Rebekah Garcia at “Amanda’s Cookin’.” And then I added in my own ideas to make one, delicious pasta salad. You can find the two inspiration recipes at https://www.smalltownwoman.com/easy-taco-pasta-salad/ and https://amandascookin.com/taco-pasta-salad/.

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Taco Pasta Salad

Taco pasta salad has lots of taco flavors—from fresh spinach and tomatoes to cheese and salsa—while being versatile enough to be served cold, warm or hot.
Course Main Course, Salad
Keyword cheese, ground beef, pasta, salsa, summer, tacos, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces rotini pasta or another small pasta, like macaroni
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 10 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes halved
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 ounces pepper jack cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 15 ounces black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh spinach leaves cut into ribbons
  • 10-14 ounces mild guacamole salsa or your favorite kind

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain it, rinse it, and set it aside.
  • In a saute pan, cook the ground beef over medium heat until it is cooked through, breaking it apart as you go. Thoroughly drain all the grease from the pan.
  • Add the halved tomatoes to the hamburger, stirring regularly, until they begin to release their juices slightly—about three to five minutes—and stir in the taco seasoning and salt and pepper. Once the seasonings are well combined with the meat and tomatoes, remove the mixture from heat and let it cool a bit as you prepare your other ingredients.
  • In a large serving bowl, combine the pasta, beef mixture, cheese cubes, beans and spinach, along with about 10 ounces of salsa. Stir until the salsa coats everything well, and give it a taste. If it seems too dry or needs more flavor, add more salsa until you get your desired consistency and flavor.
  • Serve immediately at room temperature, serve cold out of the fridge, or heat the mixture in the microwave to serve warm.

On our initial eating of this, we had it at about room temperature—basically the temperature it was when I finally finished mixing it all together.

For leftovers, I ate it cold and loved it. Joey warmed his up and also thought it was pretty good. It would also be delicious to serve it with some avocado cubed up in it, but I think that might be best for serving it cold or room temperature rather than heating it up.

I don’t think I totally sold Joey on the notion of taco pasta salad, but I’m going to vouch for it being pretty darn good. It had some great taco flavor but was also a cool, summer dish, which was really nice for a hot day.

I also thought this would be a nice one to use for a barbecue or picnic, since it doesn’t matter too much if the dish stays cold or gets warm.

I probably should be a little insulted that Joey doesn’t fully trust me after all of these years, but after some of my recipe fails throughout our relationship, I can’t say that I blame him. I think I’d be inspecting any grocery bags coming into the house, too.

This piece first appeared in print on June 25, 2020.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Appetizer Main Dish Side Dish

Mushrooms are easy ‘caprese’ for dinner

Caprese portabella mushrooms take the flavors of a caprese salad and presents them in a warm, pretty side dish.

On our honeymoon, Joey and I visited a great Italian restaurant in New York City. It was the most expensive meal of our vacation, with us spending a generous gift from a family member that was earmarked for just that purpose.

The place wasn’t all that fancy to look at, but when your waiter is so quintessentially Italian that he’s singing along with the opera music playing in the background, you know you’re about to experience something authentic.

We ordered a bottle of wine, and our waiter suggested an appetizer of some fresh mozzarella that was flown in from Italy the day before, so we decided to go for it.

He plopped a plate in front of us with a giant mound of mozzarella, garnished with fresh basil and tomatoes—and we had no idea how to eat it.

This week, we again enjoyed that flavor combination with a slightly less intimidating side dish, and it was delicious. I will admit this is on the pricier end of recipes from what I normally suggest, but if you’re looking for something special—or you find a good sale—keep this one in your recipe box.

This recipe comes from the blog “Fat Girl Happy.” You can find it at https://www.fatgirlhappy.com/caprese-portabella-mushroom-recipe/. The only difference we made was leaving out the suggestion of balsamic vinegar, and I put amounts to the ingredients.

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Caprese Portabella Mushrooms

Caprese portabella mushrooms take the flavors of a caprese salad and presents them in a warm, pretty side dish.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword basil, caprese, mozzarella, mushrooms, portabella, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 portabella mushroom caps about two-inches in diameter
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces fresh whole-milk mozzarella
  • about 5 ounces grape tomatoes
  • about 1/2-ounce fresh basil leaves

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line a rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil for easy cleanup and lightly spray it with cooking spray.
  • Scoop out the insides of each mushroom cap and arrange them, with the insides facing up, on the cooking sheet.
  • Lightly drizzle the mushroom caps with olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.
  • Slice the mozzarella into equal slices—one slice for each mushroom cap—and place one slice into each.
  • Slice the grape tomatoes in half and place four to five halves on top of the cheese.
  • Bake for 15 minutes. (You may want to drain the sheet pan if there’s too much liquid on the pan, but we didn’t bother draining ours, and they were fine.)
  • Turn the broiler on high for one to three minutes or until the cheese starts to brown slightly.
  • Remove from the oven and top with the fresh basil and a little more olive oil and salt and pepper and serve while they’re nice and hot.

These were heavenly. We ate them as a side dish to some expertly prepared chicken breasts Joey made for us. It was a great dinner.

As for our Italian meal in New York, Joey and I discreetly glanced around at neighboring tables to see how we should dig into our mozzarella appetizer. Everyone else had opted to dive in with forks, so we did, too.

It was really good, although it was way more fresh cheese than the two of us could handle in one sitting, with entrees on the way as well.

That restaurant was one of the highlights of our trip, and we reminisced about it while we enjoyed our portabellas the other night. We’re no substitute for an Italian chef, but we certainly didn’t go hungry.

This piece first appeared in print on Oct. 24, 2019.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Salad Side Dish

Make garlic pasta salad to be the ‘roast’ of the town

Roasted garlic pasta salad has some amazing flavors that meld into the perfect summer side dish.

A few weekends ago, Joey and his best friend decided to fire up our smoker in the backyard and fill it with everything from several racks of ribs to a pork loin.

They tended the fire all day, hanging out in the garage with a set of washer boards to get out of the sun.

Parts of the house still smell a little smoky, and I can definitely tell which clothes I had up to dry while the smoking was going on when I pull them out of the dresser in the morning, but it was very much worth it.

As they wound down their cooking and we prepared to feast for dinner, I decided to whip up a side dish to complement smoked meats and found a delicious one that was even better the next day out of the fridge.

The recipe I made comes from the blog “Budget Bytes.” You can find the post at https://www.budgetbytes.com/roasted-garlic-pasta-salad/. I didn’t feel the need to add anything to this recipe other than suggesting getting a large head of garlic.

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Roasted Garlic Pasta Salad

Roasted garlic pasta salad has some amazing flavors that meld into the perfect summer side dish.
Course Salad, Side Dish
Keyword garlic, parmesan, pasta, ricotta, spinach, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound small pasta I used tri-color spirals
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Chop the top half inch off the head of garlic and place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Drizzle the top with olive oil and cover the bowl. Microwave on high, one minute at a time, until the garlic cloves are soft (poke them with a fork to save burning yourself).
  • Remove the garlic from the microwave and set aside to cool.
  • Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, but save 1/2 cup of the cooking water and put the pasta back into the pot with the burner now off.
  • While cooking the pasta, squeeze the garlic cloves, and they’ll pop easily out of the skin. Mince the garlic and place it into a mixing bowl.
  • Add the ricotta, salt and pepper, and 1/2 cup pasta water to the mixing bowl and stir until smooth.
  • In the warm pot you cooked the pasta in, add the spinach, ricotta sauce and cherry tomato halves to the pasta and stir so that everything is coated well and the spinach starts to wilt.
  • Add the parmesan cheese and more salt and pepper if needed.
  • You can serve this warm or cold.

This was a great pairing with the guys’ smoked smorgasbord, and I liked that it was a salad that didn’t use eggs or mayonnaise, so it would be perfect to take to an outdoor party where you may not have refrigeration readily available.

When I make this again, I’ll roast two heads of garlic instead of just one to really amp up the flavor, but it had all the stuff I really like—cheese, garlic, fresh veggies and pasta.

And I was thankful for the guys taking their Saturday to prepare lots of food to fill the refrigerator for awhile. Barbecue leftovers are some of the best kind.

This piece first appeared in print on June 14, 2018.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Main Dish Side Dish

Make ‘mushroom’ for lots of fresh veggies this summer

Mixing fresh vegetables and sausage with some simple seasonings makes for a great summer dish.

I’ve mentioned before that my gardening ability is pretty sad to say the least.

Part of that is due to my inability to figure out how much water to dump on my plants, and part of that is due to a thieving squirrel, who convinced me for most of a summer that my tomatoes were vanishing into thin air just before they were ripe enough to pick.

Thank goodness for good friends, local grocery stores and farmer’s markets now that I’ve mostly given up my goals of urban farming.

And with it being the time of year for gardens to begin bursting with lots of great veggies, I’ve started getting really impatient to put them on our dinner table as much as possible.

This week’s recipe is one that Joey and I decided to create while standing in the produce department of our local grocery store last week, so while I’m sure there are dozens of recipes much like it online, we really just made this one up as we went along.

A couple thoughts: if you’d rather make this a vegetarian dish, ditch the sausage and toss in some more veggies. The mushrooms give this a nice, meaty flavor all on their own. Also, once zucchini and summer squash is ready, it would be an amazing addition to this as well, cut into 1/2-inch rounds or half moons.

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Summer Vegetables and Sausage

Mixing fresh vegetables and sausage with some simple seasonings makes for a great summer dish.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Keyword bell pepper, mushrooms, sausage, tomatoes, vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 bell peppers any color
  • 8 to 10 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 8 ounces whole baby bella mushrooms
  • 3 about 9 ounces bratwursts or sausages of your choice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • black pepper to taste
  • garlic salt to taste
  • onion powder to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Wash and prepare the vegetables. Slice the bell peppers into 2-inch by 1/2-inch pieces. Slice the mushrooms in half. Leave the tomatoes whole.
  • Slice the sausages into 1/2-inch rounds. (We used a chicken, spinach and feta sausage that was out of this world.)
  • Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread all the ingredients out on it. Drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle on your seasonings.
  • Use your hands to coat the ingredients in the oil and seasonings and spread everything out into as much of a single layer as you can.
  • Bake for 12 minutes and then give the ingredients a stir. Bake for another 12 minutes or until the sausage is done all the way through and the tomatoes are starting to burst.
  • Serve immediately.

We had leftovers of this and ate it a couple nights later after mixing it with a little marinara sauce and serving it over spaghetti. It was awesome.

There wasn’t much spring to enjoy this year, but at least that means summer gardens can get underway.

For my part, I’ll stick to keeping some flowers alive this year and get my veggies elsewhere. That sneaky squirrel will have to go bother someone else for his meals this summer.

This piece first appeared in print on May 24, 2018.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.