Stovetop Fideos

At some point before we moved, I finally had the time to read through my backlog of cooking magazines. I made a short list of recipes that I actually had all of the ingredients for, and that would thus be good to make to use up things in my freezer and pantry.

The recipe for Stovetop Fideos was a good contender. I’d never heard of fideos, but it’s a kind of toasted pasta or pasta dish in Spanish or Mexican cuisine. This vegetarian recipe was very easy to make and doesn’t take any special ingredients (unless you wanted to use the cheese that the recipe calls for – I made mine vegan). This recipe was just toasted pasta, cooked in broth with standard supermarket frozen vegetables.

The fideos cooked up quickly. I sauteed plain refined-wheat angel hair pasta (the recipe calls for whole wheat), broken into small pieces in olive oil and transferred it to a plate. Next, I sauteed onion, (thawed) green beans, and garlic for a few minutes, and added thawed corn, a can of tomatoes, and oregano (Mexican since I had it). I added bouillon and the pasta, brought the dish to a boil, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, perhaps less.

Stovetop Fideos

I enjoyed this recipe more than I expected to. Pasta with vegetables doesn’t sound very exciting, but this was simple and nourishing. It felt healthy, and it felt like comfort food. I enjoyed it as leftovers the next day. I’m not sure if toasting the pasta really added anything to the dish – I may have to try making it without toasting the pasta first to see how that turns out. This was a great way to use up some odds and ends, and was pretty fast and simple to make. I’ll definitely give it another shot.

331: Mushroom Stew with Spaetzle

I must preface this entry with a note that I wasn’t in the best mood when I got home to make this recipe. I’d planned to make Mushroom Stew with Spaetzle, and so that’s what I decided to do, regardless of how I felt.

Now, there are some hints that this isn’t a recipe to make when you’re prone to frustration. You make spaetzle (German egg noodles), and then you make the mushroom stew. Neither of these should be that difficult, but doing both back-to-back is a little time-consuming.

I don’t make pasta very often, and I’ve never made spaetzle. Basically, you mix together flour, salt, milk, and eggs, and let the mixture set for 10 minutes. Then you push the sticky dough through a large-holed colander into a pot of boiling water. You scoop the spaetzle from the water once they float to the top. I didn’t have a colander with 1/4 inch holes, but one of the reviews of the recipe said they pushed the dough through the slats of a broiler pan. That sounded reasonable, and it worked okay, but I found that the spaetzle floated practically as soon as it hit the water. It was pretty messy to do as well. It worked, but I got frustrated while doing it. I just didn’t find the spaetzle appetizing once I cooked them.

The mushroom stew was pretty straightforward to make, although you had to soak dried mushrooms to start. Saute onions and garlic, add various mushrooms, and cook until most moisture has evaporated. Add flour and paprika, then red wine, and then broth and mushroom soaking liquid, and cook about 15 minutes until thickened. Add balsamic vinegar salt and pepper, and parsley, stir in spaetzle, and serve.

Mushroom Stew with Spaetzle

This was okay. I wasn’t in the mood for it once I was done cooking it, so I was unimpressed. Alex liked the chewy spaetzle, and liked that the meal tasted hearty even though it didn’t have any meat in it. He said that he thought it tasted similar to beef stroganoff, except without the beef. He liked it, and went back for seconds. There was probably nothing wrong with this recipe; I was just tired and not in the mood to eat it. It’s probably a solid recipe. Give it a try if you’d like, because Alex liked it.

326: Eggplant Bolognese

I save all the food Alex doesn’t like for when he’s not going to be around to eat it. Generally this includes red wine and coffee (if it’s a weekend when the additional caffeine won’t be a problem for me). This time, he suggested I make something with eggplant. I flipped around a magazine, and realized that there was a recipe for Eggplant Bolognese that I’d seen but dismissed out of hand as something I wouldn’t make because Alex wouldn’t eat it.

The recipe was easy to make. I can’t think of any changes I made to the recipe, except that I used diced tomatoes in place of whole. I served the pasta sauce over whole wheat spaghetti. I got 4 servings out of this recipe.

Eggplant Bolognese

This was fine. The eggplant really just blended into the sauce and gave the sauce a hint of sweetness. I still preferred the bites that had beef, though, and although it would have countered the point of the recipe (to use less beef in bolognese sauce), I would have liked it a little better if I’d doubled the beef. I got a little tired of eating the leftovers. There was nothing wrong with this recipe, but it really didn’t wow me; maybe I just don’t like eggplant enough. Overall, I think I still just prefer my traditional meat sauce that I make for spaghetti, and won’t switch over to this one any time soon.

277: Oven-Roasted Pasta Sauce

Before our first frost advisory, I picked all the green tomatoes on my tomato plant. I had 7 pounds of green tomatoes! I’ve been waiting for the majority of them to be ripe at the same time so that I could make Oven-Roasted Pasta Sauce.

Even so, I didn’t have 5 pounds of ripe tomatoes, so I made a 3/4 batch of this instead. That translated to 3.75 pounds of tomatoes, or 60 ounces. I sliced one large onion into wedges and halved the (small) tomatoes. I put them on a baking sheet, drizzled them with olive oil, and liberally applied salt and pepper. About 5 or 10 minutes before I took them out of the oven, I put some amount of minced garlic on the tomatoes to roast a little, since I didn’t have whole cloves of garlic to roast from the start. I baked them for 2 hours, until I thought they looked pretty roasted [see picture on original recipe to see what they should look like]. I wanted to taste the roasted tomatoey goodness, so I added a couple of tablespoons of water rather than wine, and scraped away at the browned bits on the bottom of the baking sheet.

At this point it was late Sunday evening, so I put all of the tomato mixture into a container and put it in the fridge. The next day I reheated it, added some parsley, and pureed it in the blender. By heating it and then blending it, I was able to pour it directly on pasta.

Oven-Roasted Pasta Sauce

This was fine. I actually didn’t enjoy this as much as I had thought I would. I love roasted tomatoes, but I think that when it comes to pasta sauce, I prefer what I make without a recipe [which usually involves ground beef, several herbs, and a little red wine]. This was kind of sweet from the natural sugar in the tomatoes, since the tomatoes from my tomato plant always seemed relatively sweet. I may have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t roasted it as long, as well, or if I’d added wine to it rather than water. I think I’d enjoy basil or oregano (or maybe even some other herbs) in it more the fresh parsley I put in it.

There was nothing wrong with this, and a lot of potential good. I think that I would have enjoyed the roasted taste more over chicken, or with something else that wasn’t simply plain pasta. It was fun to make, and much less complicated than cooking on the stove. I might try it in the future, varying the roasting time as well as the herbs and spices, if I have lots of tomatoes and want a hands-off recipe.

239: Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, Bacon, and Chickpeas

I really wanted to try the recipe for Gemelli with Broccoli Rabe, Bacon, and Chickpeas. Although this recipe called for only 5 ingredients, it used a lot of dishes and took more time than expected to make. I followed the directions closely and didn’t try to do any of the steps at the same time. I cooked the broccoli rabe, and then cooked whole wheat rotini (since that’s what I had in my pantry) in the same water. Separately, I fried bacon. Next, I sauteed garlic and chickpeas in a little of the bacon grease. I added the broccoli rabe, salt and pepper, pasta, pasta water, and bacon, and heated through.

Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, Bacon, and Chickpeas

None of those steps seemed like they should take a long time, and since I didn’t try to do multiple steps at once, this took a while. This meal was fine. I liked all the ingredients in it, but the combination didn’t amaze me. The amount of time it took me to make a relatively simple recipe also dissuades me from recommending this recipe. It tasted fine, and feel free to try it if you think you’d like the combination and would be able to make it faster than I did. I won’t make it again, though.

191: Pasta with Pistachio Pesto and White Beans

I made Penne with Pistachio Pesto and White Beans for dinner one night. I used some whole wheat rotini that I had in the house. I cooked beans in the crockpot rather than used canned. My tomatoes were store-bought, and unfortunately not very flavorful. I picked some basil from a couple of plants I have outside, but I think I didn’t really pack the cup enough. I used spinach rather than arugula, and I omitted the cheese.

Pasta with Pistachio Pesto and White Beans

This dish was okay. I wish I had picked more basil to go in it, because I really only got a hint of the basil and pistachios. The beans, which were extremely tender from being in the crockpot, mushed up a little as I stirred them in, which gave a different, stickier texture to the pasta (not necessarily a bad thing). I wish the tomatoes had been more flavorful, because that would have made up for the scant cup of basil I used.

I don’t think this was a bad recipe – it would have been better if I’d had better basil and tomatoes. Give this a try, just make sure that you use enough basil and have really good tomatoes. Having made this once already, though, I will probably try a different recipe.

187: Lemony Orzo-Veggie Salad with Chicken

One Friday, I knew there wouldn’t be enough time for me and Alex to go home and eat before we had to be at a game. I decided to make Lemony Orzo-Veggie Salad with Chicken since it seemed like a good, light, take-along meal for hot weather.

I was rushed when I made this. I eyeballed the amount of lemon zest that I put in the dressing, and I think that I actually just mixed all of the ingredients together, without making the dressing first. I omitted dill and feta.

I enjoyed this. We were a little rushed when we ate this too, so I’m trying to remember specifics about it. It was refreshing, and is actually one of those rare pasta salads, since it has no mayo or dairy in it. I wish I could remember just how lemony it was. It didn’t seem particularly vegetable-heavy, but then again, it was a pasta salad. I’m not sure that the chicken added much to it for me.

I would definitely try this again. It was pretty good on its own, and it has room for adaptation and improvement as well.

159: Vietnamese Beef Noodle Salad (Steak Bun)

I was excited to see the recipe for Steak Bun in Eating Well magazine. I had this in a Vietnamese restaurant a few times, and really enjoyed it, so I was happy to have a chance to make it myself.

Unfortunately, this entailed a whole bunch of chopping and cutting. Radishes had to be sliced, as did carrot, Napa cabbage, and mint and basil. I couldn’t stand fish sauce the first time I tried cooking with it, so I used soy sauce in this recipe instead.

Steak Bun (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Salad)

I enjoyed this okay. I’m not sure if it’s the same as what I’ve had when I’ve gone to restaurants since I haven’t had it in years. Obviously, using soy sauce in the dressing changes the taste a little bit. This wasn’t particularly good as leftovers, unfortunately, but it was refreshing since you cool off the noodles after they soak. I also really enjoyed the herbs in this recipe. This recipe’s worth a shot, but I think that I might try a different recipe if I try to make this in the future.

130: Asparagus Pesto

I never thought I’d get tired of grilled asparagus, but I’m definitely starting to. I decided to try Asparagus Pesto instead.

I microwaved some asparagus to cook them, rather than boil them, because I was cooking them the day before I actually made the pesto. The next day, I blended them together with some garlic, walnuts, olive oil, and some lemon juice. I omitted the Parmesan cheese as I always do, but I didn’t think to reduce the amount of olive oil in proportion. That didn’t really matter, though. I tossed it with some whole wheat pasta.

I don’t have any good pictures of this. It was fine. It… tasted like asparagus with some seasonings. No surprise there, I guess. You do need to like asparagus as a dominant flavor to enjoy this. I got a little tired of eating it toward the end since I split it between me and Alex (it definitely feeds 4-6 people). I’d probably do this again if I bought asparagus that I wasn’t sure what to do with. I also thought it was a pretty decent vegetarian meal.

114: Chicken and Pasta with Walnut Sauce

On Monday I made Chicken and Pasta with a Creamy Walnut Sauce. You blend walnuts, garlic, salt and pepper, a dash of cayenne, a little broth, parsley, and lemon juice to make the sauce. Then you boil water, add pasta, add broccoli and red pepper strips a few minutes later to steam them, and saute chicken separately. Drain the water, add the chicken and the sauce to the pasta and vegetables, and you have dinner.

Chicken and Pasta with Walnut Sauce

I really enjoyed this, but in the future I’ll actually make it as a vegetarian meal. The chicken didn’t really add anything to the meal. In contrast, there were a few walnuts that didn’t get ground up well enough, and biting into those was delightful. I used extra broccoli and extra red pepper strips, which also added a lot to the dish and probably lessened the impact of the chicken. This dish felt very healthy. When I make this again, I will double the sauce, add the extra broccoli and red pepper, and omit the chicken.