Pappardelle with Fresh Vegetables and Chicken

Just a quick light dish that I whipped up last night. Sarah and I had both eaten late lunches  and weren’t particularly hungry. The base of the dish was some really good sprouted wheat pappardelle pasta from Trader Joe’s. I used an 8 oz. bag.

While this was boiling, I sauteed ripe Roma tomatoes (from the Headhouse Market) cut into quarters, some diced onion, two cloves of garlic, one diced small zucchini and salt and pepper. I threw in some diced chicken breast that I had browned earlier. To this I added extra virgin olive oil and some good balsamic vinegar. You don’t want to cook this for very long. If you do the tomatoes will get soft. Just heat the veggies and the chicken through and toss in the pasta. I use an old-fashioned technique here: instead of draining the pasta first, I just pick it up with tongs and add it directly to the saute pan. This allows a little pasta water (in all of its starchy goodness) to become part of the sauce. To the pasta, I added some fresh chopped basil and some grated Parmesan.

A quick note on the basil. This is some of the best basil that I have ever had. We bought it from our new friend Jennie at Weaver’s Way.  Unlike mega-mart basil, this has little bits and holes where insects and worms have taken small bites– in fact, an inchworm fell out of this bunch when I was washing it. My mother always used to say she didn’t trust produce that didn’t have some evidence of insect life. I didn’t understand that as a kid, but I do now. A healthy ecosystem includes insects and worms. Mass production uses pesticides that eliminate this insect life so you have prettier produce. But you also sacrifice some of the nutrients that provide healthfulness and flavor to the produce. We’ve bought this basil twice now and it has wowed us both times.

As for the pasta, it made for a quick and tasty meal.

This dish could be made gluten-free by just using some GF pasta. There are some very good ones out there right now. A dairy-free option here would just be eliminating the cheese. If you use good, flavorful veggies, it wouldn’t be necessary. A vegetarian option would be to substitute the chicken with some wild mushrooms. Shiitakes or Criminis would work well.

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Shrimp and Tofu Stir Fry

shrimp and tofu stir fry

This is a light and delicious version of the stir-fry mixture we did for Pan-Fried Noodles with Chicken, using shrimp and tofu.  My husband Joe and I were in the mood for a quick and healthy dinner.  We didn’t have any fresh noodles, so we just served this over rice.  (The sauce and marinade are the concoction of Eileen Yin-Fei Lo.)

Shrimp and Tofu Stir Fry

About an inch of ginger, peeled and chopped

2 cloves chopped garlic

handful of julienned snow peas

handful of julienned carrots

1 block firm tofu, cubed

1 lb or so of peeled and deveined raw shrimp

Soy sauce

Vegetable oil

For the sauce:

1 cup chicken stock

1 pinch each of cornstarch, ground pepper, sugar

1 dash each rice wine, dark soy sauce, sesame oil

For the marinade:

Mix dashes of sesame oil, rice wine, white rice vinegar and soy sauce with pinches of cornstarch, salt and sugar.

Marinate the shrimp and the tofu in the above marinade for at least an hour.

Get some vegetable oil very hot in a wok.  Throw in the ginger and garlic and give them about 20 seconds.  Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until they start to become pink and opaque (not more than two minutes).  Add the tofu and vegetables, stirring constantly.  When everything is cooked, but still crispy, pour in the sauce and let everything cook until it thickens.  Serve over rice.

You can be creative with the veggies on this– mushrooms would be great in it.  Julienned zucchini, eggplant– you could really experiment with whatever you happen to have.  Other than the sodium content, it’s a healthy dish.  Leave out the shrimp (maybe add mushrooms instead) and it’s vegetarian as well.

By the way, if you’re gluten free, you can use tamari instead of soy sauce to make this a delicious gluten-free Chinese meal.  Not all varieties of tamari are brewed without wheat, but San-J brand makes a wheat-free tamari that’s a perfectly tasty alternative.  Most Whole Foods and Asian supermarkets carry it.

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Breakfast Casserole

A friend asked me about this dish yesterday, and it’s such a simple, easy recipe that I thought I’d share it.  It’s basically a savory bread pudding made with breakfast ingredients.  The idea for this dish came from my mom’s coworker, a very talented woman who’s always putting together some thoughtful, creative gift.  She brought a prepped version, minus the eggs, over on Christmas Eve, the idea being that on Christmas morning all we’d have to do would be to add eggs and throw it in the oven.  Brilliant.

This is also a great way to use leftovers, and you can customize it however you please.

The basic ingredients are:

Several torn-up slices of bread (day-old or gluten-free)

1 cup or so of shredded cheddar cheese

Several eggs, beaten with a fork (enough to cover the bottom of the dish evenly)

Arrange the bread in the bottom of a casserole dish (glass or ceramic, 9×13 or thereabouts).  Gluten-free bread actually works really well in this dish, because it tends to be a bit dry naturally, and can soak up the liquids in the dish as it cooks without getting too mushy.  Scatter cheese over it.

Now you can add whatever you like: bacon or sausage pieces (please cook these first!), diced tomatoes, onions, zucchini and/or peppers, mushrooms, leftover bits of beef or chicken… you get the idea.  Basically, take whatever’s in your fridge that might be kind of breakfast-y, chop it up, and scatter it evenly around the casserole dish.  When you’ve loaded it with deliciousness, you can (a) keep going, or (b) cover tightly with foil and put it in the fridge for tomorrow.  Or bring it to a friend’s house on Christmas Eve.  I wouldn’t try to keep it longer than overnight, though.

Either way, when you’re ready: pour the eggs evenly over the ingredients.  You don’t have to cover everything, but it should be even and at least cover the bottom of the pan.  If you like your eggs fluffy (and fatty), stir in some sour cream or yogurt before adding the eggs.  If you’re going the healthy route, use egg whites.  Scatter a bit more cheese on top.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until eggs are cooked and dish is golden brown and bubbly on top.  Serves 6-8 people. 

This dish not only uses leftovers, it creates delicious and long-lasting leftovers– you can make this for breakfast and then keep eating it all week if you like.

Happy birthday, Dad!

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Zucchini Parmesan

We’re big on Italian-American comfort food at our house. Joe grew up in a traditional Italian-American family in New Jersey, and I’m from Pittsburgh, so this is familiar territory for us. (My standard is the version they make at Minutello’s in Shadyside.) We picked up some fresh, in-season zucchini at the Fair Food Farmstand and decided to forgo the traditional Fourth of July grill-fest.

Zucchini parm is a relatively simple dish, but there are a few stages involved in its making, so it can be a little time-consuming.

First: get yourself some good, fresh zucchini. Ideally, it’ll be from your backyard, but if you’re like us and don’t have a backyard, the local farmer’s market will do. Three or four small ones will be plenty.

Next: Slice it lengthwise, as thin as you can get it. We used a mandoline to do the slicing, which makes things much easier. Make an egg wash in a bowl: two eggs, a splash of water, and some salt and pepper. Then spread some bread crumbs out on a plate– you can use boxed, but we just threw some leftover bread into the food processor for a minute. Dip the zucchini slices in egg and bread them, then fry them in about 1/4 inch of oil until they are nice and brown.

It’s helpful to have two people for this stage– one breading and one frying. If you’re slicing as thin as you can, you’ll have a lot of slices to fry!

As you finish frying the slices, let them cool for a few minutes, then put a layer of zukes at the bottom of a casserole pan. Cover the layer with marinara sauce. (Yes, we used a jar– the organic stuff from Trader Joe’s is perfectly fine if you don’t have the time to Martha Stewart some from scratch.) You can add a bit of cheese at this point– parmesan is good; we used Idiazabal. Add another layer of zucchini, top with another layer of sauce. Repeat until you’re out of zucchini. Top with sauce and mozzarella cheese.

Put the casserole in a 350-degree oven. It won’t need long– 20 minutes at most, but keep an eye on it. You just want to heat it through and brown the cheese.

Slice and serve hot with a glass of red wine. Good stuff– tasty, soul-satisfying, and great for vegetarians.

Comments imported from Blogger: 2

Melanie said…
Dude! Eggplant parmesan has been a favorite of mine; I never thought of using zucchini. I will have to experiment with this. 🙂
Also: congratulations on the return to breadcrumbs! Did they ever figure out what the allergy was?
July 5, 2007 1:48 PM  
Sarah said…
Thanks!!It’s not entirely clear– they are resorting to a maybe-IBS diagnosis, which I’ve learned is medical-ese for ‘we have no idea’. It’s clear that somebody messed up, but I’m still left without any real answers…. argh.But yay! Breadcrumbs!!

July 5, 2007 1:50 PM