Friday, January 22, 2010

Orecchiette with Broccoli Pesto

In honor of the Food Network coming back to Cablevision, I present to you my latest foray into the Food Network magazine recipe realm!

OK, well, I kind of made this dish before I knew Food Network was making a comeback on Cablevision, but just work with me here...

I've had my eye on this orecchiette pasta recipe since I first started receiving the Food Network magazine last year. It happened to be on the cover of the first issue I received and it really drew me in and made me want it.

Fast forward to one week ago, when I was racking my brain as to what I wanted to make over the weekend. My mind honed in on this pasta dish and I was sold. Of course I couldn't just use the recipe "as-is", so I made a few adjustments...

Orecchiette with Broccoli Pesto
adapted from Anne Burrell's Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe Pesto recipe (for Food Network magazine)
  • 2 medium heads of broccoli
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 of a shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • Salt
  • Ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 pound orecchiette pasta
1) Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Set up a bowl of well-salted ice water. Cook the broccoli in the boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes and then immediately plunge in the salted ice water. This will prevent the broccoli from being overcooked and will set the lovely green color.

2) Drain the broccoli and coarsely chop.

3) Place the broccoli in the bowl of a food processor and puree until it is a coarse paste.

4) Add the pine nuts, shallots, garlic and parmigiano and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You will probably need salt and ground pepper.

5) Add the ricotta and pulse until combined. Taste for seasoning once again. It should be full-flavored and creamy. Set aside.

6) Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. (If you are making the pasta right after the pesto, just use the broccoli blanching water.) Cook the pasta 1 minute less than the cooking time on the package.

7) While the pasta is cooking, place the pesto in a large skillet and add about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water. Place over medium-high heat.

8) When the pasta is ready, drain and add to the skillet with the pesto. Stir vigorously to combine and cook until the sauce is creamy and heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat, add 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, if desired, and stir vigorously.

Hmmm...these pictures left something to be desired. For some reason the pesto and pasta took on a brownish tinge in the pictures, but I assure you that it was not brown in actuality!

I'm not sure how I feel about the resulting dish. I liked the flavor because I love broccoli and pasta. However, I think I was thrown off by the texture of the pesto. Whenever I've made pesto in the past, it's been with basil. The pesto always comes out smooth and silky. In this case, the pesto was chunkier and more "rustic" (which is a word Tyler Florence would most definitely throw around on any of his shows).

Still, it was pretty tasty. The pasta was tender and the pesto was flavorful and creamy. You could definitely tell broccoli was involved in this! But the flavor/texture was probably also due to my excessive use of cheese, once again. Feel free to cut back on the amount of cheese used if you don't like as much as I do. I would also have made the pesto with 1 1/2 heads of broccoli instead of 2 heads of broccoli. I found that there was a lot more pesto than pasta in the end. Orrrr, you could keep all the broccoli and simply make an entire pound of pasta instead of a half pound. Pick your poison.

And welcome back Food Network!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Eggplant Mushroom Casserole

I don't know why, but I've been craving an eggplant and mushroom dish for months. It's not as if I eat eggplant or mushrooms very often. I typically eat eggplant once per year. Mushrooms will come into the picture every once in a while. It's tough to eat anything vegetarian without running into a mushroom.

After researching on the internet, I found an Eggplant Casserole dish. What I love about cooking is that I can make changes without much fear that the end result will be inedible. I've run into that situation way too many times with cupcake creations.

I would apologize for my excessive use of pictures in this post...but:

1. Apparently some people don't actually read my blog, but "just look at the pictures".

2. I got a new digital SLR for Christmas and I've been really busy testing it out.

Suck it up!

So...back to eggplant & mushrooms...

Eggplant Mushroom Casserole
adapted from Best
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1/2 in slices
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • oil for frying
  • 1 onion, quartered and sliced
  • 1 package sliced mushrooms (don't know the size but it's the standard blue package of sliced mushrooms)
  • 8 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (or a handful fresh torn basil)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Ground pepper
  • 2 cups of your favorite grated cheese (mozzarella, provolone, etc...)
1) In a dish, beat the egg with the water until just combined.

2) Dip the eggplant slices in the egg, and then in the crumbs, coating both sides.

3) Fry slices in a little hot oil until brown on both sides. Leave to drain on paper towels.

4) Meanwhile, in another pan, saute the onions in oil until lightly browned.

5) Add mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, basil, water, salt, sugar, and pepper. Simmer until onions are tender.

6) Coat a large, shallow 9 x 11 in casserole dish with non-stick spray.

7) Place half the eggplant in the dish, trimmed to fit in a single layer, and top with half the tomato mushroom mixture.

8) Top with half of the cheese.

9) Add the remaining eggplant and then spread the rest of the tomato mushroom mixture over this.

10) Top with the remaining cheese.

11) Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the top browns. Allow to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Yum! Veggies galore! The vegetables were tender, the cheese was melted, and most importantly, the entire apartment smelled amazing. My roommate Kimmy agreed that the casserole was quite tasty, but then again she loves vegetables, so maybe she was biased from the start.

There are two things that would have made this dish even better for me:

1) Fresh basil: I didn't have any fresh basil on hand and didn't feel like buying half a plant just to get a few leaves. I used dried basil, but in hindsight, it might have been worth it to have some fresh herbs in there.

2) Cheese: I sound like a broken record. I know. But I could always use more cheese and this was no exception.

I know this dish isn't for everyone, but I'm having a personal need-more-vegetables period in my life. So there you have it. Eggplant and mushrooms have come together to satisfy my savory food cravings. Don't worry, cupcake lovers. They will be back again soon!