Easy Weeknight Pasta Meal

I had an abundance of fresh produce that was about to turn, so I decided to use it all up in one meal. I went with pasta, as it lends itself to many different flavors and textures, and is very simple to make.

wpid-collage_20150923183418149.jpgFirst, I cooked the pasta and set it aside. I used radiatori so that the ridges on the noodles would catch all the tasty goodness of the vegetables. Next, I chopped up tomatoes, red peppers, and banana peppers, and then I added a heaping spoonful of minced garlic. I tossed those into the pot I used for boiling the pasta, added a little salt, pepper, and olive oil, and sauteed until the tomatoes were just starting to break down. At this point I added some sliced black olives and a green onion. I didn’t want those to get cooked too much, which is why I added them near the end. Finally I put the pasta back into the pot and stirred everything together for a few minutes, until the pasta was heated through. I served it with a huge hunk of crusty garlic bread and a sprinkling of parmesan. Even JI, Mr. Picky, enjoyed the meal!

You can add chicken to the dish if you’re into that kind of thing, or you can eliminate the cheese if you want to make it vegan. There are tons of options for this dish!

Advertisements

Fried Zucchini

I love love love zucchini… but only if it is in something, like zucchini bread, or fried. The other day I found myself in possession of two small zucchinis, and since I didn’t feel like making bread, I decided to fry it. Also, I’m trying to get JI to try new foods, and Iwpid-collage_20151002090426006_20151002090514834.jpg thought maybe he’d be more interested in something that looked like a chip than bread with green flecks… I was wrong. He ate one teeny nibble and hated them. Whatever! I got to eat the rest!

Whenever I fry, I used the standard breading procedure: flour, egg wash, breadcrumbs. For the zucchini, I seasoned my flour with generic Italian seasoning, mixed one egg with 4T milk, and ran two cups of Italian croutons through the food processor. Dip, dip, dip! I deep fried them for 2 minutes – if you don’t have a deep fryer, you could easily heat oil in a deep pan and use that instead; make sure you have enough to cover the slices. Set on a paper towel to drain, but serve immediately because they get cold quickly! I like to dip mine in ranch. Yum!

The Holy Trinity (Not a Catholicism Post!)

If you’re a “foodie”, someone who enjoys The Food Network, or just a person who loves to cook, you’ve probably heard the term “mirepoix” thrown around a lot. Mirepoix refers to the “Holy Trinity” of a basic recipe or soup/stew/stock base – a ratio of onions, carrots, and celery. Charles-Pierre-Gaston-François de Lévis, duc de Lévis-Mirepoix, Marshall of France and Ambassador of Louis XV, was a member of a house that was founded in Languedoc as Lords of Mirepoix, Ariège. The chef de cuisine of the duke (unnamed) established the basis for his culinary masterpieces, and named it “Mirepoix” in honor of his employer. Mirepoix is also referred to as “aromatics” because of the delicious odors given off when they are sautéed.

The ratio is 2:1:1 – 2 parts onion, 1 part carrot, and 1 part celery. This can be seen as 2 ounces: 1 ounce: 1 ounce, or it can be broken into “parts” which refers to “equal parts” or “equal measurements” to make up 100%. This would mean that 2:1:1 would be 50% onions, 25% carrots, and 25% celery.

wpid-ff51107a91122883a190cf80eb377d04.jpg

Now that we’ve gotten past the complicated math, let’s break it down into something super easy – real life. Generally the most fundamental and easiest way to make a mirepoix is to use one medium size white onion, two to three regular size carrots, and three to four regular stalks of celery. Vegetables don’t vary too much in size so it’s simple to use these common sense measurements if you don’t have time to weigh or scale out your vegetables.

To create your mirepoix, first decided how much you need. For example, if you are making a gallon of stew, you will need the measurements listed above. Use your judgment and preferences to determine how much of the mixture you will need. We can never get enough veggies into our diets! Don’t forget that the mirepoix does not have to remain in the soup/sauce – sometimes simply sautéing your mirepoix with salt/pepper/garlic/spices is enough to add flavor and afterward the solids can be strained out for a smooth soup or sauce.

Directions:

You will need the following:

  • 1 medium white onion, peeled
  • 2-3 regular size carrots, peeled
  • 3-4 regular size celery stalks, stringed (stringing refers to “peeling” the stalk to remove the sinewy strings that are tough and tend to get stuck in one’s teeth)
  • 1-2 ounces butter/margarine

Rough chop onion/carrot/celery – make sure all pieces are approximately the same size to ensure even cooking. Melt the butter/margarine and add the carrots first since they are the densest of the three vegetables. Cook the carrots for a short time, and then add the onions and celery. Sauté the vegetable mixture until the onions and celery are translucent (clear) – DO NOT BROWN!

This combination of cooked vegetables will be the essential base for all your recipes. If you do a lot of cooking, you can easily chop up the veggies at the start of your week and use as needed, as long as you keep them under refrigeration. Remember that no food should be stored longer than 5 days!