Pantry Staple Pasta Sauce

We returned from a short vacation Friday night and Saturday was filled with all the errands except for grocery shopping. As a dinner time approached I turned to the cupboard to see what kind of thing I could cobble together.

Lentils and chickpeas provide a bit of protein in a vegetarian dish. We served it with some grated Parmesan cheese, cracked black pepper and a splash of extra virgin olive oil.

Pantry Staple Pasta Sauce
Servings: 4+
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
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Spanish Chickpeas

I made this for our Saturday night gathering recently and it was a hit. It is based on a recipe I found in Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates. I adjusted a couple of ingredients and written the recipe up in my own words.

Spanish Chickpeas
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. Sriracha sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 lg. red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 14.5 oz. cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine the tomatoes, lemon juice, soy sauce, Sriracha and paprika in a blender. Puree until smooth and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened.
  3. Add the tomato mixture and the chickpeas. Stir to combine and heat for about 10 minutes. You want the chickpeas to be warmed through.
  4. Taste, adjust seasoning as desired, and serve.

Notes:
I used Meyer lemons on my first attempt at this dish. It look 7 Meyer lemons to make 1/2 cup of juice. For regular sized lemons I’d normally need 2-3. Since regular lemons are more acidic than Meyer lemons I might add a tablespoon of honey to the puree mixture.

I prepped the tomato mixture an hour or more before cooking the dish and stashed it in the fridge. It made things less hectic at dinner time and, I suspect, gave the components in the sauce a chance to mingle.

Spinach and Zucchini Curry

[Spinach and Zucchini Curry]Monday night found me with no dinner plan. There were a couple of aging zucchini in the fridge, still firm but starting to blemish and a purple bell pepper, all from the farm stand near work. I found a package of frozen spinach in the freezer and a vague plan started to form. The result was a curry-like dish.

Spinach and Zucchini Curry
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, mostly thawed (see first direction)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, quartered and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, or pressed through a garlic press
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. sweet curry powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  1. Remove the brick of spinach from the package, place it on a cutting board and cut it into about 20 cubes. This is easiest if spinach is mostly thawed. Transfer cubed spinach to a clean dish towel, twist towel into a ball and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and bell pepper, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat with oil. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the onions and peppers have softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer cooked onions/peppers to a bowl, retaining as much oil in the skillet as possible, and set aside.
  3. Return skillet to medium heat. When oil is shimmering add the zucchini, sprinkle with salt and cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Shake the pan to redistribute zucchini and cook, undisturbed for another 2 minutes. Transfer zucchini to the bowl with the onions and peppers, again retaining as much oil as possible.
  4. Once again return the skill to medium heat. Add the spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the moisture has been released, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until aromatic, probably no more than 30 seconds.
  5. Return the onions, peppers and zucchini to the pan and add the curry and paprika. Stir until spices are distributed throughout the skillet then add the tomatoes, yogurt and water. Stir until the yogurt is fully dispersed into the vegetables, creating a sauce. Cook for 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper; adjust as desired.

Notes:
I nuked the frozen slam of spinach for a minute on full power to knock it from brick to mostly thawed. Your mileage, and microwave, may very.

You may wish to remove the seeds from the zucchini. I do this after quartering by just running the knife along where the seeds meet solid zucchini. Seeds aren’t really a problem on smallish zucchini. When the zucchini get to the large size the seeds can turn to mush in your dish.

We served this with white rice.

Slow-Cooker Pork, White Bean and Fennel Soup

I love a lazy Sunday however most of them are packed with to-dos and running around. It’s nice to be able to spend 10 or 15 minutes prepping something with the sure knowledge that you’ll have a taste meal at the end of the day.

Slow Cooker Pork, White Bean and Fennel Soup
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 7 hours

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced into 1″ pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. country-style pork ribs, excess fat removed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can canned small white beans, undrained
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. Combine broth, fennel, onion, garlic, pork and bay leaves in the slow cooker. Cover and cook, on low, for 6 hours.
  2. Bump the slow cooker up to high. Add the spinach, tomatoes and beans to the cooker. Recover and cook for an hour.
  3. Remove the pork (and bones) from the pot. Chop or shred into smaller pieces and return to the cooker. Add the vinegar, stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust salt/pepper as desired.

Notes:
This soup is based on one from Campbell’s. I added a few things to bump up the flavor and reworked the instructions a bit as well.

My frozen spinach didn’t thaw much after 6 hours in the fridge. I took a chance and added the mostly solid spinach brick to the slow cooker. It heated up fine and the soup seemed no worse for wear.

Black Bean Soup

In the fall one of my weeknight go-to meals is soup. It’s mostly a combine and simmer effort which is perfect after a day at work and the diminishing light of the day.

Black Bean Soup
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 75 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, 1/4″ dice
  • 2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 14.5 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • yogurt, diced avocado, chopped cilantro (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and a generous pinch of salt. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until tender. Add brown sugar, spices and garlic. Stir to combine and heat until fragrant; 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Add tomato products, broth and orange juice. Stir until tomato paste is incorporated. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add black beans, stir to incorporate and cook for 20 more minutes. Beans should be heated through and slightly softened.
  4. Taste for seasoning; adjust if needed. Serve with in a bowl with your choice of toppings.

Notes:
This recipe is based on one I found while sorting through the stack of recipes that get printed out, made once and forgotten. I’ve tweaked the original recipe to match my preferences and written up my version of the instructions.

The original recipe apparently came from Southern Living magazine circa 2008.

Fried Green Tomatoes

While picking up produce from the local farm stand for our regular Saturday night gathering I came across a bin of green tomatoes. I had been struggling to come up with another side and figured I could give fried green tomatoes a try.

These are unripe tomatoes, not some fancy heirloom such as Green Zebra tomatoes. These are very firm; not a rock but certainly not a fragile tomato that will be easily bruised.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 green tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup coarse corn meal
  • 1/3 cup fine corn flour
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 to 2 cups vegetable oil
  • sea salt

Directions:

  1. Core tomatoes and cut into 1/4″ slices. Place sliced tomatoes on a double layer of paper towels which you’ve laid in a rimmed baking dish. Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes. Blot the tops of the tomatoes at the end of the rest period to pick up any moisture.
  2. While the tomatoes rest combine the corn meal with the flours in the bowl of a food processor. Give it whirl for 30 second to a minute until the coarse corn meal is a bit finer.
  3. Whisk together the 2 eggs along with 1/4 cup of water until combined. Set aside.
  4. When ready to fry the tomatoes add enough oil in a 12″ skillet so that you have between 1/8″ and 1/4″ of oil in the bottom of the pan. Heat over over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  5. Dip a tomato slice in the egg mixture and then shake off the excess egg. Dredge slice in cormeal/flour mixture, coating both sides. Add the slice to the skillet. Repeat until the skillet is full but not overcrowded.
  6. Cook for 3-5 minutes then flip with tongs and repeat on the second side. The goal is the standard GBD (golden, brown and delicious). Transfer cooked tomatoes to a new rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle hot fried tomatoes with sea salt.
  7. Repeat with remaining slices until all are cooked. You can keep the finished ones in a 200°F oven to stay warm while cooking the rest.

Notes:
Tongs worked really well for me; far better than a spatula.

Next time I’ll try some buttermilk to coat the tomatoes instead of the egg. Egg worked OK however most of the recipes I looked at suggested buttermilk. Also I’d try this thing Ted does when he makes chicken fingers where he coats the chicken and then let’s it rest on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes before frying. This helps the coating to bind to the chicken and seems to help it stay affixed after cooking.

These would have been good with a little spice mayo or remoulade sauce.

I looked at a number of recipes in figuring out what to do with my green tomatoes. Two that are online include Southern Living Fried Green Tomatoes and Dinner’s Done! Fried Green Tomatoes.

Weeknight Chickpeas

We try to have at least one vegetarian meal each week and when I’m at a loss for what to make I turn to chickpeas. This dish is similar to the Chickpea side dish recipe I posted years back. The flavor profile is different and it makes a filling meal with some rice.

Weeknight Chickpeas
Servings: 2-4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 green pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 Serrano pepper, halved, seeded and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and pressed
  • 2 tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. ground paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground chipotle
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 14.5 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14.5 oz.can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and peppers. Sprinkle with salt, stir to coat in oil and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, stir and cook until fragrant. Add the spices, incorporate and cook for about 1 minute.
  3. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, a big pinch of salt and 1/2 cup water. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Taste; chickpeas should be slightly firm outside and creamy inside. Adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper as desired. Serve up on a pile of white rice.

Notes:
I prefer to use Goya Reduced-Sodium Chickpeas for this dish.

A half tablespoon of acid, such as cider vinegar, stirred in to the chickpeas at the end of cooking will enhance the flavor of the dish.