weeknight gourmet

Category : Vegetarian entree

Cheesy Baked Shells & Broccoli

IMG_1626This is an easy homemade mac and cheese that will please kids and adults!  Tasty with the added benefit of a bit of broccoli in the dish.

I followed the recipe as written, using a mild cheddar.  The only addition was including a bit of parmesan to the cheddar sprinkled on top.

Charlotte gobbled it up!

Cheesy Baked Shells & Broccoli
Real Simple

  • 3/4 pound medium pasta shells
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups grated Cheddar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 16-ounce package frozen broccoli florets

Heat broiler. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add 1 ½ cups of the cheese and stir until melted. Stir in the nutmeg, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Add the pasta and broccoli and toss to combine. Transfer to a broilerproof 8-inch square or a 1 ½-quart baking dish.

Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of cheese. Broil until golden, 3 to 4 minutes.

Crock Pot Black Bean Soup

blackbean copyI haven’t really been posting because some other things have been keeping me busy.  BUT I have been cooking.  This week I made this super easy and delicious black bean soup in my slow cooker.  I just had to post it because everyone — me, Tim, and 3.5 year old Charlotte — loved it and it is pretty rare to get a dish that is such a hit for all three of us.

I followed the recipe as written using veggie stock.  After 9 hours on low, I used my immersion blender to puree the soup a bit.  It really couldn’t have been easier!  The soup was dinner one night and lunch the next.

Crock Pot Black Bean Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups dried black beans, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
  • 1 32 oz chicken broth or vegetable stock, low sodium
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup water

1. Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and sauté onions for 4 minutes.

2. Add chopped garlic and sauté an additional minute.

3. Place the onion garlic mixture into the crock pot along with the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.

4. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

5. Using either a hand blender or traditional blender, puree the ingredients to your desired texture (I like to get it so a few pieces of beans are still visible so the soup is thick and still has a bit of texture).

6. Top with a dollop of yogurt, sour cream or crème fraiche.

7. Serve.

Meatless Monday: Fresh Pea Soup

IMG_0253Wow!  It’s been a while.  I am back in NYC after spending the summer at our house in the Berkshires.  Takeout is not an option up there and restaurants are a good drive away.  So, my kitchen was very busy — I cooked 3 to 4 meals a day depending on whether Charlotte ate dinner with us.  But I found it tough to fit blogging in.

Since returning to real life in the city, I’ve made some post-Labor Day resolutions.  Getting back to my blogging is one of them (as is staying away from carbs).  So be on the lookout for some new recipes!

It was a rainy morning so I decided to make this very easy pea soup while Charlotte was at school.  She loves soup.  And the recipe is from my favorite source, the Barefoot Contessa.

Just a couple of notes on the recipe.  I used frozen peas because that is what I had on hand.  And, I used my immersion blender to save myself from cleaning my blender.

So here are the reviews:

ME: I love peas and really enjoyed the soup. It is light and fresh and actually takes good cold as well.  Next time I might add a bit of pancetta or bacon.

CHARLOTTE: My three-year-old first declared that it was “disgusting” based on nothing other than its color. She then tasted it and said she liked it.  But chicken soup and black bean soup still reign supreme for her.


Fresh Pea Soup
Barefoot Contessa

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
5 cups freshly shelled peas or 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen peas
2/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup freshly chopped chives

Heat the butter in a large saucepan, add the leeks and onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the peas are tender. (Frozen peas will take only 3 minutes.) Off the heat, add the mint, salt, and pepper.

Puree the soup in batches: place 1 cup of soup in a blender, place the lid on top, and puree on low speed. With the blender still running, open the venthole in the lid and slowly add more soup until the blender is three-quarters full. Pour the soup into a large bowl and repeat until all the soup is pureed. Whisk in the creme fraiche and chives and taste for seasoning.


Black Bean & Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Guacamole

Here is a delicious and easy vegetarian meal!  Simply cook black beans with onion and some spices.  Mash the black beans and spread on tortillas.  Top with crumbled goat cheese.  So simple but surprisingly delicious.

Top with a simple guacamole made with avocado, lime juice, and cilantro.

Sure to please both adults and kids!

Black Bean & Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Guacamole
Fine Cooking

  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 15-1/2-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 large or 2 small ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
  • 2 tsp. fresh lime juice; more to taste
  • 3 to 4 oz. fresh goat cheese, crumbled
  • 6 flour tortillas, 8 inches across

In a medium skillet, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onion and sauté, stirring, until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the beans, cumin, chili powder, and 1/2 cup water and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost all the water has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Take the pan off the heat. With the back of a fork, break up the beans to make a chunky mash. Stir in half of the cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, combine the avocado, lime juice, and remaining cilantro and use a potato masher or the back of a fork to mash into a chunky paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper; add more lime juice if you like.

Spread the black bean mixture evenly over three of the tortillas. Scatter the goat cheese over the beans and cover with the remaining tortillas. Lightly coat a large heavy skillet or griddle with oil (about 1 tsp.) and heat over medium heat. Set one of the quesadillas in the skillet and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Flip the quesadilla over and brown on the other side for another 1-1/2 minutes. Remove from the pan, cook the remaining quesadillas (add more oil to the pan each time) and cut each into eight wedges. Serve each wedge with a dollop of the guacamole.

Kid-Friendly Broccoli Pasta

Here is a super simple kid-friendly pasta dish (Charlotte approved!).  Boil broccoli along with the pasta and then toss with oil and cheese.  Super fast, very flavorful, and most important a meal that Charlotte, Tim, and I all enjoyed together!

Leaving-Home Penne Rigate with Broccoli

1 1/2 pounds broccoli, washed, stems discarded, cut into bite-size florets
1 pound penne rigate
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup finely grated pecorino cheese, plus extra for serving
Freshly ground pepper

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Add a good handful of salt (about 1/4 cup), enough that you can taste it. Set a fine strainer in the sink.

When the water comes to a boil, add the broccoli and wait until the water returns to a boil. Add the pasta and set the timer to the number of minutes recommended on the box. When the timer rings, drain the penne and broccoli in the colander, then dump them into a large serving bowl. Add the olive oil and mix well with a wooden spoon so that the pasta is coated and the bits of broccoli are well distributed throughout. Add the cheese and stir well until you have a nice, green-speckled sauce. Sprinkle with a little extra cheese, and add some pepper.

What kind of lettuce is that? KALE!

Charlotte had kale twice this week!  Tim and I both love the leafy green so I was excited she took a liking to it as well.  The first introduction to kale was in a sausage and bean stew I like to make in the fall and winter.  Charlotte picked the kale out of the bowl and asked “what kind of lettuce is this?”.  I was impressed with her food identification, but more thrilled that she liked the superfood.

Later in the week, I used kale to make this delicious pesto.  Charlotte loved it and ate two bowls.  Tim and I devoured ours as well.  I followed the directions below and it turned out very well.  We have some extra for dinner next week!

A sprinkle of extra parmesan on top added a nice touch.  Enjoy!

Kale Pesto
Bon Appetit

Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Blanch 4 garlic cloves for 2-3 minutes; remove from water with a slotted spoon. In same water, blanch 1 bunch of stemmed kale for 30 seconds; drain. Purée garlic and kale in a food processor; with motor running, gradually add about 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, about 1 cup grated Parmesan, and 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice; season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use pesto to dress cooked pasta of your choice or as a sauce for vegetables or fish.

Pasta with Cilantro Pistachio Pesto

Looking for a delicious and easy vegetarian dinner?  Look no further than this amazing and hearty pasta.   A delicious pesto — made from cilantro and pistachio — pairs well with the roasted cauliflower and carrots tossed in with the pasta.  So much flavor!  The interesting thing about this pesto is that it contains no cheese.  It gets its richness from the nuts.  Though, I must admit I enjoyed my pasta with some parmesan sprinkled on top.

Fine Cooking suggests an alternative recipe with broccoli and red peppers instead of the cauliflower and carrots.  Can’t wait to try that variation!

Cavatappi with Cilantro-Pistachio Pesto
Fine Cooking

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 large head cauliflower, cut into small (1/2- to 3/4 -inch) florets (about 6 cups)
  • 3 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and then cut on the diagonal 1/2 inch thick
  • 7 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 lb. cavatappi
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large scallions, thinly sliced

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 475°F. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

Put the cauliflower and carrots on a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil and 1/2 tsp. salt and toss to coat. Roast for 10 minutes, stir, and continue roasting until tender and golden in spots, about 10 minutes more.

Meanwhile, pulse the cilantro, pistachios, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. With the machine running, add the remaining 5 Tbs. oil and purée until the sauce is very smooth. Add the lemon juice and 3/4 tsp. salt and pulse to mix.

Boil the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain well and return the pasta to the pot. Toss the warm pasta with the roasted vegetables and pesto. Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve.

Plenty: Caramelized Garlic Tart

Tim gave me the most beautiful and delicious looking cookbook for Christmas.  It’s called Plenty and is a vegetarian cookbook from renowned London chef Yotam Ottolenghi.  As I paged through the book for the first time, I literally wanted to make and eat every dish!  The book is organized by vegetable and the first recipe I tried was the Caramelized Garlic Tart from the “Funny Onions” chapter.  Funny onions includes leeks, onions, and garlic.

The description leading up to the Caramelized Garlic Tart states, “I think this is the most delicious recipe in the world!”.  That’s quite an expectation to set but I must say the tart was amazing!  So different and absolutely delicious.

For the tart I used Dufour frozen puff pastry which is so flaky and buttery.  For the cheeses, I used a chevre for the soft goat cheese and goat gouda for the hard goat cheese.

I served the tart with an interesting salad, featuring capers, sundried tomatoes, a few kinds of lettuce, radishes, and a nice lemon vinaigrette, also from Plenty.  Enjoy this as a vegetarian dinner or a delicious brunch!

Caramelized Garlic Tart
Plenty, Yotam Ottolenghi

  • 13 oz puff pastry
  • 3 medium heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme
  • 1 tsp chopped rosemary
  • 4.5 oz soft goat cheese (such as chèvre)
  • 4.5 oz hard goat cheese (such as goat gouda)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 1/2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 6 1/2 tbsp crème fraîche

Equipment: 11 inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roll our the puff pastry and line the tart pan with it. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Cover the pastry with waxed paper and pie weights or dried beans.  This is important because you don’t want the puff pastry to puff up so much that there isn’t any room for the filling. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and then cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until golden. Once done, set aside to cool.  Leave oven on.

For the caramelized garlic – put the garlic cloves in a small saucepan and add enough water to  cover it entirely. Let it simmer for 3-4 minutes, then drain completely. Heat the pan again, add the olive oil and fry the garlic cloves in it on a high heat for a couple of minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and the water and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat, and let it simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the sugar, rosemary, thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Continue simmering on a medium flame for 10 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated and the garlic cloves are coated in a dark caramel syrup.  Set aside.

For the custard – Whisk together the eggs, cream, crème fraîche, salt and pepper in a bowl.

To assemble the caramelized garlic tart – scatter whatever cheese you’re using and the garlic on the bottom of the tart. Pour the custard over.  Reduce oven temperature to 325.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the tart filling is set and the top is golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool a little.  Take tart out of the pan and garnish with a few sprigs of thyme.

Dinner Tonight: Done! Broccoli & Three Cheese Lasagna

Last week I picked up Real Simple’s Dinner Tonight: Done! on a whim at the grocery store checkout.  I was hungry and the cover photo looked yummy!  When I got home, I couldn’t believe I had picked up yet another cookbook but this one has not been a disappointment.

I have already made two recipes from it and have another two planned for this week.  The recipes do not require a lot of ingredients, are relatively quick, and (so far) have been very flavorful.

I made this lasagna recipe for my book club meeting last week.  Everyone loved it — even one woman who doesn’t normally like cheese!  Tim and Charlotte had leftovers and both gobbled it up.  I didn’t know an 18-month-old could eat so much lasagna!

A few notes – make sure to thaw the broccoli and to squeeze the excess water out of it so that the lasagna is not soggy.  I used Rao’s marinara sauce — it is a bit pricey but so delicious!  I doubled the recipe and we were able to get two dinners out of it.  And, lastly, definitely use fresh mozzarella — it melts beautifully and tastes delicious!

The prep and assembly of the lasagna was super quick; so, as long as you have 40 minutes for it to bake, it is definitely doable on a weeknight!

Broccoli & Three Cheese Lasagna
Real Simple
•    1 15-ounce container ricotta (about 1 3/4 cups)
•    1 pound frozen broccoli florets—thawed, patted dry, and chopped
•    2 1/4 cups grated mozzarella (9 ounces)
•    1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces)
•    kosher salt and black pepper
•    1 16-ounce jar marinara sauce
•    1/2 cup heavy cream
•    8 no-boil lasagna noodles
•    2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the foil
•    4 cups mixed greens
•    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Heat oven to 400º F. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, broccoli, 2 cups of the mozzarella, ¼ cup of the Parmesan,½  teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. In a small bowl, combine the marinara sauce and cream.

Spoon a thin layer of the sauce into the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 noodles, a quarter of the remaining sauce, and a third of the broccoli mixture; repeat twice. Top with the remaining 2 noodles and sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of mozzarella and ¼ cup of Parmesan.

Cover tightly with an oiled piece of foil and bake until the noodles are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Toss the greens with the olive oil, lemon juice, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Serve with the lasagna.

Healthy(ish) Mac N Cheese

After this unexpectedly snowy and cold weekend, I was in the mood for some comfort food!  I contemplated making the Barefoot Contessa’s Macaroni & Cheese which is absolutely delicious.  But I didn’t want such a rich and heavy dish.  I searched for some lighter mac ‘n cheese recipes and found this one that uses frozen winter squash which adds creaminess to the dish and a good dose of veggies.

The dish is very tasty.  Not as amazing as a traditional macaroni and cheese but it is very creamy from the ricotta and squash.  And, it has great flavor from the squash and the four cheeses.  Some of the recipe’s reviews describe the recipe as bland.  To avoid this, I would definitely use an extra-sharp cheddar and not skip the salt, cayenne, or ground mustard.

This dish is a delicious lighter alternative for adults and a great way to sneak some veggies into your kids dinner!


Macaroni & 4 Cheeses
Ellie Krieger

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen pureed winter squash
  • 2 cups 1 percent lowfat milk
  • 4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 2 ounces Monterrey jack cheese, grated (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon powdered mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until tender but firm, about 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, place the frozen squash and milk into a large saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up the squash with a spoon until it is defrosted. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the Cheddar, jack cheese, ricotta cheese, salt, mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour cheese mixture over the macaroni and stir to combine. Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the baking dish.

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned.