Black bean spaghetti with veggies

Have you all heard of this stuff? Black bean spaghetti?!

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Holy smokes this was good. We did, essentially, a pasta primavera with the black bean spaghetti, asparagus, sweet peppers and heirloom tomatoes from the garden. Hubs ran out and grabbed some vodka sauce (Mia’s) and, voila! Dinner!

Ingredients:

  • one package of black bean spaghetti
  • one bunch of asparagus
  • two half peppers of different colors (or one large pepper)
  • one large, very ripe heirloom tomato
  • one jar of pasta sauce
  • one tablespoon dry oregano
  • salt/pepper/olive oil

Boil a large pan of water with a bit of salt and olive oil. When bubbling, add in black bean spaghetti and the dry oregano. Boil for 6-8 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, cut the asparagus into one to two inch diagonal pieces, slice the peppers in to strips and roughly chop the tomato(es). Ad a tiny bit of olive oil to a saute pan and first cook the asparagus for about a minute or two and then add in the peppers. A minute or so after that, add the tomatoes. And salt and pepper to taste. Our pasta sauce is a bit spicy so I didn’t add in chili flakes to this recipe. If you are using a more subtle sauce, this is a good time to add in that heat. Stir occasionally.

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When the black bean spaghetti is al dente, drain the water and dump in the jar of sauce, making sure it evenly coats the “pasta”. It could get a little sticky, so add a bit of olive oil if you need to. Let it soak up the sauce for a bit.

Plate the spaghetti first.

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Test the doneness of the asparagus and then add the veggies on top.

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I top with a bit of shaved parmesan reggiano.

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Last minute, scrounged up dinner for six

We are on the east coast for a month visiting my family and, well, because there are six or seven adults and four kids running around (and as many different schedules), dinnertime has been hectic. When we do cook at home, there is a lot of grilling and a bit of each team taking a dish.

Last night we were supposed to be having dinner at the snack bar at the beach while the kids competed in beach games. “Supposed to” be the operative words. They snack bar ran out of food.  At 6pm.  And as we are eating out tonight and the next night, we didn’t have a lot of food in the house. I beat the rest of the family home, got the kids fed and then scrounged around until I found some dinner for us to eat. Normally I wouldn’t even post something like this, but my sister ate it…and liked it. And she usually doesn’t really like food…she eats because she has to. I know, I know. Isn’t that just bizarre? Not loving food?! ANYWAY. I told her I would give her the recipe. It wasn’t really much. But everyone seemed to enjoy it so here ya go!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large breast of chicken (boneless/skinless)
  • 1/2 bag of Trader Joe’s 10 minute Farro
  • 12 oz chicken broth
  • 12 oz water
  • 3 zucchinis
  • 2 precooked beets
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • herbs du provence
  • salt/pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • two teaspoons balsamic
  • cherry tomatoes
  • grated peccorino cheese
  • a head of romaine, cleaned and spun, for the plating

 

In a large pot I put the broth and the water and brought to a boil. Meanwhile I chopped the chicken into one inch pieces, trying to keep the size consistent. I also chopped the onion finely. Once the water/broth was boiling, I added the farro and cooked it in the still boiling broth/water for 10ish minutes, until chewy. In a skillet, I heated the oil, added 1/4 of the onion into the pan when it was shimmering, let that cook for a minute, pushed the onions to the outer ring of the pan and then added the chicken to the pan. I added salt and pepper and the herbs du provence as then hit the pan, let them cook until the outer edge of the chicken was white and then flipped each piece. I let it cook for a minute or two more and then mixed all of the onions and chicken together. Once cooked through, I poured the chicken into a bowl to save for later.  While the chicken cooked, I chopped the zucchini into 1/2 inch pieces and, after trimming the ends off of the asparagus, chopped that into 3/4 inch pieces. 

I added a bit more oil to the pan and, as it was warming back up, drained the farro and left it on the over, no heat. Once the oil was shimmering, I added the rest of the onion and cooked until translucent (medium heat). Then I pushed the onions to the outside. I poured all of the zucchini and asparagus into the pan and let it cook for a few minutes. While that cooked, I cut the beets into small pieces (I usually do this INSIDE a bowl so that everything doesn’t turn red) and the cherry tomatoes in half. 

Once the veggies in the pan started to soften, I added the white wine and let it cook down, having stirred the veggies so they evenly were covered. I put in a bit of salt and pepper (more pepper than salt…a few turns of a salt mill, about ten of the pepper mill) and then the balsamic. 

Once the asparagus was cooked through and the zucchini softened, I dumped in the rest of the veggies (the beets and tomatoes) and then re-added the chicken and the farro, letting the farro soak up all of the delicious juices at the bottom of the plate. It was honestly beautiful. Really colorful and smelled amazing. 

I added two leaves of romaine to each bowl and then spooned in about a cup and a half of the mixture. My dad then took the honors of adding a bit of peccorino to each bowl. I wish I had taken a picture. But everyone was starving at that point (and also trying to put babies to bed) so no picture this time. 

This would be a great one-dish meal for a dinner party, too. 

Azzy’s Chicken Sumac with Risotto Style Barley and Spinach Asparagus Salad

Hubs’ favorite food of all time is his mother’s Chicken Sumac over Tadiq. We don’t know if Chicken Sumac is a “true” traditional Persian dish because she said she made it up when Hubs was just a wee thing. But it definitely uses Persian ingredients. And he LOVES it.

I’ve Americanized it a bit by taking out the flour, adding in ground flax seed and putting it on the grill (his mother usually pan fries it in vegetable oil).  And, in case you haven’t had it before (you really should…it is DIVINE), tadiq, in short, is Persian rice cooked with either oil or yogurt or potatoes on the bottom to form a thick crust. Since we are not eating rice right now, and focused more on other whole grains* when we do have a grain (our logic isn’t 100% foolproof…), I made barley, risotto style, with parmesan, red wine and sauteed onions and mushrooms. As a green side, I cut asparagus diagonally into 3/4″ pieces and wilted some fresh spinach leaves and topped with balsamic glaze. The whole meal worked really well together. The chicken is very easy to prepare. The risotto style barley needs constant maintenance but didn’t take longer than 30 minutes to pull together. The risotto and asparagus can be completely simultaneously.

* Because rice is one of his favorite things and to make tadiq you have to make enough for like five people, he will eat a lot of it. By using other whole grains and only making smaller portions, we eat less. Plus, the whole grains have a lower glycemic index than basmati rice.

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The chicken:

  • As many boneless, skinless breasts as you have people
  • Sumac
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Salt/pepper
  • Grapeseed oil

The barley:

  • Trader Joe’s 10 minute Barley (I only used about half a cup for 3 people)
  • 1/2 of a vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 overflowing cup of dried shitake mushrooms that are then chopped small and rehydrated with hot water
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • Grated parmesan to taste
  • salt/pepper

The greens:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut diagonally into 3/4″ pieces
  • 3 cups of fresh spinach leaves
  • tiny bit of salt
  • sprinkle of balsamic glaze

 

Chop the dried shitakes first and then pour very hot water over them to rehydrate and let that sit. In a pot, pour the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. When the mushrooms have rehydrated, with a strainer, pour the liquid into the pot with the broth and reserve the mushrooms. Be sure to push the liquid out of the mushrooms with a spoon.

In a 12 inch saute pan, put the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and turn to medium high. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions and cook until they are translucent (about five minutes). This is a good time to trim and cut the asparagus. 

Then add the mushrooms to the pan with the onions and cook until the mushrooms start to brown (another five minutes or so). 

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When those seem close to finished, add the barley to the pan and mix them in with the onions and mushrooms until they are slightly toasted and coated with oil (another five minutes). Pour in slowly the red wine and let the barley absorb the liquid, stirring often. Once absorbed, dip a measuring cup into the simmering broth and add a cup to the barley, stirring it in.

 

While this is absorbing, heat a tablespoon of oil in another saute pan and add the asparagus of medium heat.  Let these saute until the color starts to get a vibrant green. Keep an eye on the barley and add a cupful of broth each time it is absorbed and stir.  

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Add the spinach on top of the asparagus and let that wilt down for about a minute and then turn it so that the asparagus is on top. Keep turning it until the spinach is wilted but not overcooked. Turn off the heat once the spinach seems cooked.

This is a good time to taste the barley to see if it needs more broth. You want this cooked al dente with some bite left in the grain. Soggy won’t taste as awesome.

When the last of the liquid is absorbed and the taste of the barley tastes perfectly cooked, turn off the heat. We will come back and finish it off after cooking the chicken. 

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The chicken doesn’t need much prep…but the most important thing is to make sure that the chicken is all the same thickness. As the chicken had already been defrosting in a zip lock bag, I pounded it down to equal thickness while still in the bag.

I then took them out and patted them down with paper towels. I put a bit of grapeseed oil on each side and then added about a teaspoon of sumac and a teaspoon of flax seed, salt and pepper to taste to each side of the chicken, rubbing it in on both sides. 

ImageGet the grill clean and hot (I like my chicken cooked at about 450-500 degrees on a closed lid grill) and place the pieces on there with a LOT of space in between. Give them room to cook. When the bottom side begins to get grill marks and the side seems to become opaque, flip them. Cook until an istaread thermometer reads 160. Take them off, put them on a clean plate and stare at their gorgeousness! Smell the lemony sumac!

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Now go inside and finish up the risotto style barley. Turn the heat back up, stirring occasionally (add a bit more of the broth if needed…which should still be simmering). Add salt and pepper to taste…butter if you want to be a bit more indulgent…a splash more red wine to be SUPER indulgent… and the parmesan. Lots and lots of parmesan. Probably ended up at 1/4 cup of grated parm. I forgot that I had wanted to add parsley. Completely forgot. Could be good!

 

Serve and enjoy. We definitely did. It felt totally indulgent without being terrible for us. Comfort food, Suhlizi style.

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The sickness!! (And foil-packet grilled salmon with mustard and tangelos)

Everyone in my family has been sick in one way or another at least a portion of but more likely the majority of the last two weeks. I was sick first (fever, lethargy, slight nausea, sore throat), then P (vomiting followed by fever and lethargy), then D (only a bit of fever a while back but now she has a weird rash all over her side), then hubs (throwing up followed by fever for five days) and finally our au pair (fever, extreme lethargy and nausea). It has been… “pleasant” around here. And only *I* seemed to have any appetite. All hubs wanted was carbs, carbs, carbs (to ease his belly). So cooking has been extremely limited. 

Right before everyone got sick, though, I cooked a few delicious things. The first was a super easy, grilled, foil packet salmon, corn and asparagus meal. 

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At the farmer’s market I had picked up the most delicious looking filet of salmon. I wanted to use it that night (and it was the last night our old au pair was around before taking off on her month long US adventure) but I didn’t have much time after being outside playing with the kids all afternoon, so I went back to my old standby: foil packet salmon with mustard and orange juice. I had also found perfectly spring-y super thin asparagus and tangelos, my favorite kind of orange. With the addition of some supermarket corn (I had to keep on apologizing to our au pair that *this* corn was going to be her first experience with corn on the cob. I promised her over and over again that this summer I will introduce her to the way corn on the cob is supposed to be. Man, I cannot WAIT for some Morning Glory corn!), we had a meal!

Hubs got the grill going as I popped off the ends of the asparagus and put them in a bowl with olive oil, grapeseed oil, salt, pepper and a bit of balsamic. We did these first as they were going to take up most of the grill to feed five people (the girls, their friend and us). I shucked the corn and got the foil packets ready while the asparagus grilled.  Our salmon was so fresh that I had to de-bone the filet with pliers, too. Once deboned, I cut the salmon into individual portions so that the salmon could be served while still in the tin foil. Mostly for aesthetics 🙂

To prepare the packets, simply cut a piece of tin foil large enough to completely seal the juices in but also a little room above to tent it a bit so that it steams while it grills. Place the salmon skin side down in the center of the foil and then smother the flesh with a healthy spoonful of grain-y dijon (my favorite is the Maille; I like the way it pops in your mouth). Squeeze the juice of a tangelo orange over the salmon until there is a small pool around the bottom of the salmon. Seal that juice in with the foil packet. I usually fold in the sides and then pull the other side in, fold it and then crimp the edges.

Once the asparagus is done, throw the salmon packets on the grill with the corn. You don’t need to do anything to the corn except for shucking the silky hairs and outer leaves. Plop that sucker STRAIGHT on the grill. No oil. No butter. Just corn and grill. Let it get a bit of char. Once it starts to char a bit, squeeze on some lime juice.  

The salmon needs about 10-15 minutes on the grill. Because it is getting indirect heat by steaming AND grilling in a packet, it doesn’t easily overcook. And letting the orange juice caramelize a bit is AWESOME.

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We keep our asparagus warm in the oven at 200 degrees while the other stuff cooks. When it is finished, plate and put a bit of balsamic glaze over the asparagus and a bit of grated parm over the corn. Put the foil packet on the plate and let your eaters discover the deliciousness themselves!

 

Ginger Glazed Mahi Mahi and Mama’s Asparagus Salad

Last night was another “experimenting” with what is available kind of night. In my freezer I had frozen Trader Joe’s Mahi Mahi filets and a knob of ginger. In my refrigerator I have three bunches of asparagus. And on my counter I had a handful of “on the brink” basil and some “starting to shrivel” cherry tomatoes. I wanted to use that basil. I didn’t realize when I started that the tomatoes would really make this meal.

The Salad:

  • 3 bunches of asparagus
  • large handful of basil
  • tablespoon  of pine nuts
  • table spoon of good olive oil
  • table spoon of balsamic glaze
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt/pepper
  • 10 cherry tomatoes

The Fish:

  • 2 small filets per person, so 8 small filets
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic glaze
  • salt/pepper

Knowing that my kitchen would turn into a madhouse at 530 when the kids came up to eat, I decided to roast the asparagus early and then reheat it at the end. I cleaned and broke the asparagus, lining it up on a pan as so:

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I salted and peppered and oiled them up and placed them in a 425 degree oven on the top shelf.

While those cooked I marinated the fish. In a bowl I whisked the soy, honey, balsamic reduction, olive oil and ground ginger. In a Pyrex dish I poured the mixture then placed the fish, skin side down, covered and refrigerated until I was ready.

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Next was the sauce for the salad. I knew I wanted to use the basil but wasn’t sure how. So, I thought, maybe a pesto of sorts? I chopped up a bit, added some pine nuts and a bit of olive oil and, using my immersion blender, puréed the ingredients. It tasted bitter so I added a bit of lemon. Better, but not quite right. Salt and pepper? Better still, but not 100%. Balsamic reduction?! Almost there! A few overripe cherry tomatoes?!! By Jove! It was delicious. But I needed more of this…so I did it again in a bigger bowl.

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I had to stop myself from drinking this concoction. I could eat that every day.

When the asparagus were close to done, I removed them and set them aside until we were at the end.

While the kids ate, I toasted 1/3 cup of pine nuts and set them aside.

Fast forward an hour and the family was close to being ready to eat. I put the oven at 400 and, after turning the fish to coat twice, they went into the oven for 15-20 minutes. When I turned them halfway through the cooking, I put the asparagus back in the oven below the fish. I also quickly cooked up the pancetta, draining it on a paper towel. Remove the fish from the oven when it starts to flake and put the fish on a plate. Pour the marinade into the pan in which you just cooked the pancetta and cook the mixture down a bit. Add a tiny bit of arrow root if it needs thickening.
Put the asparagus, pine nuts, pancetta and sauce in a large bowl and mix. I’m not kidding when I tell you that you may have to hold yourself back from devouring the entire thing right then and there.

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I maaaaaaay have eaten the leftover pine nuts and pancetta with a serving spoon, standing in the kitchen, right before going to bed. It was that good.

After plating the fish and salad, pour the reduced ginger glaze over the fish. Enjoy!

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