Meyer Lemon Martini

Every year I say that I am going to make something with Meyer lemons but always seem to miss them. I am happy to report that I was able to get them this year and put them to good use. 🙂

This recipe for this bright and fresh cocktail was adapted from Food Network.com, contributed by Scott Leibfreid. I’m a lightweight, so I drank mine over ice. It was simple, perfect, and minimally sweet.

Yield: 1 cocktail

  • 2 ounces vodka (I used lemon vodka)
  • 1 ounces Meyer lemon juice
  • granulated sugar on a small plate to coat the rim of the glass
  • 1-2 Meyer lemon slices, for garnish
  1. In a martini shaker, combine all ingredients except the lemon slices and sugar with a generous amount of ice.
  2. Shake vigorously for a few seconds.
  3. Rub the rim of the glass with a lemon slice and coat with sugar.
  4. Strain the libation from the ice into a martini glass.
  5. Serve over ice and garnish with a lemon slice, as desired.

One-Pan Bucatini with Peas, Baby Greens & Pancetta

The first time I made a one-pan pasta dish, I was skeptical about the results. Now I know that this technique is absolute genius. Cooking the pasta in the pan results in fabulously creamy sauce. The bonus is the ease of producing a great dish with minimal cleanup.

This recipe was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s book, Cook It in Your Dutch Oven, via Cups and Spoonfuls.com. I literally started making the dish within an hour of reading the post. 🙂 It’s a perfect quick dinner made with pantry items- all in a single pot. Great!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 ½ ounce of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, about ¾ cup, divided
  • extra virgin olive oil, for toasting the bread crumbs
  • freshly grated zest from one lemon, divided
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 slices of thick-cut bacon or 2 ounces of pancetta, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 ½ cups water, more as needed
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 12 oz (3/4 pound) bucatini
  • 5 ounces of mixed baby greens (baby chard, kale, & spinach), about 5 cups
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  1. Toast breadcrumbs in a small skillet with a bit of olive oil until golden brown.
  2. Next, mix together toasted breadcrumbs, ¼ cup of Parmesan, 1/2 of the lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon of coarse salt, and ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  3. Cook bacon or pancetta in your Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 4 to 6 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove and place on a plate lined with a paper towel.  Set aside until ready to serve pasta.
  4. Add garlic and remaining lemon zest to Dutch oven and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds or so.
  5. Add wine, scraping any browned bits and cook until the wine is almost evaporated, about 4-5 minutes.
  6. Add water and stock and bring to a boil.
  7. Stir in pasta and return to a strong simmer.  Cook pasta, stirring often until the pasta is tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  8. Add greens and peas.  Stir and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes.
  9. Add remaining Parmesan and stir until pasta is creamy and completely coated about 30 seconds.
  10. Add extra hot water if pasta seems too dry.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  11. Serve and sprinkle each serving with crispy pancetta and lemon panko breadcrumbs.

Marcella Hazan’s Rice & Smothered Cabbage Soup

The use of Arborio rice in this hearty soup makes it almost a soupy risotto. My husband was skeptical about eating it after hearing the name of the dish, but he absolutely loved it! I knew it would be delicious coming from such a classic book.

This “community pick” recipe was adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, via Food 52’s Genius Recipes. I used green cabbage, leeks, and red wine vinegar to make the smothered cabbage. I omitted the butter and added fresh lemon juice and Parmesan rind to the soup. Nice.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 people

For the Smothered Cabbage, Venetian Style:

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds green, red, or Savoy cabbage (1 head)
  • 1 1/2 large leeks, halved and thinly sliced or 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T wine vinegar, white or red

For the Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup:

  • smothered cabbage, from above
  • cups homemade meat broth or stock (we used beef here, but chicken/turkey is also good)(Vegetable stock can be substituted for a vegetarian version)
  • 2/3 cup rice, preferably Italian Arborio rice
  • Parmesan rind, optional
  • T butter, optional (I omitted it)
  • freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

To Make the Smothered Cabbage:

  1. Detach and discard the first few outer leaves of the cabbage.
  2. The remaining head of leaves must be shredded very fine. If you are going to do it by hand, cut the leaves into fine shreds, slicing them off the whole head. Turn the head after you have sliced a section of it until gradually you expose the entire core, which must be discarded. If you want to use the food processor, cut the leaves off from the core in sections, discard the core and process the leaves through a shredding attachment.
  3. Put the leeks or onion and olive oil into a large sauté pan, and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it becomes colored a deep gold, then add the garlic.
  4. When you have cooked the garlic until it becomes colored a very pale gold, add the shredded cabbage. Turn the cabbage over 2 or 3 times to coat it well, and cook it until it is wilted.
  5. Add salt, pepper, and the vinegar.
  6. Turn the cabbage over once completely, lower the heat to minimum, and cover the pan tightly.
  7. Cook for at least 1 1/2 hours, or until it is very tender, turning it from time to time. If while it is cooking, the liquid in the pan should become insufficient, add 2 tablespoons water as needed.
  8. When done, taste and correct for salt and pepper. Allow it to settle a few minutes off heat before serving.

Note: The smothered cabbage can be prepared 2 or 3 days ahead of the soup, or served as a side dish from here. It also freezes well.

To Make the Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup:

  1. Put the cabbage and broth into a soup pot, I used a 4-quart enameled cast iron pot, and turn on the heat to medium.
  2. When the broth comes to a boil, add the rice and Parmesan rind.
  3. Cook uncovered, adjusting the heat so that the soup bubbles at a slow, but steady boil, stirring from time to time until the rice is done. It must be tender, but firm to the bite, and should take around 20 minutes. If while the rice is cooking, you find the soup becoming too thick, add a ladelful of homemade broth. If you are not using homemade broth, just add water. Remember that when finished, the soup should be rather dense, but there should still be some liquid.
  4. When the rice is done, before turning off the heat, swirl in the butter, if using, the lemon juice, and the grated Parmesan, stirring thoroughly.
  5. Remove and discard the Parmesan rind.
  6. Taste and correct for salt, and add a few grindings of black pepper.
  7. Ladle the soup into individual bowls, and allow it to settle just a few minutes before serving.
  8. Serve with more grated Parmesan.

Pressure Cooker Spaghetti & Meatballs

This recipe is absolute GENIUS. It was a genius idea for me to make it on Super Bowl Sunday too. I am usually cooking while my family is watching the game- and commercials- in another room. This year, the meal was cooked and ready to go; it was kept warm in the pressure cooker with the lid in place while I was sitting on the sofa with everyone. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I increased the garlic and used ground turkey and whole wheat spaghetti. I also made it in my stove top pressure cooker instead of an Instant Pot.  We enjoyed it with garlic bread and Caesar salad. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 basil sprigs, plus more thinly sliced for serving
  • 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti (not thin spaghetti), broken in half
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup ricotta (optional)

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground turkey (or substitute veal, pork or beef)
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a stove top pressure cooker or Instant Pot on sauté. Stir in garlic, red pepper and black pepper, and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, salt and basil sprigs; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix together ground meat, bread crumbs, Parmesan, chopped basil, egg, salt and garlic. Roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. (I used a large cookie scoop and placed them on a large plate, shaping them into balls when I placed them into the pot.)
  4. Pour 1 cup water into sauce in pot, scraping up any browned bits on bottom of pot.
  5. Scatter uncooked spaghetti over the sauce.
  6. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon oil over spaghetti, stirring gently (try to keep the spaghetti on top of the sauce), then top with meatballs.
  7. Cover and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Manually release the pressure, then remove the cover and stir to separate the spaghetti.
  8. Stir in 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
  9. At this point, the pasta will be almost but not quite cooked through. Place the top back on the pressure cooker (loosely) and let it sit for 3 to 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and spaghetti is al dente but not mushy.
  10. Serve dolloped with ricotta, if using, and sprinkled with thinly sliced basil and more Parmesan if you like.

Vegetarian Carbonara with Spinach

This healthy carbonara was unbelievably creamy. It was also absolutely loaded with fresh spinach. Amazing!

The purpose of the smoked gouda topping was to mimic the smokiness of the missing pancetta or bacon in this lighter, vegetarian version of “carbonara.” I thought is was equally delicious with and without it.

This recipe is from The New York Times, contributed by Kay Chun. I used whole wheat spaghetti and increased the garlic. It was a quick and delicious weeknight dish.

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 7-8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 pound fresh baby spinach
  • red-pepper flakes, to taste, optional
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan (2 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup grated smoked Provolone or Gouda (1 1/2 ounces)
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve 2 cups cooking water and drain the pasta.
  3. Return the pasta and reserved cooking water to the pot and heat over low. Add the butter and onion-garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until most of the liquid is absorbed and sauce is slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add the spinach, season with salt, plenty of pepper and red-pepper flakes, if using, and stir until spinach is wilted.
  5. Stir in the Parmesan and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.
  6. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls and top each with 2 tablespoons smoked cheese. Finish with more black pepper, if desired.

Roasted Shrimp with Salsa Calabrese

Did I mention that I met Bobby Flay this summer? It’s true! It was fun but really not that exciting. 😉 He came to our mall for the 10th anniversary of his first “Bobby’s Burger Palace” restaurant. I stood outside in a huge line in 90+ degree heat with my kids and friends for the opportunity to meet him. I think that I waited so long to share this news because the photo of me with Mr. Flay is terrible. I was also too shy to ask him to write to “the brook cook” in my new Bobby Flay cookbook. Ugh. Overall, we all had good time, I bought a great cookbook, and we got free milkshakes. 🙂

Now seems like the time to share this dish because it’s from his “Fit” cookbook, healthy and tasty. Perfect for the season of resolutions and dietary changes.

The recipe is adapted from Bobby Flay Fit: 200 Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle by Bobby Flay with Stephanie Banyas and Sally Jackson. I used graffiti eggplant instead of Japanese, grape tomatoes instead of plum, and increased the garlic. I made the dish a little more caloric by serving it over brown Basmati rice. Cauliflower rice would also be a nice option- or without rice as in the original recipe.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 2 graffiti eggplants or 4 Japanese eggplants, about 1 pound, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 12 grape tomatoes or 2 seeded plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, to taste, preferably Calabrian
  • 5 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used 21-25 count)
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • brown Basmati rice or cauliflower rice, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and 3 tablespoons of the oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  3. Spread the vegetables on a large, parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring a few times, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer the vegetables to a food processor and purée until almost smooth. Add the vinegar and 1/4 cup of water, and continue processing until smooth.
  5. Add the basil and the parsley and pulse a few times to incorporate while still leaving flecks of herbs. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and transfer to a bowl.
  6. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the fennel and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Spread the shrimp in an even layer on a large, parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Roast, turning once, until pink and firm and just cooked through, about 8 minutes.
  8. To serve, spoon sauce over prepared rice, if desired, or in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Top with about 5 shrimp and garnish with whole basil leaves.

Note: The vegetable sauce can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Bucatini with Burst Cherry Tomatoes & Basil

My kids are back in school! I can get back to sharing dishes that we enjoyed this summer (and probably last spring as well). I have quite a few to share. 🙂

This is a fabulous, restaurant-indulgent, late summer pasta dish. The real beauty of it is that it could be made in any season to bring back the taste of summer. It was also quick and easy to prepare- the best combination. The cheese adds creaminess to the finished dish but can easily be omitted for a vegan version.

This recipe was adapted from Bringing it Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating by Gail Simmons with Mindy Fox. I used grape instead of cherry tomatoes, bucatini instead of spaghettini, and modified the proportions. I am definitely going to make this dish year round. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 pound bucatini, spaghettini, spaghetti, or angel hair pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 small red onion or 1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced, about 1 cup
  • 4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds (about 3 pints) grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups loosely packed torn basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2-4 T finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz) fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente. (Simmons recommends 2 T of kosher or fine sea salt in 4 quarts of water.)
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12- or 14-inch skillet or wide, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the red pepper flakes, then stir in the tomatoes and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until most of the tomatoes have burst, 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid, drain the pasta.
  6. Add the pasta, along with the reserved pasta cooking water, to the pan with the sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the pasta is coated, about 30 seconds, then stir in the basil and parsley.
  7. Divide the pasta among serving plates. Dollop with the ricotta and sprinkle with Parmesan and black pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired, and serve immediately.

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