I may or may not have googled "how to survive a long dark winter" the other day. I normally love Fall, but after struggling through said long dark winter last year, coupled with a tough first year of grad school I am dreading busy schedules, early sunsets, and the closing of Chicago farmer's markets this Fall. Towards the beginning of August I totally panicked, thinking I had not taken advantage of summer the way I should have, and filled my calendar with summer music and film series in the parks, food festivals, and long family walks with pumpkin. We've been savoring this weather and biking all around the city for date nights in neighborhoods far from our own.
We've become religious about our Saturday morning farmer's market trips. I think I bought close to 10 pounds worth of peaches last week, blanched them, peeled them, sliced them, and then froze them. I've been adoring Chicago summer, humidity and all. I worship these warm summer nights and hours of day light. Seriously, the summer can't end, I haven't even made zucchini bread yet!
This pasta is light, summery, and creamy but dairy-free. Once you've soaked the cashews it comes together so easily and celebrates the simplicity and freshness of summer produce. We've been buying zucchini in bulk for what feels like pennies every week at the farmer's market and this veggie-heavy pasta is the perfect way to use them all. It also just so happens to be packed with plant-based protein (thank you nuts) and reheats great.
Adapted from: The Kitchn
1 cup raw cashews, soaked 4-8 hours
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 oz angel hair pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pounds zucchini, diced
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
large handful of basil
1/4 cup shelled pistachios (optional)
salt + pepper to taste
Combine soaked cashews, water, nutritional yeast, and salt in a blender and blend until completely smooth and creamy. Set aside - note, this step can be done up to two days in advance.
Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, followed by the garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes until garlic has softened then add in the zucchini and toss to coat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the zucchini has softened and released some of its liquid. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Once the water is boiling add the pasta and cook until al dente (keeping in mind angel hair cooks very quickly). Reserve about half a cup of pasta water, then drain, and add the pasta to the sauté pan and top with the cashew sauce (you probably won't use all of it), and toss over low heat. If it looks to thick, use pasta water to thin. Then top with zucchini and toss. Add in lemon zest and juice, basil and pistachios. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!
I wish I was creative and innovative enough to come up with this recipe all on my own, but alas it's a recreation from my all-time-favorite restaurant ever, Lula Cafe, in Logan Square. To be honest, it wasn't even love at first bite with this place. I fell in love with the restaurant after we found out we were moving to Chicago and a friend told me I have to try their vegetarian tasting menu. Yeah, vegetarian tasting menu. It's six of the most interesting, creative, tasty vegetable-focused dishes you will ever eat. I ordered it for our 3 year anniversary back in October and it was everything.
Nate ordered this dish the first time we ate there. "Pasta YiaYia", as it's listed on their menu, is a creamy combination of salty whipped feta, crispy brown garlic, and warm cinnamon. Cinnamon in pasta? I know, I was skeptical at first too but it's ridiculously good. I crunched things up by adding some warm toasted walnuts, and result is just as good as the original. It's the perfect comforting, warm dish for cold winter nights and comes together in literally 20 minutes.
8 ounces fusilli caserecci (or pasta shape of your choice)
1.5 ounces chopped walnuts (see notes), ~ 1/3 cup
3.5 ounces feta
3-4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1. Bring a large stockpot of heavily salted water to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, place the walnuts in a pan over medium heat and cook until slightly browned and very fragrant, tossing occasionally. Once walnuts are toasted, remove from pan and set aside.
3. Using the same pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then toss in the garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until the garlic slices are golden brown. Once browned, remove the pan from heat and set aside.
4. Once the water is boiling, cook the pasta until al dente (reserve the pasta water).
5. While the pasta is cooking, place the feta in either the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (you can also use a hand-mixer). Whisk the feta at medium speed until smooth and creamy. Just before the pasta is done, scoop 2 tablespoons of pasta water and whisk it into the feta.
6. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl, top with feta mixture, toasted walnuts, garlic, parmesan and cinnamon. Toss and serve, topping each serving with a light dusting of more cinnamon and parmesan.
You could totally substitute any nuts you have on hand, I think this dish would be especially good with hazelnuts! I splurged a bit on the awesomely shaped pasta from Eataly, but seriously any pasta shape will do, even gluten-free pasta works well - this is our favorite.
I've been gone for a really long time. In that time I've been to San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, San Diego, and DC. I interviewed at 6 grad schools, got upgraded to first class (I'm ruined for life), experienced real winter, attended a funeral, visited my in-laws, snuggled with my canine sister-in-law Abby, and ate pizza in almost every city. I have to admit, as a former New Yorker, Chicago pizza was surprisingly delish, and don't even get me started on their donuts. It's been craziness, and now that I'm finally back home, fluffy-socked in my kitchen with an orange puppy at my feet and my favorite french cafe radio pandora station that makes me feel both like a goddess and like I'm in Paris, I'm back in my element and so happy to be here.
While in Chicago a couple weeks ago, I bought a little gnocchi press from Eataly and knew I had to make gnocchi as soon as I got home. This dish is both green and filled with potatoes, so naturally, it's perfect for St. Patrick's Day. I must admit, I've only had corn beef and cabbage once, and in my experience it was absolutely repulsive. Oh and if you're feeling guilty about eating potatoes for dinner, (I'm not!) know that this fresh pesto is packed with spinach, and everyone's favorite Kale, so it's actually pretty healthy. With a nice dose of creamy mascarpone, and sweet sun-dried tomatoes, this meal is really something special.
I've been making America's Test Kitchen gnocchi for years, it's one of those things that is really surprisingly easy. They perfected the technique so I don't even try to mess with it. The gnocchi itself, doesn't require any special equipment, except maybe a potato ricer, and all of the ingredients are super basic. No pasta maker needed. And it's super fun, and dare I say, kind of relaxing.
Homemade Gnocchi with Spinach, Kale, Mascarpone & Sundried Tomato Pesto
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen
Serves 4-6 as a main
For the Gnocchi
4 pounds russet potatoes
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1.5 cups plus 2 tablespoons All Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons salt
For The Pesto:
2 garlic cloves
1.5 cups packed kale
2 cups packed spinach
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup grated parmesan
4 oz mascarpone
3 oz sundried tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Poke several holes in the potatoes then microwave them on high for 5 minutes, flip, then microwave another 5 minutes. Remove from microwave, place directly on oven rack, and cook for about 20 minutes until a skewer easily pierces through.
While potatoes are still hot, hold each potato in a kitchen towel, and using a pairing knife, carefully peel away the skins and discard. Once all of the skins are removed, press potatoes through a potato ricer and spread them out in a thin layer across two large baking sheets. Let them cool slightly.
Meanwhile, make the pesto. Pulse garlic in the bowl of a food processor until finely chopped then add kale and spinach and pulse again until finely chopped. Add the pine nuts, olive oil, salt, lemon juice, parmesan, and mascarpone and blend until smooth. Add the sundried tomatoes and pulse 3-5 times, or until you've achieved desired consistency, you'll want the tomatoes to stay a bit chunky. Set aside. Note, the pest can be prepared well in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
Make the gnocchi. Prepare two large sheet pans with parchment paper and dust liberally with flour. Bring a large pot of salted water to a gentle boil. In a large bowl mix together potatoes, eggs, flour and salt. Transfer dough to a floured work surface, and with floured hands knead the dough for about 1 minute. Divide the dough in half, forming two smooth rounds. Divide each round into 8 equally sized pieces. Roll each piece into a 1/2 inch thick rope, then using a bench scraper cut the rope into 3/4th inch pieces of gnocchi. Press each gnocchi into the backside of a fork (or a gnocchi press if you have one, though honestly the fork works just fine), rolling it to create a fold on the backside - here's a great video. Transfer gnocchi to the sheet pans, making sure they don't touch.
Once gnocchi are completed, gently fold the parchment paper in half, and pour the gnocchi into the boiling water. Cook one pan of gnocchi at a time as not to crowd them in the boiling water. Cook for about 90 seconds - they will float to the top just before they are done. Transfer cooked gnocchi to a large bowl, gently toss with pesto, and top with freshly grated parmesan.
This sauce is awesome with regular pasta, or on crostini.
You should have just enough sauce for 1 batch of gnocchi.