Monday, August 31, 2009

grilled vegetable pasta? easy, peasy!

sometimes i make dishes that are so incredibly easy i feel silly actually blogging about them...i mean, they don't require much in the way of technique or skill...they just taste delicious. but then i will serve the dish to family and/or friends...and the first thing i hear is... "you have to blog this"... i look at it this way....for the experienced cooks who read this blog...please use the easy/peasy items as an excuse to share your own simple recipes in the comments section. for new cooking philosophy can be summed up as..."use the best quality, freshest, local, organic/sustainably grown ingredients you can...and don't muck them up with overly complicated recipes.".... example...grilled vegetable pasta...truly a dish anyone can of all.... one of the most versatile recipes imaginable...

it was over 100 degrees a few days last week and we had invited some friends to come over for a mid-week dinner...i did not want to turn on the oven...and had stocked up on tons of beautiful vegetables at the tuesday napa farmer's i turned to my tried and true summer go-to pasta. the beauty of this dish is that it is incredibly can make this with whatever vegetables you like...but this time i had lots of yellow squash, zucchini, red onions and tomatoes. the secret to the taste is that the vegetables are grilled....and, when they are prepared outside using a bbq grill, the dish is pure bliss...

i always have dried pasta on hand....and thanks to oxbow....amazing bread from model bakery is just a few minutes away....the farmer's market is held on tuedays and saturdays from may through versions of this menu are made frequently throughout the summer...pasta, a sourdough baguette from oxbow (i grill it and then rub with fresh garlic and drizzle with really good e.v.o.o.!), salad with homemade vinaigrette, and a fresh fruit dessert (think cobblers...loads of cobblers using the olive oil biscuit recipe from my last post) good does that dinner sound?

today, i am posting a pasta recipe using 2 kinds of summer squash, onions and tomatoes...but i have made it with all types of squash, eggplants, peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, name it...anything that sounds like it would taste good grilled works.

grilled vegetable pasta
3 yellow crookneck squash*, sliced lengthwise about 1/2 inch thick
3 zucchini*, sliced lengthwise about 1/2 inch thick
1 large onion*, sliced lengthwise about 1/2 inch thick
3-4 heirloom tomatoes*, sliced lengthwise about 1 inch thick
1 cup mixed fresh herbs* (basil, italian parsley, mint, rosemary, thyme..whatever you like) roughly chopped
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
grey salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1 lb pasta..again, whatever type you like... i used pappardelle in this recipe)
good aged balsamic vinegar for drizzling
additional e.v.o.o. for drizzling
chives*, snipped
freshly shredded parmigiano-reggiano cheese
*locally grown and organic or sustainably grown if you can*

prepare charcoal grill...i prefer using hardwood coals...better for the environment and they do not have that bad "chemical" smell.

meanwhile, place vegetables in a rimmed dish and pour the olive oil over the vegetables. add 1/2 the herbs, a generous pinch of salt and 1 tsp pepper and gently toss the mixture until the vegetable are completely covered with oil. set aside while grill is getting hot.

when grill is hot remove crooknecks, zucchini and onion slices from pan and place on grill...(reserve olive oil from dish)...give squash a minute or two and check for nice grill marks. brush top side and turn allowing to grill until just cooked through. add tomato slices during last minute of do not need to turn tomatoes. remove vegetables from grill and add to a large serving bowl.

while waiting for coals to get hot, bring a large pot of well salted water to a rapid boil. just before placing vegetables on grill, add pasta to boiling water and cook for 8-10 minutes until al dente'. drain and add to serving bowl containing grilled vegetables. pour reserved olive oil over pasta/vegetables and gently stir. add remaining 1/2 cup fresh herbs and a drizzle (about a tsp.) of the vinegar to bowl and stir again. taste and add additional salt & pepper if needed. drizzle with additional e.v.o.o if desired. garnish with chives and serve. pass the cheese separately. friends loved the dinner and promptly asked for it to be served again on labor day next week and...since i have 20 people coming to dinner the day before with a much more complicated menu planned...i think grilled vegetable pasta is the perfect solution to entertaining two days in a row.... yeah summer!!

for those of you in the usa...what are you making for the holiday?...actually...for everyone...what are you eating this weekend?


diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

extra virgin olive oil biscuits?

by now my addiction to extra virgin olive oil is well known....i use the stuff in just about everything. for the past few years i have even revised many of my baked goods recipes to substitute e.v.o.o. for vegetable oil and/or butter. now, don't get me wrong. sometimes nothing can replace butter...but... to me... olive oil provides a delicious alternative.

take biscuits for example. i have a couple of recipes for traditional biscuits that call for butter...they are delicious, light, flaky, buttery...and certain dishes just seem to require this version. but last year i developed a recipe for biscuits using extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. even better, they are drop biscuits, eliminating the need to roll out and cut the dough...perfect for last minute requests...lazy sunday mornings....and weeknight dinners. i find they are fast becoming favorites for my family and friends. i make them all the time...have even experimented with optional ingredients like fresh herbs, onions, cheese....they all work.

a couple of regular readers emailed me recently and asked if i am anti-butter? oh no!...i do not mean to start a controversy :) .... as i said..sometimes there really is no substitute for butter...and, since my book club is reading julie and julia ...and i am rereading all the recipes in mastering the art of french cooking...i am inundated with butter. but i really do find that i have transitioned to cooking and baking with e.v.o.o. about 90% of the time. i know it is healthier...and...honestly...i just like the taste better. one has to choose a permanent solution....mix and match. but i do urge you to experiment with baking using olive oil.

to make those experiments easier...i have posted a butter to olive oil conversion chart. i found this on the internet years ago and find it works perfectly for my recipes....give it a try...and please let me know what you think of the biscuits.

butter to olive oil conversion chart

butter......olive oil
1 tsp ............3/4 tsp
1 tbsp...........2 1/4 tsp
2 tbsp ..........1 1/2 tsp
1/4 cup .......3 tbsp
1/3 cup .......1/4 cup
1/2 cup........1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp
2/3 cup.......1/2 cup
3/4 cup.......1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp
1 cup ..........3/4 cup

i make these biscuits all the time...for breakfast with eggs... served alongside soups, stews, chili for lunch or husband adores them with oven fried chicken (made with e.v.o.o. of course) coleslaw and roasted sweet potato fries (again with the olive you see a pattern?)
he loves the biscuits slathered our persimmon-jalapeno jam.

extra virgin olive oil drop biscuits
3 cups organic unbleached flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp alum free baking powder
2 tsp organic sugar (optional)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup milk...any kind...i use 2%

preheat oven to 400 degrees. you will need a non-stick baking sheet...or use silpat or parchment paper on a regular sheet. using a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. add the olive oil and stir using a fork. large lumps will form and the flour will not be totally mixed into the dough. gradually add the milk a little bit at a time just until all the flour is incorporated into the dough...note you may not need all the milk.

the biscuits are formed by placing forkfuls of dough onto prepared sheets. place in preheated oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. i use approximately 2 forkfuls of dough for each biscuit (about 2 tbsp)...but you can make yours as small or large as you like. baking times will vary depending on size. serve immediately
unbaked biscuits

variations...these biscuits are very versatile...depending on what i am serving them with i sometimes add one or more of the following ingredients....fresh chives, italian parsley, basil, rosemary, minced garlic, diced onions, cheese

the recipe as written makes large biscuits...but as an alternative...make them half the size...and fill with ham, smoked salmon or dilled chicken for terrific appetizers....

so...extra virgin olive oil biscuits? what do you think?


diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

want some pink lentils with roasted beets?

i love creating recipes. usually, i am inspired by something...a write up in a magazine, a wonderful dish at a restaurant, fresh in-season produce at the farmer's never know when and where inspiration will strike. a few weeks ago i was inspired by color...and it all started with lentils...

o.k...even i realize how odd that sounds. but we spent a day at the coast...stinson beach to be exact and ...on the way home...we stopped at a produce stand located just off the road in sonoma. i stocked up on loads of locally and sustainably grown fruit and vegetables...and name basket was packed. then, just as i was heading to the check out, i saw the most beautiful pink color imaginable. when i checked it out i discovered it was pink lentils. i bought a big bag full...had no idea what i was going to do with them...but that color was too cool to pass up. what? my first thought was some type of salad...but after a bit of research, i realized that "colored" lentils get a bit soft when salad. i moved on to the idea of a warm dish prepared with a lot of different vegetables and i couldn't get the concept of beautiful, natural color out of my mind....i stared at all the vegetables i bought...separated everything by color..and...ta dah!!!...decided to create a dish using color as the unifying touch.

i had three bunches of baby beets...each bunch a different, purple and orange. i love roasted beets and thought about the pink lentils with the red, purple and orange beets...sold! then i added white garlic, orange carrots, ruby red cherry tomatoes, light green shallots, deep green chives, green extra virgin olive oil and burgundy colored balsamic vinegar to the ingredients gorgeous is that? even better... it sounded like it would taste delicious...there you go...mother nature at her that looks good...tastes good...and is incredibly good for you...home run!

i made the dish and...i must turned out as wonderful as i hoped. give it a try and please let me know what you think... i served mine with roast chicken and a green salad....what sounds good to you?

pink lentils with roasted beets
3 bunches organic beets (1 bunch of each, purple orange...beets 1-2 inches in diameter)
extra virgin olive oil
grey salt
2 c pink lentils
4 c water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
1 small carrot, diced
1 small package cherry tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
grey salt
freshly cracked pepper
2 tbsp snipped chives
photo process of preparing beets for roasting

roasted beets
preheat oven to 400 degrees. wash beets and cut off greens only...not the stems (save greens for another use...delicious sauteed in e.v.o.o. and stirred into pasta)

tear off 3 pieces of tin foil twice as large as size of 1 bunch of beets. place the trimmed red beets in the center of one piece of foil. drizzle with 2 turns of the olive oil. sprinkle with a pinch of grey salt. wrap the beets tightly in the foil to ensure no steam escapes. repeat process with the orange and purple beets. place on a rimmed baking sheet. roast in oven approx. 1 hour. test after 45 minutes by carefully opening one packet and piercing one beet with the point of a sharp knife. beets are ready when knife easily slides into beet.

allow beets to cool. cooked beets are really easy to peel. you just pull off the skin. be careful to peel over a bowl as beet juice can stain counter tops, wooden cutting boards and your clothing :)
place the lentils and water in medium saucepan and bring to a soft boil. reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. add garlic, shallot, carrots and tomatoes and cook an additional 5-10 minutes or until lentils are tender. remove from heat. stir in the prepared beets (cut larger ones in half), 4 tbsp e.v.o.o and 1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar. season with additional grey salt and pepper to taste. (add additional oil and vinegar if lentils seem dry). top with the chives and serve immediately

have you ever created a dish based on color? what did you make? please tell us about it in the comments section of this post....

happy middle of summer everyone!



diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"
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