Tag Archives: meatless monday

A Monday Kind of Pasta Frittata

As Summer finally (maybe) comes to an end, leaving a checkerboard path of meatless meals in its wake, I am again moving into “Meatless Mondays.” I am also once again cleaning out the refrigerator, putting ingredients to use before they are useless. That being said this recipe would be wonderful even if it was planned in advance.

I have just returned from a wonderful visit with California friends. While I was living it up in a penthouse suite overlooking the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, Papa D was left to his own devices as far as meals were concerned. One evening he cooked a pound of pasta to go with the container of Sunday Gravy that I had left in the refrigerator. Wisely, he decided to save some of the pasta  to scramble with eggs (his idea).

Liking the idea when I got home, I ran with it. There were a few other leftovers that needed rescuing. Peppers, tomatoes and some cheese all were nearing the end of the road so they gathered together to become a pasta frittata.This dish, and the use of pasta, is popular in many areas of Italy. It can be labeled Neapolitan or Sicilian and is probably claimed by many other regions, but it always seems to use leftover pasta as its base. Techniques can vary, but I like cooking the vegetables first.and adding the pasta second. Olive oil is a driving force in this process as is initial high heat. Once the eggs are added along with some cheese, things need to get low and slow. This is a dense dish that takes time to set. This also allows time to enjoy the fragrance that the garlic and other vegetables create.When the frittata is almost set, it gets crowned with a little more cheese (a hard grating cheese is best. Asiago, Romano or Parmesan are good choices) and heads for the broiler. Lightly golden and ever so slightly crusty it is ready for its close up. A sprinkling of basil or any other available herb gives it a little more color.This makes a lovely weeknight supper, but it is just as at home for a weekend brunch. The format is easy and lends itself to whatever embellishment you want to add. This served two lavishly and could easily serve more with a salad and some crusty bread added.  

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Pasta Frittata
Servings: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 3/4 Cup Thinly sliced Onions
  • 3/4 Cup Thinly sliced Sweet Peppers
  • 2 cloves Garlic Chopped
  • 1 Cup Grape Tomatoes Halved
  • 2 Cups Cooked Pasta
  • 4 Eggs Beaten
  • 2 Tbsp. Milk
  • 1 Tsp. Italian Hebs
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Italian Cheese Divided
  • 1/4 Cup Thinly sliced Basil
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in an oven proof skillet. Add the onions and peppers and cook stirring occasionally until softened and beginning to brown. 5-7 minutes.

  2. Add the garlic and tomatoes to the pan and cook another 3 - 4 minutes. The garlic should be fragrant and the tomatoes should begin to soften.

  3. Add the pasta and toss to combine the ingredients. Continue to cook, tossing occasionally until the pasta begins to take on some color, another  5 minutes or so.

  4. Heat the oven to broil. Beat the eggs, milk and half of the cheese together until well blended. Stir in the Italian herbs. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the pan so that it is even.

  5. Lower the heat to medium and cook lifting the edges of the egg to allow the mixture to cook through. Once the eggs are almost set, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and transfer to the oven.

  6. Broil until the top is golden and the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil and serve.

I don’t want to cut anyone’s weekend short, but Monday is just around the corner. If you make pasta over the weekend, make a little extra…a frittata might be just the way to begin the “Meatless Monday” tradition.

 

Pantry Raid! Tortellini and Chick Pea Salad

They say that knowledge is power. This applies to many things that help one live a full life. The phrase can also apply to the more mundane matters of life like making dinner. Having recently learned a great deal about what is in the pantry, Mama D has used this knowledge to create some pretty interesting things (and a few mundane things as well). Since “Meatless Monday” is on the horizon, I thought I’d share a recent solution to the question: “What can I make for dinner without having to run to the store?”

Tortellini salad sounded good. Having discovered that I had one of those little bags of dry cheese tortellini in the pantry, and knowing that they really only work in soup or a salad, the choice was easy. It honestly could have gone either way, but another “Midwestern Warm Spell” made the salad idea more appealing.

Further investigation of the larder revealed several cans of chick peas, the refrigerator yielded some zucchini and grape tomatoes, and the freezer revealed several bags of pesto (remnants of a distant summer). Not bad for starters, I thought. The zucchini was roasted, the tortellini cooked al dente, and the pesto was blended with some buttermilk to create a light and creamy dressing. Now what?Nothing like some sliced red onion and sweet pepper rings to add some crunch and color. The pepper rings were discovered in the back of the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. I do not remember why I got them in the first place, but it had to be for something because the jar was half empty; or was it half full?  It seems that no part of Mama D’s Kitchen is immune from hoarding or philosophical musings.

The Buttermilk Pesto Dressing was perfect. The tangy low-fat dairy gave the rich pesto a healthy balance. Two more refrigerator discoveries; some Romano Cheese (a staple actually) and Kalamata Olives (original purpose unknown) rounded out the bowl. As this salad was kind of thrown together from what was on hand, it can be adapted to anyone’s pantry and I would recommend adapting it to your own needs.

 

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Tortellini and Chick Pea Salad
Course: Main Course, Salad
Ingredients
  • 8 Ounces Dry Tortellini
  • 1 Can Chick Peas Drained and rinsed
  • 2 Small Zucchini
  • 1/2 Medium Red Onion
  • 1-1/2 Cups Grape tomatoes Halved
  • 1/4 Cup Pickled Pepper Rings Any kind
  • 1/4 Cup Kalamata Olives Quartered
  • 1 Bag Italian Lettuce Blend
  • 2 Tblsp. Grated Romano
  • Cracked Black Pepper To taste. Optional
Creamy Pesto Dressing
  • 1/3 Cup Basil Pesto
  • 1/3 Cup Buttermilk
  • 1 Tblsp. White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Tblsp. Olive oil
Instructions
  1. Cook the Tortellini according to the package directions. Drain well, rinse and drain well again. Place in a large bowl.

  2. Quarter the zucchini lengthwise and chop into 1 inch pieces. Spread out on a baking sheet and spray with non-stick cooking spray. sprinkle with Italian herb blend. Roast at 375 degrees for 15 minutes turning once to brown both sides. Add to the bowl .

  3. Slice the red onion into thin vertical slices. Toss with a little vinegar and set aside for 15 minutes. Blooming makes raw onion less strong tasting. Drain the onion and add to the bowl.

  4. Add the chick peas, olives, tomatoes, and pepper rings to the bowl and toss to combine everything.

  5. Shake the Pesto Dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Pour about half of the dressing over the salad and toss to coat well. Cover the bowl and chill for several hours.

  6. About 30 minutes before serving remove the bowl from the refrigerator and add the remaining dressing. Toss again.

  7. To serve: Place a couple of handfuls of the lettuce blend on each of the plates. Top with the tortellini salad and sprinkle with the Romano. A generous sprinkle of black pepper is a nice finishing touch.

Like a perfect storm, this salad will never happen in quite the same way again. The next version will most likely be different no matter whose kitchen it comes from. 

Soup Season Has Arrived: Chipotle Cheddar Cheese Soup

It’s soup season. The calendar tells me so, but here in the Midwest we have had a very mild January…in fact it is almost one for the record books. There has been virtually no snow and the temperature has flirted with the 60’s. Still, it is soup season so soup is making many appearances in Mama D’s Kitchen.

Armed with plenty of homemade stock in the freezer I am embarking on serious soup adventures. My first stop was revisiting a pure comfort soup, Broccoli Cheddar Cheese, to be exact. What could elevate this creamy classic? Enter a block of Chipotle Cheddar Cheese. This is a white cheddar studded with bits of chipotle pepper. It is available in a few markets and while bringing a bit of heat is still a sharp cheddar that will please most tastes.

I started with onions, carrots and garlic softened in a little olive oil. My stock of choice was vegetable as “Meatless Monday” was looming. I simmered these together for half an hour or so before transforming it into creamy cheesy goodness. There was going to be a lot of cheddar cheese going into this so I dialed down the dairy fat by using a combination of evaporated skim milk and low-fat buttermilk. A flour and stock slurry insured pleasant thickness and some Worcestershire Sauce and Chipotle Tabasco Sauce added some zip. I added a little Chipotle Chile Powder. Depending on how hot you want to go, this could go as high as your palate can bear.

I blanched the broccoli to help keep its vivid green color and added a cup of frozen corn to keep things interesting.

This is actually a very quick soup to make. It would also lend itself to many variations. The addition of buttermilk was an experiment that succeeded. It added creaminess as well as a little zing to the flavor. If you can’t find chipotle cheddar use any sharp cheddar cheese.

Chipotle Cheddar Soup with Broccoli and Corn
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Chipotle Cheddar Soup with Broccoli and Corn
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until the veggies are beginning to brown.
  2. Add 1/4 cup broth to the pot and stir scraping up any brown bits. Cook for a minute or so to reduce slightly.
  3. Add 3-1/2 cups of stock, the allspice, and chipotle powder to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 - 15 minutes.
  4. While the stock simmers, blanch the broccoli. Dump the broccoli into a pot of salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Immediately remove the broccoli and submerge in a bowl of ice water. Drain well and set aside.
  5. Once the stock mixture starts smelling wonderful, add the evaporated milk and the buttermilk. Shake together the remaining 1/4 cup of stock and the flour. Slowly pour it into the soup stirring constantly. Continue to stir until it thickens.
  6. Add the broccoli, corn, Worcestershire Sauce and Chipotle Tabasco. Cook for several minutes.
  7. Over low heat, stir in the cheese, continuing to stir until it is melted. Give it a taste and adjust any seasoning. Serve.
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The soup pot sits at the ready for its next great adventure…I wonder where we will wind up?

Another Meatless Monday Creation (yeah, really) – Zucchini Pasta Frittata

We are still enjoying Meatless Mondays in Mama D’s Kitchen. I’ve shared many meatless recipes here and not to flog the proverbial dead horse, but one more is about to be shared. You can consider this your spoiler alert. My feelings will only be hurt a little if you choose to bypass this offering, but before you turn away, give this little treasure a “lookie see”, you may be impressed.069

Eggs were speaking to me one recent Monday and they were telling me that they wanted to be a frittata when they grew up. That seemed like a reasonable request, so I embarked on a search to find worthy companionship for them. The refrigerator yielded several zucchini and a jalapeno, the pantry offered a jar of roasted red peppers, and onions and garlic left their place of honor on the counter to join in the merriment. I even found a lonely sliver of mozzarella cheese that begged to tag along.

I wanted to do something different with the zucchini, after all it is pretty standard fare in the frittatas that come out of the kitchen. I remembered seeing several recipes for Pasta Frittatas that made use of left over spaghetti. I had no left over pasta and it being Monday and all, I was trying to get things on a less “carb heavy” track after the weekend. We all know that “Zucchini Pasta” is a current darling of lighter cooking, so it was a natural leap to get out the spiralizer and crank out a pile of green (and white) goodness to replace the starchy alternative.049As with any good fritatta, it is at its best when layers of flavor come together. Mama D’s Trinity (Garlic-Onions-Olive Oil) was joined by the chopped jalapeno. They cooked to golden loveliness before I added the zucchini.057The zucchini took mere minutes to cook to “al dente” creating a bed of veggie delight ready for their egg bath. The eggs were gently cooked to the point of almost being set. everyone has their own technique for cooking a frittata. I’m of the shake, lift, and be patient school. All of this paid off, and the eggs cooked to almost set perfection. As a crowning touch, I added some shredded mozzarella and roasted red pepper strips before dispatching it to the broiler.

A quick note here: I do not have an “oven friendly” medium skillet. I know, shame on me. I did however, have a skillet with a non-ovenproof handle and some foil.  Wrapping the foil tightly around the handle made the pan more or less oven safe. See, it was worth reading this just for that handy little tip.  070The magic happened and the frittata came out golden and bubbly. This was the perfect  size for two (we’re talking Mama D size servings here), but it could easily serve three or maybe four if you added some crusty bread, a nice salad and a killer dessert. 073

Zucchini Pasta Fritatta
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Servings
3
Servings
3
Zucchini Pasta Fritatta
Print Recipe
Servings
3
Servings
3
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium oven friendly skillet. If you don't have one, wrap the handle of a non-oven friendly one tightly with foil.
  2. Add the onion and jalapeno and cook for 3 minutes or so until things get soft and fragrant.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes until everything is golden and smells heavenly.
  4. Add the zucchini and toss to combine with the oil and veggies already in the pan. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the zucchini begins to wilt and takes on some color.
  5. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl with the half & half. Add a little salt and pepper or any other seasoning of your choice.
  6. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables in the pan and shake the pan to distribute the eggs and begin the "not sticking" process.
  7. As the eggs cook around the edge, lift gently with a spatula to allow the uncooked egg to get to the bottom. Continue to cook, shake, and lift until the eggs are almost set.
  8. Top with the red pepper strips and the grated cheese. Place the pan under the broiler and allow to cook until the top is set and the cheese is melted and golden.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
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With warmer weather more or less coming to stay (except for the almost frost last night), light suppers will be occurring more often. Eggs are such a versatile base and the choice of vegetables, herbs, and seasonings are as wild as your imagination. Give a frittata a try. It’s easy, quick and almost foolproof.

Smiles of a Spring Evening and Grilled Vegetable Stacks

In spite of occasional days of rain and cold, Spring is finally settling into the Midwest. Trees once bare are now laden with blossoms or sprouting leaves. The days are longer and on some days sitting out on the balcony is a downright pleasure. This all makes grilling out much more enjoyable. We are ardent year round grillers, but it is nice to be able to actually attend to it without having to put on a winter coat.

It was just such a recent (Meatless) Monday night that gave life to these vegetable stacks. The weather was perfect for a grill meal that needed a little attention but still allowed time to sip a glass of wine. It was also necessary to have time to admire the beauty of our park like courtyard complete with the sounds of children chasing balls and bubbles. A light breeze sent the blossom scents wafting through the air and made for an almost perfect evening.012

While this does qualify as a quick weeknight supper, there is a bit of earlier in the day prep involved. The vegetables need to be cleaned, cut, and marinated. I started with Portobello mushrooms.004 These were an interesting size, labeled “Mini” Portobello, they were more like “Giant” Crimini. Whatever the nomenclature, they were the perfect size to create a base for the veggie stacks once the were stripped of their gills and given a little wipe down. The rest of the veggies were cut in thick chunks to fit nicely in the caps. Everything got  popped into zip top bags and marinated in a Balsamic Vinaigrette. Any marinade of your choosing will be perfect.007

When the time came to grill , I reached for my trusty Grill Mat. This is possibly one of the greatest inventions of the millennium. This mat allows you to grill the gooiest marinated food, the smallest pieces of anything edible, and anything that is likely to stick, come apart, or fall through. While possessing all the above attributes, what I find the most amazing is that food still comes out tasting smokey and for lack of a better word, grilled.014 There is an infomercial that offers these, but I know that mine came from a Groupon offer (thank you Loren) that is unfortunately no longer available. If you don’t have these mats, I would strongly recommend a grill pan.

I started with the mushrooms which take the longest time. Once they were almost done I moved them to the top rack. They finished cooking and the mushroom drippings found their way onto the vegetables below. This was a very good thing. Put the veggies on the grill in order from the longest cooking time to the shortest.017This is where the time to sip wine and tend to the grill come into the picture. The veggies seem to require almost constant moving, turning, and otherwise attending too, but on a beautiful spring evening it’s a perfect excuse to spend time outside. You may notice that the onions are sporting the latest in toothpick accessories. This isn’t just for show, the picks help keep the onions together, the better for them to be a stable layer in the stack. Just remember to take them out before assembling.

Once everything was perfect, I took them inside and began the assembly. While this was happening, I put the tomatoes on the grill. Opt for Roma Tomatoes or any other firm fleshy variety. These will hold together and keep their tomato integrity.023Toothpicks again came to the rescue again. Once the stacks were assembled complete with their lovely mozzarella hats, I used the picks to give them and me an extra level of security.028  It was worth the effort and use of wood, not a single stack was lost. They were beautiful and ever so tasty.  030

Grilled Vegetable Stacks
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Grilled Vegetable Stacks
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Use a spoon to scrape the gills out of each mushroom. Wipe them with a damp paper towel and place them in a gallon zip top bag.
  2. Place the remaining vegetables in another zip top bag. Try to lay them flat.
  3. Divide the Balsamic dressing between the two bags. Seal the bags and turn them a couple of times to distribute the dressing. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  4. On a grill set at high heat and using a grill mat or pan, cook the mushrooms, turning as needed until they are somewhat soft. If you have a second rack on your grill move them to it top side up.
  5. Add the vegetables to the grill. Start with the onions. It is helpful to use toothpicks to hold the slices together.
  6. Once the onions begin to brown, add the squashes. Continue to cook the vegetables turning occasionally until they are beginning to soften and are browning.
  7. Remove all the vegetables and the mushrooms from the grill. Add the tomatoes. These will cook while you assemble the stacks. Enlist a lovely/handsome assistant to keep an eye on them while you do this.
  8. Assemble the stack as follows: Mushroom, onion slice (don't forget to remove the toothpicks), zucchini slice, pepper chunks, and yellow squash slice. You will have some squash slices left over, do with them as you wish, but they do fill out the plate nicely.
  9. Remove the tomatoes from the grill, and add them to the stack. Top each stack with a slice of the mozzarella.
  10. Anchor each stack with a toothpick. Trust me, don't skip this step. Return the stacks to the grill and cook, covered until the cheese begins to melt.
  11. When everything looks beautiful, bring the stacks in and remove the toothpicks. Serve with a nice salad and the remaining squash slices.
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As always, feel free to use any vegetables that you like. Think of the possibilities when the Farmer’s Markets really get rolling. A light and delicious dinner will be stacked in your favor.