Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hearty Pantry Stew: perfect for a lazy Sunday

Do you ever have those days where you really don't want to go to the store but getting takeout or delivery doesn't seem like a great option either? I definitely do, and on those days I find myself perusing my pantry and freezer for things that might work together to create a satisfying dinner. And just because I'm too lazy to go to the store doesn't mean I want to sacrifice flavor, heartiness or anything else in my dinner. The following "stew" is made with ingredients that I usually have on hand or are easy to pick up sometime when you do make it to the grocery store to have available when you need them. It can also easily be adapted based on what you have and what you like. If you don't have sundried tomatoes, feel free to leave them out. They add an extra level of flavor and a touch of sweetness but the meal will still taste great without them. Similarly, substitute any type of beans or canned tomatoes that you have on hand.

Hearty Pantry Stew:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots or 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 c dry white wine
  • 4-5 sundried tomatoes, softened in water
  • 2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes (try the fire-roasted variety)
  • 1 15 oz can white beans
  • 1 10 oz package frozen spinach
  • Salt and pepper
Microwave the spinach on high in a bowl with a little bit of water. Fully strain the cooked spinach and let dry while preparing the sauce.
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan.
Add the shallots or onions and cook for a few minutes.
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook till very fragrant (careful not to burn).
Slice the sundried tomatoes and add them to the pan; if the pan is very dry, add a little bit more olive oil.
Pour in the white wine and cook till most of the liquid has evaporated.
Add the canned tomatoes, beans and spinach.
Season with salt and pepper and heat through.

Serve this thick, hearty sauce over rice or pasta for a complete meal in one bowl. Top with grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!

For a printable recipe click here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Uncorked: Wine Store Meets Wine Bar

Buying wine can be intimidating. Large or small, wine stores have tons of different wines to choose from and making the leap to try something new can be difficult. Who wants to spend $20 dollars or so on a bottle of wine that you might not like? So we tend to stick with what we know and always buy the same wines. Until now. Tucked away in Falls River Towne Center, Uncorked offers the unique opportunity to taste 48 different bottles of wine before buying, all in a room that looks more like a Tuscan wine cellar than a store. With twelve bottles of wine from four different regions of the world—US West coast, France/Germany, Mediterranean, and Southern Hemisphere—you can easily find something new that you like. And if you want further suggestions or advice, any of the knowledgeable owners/employees are always happy to lend a hand.

In addition to the tasting machines, Uncorked offers periodic free tastings featuring a particular type of wine or wine producing region. One of these tastings featured wines from Germany, a region often overlooked and unfamiliar to many wine drinkers. Germany is often associated with very sweet Rieslings but the country offers so much more. With the help of Steve, an incredibly knowledgeable wine distributor, anyone visiting Uncorked during his tasting could learn more about all that Germany has to offer the wine world. And anyone who came thinking they didn’t like German wines, probably thought differently at the end of the evening. These informal tastings are a great way to learn about new wines and possibly change any preconceived notions you might have had about particular wines.

Not only does Uncorked provide a great place to buy wine to drink at home with family and friends, it also serves as a great place to meet a friend for a glass of wine and a small plate of food. In this way, Uncorked brings the wine bar into the wine store. After putting money on your wine card, you can select a 1 oz, 2.5 oz or 5 oz pour from any of the machines. At prices that are competitive and often less than your typical wine bar, this is a great place to stop by in the evening after work or on Saturday afternoon. To complement your glass of wine, Uncorked serves small and large plates of quality meats and cheeses. And when you’re done enjoying your glass of wine and cheese, you can purchase a bottle of the wine at retail cost instead of paying for the mark up charged at restaurants and bars. All in all, Uncorked is a great find for any wine lover. Stop in Tuesday through Sunday to taste a new wine or enjoy a glass of an old favorite. And check the website for upcoming events.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Bowl Full of Comfort

I know I've said this before, but there's nothing better than a hot bowl of homemade soup when it's cold outside. Except maybe a soup that's easy to make. This minestrone is basically made by putting a bunch of ingredients in a pot and letting it cook. And it can be altered to include whatever vegetables you particularly like or happen to have on hand. The beans and pasta make minestrone hearty enough to be served as a meal and it's full of veggies, so it's good for you too. This soup would be perfect to make on a Sunday afternoon when you have some time to chop the veggies and then the leftovers can be used for healthy lunches during the week. Or prep the veggies ahead of time and use canned beans to reduce the cooking time. Either way, this soup definitely fits the bill for comfort food. If you want to make it completely vegetarian, use vegetable stock instead of chicken. And feel free to add carrots, leeks, squash or any other vegetables you like.

  • 1 c dry pinto beans (or 1 15 oz can)
  • 1 c dry Northern beans (or 1 15 oz can)
  • 6 canned plum tomatoes plus 3 T of the liquid (San Marzano tomatoes are good)
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 3 zucchini
  • 2 potatoes, peeled
  • 1 small bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 medium red or yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 c frozen peas
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 4-6 c low-sodium chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lb small pasta shells
Soak the beans overnight in cold water if using dry.
Drain the beans and add them to a large soup pot.
Cut up all of the vegetables into approximately the same size pieces: 1/2 dice for celery, zucchini, potatoes and tomatoes; 2 inch spears for asparagus.
Add the veggies, olive oil and salt and pepper (start with a teaspoon of each) to the pot.
Add enough stock (or stock plus water) to cover the veggies by about an inch.
Bring soup to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1-1.5 or hours until the beans are tender (If using canned beans, cook till potatoes are soft).
Once all of the ingredients are cooked through, return the soup to a boil and add pasta.
Cook at a boil for 8 minutes or until pasta is cooked but not mushy (follow package directions).
Add more salt and pepper to taste.
Top with grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!

This recipe was adapted from Cooking with Canada's Best. The cookbook also gives a recipe for pesto to be served on top. Feel free to use store bought pesto or just use parmesan cheese like I did. And go ahead and invest in a good parm. It's pricier than the kind you find in the pasta or pizza aisle, but it's much better and the stronger flavor means you use less.

For a printable recipe click here

Monday, January 4, 2010

One dish pasta dinner

I always like to make dinners that include everything I want in a meal in one bowl. Stir fries do this well but I wanted something different. Tonight's dinner satisfied all of my requirements: meat and vegetables, hearty and satisfying with pasta. Spinach tagliatelle with sausage, cherry tomatoes and broccolini is easy to make and satisfies meat eaters and veggie lovers alike. I adapted this recipe from one I found in Cooking with Canada's Best, a cookbook that features recipes from restaurant chefs across Canada.

Sausage and Broccolini Pasta
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1-1.5 lb pork or turkey sausage (use turkey or chicken sausage for a lighter version)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flake
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 or 2 packages cherry tomatoes (I used one but would have preferred more tomatoes)
  • 1 large bunch broccolini
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lb tagliatelle (spinach flavored or plain)
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
Remove sausage from casing and break up into the hot oil.
Season meat with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and brown until the fat has rendered.
Remove the sausage and drain the excess fat from the pan.
Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 min, stirring so nothing burns.
Slice the tomatoes in half and add to the pan.
Add the white wine, scraping any bits off the bottom of the pan.
Return the sausage to the pan and let the sauce simmer for 10-15 minutes, uncovered.
Trim the stems from the broccolini and add to the sauce.
Cook for another 5 minutes or so until the broccolini is tender.
Finish the sauce with the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

While the sauce is cooking, bring 4-6 quarts of water to a boil. Season with salt and add the pasta, cooking for about 7 minutes or according to the package. Drain the pasta and serve with the sauce immediately. Garnish with grated parmesan and enjoy!

For a printable recipe click here