raw and roasted cherry tomato salad

August is the month that feels most like summer to me, when days melt lazily into each other and the sun feels that much warmer. It’s the perfect time to unplug. When we lived in the Midwest, my kids would start the new school year in early August, which never failed to feel strangely out of step – it was always September when I was growing up. This year it felt nice to push our vacation into that last full month of summer.

We spent a few weeks on the coast of Rhode Island; almost every day was so clear and beautiful, each sunset outdoing the last. I didn’t want it to end.  Nothing makes me happier than looking at the ocean all day, and planning dinner around produce from the local farmstand – at this point in the summer that would be tomatoes, sweet corn, blueberries…and more tomatoes.

The cherry tomatoes I found at the market the other day were hard to resist, in a rainbow of colors. Usually my daughter eats them up by the handful straight out of the pint basket, as if they were the cherries they’re named after. Before they disappeared, I got the idea to make a cooked and raw salad,  to get a little bit of the intensity I love about roasted tomatoes along with the burst of juicy freshness from uncooked ones.  [Read more...]

roasted vegetables and spelt spaghetti

roasted vegetables, spelt spaghetti, ricotta salada

I was inspired to make myself a bowl of pasta after I had lunch at a local restaurant and it left me feeling — disappointed.

The menu at this charming place offered the sort of casual, Italian-style fare everyone seems to like – wood-fired pizzas, homemade pasta, and salads made with locally grown produce.

I ordered the pasta special of the day, described as handmade whole wheat fettuccine with wood oven-roasted vegetables. Great!

I was hungry, and happily anticipated my lunch, thinking about homemade noodles with the rustic bite of whole grain and especially, the promise of a colorful assortment of vegetables kissed with some smoky char from the oven.

What arrived at my table was not at all like the picture I’d formed in my head. Turns out there was definitely a disconnect between what had been described and what was right there on the plate in front of me.

The “oven-roasted” vegetables were a small distribution of diced carrots that were a little on the crunchy side, and zucchini that was cooked to the point of army-green softness. They were embedded in a thick tomato sauce that covered the pasta so completely that I couldn’t tell if it was fresh whole wheat fettuccine or not. It tasted pretty good; homey and satisfying, Just not what I thought it would be.

I’m not in the business of reviewing restaurants, nor do I ever want to be – it makes me uncomfortable to be critical of another cook’s food. Cooking is all about feeding people, but it’s also a personal expression. One girl’s vegetable is another boy’s garnish.

For me, vegetables are the focal point of whatever I set out to eat or cook; the elements of the plate that give a cook the chance to use a beautiful variety of colors and textures; like an edible palette.

When I decided to recreate my version of that lunch, I set out for the produce section of my grocery store – there’s no farmer’s market at this point in a Midwestern winter.

spelt spaghetti with roasted vegetables

But I found a rainbow of vegetables there; sweet bell peppers in three different colors, red grape tomatoes and bright green zucchini.

I roasted the vegetables to pair with spelt spaghetti, a whole grain pasta that has a more delicate, nutty taste than some of the other whole grain kinds I’ve tried. Ricotta Salata cheese adds a creamy, slightly salty hit to the top of this spaghetti. Now, that’s what I’m talking about!

roasted vegetables with spelt spaghetti and ricotta salata

Yield: 2 - 4 servings

Ingredients

  1. 1 each – red, yellow and orange bell pepper
  2. 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  3. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  4. Kosher salt
  5. 2 small zucchini, diced
  6. 1/2 cup Peppadew peppers, sliced in half
  7. ¼ cup Peppadew liquid
  8. Freshly ground black pepper
  9. 10 ounces spelt spaghetti
  10. ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
  11. 1/3 cup crumbled Ricotta Salata cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut the peppers into roughly 1 ½ - inch pieces. Toss the peppers on a large rimmed baking sheet along with the tomatoes, olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt.
  3. Roast until the edges of the peppers are deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir them around, then add the zucchini to the peppers and roast 5 more minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water.
  5. When the vegetables are done, add the Peppadews, liquid and reserved pasta water and scrape everything around in the pan; season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Transfer the spaghetti to a serving bowl and top with the vegetables, parsley and cheese.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/roasted-vegetables-and-spelt-spaghetti/

wheat berries, tomato, arugula & ricotta

frumento-arugula-tomato-ricotta-recipe

Farro is a whole grain that’s become a usual suspect in my every day cooking. I really like its creamy, barley-like texture and that it cooks in about 20 minutes. I make a risotto with farro along with cannellini beans. My kids usually clean their plates when I make it, so I’m guessing they like it a little.

But the other day I couldn’t find any farro in my kitchen and pulled out a bag of grains that my sister-in-law Liza brought me from a Portland farmer’s market. They came from Ayer’s Creek Farm , a small family farm in Oregon.

The bag was labeled “Frumento – Soft Red Wheat”. I couldn’t find much info after I Googled “frumento” other than it’s Italian for wheat or grain. I decided to treat the grains like wheat berries instead of the imported Italian semi-pearled (semi-pearled makes for quicker cooking) farro that I usually have, which meant I soaked them in a bowl on the counter for a few hours.

frumento-italian-wheat-berries ricotta-charred-tomatoes-recipe

I’d planned to roast a few supermarket vine-ripened tomatoes I had on the counter, my go-to method for tuning up their somewhat bland, out-of-season taste, but I forgot to turn on the oven. So I put the whole tomatoes over the gas flame for a few minutes until their skins were black and blistered.

I liked the combo of smoky tomatoes and the full flavor of the cooked frumento; definitely springier to the teeth than farro, but in a good way.

wheat-berries-ricotta-tomatoes-arugula-recipe

I’m glad I had  Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck on hand while researching and cooking this post. Maria is an expert on whole grains and I love her Mediterranean-influenced palate.

Lia at Nourish Network also has great info and a recipe for wheat berries – and lots of other healthy foods – on her site.

wheat berries with charred tomato, arugula & ricotta

Add some cooked beans like cannellini or chickpeas to the wheat berries for extra protein and nutrition.

Ingredients

  1. 1 ½ cups soft wheat berries
  2. Salt
  3. 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  4. 1 teaspoon prepared harissa or red chili flakes
  5. ½ teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
  6. Extra-virgin olive oil
  7. 2 or 3 small vine-ripened tomatoes or ¾ cup canned fire-roasted tomatoes
  8. 2 big handfuls baby arugula
  9. ½ cup fresh whole milk ricotta

Instructions

  1. Soak the wheat berries in enough water to cover, either overnight or before you go out for the day.
  2. Bring 3 quarts water and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a saucepan; add the drained wheat berries. Simmer for about an hour, or until the wheat berries are plump and al dente when you test one. If they seem too hard, cook up to an additional 15-30 minutes, keeping in mind that when fully cooked they will retain a small bit of “chew”.
  3. Drain all but a small amount of water (1 or 2 tablespoons) from the wheat berries; put them back in the pan and stir in the garlic, smoked paprika if using, harissa or chili and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  4. If using fresh tomatoes, char them directly over a gas flame on your stovetop or under a hot broiler, turning them until their skins are blackened and blistered. Chop into rough pieces and add them (or the canned tomatoes) to the wheat berries.
  5. Transfer the wheat berries to a serving bowl and toss with the arugula; taste and season with salt if needed. Dollop with spoonfuls of ricotta and drizzle with a little olive oil before serving.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/wheat-berries-tomato-arugula-ricotta/