Arugula Pesto

Greetings from sunny southern California! Yep, we made the move. It’s been a hectic few weeks of packing, traveling, waiting, unpacking, organizing, and reorganizing, but I’m starting to feel much more settled in our new home.

Getting all my cooking gear off the moving truck was the first step in feeling at home. Of course I was most anxious about my stand mixer, but I was also excited to see our pizza stone made the 2000-mile journey intact. Gabe and I make pizza together quite frequently, because it’s easy, delicious, and endlessly versatile. Cranking the oven up to 500° and rolling out a fresh batch of dough was a surefire way for us to feel more at home.

Last week, I made a pizza topped with caramelized onions, ricotta, and arugula– and I was left with a boatload of arugula. Not wanting to let those lovely greens go to waste, I used my magical food processor to whirl up some pesto. Pesto is one of my favorite things to make. Greens, garlic, parmesan, nuts, olive oil, and lemon juice. So simple. So good. Arugula pesto has a delightfully peppery flavor that distinguishes it from standard basil pesto, but it can be used in similar ways. Toss it with pasta or fresh veggies. Or eat it as I do: on top of toast slathered with ricotta. Mmm, mmm good.

Arugula pesto

Arugula Pesto

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups packed arugula leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  •  1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a food processor, combine pine nuts, garlic, arugula, parmesan, and salt. Chop until coarsely chopped and blended. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and lemon juice, and blend until creamy.  (Add more olive oil if needed to make the mixture smooth.) Taste and add more salt and lemon juice if desired.

Makes about one cup.

Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week, or in the freezer for up to six months. I like to freeze it in an ice cube tray and then save the cubes of pesto in a plastic freezer bag to use as needed.

Source: Adapted from Max Sussman and Eli Sussman via Epicurious.

Baked Potato Pizza

In my last post, I promised a pizza recipe, and here it is! I first had a baked potato pizza like this at Pizza Luce in Minneapolis, and I’ve loved the concept ever since. Gabe loves potatoes and I love bacon (and not spending all our money on takeout), so it’s a win-win-win in our household.

A crispy crust is slathered with sour cream and chives, then loaded up with potatoes, bacon, cheese, and green onions. Of course, you could add broccoli or whatever other baked potato fixings you prefer. Even chili would be pretty awesome! I microwave my potatoes to soften them up before baking, but you could also bake them in the oven first if you are better at planning ahead than I am. :) Either way, you’ll want to make this pizza soon!

Baked potato pizza

Baked Potato Pizza

  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbs. chopped chives
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 oz. red or fingerling potatoes
  • cornmeal, for sprinkling
  • 1 batch pizza dough
  • at least 2 oz. sharp cheddar or monterey jack cheese, finely grated (about 1/2 cup; add more if you prefer!)
  • 4-5 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • green onions or additional chives for topping

With a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack, preheat oven as hot as you can. In small bowl, stir together sour cream, chives, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork and microwave on high for about 2 minutes, or until soft. Watch the potatoes very carefully while microwaving so they don’t explode! Set aside.

Sprinkle a pizza peel generously with cornmeal. Roll out pizza dough and transfer to the peel. Spread the sour cream mixture evenly all over the dough. Sprinkle with half the cheese.

Slice cooked potatoes and arrange in a single layer over the pizza dough. Sprinkle with bacon and cover the entire pizza with remaining cheese. Sprinkle with green onions or chives.

Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned. Remove from oven and top with additional chives or green onions. Slice and serve immediately.

Makes one pizza.

Source: A Lingonberry Jam “original” inspired by Pizza Luce of Minneapolis.

Hearty Winter Minestrone

There’s really not much to say when the wind-chill is 46 below. And the frost has left a feathery trail eight feet high, all the way to the top of the porch door. And you have to worry if the antifreeze in your windshield wiper fluid is capable of functioning in this kind of cold. Not that it matters, since you won’t be going anywhere.

There’s not much to say, except that it is absolutely, definitively, without a doubt, soup weather.

So if you are blessed to be in a region experiencing the polar vortex, or winter storm Hercules, or heck, if you just caught a matinee of Disney’s “Frozen,” warm yourself up with a big pot of minestrone. Any soup that starts with sautéed bacon and then adds piles upon piles of hearty vegetables is a guaranteed winner. And since Gabe and I are a two-person household, this big batch of soup has lasted us for days.

Just in time to jet off to California, where I can almost guarantee it’s not soup weather. Phew.

Hearty winter minestrone

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Hearty Winter Minestrone

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 oz. bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • 28 oz. canned, diced tomatoes
  • 6-8 cups unsalted chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 15 oz. canned navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • freshly grated parmesan, for serving
  • homemade or store-bought pesto, for serving

Heat olive oil in large dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the onion, carrots, celery, butternut squash, garlic, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables have begun to soften. Stir in dry vermouth and cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, 6 cups of chicken stock, bay leaf, 1 Tbs. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Stir in the orzo and simmer for another 10-12 minutes, or until orzo is al dente. Remove the bay leaf from the pot and stir in the navy beans. If the soup seems too thick, add more stock. Cook for another few minutes, until the beans are heated through. Stir in the baby spinach and cook for a few more minutes, until the spinach is wilted. Taste the soup and add more salt and pepper if desired.

Serve in individual bowls with freshly grated parmesan and a dollop of fresh pesto on top.

Serves 8.

Source: Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten.

Skillet Lasagna

One of the most freeing things about my evolution as a “food person” has been learning my likes and dislikes and adapting recipes accordingly. Sounds simple, right? But when I was first learning how to cook, I felt chained to a recipe. I assumed every dish was quadruple tested, its methods and ingredients absolute truth.

And then I met my college roommate, who insisted that you could cut the amount of sugar in every cookie recipe by half, or even substitute honey. (Heresy!) And then I met Gabriel, who alarmed me with his way of just throwing in salt and pepper as he tasted a dish, rather than measuring it out by the teaspoon.

Guess what? The food cooked up by those recipe-challengers was delicious! As I became more comfortable with my own cooking skills, I emulated Alex and Gabe and learned to approach recipes as starting points, not rigid contracts. And so it was with a big freaking smile on my face that I finally dumped out the jar of dried cilantro in my spice drawer a couple weeks ago. Because it turns out I don’t like cilantro.

I also can’t stand fennel seed, which is unfortunate, because the sausage I chose for this otherwise amazingly delicious recipe was rife with it. But now that I’m 100% sure of my distaste, I’ll be sure to choose the fennel-less sausage next time. Because I can.

Skillet lasagna

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Skillet Lasagna

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 8 oz. dried pasta (I chose pasta that looked like broken-up lasagna pieces)
  • 42.5 oz. canned, crushed tomatoes (I used one 28-oz can and one 14.5-oz can)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup ricotta
  • 6 oz. fresh mozzarella, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh basil

Heat olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until onion is softened, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in  crushed red pepper flakes, italian seasoning, and a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Add sausage to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until broken into pieces and no longer pink (3-5 minutes).

Stir in pasta and tomatoes. Cover and continue to cook on medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Be sure to stir fairly frequently, otherwise the pasta will stick to the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. When pasta is done, remove skillet from heat and stir in half the parmesan and ricotta. Adjust seasoning to taste. Sprinkle the pasta with the remaining parmesan and chunks of mozzarella, and dot with the remaining ricotta.

Place skillet under broiler and cook until the cheese starts to bubble and brown. Remove from oven, sprinkle with fresh basil, and serve.

Source: Slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution via Pink Parsley

Paglia e Fieno

This dish made me happy for a number of reasons. It has a whimsical name: paglia e fieno, which means “straw and hay” in Italian. It let me try my hand at making green(!) pasta for the first time, which was accomplished simply by mixing 1/4 cup of puréed arugula to my regular pasta recipe. It let me learn about the existence of gorgonzola dolce, a sweet and milder version of that lovable (albeit pungent) cheese. And finally, this dish thrilled me because within one bite, it had soared to the top of Gabe’s favorite recipe list.

As I was tasting the pasta and adjusting the final seasonings, I declared blissfully, “Oh! This is company food!” Of course, that prompted Gabe to ask concernedly, “Does that mean you sometimes serve me food you wouldn’t serve to company?”

Of course not, darling.

I always aspire to make delicious food, but there are those dishes that aim to impress, and this one is something special.

Paglia e fieno

Green and yellow pasta

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Paglia e Fieno

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 oz. prosciutto, sliced into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 4 oz. gorgonzola dolce, crumbled
  • 8-10 oz. fresh fettucine or tagliatelle*
  • 2 cups (about 8 oz.) frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Melt 1 Tbs. butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add prosciutto and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until crisp. Remove from pan and let drain on a paper towel-covered plate. Heat remaining 1 Tbs. of butter in the same pan, and sauté onion for 5-6 minutes, or until soft. Stir in garlic and cook one minute. Add milk and gorgonzola and stir until the cheese has melted. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until sauce has thickened.

As soon as you reduce the sauce to a simmer, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package instructions. Drain pasta and add to pan with thickened gorgonzola sauce. Stir in prosciutto, peas, parmesan, salt, and pepper, and serve.

Serves 6.

* The name of this dish derives from the colors of pasta traditionally used: green and yellow. Any type of noodle will work well here, but fresh is always best.

Source: Slightly adapted from Foolproof by Barefoot Contessa.

Nutrition facts (per serving): 390 calories, 17.5 g fat, 37.8 g carbs, 2.8 g fiber, 20.1 g protein.

Tortellini Soup

When I was a kid, I preferred tortellini swimming in alfredo sauce to any other version. And while that dish still has its place (like yesterday’s lunch with my baby sister), here’s a hearty, satisfying, and much lighter way to prepare tortellini.

This soup is warm and cozy, perfect for freaking cold January days. And February days. And those extra-special chilly days when you welcome a bleary-eyed and hungry friend back to Minnesota after a long vacation in Bangkok and Abu Dhabi. Poor guy. We gave him hugs and fed him soup. Warmed the body and warmed the soul.

Tortellini Soup | Lingonberry Jam

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Tortellini Soup

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 9 oz. cheese tortellini, store-bought or homemade
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach, loosely packed
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute. Stir in oregano, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a boil and add tortellini. Cook according to package instructions. One minute before the tortellini is al dente, stir in spinach. Taste soup and add salt and pepper accordingly. Serve with freshly grated parmesan.

Serves 4.

Source: Annie’s Eats.

Nutrition facts (per serving, with 1 Tbs. parmesan): 230 calories, 11.4 g fat, 22.7 g carbs, 3.0 g fiber, 10.6 g protein.

Homemade Cheese Tortellini

Homemade tortellini is really quick and easy to make when you have an army of helpers. When you’re home alone on a really, really cold day? It takes a while.

But that’s okay, I wasn’t going anywhere. So I turned on the TV to watch the presidential inauguration, pulled up a stool, and folded. And folded. And folded.

By the time my high school’s marching band passed the presidential viewing stand in the inaugural parade, at approximately 6:08 P.M., I had folded 88 tortellini. (And cried a little bit watching those kids perform with such pride. Whew.)

Needless to say, I recommend making this recipe with one or two people to help. Or perhaps halve the recipe. But don’t be scared off altogether… homemade tortellini is too delicious to pass up.

Homemade Tortellini | Lingonberry Jam

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