End of Summer Pasta Salad

End of Summer Pasta SaladAs summer winds into autumn, I begin to be lulled into a false sense of satisfaction, as crisp nights cause me to begin to dream of sweaters and boots and cooking hearty meals in the kitchen. Then, BAM!, the hot days come back with a vengeance, a t-shirt feels like too much clothing, and there’s no way I’m turning the oven on after all. Happens every year. You’d think I’d learn.

Despite the heat wave, my body has decided it’s pasta time, remembering the chilly mornings before the 100 degree F days. I thought I’d compromise with my cravings by making a cold pasta salad, something assembled, the only heat required being boiled water. I paired dinner with a Red Meritage, enjoying the play of flavors with the different salad ingredients.

End of Summer Pasta Salad

Serves 6-8

1 lb conchiglie pasta
a few splashes of sundried tomato and garlic vinaigrette
4 oz capers
2 roasted red peppers, diced
3 oz kalamata olives
6 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 basket of cherry tomatoes
1 slicer tomato, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (I used Pennyroyal Farm’s Pepper Moldune. It gave the salad a nice hint of heat.)

Put a large pot of water over high heat. Cook pasta to package directions.
While pasta is cooking, put mushrooms in a large bowl and drizzle a bit of vinaigrette over them. Toss mushrooms until they’re fully coated. Toss roasted peppers, olives, capers, and sliced tomato into the bowl, mix well, and set aside. This will give the mushrooms a chance to soak in the flavors of everything else hanging out with it.
Once pasta is finished, drain and rinse with cold water until the pasta is cool. Work the pasta through your fingers a bit, since conchiglie likes to nest into clumps.
Add cooled pasta, cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle on a bit more vinaigrette and toss until everything is happily mingled.
You can serve right away, or cover it and leave it in the fridge until the next day, as it will be even more flavorful after a night’s rest.

A Chilled Soup for a Hot Day

Chilled Potato and Asparagus SoupThe West is really warming up. There are places already experiencing 100 degree F days, and it’s not even June!

It may be heating up, but that doesn’t mean the time for soup is over. There are tomato gazpachos, fruit soups, and more. Since it’s not so hot — yet — that no one even feels like eating, a heartier chilled soup seemed in order. Inspired by Cowgirl Creamery‘s amazing Spring Garlic and Asparagus Soup, I made a version that incorporated my seasonal farm share from Pennyroyal Farmstead. This thick, creamy, and decadent meal paired perfectly with a slightly creamy Sauvignon Blanc, Husch’s “The Press,” a secondary label they created for the 2012 vintage. 2012 was a wonderful year with an amazing yield. Its grassy, citrus nose and lemon custard in the glass paired — as I said before — perfectly with the asparagus and goat cheese in the soup.

Creamy Potato and Asparagus Chilled Soup

serves 4

1 small bulb of green garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon salted butter
1 large and 1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and chopped
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
approximately 1/2 cup crème fraîche
12 asparagus spears, chopped
1 cup Chive Flower Laychee (or you could use ricotta)
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper

Over medium heat, melt butter in a soup pot. Toss in garlic, potatoes, and onion and stir. Cover with a lid and cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer for ten minutes. Turn off heat and stir in crème fraîche.
In a large bowl, create an ice bath with ice and water, setting a slightly smaller bowl inside.
In one cup increments, purée the soup in a food processor or blender. Pour into the bowl inside the ice bath. Place into the refrigerator and wait for soup to chill.
In the same soup pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Throw in asparagus and cook until it becomes bright green but is still just a bit crunchy. Drain and dry in paper towels.
This is my favorite tip from Cowgirl Creamery — instead of blanching the asparagus, toss it with olive oil and the salt and pepper. The asparagus absorbs more flavor while it’s still warm. I found this to be quite true! Put asparagus in a container and place in the fridge until ready to add to the soup.
When soup is chilled, pour into four bowls. Stir in asparagus, reserving tips for garnish. Dollop in small spoonfuls of Laychee. Garnish with asparagus tips and serve.

Grown Up Tuna Casserole

tuna casseroleFlipping through my ancient 4-H book the other day, I was reminded that I cooked a lot for my family when I was growing up. Then, like now, I obviously had something going on during the daytime and preferred easy-to-throw-together dinners that were filling and didn’t create a ton of dishes.

One of my much revisited dinners was tuna casserole. I tweaked it until I had a dish with more flavor than most of the traditional recipes but was still a crowd pleaser. (Always a must.)

Lately, I’ve been craving comfort food, and when I ran across a couple of packages of albacore tuna while rummaging around in the pantry, I knew what comfort food to focus on.

My only new considerations were that it needed to have a lot more vegetables in it than when I was concocting this dish as a child, and it needed to utilize the rather staggering collection of goat cheese I had amassed within the glowing cavern that is our refrigerator. The Frankensteinian creation that resulted was pretty tasty, but I think it could stand a bit more tweaking. Feel free to change the list of ingredients to what most appeals to your taste buds.

Grown Up Tuna Casserole

1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
16 oz whole wheat shell pasta
1 Tablespoon ghee
4 fire roasted peppers in oil, chopped
2.4 oz jar of capers, drained
pinch of dried dill
2 cups baby spinach
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
24 oz organic cream of mushroom soup
10 oz organic mixed mushrooms
salt & pepper to taste
6 oz albacore tuna
2 cups cheese (I used a combination of goat cheeses: drunken goat, capra bianca, and laychee)
Italian Herb Panko

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put a pot of water on to boil. Cook pasta to package directions.

While waiting for water to boil, saute onion and garlic in a medium pan with the ghee until onions are translucent and beginning to brown. Lower heat and add peppers and capers. Stir until everything has warmed through and flavors have had a chance to commingle. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan, cook the mushrooms until tender, but not to the point that all moisture has evaporated from the pan.

Once pasta has cooked, dump all of the ingredients into the pot, reserving a half cup of cheese. Stir everything together until cheese has melted. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and follow with a layer of Panko.

Bake, covered, for 25 minutes. Remove lid and bake for ten more minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes before serving.

The following day, I added some smoked tuna to the leftovers. It was the perfect addition, helping all of the flavors to blend together just right. It was quite the Goldilocks moment.

Cheesy Tomatoes

Though it’s not quite time for tomatoes, the full-speed-ahead-to-summer temperatures are making me crave them.

This is a recipe that I’ve made for the past two summers, and every time I make it, I wonder why I don’t have it for dinner more often.

Cheesy Tomatoes Love Herbs

Serves: 4

1/2 cup bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon water
1 egg
1 package 8 oz Sierra Nevada Cheese Company Chevre, made into four rounds
4 very thick slices of fresh tomato (heirloom or slicing)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, plus a drizzle for dressing
1 small head of curly endive (or frisée)
1 bunch cilantro (or you could use fresh basil)
1 bunch wrinkled cress (or you could use radicchio)
drizzle of red wine vinegar (If you use the basil & radicchio, use balsamic vinegar instead.)

Mix breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add water and work until crumbly.

Beat egg is a small bowl. Dip Chevre rounds in the egg and then the bread crumbs. Place in fridge for 15 minutes.

Place tomatoes on plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add olive oil to a skillet and heat on med/high until the oil is hot but not burning. Carefully place the Chevre rounds in the oil and cook 45 seconds, then flip and repeat. Place rounds on tomatoes.

Toss greens with the drizzles of red wine vinegar and olive oil. Add a little seasoning if desired. Heap 1/4 of the greens on each tomato slice, and voila!

Simple, Savory, and Sweet

Dinner tonight was such a win: Cypress Grove’s dill chevre, PsycheDillic, spread on Breadnik’s Bread of the Month, Sunshine Bread — basically a savory sweet potato bread — and topped with fresh blueberries, walnuts, and local honey. I served it with a Navarro Gewurztraminer and a green salad… amazing doesn’t even cover the awesomeness of the meal.

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