Orecchiette with Creamy Herb Ricotta Sauce, Grilled Zucchini Pepper Salad

by Jennifer

This dinner was yummy, even though the yellow plate doesn’t do it justice eye appeal-wise.  Get the salad started first as it can sit for a bit (and gets better with the sitting).  For parents of young kids, two of my three (the third is pretty selective, but he did eat some) had huge helpings of the pasta and loved it.  Serves 4 adults.

Orecchiette with Creamy Herb Ricotta Sauce

  • 1 lb orecchiette
  • 3/4 cup fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs – I used about half chives, and half a mix of oregano, sage and thyme
  • 1 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil;  cook pasta until al dente according to package directions.  Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/2 cup cooking water.

In a large bowl combine ricotta through black pepper.

Stir in pasta and reserved cooking water, mixing well, then serve hot.

Grilled Zucchini Pepper Salad – from Gourmet magazine

  • 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4”-thick slices
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into four pieces each
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp packed light brown sugar
  • 2 TBS chopped basil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare grill for medium to medium-high cooking.  Toss zucchini and peppers with 2 TBS oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Grill vegetables 3 – 4 minutes per side, until just tender and grill marks appear.  Transfer peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.  Peel peppers and cut into 1” pieces;  slice zucchini into 1” pieces as well.

In a medium bowl whisk together remaining 2 TBS oil, vinegar, brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add vegetables and basil, mixing well to coat, and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

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Goat Cheese and Balsamic Onion Phyllo Pouches

by Jennifer

This recipe is adapted from one on Food.com.  Take advantage of the long, slow cooking time for the onions to multi-task;  after the onions are finished, this appetizer comes together quickly and easily, and is fantastic.  Though I don’t have photos, I used some of the extra phyllo dough to make pesto “cigars”:  brush olive oil over 4 layers of phyllo dough (one on top on another);  cut in half lengthwise;  spread pesto over both halves, leaving a little margin all around;  roll up lengthwise, then cut each roll crosswise into 4 equal pieces;  transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and brush with olive oil, then bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly golden.  These, too, were delicious.

  • 1 TBS unsalted butter
  • 2 medium-large Vidalia onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 phyllo sheets (thawed)
  • butter-flavored cooking spray
  • 3 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat.

Add onions and cook over medium-low heat until

very soft and caramel-colored, about 30 minutes.

Add balsamic vinegar and honey and cook for another 20 minutes,

or until the mixture is thick and syrupy.  Remove from heat and stir in thyme.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a sheet of phyllo dough with cooking spray;  repeat with remaining three sheets, one on top of another.

Cut stack of phyllo into 6 equal pieces.  Divide onion filing among pieces,

then top with cheese.

Bring corners up and twist together to form a pouch;  transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and coat with spray.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until lightly golden.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


Black Beans and Toasted Coconut Rice

by Jennifer

This black bean recipe is my brother’s, modified with actual measurements (a true cook, he creates dishes without the use of measuring cups or spoons), but still delicious.  I like to serve this with diced, roasted sweet potato, and avocado tossed with lime juice, for sprinkling on top.

Serves 4 – 6.

Black Beans

  •  1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 1 29-oz. can black beans, drained but not rinsed
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat;  cook onions and garlic until golden brown, about 8 minutes.

Deglaze pan with the vinegar and cook for 1 minute.

Add the beans, lime juice, salt and pepper, and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.

Toasted Coconut Rice – adapted from Cooking Light

  •  1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 cups basmati rice (I prefer brown), rinsed
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 TBS chopped cilantro

Heat a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat.  Add the cardamom and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 10 – 15 seconds.

Transfer cardamom to a bowl and add the coconut to the pot, stirring, until it starts to turn golden brown.

Transfer coconut to the bowl with the cardamom.

Return the pot to heat and add the olive oil.  When it shimmers, add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant.

Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.

Add the coconut and cardamom, the water and salt and bring to a simmer.  Cover, and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes if white rice, 35 minutes if brown.

Fluff with a fork and stir in cilantro.

Roasted Sweet Potato

  •  1 small to medium sweet potato
  • about 1 TBS olive oil
  • salt and pepper

While the rice and beans are cooking, preheat oven to 400.

Peel and dice the sweet potato, toss with the olive oil, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes, or until tender.