Saturday, December 27, 2014

Butternut squash, cipollini onion and mushroom pasta with a goat cheese sauce

A perfect pasta for a winter day - whole wheat shells, combined with roasted squash, sweet cipollini onions, and woodsy mushrooms lightly coated in a silky cheese sauce with goat cheese and Parmesan cheese. The cipollini onions are roasted with balsamic vinegar to enhance their sweetness and the mushrooms get a little kick from the chili flakes and a beautiful fragrance from the addition of minced rosemary.
Served with a fresh salad it makes a wonderful vegetarian main course.

Butternut squash, cipollini onions and mushroom pasta with a goat cheese sauce
6 oz cremini or baby bella mushroom
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
9 small red cipollini onions
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
3 cups short cut whole wheat pasta
5 tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese
2 oz softened goat cheese
1/3 cup pasta water

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. 
  2. Toss the butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and spread them out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Place the baking sheet in the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake for approximately 28 minutes or till soft and golden brown at the edges.
  3. Peel the cipollini onion and cut into halves. If they are large, cut them into quarters. Spread them out onto another baking sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Place in the lower rack of the oven. Roast for 20 minutes and turn the onions halfway through the baking.
  4. While the vegetables are baking, clean and cut the mushroom into quarters. Heat a saute pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the chopped mushroom, garlic and the red chili flakes and saute over high heat for about 7 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt during the last two minutes of cooking along with the minced rosemary. When done, switch off the heat and transfer the roasted cipollini onions and butternut squash to the pan with the mushrooms.
  5. Bring salted water to a boil in big stock pot. Add the pasta and boil as per the directions on the box. Once the pasta is ready, save half cup of the pasta water to make the sauce before draining the pasta.
  6. Transfer the drained pasta to the pan with the roasted vegetables. Turn the heat to medium low - add the two cheeses and slowly add some of the pasta water to create the cheese sauce. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm.
Serves 3

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fennel, Orange and Pomegranate Salad with Sumac

Winter is the peak season for fennel and there is an abundance of them in the stores. Been trying to eat them as often as possible - in salads, roasted, and in a soup. Jamie Oliver has a carrot and fennel soup which is delicious.  This salad is similar to my fennel and citrus salad which I posted earlier, but the addition of the pomegranates and sumac, marash pepper and fresh red chili in the dressing gives it a twist. Had a friend for lunch and served it to her - she loved it. The sweetness of the oranges is well balanced by the tang of the sumac and the fragrant marash peppers. Unlike cayenne, Marash pepper do not have a lot of heat. Hence it works well sprinkled on the salad.

Fennel, Orange and Pomegranate Salad with Sumac

1/2 bulb of a large fennel
One navel orange
1/2 cup pomegranate arils
1 teaspoon thinly sliced fresh red chili

Dressing
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon sumac
1/4 teaspoon crushed marash pepper or more to taste

  1. Trim the fronds of the fennel bulb and the hard stems on top. Using a mandoline, thinly slice the fennel. If you do not have a mandoline, slice it as thinly as possible using a sharp knife.
  2. Peel the orange with a paring knife and separate into segments. If you find this difficult then, just peel the orange and slice it into 1/4" thin circles.
  3. Make the dressing with the olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. 
  4. Toss the salad gently with the dressing. Sprinkle the pomegranate arils and the sumac and marash pepper onto the salad.
  5. Serve at room temperature.
Serves 2.