Lemon and Vegetable Ricotta Pot Pie

Getting packages is obviously the best thing ever.  Usually it’s something I really had no business buying, but it was on sale, and Banana Republic has kindly remembered my credit card number, and whoops, here it is, right on my doorstep, 7-10 business days later.

The only thing better than getting packages I’ve ordered is getting ones I haven’t ordered.  Especially from my mom.

Sometimes, it’s a big package of spices, because she bought too many.  Sometimes it’s a bag of spaetzle.  One time it was an electric toothbrush.  Another time, 4 boxes of Brita filters and paper towels.  Recently, two mugs and a reusable bag from the Human Rights Campaign.

The only consistent thing about these packages is that 1. they show up without warning (i.e., we have not previously discussed a need for any of the things contained in said packages); and 2. there is no note and no explanation for why, or from whom, we are receiving these packages.  You just accept them and call Mom to thank her.

Sometimes, though, my mom outdoes herself.  Like when a few days ago, the UPS man brought A Modern Way to Eat, a new cookbook from Anna Jones, a vegetarian cook from the UK.  Of course, I’m taking some extreme liberties with these recipes, as they’re mostly vegan and slightly too healthy for my tastes.  For example, the below listed cheese as optional.  Not in my book.  But the recipe concepts are awesome.

(And thanks & I love you, Mom!)

 

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Lemon and Vegetable Ricotta Pot Pie

for the dough

  • 1 and 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (you can obviously do this with white flour)
  • large handful parsley
  • zest from one whole lemon
  • pinch salt
  • about 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • about 5 tablespoons cold water
  • optional: 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

for the filling

  • olive oil
  • 4 leeks, washed, trimmed, sliced length-wise and then across
  • salt, pepper, crushed reds
  • 1 bunch asparagus, washed & chopped
  • about 8 oz frozen peas
  • about a tablespoon flour
  • about 1 and 1/2 cups veggie stock
  • 4-5 large spoonfuls of whole fat ricotta (honestly, you might as well skip it if you’re going to use the non-fat kind.  just being honest.)
  • a big handful parmesan cheese
  • juice from the zested lemon
  1. Preheat the oven to about 400 degrees F.
  2. Make your dough: Put the flour, parsley, lemon zest and salt into a food processor.  Pulse and then slowly add the olive oil.  Add the water – slowly- and pulse until the dough forms a nice round ball.
  3. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out until you have a nice round circle.  Press into a 9-inch pie plate & trim the sides.  You’ll use these scraps later. (Or, I did, and felt very proud of myself).  Prick the dough in the pan with a fork and bake it for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.
  4. Prepare your pie filling.  Heat a bit of olive oil in a large, deep pan.  Add leeks, salt, pepper, and red pepper and cook down for about 10-15 minutes over low heat, until the leeks are nice and soft.  Add asparagus & cook another 5 minutes.  Add peas and then a spoonful of flour – give it a quick stir – and then add the stock and simmer until you have a nice veggie gravy.  You will likely have to add a bit more flour.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Off the heat, add ricotta and parmesan cheeses and the lemon juice.  Give the whole mixture a big stir and allow to cool for a moment.
  5. Pour the filling into the pre-baked pie crust.  Now: here’s where you can get genius.  Roll out the pie scraps and then slice them into strips.  You can use these to lattice them over your pie.  Gently brush the lattice and the crust with the egg wash, pop a crust shield over the pie, and bake the whole thing for about 20 minutes.  Serve with a little more parsley and a side salad.

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The Verdict:

This thing falls apart the second you serve it, which reminds me of Thanksgiving and my favorite dish: my mom’s leftover turkey pot pie.  Only this one is all vegetable.  And if I weren’t such a dairy freak, it could even be made vegan.  Then again, it probably wouldn’t make it to the blog without a few tweaks…

Greek-ish Barley Salad with Sundried Tomatoes

Fun fact about me: in college, when most of my female classmates were dressing as “under-dressed fill-in-the-blank (nouns)” for Halloween, I went as a teenaged boy.  A teenaged Newsie, to be precise.  Because there’s nothing like a light-hearted song and dance number about ending child labor, right?

On Friday, it took all of 30 minutes to conceive of and execute on this salad (inspired by Cooking Light).  Meaning I had plenty of time to drink some vino and get to Newsies the Musical (!!) on time, along with my former roommate, also a former Newsie for Halloween.  Word to all my Boston friends: it’s coming (as in the production, not this salad) to your city next.

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Greek-ish Barley Salad with Sundried Tomatoes

  • grated lemon rind from one small lemon
  • juice from one small lemon
  • olive oil
  • about 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • arugula
  • about 10 oz cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and quartered
  • about 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes in oil, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz Feta cheese, crumbled
  1. Bring two cups of salted water to a boil, add barley, reduce heat and cover.  Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed.
  2. Meanwhile, combine lemon rind through salt and pepper in a large bowl and whisk to create a nice dressing.
  3. Add red onion through cucumber to the dressing bowl and toss gently.  When the barley finishes, mix that in and add sundried tomatoes with oil, as well as Feta cheese (the heat from the barley combined with the oil and the Feta cheese will create a nice creamy texture).
  4. This is lovely served both immediately and chilled.

The Verdict:

Since the blueberry mint salad extravaganza, I’ve been decimating the Trader Joe’s shelves of quick-cooking farro and barley.  It’s just so good, and so easy, and so…tasty, while being healthy.  Perfect for seizing the day.

Mediterranean Farro Salad

Is this a recipe?  Probably not.  What this is is taking stock of your pantry and fridge, and figuring what you have on hand to make a meal.  Which is basically what happens chez nous, on the reg.

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Mediterranean Farro Salad

  • 1 cup quick-cooking farro
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • big handful spinach or arugula (about 1/2 bag)
  • half dozen small mozzarella balls, sliced &/or quartered
  • small carton grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • fresh herbs: basil, parsley, etc.
  • avocado, diced
  • olives, if you’re into that kind of thing
  • salt, pepper
  • optional: dressing –
    • Whisk together 2 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, cumin, a splash of lemon juice, mixed together
  1. Bring apple cider, vinegar, bay leaves and a pinch of salt to a boil.  Add farro, reduce heat, and cook according to directions, about 10-12 minutes (you may need to pour off a bit of excess liquid).
  2. Meanwhile, cut up your mozzarella and tomatoes, herbs and avocado.  Add to a large bowl and give it a toss with the arugula.
  3. Pour the hot farro over the salad mixture and give it a thorough mix – you want the farro to wilt the arugula a little bit.  Season with salt & pepper and serve with dressing, if you please.

The Verdict:

This is worth sharing for one small reason: cooking the farro in the apple cider vinegar and the bay leaves gives it a tart, wonderful flavor that only gets better the longer the salad sits.  If you make enough to last you into lunch the next day, you don’t need any dressing.  How’s that for healthy!?.

Pea & Asparagus Soup with Poached Egg

If you’re a regular reader around here (which, obviously I hope you are) you know I get a special thrill every time I bust out the immersion blender.  Now that it’s spring, though, that little wonder machine has been sitting in the back of the cabinet, awaiting fall, while I luxuriate in all things fresh and seasonal and NOT canned.  (Side note: I know people enjoy summer time soups.  I do not understand this.  Let’s be real: cold soup is just…cold.)

UNTIL – I happened to spot some beautiful fresh spring peas at Trader Joe’s the other week, and then happened to notice this recipe in Cooking Light.  This is a seriously delicious (and healthy!) soup..and a perfect excuse to use my trusty immersion blender once again.

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Pea & Asparagus Soup with Poached Egg

  • 1 or 2 pats unsalted butter
  • 3 leeks, white and green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups high quality chicken stock (use vegetable if you want a veggie preparation)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme
  • salt, pepper, crushed reds
  • 10 oz fresh peas
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed and chopped
  • a big handful parsley, divided
  • optional: olive oil, green onions
  • for the eggs:
    • cold water
    • pinch salt
    • about a tablespoon white vinegar
    • 2 eggs (or however many you’re feeding)
  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; add sliced leeks and cook about 5 minutes, until nearly translucent.  Add stock, thyme, crushed reds, a pinch of salt and pepper and bring to a low simmer.  Add asparagus, cover and cook about 3 minutes, and then add fresh peas.  Cook about a minute, then add parsley (you can include the stalks, which will give it an additional pop of green!).
  2. Blend soup until smooth with a traditional or an immersion blender.  Season to taste and then return to low heat while you prep your eggs.
  3. Bring about an inch of salted water to a boil in a small pot.  Reduce heat to a simmer, add vinegar, and slowly/carefully add your eggs.  Cook about 3-4 minutes, or until the white of the egg firms up around the yolk.
  4. Ladle your soup into bowls and (carefully) add your egg.  Top with parsley, additional cracked pepper, and if you like, some olive oil and/or green onions.  Break that yolk open and enjoy the bounty.

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The Verdict:

Husband, who is not a fan of eggs (I married him, but do not claim to understand him), gobbled this up and went for seconds.  Needless to say, we were both bummed when this only made enough for one more (lunch) meal.  Make this.  I promise you will not regret it.