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!?.

Stromboli Night

I believe (though I’m not sure, maybe our Italian friend can help out?) the technical term should actually be calzone night, since we serve the sauce on the side (rather than baked within the dough).  But this is a Husband Specialty, and apparently the term “stromboli” was invented in Philadelphia, and the Husband is from there.  So it’s stromboli night around here.

Now, this is certainly not elevated cooking – but if you’re looking for something easy, delicious and filling enough to over-compensate for your gym routine, this is it.  This makes enough for two very hungry people or four people with normal-sized stomachs.  We fall into the former category.  New Year’s resolutions are so 2015.

getting the stromboli party started.
getting the stromboli party started.

“Homemade” Stromboli

  • store-bought pizza dough (I like the Trader Joe’s whole wheat ball of dough, the Husband, not so much.  His recipe, his rules).
  • 1-2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup spinach or arugula
  • a few slices red onion
  • 1/2 bell pepper, sliced
  • handful mushrooms
  • handful Parmesan
  • optional: prosciutto or your choice sliced meat
  • crushed red peppers
  • salt + pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • store-bought or homemade marinara sauce (if store-bought, we like to doctor it up with olive oil, extra herbs, salt + pepper, etc.)
your stromboli log, pre-bake
step 3, below
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  On a large baking pan, roll and stretch out your dough as thinly as you can without breaking it.  (NOTE: If the dough is too thick, it won’t cook all the way through.)
  2. Working in thin layers (so as not to overstuff the stromboli), start with a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese down the center of the dough; do not spread all the way to the end.  Top with your choice of veggies: bell peppers, mushrooms, arugula, onion, mushrooms.  If you have a diehard carnivore partner, place a slice of prosciutto or soppressata over the veggies.  Top with more mozzarella and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Season with salt, pepper and some crushed reds.
  3. Fold in the very ends of the dough towards the center.  Fold in both sides so that one side is layered over the other.  (The stromboli should resemble a large rectangle or log, see picture above).  Brush the top and sides of the log with olive oil and your choice of seasonings and herbs.  (We add more s+p, Italian seasoning, and crushed reds).
  4. Bake at 425 for ten minutes.  Take the stromboli out and make small cuts into the top of the log, to let some air escape.  Pop back in the oven and bake another 10 minutes.
  5. Serve with a side salad and a bowl of marinara sauce.
get in my belly!
get in my belly!

The Verdict:

The Husband wants everyone to know that “the picture doesn’t do it justice.”  My above average-sized stomach agrees.

We’re Having a (Dinner) Party: Cheesy Baked Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage

About three weeks before we got married, the Husband and I were not so kindly informed that our landlord wanted to move back into our apartment.  Needless to say, I was less than pleased.  More than a few tears were shed; lots of panicked hours on Craigslist spent.  Nevertheless, as these things often go, it turned out to be a surprisingly good thing.  When we moved into our new apartment a few short weeks later, I was ecstatic to realize: I now had room for a kitchen table.  For SIX people.  The kitchen from my childhood home was delivered by my not-so-little brother, we bought six chairs, and last night, we hosted our first dinner party.  Moving to the big kids’ sandbox, as they say.

a real kitchen table!
a real kitchen table!

Drawing inspiration from the intrepid Pioneer Woman, I made our baked rigatoni on Thursday night, as I (rightly) didn’t think I’d have time to get everything done before folks came over on Friday night.  This recipe is far from healthy…but it’s been a whole week since Thanksgiving, so it’s about that time again, right? Then, it was just a matter of making a salad, warming up some bread, and sliding the rigatoni in the oven.

Cheesy Baked Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage

  • olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pound chicken sausage (out of their casings)
  • 1 pound ground turkey or chicken
  • 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 28 oz jar of marinara sauce
  • chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil, parsley) and/or a big handful Italian Seasoning
  • salt, pepper and crushed red pepper
  • 1 and 1/2 16 oz bags of rigatoni (Note: I cooked up one 16 oz bag only originally, and then worried I wouldn’t have enough for 6 people.)
  • 1 tub (15 oz) ricotta cheese (I promise, use the whole milk kind.  SO much better.)
  • lots and lots of grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • For flair: fresh sliced mozzarella, more fresh herbs
  1. Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for several minutes, or until they start to turn transcluent.  Add the sausage and ground turkey and cook until browned, making sure to break it all up. Drain off most of the fat (leave a bit behind!).
  2. Add whole tomatoes (and their juice), marinara sauce, salt, pepper, herbs (or Italian seasoning), and crushed red pepper. Let it simmer 20-25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water until just under al dente.  Drain and then rinse in cold water.  Don’t overcook – you need it to retain some structure post-oven time.
  4. If you’re baking right away, this is a good time to preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, about 2 cups of grated mozzarella, a big handful of Parmesan, the egg, salt, and pepper.  Mix together until combined but still lumpy.
  6. Mix together the cheese and pasta.  Slowly add 3-4 cups of the sauce and keep (gently) combining.  This should almost look like a lumpy vodka sauce.
  7. In a large baking dish, add half the pasta as a bottom layer.  Spread about half the remaining sauce over the pasta, then top with mozzarella.  Repeat with another layer of pasta, sauce, and mozzarella.  Add some Parmesan if you like to the top layer.  You can also add additional fresh herbs (I used basil) and sliced mozzarella.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden and bubbly.
  9. Pop open a couple of bottles of red and let the games begin!
  10. NOTE:  If you’re making this ahead of time, be sure to wrap tightly both in plastic wrap and then foil before refrigerating.  When you’re ready, pop the rigatoni directly from the fridge into a COLD oven set to 350 degrees (no pre-heating) and bake for an hour.  Probably better to use a non-glass dish for those fridge to oven transitions, also.  Learned that one the hard way…
that's a whole lot of cheese.
that’s a whole lot of cheese.

 

The Verdict:

Turns out I probably didn’t need to worry about the amount of food – this was more than enough.  And it was delicious, if I do say so myself.  Probably a bit too much work (not that it was hard, just time consuming) to be a go-to – but a great option for a dinner party.  And the best part? Seeing our friends.

Dinner for Four: Slow Cooked Pork Loin with Arugula and Mozzarella

Last night was the first time since starting this blog that we’ve had more than just the two of us at the dinner table.  So we busted out our secret weapon: the crockpot.

The Husband has been a firm believer in the crockpot since before we started dating.  And while I had some doubts initially (doesn’t all the food turn out mushy?), I have joined the ranks of the converted.  Nothing is easier than set it, forget it, eat it.  So that’s exactly what we did, plus a few bottles of wine, to delicious results.

The “recipe” that follows is more of a guideline, than a recipe.  Sadly, we didn’t capture this on camera, as I was too excited to eat and completely forgot…

Slow Cooked Pork Loin with Arugula and Mozzarella

  • olive oil
  • 1.5-2 lbs of pork tenderloin
  • 1-2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1/2 chopped red onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ketchup – a couple of squirts
  • about 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 package of French onion soup mix (I know, I know, but it really does add great flavor!)
  • a little something sweet – a dash of honey or a spoonful of brown sugar
  • salt, pepper
  • crushed red pepper
  • arugula
  • (another) 1/2 chopped red onion
  • sliced fresh mozzarella
  1. If you have the time, sear the pork loin in olive oil until browned on all sides before putting it in the crockpot.  It will give it a better, deeper flavor.
  2. Place the pork loin at the bottom of the crockpot, pour the chicken stock over the pork and mix in the rest of the ingredients, through the red pepper.  Set on low and cook for 8-9 hours.  Go to work!
  3. With about 20 minutes to go, warm some olive oil in a saute pan, cook down the onions.  Add some salt and pepper (and if you’re like us, some more crushed reds!), and then a large bunch of arugula – it will cook down significantly!
  4. Slice the loin and serve in a shallow bowl, topped with some of the cooking liquid, a slice of mozzarella cheese, and the greens and onion mixture.  The cheese will melt and the greens will add both a spice and a texture to the pork – which should be delicious on its own!

The Verdict:

The Husband first made this meal for me after I returned from three months of living away from him.  It was delicious then, and it was delicious now.  This is definitely a go-to for easy, relatively elegant, hearty food.