Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring spinach pesto with almonds

I'm certain I can make this better, but for a first pass this is pretty delicious. I used a huge bag of fresh-picked spinach from the farmer's market.

1 large bag fresh spinach 
2 cloves garlic
1 cup lowfat cottage cheese (such as Light 'N Lively)
1/2 cup sliced almonds, divided
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 14-oz package whole wheat spaghetti
fresh-grated Parmesean

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; I used a pasta pot with colander insert.

Soak spinach in cool water to release sandy grit; swish, drain and repeat until water is clear. Trim and whirl in batches in salad spinner, then dump entire batch into boiling water. Simmer 2-3 minutes until limp but not defeated and still bright green. While cooking, add several cups of ice to spinner bowl, then insert strainer and fill about halfway with water. Remove colander insert from pasta pot and transfer drained spinach to ice bowl.

Return colander to pot. Bring water back to a boil and add pasta, cooking according to directions.

While pasta is cooking, drop garlic into food processor workbowl and pulse-chop. Add cottage cheese, salt and well-drained spinach, pulse-chop again. Add all but 2 tbsp sliced almonds and about 1/2 cup water; blend until creamy.

Drain al dente pasta, reserving 1-2 cups pasta water, then return to warm pot over low flame. Slosh in a good glob of reserved pasta water and spinach pesto, stirring well. Add more reserved water if needed. (If not, save to any leftover to keep reheats moist.)

Transfer to serving bowl and top with reserved sliced almonds and parmesean.

Note:  The truly thoughtful hostess also will provide floss.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Almond-scented orange muffins

This morning, with much sadness, I threw out a half dozen Honeybell oranges that had spoiled from neglect. I greedily ordered an overly large box this year and, after the initial thrill, lost track of them. There were enough, fortunately, to try a variation on a simple recipe I found online for orange muffins.

I followed the instructions generally, but I decreased the oil by a tablespoon and substituted an equal amount of applesauce. I also added a teaspoon of almond extract and topped the muffins with a scattering of about 2 tablespoons of sliced almonds. While the original calls for a baking time of 20-25 minutes, I found that 18-20 was plenty for them to set and develop nicely browned tops. Given that they are a bit dense, I suggest not fretting about cooling time and dive in right away.

The aroma while baking made me feel a little less terrible about dumping all those oranges into the compost bin. Now that the has butter melted, I think I'm over it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Raise a glass to your favorite ACC team

Whether it’s to celebrate a win or drown your sorrows, an ACC-themed adult beverage seems the ideal accompaniment along the road to the Final Four. The Raleigh Downtowner asked three bartenders to create a cocktail that incorporates the essence of the coaches and players of our local teams: Duke’s Coach K and the Blue Devils; Carolina’s Coach Williams and the Tar Heels; the Wolfpack with former coach Sidney Lowe.

So get some ice and a shaker, and get ready to mix a new brew for the NCAA Championships:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The power of Penzeys

I've been curious about Penzeys since the early days of Food TV, when Sara Moulton and others would comfortingly reassure viewers that an unfamiliar spice could be ordered from the Wisconsin-based chain. I often imagined how a package filled with precious saffron, Vietnamese cinnamon or herbes de provence would magically transform my kitchen, but I never did order anything.

Now that North Carolina's first Penzeys has opened practically around the corner from the office, I no longer need to wonder. I get it. Indeed, I get it so much that I need a bigger spice cupboard.

Check out my new post in The Raleigh Downtowner.