Broccoli Penne with Pesto Cream Sauce

September 30, 2010 2 comments

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If I could pick a dream job, being the host of a TV cooking show would rank pretty honkin’ high.  When I was a kid, I would pretend the window that was above the kitchen sink really was a camera and I would talk to the window like I was hosting my own cooking show.  I even did my own commercials ( I still remember the one I did for Vlasic pickles…so any ad agencies out there, gimme a call).  This was waaaay before Food Network so my idols were few, but the uber-talented chefs like Julia Child and the sort really made cooking on TV fun for me.

I would say 88.7% of the recipes I make are those of other people, they are not my own creations.  I wish that number was lower, but the more I cook the more comfortable I get with combinations and techniques.  Last night I had some broccoli from the garden that needed to get used up, so I totally improvised (Augggh!) and to my and my family’s surprise, it turned out pretty good!

I know I will never be the Next Food  Network star (even though my last name just screams out numerous options for a snappy title).  But that’s fine with me, as the house I live in now has a window over a sink and I have an in-house studio audience of four who give me applause and won’t cancel me due to poor ratings.

Broccoli Penne with Pesto Cream Sauce

Serves 5 (2 adults, 3 kids)

1 lb penne pasta
2 Tbs olive oil
1 lb or more fresh broccoli ( I would not use frozen due to extra water it has)
3 Tbs. jarred roasted red pepper
3 Tbs pesto
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 Tbs flour
3/4 cup cream**
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup white wine
Optional: grated Parmesan cheese

** To make this a vegan recipe, you could sub in some cashew cream use non-egg pasta and cheese free pesto -> -> I used that for this recipe

In a large pot, boil water.  When water is boiling, add pasta and cook per directions on the box.

Meanwhile in a large skillet,  heat olive oil and cook onions until soft about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Stir and add white wine first then the broccoli.  Cover with a lid and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes.  Add red pepper and stir.  Then sprinkle flour over and stir and then cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add cream and stir, cook for 2 minutes and then add pesto.  Season with salt (about 1 tsp) and pepper. You want the broccoli to be cooked but not super limp and overcooked.

Drain pasta and return to the same pot.  Add the broccoli mixture to the pasta and combine well.  Top with cheese if desired.

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Cherry Tomato Pesto – Fresh and Freezer-worthy

September 2, 2010 2 comments

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I’m taking a walk down memory lane today…and through my stroll I am encountering little,  glossy red, ball-shaped fruit that started it all. Started what you ask?  This is the recipe that made my decision to launch What I Ate For Dinner.  After telling friends and family what I cooked,  I kept getting requests like, “Oh, that sounds good, can you email me the recipe?”  Ya, I could…but after a while I spent a decent amount of time sending emails or writing it down for people.  I love my family and friends and all, but it seemed like a waste of time repeating myself.

So humor aside for once, I want to really thank everyone who has read, commented and just somewhat paid random attention to my culinary quips, savory stories and recipes.  Special thanks go to Dave and my kids, who have put up with me putting dinner on pause some nights, because I had to get a good picture of what we were about to eat.  It does make me giggle when I cook something and one of the kids ask, “Is this going to go in your blog?”

I wasn’t quite sure how this little blog would turn out and hopefully my passion for food and cooking have translated into not only a creative outlet for me, but provided you with some good eats along the way.

So I will stop blathering on and give you a really great recipe that I make for Cherry Tomato Pesto.  This is perfect if you have  a million cherry tomatoes you don’t know what to do with.  I use this rich sauce mainly on ravioli.  It also makes a yummy app when you pour some into a baking dish and add some goat cheese and heat till bubbly.  Smear some of it on a sliced french bread pieces and oh, yum.  And one of the best parts is that you can freeze it to enjoy all year ’round. 

Cherry Tomato Pesto

Makes roughly 1 1/2 – 2 Cups

Take two pounds or so of cherry tomatoes and halve them and put them in a 9 x 12 pyrex baking dish. Add 6 cloves of crushed garlic, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle 1/2 cup olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons fresh thyme. Bake uncovered in a 250 degree oven for 2 1/2 – 3 hours or until edges are a little charred, stirring every now and then. Cool.

Take the tomato mixture and add it to a food processor and add:
– 1/4 cup pine nuts
– 1/4 cup fresh basil

Blend and add more olive oil to you liking of the consistency. You can use roma tomatoes for this as well, just cut to a smaller size.

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If you can use a knife, you can make Tomato Salad w/Crisped Capers

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

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I don’t think I have seen the movie “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”, but I have felt under siege by the army of cherry tomatoes that have filled the garden.  Trying to avoid 80 million mosquito bites while picking tomatoes from the garden, I geared up yesterday with jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and gloves.  I still ended up with 4 bites on my face (the only area of my body exposed to those blood sucking pests) but it was worth it when I brought by harvest indoors.

cherry tomato plant

Nature's Stoplight

Here is a recipe from Tal Ronnen that I have only made once, but it will be a repeat recipe every summer, as it’s easy, fast and the word “fresh” doesn’t even capture the amazing taste of this recipe.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Crisped Capers

Makes 6 servings

  • ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained3 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch wedges ( I use cherry tomatoes and sun gold instead)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil chiffonade
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the capers and cook until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to paper towel.

Place the tomatoes in a large bowl. Drizzle with the remaining ¼ cup oil, add the basil, season with salt and pepper to taste and gently toss to coast. Sprinkle the capers on the salads after they’re plated so they stay crisp.

How do you use your cherry tomatoes?

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Grilled Veggie Flatbread

August 9, 2010 Leave a comment

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Here in Chicago, the air conditioning has been on for a while…and will continue to be on as it will be in the 90s all week. I don’t know about you, but turning the oven on in this kind of heat is more unbearable than Jim Gaffigan not being in the cast of My Boys anymore.  This will be a short and savory post,  so your computer doesn’t output any more unnecessary heat.

If I were to make a list (don’t tempt me) of my favorite recipes, this recipe for Grilled Veggie Flatbread would definitely make the cut.  I like it because, like a pizza, you can throw anything on it and it tastes awesome.  It’s perfect for this time of year when the garden and farmers markets are overflowing with superb produce like eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and anything else you can find.

You can follow the recipe and just use tomatoes, but when I made this the other day, before I grilled the flatbread I sliced and grilled some:
Red Onion
Japanese eggplant (the long and skinny kind)grilled veggie flatbread
Summer squash
Cherry Tomatoes

After the bread came off the grill, I topped it with some olive oil, shredded parmesan cheese and then added the toppings.

Another idea: If you can get your hands on a mushroom mix,  saute those bad boys up with some garlic and when the bread comes off the grill, top it with shredded parmesan cheese and then the mushrooms…SO good!  This makes a nice light dinner and also a killer appetizer.  Stay cool my friends!

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Did you hear the one about the Linguine, the Shrimp and the Zucchini?

August 3, 2010 Leave a comment

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Q: Why do people in small, peaceful towns still lock their car doors?

A: So nobody sneaks a zucchini into their car.

Yep, it’s zucchini season and the buggers are taking over neighborhoods.  People distraught with overflowing produce, are finding ways to use the squash like no other.  They are putting them in breads, muffins, stir-frys, appetizers, stuffing them, grilling’s just culinary chaos.

Here is a quick, easy recipe that I have been cooking for quite a while that makes use of these fast growing green beauties.  It’s a variation on a recipe by Jeff Smith aka “The Frug”.

linguine with sauteed zucchini

Linguine with Shrimp and Sauteed Zucchini
Serves 6


  • 1/2 pound fresh medium shrimp, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 pound or more green zucchini, julienned (2 inches by 1/4 inch)
  • 1 cup fresh tomato sauce
  • 3/4 pound dried linguine
  • Freshly grated Parmesan to taste
  1. Heat a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil for the pasta.
  2. Place the peeled shrimp in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste and 1 tablespoon of the oil.
  3. Grill the shrimp over high heat about 1 minute per side, until opaque and lightly charred. (Do not overcook or they will be rubbery)
  4. Heat a medium-size frying pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, the garlic, and the zucchini.  Saute until the zucchini is tender.
  5. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.
  6. Add salt and pepper if needed.
  7. Cook the pasta al dente, drain, and return to pot.
  8. Add the grilled shrimp to the simmering sauce and cook for 1 minute.
  9. Toss sauce with the drained pasta and serve with Parmesan cheese.

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I found my thrill…in a Blueberry Coffee Cake

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Why is it when you take a vacation, you come home with less motivation than before the trip?  After having back to back vacations, I started the week with noble attempts in getting projects done,  but now mid-week I am zapped.   Vacation life was incredible…we were in  Napa (the town of Yountville) and I couldn’t have been more relaxed.  The biggest stress was deciding what to get from the demoniacal bakery literally next door to our hotel. Now back home I am having a hard time adjusting and can’t decide what to cook for the life of me.  And when I walk next door, I keep asking for fabulous chocolate donuts and coffee. My neighbor is getting madder by the day, insisting that her house is NOT Bouchon Bakery.

So for this week’s post I bring you breakfast…this was a recipe I made for the first of my two vacations…a gal pal trip to Galena.  I made it with farmers market blueberries and it makes a whole 9 x 12 pan of goodness, so there’s plenty to share.

This recipe comes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan With a Vengeance.  You can use dairy in place of the soy items and it works just as well.  However I don’t think I would use anything but real maple syrup (but once you use real, Mrs. Butterworth will seem like a cheap whore to you…trust me).

Blueberry Coffee Cake

For the Topping:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup chopped walnuts

For the Cake:
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup canola oil
1 (6-ounce) container vanilla soy yogurt
1 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups plain soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease or spray a 9×13 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Make the topping:

Sift together the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Drizzle in the oil a little at a time and mix with your fingertips until crumbs form. Add the walnuts and mix.

Make the cake:

Sift together the dry ingredients into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, vigorously whisk together the wet ingredients until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in the blueberries. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and sprinkle the topping over it. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean. Tastes great still warm.

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The Beet of the Moment

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Okay, if you didn’t catch the pun on the Asia song, my second choice for a blog title was  Glenn Frey’s. “The Beet is On”.  Moving on from bad food and

Straight from the garden

80’s tunes puns…you can see the summer’s heat has been affecting my brain *just* a little.   This week’s super delayed blog post will be short and savory, so you can get back to the slip and slide.  But stick around after the recipe for a fun website I just found that will make you giggle.

This week’s recipe is for Beet Salad.  Most of you aren’t a fan of the beet, but damn it, you should be.  I just tried them last year when I purchased a bunch at a farmers market.  The whole family loved them so this year I am growing some.  Warning for first time beeters:  Don’t immediately call your doctor the following day after doing your business in the oval office.  The red color in “that” is normal and yes, from the beets.

This is a recipe I developed after trying something similar at one of my favorite restaurants – Duke’s Alehouse.  It makes a fun, sit down appetizer or heck, I could eat it as a meal with no problem.

Savory Beet Salad
Serves 6 as appetizer

–  one bunch of beets (4-5 beets)
– 1/4 lb chopped bacon, cooked
– 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
– 1/3 cup candied pecans
– 1/3 cup granny smith apples, diced
– 2/3 of a head of endive, cut into matchstick or so size pieces

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
a few dashes of tabasco sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Add all ingredients and whisk together.

Peel beets and roast for 30 minutes at 350 degrees until tender, but not mushy (do smaller beets for less time) just so they are fork-tender.  When cooled, dice into cubes the size of sugar cubes or so.  Add all ingredients together, including dressing,  except cheese and nuts, and chill for 30 minutes or so.  Once ready to serve, add cheese and nuts.

Okay, here’s the laugh I promised you…if you like to watch Food Network, I found this site called Food Network Humor which basically makes fun of all the things I normally do when watching the shows (although I barely watch these days).  Enjoy and keep cool!

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