Tag Archives: arugula

Tuxedo Orzo Salad

This is a cautionary tale told to warn you about the dangers of shopping without your reading glasses. It is dark and scary! (Not really!) If you are blessed with 20/20 vision or are under the age of 40, you may just want to skip the first part of this post. Otherwise, you will be shaking your head and wondering what this crazy old lady is rambling on about.

Growing up, I had always had perfect vision. My dad was an optometrist and of course, I always wanted to wear glasses. I would go to his office and try on different frames, imagining the various personalities that went with each pair. When I turned 40, I noticed that I could no longer read the directions on the back of over-the-counter medicines. Just a word to the wise, do not assume that the package says Tylenol nighttime when your kids wake up sick in the middle of the night. Without my glasses on I was never quite sure if I was giving them nighttime or daytime. If I accidentally gave them the daytime, it became quite obvious within 20 minutes of swallowing the medicine, and I would pay the price for my deteriorating vision.

Eventually, I did go see an optometrist. The beginning of my failing eyesight coincided with my dad’s death. It felt so disloyal to visit another optometrist, that I put it off for as long as I could. When I finally went, I was prescribed mild reading glasses and he told me I could just get by with a drugstore pair. Not a chance! I spent the better part of the afternoon at his office, trying on almost every pair of frames in his office, driving the poor assistant there crazy, I’m sure. I chose a racy red pair of reading glasses that I was convinced portrayed me as intelligent, creative, slightly quirky and someone with who is comfortable in her own skin and does not worry about what others think. A lot to ask from one pair of glasses, to be sure! I really only needed them for very small print, but I pulled them on at every opportunity.

Fast forward several years and with each passing year, my vision has continued to spiral downward. My optometrist has assured me that it’s a normal part of aging. However, I now need my glasses to read everything. I have my Blackberry set at the biggest font size, and I still need my glasses to read e-mails and texts. Yes, I still have a Blackberry! I like to think that it was Blackberry that taught the world to type with their thumbs. Way to go Canadian innovators. I have tried the iPhone but I can not seem to get the hang of that touch screen. I am all thumbs when it comes to using it. Yet, I digress, sorry about that!

I now have about 12 pairs of reading glasses scattered throughout the house, in my car and in my purse. I find it such a pain to have to put them on to read a recipe, take them off to cook or take pictures of what I am cooking. I am forever lamenting that I can’t find my glasses. My daughter really wants me to buy one of those chains you put around your neck to hold the glasses, so you don’t lose them. I have managed to hold off so far, because, really, they just announce that you are a woman of a certain age, and I’m just not ready to be that woman yet. So until Marni or Miu Miu come up with a chain that conveys to everyone that I am intelligent, creative and slightly quirky, I will pass.

Last week I was at the supermarket, wandering up the grains and rice aisle, when I spotted a beautiful box. I picked it up and the bright yellow large font announced itself to be Tuxedo Orzo. Pretty little grains of black and white orzo. I had to buy a box and make something fantastic with it. I never read the fine print on the box because I couldn’t be bothered to take out my glasses.

When I got home I rummaged through the fridge and pantry and began creating a Tuxedo Orzo Salad.

The contrasting textures and tastes in this salad are fantastic. The grains of orzo are slightly chewy, the pine nuts are crunchy and the buffalo mozzarella is creamy. The sweetness of the corn and peas play off so well against the bitter arugula. Bathed in a fresh lemon-garlic olive oil dressing, this salad is addictive. I made it for my family and the huge bowl disappeared very quickly.

The following week, my girlfriends were visiting at the cottage and I made the salad a second time for them for lunch. As we were inhaling the salad and oohing and aahing over the pretty black and white grains of orzo, one friend asked how they made the orzo black. I pulled out the box and slipped on my reading glasses and was horrified to discover that it was dyed with cuttlefish ink. We keep a kosher home and cuttlefish is a member of the squid family and is definitely not kosher. Oops!

I will certainly be making this salad again, but with white orzo only! It is a great salad to use up all the little odds and ends you have in the fridge and pantry. I think it would be wonderful with almonds, asparagus and parmesan in the spring or cooked butternut squash, hazelnuts and diced apples in the fall.

Click here to print the recipe for Tuxedo Orzo Salad.

Penne with Turkey Sausage and Arugula

You think you know a person.  You sleep together in the same bed, glare stare across the dinner table at each other, floss together every night, for almost 26 years, and you think you know this person inside and out. But then, suddenly you discover something about them that shocks you to your very core. Or in this instance, leaves you scratching your head saying, “huh??”

I’m speaking here, of course, about my husband of a quarter of a century. For the past 6 months, at least once a week, I have been making this pasta dish. And every week, he eats it, cleaning his plate, without comment. All of the sudden, this week, he looks at me and says, “Next time, can you leave the weeds out?”

Weeds?? Upon further discussion, I discovered he was referring to the wilted arugula and spinach that I add to this pasta dish. He finds the texture of sautéed green off-putting. I love them! So much so, that I plan to continue making this dish every week, but, as a compromise, as every good marriage requires some give and take to make it thrive, I will add the green vegetables that he does love, like broccoli, peas and asparagus and serve the weeds on the side. Heck, I love this guy so much, I may even give him a real thrill and add some brussels sprouts one week. Now that’s how you spice up a marriage!

The inspiration for this dish came from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe for pasta with Italian sausage and broccoli rabe. At home I keep kosher and could not make this with traditional pork Italian sausage, so I used ground turkey and just added the seasonings found in spicy Italian sausage; fennel seed, red pepper flakes and garlic.

The red pepper flakes and fennel seed, along with some salt, get ground up in a spice grinder. Actually, it’s just an inexpensive coffee grinder, that I use only for grinding spices. Here’s a great tip for cleaning the spice grinder and getting rid of any odours so they do not transfer to the next thing you grind. Take about a halt a cup of raw white rice and grind it up. Any last remnants of whatever you last ground up, that may be lurking beneath the blades, will cling to the rice and will be discarded with the ground rice.

A paste of garlic, anchovy, lemon and olive oil is prepared to add flavour and finish the dish off.

I like to use ground dark meat turkey as it is higher in fat, more flavourful and does not dry out as quickly. The ground turkey gets sautéed with the ground spices.

When the turkey is almost cooked through, remove it from the pan and cook your vegetables. I used baby spinach and baby arugula, as well as some diced tomatoes. Feel free to improvise and use whatever makes you happy. We also love it with fresh peas or asparagus in the spring, or frozen peas, all year round. Sometimes I will make it with broccolini.

If you have never wilted greens before, you will be shocked at how they will wilt down to almost nothing.

 

Remember to keep some of the pasta cooking water before draining the pot. The starch in the water will help to thicken the sauce.

Click here to print the recipe for Pasta with Turkey Sausage and Arugula.

Wheat Berry Salad

 

 

Like most of you, I suspect, I sometimes fall into a rut and eat the same things over and over again. It’s just easier that way sometimes. But, this year I have decided to try cooking with a new grain every month. Sort of expand my culinary horizons. However, that goal kind of runs counter to a second goal of mine, to eat my way through my pantry, without buying any new staples.

I was inspired in this second goal by a good friend. Last time I visited her at the cottage she shared with me, that for the month of August, she was planning to empty out her pantry. On days when she had company, everyone usually gathered on the dock around 5 pm for drinks. Instead of agonizing over what to serve with drinks, she would just use whatever she found in her pantry cupboard. One day, she confessed, she opened up a can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained them and served them with a sprinkling of black pepper. Along side this she served some dried apricots she spied lounging at the back of the shelf in a plastic bag. Apparently these offerings were gobbled up quite happily with a glass of chilled Prosecco.

So here I was with the good angel on one shoulder, whispering in my ear, “Come on, clean out the pantry. You have 5 different kinds of grains here. Eat us!”. On the other shoulder I had the devil, tempting me to be wasteful and go out and seek a new grain.  Most of you know I have very little willpower, so it should come as no surprise to you that I went out and bought some wheat berries. I had never cooked with them before and a recipe by Globe and Mail nutrition reporter, Leslie Beck, caught my eye.

Wheat berries are essentially whole unprocessed wheat kernels, containing all three parts of the grain (germ, bran and endosperm). Only the hull is removed. They sort of look like barley but have 75% more protein and 40% more fibre than barley. All in all, a nutritional powerhouse.  Wheat berries need to be rinsed and then they are cooked in simmering water, about a 2:1 ratio, like rice. They take about 40 minutes to cook and have a wonderful nutty taste and chewy toothsome texture. I added some french green beans to the original recipe as I happened to have some wilting in my fridge!

The other ingredients are arugula, pomegranate seeds and diced red apples. The dressing is made from olive oil, cider vinegar, apple juice, maple syrup and grainy mustard.

Chewy, crunchy, tangy and sweet. And healthy too! Feel free to substitute whatever grain you have languishing on the shelf of your pantry. This would be great with Farro as well.

To print the recipe, click here.