Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Asparagus Penne

Asparagus season is still in full swing, so we have to take advantage while we can! Go to your local farmers market or supermarket and seek out a bunch of skinny asparagus stalks. Buy them. Bring them home. And make this meal.

Here we have a creamy pasta with almost no actual cream in it. It's the magic of flour, my friends, and making a pan gravy in lieu of a straight cream sauce. This is actually a very nutritious meal, in spite of its apparent decadence. Also, it's another choose-your-own-adventure dish when it comes to the herb. I used sage, just to keep things a bit interesting. Rachael recommends tarragon. I think thyme would also work nicely. My vote is that you keep at least two or three types of fresh herbs on hand at any given time, and that way you're bound to find one that will work in whatever dish you choose to make.

This meal comes together nice and fast, so definitely file this under the weeknight category.

Asparagus Penne
adapted from Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book
serves 3


1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed
6 oz. whole wheat penne pasta
2 teaspoons EVOO
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
1/3 cup low sodium vegetable stock
1/2 cup skim milk
splash of heavy cream (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped (about 4 leaves)
juice of 1/2 lemon
grated parmesan for serving


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add salt. Drop the asparagus in and cook for about 2 minutes, then remove, drain, and chop into 2-inch pieces. Add pasta to the hot water and cook to al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the EVOO and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the garlic and cook gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook for 1 minute, stirring.

3. Whisk in the stock, milk, cream, mustard, and lemon zest. Season with salt, pepper and sage, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until thickened. Add lemon juice, and gently toss the asparagus and pasta with the sauce to coat. Remove from heat and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grated parmesan.

Simple and delicious. Enjoy!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Savory Carrot-Thyme Tart

This tart is an excellent spring meal, whether for brunch, lunch, or dinner. It helped me to kill two birds with one stone - make use of the gorgeous carrots I got at the farmers market, and take another leap toward making a real pie crust from scratch. I'm starting to think it's not so difficult after all, as the crust for this recipe came together very easily. And it's even fairly healthy, too!

I think the recipe speaks for itself, but I'll just mention this would be delicious with any herb of your choice, just about, so long as it complements carrots nicely. The original recipe called for tarragon, but I had a stash of fresh thyme just waiting to be used. Rosemary would also be excellent. Whichever herb you use, serve this alongside a simple salad and you have a delicious meal. It's a bit of a labor of love for a weeknight meal, but it was quite enjoyable. Almost as enjoyable as eating it.

Savory Carrot-Thyme Tart
adapted from Eating Well Magazine
serves 6-8


The Crust
1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup EVOO
1/4 cup low fat plain yogurt

The Filling
2 tablespoons EVOO
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 4 medium-large carrots)
2 tablespoons dry sherry, divided
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup grated sharp white cheddar
1/2 cup low fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup skim milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
pinch salt and freshly ground pepper


1. Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9-inch tart pan with cooking spray and place it on a cookie sheet. Set aside.

2. In a food processor, pulse flour, thyme, and salt for crust. Add butter one piece at a time, pulsing once or twice after each addition, until incorporated. Add 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup yogurt and pulse just until dough starts to come together. Transfer the dough to the prepared tart pan (it will be crumbly), and spread evenly and press firmly into the bottom and up the sides to form a crust.

3. Bake crust until set but not browned, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

4. Prepare the filling: heat 2 tablespoons EVOO in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until onions are softened. Stir in carrots and 1 tablespoon sherry and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

5. Spread mustard over the crust. Sprinkle with cheddar, then top with the carrot and onion mixture.

6. In a medium bowl, whisk 1/2 cup yogurt, milk, eggs, thyme, remaining 1 tablespoon sherry, pinch of salt and pepper. Pour into the tart pan, evenly covering the carrot and onion mixture. Bake 45 minutes, or until filling is firm and edges are golden brown. Cool 15 minutes before slicing.

I am very proud that my first flour-based pie crust came out so well - and the filling is delicious too! This is a dangerous discovery...


Friday, March 27, 2009

Pasta della California

I consider myself a pretty adventurous eater. I also consider myself a faithful lover of the avocado. Yet I'll admit to some skepticism when I first saw this recipe. Pasta with avocado in it? Get out. But wait, what's that you say? It also has lime juice? Garlic? Red pepper flakes? Crunchy broccoli? Arugula? Maybe you can stay.

I bought Veganomicon on a whim, thinking it would be fun to have in my collection, but that I'd hardly ever use it. Well I was wrong. This recipe came straight out of the pages of that beautiful, high-school-chemistry-textbook-looking book, and I have to tell you. It's absolutely delicious. Everything I've made out of this book so far has been a winner. This one is the best yet.

Creamy avocado, tangy lime, spicy garlic and red pepper flakes...well I don't need to tell you the ingredients again. But I promise you. Make this. Please. My plate was empty after an embarrassingly short period of time.

Pasta della California
adapted from Moskowitz & Romero's Veganomicon
serves 2-3


1/4 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1 head broccoli, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
zest of 1/2 a small lime
pinch red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons white wine
1/2 cup low sodium vegetable broth
juice of 1 lime, divided
pinch black pepper
2 cups loosely packed baby arugula
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and cut into large bite-size pieces


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prep all your ingredients during this time, because this recipe goes fast! Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions, probably about 8 minutes. When one minute is remaining in pasta cooking time, you will add the broccoli. So be ready.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add EVOO, garlic, lime zest, and red pepper flakes, and gently heat, stirring often, for about 2 minutes, careful not to burn the garlic. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil, to reduce the wine, about 2 minutes. Add broth, 1/2 the lime juice, and pepper, and bring again to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and wilt in the arugula.

3. By this point pasta should be almost done, so add the broccoli to the boiling pasta and cook for one more minute. Drain all into a colander, then add it to the skillet with the wilted arugula and sauce.

4. Toss everything together with a pasta spoon to distribute garlic and spices evenly. Cook for about 3 more minutes. Add the avocado and turn off the heat. Gently toss for another minute to incorporate the avocado without smushing it, just until it is warmed through.

5. Serve drizzled with remaining lime juice, if you want that extra lime kick.

If you're too skeptical to try avocado in your pasta, well, I'm sorry. You're really missing out here. For those of you bold enough to try it, enjoy!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Italian Wedding Soup

Here is a delicious, light version of the traditional Italian wedding soup. It's quick, tasty, healthy and satisfying. Exactly what I look for in a recipe, as you may have noticed if you read this blog fairly regularly.

The broth is light and flavorful, and packed with greens. The meatballs are so tasty that they absolutely steal the show. This is one of those feel-good soups to keep in the back of your mind for a rainy day, or the next time flu season rolls in. Or if you just feel like some yummy soup. That is a feeling I am very familiar with, myself.

Italian Wedding Soup
adapted from Everyday Food magazine
serves 2-3


1/2 pound lean ground turkey
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large tomato, diced
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 head escarole, cored, trimmed, and coarsely chopped


1. In a large bowl, combine turkey, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, parsley, parmesan, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Combine with your hands. Form small meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter or smaller.

2. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (3-4 minutes). Add broth and diced tomato (with juice); bring to a simmer.

3. Add meatballs; cook, without stirring, until meatballs float to surface, about 5 minutes. Add as much escarole as will fit, and continue adding as it wilts down until all is incorporated into the broth. Cook, stirring often, another 5 minutes, until all escarole is wilted and meatballs are cooked through.

4. Taste soup - add salt and pepper as needed. Thin out broth with water if you like. Serve.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Potato-Leek Flat Bread

Often, when I cook, I fantasize that I am actually cooking not only for my husband and myself, but for a whole dinner party. I'm not too lofty with my fantasies - I usually only imagine two or three other people joining us at the table. And usually my fantasies don't involve specific people. But this meal, I have to say, I imagined I was cooking for my sister Anna-Lynne, who is a vegetarian, and my sister-in-law Sarah, who lives in France.

I know, the ways of my mind are not that mysterious. This meal is vegetarian. This meal has several traditionally French ingredients. Mystery solved. But it was so incredibly easy and quick to make, and remarkably delicious. It officially went from fantasy-dinner-party fare to yes-I-want-to-make-this-for-my-sisters fare. So come on over, sisters. I have a delicious, easy, Frenchy vegetarian meal waiting for you.

I probably wouldn't serve this at just any dinner party, since it seems almost *too* easy. But it would make a great first course if you reduce the size a bit - it could be like an extra-fancy salad or appetizer. If you have it as is, it is plenty of food for a whole meal. The flavors are delicate without being boring, and definitely subject to tweaking. It would be delicious with the addition of pine nuts, or even substituting the Gruyere with chevre. Brainstorm away, folks. This one is easy enough to make again and again, a little bit different every time.

Potato-Leek Flat Bread
adapted from Real Simple Magazine
serves 2


4 teaspoons EVOO
1 leek, halved and thinly sliced length-wise (white & light green parts only)
1 medium red potato, thinly sliced
leaves of 1 sprig fresh thyme
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 whole wheat pitas (I like Sahara brand)
4 tablespoons grated Gruyere
1 cup (tightly packed) baby arugula


1. Heat 3 teaspoons EVOO over medium-high heat in a medium skillet. Add leeks, potatoes, and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, until leeks are browned and potatoes are starting to soften and brown. Season with salt and pepper, and remove from heat.

2. While the potato mixture is cooking, preheat oven or toaster oven to 400. Place pitas on a baking sheet and divide the potato mixture evenly among them. Top each pita with 1 tablespoon grated Gruyere, sprinkled evenly. Bake for about 8 minutes, until potatoes are fully cooked, cheese is melted and pitas are starting to get golden brown.

3. Top each flat bread with a handful of baby arugula. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and drizzle remaining EVOO over the arugula. Serve.

I sliced mine in half, topped it evenly with arugula, and (I'm not ashamed to say) ate it with my hands. Yum yum yum. Enjoy!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Rosemary White Bean Mash with Steak

When naming a meal, it is somewhat unorthodox to lead in with what most people would consider the side, and follow it with the meat. But this is a side dish so delicious and easy that it deserves first billing. If I had been aware of this side dish when I was in college, I probably would have eaten it as a main course.

Sure, the steak is pretty great too. But in my opinion, the white bean mash seriously outshines it. So go ahead, heap the beans onto your plate and give yourself a small serving of steak. We had ours with lightly sauteed baby broccoli, cooked for only a minute or two so as to preserve its crunch. It felt like a real nuclear-family type meal, but with a modern twist, thanks to Nigella.

Rosemary White Bean Mash with Steak
adapted from Nigella Express
serves 2


1 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons EVOO
salt and pepper
1 medium-large sirloin steak (about 3/4 pound)
1 clove of garlic, minced or pressed
1 14 oz. can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
zest and juice of 1 small (or 1/2 large) lemon


1. In a medium skillet, heat 1 teaspoon EVOO over high heat. Season steak with salt and pepper. Add the steak to the pan. Cook for about six minutes on each side, or until desired doneness. You may need to reduce the heat if it is getting too dark on the outside.

2. When the steak is about 3 minutes from done, put 2 tablespoons EVOO, garlic, and lemon zest into a small pot over medium heat. Warm through, then add the
beans. Mash them with a potato masher until mostly smooth, but with some texture remaining. Add the rosemary sprig. Stir and cook until heated through. Add a little more EVOO if it looks too dry.

3. When the steak is done, remove it from the skillet and turn off the heat. Squeeze lemon juice into the skillet to incorporate it with the juices from the meat. Serve the steak with this sauce drizzled over it, accompanied by the beautiful beans.

I'd recommend a bit of horseradish with the steak if you like that sort of thing. (I most certainly do!) And a bit of green veg never hurt anyone. Go ahead and throw it in with the steak while it's cooking.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lemon Yogurt Cake

I'm not doing a lot of cooking for a few days, as we have all sorts of dinners planned and all of them are away from our home. But I had to make this cake today, for two reasons: I couldn't stay out of the kitchen any longer, and I had about a million tiny lemons that my parents gave me from their tree. The logical choice was to make a lemon cake, and the logical chef to turn to for the recipe was Ina Garten.

This is her delicious, tangy, fluffy and sweet lemon yogurt cake. It's magnificent. I changed up a few ingredients to make it more my style. I have recommended using lowfat Greek style yogurt, but feel free to use the yogurt of your choice. I was a little low on yogurt so I made up the difference with skim milk, and the cake came out perfectly just the same.

The glaze is very tart, and nicely complements the sweetness of the cake. This cake just screams out "afternoon tea." That, and "eat me!"

Lemon Yogurt Cake
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa at Home
makes one loaf cake


1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plan lowfat Greek yogurt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 1 large lemon)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice


1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, mix the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

3. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

4. Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan over medium-high heat, until sugar dissolves and mixture is clear and smooth. Set aside.

5. When cake is done, cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Drizzle the glaze over the loaf and spread it with a pastry brush to evenly distribute. (You might want to brush the sides of the loaf as well). Let cool, and serve.

This brings back so many memories for me, of the lemon tea cake my mother always used to make (and still does), and of the fact that the only type of yogurt I would eat as a kid was lemon flavored. Go figure.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Noodle Stir Fry

This is a recipe that doesn't really require a recipe, if that makes any sense. Stir fry by its very nature is a bit slapdash, a bit improvised, a bit unpredictable. But sometimes some ingredients deserve a recommendation. This recipe is a little bit like every stir fry I've ever made, and a little bit unlike any of them. It takes advantage of some lovely green spring vegetables, and introduces toasted walnuts to the mix.

If you don't have dark sesame oil in your pantry (or refrigerator, which is where you should really keep it), do yourself a favor and go buy some. You shouldn't use it for cooking, but for seasoning. It's great to have around for Asian salad dressings and stir fries, such as this one. It is the primary source of flavor here, and it does an excellent job.

I should also mention that stir fry is a great way to get the veggie-phobes in your life to eat more vegetables. When they're chopped up and still crunchy, coated in a yummy sauce, it's hard to say no.

Spring Noodle Stir Fry
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray
serves 2


1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce (preferably low sodium)
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 oz. angel hair pasta (preferably whole wheat)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon EVOO
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
1 bunch asparagus, cut on an angle into 1-inch pieces
1/4 pound sugar snap peas, halved
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds


1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and red pepper. Set aside.

2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente; drain.

3. While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add walnuts and toast, 2 to 3 minutes. Put the walnuts in a bowl and wipe the skillet clean. Return to the heat and add the EVOO. Raise heat to high. Add the shallot and asparagus and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add sugar snap peas and sesame oil sauce, and cook for 1 more minute.

4. Reduce heat to medium. Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss. Cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Top with the toasted sesame seeds and walnuts. Serve.

Simple, quick, and delicious. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Skillet Pizza Dough

I've been meaning to make pizza dough from scratch for some time now. When I found this recipe, I knew it was the one for me, since it involved a cast iron skillet. Any excuse to use my cast iron skillet works for me!

This dough is a bit like Chicago style, but less heart attack-inducing. It's almost like having pizza with a crust made of biscuits. Flaky, a little bit cakey, and delicious. But don't think you can eat the whole thing, or even half of it, by yourself. I promise, you can
't. And if you do, well you might want to call a doctor.

I used all white whole wheat flour, but the original recipe recommended using 3/4 cup whole wheat and 1 1/2 cups regular all-purpose flour. I was perfectly happy with how mine came out, but if you want a softer crumb you might want to go by their recommendation. Top it with whatever you like - we kept ours simple with home made marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, plus a delicate sprinkling of herbs. Yum.
The recipe is a little bit time consuming, so make sure you plan ahead.

Skillet Pizza Dough
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray
serves 4 (or 2 brave souls)


3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons EVOO, divided
toppings of your choice


1. In a small bowl, stir together the water, yeast, and sugar. Let stand until foamy, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Using a standing mixer, mix the flour and salt at low speed. Mix in the yeast mixture and 3 tablespoons EVOO until a shaggy dough forms. Change to the dough hook attachment and mix at medium speed until smooth, about 6 minutes. OR you can do what I did, scoop out the dough with your hands and knead it on a cutting board until it forms a neat ball.

3. Place the dough in a greased, large mixing bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand until approximately doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Punch down the dough. Press the dough into a greased cast-iron skillet (10 inch works) and let rise again until doubled in size, about 20 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 400. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of EVOO over the dough. Put whatever sauce you are going to use on the pizza dough, and bake until crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Put cheese and any other final toppings on the pizza, and bake an additional 5 minutes.

5. Let sit about 5 minutes, then gently slide the pizza out of the pan, or use a spatula (it should come out really easily). Slice and serve.

This isn't your typical pizza, which is exactly what makes it interesting. Enjoy!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Turkey and Bean Casserole with Sage

In movies and TV shows, when someone moves to a new neighborhood, or a family member passes away, or a baby is born, or pretty much any other event occurs, all the neighbors bring over casseroles. It's considered the thoughtful thing to do, as the casserole recipient may not have the time or energy to cook for a while, and casseroles keep in the fridge or freezer for an as-yet-undetermined amount of time.

Well, I've found my casserole. Pretending that I lived in a sitcom reality for a minute, or a neighborhood where people actually know their neighbors' names, I now know what I'll make for these fictional neighbors when someone has a baby, or dies, or relocates. And they won't even really need it to keep for a while because they'll want to eat it all in one sitting.

This casserole is fantastic. I was actually really pleasantly surprised at how much I loved it. It takes many of the flavors traditionally associated with cassoulet and tosses them into a mixture that takes a mere fraction of the cooking time. I tweaked the original recipe considerably, and I have to say it came out as a really amazing dish.

Turkey and Bean Casserole with Sage
adapted from Everyday Food Magazine
serves 3


Generous handful of leftover crusty bread
2 tablespoons EVOO
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
handful sage leaves (about 8-10 leaves)
1 large shallot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 pound lean ground turkey with Italian seasonings*
1/4 cup white wine
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon cracked red pepper flakes
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained


1. In a food processor, pulse the bread until very coarse crumbs form. Add 1 tablespoon EVOO, pulse briefly to distribute. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium saucepan or Dutch oven, heat remaining tablespoon EVOO over medium-high. Add the sage, and cook until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to fish out the leaves and place them on a paper-towel-lined plate, leaving remaining oil in the pan. Set aside the sage leaves.

3. Add shallot and garlic to the oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallot is getting tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add meat, wine, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes.

4. Stir in the beans and cook until beans are tender and creamy, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Don't overdo it on the salt, as the turkey already has some salt in it).

5. Transfer meat-and-bean mixture to a 2 quart casserole. Scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until topping is golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve topped with the fried sage leaves.

* If you can't find ground turkey with Italian seasonings, use Italian sausage with casings removed, and omit the red pepper flakes.

This is one of those recipes I want to remember to make again. I get so caught up with trying new recipes that I don't often return to the good ones. This one gets a gold star. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie with Phyllo Crust

Chicken pot pie is one of those delicious things that, usually, you can eat happily so long as you don't think about what's in it. Thanks to Ellie Krieger, here is a version that you'll happily eat even if you know exactly what is in it. This is a chicken pot pie with no butter, no heavy cream, and not a trans fatty acid to be found.

It doesn't lack for creaminess or taste, or even comfort-food-value. So take off your skeptic hat. The recipe makes four individual servings, but if you use fairly small dishes like I did you might be able to eek out an extra or two in ramekins.

Chicken Pot Pie with Phyllo Crust
adapted from Ellie Krieger's "The Food You Crave"
serves 4+


cooking spray
1 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons EVOO
2 leeks, light green and white parts only, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium (unpeeled) white potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup peas (thawed if frozen)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed


1. Preheat oven to 350, and coat 4 individual-size baking dishes with cooking spray. Place them on a baking sheet and set aside.

2. Season chicken pieces lightly with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons EVOO in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until lightly browned, about 2 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate.

3. Add 2 more teaspoons EVOO to the skillet and cook the leeks and celery in the pan, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften (about 3 minutes). Add potatoes, green beans, garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper and cook 2 minutes more, stirring to combine everything.

4. Add the milk. Stir the flour into the broth and add the mixture to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

5. Stir in the chicken, peas, thyme and parsley. Spoon the filling into the prepared baking dishes.

6. Put remaining 1 2/3 tablespoons EVOO in a small bowl. Unroll the phyllo dough and cut it into quarters. Place a quarter sheet on top of each baking dish and brush with the oil. Repeat layering with all three layers. Tuck the edges of the phyllo into the dish rim.

7. Bake until browned and filling is bubbling, about 25-30 minutes. Serve hot.

And it will be hot!! Eat carefully and enjoy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sweet Potato Dumplings

These lovely little dumplings might look harmless, but they are quite the gut-busters. Loosen your belts before this meal. But it is worth every decadent, delicious bite.

This is a southern rendition of gnocchi. It's made from gorgeously hued and almost desserty sweet potatoes, which turn a potentially ordinary dish into something magical.

I have never made gnocchi from scratch before, but I bought a potato ricer a while ago in case the opportunity ever presented itself. Well now that I've deflowered my potato ricer and made this dish, I think you're going to be seeing homemade gnocchi on this site again. And again. Making these dumplings was really fun and rewarding - I got to get my hands dirty, and eat a delicious meal. Isn't that what cooking is all about?

Sweet Potato Dumplings
serves 3
adapted from "Screen Doors and Sweet Tea"


1 pound sweet potatoes (one very large one should do)
3/4 to 1 cup white whole wheat flour
a pinch of nutmeg
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (about 5 leaves)


1. Preheat toaster oven (or regular oven) to 375. Bake sweet potato, skin intact, for 30 minutes or until tender and easily pierced with a knife. Cool until you can handle it without burning yourself. Cut open the sweet potato and scoop out the flesh. Mash with a potato masher or pass through a potato ricer.

2. Combine sweet potato flesh with 3/4 cup flour, pinch of salt, and nutmeg. Stir well to combine - you might need to use your hands to finish the job. (Try it, it's fun). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly, adding additional flour until it is smooth and not too sticky.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

4. Cut dough in half. Roll out each half (with your hands, back and forth on the floured surface) to form a rope that is about 3/4 inch in diameter. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch segments. Press each segment gently with the back of a fork to make a pretty pattern, if you so desire.

5. Line a baking sheet with a clean towel and keep it handy. Put the dumplings carefully into the boiling water, in batches if necessary, and reduce the water to a simmer. Cook about 4 minutes, or until the dumplings rise to the top of the water. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon or mesh strainer, and place them gently on the towel-lined baking sheet.

6. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the butter, stirring occasionally, until light brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in a pinch of salt and pepper, as well as the chopped sage. Add the dumplings, carefully stirring to coat with the butter, and cook until slightly brown, about 3 minutes. Spoon onto serving plates.

I haven't eaten anything quite this amazing in my brief forays to the south, but if it's out there I'd willingly go back. Although what am I saying; I can make it myself. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cheddar-Ale Soup

This soup is something to write home about. It's spicy, it's hearty, and it will make your kitchen feel a bit like a British pub, only without the stench of malt vinegar. It's the soup equivalent of Welsh Rarebit, for those of you who are familiar with pub food. Bottom line - it's delicious. And if you have British parents like I do, you're bound to feel a wave of nostalgia as you eat it, even if you can't quite imagine your mum making it.

Be warned that the ale can make the soup a bit bitter, so I wouldn't recommend putting any more than half a bottle. The sweetness of the sauteed veggies helps to offset the bitterness. You can always drink the other half of the bottle rather than let it go to waste!

Cheddar-Ale Soup
serves 3-4
adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 leek, white and green parts only, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
2 cups low sodium chicken or veggie broth
1/2 bottle (6 oz.) good quality ale, poured into a bowl
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the veggies and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Stir in flour and mustard until incorporated, cook for about 1 minute. Add the broth and beer and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking occasionally to break up lumps, until slightly thickened, about 4-5 minutes.

3. Add cheeses and whisk constantly for 3 minutes or so, until cheese is melted and well distributed. Do not let boil or the soup may develop a stringy texture. Stir in cayenne and Worcestershire. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve topped with parsley.

Enjoy with some crusty bread for dunking. Yum!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lemony Chicken Milanese with Arugula Salad

This is one of those easy midweek meals that you can throw together in a pinch. It's tasty and healthy, but doesn't pack a huge flavor punch. It's safe. Impressive enough for unexpected company, but easy enough that you won't find yourself harried in the kitchen.

Arugula is really the flavor star of this meal, if you ask me. You've probably noticed that I use it a lot. I find it to be such a convenient leafy green to have on hand, as it is delicious cooked or raw, in salads or pestos or pastas or anything else. It has a naturally peppery flavor, to the point where you really don't need a vinegary salad dressing to liven it up. If you're new to arugula, this meal is a great introduction. The chicken isn't half bad, either.

Lemony Chicken Milanese with Arugula Salad
from Bon Appetit's "Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook"
serves 2


2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, or 4 chicken tenders
1 large egg, beaten
heaping 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons EVOO, divided
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup (packed) baby arugula leaves


1. Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound chicken between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper into cutlets.

2. Mix panko, parsley, oregano, a pinch of salt and pepper on a plate. Coat each chicken cutlet in egg and then the panko mixture, making sure to create a complete coating.

3. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons EVOO in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and saute until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plates and drizzle with lemon juice.

4. Toss arugula with remaining EVOO in a bowl to coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mound salad atop chicken and serve.

You can throw this one together in about 20 minutes, no problem. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Holy Trinity Cookies

I'm sorry, but there is just no contest. The greatest trio of flavors in the history of sweet foods is peanut butter, chocolate, and banana. You might disagree. You would be wrong. It's just a fact.

They're great together in their pure forms - a banana dipped in chocolate syrup and peanut butter. They're also great together in a cookie. That's where we come in with today's recipe.

This cookie is not too intense. The problem with that is you won't feel too hesitant to eat multiple. That's why we make them really big, so you might be able to walk away after just one!

So go ahead, if you don't already have ripe bananas laying around, buy a few more than you can actually eat the next time you go to the grocery store. It will give you an excuse to make this delicious, sweet, cakey cookie and share it with your friends. Or just keep it to yourself. I won't judge.

Holy Trinity Cookies
adapted from the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen (blog.fatfreevegan.com)
makes about 15-20 cookies


1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 large bananas)
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 375, and line two cookie sheets with silpat liners or parchment paper.

2. Cream together peanut butter and the two sugars; stir in banana and mix until smooth and creamy.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to peanut butter a little at a time until completely incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips until well-blended, but do not over-mix.

4. Drop by ice cream scoops (or smaller utensil if you want smaller cookies) on prepared cookie sheets. They don't spread out while they bake so you don't need to space them too much. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until just turning golden brown. Remove and cool for a few minutes before eating.

Pour yourself a glass of milk and enjoy!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Roasted Winter Squash Salad

If you like winter squash, you will love this recipe. It tastes like a trip to New England, with its warm apple cider vinaigrette, a touch of cranberry here and there, and real maple syrup glazing the squash.

We, however, are not huge squash fans. You might wonder why I chose to make this when we're not crazy about squash. It's all about stepping outside of the comfort zone, folks. And I can honestly say the flavors in this salad are delicious, and it makes an elegant dish. The sheer amount of squash was a bit much for us, but that's us. Therefore I do still recommend it for the squash-lovers out there.

The recipe calls for butternut squash, but I decided to go with acorn squash since I'd been wanting to try it out. They are virtually interchangeable, so go with whatever sounds good to you. I'll warn you, though, that peeling an acorn squash is a remarkably challenging task.

Roasted Winter Squash Salad
adapted from the Barefoot Contessa's "Back to Basics"
serves 3-4


1 (1 1/2 pound) winter squash, peeled and 3/4 inch diced
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup EVOO
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful dried cranberries
3/4 cup unfiltered apple cider
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
one small shallot, minced
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
3-4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1/4 cup walnut halves, toasted
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash pieces on a sheet pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons EVOO, the maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss to coat evenly. Roast for 15 minutes, turning once. Sprinkle the dried cranberries over the squash and then return to the oven, roasting for another 4-5 minutes, or until squash is tender.

2. While squash is roasting, combine apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Remove from heat and whisk in mustard, 1/4 cup EVOO, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

3. Place arugula in a salad bowl and add the squash mixture, walnuts, and parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten, and toss well. Serve.

So squash-lovers, rejoice! Here is a delicately sweet, yet robust salad. Enjoy!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Four Cheese Macaroni with Thyme-Parmesan Crust

Whoa, Nellie, do we love mac and cheese in our household. Luckily we're both partial to the homemade variety, and Kraft hasn't seen its day in our kitchen for a very long time.

Macaroni and cheese has become the quintessential American dish, and it comes in many forms. This recipe is good old-fashioned mac and cheese with a few twists. I wanted to try Stonewall Kitchen's recipe, but it was a bit cheese-heavy so I tweaked it here and there to make it slightly less evil. You'll notice we each had a carrot alongside our meal, just to ease the guilt somewhat. But the idea here is that the portions are not huge. They're just right. We both finished our plates and we definitely felt satisfied.

The four cheeses are flexible. You could swap out one of them for something more stinky if you like. I think it would be great. I would recommend that you keep the fresh mozzarella, though, as it's what makes this recipe particularly unique.

Four Cheese Macaroni with Thyme-Parmesan Crust
adapted from "Stonewall Kitchen Favorites"
serves 2


1/3 pound short whole-wheat pasta, such as macaroni or ziti
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons EVOO
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
1 cup skim or lowfat milk, warmed
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
4 oz. fresh mozzarella; half grated and half thinly sliced
1/4 cup grated gruyere
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup fresh plain whole-wheat bread crumbs


1. Preheat oven to 400. Cook the pasta: bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the pasta until barely al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain and return to the pot. Set aside.

2. Make the sauce: while the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan with 1 teaspoon EVOO over low heat. When it has melted and is starting to sizzle, add the flour and whisk until combined. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Whisk in half of the warm milk in a slow, steady stream. Whisk until smooth and the sauce begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Add remaining milk, whisk again until smooth, and increase heat to medium high, stirring frequently, until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

3. Make it cheesy: Add all the cheeses except parmesan to the sauce, whisking constantly to prevent cheese from becoming lumpy. When it is completely smooth, add salt and pepper to taste and 1 teaspoon of thyme.

4. Combine everyone together: Pour the sauce over the pasta in the pot and stir to combine. Spoon a quarter of the pasta into each of two ramekins or oven-safe single-serve dishes. Place slices of mozzarella on top of each pile of pasta. Put the rest of the pasta on top of the mozzarella.

5. The topping: Mix the parmesan, remaining thyme, and bread crumbs together in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the two servings of mac. Drizzle with remaining teaspoon EVOO. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden brown. Serve hot.

Believe it or not, this goes really well with a glass of good sauvignon blanc. Why not make your kid-friendly meal a bit more sophisticated? That's all I'm saying.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chicken Curry with Gentle Spices

Tonight I made curry from scratch for the very first time. Sure, I've made it with store bought sauces or pastes before. But tonight I made the curry paste myself, the sauce myself, and voila - curry. The recipe came from the Splendid Table, and it was aptly named. The spices are indeed gentle. Subtle; understated; coy, if you will.

To be honest, I think I prefer my curry with a bit more kick. But this dish reminded me of the Anglicized version of curry I grew up with. Curry is quite different in England than in the US. And I can't speak for what it's like in India or any other Asian country, as I've never traveled to that part of the world. But different is not necessarily a bad thing. This is a comforting version of curry. It won't make you sweat, it will just make you feel well-fed and well taken care of.

Chicken Curry with Gentle Spices
adapted from the Splendid Table's "How to Eat Supper"
serves 3


Curry paste:
1/2 large onion, cut in half
3 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 medium-large ripe tomato
1 jalapeno, stemmed and seeded
1/4 cup water

vegetable oil
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons water
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro


1. In a food processor, puree one of the onion halves with the remaining curry paste ingredients. Set aside.

2. Thinly slice the remaining onion half. Film the bottom of a straight-sized saute pan with vegetable oil, and heat it over medium-high heat. Add the slices onion, and saute until it begins to color. Add the curry paste, reduce heat to medium, and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the oil separates from the curry paste.

3. Stir 1/3 cup of the yogurt into the curry sauce and simmer, stirring and scraping up the curry paste from the bottom of the pan, until yogurt thickens and reduces significantly, about 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Stir in the chicken, remaining yogurt and water. Bring to a slow simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 6-8 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

5. Remove chicken pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside in a serving dish. Raise heat until sauce is boiling. Boil it down until it is so thickened that oil begins to separate again, about 4-5 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed. Serve the chicken topped with the curry sauce.

We had ours over a bed of brown rice. I think this is the perfect solution when you might be craving Indian or Thai food but you're not in the mood for a lot of spice. You can always spice it up more intensely with a second jalapeno, or an even hotter pepper. But then you'd have to change the name, and where's the fun in that?


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Blueberry Crumble

Another great thing about shopping at the farmers market is that you find yourself looking for interesting ways to use your produce. You don't dare let it sit and fester, as you are absolutely dying to use it. At least that's what I've found.

I bought two pints of beautiful blueberries this past weekend, and knew I wanted to use them in some delicious and healthy dessert. That's right, a healthy dessert. I wasn't going to make muffins or coffee cake, although believe me, it was tempting as I browsed through my recipes. Luckily I found this recipe for Blueberry Crumble that I clipped from an issue of Eating Well magazine (great magazine, by the way) several years ago. It spoke to me.

There are only a few ingredients in this recipe, and none of them are animal-based, so feel free to serve it to your vegan friends. Also feel free to substitute any other fruit (but if it's bigger than a blueberry, I'd recommend chopping it into bite-sized pieces). I actually made extra crumble topping for later, and I'm mentally making plans for it already.

Blueberry Crumble
adapted from Eating Well magazine

serves 4-6


For Filling:

2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (or other fruit)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

For Topping:
3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup pecans, almonds, or walnuts (or a combination), chopped

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons whole-wheat flour

scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons canola oil


1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. In a medium bowl, toss fruit with sugar, flour and orange juice. Pour into an 8 x 8 glass baking dish and distribute evenly.

3. In another bowl, combine oats, nuts, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon and stir until well blended. Drizzle oil over the dry ingredients and stir until evenly moistened.

4. Top the fruit mixture with the dry topping, distributing evenly. Bake until the top is browned and filling is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.

This dessert is just dying to be served a la mode...but I suppose that might spoil the healthiness. I can vouch for it as being fantastically delicious on its own. Either way, enjoy!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Roasted Veggie Salad with Baked Cheese

In an effort to eat more sustainably, I've been shopping at the farmers market on a more regular basis. In fact, the bulk of my produce comes from the Mar Vista farmers market. I know a lot of people (my former self included) think farmers markets are too expensive and will end up costing them more than shopping at the supermarket. And depending on the supermarket they are referring to, they might be right. But the quality of the produce you get is so much higher, and its impact on the planet is so much lower. Not to mention you're supporting local farmers, and you actually get to interact with the people who grow your food. In my opinion, it's definitely worth it.

All of the produce featured in this meal came from my local farmers market. Spring has hit early this year, friends, and there is a wealth of amazing produce available right now. I owe my mother an apology, as she said she had bought wonderful asparagus recently and I pointed out that it's not in season yet. Well, lo and behold, our local farmers had gorgeous asparagus on Sunday, and I bought some. (Sorry, Mum.) I guess Puxatawney Phil didn't see his shadow...or whatever the one is that means spring is going to start.

This salad is simple, and showcases the natural flavor of the vegetables that develops when they are roasted. All the more reason to buy excellent quality produce at your local farmers market.

For the cheese, I used Gruyere. The original recipe called for goat cheese, which would be lovely as well. Just make sure you use a boldly flavored cheese to jazz up the salad a bit.

Roasted Veggie Salad with Baked Cheese
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray
serves 2


1/2 small head of cauliflower, florets cut into bite sized pieces
1 bunch slender asparagus, trimmed
2 large carrots, peeled
2 tablespoons EVOO
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup almonds, finely ground
about 4 ounces (give or take) of flavorful cheese, cut into reasonably sized chunks or rounds
1 orange, peel and pith discarded, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 tablespoon quality balsamic vinegar


1. Preheat toaster oven (or oven) to 450. Place cauliflower, carrots, and asparagus on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon EVOO and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat fairly evenly. Roast for 10 minutes, until asparagus is cooked and all veggies are starting to brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

2. Place ground almonds in a shallow bowl. Pour 1 tablespoon EVOO onto a plate. Coat each piece of cheese with EVOO (reserving whatever oil is left) and then the ground almonds, covering the cheese completely. Bake on a foil-lined baking sheet in the still-hot oven for 3-4 minutes. If cheese starts to melt, remove it as soon as it is warmed.

3. Divide roasted vegetables and orange rounds between two plates. Drizzle each plate with the reserved oil and 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Top with the baked cheese pieces.

This is an elegant dish that even veggie skeptics should enjoy. And it is surprisingly filling.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Easy Marinara Sauce

I've posted a marinara recipe before, but this is one I can highly recommend as an incredibly easy, quick, and delicious go-to. If you're going to make pasta, lasagna, pizza, anything that requires (or prefers) a hearty tomato sauce, this is the sauce to throw together.

I've also included a serving suggestion - meatball subs! That's what we used this sauce for. (Well, part of it, anyway). We used spicy chicken asiago meatballs that we got at Costco and put them on beautiful demi baguettes that I picked up at the farmers market, topped with some grated mozzarella. They were delicious! And here's a peek:

This recipe comes from the almost-always-reliable Ellie Krieger - I tweaked it a bit to give it a tad more umph. So add this one to the file, or you can memorize it. And use it the next time you want to make something delicious and easy that is still at least semi-homemade.

Easy Marinara Sauce
adapted from Ellie Krieger's "The Food You Crave"
makes about 2 cups of sauce


2 teaspoons EVOO
1 small onion (or 1/2 large onion), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (preferably organic)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


1. Heat EVOO over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 more minute.

2. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened (about 20 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Use as you see fit! Store leftovers for a few days in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.