Ratatouille Over Couscous

I was thinking about the name of my blog, and I was thinking about what really makes a dish Itty Bitty City Kitchen friendly.

And I came up with a few factors.

As the name implies, the kitchen is itty bitty, so dinners need to not need a lot of ingredients. They also need to not require a lot of pans or any fancy gadgets that can’t be stored in said itty bitty kitchen.

Also, as the name implies, this kitchen is in a city, which means that it’s probably in a bustling, crowded area that’s packed with people and noise. It also probably means that work hours are long and by the time you get home, what with the crowds and noise, meal prep has to be fast. And easy. You’re probably tired.

So, with all of that in mind, here is what I think is one of the most itty bitty city kitchen friendly meals, ratatouille. You can vary the ingredients, but think five vegetables and some seasonings. Also, one pot. Also, also, you throw said ingredients into said one pot and just stir it once in a while. Small number of ingredients, one pot, and super fast and easy.

Oh. And Delicious.

Ratatouille is basically a stewed vegetable dish in a tomato base. You can swap out the vegetable and the spices based on your tastes, the season, and what you have on hand, but a can of diced tomatoes is essential.

I used:

  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into one inch chunks
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes

You will also need vegetable oil, salt and pepper. I went slightly Middle Eastern and added turmeric, but you could do herbs de provence, thyme, Italian seasoning, anything really.

This is a throw everything in one pot dish, but you don’t want to throw everything in at the same time. We’re going to layer a bit.

Drizzle some vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the peppers and onions and cook over medium until soft (10-15 minutes).

Add the eggplant, a drizzle more oil, salt and pepper and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

Lastly, add the diced tomatoes, chickpeas and turmeric. Let this cook, covered, for another 10-15 minutes.

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This can simmer for longer, but if you’re just home from work and starving because someone did not order lunch for the meeting you had from 12-3, then this is good to go.

This makes a great side dish if you wanted to have some grilled chicken or steak.

Or, if you want to make this the center of the meal, whip up some quick cooking couscous. This is sort of a small kitchen, busy cook staple. Bring water to a boil, pour in couscous, turn off burner, cover, and boom, five minutes later you have couscous.

So, to serve this over couscous, make the couscous and scoop a few spoonfuls into a bowl.

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Ladle over your ratatouille.

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And then to really bring the Middle Eastern flavor home, add a scoop of Greek yogurt.

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This dish is delicious, but the best part about it is that it gets even more delicious as it sits in the fridge.

What’s more itty bitty city kitchen friendly than a one pot dish that serves up two dinners?

Pasta Primavera with Pesto

 

 

Is there any dish that says spring more than Pasta Primavera?

I mean, it screams Spring!

Fresh vegetables tossed in pasta, lightly seasoned, after months of heavy starchy foods. Vibrant greens burst in the bowl…

Plus, you know, primavera means spring in Italian.

For primavera, you can use whatever fresh, springy vegetables you wish, which is one of the beauties of this dish. Tailor it to your tastes and to what looks the best when you go to the farmer’s market.

The basil smelled utterly delicious, so I decided to make a pesto to top my pasta, sauteed asparagus and mushroom concoction.

Pesto is super simple to make. See my recipe here, use your favorite recipe, or use store bought.

I’m going to make this dish in one pot, so bonus points for less dishes to do.

Start with a frying pan with high sides- mine’s about 4-5 inches high.

Drizzle some olive oil and add sliced mushrooms and asparagus spears that have been cut into one inch chunks.

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Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until mushrooms are browned and asparagus is softened. Season with salt and pepper.

 

 

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Dump the mixture into a bowl, and place off to the side for a bit. Fill that same pan with water, about 2 inches high and bring to boil. The water will pick up the bits of asparagus and mushrooms and infuse the pasta with the flavors.

When the water is boiling, dump in your pasta. Use whatever shape you like, as long as it is one of the shapes with lots of nooks and crannies for pesto to fall in. Farfalle are great, penne rigate (that means with ridges, not the smooth ones). I used Campanelle, which means little bells (which is what the pasta looks like).

 

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When the pasta is cooked, drain and then pour back in the pot. Add the pesto and mix well.

 

 

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Add the asparagus and mushrooms and mix again.

 

 

 

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Serve up in bowls and top with parmesan.

 

 

 

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This makes great leftovers and can be eaten warm or cold. Would love to find this in my lunchbox or picnic basket!

Easy Asparagus Soup

Is there anything more Springy than Asparagus?

Okay, I mean, sunny days, warm breezes, and the return of sandal season are way more springy, but since we don’t have any of those things here in New York, asparagus is the springiest thing around.

I know what you’re thinking. Soup is decidedly not Springy, right? Well for those out there in the Northeast whose spring means chilly nights, this is a great way to use a newly in season vegetable yet still get the warm and satisfying dinner you need

Plus, with Easter coming up, this is an easy vegetarian option for Good Friday or Holy Week.

The ingredients:

  • half a white onion, diced
  • two cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 pound of asparagus, chopped
  • 1 32 oz container of vegetable broth (or chicken if vegetarian is not a concern)
  • 1 bag of spinach
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Start by sauteeing the onions in olive oil.

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While they cook down, chop up your asparagus spears into one inch pieces and dice your garlic cloves.

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Once the onions are translucent, add your asparagus to the pot and your diced garlic. Season with salt and pepper and let these cook for about 15 minutes, until everything is tender.

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Pour in the chicken broth

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The add the spinach.

 

 

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It always seems like you added way too much spinach, but then it wilts down to this

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Once the spinach has wilted, grab your immersion blender (or let the mixture cool some and pop it in a blender of food processor) and blend until smooth.

 

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The grass may still be bare, but this soup is a lovely vibrant green that will chase away those winter grays.

Grilled Eggplant

I have been horrible blogger lately. And an equally bad wifey.

I haven’t really been cooking in the last few days – my friend’s band was in a 24 hour battle of the bands (they won!) and work has been crazy! So we’ve been doing the take out thing.

Why is it that food is the first sacrifice we make when things get hectic? It should be the last thing to get the ax. Good food keeps us going. So I’m going to try and be better.

And I’m going to try to give you some really simple and easy recipes in the process, so we both have no excuses.

I’m going to be trying to simplify some of my favorite dishes, or think about how to save time as much as I can. And, as always, churn out dinner in my itty bitty kitchen.

We just recently bought a grill pan. We used it once before when we made our steak fajitas  but since then it’s just been languishing in the cupboard. Hmm. Healthy. Fast. Easy dinner. With the grill pan.

How about some grilled eggplant sandwiches?

I’ve waxed poetically about my mom’s eggplant parm. plenty of times on this blog, but the thing is, it is not itty kitchen friendly (doesn’t stop me from making it) nor is it exactly something you can just whip up. So this is an easier, lighter, healthier, and did I say easier? spin. Also great for vegetarian friends if you’re having a BBQ,

You will need

  • eggplant, peeled and sliced
  • tomatoes, sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • mozzarella
  • rolls (we used brioche)

Start by slicing your eggplant into 1/4 inc rounds.

 

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Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on your pre-heated grill pan.

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Grill on both sides. Takes about 4 minutes or so a side.

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When all your eggplant is grilled, set the slices aside.

Place your rolls on the grill plan and place a slice of mozzarella on the bottom half of each roll.

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Add your eggplant

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And your tomato

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and then carefully remove from the grill and top with the bun.

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Nom.

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Mexican Chili

 

 

I just told you about the smells of meme’s kitchen.

So I bet you were expecting some hummus or tzatziki, or at the very least, some couscous or rice pilaf.

But, instead, I’m giving you something decidedly un-mediterranean, un-French, and un-meme.

But something that I hope you will nonetheless find yummy.

It’s unseasonably warm here in New York today. Spring seems to be in the air. Though I know Thanksgiving is around the corner.

But I’m cooking to today’s weather rather than to the fall season. And warm days always has me thinking of spicy Mexican and refreshing beers.

I think it’s the perfect Monday Night Football combo. And a darn good Meatless Monday option.

So.

You will need

  • 1/2 a white onion, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of corn, drained
  • 1 jar of salsa
  • toppings such as avocado, cheese, Greek yogurt and lime

In a large pot, drizzle olive oil and sautee the onion.

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When the onions are translucent, add the peppers and the black beans. Let these cook together for about ten minutes, or until the peppers soften.

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Next, add the corn and give the pot a big stir. Let the corn warm for a few minutes.

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Add in the jar of salsa. If you like things spicier, go for medium or hot salsa. If you want to keep it on the tamer side, go for mild. Let the veggies bubble together for about 10 minutes or so.

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Serve up big bowls and top with avocado slices, Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of cheese.

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Crack a beer and watch the Patriots take on the Panthers.

Fajita Night

I love Mexican food for many reasons. First, of course, is for the taste.

The fresh crisp vegetables, the creamy avocado, the spices. Such great textural and flavor combinations. Cool sour cream against the heat of a chili. Soft tortillas and crunch peppers.

The second reason to love Mexican is how fast you can get dinner on the table when you do a Mexican night.

We make tacos a lot. Tons of variations, too.

But I haven’t made fajitas in a while.

You can buy a kit at the store, but you can just as easily make your own. The kit doesn’t save you much time any way – it really just puts the spice packet and the tortillas in the same box.

I made chicken fajitas, but you can use any kind of meat you want, or you can go vegetarian with it. Maybe add some black beans for the protein. Or tofu. If you’re feeling daring.

So you will need

  • chicken breast
  • 3 peppers (any color, I used green because they were cheapest), diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • vegetable oil
  • taco or fajita seasoning (it’s in a packet- it’s premixed with all those great flavors)
  • toppings as desired (I made my avocado yogurt dip and then added some shredded cabbage and cheese)

Preheat the oven to 400.

Place the chicken breasts on a foil lined baking dish. You want something with sides so the oil and spices won’t drip when you take the pan out (yes, I’ve made a mess of my stove before).

Drizzle some vegetable and some of the seasoning mix over the chicken. Add more if you want more spice and less for less. Totally up to you.

Pop the chicken in the oven and let cook until the juices run clear. You can also cut it open and check the coloring since we’re just going to shred the chicken later.

While the chicken bakes, add some vegetable oil and the diced peppers and onion to a pan.

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Sprinkle over more of the seasoning mix. Stir and let cook until the veggies are soft.

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When the juices are clear and the pinkness is cooked out of the chicken, remove from the oven and slice it up into bite size pieces.

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Add the shredded chicken to the pot of veggies, stir and let the mixture cook together. For a bit of extra flavor, pour the oil collected in the pan from the chicken into the pot. It adds some more fat and juice to the dish, which is on the light side.

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Last, but not least, assemble the fajita. Some avocado yogurt sauce, followed by shredded cabbage, then by the veggie and chicken mix and topped with cheese.

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That’s the third great thing about Mexican night. It’s assemble your own meal. It’s like those R.L Stine Choose Your Own Adventure Goosebumps books!

Except, you know, you won’t meet a mad scientist or a flesh-eating zombie if you make the wrong turn.

Almost No Cook Spicy Peanut Veggies Over Noodles

Hello heat wave.

Here in New York, we’ve got those 3 H’s in town.

Hazy, Hot and Humid.

When they’re around, the last thing I want to do is cook.

But a girl (and her boyfriend) has got to eat.

So here’s an almost-no-cook dinner to help you beat the heat.

Spicy Peanut Veggies Over Noodles.

This is my own spin on some of my favorite Thai flavors.

For some reason, summer makes me think vegetarian. Piles of vegetables and fruits in the grocery make me wonder why I would ever need meat in my diet (then I think about mom’s meatballs or a burger from The Smith and I forget about my vegetarian conversion).

This is also one of my favorite kinds of meals to prepare because it all just goes into one big bowl and then gets dished out.

You will need:

  • 3 tbsp Peanut Butter
  • Chili oil (or hot sauce) to taste
  • 2 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Egg Noodles
  • Veggies (We’re using cabbage, broccoli, cucumber and scallions)

We’re going to start with the cook part.

Bring a pot of water to boil.

I don’t want the broccoli to be raw, so I’m going to toss the florets, chopped up into bite-size pieces, into the boiling water for a minute. Not even a minute.

While the water is coming to a boil, pull out a large bowl and combine the peanut butter, rice wine vinegar and chili oil. If the mix is a little thick, don’t fret. We’re going to toss hot egg noodles in and the heat and the water that is bound to make its way into the bowl will thin it out some.

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When the water’s boiling and the peanut sauce is mixed, toss in the broccoli.

You want to have the sauce done because the broccoli is going straight from the pot into the bowl.

Just cook enough to take away the rawness. If you want, you can leave your broccoli raw. I’m just not a fan.

Scoop out the broccoli and transfer to the bowl. Pour the egg noodles into the water now vacated by the broccoli. Why waste water? Why dirty two pots?

Cook according to the directions on the package.

While they cook, add your other veggies to the bowl. I used a few handfuls of the bagged coleslaw mix with cabbage and carrots, some chopped cucumber and some sliced scallions.

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Toss the veggies with the peanut sauce.

When the noodles are cooked, add to the veggies mixture.

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The heat from the noodles will melt the peanut butter and will warm the veggies.

Scoop heaping spoonfuls into bowls.

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Top with some chopped peanuts if you like.

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The bowl goes in the dishwasher, making this a one pot to wash dinner.

Which is necessary in this heat.

Who wants to stand in an itty bitty kitchen, scrubbing a stack of pots on a lazy summer city night like this?

Mexican Chili

The best friend of the itty bitty city kitchen is the one pot meal.

Only pot to make room for on the limited counter space.

And more importantly, only one pot to wash.

This is especially important after a long day at work. It’s even more important on hockey night.

Two nights ago, the Rangers thwarted the Bruins plans for a sweep, winning game 4 in the series in overtime 4-3. The series stands at 3-1. Bruins win, they’re in. Rangers win, they force a game 6 and hold onto Stanley Cup hopes.

This is going to be an intense game. You’re not going to want to have to wash stacks of dishes.

It’s supposed to be summer. It’s supposed to be time for seafood and burgers and freshness.

But, like I said before, in New York it’s 53 degrees with 23 mph winds.

Dinner calls for something that will warm us up. And be easy to eat during the game.

But after a long, cold winter of soups and stews and potatoes and roasts, I needed something different.

I am so ready for summer, and summer makes me think of Mexican.

Peppers, black beans, avocados, spicy chorizo, a crisp refreshing Corona.

How to take those flavors and make an easy to eat meal (tacos are too messy for hockey-watching on the couch) that will chase away the chill in the air.

This is my Mexican chili

You will need:

  • 1 bell pepper (any color is fine. I used green because those looked the best at the store)
  • 1/2 a yellow onion
  • 2 portabella mushrooms
  • 2 cans black bean
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 can diced tomatos
  • 1 can corn
  • olive oil
  • chorizo (note if you want to make this vegetarian leave out chorizo and add in some taco seasoning instead)

Drizzle olive oil in the pan. I like to use my aluminum pot here.

Add the chopped onion and pepper and cook until soft.

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Chop the chorizo and add to the pepper and onion.

Let cook so the chorizo flavors the oil and the peppers and onion.

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Add the cleaned and chopped portabella.

When the mushrooms are cooked down, pour in the can of diced tomatoes.

Stir and let come to a bubble.

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Wash and drain the beans and drain the corn. When the tomato juices bubble, add the beans and the corn to the pot.

Stir. Cover. Let all the flavors come together.

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Serve in bowls and add toppings as you wish.

Some ideas are taco cheese, monterey jack cheese, salsa, my avocado yogurt sauce (see here ) or even some crushed tortilla chips.

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Lime. Corona.

Done.

Or, even better, try this little drink concoction.

Panache. (Also called a Shandy.)

This is a fantastic summer cocktail.

You just need any light beer and limonade.

Limonade is a French soda. It’s like a carbonated lemonade.

Going with the Mexican food thing, we used Corona.

Pour the beer into a frosty glass and add some limonade – roughly 2 parts beer to one part limonade. If you want it more citrusy, you can go one to one.

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Chili. Chips. Panache.

Done.

Oh. And the game. Don’t forget to turn that on.

Let’s go Rangers!

Hockey Night Calzones

Meatless Mondays.

They’re great. They get everyone thinking about the effect of meat on our bodies and on the environment. They also help you detox after a weekend of heavy eating and boozing.

I like to go against the grain a little though.

We go meatless on Fridays.

Maybe it’s because with Greek Easter and Easter so far apart this year we had double the Lent. Maybe it’s just in me from years of Catholic school that Friday is a meat free day. But whatever it is, here’s my logic.

Rather than undo whatever you did over the weekend, why not set yourself up for some good choices?

That sounded lame didn’t it?

I’m sticking with blaming Catholic school.

Actually, I can blame my mom.

Now that I think about it, Friday night was always pizza night when I was a kid.

In case you didn’t guess by now, my parents are Italian. Being Italian, my mom and her family used to own a pizzeria. (My boyfriend’s Greek father also owned a pizzeria. Those Greeks just thing they can do everything!)

My mom came home every Friday and pulled out the pizza pan from the pizzeria, that had made hundreds and hundreds of pizzas and that was perfectly seasoned by the brick ovens of the pizzeria.

My friends were always in awe of the fact that she MADE pizza at home for dinner.

It’s not that hard really. I’ll show you some time.

So after a lifetime of Friday night pizza nights, I do admit that I often make pizza or pasta when Friday rolls around.

It being the Stanley Cup Playoffs, pizza is a great option.

But I wanted to mix it up a little bit.

So here are some super simple calzones. Perfect hockey food.

You will need

  • Frozen pizza dough, defrosted (feel free to make your own, but why?)
  • 1 carton white button mushrooms, sliced
  • spinach
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, diced
  • half small onion, chopped
  • ricotta cheese
  • parmesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • black pepper

I almost always have frozen pizza dough in the freezer. It’s a nice safety net for last minute dinners or for those when you have no idea what to make.

To defrost the dough, place the dough on a floured plate in the morning and cover with a kitchen towel. I suppose you could use a paper towel. But my mom always used a kitchen towel. And as much as us girls hate to admit it, we tend to do things the way mom did.

When you get home from work, preheat oven to 400.

Drizzle olive oil into a pan and add onions and garlic, cooking on medium low until slightly browned.

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Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until brown.

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While the mushrooms cook (sauteed mushrooms is one of my top 3 kitchen smells by the way. Closely behind cinnamon baking and chocolate melting), divide the dough in half. Roll out each half as if you were making two mini pizzas.

Place the stretched dough on a foil covered cookie sheet. You can grease the foil lightly if you’re scared of sticking.

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When the mushrooms are cooked down add a couple handfuls of spinach and carefully stir (otherwise you’ll throw spinach all over your stovetop like I did)

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Wilt the spinach and add a few grinds of pepper. I’m adding parmesan later so no salt needed here.

Meanwhile, spread the dough with ricotta cheese, leaving space around the edges so you can seal the calzones.

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When the spinach mushroom mix is cooked, scoop half onto each of the ricotta covered dough, making sure to confine the mixture to one side of the dough so you can fold it over in a minute.

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Carefully fold the dough over, pinching the edges to seal.

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Bake at 400 for about 20-25 minutes.

If you’re making this ahead, you may want to undercook them a bit so you don’t overcook them the night you heat them up.

Grab a beer. Kick up your feet. And cheer on your favorite team.

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