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Cheesy Tortellini & Asparagus


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This is based primarily on a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s Make-Ahead Cookbook, which my mom gifted me for Christmas one year. It’s full of wonderful ideas for preparing dinner, lunch, and dinner and ways to get more meals out of your shopping list. It also gives ideas for freezer meals and slow cooker meals (good ideas for summertime—save the delicious Wisconsin sweet corn and don’t turn on the oven).

This is a fairly simple put-together dish; the only thing that gives it a second eggplant is that you need to blanch the asparagus. The bonus here is that you use the same water to boil the asparagus as the tortellini!

Speaking of, it’s time to start the water boiling. Whoever discovered heat+water=cooked food should be lauded for their curiosity and intuition.

With asparagus, I usually do the bend-til-it-breaks trick, but this time I decided to simply cut enough off the bottom, letting the knife tell me where the woody part starts. I think I didn’t want to be disappointed in how much I paid for it (this veggie is usually priced per pound), and I already have two baggies of ends in the freezer waiting for me to decide to make cream of asparagus soup.

Cut into roughly 1-inch pieces.

When the water bubbles, pop the greens in and set a timer for two minutes. Grab your trusty stainless steel bowl and put in some ice cubes; then, I usually keep the bowl in the freezer until the last second.

When the timer says so (in my case, it’s Alexa beepity-beeping at me), pull the bowl, fill mostly with cold water, and start slotted-spooning the asparagus into it to stop the cooking process. Let the pot on the stove come back to a boil.

Now it’s dressing time. I’ve mentioned before that making your own dressing is cheaper, better, and faster than buying bottled, and there’s no HFCS hiding at the top of the list, or Yellow #5 and Maltodextrin hiding at the bottom.

The dressing contains a delicious amount of minced shallot and garlic.

I’ve long known I’m never going to be a vampire. I like garlic way too much for that noise.

In a two-cup bowl, I squirt some lemon juice and realize I’ve run out, so I finish off the acidic liquid with some white wine vinegar. Because I’ve opted to use Lighthouse Farms freeze-dried Italian spices (do not buy this from Amazon, it’s too expensive—I’m sure your local Penzey’s store has a suitable alternative), I pour it in to let it rehydrate for a minute, then add the alliums. Whisk in the olive oil and let sit until everything else is assembled.

This is the magic sauce.

Slice up enough cherry tomatoes and put the asparagus into a medium bowl and add salt and pepper.

The multi-colored tomatoes make this dish pop.

To add a little bit of smooth crunch (I get the opposition, but pine nuts do that), roast a handful of pine nuts.

Since the tortellini is “fresh” (from Costco), it only takes about two minutes to boil (did I mention this dish comes together so quickly it’s almost silly?) so it’s the last thing to cook.

While it’s boiling, grate some parm and try to contain yourself.

Strain the pasta and rinse with cold water so it doesn’t melt the Parmesan. Pour into the bowl, add the dressing and shredded cheese. Stir carefully so as not to break the little pockets of cheesy amazingness.

Enjoy!

Cheese Tortellini and Asparagus

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Course Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1.5 lbs asparagus ends trimmed, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1.5 lbs cheese-filled tortellini
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 1/4 c white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Italian herb mix
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 shallots minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 c pine nuts
  • 2 c cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 c grated Parmesan not that Kraft s#!t, either

Instructions
 

Salad

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add asparagus bits to boiling water with a little salt.
  • Prepare blanching vessel with ice cubes and cold water. After two minutes, remove asparagus from the pot with a slotted spoon into the ice-cold water. Strain and set aside. Return pot to a boil.
  • Stir together lemon juice, vinegar, and herb mix, then add diced garlic and shallots. Whisk in the olive oil and let rest.
  • Heat a small pan over medium and toast pine nuts until slightly darker than raw.
  • Slice tomatoes. Grate Parmesan.
  • Add tortellini to boiling water. After two minutes, straing and rinse with cold water.
  • Mix everything together carefully.

My mom’s boyfriend calls asparagus “spare grass” because he says horses eat it when they run out of real grass.

Three-Ingredient* Tomato Soup 🥫


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This is a quick side, a lifesaver on a cold winter day, and we can’t be friends if you don’t have the ingredients available in your pantry (actually, I don’t care for it when folks make that exclamation, so we can still be friends, regardless).

Butter, onion, tomatoes.

That’s it, have a great day!


JUST KIDDING!

Grab your 3- or 4-quart Dutch oven (even if you’re only making a small amount, I’ll explain later) and put some butter in there over medium heat.

Slice an onion into very large pieces and sauté for five minutes or until soft.

Dump in one can of diced tomatoes for every two people who will end up with a serving. For each pair of folks, fill up one can with water, veggie, or chicken broth and pour into the vessel (*this is where the three-ingredient-claim kinda falls down, but I would contend that the recipe is great, even if it’s four ingredients).

Bring to a simmer, cover, and set a timer for 30 minutes.

Grab your immersion blender and zip it into a smooth soup. This is where using the smallest Dutch oven isn’t the best idea. Immersion-blending it in a 2-quart will result in splattered shirts and faces.

Serve with a side of grilled cheese or tuna melts.

Three-Ingredient Tomato Soup

A throw-together soup with ingredients you hopefully have.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Side Dish, Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 2

Equipment

  • Dutch oven
  • Immersion blender

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Tbsp butter unsalted
  • 1/2 medium white onion sliced large
  • 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 oz. can can-full of broth or water

Instructions
 

  • Heat Dutch oven over medium-high and add butter.
  • Place sliced onion and stir to coat.
  • Dump in the tomatoes, fill can with water (or broth of your choice) and empty into Dutch oven.
  • Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Use immersion blender to mix to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

How-to Corn 🌽

Sweet corn stands on back highways are the epitome of summertime in Wisconsin. Ears and ears stuffed in a brown paper bag for $6. You’d be silly not to get some, cook, and freeze it for January when the mere thought of wearing shorts gives ya chills.

Woodman’s has three-for-$1 right now, so we’ve been enjoying the treat each Sunday night with chicken on the grill.

Put all three ears (why are they called ‘ears‘ anyway?) in the microwave and set it for six minutes. When it beeps, grab the ears with a hot pad and lay on a cutting board with the business end ready to cut.

The “business end” is opposite the strands at the top.

More about those strands, or “hairs”: there’s one strand for every kernel on the cob, so that’s a bit of an indication of how many healthy kernels there are, hiding in there.

After you slice the end off, grab the other end (with a hot pad), and slowly squeeze the ear out of the husk.

Squeeeeeeeze.
Keep on keepin’ on!

Pushing the cob out keeps the hairs from sticking around, which makes it so much easier to eat.

Mostly strand-free.

Butter and salt (if you’re like the fella), plate. Crunch.

Easy-Peasy Cheesy-Quichey


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We’d been having migas each weekend day for breakfast for a while, so I thought we could mix it up for the long weekend (also, I had only thought to buy two poblanos instead of three).

I scoured the blueprint of the fridge in my brain to come up with suitable ingredients, wishing there was a button with which to dispense asparagus. Alas, this is not Star Trek, so I landed on a simple tomato-basil mix as the featured stars.

I whipped up a quick crust and pressed it into a Pyrex pie pan.

Don’t worry! If it looks rough, I call it ‘rustic’.

Chop up the tomatoes (these are from Costco) and sprinkle with basil (I threw in some Italian seasoning, too) and salt. Right about now is when I would remember that I should have turned the oven on to 400°.

Tomatoes and basil smell so good.

Place the tomatoes on the crust and crack four eggs into the bowl (don’t bother rinsing it out, it’s all going to end up in the same place) and whisk with a fork or, the fella’s favorite, a French whisk.

Pretty little tomatoes.
Eggs and cheese.

Mix the shredded Asiago into the eggs and pour over the tomatoes in the pie pan. Top with a few sliced tomatoes to make it look nice.

It even looks good raw!
Into the oven.

Throw it in the oven for 30 minutes. When the timer beeps, grab a wooden toothpick and poke it into the middle of the egg. If it comes out clean(ish), it’s done enough to take out (it will keep cooking a little while it rests). Leave it on the counter for five minutes and then slice and serve!

Easy, cheesy, quichey.

Mary Berry would have been proud that there was no soggy bottom, but I didn’t press it into the pan evenly enough, so it was thicker in the corners. It will come out and taste just as well without the crust if you want to skip that part. That would qualify this as a one-eggplant recipe, then.

Tomato-Basil-Asiago Quiche

This is a quick, throw-together for breakfast or lunch. It takes mere minutes to prepare and you can use any compatible ingredients that you have hanging out in the fridge.
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Rest Time 5 mins
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Servings 2

Ingredients
  

Quick Crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup ice water

Yummy Quiche

  • 1 1/2 cups tomatoes cherry or grape, sliced
  • 2 tsp basil dried or chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 1/2 cup Asiago cheese shredded

Instructions
 

For the crust:

  • Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Whisk together oil and water to thicken a bit and pour into dry ingredients.
  • Mix with a fork until well combined, use your fingers to spread the crust into an ungreased 9" pie plate.

For the quiche:

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Clean out the bowl from making the crust and put the chopped tomatoes in there. Mix well with basil and salt. Spread them as evenly as you can over the crust.
  • Beat the eggs in the same bowl. When sufficiently mixed up, add the cheese and pour gently over the tomatoes and crust. Top with some halved tomatoes for looks.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Test the middle with a wooden toothpick, and if it comes out mostly clean, it's ready. Let rest for about 5 minutes, slice and serve.

Adult Mac ‘n’ Cheese


I guess the only thing that makes this “adult” is that it’s not made with cheese powder. And it doesn’t come from a pre-packaged box. And it uses mascarpone. Okay, so many things make this adult, especially the bread crumbs on top. And pats of butter.

The infatuation I have with Gwennie (one of my pet names for Gwenyth Paltrow, the matriarch of GOOP—her “lifestyle” brand) is not the same as that which I have for Gina Homolka. That is to say, it’s describable. I find Gwennie’s jade eggs, “scientific concepts“, $3k dresses, the “conscious uncoupling” from the father of her children, amusing. I find her cookbooks, however, really neat and I own three of them (I also just learned there is a fourth, which has promptly earned a spot on my Amazon wishlist).

This recipe is from My Father’s Daughter and it’s amazing. Do I use that adjective too much? I’m only asking, it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop.

This recipe starts out like most mac n cheeses, by boiling a pound of pasta two minutes fewer than the instructions suggest for al dente. This is because it gets baked for 15 minutes, so you don’t want the noodles squishy.

It also calls for a whole bunch of shredded Parmesan (please, do yourself a favor and have bricks of parm, asiago, and romano in your fridge—it keeps forever—and stop buying those plastic jars of pre-crumbled parmesan, which is mostly not even cheese anyway), a small container of mascarpone, a little nutmeg, and some milk.

Cheesy goo and pasta, too!

Once the pasta is done, drain and put back into the pot and pour in the cheesy mixture.

Mix it all up so the nooks of the noodles get coated.

In the book, Gwennie suggests some variations on the theme. One of which is to put a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan that you’re baking in. We thought this was a grand idea, so we used marinara from Costco.

Pour the noodlecheese into the pan and cover with seasoned breadcrumbs (we used panko the first time and it turned out well, but homemade breadcrumbs the second time were a bigger hit).

I thought it looked a little boring and had some grape tomatoes to use up, so I sliced a few and put ’em on top.

Bake, rest, serve, moan with enjoyment. And go buy the book.

How-to Mango 🥭

I mentioned in my avocado post that I wished someone would have told me how to mango much earlier in life. If you’re in the same boat, please keep on reading.

The first tip I learned was to locate the dimple. This tells you where the pit lays inside, in relation to the rest of the fruit.

Pit-dimple.

After you locate the pit, make two parallel cuts on either side, removing the “cheeks” to which they’re so fondly referred.

This is where it starts to get frustrating… because you just spent $2 on a mango and all you get are two little cheeks of meat! It’s true. Which is why I try to enjoy them when they’re in season.

Take a cheek in your hand and make four slices down the length of the inside, not cutting through the skin. Turn it 90° and repeat.

Flip the cheek inside out and enjoy some cubes of yum.

Mango!