Sunday, September 29, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemon Oil - Lazy Girl's Beet Hummus & Lemony Market Veggie Pasta

Infused Oils and Vinegars to go, Photo: NK
Last weekend's travels brought us out to Long Island. During our brief trip, we made a point of passing though the cute little village of Southampton for a stroll. After a delightful pit stop at St. Ambroeus Gelateria (an Eric Ripert favorite) for some insanely good pistachio gelato, we happened upon another adorable shop - Vines & Branches

The place was a cook's dream - an entire store dedicated to creatively flavored oils and vinegars - all of which you could taste. 

I have notoriously little sales resistance, so in no time, the all too adept saleslady had rung me up to the tune of three infused vinegars and one bottle of lemon flavored olive oil. How did this happen? Every time I picked up a bottle of something seemingly odd (coffee infused balsamic!?) the clerk had a quick anecdote about making some amazing dish with it. "Oh, coffee balsamic, you can make the most delicious marinated steak with that.  You know, it's like a coffee rub. Once you taste it, it'll be game over!" 

Ok.             Sold. 

And so it continued.
I learned that my coconut infused white balsamic vinegar would be bonkers on lime-spiked shrimp, and that clearly, pumpkin spice vinegar would be natural after being reduced and drizzled on a pork chop. 
We shall see. 

It was fun to purchase ready-flavored oils and vinegars. After all, I am all about convenience. Still, I want you to know that it is so easy to make them yourself, and probably much cheaper. Today, we'll start by showing how to make you a super basic Lemon Infused Olive Oil, just like the one I purchased. From there, we'll present you two dishes that go together famously with this brightly flavored oil (although the possibilities are endless so by all means, use your imagination).


Infused Oils and Vinegars from Vines & Branches, Photo: NK
Lemon Infused Olive Oil
From Martha Stewart
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
The peels of of 2 Lemons (just the zest, not the white pith)

To peel lemons, use a very sharp knife to remove just the yellow part, leaving behind the bitter white pith.
Combine lemon peel and olive oil and place them in a pan over low heat. Warm for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. *Can be stored in a tightly sealed jar at room temperature for a month. 

Now that we're done with the oil, let's try the super fast fresh pasta sauce we made with it:

Lemony Market Veggie Pasta
Our favorite farm stand, Photo: NK
Getting inspired by seasonal produce at the farm stand or farmer's or gourmet market is one of my favorite things to do - so much so, in fact, that I always end up with more veggies and fruits than two humans could possibly handle. 

When I have extra vegetables on hand, which is often, I almost always make them into a meatless pasta dish (check out last year's market veggie pasta here). This everything but the kitchen sink pasta is not only one of the easiest dinners you can make, but a great and healthy way to use up produce. 

Just grab whatever vegetables you have on hand and sauté them in a bit of oil after warming some garlic or shallot in the pan - toss the cooked pasta and maybe some pasta water in it, stir and enjoy! The creative process of choosing for yourself is half the fun, so while I hesitate to post a recipe, I want to show you how we used our brand new lemon infused olive oil to wake up this tasty and meatless dish. 

Farm fresh veggies, the best of the season, Photo: NK
Using great right now plum and yellow tomatoes, zucchini, and a little shallot, this quick fresh sauce pasta comes together deliciously. The lemon infused olive oil provides a great zing, and a little jalapeno gives it an ever-so-slight kick. You can omit that part if you are serving this to your little ones. Finally, feel free to adapt this veggie pasta to your taste, but at the very least, today's easy recipe will give you a good idea of the basic process. I was feeling whimsical so I prepared it with kid-friendly wagon wheel pasta (rotelle) which always takes me back to my youth! 

Market Veggie Wagon Wheel Pasta With Lemon Infused Oil
Serves 2-3

1/2 pound Wagon Wheel Pasta (rotelle)
2 Tablespoons Lemon Oil + more for drizzling (see recipe above)
1 Shallot, chopped small
1 large Yellow Tomato
3 very ripe Plum Tomatoes (or your own fave combo of any tomatoes will work too)
1 whole medium Zucchini, sliced lengthwise and then again in 1/2 centimeter thick slices
1/2 a Jalapeno, seeded and diced (optional)
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
Grated Parmigiana Reggiano Cheese (optional)

1. Bring a pot of well salted water to boil for the pasta. Add pasta to pot when it's ready and cook according to the box instructions (ours was 10 minutes for al dente). 

Mixing it all up, Photo: NK
2. Meanwhile, heat the lemon infused olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the chopped shallots and sauté, stirring occasionally, to 2 minutes. Add the rest of the chopped vegetables and cook, stirring from time to time, for another 5 minutes. 
*I like my zucchini a bit al dente so taste it after you are done and if it's too firm for you, cook a bit longer. When it is to your liking, turn off the heat and stir in the salt and pepper.

3. Your pasta should be close to done by now. When it is finished, drain, reserving some of the pasta water. 

4. Return drained pasta to pot and toss the contents of the vegetable pot into it. Toss for a minute or so, while adding about 2-3 tablespoons of pasta water to the mix. Check for seasoning and plate. 

5. To finish, add a drizzle of lemon infused olive oil to each dish and top with optional crushed red pepper and grated parmigiana cheese. Enjoy!

Market Veggie Wagon Wheel Pasta with Lemon Infused Oil, Photo: NK

Next up, 

Beet Hummus
If there is an easy way to do something, I will find it. My laziness (with regard to certain life and kitchen-related chores) knows no bounds. My husband marvels at my ability to jam pack a dishwasher in ways that defy proven geometric principles...just so I won't have to hand wash that last pot. I learned many of my favorite "shortcuts" from my dad, a guy who liked to cut a few corners when any heavy lifting was involved. He didn't call this being lazy, he called it being efficient. I would have to agree!

Certainly, some kitchen and food preparation work is absolutely worth doing  - if you have the time. But this blog is often about simplifying without sacrificing taste or quality. 

To give you a for instance, I've been meaning to try making beet hummus for the past year, ever since I first ate it last year at a charity reception that featured an all-vegetarian dinner (read about it HERE). What's been holding me back, you ask? Well, the thought of cooking and peeling beets (often a very messy affair) just seemed too daunting. So - since "necessity is the mother of invention", I give you today's easy shortcut for wonderful beet hummus. Canned beets cut the prep time down to minutes and the result is delicious. You can surely make this with fresh beets if you have the time (45 min or so) and inclination, as it's not all that big of a deal. Also, feel free to try some of the ready-prepared fresh beet products out there. Love Beets is one of our favorites.   

The easiest Beet Hummus you'll ever make, Photo: NK

Lazy Girl's Beet Hummus With Lemon Infused Olive Oil
Adapted from a fantastic blog - Dishing Up The Dirt
Serves 8

15 Ounce Can Sliced Beets, drained
15 Ounce Can Garbanzo Beans, rinsed and drained
2 heaping Tablespoons Tahini
2.5 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Lemon Infused Oil* Recipe Above (or plain Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
3 large Cloves Garlic
1 scant Tablespoon Ground Cumin
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper

Blend all the ingredients in good blender or food processor until smooth. Taste for seasoning. If you prefer a silkier consistency you can certainly add a bit more tahini or oil. 


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