Monday, March 24, 2014

Asian-Inspired Meatless Monday - Fast Veggie Soba + Garlicky Greens

We may be omnivores here at Neurotic Kitchen but we sure talk a lot about Meatless Monday.  I mean it when I say that vegetables are truly among my favorite foods.  Just look at how I feel about the onion! I don't know about you but after a weekend of excess, a meatless meal always seems like a great idea. All the better if it happens to be flavor packed and incredibly easy. Today's Asian-Inspired Meatless Monday includes a fast-as-heck main course of healthy Soba Noodles with raw veggies and nuts, followed by a foolproof side dish of garlicky greens kissed with Asian flavors.  

A Raw Veggie Soba Noodle Dinner that comes together in minutes, Photo: NK

Both courses are also easily customized to your tastes and definitely lend themselves to your imagination. Master the method and the have a blast putting your own spin on things. With dinner ready in far less than a half hour, you'll have plenty of time to think up next time's new and exciting menu additions sans meat! Enjoy… 

Easy & Quick Raw Veggie Soba
Serves 3-4 

Noodle Ingredients:
8 Ounces Soba Noodles
1/3 Cup Slivered Almonds, toasted until golden
4 Scallions, slice 1/4 inch thick, both green and white parts
1 large Carrot, peeled and julienned or sliced into very thin coins then roughly chopped

Sauce Ingredients:
2 teaspoons Ground Ginger (or a Tablespoon fresh Ginger)
Zest of 1 Lime
2 Tablespoons Lime Juice
2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Low Sodium Soy Sauce
5 Tablespoons Canola or Grapeseed Oil 
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce (plus extra if desired)

1. Mix sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. 
2. Boil water for Soba Noodles. Once boiling, add noodles and cook for 4 minutes (they should remain al dente) before draining. 
3. Return drained noodles to pan and toss in Carrots, and Scallions and then combine everything together with sauce. Plate the Soba Noodles and top with Toasted Almonds. Serve with extra Soy Sauce on the side if desired. 

Next up, a delicious Asian veggie side that works with all types of greens and is ready in minutes. We like Bok Choy so we decide on that, but you could certainly use Chinese Broccoli, Chard, or even Mustard Greens. The sky's the limit and the results of this easy cooking method won't disappoint. Don't skimp on the Garlic either. I promise it's as tasty as it looks. 

Garlicky Boy Choy, Photo: NK

Garlicky Asian Greens 
Adapted from Auria's Malaysian Kitchen
Serves 3-4 as a light side dish

1 Lb Baby Bok Choy (about 5 heads)
8 Cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced and then lightly chopped
3 Tablespoons Peanut or Canola Oil
3/4 Tablespoon Vietnamese Fish Sauce or Soy Sauce 
1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
Crushed Red Pepper to taste, optional

1. Slice the Baby Bok Choy lengthwise into thin strips. 
In boiling water, blanch the sliced Bok Choy until bright green, about 1 minute or more. Drain greens and set aside. 

2. In a medium saute pan or wok, heat the oil over high heat. Add the Garlic and lower the heat to medium. Stir Garlic constantly and move the pan about until Garlic becomes golden in color, about 2 minutes. Take great care that Garlic doesn't burn and become bitter. 

3. Now add the Fish Sauce, Rice Vinegar, and optional Crushed Red Pepper. Turn Heat off.

4. Plate the Bok Choy and pour the garlic and oil mixture over each portion. Serve warm and enjoy! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Passport to Italy - Pasta di San Giovanello

Lately, I've been thinking more and more about returning to Italy. Maybe it's this seemingly endless cold weather we've been experiencing, or perhaps that unshakeable late winter feeling of needing a vacation! Whatever the cause, I take great pleasure in conjuring up memories of last summer's trip to Rome and the Amalfi coast

Me and the Mr. overlooking gorgeous Positano 
Since European travel doesn't seem to be in the cards this year, those remote Southern Italian towns I dream of exploring will have to come to me by way of my dinner plate (not a bad way to do some imaginary travel). 

I decided not to include today's delicious vegetarian pasta as part of our series, Italian Pasta Classics, which, if you've been following, is the feature where I share the recipes for Italy's most loved and famed pasta dishes. This is because "Pasta di San Giovanello", a specialty native to Puglia (the region that makes up the heel of the Italian boot), seems to fly just a bit under the radar. 

Pasta di San Giovanello - Tomato Sauce, Breadcrumbs, Melted Anchovy, Garlic and Almonds, Photo: NK 

Thanks to an extremely informal poll of a small group of food-savvy native Southern Italians in my circle, I determined that though just a few people had heard of the dish, there was significant disagreement about its true ingredients. One Sicilian-born friend observed that he knew Pasta di San Giovanello to be something more like Puttanesca sauce

Mario Batali, from whom we borrow today's recipe, does indeed note that the components of this hearty and satisfying Southern Italian dish are hotly contested (particularly today's addition of sliced almonds). What follows below is the recipe Mario describes as his favorite iteration of the dish to date, one that he enjoyed in a small osteria in the town of Brindisi on the very important feast day this pasta is named for - the eve of the feast of St. John the Baptist (aka: San Giovanni Battista or San Giovanello) which is marked on June 24th, though celebrations vary worldwide, some taking place on the eve of the feast, some the day of, and others continuing for several! Rest assured, though ingredients vary, this dish is just delicious. It's also a great way to stretch a small portion of leftover tomato sauce (just 1.5 cups is needed for a dish that feeds 4 to 6 people). And away we go: 

St. John's Eve Pasta/Pasta di San Giovanello

Recipe by Mario Batali, from Molto Italiano 
Serves 6

3/4 Cup Sliced Blanched Almonds
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Cups fresh or store-bought plain Bread Crumbs 
4 fine quality Anchovies, salt (or oil) packed, chopped
Black Pepper
1 White Onion, finely chopped
1 large clove Garlic, finely chopped 
1.5 Cups Tomato Sauce of your choice or Mario's Recipe HERE 
8 Fresh Basil Leaves, chiffonade (aka cut into thin ribbons).
1 Pound long, wide pasta such as Lasagnette, Pappardelle or (Mafalde - what we used) 

Almond and Bread Crumb Mixture, Photo: NK
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil - use about 2 tablespoons salt. 

2. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, gently toast the sliced almonds and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over a medium flame until nuts begin to brown just a bit. Remove almonds to a plate. 

3. In the remaining oil, toast the bread crumbs, stirring them often until the become golden brown and somewhat crispy. Combine breadcrumbs and almonds in a bowl and set aside. 

4. Add 2 Tablespoons additional olive oil to the pan you used for the breadcrumbs. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the anchovies, using your spoon to crush them into the oil so they begin to dissolve. Stir until they melt into the oil, this should take a minute or so. Pour the anchovy and oil mixture over the breadcrumbs and almond mix and season it with black pepper before setting aside. 

Sauce Coming Together, Photo: NK 
5. Add the remaining 5 Tablespoons olive oil to the pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium-low heat until onions soften but do not brown. Stir occasionally, about 2-3 minutes. 

6. Add the tomato sauce to the pan with the onion and bring the mixture to a "brisk simmer" and let it cook until the sauce has reduced by about one third in volume. Add basil ribbons and turn heat off. 

7. By this time your pasta water should be boiling. Add the pasta to the water and cook according to package directions until just al dente. Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the sauce. Add half of the almond and breadcrumb mixture and toss to combine well. 

8. Transfer the pasta to warmed serving bowls and sprinkle them with the leftover breadcrumb mixture. Serve right away! 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Sunday Smoothie in Shades of Green (Kale, Pear & Cucumber)

Smoothie break! I know that I promised not to make this blog an all-blender recipe trove, but I just had to share our latest green wonder from the Vitamix. Kale, which is of course super healthy and all the rage these days, becomes much more palate-friendly when combined with very ripe, sweet green pears. Throw in some cucumber, celery, and a splash of lemon or lime juice, and you have a lightly sweet and energizing low-cal drink. The pretty green hue doesn't hurt either.

Green Smoothie with Kale, Pear, Cucumber, and Celery will give you an instant boost! Photo: NK

Shades of Green Kale, Pear & Cucumber Smoothie
Adapted from Giada's Feel Good Food, Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 2-3

2 Green Pears, such as Anjou, cored, seeded and chopped
4-5 inch length of Seedless Cucumber (Hothouse/English), chopped
1 small Celery Stalk, chopped
1 Cup packed Baby Kale or Chopped Kale Leaves (ribs removed)
1 Cup Ice
1/2 Cup Water
Optional Squeeze of Lemon or Lime Juice
Optional Sweetener to taste - add a bit of light Agave or Honey if you like it sweeter

Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender (particularly Vitamix) and blend until smooth! Taste and add optional Lemon or Lime Juice and/or additional sweetener if you like. It should be sweet enough with just the ripe pears. To your health! 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Blender Bender - Chilled Avocado Lime Soup / Healthy Banana Ice Cream

Confession: I am obsessed with my new, high-powered Vitamix blender. It's seriously the kitchen tool I've been dreaming of for years. It's awesome, as in where have you been all my life awesome. While I promise not to turn Neurotic Kitchen into an all-blender recipe blog, I must indulge my urge to show you just a few of my favorite fast and friendly recipes. A side dish and dessert in under five minutes? It's all possible with the right appliance. 

Chilled Avocado & Lime Soup Served With Pork Chops with Latin Flavors, Photo: NK

We'll start with a bright, lime spiked Chilled Avocado Soup and finish with a super healthy solution to your nightly dessert craving - Banana Ice Cream. Both of today's recipes do not require an uber-powerful blender or food processor. Just your average countertop appliance will do. Let's roll:

Chilled Avocado & Lime Soup/Sopa Fria de Aguacate 
Adapted from 
Serves 3-4

1 large, very ripe Avocado, pitted and roughly chopped 
2 large JalapeƱos, pitted and sliced in half (2 will be medium spicy, use less to taste)
1/2 a Sweet Yellow Onion, roughly chopped
1/2 Cup Half & Half 
1 small vine ripened Tomato, roughly chopped 
2 Cups Vegetable Broth
1/4 Cup Lime Juice
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon of Salt, depending on your taste 
Black Pepper  

Combine all ingredients together in blender or food processor. If you are using a Vitamix or other high powered blender, you only need to blend for 30-45 seconds, or until smooth. Blending any longer will end up whipping the mixture into more of a cream texture. Chill well and enjoy!

Blender Magic: Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Soft Serve, Photo: NK

Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Soft Serve Ice Cream
1 large or 2 small servings

2 Large Bananas, cut into chunks and frozen solid
2 Tablespoon regular or Vegan Chocolate Chips - we prefer bittersweet
1 Tablespoon Almond Milk, Dairy Milk, or Cream

In a high powered blender or food processor, blend the Bananas, Almond Milk, and 1 tablespoon of the chocolate chips until smooth. (For Vitamix blenders, use the high setting and be sure to employ the tamping instrument if needed to press the mixture down in between blending - blend in 30 second increments until processed - should take about 1.5 minutes). Top with remaining chips and serve immediately! Feel free to get creative with mix-ins. Hint: A Thin Mint or two mixed in is never a bad idea!