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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tortellini Salad With Sun-Dried Tomatoes

This is a recipe I make a lot. It's very flexible; sometimes I use rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, sometimes oil-packed. Sometimes I throw in cooked chicken. I don't measure anything but the dressing ingredients. People always like it, and it's pretty easy. That's a winner in my book.
Most recently I made it to take to a double baby shower; it was for two co-workers who are due a day apart.

Tortellini Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Artichokes and Goat Cheese

8 sun-dried tomatoes (or 1/2 small jar oil-packed)
13 oz. or so dried (1 package Barilla family-sized) cheese or spinach-cheese dried tortellini
4 to 6 oz. cooked chicken, shredded (optional)
1 small jar artichoke hearts (marinated or not), drained and chopped
1 large handful fresh spinach, chopped or cut into chiffonade
4 oz. crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan (from dairy case, not green can)
3 thin slices red onion, minced (optional)

3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 heaping tbsp. tomato paste
9 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 heaping tbsp. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup olive oil

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and let cool (otherwise, if you add dressing while tortellini is warm, the dressing will be soaked up and salad won't be moist enough). If not using oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrate by placing in ramekin, cover in water and nuke for 1 minute. Let cool enough to handle and chop or julienne. In serving bowl, combine cooled pasta, vegetables, cheeses and onion (if using).

To make vinaigrette, put dressing ingredients except for oil in blender or food processor. Puree. Add the oil in a thin stream with blender/processor running until emulsified and smooth. (You can also mince garlic and whisk it all, but this is faster and the dressing emulsifies better).

Combine enough dressing with salad ingredients to moisten, tossing to coat well. Chill. Let come to room temperature to serve. Use leftover dressing to remoisten as needed.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Dark Chocolate Bark

This candy recipe has some flexibility, but I've made it the same way both times -- with dried cherries, candied orange peel (stock up now, it's not available in many stores year-round) and walnuts because I was so happy with the combination. I also don't really measure; I just sprinkle on a generous amount of dried fruit, nuts and ginger. I use kosher salt; maybe someday I'll splurge on some fleur de sel.

This is a Bon Appetit recipe I found on I follow the advice of reviewers (100% of whom said they would make it again) and add more crystallized ginger and salt. My adjustments are included.

I think a tin of this would make a great holiday gift.

Winter Dried Fruit and Nut Chocolate Bark

For a sweeter treat, swap in semisweet chocolate chips in place of bittersweet.

2 cups bittersweet (60% cocoa) chocolate chips OR 1 large (17 oz. or so) bar Trader Joe's 72% dark chocolate, broken or chopped into pieces
2/3 to 1 cup mixed toasted nuts (such as walnuts, pistachios, pecans, almonds)
2/3 to 1 cup mixed dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries, quartered figs, quartered apricots, etc.)(I add the candied orange peel)
6 quarter-size rounds crystallized ginger, thinly sliced and chopped
1/4 tsp. or more fleur de sel or coarse kosher salt

Line baking sheet with foil. Melt chocolate chips in medium bowl (or top of double boiler) over saucepan of simmering (not boiling) water, stirring until melted and smooth. Pour melted chocolate onto foil, spreading with offset spatula to thickness of scant 1/4 inch. Scatter nuts and dried fruit over chocolate. Sprinkle with ginger. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. (I found it helpful to press chunks lightly into chocolate). Chill until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Peel off foil. Cut or break chocolate into irregular pieces. Serve bark slightly chilled. Store in airtight container in fridge.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Extra-Crusty Baked Rigatoni with Beef Ragu

This is my version of the Williams-Sonoma recipe found on their Web site. I added the wine and tomato paste, a little water, more meat for a heartier sauce and cut some fat. Sometimes I make this with ground turkey.

This is satisfying comfort food that has proven popular at my house. It's also a good dish to take to those busy with newborns or friends who just need a break. You can assemble it in a foil lasagna pan, cover with foil and write the directions (Bake at 350, uncovered, for about 45 minutes) right on the foil.


1 lb. rigatoni
2 Tbs. olive oil, plus more as needed
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 lbs. ground beef round or ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1 large can (28 oz.) peeled and chopped tomatoes plus 1/2 cup water
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup favorite wine
3 tbsp. sugar
1 cup heavy cream of low-fat or fat-free "half and half"
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 lb. low-fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup grated Parmesan or aged Asiago cheese


Preheat an oven to 350ºF.

Bring a large pot two-thirds full of salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni, stir well and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), about 15 minutes or according to the package instructions. Drain the rigatoni, place in a large bowl and toss with a little olive oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.

In the same pot, heat the 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the beef (or turkey) and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until no pink remains, about 10 minutes. Drain off any fat. Add the parsley, oregano, wine, sugar, tomatoes and tomato paste. Use the 1/2 cup water to rinse out the tomato cans and add it to the pot. Stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the tomatoes break down and the flavors have melded, about 20 minutes. Stir in the cream, raise the heat and return to a boil (don't boil if you use fat-free "half and half." Just heat) Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Return the rigatoni to the pot with the sauce and toss to coat well.

Oil or spray the bottom of a shallow 3-quart baking dish. Spread half of the pasta mixture in the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella. Top with the remaining pasta, the remaining mozzarella and the Parmesan. Bake until the sauce is bubbly and the top is crusty and golden brown, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for about 5 minutes and serve. Serves 6 to 8.