Friday’s Hot Tip: What’s Cookin? Penne with Spinach & Chickpeas

The hardest part about giving up a lot of wheat and gluten is giving up pasta. Fortunately there are several companies who have come up with rice pasta. Tinkyada makes excellent gluten-free pasta but at $3.99 or more a bag, it can be quite expensive. I buy Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Pasta and find it to be just as good. By using rice pasta I don’t have to stop making my favorite pasta dishes, such as this incredibly delicious penne with spinach, chickpeas and tomatoes tossed in an olive oil-based sauce.

This recipe is a very slight variation on one I got from Kirsten over at NilsenLife. I love chickpeas and especially love them in this dish, which is so full of garlicky tomato-y chickpea goodness that I often eat more than I should in one sitting. I use baby spinach leaves instead of frozen – while I’m loving spinach more now as an adult, I still have issues with frozen spinach. It’s just not aesthetically pleasing.

Earlier this week I visited Kirsten at her home and we briefly discussed our love of this dish. We were in agreement about the addictive qualities of this dish, but couldn’t quite define what makes it so…craveable. The olive oil? The garlic? The combination of flavors? Whatever it is, this pasta dish is well worth turning on the stove for, even during these hot summer days. Pro tip: if you have leftovers, try them cold or at room temperature – still tastes fabulous.

Penne with Spinach and Chickpeas in Garlic Sauce

5-6 oz. loose fresh spinach OR 1 small pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed
8 oz. penne pasta
1/3 C olive oil
3-6 garlic cloves (depending on how garlicky you like your food, or if you are trying to ward off vampires)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can of chickpeas, drained but not rinsed
Kosher salt & ground pepper
1/4 C grated Parmesan (optional)

Clean spinach, discard stems. (Chop leaves if they are on the large side.) Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 2 minutes. (Don’t let the garlic burn!) Add the tomatoes and chickpeas and cook 2 minutes more. Add freshly ground pepper for added zing. Throw in the chopped spinach, add kosher salt and stir well. Turn off the burner and allow the spinach to cook on its own – it will be much fresher & bright green in color.

When the pasta is done, drain it thoroughly. Add pasta to saucepan or mix pasta with sauce in a separate bowl. Sprinkle on the Parmesan, and toss again. You can have this pasta without the Parmesan if you have issues with dairy products, but the cheese adds another lovely flavor to the dish.

Serves 3-4 (Pro tip: use entire bag of penne and spinach if you’re feeding a larger group.)

Friday’s Hot Tip: What’s Cookin’? Chicken with Potatoes & Green Beans

Yep, this is another one-pot dish – we’ve already discussed how I feel about one-pot cooking. This is a recipe I saw on the label of a Swanson’s chicken broth container & I decided to make it for my Christmas dinner. I modified the dish by using a mix of small red, white and blue potatoes – it made the dish much more fun to look at with all the color. I also added a shallot because I’ve recently discovered just how very cool shallots are. It’s a baby red onion, all cute and wrapped up in pale brown onion skin! How can you not love them?

The name of this recipe suggests it’s only for eating in the fall months, which is rather limiting and I hate feeling limited. If you want a good meal and you’ve got chicken breasts and green beans in the freezer and a few potatoes in the pantry, plus a can of chicken broth or some bouillon cubes, you’re good to go.

Golden Chicken & Autumn Vegetables

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (4-6 tenderloins work fine too)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen whole green beans
  • Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes or until well browned on both sides. Remove the chicken from the skillet.
  • Stir the stock, garlic, shallot, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, potatoes and green beans in the skillet and heat to a boil.  Cook for 5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to low.  Return the chicken to the skillet. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender.

RECIPE TIPS

  • Flavor Variation: for Herbed Chicken Dijon with Wine, add 1/4 cup white wine, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard with the stock.
  • Substitute mixed red, blue and yellow potatoes for sweet potatoes.
  • If you like your green beans crisp and bright, do not add them to the pot until the last 10 minutes.

Friday’s Hot Tip: What’s Cookin’? Chicken with Quinoa & Veggies

When it comes to cooking for myself, I go through phases:

  • Phase 1: buying items that allow me to assemble quick, easy meals
  • Phase 2: having zero interest in making anything that involves a pot, pan or a spatula
  • Phase 3: getting bored with everything I have been making during Phase 1 so seeking out new recipes and experimenting

I’m currently in Phase 3, which can lend itself to some pretty tasty dishes…or some culinary horror stories. Fortunately last week’s experiment turned out very well, and I’m posting the recipe here so you can try it for yourself. I’m a big fan of one-pot cooking, and I eat a lot of chicken at home, so this is my variation on a one-pot chicken recipe I found on Real Simple‘s website.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an itty-bitty grain first harvested by Native Americans. It’s got loads of protein and can be served for breakfast (the texture is similar to oatmeal and you can make it sweet or savoury) or as a side dish with vegetables for lunch or dinner. It can be cooked like rice, so it’s very easy to substitute quinoa in entrees calling for rice. Plus you get the fun of saying quinoa.

Chicken with Quinoa, Mushrooms, Peppers & Spinach

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 C mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 C mixed bell peppers, chopped (I use frozen mixed but fresh red bell pepper would be great here)
  • 1/4 t basil, dried
  • 2 C vegetable broth
  • 1 C uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 C baby spinach, washed, stems removed
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add chicken and saute until golden, about 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate.

Add mushrooms to skillet and saute until browned, about 3-4 minutes (Note: you may want to add more oil or a little water to keep the mushrooms from burning; I added water). Add peppers, garlic and basil. Cook until peppers have softened, about 3 minutes.

Add broth and quinoa, stirring gently to mix with vegetables. Increase heat to medium-high and allow broth to come to a slow boil. Return chicken to pan, spacing pieces evenly. Lower heat and cover pan. Simmer for 12-15 minutes or until quinoa has cooked through and broth has been absorbed. Season with pepper.

Remove lid, turn off heat and add spinach, tearing up larger leaves. Season with salt, then stir spinach into quinoa and chicken mixture, allowing heat from the dish to wilt the spinach.

Serves 2-4.

Got any quinoa recipes to share? Tell me in the comments!

Friday’s Hot Tip: What’s Cookin’? Pasta!

Years ago I found this recipe in InStyle Magazine – I think it was Janet Jackson’s favorite dish at a restaurant, but I don’t have any information on which restaurant. Nevertheless, Ms. Jackson has excellent taste because this pasta is addictive. It’s really delicious served hot but I also like it cold or room temperature. It takes time and attention to make the olive-oil-based sauce, so plan on setting aside about 45 minutes to babysit the saucepan.

Last week I served this pasta along with London broil and a spinach salad made with pomegranate seeds, candied pecans and Parmesan cheese tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette. It was a big hit and paired beautifully with the beef.

Since this recipe makes a lot of pasta, I recommend making it for a party. You’ll glow with pride as your guests rhapsodize about your mad skills with penne.

Penne al Pomodoro e Peperoncino

  • 1 1/4 cups olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 lbs penne pasta
  • 10 fresh basil leaves
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish (optional)

In medium saucepan heat oil. Add onion, celery carrot, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, 15-17 minutes. Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes; reduce heat to medium low, cook for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in large pot bring 6 quarts salted water to boil. Add pasta, stir. Return water to boil. Boil pasta 11-13 minutes, until al dente. Drain well. Return pasta to pot. Add basil leaves to sauce. Spoon sauce into bowl of food processor; process in batches until texture is smooth. [Moxie adds: I use my blender because my food processor is too small and I would rather get the whole thing done in one fell swoop. If you’ve got a big honkin’ food processor, though, by all means use it.]. Pour sauce over pasta; toss well. To serve, place pasta on warmed serving platter. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serves 6.

Friday’s Hot Tip: What’s Cookin’?

Last May I read Signora da Vinci, a fascinating and fun historical novel about Leonardo daVinci’s mother. Several times in the book, the narrator referred to a special dish she would make from grapes and olives. The fictional characters who enjoyed the dish raved about it and made me want to try some myself. I’m not a foodie but I love good flavor combinations and this one sounded very intriguing.

Fortunately the author, Robin Maxwell, had the foresight to add a recipe at the end of the book. I have made it twice for parties and it’s been a big hit. While it may feel too hot to run the oven right now, I think you owe it to yourself to make this compote for your next happy hour or gathering. It’s very tasty with pita chips.

Grape & Olive Compote

1 bunch seedless red grapes
1 jar Kalamata olives, pits removed (use a little bit of the liquid)
3 T balsamic vinegar
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T fresh chopped thyme

Mix in ovenproof dish – I use a deep Pyrex bowl.

Bake uncovered for one hour at 350 degrees, turning every 20 minutes to recoat with oil & vinegar.

Serve warm or cold.

Got any good recipes to share? Send ’em over!