Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pastina with Peas and Carrots

As of late, my daughter (who is 20 months-old) has been a picky eater. I know that she eats a lot of organic fruits and veggies and proteins at daycare, but when she's home with me she gives me attitude and doesn't particularly like the food I give her. I don't know if she's doing it on purpose because she knows I'll give in and just give her mac and cheese or some cereal with soy milk (which she LOVES for some reason). So yesterday I was determined make her a healthier dinner that I hoped she would eat and I am glad I did take that extra time to make her this pastina with peas and carrots recipe.
I watched Giada make this a long time ago on a Food Network show, and I finally found the recipe here. Unfortunately, I could not find pastina, nor the mini-farfalle at my grocery store, so I just used penne pasta, which I cut in half after it had cooked so that it wasn't too big for my daughter.

The recipe is ridiculously easy. Using frozen sweet peas is the key and I am not entirely a fan of mascarpone unless it's on tiramisu, so I used 3/4 cup cream cheese and 1/4 cup mascarpone instead. Also, I only added a small amount of basil for Stella's portion, but added the rest of the basil for the adult version (as well as some freshly ground pepper). This is quite a nice pasta dish with lots of veggies and good textures. Next time, though, I definitely am going to try to use pastina.

INGREDIENTS (makes 6 small servings)
  • 1/2 pound (8 ounces) pastina or other small-shaped pasta, such as farfallini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the carrots and stock and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the peas to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until the peas are warmed through and the carrots are tender.

Stir in the cooked pasta.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheeses. Stir until the mixture is incorporated and forms a sauce. Add a little of the reserved pasta water to make sauce to your prefered consistency (optional). I didn't have to use any additional pasta water, however.

Season with salt, to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl and garnish with chopped basil.

Stella's portion

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rustic Mixed Berry Crostata

I have become a Fresh and Easy groupie. If you don't know what Fresh and Easy is, it's a wonderful low-cost food market where they make a lot of their foods organically and sell fruits and veggies at pretty much farmer market prices...so this place is wonderful for someone who is on a budget, like me! The only problem is that sometimes they have such great deals like a bag of grapes or a box of strawberries for .98 cents!

Anyway, last week I found I had a container of blueberries, a pound of strawberries and some blackberries in the fridge and there is only so much berries Stella and I can eat, so I decided to make this crostata before the berries spoiled. The original recipe was in the NYT and they only used strawberries, so my only change was combinining a variety of berries. I have to say this is pretty much the easiest baking I've done. A crostata is basically like a free form pie, so there no wrong or right way to do it. And, yes, it did get a little messy on my part but sometimes that the fun part, specially when I have my 20-month old helping me.

Pastry (makes two crostatas)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Grated rind of one lemon (optional)
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) very cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 6 tablespoons ice water

Place flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Pulse a few times to blend. Transfer to a bowl, add butter and mix with your fingers to coat the butter with the flour. Return to processor; pulse 12-15 times. With processor on, add ice water. Continue pulsing until dough is just about to come together.
Turn dough out onto a well-floured cutting board. Roll into a ball, cut in half and form two disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about an hour. (Freeze one disk for later use).

  • 1 ½ – 2 pounds (roughly two quarts) of strawberries, rinsed, hulled and thickly sliced, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, or any combination of berries you prefer.
  • ¼ to ½ cup sugar, depending on sweetness of berries
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Mix ingredients together. Drain any extra liquid just before using.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Roll pastry disk into an 11-12 inch circle on a lightly floured board. Dough should be approximately 1/8 inch thick.

Place dough on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Mound berry mixture in center of dough, leaving a 1½- inch border. Fold pastry over fruit, pleating it to make a rough edge. Don’t worry about cracks; some juice will leak out during baking.

Brush crust with a beaten egg mixed with a bit of water.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer to a cutting board. Serve warm or at room temperature.