During the last weeks of winter, when decent seasonal produce becomes increasingly scarce and slushy, miserable weather keeps us stuck inside, we all still wrestle with one age-old question:
What should we make for dinner? Don’t stress — easy pantry pasta is quick, simple, forgiving, and lets us flex our creative muscles for an affordable and fun meal. And most ingredients keep well in the pantry or are available year-round at most grocery stores. This recipe creates a salty, cheesy, bright, and filling meal in no time, and can be adapted to feed yourself or a crowd.
1 box dried pasta (large tube-shaped works best)
1 can (14 oz.) chickpeas
1 small onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, cleaned and chopped
1 bunch fresh rosemary (dried also works)
4-5 tablespoons butter
1 medium-sized lemon
Preferred cooking oil or fat
About one cup dry white wine or white wine vinegar and water
Parmesan or other hard aged cheese, grated (half a cup or so, depending on your preference)
Salt and pepper to taste
5 minced pitted Kalamata or Castelvetrano olives
1 tablespoon capers
A few minutes ahead of time, start heating a pot of salted water for your pasta. Then, in a medium-sized saute pan over medium-high heat, bring about a tablespoon of cooking oil up to temperature until shimmering. Dump in the whole can of chickpeas and cook until the chickpeas take on some color, stirring every so often. Add a generous pinch of rosemary leaves, making sure to break in half to release flavor, and add salt and pepper. Continue cooking until fragrant, adding more oil or butter if needed. When chickpeas are hot and smelling great, dump in the small onion and cook until softened, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant. With a wooden spoon, scrape any fond that may have collected on the bottom of your skillet, then dump in about half of the wine to de-glaze.
If your water is boiling, this is a good time to start cooking your pasta. While the pasta cooks, add the chopped kale to the skillet and a little more fresh rosemary. Add capers and olives if desired, as well. Cook in the wine until the kale is soft and cooked through, adding more wine or water as needed.
When the pasta is cooked al dente, scoop about half a cup of pasta water out and set aside, then drain the pasta and add to the skillet. Turn the heat up, add in around half of the reserved pasta water, a little more wine, a tablespoon or two of butter. Stir constantly while sprinkling grated cheese into the pan. This is where the magic happens — the pasta water will combine with the butter, wine, and melting cheese to create a creamy, glossy sauce. Continue cooking until the sauce is your desired consistency, adding more liquid or cheese to your tastes. There’s really no wrong way to do this!
Salt and pepper your pantry pasta before plating. Slice your lemon and spritz your pasta with fresh lemon juice to serve.
Reinventing old favorites
Over the past few years, the restaurant business has offered choices that are as diversified as they are interesting and entertaining. The trend is evolving toward healthy food, sometimes specialized, sometimes fusion cuisine. Today, dining out means tasting, discovering, experimenting, and exploring.
Over the past few years, people have been going to restaurants to try new dishes. They love being surprised while enjoying the familiarity of foods they have always loved. Forever searching for ways to meet their customers’ needs and expectations, many chefs and restaurateurs have risen to the challenge. Now restaurant menus include reinvented classics; a modernized grilled cheese, a hot dog, or redefined sophisticated hamburger. Our grandmothers’ dishes are recreated by adding oriental spices, and exotic dishes are transformed with local produce for a touch of regional flavor.
Over the past few years, bakers have rediscovered time-honored flours and now offer bread with a taste of yesteryear that can be found on many restaurant tables. Pastry cooks and chefs have rediscovered the passion of serving deliciously mouth-watering versions of traditional recipes. Menus are personalized according to season or special event and then deconstructed to be better reinvented later.
People want to eat better while searching for diversity and exoticism. Tastes are becoming more refined and specialized. Above all, there’s a prevalent desire to taste a little bit of everything that’s out there. Sought out are restaurants that serve a selection of tapas for a unique taste experience with every mouthful. Patrons are filled with wonder when presented with multilayered verrines and love dishes with samples of two, three, or four different miniature meals on the same plate.
Glazed fruit skewers
Sweet and juicy, fruit makes a great summer dessert. This delicious glaze enhances the natural flavor of the fruit to create a crowd-pleasing favorite.
• 10 strawberries, halved lengthwise
• 10 kiwi cubes
• 10 blueberries
• 10 pieces of pineapple
• 10 pieces of cantaloupe
• 10 wooden skewers
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
1. Combine the water and brown sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. If the mixture starts to boil, lower the heat slightly.
2. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, remove from the heat and allow to cool for 45 minutes.
3. Thread the fruit pieces one after the other on the skewers.
4. Brush the skewers with the simple syrup.
Even though pasta is usually linked with Italy, its origins, in fact, are in ancient China. Legend has it that Marco Polo brought back to Europe this culinary technique after traveling to the Far East. Wherever it comes from, “noodles” always make for a meal that is easily prepared and easily varied with limitless sauce possibilities. It’s no surprise that pasta is so popular around the world.
It usually takes less than fifteen minutes to obtain al dente pasta, which means it is tender on the outside but still firm inside. Be sure to use a large enough pan with plenty of water so that the pasta won’t stick together. When the water starts to boil, add a pinch of salt before putting it in the noodles. Use a wooden spoon to stir short pasta or a large fork for long pasta such as spaghetti, which should not be broken into smaller pieces for authenticity. Egg noodles take less time to cook than other types of pasta. Even after being drained in a colander, the pasta will continue to cook, so be sure to follow the cooking instructions as indicated on the package. You might even shorten the recommended cooking time by a bit if the pasta will be sitting for a while before serving.
One trick used by great chefs is to set aside a small quantity of cooking water before straining the pasta. They will then add this extra water to the sauce as they heat it up for service. This allows them to add volume back to the sauce as it reheats and reduces and helps the sauce stick better to the pasta.
Al dente means “firm when bitten,” or cooked ’till tender on the outside but still firm inside.
Roasted tomato and goat cheese bruschetta
Are you having guests over for a casual meal? These cheesy starters are sure to be a hit.
• 20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 8 slices of baguette bread
• 8 tablespoons goat cheese
• Fresh basil, coarsely chopped
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Honey, for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Toss the cherry tomatoes with olive oil and spread them into an oven-safe baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the tomatoes start to pucker.
3. Lay the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until crisp.
4. Spread a tablespoon of goat cheese on each slice of bread.
5. Add some fresh basil and roasted tomatoes.
Drizzle some honey over the bruschetta before serving for a subtle sweetness.
Extra watermelon? Try these refreshing drinks
Forget broccoli and spinach for today — here’s the superfood everyone loves to eat!
The juicy pink smile of a watermelon slice (one cup diced) is actually a thirst quencher at 92 percent water. More than in a banana, its ample potassium also makes it a good preventative for heat stroke.
Additionally, it packs a giant dose of glutathione to deter free radicals and enhance the immune system.
Watermelon is second only to tomatoes as a key source of the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene, and it has a lot of vitamin C besides.
This superfood has as much fiber as a slice of whole-wheat bread and also features vitamin A, thiamine, and magnesium, and all of this for little more than 50 calories a cup.
Actually, it’s enough just to know you can eat this treat anytime and feel good about doing it.
Selecting: Look for one with a brown stem attached. Thump the center to see if it makes a nice thud. That means it’s ripe.
Storing: Uncut watermelons can be stored unrefrigerated for three to four days. After cutting, cover and refrigerate any leftover chunks.
For a refreshing thirst quencher, puree with apple and lemon juices, or freeze this puree for ice pops.
Though we don’t recommend eating them, watermelon seeds are a folk remedy for high blood pressure. The seeds contain the compound cucurbocitrin, which helps dilate capillaries and boost kidney function– key mechanisms to decrease blood pressure.
Is there anything more delicious than late summer watermelon, ripened in the hot sun until juicy and fragrant?
Not really, and when you find yourself wilting in the late summer heat, a cold watermelon agua fresca or icy watermelon slushie is perfect for helping you cool down and relax. Adults and kids alike will love them, and adding your own spin with extra flavorings or cantaloupe instead of watermelon is easy.
Watermelon agua fresca
4 cups cubed seeded watermelon
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar (or to taste)
24 fresh mint leaves
Combine watermelon and water in a blender and puree until smooth. Add sugar to taste. Slice lime into small wedges (you’ll need about 8), then place one wedge into each serving glass and three mint leaves. Crush with a cocktail muddler (a wooden spoon handle also works), then add ice. Pour the agua fresca over the ice, stir, then serve.
4 cups cubed seeded ripe watermelon (188 calories)
2 tablespoons sugar (32 calories)
1 tablespoon lime juice (30 calories)
About 3 cups of ice
Blend the fruit, melon, sugar, and juice until liquid. Add ice and continue to blend until the liquid reaches a slushie consistency.
In the whole blend, there are about 250 calories.
3 ways to make homemade ice cream
There are many ways to make delicious homemade ice cream. Here are three easy methods for making this delicious dessert.
1. In an ice cream maker
Combine egg yolks, sugar, milk, and cream in a large bowl. Then, place the mixture in the ice cream maker and turn it on. The machine will cool and mix everything together for about 30 to 45 minutes. After that, the ice cream is ready to eat.
2. In a dish
Use a hand or stand mixer to beat cream, eggs, and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Stir in frozen fruit and condensed milk with a spatula. Then, place the mixture in the freezer in an airtight dish for at least four hours.
3. In bags
You can make ice cream in 10 to 20 minutes with this easy method. Pour heavy cream and vanilla into a small plastic bag. Then, place the small bag into a larger bag containing ice cubes and salt. Vigorously shake the bags until you reach the right consistency.
If you’re craving ice cream but don’t have time to make it yourself, visit a local ice cream shop or creamery.
If you want to make vegan ice cream, you can replace the dairy products with coconut or soy milk, coconut butter, coconut oil, or soy cream.