In the Kitchen: Summer Capellini with Clams

Summer Capellini with Clams | Liz Takes the World

Linguine with clams is something my mom used to make for us when I was a kid. It wasn’t particularly fancy but I do remember it making me feel very Italian. Or however “Italian” a kid with a hella Anglo name surrounded by zero Italian families can feel. The concept of traveling via my plate started early apparently. I was itching for something to make when I found myself home alone one evening last week. I started flipping through some cookbooks and this gem from Dinner: A Love Story caught my eye. Juicy clams with my favorite summer vegetables. It felt like a great way to cook through a short dip in our crazy beautiful, stupid hot summer. In keeping with the tradition I grew up in, I swapped fresh clams for canned (also way cheaper and easier to source).

Summer Capellini with Clams Adapted slightly from Dinner: A Love Story

Serves 2-3 with leftovers

1/2 lb dry capellini pasta

2 shallots, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 can clams

1/2 c dry white wine (for Pete’s sake, pick something good and worth drinking)

1 ear of corn, kernels removed

1/2 c cherry tomatoes, halved

Basil leaves, sliced into fine ribbons

Boil water and prepare the pasta. Capellini, being teeny, takes about 5-7 minutes to reach al dente. Pour yourself a glass of that nice white wine you picked up at the store.

While the pasta is cooking, heat some olive oil over medium heat in a large sauce pan and add the shallot and garlic. When the shallots have softened add the can of clams, juices and all, and the white wine. Season with salt and pepper and let simmer until thickened slightly. Magically this is usually when the pasta is done so you can use this time to drain the pasta and place it back in the now dry pot you used to cook it in.

Add the corn and tomatoes and stir to combine until the vegetables have heated through and absorbed the flavor of the clams. Fold in the cooked pasta. Plate and garnish with slivers of basil.

In the Kitchen: Cooking with Blue Apron

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Blue Apron Delivery | Liz Takes The World

Blue Apron has been all up in my newsfeed for a while. I first heard about it from a girlfriend months ago but poo-poo’d the expense. More and more friends tried it out with mixed feelings (many RAVES to the occasional thumbs down) that my curiosity began to take over. Blue Apron allows existing customers to extend a week’s worth of free meals to friends and family. When an offer came up, I seized it. A few clicks and a couple of days later a large cardboard box arrived on my doorstep.

Blue Apron produce packaging | Liz Takes The World

PROS

  • It’s foolproof. Setting up your account is simple. Meals are chosen for you based on basic dietary preferences or limitations. There is no guesswork at the grocery store or on-the-fly swaps when the ingredient you need isn’t stocked.
  • Easy-to-follow instructions. I was impressed by the clarity of the instructions. Blue Apron has a strong focus on mise en place which I’m sure many folks find very helpful as they set out to try a new dish. The steps are well photographed and described in plain, approachable language.
  • Freshness. The meat and produce were fresh and looked great.

Crispy Catfish & Cracked Freekah | Liz Takes The World

CONS

  • It’s pricey. Blue Apron has a few different meal options. We chose the three meals for two people plan which typically costs $60 per week. Approximately $10/person/meal is definitely not your cheapest route to dinner.
  • Packaging. Much of the produce and dry ingredients came packaged in plastic. Blue Apron provides recycling instructions but doesn’t address the environmental impact of personal size groceries. Recycling capabilities vary by city and region.
  • Environmental impact. I live in Seattle and my box was shipped two-day air from Richmond, CA.
  • Prep time. The meals average 45-60 minutes of prep and cook time.
  • Incomplete box. My box arrived with two ingredients missing: one major ingredient and one secondary ingredient. Of course the major ingredient missing was an Asian noodle that my regular grocery store doesn’t stock so I had to huff it down to the International District to shop at the Asian supermarket. Blue Apron customer service responded promptly and credited my account but for a company that selects and packs ingredients it was a major slip-up. What a headache and annoyance!

Pork Dan Dan Noodles | Liz Takes The World

Overall, I don’t believe I am Blue Apron’s ideal customer. My approach to cooking is much more rooted in reusing ingredients to stretch your dollar when possible. I chaffed against the lack of flexibility in having only specific quantities of ingredients and was annoyed that I had to go out and buy groceries in addition to what Blue Apron was delivering. A lady’s gotta eat something for breakfast and lunch! And there was a few things that just didn’t sit well with me: the focus on prepping everything beforehand rather than taking advantage of cooking time, all that dang packaging.

If you’re looking to break your take out habit, Blue Apron might be part of a step down plan but I think there are better tools out there:

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Kale and Potato Hash | Liz Takes The World

Disclaimer: These meals were provided to me at no cost through a friends and family promotion for current Blue Apron subscribers. Blue Apron has never contacted me for a review. My review is based on my experience with additional feedback from friends. I received no compensation and all opinions are my own.

In the Kitchen: Roasted Sausage and Tomatoes with Pesto

Roasted Sausage and Tomatoes with Pesto | Liz Takes the World

I’ve been attempting to buff out my 30 minute and under dinner repertoire. It’s one of the lynch pins in my pledge to cook at home more. This dinner strategy came together while I was swimming laps. Somewhere around meter 500 I usually find a zen. This, of course, always reminds me of Goldie Hawn in The First Wives’ Club, “I have some of my best ideas while working out!” I felt such a strange affinity for that movie considering I was 10 when it was released. Diane Keaton has owned my heart from the beginning. You guys understand, right? Good. I knew you were my people.

The First Wives Club

Speaking of my people, my Trader Joe’s only carried precooked sausages for years and it drove me batty. Now that they are stocking fresh ones I see it as my personal responsibility to buy them as often as possible. We all carry our crosses differently. The success of this meal requires you to maximize on the cooking times of each component of the dish. We’ll prep the sausages and tomatoes, stick them in the oven, start the rice, and then make the pesto while the rice and sausages do their separate things. You got this.

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Before…

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…and after

Roasted Sausages and Tomatoes with Pesto Serves 4-5

One package uncooked sausage (pick your favorite flavor)

12 oz cherry tomatoes

1 cup uncooked white rice (cooked to package instructions)

1/2 cup raw walnuts

Large handful basil leaves

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat the cherry tomatoes and sausages with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven until sausages are cooked and the tomatoes have burst, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the rice (or another starch of your preference) according to package instructions. When done, fluff, season with salt as needed, and set aside.

While the rice cooks, combine the walnuts and basil leaves in a blender or food processor. Begin blending on low until the nuts are in small pieces. Drizzle in olive oil while the blender is on low. The mixture will begin to come together and form a bright green sauce.

Plate the sausage and tomato mixture with the rice and top with pesto. Any leftover pesto can be refrigerated for up to five days. Cover sauce with plastic wrap to keep it from turning brown.

Valentine’s Day Three Ways

Every valentine a feminist valentine

I will fully admit to being agnostic at best about Valentine’s Day. It seems like a lot of pressure and, like, can’t we just love on each other every day? Plus, St. Valentine was martyred. Kinda gross. Buttttt you want to use the day as an arbitrary excuse to eat something great and enjoy the company of people you care about? You know I’m in. Restaurants are a madhouse on Valentine’s Day so my advice is to skip going out and cook something amazing at home.

Stay-in Option 1: Make-out in the Kitchen

Recipe: Maple Braised Rabbit and Carrots via Food 52

Cocktail: Amaro Smash

You’re sassy and perhaps a bit ambitious. Tackle some slightly more complex brine work and wow your dining companion with an unusual main course. Get your mack on. (You’re welcome.)

 

Stay-in Option 2: Barely get out of bed 

Recipe: Tony’s Steak from Dinner: A Love Story

Cocktail: Classic Old Fashioned

This steak is ideal for a relaxed timeline. The marinade takes less than five minutes to prep and then it just hangs out for four hours. Use the time to make a drink, stare across the couch, snuggle up to watch a movie, or debate philosophy for hours. Once you’ve worked up an appetite the steak grills quickly and pairs perfectly with roasted carrots or asparagus.

 

Stay-in Option 3: Friends forever

Recipe: Fontina, Fennel, and Onion Pizza via Martha Stewart

Cocktail: Mid-Winter Margarita 

Care for the singletons in your life with elaborate comfort food. Make individual pies or a large one to slice and share. Creamy fontina pairs nicely with the slightly licorice flavor of roasted fennel. Wash it all down with a grapefruit-y margarita and toast to great friendships.

In the Kitchen: Smokey Vegetable and Rice Soup

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Smokey Vegetable and Rice Soup | Liz Takes the World

Is there anything more comforting than a steaming bowl of soup? While the Northeast was buried in snow this week those of us on the Left Coast were enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures. It caused a bit of a disconnect for me. On one hand, it’s 60 degrees and sunny. But on the other, it’s still January. It gets dark by 6pm and all I want to do is curl up on the couch and binge watch The Good Wife. In this context, a vegetable forward soup makes a ton of sense. All the promise of spring grounded in the reality of winter.

This soup comes together fairly quickly. Don’t let the vegetables fool you, it’s rich in flavor and the bacon lends a smokey depth of flavor often missing. This is vegetable soup for non-vegetarians. This recipe is also an easily adaptable template. You could swap the kale for another leafy green or add mushrooms when you’re sauteing the other vegetables. Heck, you could stir in some cooked pasta instead of rice. Like so many things at LTTW, I want you to do you. Use what you have in the fridge. It is your life and your dinner.

Smokey Vegetable and Rice Soup Serves 4-6

1 cup uncooked white rice

3 slices bacon, diced

1 medium onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

5-6 ribs of celery, chopped

5-6 carrots, chopped

32 oz chicken broth

3 large handfuls of chopped kale

Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan cook white rice according to package instructions. Set aside.

While rice is cooking, heat a large pot or dutch oven before adding diced bacon. When bacon bits have crisped up and rendered their fat, add the onion and garlic. Allow onion and garlic to soften for 2-3 minutes before adding celery and carrots. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper to taste and cook for 5-7 minutes until tender but firm. Add chicken broth and bring to a low simmer before folding in the chopped kale. Kale will wilt and grow tender. Turn the heat off and stir in the cooked rice. Season again as needed.

Serve with a nice slice of crusty bread.

In the Kitchen: Cold Weather Grab Bag

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Slow cooker cassoulet

Recipe: Smoked Sausage Cassoulet via Oxmoor House

My iPhone abruptly stopped allowing me to take photos last week. I’d reached the limits of my phone’s memory and so dutifully began deleting reaction selfies (they’re the new reaction gif), instagram screenshots and……food photos. So, so, so many food photos. Meals out, cocktails consumed at home, actions shots that were, in the moment, intended for this very blog space. I love sharing recipes but find them the hardest posts to write because they are essentially “I made a thing. It was good. I think you might also enjoy putting it in your pie hole.”

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Roasted brussels sprouts and pear

Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pears and Pistachios via Food52

So here’s a round-up of three of the more delicious new things I’ve made and consumed in the past several weeks. In step with the season they all rely on some decent cooking time but are an honest attempt to warm you up from the inside. I made them and I think you might like them too.

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Beet and goat cheese tart

Recipe: Beet Tart with Wilted Beet Greens via Food52

In the Kitchen: 25 Minute Lentil Soup

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Red Lentil Soup | Liz Takes the World

Recipe: Red Lentil Soup from The Kitchn

Soundtrack: Spotify put together an awesome Alternative R&B playlist that I’ve been listening to on shuffle all weekend

Weird things I will admit on the internet: I’ve always been intimidated by dried beans and other legumes. The rinsing and soaking didn’t seem necessarily hard, it just seemed like a lot of lead time. When I first started cooking at home I was short on time and money so I split the difference and bought cheap canned beans. And you know what? They are totally fine. That is a completely shame free situation. I do it all the time. Zero shade thrown.

But maybe, just maybe, you want to try something new just for the sake of it. This soup is a great primer. Split red lentils are Dried Legumes 201. You’ve done the prereqs and are totally going to rock the group project. You’ve got this.

Lentil soup is quickly becoming a staple in my weeknight rotation. While some oil is heating up in a large pot, dice up a few handfuls of onion, celery, and carrot. Saute those for a few minutes (perfect time to pour yourself a glass of wine). Stir in the lentils and season the soup as appropriate. Add the chicken broth and let everything simmer for 20 minutes until the soup thickens and the lentils are tender and fall apart. I stir it occasionally but typically use this time to flip through instagram or my email while leaning against my kitchen sink drinking wine. In the last few minutes of cooking I’ll poke around the fridge for something to gussy it up with: a dallop sour cream or plain yogurt, finely chopped parsley, a pinch of shredded cheese, a small handful of leftover bread, thinly sliced apples, the possibilities are endless. Dig in and get warmed up!

In the Kitchen: Megan’s Zucchini Pancakes with Tomato Sauce

Soundtrack: This Is All Yours by alt-J

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Megan’s Zucchini Pancakes with Tomato Sauce

I was totally just minding my own business, flipping through instagram, while waiting for the bus Friday afternoon. My New York buddy Megan of the kickass Kates in the Kitchen (New Yorkers, take note!) posted a picture of this insane egg yolk dripped over a pile of zucchini pancakes and suddenly I knew exactly what I was having for dinner.

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Shredded and strained zucchini

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Megan’s Zucchini Pancakes

Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce is a darling of the food internet. It is heralded as magically rich and insanely easy. I’ve wanted to try it for some time….but just never did? Who knows? Won’t make that mistake again. This sauce is divine. It smells amazing, tastes amazing, is amazing. And unfairly easy. If you can turn your stovetop on and wield a can opener you are set.to.jet. Use the 45 minutes the sauce takes to simmer to prep and cook the zucchini pancakes and everything will be ready at the same time. Dinner perfected.

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Smell-a-vision required.

Marcella Hazan Tomato Sauce

Originally from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, now found everywhere on the internet

28 oz diced tomatoes (get good ones)

1 medium onion, peeled and halved

5 tbsp unsalted butter

Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a heavy bottom pot and cook over a low simmer for at least 45 minutes. Stir and break up tomatoes as needed.

Most variations of this recipe instruct you to remove the onion when the sauce is complete and “use it for something else”. I ate it with a fork and knife all on its own. Recommended.

Megan’s Zucchini Pancakes

From Foodie Can’t Fail

1 large zucchini, grated and squeezed of excess liquid

1/4 cup flour

1 egg

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp baking power

Salt and pepper to taste

Drain the shredded zucchini and remove as much additional liquid as possible. I like to lightly salt the zucchini and then prep the rest of the ingredients to help remove additional moisture. Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a saucepan.

Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl with a fork until evenly blended. Using damp hands, form patties and slip into heated oil. Fry on each side until golden and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel covered plate to absorb excess oil.

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Friday’s sunset

In the Kitchen: Linguine with Tomatoes and Sausage

Soundtrack: Popped Into My Head

(an on-going, experimental playlist built by the dark recesses of my brain)

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Linguine with Tomatoes and Sausage

Last week I had a surprise two hours to myself and found myself drawn to the kitchen in a way that’s been lacking lately. I have gotten out of the habit of eating much pasta but recently inherited the pantry leftovers of a friend who can no longer tolerate gluten. With some end of season cherry tomatoes to use up, I set to work on a pan sauce that would bridge the gap between summer and fall. The sausage gives the tomatoes a heft and depth that feels squarely autumnal. Topping with a dollop of ricotta is really just the right thing to do.

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Pan sauce tomatoes

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Everybody in the hot tub

Linguine with Tomatoes and Sausage

Serves 4

12 oz uncooked linguine

1/2 large onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb uncooked sausage, cut into 1″ slices (I prefer spicy pork, you do you)

1 pint cherry tomatoes

Whole milk ricotta

Basil, cut into ribbons

Prepare linguine according to package instructions. Drain when al dente and set aside.

While pasta is boiling, brown the sliced sausage in a heated skillet. Remove and set aside once cooked through.

Heat oil in a large sauce pan, add onions and garlic and cook until soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in whole tomatoes and cook until they start to soften. They’ll burst and release yummy juice. When the tomatoes are mostly soft stir the cooked sausage back in and deglaze the pan. You can use whatever you have around: chicken stock, wine, pasta cooking water, the idea is to add a bit of flavor and pick all those delicious burned on bits at the bottom of the pan. Stir cooked pasta into skillet and combine with pan sauce. Plate and top with a generous scope of ricotta and sliced basil.

S’mores Fest

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The spread

What do you do when your bestie/roommate/platonic life mate sends you Buzzfeed’s 39 S’Mores Hacks That Will Change Your Life? You take the hint.

As a huge fan of birthdays (a time of reflection and revelry) and a lover of all parties, I teamed up with the fearless Reuben to throw Kat a killer celebratory S’mores Fest. August in the Northwest is astounding so we had everyone meet up at Carkeek Park to enjoy the sunset over Puget Sound while grilling their sweet, sweet ‘mallows. People got creative! My personal favorite combo was grilled peach + marshmallow + nutella. Some sea salt dark chocolate made an appearance. Siiri blew our collective minds with her chocolate covered pepper bacon. The gluten free crowd was all about their GF chocolate chip cookies (giving the people what they want!).

I may be a lover of all parties but I’m head over heels obsessed with parties that come together quickly and cheaply. This spread would be easy to scale up or down and is infinitely customizable. (Please note: the Reese’s peanut butter cups are non-negotiable. You’ll thank me later.) Kiddos could be included with adult supervision. We indulged in a gorgeous mountain view but you could easily move this party into someone’s backyard. Heck, you could even make cast iron s’mores in your kitchen when it’s too cold to go outside. Hang out with your people already!

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Ladies who beach.

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View from Carkeek Park

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Look at those goons

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Grilling peaches

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A kid and his first s’more

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Pretty sunsets are pretty