Roasted Corn and Tomato Spaghetti


I have to be honest. I don’t create many fusion dishes. I’m not sure I have the expertise of any one genre so firmly under my control that I feel able to mash two of them up together. Before this recipe, I’d never tried it at all. That I can remember. And no, using spaghetti noodles in ramen instead of Udon noodles doesn’t count.

This was very much an attempt to use up fresh produce without it going bad and without getting bored of the same flavor combinations. While I could possibly eat nothing but tomatoes and basil all summer long, I fear that Señor may crave more diversity than that. Actually, I could probably convince him to eat just tomatoes and basil for a week or two. But still. That’s not very well-balanced now is it?

We both love Mexican food, thus our taco bar wedding reception. That taco bar was delicious and friends have told me they’re still dreaming about the amazing food. For real, she just said it this weekend. I wouldn’t lie about something so serious. And in all honesty, we are STILL eating through the leftovers. We had a small guest list and we had 20 percent of our responded guests not show. So we had a ton of leftovers. We’re almost done with them but the overwhelming amount of taco meat, tortilla shells and refried beans in our freezer definitely affected our desire to make tacos.

This recipe was my best attempt at bringing delicious Mexican food back into our lives without it looking or tasting anything like the beef, chicken, beans and rice in our freezer. It totally worked. In the heat of summer, I used canned beans instead of boiling my own. I didn’t have to plan this recipe in advance, I just dumped everything together and off we went. The corn had been roasted on the grill a few days earlier and was caramelized and smoky. The cilantro and basil were both about to turn. And thankfully, tomatoes are a staple of both cuisines. Which is maybe why I love them both so much? Or maybe that’s unrelated and it’s just that they’re awesome. That’s probably more likely.

In this dish, roasted grape tomatoes make most of the ‘sauce’ that covers the noodles, beans, corn and herbs. In the effort of full disclosure, this was delicious as a hot main dish and the a cold lunch the next day. This is also a super easy recipe to feed a bunch of dietary restrictions. Gluten free? Swap out the whole wheat noodles for brown rice noodles. Vegan or lactose intolerant? Skip the cheese topping. Delicious and versatile. I love that.


Roasted Corn and Tomato Spaghetti
(makes four servings)

8 oz whole wheat spaghetti noodles

20-30 grape tomatoes

2 cobs roasted corn (approximately 1 cup of kernels)

1 can black beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Dash of salt, black pepper, cayenne

Fresh cilantro

Fresh basil

1/2 cup shredded cheese

Heat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees. Be sure to let the noodles drain for a few minutes before tossing them with the dish to keep excess water from creating a soupy dish.

Prepare the noodles according to package directions.

While the water is heating, place the tomatoes in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place in the oven or toaster oven for roasting. I prefer the toaster oven because the tomatoes sit closer to the heating element and finish roasting much faster. The tomatoes are ready when the skins are shriveling and there is some liquid on the foil.

Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cobs of corn.

Drain the beans and rinse well. Let drain for five minutes to remove any excess liquids.

Place six ounces of water in a glass measuring cup. Add the chili powder, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir and microwave the mixture for 45 seconds.

Add the olive oil to a large skillet. Heat on medium. Add the water and spice mixture. Toss the black beans and corn in the skillet until the spices are fragrant. Add the noodles and roasted tomatoes to the skillet and gently toss to incorporate. Adjust spices as necessary.

Tear whole cilantro and basil leaves off a clean bunch of each herb. When the pasta is just about ready to serve, remove from heat and toss a handful of both cilantro and basil with the dish.

Serve immediately; garnish with fresh cilantro, basil and shredded cheese.


Roasted Ratatouille Soup


I guess it’s officially fall when I have a fridge full of veggies and instead of chopping them into a salad, I’m pulling out my stock pot. I love soup, so I guess I have to embrace the seasonal change for what it is. A chance to make a lot of different soups and put some twists into old favorites.

Strictly speaking, Ratatouille is not a soup per se. It’s generally sauteed vegetables covered in a tomato sauce. It’s cooked slowly and the sauce is not canned tomato sauce, but the sauce from roasted or sauteed tomatoes. The dish is often baked after the veggies are sauteed and it’s sometimes a filling or topping on rice, pasta or bread. Delicious, absolutely. But I was looking for something that stood on its own, perhaps with a hearty broth. To be completely honest, I had been itching to get my stock pot out and this was the perfect opportunity.

Ratatouille is a peasant dish that food snobs often argue about. What’s the right way to serve it, make it, eat it. What are the ingredients and how must you prepare it? Everyone from Julia Child to Wikipedia has an opinion on Ratatouille. The beauty of a peasant dish is that, in all likelihood, there is no wrong way to make it. Undoubtedly this dish evolved with the realization that summer and fall harvest veggies could be cooked together to make a very hearty meal for very little money. It was true in the 18th century and it’s still true today. I doubt very much that any two Ratatouille dishes are the same. I would guess though, that they’re all really yummy.

Ratatouille generally consists of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, onion, bell peppers, carrots, garlic and herbs. I had the tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, onion and garlic, but no zucchini. I had stuffed it earlier in the week and hadn’t replaced it yet. I did have potatoes though, so I swapped those two items. Although zucchini would have been delicious too, the pot was so full of delicious food it didn’t really matter.

I decided before I started cooking that what I really wanted was a roasted veggie soup. Too often vegetable soups are just plain broth with lots of veggies cooked in boiling broth. This can be delicious but it can also get old. Vegetables take on a completely different and delicious flavor when they’re roasted. The skins get crisp and a little charred. The insides are sweet and there’s a smoky flavor that you can’t get without high temperatures. And potatoes are always best when they have a bit of brown on them. So instead of just dumping everything into broth, I started by roasting bell peppers and onions. I cooked the potatoes in butter and olive oil over medium-high heat right in the stock pot. I roasted the tomatoes. I cooked the potatoes and eggplant in chicken broth and eventually added in the roasted vegetables. I added a healthy dose of garlic and a few shakes of smoked paprika and let it all boil into a warm, savory soup.

I burned my tongue tasting it. I added some aged cheddar, thinly sliced to the top. I buttered some bread. I burned my tongue again. Senor grew impatient waiting for it to cool and had to add an ice cube. I added an ice cube too. It was too good to wait. No one complained of being cold even though it was only 50 degrees outside.


Roasted Ratatouille Soup

1 large eggplant, cubed

2-3 pounds small potatoes, quartered

4 tomatoes, cut into pieces

1-2 onions, sliced

2 red bell peppers, sliced

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth

Garlic, sea salt, crushed red pepper, smoked paprika

Chop peppers and onions into small slices. Place on a foil-lined tray and roast at 450º for 15-20 minutes.

While the peppers and onions are roasting, add one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil to a stock pot and heat over medium-high heat. Chop the potatoes into quarters and dump into the pot as you go. Use small potatoes or, if you only have large ones, chop them into pieces small enough for a spoon. Stir the potatoes every few minutes to prevent burning. Partially cover the pot with the lid to help the potatoes soften. Be careful not to drip any steam condensation into the pot or you will get splattered with hot oil.

Chop the eggplant into large cubes. Toss with sea salt and let stand in a strainer. Toss occasionally. Before adding to the pot, rinse well with cold water.

When the potatoes are well-browned, add the eggplant and chicken stock. Turn the heat medium and cover. Stir occasionally.

When the peppers and onions are slightly roasted with black char marks and slightly wrinkled skin, remove and set aside. Add four chopped tomatoes to the oven/toaster oven and continue roasting.

Once the eggplant has softened and the broth starts to thicken, add the peppers and onions. Add the tomatoes once they are roasted. They don’t have to be completely done, a slight roast throughout will do.

Stir the entire pot and add generous portion of garlic, either fresh or powdered to the pot. Add sea salt slowly. Be sure to let it dissolve and give the broth a taste to see whether more is needed. Add about a teaspoon of smoked paprika and a small pinch of crushed red pepper. Let the entire pot simmer for ten minutes.

Taste the broth one more time and adjust seasoning as needed. Spoon up each bowlful and let sit at least ten minutes before eating. Top with cheese and serve with bread if desired.


Kale Chips

Lately it seems like the blogosphere, rather, the foodie blogosphere, has been buzzing with Kale chips. A food which, up until a few months ago I had never even heard of, are suddenly everywhere. Partly thanks to organic, locovore movements, partly thanks to the popularity of health food blogs and partly because kale is cheap, abundant and easily found, this snack food has taken off.

After reading several bloggers talk about them I decided it was well worth it to give them a try. Even more so because a giant bunch of kale is a dollar at the Farmer’s Market. What was stopping me? I had heard tale that these monstrous leaves, when roasted, would become as crunchy as a potato chip and would actually ‘crunch’ in your mouth. I was doubtful but resolved to give them a try.

There are three kinds of kale that you can generally find at any grocery store or market. Kale is the dark green, and purple leaves that look like thick, curly lettuce. Dinosaur kale is a flat leaf variety that’s also delicious. Kale can be eaten raw but some people find the taste a bit too strong when it’s raw. The leaves can also be a bit tough to chew. Luckily when roasted they crunch up and the flavor mellows out quite a bit. Another awesome feature about kale is that a very little seasoning goes a very, very long way. Just a tiny sprinkle of garlic salt will give you an intense flavor. If you’re not into that kind of thing, you might want to roast your kale sans seasoning the first time.

Kale chips are super easy to make but you do have to take some individual time with each leaf. After you clean the leaves, spin them dry or roll them up in a kitchen towel to remove excess water. Rip each leaf into pieces, keeping in mind that they will shrink quite a bit when baked. Most importantly, rip out the main ‘stem’ completely. This piece of thick fibrous material does not crisp up well and at best is a rubbery chunk to work through. Doesn’t sound appealing does it? Rip it out.

Kale chips are super easy and super delicious. They are, however, extremely crumbly so never eat them with a low cut top or without a toothbrush nearby. The crumbs are a force to be reckoned with. If you’re looking for a healthy alternative for a crunchy snack addiction, look no further. I could eat these things every day and be happy.

Kale Chips

One large bunch of kale, washed and de-stemmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt or other seasoning

Heat your oven to 350.

Rip the washed kale into pieces no bigger than your palm. Place the leaves into a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and seasoning of your choice. You can use other seasonings, like Mrs. Dash’s Chipotle blend or Chinese 5-Spice to mix up your flavors. Go with your favorites but start small, the flavor will intensify in the oven!

I use a giant Tupperware bowl with a lid to mix the kale with the oil and seasoning as it’s easiest to just pop the lid on and shake like crazy to mix. Alternatively, you can mix the kale with your hands, like you would mix the meat for a meatloaf or hand knead dough in a bowl.

Once coated place the kale on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. For the crispiest kale try to place the kale in an even, thin layer. This can mean a lot of cooking time and a lot of batches on trays. Although in the pictures here I placed each leaf individually that simply isn’t efficient. Two layers of kale should still roast and crisp properly for you and will make the process much quicker.

Bake them for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to brown. If you’re not sure if they’re done, take them out and let them cool. If they’re still a bit soggy, toss them and stick them back in the oven. They’re done when they’re not burnt, but have definitive crunch. Store like you would potato chips.