Category Archives: simple recipe series

Simple Recipe #14: Pasta and Ceci Bean Soup

We’re so used to canned soups that making it from scratch seems like too much of a chore.  However, a pasta with ceci bean soup is fairly easy to prepare and lasts for days.  It’s a healthy soup that is full of flavor, too.   This pot lasted three nights, which is a bit much if you get affected by gas issues (is that too much information?)

Ingredients:

Yellow Onion (1)

White Wine

Ceci or chick peas / garbanzo beans (2 cans)

Pasta  (a corkscrew shape such as Fusilli or Rotini)

Beef Bouillon

Fresh Sage

Fresh rosemary

Fresh garlic clove (1 – 2)

Pancetta (optional)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Recipe:

1 ) Chop onions and sauté in a large pot. This is the pot where you will make the soup.

2 ) Add white wine to the onions and cook until wine evaporates.  If you have pancetta, sauté until fully cooked. Sauté a clove or two of chopped garlic.

3 ) Once the onions are browned, add in enough water to fill half of the pot.  Heat the water and add in a spoon or two of beef bouillon.  Add in chopped sage leaves and a branch of rosemary. 

4 ) In the meantime, open one can of Ceci or garbanzo beans and put it into a food processor.  Add salt, pepper and olive oil and purée.  You want to create a creamy bean purée.  Add this purée to the large pot.

5 ) Add a cup and half of pasta to the large pot.  Also add in the other can of Ceci beans.  Cook for another 5 minutes or until pasta and beans are cooked.  (I confess: I did not pay as much attention here so I don’t know the exact cooking time, but this is something you can taste for done-ness).

6 ) Salt and pepper to taste.

Simple Recipe #13: Pasta with Red Sauce

To the surprise of most, we rarely eat red sauce in the Oil and Garlic household. Food blog readers may not be that surprised but most people I know equate Italian food with lots of pasta drenched in red sauce and don’t know about regional food differences.  It’s not that we don’t  like red sauces but we haven’t found any exceptional store-bought version. Plus it’s so easy to top pasta in other ways — with tuna;  pecorino and olive oil; peperoncino; garlic and oil, and so on.

Since there are few ingredients, try to use the best possible tomato sauce you can find, ideally “pomodori pelati San Marzano” (San Marzano plum peeled tomatoes in tomato juice) from the Campania region (Naples or Salerno province).
  
Ingredients:
San Marzano plum tomato sauce (1 can; Rega brand)

Fresh Basil

Red Wine

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sugar

Onions (1 or half an onion)

Garlic (optional)

Fine Sea Salt

Pasta (preferably spaghetti)

Parmigiano

Recipe:
1 )  Chop and sauté the onions in a deep pot. When the onions are almost done, add in sliced garlic cloves.  It is important not to overcook the garlic because it will get bitter and overwhelm the sauce.
 
2 ) Pour the tomato sauce into the same pot as the onions and garlic.  While simmering, add some red wine, salt and chopped basil.  Add in a teaspoon of sugar.

3 ) Let it simmer for at least 1 hour.

4 ) When sauce is close to ready, boil a pot of water and cook pasta as directed on the packaging.

Serve sauce over pasta and grated parmigano as the finishing touch.  If you make a big batch, you can enjoy for at least 2 nights over your favorite pasta.  My husband would also add that the right sauce/spaghetti ratio is just enough sauce to coat the pasta well but not so much that there is a ton of sauce left at the bottom of your plate when you have finished eating.  In other words, don’t drench it!

Simple Recipe #12: Baked Fennel Au Gratin

My husband once met someone who grew fennel in his vegetable garden. When he asked him how he cooked the fennel, the guy responded that he used the tiny leaves for tea and discarded the bulb (!)  Since then we’ve wondered how most people use this versatile and delicious vegetable. We see them in supermarkets all the time and it sometimes makes an appearance in magazines but we’ve never seen anyone buying them. Hopefully most people know better than to discard the good part!

This recipe is really easy and makes fennel a main dish or a very good filling side dish.

Ingredients:

1 ) Fennel bulbs (5 – 6)

2 ) Cotija cheese (or parmigano)

3 ) Breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning

4 ) Olive Oil

5 ) Salt and Pepper

6 ) Butter (optional)

Recipe:

1 ) Cut off the top leaves and discard.  Slice the fennel bulbs into thick slices.  Put in a large baking pan and drizzle liberally with extra virgin olive oil, plus some salt and pepper.

2 ) Broil for about 10 minutes until the tops are slightly brown.

3 ) Cover the entire pan with aluminum foil and seal tightly.  Tip: This is what makes it so easy. Normally you have to watch it and stir the fennel bulbs over to prevent burning. By covering it up and ‘steaming’ it, you can bake it and forget it for about 30 minutes.

4 ) Once the fennel is cooked thoroughly and softened up, take off the foil and add shredded cotija or parmigiano.  If the fennel has shed too much water, take the time to scoop some of the water out of the pan. Then sprinkle breadcrumbs over the fennel, covering the entire pan.  Spritz some water to keep the breadcrumbs moist.  You can also mix in a slice or two of butter for flavoring.

5 ) Bake for another few minutes until the topping is brown and the cheese is nicely melted.

Simple Recipe #11: Black Bean And Cheese Burrito

This is more about assembling food than cooking. However, I’m including it on my Simple Recipes list because it’s a good recipe for lunch

Ingredients:

1 ) Black beans (1 can)

2 ) Flour tortilla

3 ) Tapatio hot sauce

4 ) Shredded Mexican blend cheese

5 ) Fajita seasoning

6 ) Optional: Avocado, Salsa, Chicken (or other ingredients to mix it up)

Recipe:

1 ) Add fajita seasoning and a bit of salt to the black beans.

2 ) Scoop beans into the flour tortilla.

3) Add cheese.

4 ) Add tapatio sauce. Wrap the tortilla and heat in the microwave for 50 seconds to 1 minute.

What makes this dish super easy is that you can transport the individual ingredients to work and assemble.  I have an hour lunch so I find it much easier to prepare my lunch at work then at home. Plus, I leave the main ingredients at work and create other dishes using these.

For example, stash a bag of tortilla chips and add the beans, cheese and salsa to make nachos for a quick snack. Or boil rice the night before, bring some cooked chicken, and then assemble at work for a Mexican rice bowl (rice, beans, chicken and optional ingredients like cheese, green onions etc..)

Simple Recipe #10: Roasted Bell Peppers

This is more of an ingredient than a complete recipe but roasted red bell peppers really add a distinct flavor to salads and other dishes.  All you need are red bell peppers, extra virgin olive oil and salt.

Recipe:

1 ) Brush bell peppers all over with olive oil. Add some salt.

2 ) Put bell peppers in a baking pan and broil. Turn when the skin gets a bit black.  All in all, I think I broiled the bell peppers for an hour.

3 ) Take out and put bell peppers in a large bowl. Cover with clingwrap and let it steam. This makes it easy to peel off the skin.

4 ) In about 20 minutes, take out of the bowl. Peel skin off the bell peppers.

Voila! You’re done. I added this to my a pasta salad with broccoli, red onions and cheese.  This would also be good with cannellini beans or just mixed with feta for the simplest of salads.

Simple Recipe #9: Ripieni or Stuffed Bell Peppers

This is considered “simple” by my husband, while I would put it in the not-so-simple category.  It’s fairly quick to make but I wouldn’t make it on a weekday night after 7:30 p.m. (like he did).

Ingredients:

Red bell peppers (4)

White rice (enough to fill 4 bell peppers)

Capers

Eggs (3)

Tuna packed in olive oil (1 can)

Mexican sour cream (or a light type of cheese?)

Breadcrumbs

Extra virgin olive oil

Oregano, marjoram or other herbs

Recipe:

1 ) Slice the bell peppers in halves and take out stem and seeds. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and salt. Bake in the oven until softened.  (When I asked my husband how long, he said “by eye”)

2 ) In the meantime, boil white rice. We had leftover rice, which we helped push this dish to the simple category.

3 ) Mix the steamed rice with tuna, chopped capers, Mexican cheese, herbs, eggs, and olive oil.  Salt and pepper to taste.

4 ) Stuff the baked bell peppers with the rice/cheese stuffing.  Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top, covering the top entirely. Bake for approximately 30 minutes.  Again, go by eye.

5 ) Let it cool before serving and eating.

A quick tip about ripieni: The next night, my husband used the same filling to make stuffed tomatoes.  He added parsley and bread soaked in mik, but otherwise the filling was pretty much the same. In other words, make a lot of filling! Ripieni keeps very well and actually tastes even better the next day. 

I also noticed that I have tons of recipes with red bell peppers. Not surprising since I do love them.  If you love these versatile vegetables, too, check out some past recipes that include red bell peppers:

31 Simple Recipes: Salads #5, #6 and #7

This is another in a series of simple recipes. I thought it would be easy to come up with 31 but I’m struggling at #7. I guess I’m struggling with whether a recipe is truly easy or not.

I thought I would lump 3 easy-to-make salads in one big post!

#5 Green Bean and Potato Salad

– Steam green beans. Boil or steam the potatoes (russet or red) in a separate pot Mix together with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. You can also add a can of tuna.

#6 Greek Salad

Wash and cut romaine hearts lettuce. Chop tomatoes and slice red onions. Sprinkle in crumbled feta cheese (or cubed feta cheese). Mix and add in extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Many people add olives but I prefer it without.

#7 Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is an old stand-by and there are tons of recipes out there. I use fusilli or a mini-penne pasta and add in a variety of vegetables depending on what I have on hand and what’s in season. Some favorites include red bell peppers, squash, zucchini, lima beans, spinach, red onions, olives, arugula, peas, gouda or swiss cheese. I generally saute the vegetables in olive oil; of course some can be chopped or come straight from a can. For dressing, I mix in extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a dash of dijon mustard. This is also great for lunch at work.