Tortellini, Spinach, & “Sausage” Soup – 1/67

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Dear blog followers, all 7 of you, what would you say if I changed this up a little bit?

This past weekend, I was delighted to be surrounded by the wonderful women in my life at my bridal shower. It still seems sorta surreal, the feeling of 35 women from all moments of my life answering Ilanna-related trivia questions and getting to know each other over silly games. There were cousins (flying in from Michigan!), aunts (Vermont!), grandmas (well, they’re local…), generations-old family friends (Toronto!), Daniel’s amazingly supportive family (Texas!), and a smattering of my friends from middle school, college, and life in New York City. The only word I can use to describe the weekend is faklempt — overwhelmed by love and kindness and good wishes. Thanks, mom and sister, for putting this all together.

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The brunch will live on by the recipe book these women put together for me, filled with holiday favorites, easy dinners, and lots of desserts. I’m so lucky to have this collection of recipes (and new kitchen implements and ingredients) to cook from for the next forever. (Although it’s not exactly like I’m a little country Pollyanna who’s never cooked a meal and is now forced to make dinner every night for her new husband, who then scolds her for overcooking the chicken. Actually, to be honest, I probably would overcook chicken if I tried to make it since I have no idea how. Well then.)

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All this to say, Daniel and I want to cook every recipe from this new binder by our first anniversary. By March 16, 2020, we will have made all 67(ish) dishes so lovingly bestowed on us. I’ll try to blog them. We’ll see how quickly this fails (please don’t hold it against me if this is the only one.)

To start, tortellini “sausage” spinach soup! Easy and perfect for this day, the first day I had to break out my giant winter jacket. I took a couple liberties with it. Reminds me of the meals we’d make in college in my senior year apartment 🙂 

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one year ago: tapado (coconut fish stew) (also this totally wasn’t a year ago, but… it was in 2017?)
two years ago: mizuna miso soup (soup theme!!)
three years ago: butternut and black bean stuffed poblano peppers
four years ago: cheesy bulgur risotto with broccoli and tomatoes 

Tortellini, Spinach, and “Sausage” Soup

4-6 servings

Saute one chopped onion in olive oil in a big pot until it’s soft, about 10 minutes. Add 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 or 2 chopped carrots, a big pinch of red pepper flakes, some smoked paprika, and some veggie sausage, cut into small chunks. (I did two “sausages”, though the recipe called for a pound, and it was enough.) Cook for another 10 minutes or so, until sausage is browned and carrots have softened.

Add: 32 ounces broth, a 28-oz can crushed tomatoes, a bunch of chopped basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down heat. Simmer for 25 minutes.

Add a 9-oz package of refrigerated tortellini and two big handfuls of baby spinach. Cook for 7 minutes, uncovered, until tortellini is soft. Serve each portion with extra basil and grated parmesan.

Thanks to Daniel’s cousins Michele and Robin for the base recipe and the bowls! 1 down. 66 to go.

 

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Baked Eggs and Spinach, Spanish-ish Style

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Reasons I should be eating cake for breakfast today instead of greens:

  • I survived this week.
  • A week which consisted of dress rehearsal and final performance for my, shall we say, incredibly stubborn current group of senior citizen actors I devised a play with. Hoo boy this was a tough one. Cake deserved.
  • A week which also consisted of rehearsals every day for the show I’m directing for Bond Street Theatre — our production of The Law of the Jungle — originally created in Afghanistan and currently restaged with teens from our weekend workshop series. Friday was opening night, and they killed it! Cake definitely deserved.
  • A week which also consisted of visiting the final senior center theater program I oversaw, wayyy out in East Elmhurst, Queens.
  • Monday is the first day of Urban Stages Summer Camp, for which I’m the director. The staff is trained, the theater is set up, the campers (more than we’ve ever had!) are ready to descend. And this administrator is feeling confident. (Cake!)
  • Other things accomplished this week to celebrate: we submitted visas for our upcoming China trip(!), got a good start on our wedding website, ordered a test save the date, and I found time to make muffins.
  • Also this country is going to shit and it’s terrifying, so I think cake for breakfast is the least of our concerns.

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Reasons I should be eating greens for breakfast instead of cake:

  • My fridge has been taken over by CSA greens. Like SERIOUSLY taken over. Send help.
  • (Also, I definitely ate this with half a leftover raspberry lime muffin I made for my teens, so I ended up with the best of both worlds.)

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Practicality, psh — these eggs also taste great. I say “Spanish-ish” because this recipe contains two of my favorite Spanish ingredients — smoked paprika and manchego cheese — but I don’t actually know if this is consumed in Spain. But I do know it’s delicious and that now I have one less bundle of greens to deal with in the fridge.

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four years ago: easy rhubarb cake 
three years ago: mustard greens with oyster sauce and garlic oil 
two years ago: Lebanese un-stuffed eggplant with yogurt sauce 
one year ago: tapado (Caribbean fish, coconut, and plantain soup)

Baked Eggs and Spinach, Spanish-ish Style

a swanky original

½ pound spinach (about 3 big handful)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 giant garlic clove, minced
big pinch red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon red wine vinegar
a couple splashes hot sauce (this is my favorite and adds even more smokiness)
Non-stick spray
2 eggs
shredded manchego (or cheese of choice)
fresh oregano, minced (optional)
s&p

Preheat oven to 375F.

If starting with farm-fresh spinach, remove stems and rinse. (My favorite way to do this is in a big bowl — fill with greens and cold water, hold greens to one side and drain, and repeat three times. Takes a little while but is quite effective.) Dry on clean kitchen towels, or a salad spinner if you didn’t break yours last week (oops). Give a rough chop.

Heat a big saute pan over medium heat. Warm olive oil. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for about a minute, until your kitchen smells great. Add spinach all in one go, and sprinkle with generous pinches of salt, pepper, and the smoked paprika. Then mix together. As spinach cooks down, add vinegar and hot sauce. Turn off heat when spinach is dark green and totally shriveled. For me this took about 3-4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Get out two oven-safe ramekins and spray with Pam or other non-stick spray. Arrange half of spinach in each. Make a little divet in the middle and crack one egg into each divet. Sprinkle eggs with salt, pepper, and manchego cheese.

Put ramekins on a rimmed baking tray (for easy maneuverability) and bake until whites are set but the yolk is still a bit runny. (In my notoriously slow oven this happened around minute 21, but I began checking around 15 minutes.) Sprinkle with oregano and extra hot sauce if you’d like. Let it sit for a moment before eating — everything will be hot!

Other things I’ve made with CSA ingredients this week:

  • a salad to use up lettuce, fresh oregano, and radishes
  • a Callaloo soup that I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of (I blame the okra)
  • raspberry lime muffins
  • lettuce wraps with hummus and curry roasted cauliflower

Gochujang-Roasted Squash Pasta Salad

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Some things that have happened since July 3rd (the last time I posted here… yikes!)

  • I saw the total eclipse on my birthday on a ranch in Idaho, after two days of amazing hikes with my family. Can’t think of a better way to ring in my 28th year. Also, Hanna made me an amazing red wine chocolate cake that I might need every year from here on out…

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  • I made another wedding cake! (Although this one not of the tiered, and therefore uber-impressive, variety.) Despite its’ singular level, it was a giant success and work of love, and I couldn’t be happier to bestow it upon dear friends. Congrats, Michael and Joanna!

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  • And while we’re on this wedding tangent, Daniel and I got engaged! I am the luckiest lady in the whole world. After 4½ years together, he’s not ready to call it quits yet! Thankfully it happened right before the Texan pig roast and not at it, as I can’t believe that would be the most auspicious way to start the next chapter of my life. (But hey, I tried the pig! And didn’t hate it. But no need for any more pig for another 5 years or so.)

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  • Daniel, my adorable fiance, started a new job. He went out to California for three weeks, leaving me by my lonesome. I kept busier than I meant to, but did make some great dinner + leftovers for myself. One week was a giant batch of sweet potato curry, one week featured cauliflower potato soup, but the third week had this salad on repeat: Gochujang-roasted squash pasta salad. Let’s just say it was a week of exciting lunch times. California shmalifornia.

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  • Daniel and I embarked on a gnocchi-making project, a homemade pho adventure, introduced friends to NYC’s best deep dish pizza, had a “battle of the city” (NYC vs SF) pupusa contest (NYCs are cheaper and bigger), discovered the cutest onigiri restaurant near my work, and ate a good many heirloom tomato and white bread sandwiches. I think this is the part of married life I’m looking forward to — the little discoveries we keep finding together, the nightly ritual of sharing a meal, and working side-by-side on projects, big and small. This is how you measure, measure a 5-month-gap. 😉
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Proud of our veggie pho! From Bowl by Lucas Volger

Honestly, when I was making that Gochujang-roasted squash pasta salad I wasn’t really concerned with documenting or taking pictures. But after I ate it for lunch a couple days in a row, I figured it was worth sharing with the world. If you’re looking for something easy, healthy, filling, and cheap, look no further. As such, please allow me a slide for the photos, and use your judgements when following this loose recipe, you talented cooks, you. 

one year ago: key lime pie with salty cracker crust
two years ago: quichon de verdures (Mayan veggie stew)
three years ago: buttermints and mushroom and farro stuffed acorn squash

Gochujang-Roasted Squash Pasta Salad

(squash recipe from Bon Appetit)

1 smallish butternut squash
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (I used black this time but either works)
1 big tablespoon gochujang (Korean pepper paste — could try with sriracha or sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons neutral oil (canola, veg)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 cucumber (unpeeled is fine)
1 red bell pepper
Some big handfuls baby spinach, torn
2 scallions, minced
Bow-tie pasta (I boiled up about a ¼ of a box)

Dressing Ingredients:
Honestly I didn’t measure anything here. I’d start with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½-1 teaspooon toasted sesame oil, a big squeeze of honey, and some splashes rice vinegar or lime juice.

Step 1: Squash. Preheat oven to 425. Make squash marinade by combining sesame seeds, gochujang, oil, and soy sauce in a big bowl. Peel squash and slice into small disks. Add to marinade bowl and mix so squash is evenly covered. Transfer to a single layer on baking sheets. Roast up for about 25-30 minutes, or until caramelized and soft and nutty and perfect.

Step 2: Salady things. Cut bell pepper into thin matchstrips. And do the same with the cucumber, getting rid of some seeds. Rinse out that bowl you made the squash marinade in and use it to assemble salad ingredients: spinach, bell pepper, cucumber, scallions, cooked pasta.

Step 3: Dressing. Make some dressing! You don’t need much, since squash is already very flavorful. You just want a little something to add some flavor to the greens and pasta. Start with the dressing recipe above and adjust to your liking. (Don’t try adding tahini, it was a total mistake.)

Step 4: Finish and eat! Add cooked, warm squash to salad bowl (it will wilt the spinach a bit). Add dressing. Taste and doctor until you reach your personal Gochujang-Roasted Squash Pasta Salad nirvana.

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Uh, right, not squash pasta salad, you’ve seen enough of that. I wanted to end on a pupusa note. Yum. 

Rhubarb, Chickpea, and Spinach Stew with Cilantro-Lemon Yogurt Sauce

all done best

  1. Rhubarb can indeed be used in something other than pies. Savory things! Although pie is also a good idea. So is crumb cake.
  2. I have been finding myself, for the first time in my life, saying “I’m watching the game,” in response to people asking me about my plans. I’M WATCHING SPORTS. WORLD CUP SOCCER SPORTS. And it’s FUN and I GET SPORTS. It’s fun watching sports with other people who like watching sports! Ah, wisdom.
  3. Running into someone you haven’t talked to since their Bat Mitzvah at a trendy bowling place in Brooklyn while waiting for a world music concert to start is, believe or not, QUITE awkward. If you’ve had nothing to say to each other in roughly 10 years, don’t be the one to suggest meeting up for coffee first. Also, are you supposed to introduce your significant other, who has been quietly sitting beside you nursing his IPA and trying desperately to seem suddenly fascinated by the surroundings, to this forgotten middle school acquaintance? I’m going to hope “no” is the answer to this question. Sorry, Amanda, I now remember your name but still don’t really want to talk to you.
  4. If you are currently tired of googling “job nyc ngo theater” and “grad school necessary? non-profit”  and “how to curly hair humidity” and “tickets costa rica asap”, it is never NOT a bad idea to make curry. Especially if it has aforementioned savory rhubarb, spinach (thankyouCSA for my overflowing spinach fridge situation), and chickpeas (FAVORITE). And then you can feel creative for inventing a yogurt-cilantro-lemon-honey sauce and feel validated in your quests to become a creative and cultured professional human. (Although I’m also not saying it’s a GOOD idea either.)

Rhubarb, Chickpea, Spinach Stew with Cilantro-Lemon Yogurt Sauce
slightly modified from Joanne Eats Well with Others

Curry Ingredients:
1 sweet potato
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 tbsp minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup vegetable broth, divided
2 stalks rhubarb cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 cups spinach leaves, torn into smaller pieces

Yogurt Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
1 lemon
1/2 tsp honey

Prepped Ingredients

Rachael Ray is just so darn excited about those spinach leaves. Let’s ignore her, shall we… Next time, homemade! (yeah, okay)

1. Preheat over to 400 degrees. Wrap the sweet potato in tin foil and put in oven on the top shelf. Keep it there until pierce-able with a fork. Test for pierce-ability at half an hour. Should be done by the time recipe is done! And yeah, okay fine, this step isn’t TOTALLY necessary but, really, who doesn’t appreciate some tasty roasted sweet potato goddness for almost no additional work?

2. Make the sauce: combine chopped cilantro, greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, juice from half a lemon, and honey. Mix to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. Make the spice mix: Heat 1 T olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover, and cook for about 2 minutes or until the mustard seeds start popping. Cook 1-2 minutes after that, or until they stop popping, shaking the skillet frequently so that they don’t burn. It smells like popcorn! Turn heat to low, and stir in the ground cumin, ginger, and garlic. Continue cooking on low heat until you can smell the ginger/garlic. Pour into a small bowl, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

4. Curry time!

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Spinach is amazing. Always looks so overwhelming and then you blink and it’s gone.

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  • Heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in that same pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 10 minutes or until the onion begins to brown.
  • Add the rinsed chickpeas and 1/2 cup broth. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the chickpeas are warmed through.
  • Stir in the rhubarb and the remaining 1/2 cup broth. Cook for 6 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until spinach wilts, about 3 minutes more. Stir frequently to make sure everything gets all mixed together. Stir in the spice mixture and continue to cook over medium heat for another minute or two while stirring. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Want to serve it with couscous? Cool, so did I!
Heat 1/2 T olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 c Israeli couscous and 1/2 t lemon zest. Toast couscous until it smells nutty and grains have turned a uniform light brown. Cover with vegetable broth/water and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain and serve!

6. Plate it! Start with a big spoonful of couscous. Then, either next to or atop, add curry. Elegantly add cubed roasted (peeled) sweet potato chunks and then cover all that deliciousness with cilantro yogurt sauce. EAT!

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Please note a) the swanky sweet potatoes and b) the red pepper in the corner. It was not a helpful addition so it isn’t in the ingredient list or recipe! Feel free to add, however, if you need to use up a pepper, like me.

…and then if you’re lucky, you eat PIECES OF VELVET cake on a glorious Thursday summer evening outside at public picnic tables with a cute sassy lady. Lucky you!

we ate cake