Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pasta with Spicy Garlic Shrimp

September, I hardly knew you. Where have you gone? But no worries, I'll be fine without you.  In fact, I've already moved on, to something orangier and redder.  Something that offers the promise of... candy corn! Yes, it's my old/new love: October.  My skin just fits better in October, the world feels right.  It's without a doubt my favorite time of the year.  (Geez, August, don't get bent out of shape.  I love you, too, it's just that October smells so nice...)

I've planted some arugula in the garden, and am pulling my cardigans out of boxes. Life doesn't get much better. Sure, the country's collective net worth is $.98, but thoughts of October's intoxicating blend of pumpkins and apples make me forget my worries. 

Pasta with Spicy Garlic Shrimp


1/2 lb pasta
2 TB olive oil 
5-7 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped or grated
1 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 TB tomato paste
1/2 c pureed tomatoes
1 tsp (or more) red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste 
handful of parsley, roughly chopped
fresh lemon juice


Cook pasta according to directions, in salted water. 

Meanwhile, add olive oil to a skillet that has been heated over medium-low heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, about 10 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove onions and garlic to a bowl, leaving oil in skillet. 

Turn skillet to medium-high, and add shrimp.  Cook for about 1 minute per side, or until just pink.  Turn heat off, and add onions, garlic, tomato paste, tomato puree, and red pepper flakes to skillet.  Stir to combine.

Using tongs, remove pasta from pasta water, and put in skillet.  Some pasta water is necessary to achieve desired consistency, so there is no need to drain pasta.  Reserve 1/2 c pasta water before emptying pasta pot.  

Combine pasta with shrimp mixture using tongs.  Add more red pepper flakes if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add more pasta water if desired to achieve a thinner sauce.  Immediately prior to serving, mix in parsley.  Top each plate with a dash of lemon juice. Serves 4.  

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lentil Loaf

Like so many vegetarian entrees that I am coming to love, this one will not win any beauty contests. And there is something very satisfying about that-- food as substance rather than form. I have never been a fan of food that's prettier than it tastes. I'd rather go to a restaurant that pays attention to procuring fresh, healthy and sustainable ingredients instead of slavishly arranging sub-par ingredients on the plate.

Probably part of the challenge of helping vegetarian food reach the masses is making it look more appealing. Fresh ingredients are beautiful, and finding way to entice people shouldn't be too big of a challenge. That being said, the photo of this loaf is probably not going to drive people to put their steak knife down. But the flavor was spot on, and eaten with rice it provides a complete protein via complementary protein sources.

Granted, there is still some confusion as to whether vegetarians need to eat certain combinations of food in the same meal, or if it's sufficient just to generally eat a varied diet. The creator of the idea of complementary proteins now believes that a varied diet will provide sufficient protein, as do the vast majority of nutritionists. But, still, you can't go wrong with rice and beans.

Equally as important, this is an affordable meal to make. So often, eating healthy food seems out of reach, but beans are an inexpensive way to eat well. I used fresh mushrooms, which takes the cost up, but canned mushrooms would be a fine stand-in, especially since all the ingredients are being cooked anyway.

Lentil Loaf


cooking spray
1 1/2 c dried lentils
2 carrots, sliced finely into disks
1 TB vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped or grated
16 oz mushrooms (I used a mix of cremini and white)
1/2 c chopped roasted red pepper
1 TB thyme
1TB cumin
2 TB Worcestershire
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper to taste


Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside. Preheat oven to 450.

Place lentils in a pot with water to cover by an inch. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down and allows lentils to simmer for about 30 minutes. Add carrots, and simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes. Drain well, and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Saute onions for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add mushrooms, and saute until mushrooms have released all their liquid and mushrooms almost stick to pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine lentil mixture with onions and mushrooms and red pepper. Season with thyme, cumin, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Add egg, and combine all ingredients. Spoon mixture into loaf pan. Bake at 450 for 30 minute, or until loaf starts to pull away from sides of pan. Serves 4.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Oven Crisped Fish

What was your favorite moment in Thursday's presidential debate? I have two: one when poor Barack (his hair looks much more grey than when the campaign began, don't you agree?) called John "Tom".  The other would have to be when John/Tom (aka man-who-looks-he-is-stuffed-with-iron-filings) was talking about health care. Rather than say individuals and their family 'members' he started to say individuals and their 'deceased'. Klassy, John/Tom, way to convey that soft, human side that has been so elusive thus far.

Debate dinner was crispy fish. I used tilapia, but any flat fish would do the trick. Leftovers would be great in a pita with a tangy tartar sauce and shaved green cabbage. 

Oven Crisped Fish


cooking spray
1 lb flat fish (such as tilapia), patted dry with paper towels
4TB whole wheat flour
1 egg beaten
1 c panko bread crumbs
1/2 c finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 450.  Place a baking rack on a baking sheet, and spray rack with cooking spray. Set aside.

Set up three large, shallow bowls.  Place the flour in the first bowl, and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Pour the beaten egg into the second bowl.  Place the panko in the last bowl. Place bowls side by side. 

Take each fish filet and dust both sides with flour, then place in egg mixture, then dredge in panko to coat thoroughly.  Place on baking sheet, and sprinkle with cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 20 minutes, or until fish flakes easily.  For a very crispy outside, turn oven to broil for last 3-4 minutes.  Serves 4. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blueberry Banana Muffins

I haven't found the answer to this eternal question yet: how many irregularly shaped muffins does it take to erase the memory of a really bad day at work? But I am getting closer.

After (unsuccessfully) chasing my cat around the living room with an overgrown zucchini-- (Me: "Come on Simone, it's a photo-op! You love having your picture taken! And! The zucchini is bigger than you!" Cat: "For the love of all things normal, please stop that, Mommy. I will not submit to your absurd still-life idea. I am insulted that you think that a picture of me would be enhanced by the presence of a huge, probably tasteless squash. Unbelievable.")-- I was too dejected to even use the zucchini in the muffins.

So blueberry banana, it was. I used very ripe bananas that I had previously stashed in the freezer, as well as a handful of fresh blueberries I had frozen as well. I thawed them out, and they were ready to go. This recipe is based loosely on Mark Bittman's basic muffin recipe, although I made quite a few changes.

Blueberry Banana Muffins


cooking spray
1c whole wheat flour
1c white flour
1/4 c sugar
3 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp clove
1/2 tsp ginger
pinch allspice
1/2 c soy milk
3 TB canola oil
1 egg
3 very ripe bananas
1 c blueberries


Preheat oven to 400. Spray a 12 muffin tray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl (through allspice). Set aside. Combine all wet ingredients, except blueberries, in a separate bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredient bowl, and pour in the wet ingredients.

Mix gently with a wooden spoon, stopping when ingredients are combined. Add more soy milk if needed. Batter should be thick, lumpy and moist. Carefully fold in blueberries.

Spoon mixture into muffin tray. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Check muffins for doneness with a wooden toothpick. Makes 12.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Roasted Grape Tomatoes

My mom warned me: some time this past month her grape tomatoes had gone from sugary sweet to sassily tart. Maybe they got bitter about the end of summer? Something gave these little orbs an attitude. I decided the only fitting treatment for them was Hansel & Gretel style: into the oven, my pretties.

I seasoned them with salt and pepper and put them on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. They cooked for about an hour at 400 degrees, and then I turned the oven off and left them to roast some more in the cooling oven.

They taste, as husband said, not unlike a tomato craisin, if such a thing existed. Slightly caramelized, and quite tart, almost like a sundried tomato. They'll be lovely in an omelet, sandwich or with fish. Thanks, Mom!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Spinach Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette Topped with Pan Fried Anchovy Tofu

I think I have been cramping my own style, so to speak. Uugggh someone put that sentence out of its misery. 1) Cramping my style = gross; 2) So to speak = land o' cliches.

But anyway, the bottom line is (more business speak, good gravy!), my current self-proclaimed mandate that all the recipes on salty girl must come from my own head turns out to be pretty draconion. It's affecting what I'm cooking: or rather, what I'm not cooking. I love hunting for recipes, but the fun is definitely tempered if you know you'll never use the recipe.

Time to break free! I still aspire to keep creating recipes- it's one of my favorite things about cooking. In the beginning, I wasn't even aware of the convention of listing the ingredients in the order they are used in the recipe (makes sense). So, I've learned a lot from the process. But re-inventing the wheel (hello, it's still cliche day on planet salt) isn't rewarding, so I'm giving my self permission to go back to cooking other people's recipes once in a while.

This recipe is an original (as far as I know). It was eaten after a fairly hideous 60 mile bike ride. Pain! Joy! You get the picture.

Spinach Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette Topped with Pan Fried Anchovy Tofu

Ingredients: (Tofu)

1 + 1 TB olive oil
salt and pepper
2 blocks drained extra-firm tofu, sliced into thirds, and then thirds again
1/2 white onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tin anchovies, with oil (the kind wrapped around a caper if you can find it)
splash of lemon juice

Ingredients: ( Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing)

Juice of 1 lemon
2 TB olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
10 oz fresh baby spinach
Lemon wedges


In a large skillet, heat 1TB oil over medium-high heat. Pat tofu with paper towel to remove any remaining water before placing in skillet. Season both sides of tofu with salt and pepper. Pan fry tofu on all sides, until brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Add remaining oil to skillet, and heat over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sautee until soft. Add anchovies to mixture, and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, and add tofu. Combine ingredients, and add a splash of lemon. Season to taste. Set aside.
Combine ingredients for vinaigrette, and toss spinach in dressing. Serve spinach topped with tofu and a wedge of lemon. Serves 4.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Oven Roasted Tilapia with Baby Portobello Sauce

Sweet 31.  Yeah, I've never cared much for my birthday, but the reality is, damn. I am in my 30s now. And not so fired up about it.  Before you go concluding that I am a vain, crazed woman, please allow me to clarify. It's not a fear of wrinkles.  It's just that I have so much crap I want to do in my life that I am a bit panicked by the prospect of cramming it all into the next 60 years. How is one lifetime ever enough?? 

Sigh.  But, at least things are pretty amazing while you are trying to cram it all in. 

This was breakfast one day on our break from the world.  Divine. Not too much cooking occurred while we were away, because honestly, how much can you cook white wine and Cambozola ?

While I was busy not cooking, I read a lot, and also watched copious amounts of Robert DeNiro movies. That wasn't so much by design, more just what the Netflix overlord decreed for the week.  Consequently, by mid-week, my tough guy accent was pretty appalling.  Husband was a good sport about it.  The accent and me waking up at five a.m. expecting a home invasion. 

I arrived back home to find the garden in somewhat of a stage of mutiny.  My god forsaken tomatoes seem to have taken the summer off.  The beans and eggplant however luckily got the memo that their only job in life is to grow, and have been complying. 

Here are some very festive squash: 

Oven Roasted Tilapia with Baby Portobello Sauce


cooking spray
1 lb Tilapia
1TB olive oil 
1/4 white onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 lb baby portobello mushrooms, quartered
1 TB tomato paste
red wine vinegar 
red pepper flakes 
salt and pepper to taste


Season both sides of tilapia filets with salt and pepper.  Spray a foil-lined baking sheet with cooking spray and then arrange the tilapia on the sheet.  Roast tilapia in a preheated 450 oven for about 8 minutes, or until fish flakes easily.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic, and saute until soft.  Turn heat down to medium-low and add mushrooms to skillet. Saute for five-ten minutes, until mushrooms have released liquid and are soft.  If needed, add small amounts of water to mushroom mixture to prevent it from sticking to skillet while sauteing.  

Remove skillet from heat.  Add tomato paste and a splash of red wine vinegar to the mixture and stir to combine.  Season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Serve tilapia with mushroom sauce on top.  Serves 2.