Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

thai style peanut butter pasta

My house was the scene of a pasta extravaganza last weekend. Jim was away hunting so I indulged in two of my favorites. First up, a Thai-style pasta with peanut butter sauce loaded with veggies (whatever is left over in the frig), ginger, garlic, warm spices and a ton of cilantro. That’s it in the photo above. I couldn’t help but eat two bowls.

The main veggie in my peanut sauce was sliced broccoli stems. We put chopped broccoli florets on our nightly salad so I always have leftover stems in the refrigerator. I save them up and use them in frittatas, vegetable sautés or wherever else I’d like some broccoli flavor. Don’t throw them away!

The following night I took the opportunity to make a pasta I know he’d hate since he’s not a fan of blue cheese (what a fool!): gorgonzola pasta with spinach, bacon, mushrooms and red onion. Lordy do I love this. If you’re a blue cheese lover, do not deny yourself. Another two-bowl night.

Earlier in the week, I made sweet potatoes with tahini butter from Bon Appetit. We eat a lot of sweet potatoes so I’m always looking for new ideas. This recipe is promising but I didn’t care for steamed sweet potatoes—the skin was too soggy, especially after the leftovers spent a day in the frig.

Instead of steaming, if time is tight, poke the potatoes all over with a fork and nuke them for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the size, then finish them off at high heat in the oven or toaster oven. Or just roast them if you have the time. I liked the tahini butter—interesting, in a good way, flavors.

Last night, I made a Thanksgiving recipe to see if we loved it as much as I remembered. We did. It’s my version of the traditional green bean casserole, no cans of soup involved. Instead, you make a simple bechamel sauce (or white sauce). The casserole is loaded with mushrooms and other aromatics and topped with oven-“fried” sweet onion rings.

For the main, I made ham steaks with juniper cream sauce. I saw the photo on this Taste recipe and just had to try it. I cut the recipe in half. Jim wasn’t a big fan of the sauce but he merely dipped a finger in to try it. When combined with the ham, it was a completely different experience. I loved it.

I just looked at the ham photo on Taste again. The recipe says to strain the sauce, which I did, although I forgot to add the parsley, but the sauce in the photo is not strained. Hmm.

Another note on that recipe: use sherry vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. You will not regret adding sherry vinegar to your kitchen cabinet. It is so much better than any other vinegar, in my opinion. Sort of luscious.

The other night, we had cumin-roasted vermillion snapper w cilantro sauce. This New York Times recipe calls for salmon but I wanted to use some of the fish from my seafood share that I had to freeze during our busy fall of weekends away. I didn’t mix the spices (cumin, smoked paprika) together. I just sprinkled them from the jars onto the fillets.

On the side, spicy roasted daikon radish fries, a recipe I found via Google on the Cooking on the Weekends blog. I have a ton of daikon radish in the frig from our CSA share. I figured they would keep well while I decided what to do with them. I like these “fries” although only the real skinny ones got crispy. Feeling lazy, I used ground ginger instead of fresh.

That’s my week in the kitchen. Now it’s time to plan menus for the upcoming week, including Thanksgiving. I’ll bring the green bean casserole, a dessert (TBD), maybe another side or cranberry sauce. Tis the season for feasting!

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