Pasta with Creamy Smoked Paprika Sauce

All the houseguests are gone, and our home seems so quiet.  We had a lovely weekend; full of memorable firsts.  First visits, first subway ride to Chinatown, first golf lesson in the backyard, first attempt at true housebunny-hood, first time we lost the bunny…

You know, all those things you go through as new homeowners.  What, you telling me you never lost track of your bunny after opening the ENTIRE first floor to her? Well, somehow she found a way to get upstairs and I found her sniffing around the laundry basket in our bedroom.

Silly rabbit, upstairs is for people.  For the most part though, she’s taken to her new life quite well.  My mom commented on how social she is.  While she won’t always let you pet her or pick her up, she won’t run away from new people, and lounged about in the living room with us while we watched golf.

And then I attempted to teach Luke how to play golf.  But that’s a story for a different day.  Let me tell you about this pasta.  As you may know, I love pasta, noodles and all things long, thin and starchy.  I also happen to love smoked paprika and roasted garlic.  I think you know where this is going.

This pasta is pretty easy to throw together and happens to taste amazing.  I used angel hair pasta, but you can use any kind of long pasta, just keep in mind that the thinner the pasta, the more you need to use to soak up the sauce.  I ended up using almost an entire pound of pasta.  Leftovers are always welcome.

Pasta with Creamy Smoked Paprika Sauce

Adapted from Bev Cooks

Makes about 4 servings (or more with thinner pasta)

1 head garlic with the end chopped off
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp flour
¼ cup dry white wine
1 tsp honey
1 cup milk
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ pound long pasta (more for a thinner pasta like angel hair)
¼ cup chopped parsley

 fresh parmesan cheese for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place the garlic head in a small sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with oil and a tiny pinch of salt. Wrap up and roast 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the bubbling slows, whisk in the flour. Once fully combined, pour in the wine and whisk for about 30 seconds.  Add the honey and whisk another 10 seconds. Pour in the milk and slowly whisk until it thickens into a nice cream sauce, about 2 minutes. Add the cayenne, smoked paprika, a small pinch of salt and pepper; stir to combine.

Transfer sauce to a small food processor. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into the sauce. They should just slide out of their skins. Blitz the sauce until well combined. Transfer back to saucepan to keep warm and season to taste.

In the meantime, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain all but about 1/3 cup pasta water and return to pot. Pour the cream sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. If it’s too thick, add some pasta water to thin the sauce to your desired consistency.

Serve pasta garnished with chopped parsley and fresh parmesan.


Homemade Pizza Snacks

I love pizza.  You love pizza.  Who doesn’t love pizza?  Even the weird people who don’t like cheese and pull it off their pizza still…eat pizza.  Though I don’t think I’d call that pizza anymore, it’d call it a sad mess.

I like tomato sauce and melted cheese on just about any baked grain surface.  It’s amazing how many things you can turn into “pizza” by just adding these two simple toppings.

Just so we’re clear on things though, these pizza snacks involve more than tomato sauce and cheese.  There’re also some extra onions and garlic thrown into the mix, making them even better.

Though I should admit, I was a little skeptical about how these would taste at first.  Would wonton wrappers stuffed with pizza toppings actually fool my taste buds into thinking there was real pizza in my mouth?

Yes.  I was shocked.  And quite delighted.   They totally taste just like pizza, only they’re smaller, so you can eat like 10 of them at once.  The edges of the wontons get crispy, but the middle stays soft because of the filling, creating its own notion of a “pizza pocket.”

At first I made a half recipe with leftover wonton wrappers from my curried shrimp wontons.  Later, I made a full recipe, and still have a container of them in my fridge.  Before you make them, I should warn you: they are addictive, and are really tasty late night snacks.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Homemade Pizza Snacks

Adapted from Back to Her Roots

Makes about 45-50 pieces

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided use

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, finely diced

2 cups marinara sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or whatever cheese you want really)

1 package wonton wrappers (about 48 wraps)

In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add in garlic and onion. Cook until softened, about 6 minutes and remove from heat. Stir in marinara sauce and cheese.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Line two baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.  On a work surface, work with one wrapper at a time.  Using a finger dipped in water, run along all the edges of each wrapper.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling into the middle, and then fold wrapper in half and press down to seal.  Continue until baking sheet is filled with pizza rolls (spaced about 1″ apart). Brush the tops of the wrappers with remaining olive oil and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until rolls are golden and crispy. Repeat process with remaining wraps and filling.

Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving and enjoy!

Sweet Potato Fries & Ravioli

When my obsession with food hit, I was desperate to find other people who shared my passion so we could make wonderful food together.  Also, because more people to eat food=more opportunities to try out different recipes.

Though KA has always been a great foodie buddy, she was at school over 200 miles away, so a local alternative had to be found.  Luckily, I reconnected with Ham, who had taken first year Chinese with me, and also happened to really enjoy cooking.

Carina the hand model!

He also happened to have three ravenous housemates, so we’d hold these great dinner parties where Ham cooked dinner and I made dessert.  Greatness ensued.

But now Ham is in China and I am in Massachusetts.  Enter Carina.  We first bonded in college over our mutual love for all things Hayao Miyazaki and Joe Hisaishi, and later we became foodie buddies.  She has her own blog too, called Four Corners, where she features great vegetarian and dairy-free recipes.

She is leaving for a six-week stint in Lebanon today (and I am oh so jealous), so I had to see her before she left.

I remembered her liking my Green Pea Pesto Ravioli post, and decided we should make some ravioli of our own.  Since I had some sweet potatoes on hand, I knew we’d be able to make something fabulous happen.

First, sweet potato fries.  Who doesn’t love sweet potato fries?  Even Luke, the hater of savory sweet potato dishes couldn’t resist.

The main dish was sweet potato ravioli.  I’ve attempted making pasta dough without a proper roller, and it was a nightmare, so I stick to wonton wrappers for the ravioli skin (until I get a roller…wedding registry anyone?).

Anyway, we had to omit the butter and cheese in the recipe for Carina, but it still turned out great, though I do want to give the recipe another go sometime and include them.  Either way, these raviolis are pure orange gold.

Sweet Potato Fries

Makes about 2-3 servings

One large sweet potato, peeled or not (depends on your preference)

2 Tbsp olive oil

seasonings of your choice (we used Italian seasoning and extra oregano)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.  Slice the potato into thin wedges and arrange on the baking sheet.  Drizzle the olive oil and seasonings over the potato wedges, then mix everything together with your hands to coat evenly.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until potatoes start to brown.  Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes and serve.

Sweet Potato Ravioli

Adapted from Cosmo Cookie

Makes 2-3 servings

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 pound sweet potato (one large potato)
1/2 Tbsp nutmeg
2 tsp fresh sage, minced
2 tsp fresh oregano, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
40 wonton wrappers

Heat oven to 450 degrees F.  Cut the sweet potato into thirds. Rub garlic and sweet potato with olive oil, and place, cut sides down, on a baking sheet, and bake until tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool briefly, and then remove potato skins and pass the potatoes and garlic through a potato ricer or food mill into a medium bowl (if you don’t have one of these contraptions, just mash everything up as best you can); mix in nutmeg, sage, oregano, and salt and pepper. Set filling aside.

Place 1 wonton wrapper on a work surface and place 1 Tbsp filling in center; dip your finger in water and trace the edges of the wrapper, then fold one side on top of the other and press the edges together to seal.  Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Working in batches, add ravioli, and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with your favorite pasta sauce and enjoy!

Classic Hummus

My grandma sends me crossword puzzles from the newspaper every week, and this time she drew this on the envelope.  It’s the Chinese character for love, isn’t that adorable?  Thanks Nana!

Unlike my affinity for bread pudding, I can pinpoint the start of my love for hummus.  I was in high school, and looking to branch out to new protein sources in one of those teenage phases where decisions about diets change weekly.  Thankfully, this one stuck.

The first hummus recipe I ever tried to make on my own never mentioned the word tahini, and contained entirely too much cumin.  It sucked.  A Lebanese friend of mine was gracious enough to step in and keep me from ever making that awful recipe again by providing me with a new one.

Which I dutifully recorded on an index card, then copied into this charming little Totoro notebook.  This is where I keep all the recipes given to me by other people, until they become digitized here that is.

I’ve made this hummus so often that now, I don’t even need the notebook anymore, because it’s all stored in my brain capsule.

I love this recipe because it’s so simple, yet so delicious.  Sometimes I like to add roasted red peppers or substitute roasted garlic for the fresh, but the base is always the same, and always scrumptious, even without the extra flavors.

In other news, Luke and I are headed to CT this weekend for his first ever high school reunion.  This should be interesting…

Classic Hummus

Makes about 2 cups

Two 15oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed*

¼ cup tahini

½ cup water

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 Tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 tsp salt

roasted red peppers (optional)

 In a blender or food processor, whip tahini and water together.  Add in all other ingredients and puree until creamy.  If too thick, add extra lemon juice to thin it out.  Transfer to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator.  The hummus will keep for up to two weeks.

*you can peel the skins off the chickpeas to make the hummus creamier.  It’s time consuming, but if you like your hummus super creamy, you might think it worthwhile.

Shrimp Scampi

Monday, oh Monday.  How quickly you sneak around the corner and leer at me.  I’ve seen a posting fad on other blogs that make Monday more interesting, it’s called Meatless Mondays.

Bloggers try to cook tasty, easy meals without the use of meat at least one day a week.  Seems simple enough, and I would totally do it…if the man of the house would eat any sort of meat alternatives.  I’m not exactly a lover of tofu or tempeh myself, but I’d eat them.

I love beans and lentils and other foods like that, but trying to sneak a chickpea past Luke would be difficult.  So I don’t try.  I fantasize about all the awesome lentil recipes I’ll make one day with my legume loving children, but until that day, I’ll be making my dishes with meat.

Or shrimp.  Another fun fact: Luke loves shellfish but hates fish, and I love fish but hate shellfish.  The only overlap in our venn diagram is shrimp.  I do like shrimp, but only if it’s cooked.  I don’t do shrimp cocktail…cold shrimp creeps me out.

And shrimp scampi is just so good.  I like this version because it is light and lemony, while still maintaining a good balance of garlic and shrimp flavors.  Plus it’s easy to prepare and is on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Shrimp Scampi

Makes 3-4 servings

Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

12 oz linguine (or any other pasta really)

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound large shrimp (about 16 shrimp), peeled and deveined

1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 lemon, zest grated
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Boil a large pot of salted water, add the linguine according to the directions on the package.
Meanwhile, in another large skillet, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute, stirring constantly to keep the garlic from burning.  Add the shrimp, salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Toss to combine.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve.

Herb & Cheese Pull Apart Bread

You may notice a pattern emerging over my next few posts, a pattern that centers on a key ingredient: garlic chives.  I didn’t intend to buy them at the Asian market, but they looked so fresh and green, much more robust than regular chives.  I sweat they jumped into my basket of their own free will.

Plus they were only $2/lb.  Come on.  This is the same market that sells 13 limes for $2.  God I love that place.  But an excess of lime is easy to manage.  Zest ‘em, juice ‘em and freeze for later use.

Chives on the other hand would not stand up to such treatment.  I had to work on a vegetable’s schedule, which meant finding some excellent chive recipes pronto.

This was the first one that caught my eye.  It’s like an accordion of garlic bread that’s jacked up on cheese and herbs.  Basically an amazing and stunning side dish that is really fun to eat (not as hard to make as it seems).

Did I happen to mention it’s delicious too?  Plus, its flavors are customizable.  Don’t like chives?  Try basil or rosemary.  You can also use different kinds of cheeses.  I used smoked gouda and parmesan since they’re what I had on hand.  Whichever way you pull it, this bread is sure to please.

Herb & Cheese Pull Apart Bread

Adapted from Pink Parsley

Makes one 9X5” loaf pan

For the bread:

2 cups bread flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup warm water

1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

3 Tbsp sugar

3/4 tsp salt

2 Tbsp butter, melted

For the filling:
3-4 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup fresh herbs (any combination that suits you, I used chives & scallions)

1 cup cheese (your choice)

4 Tbsp butter, melted

salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the water, sugar, and yeast and let sit for 5-10 mins, until the yeast is foamy.  Add the first 2 cups of flour, and mix until combined.  Add the third cup of flour, a few tablespoons at a time, mixing until the dough forms.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 6-9 minutes, until soft and pliable.  Form into a smooth ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl.  Allow to rise 1-2 hours, until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, chop the herbs and garlic, melt the butter, and grate the cheese.

Roll the dough out into a 12×20 inch rectangle.  Brush with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, then sprinkle the dough with the garlic, herbs, and cheese.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the dough into 6 equally sized strips using a pizza cutter or knife.  Stack the strips on top of each other and cut into 6 equally-sized squares.

Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan, and stack the squares on top of each other in the pan.  If you lose some of the filling as you stack, just sprinkle it on top once the dough has been stacked.  Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the top.

Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the bread for 35-45 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown and the inside is cooked through.  If the top browns too quickly, cover the bread with foil.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges and invert onto a serving platter to serve.


Garlic Knots

I woke up yesterday morning with a killer headache.  Even the barest hints of light coming in the windows from the coming sunrise made my temples throb uncontrollably.  I sat down in front of my computer and when standing back up again caused an enormous surge of pain, I knew I was not driving down to Cambridge.

Luckily, the only interview I had scheduled for the day was with a school in Vermont, which would be hard for me to work at anyway with Luke still working in Andover.

So now I play the waiting game.  I sent thank you messages to all of my interviewers, so now the ball is in their collective court.  Hopefully I’ll hear back soon.

In the meantime, it’s back to blogging.  I showed my blog to a friend at the conference (to show her pics of Izzy) and she was like, “wow Anna…you bake a lot.”  “Why thank you very much!” I replied, even though I don’t think it was a compliment.  Whatevs.  I’m comfortable with the amount of time I spend in the kitchen, and don’t feel judged when people comment about it.

I made these garlic knots to complement my lasagna.  They were really fun and easy to make, though I was sad that a lot of my “knots” turned into rolls during their time in the oven.  They were still delicious though, I looove garlic, and these soft, fluffy buns smothered in it really hit the spot.

Garlic Knots

Adapted from Simply Recipes

Makes about 20 knots


3/4 cup warm water (105°F-115°F)

1 package (2 teaspoons) of active dry yeast

1 3/4 cups bread flour (can use all-purpose if you don’t have bread flour)

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

Garlic-Butter Coating:

5 Tbsp unsalted butter

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup parsley, minced

1 teaspoon salt

Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Stir to combine and let sit for another 5-10 minutes, until it begins to froth a bit.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the olive oil, then the yeast-water mixture. Mix this together to form a soft dough and knead for 5-10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly coat with olive oil. Put it in a large bowl, top the bowl with plastic wrap and set it at room temperature to rise.

When the dough has doubled in size, anywhere from 90 minutes to several hours, cut it in half. Set out a large baking sheet and line it with a silpat or parchment paper. Take one half of the dough and cut it in half. Working with one piece at a time, flatten into a rough rectangle about 5 inches long 1/2 inch thick.

Using a sharp knife, slice the dough into strips of about 1 inch wide by 5 inches long. Cut these strips in half. Take one piece and work it into a snake, then tie it in a knot. The dough will be sticky along the cut edges, so dust these with flour before you tie the knot. Set each knot down on the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough. Remember that the dough will rise, so leave some space between each knot.

Once all the knots are tied, paint them with a little olive oil. Loosely cover them with plastic wrap and let them rise again until doubled in size, anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours or so. Toward the end of this rising period, preheat the oven to 400°.

Uncover the knots and bake in the oven 12-15 minutes, or until nicely browned on top.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pot and cook the garlic gently in it just long enough to take off that raw garlic edge, about 1-2 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the salt and parsley and stir to combine. Turn off the heat.

When the knots are done, take out of the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Paint with the garlic-butter-parsley mixture and serve.