This is one of my favorite pasta dishes. It’s easy to make – a matter of tossing a few ingredients together – and the creamy, tangy goat cheese is the perfect complement to the soft pasta and wilted greens. A perfect, light weeknight dinner, the work of 15 minutes or less. Now that’s what I call an instant classic!
Oricchiette with Greens and Goat Cheese
1/3 box oricchiette pasta (or substitute other short pasta)
2 ounces goat cheese, such as Laura Chenel
2 cups mixed salad greens
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
- In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, but don’t do too thorough a job – you need a little water still in the pasta, to loosen up the sauce.
- Crumble the goat cheese into the drained pasta, turn the heat on low, and toss until the cheese melts and coats the pasta. Add the greens and toss until they wilt. Drizzle the olive oil over – no more than 1/4 cup – and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- That’s it!
Source: Adapted from Everyday Pasta, by Giada de Laurentiis
I’ve sung the praises of salad on here before, I know. It is a wonderful way to get lots of nutrients in a light dish, it’s endlessly adaptable to the seasons, it’s a snap to put together after a long day… is there anything bad about salad? If there is, it’s just that salad can sometimes be a bit boring. But that’s easily fixed – the trick is to make sure there is plenty of visual interest, different flavors and textures, and variety from night to night. If you treat salads like a meal, making an effort to get plenty of different colors onto the plate and adding a protein, you’ll happily eat them for the rest of your life and never get bored.
I love this particular salad in the fall. It has some of my favorite flavors – crisp apples, crunchy-sweet pecans, and creamy goat cheese – all tossed with greens and wrapped in a tangy honey mustard vinaigrette. Best of all, it’s put together from ingredients I almost always have on hand. It does what the best dinner salads do – provide a healthy but filling dinner on five minutes’ prep. It’s a winner.
Apple and Pecan Salad with Goat Cheese
2 cups mixed greens
2 apples, sliced thinly
2 ounces goat cheese (I like Laura Chenel), crumbled
1/2 cup pecans, toasted (substitute walnuts if desired)
2 tablespoons honey mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
- Divide the greens evenly into two bowls. Add half of the following to each bowl: sliced apples, toasted pecans, crumbled goat cheese. Toss gently to combine.
- To make the vinaigrette, simply combine the mustard, honey, vinegar and olive oil in a clean jar and shake briskly until the dressing is emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper and shake again to combine. (Nota Baker: This makes way more dressing than you will need for the salad. I like to make mine in a tupperware container with a lid and a spout and store it in the fridge. It will keep for quite some time – I’m not sure how long, because I’ve never been able to keep the stuff in the house long enough for it to go bad! In the fridge, the dressing will solidify; don’t worry about that. Just let it come up to temperature and then shake it again to recombine all of the ingredients before using it. It’s wonderful on all types of salads, not just this one.)
Yield: Serves two
Source: Covered In Flour
When the hubby’s away, messybaker will par-tay. And by par-tay, I mean eat beets. You see, hubby hates beets. Loathes them, despises them, harbors a prejudice against them… He can’t even be in the condo when a beet is cooking. That makes things tricky for me, because you see, I adore beets. I love them in all different preparations, but especially roasted, and especially in salad. This salad, to be exact. Beets, goat cheese, pecans, tender greens… it tastes like perfection on a plate to me, but I have to wait to make it until hubby’s not around. He’s off visiting a friend for the weekend, so I have the place to myself and eating beets is at the very top of my agenda.
Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
1 bunch baby red beets, cleaned but not peeeled
1/2 bag mixed salad greens
4-ounce log of Chevre
1/2 cup spiced pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
sea salt and fresh black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the greens from your beets and wrap them in alumninum foil. Crumple the foil around the beets, but don’t seal the packets. Place the packets on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, checking periodically, until they are tender.
- Allow the beets to cool while you assemble the rest of the salad. Spread the greens out on 2 plates. Crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle the pecans over the salads. Set aside.
- Make the balsamic vinigrette: mix the balsamic and honey together until they are (somewhat) combined. Season with salt and pepper. Then whisk in the olive oil vigorously, to create an emulsion.
- When the beets are cool enough to handle, rub the skin off, then run them under warm water to clean any stubborn bits of skin. (You have to be okay with your hands getting pink at this point. It’s part of the process.) Slice the beets into wedges and scatter over the salad. Pour over the vinigrette and serve.
Yield: Serves 2.
Source: Covered In Flour, inspired by a classic salad preparation
Another weeknight wonder! As much as I love to cook elaborate dinners and put together exciting menus, or learn new skills and try out new recipes… weeknights just don’t allow for that. I get home at 7:00 and I’m starving, and I need something quick and easy. Most nights, I’ve forgotten to take whatever I had planned on serving out of the freezer to defrost, too, so it helps to have a few vegetarian dishes or pantry stand-bys on the weekly menu. This is one of the easiest, and one of the most flavorful.
Pasta with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes
8 ounces pasta (in the shape of your choice)
4 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces sundried tomatoes
extra-virgin olive oil
splash of red wine (optional)
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped chives
- Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water, according to the directions on the package.
- Meanwhile, roughly chop approximately 4 ounces of sundried tomatoes.
- When the pasta reaches al dente, drain it and put it back in the pot. Add the sundried tomatoes. Crumble in goat cheese and moisten with a little olive oil, add a splash of red wine (if desired), and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with chives and serve.
Yield: Serves 4.
Wine Pairing: Because the flavors of sundried tomatoes and goat cheese are quite robust, a somewhat fuller-bodied red wine can stand up to this dish. Go for a Bordeaux blend or – if the budget allows – a Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
Hiking is one of my favorite pastimes. Growing up, my family did a fair bit of hiking, but we didn’t consider it a hobby, per se. Hiking was more of a way to get where we wanted to go. You see, we often wanted to go to places that were a bit out of the way. Like mountaintops in the Adirondacks. Hiking is really the best way to get around the Adirondacks in the summer. When I started dating my hubby, naturally, I needed to know that he was outdoorsy – otherwise, it would never work. On our third date, we went hiking at Buttermilk Falls, and I knew then that we saw eye-to-eye. Since we’ve moved to the Mid-Atlantic region, we have done a great deal of hiking – it’s a truly beautiful part of the country, my home, and I love to trek up and down the Potomac river experiencing it. If you haven’t hiked along the Potomac, trust me, you’re missing out.
Of course, if you spend as much time in the fresh air as the hubs and I do, you’re going to get hungry eventually. If you take my advice, you’ll have these sandwiches on hand. They travel well and keep in a backpack. Add an apple and you’ll be able to fuel a six-mile hike.
Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Sandwiches
2 large red bell peppers
1 loaf ciabatta bread
4 ounces goat cheese
- Preheat your broiler on high. On a baking sheet lined with foil, arrange bell peppers. Roast directly under the broiler until blistered and black, turning once.
- Transfer peppers to a plastic zip-loc bag and tightly seal. Let stand for 10-15 minutes.
- Run peppers under water and peel off skins. Pull out core and tear – as neatly as possible – in half. Wash off as much of the ribs and seeds as possible, but don’t get too precious about it.
- Slice the ciabatta in half lengthwise and rip out the soft core. (Go ahead and eat that part; I won’t tell on you.) Slather the bottom half with goat cheese.
- Lay the peppers as neatly and evenly as you can atop the goat cheese. Try to cover as much area as possible. Using kitchen shears, snip the scallion over the peppers – white, light green, and dark green all. If you have any leftover goat cheese, spread it over the top half – that will prevent the bread from becoming soggy. But don’t freak out if you don’t have any left. Ciabatta’s pretty crusty. ‘S all good.
- Top the peppers with the crust and slice into 4 equal pieces. Devour immediately… or wrap the sandwiches up for the trail.
Yield: Serves 4 hikers.
Source: Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten
Bonus pic: A shot from our hike at Great Falls – powered by a picnic of these sandwiches. Yum.
Frittatas are a standby in my kitchen – one of the easiest dinners imaginable, with endless variations so you never get bored. You can throw absolutely anything into a frittata, and it’ll be delicious. Well… maybe not anything. Chocolate cake, for instance, would make a pretty weird frittata. But almost anything else is welcome. I’ve made frittatas with chicken sausage, feta cheese, and all kinds of other ingredients. They are one of my favorite fridge-clearing meals and one of the simplest things to whip up after a long day at work. I load them up with lots of veggies to make them filling and boost the nutrition. They are also good at room temperature, which makes them great for brunches, and they are surprisingly delicious cold in a sandwich for lunch the next day – essentially, my perfect go-anywhere-do-anything dish. To make them even easier, I oven bake them rather than cooking them on the stovetop and flipping them – a method I saw on “Everyday Italian.” Bless Giada for making my life so much easier and filled with frittatas!
Yes, I really love my Emile Henry Artisan baking dish in Pommeterra. Why do you ask?
Tomato and Goat Cheese Frittata
7-8 large eggs (try to get organic, free-range brown eggs if you can)
1/4 cup milk
3 Roma tomatoes
2 ounces Chevre
1/4 cup Parmesan (freshly grated if possible)
salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with Pam and set aside.
- Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk quickly to break up the yolks.
- Add milk, salt and pepper and whisk vigorously to combine.
- Slice scallions thinly and dice tomatoes coarsely. Add to mixture. Break Chevre into mixture and grate in Parmesan cheese. Stir gently to combine all ingredients.
- Pour into baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, until center of frittata is just set. Let cool briefly and then slice.
Serves 4 for a light dinner with a green salad on the side.
Note: You don’t have to oven bake this frittata, of course. I like it because it’s pretty much as easy as falling out of bed. But if you’re a frittata traditionalist or just have a super cool frittata pan that you like to use, feel free to follow your usual method for stovetop cooking.
Source: Covered In Flour, inspired by Giada de Laurentiis