Category Archives: Pasta

Healthy Pad Thai

L1030054I am not a fan of making New Year’s resolutions.  Rather, I prefer reflecting on the past year–my accomplishments and what I am grateful for.  It helps me to take stock of where I am in life and how I want to move forward in the coming year.   2015 was a very good year:  I was promoted to General Manager of the bakery I work at, I concluded therapy after 4 years with an incredible therapist, and I traveled to Norway, Sweden, France and Switzerland with my husband.
L1030053Seeing as that I’m turning 40 this year, I feel the need to try some new things and push myself out of my comfort zone.  I signed up for a Half-Marathon in April, and Mr. K and I plan on taking a trip to China this summer.  I also want to learn Spanish, once-and-for-all!  Of course, always on my list is trying out new recipes, and this past week it was Pad Thai.  I, like most people, love Pad Thai, but I rarely order it when I eat out, as it’s usually a really heavy dish, and loaded with calories.  I found this Mark Bittman recipe and decided to tweak it a bit to make it lighter and healthier.  Enjoy!

Healthy Pad Thai
Adapted from Mark Bittman via The New York Times

4 ounces fettuccine-width rice noodles
1/8 cup peanut oil
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup red cabbage
1 garlic clove, minced
2 eggs
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Put noodles in a large bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let sit until noodles are just tender; check every 5 minutes or so to make sure they do not get too soft. Drain, drizzle with one tablespoon peanut oil to keep from sticking and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, put tamarind paste, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, lime juice, sesame oil, oyster sauce, salt, pepper, honey and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and bring just to a simmer. Stir in red pepper flakes and set aside.
  3. Put remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; when oil shimmers, add garlic and cook for about a minute. Add eggs to pan; once they begin to set, scramble them until just done. Add cabbage and continue to cook until cabbage begins to wilt.
  4. Add drained noodles to pan along with sauce. Toss everything together to coat with tamarind sauce and combine well. When noodles are warmed through, serve, sprinkling each dish with peanuts and garnishing with cilantro.

Ricotta-Pea Ravioli with Mushrooms

DSC_5858It feels good to be lounging around my apartment on a Saturday morning again.  I’ve been away the past two weekends, first to Maryland to visit my in-laws and then to Philly to meet up with my mom.  Both trips were enjoyable, but it’s always nice to be able to sleep in on a Saturday morning in your own bed.

I’ve been thinking a fair amount about what life will be like after one (or both) of my parents die.  I’m not someone who dwells on death by any means, so it’s a bit new for me to be spending time pondering this.  Maybe it’s because one of my grandmas was recently moved into a nursing home.  She isn’t doing so well.  My other grandma has been in a nursing home for a few years now.  I know it’s a bit of a leap to go from that to, “Oh my gosh, my parents are next,” but I’m in no way prepared to say goodbye to either of my parents.  One of the interesting things about living far away from them is that they appear to age so much faster.  I typically only see them once a year, and besides the gray hair, etc. that comes with aging, I’ve started to notice a change in the way they carry themselves.  They are not the middle-aged parents that I left behind 12 years ago when I moved to NYC.
DSC_5834I am trying to be more present when I spend time with them.  I want to take it all in, and just enjoy who they are without wanting to change them.  When my husband and I were in Maryland, my mother-in-law agreed to show me how to make a few of her recipes.  One of them was Mr. K’s favorite dish, and another was my favorite dish.  Of course, being an Indian woman, absolutely nothing was written down, so it was a lot of, “About this much cumin, and about this much rice.”  After a few times of asking what the equivalent measurement would be and not getting a straight answer, I finally just started frantically scribbling down everything she showed me in the hopes that I will be able to replicate these recipes with some semblance to the way she makes them.   She is an incredible cook, and what’s more, my husband considers her cooking true comfort food.
DSC_5848Last weekend I was in Philly with my mom.  She brought along some scrapbook cards that we have been sending back and forth to each other to fill out over the last year or so.  One of the questions I had to answer was,  What Were You Good At As A Child?  I put down that I was a good speller, since I remember winning at least one spelling bee as a kid.  But then I answered another card with the same answer apparently, which caused my mom to ask incredulously, “Did you think spelling was the only thing you were good at?” while laughing uncontrollably.   We had one of those wonderful and rare moments where she started laughing, which caused me to start laughing, and then neither of us could stop.  Supposedly, I was good at other things, like math, but I don’t buy it.  She also told me that I was dyslexic and had to see a reading specialist the summer before kindergarten.  From what my mom says, I absolutely adored this specialist, but I have no recollection of her whatsoever.  Isn’t that strange?  Someone who was so helpful to me and brought me so much joy, and yet I have no memory of her.  The brain is so mysterious.  It was great to have a weekend with my mom.  I missed her the minute I hopped on the train back to NYC.
DSC_5849Ricotta-Pea Ravioli with Mushrooms.  It screams spring, doesn’t it?  Using wonton wrappers makes this recipe very approachable.  I love the sweetness of the peas, combined with the creaminess of the ricotta.  If you want more umami flavor and saltiness, which I did, feel free to add some (cooked) bacon to the filling.  The original recipe called for shaved asparagus to be added at the end, but I left it out.  This is yet another recipe that I could not stop eating, and was sad when I had my last serving of it.
DSC_5855Ricotta-Pea Ravioli with Mushrooms
Adapted from Cooking Light

2/3 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2)
5 teaspoons chipped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
16 ounces (2 1/2 cups) mixed mushrooms (such as shiitake, cremini, and oyster)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Remaining ingredients:
Wonton wrappers
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1. To prepare filling, combine the first 8 ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
2. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet, and put 12 wonton wrappers on baking sheet.  Fill small bowl with 1/4 cup room temperature water.
3. Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons filling mixture on each wonton wrapper.  Dip finger in water, and moisten all four edges of wonton wrapper, as you go along.  Place another wonton wrapper on top of moistened wrapper, pressing around filling to seal.  Repeat procedure with remaining wrappers and filling mixture to form 24 ravioli.  Cover with dishcloth (to prevent drying out) and set aside.
4. To prepare sauce, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and next 3 ingredients (through mushrooms) to pan; cook 8 minutes or until mushrooms are browned and tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 4 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat; keep warm.
5. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 4 ravioli to each pan; cook 3-4 minutes or until ravioli float to the surface. Remove ravioli from water with a slotted spoon. Place ravioli on a tray, making sure they do not overlap; cover and keep warm.
6. Place 4 ravioli on each of 6 plates; top each serving with 1/2 cup sauce.  Sprinkle each serving with 4 teaspoons cheese.



Soba Noodles with Miso-Roasted Tomatoes

DSC_4854My food cravings are slowly disappearing.  I have had a sweet tooth ever since I can remember.  Along with that, I am someone who thinks about food constantly.  This is all wrapped up into my love/hate relationship with food.  I love it because it brings me so much pleasure to eat.  The unhealthy side of this is that I, for most of my life, have been an emotional eater.  So while food might give me pleasure while I’m eating, as soon as the meal is over, the pleasure evaporates into nothingness.  I am usually left with feelings of guilt and lots of critical analysis as to how healthy what I just ate is and what it could potentially do to my body.

Layered on top of this is my love of cooking and baking.  As I stated in one of my early blog posts, being in the kitchen is like therapy for me.  I love the challenge of trying a new recipe, the smells that emanate from the kitchen and waft throughout my home, and the anticipation of tasting what I created.  However, if I am baking, I often times have to wrestle with myself to not eat too much of what I’ve just baked.  If I do, it will eradicate all of the good feelings that I associate with baking and I will end up feeling defeated by my own self-loathing.  It’s a slippery slope.
DSC_4838A few weeks ago I decided to try something new.  I recently read a book called Grain Brain.  The author’s hypothesis is that gluten (and carbohydrates in general) is not only bad for our bodies, but bad for our brains.  People with gluten sensitivity are more prone to dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other mental health issues.  This information jolted me into action.  I decided I was going to try and cut out 80% of the carbs in my diet and see how I felt.  If it helped assuage my anxiety in any noticeable way, I figured it would be worth it.

Since then, I have noticed significant changes in my thought patterns.  I feel calmer overall, and not nearly as anxious about things that might have created a non-stop loop of negative self-talk in my mind just a few weeks ago.  But the most surprising thing has been my diminished cravings for carbs, sugar in particular.  I noticed this the other night when Mr. K and I were sitting on the couch after dinner watching television.  For the last few years, I was in a bad habit of eating dessert several nights a week.  It was such an automatic behavior that NOT having dessert would feel like deprivation.  However, the other night I noticed that I had absolutely no cravings for dessert.  In fact, it didn’t even sound appealing to me.  Who am I?  I thought to myself.  This is a completely new feeling.  But you better believe the feeling made me smile.
DSC_4833One of my goals in the cooking realm of this blog was to cook more Asian food.  I love most Asian cuisines but I haven’t cooked many recipes that hail from this part of the world.  I think my biggest obstacle was a feeling of intimidation due to the fact that I had never used many of the ingredients.  I have made a couple of Asian dishes over recent months, and I love the way they have all turned out.  This recipe falls under that umbrella.  The miso and sesame oil give the dish that familiar umami quality that is associated with so much of Asian fare.  Although it’s a noodle dish, it doesn’t taste or feel heavy at all.  As we were eating it for dinner last night, Mr. K and I agreed that it was yet another perfect meal for spring; it’s light and yet very satisfying.  Of course, if you can’t find soba noodles at your local market, whole wheat spaghetti noodles would make a perfectly fine substitute.
DSC_4847Soba Noodles with Miso-Roasted Tomatoes
Adapted from Food and Wine

1/3 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light yellow miso
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
sea salt
2 pints cherry tomatoes
8 ounces soba noodles
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  In a bowl, whisk the canola oil, vinegar, miso, ginger, sesame oil, honey, lime zest and lime juice until smooth.  Season with salt.
2.  On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with 3 tablespoons of the miso dressing and season with salt.
3.  Roast for 20 minutes, stirring, until the tomatoes are charred in spots.  Scrape into a large bowl.
4.  Cook the soba in soiling water just until al dente, 4 minutes.
5.  Drain and cool under cold running water.
6.  Add the soba, scallions and half of the remaining dressing to the tomatoes and toss well.  Season with salt.
7.  Transfer to a platter and garnish with the sesame seeds.  Serve with the remaining dressing.


Scallops with Pumpkin Risotto

DSC_4097I feel embarrassed writing about this.  Maybe it’s the feminist in me that wishes I could overcome this debilitating habit that so many women (people, really) struggle with.  I have food issues.  It feels so narcissistic to dwell on something that makes me so self-conscious.  It’s definitely improved over the last decade but it is a constant struggle.  From what I’ve learned about food issues/disorders, they are an ongoing battle that don’t really ever go away but can be managed with the right tools.  I am prone to negative thoughts naturally, and eating certain foods seems to increase those negative thoughts.
DSC_4068I am never not aware of when and what my next meal will be.  I love food and I also have a sweet tooth, which makes managing my diet exhausting at times.  I used to be unaware of how food affected my mood and my body.  I would overeat, feel lethargic and negative about myself, and never make the connection of how my body felt after consuming certain foods.  I just thought I would be happier if I was thinner.  Just sharing this makes me squirm in my seat.  It’s so cliché.  I guess I’m a cliché.  Over the years I have educated myself on healthy eating habits- how sugar, carbs, gluten, etc. affect the body as well as the mind.  I read somewhere recently that people who struggle with anxiety and depression should avoid sugar as much as possible; sugar causes inflammation and increases anxiety.  I don’t want to cut sugar out of my diet completely, but it’s a slippery slope.   Even eating a small serving of sugar often sets off neurons in my brain begging for more.  I can usually tame the beast if I’m in a good place mentally.  But if I’m already struggling with something when I eat sugar, I tend to eat too much of it.  Then I feel sick and beat myself up mentally for not controlling myself.
DSC_4078I feel like everyone is constantly trying to strike the right balance in their lives.  I guess one’s diet is no exception.  I’ve started making a kale-banana-blackberry smoothie every morning for breakfast.  And I’ve gotten much better about eating a couple of servings of vegetables every day.  But come 3 or 4pm, I am clamoring for a cookie or a muffin.  Something sweet and carb-heavy to comfort my anxious self.  Sometimes an apple will cut it, but I have to really convince myself that it is better for me.  Some days it doesn’t satisfy my sweet tooth, but I eat it anyway.  I’m also improving on balancing those rich, carb-heavy foods that I love with smaller portions.
DSC_4085I love risotto but I hardly ever order it at a restaurant.  Just thinking about the calorie count will make me uneasy.  But I don’t want to avoid certain foods anymore simply because I’m afraid of what the voice inside my head will say.  I have never made homemade risotto for fear that I would eat it all and get fat.  But it’s a new year and I am trying a new approach to foods that scare me.   I can eat them every once in a while in moderation and not degrade myself for doing so.  Right.  I can.  I totally can.
DSC_4081This pumpkin risotto blew.  my.  mind.  It is, dare I say, the ultimate comfort food.  If you’ve never made risotto, or never even tried risotto, this is the recipe to start with.   It’s rich and creamy, and the squash and onions add a nice touch of sweetness.  The parmesan cheese creates depth and a nice saltiness to balance the pumpkin and onions.   The most important part of making risotto is to keep stirring when incorporating the stock into the rice.  Also, be sure to pat the scallops dry.  This will ensure a nice, crisp crust when sauteing them.  Enjoy every bite of it, and if that negative voice pops up, tell it to go to hell.
DSC_4087Scallops with Pumpkin Risotto
Adapted from Gourmet

Yield:  4 servings

For Risotto
1-1/4 cups diced, peeled, and seeded small butternut squash (you will have squash left over)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup Arborio rice
1 oz. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For Scallops
20 large sea scallops (1-1/2 lbs.), tough muscle removed from side of each if necessary
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh sage
2 tablespoons white truffle oil (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°F.

Make Risotto:
1.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place diced squash on baking sheet.
2.  Roast squash until tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
3.  Bring stock and water to a simmer in a small saucepan and keep at a light simmer.
4.  Cook onion in a large saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3-5 minutes.
5.  Add rice and cook, stirring 1 minute.
6.  Add 1 cup simmering stock and cook at a strong simmer, stirring constantly, until stock is absorbed.
7.  Continue simmering, adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, about 18 minutes total.  (There may be broth left over.)
8.  Remove from heat and stir in diced squash, cheese, and butter, stirring until butter is melted.  Add salt and pepper and cover to keep warm.

Prepare Scallops:
1.  Pat scallops dry and season with salt.
2.  Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté scallops, turning once, until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
3.  Transfer scallops to a bowl with a slotted spoon and discard any oil remaining in skillet (do not clean skillet).
4.  Cook butter in same skillet over moderate heat until it foams and turns light brown.
5.  Add sage and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
6.  Remove from heat and stir in truffle oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve:
Put one cup of risotto on a plate, place 5 scallops on top, and drizzle sage-butter sauce on top of scallops.