Roasted New Potatoes, Mediterranean Style

I spotted an assortment of new potatoes in the store: red, white and…blue? Well, the third variety (and of course, they weren’t named) had a dark skin and though I’ve read about purple potato varieties in gardening magazines and catalogs I hadn’t actually eaten any. The assortment was lovely. In the future, however, I think I will choose a less dark way of preparing any dark/blue/purple type of potato because it sort of blended with the rest of the ingredients. On the other hand…once they are sliced in half the blue/purple potatoes have a strikingly lovely color that went all the way through. I want to look for more of these potatoes (or maybe grow my own). (Imagine what potato salad would look like!)

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Lovely spring color! Yummy, too!

This recipe a yummy way of cooking potatoes. If you don’t have new potatoes (though there should be plenty of small potatoes in stores and markets at this time of year) you can also do this with larger red or white (or purple) potatoes: just cut them into halves or quarters.

Cooking time on this is a bit variable, not just depending on your stove, but also depending on the size of the potatoes. I’ve seen some “new” potatoes that were pretty big for small potatoes, but on the other hand, in this assortment pictured here the potatoes were the smallest new potatoes I’ve seen. I bake these for an hour at 350. You can probably go less, depending on the size of the potatoes or potato pieces. They’re done when you can easily stick a fork in them.

You can use canned mushrooms in this, but fresh is sooooo much better. Canned mushrooms are for when you forget to buy fresh and otherwise have all the ingredients on hand. If using canned mushrooms, don’t saute them, just stir them in with the olives.

This smells amazing: olive oil, mushrooms, garlic and rosemary. Really, the potatoes are just an excuse to blend all these wonderful things together. Prep doesn’t take much time. This recipe is easy and can be made easily with no fuss or hassle.

1 lb white button mushrooms
1 med onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic (depending on size of cloves & how much you like garlic), minced or run through garlic press
Olive oil
1 1/2 lbs new potatoes
2 Tbls rosemary
3-4 oz sliced black olives, rinsed and drained

Preheat oven 350.

Wash and drain potatoes. Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Coarsely slice mushrooms. Saute mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil until they start to turn color and make their own juice. Add chopped onion and garlic. Let simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, while you mix up the other ingredients.

In a large bowl, drizzle 4 Tbls olive oil over new potatoes. Sprinkle in 2 Tbls dried rosemary. Toss to coat. Add the rinsed and well drained black olives. Stir. By now the mushrooms and onions have cooked down a bit and have created a bit of yummy smelling broth. Dump the hot mixture into the bowl with the potatoes and stir well.

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Red, white, and purple potatoes, before they go into the oven.

Then transfer the potatoes to a shallow baking dish and bake uncovered at 350, uncovered, for 1 hour…or less depending on your oven and the size of the potatoes. They’re done when they’re tender.

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Hot out of the oven! Some potatoes were so small I probably could’ve cooked it for less time.

These make yummy left-overs…except that I’ve rarely had any left! It can work as a make-ahead dish which is then reheated in the microwave.

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Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera with garlic pasta.

Pasta Primavera with garlic pasta.

This is a fast, easy, cold summer pasta salad. You can use any kind of pasta — and I know some people prefer to use all kinds of small shaped pasta for cold pasta salads — but for some reason I’ve always used fettuccine, perhaps because it’s most likely to come in assorted flavors and colors. I used to make this all the time many years ago, and I’m not sure why I stopped since it’s not like summers are any cooler. 😉 But it’s been so many years since I made it that when I was making up the grocery list, I had to stop and think hard about what vegetables I used to use. Honestly, all I can remember are tomatoes and peas, but I’m fairly sure it had squash of some sort as well. The original recipe probably had seasonings added, but I used Boyajian basil-flavored olive oil instead.

A language note: “primavera” means spring and often refers to sauteed spring vegetables. The only spring vegetable in it, however, are peas. If you want this to be a spring dish, you could substitute steamed or sauteed broccoli for the zucchini, but really I don’t know what spring vegetable would be a likely substitute for fresh tomatoes. They brighten the dish both in color and also flavor! When you start swapping out ingredients in dishes you’re going to change the character of the dish. Feel free to experiment with cool season veggies, but despite the name (which I got from the original half-remembered recipe), this is cold summer pasta dish.

1 pkg pasta of your choice (preferably flavored)
Cherry or grape tomatoes
1 12oz pkg frozen peas
4 zucchini or yellow squash
Olive oil, or flavored olive oil (such as Boyajian)

Cook pasta according to package instructions. While you’re waiting for the water to boil and cooking the pasta, slice and saute the squash in olive oil in a large skillet until just tender, but not falling apart. Zap peas in the microwave according to package instructions. (I use peas that are microwaved in the bag.)

Drain the pasta. Do not rinse! Cool in colander a little while.  Drizzle with olive oil. I prefer flavored oils with an olive oil base for this. Toss with squash, peas and tomatoes when it’s cooled enough not to partially cook them. I use a pair of tongs for this.

Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator until cool, 3-4 hours. (You can wait and top with the tomatoes at serving, but I prefer to toss them in earlier so they can pick up the flavored oil more.) If you’re going with Mediterranean flavors, as I prefer, and have some fresh basil on hand, you can toss some ripped up fresh basil leaves into the mix as well. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving, if you wish. By the way…the peas do tend to sink a bit, so dig deep when tossing before serving, scooping down to the bottom of the bowl.

As a main dish, this would probably serve at least 5 people, as a side dish I can’t even guess…something just short of infinite. 😉

Every Day Muffins

Ah, hot muffins!

Ah, hot muffins!

This is my “go to” recipe for muffins. It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s delicious, it’s versatile, and best of all you can have a hot muffin any time you want one. 😀 The recipe is ideal for both small families and large families because you can make just the number of muffins you want and they’re ready in about 20 minutes because this is a huge make-ahead recipe…I don’t even know how many the batter will make because I lose count over time. The recipe is a variation on Six Week Raisin Bran Muffins. It gets its name the fact that the batter will keep (allegedly) up to six weeks in the refrigerator. I don’t think I’ve quite made it to six weeks and once you taste these muffins you know why! 😉

The link above will give you a recipe similar to mine. It has more fat than my version. (The recipe I got from a friend twenty years ago called for shortening instead of vegetable oil and I use less oil than the recipe above.) I’ve also made a number of other changes to the recipe…notably I use 16 oz Post Great Grains Raisin, Date and Pecan cereal, (I have on occasion added some extra dates), and I use 2% milk instead of buttermilk. I only use 3/4 cups oil (the recipe above uses more). I have also cut the amount of sugar to 2 1/2cups sugar (and you might be able to cut that down a bit more). Below the slideshow of images you’ll find my version of this wonderful muffin!

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1 (16 oz) box Post Great Grains Raisin, Date and Pecan cereal
1 qt 2% milk
3/4 cups of vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
5 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp salt
5 cups flour

Mix the ingredients in a large non-metal bowl. (Hint: use your biggest bowl because this makes a lot. I’ve only got two non-metal bowls that can hold this much and it’s up to the brim and impossible to stir in one of them!) Mix the cereal, milk and oil first. I sometimes let it sit for 10 minutes before giving it a good stirring and adding the other ingredients. I think it helps the bran to get a bit softened and mushy if you’re going to make muffins right away. The batter is best when chilled at least a day after being mixed, but you can use it right away. The consistency of the muffins will be a bit different, however. I add the baking soda and salt next, then the sugar and eggs, beating them in by hand with a wooden spoon. No matter what order you mix ingredients — I mention this because some versions specify that they should be mixed in the order listed above — the flour should always be added last. I stir in a couple of cups of flour, then another cup or two until I’ve stirred in the whole five cups. The batter shouldn’t look homogenous; it will look lumpy not just from the fruit and nuts, but from the flour. Get all the flour wet, but don’t over mix (another reason to stir this by hand).

Keep covered and refrigerated. Use as needed. To bake you can use greased and floured muffin tins, paper liners, or silicon liners in a muffin tin. Preheat oven 400º and bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. The batter (allegedly) keeps up to 6 weeks. The batter may become thinner over time. This is nothing to worry about. You can add a little more flour if you like. If not using it for a while, it helps to stir the batter periodically.

If using paper liners, let the muffins cool a bit or they will tear up when you peel them. Likewise they will be difficult to separate from the paper liners if left to get stone cold. You can usually pop them out of silicon liners right away. 🙂

Variations: This recipe lends itself to myriad variations based on the type of cereal used. The original recipe called for raisin bran, but there are a number of bran cereals with fruit and nuts which can be used instead. I don’t measure the number of cups of cereal, but try to get a box of a similar size to what I usually use if I’m trying a different kind of cereal. You can also add additional dried fruit and nuts to the recipe, such as more raisins, dates, pecans, walnuts, etc. You can also add spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. I sometimes sprinkle a little bit of nutmeg on top of the muffins before baking. If you experiment with adding spices when you mix up the batter, I would advise going easy on the spices because if you add too much or the spice blend doesn’t work you’ve got a lot of muffins to eat before you can make a better batch! 😉

The recipe is great for a snack with a mug of hot tea, or breakfast, or brunch with friends. You can have a hot homemade muffin (or two!) any day, every day, any time. 🙂