Dinner & Roses To-Go: Summer-Bries Pasta

brie pasta dinner vegetarian basil recipe

Brie Pasta Plated and Ready

On Monday nights for a series of 16 weeks twice a year, I engage in a very sophisticated evening with a select group of friends in the City. It’s a weekly meeting of the minds and

dinner pasta vegetarian roses brie cheese sauce

So much hope on one tray

exchanging of incredibly insightful and valuable information. An opportunity to explore human behavior on an intimate level. To live – just for a moment – inside the lives (and hot tubs) of beautiful women and six-pack ab-ed men on their journey, their quest for love …..For the purpose of simplifying, let’s call it ‘Book Club’ – but know that it is oh, so much more. I mean, there are roses involved.

The west 86-ers (friends who live there) generally host and always provide an incredible meal to feed our minds and souls as we solve the world’s problems and follow the young hopefuls through the ups and downs of budding romance. Once in a blue moon, I offer to bring dinner, I mean, I’m the food blogger, right, this should be my job. Yet, on these occasions, I often find myself at a loss for what to bring. I don’t want to default to the go-to easily portable casserole family – this is a fancy evening after all – there’s generally evening gowns and a champagne toast. There are always tears. I brought my chicken milanese on one occasion and it was well-received, a good complement to this intellectually stimulating evening. So, when I offered to bring dinner for what was certain to be the most dramatic series finale ever, the pressure was on.

It would have to be a rose-worthy feast. One that could not only comfort us through the disappointment of a potentially heartbreaking end to the journey but could also support an exuberant celebration should the evening end in true love. There were other factors to consider as well – it had to be easily portable, not require too much ‘cooking’ as in tiny NYC apartments any heat thrown from the kitchen is too powerful for even the strongest of A/C units during a heat wave. It couldn’t be too salty (I tried to kill this group once before with an exceedingly salty, like dead sea salty, pulled pork dinner – that was a Des-Aster).

So, I borrowed a page from me mum’s culinary delights and made a Summer-Bries Pasta.

Tiny Kitchen Tips:

  1. basil brie pasta dinner vegetarian recipe

    Basil Bunch

    Fairway NYC has the best deal on Basil in town…but, you have to buy a giant bunch of it – so, plan to use some for a freezable pesto sauce or other basil-easy delights

  2. This recipe is too much…you can easily cut in half if your ‘Book Club’ isn’t that many people

Summer-Bries Pasta (serves like 85 people…or 6)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cloves Garlic  you can go to three cloves, you can do 2 cloves garlic and 1/2 a shallot – it’s your call
  • 1 1/2 Cup Basil Leaves
  • 1 Pound French Brie
  • 1 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Container of Compari Tomatoes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs of Linguini or Boccacini or any other ‘ini’ pasta

Always Mise En Place – it’s just fun and makes you feel chef-like:

brie pasta dinner recipe

Mise En Place

1.  Cut the tomatoes – the entire box – into bite-sized pieces – like little cube-y-ish – and put into a large mixing bowl

dinner pasta summer brie campari tomatoes

Campari tomatoes – selected bc they are sweet and delicious

2. Mince the cloves of garlic and toss on top of the tomatoes in the bowl

dinner pasta  brie tomatoes garlic summer

No mincer? No worries, just chop super small – I used my microplane, just be careful!

3. Chiffonade the basil leaves and…uh huh…toss on top of the garlic and tomatoes

dinner pasta vegetarian cheese basil

Beautifully Chiffonade-d Basil-y Goodness

4. Remove the rinds from the brie and then tear into smallish pieces – like smaller than an ice cube and bigger than a marble…Throw the pieces of brie into the basil-y, garlic-y, tomato-y mix

brie pasta summer dinner vegetarian

Triple Cream Brie – two is too few, four is too many

5. Pour the Extra-Virgin Olive Oil over the brie, basil, tomato, garlic mix and toss gently to combine

dinner vegetarian pasta summer easy cooking

Mixed….And, now let it just sit

6. Add salt and pepper, cover and let the mixture sit out on your tiny kitchen counter for the day…at least 2 hours, but the flavors meld and intensify the longer it sits…I left it for no fewer than 5 hours…

NOTE: It will look runny and odd…do not fear — I already did that for you – no, there’s not too much olive oil or too many watery tomatoes…relax. It’s all good.

7. Boil the pasta about 1-2 minutes shy of the recommended cooking time, drain and immediately toss with the tomato-y, basil-y, garlic-y, brie-y mix

The brie will melt into an incredible cream sauce……yum.

8. Garnish with a few more basil leaves/pieces and serve warm

Book Club is more about getting together with friends than it is about watching the Des-bacle. Next time you want to bring dinner to a crew, just remember –  The journey to find love isn’t always easy, but this portable pasta dish truly is a bries.

No Need to Be Afraid of Vegan Alfredo

Vegan Fusili Alfredo with Roasted Vegetables

We are all afraid of something. I mean, as New Yorkers, we’re afraid of more things than people from other cities – quote ‘Rent’ ‘I’m a New Yorker. Fear’s my life.’ But, everyone is afraid of something.

Some of these fears are totally rational: falling, heights, being buried alive, cockroaches, zombies.

Michael Strahan Kelly Ripa

Pain-O-Phobic Michael Strahan

On Live! With Kelly and Michael, Michael Strahan admitted that he is afraid of needles and, oddly, pain. In spite of the fact that the ex-Giant must have endured great pain and doled some out as well during his football career, Michael Strahan fears pain.

Some people are afraid of things that crawl; mice, rats, gophers, gerbils etc. Some fears are so common that they can draw huge audiences at the box office – Fear of spiders, Arachnophobia. Fear of snakes – Snakes on a Plane. Fear that your house was built on a cemetery where the builder ‘moved the headstones but not the bodies’ : Poltergeist.

It’s amazing where our heads can go in times of great fear. One minute everything is fine and safe, then, a loud noise in the distance and you think ‘Gun fire! Take cover!’ Generally just a car engine backfiring, but, sure, it could have been gun fire.

Scary Evil Witchy Poo

Growing up I was most afraid of Witchy Poo. She was the evil witch on HR Pufnstuf’s television show that ran in reruns on Saturday mornings in our house.

I spent my nights shaking in fear, waking in a pool of sweat from the nightmare of Witchy Poo. I mean, look at her…very scary.

Some fears, however, are less than rational. In California, it’s pretty common to have an awareness and fear of earthquakes – because they happen out there with relative frequency. This is a geographically rational fear.

Earthquakes in New York, however…not so common. We had an earthquake in New York last summer – like summer of 2011. I was home and the building started to just shimmy shake a little. Then, I heard a rattle-y noise and noticed that the handles on my dresser were shaking. I thought it might be an earthquake, but my head went to a completely different place. At that moment, as the rolling 5.8 earthquake rolled through my apartment, shook my floors and rattled the handles on my furniture, I thought….

‘ALIEN INVASION!’…..uhm…What?

Another fear that is not wholly rational is a fear of Vegan cuisine. Last night I went Vegan for no reason and made…

Vegan Fusilli Alfredo with Roasted Vegetables (serves 4)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and bring a large pot of water to a boil.

1. Cube 1 medium sized sweet potato and cut the florets from one stalk of broccoli  into bite size pieces. (Note you can save the broccoli stalk for vegetable stock if you so choose.)

SuperFood Sweet Potatoes Cubed

Broccoli

Broccoli Florets in Bite Size Pieces

2. In a bowl, toss the vegetables in olive oil, salt and pepper…you can use Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt as well. Just toss enough to lightly coat the veggies.

3. Arrange the vegetables on a rimmed baking pan lined with parchment paper and roast in the oven for :20minutes, turning the vegetables about halfway through the roasting. Once the veggies are softened and gently beginning to brown, remove from the oven and set aside.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli

Pretty Roasted SuperFoods

4. Once the water is boiling, drop in about 1 cup of fusilli per person. Then season the water generously with salt and a little olive oil.

NOTE: Waiting to add the salt until the water is boiling will help prevent salt stains on the bottom of your pot.

NOW – time to make the sauce…

Vegan Alfredo Sauce Mise En Place

5. While the pasta is boiling…In a food processor, puree 1/4 cup of raw cashews until fine.

Finely Ground Cashews

6. Add in:

  • 1 TBSP of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 TSP of Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1 TSP of Soy Sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 TBSP of Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 cup of boiling water from the Pasta Pot
  • 1/2 cup of Almond Milk (at room temperature)

Puree until creamy – you’ll see gentle bubbles of frothiness form. This can take about a minute or so…

Vegan Alfredo Sauce Frothy

7. Drain the pasta, but reserve at least one cup of the pasta water

8. Put the pasta back into the pot over low heat and pour the sauce over it. Stir to combine and heat through. If the sauce is too thick, use the pasta water to thin it just a bit.

9. Once heated through, transfer to a serving bowl and add the vegetables on top. You can also add some sliced cherry tomatoes. Very pretty!

Pretty Vegan Fusilli Alfredo With Veggies

10. Toss and serve. I served with a side of garlic bread and should have served a salad as well…but didn’t.

When I was about 10, I awoke from a dream in which I had witnessed the exile of Witchy Poo. In the dream, the evil witch was sent off to an island in the middle of the ocean. With her in exile, I took back the nights and could finally sleep without fear.

Last night, my guests for Vegan dinner were two cautiously supportive friends. When I served the Vegan Fusilli Alfredo, they each politely took about a spoonful and a half onto their plates. Each smiled through their fear as they went in for the first bite…I waited.

We had a back up plan to order in if the meal proved to be inedible.

‘Wow. It’s actually good.’ One of my friends finally said with surprise breaking the silence and the mystery aura surrounding Vegan cuisine. The other agreed and each helped herself to and finished a real portion of the dish.

I admit…I was skeptical too. I am not a Vegan, but wanted to give this dish a shot. And, I’m glad I did. It was a great, low-calorie option…And, more importantly, I am no longer afraid of Vegan Alfredo.

Fresh Shrimp

I spent a spring break in Mexico about 100 years ago. My friends and I had rented a small apartment on the beach. Nestled between two big high rise hotels in Mazatlan, our condo faced the ocean and provided us with incredible sunsets daily. The other perk to our beachfront location, was the proximity to the locals selling their wares on the beach each morning. Every day at 6:30am we would wake to a shrimper screaming up to us: ‘Fre-esh Shri-imp! Fre-esh Shri-imp!’.

I’ve never really liked cooking shrimp dishes as main courses. My rule of thumb was never serve food you can count. I’m not sure why, but I think I have a subconscious fear of starvation – I mean, there was always more than enough food in my life…but, food I can count makes me nervous.

That said, I’ve recently been playing around with lemon shrimp and pasta dishes. Here’s the latest recipe that I’ve liked….With only one pot and one pan being used, it’s also tiny kitchen friendly….

Summer Shrimp & Pasta

Put a large pot of water on high and toss in a palmful of salt. This will be for the pasta. I like to use angel hair…but any  pasta will work. That’s tri-color rigatoni in the photo – it was delicious and also really pretty.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add 1 diced shallot and 2 cloves of garlic minced. Saute, stirring occasionally until fragrant (about 3-4 mins). Add 1lb cleaned, completely peeled shrimp. (Some people like to leave the tails on…not me).

Fresh shrimp can be pretty expensive, but I’ve found that frozen shrimp is just as yummy. Lately I’ve been buying my frozen shrimp at Gourmet Garage on West 66th St.

Add the zest of one lemon and the juice of 2 lemons. Saute until the shrimp is completely cooked – about 6 minutes stirring occasionally.

Remove the shrimp from the saute pan and place aside

Drop 1lb of pasta into the boiling water and cook just shy of the time on the box directions.

Add 1/2 cup of white wine – any dry white wine will do – to the saute pan. Stir with a wooden spoon –  the wine will help to lift all of flavor off of the bottom of the pan.

Add 1 package of frozen peas to the saute pan. Add salt and some pepper – to taste.

The peas will steam quickly in the lemon juice and white wine – about 2 minutes

Stir in 1/4 cup of cream and 4 pats of butter. This will help to thicken the sauce. You may want to add 1/4 cup or less of the pasta water to the sauce at this point if you think you may not have enough or just to thin out the sauce.

Remove the saute pan from the heat and re-add the cooked shrimp. Drain the pasta and add to the saute pan. Pull the pasta through to distribute the shrimps and sauce.

Transfer to a serving bowl. At this point add some halved cherry tomatoes – it’s prettier with the red of the tomatoes. Garnish with parsley and serve.

It’s a quick and easy pasta dish perfect for a lovely ladies dinner. Perhaps I’ll invite my friends from the Mazatlan trip….just don’t tell them it’s not fresh shrimp!