Though I still cook, I've lost touch with the original premise on which I created this blog: the idea that cooking is my zen zone.
Life became really rushed these last two years, with little time to catch up on writing or other hobbies.
It's also been easy for me to take a backseat to being creative in the kitchen, as I'm lucky to have two other great cooks in the house, one of whom is the star student in culinary school.
Right now, we're on a 30-day vegetarian diet. There are tons of ways my Vietnamese family can make you not miss meat and fish, but for a Westerner like me it's more challenging to come up with meals that don't make you miss the protein.
Fortunately, my love of rustic ItalIan cooking is able to provide inspiration. This meal everyone saying, "I'd eat that again for sure!"
For the salad:
4 medium red beets, tops trimmed
3 blood oranges
1 medium Cara Cara orange
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced crosswise on a mandoline
1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced on a mandoline (about 1/3 cup)
Good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°. Wash beets, leaving some water on skins. Wrap individually in foil; place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Let cool.
Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, cut all peel and white pith from all oranges; discard. Working over a medium bowl, cut between membranes of 2 blood oranges to release segments into bowl; squeeze juice from membranes into bowl and discard membranes. Slice remaining blood orange and Cara Cara orange crosswise into thin rounds. Place sliced oranges in bowl with the segments. Add lemon juice and lime juice.
Peel cooled beets. Slice 2 beets crosswise into thin rounds. Cut remaining 2 beets into wedges. Strain citrus juices; reserve. Layer beets and oranges on plates, dividing evenly. Arrange fennel and onion over beets. Mix reserved citrus juices with Dijon mustard and olive oil, then drizzle salad generously with dressing. Season to taste with coarse sea salt and pepper.
For the pasta:
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup capers
1 can baby artichokes (Trader Joe's)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 8-ounce package Trader Joe's Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta
Slowly cook the garlic and lemon zest in the butter and oil, in a heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Stir frequently to keep the garlic from browning. When the garlic is soft, add the broth and turn the heat to high. Simmer until reduced by at least one half, and add the cream and capers. Add the artichoke hearts. Season with pepper and thyme and a bit of salt (watch out; capers may have already been salty). Turn the heat back to medium and simmer until thick and syrupy.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions (2 quarts of salted water, 8-10 minutes). Drain and toss with a dribble of olive oil. Pour the cream sauce over and toss. Serve immediately.