Spaghetti with Herbs and Chilis

I wish I had a clever name for this because it really was clever, you see...

Last Saturday night, Jordan and I decided to head out for dinner...  We had a destination and a plan in mind but when we got there, we found out they were closed for a private party...  


One of the problems with having a specific plan in mind is that when things dont go right, its harder to rebound...  so we wandered around for a little while looking for alternatives and eventually ended up at Franny's.

The original plan was based on Jordan's desire to sit at a restaurant bar and eat a bowl of pasta (he has strange cravings, that one...)  So when we got to Franny's, there was little question - we were sitting at the bar and splitting a pizza and a pasta...

It worked out so well that we're frightened for our bank account when Franny's moves even closer to our apartment...  

but i digress...

The next night was our traditional pasta night, so we thought 'why not try to re-create last night's pasta???'  I'm never good at this game, but I figured why not?


Turns out we hit the nail on the head...  Squarely on the head.  I have no idea if our ingredients or methods were the same, but i can tell you this - the similarity in taste was remarkable...  Another light and easy pasta, in the books.

Don't worry Franny's - we still fear for our bank account :)

Spaghetti with Herbs and Chilis
courtesy of us, inspired by Franny's

1/2 lb good quality spaghetti
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 of a small poblano pepper, minced
3 - 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
~ 1 tbsp minced basil
~ 1.5 tbsp minced mint
~ 2 tbsp minced flat leaf parsley
generous 1/2 c fresh ricotta
salt & pepper (optional)


Cook spaghetti in accordance with directions on package for al dente spaghetti

While spaghetti is cooking, melt butter & heat olive oil in a large frying pan over low heat.

When butter is fully melted, stir in poblanos and garlic.

Saute for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Add ~ 1/4 c pasta water to the pan and stir

Allow to saute another couple of minutes, again stirring once or twice.  

Add another ~ 1/4 of pasta water if desired.

Drain pasta and add to frying pan.

Toss together until spaghetti is well-coated with the oil/butter mixture.

Remove from heat.

Stir in herbs.  Toss again to combine.

Separate onto two plates and top each with half of the ricotta.  

Stir ricotta into pasta.

Salt & pepper to taste.

Serve with a baguette and a couple glasses of wine.


Creamy Caprese Pasta

Quick!  Before summer is actually gone, before the tomatoes turn anemically pink...

Make this!

I honestly don't have a ton to say about this one, but it's good!  And easy!  And doesn't make a ton of mess...

Really, what else is there in life?

Fresh basil and good tomatoes are about to become much more difficult to find, so you might as well go ahead and make this sooner rather than later, because good ingredients are key in something this simple.


Seriously, stop reading.  Go cook.

Creamy Caprese Pasta 
courtesy of How Sweet Eats with only minor adaptation by me
click here to import directly into Pepperplate

1/2 lb whole wheat penne or other small noodle
1 c prepared pasta sauce (we used Newman's Own Roasted Garlic)
1/3 c light cream
1/3 c freshly grated Parmesan
4-5 oz fresh mozzarella, about 3 oz cut into cubes, the rest in thinly sliced rounds
3/4 pint grape tomatoes, halved
a small handful of basil, chiffonaded (no, i don't know if that's the proper way to use that word, but here's how to chiffonade - thanks to VeganYumYum!)


Preheat oven to 350° and lightly grease a baking dish.

Cook pasta about 2-3 minutes less than it says on the box.

Just before pasta is done, heat pasta sauce in a large pan over low heat.  Stir in the cream and Parmesan.  Allow to simmer for a few minutes.

Once pasta is ready, remove the sauce from the heat and stir in pasta.

Add mozzarella cubes (but not the rounds), the tomatoes and the basil and stir to combine.

Pour the mixture into the baking dish and top with mozzarella rounds.

Bake for ~25 minutes, until cheese is just a bit golden.

Allow to sit for a couple of minutes and then serve.


Black Pepper Tofu

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were having what could only be described as a riveting conversation about tofu.

What?  You don't find conversations about tofu riveting?  Pssshhh......

Anyway, during this riveting conversation, she mentioned that she no longer buys the widely available, pre-packaged processed stuff and that I should stop too... And I'm all like, 'and buy what instead? are you suggesting i make tofu now?  please...'

But no...  It turns out, you can buy fresh tofu... and apparently its better... so on my next coop visit, i looked into this fresh tofu thing and when i found some, i bought it. right away.

Now, the truth is, despite having eaten said tofu last night, i have no idea if it was actually any better... because isnt the point of tofu that it doesnt taste like anything?  but i digress...

So, we have this block of life-altering tofu in our fridge but no plans... I considered making my standby but, really, wanted something different... so, to really shake things up, we pulled out a real-life cookbook.  not a pinterest recipe... not a google search... a real life, hard cover cookbook... and that cookbook was Plenty. We've had Plenty for over a year now, (it was a birthday - or was it christmas? - present to me from Jordan), but we'd never made anything from it...

But this was our time... We found Black Pepper Tofu... Looked good, sounded interesting... contained ingredients we'd never heard of... so why not? And while it did take us over a week to getting around to finally making it, we did it. we finally used the cookbook! (there are even oil splatters all over the pages to prove it, too...)

related: do you have any idea how hard it is to find kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)? turns out, it's about a week's worth of hard... I suspect you could leave it out or just use a little molasses instead but we're nothing if not perfectionists... or ingredient-hoarders... eh, let's stick with perfectionists - it makes me feel better...


I'm thankful to all those who came before us - all of the reviews, etc we found online allowed us to tweak this recipe a bit and turn it into something we really, really enjoyed...

Oh, and a bonus? We FINALLY used our rice cooker... we've only had the silly thing for a year and 10 months now... Banner day in our household, huh?

Black Pepper Tofu
adapted by us from Plenty - Yotam Ottolenghi
Click here to import directly into Pepperplate

3 to 4 tbsp canola oil

15 oz. firm tofu, cut into 1″ cubes

4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1.5 tbsp finely chopped ginger
4 shallots, thinly sliced
6 to 7 cloves garlic, smashed
1 poblano pepper, stemmed, deseeded and thinly sliced

2 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
1.5 tbsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar

6 to 8 small scallions, cut into 1″ pieces

2 c cooked brown basmati rice


Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. (no need to use non-stick, this doesn't stick anyway)

Toss tofu cubes in a bowl with cornstarch to coat.
Pan-fry tofu all over, until golden on all sides. (This will require turning frequently and you'll want to use a tong to avoid burns).
Place fried tofu on a paper towel to drain, cover with another paper towel and set aside.

Pour out excess oil and carefully wipe skillet with a paper towel.
Return skillet to medium heat and add butter. Allow butter to melt and then add ginger, shallots, garlic, and poblano. Cook until soft and shallots are beginning to caramelize, about 15-20 minutes.

Stir in black pepper, soy sauces, and sugar.
Return tofu to skillet and toss to coat.
Cook, stirring, until fully combined and warmed, 2 - 3 minutes.

Stir in scallions & serve over brown basmati rice.


Spin Dip Pizza

Aaannnddd, I'm back!

Did you miss me???

Wanna hear a funny story?

About 3 months ago, we moved...  and I had this whole big blog dilemma - my blog's name is Kitchen Hell because cooking in my tiny kitchen was hell!  But the new apartment?  we pretty much bought it 50% for the kitchen, 30% for its proximity to the Greenmarket and 20% for the view...  Notice that means that 70% of why we bought this particular apartment is food related...  which means hell no more, right?

Yeah, that's what i thought...  Turns out, I was a bit too optimistic in that full elimination of hell...
because now we have a whole host of new problems to deal with...  Cabinet shelves that fall down, cabinet hinges that all need to be replaced (unless we enjoy having our cabinets held closed by packing tape), cabinets that were poorly designed...  (I mean, I love my huge pantry, but, um, if i put a box of pasta 21" back, i'm never seeing that pasta again...  why would someone build something that deep without roll-out shelves???)

And then there's the one that makes me want to smack myself in the face for even thinking it, but...  I've learned that i really, really liked having all of my pots & pans hanging on the wall behind me...  it was SO easy!!!  now with all of this cabinet space, things are buried and getting to that frying pan requires that i disassemble the entire cabinet...  which will need to be done again when we want to put it away...

first world problems, i know...

but those first world problems combined with a longer commute (and therefore a later getting-home-time) and not having the greatest grocery store on the planet just a block away (oh fairway, how i miss you!) means my motivation has been lacking, to say the least...

However, in the past week or two, the entirety of tumblr has been talking about this spinach artichoke pizza from How Sweet Eats...  And since last night was my shift at the co-op (oh yes, we ARE those people, thankyouverymuch!) I knew that i'd be motivated after seeing everyone else's purchases, plus I'd be right there at the best grocery option around and could pick up everything I needed...

And it didnt require too many pots & pans...


Finally, the perfect storm of possibility...

Spin Dip Pizza
courtesy of me, as adapted from How Sweet Eats
Click here to import directly into Pepperplate

1 whole wheat pizza crust

1 (14 oz, pre-draining) can of artichoke hearts
2/3 c ricotta cheese
8 oz fresh mozzarella, chopped/crumbled, divided
4 oz grated parmesan cheese, divided

2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 shallots, minced
3 to 4 plum tomatoes, diced
5 oz baby spinach

salt & pepper


Preheat oven to 450°.
Prepare pizza tray and set aside.
Toss/stretch crust to desired size/shape and place on pizza tray.

Place ricotta, 1/4 c parmesan and 1/2 c mozzarella in a medium mixing bowl.

Drain artichokes and roughly chop. Wrap in paper towels and squeeze to eliminate moisture.
Add artichokes to cheeses and stir to combine. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet w/ 1 tbsp olive oil over med-low heat.
Add in shallots with a pinch of salt and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add in tomatoes and allow to cook for another minute or two.

Add spinach, tossing to coat and cook until spinach is wilted.

Remove from heat and add spinach mixture to the bowl with the cheese/artichoke mixture. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Drizzle pizza dough with 1 tbsp olive oil.

Spread cheese/spinach/artichoke mixture evenly over top.

Cover with remaining mozzarella and parmesan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese is golden and bubbly and crust is a bit crispy.

Allow to sit 5 mins before serving.


Croque-Végétarien & Croque-Monsieur

So, you know how there really wasn't much winter this year?

Its been like, November (but without the rain), all winter long.

We're so spoiled by it...  Because this year, any time it goes below 35 or is rainy, we're all 'ew, gross!  couch!  comfort food!'

Since our honeymoon in Paris was quite rainy and chilly, one of the newer additions to our 'ew, gross! couch! comfort food!' repertoire is the Croque Monsieur.  While in Paris there was more than one night where the sightseeing got in the way of the marathon dinner events that we planned for many of the nights and, as a result, we ended up at Cafe Le Depart-St. Michel more than once...  While it wasnt much more than our equivalent of a 24 hour diner, it was open 24 hours (important to NYers who are used to such things) and close to our hotel(s) to boot, so it worked.  And this cafe's croque végétarien was one of the best I had while we were there...

This version is my favorite of all of the ones I've had since leaving paris (admittedly, there havent been that many, but this one is good, i promise!) and will probably become my new standard, not to mention a regular part of the 'ew, gross! couch! comfort food!' rotation.

Croque Végétarien & Croque-Monsieur
courtesy of me, as adapted from Ina Garten

6 slices good white bread

1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1.5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 c warm milk

1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg

3 oz Gruyere, grated
3 oz Emmentaler, grated
1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan

Dijon mustard

2 plum tomatoes, sliced

For Croque-Monsieur:
1/4 lb jambon de Paris


Preheat the oven to 400°.

Toast your bread in the oven on a cookie sheet - 5 minutes on the first side, then 2 minutes on the opposite side. Set aside.

In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter and then add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for ~2 minutes.

Slowly pour the warm milk into the pan with the butter/flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened, about 3 - 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and stir.

Add in 1/4 c of the Gruyere, 1/4 c of the Emmentaler and all of the Parmesan and stir until cheese has all melted. Set aside.

Spread dijon mustard on all of the bread.
On half of the bread, lay out tomatoes on a single layer.
If desired, add a couple of slices of ham on top of the tomatoes. (croque monsieur)
Top the same slices with the remaining Gruyere and Emmentaler, about 1/3 of the total cheese on each.
Top each 'loaded' slice with one of the dijon-only pieces of bread.

Top each sandwich with about 1/3 of the bechamel (cheese sauce)

Bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes.

Switch your oven to broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes (depending on how close your heating element is to your sandwiches) or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned.

Serve hot.

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