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A Perfect Summer Meal: Luna Raye’s Light and Ea...

Summer has well and truly arrived. For the past few weeks the sun has been shining everyday and it has been hot, hot, hot! This lovely weather has worked wonders on my garden and everything seems to be thriving (which makes a change from last years disappointing efforts.)

There is an abundance of herbs and I have been incorporating them into as many of my meals as I can. Last night I had a craving for pasta. Sometimes you just can’t beat a bowl of spaghetti served with a nice chilled white wine.

Although I am growing tomatoes, they haven’t started to bear fruit yet so I bought some plum tomatoes from a greengrocer that specializes in local Kent produce. I also bought a few chestnut mushrooms. Once I had assembled those ingredients I went out into the garden to collect some herbs. I decided on Parsley, Coriander, Sage and Lemon Thyme.

It was a very light and refreshing meal and the flavour of the herbs came through beautifully. I really love being able to use ingredients from the garden and I can’t wait until we can use our own tomatoes!

So here is my recipe for a perfect summer meal:

Luna Raye’s Recipe For Light and Easy Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Herbs from the Garden.

Ingredients

Spaghetti (I used enough for 2 people approx 160 – 200 grams).

9 Plum Tomatoes cut roughly into chunks (Cherry Tomatoes also work well. What’s important is that they are fresh).

9 Chestnut Mushrooms sliced ( I like mine a bit chunky but they can be sliced thinner if you prefer).

A selection of Fresh Herbs preferably from your garden! I used Curly Parsley, Coriander, Sage and Lemon Thyme. I used approximately about 4 Tablespoons of the chopped mixed herbs.

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese.

Directions

Cook the pasta in lightly salted water according to the package directions.

While the pasta is cooking roughly chop the tomatoes and slice the mushrooms. Set them aside.
Roughly chop the herbs and also set aside.

When the spaghetti is al dente drain it and do not rinse. The idea is to keep a small amount of the cooking water in the pot.

Put the spaghetti back in the pot and add the tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.
Mix well and transfer to serving bowls.

Add some freshly ground pepper and parmesan cheese to taste.

Enjoy it out in the garden with some chilled white wine!

NOTES:

For ages whenever I cooked pasta I would add a wee bit of olive oil to the water which I thought would prevent the pasta from sticking together. This was not only rather costly it can actually impair the flavour of the dish. The pasta becomes oily and is unable to absorb any sauce.

I also remember being told that it was important to rinse cooked pasta after it’s been drained. This isn’t a good idea either. Rinsing pasta cools it down which means it stops the pasta from absorbing sauces. This can also impair the over all flavour of the dish.

Rinsing also washes away any starch that is left on the pasta. This starch is important for thickening sauces, so it’s beneficial to always reserve some of the cooking water from your pasta.

I first tried this technique when I made Nigella Lawson’s Linguine with Lemon, Garlic and Thyme Mushrooms and it was wonderful.

Here is a great article by Shirley Corriher on How To Cook Pasta Properly.

Light And Easy Pasta With Fresh Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Herbs

The Abundant Garden.

Red Peppers Stuffed with Refried Beans and Goats C...

I was at a loss for what to make for dinner tonight. There were 2 large red peppers languishing at the bottom of my crisper so I decided to look for a recipe for stuffing them. Luckily I had some goat cheese on hand but I wasn’t sure what else to add as a filling.

Trawling through recipe sites I found one for Red Peppers, Red Beans and Goat Cheese, which sounds delicious. Of course I was missing the kidney beans and the butternut squash so I needed to make some adjustments.

For my recipe I used a tin of refried beans which I heated up with 2 chopped shallots, 2 cloves of minced garlic and the bits of pepper that were around the stems. I added some mushrooms toward the end.

I had already starting roasting peppers – without the mixture – and after about 20 minutes took them out and crumbled some goat cheese in the bottom. I then added some of the refried bean mixture about ½ way up the pepper and then added some more cheese and another layer of the mixture.

Once the peppers were completely stuffed I covered the top of them with the rest of the goat cheese. I put them back in the oven for a further 30 – 40 minutes or until soft.

They looked and smelled delicious! The only problem was I got my timing wrong and my husband was another 20 minutes getting home from work. The result was that the peppers became very soft and one fell over spilling its contents all over the baking tray.

It didn’t look pretty but boy did it taste great! I will try the original recipe at some point – I love the idea of adding kidney beans and butternut squash!

Kitchen Tools: A Main Ingredients Hand Grater....

It’s important to purchase good quality kitchen tools. Not only can they make your life easier in the kitchen but they can also help introduce you to new techniques and cooking methods.

I recently purchased a large Prestige Main Ingredients Hand Grater which is the perfect tool for zesting lemons, limes and oranges. It is also wonderful for finely grating garlic and ginger and for putting those extra special touches of parmesan cheese on pasta dishes, salads and soups.

For ages the only grater I had was a box grater. It is perfect for grating large blocks of cheese but I found it hard to use when I needed things finely grated or zested. The hand grater is a great and inexpensive kitchen tool and I would recommend one of these for anyone who is serious about cooking.

One of the first recipes I used the grater for was Nigella Lawson’s, Linguine with lemon, garlic and thyme mushrooms. In fact, I bought it so I could make this very dish, and it was absolutely worth it!

Give this recipe a try. It is simple, elegant and delicious and while you’re at it, why not treat yourself to some new tools for your kitchen!

Grilled and Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Gorg...

Tonight was a night for trying something new. A few weeks ago I saw one of my favourite chefs from the food network, Giada De Laurentiis, prepare a wonderful looking meal for her friends.

Mushrooms have always been one of my favourite foods and Giada’s recipe for Grilled and Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Gorgonzola looked too yummy to pass up. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get all the ingredients so I did have to make a few compromises.

Instead of turkey or chicken sausages, I used plain pork ones. I also didn’t have any mascarpone cheese. The mixture did need some moisture to help blend everything together so I added just a touch of double cream.

I served the mushrooms with a simple watercress salad on the side. The peppery flavour of the watercress complemented the gorgonzola nicely. This was a huge hit and I will definitely be making it again.