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Archive for July, 2011

Creamy Avocado Pasta

I have a love for avocados that I cannot be put into words. The mere site of one of those beautiful, creamy, tasty friends is enough to make me happy. It isn’t always easy to buy avocados here, they aren’t always in stock, sometimes when they are they look awful and other times to do so, you may need to take out a small loan. They can be a bit on the pricey side since they have to travel so far to get to us, so I don’t buy them every time I am at the grocery store, I try to spread it out and really enjoy them when I spend the money.

While on our nearly 2-week long trip to California earlier this month, I tried to enjoy the fresh and local avocados as often as possible. On the side with my breakfast eggs instead of home-fries, with salads, etc. Of course when I came home from our trip, I still had California and all of it’s lovely produce on my mind, especially those creamy delights! I came across this recipe on Oh She Glows, while googling different avocado recipes and I couldn’t wait to try it out. But, I knew I had to be a bit strategic when making and serving it, since hubby doesn’t always love avocados. He’ll always eat guacamole, but other than that he isn’t usually a fan. I had a feeling if I asked him if he would like this, he would definitely say ‘no’ so I just went for it. I decided to make the sauce while he took Seri for a walk and I put it all together and served dinner right when he walked in, being careful to rid the kitchen counter of any evidence like the peel or pit from the avocado.

I served the pasta warm, with the fresh lemon zest and spicy red pepper flakes on top and left out some freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, in the event it needed it. I let Mark take a few big bites and I waited for his reaction, he liked it. He kept eating it. His first words were “wow, this is so good, but so different from any other pasta you’ve made”. After a few bites on my own, those were my exact thoughts as well, it was creamy with a nice spicy bite from both the fresh basil and the red pepper flakes and a refreshing brightness from the lemon and lemon zest. The sauce definitely doesn’t mock cheese or cream in taste, but certainly in texture, I wouldn’t say I missed any of the dairy, but I did crave the sharp bite from a good quality cheese on top. I tried a few bites with the parmigiano reggiano and it was good, though I would hardly say it needs it.

I eventually told Mark what the sauce was made of and he was genuinely shocked and surprised, he said he couldn’t taste the avocado, just that it had a much different flavor profile than any pasta than I had ever made. If you don’t care for the bit of spice from the red pepper flakes, you could certainly skip it and just top your pasta with freshly ground black pepper. I have to say this sauce was incredibly easy to make and I was very excited about how healthy it was and I was happy to find another naturally vegan dish. I definitely plan to make this again maybe trying it with some fresh spinach, only this time I won’t have to hide the evidence.

*keep in mind, it is probably best to make only as much of this pasta, as you will eat in the first meal. Due to the avocados most likely browning after time, this dish wouldn’t reheat very well.

Creamy Avocado Pasta
Serves 2
Adapted via Oh She Glows

1 medium sized ripe Avocado, peeled and pitted
1/2 lemon, juiced + lemon zest to garnish
2-3 garlic cloves, to taste
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 cup fresh basil (or try a cup or two of fresh spinach)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 servings (6 oz) organic brown rice pasta (or your choice of pasta)
Crushed red pepper flakes or freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fresh basil for serving

Cook your pasta according to package directions. When cooked to al dente, remove from the heat, reserve a 1/4 cup of the pasta water, drain and rinse in a colander, place the cooked pasta in a large serving bowl once drained.

Meanwhile, make the sauce by placing the garlic cloves, lemon juice, and olive oil in a food processor. Process until smooth. Now add in the pitted and peeled avocado, basil and salt. Process until smooth and creamy. If your avocado is more on the firm side, you may want to add a bit more olive oil or even a tablespoon or two of pasta water.

Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss until fully combined, again you may want a bit of the pasta water to thin the sauce a bit so it will coat all of the pasta evenly. Garnish with lemon zest, red pepper flakes and a leave or two of fresh basil. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

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Horchata

It has been a hot summer in Buffalo. One of the hottest that I personally can recall. We’ve been traveling a ton and trying to enjoy every last-minute of the heat and sun while we are in town. We don’t leave again for another month so we hope to get the bikes out a few times, head to the beach and maybe even squeeze in some hiking or camping or something. Now that we are working from home, we really want to take advantage of the summer months while we can and enjoy the beautiful weather, before the snow and cold set in.

One of my favorite things about the short-lived summertime in Buffalo, is playing around with refreshing drink recipes. Admittedly, I planted mint in my yard, just to make mojitos and this summer I even infused my own liquors after reading this article in Bon Appetit magazine. Now that I made my first two batches and they turned out great, I plan to write-up a post about them.  Don’t worry though, it isn’t just “adult beverages” I like to create, I love making fresh smoothies in the morning, iced teas, flavored sparkling waters and the like. Naturally, when I came across a post on David Lebovitz’s blog about making homemade horchata, I couldn’t wait to try it. There is nothing better than an ice-cold refreshing glass at an authentic mexican restaurant. OK, so maybe it is a close second to a good margarita, but it’s still incredible. It’s light, full of delicious flavors and it is perfect on ice on a hot summer day. There are few “authentic” Mexican restaurants here in Buffalo, (as far as I am concerned, none of them are authentic) and definitely no taquerias, so the chances of finding horchata here, are slim to none. I usually reserve my mexican indulgences for when we travel, rather than being let down, so when we aren’t traveling and I am craving Mexican, I tackle it myself at home. It isn’t nearly the same, but I still find it to be better than any of the Mexican restaurants here. I make my own tortillas, pico de gallo and guacamole, which is already a step above most places. We are actually having black bean tacos at home this week and I cannot wait.

When I saw how easy this horchata recipe was, I knew that this would be another Mexican treat worth trying at home. It is quite simple, you will spend more time waiting for the rice to soak then all of the prep time combined. You definitely want to make sure you strain in through cheese-cloth so you get all the rice bits, otherwise it will settle to the bottom of the pitcher in the fridge.

In addition to David’s recipe, I also checked out Rick Bayless’ recipe and many others. I came across many variations on the recipe, some include almonds, lime zest, etc. I decided to alter them all slightly and go with my own combination and I was very happy with the results. Oh and definitely try a glass with a shot of good rum stirred in, YUM!

Another fun twist you can take with the horchata is something that I have now learned is called a “Cochata”: Iced Coffee + Horchata. I made this apparently trendy drink in accidental desperation the morning after making the horchata. I wanted an iced coffee and realized after it was poured that we were out of any milk or cream, so I poured in a large glug of the horchata and was instantly in love. You have to try it.

On a side note, I apologize for the lack of posts and recipes on here, we just got home from nearly 2 weeks on the west coast. So I am hoping to get more recipes up here in the next few weeks as we are home for a month straight, finally. It has been a busy summer, full of travel and events, so I am excited to have some time at home.

Ground up rice and spices for horchata

Horchata
Makes 7 servings
Adapted from recipes from Rick Bayless and David Lebovitz

2/3 cup white rice
2 cinnamon sticks
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
3 2-inch strips of lime zest (colored rind only) 3/4 inch wide
3 cups of hot water
3/4 – 1 cup sugar
3 cups of cold water

Grind the rice in a blender or spice grinder into fine pieces. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add in the cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and lime zest. Stir in 3 cups of hot tap water, cover and let stand at least 6 hours or preferably, overnight.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and pour the mixture into a blender and blend for 3 to 4 minutes, until it no longer feels very gritty. Add 2 cups of water, and then blend for a few seconds more. Set a large sieve over a mixing bowl and line with 3 layers of dampened cheese cloth. Pour in the mixture a little at time, gently stirring to help the liquid pass through. Squeeze the cheese cloth firmly to extract as much of the rice flavor as possible.

Add 1 cup of water and stir in your desired amount of sugar, mix until the sugar is dissolved. Taste, and adjust sweetness, if necessary. If the consistency is too thick, add additional water. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Stir before pouring.  Serve over ice with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon on top.

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