Pasta with Caramelized Carrot Sauce

Pasta with Caramelized Carrot Sauce

I think I’m getting boring. I think I’m in a food rut. The only issue is this rut is so delicious. Pasta, vegetables, cheese. Simple, yet thorough. Hearty, yet not overbearing. Easy, yet complex. Less than two weeks ago I was going on and on about pasta and roasted root vegetables. I’ll be the first to admit that this recipe isn’t too terribly different, but it sticks with carrots and lets them linger in the pot until they get caramelized and delicious. Pureeing the mixture combines the pasta and the veggies with a creamy sauce, that when topped with stringy cheese, is wholeheartedly irresistible.

Pasta with Caramelized Carrot Sauce Pasta with Caramelized Carrot Sauce

So, sometimes curious friends ask me how I have so much time to cook. Well, I’m in college. Despite what anyone tells you, we have a lot of free time. It’s just how we spend it that differs. I spend mine celebrating the little moments in the kitchen, like when I don’t cry while dicing an onion. Or when I flip a grilled cheese perfectly. I unwind through food. I celebrate myself and others through food. I begin a good day with food. I salvage a bad day with food. The steady motions of prepping and chopping vegetables bring me back down to earth. The sweet aromas that slowly rise out of a simmering pot inspire grumbles in my stomach. Adding heat to something is like adding a little miracle. Cooking relaxes me, melts the stress of the day away, and re-centers me. I always feel better after cooking, and even better than better after eating. So that’s that.

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On Vegetable Stock

Last year I did a silly thing. I bought vegetables to make vegetable stock. I measured out water. I meticulously chopped. But with the big bags of carrots, I ended up with MORE vegetables than I started with. This year I learned an important thing. Something every grandmother knew but we forgot. Never buy vegetables to make vegetable stock. Save (almost) all of your scraps – every little bit – and soon you will have everything you need for vegetable stock. FREE vegetable stock.

One of the greatest benefits of homemade vegetable stock is the nutritional value. The more vegetables you use, the wider range of vitamins and nutrients your stock will have. And since it’s salt-free, you can determine how much salt to add while you’re cooking. It is also a great way to mellow out a recipe that is over salted.

It takes me 3-4 weeks to fill up a one-gallon freezer bag of scraps, and the 6-8 cups (~2 quarts) of stock I get out of it usually lasts me until the bag is full again. Maybe it won’t last me as long now that the season of soups is upon us, but it’s certainly working out so far.

Since onions, carrots, and celery make up the backbone of vegetable stock, it is important to have a good amount of them in your freezer bag when you go to make the stock. If I’m using carrots or celery in any recipes during the month, I try to chop up 1-2 of each and put them into my freezer bag for when it comes time to make stock! That way, I don’t have to go out and buy a big bag of the two and get stuck with leftovers and nothing else to use them in.

If you’re going to use the vegetable stock within a week, keep it in the fridge. Longer, keep it in the freezer. I freeze my stock in 1- or 2-cup amounts in tupperware containers, then pop them out and put them in a big freezer bag. It takes a couple rounds to get all of the stock frozen, but it saves a lot of containers from filling up my tiny freezer!

Vegetables to use: Onions, carrots and celery are the basic ingredients for stock, but the more vegetables you use, the greater the flavor and nutritional value. Save any scraps (roots, stalks, leaves, peelings etc.) from other vegetables like leeks, scallions, garlic, fennel, chard, lettuce, potatoes, parsnips, green beans, squash, bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, and asparagus. You can even add corn cobs, winter squash skins, beet greens and herbs. Vegetables that are wilting (but are NOT spoiled) are perfectly fine to use.

Vegetables to avoid: Bitter vegetables are overpowering in the stock and better off avoiding. You don’t need to save cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, or artichokes. You may want to avoid beet roots and onion skins, because they turn stock dark red/brown. Don’t include anything that has spoiled.
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Cabbage, Potato and Leek Soup

Cabbage, Potato and Leek Soup

My latest batch of soup comes from my latest batch of inspiration from Tamar Adler’s book An Everlasting Meal. Her book is filled with chapter after chapter of vibrant prose that feels like her ingredients are leaving the page and entering your own kitchen. She writes eloquently about understated ingredients like cabbage and anchovies, which I believe would inspire any obstinate eater to give them another taste.

For me, I had a sudden urge to cook cabbage. How many people can say that they crave cabbage? Rabbits aren’t people, so they don’t count. The giant cabbage head I bought at the farmers market cost me a whopping $1. Combined with leeks and potatoes from the market and my vegetable stock made from scraps, this recipe came to a grand total of… $3. Economical, graceful, and delicious. That’s what Adler’s cooking is all about. That’s what my kitchen is all about.

Cabbage, Potato and Leek Soup

This recipe requires a little patience; the soup has to cook for at least an hour to get its savory and deliciously melty flavors. But it doesn’t need much watching. I went down the street to get some more coffee beans and talk to a few friends while it cooked. Double win.

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Pasta with Skillet-Roasted Root Vegetables

Pasta with Skillet-Roasted Root Vegetables

How do you take something that is normally awful and turn it into totally awesome?
For example, biking home several miles in a complete downpour.
Normally awful.
Add waterproof gear from head to toe.
Totally awesome.

Exclude the follow factors: my backpack has no protection (laptop was intentionally left at home this day), a homeless man crossing the street laughed at me (a big, bellowing “HA!”), and the tops of my pink striped socks are getting a little damp (but only a little, and only right at the end).

I think if it hadn’t have been for my sopping backpack and subsequent impending doom for my psychology notes and cellphone, I would have kept going. The roads were almost empty, my breaks mostly worked, and I felt like a TOTAL BADASS.

Complete bad-assery. Adrenaline pumping through my veins, pedals spinning round and round, and a slight sense of I’m-speeding-through-the-air-and-still-waterproof-haha-suckers superiority over the umbrella/wind/Midwest-fighting sidewalk dwellers.

Pasta with Skillet-Roasted Root Vegetables

Pasta with Skillet-Roasted Root Vegetables

This dish is the perfect steaming plate of goodness ready for you when you get home from a rainy night, back from a big homecoming football win (!!), or a snack on a chilly afternoon. You know how I know? Because I’ve eaten this for four days straight. I’ve made two batches. I’ve eaten the leftovers at every meal. And I’m still not tired of it… Isn’t that proof enough that you have to try this? Thought so.

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Chicken in Almond Sauce

Pollo en salsa de almendras — that is how I discovered this dish at Taberna Coloniales on Calle Fernández y González in Seville. It was the first place I took my parents for lunch when they visited me in November of last year. Yeah, that sounds interesting, I guess. Mom likes almonds. Sure. That one.

Life changing.

My favorite dish in Spain.

Okay, life changing may be an exaggeration, but there was never a trip to Los Coloniales that did not include pollo con almendras. Mom repeated several times, “I have to figure out a way to make this when I get home!” Eleven months later and I have the answer.

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