Taking a nudge from my friend Melissa (The Faux Martha) I plunged deep into my pantry and did a major overhaul. Some of my reasons for doing so now could quite possibly be resistance, a way of avoiding starting a big project but mostly I did it because it needed it. My biggest piece of advice for those looking to put good food on the table every night is to keep a well stocked pantry. Some people meal plan and that’s great, for them. It’s never worked for me. I love being inspired to cook what feels right and sounds delicious in that moment. So I keep the basics in the pantry and fresh produce in the fridge so that at any given moment I have dozens of dinner possibilities within reach.
Up until a couple days ago you couldn’t see the lentils from the beans as the shelves were filled with stale nuts and random bits still in their bulk bin packaging. Now I’ll take a few extra steps to walk by the pantry just to ogle at my momentous completed task. I pat myself heartily on the back as I take in the site of neatly arranged rows of Ball jars all lined up with their appropriate labels. Yes, there are even labels! I don’t even know myself anymore.
This pasta dish is made possible with a stocked pantry but don’t worry a label maker isn’t a necessity. Linguine and cauliflower are forever staples in our home and while ricotta and dill aren’t always on hand those are a quick grab from the store or can easily be substituted for another soft cheese such as feta or goat cheese. Now that I think about it a flurry of shaved Parmesan or Pecorino is not a bad alternative. If dill isn’t in your crisper mint or parsley would substitute nicely.
Pasta is not only an ever present staple in our pantry it’s also one of those meals where the response to the question “what’s for dinner?” is met with cheers instead of the more popular moans. This particular pasta accommodates an entire head of cauliflower and heaps of grassy dill so its merits abound while the comfort of twirling wide noodles around your fork and dipping into mounds of pillowy ricotta make said merit exist without much notice.
Roasted Cauliflower Linguine with Ricotta and Dill
Cauliflower is a staple in our house. It’s one vegetable on a short list that will receive zero complaints from my often picky-eating children. Roasting is always my go to and here I don’t even bother coring or removing the leaves. It will spend so much time in the oven that even the tough core will submit to a sweet creaminess. The key here is to chop the cauliflower quite small to get more of those crispy charred bits.
1 head cauliflower, cut into small pieces
4 garlic cloves, roughly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chili flakes
8 ounces linguini
1 cup roughly chopped dill
Juice from 1 lemon
1 cup ricotta
Preheat the oven 425°F
Add the cauliflower and garlic to a sheet tray (parchment lined for easier clean up). Drizzle the olive oil over top along with 1 teaspoon sea salt and the chili flakes. Stir that up a bit to combine.
Roast 30 - 45 minutes or until deeply caramelized stirring halfway through for even roasting.
Cook the pasta according the directions on the package.
Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup pasta water.
Combine the pasta with the roasted cauliflower, fresh dill and a hefty squeeze of lemon. Stir in some of the pasta water starting with 1/4 cup then adding more if it appears dry.
Add the pasta to a serving bowl then finish with several large dollops of ricotta, a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of salt, flake if you have it.
In an effort to stay good on my resolution to make this place a better resource and more practical for you all I am hoping to include more every night dinner options. There will still be cakes – last week alone I made two plus a couple of cream pies. Let’s call it therapeutic baking. But the simple food, the sort we eat on a regular basis, doesn’t always make it to these pages. Let’s change that. I know for myself I am most often flipping through cookbooks and visiting blogs for inspiration for the quick, healthful, and comforting food that can easily make it to our dinner table and possibly with minimal grumbling from the little ones.
Totally unrelated to this particular recipe I’m about to share but I thought of it as I mentioned quick dinners – do you all have an Instant Pot? I think I’m perhaps one of the last to jump on this bandwagon but I have fallen hard for this device and this is coming from someone who generally hates devices. Get me a sharp knife and a cutting board and I’m set. Slow cooker? What’s the point I say. Rice cooker? I’ve got a pot and a lid for that. Yesterday I made the best chicken broth of my cooking career in thirty minutes. Side note to my side note: I took that chicken broth and made this recipe for chicken and dumplings for my sick family (sadly the smell of the broth made one sick child feel sicker, mom fail). I used leftovers from a roasted chicken made the night before and added one cup of grated Comté cheese to the biscuits.
Okay focus, Ashley. So regular dinners. That’s what I have here in the form of a very simple meatball. I mentioned these last week as they accompanied our Cauliflower Tabouli. The kids loved these simply spiced meatballs as did the group of friends I made them for recently. In fact I promised I would get this post up today so they could have the recipe. Not the kids, the friends, although this recipe is easy enough for the boys to throw together.
Kofta is a type of meatball that is found in Middle Eastern, South and Central Asian recipes. At its simplest it is ground meat mixed with spices. Other recipes include mixing the meat with grains and vegetables. Here ground chicken is seasoned with garlic, cinnamon, cumin, and coriander bound with a bit of yogurt and laced with a flurry of fresh herbs.
A couple of things to note: Perhaps consider doubling the recipe. They make great leftovers for lunches or future dinners (they freeze well too). Also, think leftover meatball sandwich – a slather of the creamy yogurt feta sauce and some crisp greens and thinly shaved cucumber. Yes. Make more than you need.
I used ground dark meat here and I think the moisture is needed. If you can’t find any add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to add just a bit of fat to the meat. For the herbs, use any variety of the soft leafy sort that you might have on hand – dill, cilantro, mint and parsley all do nicely.
More weekday dinner ideas to come. And cake. Always cake.
In a large bowl combine the chicken, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, salt, lemon zest, and yogurt. Mix well to combine. If you're okay with this I'd suggest using your hands.
Heat a cast iron (or other oven safe skillet) over medium high heat. Cook a teaspoon size patty to test for seasoning. Add more salt if needed.
Add the oil to the pan. Use a cookie scoop or a spoon to shape the meatballs into roughly two tablespoon-sized balls. They may loose their shape a bit as there are no eggs or bread crumbs but just add them gently to the pan then sear on all sides, turning them carefully with tongs.
Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven after all the meatballs have seared and roast for 10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.
In a small bowl combine the yogurt, feta, dill, salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Taste and add more salt as needed.
Serve with the Yogurt Feta Sauce (recipe below). This also goes beautifully with the Cauliflower Tabouli.