Real Food for Real Life

Friday, February 5, 2010

Wishing for summer...

I can't wait for summer, and that's not just because we are in the middle of a winter storm.  I bought a small package of fresh basil yesterday at Kroger and it was $1.99!!  It made me really miss the huge pot of basil I grow every summer right outside my kitchen door.  I miss not only the fresh basil in abundance, but garden tomatoes, grilling, and not feeling like I'm freezing in my 68 degree house.  Along with the fresh basil, I was on a mission to get a small piece of lean beef for dinner, but everything looked fatty, chewed up, or too expensive.  I ended up leaving the store with a whole beef tenderloin (the smallest one I could find), a relative bargain at $5.99 a pound. I trimmed the tenderloin into a nice little roast (we'll have that sometime soon) and used the 1/2 pound or so I trimmed off to make the pasta dish for dinner.  This pasta dish is so easy and tasty- I used to make it with the beef to mushroom ration reversed, but now go with less beef.  This dish could easily go vegetarian with the substitution of another bell pepper or an onion for the beef.  I had some decent tomatoes in the fridge (okay, decent for the dead of winter), as well as some fresh mozzarella, so I made a caprese salad to go with the pasta.  I am making bruschetta burgers for dinner on Friday night so I will use the leftover salad on the burgers.

Portabella and Beef Pasta

12 oz. pkg. of your favorite long pasta (this is a good chance to use a whole wheat pasta)
8 oz. lean steak beef, cut into thin strips
4 portabella caps (12 to 16 oz.), wiped, halved & sliced thin
1 bell pepper (red, yellow or orange is best), sliced thin
minced garlic, to taste
extra virgin loive oil
coarse salt & fresh ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/32cup grated parmesan (to taste)
fresh basil, thinly sliced

Season the beef with salt, pepper, and as much minced garlic as you dare.  Start the pasta- while the pasta is cooking heat a large nonstick saute pan over medium high heat.  Once the pan is hot, saute the pepper strips quickly in a little olive oil until crisp tender, remove to a large serving bowl and keep warm.  Saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil in two batches, removing to the same serving bowl when tender but not dry.  Quickly saute the beef just until done, only a minute or two (don't overcook), and remove to the serving bowl.  Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the serving bowl (don't worry about rinsing).  Toss everything together with as much grated parmesan as desired.  Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve family style. 

Caprese Salad

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced into 14 inch rounds
ripe red tomatoes (summer tomatoes are best)
fresh basil, thinly sliced
coarse ground black pepper
balsamic vinegar, for serving
spinach or other salad greens, for serving (optional)

Nothing is easier than this salad.  Layer your tomatoes in fans or stacks, on a bed of greens if desired.  Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper and thinly sliced fresh basil (DO NOT use the dried stuff here), but don't salt as this will bring out the juices in the tomato slices.  Just before serving, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar (or whatever you like) and salt if desired.

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