May 2011


Creamy avocado, smoky bacon, and bitter radicchio unite in this boldly decadent (and completely dairy-free!) pasta dish.  Serve with simple grilled chicken or white beans dressed with olive oil and lemon.

Pasta with avocado, radicchio, and bacon

Serves 4

4 slices bacon

1 head radicchio, cut into 8 wedges

1 bunch scallions, white and tender green parts, sliced

2 avocados, chopped

Handful fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

8 ounces hot cooked short pasta shapes, such as radiatore

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

In a cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet set over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp.  Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan.

Return the skillet to the stove, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook the radicchio wedges until softened and browned, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove to a cutting board.

Add the scallions to the pan and cook until just tender, about 1 minute.  Remove to a large mixing bowl.

Crumble the bacon and add it to the bowl with the scallions.  Roughly chop the radicchio and add it to the bowl.  Add the avocado, basil, and hot pasta.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with olive oil.

Make it kid-friendlier:  Bitter radicchio may not appeal to tiny taste buds.  If you omit it, add the juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons) along with the olive oil to balance the richness of the avocado and the saltiness of the bacon.


You don’t need a recipe to make a fantastic stir-fry.  You just need to follow a few simple steps:

1. Get your pan good and hot.  I don’t have a wok or a stove with an impressive number of BTUs, so I use a well-seasoned cast iron skillet for stir-frying.  It handles and retains high heat and is naturally non-stick.  If you’re adding meat, poultry, shellfish, or tofu to your stir-fry and like a nice sear on it, as I do, cook it first.  Then remove it from the pan before you add the vegetables.

2. Cut your veg into bite-sized pieces so they cook quickly and evenly.  Take the various cooking times of different vegetables into consideration.  Put tougher or meatier vegetables (like carrots, eggplant, and mushrooms) in the pan first, then add tender vegetables (snow peas, scallions) toward the end of cooking.  Go easy on the salt if your sauce is soy based.

3. Add a killer sauce.  I like a sauce that’s a little salty, a little tangy, and a little spicy.  Make sure you have enough — your stir-fry shouldn’t be soupy, but it shouldn’t be dry, either, especially if you’re serving it with rice.

Tofu vegetable skillet

Serves 4

For sauce:

5 cloves garlic

Salt

2 tablespoons grated, peeled ginger

4 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons tamari (or other soy sauce)

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

For tofu and vegetables:

1 tablespoon canola oil

12 oz. package extra-firm tofu

12 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

Salt

2 cups snow peas, trimmed

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 bunch scallions, white and tender green parts, sliced

2 heads baby bok choy, sliced

Make sauce:

Finely chop the garlic.  Sprinkle the garlic with a pinch of salt and use the flat side of a chef’s knife to mash it into a paste.  Put garlic in a small mixing bowl.  Add ginger, vinegar, tamari, and oils.  Whisk until well combined.

Cook tofu and vegetables:

Drain the tofu and wrap it in two layers of paper towels.  Press the tofu between two heavy dinner plates to remove excess moisture.  Cut the tofu in half through its equator to make two thin slices the same length and width as the original block.  Blot the cut sides dry.

Heat half the oil in a cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Sear the slices of tofu until lightly browned on both sides.  Remove tofu to a cutting board and cut into bite-sized cubes.  Set aside.

Drizzle the remaining oil into the skillet and add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are softened, 3 or 4 minutes.  Add remaining vegetables and continue cooking until peas are bright green, about 2 or 3 minutes more.  Add cubed tofu and sauce and stir to combine.

Serve over brown rice.