En español | Not that many years ago, the meaty main course took center stage at my dinner parties. Who will be the featured star for this meal? Salmon? Lamb? Chicken? I still serve meat, poultry and seafood, but I'm just as likely to feature a vegetarian main course such as Fettuccine With Ricotta and Spring Vegetables.
Serving a vegetarian main course makes it easier for other dishes in the meal to shine. Deviled Egg Salad melds appetizer and salad into one simple yet impressive first course. The creamy sweet-sour flavoring for the egg yolk filling doubles as dressing for salad greens.
Showcase colorful spring vegetables such as asparagus, carrots, peas and scallions in this attractive main course. There's no "sauce" to make. Simply stir a few pan-roasted mashed garlic cloves (they cook in five minutes!) into ricotta cheese. That, and a little pasta cooking liquid for thinning, is all you need to flavor and moisten the pasta.
Since there's no big cut of meat to deal with, why not bring up that pasta machine that's been languishing on the basement shelf for years and make fresh pasta from scratch? Making the dough is surprisingly simple — my recipe is just 2 cups of flour and 3 eggs for six people — and if you allow enough time, rolling and cutting the dough is a fun project.
In years past, I would have chosen a rich strawberry shortcake or decadent lemon tart to serve for dessert. Now I serve up lighter pleasures like Strawberries With Mascarpone and Greek Yogurt. Rather than sweeten the creamy base and strawberries separately, I assemble them and sprinkle them lightly with a little bit of raw turbinado sugar, which means I use less sugar — and that's a good thing, too.
Deviled Egg Salad
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper
6 boiled eggs, peeled and halved, yolks removed and mashed with a fork
2 heads Boston lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
Whisk mayonnaise, mustard, honey and vinegar in small bowl. Mash 5 tablespoons of the dressing into the yolks to make a smooth filling. (Dressing, filling and eggs can be covered and refrigerated overnight.)
When ready to serve, spoon a portion of the yolk mixture into each egg white half. Arrange a portion of lettuce leaves on each of 6 salad plates; drizzle with remaining dressing. Top each salad with 2 deviled eggs and serve.
Fettuccine With Ricotta and Spring Vegetables
*If you decide to be adventurous and make fresh pasta, take note that fresh pasta cooks more quickly than dried, so add asparagus, carrots and peas to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Add fresh fettuccine and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes longer.
1 pound fettuccine, bought or homemade (see next page)
6 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
2 cups trimmed and bite-size pieces asparagus
1 cup each peeled and thinly sliced carrots
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallion greens
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
Heat garlic and oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When garlic starts to sizzle, reduce heat to low and continue to cook garlic cloves, turning them once or twice, until soft and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let garlic stand in oil for a few minutes, then mash it and stir it, along with 1 tablespoon of the oil, into ricotta. Reserve remaining flavored oil for another use.
Meanwhile, bring 3 quarts of generously salted water to boil in a large soup kettle. Add fettuccine and, using back-of-the-box times as a guide, cook partially covered and stir frequently at first to prevent sticking, until just tender. Add asparagus, carrots and peas to the boiling pasta the last 5 minutes of cooking. Set colander over a large bowl and drain pasta, reserving cooking liquid; return pasta to the pot. Mash garlic and stir it into the ricotta, along with scallions, Parmesan, and enough hot-pasta cooking liquid to form a creamy sauce. Serve, sprinkling each portion with cheese.
Strawberries With Mascarpone and Greek Yogurt
1-1/2 cups Greek yogurt
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1/4 cup sugar, preferably turbinado
Mix yogurt and mascarpone cheese with vanilla extract. When ready to serve, spoon a dollop of the yogurt mixture on each of 6 dessert plates. Garnish with strawberries; sprinkle each with 2 teaspoons of sugar and serve.
Fresh Egg Pasta
Makes about 1 pound
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
Mix flour and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until dough starts to form rough little balls. Remove dough from machine and place in on a lightly floured work surface; knead briefly until dough comes together into a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 15 minutes or up to a couple of hours. (Can be refrigerated up to couple of days.)
When ready to make pasta, divide dough into quarters and press each piece into approximate 1/2-inch-thick rectangles. With pasta machine fitted with the roller attachment adjusted to its widest setting, run the first rectangle of dough through the roller. Fold dough in thirds and continue running it through the roller set at widest setting, folding it into thirds after each roll, until dough is smooth and pliable, 2 to 3 times.
Turn the knob to the next thinnest setting and run pasta through, adjusting the setting to the subsequent next thinnest setting after each rolling, lightly dusting dough with flour as necessary. Lay pasta on work surface to rest. Repeat rolling, folding and stretching with remaining 3 pieces of dough.
Switch to fettuccine attachment. Working one piece at a time, run stretched dough through cutter to form fettuccine. Lay cut pasta on a towel, forming them into little nests. Cook, or cover with a second towel until ready to cook.
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