Cooking on the Fly

The other night, a few of my least favorite things happened in the kitchen.  I came home and noticed three things:

  1. I was missing a few ingredients for what I had plan to make for dinner
  2. I had forgotten to thaw meat needed for dinner
  3. Produce that I had purchased at the farmer’s market (outside my bushel) were beginning to over-ripe… and FAST.

This is when I thank the heavens I started paying attention to my pantry ingredients and understanding substitutes for certain items.  I had planned on making a Pasta with Sausage, White Beans and Broccoli and what we ended up with was much more than that.

I decided to make a side salad with a gorgeous tomato that was about on it’s way out.  Light bulb!  Let’s make a BEAUTIFUL caprese salad with a local stony hill farm tomato (and their fresh mozz, too) with backyard basil.  I finished the salad with a drizzle of wonderful Tuscan Herb olive oil from The Olive & The Stone in Chester, NJ (more on this wonderful place in another post) and balsamic reduction.  Absolute perfection and so simple I’m not sure if I have to list the recipe (everyone knows how to make caprese, right?), but I will anyway!

Caprese Salad:

(serves 2)


  • 1 large tomato, sliced into 6 pieces
  • 4 oz. of mozzarella, sliced thinly into 6 pieces
  • Chiffonade a handful of fresh basil
  • Good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Drizzle of Balsamic Reduction


Extremely simple.  After all your mis en place, layer the mozzarella and basil piece by piece overlapping on another around a plate.  Season with a little bit a salt.  Drizzle olive oil and balsamic over the salad and top with basil. Done and done.


Now for the main.  I didn’t thaw the sausage and didn’t have the right kind of white beans… so I improvised.  Vegetarian dish with chickpeas.  Why not?  This is what I came up with.

Penne with Broccoli and Chickpeas

(serves 4)


  • 8 oz. of penne pasta (I used whole wheat)
  • 3-4 cups of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 can of chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup of tahini
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne
  • 1/3 cup of water (or perhaps more) to thin
  • salt and pepper


First things first, get your boiling pot of water on and season with salt.  I used one pot to do my broccoli and my pasta.

While the water comes to a boil, make the tahini sauce that will coat the pasta.  Using an immersion blender or a whisk with the really strong arm to motor it, mix together the tahini, lemon juice, oil, cayenne and water.  Add more water to thin out the sauce if you feel like it needs it.  Taste and season with salt.

Drop the pasta in the boiling water (about 9 minutes for al dente).  Once you reach 5 minutes, drop the broccoli into the water with the pasta as well for the last 4 minutes until pasta is cooked and the broccoli is bright green.  Drain pasta and broccoli.

In a large serving bowl, mix together pasta, broccoli, chickpeas and the tahini sauce.  Toss together until everything is mixed and coated.

Serve with a little crushed red pepper for an additional zip, but please don’t do what I did and use the “spoonful” side of the red pepper flakes container instead of the “sprinkle side”.  I was about to take a photo of my composed plate with the salad and the pasta when an avalanche of red pepper poured on my plate… no photo… and yes, I did it eat anyway… with Ryan chuckling in the background.  Needless to say, I did go in for seconds to make sure it tasted good without the overpowering flavor of red pepper… and had the proper amount of red pepper on my plate left over from serving 1.

Pre-Pepper Flake Incident

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