Zucchini Roll Ups with Provencal Roasted Tomatoes: And the Camera Calamity

One of the worst things happened to me yesterday. Not a tragedy, but certainly a calamity that has left me unsettled and distraught: My camera done got broke.
It’s not hard to imagine the fact that I use my camera just about every day. If I’m not shooting actual food for myself or for my internship, I am practicing technique, or {attempting to} teaching myself new things. It might surprise you to know that I photograph far more things than I publish. Sometimes because they are just studies, but sometimes, (and I hate to admit this), yes sometimes, things turn out dreadfully. It has been known to happen that I have trashed and completely reshot an entire recipe several times until I felt I got it.
This is, in fact, a new sort of me.

This is not to suggest anything except that I am learning to be a nit picker. Since this is not a genetic proclivity, I have a long way to go. At times it can be a bothersome struggle, but I am learning that there is  music in the process for me. Perhaps what I am really getting at is not that I am learning to be overly critical, but to go past the point of “good” creation. It’s a different realm, it’s the practice of getting to a better quality of “yes”. Sometimes it’s satisfying, mostly it’s satisfying. Some days it’s downright aggravating.

Like I said, I am nascent at this new phase. I have many baby steps ahead of me.

But today I’ve experienced a mechanical failure, and so I am derailed for the week. My beloved Canon 5D has dislodged its mirror. For those who don’t know: The mirror is behind the lens in front of the sensor. It’s main function is to reflect what you see through the lens up into the view finder so you can actually see through the camera. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up and allows light to enter through the lens, hit the sensor in the back of the camera, and VIOLA! record the image onto the sensor.

According to the web, I am not alone in this problem. A factory defect (bad glue?) is the culprit. So cheery Graydon at the other end of the 1-800 number, assured me that a ticket and tag and assessment etc etc will be swiftly executed, and without delay or cost my baby shall be repaired. *sigh*

His idea of swiftly was a week to ten days- an interminable amount of time to my mind. Good god.

So! Onward to Plan B. I have a point and shoot, I have my iPhone and I have plenty of other things to do. I shall make the most of it, I shall rise in the face of adversity, I shall most likely learn something very good! So thank you very much. Again… *sigh*

The breakdown occurred halfway through this shoot, specifically while I was taking a shot of the zucchini being grilled (hence no photo, sorry). Perhaps you can’t tell, that would be nice.

As a result this shoot did not turn out to the “yes” I was hoping for. I decided to let that go, it’s the karmic dada of this recipe. It was “meant” to be this way. It’s the Art of the recipe expressed. {gawd}

However, let me be clear, this only goes for the photography. The styling could have been better, I could have been a bit more creative in the shooting process, but the recipe is quite lovely.

This is a perfect dish for a luncheon or a light supper. Tangy goat cheese is rolled up in thin strips of grilled zucchini and paired with roasted tomatoes that are so sweet and flavorful, and still quite juicy.

The rolling is a little fiddly, but laying the zucchini down on a layer of plastic wrap is a fantastic tool. I really hope you enjoy this one.

Zucchini Roll-Up with Provencal Tomatoes
The rolling makes this dish look a bit fancy, but it’s really pretty easy to do, and little touches like this make the simple so special. The rolls can be made ahead of time and, either quickly rewarmed, or served at room temperature.
Serves 2
10 medium Campari tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1T olive oil
1T dried basil
2 large zucchini
1 oz goat cheese
1/2 cup part skim ricotta
Preheat the oven to 425˚
Slice the tomatoes in half through the midsection. Place tomatoes into a bowl with the garlic, oil, basil, S&P (to taste) and toss to combine ingredients.
Place the tomatoes skin side down into a roasting pan and spoon any remaining marinade over the top. Place into the oven and roast until the tomatoes start to shrink, about 35 minutes.
Slice the zucchini in thin strips along the long end of the squash. Heat a grill pan on the stove, spritz with cooking spray and grill until mostly done. The squash will continue to cook after you remove them from the heat, if you cook it to perfection on the grill they will turn to mush as they cool and not be sturdy enough to roll. The zucchini should show some opaqueness in the flesh, and the green skin should be bright.
In a food processor combine the goat cheese and ricotta and a pinch of salt and puree smooth.
Lay down a sheet of plastic wrap on your counter and line up the zucchini on it, overlapping. Carefully spread the cheese mixture in a thin layer, then using the plastic wrap for support, roll up the zucchini, sushi style.
Carefully unroll the zucchini onto the cutting board, seam side down, then cut in half.
Serve half a roll and half the tomatoes. A drizzle of fruity olive oil would be nice here, and a slice or two of peasant bread would be perfection.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Grilled Tofu and Quinoa {And My New Approach to Change}

Welcome to the New Year! I too have joined the masses of the “New Year, new me” campaign. I will not bore you with my enthusiastic promises and misty eyed visions of the improved me- but rather I wanted to share with you my new approach.

Are you like me? I get all jazzed up and rally myself to take on my new improved way of life. I start quick out of the box, full of determination and vigor, and then in short order start stumbling and tripping, and eventually face plant into a heap. The result is another year goes by and nothing has changed. *sigh*

So now that I know what doesn’t work, I decided to try a new approach. The truth be told I’ve been incorporating my new concept since my last birthday, 2 months ago, and it’s been working very well. The inspiration for this really came from my pal, Winnie, from Healthy Green Kitchen. The idea is not to attempt a total makeover- but to focus on one small positive thing I can do for myself, at least once a week. If I can add one positive small shift a week, by the end of the year I would have made 52 easy and gentle improvements. Isn’t that an amazing thought?!!

I say banish self control! Do away with the struggle and the guilt!

*Just do one small good and nice thing for yourself a week* Now isn’t that so much nicer? And even if I don’t compile 52 changes, at least I’m moving in the right direction.

To give an example: I have reduced the amount of sweeteners in my latte and drinks by a bunch. No real science, I’ve just dialed it down by a small amount and I continue to do that each week. The result is I have lowered my sweetness threshold without my really noticing. I’m a little concerned about putting chemicals into my body, as well as natural sugar, but I really love sweet so much! So a smidge of change over time and now I am at about half of what I was consuming 2 months ago.

Another small change I’ve made is to eat one or two more pieces of fruit a week- in my case specifically, citrus. In the past I would run out and fill a beautiful bowl of fruited bounty, all gung-ho about it. The result would be a slow degradation of my display into a wrinkly and mossy science project. The worst part is the double guilt that the sad display taunts me with- both the failed attempt at my new “way” and the terrible waste of good food.

Instead I’ve taken to buying one or two oranges and then I eat them! I don’t keep them in a pretty bowl on the counter, because it turns out I like mine cold. I perch them on the shelf in the fridge so they are right there when I open the door. This way, when I go foraging for that afternoon pick-me-up snack, my orange is right there for the grabbing.

They say that it takes 3 weeks to create a new habit and I can attest that this is true for me.

The recipe I have for you today is a delicious and healthy meatless meal. I love this dish and often make several at a time and freeze them. They reheat beautifully. The squash is Vitamin A rich, there is great protein in the quinoa and tofu, and there are healthy complex carbs and lovely fiber.

I’ve gotten word back that not everyone is keen on quinoa or can readily find it. Feel free to switch it with Amaranth- HA! just kidding-That’s another grain I’ll be getting to in the near future- You can exchange any other grain or rice that you prefer, and leftovers are perfect.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Grilled Tofu and Quinoa
This dish looks complicated but it really is not. Make extra and freeze for another day.
serves 6
3 medium sized acorn squash
2c of cooked quinoa, or other grain of choice
half a package of firm tofu
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
.25c red onion, diced
1 orange pepper, diced
6 handfuls of baby arugula
.25c pomegranate arils 
3T fresh lemon juice
.5c olive oil
and oil to sautee
Preheat oven to 350˚. Slice the squash in half, scrape out the seeds. Lightly coat the flesh with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt.
Place squash face down on a lined baking sheet and roast until the skin looks a little wrinkly and the flesh is soft. Depending on the size of the squash this should take about 35-40 minutes. When cool slice into quarters- you will have 12 pieces in all.
Remove tofu from the package and place onto a clean kitchen towel and press firmly to release some of the moisture. You can also place a plate on top of the tofu with a heavy object and leave for a few minutes to press out the liquid.
Heat a grill pan and lightly oil. Slice the tofu into quarter inch slices and grill on each side. Remove from the heat and cut into small dice.
In a sautee pan warm some oil on medium high heat. Add the garlic and sautee for 2-3 minutes to release the fragrance. Add the onions, celery and peppers and sautee for just another few minutes leaving the vegetables tender crisp.
Transfer the vegetables and the tofu into a large bowl and add the quinoa. Gently stir to combine. Add S&P to taste.
Mix the lemon juice and oil to make a dressing. Add a few tablespoons into the quinoa mixture then use the rest to dress the arugula.
Lay down a nice layer of arugula for each serving, top with the squash and then fill with the quinoa. Finally sprinkle the pomegranate arils over the top and serve 2 quarters per person.

Coral Rigatoni: A Twist on a Traditional Dish

It has been a fun week of socializing and celebrating. I made it down to Louisiana in the midst of the storm before Christmas. Dashing through the snow it was not. Traveling was a long day of waits and multiple connections, but as anyone that travels during the holidays knows- that’s pretty much par for the course.
Once I finally arrived here I hit the ground running- or rather eating. I have already overindulged in some incredibly delicious ham, gumbo and jambalaya. I just love me some Southern cooking! Ettouffe, sweet Gulf Shrimp, Red Beans and Rice!
I’m starting to think I may need to put some devoted time into becoming a respectable Southern cook. I may be able to discuss long and hard the best NYC pizza, or where to get the quintessential bagel- but I can’t even begin to compete in a discussion on roux making! {not yet that is…} There will be no complaints as this will be no hardship in our newly renovated kitchen.
As many of you know, my fiancee and I have been remodeling our kitchen this Fall. I did the planning when I was here over the summer. We hired an amazing contractor, and with the aid of FaceTime on Pam’s iPad, she managed the job while here and kept me updated, while I was in NYC frustrated and antsy. This week was the first time I got to see my new playground- and it is giggle deliciously wonderful! I give Pam a boatload of appreciation for doing such a beautiful job and making sure that my vision was maintained. It turned out better than I had imagined it!!
The final details, such as painting, are the project of the week. When it’s done I promise a reveal. {Can NOT wait to show you!}
But now back to this dish. I call it Coral Rigatoni because the tubes remind me of some exotic sea creature. The tubes bend and yawn with with open mouths, revealing deep pockets of goodness. There is an organic wave to the up-righted pasta, which I find so much more appealing than laid down straight soldiers. It’s a bit more work, but guaranteed to garner you oohs and ahhs at the buffet table.
The rigatoni are stuffed with kale and mustard greens in low fat cheese, and then baked in a lightened bechemel sauce. The result is a super tasty, much lower in saturated fat, much lower in overall calories, and a good daily dose of healthy greens. For a big flavor punch while keeping things on the lights side, I topped off the dish with some grated asiago. A pungent and tasty hard cheese that goes a long way when using just a little.
Coral Rigatoni Stuffed with Winter Greens
 If you are not a fan of kale and mustard greens you may swap for equal amounts of spinach.
serves a generous 8, or modest 10
1# dried large rigatoni
1-16oz container, fat free ricotta- best quality
1-16oz container, part skim ricotta- best quality
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1# frozen greens- kale/mustard greens etc., defrosted
2 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 good sized shallots, minced
.75c all purpose flour
4c skim milk, room temp or warmed
2c grated asiago for the topping
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the rigatoni and gently stir.
Boil for 5 minutes- only half way- they should be undone in the middle. Drain, rinse and set aside.
In a sautee pan add a tablespoon of olive oil and on medium heat sautee the onion and the garlic for 3 minutes until softened and fragrant.
Drain the greens and give them a hearty squeeze to release as much water as your hands can muster. Chop finely. Add them to the pan and gently sautee for a minute as you stir and combine the onions and garlic. No need to cook the greens, just warm them through and thoroughly mix.
In a large bowl dump the greens along with the two ricotta cheeses and the eggs, S&P. If you like your filling cheesier you can some parmesan. 
Prepare the Bechemel: In a medium sized heavy saucepan, gently melt the butter over medium low heat, add the garlic and the shallots and gently sautee for 2 mins.
Dump in the flour and continuously stir for 3-4 minutes on low. You want to cook the flour taste out while taking care not to scorch the roux.
While stirring with a whisk, add the milk a third at a time to get a smooth creamy sauce. Continue to cook on medium low for 10 minutes until thick and bubbly. Again- you may make your dish more cheesy here- Honestly, I found it didn’t need it.
In a 9×13 inch pan, place a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom before filling the rigatoni.
Either in a large pastry bag or a large plastic bag with the corner cut in a .5″ slash, add the filling and use to pipe the cheese into the rigatoni. Twist off at the top of the cheese so the filling doesn’t ooze out the top, pinch the twist with your thumb and first finger and use the rest of your hand to squeeze out the mixture.
Fill a couple of tubes about 3/4’s full. When you have a small batch you can start to stand them up next to each other. Leave a little space between for the sauce to reach.
When all the tubes are filled and the pan is completely full, carefully spoon the bechemel over the top and especially between the tubes.
Top the whole thing off with the asiago.
Place into a 375˚ oven and bake until the tops of the pasta are crispy and golden and the sauce is bubbly.