Penne in Herbed Yogurt Sauce

Penne in Herbed Yogurt Sauce
With us having prime growing weather lately, my patio herbs are going nuts and needed a good trim, so dinner featuring fresh herbs was a no-brainer. Tangy Greek yogurt and whole wheat pasta seemed like good vehicles for an herby dish and what’s not made better by buttery garlic and onions?

This meal comes together quickly so is perfect for a week night. Add a glass of chilled rosé and any stress from your work day will melt away while you recharge with a fresh and light supper, ideally al fresco. Enjoy!
Basil and Mint

Lemon Thyme

Fresh Herbs

Penne in Herbed Yogurt Sauce

Inspired by this recipe

10 oz. penne pasta, preferably whole wheat (I love Trader Joe’s organic)

2 tablespoons butter or non-hydrogenated margarine, divided

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, cut in small dice

¼ teaspoon salt (plus more salt for the pasta water)

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

¾ cup Greek yogurt at room temperature (I used 2%)

½ cup chopped fresh herbs, such as mint, basil and lemon thyme (parsley and regular thyme would work too)

Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large pot of generously salted water to boiling. Cook pasta in boiling water according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon butter or margarine and the olive oil in a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add onion and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions begin to brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3-4 additional minutes. Remove from heat and add remaining tablespoon of butter or margarine and stir into onion-garlic mixture until it melts.

Toss drained pasta with yogurt. Add onion-garlic mixture and pepper to taste. Mix well. Stir in fresh herbs. Transfer to a serving platter. Makes about 4 servings.



Mom’s Baklava

Way back when I was in high school, my mom made a mysterious dessert with a funny name that was unlike anything that had ever graced our kitchen . Dessert nirvana I tell you. But wait, it was full of walnuts, how could that be? I don’t like walnuts; at least not the big chunks found in brownies, fudge or cookies. Odd how you can dislike something when it’s one size, but fall in love when it’s chopped finely, mixed with cinnamon and sugar, suspended between butter-soaked, paper thin layers of pastry, and infused with golden honey. Swoon.

Yes, that dessert totally foreign to my adolescent self was baklava. Mom was so ahead of her time—making baklava in Fargo, North Dakota at a time when a Norwegian or Swedish treat was as exotic as they came. She doesn’t remember where she got the recipe, but I’m glad she did. It’s the best baklava I’ve ever tasted—no other version I’ve had has even come close over the years. Maybe it’s sentiment, but I doubt it; Mom’s baklava is just the best!

If you haven’t worked with phyllo (or filo) dough before, don’t be intimidated. It takes a little patience and diligently keeping the sheets of dough covered with a damp tea towel while you work with one sheet at a time, but it’s not difficult. Have everything ready and prepped before you open the package of thawed phyllo and you’ll breeze through this.

A bonus as desserts go, baklava has the super food factor with walnuts and cinnamon involved. It keeps unrefrigerated for about 5 days and I imagine it would freeze well. If you’re truly walnut averse (no matter how finely they’re chopped), almonds, pistachios or a combination of the two would work too. Enjoy!

Mom's Baklava

We’ve been making this recipe for decades and I have no idea of the source, so let’s just credit my mom, Annette, the best mom ever!

1 lb. (16 oz.) walnuts

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pound phyllo dough, thawed

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

12 oz. honey

Butter a 9×13″ baking dish and set aside.

Place walnuts, sugar and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until walnuts are finely chopped. Alternately, finely chop walnuts and mix with sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl.

Trim phyllo to fit baking dish (mine just needed about an inch trimmed from the short end).

In the prepared baking dish, place 1 sheet of phyllo; brush lightly with melted butter. Repeat to make five more layers of phyllo; sprinkle with one cup of walnut mixture.

Place one sheet of phyllo in baking dish over walnut mixture; brush with butter. Repeat to make six layers. Sprinkle one cup walnut mixture over phyllo. Repeat layering two more times.

Over final sprinkling of walnut mixture, place a sheet of phyllo and brush with butter. Repeat to make six layers.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

With a sharp knife, cut layers just halfway through, in strips about 1 1/2″ inch wide the long way. Then cut halfway through on the diagonal, to make diamond shapes.

Bake 1 hour and 25 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Shortly before removing pan from oven, in a medium saucepan, heat honey until hot, but not boiling. After removing baklava from the oven, spoon hot honey over it evenly. Cool in pan on wire rack at least 1 hour. Cover and leave at room temperature until serving.

To serve: With sharp knife, finish cutting through the layers. Transfer to a platter (can place each piece of baklava in a cupcake paper to make things a little neater). Makes about 24 servings.

Note: Keep phyllo dough under a damp, clean tea towel to prevent drying as you work with it.



Great Grandma’s Raisin Bread

One of my earliest food memories is my great-grandma’s raisin bread. When I was a kid, any time we visited, raisin bread toast was on the menu with breakfast. All I need to do is think about those days and I swear I can smell the aroma coming from the toaster. My mom tells me Great Grandma’s raisin bread was even served at the gift-opening breakfast the morning after my parents’ wedding. And after we moved far away and Great Grandma had passed, my grandma continued making this delicious bread and would send loaves to us for Christmas.

At some point, my grandma wrote down the recipe for me and I think I may have made it once years ago, before I really had any experience making yeast breads. Recently, I started craving it and dug out that old recipe.

Being a frugal Belgian, Great Grandma’s original version contained margarine (referred to as oleo back then) instead of the more expensive butter. As with most bread recipes handed down from that era, it contained white flour, but I figured it could be just as good if I converted it to whole grain and, of course, change the margarine to butter. I also reduced the sugar a bit, although I doubt anyone would miss it.

The end result is that lovely flavor I remember, with just a bit more heartiness from the whole wheat and every bit as comforting as Grandma’s and Great Grandma’s loaves of so long ago. They’ve both been gone for many years now, but when I think of them, warm fuzzy thoughts and special memories come flooding back. I still miss them.
DoughGrandma's RecipeRaisin Bread Toast

Great Grandma's Raisin Bread

  • Servings: two loaves
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½ cup warm water (105-115 degrees F.)

2 ¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast

½ cup 2% milk, scalded

¼ cup butter, room temperature

¼ cup organic sugar

1 ½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon vanilla

2 cups whole wheat bread flour

1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and then drained

Mix warm water and yeast in large bowl. Let sit 10 minutes until foamy.

Meanwhile, scald milk. Stir in butter, sugar, salt and vanilla. Set aside and let cool to lukewarm.

Add 1 ¼ cups of the whole wheat bread flour to the yeast mixture and mix until combined. Add milk mixture; mix well. Stir in eggs. Mix in drained raisins and remaining half cup whole wheat bread flour. Stir in enough of the unbleached bread or all-purpose flour to make a stiff dough.

Either knead in the bowl of a stand mixer using the dough hook, or on a lightly floured surface, for about 10 minutes. Oil a large bowl and place dough in it and turn dough over to coat top. Cover bowl with a tea towel or oiled plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size (about an hour).

Punch down dough. Divide dough in half and place into two greased bread pans. Cover with a tea towel or oiled plastic wrap and let rise another 45 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake loaves for 30-40 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Makes two loaves.