Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Issa Cooks: Sauteed Brussel Sprout Orzo

Following my pasta + veggie + protein format, I combined a few of my favorite ingredients to make a new dish that's quickly become one of my favorites.


6oz Orzo
1 lb Brussel Sprouts
1/2 C Marcona Almonds or Pine Nuts
4 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tbs Butter
1 tsp Vegetable Bouillon (optional)
Salt & Pepper
Grated Parmesan Cheese

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a frying pan.  Heat and add in orzo.  Stir constantly for 2 minutes, or until the orzo has turned golden, and reserve the pasta in a bowl.

Julienne the brussel sprouts.  I find it easiest to cut them in half, put the flat side down and then slice vertically.

Chop the almonds. If you don't want to use a knife, pulse them in a food processor for a few seconds until the pieces are similar size to the orzo. Add nuts to sliced brussel sprouts.

When the water boils, add the vegetable bouillon and the pasta.  Cook according to directions on package.

Heat remaining 3 tbs of olive oil in the frying pan and add the brussel sprout mixture.  Keep stove on high and stir about 7 minutes until the vegetables have turned a dark shade of green.  Do not overcook or the veggies will be soggy and not crispy!  Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the orzo and reserve the pasta water.  Stir the butter into the orzo until melted.

Add the orzo slowly to the brussel sprouts and mix throughly.  Add olive oil and remaining pasta liquid to achieve a saucier consistency.  

Sprinkle with parmesan (if desired) and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Issa Cooks: Pasta with Kale and Roasted Tomatoes

Quick, healthy, cheap, and delicious, you simply can't ask for more out of a dish!  (Excuse the iPhone photos- this meal was so quick to make I didn't have time to grab my camera...)


1lb of Pasta (I used Multigrain Fusilli)
2 large tomatoes
1 Bunch of Kale
1 Can Cannelloni Beans
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Garlic (pre-chopped is perfect)
Red Chili Flakes
Black Pepper
Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt for flavor.

Slice the tomatoes in thin rounds.  Put a thin layer of olive oil on the baking sheet and lay tomatoes flat on top.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on top to taste. Add 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic on top. Sprinkle olive oil on top and put the tray in the oven for 30 minutes.

When the water is boiling, add pasta and cook al dente from the directions on the package.

Rinse the kale and trim off the stems.  Chop the leaves into one inch segments.  Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan.  Add the kale and stir until all the leaves are covered in olive oil, add more EVOO if necessary.  Sprinkle with a tablespoon of salt.

Drain and rinse the Cannelloni beans and add them to the kale once it has turned a deep green color. Add 2 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the beans and add a sprinkle of chili flakes, (more than a tablespoon will make the dish noticeably spicy).  Cook for three more minutes and then remove from heat before kale can get soggy.

Drain the pasta.  Add to kale and bean mixture.  Add olive oil to taste.

Remove tomatoes from oven.  Plate a single serving of pasta, layer a roasted tomato or two on top, and sprinkle with parmesan!

And that's it!  My friends were impressed, I spent under $10 on groceries, and I was full and satisfied for the rest of the night.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Material Girl

When I envisioned my life at 21, I envisioned a classy cocktail in one hand and the hand of an amazingly gorgeous celebrity in the other.  However, while I may spend time with one or both of those wonderful indulgences every so often, I find my hands more commonly occupied by a pair of knitting needles, sizes 0-9.

Three years ago I didn’t have a clue that knitting needles came in different sizes.  And materials!  And shapes!  The knitting world remained a mystery I wasn’t even curious to begin unraveling.  Pun intended. 

My first week of college, I remember eating sushi and yogurt on the steps of the Met, comparing my favorite brands of jeans with my earliest New York friends—a scene out of Gossip Girl that we so easily made reality.  I had no idea where my True Religion Boot Cut dark wash jeans had come from, nor did I even care to question it.  Clothes came off a rack and that was that.

While I quickly busied myself by attending galleries, joining various community service clubs, and attempting to learn sign language (thank Marlee Matlin on The L Word for this one), my new best friend Deborah occupied a chunk of her time with needles and yarn.  Not wanting to draw attention to herself, Deborah knit mostly in her room, hiding her presumed “dorky” hobby from the masses.  It wasn’t until Deborah finished an elaborate lace blanket and was forced to lie it out in her common area to dry that I realized the true art of knitting.  I admired and admired it, amazed that a person could make something so complex with only her hands!  I began asking her questions about knitting, curious about the craft and amazed at her talents.

And one day, perhaps in an attempt to procrastinate from starting homework, I decided to ask Deborah to teach me to knit.  She agreed!  Before I could second-guess my latest ambition, I was stocking up on yarn and needles at our local craft store and learning rhymes to help me remember my knit stitches. 

I found knitting incredibly satisfying, unlike studying, which required hours of labor for uncertain results, each row I knit signified an accomplishment, I was making something beautiful, creating something out of nothing, putting my efforts into something constructive!  I could spend my time in front of the TV actually being productive, have conversations on the subway while whipping up a new hat for myself, or make unique gifts for those I loved that actually felt better to give than anything I could have bought at the store. 

I joined Ravelry, AKA the Facebook of the knitting community, where I met more knitters like myself, learned more techniques, and was inspired by patterns for lifelike turkey hats and glamorous ball gowns completely made by hand.  This whole world I never knew existed was suddenly wide open for me to explore.  It was like discovering Platform 9 ¾ for the first time!

And while the craft was certainly satisfying, I found the community the most exciting part about being a knitter. 

Knitters love knitters.  Knitters love knitting.  Knitters love knitting with knitters, talking about knitting with knitters, knitting for knitters, meeting new knitters etc etc.  Knitters love sheep and fiber and lamb burgers and everything in between.  Knitters are those quirky, eccentric people you honestly can’t resist. 

And naturally, once you know about the clique, you want in.  Both my New York friends and my Chicago friends wanted knitting lessons.  They too wanted to be able to create gorgeous knitwear and impress their friends!  Those friends taught other friends and I found myself sharing patterns with people I’d assume would more likely play tackle football than knit a scarf. 

Knitting was one of the few aspects of my life that was completely non-competitive- everyone is so supportive and encouraging and always willing to offer advice and help on any challenges that may arise.  I’ve found myself at home among strangers in various NYC knitting shops, bonded together through our stitches, promising to friend each other on Ravelry after we’ve shared a few minutes browsing yarn together or after hours of chatting and crafting.. 

While I’ve attempted to write this post numerous times throughout the past few years, it never seemed appropriate until I finished my very first project, which I cast on (knitting jargon for “began”) in Spring 2010.  Though I’d never knit more than a few stitches, I ambitiously decided to make a blanket similar to the ones that had decorated my couches at home growing up.  My mother had crocheted them throughout college and I aspired to do the same.  How cool would it be to have something I made myself?   

The blanket was frustrating.  A huge project for a beginner.  “Why don’t you start with a hat?”  my friends suggested.  “Then you can finish something and be proud, this will take you forever.” 

It did take me forever.  Almost 20 months, to be exact.  The blanket has travelled to numerous cities, warmed my legs while being knit during numerous sporting events, enjoyed many an episode of 30 Rock, and now, after thousands upon thousands of knits and purls, I have finally completed my project!  

Perhaps the longest I’ve ever worked on anything (this blog not included), I impressed myself and denied the doubters any pride, creating a warm, comfy, and of course beautiful blanket that brings a smile to my face every time I use the very item I made!

And of course, while creating my blanket, I took weeks or months off to create a slew of other fantastic projects—scarves, hats, ties, cowls, mittens, bags—and I’m still going!

Now that I’ve done the impossible, the knitting world is my oyster—anything is possible!  I’ve ditched Frat Party Thursdays for Knit Night in a coffee shop, some of my clothing budget is now redirected towards alpaca and wool, and I’m constantly collecting new patterns to create more and more of my own unique wardrobe. I have two pieces on knitting pending review at The New Yorker (keep your fingers crossed!)  In short, I cannot imagine the past few years of my life without knitting. It’s become so ingrained in me, something that makes me happy everyday, and something I look forward to make others happy with as well! 

My illustrious blanket!