Apr 12, 2015

dump dinner: pasta puttanesca

After a bit of research into what dump dinners actually are, I've discovered that there are basically four kinds of "dumps:"

1. Slow cooker meals
2. Pressure cooker meals
3. Oven meals
4. Stove-top meals

In each instance, the ingredients ideally go straight into the cooking vessel and after heat and time, out comes a meal ready for the table.

The distinct omission in these kinds of recipes is the lack of flavor development that comes with something like sauteing, for instance. You just cannot get the same flavor from an onion that you merely boil instead of cook in a bit of fat. 

Since I am not cooking with oil for the time being (trying out the Forks Over Knives, Engine 2 Diet and McDougall plan) I figured this is the best time to try my hand at real, true Dump Dinners. That means no sauteeing and everything goes in at once.

Making a dump pasta dinner was my next challenge. Instead of cooking everything separately, I made this meal entirely in the oven. If any pasta dish is great as a dump meal, it would be Pasta Puttanesca. This dish is a tomato and olive based pasta meal.

I used white pasta here because I just wasn't sure how the meal would cook up, but since this went really well, I will make subsequent pasta dishes with whole grain pasta instead.

In my recipe I used extra firm tofu, but I am recommending baked tofu instead, although you could omit the tofu completely; the recipe is flexible.

Without further chatter from me, below is my take on the pasta dish in true dump style.

Pasta Puttanesca
Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes for assembly and pre-heat, 5 minutes of sit time
Cook Time: 50 minutes

1 (15 to 18-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
1 (4 to 5-ounce) jar kalamata olives, drained
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons tomato paste or ¼ cup tomato concentrate
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¾ teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
10 ounces pasta (increase broth to 3 cups if using whole wheat pasta)
1 (10-ounce) package baked tofu, cut into ¼-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil, optional
2 tablespoons minced parsley, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 400-degrees F. Transfer the tomatoes to a large oven-safe pot, breaking up the tomatoes as you add them. Add the broth, olives, capers, paste. oregano, salt and black pepper. Stir well to incorporate the tomato paste into the water. Add the pasta, tofu and garlic. Make sure all the pasta is submerged in the liquid. Cover the pot tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
2. Uncover the pot carefully, stir the pasta and continue to bake until the pasta is tender, about 20 more minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley, if using.

Quick Tip: Preheat oven while you chop and assemble the dish.

© 2015 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

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Apr 9, 2015

dump dinner: ginger butternut and fennel wild rice

This is a dish that I will term a 2-Step DD (Dump Dinner) because it needs two kinds of cooking techniques.

While the recipe is still easy, as in prep time being around 10 minutes, it does require the wild rice to be cooked on the stove top and the vegetables to be roasted in the oven. The dish is ready in 40 minutes, including roasting time because the wild rice has an overnight soak.

I would say that the most difficult part of this recipe is tackling the butternut squash. My method for preparing this often imagined difficult-to-handle winter squash is to cut off the top stem-end and divide the squash into two pieces, right where the bulb meets the long neck.

Next, I peel the neck-end of the squash using a vegetable peeler and chop as needed. That leaves the time-consuming part of the squash to deal with: the bulb, seeded-end. This I reserve for another dish or another time.

I cut it in half, seed, place cut side down and bake until tender. Then I season and either scoop out the orange flesh or serve as is with a spoon. To peel, seed, and chop the curved bulb end takes a lot of time and effort and is best left as its own separate meal.

So, preheat your oven and by the time it's ready, your squash will be, too.

Ginger Butternut and Fennel Wild Rice
Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes of chopping, 10 minutes pre-heat, overnight soak
Cook Time: 35 minutes

4 cups shaved fennel
3 cups ½-inch dice butternut squash
½-inch piece ginger, minced
½ cup vegetable broth
Sea salt and black pepper

1 ½ cups brown and wild rice blend, soaked overnight and drained
1 cup vegetable broth
½-inch piece ginger, minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
Water, as needed
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
4 scallions, minced

1. Vegetables: Preheat oven to 450-degrees F. Combine the fennel, squash, ginger and broth on a baking sheet. Season with salt and black pepper and bake until tender, about 30 minutes.
2. Rice: Combine the drained rice, broth, ginger, salt and enough water as needed to cover the rice by 1-inch in a medium pot. Cook the rice until tender, about 15 minutes over a strong simmer. Drain the rice, return to the pot. Drape a kitchen towel over the rice and steam for 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the beans, scallions and roasted vegetables and season with salt and black pepper, as needed.

Quick Tip: Preheat oven while you chop the vegetables.

© 2015 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.