Category Archives: Pasta

Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Mint


Spring is about two months early here in Southern Oregon.  The weather is starting to warm up, the daffodils and crocuses are blooming, and the deciduous trees are already starting to bud out. I love warm weather but when it comes too early in the year, it comes with a large cost. The lack of precipitation in the form of rain and the lack of a snow pack in the surrounding mountains means that we are in store for another very dry year here in the Rogue Valley.


With the seemingly early spring, many of my perennial herbs in my garden are ready to pick. What really caught my eye is that my mint has already poked through the soil and is about 6 to 8 inches tall. Mint is one of my favorite herbs and one of the easiest to grow.  I just love the aroma, taste and versatility of freshly picked mint.  From my own personal experience, if you plant just one little mint plant, it will be more than happy to try to take over your entire yard. That’s why when I grow mint, I plant it in its very own pot where it is safely contained and unable to grow freely where ever it chooses.  Once mint is established in your garden, it’s difficult to eradicate without the use of herbicides.  And those who know me, know full well that I don’t use herbicides in my garden. Ever…


I currently have 4 varieties of mint growing in my yard.  Peppermint, Lemon Balm, Chocolate Mint and Spearmint.  I’m planning to add Apple Mint and Pineapple Mint to my little mint collection in the near future.


Fresh snipped spearmint and Italian flat leaf parsley from my garden was used in my Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Mint. For those who are unfamiliar with Israeli couscous, Israeli Couscous is a small semolina pasta also known as Pearl Couscous, Ptitim or Jerusalem Couscous. It’s mild in flavor and takes about 10 minutes to prepare. The little ball shape of Israeli Couscous makes it perfect for all sorts of soups, salads, main or side dishes. The next time you see Israeli couscous at your local grocery store or online, be sure to buy some.  It’s a quick cooking and very adaptable ingredient to have on hand in your kitchen pantry!  Enjoy!  Tessa



  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup roasted cherry tomatoes (see instructions below)
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese (crumbled)
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives (chopped)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by heating the olive oil in a 2 quart pan over medium high heat.  Add Israeli Couscous to the pan and stir constantly until lightly browned, about 4 1/2 minutes. Reduce heat and slowly add water.  Cook covered until water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  Add remaining ingredients, toss lightly, then taste and correct your seasonings.  Add the mixture to a serving bowl. Serve at room temperature or chilled.  Makes 8 – 1/2 cup servings.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  On a baking pan add 1 pint cherry tomatoes.  Toss lightly with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes collapse.  Remove from oven and let cool. Makes little over a cup. Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for a few days.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette: In a blender add the following ingredients and blend until smooth.  Makes about 1 cup.

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup roasted cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Use immediately or keep refrigerated in a tightly covered container for a few days.

Angel Hair Pasta With Roasted Indigo Rose Tomatoes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAngel Hair Pasta with Roasted Indigo Rose Tomatoes

Last week I paid close attention to the weather forecast and as a result I went out to my little garden and stripped all my tomato plants of any and all tomatoes that had color.  According to the weatherman on the television, summer was officially over.  After what I witnessed yesterday, I should have known better.  You know what I’m talking about…  For example, the meteorologist tells you in the morning that it is going to bright and sunny and by mid afternoon, you wished you had brought an umbrella.

Well, when it comes to the weather, sometimes I need to remind myself that Mother Nature can be very unpredictable.  After picking all those tomatoes, I ignored my garden thinking that it was over and done for the season.  Nope.  Not even remotely close… When I walked out to the garden yesterday, I was astonished at what I saw.  There were dozens of tomatoes ready to picked once again.  The first thing I thought was, great!, I will have fresh tomatoes for lunch and dinner!  The second thing I thought was oh, shii…take mushrooms, there are so many tomatoes left out on the vines and I have a lot of work to do!


Do you see what I mean?  Most of the tomatoes will be made into a sauce, some will be roasted, and some will be frozen.  Some will be given away, and some will be eaten fresh.  You get the picture.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  I’m happy to have them.  You will however, hear me complain this winter when I don’t have any fresh picked homegrown tomatoes to eat.


These are Indigo Rose Tomatoes.  They are small in size, red in color and with a splash of dark purple.  These tomatoes are another favorite of mine.  They are great roasted, sliced fresh in salads and can even be stuffed with chicken or tuna for wonderful little bite sized appetizers or a light lunch.  They are also really pretty and different looking than your average red tomato.  A wonderful way to prepare Indigo Rose Tomatoes is to roast them and then toss them with some angel hair pasta, baby spinach, fresh basil, olive oil and fresh grated Romano cheese for light and flavorful dinner.  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 1 cup roasted tomatoes (see recipe below)
  • 4 ounces dried angel hair pasta
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil sliced thinly
  • 1 Tbs olive oil or more as needed
  • 1/2 tsp garlic paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Romano cheese (more if desired)
  • garnish with fresh basil

Cook angel hair pasta according to manufacturer’s direction, drain and set aside. If needed, drizzle a bit of olive oil over the pasta to keep it from sticking.  Heat a saute pan over a medium high flame.  Add roasted tomatoes (with the juice), olive oil, baby spinach, basil, garlic paste, red pepper flakes and cook until the spinach begins to wilt.  Add the angel hair pasta and cook until heated through.  Add additional olive oil if desired.  Add salt and pepper.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Place on serving platter, top with Romano cheese and garnish with fresh basil.   Makes 2 servings.

How to Oven Roast Tomatoes

This is a simple recipe that will yield some flavorful tomatoes for soups, stews and sauces.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cut tomatoes in half or into large chunks.  Gently squeeze out some of the seeds.  Toss lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper.  I added some sprigs of basil and rosemary for some flavor.  Arrange tomatoes in a single layer on a foil lined cookie sheet (for easy cleanup).  Bake for 45-60 minutes depending on the size or variety of tomatoes.  Cook until the tomatoes start to shrivel and get a bit of color or until your liking.  Remove from oven, let cool, remove basil and rosemary, place in plastic bags and toss in the refrigerator.  Use within a few days.  Can be frozen for later use.  When freezing the tomatoes, measure the roasted tomatoes and juice in one cup portions and place in sandwich bags.  Lay the sandwich bags flat in your freezer in order to maximize your freezer space.

Note: if you don’t like the skins on the tomatoes, just pull the skins off after cooking.  They pop off pretty easily.

Orzo Asparagus Salad

Orzo Asparagus Salad

It’s not too often that when I walk through the produce section of my favorite food co-op and then all of a sudden stop dead in my tracks…  What caught my eye were these gorgeous stems of locally grown organic purple asparagus.  I’ve never seen or even heard of purple asparagus before.  I’ve prepared green and white asparagus dozens of times but never the purple variety.  What a treat!  I snagged a big huge handful and put them it in my basket.

I gotta tell you that purple asparagus is not completely purple…  When you slice it, it has a light greenish white center and the outside of the stems turn purple to greenish purple as you cook them.  Purple asparagus is as tender and tastes the same as green asparagus.  With my new found prize, I decided to make an Orzo Asparagus Salad as a side dish with our grilled salmon for dinner this evening.  If I happened to have any leftovers, I will pack it in my lunch tomorrow.

After preparing my Orzo Asparagus Salad and as I was waiting for Bruce to come home from work, I thought I’d head outdoors with my camera to capture a few shots of late spring flowers and plants…

A variety of “double” columbine.  Notice the two layers of petals?

A “single” petaled columbine.  It’s just simply beautiful!  It’s one of my favorite perennial flowers.

Now back to what’s going on in my kitchen… My Orzo Asparagus Salad is a brightly colored spring dish that is easy to make and tastes wonderful.  It’s made with orzo pasta, locally grown purple asparagus, chopped red onion, crisp red bell pepper, Roma tomato, hand picked herbs from my garden such as oregano, basil and parsley, kalamata olives, white balsamic vinegar, olive oil and then topped with crumbled feta cheese.  Makes about 4 – 6 servings.  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 1 cup orzo pasta (cook to manufacturer’s direction)
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped asparagus (I used purple but, you can use what you like)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped and seeded Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbs fresh chopped basil
  • 2 Tbs fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbs fresh chopped oregano
  • 2 Tbs white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese

Begin by cooking the orzo pasta according to manufacturer’s direction (or 7 minutes in salted boiling water).  Drain, rinse with cold water, drain well and set aside.  Meanwhile, bring another salted pot of water to a boil.  Add asparagus and cook for about two to three minutes.  Drain and set aside.  In a medium sized mixing bowl add cooked orzo, cooked asparagus, bell pepper, tomato, kalamata olives, onion, basil, parsley and oregano.  Lightly toss.  In a small bowl whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Add to salad and toss to coat.  Refrigerate until well chilled. Put in a serving dish and top with feta cheese.

Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad

My two favorite days of the week are Saturdays and Sundays.  I cherish my weekends.  This morning I made Pasta Salad with fresh herbs from my garden and by early afternoon I was out enjoying the warm spring weather in my yard. I saw some beautiful flowers out my kitchen window so I grabbed my camera as I was heading out the door… Weeds were pulled, plants watered and organic fertilizer was spread around my vegetable garden.

While I was working, I would stop and snap an occasional picture of whatever caught my eye.

Bees were busy pollinating my cherry tree that is now beginning to bloom.  Do you see all the specks of pollen on the honey bee?

My rosemary bush is blooming too!  The little blue flowers are lovely and the plant is amazingly fragrant.

Grape Hyacinths are little perennial bulbs that are only a few inches tall.  I had to get down on my stomach to get this shot.  I did not mind getting a bit dirty for I think this photo was totally worth it…

A few of our koi fish were swimming by the edge of our pond.  The weather is now warm enough to start feeding them again.  The koi are now eight years old and up to about a foot and a half long.  My friends tease me and tell me that they are finally sushi grade.  It’s hard for me to imagine that for I believe each of my fish has its own personality.  Not to mention, when they see me step out the back door, the koi swim to the edge of the pond, mouths open and begging for a handful of food.

Back to the Pasta Salad….  My Pasta Salad is an easy to make dish that is perfect to serve at a backyard barbeque with chicken and ribs.  It’s made with a variety of organic pastas, my red wine vinaigrette, fresh cherry tomatoes, salty little capers, black olives and fresh parsley.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese if you like.  The recipe can be doubled or even tripled.  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 2 cups mixed dried pasta (such as shells, bow ties and spirals)
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 1/2 cup slice black olives
  • 1/4 cup parsley (chopped)
  • 1 Tbs capers
  • Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs for garnish

Begin by cooking pasta in boiling salted water for about 8 minutes or al dente.  Don’t overcook.  Drain and rinse pasta in cold water.  In a medium size bowl add all ingredients except for the garnish, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.  When ready to serve, mix well, taste the pasta and add more red wine vinaigrette if desired.  Add salt and pepper if necessary.  Garnish with fresh herbs or Parmesan cheese.  Makes about 4 servings.



Years ago when my sister and I were growing up, our father would occasionally prepare dinner.  He had two “signature” dishes.  We either got creamed chipped beef on toast (aka S.O.S.) or Slumgullion.  We did not have a choice but when we knew when he was cooking dinner we hoped and we prayed that we would get the Slumgullion.

Slumgullion is a warm, beefy, tomato based macaroni noodle stew with humble roots.  Many versions of this dish have been around for seventy five plus years.  You may also know this dish as American Goulash or Slumgull.  This version comes from my father who grew up during the great depression in Omaha, Nebraska.  His family did not have much money and this is what they often served at their dinner table during those rough times.  Slumgullion is amazingly simple, tastes really good, and can be easily made with ingredients you may already have.  I sometimes substitute ground bison for the beef for a leaner dish.  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 15 ounce can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 8 ounce can tomato paste
  • 2/3 c. tomato ketchup
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 c. water
  • 8 oz. dried large elbow macaroni pasta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbs. canola oil

In large sauté pan add canola oil and onion.  Cook the onion until opaque.  Add the ground beef and cook until lightly browned.  Add the stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, ketchup, garlic, oregano, chili powder, water, salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.   Stirring occasionally.  Cook pasta to the manufacturers direction (about 6 minutes).  Drain.  Add macaroni pasta and simmer for about 10 more minutes.  Ladle into bowls.  Serves 4 – 5 people.

Vermicelli Soup with Meatballs (Vermicellisoep Met Balletjes)













I have learned that if you really want to get to know someone, spend time with them in their kitchen.  You can quickly tell if someone is detail oriented by the way their pantry is carefully arranged or by the way they perfectly chop their vegetables.  You will be able to distinguish boring from an adventurous type of person by the types of ingredients they have on hand.  And if you want to see if someone is truly clean and neat, check out what’s going on the fridge…

The way a cook plates his or her food also may say a lot about them.  Carefully arranged dishes, lack of spill or drip marks and maybe even the simplest garnish on a plate will tell you that the person who prepared the food cares about how it will be received by the person accepting the dish.  In my opinion, sloppily prepared or poorly plated food says “I’m to busy to care about you or what you eat”.

My recipe for Vermicelli Soup with Meatballs (Vermicellisoep Met Balletjes) is very similar to the dish that my Oma used to make.  I knew that my Oma loved us by the care she exhibited when hand rolling the tiny uniformly shaped meatballs for her soup.  Her knife skills were flawless when she thinly sliced the crunchy celery and the sweet orange carrots, and her tiny workspace was neat as a pin.  When she ladled up a bowl soup for you, you would never imagine it looking and tasting anything less than perfect.

And for years, I have always wondered how in the heck did she do that?

Well, all I can do as her granddaughter is to do my best to try to follow in her footsteps, carry on our cooking traditions and document the recipes for future family members.  So when I am in my kitchen I think of my Oma and I cook as though I am I telling someone that I love them.  Enjoy!  Tessa













Little marble sized meatballs ready to drop into the soup…


Meatball Ingredients

  •  1/2 pound good quality ground beef
  • 2-3 slices white bread (crusts removed)
  • 1 – 2 Tbls milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper

Soup Ingredients

  • 2 – 3 stalks of celery with leaves
  • 1 white onion
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 1/2 quarts good quality chicken stock
  • 1 bouillon cube (chicken)
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • a few dashes Maggi seasoning (or to taste)
  • 3 ounces dry fine vermicelli noodles
  • parsley and fresh ground nutmeg for garnish

Begin by making the meatballs.  Start by putting the bread in a medium sized mixing bowl.  Add the milk to the bread and let it soak a bit .  Add the ground beef, egg, salt, nutmeg and white pepper.  Mix well.  Grab a small bit of the beef and roll it into a ball about the size of a marble.  Repeat until done.  Set aside.  (I know that this is time consuming but you will be happy with the end product if you keep the meatballs all similar size).

Grab a large Dutch oven or pot and place on a medium hot stove.  Chop your celery, and onion finely.  Thinly slice your carrots.  Add butter to pot with the vegetables.  Add a healthy pinch of salt and cook (stirring) until the onion is opaque and before the carrots begin to caramelize.  Add the chicken stock, bouillon cube, white pepper and Maggi Seasoning.  Bring to a slow boil.  Drop meatballs into boiling soup.  Add the vermicelli and cook for about 5 minutes.   Turn down heat and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  Taste the soup, correct your seasonings and add more chicken stock if needed.  Ladle up.  Garnish with parsley and fresh grated nutmeg.  Makes about 8 servings.