Beautiful broccoli shines in simple pasta dish

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The farmers market continues to have a variety of impossible-to-resist produce — and I keep buying it. A few weeks ago, I picked up some beautiful broccoli from one of the booths. I wanted to make those most of it, so I started looking through my cookbooks for a suitable recipe.

Since it was a weeknight after work, I wanted something I could make in 30 minutes or less. I decided to try another recipe from the “Five-ingredient Fridays” chapter of Curtis Stone’s “What’s for Dinner?” The recipe, Orecchiette with Brown Butter, Broccoli, Pine Nuts, and Basil, called for ingredients I had on hand and didn’t require a lot of cleanup. After about 20 minutes, I ended up with a hearty, delicious vegetarian dish that was great comfort food after a long day at work. The broccoli flavor really came through when paired with a simple brown butter sauce, and the pine nuts added a nice crunch that provided great contrast to the the pasta.

Though I’m not a vegetarian, sometimes it’s just nice to make something that allows vegetables to be the star of the meal. I’m looking forward to making more dinners with more finds from the farmers market.

Ingredients
13 ounces broccoli florets with 1-inch stems (about 6 cups)
1 pound orecchiette
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli and cook for about 2 minutes, or just until bright green. Using a mesh spoon or sieve, scoop the broccoli out of the water, draining it well, and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.

Return the water to a boil. Add the orecchiette and cook, stirring often to ensure it doesn’t stick together, for about 8 minutes, or until tender but still firm to the bite. Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the orecchiette.

Meanwhile, heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and stir for about 2 minutes, or until it has turned hazelnut brown. Add the broccoli and cook, stirring often, for about 1 minute, or until hot.

Add the pasta to the broccoli mixture and stir gently to combine. Stir in the basil, pine nuts, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in enough of the reserved cooking water to moisten the pasta as necessary.

Divide the pasta among four pasta bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

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Winding down with mint chocolate mousse

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Last week I traveled for work. No matter how long I’m gone, it’s always nice to come home to my own space.

Because I didn’t return home until late Saturday afternoon, I knew I’d only have one full day of the weekend to myself. So I planned to do some cooking. To get a head start, I decided to make dessert.

Work has been particularly time-consuming lately, so much so that I haven’t had time to try anything from the new cookbook I bought in April, Curtis Stone’s “What’s for Dinner?” That was the first place I looked for inspiration. I settled on his Bittersweet-chocolate Mint Mousse.

Stone’s version of the mousse is thick and creamy, and the mint extract helps to bring out the richness of the chocolate. Other versions of mousse that I’ve made ended up overly foamy or the chocolate flavor wasn’t rich enough. The texture and flavor in this recipe are just about how I prefer them to be.

The only cooking involved is melting the chocolate. Making something with eggs that aren’t cooked always makes me a bit uneasy, so I researched whether it was OK and found this page in the Farmers’ Almanac, which stated that the risk of salmonella is low. If you’re worried about consuming the raw eggs, it also suggests substitutes for them.

Ingredients
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, thinly sliced
1/2 cup whole milk
3 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon mint extract (use 1/4 teaspoon if at high altitude)

Set a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Add the chocolate and butter to the bowl and stir until melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the saucepan. Whisk in the milk. Let stand for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the mixture is cool.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and 1/3 cup of the confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed, until light and airy. In another medium bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the remaining 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Using a large flexible spatula, fold the egg yolk mixture into the cooled chocolate mixture. Gently fold in the egg white mixture.

Add the cream and the mint extract to the bowl that held the egg whites. Beat with the mixer (no need to clean the beaters) on high speed until thick, soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture.

Divide the mousse among six to eight dessert cups or bowls. Cover each one with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least two hours to chill and set the mousse.