Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 18: Pizzoccheri and Cucumber-Feta Salad with Red Onions and Mint

I prepared two recipes tonight to complete my last recipe make-up day:  Pizzoccheri, which is described in The New Whole Grains Cookbook as an Italian Buckwheat noodle casserole, and a Cucumber-Feta Salad from The Greens Cook Book.

I've never eaten Pizzoccheri, and I was looking forward to giving it a try.  The cookbook recommended using buckwheat soba noodles, which I thought I had on hand, but oops!  They also suggested using whole wheat spaghetti as an alternative, and since I had some of on hand that's what I used.  I couldn't find any fontina cheese so I used mozzarella since I couldn't think of a better substitute.  Paul really liked the casserole.  I thought it was good, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I served the pasta with some butter, cheese, and herbs, and the veggies served as a side dish.

I love cucumbers so I was looking forward to trying the cucumber salad, especially one that wasn't drenched in mayonnaise or sour cream.  This salad was so good -- light and refreshing.  I used my favorite feta cheese, Mt. Vikos (you can find it at Met Market).  It's an imported feta from Greece.  It's a nice, firm cheese that's not too salty, and it really worked well in this salad.

The New Whole Grains Cookbook
Yield:  Serves 6

1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
14 ounces savoy cabbage, thinly sliced (6 cups)
4 ounces thin French beans or green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
One 8 ounce package soba noodles
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper
6 ounces aged fontina cheese shredded

Preheat the oven to 400.

     Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large saute pan and cook the cabbage and French beans over medium heat.  (French beans will cook more quickly than green beans.)  When tender and golden, about 5 minutes, add the garlic and sage, and cook for a few more minutes.  Take the pan off the heat.  Cook the soba in the boiling water according to the package directions, drain, then mix the cabbage in the pan, adding the salt and pepper to taste.
     Lightly oil a shallow 1 1/2 quart baking dish, and put half of the noodle mixture in the bottom.  Top with half of the cheese, then the remaining noodles, and finally the remaining cheese.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until melted and golden.  You can also make this a day ahead, refrigerate, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Cucumber-Feta Salad with Red Onions and Mint
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds cucumbers, such as Armenian, English, Japanese
1 small onion; a red onion, or torpedo onion, or one of ht every sweet varieties, such as the Walla Walla
White pepper
8 ounces feta cheese (preferably Bulgarian, which is less salty), thinly sliced or crumbled
3 tbsp mixed herbs:  mint, parsley, marjoram, and chives, finely chopped
2 tsp Champagne vinegar or rice wine vinegar
Whole mint leaves, for garnish

     Peel the cucumbers if the skins have been waxed or have a bitter taste.  Otherwise, leave them on, or peel most of the skins away, leaving a few narrow strips which will make the slices pretty.  Peel Armenian cucumbers only if the skins are tough.  Slice the cucumbers thinly (if they are very mature with large seeds, halve them lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and thinly slice the halves).  Put the slices in a bowl' cover and refrigerate for at least /2 hour.
     Peel the onion, keeping it whole, and slice it into rounds as thinly as possible.  Cover with cold water and refrigerate, also for 1/2 hour.
     Just before serving, remove the cucumbers and the onion from the refrigerator.  Drain the onion and shake off the excess water.  Layer the cucumber and onion slices informally on a platter or in a large shallow bowl.  Season with a little salt and freshly ground white pepper, and scatter the cheese and herbs on top.  Whisk together the vinegar and oil with a fork, and pour it over the salad.  Garnish with the mint leaves and serve.

Variation:  The addition of finely chopped green chilies will make this a salad with both cool and hot tastes.

Tomorrow night:  Winter Squash Gratin


  1. If you like crispy, thinly sliced cucumber slices and red onions, also thinly sliced and separated into rings, then this is the salad for you! It was delicious. The feta with the other herbs just made it even better.
    The pasta was also very good. By putting it in the oven for 15 or 20 minutes before serving, it makes it seem like a baked pasta dish, like maccaroni and cheese, but without all of the melted cheese and butter. Guess what I'm trying to say is if you like baked pasta, this dish is a very tasty, and much healthier version of baked pastas. Most baked pastas I can think of are pretty heavy with oil, or butter, or cheeses (or all of the above). This one is light, tasty, has the slightly crispy green beans, and of course the garlic and the cabbage make it all that much better. Enough said!

  2. Those both look delicious and I love that Paul is giving his 2 cents!

  3. I love Paul's reviews. He does a great job!