Simply Laura Episode Review
Episode Synopsis: Laura prepares a few vegetarian dishes using fresh veggies from New Jersey, which is her home state.
The Recipes: Chili with Butternut Squash and Black Beans; Broccoli Rabe Pesto Pasta with Sausage; and a Roasted Tomato Tart.
The Process and My Thoughts: We start off with Laura out going to the store to pick up the ingredients needed to prepare her chili. She purchases her butternut squash, onions, peppers, tomatoes and garlic. From here, she heads home to start preparing her dishes.
I thought that she would start with the chili first, but she actually started with her pasta dish. Instead of making her pesto out of basil, like everyone else usually does, she’s making hers out of some broccoli rabe (or rapini). I have, literally, never heard of this vegetable before, but now that I know it exists, I look forward to trying it one day. She then takes her broccoli rabe and dunks it into some salted, boiling water for a couple minutes and while that’s cooking, she toasted a couple handfuls of pine nuts. After letting the veggie sit in the boiling water for a couple minutes, she took it out and put it into an ice bath. According to Laura, dipping the broccoli rabe into the ice bath “stops it from cooking any further and it helps the broccoli rabe stay lovely, deep and green.”
From here, Laura goes on to make something that her Nonna refers to as a “poor man’s parmesan cheese,” which is just stale bread that is grated to look like parmesan cheese. At this point, Laura takes the broccoli rabe out of the ice water and squeezes out as much liquid as possible. Now it’s time to assemble the pesto. Put the wrung out vegetables, pine nuts, (real) parmesan cheese, garlic, juice from a lemon, salt, pepper, some parsley, and some extra virgin olive oil into a food processor and mix away. When that’s done, the pesto sauce is compete.
Add the pasta (Laura used penne) to some boiling water. Take the breadcrumbs (or poor man’s parmesan) and put them in a pan to give them some color. Then, add the sausage to another pan to cook it. Before Laura put the dish together, she took a little bit of the “starchy cooking water” that she boiled the pasta in to help loosen up her pesto. She also added a little of it to the sausage that was still cooking in the pan. After that, she drained the water out of her pasta and began to put the dish together. On top of the drained pasta she added the cooked sausage, the broccoli rabe pesto, a little bit of the starchy cooking water and stirred everything up. She also added a little bit of parmesan, some leftover pine nuts and a sprinkle of those toasted breadcrumbs to finish the dish off.
Since I love pesto dishes, I think that this would be something that I would enjoy. Like I said earlier, I have never heard of, let alone, tasted broccoli rabe, but, I wouldn’t mind giving it a try after watching this episode. The dish looked amazing and the color (not that it matters) is very pretty as well. It’s a very vibrant green, so I guess adding the broccoli rabe to the ice bath worked.
Now it’s time for the chili. Laura started by chopping up some vegetables. After chopping them up, she put them in a pot to start cooking. While they were cooking, she added some salt, pepper and garlic. Next, she drained and rinsed her black beans and added a full 12 ounce beer to her pot of cooking vegetables “to give it a little richer flavor.” From here, she added everything into the pot: brown sugar, chili powder, ground cumin, oregano, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, mild green chilis, vegetable stock and the drained and rinsed black beans. Let that simmer on medium-low for about 45 minutes.
While that was simmering, Laura started preparing her butternut squash. All she did was peel and dice it into cubes before adding it to her simmering chili pot. She let all that simmer for about 30-35 minutes or until the squash was tender.
Now it’s time for the last dish: the roasted tomato tart. Laura started by taking a sheet of puff pastry and rolling it out until it was about 1/2 an inch bigger on all sides. She then brushed off all the extra flour and placed it on a parchment paper-lined backing sheet. She then took a fork and punched some holes into the puff pastry, which “helps the center stay flat, so nothing puffs up and disturbs all your tomatoes.”
Then, she took some fontina cheese and shredded some of it all over the surface of the puff pastry. According to Laura, the cheese “acts like glue,” so it’ll make sure that the tomatoes don’t fall off when she finally cuts into the tart. Spread the cheese into a single layer and set it aside and proceed to slice the tomatoes. Slice them to about a quarter inch thick and add them to a bowl. Add some Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and a little olive oil to the bowl of tomatoes and toss them around to mix things up. Now, just put the tomatoes onto the cheese covered puff pastry. After laying out the tomatoes, add some parmesan cheese over the top and pop in into the oven for about 20-25 minutes. Take the tart out and add some basil to the top and that’s it!
I’m not a big fan of plain tomatoes (I can only eat them when they’re in a sauce), so I don’t think I would like the tarte, but that chili looked amazing. After putting some in a bowl, Laura added some scallions, cilantro and a dollop of sour cream to the top and oh my gosh! It looked so good! I haven’t had veggie chili in a while, so I am definitely craving a bowl right about now.
Conclusion: This was a great episode. I loved that it was all about vegetarian dishes. I have been trying to eat healthy, but it’s a little hard to do that when you’re surrounded by meat lovers and when you don’t really have a lot of vegetarian dishes in your arsenal. I will definitely be saving this episode because I would love to try to make a couple of these dishes. They all looked delicious and, as usual, watching this show made me very hungry.
What did you think of this week’s episode of Simply Laura? Let me know in the comments.
Simply Laura airs on Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on the Cooking Channel.
*Please note: I did not add exact measurements in this post because it would’ve been even longer than it already is. To get the exact measurements visit the Cooking Channel’s website for the official recipe. Also, if you would like for me to put the exact measurements in my next post, let me know and I’ll be sure to do that.