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November 9, 2004

Small-Time Cooks 11-09-04

Winter was fast approaching, and I still had dreams of summer food. Before I began making soups and other warm food, I needed to remind myself of that fresh feeling from a plate of pasta and a nice salad. The first icy breeze of winter slapped me like a date gone wrong, and the kitchen was my refuge. Maria invited some friends over and we made ziti and a great side salad. We turned the leftover salad into wraps, and the ziti made a great breakfast.

These dishes serve four.

Baked Ziti

1 lb. ziti or penne pasta

Large jar of tomato sauce

1/2 pound mozzarella cheese

1/4 pound Parmesan or Romano cheese

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Freshly ground black pepper

For this recipe you'll need a large casserole dish, about 13" by 8". A deep soufflé dish also works. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and set the pasta cooking in a very large pot with plenty of water. Grate the Parmesan or Romano, and either grate the mozzarella, slice it into thin disks, or crumble it. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and toss it with some olive oil so it doesn't stick together. Put down a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish and put a layer of pasta on top. Cover with more sauce and some of the mozzarella and ricotta. Put down layers of pasta, sauce, then cheese, and keep going until you get to the top. You want the pasta to have plenty of sauce, but not so much that it's swimming. On the top, spread out the Parmesan or Romano with a little of the mozzarella on top. Put in the oven, but move the rack first so the top of the ziti is about four inches from the top of the oven. If you have two racks in your oven, you can put a baking sheet on the top rack above the ziti. This will force more heat onto the top of the ziti and brown the cheese nicely. Once this happens, take out and serve. Garnish with the basil and pepper.

Grilled Tofu Wraps

1 pound firm tofu

3 cups salad greens or lettuce

Fresh vegetables (cucumbers, onion,

tomato, carrot, mushrooms)

Wraps

Marinade:

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 clove chopped garlic

Salt and pepper

For the marinade, whisk the balsamic vinegar into the olive oil until well mixed. Add in the spices and mix. Slice the tofu into strips about the size of a finger, and pour the marinade over them. Let this sit for at least half an hour. Remove the strips from the marinade and either grill, pan-fry, broil, or bake them. They should cook until the marinade has all been absorbed or cooked off, and the tofu is of a comfortable consistency. Wrap the tofu strips with some lettuce and fresh vegetables. Add in some of the marinade as a dressing, or use something else like sweet hot mustard. The recipe also works well as a salad, without the wrap.