Two Winter Dishes  from Tara Teaspoon - Y Magazine
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Two Winter Dishes 

For Tara Bench (’97), food is all about sharing. Bench’s passion for cooking developed as she spent time in the kitchen with her mom and solidified during her college years, when food became the center of social gatherings. College cooking, with a budget and limited resources, taught Bench how to get creative with her cooking. That’s how she came up with her pesto recipe—working with the ingredients she had in her fridge. She draws inspiration for her recipes from the rich culinary culture of her home in New York City, where she worked as a food editor for Martha Stewart Living and food director for Ladies’ Home Journal, but she always adds her own twist.

Bench’s goal is to bring people together—also the focus of her first cookbook, Live Life Deliciously, and blog, “Don’t be scared to experiment,” she encourages. These delicious recipes are a great place to start. 

Fresh Green Pesto Pasta with Lemon Ricotta Cream

This simple recipe, fresh and flavorful, is perfect for creating a taste of summer in any season.

A plate of green pesto pasta with lemon ricotta cream.
Photo by Ty Mecham

Lemon Ricotta Cream 

  • 1 c. ricotta 
  • 1/4 c. whipping cream 
  • Zest of 1 lemon 
  • 1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper 

Pesto Pasta 

  • 1 c. packed flat-leaf parsley, tough stems removed 
  • 1 c. packed baby spinach leaves 
  • 1/2 c. basil leaves 
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas, thawed 
  • 1/3 c. raw almonds 
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice 
  • 1 small clove garlic 
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 
  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 lb. pasta of choice 

Cook pasta of choice. 

Combine ricotta, cream, lemon zest, and pepper in bowl and whip with electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. 

In food processor combine parsley, spinach, basil, peas, almonds, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Pulse until finely chopped. Drizzle in olive oil while pulsing. Mix pesto until smooth and combined. 

Toss pesto with hot, drained pasta. Top each serving with a dollop of lemon ricotta cream. Garnish with lemon zest. 

Warm Kale Butternut Squash Salad

This salad is perfect as a side dish for a festive meal on a cold night.

A bowl of kale butternut squash salad.
Photo by Darianne Edwards

Toasted Brown Rice

  • 3/4 c. brown rice (long or medium grain) or other grain
  • 1 1/4 c. water
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Kale and Butternut Squash

  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb. butternut squash peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (3 cups diced)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 10 oz. chopped kale
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 c. pomegranate arils (substitutes: dried cranberries, currants, chopped apricots, or golden raisins)

Toast dry brown rice in medium saucepan over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently until rice is hot. Immediately add water and salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover pan. Simmer for about 40 minutes, until tender and liquid is absorbed.

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add squash, garlic, and seasoned salt. Cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Stir occasionally for 7 to 10 minutes, until squash is tender. Add honey, then transfer to a large serving bowl.

Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to the skillet over medium-high heat. Add kale and black pepper and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until kale is just wilted. Add kale and rice to serving bowl and stir to combine. Stir in 1/2 c. pomegranate arils and garnish with remaining. Serve warm or at room temperature.