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Posts from the ‘Tomatoes’ Category

Italian Meatballs & Cavatappi


With record-breaking snowstorms back east, and some 35ºF mornings here…I’ve been in the mood for comfort food.  Spaghetti and meatballs has not been a go-to meal for me…probably because I don’t like spaghetti.  This, in and of itself seems silly…since pasta is pasta…but shapes make a rather large difference.

My problems with spaghetti start with the messy factor…I would like the sauce in my mouth and not splattered on my chin.  Also…I think the pasta shape should mirror the shape of whatever else is in the dish…and meatballs do not look like spaghetti.  Then there’s the fork issue…it seems like eating spaghetti with a fork should come with instructions like using chopsticks in a japanese restaurant – step 1: take a deep breath and prepare to stab your fork into the pile of innocent long thin noodles; step 2: Twist fork in circles with tines braced against the bottom of the dish until an appropriate bite-size amount of noodles are twirled around; step 3: Lift fork without noodles sliding, falling or unraveling off of the fork and insert into mouth; step 4: chew spaghetti and meatball bite and savor each delicious morsel…oh wait…you forgot the meatball.  See?  It’s complicated.

Let me simplify.  Don’t use spaghetti when you are making spaghetti and meatballs!

I based this recipe loosely on Ina Garten’s Real Meatballs & Spaghetti from her Family Style cookbook.  I halved the recipe for the meatballs as I only had 1 lb. of ground beef in the house, but made the full recipe for the sauce.  I deem it a very successful recipe and know that it will become a favorite!  (just my humble opinion)  :)

Italian Meatballs & Cavatappi

Makes 10 golf-ball-size meatballs

For the meatballs:
1 pound ground beef
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1½-2 tbsp of whole milk
¼ cup of minced onion
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 heavy tsp. of ketchup
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup of warm water
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 large shallot, chopped
1½ tsp. minced garlic
½ cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. of dried Italian herbs (like Penzey’s)
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsps. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Put the beef, breadcrumbs, parsley, parmesan, onion, garlic, ketchup into a bowl together.  Beat the egg and add the 1/4 cup of water and beat together a bit more.

Pour the egg/water mixture over the top of the beef et al., and mix together with your hands.  Mix gently and not for very long.  Overworking the mixture will cause the meatballs to be tough.  Once I get a sense of the consistency of the meat mixture, here’s where I decide how much of the milk I will add.  I used about 2 tablespoons of whole milk.  It’s a judgement call…not enough moisture or fat…and the meatballs will be dry…too much and they can fall apart or end up spongy.  Roll the mixture into balls…size is up to you…I went with golf-ball size…assuming two meatballs per person for portion size.

Heat olive and vegetable oil together in a pan on the stove top and place the meatballs in gently, making sure to not crowd them.  It’s better to cook them in batches than to squeeze them all in.  You want the meatballs to brown, not to steam.

Place the pan in the 400° oven for 25 minutes (less if they are smaller).  After 25 minutes, pull them out and give each meatball a turn, turn the oven up to 450° and then put them back in to brown a bit more for about 5 minutes.

Once browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.  Place the pan back on a burner…being highly aware that the pan is hotter than the sun…so don’t touch the handle!  I like to rest a hotpad on the handle as a reminder since I have a (small) history of burning myself when I ought to know better!

Now that you’ve got your pan back on the heat, pour in the tablespoon of olive oil and heat a bit before adding the chopped shallot and onion.  Cook until the onion and shallot are translucent, probably about 5 minutes.

Add in the minced garlic and cook for another minute or so.  While the onions were sautéing, I prepped my tomatoes.  I had a can of whole peeled tomatoes and I wanted them chopped…so I pull them out, gave them a rough chop, making sure not to lose any of their juice and put them back in the can, ready for use.

Next pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape up all the delicious bits stuck on the pan from the meatballs and the onions.

Now it’s time to add the tomatoes and all of their liquid.

And it’s also time to add in the parsley, italian seasoning, salt and pepper and the dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Let the sauce come together for 10 minutes or so, before adding the meatballs back in and cooking for another 10-20 minutes.  The timing really depends on how quickly you want dinner on the table…as long as the meatballs are cooked through and warmed back up…you are good to go!

Serve over freshly cooked al dente cavatappi (we used De Cecco brand) and top with a sprinkling of fresh grated parmesan and some minced parsley.  This goes amazingly well with a buttery slice of garlic bread! Just saying!

Buon Appetito!

(but seriously…am I alone in my lack of love for spaghetti…?)

Ina’s Winter Minestrone with Garlic Bruschetta


A few weeks ago, I proclaimed this soup one of the best (especially for a brothy soup) soups I’d ever put in my mouth.  I am not joking.  I almost licked the Tupperware clean a week later after I ate my 7th lunch of reheated soup.  The photos are not my finest work – straight from the iPhone as we had company over when I made it and I didn’t stop and take photos before serving.  However, the recipe was too good to just post as a ‘Dinner Last Week’ photo post.

When it comes to soup…I tend towards the creamy or puréed ones.  Also, I don’t think I’ve ever had a minestrone that I had any interest in eating again.  I actually surprised myself AND Woody when I mentioned this was one of the recipes I wanted to make first out of my latest Barefoot Contessa cookbook – Foolproof.  The mixture of pasta, white beans, spinach added at the last second, a dollop of pesto, the richness of parmesan and the butternut squash is so savory and flavorful and perfect for a winter evening…even a mild California winter evening.

I made the recipe exactly as written and the only thing I might change is to add a bit more pancetta.  I thought for sure that the leftovers would be good…but expected the pasta to be blown out from continuing to soak up liquid and the wilted spinach to turn to mush…surprisingly, it held very well.  My mouth still waters thinking about this soup…I’d be surprised if I can wait another month to make it again.

Winter Minestrone with Garlic Bruschetta

from Ina Garten’s “Foolproof Barefoot Contessa”

Good olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, ½-inch-diced
1½ cups chopped yellow onions
2 cups (½-inch) diced carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups (½-inch) diced celery (3 stalks)
2½ cups (½-inch) diced peeled butternut squash
1½ tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
26 ounces canned or boxed chopped tomatoes, such as Pomi
6 to 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade 
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked small pasta, such as tubetti (see note)
8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
½ cup good dry white wine
2 tablespoons store-bought pesto
Garlic Bruschetta (recipe follows)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the pancetta and cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of the chicken stock, the bay leaf, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 ½ teaspoons pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it’s too thick, add more chicken stock. Just before serving, reheat the soup, add the spinach, and toss with 2 big spoons (like tossing a salad). Cook just until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine and pesto. Depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock, add another teaspoon or two of salt to taste.

Serve large shallow bowls of soup with a bruschetta on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and serve hot.

Garlic Bruschetta

1 baguette
Good olive oil
1 garlic clove, cut in half lengthwise
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Slice the baguette at a 45-degree angle in inch-thick slices. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and bake for 6 minutes, until lightly toasted. Take the slices out of the oven and rub the surface of each one with the cut clove of garlic.

 

ps:  This recipe is all over the internet, pinterest, etc.  Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks it is absolutely delicious.

 

 

Roasted Corn Cakes with Tomato Avocado Salsa


I know that it is now, technically, October…however, Los Angeles is not behaving that way and therefore I feel completely justified cooking like it is still seriously summer…as in triple digits!  Also…I wasn’t joking when I said we have been on a serious corn and tomato kick – and this recipe uses both!

I first stumbled on this recipe through Pinterest (you can follow @lizfisch) and then I happened to have everything in the house to whip up a batch.  The best part is that the source of the pin is easy to find.  Thanks to EzraPoundCake for posting the recipe, which actually comes from “Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen“.  I made a few changes to the recipe from EzraPoundCake, including roasting the corn before shucking and not adding any jalapeno peppers (didn’t have any on hand…and as previously discussed…I can’t take the heat!) to the tomato salsa.

Corn Cakes

3 ears of corn, shucked and roasted
1 cup flour
½ cup cornmeal
¼ cup diced red onion
¼ cup thinly sliced basil
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. well-shaken buttermilk
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Canola oil for frying
Chopped Tomato & Avocado Salsa (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a brown paper bag or paper towels.
Cut the corn from the cobs into a large bowl, and scrape the stripped cobs with the back of the knife (or a spoon) to release the juices into the bowl.

I find the easiest way to do this is to set a small bowl upside down in a larger bowl and use the smaller bowl as the base for the cob.  The kernels tend to fly all over the place as you are cutting them off and you can maximize the stability of the cob while also catching the majority of the kernels.

Place 2 cups of the corn kernels into a food processor, and pulse several times, until the corn is slightly puréed but still chunky.

Scrape into the bowl with the remaining corn kernels.  Add flour, cornmeal, onion, basil, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper to the corn. Stir to mix.

Add the eggs, buttermilk and butter, and stir just to combine. (Do not overmix.)


Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add just enough canola oil to barely cover the bottom, and heat until sizzling hot.

One heaping tablespoon at a time, scoop the batter into the skillet. Cooking in batches of 4 to 5 to avoid overcrowding, fry the cakes 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown.


Drain on the lined baking sheet, and place in the oven to keep warm while cooking the remaining corn cakes. Serve warm topped with a heap of Chopped Tomato and Avocado Salsa.

Chopped Tomato and Avocado Salsa

Makes about 2 cups

1-2 pints of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 scallion, minced and trimmed
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
juice of ½ lime
1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1½ tsp. white wine vinegar
kosher or sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed

Place all of the ingredients (except the avocado) in a bowl, and stir to mix. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve, for up to 2 days.

Just before serving, add the avocado, and mix gently.

Once you’ve got everything ready to go, stack two corn cakes on a plate and top with salsa, garnish with more of the freshly chopped herbs, sliced scallions or minced red onion…any or all of them will do.

Anyone still hanging onto summer favorites out there?  Anyone…?  Bueller…?

Okay, I’ll make a promise…I’ll move on to fall dishes, as soon as the LA cools off a bit…I’m not asking for much…let’s say, highs in the 70’s?  Until then, I consider it summer!

Deal!

 

 

Hybrid Enchiladas with Green Chiles & Cheese


I am currently jealous of any person currently living in an area where the daily high temperatures are not rising above 70º.  Here in southern California…we’re still in the thick of the heat.  Today we had a major dip and the high was only 84º!  Last week, husband and I were enjoying a late summer vacation around the Teton region in Wyoming and Idaho and although it was certainly cooler…it was still ridiculously hot for this late in September.  Wild fires still abound and our days were filled with smoky haze.  However the brisk early mornings and waning light left me hungry for fall weather.  Casserole weather.

I love enchiladas as they tend to include cheese (love), corn tortillas (love) and they beg to be topped with the quintessential Tex-Mex garnish of sliced canned black olives.

No, these hybrid enchiladas will not get you more miles to the gallon…but they are a mixture of enchilada preparation styles from both my family and my husband’s family.

Woody likes his enchiladas on the spicy-side and I prefer it a bit milder so I tried to maximize the flavor of the sauce while not creating a volcanic sauce that would ruin the fun of my dinner.  Truly…I winged it.

In its most basic form, enchilada sauce is tomato sauce that has been flavored with chilies, onions and spices.  There are plenty of recipes out there to use as a starting point.  You’ll also notice from the above photo, that I used a portion of prepared enchilada sauce in making my sauce.  I tend to not love the sauces straight from the can, but they can enhance the depth of your sauce and make things a bit more complex.

Enchiladas can be made with flour or corn tortillas.  I like both, but they are very different, with corn being more authentic.  To use corn tortillas and make them malleable, you need to soften each one in a bit of hot vegetable or canola oil first.  Heat a shallow fry pan that is at least the size of your tortillas with ¼” of oil in the bottom.  You are not trying to make crispy tortillas…rather they should soak up a bit of oil which will make them easy to roll without tearing and ripping.  Using tongs, slip each tortilla into the warm oil for no more than 5-15 seconds per side and stack warm on a plate.  It’s best to do more than you think you will need so you don’t have to go back and repeat this step.  When the oil gets low, just add a bit more and let it heat back up.  If the oil is spitting, it is probably too hot.

I filled these enchiladas with jack cheese and Ortega green chiles.  Cut the cheese into ¼ to 1/3 inch logs and slice the canned whole green chiles into lengthwise slices.  Place one of each onto a tortilla and roll tightly and place the seam side down into a baking dish.  Continue until you have filled the pan and squished in as many as possible.

While I was building the enchiladas, my sauce was bubbling away on the stove.  When the pan is filled, it is time to lade the sauce over the enchiladas.

I started the sauce with sautéing a thinly sliced onion which is why it looks a bit chunky and stringy.

Smooth sauce over the top, letting it settle into the nooks and crannies.  Tope with shredded cheese and (of course) sliced black olives.

Now it’s time to bake this delicious pan of cheesy goodness.  You can also wrap it with foil and freeze it at this point – I had enough to feed an army…so I froze a whole second pan for sometime in November!  Bake at 350º for 20-30 minutes (from frozen it will probably need more like 45-60 minutes – and you can put it directly in a cold oven, and that way you can avoid the risk of your dish breaking from temperature shock as it will heat up with the oven).  If it is browning too quickly, cover with a piece of foil.

Let it stand for a few minutes once you remove it from the oven and then serve it up with your favorite sides.  We went with beans and a little garnish of fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream (which didn’t make it into the photo).

Side note:  I out-spiced myself with this particular dish.  In my attempt to satisfy my husband’s need for some heat…I went a bit far with the chiles, cayenne and chile powder.  Oops!  At least one of us loved it!  The sour cream helped me cool down the dish for my pathetic pallet.  

What are you cooking now that the weather has turned (in most places)?

 

 

Fast & Fresh (no-cook) Tomato Sauce with Pasta


We are hitting the end of the summer produce season, and I am guessing that a few of you out there have already felt the first hints of fall with some crisp mornings, the sun setting a bit earlier and of course the changing of routines with the commencing of school and shifting away from the relaxed days of summer work.

I am in denial about this particular change of seasons and refuse to shift my culinary tastes quite yet.

The end of summer typically also means a surplus of a few items…the most famous of which are zucchini and of course, tomatoes!

This dish is the answer to an overabundance of tomatoes and a seeming under-abundance of time.

3-4 medium/large tomatoes (or equivalent of cherry tomatoes, roma’s etc.)
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bunch of fresh basil
½ tsp. dried oregano
2-3 tbsp.’s of olive oil (more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
1 package of fresh pasta (refrigerated – like Buitoni or similar brands)
parmesan cheese to garnish

  1. Chop tomatoes into roughly the same size chunks – I quartered the cherry tomatoes and used that as a size guide for cutting up the larger tomatoes.  Put all the chopped tomatoes into a bowl and include all the tomato juice and liquid that leaked out during the chopping.
  2. Chop or mince the garlic – the smaller the pieces, the more pungent the garlic flavor will be.
  3. Julienne the basil leaves, leaving a few whole for the final garnish.
  4. Add the basil, garlic and the dried oregano to the tomatoes and liberally salt and pepper the mixture.
  5. Drizzle the olive oil over the mixture and stir gently to combine and let the flavors start to marry.

Resist the urge to eat this by the spoonful!

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Once the pasta has drained, put it back into the pot and dump in the tomato mixture and mix the two together.  This is a good time to add a bit more olive oil and salt.  Remember to always season dishes as you are cooking, and taste it along the way.

Serve up the pasta into bowls and top with grated parmesan and a few leaves of basil.  A slice or two of crusty bread is a nice accompaniment to help sop up all the garlicky tomato essence.  This dish is best enjoyed al fresco even if you have to throw on a heavy sweater and long pants to keep warm!  :)

Do you have dishes that act as a protest to seasonal change?  A culinary equivalent of indian summer?  What are your favorite recipes to utilize all of those late summer vegetables that seem to grow exponentially quicker as the days of summer ween?

Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Shaved Baby Zucchini & Toasted Pepitas


When someone utters the words “…this is the best thing we’ve made…ever!”  ’nuff said.

Squash blossoms are available for only a short period of time in the summer and are the epitome of ‘seasonal’.  They are typically picked in the morning and brought to the farmer’s market that day and are best used within a couple of hours.  This dish is perfectly simple and refreshingly light without being short on flavor.

I spotted the original recipe on epicurious as we were walking through the farmer’s market trying to solidify our dinner plans.  Our modified recipe is shown below.

Besides squash blossoms, in looking for shallots, we stumbled upon green shallots, which I don’t believe I’ve used before.  I am positive the dish would have been delightful with regular, good ‘ole shallots…but I believe the green shallots made it just a touch more special!

Let’s talk tomatoes!  Tomatoes in the summer are serious business.  It is not summer without tomatoes that need nothing other than to be plucked from the vine and tossed in one’s mouth and with a tiny squeeze of the jaw burst forth with flavor and juice.  These miniature (sometimes referred to as Sweet 100’s) citrusy orange delights would have been so offended had we tried to cook them…they would have sprouted legs and walked right out of the kitchen (original recipe called for roasting the tomatoes).

I am often made fun of for appreciating things that come in small proportions (read: I love anything that is small or comes in a miniature size).  Prime examples of such behavior: I refuse to use anything other than the mini-taster spoons when eating ice cream from a shop; we shouldn’t even talk about the number of small bowls that crowd my cupboards; and I am addicted to small notepads and mini-books and have recently discovered some half-size mechanical pencils; so my love for baby vegetables should not surprise anyone!

How can you resist these little guys!?!

Make sure to roast the pepitas, the nuttiness and the crunch are very important for the final dish!

For squash blossoms

2 teaspoons olive oil
1-2 oz mild fresh goat cheese (6 tablespoons) at room temperature
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted until they puff
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
6 male squash blossoms with stems (not with baby zucchini), stems trimmed to 1 inch

Filling:

Stir together goat cheese, cream, pumpkin seeds, basil, salt, and pepper in a bowl and set aside.

Pipe filling into each blossom and twist ends of petals gently to close.  We used a ziplock bag and cut off the tip to pipe the filling into the squash blossoms.  Chill them covered, until ready to fry.

*We realized that we should have made the mixture immediately upon returning from the farmer’s market and filled the blossoms as soon as possible as the flowers were open when we bought them and closed up tighter and tighter as the day went on making it more difficult to fill them later on without ripping the delicate petals.

For vinaigrette and shaved squash

1 tablespoon rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 tablespoon minced green shallots
2 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 baby zucchini, rinsed and stems discarded

Purée vinegar, shallot, oil, pepper, and salt in a blender until smooth and emulsified.

Slice squash paper-thin (lengthwise) using a mandoline, then overlap squash slices decoratively on 2 plates.  Do this shortly before frying the blossoms and plating the dish, otherwise the slices will dry out.

For tempura batter and frying

6 cups vegetable oil (preferably canola or grapeseed)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chilled sparkling water

Make tempura batter and fry blossoms:
Heat 2 inches of oil in a 3-quart saucepan to 350°F on thermometer.

Set a bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water, then whisk together flour and salt in smaller bowl. Then whisk in sparkling water until combined well.

Working in batches of 2 or 3, coat blossoms in batter, lifting each out by its stem and letting excess drip off, then fry, turning, until batter is crisp (it will not brown), 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer blossoms as fried with a slotted spoon to paper towels, drain, then season with salt.

For topping

2 tablespoons green (hulled) pumpkin seeds, toasted until they puff
Handful of small basil leaves (preferably Thai) or sliced larger leaves
1 cup small cherry tomatoes (sweeter the better), halved lengthwise or served whole 

Assemble plates:

Drizzle vinaigrette over squash slices, then arrange 3 fried blossoms in middle of each plate. Sprinkle remaining oven-dried tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and basil around blossoms and season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately and enjoy with a glass of white wine – we went with a 2008 Russian River Chardonnay.

The crisp raw zucchini where perfect paired with the crunch of the tempura and the richness of the goat cheese…add in the juicy tomatoes and the acid from the vinaigrette…and it was perfection!  Seriously…perfection!

We are dying to make this again…but just might have to wait until squash blossoms are back in season next summer!

What are your favorite completely seasonal dishes for summer?

 

DLW :: Whatever-is-in-the-fridge Calzones


Sometimes we’re fancy around here and spend a lot of time and effort planning and cooking a meal…and others…it is just about filling your stomach for the evening.  These are the evenings when having some random ingredients in the fridge and pantry comes in handy!

Although pizza dough is incredibly easy and relatively quick to make…every so often I grab a bag of dough from the refrigerated section of Trader Joe’s – it can be so versatile.  So…we happened to have one just waiting to be used.

Throw in a leftover half an onion, some green olives and some roasted red peppers and whatever remnants of cheese you have along with some herbs and seasoning…and all of a sudden, you’ve got a delicious calzone.  I tend to leave the sauce out of the calzone and serve it warm on the side…otherwise, it can make everything a bit soggy.  We split this one between the two of us and it was a nice light meal.

What are your go-to pantry meals and creations?

Chicken Gorgonzola Pasta Salad with Bacon


D’Amico & Sons!  Ring a bell…?  If so, you probably live in Minnesota or Florida or have flown through MSP airport and had enough time to wander around for a bite to eat…and if this is so…you know what I’m talking about.

I wasn’t always one for pasta salads.  They were always bland and drenched in oil and vinegar and seemed to be a dumping ground for canned and often ignored veggies.  My nightmare of a pasta salad involves tri-color spiral pasta with a bottle of italian dressing, some canned sliced olives and if we are lucky…a dice of red bell pepper.  If that’s the best thing you can think of to do with some pasta…perhaps you should consider take-out!

Now that I’ve seen the light…I know the potential that lies in a well-thought-out pasta salad.  Think big…you probably can’t go wrong!  Visiting my husband’s family in Minneapolis, I was treated to D’Amico and Sons, and have been recreating various menu items ever since!

The weather has started to turn truly into spring in most of the country and what better way to welcome it than with a totally cold dish of hearty pasta?

Fun Fact:  Add buttermilk to regular mayonnaise and POOF!  You get ranch dressing.  No, really…nothing additional needed, unless you want it to look like ranch dressing, then you could add some things…ya know…like…herbs.  That’s it.  That’s all.  We were shocked – it tastes just exactly like ranch.  After we got over this fun little piece of info…we got on with the cooking chopping and mixing.

All ingredients in our version are just a guess…so we have chicken, not-all-the-way-sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, bacon and gorgonzola dressing.

I know it looks a little like butter…but it is actually really delicious creamy gorgonzola!  The dressing is simple…a little mayo, buttermilk, crumbled gorgonzola, salt and pepper.

Oh yeah, you’ll also need some pasta of your choice…cooked extra al dente!  Add the various components to the bowl, pour dressing over the top and drizzle.  Be conservative at first with the dressing, each piece should have a nice coating…but not be drowning in dressing.  Mix it up…then add the spinach.

Lastly, scoop onto a plate…and top with your perfectly cooked bacon crumbles!

Enjoy!

Salade Niçoise


Salad.  The word is ripe with meanings.  Could be dessert, breakfast, a hearty meal, a light spring side, could be greens and a little dressing or contain nothing green at all…might be the whole meal or just a nibble to whet your appetite.  I’m a big fan of savory salads that have intention, I love a composed salad, have a sweet spot for any salad with a hit of protein, and of course…add olives to anything and I’m in!

A niçoise salad hits every mark and is easily made almost any time of year!

This recipe comes from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan.  I first learned about this book via NPR and The Splendid Table with Lynn Rossetto Kasper who interviewed Dorie.  However, this salad hardly needs a recipe at all (but I posted it below).

We were inspired to make a niçoise after reading a Cook’s Illustrated review of canned tuna focusing not only on taste but also on sustainability and ethics of the company.  American Tuna came out on top…and when we spotted it while grocery shopping…we knew just what we would be making with it.

The tuna is worth the additional cost and the quality is outstanding.

Recipe (courtesy of Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan)

8-12 small potatoes, scrubbed
2  5 to 6 oz. cans tuna packed in oil, drained
4 tomatoes, cut into chunks or 20 grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 lb. green beans, trimmed
4 hard-boiled eggs
about 20 Niçoise olives, pitted
2 tbsps. capers, drained and patted dry
8 anchovies, rinsed and patted dry (we skipped the anchovies)
4-6 handfuls of bibb lettuce
1 shallot, finely chopped
olive oil
light vinegar or lemon juice
chopped fresh parsley for garnish
salt and freshly ground pepper

Since it was just the two of us, we halved the recipe and the portions were very generous!

Start by cooking the potatoes in boiling and salted water.  You’ll want to cook the potatoes whole, they will hold their shape and look crisper for the salad.  Depending on the size, they should take between 10-15 minutes…and I would err on the shorter side.  You can test the doneness by piercing one of the potatoes with a paring knife.

We happen to have some hard-boiled eggs on hand from earlier in the week, but if they are not a standard in your fridge…go ahead and hard boil the eggs using your preferred method and make sure they have time to cool down before peeling and quartering them.  Depending on the size of tomato you use, quarter or half the tomatoes.

The green beans need only a very quick blanch in salted boiling water and a quick cool-off in some ice water.  Once you have all your ingredients ready to go – it’s time to pull it all together.  Mix up the dressing…a little olive oil, shallots and vinegar seasoned with salt and pepper.

Toss the lettuce with the dressing and pile high on the plate and then top with all the fixings…in whatever fashion grabs you in the moment.  Open a lovely crisp bottle of white wine to cut through the oil of the tuna, olives and anchovies and the salt of the capers and olives and you’ve got dinner on the table!

Bon Appétit!

2011 Meals in Review | part two


as promised…

2011 Meals in Review | part two

July

Gorgonzola Chicken Pasta Salad (a la D’Amico & Sons)

German Potato Salad

Summer Tomato Caprese Stacks

Bastille Day & a Little Liberté with Scallion and Chive Smoked Salmon Spread

 

August

Sour Cream Verde Enchiladas

 

September

Heirloom Tomatoes Bread Salad with Burratta

Zucchini, Summer Squash and Brown Rice Casserole

 

October

Tomato and Gruyere Tart

served with a little salad

Fresh Linguine with Mizithra Cheese and Lightly Dressed Arugula

Traditional Beef Empanadas (made mini!)

A little sampling of delicious items…cheese, olives, toasts, etc.

Niçoise Salad

 

November

Pumpkin Pecan Biscotti

Brioche French Toast

No-Knead Bread

Gougeres

Red Tea, Beef & Sweet Potato Stew

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

Excuse the phone photo…but that’s what’s left of a scrumptious braised rabbit with pappardelle from this place.

Chestnut Pancetta Stuffing for Thanksgiving

My Thanksgiving plate…and no I didn’t overdo it!

Couldn’t be complete without a slice of pecan pie!

The morning after was no let-down with Pheasant and Waffles topped with a Fried Egg and Mushroom Thyme Gravy!!!

 

December

A weekend trip up north found us eating at the Culinary Institute of America’s restaurant in St. Helena.  The Tasting included 5 delectable bites to whet our appetites.

The polenta sitting under the magnificently cooked piece of beef was quite possibly the best thing on the table.

Duck Confit with a Poached Egg and Frisee

Krumkake Christmas Cookies

Christmas Eve bites including Cremenelli Salami – a little hometown pride!

Christmas Dinner – Tenderloin of Beef, Creamy Dill Carrots and Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Turkey Tetrazzini

The BEST use of leftover beef ever…sliced beef tenderloin topped with a cold Bernaise sauce

And last but not least, Short Ribs Italiano served over Pappardelle!

 

We’re making some artichoke dip and about to head over to friends to ring in the new year!  Tonight is for looking back and tomorrow, we start fresh.

A Whole New Year!

Happy New Year!

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