Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spaghetti with Mushrooms, Garlic, and Parsley

I love those meals that come together in a snap; measuring isn't even necessary. A quick perusal of the overall process, and then just cook. I love it! This is one of those meals. Technically, I followed the recipe, but I added and tweaked a bit here and there. For that reason, I will link you to Lidia's recipe, but I will type out what I did. A little of this, a bit of that, a toss and a chop, and voila! Dinner!
olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed, and sliced
a container of whole fresh mushrooms (or more if you'd like!)
salt and pepper, to taste
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
(I added 3 thickly sliced plum tomtoes)
1 lb. dried spaghetti
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional (but, of course!)
Boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta (cooking in salted water is the only chance that you will get to flavor your noodles!). Cook the noodles al dente; drain. Meanwhile, wash and slice the mushrooms. In a large skillet, pour olive oil to cover most of the bottom of pan. Add garlic and sautee until very light golden brown (don't burn!) Add the mushrooms, and give the pan a couple of quick shakes. With a wooden spoon, incorporate the mushrooms with the garlic and olive oil. Let the mushrooms sweat a bit of their liquid out and become tender and brown. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a cup of your boiling pasta water (because your pasta is still cooking while you are making your sauce!) to the mushrooms and bring to a boil. Cook and let liquid reduce a bit. When pasta is done and drained, pour the mushroom sauce over the noodles. Toss gently to incorporate. At this point, I added my quartered slices of fresh tomatoes along with the chopped parsley. Again, toss. After all is heated through, remove from heat and plate into individual bowls. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Yum! I personally loved how every mouthful was permeated by a wonderful garlic taste. There is ZERO guilt with this delicious bowl of pasta--all whole foods, no added sugars or "junk." Just freshness!
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Macerated Orange Slices (and Strawberries!)

Isn't this so pretty? Go here to read about the first time I made this! This is such a simple dessert and I am finding that I love eating fresh fruit for dessert--Italian style! However, I am hard-pressed to give up a nice treat later on in the evening, usually paired with a hot, frothy vanilla latte! (Hey, El Hub and I have to be creative about our "dates"--we have 3 munchkins, after all!) The change that I made to this recipe this time around was to add fresh strawberries--love the prices on these beauties these days at the grocery!
Macerated Orange Slices
"Essentials of Italian Cooking" Marcella Hazan
6 sweet juicy oranges
the peel of 1 lemon, grated without digging into the white pith
5 tbl. sugar
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 a lemon
Slice and peel 4 oranges (I sliced first, then slid my knifetip around the flesh inside the rind). Pick out any seeds. Place orange slices in a deep platter or shallow serving bowl. Sprinkle with the lemon zest. Add the sugar. Squeeze the remaining 2 oranges and add their juice to the platter or bowl. Add the lemon juice, the toss (very gently!), being careful not to break any of the orange slices. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (the flavor really does get better the longer the fruit marinates!) Served chilled, turning the orange slices a couple of times before plating.

Italian Garden Frittata

My very dear friend passed this recipe on to me....I love how she knows me so well and doesn't hesitate to share something with me that she knows I will love! Thanks, L.A.!! This was D.E.L.I.S.H. Very fresh, very whole-food, very "I-feel-good-for-just-having-eaten-this." I did some substitutions; I used sliced red onions instead of the green, and half Parmesan cheese for the Romano. The original recipe called for a combination of egg whites and eggs; I used whole eggs so as not to waste the yolks.
"Taste of Home" magazine
10 eggs
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese, divided
1 tbl. fresh sage, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 small zucchini, sliced
2 green onions, sliced
1 tsp. olive oil
2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1/4 cup of Romano cheese, salt and pepper.
In an oven-proof skillet, pour olive oil and sautee zucchini and onions for 2 minutes. Add egg mixture and cover until eggs are almost set, about 5 minutes.
Uncover; top with tomato slices and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Broil under low heat for 2-3 minutes, or until eggs are set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Cut into wedges.
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Marinated Mushrooms

Yummy! For those of you who don't care for mushrooms, bear with me. My family loves them and while we typically don't care for raw mushrooms, these had the taste and feel of cooked mushrooms while still maintaining the plumpness of their raw counterparts. I will definitely be making these again--a very easy and nicely-presented appetizer for company!

Marinated Mushrooms
"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith

serves 6-8 as an antipasti dish

1 pound fresh large button mushrooms
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbl. lemon juice
2 tbl. white wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tbl. fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp. dried oregano
salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste

Trim the stems off the mushrooms and save for another use. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch the mushrooms for 2 minutes. Remove and drain well.

Mix the remaining ingredients together in a medium-size bowl and add the drained mushrooms while they are still hot. Toss together, cover, marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Toss them a couple of times while marinating.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Margherita Pizza

So, as I was planning on making pizza, I knew that my pizza dough would yield enough for 3 pizzas. I just figured I would top the third one with pepperoni or some other "American" toppings. Then....duh! Tomatoes and basil! Of course! Margherita pizza! Yes!

Yum! My son especially loved this one! And really,....who can resist gooey fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh basil? Seriously.

(This recipe came from "my" cookbook...the one pictured on the right).

1 recipe Pizza Dough

olive oil
4-5 plum tomatoes
salt, to taste
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
2 tbl. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
14 fresh basil leaves, sliced or coarsely torn

Roll out dough and place on pizza pan/stone. Spread the tomatoes evenly over the top, sprinkle with a little salt, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 10 minutes. Take out, and quickly top the tomatoes with the mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese (in that order), then return to oven. Continue baking, about 5 minutes, until cheese has melted. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the basil.
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Four-Cheese Pizza with Onion and Red Pepper Flakes

Talk about cheesey!!! Wow!

My family wasn't necessarily a fan of this one--they think that they don't care for goat cheese. However, I really liked (and I practically adore goat cheese!) This is a very rich pizza.

"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith

1 recipe Pizza Dough

2 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup sauce (I used Fresh Tomato Sauce Sicilian that I made the other week)
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 pound Italian Fontina cheese, cut into strips
1/4 cup goat cheese
2/3 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tbl. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Roll out dough and place on pizza pan/stone. Smear dough with olive oil and garlic. Spread the tomato sauce and top with the mozzarella. Arrange the Fontina on top of mozzarella and place the goat cheese in little blobs (yes, the published recipe really says this!) on top as well. Top with the onion, red pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Bake in the upper third of a preheated 450-degree oven 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned with crisp edges.
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Pancetta and Onion Pizza

"This is the ham and onion pizza to end all ham and onion pizzas."!!! :) Love it!!

"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith

1 recipe Pizza Dough

2 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup sauce (I used Fresh Tomato Sauce Sicilian that I made the other week)
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
1/4 lb. pancetta, very thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary needles (don't skip this!)
1 tbl. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Roll out dough and place on a pizza pan/stone. Smear dough with olive oil and garlic. Spread tomato sauce on the dough, making sure that the sauce doesn't run over the edge of the dough. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and sliced onion. Lay the sliced pancetta on top in an attractive manner and sprinkle with the rosemary and Parmesan cheese. Bake the pizza in the upper third of a preheated 450-degree oven for 10-12 minutes. The pizza should be lightly browned near the center with crispy brown edges.
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Pizza Dough

"The Frugal Gourment Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith
makes dough for 3 14-inch pizzas

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water (110 degrees)
1 package fast-rising dry yeast (1 package = 2 tsp. jarred yeast) *I use bread machine yeast.
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbl. olive oil
3 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cornmeal, optional (I loathe cornmeal on my breads and doughs)

Place the lukewarm water in a mixing bowl. Dissolved the yeast in the water and wait 5-10 minutes. Add the salt and stir to dissolve. (I used my Kitchenaid mixer to make this dough.) Add the oil, 1 1/2 cups of flour, and the cornmeal. Beat together for 5-10 minutes to form a sticky batter (use the dough hook). Knead in the remaining flour until the dough is smooth. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down the dough and divide into 3 equal parts.

Add toppings and bake according to your pizza recipe directions.

Tortellini and Panna with Prosciutto, Peas, and Mushrooms

This dish was amazing! So simple and tasty! This came together very quickly, making it a perfect choice for a lovely weeknight meal, thanks to the fresh pre-made tortellini. As a sidenote, anyone know what "panna" is? I'm not quite sure!

Tortellini and Panna with Prosciutto, Peas, and Mushrooms
"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith

1 tbl. olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup thinly sliced and chopped prosciutto
3/4 cup whipping cream or half-and-half
1 lb. fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a medium-size frying pan and add the oil, garlic, and mushrooms. Saute over medium-high heat for 3 minutes until the mushrooms are just tender. Add the peas and prosciutto and saute for a couple more minutes. Add the cream and simmer for 2 minutes more.
Boil the tortellini in a pot of lightly salted water until tender, 7-9 minutes, and drain well. Return tortellini to the pot and add the Parmesan cheese. Pour sauce over pasta and toss well. Salt and pepper to taste.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Polenta with Mushroom Sauce

I was looking forward to making this dish, but had a hard time finding the correct corn meal. Both of my Italian cookbooks call for coarse-ground cornmeal, which I couldn't find (after asking a friend, I now know where to look for next time!), so I went searching the Internet for a basic polenta recipe.
My family and I love mushrooms, and I was excited about using porcini mushrooms for the first time! This sauce would also be fabulous on pasta!
Giada De-Laurentiis--Food Network
6 cups water (*I used 3 cups water and 3 cups milk for a creamier polenta)
2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cup corn meal
3 tbl. butter
Boil liquid in a large heavy saucepan. Add the salt. Gradually whisk in cornmeal. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat; add the butter and stir until melted.
Mushroom Sauce
"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith
1 ounce package dried porcini mushrooms (found in the produce section of most grocery stores)
1 cup hot water
2 cups veal stock (*I used one cup chicken stock and 1 cup beef stock)
2 tbl. butter
4 tbl. flour
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbl. olive oil
1/2 pound fresh morel mushrooms or white meadow mushrooms (*I used a basic white button mushroom)
1/4 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste
Soak the porcini in 1 cup hot water for 45 minutes. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and add the flour to make a roux. Whisk the stock gradually into the butter mixture and stir until thickened and smooth. Drain and chop the porcini and other variety of mushrooms. In a large skillet, add the oil and heat before adding the crushed garlic. Add the mushrooms and saute. Cover the pan and sweat the mushrooms. Deglaze the pan with wine and add the sauce. Stir gently to combine and simmer 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, scoop a large spoonful of polenta (it will be somewhat firm) onto a plate and pour a ladle-ful of mushroom sauce over top.
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Brussel Sprouts

This was my very first time eating (and making!) brussel sprouts. I have to say, it was a very easy dish to prepare and I think that next time, I need to cook the sprouts a bit longer. The more tender they were, the less bitter they tasted. Of course, I loved the pancetta, garlic, and white wine vinegar in them! Be careful to not overcook them; however, if they are getting done and still not tender, add some water and braise them a bit until the sprouts are tender.

Brussel Sprouts
"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith

1/3 cup finely chopped pancetta
1 tbl. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
2 pints brussel sprouts, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise

The Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbl. white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large frying pan and add the pancetta. Saute until the fat is transparent and drain off the excess fat. Add the 1 tablespoon of olive oil along with the garlic, onion, and cut sprouts. Cook, covered, over low heat until the sprouts are just tender, about 10 minutes (add water at this point if needed). Remove to a bowl to cool. Combine the ingredients for the dessing and toss with the brussel sprouts. Allow to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature, tossing a couple of times.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Farm Wife's Fresh Pear Tart

This tart will be the perfect companion to a hot, frothy vanilla latte later tonight! It is light and fresh, almost cobbler-like. So simple to make--the only "specialty" ingredient that you need is the pears!

A Farm Wife's Fresh Pear Tart
"Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" Marcella Hazan
6 servings

(If you have the option, choose Bosc or Anjou pears. Bartlett pears will suffice, but the flavor will be better with other varieties.)

2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 pounds fresh pears (about 4)

a 9-inch round cake pan
butter, for greasing the pan and dotting the cake
1/2 cup dry, unflavored bread crumbs (a personal option--I prefer to omit the step)
1 dozen whole cloves (optional--I like them!)

Preheat oven to 375.
Beat the eggs and milk together in a bowl. Add the sugar and a tiny pinch of salt and continue to beat. Add the flour, mixing it in thoroughly to produce a compact cake batter.
Peel the pears (I found a veggie peeler worked great!), cut them in half, core, and slice into thin slices. Add them to the batter and distribute them evenly.
Smear the pan generously with softened butter and sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs. Turn the pan and give it a sharp rap against the counter to shake loose excess crumbs.
Pour the batter into the pan, leveling it off with the back of a spoon or spatula. Make numerous small hollows on top with your fingertips and fill them with small pieces of butter. Stud with the optional cloves, random, but apart.
Place the pan in the upper third of the oven and bake for 50 minutes, or until the top has become lightly colored.
While the tart is still lukewarm, carefully loosen the tart from the bottom of the pan, lift it up with spatulas, and transfer to a platter. It is very nice served while still a little warm, or at room temperature.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Italian Peasant Bread, Breadsticks with Cheese

I think that I am addicted to yeasty bread! These cute little breadsticks completed my antipasti meal. Light and simple.
Italian Peasant Bread
"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith
makes 2 or 3 loaves
2 packages or 4 tsp. fast-rising yeast
2 1/2 cups tepid water (110 degrees)
6 1/2 cups unbleached white bread flour (NOT all-purpose)
1 tsp. salt dissolved in 1 tsp. water
Stir to dissolve the yeast in the water and let stand 5 minutes.
Make a batter out of the water and yeast, together with 4 cups of flour. Beat for 10 minutes with the paddle attachement of electric mixer. It will pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl.
Add the salted water and the remaining flour and knead for 5 minutes with the dough hook in the mixer. Add more water as necessary to get a moist elastic dough.
Let rise in a warm place for 1 - 2 hours, until doubled in bulk. Punch down and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.
*At this point, I divided my dough into fourths. One-fourth I cut into strips using a pizza wheel to form the breadsticks. Bake breadsticks on baking sheet or stone at 400 for 12-14 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
**Punch dough down again and mold into 2 or 3 loaves. Sprinkle with some additional flour and cover with a dishtowel while the oven is preheating.
Preheat oven to 450. Important: Place a pan of hot water on the bottom shelf. This will assure you of a great crust. When the loaves have risen double their size, place them upside down in the upper third of the oven on a baking sheet or stone.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until the bread is nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a rack.
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Cannellini Bean Salad

This was a very yummy salad! The flavors were fresh and intense. The only change I would make next time would be to add more beans to help balance out the textures of the onions and parsley.

Cannellini Bean Salad
"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith
serves 6 as a salad

2 1/2 cups dried cannellini beans (or use nothern white beans) *I used 1 can of Great Northern Beans. Use 2 cans.
1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced
4 green onions, chopped
3 tbl. parsley, chopped
2 tbl. fresh rosemary, chopped
2/3 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbl. white wine vinegar
1/2 cup prosciutto, thinly sliced and chopped

If using dried beans: place the beans in a bowl and add 6 cups fresh cold water. Allow to sit overnight. Drain and place beans in a 6-qt. pot. Add 3 quarts of fresh cold water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 25 to 30 minutes until barely tender. Drain well and pour the beans out onto a large sheet pan. Allow to cool completely and remove to a large bowl.
Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl. Toss and allow to marinate for at least 2 hours at room temperature before serving.

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Grilled Eggplant with Fontina Cheese and Lemon Olive Oil

Like artichokes, I so want to love eggplant. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't. This recipe falls somewhere in the middle. The flavors were pretty intense, even though it was a good intense. This recipe comes from "The Frugal Gourment Cooks Italian" by Jeff Smith.

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

1 1-pound eggplant
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup olive oil for grilling
3/4 cup finely diced tomato
1 tbl. chopped parsley
1 tbl grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbl. lemon olive oil*
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 pound Italian Fontina cheese

Cut the eggplant crosswise at a 45-degree angle into 1/4-in.-thick slices, about 8 slices. Sprinkle both sides of eggplant with salt. Place in a large colander inside a bowl and allow to drain for 40 minutes. Rinse, drain well, and pat the eggplant slices dry with paper towels.
Heat a stove-top grill (I used an indoor electric grill) to medium-high. Brush one side of the eggplant slices with olive oil and grill until a deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Brush the uncooked side with oil and turn over. Grill until brown on that side. Remove to a sheet pan to cool.
Combine the parsley, tomato, Parmesan cheese, and lemon olive oil. Grind the pepper over the bowl. Cut the Fontina into thin strips. Place cheese evenly on one half of each cooled eggplant slice. Top the cheese with the tomato mixture. Fold each eggplant slice into half to form a half-moon.
Place on serving platter and drizzle with additional olive oil. Allow to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature.

*To make the Lemon Olive Oil: whisk together 2 tbl. olive oil with a generous splash of lemon juice until emulsified.
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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Braised Pork Chops with Two Wines, Carrots--Sicilian Style, Pan-Roasted Potatoes

This meal kind-of came together very last minute and very much off the cuff. I deviated a bit from my menu, hoping to stretch it a bit so that I didn't run short next week. I had some pork chops in the freezer, potatoes in the pantry, and several bags of carrots in the fridge. Combine it with some garlic, some wine, some parsley, and of course olive oil, and Voila! Dinner!

The pork chops braised in marsala wine and white wine. The recipe called for red wine, but I didn't have that one had. I switched out the fennel seeds for dried rosemary and thyme, since that it what I had on hand. Have I ever mentioned that I love marsala wine...?!

There isn't anything overly Italian about the potatoes--just diced and baked in the oven. Salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle some fresh parsely over them.

The carrots were blanched then sauteed in olive oil, butter, and garlic until tender. Toss in some marsala wine to deglaze. Yum....!!!

The best, best, part of this meal was the helper that I had with me in the kitchen! He was great! He stayed focused and excited to learn the next thing! Even when hot oil splattered on him, he kept his cool and persevered! Of course, he thought that all the individual ingredients smelled horrible, but he raved while he was partaking in the meal that he cooked! I loved the time spent with him in the kitchen!
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Friday, April 16, 2010

Four Cheese Lasagna


I made lasagna noodles yesterday when I made pasta and made this Four Cheese Lasagna ahead. I left it in the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors meld together. After a day of DIY projects around the house, dinner was a snap--preheat the oven and bake away! Yay!

The family consensus was that this lasagna was super-yum! Ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, and provolone cheese made this nice and cheesy--perfect! I enjoyed the fresh taste of the Fresh Tomato Sauce Sicilian (that I made the other day!) and even though it was extra-cheesy, it had a nice light flavor! Next time, I might add some Italian sausage to the sauce to spice things up a bit!
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My Favorite Thing...Ever!

I'm pretty sure that I could live exclusively on vanilla lattes! Haha!! I have my own Krups Espresso maker on my kitchen counter and I use it all the time! Last night's latte had amazing froth on the top--in all the years that I have been making them at home, I have never had froth like this! I was so excited that I had to take a picture of it! And of course, I had to share it with you!

Hmmm....I'm thinking I need to go make one right now to pass the time on this very rainy, dreary spring afternoon! Ciao!
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Fettuccine with Zucchini, Tomato, and Grilled Shrimp

This big ole' bowl of pasta was absolutely, delightfully delicious!!! OMGoodness! Fresh pasta, Fresh Tomato Sauce Sicilian, julienned zucchini, and grilled shrimp. Light, fresh tasting, and completely satisfying--exactly what a bowl of pasta should be!! And because I had made the sauce yesterday (on a non-cooking day), this dish came together so easily. A perfect meal to serve to company! I wasn't tied up in the kitchen, frantically trying to keep a million pots and pans going at the same time; I actually got to enjoy the visit with my parents! Definitely will be making this one again!

(A side note: we were given a pasta bowl set for a wedding present, complete with a large--and I mean very large--serving bowl and four place setting bowls. Imported from Italy. Perfect!) My mom commented on her non-need to go to Italy--she'll just come to Karla's instead. Um...yeah, pretty sure that I still need Italy someday!
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Caprese Salad

This one is a familiar favorite--Caprese Salad. Love, love, love it! So fresh and light and tasteful. Slices of fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, fresh snipped basil, a flavorful olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Voila! This one romances your tastebuds and its presentation is automatically beautiful!
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Pasta Making Day!

Yippee!!! Time for pasta again! This time, I stayed at home, borrowing my sister's KitchenAid pasta maker. I felt like a little kid in a candy shop! My oldest son was at school, so I enlisted the "help" of my 2-year-old daughter and somewhat-grumpy husband.

So much fun! And really, so incredibly easy. The KitchenAid truly does all the work. I love it!

She was in serious danger of getting her fingers chopped off as she kept sticking them around the roll of pasta dough--she's a fast little thing. (And yes, that is indeed lip gloss smeared all over her mouth--she's compulsive).

El Hub smiling for the camera--if that's the only way to get a smile, I have zero guilt about that!!

Also, I don't have one of those cute little wooden pasta racks, so I improvised. :)

The rule is that when you make fresh pasta, you have to eat some along the way. Rule according to Laura. I'm just doing what I'm told. I'm a good girl like that! ;)

After I finished the first batch of pasta, we invited my parents over to join us for dinner. Later in the day, I determined that I didn't think I had enough noodles for two more adults. So, we made another half batch and this time my son got to be the helper. However, he didn't believe me about the pasta-eating rule and refused to taste a noodle. Oh, well! Anyway, he proved to be much more helpful than my little girl--he practically did it all!

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fresh Tomato Sauce Sicilian

Seriously. Who doesn't love a good, saucy tomato sauce? I have made several different versions in my cooking past, and I must say that this one is my favorite so far! It uses a combination of canned tomatoes and fresh ones (though mine probably could have been riper for a deeper flavor) and some secret ingredients like white wine and butter. It is a slowly-simmered sauce, about 4 hours, and I did run several ladles-full through my food processor just to chop up my chunky tomatoes a bit (however, it is not a pureed sauce).
Stay tuned for the upcoming pasta dishes that this sauce will love on!
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar, Rosemary Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes, Braised Celery & Onions. Strawberries & Cantaloupe and Balsamic Vinegar

Ok, will try to make up for my recent lack of posts with several pictures in this one. Deal?! :)

So, you know how some recipes "work" and others....well...just don't? I'm 2 weeks into my little cooking adventure, and while I love all the background on recipes, ingredients, and techniques in my cookbook, I'm not 100% convinced that the recipes "work." That said, I decided this menu plan would work off of another Italian cookbook and a couple recipes from the Internet/Food Network. Still authentic Italian. Still playing by the rules. (But since I made up the rules, I can change them and still be playing by them!!!)

The cookbook that I am taking several upcoming recipes from is called "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" by Jeff Smith. The book features recipes from the "New and Old Worlds simplified for the American Kitchen." As much as I would love to be in Italy cooking, I do have to accept the reality that I still live in America and my kitchen is very Americanized.

Ok, enough about that. Onto the food! It was yummy! And the recipes worked. And in true Italian style, I took what I had on-hand and easily came up with a vegetable dish (with a little Italian inspiration!)

I was so excited to make this meal. The only thing, however, that I knew for sure that I was making was the chicken. The vegetables and potatoes came together after browsing some internet recipes. The chicken: Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar. Yum! All my favorite ingredients--garlic, fresh basil, olive oil, chicken, as well as the balsamic (of course!). Marinate the chicken thighs, grill them quickly to lock in the flavor, and finish in the oven! Voila!

The potatoes (stay tuned for a repeat attempt at gnocchi!): Rosemary Olive Oil Mashed potatoes, inspired by a recipe by Lidia Bastianich, but tweaked by Karla! A sprig of fresh rosemary in the boiling pot of cubed potatoes, then adding olive oil instead of butter after they were drained and mashed. I had my 7-year old son add some splashes of milk to make them creamy. Yum!

The vegetables: Braised Celery and Onions, again inspired by a recipe of Lidia's that I watched her make on her PBS Create cooking show "Lidia's Italy." Easy, simple, hearty, and surprisingly delish. I am not celery's biggest fan by any means, but braising them in some olive oil and their own juices made the celery sweet and tender. I will be making this again.

A typical dessert in Italy (according to my cookbook and unfortunately not based on personal experience. Someday!) is a light bowl of fresh fruit. A heavy dessert is very American. So, I had a ripe cantaloupe in my fruit basket and my grocery had strawberries on sale ($1 for a pound!). I mixed some sugar into a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and lightly drizzled it over the fruit. Sweet and satisfying!

The spread! I'm not sure that my San Fransisco-style sourdough bread is authentic Italian, but when you have a starter hanging out in the fridge, you have to make a loaf every now and then to keep the starter going! (And yes, it was yum!)

This meal is totally company-worthy! And the process was simple enough for even the hostess to enjoy the company!

*Here's a side story: (see, I told you I would try to make this post make up for its long time coming!) My 7-year old son was grounded to his room after school. Well, I decided to cut his grounding short and had him come help me cook dinner while my other 2 chitlins were still napping. I told him in Italy, cooking is a family affair (again, based on my cookbook!!). I went on to say that a meal wasn't just about eating, but about spending time together as a family. He looked at me and said, "Duh. What else is a meal for?" Good kid. :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Penne with Arugula Pesto and Chicken

This recipe finishes up my batch of arugula. Again, I looked outside of my cookbook and landed on this one from Food Network's Giada de Laurentiis. (My friend Laura's daughter is a big fan of Giada!)
A couple of tweaks--my homemade pasta was nice and fuzzy when I went to use it. Ooops. Hence, the boxed penne instead. Secondly, since my goal was to use ingredients that I already had without going shopping, I substituted chicken (sauteed in olive oil and lemon juice, and seasoned with red pepper flakes and fresh garlic) for the shrimp.
This was a very different flavor than what our tastebuds are accustomed to, but that is the point of this whole Italian-cooking-adventure! However, it was good! (The kids ate the chicken only). Pretty sure I won't be knocking down the grocery store doors to make this again, but it was good, even if if was different.
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