spaghetti aglio e olio stuffed tomatoes (ripieni di pomodoro)

April 26, 2013 § 10 Comments

Long ago I had a friend from from Vicenza Italy who was one of my greatest cooking influences. Every sunday several of us would gather around his table to enjoy perfectly prepared northern italian meals.  Undoubtedly I was inspired by his delectable dinners, however, he didn’t “teach” me a thing about cooking.  As a young aspiring cook I wanted so badly to be involved in his kitchen.  I think he wanted to keep his ingredients secret because he wouldn’t allow anyone near while he was cooking.  He would chase you out as soon as you made an appearance.  Although he didn’t teach me about cooking, I learned a great deal about food and cookery just by being present around his table.

This recipe features spaghetti with garlic and olive oil, also known as spaghetti aglio e olio.  I vividly remember having spaghetti aglio e olio for the first time.  I was mesmerized.  Up until that point spaghetti for me was tomato sauce with ground meat either cooked in the sauce or made into meatballs.   The simplicity of this sauce makes it so easy to throw together.  Most of the time I already have all the ingredients in house.  In my opinion, the sauce relies on a good quality spaghetti.   Try to buy the best brand from Italy you can find.

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Aglio e olio is profoundly satisfying served in a large bowl with freshly grated parmesan.  Or, ripieni di pomodoro is a pleasing arrangement for guests as a side dish.  If you choose to make the tomato stuffed recipe it is best to buy capellini, also know as “angel hair” pasta.

Agio e olio

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • a few pinches of red chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • sprinkling of fine parmigiano-reggiano

Method

Fill a large pot with cold water and bring to a roaring boil over high heat and add the spaghetti.  Cook for 9 minutes stirring occasionally.

While spaghetti is cooking, Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, and chili flakes.  Cook until golden and turn off the heat.

Drain the spaghetti and place it into the skillet.  Carefully toss the pasta until every strand is coated well.  Add the parsley and continue to toss until well incorporated.

Divide into large serving bowls, sprinkle with parmesan and serve right away.

Serves 4.

Follow this recipe if you choose to make the stuffed tomato version.

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ripieni di pomodoro

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound capellini
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • a few pinches of red chili flakes
  • 3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • sprinkling of fine parmigiano-reggiano
  • 4 large beefsteak tomatoes

Method

Heat the oven to 300°.

Fill a large pot with cold water and bring to a roaring boil over high heat .

While you are waiting for the water to boil chop all your ingredients and set aside.  Cut the tops of the tomato off 1/4 way down.  Scoop out the inside. Set aside.

When the water boils and before you add the capellini, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, and chili flakes.  Cook until golden and turn off the heat.

Now add the capellini to the water and boil for 2 minutes.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Drain the capellini and place into the skillet.  Carefully toss the pasta until every strand is coated well.  Add the parsley and continue to toss until well incorporated.  If your pasta seems to be dry add a little of the cooking water to loosen it up and to moisten.

Fill each beefsteak tomato with your capellini aglio e olio. Put the tops back on and bake for 15 -20 minutes until the tomatoes are tender and cooked.  Serve promptly with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan.

Serves 4.

buon appetite.

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coconut sweet potato soup with thai pesto

April 24, 2013 § 12 Comments

There are few things more enjoyable than get togethers with friends and family.  This morning I read a book review for a newly published cookbook and without a doubt the book is spectacular.  I read a profound quote from the author.  He said, his book comes at a time “when home cooking is quickly vanishing from our homes.  Americans typically devote a mere 27 minutes a day to preparing meals, with four more minute for cleanup.”   This is astounding.   Why and how did our culture come to this?   My hope is we can get back to the basic values of family and the importance of gathering around the table everyday for a soul nourishing home cooked meal.

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This soup is such a pleaser you could confidently serve it for your guests, but make sure you made enough!  The texture of the soup is velvety and creamy.  The thai pesto complement adds a spicy, herbal, subtle nutty crunch, assuredly to bring a sigh of  food bliss.

Ingredients

  •  3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 cups coconut milk

Thai pesto

  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, lightly toasted
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 green chili, seeded and chopped (I used serrano)
  • a large handful cilantro
  • a large handful mint
  • a large handful basil
  • 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce or light soy sauce
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Method

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the sweet potato and onion and cook for 15 minutes, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and just starting to turn golden.

Increase the heat to high and add curry paste.  Stir until sweet potatoes are well coated. Continue to cook for a few minutes until fragrant.  Add the stock and coconut milk and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer.  Once the potatoes are tender use a hand blender and whizz the soup until creamy and smooth.  If you are not using an hand blender, transfer the mixture to a blender and carefully whizz until smooth.

To make the pesto

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and whizz until you have a chunky paste and the ingredients are all evenly chopped.  If you are not using a food processor, finely chop all ingredients, place in a bowl. Add Thai fish sauce, lime and brown sugar and mix well.

Ladle the soup into warmed serving bowls and serve right away.  Top with a generous spoonful of thai pesto.  I place the leftover pesto on the table.  You’ll be going back for more!

Serves 4

buon appetite.

asparagus rice soup with cacio d’roma (minestra di asparagi e riso)

April 22, 2013 § 9 Comments

One of the many reasons to love April is the availability of large tender asparagus, a sure sign of spring.  I pick up bushels of asparagus when it is in season.  One of my favorite recipes is a quick steam and a drizzle of olive oil and salt for a simple side dish or tossed in a salad.

The weather in Seattle has been gray, rainy and cold now for several days.  In weather like this I hunger for soup. Today I decided I would make soup with the asparagus I brought home.  To give credit where it is due, I pulled an old italian vegetable recipe book off the shelf…

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The asparagus-rice soup recipe I found in Verdura is remarkable.  Simple and satisfying.  It is a fresh springtime soup.  The arborio rice adds a pleasant chewy texture and the cacio d’roma cheese, which melts into the soup gives the soup a satisfying creaminess.

I made a few minor modifications to the recipe.  For one, the recipe called for a specific italian cheese, caciocavallo.  Caciocavallo is delightfully formed in a ball between two cheese forms and bound together with a rope.  You may find it in your specialty cheese market looking like a little teardrop hanging from a horizontal stick or branch.  It’s flavor is similar to provolone cheese.  Instead I chose cacio d’roma, another lovable southern italian cheese.  It’s made of sheep’s milk.  Quite mild in flavor, similar to Manchego, with a pliable texture instead of dry.  It is considered a very good melting cheese, which is why I chose it for this soup.

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asparagus rice soup with cacio d’roma

  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 8 cups water
  • salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small sweet yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 3 ounces cacio d’roma cheese, shredded

Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus.  Using a vegetable peeler, peel the asparagus about halfway up the stalk.  Cook the asparagus in 6 cups of salted boiling water.  When the asparagus is tender but crisp, lift it out of the water.  Reserve the water.  Cut the asparagus into 1 inch pieces and set aside.

In a large heavy bottom soup pot,  heat the olive oil on medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic and parsley for several minutes.  Add the rice and coat well.  Add the reserved asparagus water and bring to a boil.  Cook until the rice is al dente, stirring often. Gently add the asparagus and allow it to warm.  Turn the heat off and stir in the shredded cacio d’roma cheese.  Serve right away!

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Serves 4

buon appetite.

salsa salad

April 20, 2013 § 12 Comments

As a final post of my juice cleanse I am putting up one more raw food idea.  This particular juice fast was different from any other cleanse I have experienced.  It was remarkably easy.  The detox symptoms were unusually mild.  My challenges were cravings, wanting to “crunch” and “chew” food, and a dull headache for a full day.  The spicy food craving was simple to resolve.  We just added chili’s and garlic to the juicer. Then this cheese craving came over me.  I love sheep cheese and I wanted a good pecorino!  Juicing for detox requires willpower, especially when you love to cook and eat!  Let us not underestimate the emotions we have attached to food.  I understand our need to acquire, prepare, smell, taste and chew food goes far beyond our basic demand of nourishment.   I recognize how eating is such a big part of my life.  However, after 8 days of fresh pressed homemade organic fruit and vegetable juice and 5 more days of rice, quinoa, nuts and raw produce, I feel rejuvenated, my mind is clear, and my jeans fit better!!  And, I am ready to start cooking again!

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Here is a simple spicy salad.  We call it “salsa salad” because it is the same ingredients we toss in the food processor when we make salsa (except we leave out the cucumbers when we make salsa).  This would be delicious served on rice.  We did not add any fat or seasonings.  I think some olive oil, salt and maybe a sprinkle of cumin and chili powder would be nice.

Salsa Salad

  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large or 2 small avocados, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 large or 1 small jalapeño, chopped
  • handful cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 lime

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss.

Lightly serves 2.

buon appetite.

quinoa

April 18, 2013 § 2 Comments

Yesterday I ate a whole tub of salsa from Whole Foods!  Without chips!  And shockingly it agreed with me.

During our juice fast we were preparing “salsa juices” throughout the week.  Usually we drink fruity juices.  But, for some reason on this particular juicing round we were craving something spicy and garlicky.  Our favorite juice was, what we like to call “salsa juice”.  Tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño and lime.

Now we are eating again and this meal is a very nice way to ease our system back into the swing of things.  The garlic, ginger, cilantro flavors are very subtle and clean.   I think this would be even better with a drizzle of olive oil and a few shakes of salt.

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Subtle Quinoa

  •  2 cups cooked quinoa
  • handful of cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 red onion
  • thumb size piece of ginger
  • 2 scallions
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • sprinkling of shelled hemp seeds

While quinoa is cooking….

If you are not using a food processor finely chop all ingredients, otherwise place in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped.  Toss with quinoa and serve alone or topped with a little diced tomatoes, avocado and sprinkle with shelled hemp seeds.

Lightly serves 2.

buon appetite.

green beans

April 16, 2013 § 3 Comments

Green beans simply steamed, tossed with a drizzle of olive oil and salt makes an ideal side dish.  Or, you may spruce them up a little with caramelized shallots.  A perfect accompaniment.

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Here is a delicious green bean recipe for you.   Once a week a platter of steaming green beans is on our dinner table.  Green beans are the only “green” vegetable the young man of the house will eat.  As a young girl I loved them too.  Green beans are agreeable in texture and the natural nutty flavor makes them particularly kid friendly.  My mom called them string beans.  Back then I recall an unpleasant fibrous string along the edge of each bean.  The varietal we buy in the stores today are stringless.  They are available year round, with the peak of the season May through October.  To check for freshness make sure they are firm and snap when bent in half.   Pick up a pound of green beans and four shallots next time you are at the market and cook this recipe.  You will be happy you did.

What you will need:

  • I lb. green beans, stems pinched off
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • sea salt and pepper

Method:

Place green beans in a large skillet or large pot and fill with water to cover beans half way.  Cover and bring to a roaring boil.  Continue boiling for approximate 5 minutes until green beans are tender.  I carefully remove one and taste test it.  Cook according to your liking.  Some like them a little more firm.  I prefer them to be tender, yet slightly crisp….al dente.  Drain and return to pan.  Toss with 1 tablespoon butter until coated.

Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat and add shallots.  Cover and turn heat down to medium low.  Cook until golden brown giving the pan a little shake now and then.  Cook approximately 15 minutes.

Transfer green beans to a serving dish, top with shallots and a sprinkling of sea salt and pepper.

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serves 4

buon appetite.

oven roasted beets

April 11, 2013 § 10 Comments

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I have a delicious beet recipe for you today.  When I first started cooking beets I thought you had to peel, slice, then boil them in a covered pot until tender. Very time consuming and not exactly easy, especially peeling them.  Then I learned the “real” method for cooking beets.  Poke a few times with a fork, wrap in foil and roast.  When using this method, the flavor is held in the beet and not dissolved in the boiling water.  The skins peel easily after roasting.  It is wonderful how the whole plant, root and all is edible.  We enjoy adding the greens to a salad, or steam/sauté them as you would a bunch of chard.  I have had guests around my table who never liked beets until trying them roasted.  For a simple way to eat beets you may bake, peel, slice, then drizzle olive oil over them and  a little sprinkling of sea salt.  This is wonderful in a salad or served as a warm side dish.  Or, consider adding a little goat cheese and nuts.  Very delicious.

What you will need:

  • 3 medium-large size beets
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup walnuts or pecans-toasted
  • 2-3 ounces chavrie goat cheese
  • salt
  • foil

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Preheat oven to 450°.  Using a fork, poke several holes in each beet and wrap with foil.  Place in oven on a baking tray.  Set timer and bake for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, toast your nuts of choice by placing in a non-stick skillet on medium high heat.  Occasionally move the nuts around by shaking the skillet and/or using a spatula until toasted, approximately 10 minutes.

When beets are ready, use a fork to test their tenderness,  Make sure the fork pierces the beet easily.  Unwrap them and allow them to cool just enough to handle.  Using a paring knife, peel each beet.  Slice them in your desired shape and place in a bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle a little salt, top with chavrie and toasted nuts.

Serves 4, as a side dish.

buon appetite.

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