July 24, 2013 § 49 Comments
Right now heirloom cherry tomatoes are starting to appear in the markets in great quantities and I could not be happier. Although I have five different cherry sized heirloom varietals growing in my own garden, which still need a few more weeks to ripen, I found myself with a basket of them at the checkout stand. This particular market makes their own hand formed mozzarella and offers the best artisanal crusty breads the city has to offer. With my greek basil bush doing so well I decided I would make bruscetta “caprese style” for lunch today.
We sliced the tomatoes in half, put them in a bowl with fresh bush basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. We let it sit and marinade for 30 minutes. The tomatoes were placed on top of crusty bread and a slice of fresh mozzarella. A fabulous lunch, of which I did not photograph.
With a large bowl of marinaded tomatoes and half of the fresh mozzarella left I extended the caprese idea into a summer pasta.
To the marinaded tomatoes I added minced garlic, a little more basil and some of the best cheese I have had in awhile…Grana Lodigiano. A hard texture cheese much the same as Grana Padano. I liked it’s black rind which I learned is a tradition held onto for centuries. In ancient times the wheels were matured with a clay coating, grapeseed oil and charcoal. This compound gave it a black hue. Today the wheels are still hand coated with natural ingredients to create the same black hue to specifically set it apart from Parmesan. I do enjoy talking with the cheese monger at the market…
I n g r e d i e n t s
- 1 pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup shredded basil leaves
- 8 ounces fresh hand formed mozzarella cheese, diced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup reserved pasta water
- sprinkling salt and black pepper
- 3/4 pound linguine
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Lodigiano cheese or Parmesan cheese
M e t h o d
Place the tomatoes, garlic basil, mozzarella, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large serving bowl. Stir to mix and set aside at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain briefly, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water. Add pasta and reserved water to the tomato mixture. Add the Grana Lodigiano and toss to mix. Serve right away while the pasta is still warm.
June 28, 2013 § 43 Comments
We have been cooking up bundles of asparagus this season. I am feeling as though we have come to the end of our season and this lasagne was my last act. I delighted in preparing this baked dish of luscious pasta layered with béchamel sauce, steamed asparagus, cheese and potatoes. The process was very satisfying and somewhat a test of my kitchen organizational skills. Preparing the layer ingredients prior to making the béchamel sauce helps to keep order in the kitchen. This is the first time I made a garlic, onion and thyme infused béchamel sauce and it is an especially nice flavor for the potatoes.
This is one of those posts. The dinner turned out perfect and the photographs didn’t. I almost scratched the whole idea of posting it and then something occurred to me. This lasagne is so delicious… I have to share the recipe!
I always have a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when I place a lasagne in the oven. I just wish I had the same feeling about my photographs…
L a s a g n e
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
- 3 medium yukon gold potatoes, sliced into 1/8 inch thick rounds
- 12 ounces lasagne noodles
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cup shredded aged white cheddar
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- chopped fresh parsley
Bring two large pots of salted water to a boil. In one pot add the asparagus and the other add the potatoes. Cook the asparagus 3-5 minutes until crisp tender. Remove using a skimmer and transfer to a bowl of ice cold water. Drain and pat dry. Keep the asparagus water boiling. Cook the potatoes until almost tender, 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the boiling asparagus water and add the lasagne noodles a few sheets at a time stirring to keep separate. Cook until barely tender. Drain and set aside.
B é c h a m e l S a u c e
- 3 cups milk
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
Bring the milk, onion, garlic and thyme to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and allow it to sit and infuse of 10 minutes. Strain, discarding the solids. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk in the flour and let it bubble without browning for 2 minutes. Whisk in the warm milk and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking whisking often until the sauce is smooth about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the parmesan and season with salt and pepper. You may press a sheet of plastic wrap on top to keep a skin from forming.
A s s e m b l e
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly butter a 13×9 inch baking dish. Spread a thin film of the béchamel sauce in the bottom of the dish. Arrange 3 or 4 pasta sheets in the dish, slightly overlapping as needed. Spread with one third of the sauce, half each of the potatoes, asparagus and aged white cheddar. Top with another layer of pasta, half of the remaining sauce and the remaining potatoes, asparagus and cheddar. Finish with a layer of pasta and spread with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and dot with the butter.
Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
June 26, 2013 § 57 Comments
Polenta is one of my best loved dinners and I enjoy it served creamy and cheesy, delicate and sweet, as well as complex and hearty. This polenta recipe is a bit hearty and crowned with a fresh parsley pesto and cherry tomato sauté. I particularly enjoy Bramata polenta. It is a rustic stone-milled corn which is moderately coarse for a thicker consistency.
My first polenta dinner was quite an experience. I had a friend over who wanted to prepare a classic dish he had as a child growing up in Italy. In my friend’s opinion the only way polenta should be eaten is with a rich meat sauce. His plan was to prepare Polenta with Chicken Livers. Once the polenta was cooked it was poured directly onto my dining table and topped with the chicken liver sauce. Although I was very impressed by the presentation, I do not have the palate for chicken livers so I kept trying to scrape the edges where the sauce didn’t touch. Even without the sauce, I was captivated by the creamy texture and tiny bits of corn meal similar to the grits my mom would prepare.
Throughout the years I have formed my own opinions about preparing and serving polenta. When cooking polenta, for added flavor I like using broth rather than water. Sometimes I add a few tablespoons of rosemary. I always include butter and when I am preparing a savory polenta a nice grated parmesan. To top it off…tomato sauce, pesto, honey and butter, or simply a handful of parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.
polenta with cherry tomatoes and parsley pesto
p o l e n t a
- 1 cup good quality polenta
- 6 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
p e s t o
- large handful of parsley
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup grated grana padano or parmesan cheese
- salt to taste
t o m a t o s a u t e’
- 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- sea salt to taste
In a large pot heat 6 cups of broth. When the broth is about to boil, sprinkle in the polenta. Stir continuously over a low heat until it is a thick smooth mass. Continue cooking on low heat for about 40 minutes, stirring slowly and evenly. If polenta starts to spatter turn your heat lower and stir continuously until it settles. I usually stir once every 3-5 minutes until done.
While polenta is cooking prepare pesto. Place all pesto ingredients in a food processor and whizz until well combined. Set aside.
Place a non stick skillet on the stove with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. Saute’ tomatoes for 2 minutes until soft. Season with a pinch of salt.
Once polenta is cooked add butter and parmesan, mix well and pour onto a large serving platter (or directly onto your table!). Top with pesto, tomatoes, grated cheese of choice and serve right away.
June 24, 2013 § 42 Comments
I am always delighted when mid June rolls around and I stumble upon the first harvest of Walla Walla Sweet Onions. Walla Walla is a county in southeastern Washington and is known for it’s sweet onions. These are a very pleasant mild onion which easily can be eaten raw on salads and sandwiches.
A cool rainy day always triggers my soup craving so I set out to make a light soup. I was toying with the idea of french onion soup when I spotted the Walla Walla Sweet Onions. I purchased four sweet onions, the most ripe juicy strawberries I have ever tasted and headed home.
I have a little cook book titled “Fresh” by John Bishop which features wonderful seasonal recipes made with local foods (Pacific Northwest). I found today’s soup recipe along with an herbed cheddar cheese biscuits. I struggle as a baker. I can usually bake a good simple quick bread, but if I have to knead or rise the dough, I fail. The recipe specifically said to “turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 10 times”. I figured, “how can I fail?”.
biscuits served with butter and sun dried tomato pesto
The biscuits would have made my mom proud. The soup was naturally sweet, creamy and keeping the spices at a minimum allowed the flavor of the onions to come through. While the soup is simmering, prepare the biscuits.
h e r b e d c h e d d a r c h e e s e b i s c u i t s
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon milk
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add butter and work into the flour mixture with your fingers until the dough has the consistency of cornmeal. Stir in thyme and rosemary. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.
Place cheese, yogurt and milk in a small bowl and stir to combine. Pour the yogurt mixture into the well and combine lightly until the dough forms a ball. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 10 times.
Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1 inch. Using a 2 inch round cookie cutter, cut out 12 biscuits. Arrange biscuits 2 inches apart on the baking sheet and bake in the top third of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer to a cooling rack.
s w e e t o n i o n s o u p
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 6 cups sweet onions, thinly sliced and quartered
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 6 cups stock, vegetable or chicken
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup whipping cream (optional)
- 2 tablespoons fresh spring onions, sliced
Melt butter in a stockpot on medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the lid, stir in flour and cook for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pot with wine.
Add stock, salt, pepper and increase heat to medium high. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir in cream and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Ladle soup into warm bowls and sprinkle with freshly sliced spring onions.
June 19, 2013 § 31 Comments
I made cole slaw twice this week. I love the creamy dressing and the crispiness of the cabbage. So fresh and raw. The first time I made it I followed a recipe from WILL DO THE DISHES blog. It was a fantastic recipe and if you haven’t yet, you must go visit this wonderful blog.
Today I am posting the second cole slaw I made. WILL DO THE DISHES cole slaw was to “write home about” so I decided to make a second batch. I remembered we had a little leftover shredded beetroot salad in the refrigerator. I tossed it in and was so pleased with the resulting pink hue! The beetroot salad was already lightly dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette and contained sunflower seeds. A nice fresh slaw to place on the side with your barbecue chicken and potato salad.
I n g r e d i e n t s
- 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
- 1/2 head purple cabbage, shredded
- 1 large beet root, shredded
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 1 large carrot, julienned
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon dijon
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
M e t h o d
Shred, chop and julienne your vegetables and place in a large bowl and mix well with your hands. In a medium size bowl mix together parsley, mayonnaise, dijon, black pepper, sugar and vinegar and set aside. Place sunflower seeds in a non stick skillet over medium high heat, shake the pan occasionally to toast both sides. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Combine the dressing with the vegetables and mix well. Add the sunflower seed and continue to toss until well combined. Chill before serving.
Serves 4-6 as a grilling side dish
June 14, 2013 § 38 Comments
Recently I saw a post on Reclaiming your Castle for baked zucchini. Her post struck a cord with me because when I was 18 years old living in my first apartment and not knowing much about cooking, I would go to the market and bring home random vegetables not knowing what in the world I was going to do with them. I knew I couldn’t go wrong with zucchini. As a little girl I loved zucchini. I remember walking through my dad’s garden and selecting one zucchini and asking my mom to cook it for me. Kindly and patiently she sliced it into rounds, boiled and put a pat of butter on it. I sat at the dining room table all alone enjoying my little bowl of comfort. There was a time when boiling vegetables (a little too much) was the default recipe for getting them on the table for a houseful of hungry folks. Therefore, at 18 years old when I discovered a breaded and baked zucchini recipe I was intrigued and knew it was going to be the first vegetable I wanted to learn to cook, rather than boil. And I remember cooking it over and over again. I used an egg dip, seasoned italian bread crumbs and dotted each one of them with butter before baking in a preheated 425° oven for approximately 25 minutes until nice and crispy. Revisiting this recipe after two decades (or so!) was like walking back into that little apartment kitchen.
This is a great side dish for the little ones around your table. Please visit Sara’s site for a more detailed recipe!
What really made these delicious was the caramelized onion dip. I followed Sara’s recipe with one minor change. I used greek yogurt rather than mayonnaise. Don’t get me wrong, I love mayonnaise. I didn’t have enough in house and I happened to have a full tub of yogurt. Honestly, this is the same recipe I make for our potato chips while we are watching games during football season.
c a r a m e l i z e d o n i o n d i p
- 1 medium sweet onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
- 1 cup greek yogurt
Melt the butter in a non stick pan over moderate heat. Add the sweet onion slices and cook stirring occasionally until the onion softens and caramelizes. This should take between 20 and 25 minutes, on medium-low heat. When the onions are a nice brown hue and caramelized remove from heat and cool.
Place the onions, vinegar, honey and mustard in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Place in a serving bowl and stir in the yogurt.
May 3, 2013 § 19 Comments
I found some nice-looking watermelons at the market yesterday. I realize it is not quite watermelon season here in the Pacific Northwest, nevertheless, once I saw them I decided to pick one up. We were not disappointed at all because it was bright red, juicy and sweet. It is the season for mint. I have been using mint quite a bit because I have it growing as weeds around the side of my house. Here is a recipe for a refreshing fruit salad. I had this salad at a dinner party several months ago. I loved the simplicity of it and minimal list of only three ingredients.
- 1 medium size watermelon, cut in bite size shapes
- large handful of mint, finely chopped
- 3-4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- sprinkling of salt
Combine all ingredients in a serving bowl. Simple.
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.
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
- 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
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.
Follow this recipe if you choose to make the stuffed tomato version.
ripieni di pomodoro
- 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
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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
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!
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…
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.
asparagus rice soup with cacio d’roma
- 1 pound asparagus
- 8 cups water
- 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!