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Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

I’m sure you’ve played the game before …..if stranded on a desert island where you could only bring three foods with you…what would they be?  Hands down for me it would be a great aged cheddar cheese, warm, crusty french bread, crisp granny smith apples, lots of chocolate and of course a perfectly paired wine.  What?  A couple too many foods you say?  Come on now, you didn’t really expect me to stop at three, did you?

So let’s talk about this decadent macaroni and cheese.  Today’s recipe has three ingredients and this time I really mean just three.  A chuck of great aged cheddar, whipping cream and your pasta of choice.  Reminiscent of the rich mac-n-cheese served as a side dish at high end steak houses, this is the real deal.  I don’t eat carbs often so when I do, it better be worth it.  This is worth it.

The cheese sauce whips up while the pasta cooks and this dish is on the table in 10-15 minutes.  Can’t beat that.

I spent all last week gallivanting around Catalonia and the Costa Brava region in Spain on my bike with a great group of friends.  Do I eat so I can ride or ride so I can eat….that is the question.  Neither is the answer.  I love them both!  I am a bit snowed under though and trying to catch up, so my post today will be as simple as this recipe.  Enjoy!!

Absolutely Decadent Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

2 cups whipping cream

7 oz aged sharp cheddar cheese, hand grated

1 pound short pasta (macaroni or fusilli corkscrews work great).  Cook al dente, according to package directions.  Drain the pasta but do not rinse.

Method

While the pasta is cooking pour the whipping cream into a large saute pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for three minutes stirring occasionally , allowing the cream to reduce.

Add the grated cheddar cheese.  Pick a really good chunk of cheddar.  Hand grate the cheese.  Do not choose a package of pre-shredded cheese.  Besides tasting inferior, the pre-shredded cheese contains stabilizers that don’t work well with this technique.

Stir well over medium heat until the cheese melts into the cream and the sauce thickens, about another 1-2 more minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cooked pasta.  I drain but never rinse my pasta after it cooks.  The starch left on the pasta from the cooking water helps thicken the sauce, if you rinse the pasta you lose this.

Stir over medium heat until combined, about another minute.

Serve immediately and Enjoy!

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This classic rustic Tuscan tomato soup is called pappa al pomodoro in Italy.  Bright, acidic tomatoes are combined with onions, garlic and basil, thickened with leftover bread and finished off with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.  It smells heavenly and tastes even better.

I’ve made this soup many times before, but just recently stumbled across a wonderful toasted bread and basil topping to sprinkle over the top.  The topping adds another punch to an already great tasting soup.  Thanks to Ina Garten – I am including the topping too.

I’m just back from a glorious week in Tuscany.  The weather was perfect.  The wine sublime.  The food rustic, simple and delicious.  The villa stunning.  All shared with cherished friends.  About as close to perfect you can get this side of heaven.

Oh…in case anyone is worried the tractor barreling down the lane toward us in this picture stopped just in time.  No  one was injured.  Have you ever tried to photo-shop a tractor out?!?  I’ve decided it adds some “interest” to our picture.

I know if given the opportunity to shop in Italy, most of us would swoon over the fine leather handbags and shoes available in Florence.  However, my passions lie elsewhere:

  Two whole liters of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil bought straight from a charming and delightful heritage farmer.  He let us wander through the grounds of his villa and olive grove.  He proudly explained his organic growing methods and also the artisinal extraction approach he uses involving a centuries old stone wheel which produces hands down the best oil I’ve ever tasted.  Liquid gold.  A little tricky to get back to the states, but well worth it.

I used my newly acquired Italian olive oil to make this batch of soup….oh my it was good!  My post today celebrates all I love about Italy.  Simple food prepared using the freshest ingredients and shared with friends and family.  Wines that compliment and match the flavors of the food.  A little candlelight, a little laughter….perfect.

Tuscan Tomato Soup  pappa al pomodoro

this makes 3-4 servings but can easily be doubled

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

2-3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (try to get an Italian imported tomato like the San Marzano)

2 cups diced rustic Italian bread cubes, about 1 inch each

2 cups chicken stock.

splash of Italian red wine (about 1/4 cup)

freshly grated parmigiano-regianno

For the topping:

another 2 cups of diced rustic Italian bread cubes, about 1 inch each

10-15 fresh basil leaves

sea salt

3-4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

Method

Toss two cups rustic Italian bread cubes with 10-15 fresh basil leaves and layer on a sheet pan.  Drizzle with 3-4 TBSPS extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 20 minutes.

It will look like this when you pull it out.  The basil will get dark but still tastes delicious.  Set aside to sprinkle on the top of the soup right before you serve it.

  Meanwhile heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large pan.  Saute the onions, carrots and garlic for about 10 minutes until tender.

Add the 2 cups diced Italian bread and saute for another 5 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken stock and red wine.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook it for 30 minutes.  Stir in freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and sprinkle the toasted bread crumb and basil mixture on top.

    Enjoy!!

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I’m very challenged in the gardening department.   One year I even killed the mint plant.  That’s why I planted five heirloom tomato plants this spring, about four more than needed.  Better odds at a chance to harvest my favorite thing in the world…freshly picked homegrown tomatoes.

All five plants are thriving and a momentous, monumental crop is anticipated.  Prolific.  Visions of all the fresh tomato recipes I want to make when they finally ripen are dancing in my head right now.  It’s been really hard waiting.

I couldn’t help myself.  Well, one got “knocked” off the vine by my voracious yorkie puppy, but with the others, I couldn’t help myself.  Holding the warm tomato in your hand, the little twist of your wrist as it snaps off the vine and feeling the full weight of the fruit when it drops in your palm…it’s just so compelling.

Fried green tomatoes are rooted in southern tradition.  Lucky for me, I’ve read Fannie Flagg’s adorable southern novel titled  “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe”.…..and a while back I lived in North Carolina for two years to boot, so I know what to do with green tomatoes.

The flavors in this sandwich burst in your mouth.  The tomatoes are tart and tangy, pairing perfectly with the salty bacon, creamy mayonnaise and the bright flavor of the basil.  My wish for you is a similar tomato harvesting “accident” will occur in your garden and you will be able to enjoy this delightful sandwich.

Bacon, Basil and Fried Green Tomato Sandwich

Ingredients

3-4 green tomatoes

1/8 cup flour

1 tsp salt

dash of pepper

1 TBSP butter

1-2 TBSP olive oil

1 lb bacon slices, cooked

6-8 slices sourdough bread, toasted

mayonnaise

6-8 large fresh basil leaves, washed and dried

Slice the green tomatoes about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick

Put 1/8 cup of flour, 1 tsp salt and a dash of pepper in a gallon sized plastic baggie.  Put the tomato slices in the baggie and shake them until they are covered in the flour mixture.

Melt 1 TBSP butter in a pan with about 1-2 TBSP olive oil over medium heat.

Shake the excess flour off the slices and place them in the pan.  Don’t crowd the slices in the pan or they will steam and get mushy instead of frying.  Do two batches if you run out of room.  Cook for about three minutes and flip slices over.

Cook the other side for about three minutes.

Drain on paper towels.  Cook the bacon and wash and dry the basil leaves.  Toast the sourdough slices.

To assemble, spread the mayonnaise on the toasted sourdough bread slices, add a few leaves of fresh basil, 3-4 fried green tomato slices and 2-3 slices of bacon.  Oh….this is so good, enjoy!!

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Quinoa has a hot ticket in the culinary world as of late.  It’s a gluten free, versatile and nutty tasting grain touted as one of the best complete sources of protein out there.  Plus it tastes delicious.  It’s quick and easy to prepare.  It’s great in soup and salads or by itself as a side dish.  Now be honest – how many of you out there know how to pronounce:

Q_U_I_N_O_A?

If you said “KEEN-Wah”, you are correct.

Second only to cooking I love to read.  A lot.  While deeply engrossed in a book, I rarely take the time to stop and look up the pronunciation and definition of any unfamiliar word I stumble across.  Just sound it out and contextualize it, then I’m good to go.  Over the years this has bitten me in the behind a few times.

Here’s how it works when I am with my sister (she communicates for a living and is much more adept at correct pronunciations):

1.  I confidently interject my new found vocab word into our conversation, very impressed with myself.

2.  In reply, my sister coyly uses the same word in her answer – except pronounced correctly.

3.  I get the hint.

Some of the recent culprits: segue, potpourri, omnipotent.  You get the picture.

That’s why my friend JoEll and I were cracking each other up a few weeks back because we both thought the way you pronounced  Quinoa was:

“QUIN-oh-na”

so it rhymes with Winona (as in Ryder or Minnesota).

We had seen the ingredient written in recipes about 100 times and didn’t know it was the same ingredient we had heard pronounced “KEEN-Wah” about 100 times.  What a revelation when we realized it was the same thing!  Silly us. So today you get a recipe…..and a vocab lesson all in one.

Quinoa Salad

inspired by my friend JoEll

Ingredients

1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups chicken broth

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1 bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 cup grape tomatoes

2-3 TBSP chopped fresh chives

2-3 TBSP chopped fresh basil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Method

You can find Quinoa at most supermarkets now in the rice and grains section

This is what it looks like right out of the box.

This is what it looks like once it is cooked.  To cook it bring 2 cups of chicken broth to a boil.  Add 1 cup quinoa and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and simmer until all liquid is gone, about 10-15 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and cool.

Make a quick dressing by whisking together 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice and 1/3 cup olive oil until it emulsifies.  Add the dressing to the cooked and cooled Quinoa.

Today I tossed bell pepper, grape tomatoes, basil, chives, garlic and feta cheese into the Quinoa salad.  But really….use your imagination.  Anything fresh and tasty will do.

This is great as a side dish or throw in some grilled chicken or fish for a complete meal.  Enjoy!!

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