Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘extra virgin olive oil’

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!!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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!!

Read Full Post »

We’ve all got them.  Those tried and true, always getting accolades, could make them in your sleep recipes.  Where you can say to your friends – I’m bringing the orzo and they know what you mean.

The really cool thing about this recipe is you can serve it hot or cold.  If you toss the orzo while it is still hot with the fresh spinach, the spinach will cook, wilt and melt into the dish.  Or if you wait until the orzo cools down to toss it in, the dish tastes more like a pasta spinach salad – fresh and crisp.

Last week we attended a concert at The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on the Chicago lakefront.  A beautiful night with awesome friends.  We had a great picnic on the lawn while listening to Ray LaMontagne.  And no…..we absolutely did not sneak any lemon drop martinis into the pavilion.  (Here’s a picture of Ruth and Fred at the concert.  Ruth is doing a really good job hiding the lemon drop martini)

My very talented friend Kerri brought lemony orzo and spinach for the picnic and it was scrumptious!  I can’t wait to share it this recipe with you.

Lemony Orzo and Spinach

Ingredients

1 box orzo (rice shaped pasta), cooked and drained according to directions

6 oz fresh baby spinach, washed and dried

1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1 cup crumbled feta

1 pint sweet grape tomatoes

Dressing Ingredients

1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2/3 cup really good olive oil

1 TBSP Dijon mustard

3 large garlic cloves, crushed

3/4 tsp coarse salt

Method

Squeeze the fresh lemon juice and whisk all the dressing ingredients together until emulsified

I wash the spinach in the sink.  Be sure to pull the spinach out before you drain the water, then the grime and dirt from the spinach stays in the water.

If you do not have a salad spinner run, don’t walk to the store and get one as soon as possible.  I love my OXO salad spinner and use it just about everyday.  I have a little one to spin fresh herbs in too.

Toss the orzo (hot or cold), spinach, grape tomatoes, parmigiano-reggiano, feta and dressing all together.  Enjoy!!

Read Full Post »

Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver, the other is gold.

In college my sorority ended every chapter meeting with the girls spread out in a huge circle, all connected holding hands by placing our right hand over our left wrist and grabbing our neighbor’s similarly placed hands.  We sang the same song every time, the main verse quoted above.

At twenty I was way too cool for school, not super sentimental and partaking in quite a bit of dramatic eye rolling while engaged in this endeavor – what a sappy old-fashioned song we had to sing.

With quite a few years and tears under my belt, I did find myself humming this verse all weekend.  You see, we were lucky enough to spend the weekend with old, treasured (super treasured) friends and I am sentimental, old-fashioned and sappy thinking about how special these folks are to my hubby and I.

And one of our favorite things to do together is cook, which we did Thursday evening.  We made this salad.  I thought it would be fun to share.

This is a very robust salad with big flavors, especially in the vinaigrette.  If anchovies are out of your comfort zone, just trust me and give them a try.  I love the protein punch the garbanzo beans provide.  The Kalamata olives and Asiago cheese create an antipasto platter taste.  I also add sliced Genoa salami to make it an entrée salad.

Chopped Italian Salad with Oregano Vinaigrette

inspired by Mother’s Best cookbook

Salad Ingredients

1 large head Romaine lettuce, washed and dried.  Cut core off the end and slice lettuce crosswise into very thin strips (about 6-8 cups)

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives

1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1 cup Asiago cheese, cut into match sticks

1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all salad ingredients in a large rustic bowl and toss with Italian Oregano Vinaigrette

Italian Oregano Vinaigrette Ingredients

3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled

3 TBSP dried oregano (yes – 3 TBSP, please buy a fresh jar – dried spices lose most of their flavor after only 3-6 months on the shelf)

6 oil packed anchovy fillets

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup extra light tasting olive oil.  (or you can use half regular olive oil and half salad oil)

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 8-10 times until emulsified.


Drained and rinsed Garbanzo beans, basil  and a can of anchovy fillets.

Asiago cheese cut into match sticks

See, the anchovy fillets aren’t too scary!

Put all vinaigrette ingredients in a food processor and pulse 8-10 times until emulsified.

This vinaigrette packs a powerful flavor punch!

Enjoy!!

Read Full Post »

There is nothing like a blog post a-la-minute!  We are literally waiting to dig in and gobble up this de-lish salad as soon as I snap a shot.  Rosemary infused grilled lamb chops, summer corn saute and Tuscan Panzanella Salad all served “al fresco” on the patio for dinner tonight.  A great bottle of Pinot, candlelight and a cute hubby to dine with to-boot.  LISVG. (Thanks to JoJo for that acronym).

Panzanella salad is a bread and tomato salad originating in Italy.  The Tuscans don’t like to waste even a morsel or crumb of good bread, so this wonderful rustic salad was created centuries ago to use up all the day-old bread sitting around the villa.  There are loads of panzanella salad recipes floating around.  The basic approach is to get some great in-season summer vegetables (must include LOTS of tomatoes), make some homemade grilled croutons from the leftover bread and douse all with a simple vinaigrette.  Although I did not do it this evening – you can always add cheese and olives too – it’s a salad for heaven’s sake.

It’s really impossible to describe what happens when you pop a forkful of the homemade croutons and tomatoes soaked in the vinaigrette into your mouth.  I’ll just have to let you experience that yourself.

Tuscan Panzanella Salad

Ingredients

1 loaf rustic sourdough bread, rough cut into 1 inch cubes (about 6 cups)

2 TBSP butter

2 TBSP olive oil

salt to taste

2 bell peppers (red, yellow or orange) stems and seeds removed, cut into one inch pieces

1 small red onion, large dice (about 1/2 cup)

1 large cucumber, seeds scooped out and cut in one inch pieces

1 pint sweet, firm tomatoes, cut in bite size pieces

6-8 large basil leaves, chopped

Vinaigrette

2 cloves fresh minced garlic

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Method

Start with a loaf of rustic sourdough bread.

Rough cut it into one inch cubes

Melt 2 TBSP butter and 2 TBSP olive oil in a saute pan.  Add the bread cubes.  Salt to taste.  Saute over medium-low heat for about 5-10 minutes until cubes are toasty and brown.

  If you start nabbing a bite to taste – be sure to leave some for the salad!

I like the way it looks to leave a little skin on the cucumber.  I just took a vegetable peeler and peeled off every other row.

Chop the vegetables and basil, whisk together all the ingredients in the vinaigrette, throw everything in a big bowl with the home made croutons and pour the vinaigrette over all.  Enjoy!!

Read Full Post »

Very recently I discovered the Greek pasta dish Pastitsio.  How did I ever get to be my age without tasting this fragrant, spicy, simple bowl of exquisite-ness?  Traditional Pastitsio, which literally means “a mess”,  is assembled and baked like lasagna with layers of pasta, cheese, a meaty lamb tomato sauce flavored with a hint of cinnamon and topped off with Bechamel, a white cream sauce.  I like the lighter, simpler, somewhat “deconstructed” version on the menu at CityGate Grill. 

Our friends John and Mae own CityGate Grill, one of our favorite Friday night spots to decompress with good food and good wine after the craziness of the week.  Pastitsio, which also happens to be one of John’s favorite childhood dishes, is my favorite item on their menu.

The lamb and cinnamon together, which are so exotic and unexpected, are showcased in the Greek bolognese sauce prepared at CityGate.  The bolognese is then tossed with piping hot bucatinin pasta and Bechamel sauce, sprinkled with Parmigiano Reggiano and served.

Someday I will corner the chef at CityGate and garner the secrets to his Greek style Bolognese sauce.  It is so delicious and complex, I am guessing it involves lamb shanks and hours of braising.  However, until then, here is a quick weeknight version using ground lamb we just can’t get enough of at home.  I like using the ground lamb, however if feeling less adventuresome, ground beef can always be substituted.

If you can find Bucatini pasta it is very fun to use in this dish.  It is a thick, long noodle like spaghetti, but hollow in the middle like macaroni so it soaks up the sauce.  If you can’t find it then use a thicker, hollow pasta like penne so it holds up to the sauce.  This comes together quick, so I hope it becomes one of your weeknight favorites too.

Weeknight Greek Pastitsio

Ingredients

2 pounds ground lamb or beef

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups dry red wine

1 TBSP dried oregano

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes

4 TBSP tomato paste

1 tsp (heaping) good ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

1 pound Bucatini pasta, cooked according to directions

freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

fresh, chopped basil leaves

Method

Saute the diced onions and minced garlic in a big skillet with a little bit of olive oil.  Add the ground lamb (or beef) and cook until nice and brown.  Pour the wine into the skillet and scrape up any browned bits of meat.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, red pepper flakes, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Meanwhile cook and drain the pasta.

Right before it is time to serve, swirl the cream into the sauce.  Simmer a minute until it is piping hot, then toss the sauce with the drained pasta, freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese and chopped basil.

Enjoy!!

Read Full Post »

Since starting the blog, my hands down favorite thing is hearing back from people who have enjoyed the posts and are trying new things, inspired and delighted to be in the kitchen.  My friend Sue (who I hope you all visited a couple of weeks ago when I guest-posted at The Desperate Housemommy ) sent me this message on Wednesday:

“I am frizzling capers and measuring anchovy paste by decree of The Barefoot Contessa. Stay tuned!!!”

BooYah!!

My second favorite thing is posting and archiving my all time favorite recipes.  Most evenings, after the house is buttoned down for the night, you can find me curled up perusing the stacks and stacks of cookbooks and magazines which have a tendency accumulate at my house.  (Mr. “One-Click” at Amazon beckons me frequently.)  I am always trying new recipes, but it is pretty rare for me to like something so much I want to make it a second time.  Or tell my friends about it.  I am pretty picky.

Over the years, after trying thousands of different things, I have built a répertoire of “go-to” recipes I make over and over again. These are my “A” player recipes, the ones I count on and always get gobbled up with rave reviews.  Spicy Thai garlic ginger peanut sauce is way at the top of the list.  It’s a recipe circa 2001 from Cooking Light.  I make this all the time.  It is quick, simple and versatile.  It goes great with grilled chicken or beef satay skewers.  I also use the sauce to make hot Peanutty Noodles – click for the link.

I don’t have a deep bench when it comes to Asian/Oriental ingredients in my pantry.  I love, love, love Asian flavors and food, but I tend to go out to restaurants to get my fix rather than cook it at home.  I like this recipe because there is not a long list of asian ingredients or tools you have to go out and buy first before making it.  The recipe does calls for a couple of ingredients you might have to hit the store for: fresh ginger (don’t worry I will show you how) and chili garlic sauce.  Other than that, you should have everything else at home.

Spicy Thai Garlic Ginger Peanut Sauce

inspired from CookingLight magazine

Ingredients

2 tsp fresh grated ginger

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 TBSP olive oli

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

1/4 soy sauce

3 TBSP rice vinegar

1 TBSP Chili Garlic Sauce

Method

This is a knob fresh ginger – find it in the produce section next to the bean sprouts and snap peas.

Break off one of the arms and peel it with a vegetable peeler.

Grate the peeled piece of ginger until you accumulate 2 tsp.  Inhale deeply and let the wonderful aroma transport you away.  The unused ginger  can be stored in a baggie and refrigerated.

Saute the fresh ginger and garlic in the olive oil for a quick 30 seconds.

Add the chili garlic sauce.  Here is a picture of the chili garlic sauce.  I get the brand with the rooster on the label.  Another brand easy to find is Lee Kum Kee.

Add the chicken broth, peanut butter, soy sauce and rice vinegar.

Stir until well blended.  Reduce heat and gently simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

It will get thick like this when it is done.  Toss it with hot noodles to make Peanutty Noodles.  Grill chicken or beef skewers and serve with this dipping sauce for satays.  It’s great to make it ahead and refrigerate.  (Let it come to room temperature before you use.)  Let me know if you have more ideas on how to use it!

Enjoy!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »