Thursday, June 30, 2011

Penne Puttanesca

I had my first puttanesca sauce in SF on a pizza at A16.  I thought the sauce was so good especially since I never tasted capers, olives, anchovies, and tomato sauce together.  I fell in love.  This pasta dish reminds me of that night.  I made it even though Mat doesn't like capers, olives, or anchovies!  After he took a bite of this pasta, he was surprised that he liked the flavor combo too.  I always make him try new things.  You don't know 'til you try!

From My Father's Daughter and I added minor notes
Makes 4 servings

Coarse salt
3/4 pound (3/4 box) penne (I used whole wheat penne and I would recommend reducing the pasta to 1/2 pound if you prefer your pasta more saucy)
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
Pinch red chili flakes
5 olive oil-packed Spanish anchovies (I couldn't find Spanish but I did find Italian anchovies and it worked just fine)
1 heaping tbs salt-packed capers, rinsed
1/3 cup pitted nicoise olives (I couldn't find nicoise olives so I used kalamata olives)
2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
A few tbs pasta water, to thin
1/4 cup torn fresh parsley, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously.  Drop in the penne.  Cook according to package directions.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and add the garlic and chili flakes.  Cook for about 1 minute, adjusting the heat if necessary to avoid burning the garlic.  Add the anchovies and stir for another minute, or until they begin to break down.  Add the capers and olives, crushing them gently with the back of a wooden spoon, and cook for 1 minute, or until quite fragrant --- it should smell divine.  Stir in the tomato sauce and black pepper.  Turn the heat to high, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium and let it bubble for about 10 minutes, or until quite thickened.  The penne should be perfectly cooked at this point.  Drain pasta, reserving a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water.  Add pasta to the skillet with the sauce and stir to coat, adding a bit of the pasta cooking water if necessary to get the sauce to the right consistency.  It shouldn't be too thick, but also not too soupy.  Scatter the parsley over pasta, add a bit more fresh black pepper, and serve.

When I'm preparing to cook something, I always keep organized to ensure that I am following the directions perfectly.  I organized the garlic and red pepper flakes together in a bowl, then the anchovies in a separate bowl, and finally the olives and capers.  It is so much easier to follow a new recipe when I do this so I add the right ingredients together and in the correct order.

You can see that I lined up my different ingredients next to the stove so that I'm ready to add them in.

I added the cooked pasta directly into my pot of sauce with a slotted spoon.  I learned to do this from watching a lot of Giada on Food Network.  It reduces the dishes you have to wash since you don't have to clean a separate colander or strainer!  Another tip I learned on watching a lot of Food Network is to cook the pasta based on the cooking directions but reduce the cook time by 1 minute.  You want to be able to cook the pasta pretty al dente so you can finish off the cooking process in the sauce.  The pasta will then soak up the flavors from the sauce and your dish will taste even better.

This pasta dish pairs really well with a glass of red vino.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Basic Tomato Sauce

I grew up eating from the plastic container of Prego marinara sauce so when I first made my own tomato sauce, I was in awe of how easy it was.  I made this tomato sauce to use this week for pastas and pizzas.  The long cook time brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes without adding any sugar which is pretty awesome.  You can thicken the sauce by leaving the lid off of the pot.  I left my pot lid partially on.  It is a personal choice.  Also, I went easy on the salt for this sauce because I didn't know exactly what I was using the tomato sauce for and I didn't know if I was going to add other salty things to it.

From My Father's Daughter and I added minor notes
Makes 4 cups

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
4 fresh large basil leaves
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat, add the garlic, and cook for 5 minutes (the garlic will become very fragrant and should not be let to brown).  Add 2 of the basil leaves and stir for a minute.  Add the tomatoes and their juice and the 2 remaining basil leaves.  Turn heat to high.  Bring the sauce to a boil, turn the heat on low, season with salt and pepper, and let it bubble away on low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and crushing the tomatoes with your wooden spoon (I kept the lid on the pot and left it partially open to let some of the steam out).  Cool and refrigerate.

The sauce should darken and thicken slightly like the picture below.  You can see that I crushed the tomatoes with my wooden spoon as the recipe instructed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vegetarian Chili

Okay, I admit it.  I had some crunchy cheetos over the weekend.  Totally processed and totally unhealthy.  I also had a few other things not in my food realm and didn't feel like myself afterwards.  As soon as I came back home on Sunday night, I tried to think of dishes to make that wouldn't hold me down but was still filling and satisfying.  I came across this chili recipe.  I loved the chipotle in this vegetarian dish.  I love my spice!

From My Father's Daughter and I added minor notes
Makes 4 servings

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 large red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 tsp mild chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp chipotle in adobo
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
1/2 cup de Puy lentils (small, dark French lentils that hold their shape well), rinsed and drained
1 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Big pinch coarse salt
3 tbs tomato paste

Heat the olive oil in a medium soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrot, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and black pepper.  Cook, stirring, for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened.  Add the chipotle and stir to combine.

Turn the heat up to high, add the tomatoes and their juice, crushing them a bit with your wooden spoon, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes.

Add the lentils and beans (I rinsed my lentils and beans before adding them in).  Fill one 14-ounce can with water and add it to the pot, along with the salt.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 40 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 20 more minutes, or until the lentils are soft and the flavors are melded.

The chipotle in adobo is pictured below on the right.  You can add a little more in this recipe if you want an added kick.

Make sure you get the dark green French lentils for this recipe and do not replace with another lentil variety because the dark green ones really do hold up their shape a lot better than the other kinds.  

I topped the chili with non-fat plain yogurt and minced cilantro.  This dish totally hit the spot!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lemon Parmesan Spaghetti

I am plowing through my new cookbook and going through the recipes that seem the easiest.  And this one was super easy and really delicious!  I couldn't believe how good the fresh lemon zest flavor was with the Parmesan and basil.  This is a perfect dish to make extra and take with you to work the next day for lunch.

From My Father's Daughter and I added minor notes
Makes 4 servings

3/4 pound (3/4 box) spaghetti (I used whole wheat thin spaghetti)
Coarse salt
1 lemon
1 1/2 cups finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese (about 3 1/4 ounces), plus extra for serving (I used a coarser grater)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 to 5 tbs of past water, to thin
Handfull fresh basil leaves (from 4 leafy stems)

Boil the spaghetti in salted boiling water, according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, using a Microplane, grate the zest from the lemon into a large mixing bowl.  Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into bowl.  Add the 1 1/2 cups Parmesan, pepper, and a pinch of salt, and mix in the olive oil to form a wet paste.

When the spaghetti is perfectly cooked, add 2 or 3 tablespoons of the cooking water to the lemon and cheese mixture.  Add the spaghetti to the bowl and toss thoroughly, adding another tablespoon or 2 of pasta water if necessary so that the sauce coats each strand.  Roughly tear in the basil leaves.

Serve each portion with a sprinkle of coarse salt, a fresh grind of black pepper, and a few gratings of extra Parmesan.

I used a coarse grater for the parmesan cheese instead of a fine grater.  I still loved the pasta just the same!

I didn't feel the need to add extra Parmesan here.  It tasted yummy without the extra.  I can totally see myself making this pasta dish again and again.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lemon Juice Ice Cubes

I have lots of lemons leftover from our Father's Day BBQ (more than I know what to do with) so I figured out a way to salvage them before they go bad.  I juiced the lemons and froze the juice in a ice cube tray.  Not just any ice cube tray but a disney mickey mouse ice cube tray!  Don't ask me why I have something so random.  

I cut the lemons in half and started to juice away.  If you wanted to grate the lemons to save some of the zest, you probably could do that too and freeze it in the ice cubes.

While I was juicing, I placed a strainer over my pyrex measuring cup to catch all the seeds and poured the juice in the ice cube tray.

Now, I have fresh lemon juice to instantly add to teas, marinades, salad dressings, salt scrubs, etc.  I use lemons all the time.  I don't know why I didn't think of this before.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I love things that are easy and simple but add a lot of flavor.  Some days after I come home from work, I am really tired from my commute but I still want to eat something nutritious and tasty.  This is just one of those things that I make in a couple minutes and I sprinkle it on pastas, braised meats, roasted veggies, fish, etc.  


Mix together:
3 tbs chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1 tsp lemon zest grated
1 clove garlic grated

I grate the garlic instead of mincing because I don't like biting into bits of raw garlic.  Mat doesn't like it either.  He says I wreak of garlic for a whole day.  Haha!  Lucky him.

I used a sprinkle of gremolata and a little drizzle olive oil to dress up my roasted salmon.  I roasted my filet of salmon like I did in this past post.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nectarine Blueberry Crumble

This recipe is such a crowd pleaser and super easy to make!  It was so easy that it's definitely going to be on the menu at our next dinner get together.  I love this recipe because it is not too sweet or buttery.... the warm crumble is just ridiculously yummy with the cold ice cream.

From My Father's Daughter and I added minor notes

4 cups of fruit (sliced peaches, diced apples, blackberries, blueberries, etc)
1/4 cup plus 1 tbs white spelt flour (I used Bob's Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour)
1 cup whole rolled oats (not instant and not steel-cut)
1/4 cup firmly packed unrefined dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch fine salt
4 tbs unsalted butter, at room temperture
Ice cream, for serving

 Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.

Combine the fruit with 1 tbs of flour in a 9-inch pie pan or similar-sized baking dish.  Combine the rest of the ingredients (except the ice cream) together in a mixing bowl, using your hands to form pea-sized crumbs.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until the topping is browned and the fruit juices are bubbling.  Serve warm with ice cream. 

I used white and yellow nectarines.

These are the old-fashioned oats that the recipe is referring to.

I mixed all my dry ingredients together with butter.  I used a fork to mix instead of my hands.

I also added 1/4 cup frozen blueberries I had in the freezer just because and I know Mat loves blueberries =)

Gracie was fast asleep while I was cooking in the kitchen.  She had a fun, sunny day at day care.  She lives a tough life.

I mixed the fruit with 1 tbs of flour.

I put the topping on the fruit and put the crumble in the preheated oven.

I served the crumble warm with vanilla bean ice cream.  This was SO good!  Mat didn't even talk while he ate this.  He just gobbled it up.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Homemade Sriracha

This is Gwyneth's version of hot sriracha sauce which I think is pretty darn genius.  I never have sriracha in my own house even though I love it because I do not like to consumes things with preservatives in it.  I don't feed preservatives to my husband or dog for that matter so Mat finds it nearly impossible to go grocery shopping for our family.  Haha!  I usually leave the daunting task of reading the ingredient labels for everything I buy for myself. 

The homemade srirancha recipe turned out quite well even though it does not taste exactly like the real sriracha sauce because you could actually taste the freshness of the peppers and it has a sweetness in it from the agave nectar.  Also, I loved that GP used arrowroot powder instead of corn starch which usually has other chemical things in it besides corn flour in the list of ingredients.  Next time I make this, I will be experimenting with different peppers (especially red thai chili peppers). You can definitely play around with this recipe to customize it to your own preferences.

From My Father's Daughter and I added minor notes

1 1/4 cups peeled cloves garlic
1 pound red jalapenos peppers, stemmed and sliced into thin rings (I used red fresnos because I could not find red jalapenos after going to 3 different grocery stores.  I found red fresnos at Whole Foods which are hotter than jalapenos.)
2 1/4 cups rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tbs light agave nectar
2 tbs coarse salt
1 tbs arrowroot powder
2 tbs fish sauce or you can substitute soy sauce if you are vegetarian (Make sure that the fish sauce does not have preservatives in the list of ingredients.  Fish sauce should basically have 2 ingredients which are anchovies and salt.)

Pus the garlic in a small saucepan and add cold water just to cover.  Bring to a boil, immediately drain, cool the garlic under running water, and return it to the saucepan.  Cover with cold water and repeat the blanching process.  Thinly slice the blanched garlic and combine with the peppers and vinegar in a larger pot.  Bring to a boil, cook for 3 minutes, and remove from the heat.  Add the agave and salt and stir to combine.  Let mixture sit undisturbed for 1 hour to steep and cool.

Whiz the mixture in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth (it's okay if all the seeds don't blend in).  Return the pureed sauce to the pot, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, skimming any foam as necessary, until the sauce is slightly reduced and has some body.

In a small bow, dissolve the arrowroot with 1 tbs of lukewarm water.  Whisk into the simmering sauce and cook for 2 minutes more, or until the sauce is nicely thickens (it should be slightly thinner than ketchup).  Remove the sauce from the heat, let cool slightly, and stir in the fish sauce.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ada the Mini Schnauzer (Gracie's Cousin)

Mondays are always so depressing for me but these pictures cheer me up!  These are from yesterday during our father's day bbq.  Isn't she SO adorable?  She has such a great personality.... I lurve her!


I tried to get shots of both of the doggie cousins together but it was almost impossible. 

Ada is looking at the camera in the 1st shot.

Then Gracie is....

They both are now =)  Happy Monday!


Friday, June 17, 2011

Kale Chips

This is the 1st recipe I decided to try out from my new cookbook, My Father's Daughter.  First, it looked very easy to make and second, I had a bunch of kale in my fridge.  I almost always have hearty dark green veggies like kale or swiss chard in my fridge because the fridge life for them is relatively long which gives me the flexibility to wait a week or so before I do something with it.  Usually kale is what you see as the decorative green vegetable sitting in the seafood refrigerated display case at the grocery store but it is such a tasty, healthy vegetable.  It's totally overlooked in my opinion.

I adjusted the recipe to decrease the roasting time because the 1st batch I made were too brown and toasty for my preference.  I like having the kale chips still somewhat green than completely brown.  These were a great accompaniment with my big glass of petite syrah and they are supposed to eaten like potato chips.  Enjoy!

Adapted from My Father's Daughter

1 big bunch kale, stems discarded, and leaves torn into roughly 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgina olive oil
Coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Toss the kale with olive oil and spread out on two baking sheets.
Lightly sprinkle with coarse salt and roast for 8 to 9 minutes, or until lightly browned and crispy.

The kale shrinks and gets crispy during the roasting process.  The picture below to the left is the kale before roasting and the picture below to the right is after roasting.

This is a great healthy snack.  True veggies chips!

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