Pasta Salad Recipe

Today I am invited to a dinner on a boat and I was asked to bring a salad. I am not an expert on Cesar salads and dressings so I decided to make a pasta salad with roasted vegetables. Very summery and perfect to prepare ahead.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta
  • 1 eggplant
  • 3 zucchini
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • basil
  • salt
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. I took an eggplant, 3 zucchini, 2 red bell peppers (yellow ones would also be great) and 3 tomatoes. I sliced the eggplant, the zucchini and the tomatoes width-wise in slices about 2 inches thick and I placed the vegetable slices and the whole peppers on the barbecue to grill.
  2. I used the barbecue because I was already grilling something else for dinner, but you can as well use the oven or an iron grill pan on the stove with basically the same results. Obviously the different vegetables have different cooking times: 1 minute per side for the tomatoes slices, 3 to 5 minutes per side for the zucchini and the eggplant slices, 20 to 30 minutes for the peppers, turning it 3 or 4 times so that is roasted on all the sides.
  3. All the vegetable should be very soft when you get them off the grill: the pepper should collapse as soon as you take it out of the heat, the tomatoes should be almost the consistency of the ones in chunky tomato sauce and zucchini and eggplants should be soft.
  4. Once you are done grilling put the peppers in a paper bag to cool down (I don’t know why, but it makes it much easier to peel it), dice the eggplants, zucchini and tomatoes, and, once cooled down, peel, seed and dice the pepper.
  5. Season the vegetables with basil, 3 or 4 whole cloves of garlic (do not mince or cut the garlic), salt and a lot of olive oil. At this point you can let the vegetable sit in your fridge for up to a day before adding pasta.
  6. Now cook about 1 pound of pasta, short pasta like penne, rotini or bow-ties works best, in hot boiling salted water. Make it “al dente”, the cooling down and marinating process will make the past a little softer so if you overcook it by the time you eat your salad it will be very mushy.
  7. To cool the pasta down you can either rinse the hot pasta in running cold water (fast method, but it washes away some of the flavor) or let the pasta sit in a strainer and add a bit of olive oil (with this method the past will keep cooking until is cold, so make it extra al dente). When pasta is cold and you are almost ready to eat (if you let the past in the marinating vegetable for too long it will soften and become mushy) add it to the marinating vegetable and enjoy!
  8. This much past salad can serve a party of about 10-15 people at a potluck or 5-6 people as an entree at a seated dinner.

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Other things you can add to the pasta salad, if you like them, are mozzarella (the one shaped like balls and preserved in water, not the Kraft mozzarella sticks), crushed red pepper, black pepper, and/or capers.

Italian Dessert Recipe

Well, as someone relatively new to Thanksgiving, I have mixed feeling about this celebration. On one hand it is great because you get 4 consecutive days off of work, on the other hand, I really don’t know what to do: my family is far and doesn’t celebrate it anyway, I have no idea of how to cook a turkey and I have no childhood memory of  happy thanksgivings. Anyway, it almost always end up that some nice Midwestern family adopts me and my boyfriend for the day and we contribute to the dinner with some Italian dish typical of Christmas. This time we brought some dessert.

First we went to Costco and bought all the Panettoni we could put our hands on. Panettone is an Italian sweet bread typical of Christmas and is vaguely reminiscent of an egg-y and fluffy raisin bread. In Italy we eat it at the end of Christmas supper or for breakfast all trough the season. Anyway, we love it a lot of Americans find it rather bland. So I did some sauces to make it more interesting.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb chocolate
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • sugar to taste

Directions

  1. First I prepared a chocolate sauce: I melted about 3/4 lb. of chocolate in a double boiler and warmed 2 cups of heavy whipping cream and a cup of milk till boiling, then I added the milk to the chocolate and added sugar to taste.
  2. I started out with really dark bitter chocolate so I probably ended up adding close to 2 cups of sugar, but if you start with some sweeter chocolate or white chocolate, you might not need to add any sugar at all.
  3. Keep the mixing chocolate, sugar and cream until the chocolate is all melted and the sauce is glossy and fluid, if necessary add some more milk. Pay attention not to overcook the chocolate otherwise it will separate! To avoid separation, heat should be enough to keep the water in the double boiler at a simmer but not so high that it would make it boil.
  4. Now you can use the sauce when it is still warm or let it cool down, if you let it cool down it will thicken up and be almost pudding like in consistency. I think you can microwave the sauce to warm it up and loosen it, or you can beat the cold sauce into a fluffy mousse. Either way it’s really chocolaty!

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Then I prepared a mascarpone mousse: this is way easier!

Ingredients

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pint mascarpone cheese

Directions

  1. You just beat 3 egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of sugar until everything is fluffy and pale yellow and then mix in 1 pint of mascarpone. If you want you can play a bit with the amount of sugar and use a bit more or a bit less to make the mousse more or less sweet.

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Finally I did a orange sauce: and this was easily my favorite!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • peel of 1 orange

Directions

  1. First boil 2 cups of milk with an orange peel (use an organic orange to avoid eating all the pesticides the orange has seen in her life).
  2. While you wait for the milk to boil beat 5 yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar until fluffy and pale yellow and prepare a double boiler with simmering water.
  3. Place the beaten egg mixture in the double boiler and slowly pour the boiling milk (take the peel out before doing this) over the eggs while beating the mixture with a whisk. Keep beating the cream until it thickens up, which usually takes 5-10 minutes.
  4. It will be kind of a thin sauce, but it should still be thick enough to coat a spoon.

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Anyway we paired this sauces with panettone, but they would work well with a lot of other desserts and even cookies and, if you crave something super sweet and indulgent, the first 2 could even be eaten alone….

An earthy side dish recipe

The other day I was trying to decide what to cook for dinner and I started looking around the web, I knew I wanted to use turnips and maybe sweet potatoes or pumpkins but had no clear idea of what to do with them… I ended up making roasted butternut squash, turnips and potatoes. It turned out great with the sweetness of the squash, the bitterness of the turnips and the potatoes to tie everything together.

Ingredients

  • 4 potatoes
  • 2 turnips
  • half butternut squash
  • 1 onion
  • half a cup diced pancetta or bacon (optional)
  • rosemary or sage

Directions

  1. Here is how I proceeded. First I peeled and diced 2 turnips, then I peeled, seeded and diced half a butternut squash and finally I diced 4 small potatoes. Then I blanched the turnips and the squash for about 2 minutes in boiling unsalted water and the added the potatoes for another 2 minutes. After that I drained everything and put the vegetables in a single layer on an oven dish.
  2. In a nonstick pan I roasted some diced Italian pancetta (you can use bacon if you cannot find pancetta – BTW you can buy it at Costco and Traders’ Joe) without adding any oil. After the pancetta started rendering the fat and was starting to be nice and crispy, I added a thinly sliced medium sized onion and some rosemary. I added a touch of salt to help the onion cook and let the onion cook with the pancetta until it was soft and tender.
  3. Finally I mixed the onion and pancetta with the vegetables and sprinkled everything with olive oil, mixing once or twice to make sure all vegetables were well coated with oil and cooked everything in the oven at 400F for about 3/4 of an hour. I added the salt only at the end, right before serving, so that the vegetables can turn nice and crispy.
  4. Et voila the perfect side dish for a pot-roast or some other hearty winter dish!

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Bean Soup Recipe

Yesterday it was cold and snowy and we wanted to eat something comforting and rich like a meat stew, but we didn’t really want to eat more meat. So what could we cook? I looked in the pantry and I found a mix of legumes for 13 bean soup and I though: BEAN SOUP! So here is what I did.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried beans
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2-3 oz. pancetta or bacon
  • sage
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 potatoes
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

  1. I put about a cup of dried beans to soak in hot water and started preparing the base for the soup. I diced 2 carrots, a couple of celery stalks and a medium sized onion. I put my pressure cooker on the stove and put in my diced pancetta (you can use bacon if you don’t have pancetta).
  2. When the pancetta started rendering the fat I added the diced vegetables and a bit of sage. I salted everything and let it cook down for 10-15 minutes. Then, I added a diced sweet potato and a 2 diced regular potatoes.
  3. At this point the beans had been soaking for about 30 min, I drained them and added to the pot, gave it a bit of a stir, salt, pepper and then added about 5 cups of water. I closed the pressure cooker and cooked for about 1 hour from when it goes under pressure.
  4. I checked the soup about 45 minutes in to make sure there was enough water and cooking was going as expected. When the soup was done, it was wonderfully creamy and pretty thick. Serve and let dines add fresh ground pepper, olive oil and freshly grated cheese to taste….

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A great almost vegetarian (to make it vegetarian /vegan just substitute the pancetta with oil) stew that won’t keep you wanting for meet.

PS if you don’t have a pressure cooker you can still do the soup, it’s just going to take about twice the time to get the beans done….

My Goulash recipe

This weekend it snowed. And it snowed. And it snowed. And it was probably 3 feet of snow. And now is cold, really cold like 0F around midday. So yesterday evening we decided to make a stew, one of those thick and comforting stews and I decided to go for a goulash. Now I have not yet mastered the art of goulash and I would welcome your suggestions on how to make the perfect goulash, but here is what I did.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. beef
  • 1 quart broth
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 potatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt
  • red wine

Directions

  1. First I roasted about a pound of diced stew beef in oil, when it was well browned I took it out. In the same pan, I added a bit of oil and 2 thinly sliced onions, 2 bay leaves and a bit of salt and let the onion cook down until soft an tender.
  2. Then I added the meat back to the pan and poured in a bit of red wine. When the wine evaporated I added 2 tablespoon of flour, so that the cooking liquid can thicken up and yield an almost creamy stew.
  3. I then added 1 quart of broth (which I made by adding 1 and 1/2 beef bouillion cube to a quart of water), 1 tablespoon of paprika and 2 tablespoons of concentrated tomatoes. I closed the lid and cooked in my pressure cooker for about 1 hour (you’ll have to do longer if you are using a regular pot).
  4. After 1 hour I opened my pressure cooker and added 4 small diced potatoes to the meat and let it cook for another 40 minutes, this time uncovered so that the sauce would thicken up a bit. At this point my stew was done and the sauce was thick but not too thick, if you find the sauce too thin you can add a bit of flour if you find it too thick just add water.

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The ideal complement to this dish would be a good polenta, but you can get by with just bread or maybe white rice. If you plan to have one of the those carb loaded sides you can always skip the potatoes, without ruining the dish.
Also if you like it you can have it as a soup. I usually have most of the sauce of the stew as I like it on the soupy side, BF fishes out the meat and some of the potatoes and has his on the meaty side…