Posts tagged Italian
Sun dried tomatoes packed in oil are a regular addition to a variety of dishes at my house–from pasta sauces to enchilada sauce. I usually mix in the sun dried tomatoes with my hand stick blender so you never know they’re in there except for a deep, rich flavor.
But sun dried tomatoes on their own? I hadn’t tried that before. Then I had a sprinkling of julienne cut sun dried tomatoes over my dish at La’Albatross, a fabulous restaurant in downtown Cleveland. French. They’re the only place in the city with their own fromagier, aka a cheese monger. (I know, I had to ask what a fromagier was, too.)
Since then I’ve been topping salads, pasta dishes, roasted vegetables, and more with julienne cut sun dried tomatoes. I’m hooked on Mariani Sun Dried Tomatoes. I find them in the produce section of the grocery store–chances are you can, too.
Lately, I’ve only been able to find the flavored varieties–basil and hot pepper I prefer them plain so I can play up the flavor however I like.
My youngest used to love shrimp but now she’s going through denial. So we’ve been having shrimp a lot lately. Even with our ‘you’ve-got-to-eat-at-least-a-bite’ rule around our house she hasn’t budged to sampling more than she has to. I have hope: As a kid, I didn’t like shrimp either.
Prep time: 30 minutes
1 pound spaghetti
20-30 medium raw shrimp
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 lemon (optional)
1 jar spaghetti sauce
- Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.
- Prepare the shrimp. Note: I usually add half a bag of the medium-sized shrimp from Costco into warm water while I’m making the pasta. By the time the pasta is done, the shrimp is thawed. I removed the tails and dry off the shrimp before sauteing.
- Bring the olive oil to medium-high heat in a large skillet.
- Place the shrimp and garlic in the pan and cook until the shrimp begins to turn pink, about 3 minutes. Add a squirt of fresh lemon juice and the cayenne pepper, then pour the spaghetti sauce (Barilla is my fav) into the pan and cook until heated through, about 4 minutes.
- Serve the shrimp over the spaghetti.
Kids’ reactions: Well, you know what my youngest said. My teen gave it two thumbs up; my tween was mediocre on this one. She ate it, didn’t love it. But Mr. Squid (not technically a kid) was a fan and even finished off the last three shrimp left in the pan.
Five ingredients. One prep time. Three meals. What does it add up to? Easy baked ziti. I make a big batch of baked ziti one night that fills one, 9 x 13″ pan (for dinner that night and leftovers the next), then I fill a 9×9″ aluminum foil pan that I freeze and save to eat a couple weeks later. The only hard part about this meal is mixing all of the ingredients together before putting ‘em in the pans (hint: grab your biggest bowl).
A few notes on baked ziti:
•The noodles really do make a difference. Forget the penne, rigatoni, or even macaroni, ziti pasta is best.
•This dish is simple to make meatless. Skip the Italian sausage and use roasted veggies or spinach.
•I often add in spinach to this dish. The kids don’t seem to notice, plus I really like spinach.
•You can add as many different kinds of cheeses as you want–the last time I made this I put in Truffle Cheese (thank you Trader Joe’s!).
Baked ziti has all of the same flavors as lasagna, without all the work. So if your family likes lasagna, they’ll love baked ziti.
Prep time: 25 minutes + 40 minutes baking + 15 minutes cooling
1 16-ounce package ziti pasta
1 16-ounce container ricotta cheese
3 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
2 24-ounce jars spaghetti sauce
1 pound sweet Italian sausage (optional, but recommended)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Cook the Italian sausage, breaking up the meat into bite-sized pieces with the spatula.
- Cook the pasta according the package directions. Note: this recipe works best with ziti cooked to al dente, make sure not to overcook the pasta.
- In a large bowl, mix together the cooked pasta and sausage, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, all of the ricotta cheese and both jars of spaghetti sauce.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Coat a 9×13” pan with baking spray. Pour the pasta mixture into the pan and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese and additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.
- Place the filled 9×13” pan on a cookie sheet to make it easier to get in and out of the oven. (The pan will be heavy!)
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cheese becomes golden brown.
- Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
*We have a winner to the Parents Need to Eat Too cookbook giveaway! Laura will be receiving her copy soon.
Ah, it was dinner by candlelight on Tuesday night. Now before you go thinking this was some romantic meal that I planned for Mr. Squid, truth be told I have a wind-drenched snowstorm to thank for our hours by candelight. That’s right, our power was knocked out for most of the afternoon and into the evening.
The occasional power outage doesn’t bother me. I’ve got my forehead camping light stashed in my nightstand and enough candles to keep things cozy when I need to use ‘em for light. And it just so happens that I’d already put dinner in the slow cooker earlier in the day so our meal kept warm even though the power went out a few hours before dinnertime.
Our dinner? One of my favorites because it’s simple, healthy and easy enough to make with limited visibility. I add four frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts to the slow cooker along with two jars of pasta sauce (per Cooks Illustrated picks, I’ve been using Classico lately). That’s it. Let it cook on low for five to six hours and then make a pot of pasta to serve with it. Luckily, we have a gas range so I was able to light the burners no problem and even made some garlic bread for dipping.
You’ll notice the strange blue glow in the picture above. That’s not my camera flash, but the light from my forehead flashlight.
Your turn–has anyone else been without power lately?
New Year’s resolution alert: yup, I was getting into a little food rut in December (possibly a happily induced sugar coma) so I’m refocusing myself on what I enjoy most–trying new foods or playing around with old ones and encouraging my kids to do the same.
Ingredient: anise or fennel
So let’s start the new year off with anise. You’ll find anise hanging out with the Swiss chard and spinach in the produce section. It looks almost like a giant-sized green onion with stalks that have small pieces gutting off that reminded me of dill.
Mild licorice. Now here’s where it gets a little confusing: anise and fennel are not the same vegetable, although from what I’ve found you can use the two interchangeably in recipes. They have a similar flavor, although fennel is said to have a stronger licorice hit. When thumbing through recipes, I’ve often found fennel on the ingredient list, but not as often in the produce section.
Not to confuse the matter even more, but there is also a spice used typically in Asian cooking called anise, or star anise that looks like a dried flower you can grate and use in stir-fries or sweets. For a complete discussion about anise, I found WHFoods.com a good primer.
How to use anise or fennel
I’ve just started playing around with this new-to-me ingredient. So far, I’ve used it as a filling along with French entrees, like pairing it sauteed mushrooms as a filling in buckwheat crepes (recipe to come) and in Italian dishes that are already packed with vegetables. But you can also slice it thin to add zing to salads or coleslaw.
Wash the vegetable thoroughly before removing the feathery stalks from the bulb. Chop the bulb in half and then slice thin to use in the fagioli calabrese. I saved the top to use as a garnish. But you can also use them as you might fresh herbs–I’m thinking they’d be excellent in a homemade vinaigrette. Note: the licorice flavor is stronger when it’s used raw and becomes sweet when sauteed.
The first time I made the pasta fagioli calabrese with the anise my teenager noticed the licorice undertones right away–and didn’t like them. She still ate it, but mentioned she’d rather have less anise and more spinach (I know, more spinach? I think I’m actually raising my kids to love spinach as much as I do). The next time I served it, my oldest didn’t even notice the anise. And my younger two who hadn’t liked their pasta mingling with so many other ingredients had no comment on the anise but were diligently trying to pick out any red peppers they found. By the end of the meal my oldest professed this was ‘one of her favorite dishes.’ Beyond the anise, the other big winner in this meal was the white canneloni beans (my substitute instead of butter beans). The combination of sweet anise, little tube pasta, beans, spinach, Parmesan cheese, and Italian sausage went over well with my crew (even if I had to eat all the red peppers my youngest two corralled to the side of their plates).
Your turn–have you cooked with anise/fennel? What did you think?
2 Tbs julienne fennel
2 Tbs julienne hungarian pepper (hot)
1 Link Hot Italian Sausage (cooked & chopped)
1 Tbs roasted red pepper
pinch chopped fresh garlic
3 Tbs butter beans
1 Cup fresh spinach
1/8 cup chicken stock
1/8 cup white wine (substitute: white grape juice)
2 cups cooked tubetti pasta
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
- Saute fennel, hungarian pepper and italian sausage in canola oil, cook until the veggies are tender.
Add roasted red peppers, garlic, beans, and spinach, then cook till beans are hot and spinach cooks down.
- Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and white wine (or white grape juice).
- Simmer for 2 minutes. Add pasta, butter, and Parmesan cheese; simmer till creamy.
- Top with fresh Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper (or crushed red pepper).
- Enjoy this Southern italian favorite with fresh Italian bread with butter.
Keep reading during MKES’s Chef Week, tomorrow I’ll be starting a cool giveaway!
I’m keeping it simple and fun this week by passing along a few mini-meal ideas we’ve been trying out–welcome to bistro pizza week! Now you can definitely make your own pizza dough, but to keep this meal fast I buy pre-made dough from an Italian grocery store near our home. With dough at $1 per bag, I pick up three and make four mini pizzas with each.
It’s fun to play around with the small sizes and experiment with the flavors. But to start off, I’m passing along a classic–Margarita pizza, topped with only three fresh ingredients: mozzarella cheese slices, roma tomatoes and basil. Named after an Italian queen whose visit to Naples inspired the idea, I find the simple ingredients are appealing to picky eaters. Maybe it’s that the ingredients are so easy to identify, or that every part of the pizza is fresh, but this is the most requested pizza at my house. We even picked up yellow tomatoes to make it again this week–gotta tweak right?
Note: It’s easy to double or triple this recipe and it makes for great leftovers to send in kids’ lunches–or to have for breakfast…
Prep time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 mini-pizzas
1 bag pizza dough
2 roma tomatoes
1 bunch basil
8-12 ounces fresh mozzarella
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Divided the dough into four equal pieces using a floured knife.
- Roll each dough piece out into a 5-6 inch circle, then place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.
- Brush each dough piece generously with olive oil.
- Place tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh ground pepper on top.
- Bake for 10 minutes, remove pizza and add basil then cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until cheese is golden. (You can leave the basil on the whole time if you don’t mind it getting a little crispy. I actually like the basil crisped so I put it on at the beginning of cooking, it’s up to you!)
Coming up later this week:
- Meatball margarita pizza
- Breakfast pizza failure
- Apple gruyere pizza (a new favorite)
Break out the wok! Why haven’t I been using it more? Actually my last one ended up in the donation pile after I weeded out essential kitchen tools from non-essentials during a move. I just hadn’t been using it all that much.
But since we’ve been getting into stir-fries lately (Happy Chinese New Year everyone!), I just had to give woks another try. First, they’re pretty inexpensive as far as pans go. Second, the newer versions aren’t like my old standard–the bottom is flat and then the sides curve upward (my old one was hard to balance on a gas stovetop).
After reading a recent article in the March issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray about using your wok for more than just Asian dishes, I figured it was time. Enter the wok. For quick-cooking food, the wok beats out my skillet, I’m happy to say. And as far as pasta dishes go it’s so much easier to toss a sauce and pasta together in a wok versus the flat-bottomed, spill-over-prone skillet.
Last night I made one of my favorite pasta dishes–gnocchi with ricotta, spinach & fontina cheese–in the wok. It sauteed everything perfectly.
Are you ready to get woking? (Forgive me, I had to use at least one lame pun.)
The key with using the wok for any dish is that the ingredients have to either cook fast or already be cooked before you add them in. So for pasta, you should cook it first in a deep, stockpot and then toss it with your sauce in the wok and any other ingredients you want to add in, like maybe diced ham, fresh basil, grated Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese…