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Perfect Pesto & More

As you may have noticed, I was absent for about two weeks, up until two days ago. My husband and I were actually in Long Island and NYC for a wedding and vacation for a few days and then I had family visiting for a week. So it has been a bit hectic and I apologize for my lack of posting. I promise that I will be sharing some highlights from our NYC trip very soon though. Needless to say, we had some amazing food during our visit.

While wandering around the city we decided to check out the market and shops in Grand Central Terminal. We were very excited to find a Penzey’s, since we don’t have one in South Florida and have always ordered online. We were also intrigued by this little oil and vinegar shop we came across, Oliviers & Co or O & Co. I let my husband take a peak while I ran to a different store to pick something up for my mom. When I returned he seemed quite excited about what he had found in the shop. The lady pretty much let him taste every oil and vinegar in the shop, even the bottles that were priced well over $100. They also had a great selection of imported pastas. So now the question was, what do we buy? So I tasted a few and we finally made some decisions.

Our final choices included:
Gaec Salvator Extra Virgin Olive Oil – France
Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fig Vinegar – Provence
Purple Basil Vinegar – South Asia
Penne with Wheat Germ
Straccetti with Wheat Germ

We were so excited to return from our trip and find our products were shipped right behind us and arrived a couple of days later. My husband’s birthday was quickly approaching and he loves pasta, so I knew this would be a great opportunity to try out some of our new goods. I decided to do a pasta tasting for his birthday dinner. One of the dishes would have to be pesto, because I felt that would be a great way to showcase our new Gaec Salvator. I started searching for a great, simple recipe. Of course I turned to Cook’s Illustrated and was happy to find a classic version in my The New Best Recipe book. I figured I couldn’t go wrong with that.

The outcome? A perfectly simple pesto that was made even better with our incredible EVOO.

Stay tuned for more recipes to come using our delicious new additions!

Pesto 2

Classic Pesto

courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated,
The New Best Recipe

1/4 cup almonds (pine nuts or walnuts are fine too)
3 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves (optional-I did not use)
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Toast the nuts in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant, 4-5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a plate.

Add the unpeeled garlic to the empty skillet. Toast, shaking pan occasionally, until fragrant and the color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Let the garlic cool, then peel and chop.

Combine the basil and parsley (if using) in a heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bag. Pound the bag with the flat side of a meat pounder or rolling pin until all the leaves are bruised.

Place the nuts, garlic, pounded herb(s), oil, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a food processor. Process until smooth, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the workbowl. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, stir in the Parmesan cheese, and adjust the salt to taste.

The surface of the pesto can be covered with a sheet of plastic wrap or a thin film of oil and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Yields: about 3/4 cup

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Goulash, but not really.

You know how we all have a few meals that we grew up on and will always stick in our memory? This was one of those meals and it was a favorite of mine. My mom made it, my Nana made it, etc. The only thing that seems kind of funny to me now as an adult and as someone who is always looking through recipes, is that my family always called it goulash. Looking at the photo you will see that this is definitely not the goulash you will find on the menu somewhere. Even though that is the case, it will always be “goulash” to me, so please excuse my inaccurate naming of the dish.

I must also confess that this isn’t the exact dish I grew up on. Again, now that I am an adult and try to be very conscious of my food choices I decided to put my own twist on the dish to make it a bit more well rounded. The version that I grew up on was simply pasta, ground meat, onion and homemade tomato sauce. I decided to make it a bit healthier by using ground turkey, whole wheat pasta and adding veggies to the mix. In the end you have a nice comforting meal that you don’t have to feel guilty about.

goulash

Nana’s “Goulash”

Olive Oil
1 small to medium zucchini, chopped
1 small to medium yellow squash, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
8 oz. ground turkey (I used 93/7)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
crushed red pepper to taste
salt and pepper
2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce
4 oz. whole wheat elbows or rotini

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to time listed on the box.

Heat a pan on the stove and spray with olive oil. Add the zucchini, squash and onions. Saute for a couple of minutes and then add garlic and Italian seasoning. Continue cooking on medium heat.

Heat another pan and add the ground turkey. Add garlic powder, paprika, crushed red pepper and salt & pepper to taste. Continue on medium heat until cooked through.

When the veggies reach your desired tenderness, add the cooked ground turkey, marinara sauce and the drained pasta. Simmer to let flavors combine, about 5 minutes.

Yields 2 large servings

Approximate Nutrition Facts (according to sparkrecipe.com)
Calories: 453.4
Total Fat: 12.8 g
Cholesterol: 80 mg
Sodium: 149.6 mg
Carbohydrates: 63.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 11.5 g
Protein: 33.3 g

*Please note that the nutrition facts can vary greatly based on the type of sauce, meat and pasta that is used as well as the amount of salt added to the dish.  These facts were based on the 93/7 ground turkey, homemade san marzano sauce and Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Rotini.

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Oh So Good Pasta Ponza

Have you ever come across a recipe or saw one being made on TV and decided that you had to make that for dinner that same night? This was exactly what went through my mind while watching an episode of Everyday Italian. While Giada was cooking away on my television, I was trying to keep myself from drooling. Normally this dish would have had to go on the back burner for a while because although Greg loves Italian food, I didn’t really think it would be something he would like. Well, wasn’t I lucky, because Greg just so happened to have to work at Dolphin Stadium that night which meant I was on my own for dinner. Pasta Ponza it was!

I was short some of the ingredients so I had to make a few substitutions, but the dish was still amazing! I am sure it would be even better following the exact recipe, but I was quite pleased with my version as well.

The dish is just so rich but yet light at the same time and is one of those things that just comforts you. I actually made it for myself again the next time Greg worked a game. He saw a picture of it on my computer (waiting to be blogged about) and he was like, “What is that?!” I told him and he seemed pretty disappointed that I made it while he was working. Go figure! I told him that I didn’t think he would like it and promised him I would make it again while he was home. Well, I haven’t made it for him yet, but it will definitely be in the repertoire again in the near future.

Pasta

Pasta Ponza

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Butter for greasing
2 cups (12 ounces) red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups (12 ounces) yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (I only used red)
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained (I didn’t have any on hand so I diced up Spanish olives)
1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs
1 pound ziti or other short tube-shaped pasta
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 ounces) Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (I substituted Parmigiano Reggiano)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (I used fresh basil)

*I also added some grilled chicken on top for a more balanced meal.

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.

Place the tomatoes, capers (or olives), 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in the prepared baking dish. Toss to coat. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the tomato mixture. Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden. Cool for 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

Place the pasta in a large serving bowl. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the pasta. Add the cheese and toss well. Thin out the sauce with a little pasta water, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley (or basil) and serve immediately.

Yields 4-6 servings

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My Ode to Pasta Salad

Oh how I love a great pasta salad. My mom always makes pasta salad in the summer; it is an old standby in our household. Her version is delicious, but it could probably add up on the waistline a bit. It isn’t that bad, but she does love to put chunks of cheese in it and lots of dressing. So over the years I have made my own versions of pasta salad and usually try to make them on the lighter side. I find it to be very subjective and I love that about it. You can make a million different versions and adapt it to practically anyone’s diet restrictions.

With summer in the air; yes I do realize it is only April but in south Florida we don’t really have a spring. So with summer in the air I decided to make a good old pasta salad for Greg and I. As some may know, I have really been trying to take some weight off, tone up and get Greg and I back on a more healthful and balanced diet. So I made this pasta salad with whole-wheat pasta and I went light on the pasta and heavy on the veggies.

As I mentioned earlier, I think pasta salad is very subjective so I have decided not to post an exact recipe. I figured this entry could serve more as inspiration than as a definite idea. So please, add what you like….have fun with it! I don’t think I’ve ever made a pasta salad the same way twice.

This past time I used the whole-wheat pasta, broccoli florets, zucchini, carrot, red onion, black olives, pimento, homemade Italian dressing and Italian seasoning. It was light, satisfying and deliciously summer.

pasta-salad

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Light but Satisfying

I really feel like I should have been born Italian. I just love the culture and food. I mean their ingredients alone are enough to make me drool. Italian food is my absolute favorite thing to cook by far. With that said, of course Giada De Laurentiis is one of my favorite chefs. Her recipes are very inspiring and open doors for you to explore many options.

Recently I was looking for a lighter pasta dish. I didn’t want a heavy sauce, just something refreshing. While looking through Giada’s Family Dinners I found a recipe for Fusilli with Shrimp and Arugula. It sounded great, but I wanted to put my own twist on it. In the end it turned out fabulous and is now a favorite of mine and Greg’s. We have also made it without the shrimp as a simple side dish.

p1010065

Spaghetti with Shrimp and Basil

adapted from Giada’s Family Dinners
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (or yellow onion)
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
1 lb. large shrimp, peel and deveined
1 cup petite diced tomatoes
salt
fresh ground black pepper
12 ounces dried thin spaghetti (or pasta of your choice)
about 6 leaves of fresh basil

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes; saute until translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add the wine.  Simmer until the wine reduces by half, about 5 minutes.  Add the diced tomatoes and stir to combine.  Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, just until they are pink; about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the spaghetti and cook, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking together, until tender but still firm to the bite; about 8 minutes.  Drain.

Add the spaghetti and the basil (torn into pieces) to the skillet with the shrimp.  Toss to combine.  Season the pasta to taste with salt and pepper.

Yields about 4 servings.

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