My spirit vegetable is garlic.
I’ve been in a “back to basics” cooking mood as of late, and which cuisine is better for this than Italian food? Dead simple recipes with fresh ingredients prepared in less than 30 minutes. But after the 6th pasta night, a girl goes a little stir crazy. Here’s an American twist on the classic Italian knock out.
Yield: 6 open faced sandwiches
- 6 slices toast
- 1/2 kg broccoli florets (make them small)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 5 minced garlic cloves
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- juice and zest from 1/2 a lemon
- 1/2 cup of grated Parmesean cheese
- 6 slices of mild cheese (e.g. Provolone, Young Gouda, Swiss, etc)
- Steam the broccoli for 2-3 minutes.
- In a saute pan, heat the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper in medium-low heat. The garlic should not brown, but rather become very fragrant. Do this for about 10 minutes, or until you can see the oil start to turn a bit red from the chili flakes.
- Add the broccoli, lemon juice, lemon zest, Parmesean cheese and salt to taste.
- Spoon the mixture over each slice of toast.
- Place one slice of cheese on top of each sandwich.
- Broil the sandwiches until the cheese gets bubbly and turns a little brown – maybe around 4 minutes.
A fantastic recipe adapted from my new favorite cookbook – Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Every Day. If you’ve never had fresh biscotti, you’re about to be ruined. Say goodbye to that dry, packaged biscotti desert and enter the warm, chewy goodness of Homemade Treat Land. You can see other biscotti recipes on her site: smittenkitchen
Yield: 33 biscotti
- 1 cup of flour (130 g)
- 1.5 cups and 2 tbsp rolled oats (130 g)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 90 g butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla bean) – will try with almond extract next time
- 1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds (45 g)
- 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (40 g)
- 1 cup diced dried figs (150 g) – will try apricots next time
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil and a brush
- Preheat the oven to 165 C
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, almonds, coconut
- Separately mix the eggs, butter, sugar, and vanilla
- Mix the dry ingredients into the wet bowl by thirds
- Fold in the dried fruit
- Divide the dough into thirds
- Roll each third into a log on a floured counter
- Place each log on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
- Brush each log with olive oil
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until they are lightly golden and are forming cracks
- Let the logs cool almost completely (1 hr at room temperature or 30 minutes outside if it’s cold)
- Cut the logs on the bias in 3 cm thick slices
- Bake the logs again for another 10-15 minutes
One of the highlights of living in Europe is being closer to Italy. I like the other countries too, but… Italy! I recently discovered an Italian food mail order service: there is a farm in Tuscany, and they will send you Italian products via post. Since it’s from a farm, they only ship you products in bulk. And sometimes they give you recipes, too. This is one of those recipes. What can I say? The number of times a girl comes across a vegetarian confit recipe are few and far between.
Yield: 2 servings
- 250 g dried spaghetti
- 500 g cherry tomatoes (yes, you should splurge on the expensive ones, at least in this case)
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp thyme leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- 250 g pesto
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and lay them on a piece of parchment paper on top of a cookie sheet.
- In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, thyme, oregano, sugar, garlic well. Add some salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon a bit of the spice mix over each tomato half.
- Bake this for 2 hours at 140 C. We want the tomatoes to be roasted but not dry/browned.
- Cook the noodles according to the package directions.
- In a skillet, lightly warm the pesto.
- Toss the pesto and tomatoes together with the cooked pasta in the skillet.
On one of our recent trips to Milan, we discovered this delicious holiday fruit bread. It’s a classic Italian Christmas staple. Strangely, it was priced pretty high as far as fruit breads go, so I decided to try making it at home to see what the fuss was about. It’s quite a bit of time (mostly waiting for the dough to rise), but not more work than making normal bread or pizza dough – definitely worth it to make at home. My favorite part is the candied orange peels. Normally, this is made with a special deep cake form so that the Panettone poufs over the top, but I used a 20 cm springform cake pan instead (who has time to get a special pan for one dish?).
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/16 tsp instant yeast
- 1/3 cup cool water
- all of the starter (above)
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 1 tbsp instant yeast
- 2 eggs
- 50 g butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
Delicious chunks (mix and match the fruits to your preference)
- 2 tbsp orange zest (can substitute lemon zest)
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup slivered dried apricots
- 1/2 cup candied orange peels
- 1/2 cup slivered prunes
- 1/2 cup slivered dates
- Knead together the starter ingredients and cover in a bowl to rest overnight (8-12 hours).
- Combine all the dry dough ingredients in a large bowl: flour, salt, sugar.
- Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
- In another bowl, mix together the yeast water, eggs, butter, and vanilla.
- Add all of the starter to the wet mixture and start kneading the flour mix in thirds.
- Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 90 minutes.
- Knead in the fruits and zest.
- Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a pan to rest for another hour.
- Bake at 205 C for 10 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to 190 C and bake for another 10 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to 175 C, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 25 minutes.
- Allow it to cool completely before cutting.
This is a recipe for making a thin crust, NY style margherita pizza from scratch. As in, making the dough, sauce, and cheese on your own! I made two 14″ pizzas with this recipe, and there was a lot of extra sauce left over. You should make the dough the night before, the sauce the morning of, and the cheese about 1 hour before.
I used this recipe from seriouseats, and adjusted the recipe to make two pies. The dough has to rest for a day (ish) in the refrigerator, and then rest at room temperature for at least 2 hours before you plan to bake.
- 3 cups of whole wheat flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 tsp yeast
- 2 tbsp EVOO
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1-2 tbsp of dry herbs of your choice (e.g. oregano, basil, garlic powder, thyme, rosemary, etc.)
- Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and stir in the yeast
- Mix the flour, herbs, and salt in a bowl by hand. Add olive oil and water slowly and in parts. Mix well with your hands by gently kneading the dough.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead for about 10 minutes. You want a smooth ball. Don’t fold the dough over on itself.
- Windowpane test: Break off a marble sized piece of the dough. Try to stretch it out as thin as possible. If you can see through the dough without breaking it (like a windowpane?), you’re finished. The gluten from the wheat makes the dough stretchy and nice. You have to knead and massage until you get to this point.
- Divide the dough in half. Store each half in a covered container. Let it rise for 1 day in the refrigerator.
- Remove from the refrigerator about 2 hours before baking to allow the dough to rest at room temperature.
I used this recipe from seriouseats as my starting point, and adjusted the seasonings as follows. You have to simmer this thing for 2-3 hours.
- 1 can of san marzano tomatoes (28 oz)
- 1 tbsp EVOO
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
- 2 sprigs of fresh basil with leaves attached, ~6 in long
- 1 medium red onion, peeled and halved
- 1 tsp sugar
- Use a food processor or blender to puree the tomatoes. It should be slightly chunky.
- Heat the butter and oil until the butter has melted.
- Add garlic, oregano, pepper, salt, thyme, and rosemary for about 3 minutes. Avoid browning the garlic.
- Add the tomatoes, basil, onion and sugar. Heat until the mixture is simmering.
- Reduce heat to the lowest setting and cook until the sauce is reduced by half. This should take 1-2 hours.
- Season with additional salt.
I used this recipe from urbancheesecraft, and adjusted the seasonings as follows. There are great step-by-step photos on their site. It takes about an hour to make. You need a thermometer.
- 1/2 gallon of whole milk
- 3/4 tsp citric acid
- 1/8 of a rennet tablet
- These are enzymes for the cheese. Traditionally, they are found in the stomach lining of sheep and goats. You can get vegetarian ones from Amazon. Store the extras in the freezer.
- 1/2 tsp of dried basil (or whatever other herb you want)
- 1 tsp cheese salt (non-iodized salt works fine too)
- 1 cup of chlorine free water, divided in two
- You can dechlorinate tap water by boiling it for about 20 minutes. Allow it to cool completely before using.
- Dissolve the rennet in 1/2 cup of dechlorinated water. Stir, set aside.
- Dissolve the citric acid in 1/2 cup of dechlorinated water. Stir, set aside.
- Heat the milk and citric acid solution in a large pot to 90F, stirring to prevent scorching.
- Add the rennet solution and stir for ~20 seconds. Don’t overstir, as the rennet will not like this. Heat to 105F.
- The curds should be coagulating. You can slice them into 1 inch cubes at this point. Stir the cubes gently for another minute and take it off of the heat.
- Separate the curds from the whey by using a cheesecloth or a slotted spoon.
- Ladle the curds in a microwavable bowl. Heat them for about 1 minute.
- Use a spoon (or hands) to fold the curds over several times to distribute the heat. Drain the excess whey.
- Microwave again for about 30 seconds and gently knead the curd. The curd should be 135F to stretch properly.
- Add the salt and herbs. Knead them into the cheese. Stretch and fold the cheese about 10 times to mix well.
- You can shape the cheese into a ball, braid it, or whatever shape you like. I found that a ball was the easiest to slice for the pizza.
- The mozzarella is ready to use! I used 1/2 of the ball for each pie. If you have extra, it will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week.
Putting the Pizza Together
- Place the 14.75 inch pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to the highest temperature possible. On my oven, this is 550F.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 14 inch diameter.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured plate, slab, or piece of cardboard. Whatever you choose, it should be large enough to accommodate the dough. We will put the toppings on this surface, and the pizza will slide off easily to the stone in the oven.
- Ladle the sauce to the dough. Use as much or as little as you want!
- Slice the mozzarella thinly, and place on the pizza.
- Add whatever additional toppings you desire (jalapenos, mushrooms, extra onions, bell peppers, etc).
- Bake for about 5 minutes. Check the pizza by lifting an edge and checking the bottom. If it’s browned, it is ready. If not, cook for longer.
Oh, Italian food… Making me drool since I discovered spaghetti. Someday, I’m going to try making my own pasta from scratch, but that is all kinds of barrels of work, so I’ll settle for the store-bought kind for now. Tomato cream sauce is a special thing. You can make it a few different ways, and I looked at three recipes to come up with this one. It did turn out a little spicy, but I like it like that.
This recipe will make about 6 servings.
- 2 cans of diced tomatoes (try to get the organic ones since tomatoes are on the Dirty Dozen)
- 1 cup of cream (try to get organic for this too, since dairy cows are otherwise fed all sorts of weird stuff)
- 1 cup of vegetable stock
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 medium-large onion, diced
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/4-1/2 tsp sugar (adjust this amount to taste)
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- crushed red pepper, to taste
- salt, to taste
- 2 tbsp dried basil
- 1/4-1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
- ~1/2 cup (+ slightly more for topping) of grated Parmesan (Try to get it in a proper block and grate it yourself. The pre-grated variety at the store is more cellulose than cheese.)
- ~1 lb pasta
- 3 large Portabella mushroom caps, sliced
- Heat the butter in a medium-large pot. When it’s hot enough to sizzle, add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Cook for about a minute or two.
- Stir in the oregano, dried basil, paprika, crushed red pepper, and black pepper with the vegetables. Let it cook for another minute.
- Pour in the tomatoes and vegetable stock. Add a dash of sugar and some salt, to taste.
- Let the mixture simmer for 30-45 minutes.
- Take the tomato sauce off of the stove. Stir in the heavy cream, most of the fresh basil, and cheese.
- Cook your pasta. Once it is al dente, drain (never rinse) the pasta and set it in the sauce. Reserve about 2 tbsp of the starchy water, and combine it with the pasta sauce. Toss well.
- Sprinkle some remaining cheese and fresh basil on each serving of pasta.
What’s better than cooking a hearty meal for people you love? My boyfriend and I entertained two friends this weekend, and we decided to make this creamy tomato pasta and spread. We served it with some homemade foccacia, white wine, pecorino romano & apple slices. It was fabulous.
This recipe serves 8 people.
- 1.5 lbs fettuccine
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 diced red onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 16 oz cans of organic tomato sauce (why organic? see this post: Are all vegetables equal?)
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 2 tbsp fresh rosemary
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground thyme
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1 tsp Oregano Basil Tomato spice blend
- 1 tsp Garlic & Onion spice blend
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tbsp organic tomato paste
- fresh basil, chopped
- shredded Parmesan cheese, to taste
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 head of broccoli, cut in bite-sized pices
- 2 portabella mushroom caps, sliced in 1 inch pieces
- Leek, Goat Cheese, & Pesto spread
- 8 oz pesto
- 1/3 cup goat cheese
- 2 leeks, sliced in thin rings (Jacques Pepin made a good point about cutting leeks: the younger inside parts of the leek are more tender than the older outside parts, so when cutting off the tough dark green areas, you should do it layer by layer so as to use as much of the leek as possible)
- lemon slices
- 1-2 tsp Oregano Basil Tomato spice blend
I based the recipe on these two blog posts I found: Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce and Bruschetta with Leeks, Goat Cheese, and Bacon
- Use some olive oil to cook the leeks. Stir in the spices.
- Once the leeks are soft and a little golden, set them aside and save the oil.
- Mix the pesto, goat cheese, and leeks together.
- Serve with lemon slices on the side.
- Prepare the fettuccine per package directions.
- Cook the onions, garlic, and rosemary in the olive oil and butter for about 2 minutes.
- Add all the spices and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, and sugar. Simmer on low for 25-30 minutes.
- Add additional spices to taste.
- Take off of the heat and stir in the heavy cream and cheese.
- Saute broccoli in the same olive oil you cooked the leeks in. Cook until they’re soft, then add the mushrooms.
- Toss the sauce, broccoli, mushrooms, and pasta together and serve. Garnish with basil.