All Posts Tagged ‘Tomatoes

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sunday dinner: gnocchi pomodoro with fresh mozzarella.

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Guys. Hi! Guess what? I moved to Portland, Oregon. Say whaaaaat?! Yes, Plumber’s Daughter has gone West. Well, returned to the West is more accurate. My roots are here, my family is here, and now, after a nine year stint away, I’m here.

This was a big move, and one that came about rather quickly. To be honest, I wasn’t ready. New York and I were in a committed, long term relationship. He was about to put a ring on it. But, as Hugh Laurie so astutely observes, ‘It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready,’ so here I am, in a new/old city, writing a new chapter. And you know what? So far so good.

Here are the things that have happened since I moved to Portland:

  1. It’s been raining like a motherfucker. Harsh words, yes, but when Oregon is breaking rain records, you know it’s serious. Where oh where have you gone, my beloved sunshine? Can we please do lunch soon? Call me.
  2. I’ve taken up loom weaving. Hey, if you’re going to move to the hipster capital of America, you should probably take up a super obscure craft. Here’s to many a sexy afternoon spent in a yarn store.
  3. So much has changed, and yet, so little has changed. I drove (drove!) past the Thai restaurant I basically lived in in college and it’s still freaking there. Fried bananas and thai iced tea for life, y’all. At the same time, entire new neighborhoods have sprung up that didn’t exist when I lived here before (did you know that Portland also has a neighborhood named Brooklyn? I sure didn’t).
  4. New city, new chapter, new JOB. Three weeks in and I’ve figured out where my office is and where the cafeteria is. That’s success in my book. #onboarding

I’m on the right track here in the PNW, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss New York. The city will forever live in my heart, and will always be a major player in my kitchen. One of the last dinners I had in NYC was at one of my faves, Frank, a tiny hole in the wall East Village red sauce joint. It’s classic New York. Classic Italian. And you don’t go to Frank without ordering the gnocchi. A straight forward dish, Frank’s gnocchi is simply red sauce and pasta with a little basil. And yet, it’s the most comforting thing you’ll ever eat, and it’s one of the things I miss most about the city that never sleeps.

My version of gnocchi and red sauce has a few ingredients not seen in Frank’s version, namely the welcome addition of fresh mozzarella. It captures the spirit of Frank, and the spirit of New York City, and it will be my go to when I miss the city the most.

This dish is a breeze to bring together — if you can boil water and operate an oven, you can master this business. Enjoy it with some good crusty bread to soak up the extra sauce, a big ol’ glass of red wine, and friends/loved ones who won’t judge you for making weird guttural noises at the table and licking the bowl because it’s just that good.

If I can’t be in NYC, this is certainly the second best option.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Gnocchi Pomodoro with Fresh Mozzarella
Serves: 4 appetizer portions or 2 entree portions

You will need:

¼ cup plus one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 sprigs fresh oregano
4 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh basil plus more for garnish
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ yellow onion, diced
1 28-oz can tomatoes, diced or crushed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup half and half
1 package fresh gnocchi pasta
10 small cherry-sized fresh mozzarella balls, halved
½ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

Kitchen equipment: large oven safe sauté pan, large pot

Ahhhh, just looking at the ingredients of this dish gets me all kinds of excited. So much YUM up in here.

Start the pomodoro sauce. Heat ¼ cup olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add all of the fresh herbs (with the exception of the basil to be used for garnish) and toss quickly to coat the herbs in the oil. Cook for approximately 5 minutes until the herbs are crisp. The goal here is to infuse the herb flavor into the oil which will bring a brightness to the pomodoro sauce. Once the herbs are crisp, remove them from the oil and discard. Add the garlic and onions to the oil and cook until fragrant and translucent, about 5-7 minutes, turning the heat down slightly if necessary so you don’t burn the garlic (burnt garlic = bitter = bad).

Add the tomatoes to the garlic/onion mixture, making sure to include all the juices from the can. Stir to incorporate and season with salt, pepper and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes until the sauce reduces and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in half and half.

Cook the pasta. Heat some generously salted water to boiling in a large pot. Add the gnocchi and cook for approximately 3 minutes, until pasta floats to the top of the water. Remove the cooked gnocchi from the water and immediately transfer to the pan with the pomodoro sauce, spreading evenly.

Bring it all together. Set your oven to broil, ensuring you have an oven rack in the top position. Add the halved mozzarella balls to the pasta and sauce, distributing evenly among the gnocchi. Sprinkle the grated parmesan over the top of the pasta and mozzarella and drizzle with the extra tablespoon of olive oil. Season with a bit more pepper and red pepper flakes if you like. Place the pan in the oven on the top rack and broil for 5-7 minutes, watching closely, until the cheese is melted and the gnocchi are crisp and golden brown. Remove from oven, top with basil garnish and serve immediately.

Warm and rich and cozy and bright, all with a little kick. New York City in a bowl. The perfect reminder of my favorite city, and something to cherish in the new place I call home.

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sunday dinner: pork ragu with parmesan semolina gnocchi.

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Oooooooh boy. Guys, I am tired. A full day (and I mean FULL) in the kitchen will do that to you, but I am hear to say that the effort was totally worth it. Any day that starts with purchasing a bone-in pork shoulder from my friendly neighborhood butcher and ends with a flavor-packed bowl of pork ragu topped with pillowy light gnocchi laced with parmesan is a good one. HOO-RAH. Two times.

You too can have this kind of fun if you’re willing to dedicate a full day (or two) to this laborious process. Truth be told I’ve been wanting to try a Sunday sauce for a long time now, but I never had the time or the willpower to take on the task. Enter a rainy Sunday morning when I happened to be awake on the north side of 9am (I like to sleep, no judgement). And I was just inspired. Pair that with finding the perfect recipe to try and I was off to the market, canvas totes in tow.

The quality of ingredients is key here — splurge a bit for some really great quality pork and DO NOT go for boneless pork shoulder because ‘it’s easier’ or ‘bones, ewww, gross’. You’ll lose out on major flavor and that is a no no where ragu is concerned. Grab the veggies (local, organic pretty please) and a good bottle of dry red (I used Cab) and get to cookin’.

I can guarantee you’ll feel mighty accomplished when you sit down to enjoy your labor of love in 8-ish (OK, maybe 10-ish) hours time.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Pork Ragu with Parmesan Semolina Gnocchi
Serves: 6
(inspired by this recipe from The Kitchn)

For the pork ragu:
canola oil
4 lb. bone-in pork shoulder, trimmed of fat
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finally chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice (I like San Marzano)
1 cup chicken stock
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced

For the gnocchi:
4 cups whole milk
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup grated parmesan, divided
3 eggs yolks, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon sea salt

Kitchen equipment: large oven-safe pot or dutch oven, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, baking sheet, wooden spoon or spatula, cutting board, large kitchen knife

OK, I was not lying/exaggerating, this recipe really does take ALL DAY. Like so much of your day that it’s actually better to do this over two days. However you choose to get it done, just know that you will be spending some major time in the kitchen, so cancel the rest of your weekend plans. Okie dokie, we’re good to go now, yes?

Make the gnocchi dough. Were you looking for a little arm workout for your Sunday? Well, you’ve got one. Making this gnocchi dough requires constant stirring for what feels like 4 lifetimes, so you’ll come away with a gorgeous dish and some sweet guns. Bonus points all around.

Grab your sauce pan and heat the milk over medium heat until a ring of bubbles forms around the edges. Using your wooden spoon, gradually stir the semolina flour into the milk and set a timer for 15 minutes. Now, stir. And stir and stir and stir and stir. The mixture will thicken quickly and you will keep stirring. Don’t forget to clear the corners and the sides of the pan every once in awhile to prevent the semolina from burning. Keep stirring constantly until your alarm goes off, then stir for 2-3 minutes longer. The dough should be dense and very thick. Remove from the heat and pour the dough into a large bowl. Mix in 2/3 cup of the parmesan and stir to incorporate. Add the eggs and the salt and stir vigorously to incorporate (and to prevent the eggs from scrambling). Let cool slightly, then place some plastic wrap directly on the surface of the dough. Stick the dough in the refrigerator and cool completely. Alternatively, you can make this the night before and refrigerate overnight to save time on sauce day.

Prep the pork. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place your pork shoulder on a large cutting board and trim off the excess skin and fat. Pat the pork dry and season liberally on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat your large pot over high heat and add a few tablespoons of canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the pork shoulder to the pot and sear on all sides until golden brown. Remove the pork from the pot and set aside.

Build the sauce. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the chopped bacon to the pot you used to cook the pork. Render the bacon for about five minutes, then add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the garlic and cook another minute or so.

Toss in the tablespoon of tomato paste and stir the mixture constantly to incorporate, about two minutes. Pour in the wine and cider vinegar and turn the heat up a bit. The goal is to reduce the sauce slightly and pick up all those gorgeous brown bits on the bottom. Add the tomatoes and all of their juice and season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Cook the pork. Add the pork shoulder back to the pot, and using your tongs, situate the pork so it’s nearly submerged in the sauce. Add a liberal pinch of red pepper flakes and a big ol’ pinch of sugar plus a bit more salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate.

Bring the pork and sauce to a boil, then cover and transfer to the oven. Cook about three hours, turning the pork once, until the meat is falling off the bone and easily shreddable.

Finish the sauce. Remove the pot from the oven and transfer the pork shoulder from the pot to your cutting board. Shred the pork while still hot using two forks. Add the shredded pork back to the sauce and stir to incorporate. Cover and place in the refrigerator to cool. You don’t want to skip this step, as this allows the flavors to meld and the sauce to thicken.

Cook the gnocchi. When the sauce is completely cooled and you’re ready to eat, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Take the gnocchi dough from the refrigerator and grab your baking sheet. Grease the sheet with a little canola oil and a paper towel, then using a spoon, form tablespoon-sized dumplings and place them on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Sprinkle a little parmesan on each dumpling, then place in the oven on the top rack and cook for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is nicely browned.

Bring it all together. Take the cooled pork ragu out of the refrigerator and reheat over medium-low heat until warm. Ladle the sauce into bowls and top with the gnocchi, a little sprinkle of parmesan and some freshly chopped basil.

Enjoy your work with a nice glass of bold red and a group of loved ones. Or with a bold red and your couch and some trashy reality TV. Also for lunch tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. You get the idea.

This is blow-your-mind good food and well worth the effort. Hearty and rich and filling and everything a good Sunday sauce should be.

Enjoy! xx

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sunday dinner: chicken tortilla stew.

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It is officially one pot season, y’all. OK, I know that’s not an actual season, but it is a favorite time of year over here at Casa Radeke. I don’t know about other parts of the country, but the Northeast has gone full Fall practically overnight, and now all I want to eat are cozy things — soups and stews, casseroles, mac and cheese — basically anything warm and hearty.

Stew probably tops that list as my favorite one pot meal, not only because stews pack a wallop of flavor, but also because I love the cooking process. Having something bubbling away on the stove for hours just adds to the romance of the season, not to mention it makes my house smell insanely good.

This chicken tortilla stews checks all the right seasonal boxes — it’s an easy one pot meal, it’s hearty as all get out, and it packs a variety of delicious flavor, a mix of spice and earthiness and tang that just makes me happy when I eat it.

For my veggie-friendly readers, this is easily translated into a vegetarian meal — just nix the chicken and chorizo and switch out the chicken broth for some vegetable stock. You could also sub the chicken for some mushrooms and/or zucchini if you want to maintain the heartiness of the dish.

No matter how you make it, this one’s a keeper and should carry you through Fall as cozy as your favorite flannel.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Chicken Tortilla Stew
Serves: 6

You will need:
1 pound chicken breasts
3/4 pound chorizo sausage, broken into bite size pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 medium onion, chopped
8 small red potatoes, diced
1 15-oz can chopped tomatoes
1 15-oz can black beans, drained
1 15-oz can kernel corn, drained
2 chipotle chiles, diced
1 quart chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For garnish:
1 sack corn tortilla chips
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 avocado, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
2 limes, cut into wedges
corn tortillas, warmed

Kitchen equipment: large soup pot, small saucepan

Poach the chicken. You could just sauté your chicken as you cook the stew, but I prefer to poach it first since poaching the chicken allows you to get that shredded chicken yumminess that takes this stew to another level. And it only adds about 15 minutes to your overall prep time.

To poach the chicken, place the chicken breasts in a small saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Add two of the smashed garlic cloves and a bay leaf if you have it. Add just enough water to the pan to cover the chicken, then set on high heat on the stove and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 8 minutes. At the 8-minute mark, check to see if the chicken is cooked all the way through; if so, pull ‘em out, if not, cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Once the chicken is fully cooked, shred with two forks and set aside.

Start the stew. Preheat your large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan and when hot, add the poached chicken. Lightly brown chicken for about two minutes, then add the other three garlic cloves and the chorizo. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes, breaking up the chorizo as it cooks.

Add the veggies. Add the onions and potatoes to the chicken-chorizo mixture and cook another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, then stir in the tomatoes, beans, corn and chipotle chiles. Add the chicken stock and bring the stew to a boil.

Reduce and simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. The stew is ready when the potatoes are soft and the broth has a nice spicy tang to it.

Garnish and serve. Here’s where the fun begins. I like to set up a toppings bar with the chips, shredded cheese, avocado, cilantro and lime wedges, and let everyone go wild with the garnishing. If I’m doing it, I would ladle the stew into a shallow bowl, then top with a generous handful of crushed tortillas, a bit of shredded cheese, then a sprinkling of cilantro and the chopped avocado. Top with a squeeze of lime over the stew as a final garnish. Serve with warmed tortillas on the side to sop up the goodness.

This stew will warm you to your core and you’ll be impressed with how much flavor comes out of something that took less than an hour to make. The other great thing about this recipe is it makes A LOT of stew, so you’ll have plenty of leftovers to feed on over the next few days (or months, it also freezes incredibly well). Cozy to the max, all from one little pot. Enjoy!

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sunday dinner: pan-seared steak & farmers market salad.

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It’s September, guys. SEPTEMBER (where does the time go?!). And the whole world is all pumpkin spice lattés and knee-high boots over jeans and apple picking and pumpkin patches, but you know what? IT’S STILL SUMMER. It is. Don’t get me wrong, I love Fall like WHOA, but I’m going to make the most of every last golden hour of this gorgeous season. I’m going to shout it from the rooftops like a crazy person because it’s still 80 degrees and I wanna go to the beach not the corn maze. We’ll leave sweater weather for next week.

This week is all about good meat and great veggies. The true stars of summer. Let me talk to you about what your Sunday should look like.

First, make friends with your butcher. Get him to cut you a good piece of meat. A nice NY strip or a ribeye. One that’s not too thick, not too marbled, one that’s juuuuuuust right. He’ll know which one. Your butcher will not lead you astray.

Next, the farmers markets in the Northeast are still positively bursting with amazing vegetables these days, so go hang out in one for awhile. Pick up some of those insanely delicious tomatoes, a few of the greenest beans, and a variety of fresh herbs. Grab some beets if they have ‘em, otherwise make a quick trip to the grocery store to fill out your menu.

This is simple, good food, people. It doesn’t need much, and it is the BEST. The best. Just like Summer.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Pan-Seared Steak and Farmers’ Market Salad
Serves 2

You will need:

For the steak:
2 6-8oz steaks, strip steak or ribeye is best
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
1 small container cherry or grape tomatoes
4 small beets, trimmed of roots and stems
¼lb green beans
fresh feta cheese
a handful of each of the following: basil, mint, flat leaf parsley
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kitchen equipment: cast iron pan, tin foil, baking sheet, tongs

This is the kind of dinner that produces gourmet taste with minimal effort. Literally the hardest thing you will do is chop vegetables. Promise.

Before you start anything, remove your steak from the fridge and set on a plate with a few paper towels. The goal is to allow your steak to come to room temperature, and the paper towels will soak up any excess moisture. The dryer the steak, the better the sear.

Roast the beets. You need to take care of your beets first as they will need the longest amount of time to cook. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub your beets clean and place on top of a piece of tin foil. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Fold the foil over the beets to form a little packet, leaving a little breathing room for the steam that will be produced during the cooking process. When the oven is up to temperature, roast your beets for 45 minutes until they are soft and a vibrant purple. When your beets have about 10 minutes left on their cooking time, place the cast iron pan on the bottom rack of the oven (more on this later). When you hit the 45-minute mark, remove the beets from the oven, cool slightly, then rub off the skin with a paper towel. Cool completely, slice in 1/4 inch slices and set aside.

Prep the salad veggies. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil over high heat on the stove. Cut the ends off the beans and cut in half, then add the boiling water. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove from the hot water and place in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.

Chop the tomatoes and the fresh herbs and place in a large salad bowl, adding the beans and the sliced beets. Toss with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Just before serving add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a few good chunks of feta.

Cook the steak. Once the beets are out of the oven, turn the temperature up to 500 degrees, keeping the cast iron pan in the oven. When the oven reaches 500 degrees, remove the pan (VERY CAREFULLY) and place it on a burner on high heat. Let the pan continue to heat on the stove for another 5 minutes or so. This may seem extreme but the high heat in the pan is what is going to give you a good sear on your steak.

While your pan heats on the stove, drizzle your steak with a little olive oil and rub it into the meat. Generously season both sides of the steak with salt and pepper. Add your steak to the hot pan using your tongs and don’t move it for 30 seconds. You may want to turn on your kitchen fan as the steak is likely to smoke. After 30 seconds, flip the steak and cook another 30 seconds.

Next, carefully place your pan back in the hot oven and cook for two minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, flip the steak, and cook for another two minutes (these times will produce a medium rare steak; adjust accordingly for your preferred temperature). Remove from the oven and place the cooked steak on a plate tented in foil to rest for about 10 minutes. By letting the steak rest, you allow it to reabsorb its delicious juices, which will boost the flavor and prevent a dry steak.

Once your steak has had it’s little power nap, slice it thinly against the grain and serve with a little steak sauce on the side. I made this one, and it’s delicious, but no judgment if your “homemade” steak sauce is A-1. No one will ever know.

Enjoy the simplicity of this meal — one that makes great use of a good piece of meat and the glory that is a late Summer farmers market. And enjoy the season, my friends, savor every last moment of this sweet, sweet Summer.

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meatless monday: spiced veggie tostadas with lime crema & salsa fresca.

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Can we talk about the phrase ‘meat substitute’ for a minute? A strange topic for a holiday Monday, I know, but I’d like to discuss. And what I’d like to discuss is how much I don’t like this phrase or the concept it describes. Why, you ask? I’ll tell you.

First of all, I personally don’t think that a proper ‘substitute’ for meat exists. And that’s not to say that meat is better than any other protein option out there, or that you should only eat meat, but I don’t think you can sub in a vegetable protein with the same result. Meat — whether you’re talking about beef or pork or any variety of poultry — has a specific flavor and texture that I don’t think is easily replicated. Never in my life have I been ‘tricked’ by a meat substitute to think that it’s actually meat. ‘Oh my! Is this a vegetable patty or a juicy steak? I just can’t tell!’ No. That’s never happened.

Second, and here’s the real kicker for me — vegetables are AWESOME. Like, I really really love them. So why do we need to relegate them to second class status? Why do they need to be a substitute for anything? I think they’re pretty amazing all on their own, so let’s celebrate that by cooking them in the way they should be cooked (which is to say, simply, and with little fanfare) instead of wasting our time inventing things like tofurkey (blech). OK, off my soapbox.

This recipe does exactly that — it celebrates vegetables the way they should be, with flavors that are layered and rich and full of umami. It’s a veggie party on a corn tortilla platter.

No meat necessary.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Spiced Veggie Tostadas with Lime Crema & Salsa Fresca (adapted from Blue Apron)
Serves 2

You will need:

Tostadas
1 medium eggplant
1 sweet bell pepper or 4-5 small sweet peppers
2 ears sweet corn
1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
1 can refried beans (either pinto or black beans will do)
1 can diced jalapeños
4 corn tortillas
Mexican or cajun seasoning (or make your own with 1/2 teaspoon each of oregano, chile powder, cumin and garlic powder)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Lime Crema
1/4 cup sour cream (or Mexican crema if you can find it)
Juice of 1/4 lime
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salsa Fresca
1 medium tomato
1 avocado
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 lime
Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

Kitchen equipment: baking sheet, large saute pan, various sizes of mixing bowls

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees for your tortillas.

Prep your vegetables: While the oven is coming up to temperature, prep your veggies. First wash and slice your eggplant into 1/4 inch slices, discarding the ends. Cut off the stem ends of your peppers and remove the seeds and ribs. Slice the peppers into thin strips. Shuck the corn, removing any stray silk, then cut the corn off the cob with a sharp knife. Pit the avocado and chop roughly; place it in a bowl with the juice of 1 lime wedge. Core and rough chop the tomato and add it to the avocado. Thinly slice one half of the onion and finely chop the other and place the chopped half in a small bowl with the juice of 1/2 lime. Set aside. Wash and pat dry the cilantro, then rough chop until you have about a handful.

Whew! Anyone need a break?

I know, lots of prep work, but it will all be worth it in the end, I promise.

Bake the tortillas: Next, take your tortillas and place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Drizzle a little more oil on each tortilla, then flip them back and forth until both sides are thoroughly coated in oil. Bake for 6-8 minutes, then flip and back another 2 minutes, until tortillas are golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oven and immediately season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Make the lime crema: mix the sour cream with the lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Make the salsa fresca: Add the onion-lime mixture to the tomato-avocado mixture and toss to incorporate. Add the chopped cilantro, a little drizzle of olive oil, and another shake of salt and pepper. Mix it up and set aside.

Make the beans: Mix together the refried beans and the jalapeños in a small, microwave-safe bowl, then microwave on high for two minutes. Stir and set aside.

Cook the veggies: Combine the eggplant slices with a drizzle of olive oil, the mexican/cajun seasoning and a grind of salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Heat two teaspoons olive oil in your saute pan over medium-high heat, then add the seasoned eggplant in a single layer. Allow the eggplant to brown without touching them much, flipping after about 4 minutes. Brown the other side for another 3ish minutes, then remove from the pan and place on a plate with a paper towel.

In the same pan you used to cook your eggplant (don’t wipe it out, that leftover spice will be great on your veggies), add a touch more oil, then add the peppers and corn. Saute until the veggies are slightly soft and charred, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to the plate with the eggplant.

Bring it all together: The finish line is in sight, folks! Hang in there for the delicious.

Take your baked tortillas, placing two on each plate. Spread a thin layer of beans on each tortilla, then top with a few slices of eggplant. Add a spoonful or two of the pepper-corn mixture, then drizzle with a little lime crema. Finish with a large spoonful of salsa fresca and a few extra leaves of cilantro. Serve with extra beans and veggies on the side.

I highly recommend a Mexican beer as the perfect pairing to this meal; the crisp bubbles of the beer bring out the rich spices of the veggies. These babies are far from a ‘meat substitute’, they are first class delicious.

Carnivores and herbivores unite! This one’s a keeper.

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sunday dinner: summer panzanella.

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I love a good salad. It’s crunchy and refreshing and healthy and comes together easily because no actual cooking is involved. But do you know what I love even more than a regular old salad? A regular old salad with carbs. Lots of ‘em. Take out the lettuce and replace it with bread. Why not? The Italians did it and the Italians know what’s up.

A traditional panzanella (or bread salad) is a simple combination of tomatoes and crusty bread with a little drizzle of vinegar and oil. It’s incredibly delicious and incredibly versatile — you can literally add anything you want and/or have in your fridge. I’ve fancied up my panzanella with the addition of fresh peaches, a little cured meat, and some buffalo mozzarella, and I’ve loaded on the fresh herbs for that extra kick. Summer’s finest, y’all.

Top with a little tangy vinaigrette and you’ve got a party. A party in a salad. A party in a salad with lots o’ good carbs. YUM.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Summer Panzanella (aka Italian Bread Salad)

You will need:

Salad
1 crusty baguette, torn into pieces (preferably day old bread but no worries if it’s fresh)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 peach, cut in half and sliced thin
½ log salami or other cured meat, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
¼ ball of buffalo mozzarella, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup arugula
8 leaves basil, torn
8 leaves mint, torn
Handful of Italian parsley (flat leaf), torn

Vinaigrette
¼ cup vinegar (red wine, white wine or apple cider vinegar are best)
¼ extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kitchen equipment: baking sheet, large salad or mixing bowl

A good panzanella needs an hour or two to sit so the vinaigrette has a chance to soak into the bread and work its magic, so make this a few hours ahead of time and set aside on the counter (don’t put it in the fridge; chilling the tomatoes will completely destroy their sweetness).

If your bread is day old, then all you really need to do tear it into bite-sizeish pieces and you’re good to go. If your bread is fresh, however, it needs a little prepping.

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spread your torn bread pieces on a baking sheet, and toast on the top rack of your oven for 8-10 minutes until toasty but not too brown. Once toasted, remove from oven and add to your large salad bowl.

Slice your shallots into thin rings and add to a cup of cool water. Set aside to soak for about 10 minutes. This will cut the ‘onion-y bite’ that would otherwise overpower the other ingredients while still maintaining their crunch.

Chop the tomatoes, slice the peaches and the salami, and tear the mozzarella into small pieces. Add all ingredients to the mixing bowl with the bread. Wash and dry the arugula and add to the bowl.

Tear the basil, mint and parsley and add to the bowl (are you starting to see a theme here?).

To make the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, honey and salt and pepper in a small bowl; then, whisking constantly, add the olive oil in a thin stream until completely incorporated.

Add the shallots to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and toss lightly. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss again to coat the ingredients thoroughly. Give it a dusting of salt and pepper and you’re good!

This salad is wonderful on its own (and by on its own I mean accompanied by a bottle of crisp rosé, obvi), but it’s also a great side dish to anything coming off the grill. I like to save a few pieces of toasted bread to add at the last minute so you have a nice mix of bread saturated with the dressing and bread that’s still crispy. Ever bite is a treat — herby and tangy and sweet summer tomato-y. DE. LISH.

Enjoy!

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sunday dinner: cacio e pepe (with a summer flair).

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The Romans, man. They are a good people. They know how to live. And eat. And drink. They’ve brought us game changing inventions like aqueducts, concrete and newspapers. And, you know, numerals.

But my favorite Roman invention? Cacio e Pepe. Say it with me, CA-CHEE-O EH PEH-PEH. Hands up emoji. The simplest of the simple, ‘cacio e pepe’ literally translates to ‘cheese and pepper’. And that’s really all it is. Pasta blended with butter and cheese and pepper that results in a rich, flavorful, incredibly simple dish that I dare you not to love instantly.

Add a little summertime flair (it’s TOMATO SEASON, y’all) and you’ve got yourself a game changer of a meal. Thanks, Romans. Grazie mille.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Summertime Cacio e Pepe
Serves: 2

6 ounces pasta (I used bucatini, but you could use spaghetti or linguini and achieve the same result)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan Reggiano
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino
1 small container cherry tomatoes
3-4 leaves basil, chopped in a chiffonade

Kitchen Equipment: large heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan, large pot, microplane or zester (for grating cheese), TONGS (I heart tongs)

I love this recipe. It’s so goddamn simple and the end product will just blow you away with incredible flavor. Like, how did so few ingredients pack such a wallop of awesome? Who knows? The Romans know, that’s who.

First things first, get your kitchen prepped so you have everything at your disposal when timing matters later. Using your microplane or zester, grate your cheese and set aside. By using this tool instead of a standard cheese grater, you are making it much easier for your cheese to become melty and saucy later, rather than the undesirable clumpy and oily, because you’re basically grating it in the smallest possible way. You’re making whispy cheese fluff, if you will. And I will. You can use a standard cheese grater if you don’t have a microplane (though I highly suggest you pick one up, it’s one of my favorite and most used kitchen tools), but make sure you use the smallest holes possible.

Wash and chop your tomatoes (if they’re small enough you can just cut them in half) and chiffonade the basil.

Next, take your big pot and fill it with about 3 quarts water and a good few shakes of sea salt (the best chefs will always tell you that pasta should be cooked in water that ‘tastes of the sea’…so salt it up, don’t be shy!). Heat on high until you achieve a rolling boil.

Add the pasta and cook about two minutes shy of the suggested cooking time (I would say about two to three minutes total cooking time for fresh pasta, about six minutes for dried). Don’t you fret, the pasta will finish cooking when we add it to the pan sauce later. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.

Meanwhile, in your large skillet or sauté pan, melt two tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the pepper and swirl the pan around for about a minute to toast the pepper. Your butter should brown slightly but not burn.

Next, add the reserved pasta water and swirl the pan again to pick up all the nicely toasted pepper particles. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the liquid is bubbling nicely. Add the pasta and the rest of the butter.

Now. Here’s where the magic happens. Turn the heat down to low and using your tongs, toss your pasta in the pan sauce until evenly coated. Add the grated Grana Padano and toss quickly with the pasta using your tongs until the cheese melts into the pan sauce and starts to coat the pasta. This should take no more than 10-15 seconds.

Remove the pan from heat and add the grated Pecorino, tossing in a similar fashion as the Grana Padano. Really swirl the pasta around the pan to pick up all of the pepper and cheese sauce. If you’ve done it right, you should be left with a gorgeous, shiny cheese sauce that smoothly coats the pasta and is punctuated by lovely bits of toasted pepper.

Serve immediately in large bowls and top with the chopped tomatoes and basil.

The only accompaniment you need to this is a good glass of wine and a friend or loved one. And maybe a nice view and a summer breeze. But shouldn’t those accompany all of your summertime meals?

I think so. And the Romans do too.