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Penne alla Vodka

No doubt you have had this dish at any one of thousands of Italian restaurants around the world. It really is quite simple once you have prepared the sauce. You can use canned tomatoes, but in this case I used 2 larger fresh tomatoes, NOT plum. I simply chopped them up. One thing of note – do NOT use more than 3 – 4 tablespoons of vodka, as it will leave the dish bitter…

Penne Vodka

Penne alla Vodka

Ingredients

  • 28 oz. whole plum tomatoes, undrained OR 2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 Tablespoons vodka
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons cold butter
  • Salt/Pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. Penne
  • Fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Instructions

Puree the tomatoes in a blender, food mill, or an immersion blender and set aside. You can decide how chunky or uniform you’d like the tomatoes to be. I simply chopped them up!

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced garlic and the basil. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant and softened.

Turn off the heat.

Add the vodka to the pan and let it sizzle. Turn the heat back to medium and reduce the vodka until there is about a Tablespoon left.

Add the pureed tomatoes and let it simmer for 45 minutes or so, allowing it to reduce and become quite thick.

During the last 12 minutes or so, cook the penne according to package instructions. For saucier pasta, use ¾ lb. instead of the full pound. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water.

Add the heavy cream and the red pepper flakes to the sauce.

Add 2 Tablespoons cold butter to the sauce, along with 1/4 cup pasta water. Stir to combine.

Season with salt/pepper if desired.

Add in the drained pasta.

Garnish with roughly chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese and serve!

 

 

Classic Cobb Salad + Dressing

Just in case you are wondering about the difference between  a Chef’s Salad and a Cobb Salad, here is what I found in Wikipedia

A Chef Salad and Cobb Salad both have lettuce, cheese and meats such as bacon, chicken breast, and ham, plus hard boiled eggs. But a Cobb salad usually has a mixture of lettuces, and also has avocado and tomatoes. It was named after Robert Cobb who was the owner of the famous Hollywood Brown Derby and created by his chef in 1937.

This is the Pinterest version I was able to locate. Cobb Salad Dressing.

Cobb Salad

Classic Cobb Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 strips bacon
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast or leftover baked ham, chopped
  • 3/4 head iceberg lettuce (or salad greens blend)
  • 8 grape tomatoes (I chopped up a Roma tomato)
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 1/2 ounces blue cheese crumbled
  • 3 ounces ranch dressing (or blue cheese dressing) OR Cobb Dressing below*
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lay out bacon strips on a foil-lined baking sheet. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until is crispy. Removed from oven and transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  2. Heat grill or a skillet over medium-high heat). Cook chicken, flipping once, for about 3-4 minute per side. Make sure chicken reaches 165 degrees F internal temp and is no longer pink. Remove to a plate to rest. (Substitute chopped ham in place of chicken).
  3. Rinse and dry lettuce, then remove outer leaves and core. Cut into bite-sized pieces and place on a platter or shallow serving bowl.
  4. Rinse and halve tomatoes. Place on top of the lettuce to one side of the bowl. Slice eggs and place next to the tomatoes in a line. Cut avocado in half, remove from skin and then chop or slice. Add next to eggs.
  5. Slice or dice chicken and place on salad next to avocado. Crumble bacon and place next to the chicken/ham. Crumble blue cheese and place next to bacon.
  6. Serve with the ORIGINAL dressing! 

Cobb Salad Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup salad oil
  1. Place all ingredients in a blend and blend together until well mixed.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to use.

 

Lemony Chickpea (Garbanzo), Tomato and Goat Cheese Salad

Okay Cousin Bonnie, here is the salad recipe you asked for…it was yummy!

 

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Lemony Chickpea, Tomato and Goat Cheese Salad

Recipe by Michela Chiappa from Michela’s Tuscan Kitchen

Ingredients –

600g ripe tomatoes (I just drained a can of diced tomatoes)

 1 small bunch fresh basil

 extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

small handful walnuts

½ jar good quality chickpeas (about 300g)

pinch of dried cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 lemon

2 good handfuls of arugula

1 small round of crumbly, soft goat’s cheese

 

  1. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add to a serving bowl. Rip in most if the basil leaves, keep the baby leaves to one side. Drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil and season with black pepper and salt.
  2. Place a small frying pan on a low heat, add the walnut halves and cook for 5 minutes until toasted and smelling delicious. When ready tip into a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, drain and the chickpeas. Add the cumin, oregano, lemon zest and half the juice and a drizzle of oil. Toss together with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Add the chickpeas to the tomatoes and toss together. Add the arugula and crumble over the goat’s cheese and walnuts.

Persian Saffroned Lamb

This is a great recipe for lamb lovers! If you are not into lamb then use beef… The sauce is incredible! I plated this dish with the saffroned rice over which I put the lamb and lots of sauce. For a complete meal, steam some great snow peas. Use any leftover sauce over some pasta for another meal the next day. So…what to serve for dessert? How about a wonderful strawberry rhubarb pie ice cream??? Watch for this recipe NEXT WEEK….

Persian Saffron Lamb, Slow cooker Style

• 2 – 3 pound boneless leg of lamb, or an equal amount of lamb shanks cut in cubes.
• 1 onion
• 2 Tablespoons butter, ghee, or neutral cooking oil of choice
• 2-3 Tablespoons pumpkin pie spice.
• 2 Tablespoons ground turmeric
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon coriander seed
• 2 Tablespoons saffron water (boil 1/4 cup water to the temperature you’d use to make tea. Add a pinch, approx. 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads to the water. Save the remaining water to add to whatever rice you choose to cook. I prefer Jasmine rice.
• 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and left whole (6 to 8 cloves)
• 2 15 oz. cans chopped Roma tomatoes
• Salt and pepper to taste
1. Remove fat from lamb using a sharp knife.
2. Chop onion into half moons. In a large Dutch oven. cooking pot, or skillet, heat fat over a medium heat and add onion, stirring often.
3. Allow onion to cook about five minutes. As it cooks, salt and pepper the outside of the meat. Remove onion from the pan. Place meat in the pot and sear it for 2-3 minutes per side…enough to get a nice crust on it. Remove meat from the pan and place, carefully, on a heat-safe surface.
4. Place onion back in the pan and add all spices EXCEPT saffron. Stir often, and cook for about 30 seconds, or until you begin to catch the scent of the spices. Put onion into slow cooker immediately.
5. Add the whole garlic cloves.
6. To the slow cooker, add the lamb, canned tomatoes, saffron water, and a pinch or two of salt and pepper (you can always adjust salt and pepper later).
7. Cook on high setting for 30 minutes. Stir. Cook an additional 2.5 to 3 hours.. Once the meat is done, taste sauce, adjust seasoning accordingly, serve over saffroned rice, and enjoy!

Spanish Bean Soup (Potaje de Garbanzos)

Still got that hambone in the freezer since Christmas? I was keeping ours to make split pea and ham soup, since I really miss the Canadian brand, Habitant. Every store I checked never had split peas, so I decided to try canned garbanzos. The Internet turned up this recipe, which I modified as seen by the red lettering.

It was suggested on the site that one could go to Honey Baked Ham and get a bone if you don’t have one. I was thinking after, why not just buy a ham steak and chop it up?

Let me know how you like it…

Spanish Bean Soup (Potaje de garbanzos) adapted from www.thekitchn.com
1 pound dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas) (I used a can of garbanzos)
8 ounces good-quality bacon or salt pork, chopped
1 (6-8 ounce) leftover hambone or smoked ham hock OR one ham steak
8 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced (you can omit)
1 small onion, chopped
1 ripe tomato, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped * I added a few more veggies like carrot and celery
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
Chicken stock or water, to cover (or mix of both)
Pinch of saffron threads
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed (canned will work)
Kosher salt and pepper
Wash garbanzo beans in cold water, discarding any beans with visible imperfections. Cover with 3 inches of salted water and soak overnight. Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly and set aside.
OR…use the canned ones to simplify your life and speed up the process
In a large Dutch oven, combine the bacon, ham bone, onion, tomato, green pepper, garlic, and bay leaf. Cover with two inches of chicken stock (or water) and bring to a boil, skimming off any foam as needed. Cover and lower heat to a gentle simmer.
Cook for 30 minutes, then add the reserved beans. Bring to a boil again, cover, and return to a simmer for another 30 minutes. Stir in the saffron and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until the beans are tender but not overcooked. Remove the ham bones, shredding and returning any meat left on the bones.
Add the potatoes and season with salt. Cover and cook until the potatoes are cooked through, another 30 minutes or less if using canned potatoes Season to taste.

Chow Chow Relish

Chow-chow (also spelled chow chow or chow chow) is a North American pickled relish made from a combination of vegetables. Mainly green tomato, cabbage, chayote, red tomatoes, onions, carrots, beans, asparagus, cauliflower and peas are used. These ingredients are pickled in a canning jar. After preserving, chow-chow is served cold, most often as a condiment or relish. (Wikipedia)

Tis the season for lots of fresh veggies. While visiting our friend in Waterloo, we sampled her friend’s relish. It was dynamite! She graciously consented to share the recipe, so here it is. Let me know if you make it and liked it! Now that we are home again, I will be making a batch. She tells me it can make 10 to 12 jars…maybe I will sell it…LOL. Thanks again Lorna!!

Seriously, I will cut the recipe in half…

Chow Chow Relish

6 qt basket tomatoes (8-10 large tomatoes)
3 large diced onions
2 cups diced celery
2 green peppers diced
1 red pepper diced
1 or 2 hot peppers
1 ½ cups vinegar
4 cups sugar – I use 2 brown and 2 white
2 tbsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup pickling spice tied in cheesecloth

1. Blanch tomatoes in boiling water; peel and chop.
2. Dice celery, onion and peppers – size as desired. (I do quick pulses in food processor for convenience; makes the chili sauce more minced than diced)
3. Tie pickling spice in cheesecloth and add to pot.
4. Stir in vinegar, sugar and spices.
5. Bring to slow boil. Simmer about 3 hours, or until desired consistency is reached.
6. Put into sterilized jars and seal. Keep in a cool place.
7. ENJOY!

Avocado Pasta

2 ripe avocados peeled
1/2 cup basil leaves
2 cloves of garlic
2 T. Lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
Parmesan cheese

Blend avocados with basil, garlic and juice. Drizzle in oil. Set aside. Serve with spaghetti or baked spaghetti squash, adding tomatoes and cheese at last minute.
Grill chicken breasts to serve with it for protein.

Tuscan Bread and Tomato Soup (Pappa al Pomodoro)

Several years ago we were in Fiesole, just outside Florence when we stopped for lunch at a small restaurant – Perseus. The special of the day was Ribollita, traditionally made with day old bread, tomatoes and cannelloni beans. Alas, it was not very memorable as it was mostly bread.

I just came across this version which had less bread, no beans and lots of tomato-ey flavour! We thought it was awesome and certainly worth making again. Heres a view of Fiesole –

757_5714And now here is the recipe I found with a few alterations…

Tuscan Bread and Tomato Soup

Ingredients

Extra virgin olive oil, plus high quality finishing oil, for garnish
1 large red onion, diced
Kosher salt
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped
1 cup white wine
2 pounds ripe summer tomatoes, diced (Substitute two cans of chopped tomatoes)
10 basil leaves, half whole and half cut into chiffonade
2 cups tomato juice
2 cups day-old Italian bread, crusts removed and cubed
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Coat a large wide pot with olive oil over medium heat and add the onions. Season with salt and crushed red pepper, to taste, and cook until the onions are soft and very aromatic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Toss in the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Add the wine and cook until it has reduced by half. Stir in the tomatoes, season with salt, to taste, and cook until the tomatoes are really soft and juicy, about 12 to 15 minutes. Toss in the whole basil leaves.

Working in batches, carefully puree the tomatoes in a blender*. Return the tomato puree to the pot and add the tomato juice and the bread. Cook the soup over medium heat for until the bread has completely lost its shape and the soup is really thick, about 20 minutes. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning, if needed. (I usually skip this process as I like my soups chunkier, which means I just dd the bread to the pot. You decide!)

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve garnished with grated cheese, basil chiffonade and a drizzle of big fat finishing oil.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Recipe courtesy Anne Burrell

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/anne-burrell/tuscan-tomato-and-bread-soup-pappa-al-pomodoro-recipe.html?oc=linkback

Soup Bowl Stew

Another classic dish from my cooking courses way back when. This is so easy, even  one of your kids could make it with supervision.

Soup Bowl Stew

35 meatballs bought at the store

15 oz. stewed tomatoes

1 cup small onions

1 can whole potatoes and the liquid

8 oz. any kind of vegetables (can be frozen)

1 tsp. chili powder

1 cup water

1 beef bouillon cube

Combine all ingredients on the stovetop. Heat to boil. Simmer 10 minutes. Serve.

Filetes a la Veracruzana (Fish Fillets in the style of Veracruz)

Lee was asking for some fish dishes a while back. Today and next week, I will post two excellent fish dishes which never fail….here’s my first favourite… you can also search here for salmon…

 

Filetes de pescado a la Veracruzana (Fish Fillets Braised with Tomatoes, Capers, Olives & Herbs)
No matter where fish is served, you can be sure that pescado a la Veracruzana will be on the menu. It’s a delicious blend of Old and New World ingredients: Capers, olives, herbs, and garlic weave their way through two of America’s greatest contributions to Mediterranean cuisine – tomatoes and chilies. Though practically any firm, white-fleshed fish would work well, when the dish is made with fresh Gulf snapper – as it often is in Veracruz – it’s a revelation.

This is a company favourite in Mexico….well worth the prep time!
Ingredients
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped (or 1 can of chopped tomatoes)
• 1 cup sliced pitted manzanilla (or green) olives, divided
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/4 cup capers, divided
• 1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapeño peppers, divided * (optional)
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
• 3 bay leaves
• 1 teaspoon salt, divided
• 6 (6-ounce) red snapper or other firm white fish fillets
• 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
• Flat-leaf parsley sprigs (optional)
Preparation
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add tomatoes, 1/2 cup olives, water, 2 tablespoons capers, 2 tablespoons jalapeños*, parsley, oregano, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until reduced to 6 cups. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Discard bay leaves.
Arrange fish in a single layer in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish; drizzle with lime juice, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes; discard marinade.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Spoon sauce over fish. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup olives, 2 tablespoons capers, and 2 tablespoons jalapeños*. Garnish with parsley sprigs, if desired.