Pesto Sauce all Trapanese

“How much pesto can you eat?”  is a question I always ask myself around this time of year.  By the time it’s nearing the end of August, I’ve had pasta with pesto sauce one too many times.  It’s time to freeze it, so I can enjoy it again during the winter months to perk my spirits.    Then I look at my garden, and see so much basil begging to be picked, that I start to feel a little guilty.  Recently, I was pinching away at the basil plants, and a recipe came to mind that wasn’t green.  I remembered seeing one of the TV chef personalities make a red pesto, using tomatoes and almonds.  I excitedly turned to my extensive cookbook collection in search of this pesto sauce that I’d never heard of before.  It had a strange name that was on the tip of my tongue, but who can remember much of anything these days!  Then, as if often does, it came to me! 

“Pesto alla Trapanese!” I found at least 5 recipes before I decided to stop looking and combine what I had found into my own recipe.  This is what I often do with pesto sauce just to keep it interesting and somewhat different each time.

I will share with you how I made this sauce, but feel free to change things. As I often say, you can’t go wrong with these ingredients.

RECIPE:

1 pound of spaghetti ( or any pasta hope you desire)

2 pints ripe tomatoes ( cherry or vine or Roma)

3 cups basil

1/2 to 2/3 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1/3 cups almonds

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving.

salt to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Toss the tomatoes with a little olive oil and salt.
  3. Bake in oven for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on what type of tomatoes you use. Let cool
  4. Meanwhile grind almonds and garlic in food processor.
  5. Add basil and grated cheese and pulse to a coarse paste.
  6. Add the cooled tomatoes and pulse until combined.
  7. While food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil.
  8. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, saving a cup of the pasta water.
  9. Toss pasta with the pesto sauce and grated cheese in a large serving bowl, using a little of the pasta water if it seems too dry.

Dandelion Frittata (Omelet)

dandelion omelet plated**

It seems that I make one major mistake every food delivery.  I either misjudge the quantity and get enough shredded cheddar cheese to top a couple of hundred tacos or I have enough limes to keep me in margaritas for the entire summer.  Unfortunately, this means I have to use it up before it goes bad in as many creative ways as possible.  My past post on sweet potatoes being a case in point.

A recent order from Baldors.com contained local, peak season dandelions.  Nothing could have made me happier.  If you go into the archives you will find 2 recipes for dandelions that I have loved since I was a child.   During the summer months, dandelions were often cooking in my mother’s kitchen, and this became a summertime ritual for me as well.  I was excited for them to arrive  it doesn’t take much these days), and was shocked to see a crate of dandelions delivered to my back door.  I was happy, but also overwhelmed.   It truly was enough for the next few months, but I knew they’d go bad relatively quickly.

And so it began……the endless washing and trimming and chopping and cooking and draining and bagging and delivering to anyone who would take them.  Then the creative juices had to flow a bit as how many sautéed dandelions could we eat?  I made dandelion pesto and pasta e fagioli with dandelions.  Vegetable soup loaded with dandelion greens was just delicious, as was the dandelion omelet I made for breakfast.  The possibilities were endless, but I was running out of steam.   Very few were wasted, however.  I now have a freezer full of dandelion pesto (use 2/3 dandelion leaves and 1/3 basil…even can add mint…check archives for pesto recipe).   This will sustain my love for dandelions all during the winter months.

But I think I most enjoyed it simply boiled, sautéed with garlic and oil and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Especially because I then make an omelet with the leftovers the next day.  There is not a better way to start the day!

I hope you’ll give these nutrient packed bitter greens a chance.  As I mentioned, please check the archives as well.

RECIPE:  serves 2 to 3

5 or 6  eggs

2 cups of  dandelions, sautéed in garlic and oil ( you can find the full recipe in the archives)

1/4 cup grated parmigiana reggiano cheese

2 TBSP olive oil for the pan

salt and pepper to taste

  1.  Beat the eggs with a whisk or fork.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Add the grated cheese to the beaten eggs.
  3. Warm the sautéed dandelions in a sauce pan.
  4. Add the egg mixture and cook over medium low heat until the side start to pull away and the bottom hardens.
  5. I then put the pan under the broiler until firm on top, but you can also flip it over and cook until slightly firm all the way through.dandelion crate 1dandelion cratedandelions pre-cutdandelions dryingdandelion omelet ready to godandelion pan cookeddandelion omelet plated**

 

 

Mocha Madness Ice Cream

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I love reading the “At Home” section of the Sunday New York Times each week.  Their recommendations for ways to navigate life during this time of COVID are great.  There are lots of good ideas for keeping yourself and your family happy and busy this summer.

My favorite pastime of late is making homemade ice cream.  I started this culinary hobby last summer when a friend of mine sent me the recipe for “Mocha Madness Ice Cream.”  I didn’t have an ice cream maker at the time, but took one look at the ingredients and immediately went online and purchased a machine.  There are so many machines to choose from at all different price points.  Not knowing the difference, I just picked the one that would look the nicest on my counter.  I knew that if I didn’t leave the machine out on the counter, it would quickly enter the “kitchen apparatus graveyard” ( the boiler room), and rarely be used.

That being said, last summer I only made home-made ice cream a couple of times.  I always made this mocha Oreo flavor and it was loved by all.  I started to think that perhaps I should “retire” the machine and gain back the counter space.  This summer, however, I seem to be making it every week.  Okay, maybe twice a week.  It’s so easy….so delicious…..and such a delightful treat to pick you up out of the dull drums.    It puts a smile on everyone’s face.  I keep telling myself that “we need this special treat.”   And indeed we do!!

So let me recommend the art of ice cream making.  There are so many fun flavors and you can use your creativity to come up with some of your own.  I must admit that this is the only flavor I have tried because it’s just that good.  If I’m going to make ice cream, this is what I want.  Maybe by August I’ll need a change……but then again, maybe not…..

**  Feel free to leave out the Oreos (why would you??!!) or mix in your own favorite add-ins.

Ingredients:

1 cup cold milk

3/4 cups sugar

2 Tablespoons expresso powder

2 Tablespoons cocoa powder

2 cups (1 pint) cold heavy cream or whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 ( well maybe 10) Oreo cookies, broken into small pieces

Directions:

  1.  Whisk or mix together the milk, sugar, expresso powder (can get this on Amazon), and cocoa until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.
  3. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.
  4. Stir cookie bits into soft ice cream and serve immediately or freeze and defrost until slightly soft before serving.

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Sweet Potatoes……two more ways!

During the height of COVID-19, it seemed as though everyone I knew had an abundance of sweet potatoes.  Whether it was a bulk order from Costco or Baldor, the sweet potatoes abounded.  I’m still trying to use up all the sweet potatoes I have.  Part of the problem was that the potatoes were the size of footballs.  One half of a potato could feed a family of four!  As a matter of fact, I still have two huge sweet potatoes from an April order still waiting to be cooked.

“Do you need sweet potatoes?” was a constant question.

“No thanks.  I have so many myself,” was the predictable answer.

After we baked them; boiled and mashed them; made sweet potato fries; candied them; and even made a sweet potato pie or two, we were still asking each other what the heck to do with these monstrous potatoes.  Not letting any food go to waste was of utmost importance.  We were so grateful to have what we had, for fear that food might (and sometimes did) become hard to get.

In my last stitch effort to use up these delightfully sweet additions to any meal, I was so happy to get a delicious new recipe from my daughter and one from a dear friend.  We had so many laughs over these potatoes that seemed to be reproducing during the night.  Truly another fond memory from such a tragic time in our lives.  Thanks Beth and Judith for memories!

Beth’s Baked Parmesan Sweet Potato Rounds:

3 medium sweet potatoes (or one of those huge ones I’ve mentioned)

4 TBSP melted butter

4 cloves of garlic , crushed or minced

3 TBSP chopped parsley

4 TBSP grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil spray

  1.  Peel potatoes and cut into 1 1/2 inch rounds
  2. Place potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil.  Cook until tender, but still firm, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Gently remove and drain.
  3. Lightly oil (or spray) a baking sheet pan and place potatoes on it.   Using a fork, lightly flatten each piece being careful not to mash.
  4. Mix the butter, garlic and parsley and pour over each potato slice.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and lightly spray with olive oil spray.
  5. Broil in oven until they are somewhat crispy, about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Return to oven until cheese is melted.

 

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B sweet potato plated ***Judith’s Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes:

3 medium sweet potatoes ( or one of those huge ones)

4 TBSP olive oil

several sprigs of fresh rosemary (you can chop some )

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel potatoes and cut into 2 inch cubes (or any size you like….larger or smaller)
  3. Combine potatoes with the oil, rosemary, salt and pepper in a bowl and stir to coat and combine.
  4. Place on a lightly oiled (or sprayed with olive oil spray)baking sheet pan.
  5. Bake for approximately 20 minutes (depending on size of cubes) or until tender on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside.

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B sweet potato plated ***

 

Apple-Blueberry Pie

blueberry pie plated

I’m excited to be back after several months of “lockdown.”   I’m not exactly sure why I wasn’t able to bring myself to blog during this period.  I wasn’t able to focus on much of anything other than the tragic and very frightening matter at hand.  Food was no longer enjoyable to me.  Just like you, I was spending all my time procuring food in as safe a manner as possible.  This wasn’t easy, and still isn’t for some of us.

Looking back now, I treasure the trips to friends’ houses, sharing food.  We either bought too much of something or couldn’t find something that we “desperately” needed.  A food drop-off at a friend’s might mean you brought them some sweet potatoes and onions, and you returned home with a packet of yeast, some flour and a roll of toilet paper.  I love how we shared.  And of course, I love how we shared recipes.  “What am I going to do with all these cucumbers?” I’d ask, and before I knew it, someone sent me a recipe for cucumber soup or cucumber salad.   “What are you making for dinner tonight?” we’d question, waiting to hear some exotic recipe that you now had to make.    And the baking!!!  Well we couldn’t let those apples go bad…..or the bananas….or all those chocolate chips we bought!!  And now that we had flour and yeast, we had to bake some bread!

Food brought us together.  Where to get it?  How to cook it?  I loved the SOS phone calls from friends who never cook, now desperate to learn.  Listening to their worries about how they would feed their families 7 nights a week was heartwarming.  Food heals, and food would heal their families.   Of this they were determined.  We would keep our loved ones safe through lovingly making meals night after night.  (Okay, some nights not so lovingly).

All this is so very endearing to me now.  It conjured up memories of my childhood, and the neighborly way my mom and her friends had the time to talk about food in this manner.  The childhood aroma of something always baking in the oven came back to me now, as I used up those apples and bananas, and we needed the comfort of some home baked bread.

I know we certainly aren’t out of the woods just yet, and life will be different for a while, but I’m now finding some comfort within these memories.  I’m hoping we hold on to the bonds we’ve formed and tightened from this experience for a long time.  There is something beautiful to be found amidst all this.  I hope I’ll continue to drive 25 minutes to pick up some blueberries and a recipe from my daughter and stay for a chat…….because we have the time……..

Here is a recipe she shared with me when we were both overcome with too many blueberries and our apples were starting to go bad.

RECIPE

1   Pillsbury frozen pie crust, defrosted as direct….or certainly your own homemade crust.

FILLING:

4 cups sliced peeled apples (approx. 4 medium apples)

2 cups fresh blueberried

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 TBSP lemon juice

TOPPING:

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/3 cup butter, softened

  1.  Place sheet of foil on rack below middle oven rack to catch drips (essential!).  Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place pie crust in 9 inch glass pie pan.
  3. In a large bowl, mix filling ingredients and set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix fruit topping ingredients with fork until crumbly.
  5. Spoon fruit into crust-lined pan,  Spoon topping evenly over fruit.  It may appear to be piled high, but it falls as it bakes.
  6. Place pie on middle oven rack over the foil.
  7. After 20 minutes, cover the entire pie loosely with aluminum foil to prevent excessive  browning.  Bake another 40 to 50 minutes.  Apples should be tender and filling bubbling a bit around the edges.
  8. Cool 2 hours.  It’s delicious warm or cold!

blueberry pie ingredients

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The Famous Breaded Pork Chops

pork chops plated closeup**

This is one of my favorite recipes, as it was given to me from a friend, along with the actual pork chops to be cooked!  Yes, she delivered the pork chops, and a delicious suggestion of how to make them.   How lucky could I get??!!

I should explain the “cult following” that these pork chops have attained, amongst my friends, these past few months.  They come from a butcher in a nearby town, and they are simply spectacular in their own right.   You could cook them in the oven with nothing on them, and they still would be incredibly tasty and melt in your mouth.   So one person, told another person, who told another person about them, and so on,  until now just about everyone I know buys these pork chops at this butcher shop!

We have shared this recipe for breaded pork chops amongst us as well.  It’s so easy, and so delicious.  Now I’m not suggesting that you have to get these particular pork chops from this particular butcher.  The recipe will turn any pork chop into a tasty meal that I’m sure will become a favorite.   This recipe stands alone, and truly deserves cult notoriety on its own.   If nothing else, it’s creating memories for sure.  I know we will look back someday on what we will fondly remember as “the year of the pork chops.”

Recipe:

2 – 4 pork chops

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

1 jar cherry peppers, hot or mild (your preference), sliced and juice reserved

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for the pan

  1. preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. lightly oil the bottom of a baking pan
  3. salt and pepper the pork chops
  4. dip the chops into the egg (both sides) and then the breadcrumbs (both sides)
  5. place chops in the baking pan.
  6. cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.
  7. after 35 minutes remove the foil and add the cherry peppers and 1/2 cup or so of the juice.
  8. cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness of chops.
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Pignoli (Pine Nuts) Cookies

pignoli plated**

There’s two day left for Holiday cookies, and these are quick and easy.  Actually, I don’t need a holiday to enjoy these cookies.  I make them all throughout the year.  They remind me more of Sunday dinners, rather than Christmas or New Year’s.  You could always count on a relative to bring an assortment of Italian cookies from a local bakery to Sunday dinner.  Pignoli cookies were my favorite, and I’d always have room for at least one cookie after that very filling dinner.  I’d pray that some would be left so I could enjoy them all week long.

I always assumed that they were difficult to make, so I never attempted them until several years ago.  I searched through many recipes to find that there is very little variation.  So over the years, I’ve changed a little “this” or added a bit more of “that,” and I’m always extremely happy with the results.  I hope you will be too.

I wish you all a healthy and happy 2020!!

Recipe:  makes about 2 to 3 dozen, depending on size

1 pound canned almond paste

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 large egg whites

1 cup pine nuts

confectioners’ sugar, for dusting, if desired.

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Crumble the almond paste into a mixing bowl, and beat with a hand mixer (or standing mixer) until finely crumbled.
  4. Add sugar and beat until incorporated.
  5. Beat in egg white, one at a time, and continue beating until batter is smooth.
  6. Spread pine nuts on a plate.
  7. Scoop out a tablespoon-size piece of dough and roll in hands to form a ball.  Should be the size of a golf ball.
  8. Roll ball in pine nuts.
  9. Bake until lightly browned and soft and springy, about 20 minutes.
  10. Cool and sprinkle with confectioners sugars, if desired.

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Manhattan Cocktail (Holiday Lifesaver)

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I have a bit of guilt this Holiday Season for not posting any recipes for cookies, sweets or family traditional dishes.  But heck, I’ve decided to post the most important recipe to me. Yes, it’s an alcoholic drink,  And yes, I need this to get through it all.  After a day of shopping, a Manhattan cocktail makes you forget all the money you’ve spent.  After a day of body breaking  gift wrapping, a Manhattan will relax your muscles.  After a day of baking, there’s nothing better.  Especially after a day of decorating, it is just lovely to sit down and savor this drink, while enjoying how beautiful and festive your house looks.  Ahh…….

Now why does one need a recipe for such a simple beverage?  Traditionally, it’s two to three parts rye to one part sweet vermouth, and add a cherry.  Well, as with most things, as time goes by,  we feel the need to improve on something that really doesn’t need improvement, but what the heck, we try.   And so it goes…..

So now days a Manhattan cocktail is sometimes made with rye and sometimes bourbon, which is very in vogue and therefore used for this drink.  As for the vermouth, you can go crazy with all the choices.  Vermouth has undergone quite a transformation in recent years.  There are so many brands and styles of vermouth, that I honestly am just using “trial and error” to see what is my favorite.   As you will see from the pictures posted, I’ve been experimenting with two different types.  One is slightly bitter, and the other has a smoky sweetness.  I’m enjoying them both.  But truth be told, I also like my much cheaper “Martini and Rossi ,” or any of the “regular” vermouths, which have been popular for many decades.  Bitters also range from simple to fancy brands.  Who can keep up??

One key ingredient, however, is the maraschino cherries.  I like a good brand, as the juice of the cherry is very important to me.

I’m not pushing alcohol, but if you need a little stress relief or just want to enjoy a cozy evening at home, sipping a delightfully warming beverage, this is for you.

Wishing you all a very wonderful and cozy holiday season.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Cheers!

Recipe: 1 drink

3 ounces rye whiskey or bourbon

1 ounce sweet vermouth

2 dashes Angustura bitters

1 maraschino cherry….sometimes I like 2

  1.  Fill a cocktail shaker (or you can use a mixing glass) with 1 cup of ice.
  2. Add the rye or bourbon, vermouth, and bitters.  Shake or stir well.
  3. Put the cherry with some syrup in the bottom of the glass.
  4. Pour, sit, sip and breath……..

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MaryAnn’s “Perfect Every Time” Turkey

turkey pan cooked

As I have mentioned time and time again, sharing recipes with family and friends is one of the great joys in my life.  I truly believe it has brought me closer to family, old friends and new friends alike.  It can even make a relative stranger part of your life.  Sharing something that we love with another person naturally brings us closer together, not only in the moment of exchange, but for years to come.   Each time I make the recipe (or even just glace at it), I remember that person in a special way.    I love to remember the time and place of the exchange.  It always brings a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart.

This recipe for MaryAnn’s Perfect Every Time Turkey, as I call it, really brings an enormous grin to my face as I recall how she not only brought me the recipe for making a truly amazing turkey, but she also brought me the pan in which to make it.  She arrived one Tuesday morning to our writing class, with a large turkey roaster and a step by step typed recipe.  The week before, she and I had spent some time after class discussing the trials of cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  Yes, even after decades of orchestrating this favorite meal, it still astounds me at how much work goes into producing a “perfect” Thanksgiving meal. Mary Ann swore that this pan and recipe would take all the guess work out of at least the turkey portion of the meal.   I could not have been more grateful.  So, I left class that November Tuesday with all my notebooks, papers and pens, and a turkey pan and recipe.  Happy?  Oh yeah!!

I wasn’t cooking Thanksgiving dinner that year, but I waited patiently to try this.   One Sunday, a few months later, when I had a full house for dinner, I abandoned our usual pasta with Sunday sauce tradition, and made a full Thanksgiving dinner.   I used the pan and followed MaryAnn’s recipe to a tee.  All I have to say is, “THE BEST TURKEY EVER!”

There’s still time to buy this pan on Amazon, or I’m sure in many stores.  Just remember that you don’t need to buy an expensive roaster.  However, if you already have a roaster, try this recipe.  You’ll be able to stop the worry and focus on the rest of the meal.  I guarantee you’ll be thankful for a “perfectly” moist and flavorful turkey with “perfectly” crisp skin!

PS  I apologize for the lack of pictures.  No one could keep their hands off the turkey meat and skin long enough for me to get some good pictures….including the puppy!  It’s that good!

RECIPE:

 14 to 18 lb turkey will fit in this pan.

5 TBSP butter

1 lemon

1 onion

few sprigs of fresh thyme

1 cup chicken broth

carrots celery and onions, chopped in large pieces, optional ( if you don’t have a rack for your pan.

  1.  Clean, dry and season turkey generously, inside and out, with kosher salt and pepper.  Brush all over with 2 to 3 TBSP melted butter.  Stuff the inside with a whole lemon, onion and fresh thyme.
  2. Place on a rack in the pan, or if you don’t have a rack, chop up big pieces of carrots, celery and onions, and place that on the bottom of the pan instead.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and roast the turkey with the lid on for 1 hour.
  4. After the first hour, pour in 1 cup of chicken stock.
  5. Baste it and brush it with additional 2 TBSP butter and roast with the lid on for another 30 to 60 minutes, until you achieve 165 degrees (breast).
  6. Take off the lid for the last 15 minutes to crisp it up nicely.

**NOTE:  Read MaryAnn’s recipe, as she will really convince you to use this method, if I haven’t done so already. turkey pan recipe

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Pasta with Cauliflower & Chick Peas

cauilflower pasta bowl**

I think that you could make pasta every day for an entire year (my kind of heaven), and never need to duplicate a recipe.  I really do.  Right off the top of my head, I could name close to 100 dishes that make my mouth water.  If I thought longer, and perused my Italian cookbooks and the internet, I know I could find an endless amount of recipes.  Sometimes it’s just the tweaking of an ingredient or two, and then you have an entirely new dish, with an entirely new taste altogether.  As a matter of fact, I have a cookbook titled, “Sunday Pasta” by Edwin Garrubbo, in which he claims that he made a different pasta for his family every Sunday for 5 years.  That seems incredulous, but I believe him!  And by the way, it’s a wonderful cookbook.

This being said, I feel I must share another pasta recipe with you, which is actually a combination of several recipes.  In my family, we love pasta with chick peas (see the archives) and we love pasta with just about any vegetable you can name(  so many in the archives).  So let’s put chick peas and cauliflower together with pasta, and yum!  You’ve got something new and full of flavor and texture.

Pasta with cauliflower and chick peas will be my 52nd pasta recipe on this blog.  I’ve got a long way to go to catch Edwin Garrubbo!  I just might take the challenge.  I’m feeling competitive.  Care to join me?

Recipe:  serves 4 to 6

1 pound fusilli or other short pasta

1/2 cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes, if desired

1/4 tsp oregano

1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets

1 19 ounce can of chick peas

3 TBSP bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for passing

salt and pepper to taste

  1.  Bring large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the cauliflower and pasta to the water.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet.  Add the garlic and hot pepper seeds.  Sauté for 5 minutes, making sure not to brown the garlic.
  3. Add the chick peas and oregano to the skillet and cook through, about 10 minutes on low heat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. By the time the pasta is done, the cauliflower should be a nice texture.  Drain.
  5. Put pasta and cauliflower in a large serving bowl.  Add the chick peas.  Toss well.
  6. Add the breadcrumbs and grated cheese and toss again.