Mustard Chicken (Nancy’s or Ina’s?)

mustard chicken plated 2**

I was watching an episode of the “Barefoot Contessa” recently, and she was making a chicken dish that looked rather familiar.   The ingredients were reminiscent of a dish that I was first introduced to in the late 1970’s.   When Ina Garten presented the perfectly cooked chicken on a platter, I immediately recognized it. She had made Nancy’s “mustard chicken.” But as only Ina Garten can do, she stepped it up a notch, and added a few different ingredients, and twists and turns to the recipe. Now I’m not saying that she took the recipe from my friend. I’m sure she didn’t, but I think that perhaps she took an old recipe and perfected it.   I couldn’t wait to find my old recipe, and see what exactly the changes were.

I had filed this recipe away ages ago, but after much searching, I did find it. I compared the two recipes and found that they were somewhat different. There were breadcrumbs in both recipes, but of course, Ina made her own seasoned breadcrumb mixture with fancy Japanese panko breadcrumbs, which didn’t even exist in the USA in 1979. We used old reliable Progresso seasoned breadcrumbs. Ina combined the Dijon mustard with white wine. We used any mustard, combined with vinegar. There were a few differences in method as well, but I knew that the taste was probably similar.

This was a favorite dish of mine, so I was eager to try Ina’s recipe and compare. It had to be delicious. She’s the “Barefoot Contessa” after all.   At the very least, I was delighted to resurrect this old recipe. And of course, the memories flooded back to me, and I started remembering all the recipes my friend and I had shared during a very precious time in life……new babies, new friends, new recipes.

Recipe: serves 3 

4 garlic cloves

1 TBSP minced fresh thyme leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 cups panko bread flakes (crumbs)

1 TBSP grated lemon zest (2 lemons)

2 TBSP good olive oil

2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup Dijon Mustard

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken, cut in eighths

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the garlic, thyme, 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper into a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the garlic is finely minced.  Add the panko, lemon zest, olive oil and butter and pulse a few times to moisten the bread flakes. Pour the mixture onto a large plate.
  3. In a shallow bowl, whisk the mustard and wine.
  4. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper.
  5. Dip each piece in the mustard mixture to coat on all sides, and then place skin-side only into the crumb mixture, pressing gently to make the crumbs adhere (and get the sides too).
  6. Place the chicken on a sheet pan, crumb-side up.  Press any remaining crumbs on the  chicken pieces.
  7. Bake the chicken for 40 minutes.  Then raise the heat to 400 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes or so, until the crumbs are browned and the chicken is cooked through.
  8. Serve hot or at room temperature.

NOTE:  While the chicken is in the oven, I roast some vegetables in the oven as well, so you have a quick, easy meal. Any vegetable will do, but I love to roast small, sweet peppers and asparagus (see archives).

mustard chicken recipesmustard chicken ingredientsmustard chicken crumbsmustard chicken dippingmustard chicken panmustard chicken pan 2?mustard chicken plated 1mustard chicken plated 3*

 

 

 

 

Flank Steak a la Sous Vide

sous vide meat plated

I hope everyone is enjoying a summer full of barbeques and picnics with friends and family. We recently decided to spend a weekend at our house in Windham, New York, in the Catskills, to enjoy the mountains, and of course barbeque.  I was very happy to have some family joining us for the weekend, who graciously offered to bring up all the ingredients to make dinner one night. How fabulous!! They walked in the door with several bags of groceries and a contraption. The contraption was a “sous vide.” Never heard of it? Well neither had I. You’ll see in the pictures that it looks rather like a home pedicure foot soak machine. This is how they were planning to cook the meat for dinner…..in this crazy looking pedicure bath??!!

They were planning on cooking flank steak and promised me that it would be the most tender meat I had ever tasted. I was game. I relinquished all cooking responsibilities, and decided that I had nothing to do but relax. I relayed my confidence to them, turned over the kitchen, and then went straight to the internet to find out what the heck this sous vide thing is all about.

According to Wikapedia:

Sous-vide (/suːˈviːd/; French for “under vacuum”)[1] is a method of cooking in which food is sealed in airtight plastic bags then placed in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking times (95 hours or more in some cases) at an accurately regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55 to 60 °C (131 to 140 °F) for meat and higher for vegetables. The intent is to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and retain moisture.

After doing some more reading about this process, I must say I was intrigued. I now wanted to be involved so that I could report about it to you. So this post format will be a little different than usual. I’m going to tell you the process in simple terms. The should this interest you in any way, my suggestion is to go online and look at the various websites about sous vide, as that is where you’ll find the cooking information. You use your own recipes. For our flank steak, we made a simple marinade and threw it in a large Ziploc bag with the meat, and vacuum sealed it in the water. We set the water temperature to 133 for medium rare, as per the machine directions. We put our bag of marinating meat into the water and let it cook for 8 hours. 4 to 24 hours was recommended. The longer the meat cooks the more tender it is, but this could have been cooked in 1 and a half hours.   We took the meat out of the bag, dried it well with paper towels, and just seared it on a very hot grill for 2 minutes a side.

Science has never been my forte so I truly don’t understand how this works, but darn if they weren’t right! It was the most tender meat I’ve ever cooked. The part that was most amazing is that the entire piece of meat was medium rare, as we desired. Not even the ends were well done.

 Recipe for marinade ( you don’t need a sous vide to try this fabulous marinade):

 ¼ cup sherry

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup tamari or soy sauce

1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

juice of 2 lemons

Throw all the ingredients in a large plastic bag and mix up. Add meat and roll it around in the marinade until covered. Marinate for several hours.

sous vide machinesous vide marinade recipe

sous vide marinadesous vide cookingsous vide meat driedsous vide meat1sous vide meat2sous vide meat3sous vide meat5sous vide meat6

 

 

 

 

 

Blueberry-Lemon Bread

lemon bread plated ***

Blueberry season is just about here in full force., and I started to feel the overwhelming need to bake something, using my favorite seasonal berries. Please check in the archives under Blueberry Corn Muffins and Blueberry Pie to see more on my love of baking with blueberries.  So many blueberries, so many recipes….what should I choose?   I decided to look for an old cookbook on blueberries, purchased in 1975, that I knew I would find somewhere on my cookbook bookshelves. I did have to search, but stowed away, behind my more recent cookbooks, I found a very used and stained set of four fruit cookbooks…blueberry, apple, peach and strawberry. As I gave these books a hug (yes, I’ve been known to hug a cookbook or two), I recalled the day my childhood friend and I purchased these books. They were on sale for 4 for $10.00, and we were thrilled with our purchase.  Wehad saved $2.00!!  I had so much fun glancing through all the recipes, which held so many wonderful memories. These cookbooks were my “go to” for baking in the decade that followed. The simplicity of the recipes reminds me of a simpler time, when you couldn’t just “Google” blueberries and find hundreds of recipes at your fingertips.   I seemed to always have one recipe that I trusted and turned to, over and over again, like a good friend.

I couldn’t wait to make Blueberry-Lemon Bread, which was a favorite of ours every summer. It’s as simple as can be and absolutely delicious. I made this several times a summer for many summers when my children were young. I remember thinking that it was healthy for them because it contained fruit. How did I forget this old friend, Blueberry-Lemon Bread? I’m so glad it’s back in my life again ( I’ve made in twice in one week already).   I was especially happy when the other day, my daughter spotted the cookbook on the counter, and said, “I remember this cookbook,” and she had a big smile on her face. Memories! Kitchen memories! There’s nothing like them.

**NOTE Please notice the picture with the small hand of the next generation, “caught in the act” of sneaking a piece.   Aah……more kitchen memories in the making!

RECIPE:

6 TBSP butter                                                            dash of salt

1 cup sugar                                                                 1/2 cup milk

2 eggs                                                                          zest of one lemon

1 1/2 cups flour                                                         1/2 cup sugar…for glaze

1 tsp. baking powder                                              juice of one lemon….for glaze

1 cup blueberries

  1.  Cream together sugar and butter.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.
  2. Mix together flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the flour mixture, alternately with 1/2 cup of milk, to the sugar, butter and egg mixture.  Mix well.
  3. Add the zest of the lemon.
  4. Carefully fold in the blueberries.
  5. Prepare loaf pan by buttering the sides and lightly coating with flour.
  6. Pour batter into the pan, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately one hour.
  7. Cool 5 to 10 minutes.  Mix the 1/2 cup sugar with the juice of one lemon.  Pour over the bread in the pan.  Let stand for 1/2 hour and remove from pan.lemon bread bookslemon bread recipelemon bread ingredientslemon bread butter:sugarlemon bread creamedlemon bread batterlemon bread pan 1lemon bread pan 2lemon bread sugar:lemonlemon bread pan2lemon bread pan 3lemon bread handlemon bread close uplemoon bread plated *?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Vegan Truffles

truffles plated *?

There’s nothing I like better than a recipe for a sweet treat, that appears to be somewhat healthy. This is one of those recipes. When you glance at it, you see that there is no added sugar. There’s no flour. The ingredients are quite good for you….walnuts, pecans, dates, cinnamon, cocoa powder, dark chocolate. What could be bad?   They taste great, so it’s a win/win situation.   I’m not sure I would have tried this recipe on my own, had my friend not brought me the finished product along with the recipe. She felt confident that I would enjoy the truffles and would definitely want the recipe. She was right! Once I popped one of these scrumptious morsels into my mouth, I was so happy to have the recipe, readily at hand, because I knew I would be making them real soon.   I love it when a friend knows me this well!

You certainly don’t need to be Vegan to enjoy them.   Unless you’re making these for someone who is vegan, there’s no need to even mention that. I hesitated even calling them that here, but I wanted to be true to the recipe. And by all means, there’s no reason to tell anyone that they’re healthy. That can tend to scare people away or cloud their judgment. They’re also gluten free, for that matter. But most importantly, they’re delicious!

Did I mention easy?

RECIPE: makes about 14 to 16 truffles

INGREDIENTS

Truffles:

1 cup raw pecans

1 cup raw walnuts

1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder or cacao powder

1/4 tsp. seal salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

10 medjool dates, pitted   (I learned the hard way that these are found in the produce section)

1 1/4 cups dairy free dark chocolate (bar, not chips), roughly chopped. (Regular chocolate can be used if you don’t care about vegan)

1 tsp coconut oil

For Topping:

cacao nibs, crushed pecans/walnuts, and/or sea salt for topping

Instructions:

  1.  Place pecans and walnuts in a food processor and process until it reaches a consistency of meal.  Set said in a bowl.
  2. Place pitted dates in the food processor and process until small bits remain and/or it forms into a ball.
  3. Add in the cocoa powder and 1/2 the nut meal and pulse.  Continue pulsing and adding the nut meal a little at a time.  Add the cinnamon and a generous pinch of sea salt.  Continue pulsing until a posse dough is formed.  You may not need to use all the nuts, which is fine because you can use any leftovers for the topping.
  4. Once you have a dough that’s easy to form into balls, scoop out 1 TBSP amounts and roll carefully into balls. (If they aren’t quite forming, hold in your palm and let the heat of your hand warm them, then gently shape into a ball.)  Set on parchment paper and place in freezer to chill
  5. In the meantime, melt the chocolate in a double broiler or in the microwave in 30 second increments.  Be careful not to overheat.  Once melted, stir in the coconut oil to help the chocolate thin and ease the dipping process.
  6. Remove truffles from freezer and, one at a time, dip them into the melted chocolate. Transfer back onto the parchment paper and top with sea salt, crushed nuts and cacao nibs.
  7. Repeat until all truffles are dipped.  Let set at room temperature.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  Can be frozen for longer term storage. truffles recipetruffles ingredientstruffles nuts 1truffles nuts 2truffles date 1truffles dates 2truffles battertruffles on parchment 1truffles parchment 3truffles parchment close upturffles plated **

 

Sil’s Baked (and creative) Chicken

sd chicken plated**?

I’ve been following recipes, to a tee, for well over 4 decades. I’ve never waivered from a recipe, or tried to substitute one ingredient for another. If I didn’t have an ingredient, I’d go out to the store to get it. If the recipe called for tomato puree and I only had diced tomatoes, out I went, or I’d put the recipe away for another day when I had all the ingredients listed, exactly as listed. Never would I chance changing the intended taste of the recipe. Never!

Then one day, rather recently, I was in a frenzy looking for a recipe that I wanted to make for dinner. It was a chicken dish, which included artichokes and mushrooms, but that was all I could remember. I had already purchased the canned artichokes and the fresh mushrooms, but I couldn’t go on without the recipe.   I couldn’t find it anywhere. I frantically went on to the web and punched in the words, “chicken with artichokes.” All sorts of recipes came up, but I didn’t have all the ingredients required for any of them. I could feel a cold sweat taking over my body, as I watched the clock tick closer to dinner-time. I took a deep breath, and said to myself, “Okay, Sil, you can do this. Just look in the pantry and pull out whatever you think might work well together with chicken. You can do it!”

Once I got over the initial fear, I actually had a wonderful time creating my own recipe. It was a very different experience for me. Instead of following someone else’s idea of what would taste good, I created my own. To my delight, it was delicious. Aside from nourishing my stomach, I felt as if I’d fed my creative self. Perhaps that’s overly dramatic, but the experience was rather freeing. Since that evening, I still honor my recipes, but if I am missing an ingredient, I just let the creative juices flow.

RECIPE: serves 6

2  3 lb. chickens, cut in eighths

2  14 ounce cans of artichoke hearts, drained

2  8 ounce jars sundered tomatoes (in oil)

8 ounces fresh Shitake mushrooms, roughly sliced

3 garlic cloves, sliced

1 cup of dry white wine

drizzle of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

  1.  Wash the chicken and pat dry.  Place in large baking pan.
  2. Salt and pepper each piece.
  3. Add the garlic, artichokes, mushrooms, and sundried tomatoes (with as much of their oil as you like).
  4. Pour the wine over all and then drizzle,lightly, with olive oil.
  5. Cover with foil and put in preheated 350 degree oven.
  6.  Bake covered for 30 minutes.  Then remove foil and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.

sd chicken ingredientssd chicken mushrooms2sd chicken artichokessd chicken garlicsd chicken winesdchicken pan1sd chicken pan2sd chicken pan4sd chicken pan5sd chicken pan6sd chicken closeup

 

 

 

 

 

Sardinian Minestrone

120 plated *

Would you like to live to be over 100 years old? Well then, have I got a soup for you!

There’s been a great deal of press about these Blue Zones around the world, where a large percentage of the inhabitants live to be well over 100 years old.   It’s truly fascinating. It makes you stop and think about their lifestyles and their diet, since this seems to be what they attribute mostly to their longevity.

I am especially intrigued by the village in Sardinia that’s considered a Blue Zone.   I love that they attribute their long life to the Mediterranean diet, close ties to family and friends, laughter, movement (they are shepherds who walk 8 miles a day and women whose “workout” is kneading bread, gardening and cooking all day), napping and red wine.   How fabulous! I can’t help but think about my grandparents, who lived to be over 100 years old, and for the most part, this is how they lived.

While this recipe for minestrone soup is probably very similar to your own variation, I share it with you as another delicious, healthy soup that I think your family and friends will enjoy. It’s versatile, so you can always add the freshest, seasonal ingredients of your choice. To keep it as traditional as possible, include beans and fregola, a tiny semolina pasta that is popular in Sardinia. If you can’t find fregola, Israeli couscous or acini di pepe pasta will do just fine. However, you might shave a year off your long life, if you don’t use fregola!   Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

For the purpose of spelling out the basics of this soup, I stuck very closely to the original recipe from the Blue Zones website, which by the way, has great recipes on it. The only change I made was that I only used one type of bean, chickpeas, and I added savoy cabbage.   As I mentioned before, add whatever vegetables you like. You can’t mess this up.   I’m even going to say that if you forget to soak your beans overnight, use canned, added during the last half hour of cooking. OR…the quick soaking method is fabulous if you have the extra hour. Cover beans with water. Bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off. Then let them sit in the hot water for one hour. Drain and you are ready to go.

Enjoy, and as we say in Italian “cent’anni.”     Translation:…..”may you live to be 100 years old!”

RECIPE: serves 8 to 10

1  and 1/2 cups of dried beans of your choice (always include some chickpeas if possible….very Sardinian)

7 TBSP. extra virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped ( about a cup)

2 medium celery stalks, chopped ( about a half a cup)

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 28 ounce can of Italian crushed tomatoes  (San Marzano, please)

3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced (about  1 1/2 cups)

1 1/2 cups chopped fennel (include tops)

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley, chopped

2 TBSP. chopped fresh basil (I use at least double this)

2/3 cup of Sardinian fregola (or Israeli couscous of acini de pepe pasta)

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese

I added one small head of savoy cabbage, shredded

  1.  Soak the beans overnight or use the quick soak method.  Drain in a colander, set in the sink and rinse well.
  2. Warm 3 to 4 Tablespoons of the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven set over a medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrots and celery.  Cook, stirring often, until soft, not browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds.
  3. Stir in tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, parsley, and basil, as well as the drained beans.  Add enough water (6 to 8 cups) so that everything os submerged by and inch or two.
  4. Raise the heat to high and bring to a full boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly, uncovered, until the bean are tender, adding more water as necessary if the mixture gets to thick, for about 1 1/2 hours.  Add any vegetables as you see fit.  Some vegetables take longer than others.  I added the cabbage when the soup had an hour to go.
  5. Stir in the pasta, salt and pepper.  Add up to 2 cups of water if the soup seems too dry.  Continue simmering, uncovered until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes. **You can also cook the pasta separately, al dente, and then add it to the soup.
  6. Pour 1 TBSP of olive oil into each dish.  Add the soup and top with the grated cheese.

**For a stronger tomato taste ( which I like) add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste when you add the tomatoes.

120 blue zone recipe120 cici water120 cici drained120 ingredients120 pot 1120 pot 2120 cabbage120 pot 3120 fregola120 plated 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asparagus with Our Favorite Vinaigrette

vinaigrette platter ***

The Silver Palate Cookbook….oh how I loved this cookbook! It made me feel like a fancy cook. Jullee Rosso and Sheila Lukins were food gurus to this suburban housewife. They had one of the first gourmet food shops in New York City, and when their cookbook came out, I couldn’t stop cooking from it.   Just flipping through the pencil marked and stained pages of this very used cookbook brings back so many memories for me. I remember all my favorite recipes and the occasions for which I made them. I can see the faces of the friends and family as we feasted on each delightful piece of pie, entrée or appetizer.

Funny how a cookbook can be your best friend for over a decade, then it’s placed on the back of a shelf and forgotten for years. Well I’m rekindling my friendship with the Silver Palate Cookbook.   It’s been too long. I’ve missed it so.

One of my favorite recipes from this cookbook has always been their vinaigrette for asparagus. It reminds me of spring. I have made this for Easter dinners, bridal showers, baby showers, and any celebration where you might be looking for a light accompaniment for a meal. It is so delicious that I have also served it on it’s own, as a first course. It’s great for a buffet table, too.

I’m delighted to share this recipe with you, especially now as we head into asparagus season. If you have this cookbook on the back of your shelf, I think you would enjoy reacquainting yourself with this old friend. I certainly did.

RECIPE: yields 1 cup

1 Tbsp. prepared Dijon-style mustard

4 TBSP. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

minced parsley and/or snipped fresh chives, to taste

1/2 cup olive oil

trimmed and blanched asparagus

  1.  Measure mustard in a small bowl.  Whisk in vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and herbs to taste.
  2. Continue to whisk mixture while slowly dribbling in the olive oil until mixture thickens.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  cover until ready to use.  (Vinaigrette is best if made just before it is used.)  If necessary, whisk again before serving.

3.   Trim and blanch asparagus in lightly salted water, to desired “doneness.” Remember, they continue to cook even after they come out of the water.

viniagrette silver palate cookbookvinaigrette silver palatte recipevinaigrette asparagusvinaigrette watervinaigrette ingredientsvinaigrette mixedvinaigrette closeupviniagrette platter 2**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Craig Claiborne’s Spaghetti with Peas

craig plated **

Since we have been on the topic of peas (last post), I have one more recipe for peas and pasta that I simply must share. I promise, after this one, I’ll stop with the peas.

My mother ripped this recipe out of the New York Times Magazine section in April 1964. I don’t recall ever having this dish prepared for us, and my memory rarely fails me when it comes to food. However, it’s possible she had the intention of making it, and perhaps never did. I love the way this recipe has yellowed and frayed around the edges over the decades.

The list of ingredients baffled me a bit. I couldn’t help but wonder about Italian food in 1964. Yes, home cooking was fabulous, but I’m not so sure about finding Italian recipes in the NY Times at this period in time.   I questioned adding a green pepper, beef broth and salt pork to any spaghetti sauce, but it’s Craig Claiborne’s recipe after all. How bad could it be? I’m sure pancetta was not to be found in 1964, in the United States, so he used salt pork. So 52 years after this was published, I thought I’d give it a try. It was delicious and everyone really enjoyed it. I think you will as well.

Just as an aside…..because I didn’t know this….peas are a vitamin powerhouse!   This green legume is loaded in vitamins A, B-1, B6, C and osteoporosis fighting K.   They are high in fiber, low in fat and contain no cholesterol.   Who knew? And of course, every “vitamin powerhouse” tastes better with pasta!!

RECIPE:  serves 4 to 6

1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente

1/2 cup finely diced pancetta (bacon will be fine)

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 cups peeled, diced ripe tomatoes or canned Italian plum tomatoes (I used canned)

3 TBSP tomato paste

1 cup beef stock

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup fresh or frozen peas ( I like a little more…maybe 1 1/2 cups)

1 green pepper, seeded and cubed

2 TBSP chopped parsley

Freshly grated parmesan cheese

  1.  Sauté the pancetta until lightly browned.  Add the onion and garlic and cook slowly until just tender but not browned.
  2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, and then lower heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add the peas, pepper and parsley and cook until peas are barely tender.
  4. Toss with the spaghetti and serve with grated cheese.

 

craig recipecraig ingredientscraig pancettacraig saute **craig tomatoescraig sauce 1craig sauce 2craig closeup

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasta Asciutta

peas dish 2 ******

“Asciutta” means dry in Italian, and doesn’t usually refer for food, but when referring to pasta it means dry or without sauce.  When I first heard about this pasta dish, I must say that I was very skeptical.   There’s only three ingredients…peas, grated Italian cheese and pasta.   How good could this taste? Well, in one word, “delicious.” Oh, how I love this dish!   I’m almost embarrassed to even call it a recipe. It’s a recipe in all it’s simplicity, and it has a very nice story/memory for my husband to go along with it. You know I love the memories

When my husband was a young boy in Italy, he visited his aunt (Zia) in Naples, who served this dish for a first course of a family dinner. He claims he had never had this before, and that perhaps it was created as a result of the food rations during World War II, when you had to make due with whatever food you had. He loved it so much that he ate dish after dish until he could barely eat the second course. As in most Italian families, his good appetite was applauded (literally) by the elders.   Even to this day, when we make this, he eats dish after dish. I don’t applaud, however. I just try to keep up with him.

If you want to make this a bit more “robusto,” you can (and I often do) add a drizzle or two of some wonderful extra virgin olive oil.   Obviously, the quality of ingredients is of utmost importance here, especially the grated imported cheese. Whether you use parmigiano reggiano or pecorino Romano is entirely up to your taste.   I also like a few twists of the black pepper to top it off.

Now if you still feel you’d like to make this more of a meal, you can add a step or two, and make this the way my mom did. In a saucepan, sauté chopped onion and chopped bacon, pancetta or even prosciutto in a few tablespoons of olive oil until onion is quite soft. Add 2 cans of Le Sueur canned peas or slightly cooked frozen peas. Then combine this with the pasta. Add cheese and pepper, and you’re all set.

My guess is that you’ll enjoy this both ways, but the “asciutta” is what I want to focus on here, and hope you’ll give it a try.

RECIPE: serves 4 ( or one hungry husband)

1 pound of ditalini pasta ( has to be ditalini)

15 ounces of frozen peas

freshly grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino Romano cheese

freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil for drizzling ( optional)

  1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.  Cook the ditalini, reserving a cup or so of the pasta water.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, gently cook the peas as directed, making sure they are not over-cooked.
  3. Drain the pasta and put in a serving bowl.  Add the peas.  Add some of the reserved pasta water, just to moisten a bit and keep the pasta from sticking together.
  4. Add the grated cheese and some freshly ground pepper and toss.
  5. Serve with lots of grated cheese and more fresh pepper.
  6. If you want a little drizzle of olive oil, now is the time to add it.

 

peas ingredientspeas peas

peas dishpeas dish **pease plated 1peas closeup ***

Pasta con Amore (Pasta with Love)

amore dish**

I think of this recipe each year around Valentine’s Day. Some years I make it, and some years I don’t, but it always comes to mind. Sorry I didn’t post it for you before the holiday came and went, but this was one of the years that I was going to pass on it. However, I thought I really should share it with you. Who can’t use a little “amore” any time of the year? Plus the memories associated with this recipe always make me smile. It also proves my point that I’ll try a recipe from just about any source.

It was just before Valentines Day 1993. My mom and I shared a love for the Regis and Kathie Lee Show. For the 15 years that they were on morning television together, my mom would watch the show in the morning, and I would tape it at my home, and watch it the next morning when I was on my treadmill, before going to work.   We’d often talk about the shows and share a laugh or two, as they were a very funny duo. Francis Anthony, better know as the Love Chef, was frequently on the show, cooking and sharing his recipes. This particular episode with the Love Chef really caught our eye. I knew that I didn’t need to pause my tape and treadmill to write down the recipe, because I was most certain that my mother would have written it down the morning before. I was right. Later that day she called me to tell me that she had written it down, and we were both eager to try it. Once we did, it certainly was “amore.”

I thought it was cute that my mom wrote the recipe in red ink, in honor of Valentine’s Day, and I, of course, had to buy their cookbook, which does have many wonderful recipes that I tried throughout the 1990s.   Upon glancing through the cookbook recently, it brought back lots of memories from the show and that era in time.   That’s what I love about old recipes……the memories.   I hope this creates some new ones for you and your loved ones, with “amore.”

RECIPE: serves 4

6 TBSP olive oil

2 bunched scallions, chopped

1 small red pepper, seeded and chopped

1 large very ripe tomato, chopped or 4 Italian plum tomatoes (from can), chopped

2 TBSP capers

2  to 3 TBSP chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried

freshly ground pepper and salt to taste

1 cup ricotta

1 lb. ziti or penne pasta

4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

  1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, in which to cook the pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Cook the scallions, red pepper and tomatoes for 5 to 7 minutes (stirring), or until vegetables are tender,
  3. Add the capers and basil and continue stirring.
  4. Add the ricotta, pepper and salt.  Simmer until all the ingredients are thoroughly blended.
  5. Drain the pasta. Add the sauce and toss to combine.  Top with mozzarella cheese.
  6. Amore!

 

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