Archive for ‘Italian’

November 23, 2013

Fast & Elegant Gnocchi with Pesto and Warm Balsamic Kale

by cillefish

Fast, yet oh so classy. Just like me. OK, I don’t know what I mean by that; but seriously, this meal combines an old-school, judicious avoidance of overkill with a flavor combination that really pops. Toast a batch of walnuts ahead of time to up that ‘wow’ factor with a simple, fast prep time around 30min.

Feeds: 2

  • 1 14-oz package of gnocchi
  • ~ 2 Tbsp good pesto that’s largely good oil (I use Mt Olive)
  • 1 bunch young kale, de-spined and cut with kitchen scissors to 2-or-3″-square pieces (you can also use a mix of spinach and mild arugula, and omit the microwave step)
  • 1/4 tsp Italian Traditions salt-free Italian spice mix (I highly recommend this mix specifically due to the freshness and depth of flavor)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder (NOT garlic salt – just ground dried garlic)
  • 1/3 c: 2 parts mirin, 1 part balsamic vinegar of Modena
  • scant 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
  • Parmesan Reggiano, shaved with a potato peeler, ~3 Tbsp
  • 1 1/2 twists fresh cracked black pepper per plate

Important: Toasting walnuts takes ~11 to 45 minutes, but you get better results taking the longer approach and toasting entirely on low to medium-low. The hot-and-fast approach tends to turn things from pale to burned too fast for me to save them in time, and the slower option creates a fuller flavor. I keep these on hand and do this in batches of 1/2 cup of finely chopped walnut, stirring every 3 minutes or so.

Note: the spice mix can go either onto the kale or in the sauce. The mix I use lacks the dusty, strawlike consistency of cheaper mixes, but if your mix is tougher and dryer, put it in the sauce with the honey.

Prep:

  1. If you don’t have any toasted walnuts on hand, start with this step first. Raw may be alright but will lack most of the richness and depth of flavor of toasted.
  2. Combine olive oil, garlic powder, mirin and balsamic vinegar in small saucepan on low, and let it warm up. Add honey. Let it sit and reduce by 1/2, stirring or swirling every now and then to prevent the honey from crystallizing and burning. Meanwhile; wash, spin, and scissor kale and place it in a big glass bowl.
  3. When walnuts are toasted, set aside and get water boiling for gnocchi.
  4. When gnocchi is done, sprinkle italian spice on chopped and microwave for about 1min (you want it to reduce volume just slightly and take on a brighter hue, but stay just slightly crunchy and not quite “wilted.”)
  5. Pour warm, reduced balsamic mix into kale, separate into 2 bowls, and top each with matching portion of walnuts and parm. Toss gnocchi with pesto and spoon into sides of bowls. Twist pepper on top and serve!
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March 3, 2013

Frittata, Frittata, Frittata, Je T’aime

by cillefish

For the frittata-uninitiated, these are basically quiches without crusts — firm, cakelike omelets cooked slowly over low heat. My first efforts at these resulted in scrambled eggs, but a good frittata actually can be super simple and surprisingly classy for something so packed full of good things. Tips to simplify:
Frittata

  • The right hardware: A big, cured skillet is best for this recipe since the frittata turns out particularly attractive if you sit it under the broiler for a minute or two, and I don’t trust teflon or the “wrap the plastic handle in foil” method not to do nasty things in the oven.
  • Butter is better: If your skillet isn’t (or is) well cured, barely-browning some butter in the bottom of the pan right before you pour in the egg mix will help it stay loose and come out a little easier.
  • Implements that help: A big, flexible pancake spatula is also a plus here, as is one of those knives that looks like a soft-cheese knife but has very good, small serrations on the bottom for astoundingly excellent julienne-slicing.
  • Shortcut: For the faint of heart or accident-prone [me], the baking method also works: butter a deep pie dish, do whatever stovetop prep is necessary to get the veggies where you want them, and pop the whole thing, uncovered, into a 350° oven for, say, 30min.

Spinach, Red Pepper, Onion, and Feta Frittata:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, halved vertically and thinly sliced
  • 2 red bell pepper, quartered lengthwise and sliced very thinly
  • 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed out (I up it to 15oz)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/4 to 1/2 c crumbled feta
  • optional: 1 Tbsp pre-grated parmesan
  • optional: 1/4 c to 1/2 c chopped fresh parsley, or 1-2 Tbsp dried (I omit this)
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning (I used 1 heaping tsp)
  • Pepper to taste or a pinch of crushed chili pepper (the egg can handle it)
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Preparation:

  1. Pop the spinach in a bowl in the microwave on half-power to start it thawing. Meanwhile, chop everything. More Frittata goodness
June 19, 2012

Summer Italian Soup with Soup-Bean Mix & Leftover “Steak”

by cillefish

Bean soup always takes a little while due to the overnight soaking (the 1- or 2-hour “quick soak in hot water method seems to curse the results somehow, so I avoid it).  However, this one’s worth it. A nice soup mix in smaller beans / peas / lentils makes it hearty but not too beany, and the carrot and tomato brighten it up. Plus, it’s got spinach in it and manages to pull that off without reminding you of grand-maman’s cabbage soup.

  • Timing: Count on an overnight soak, 8-20 min prep (depending on how snazzy you are with chopping stuff), then just under 2 hours of “sit and wait while it cooks” time.
  • Results: 10 servings. Very filling. Low calorie (roughly 200 calories per serving)

Summer Italian Soup with 16-Bean Soup Mix, Tomatoes, Carrot, Parsnip, and Leftover “Steak”

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp hot chili oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced (or chopped then smashed)
  • 4 carrots, sliced pretty thin & diced
  • 1 medium parsnip, handled just like the carrots
  • 1 container Low Sodium Vegetable Broth + 4 c water (or 8 c water and 2-4 vegetable bouillon cubes)
  • 1/4 c lentils
  • 1 (28 ounce) can or 2 1/2 c diced tomatoes (italian seasoning or plain)
  • 1 (10 ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed out and squeezed of water
  • 1 tsp ground red pepper (seems like a lot, but the beans handle it)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano, or 1 1/2 loose Tbsp fresh
  • 1 c dry lentils, sorted and rinsed (optional)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1/2 to 1/3 c Fry’s Vegan Steak Strips (or leftover cooked meatballs or other lean beefish item), thawed and chopped to 1/2″ cubes
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (optional)

Preparation:

Soak beans (1 night):

  • Sort (to remove stones / sand) beans, rinse, and then in a large bowl soak (overnight – you can also soak them in HOT water for about 2 hours but the overnight is better).

Before you turn the heat on (~10min):

  • Set the spinach out in the sun or in someplace else it can thaw (or microwave it – see note below)
  • Drain the beans. While you chop things, let them sit with the vegetable broth in their bowl.
  • Chop the carrot & parsnip and set aside; chop & smash the garlic.

Deal with the carroty stuff (~10min):

  • In a stock pot on medium heat, saute the onion and garlic until the onion starts to turn translucent on the edges; dump in the carrot and parsnip and toss around for about another 5min.
  • Add in soaked beans, vegetable broth, and water.


Cook beans (1.5 to 2 hours):

  • Bring to a boil, then lower heat when beans are ABOVE a simmer (at a “good boil” but not rolling).
  • Cook, covered, for 1.5 to 2 hours.

Add & cook other ingredients (~20min):

  • When beans are just about done, add in tomatoes, spinach, red pepper, oregano, basil, steak strips & optional lentils (if necessary, chop can tomatoes with kitchen scissors or spoon before mixing)
  • Cook 20 min more or until all bean items are done
  • Add salt, lemon, & additional red pepper to taste

Serve

Tips & Notes:

  • Thawing spinach: put in cardboard, in bowl in microwave and cook on 4% power for 2-4 minutes. Squeeze spinach in cardboard so water goes into same bowl (you can use water for part of broth water if you feel like maximizing your nutrient intake here)
  • Oregano: if you don’t do the chili oil and go easy on the pepper, you can bump this up to 2 tsp dry / up to 2 Tbsp fresh
  • Serving: Plain water crackers are awesome crumbled up in this
  • Based on this recipe
May 12, 2012

Simple Garlic Pasta & Garlic Bread

by cillefish

These are 2 recipes I don’t make together, but they’re similarly tasty and easy, and garlicky.

Pasta with Garlic and Oil

Great flavor: sauteing the garlic slowly gives it a perfect balance of sweet and strong with a lot of character and flavor. More subtle and nuanced than you’d expect from the amount of garlic in this thing.

Tips: Good with breadcrumbs on top, but toast these before you start the recipe. Also, you’ll need to add extra oil if you’re using fettuccine or another pasta with a large surface area. It doesn’t hurt to put a cup or measuring cup in the colander as a reminder to collect some of the pasta water before draining the pasta.

Ingredients
(serves 4 people as a main / only course. Half-recipe measurements are in parentheses)

  • Salt
  • 1 lb spaghetti (1/2 lb)
  • 6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (4 Tbsp), DIVIDED into 3Tbsp & 3Tbsp (or 2 and 2)
  • 1/4 c cloves garlic, smashed thoroughly and minced – a garlic press is a good call here. 1/4 c is ~ 30 small, 20 med, or 10 large, or 5 extra-large cloves (1/8 c is about 6-8 medium-large cloves). Reserve about 3 garlic cloves, mashed, for the end (2 clove)
  • 3/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes (1/4 + 1/8 tsp)
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves, or 3 tsp dried (1 1/2 Tbsp fresh or tsp dried)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice (1 tsp)
  • 1/2 c coarsely grated Parmesan Reggiano (I use about the same for the half recipe
  • Optional addition: 1-3 roasted red peppers, minced fine using kitchen scissors

Method:

  1. Mince the garlic before starting this.
  2. Heat small, heavy-bottomed nonstick saucepan over low heat.
  3. On another burner, put over high heat to bring to a boil: 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp oil, and water per pasta package directions. Pasta will be done right after or partway through the other ingredients, so keep an eye on it. If it’s done before, drain and toss every 5 min to prevent it from sticking. Let the cooking pot cool mostly.
  4. Meanwhile, in the saucepan, combine half the oil (3 or 2 Tbsp), all the garlic except the clove or 2 reserved, 1/4 tsp salt. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, about 8-12 minutes until the garlic gets very sticky and looks the color of straw. It may foam. Remove from heat.
  5. Add in and combine thoroughly: the red pepper flakes, parsley, lemon juice, remaining garlic, roasted pepper (if using), and 2 Tbsp pasta cooking water. Add a little extra oil if it wants to stick.
  6. In cooking pot or heated serving bowl, thoroughly toss noodles and other stuff, and divide into dishes for serving. Top with Parm and / or breadcrumbs. Serve immediately.

Garlic Bread

This recipe is for a half a loaf of french bread – double it for a whole loaf
Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise (I use the olive oil mayonnaise for this, as the texture and flavor are much lighter and complement the seasonings well)
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp garlic, crushed in garlic press (about 1 medium clove)
  • 1 tsp to 1 Tbsp dried parsley or Italian seasoning
  • Pepper (optional – I don’t add this)
  • 1/2 c grated Parmesan Reggiano
  • 1/2 loaf french or sourdough bread, sliced lengthwise.
  • foil

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 475° F.
  2. Cream mayo and butter in a cup or small bowl. Add olive oil as necessary to get it to a texture slightly damper than cake frosting. Add spice & garlic.
  3. Butter the bread thoroughly with the mixture, making sure to get the edges. sprinkle with Parm, focusing mainly on middle. Sprinkle with pepper.
  4. Put bread, butter-up on cookie sheet and bake 8-12 min, until cheese looks melted and edges of bread just turned a toasty brown but are not overdone.
  5. Let cool 3-5 min, then slice while it’s still pretty hot.
  6. Serve hot.