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Mama’s Kitchen: Holiday Dinner Appetizers

prosecco cocktail

Since either my mom or my husband’s mom hosts Thanksgiving I never had the chance to make a Thanksgiving meal – until last year. I started an annual tradition called “Friendsgiving” where I host a meal the weekend before Thanksgiving for all of my friends since we are usually with our respective families on the actual holiday. We had a great time last year and this year was even better. I made some adjustments based on last year’s dinner and even accepted some help – that says a lot from a control freak like me!

I didn’t want to serve the same thing as last year but there’s only so much leeway for a traditional Thanksgiving meal so I kept the main course the same (for the most part) and switched up my starters. I made citrus and fennel marinated Castelvetrano olives and two savory tarts (mushroom and zucchini) all accompanied with a Pomegranate Prosecco cocktail. These starters were a hit and were gone within minutes of putting them out for guests. The great thing about these is that they are super easy to make and are great for any holiday gathering from Thanksgiving to Christmas to anything in between.

citrus and fennel marinated olives

Citrus & Fennel Marinated Olives
Inspired by the olives at Cane Rosso SF and recipe adapted from Warm Marinated Olives from Fine Cooking

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fennel seeds
Zest of 1 orange in strips
Zest of 1 lemon in strips
2 cups Castelvetrano olives

Heat the oil, fennel seeds and citrus zest in a small pan over medium-low heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place the olives into a bowl, add the olive oil mixture and toss to coat. Let it cool, then cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for at least 2 days and up to 1 week. Take out of the refrigerator twenty minutes before serving. Right before serving toss the olives and grate some fresh orange and lemon zest over the olives. Make sure you have a bowl out for pits.

zucchini savory tart

Savory Zucchini Tart

I posted this zucchini tart recipe once before and loved it. I’m reposting it for you below:

Adapted from Zucchini Tart with Lemon Thyme and Goat Cheese by Fine Cooking

Ingredients

1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
1-1/2 lb. zucchini, trimmed and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz. Boursin cheese (I used garlic & herb flavor), brought to room temperature so it’s easy to spread

Unfold the puff pastry and roll out a little bit.

In a colander, toss the zucchini with 2 tsp. salt and drain for 30 minutes. Gently squeeze the slices with your hands to release excess water and transfer to a medium bowl.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Toss the zucchini with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil and pepper to taste. Spread the cheese over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Arrange the squash rounds in tightly overlapping concentric circles all the way to the edge of the dough. (The rounds will shrink as they cook.) Drizzle with 1 Tbs. olive oil and bake until the zucchini is golden-brown, 40 to 50 minutes.

mushroom savory tart

Savory Mushroom Tart

I loved the zucchini tart above that I decided to try something similar with mushrooms. I followed the same basic recipe as the zucchini tart and I found another recipe to make the mushrooms. This was very popular with the guests.

Adapted from Zucchini Tart with Lemon Thyme and Goat Cheese by Fine Cooking and Savory Mushroom Tart from Fine Cooking

2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. crimini mushrooms clean, trimmed, and thinly sliced
2 Tbs. finely chopped shallots
1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry white wine (something you would drink)
1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
8 oz. Boursin cheese (I used garlic & herb flavor), brought to room temperature so it’s easy to spread

In a pan, heat the butter and olive oil over high heat. When the butter is foaming, add the shallots and mushrooms, and stir. When lightly browned add the salt, pepper and thyme and cook for another minute. Add the wine and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Set the mushrooms aside.

Unfold the puff pastry and roll out a little bit.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Spread the cheese over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Arrange the mushrooms over the cheese and bake until the puff pastry is golden-brown, 15 to 25 minutes.

pomegranate prosecco cocktail

Pomegranate Prosecco Cocktail
Adapted from Pomegranate and Cranberry Bellinis by Giada de Laurentis and Sparkling Pomegranate Cocktail from Fine Cooking
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar

2 750ml bottles of Prosecco (since it’s for a cocktail use something under $10), chilled
1 160z bottle of Pom (I used Pomegranate Cranberry flavor to tie in the cranberry flavors of the dinner), chilled
2 limes, thinly sliced
1 pomegranate – seed only

Combine the water and sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat until the sugar is dissolved. After boiling for one minute, set aside, let cool and refrigerate for later use.

Right before serving add the Prosecco, simple syrup and Pom juice into a punch bowl. Garnish with lime slices and pomegranate seeds. Save some pomegranate seeds to garnish each glass too. Serve immediately. Salute!
roasted butternut squash soup
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

For the first course I made a roasted butternut squash soup but I broke two rules…(1) I tried a new recipe for the first time for guests; and (2) I had never tried the recipe from that source before. The recipe for the soup came from a blog that was cited on the Fine Cooking blog so I thought it would be ok. Also, I’ve cooked enough that I could look at an ingredient list and guess that something will be tasty. I will admit I was not the biggest fan of this soup. It was way too thick and had too much of a smokey flavor from roasting the leeks for my taste. Recalling how in My Big Fat Greek Wedding the mom “fixed” the Bundt cake by adding a flower pot to the center, I “fixed” my soup by watering it down with apple juice which served two purposes – it liquified the soup and added a bit of sweetness which I felt it needed. I will probably not make this soup again but I’m showing you a pic because it did look pretty and the guests all liked it.

Stay tuned for the rest of the recipes tomorrow.

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Mama’s Kitchen: Italian White Bean & Escarole Soup

Italian White Bean & Escarole Soup

It’s soup season and I love trying out new soup recipes because I make soup at least once a week in the fall/winter so I like to try and mix it up a bit. I definitely have my family stand-by recipes like my Nonna’s Lentil soup and my Mama’s chicken soup. I also love that you can make a big batch, freeze the left-overs and have a quick dinner on busy nights at the ready.

This week I tried Italian White Bean & Escarole soup. I actually made this soup in about 30 minutes on a busy week night and was so happy with the results. It’s not one of those soups that is better the next day – it was very tasty that night. The original recipe I based this off of was a bit more involved because it included homemade croutons. Instead, I just toasted some bread for dipping and for eating with cheese and olives. I also skipped the pancetta and parmigianno to make the soup a bit healthier but feel free to add them in – I’m sure they add an extra level of flavor.

Italian White Bean & Escarole Soup
Adapted from Fine Cooking – Escarole Bean Soup with Croutons

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion (6 oz.), diced
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 medium to large head escarole (about 14 oz.), trimmed of outer leaves, 2 inches of root end cut off, leaves sliced across into 3/4-inch wide strips (to yield about 9 to 10 cups), thoroughly washed
1 tsp. coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups low-salt chicken stock
1 cup cooked cannellini, navy beans, or other white beans (I used cannellini)
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1. Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium to medium-high heat.

2. Add the onion and sauté until the onion is softened and browned, about 12 minutes.

3. Next, add the garlic, stir, and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then add the escarole and stir thoroughly to coat the leaves. Season with 1/2 tsp. of the salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Add the stock, stir well, and bring to a boil; cover the pot, lower to a simmer, and cook 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Afterward, uncover the pot, add the beans, and simmer another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice and turn off the heat.

Buon Appetito!

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Mama’s Kitchen: Elaine’s NY Cheesecake 2.0

NY Cheesecake recipe

One of the first recipes I posted on the blog back in 2008 was my mom’s recipe for NY cheesecake. I am sure I am coming across as biased but it is the best cheesecake I have ever had. I’ve made it for years now following my mom’s recipe exactly but this past year I have been making some tweaks to the recipe for my own personal taste and preferences. They are small twists on the original but they make a big difference.

First, I have the graham cracker crust come up the sides of the cheesecake rather than having crust just on the bottom of the cheesecake. Why? Because I like the crust – it’s tasty! Second, I started putting cherry pie filling on top of the cheesecake. This was originally to hide cracks but also satisfied my gigantic sweet tooth. That leads me to my third change – I baked the cheesecake in a water bath – and there were no cracks on top! I didn’t need to put the cherry topping on because the top of the cake was nice and smooth but I think cheesecake tastes better with cherry pie filling so I added it anyway.

I’ve been meaning to play with the flavor profile of the cheesecake to add different dimensions – chocolate, rose water, cinnamon – but I can never bring myself to do that. I just love this cheesecake the way it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Here’s the classic recipe with my changes:

Ingredients
Graham Cracker Base
 (1.5 of the basic recipe on the box)
2 cups Honey Maid Graham Cracker Crumbs
6 tbsp of sugar
7 tbsp margarine, melted

Cheesecake Mixture
1/2 cup margarine or margarine alternative
, room temperature
1 lb cream cheese
, room temperature
16 oz sour cream
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3 eggs
3 tbsp. corn starch
1 lemon – juiced
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
Comstock Cherry Pie filling (found in the baking aisle at the grocery store)

1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Prepare graham cracker crumbs according to package instructions. Place graham cracker mixture in a spring-form pan. Using the back of a spoon smooth out the graham cracker base along the bottom and sides of the pan. If you have the option to bake or chill the graham cracker mixture opt for baking. After baking the graham cracker crust, set it aside to cool.

2. In a separate bowl mix the cream cheese and sour cream. Add margarine, vanilla extract, almond extract and lemon juice. Combine mixture. (It helps if you let the cream cheese and margarine come to room temperature before mixing)

3. Add 1 egg to cream cheese mixture and blend. Repeat two more times.

4. Add corn starch and sugar to cream cheese batter and mix.

5. Pour cream cheese mixture over graham cracker crust in spring-form pan. Tap on the side of the pan gently to get air bubbles out.

6. Take two pieces of foil and wrap them around the base of the spring-form pan – you want to make a barrier so water does not get into the spring-form pan. Take a deep baking tray that your spring-form pan will fit in. Fill it with water so that it reaches about 1/3 to 1/2 the height of the spring form pan. Place the spring-form pan in the tray and put the tray in the oven.*

7. Bake for an half-hour at 350 degrees. Lower temperature to 325 degrees and bake for another hour. The cheesecake is done when you test the batter with a toothpick or piece of spaghetti and it comes out clean.

8. Remove from oven, set aside and let the cheesecake cool. Once the cake is cool you can add the cherry topping. Chill before serving. Once cool, keep the cheesecake refrigerated.

*I wrapped my spring-form pan and still had a bit of water leakage but it did not affect the cheesecake – if anything it kept the crust moist and prevented it from getting too hard. I’m not sure how it leaked but I think maybe some water may have seeped in when I was walking with the tray. That said, you want to prevent leakage if possible.

NY Cheesecake recipe

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Gabriella
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Going Nuts for the Holidays! 2 Holiday Pecan Recipes

holiday spiced pecans and chocolate cinnamon pecan butter

When I was approached by Diamond Nuts to share some holiday recipes I jumped at the chance. One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is the food. At that time of year, I loosen my food rules about what I should be eating and as a result, I also often times have to loosen my belt! Sumptuous foods and wonderful smells are linked to memories and it’s hard to think of a holiday memory that isn’t related in some way to something delicious.

Another favorite aspect of the holidays is the sharing part. It’s a time for giving – sharing moments and gifts with friends and family. Sometimes this part can get a little tricky if the purse is a little light but we all know that it’s not the size or price of the gift, it’s the thought and love that went into a gift. That’s why I love gifting something sweet and delicious that I made to friends and family. You can create something with a lot of love that won’t break the bank.

diamond pecan halves

Today I’m sharing two very simple, quick holiday recipes using Diamond Pecan Halves: Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan Butter and Holiday Spiced Pecans. You can double the recipes for larger batches and you’ll need some cute packaging to put the nuts in. These make great gift basket items – just don’t forget to save some for yourself!

chocolate cinnamon pecan butter

Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan Butter Recipe
Inspired by Oh She Glows Dark Chocolate Pecan Butter

1/2 pound pecan halves
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (if you don’t like dark chocolate you can try milk or white chocolate)
1 tsp canola oil
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp cinnamon

chocolate cinnamon pecan butter recipe

Place the nuts in a dry pan and set over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes. You’ll know they are done when they start to brown and smell toasted.

While the pecans are toasting put a small pot of water on to boil. When it comes to a boil take the pot off the heat.

chocolate cinnamon pecan butter recipe

Put the toasted pecan halves in your food processor and process for a few minutes, it can take anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes. During that time, periodically stop the processor and scrape down the pecan mixture that built up on the side of the bowl.

chocolate cinnamon pecan butter recipe

While processing the pecans, add the chocolate, oil and cinnamon to a small glass bowl and put the bowl in the pot of water. (You want to use a bowl that won’t actually touch the water but will hover over the water in the pot). Stir the chocolate, oil and cinnamon together until the chocolate is melted.

chocolate cinnamon pecan butter recipe

When the pecan butter is almost ready add the chocolate mixture and salt to it and process to combine, scraping the sides of the bowl every so often.

chocolate cinnamon pecan butter recipe

Put the pecan butter in a container and store in the fridge. The pecan butter gets firm in the fridge so let it sit at room temperature before using.

chocolate cinnamon pecan butter recipe

Spread the Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan Butter on toast or drizzle on ice cream. Or you can be like me and just eat it by the spoonful!

holiday spiced pecans

Holiday Spiced Pecans Recipe
Inspired by Alton Brown’s Spiced Pecans

1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp of nutmeg
1/2 pound pecan halves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water

holiday spiced pecans recipe

Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Mix the salt, allspice, ground cardamom, cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger and nutmeg together in a small bowl and set aside.

holiday spiced pecans recipe

Place the nuts in a dry pan and set over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes. You’ll know they are done when they start to brown and smell toasted. Add the butter and stir while it melts.

holiday spiced pecans recipe

Next, add the spice mixture and combine.

holiday spiced pecans recipe

Once the butter and spices are mixed in, add the brown sugar, vanilla extract and water, stirring for about 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture thickens and coats the nuts.

holiday spiced pecans recipe

Scoop the nuts onto the prepared tray with parchment paper, making sure to separate the nuts and give them space. The nuts can be stored up to 3 weeks in an airtight container once they have cooled completely.

Happy Holidays and Happy Sharing!

100 years of holiday traditions you just don’t mess with. Classic family recipes call for a classic ingredient. Diamond of California nuts. The only nut good enough for your mom’s mom’s recipes is the only one that should be in yours. Diamond of California. Premium quality nuts since 1912.

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Diamond of California via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Diamond of California.

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Mama’s Kitchen: Pasta Pesto Primavera

pasta pesto primavera

I usually plan out my menus for the week but because of some re-arranging last week I was left with a lot of veggies in the fridge and I needed to come up with a dish that would use them all. I was in the mood for pasta and had some fresh basil so I made a small batch of pesto, sauteed the veggies and combined it all for a delicious dish that I’m calling on the fly Pasta Pesto Primavera. I don’t have exact measurements because I just used what I had.   It’s a super simple dish to make and you can improvise and substitute in any vegetables or protein you like.

You can see my pesto recipe here. I make it without pine nuts because my little one isn’t old enough to eat nuts but feel free to add pine nuts if you like and if your family is free of nut allergies.

Ingredients
Pasta
Pesto
Mushrooms
Asparagus
Zucchini
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Butter
Salt & Pepper

1. Make pesto according to recipe and set aside.

2. Bring a pot of water to boil while you wash and cut veggies. Try to keep the sizing uniform so they cook evenly.

3. In a saute pan, heat some olive oil and saute the veggies. Add salt & pepper to taste.

4. When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and salt. Stir often until the pasta is al dente.

5. When the pasta is al dente, drain the water and put the pasta back in the hot pot. Add some butter and pesto and stir until the pasta is evenly coated with pesto. Stir in the sauteed veggies and serve. You can add some fresh grated cheese on top if you like.

Buon appetito!

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Mama’s Kitchen: Change of Season, Change of Recipes

kale salad with fruit

I am in seasonal denial. I simply don’t want to head into the colder months and want to stay in the bliss that is summer. Living in California furthers my denial because it hasn’t been that cold. Last week we had a heat wave in California and I was swimming last weekend. So, needless to say, I have been firing up the grill (in the dark) just to squeeze out some last few days of summer eating.

We go to our local farmer’s market every Sunday morning and as much as I am denial, there is not denying the dwindling of summer fare. It’s still there but in very small quantities and instead the apples and squash are starting to take over. It’s not that I don’t like fall cuisine, I just LOVE summer fruits and veggies. That said, this week I was finishing the last of my nectarines and raspberries so I made a quick summer salad. And, to prove that I am actually heading in to fall, I made my first batch of my Nonna’s lentil soup for the fall/winter.

best lentil soup recipe

If you’re living in one of those unfortunate places that has already had snow then bookmark the salad recipe for next year.  The great part about this recipe is that you can literally put in any kind of fruit you like – I’ve made it with strawberries, blueberries, pineapple and oranges.  It’s a great way to sneak some fruit into your diet.

If you like lentil soup (or have never tried it) you must make this soup. It truly is the best lentil soup I’ve ever had and it’s my grandmother’s recipe. The recipe yields a lot of soup and usually there is enough to have for dinner and enough to freeze about 4-5 containers (for 2 people each). The lentil soup freezes really well and makes for a yummy, cozy dinner and all you have to do is reheat, warm up some bread and dress a salad (some cheese and olives on the side won’t hurt).

Click here to find my recipe for Nonna’s Lentil Soup.

Summer Salad Recipe
Kale* (or your preferred salad green – arugula works really well too)
Red Bell Pepper
Red Onion
Fruit! In the photo above I used nectarines and raspberries

Dressing
One part extra virgin olive oil
Two parts rice wine vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

*If you use Kale make sure that you remove the center vein. I also like to chop the Kale in small pieces since it can be a bit toothy.

That’s it. Buon Appetito!

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Mama’s Kitchen: Grilled Shrimp with Garlic & Herbs

grilled garlic shrimp with herbs
We had a gorgeous weekend in the Bay Area with temperatures reaching the 80s so the family and I decided to enjoy the pool and grill one last time before winter. I had a craving for garlic shrimp so I looked online for a recipe and found a recipe for Grilled Garlic Shrimp with Herbs.

I didn’t follow it precisely but it gave me an idea of what I needed to do to achieve the flavor profile I wanted. The recipe is kind of free-form without precise measurements – you know what you like – trust your instincts and you’ll make something delicious. Also, feel free to sub in your own favorite herbs! I would have definitely used mint if I had some on hand.

Ingredients
Shrimp, peeled and deveined (you can keep the tail on)
A few cloves of garlic, peeled
A handful of each – dill, basil, cilantro and parsley, rinsed
Extra virgin olive oil – enough to combine all of the ingredients and make a paste
Salt & Pepper, to taste

1. Put the herbs and garlic in a mini-food processor and chop. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper.

2. Take the garlic herb mixture and coat the shrimp and let marinate for 20 minutes.

3. Grill the shrimp for a few minutes on each side (depending on size).

That’s it, so easy and tasty. Spray with some fresh lemon juice and you’re ready to go. Buon Appetito!

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Mama’s Kitchen: Greek Baklava

baklava

I have a sweet tooth. There I said it. I like things sweet. And if something is sweet AND syrupy, you really can’t go wrong.

One of my mom’s good friends is Greek and when I was a kid, she gave my mom a cook book that she used. My mom didn’t really use it so when it came time for me to move out, she let me take the cook book with my on my adventures. I haven’t gotten to try out as many recipes as I would like, but there are two that I go back to over and over gain – Spanakopeta and Baklava.

My husband also loves Baklava so whenever it’s an occasion like his birthday or our anniversary I make it for him. Though he’s Persian, he prefers the Greek-style Baklava (Persian style is less syrupy and usually has rose water in the syrup). I’ve made both and we agree that this is the Baklava recipe winner.

Be advised, that I am re-printing the original recipe but unless you have a large family or are making this for a gathering it will be way too much. For the Baklava pictured above, I made 1/2 the Baklava recipe and 1/3 of the syrup recipe. I also added substituted pistachios for the walnuts because I love pistachios and dislike walnuts.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Recipe re-printed from Popular Greek Recipes

BAKLAVA I
1 lb walnut meats or almonds, ground [I like to do a combo of almond and pistachio]
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 lb. fila
1 lb. butter, melted and clarified
Whole cloves (optional) [I did not use them]
Syrup [recipe below]

1. Pre-heat oven to 325°.

2.  Combine coarsely ground nuts with sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

3. Line bottom of buttered pan, 9″x 12″, with 10 to 12 fila, brushing each with melted butter. Sprinkle with a thin layer of nut mixture. Cover with 3 fila, brushing each with melted butter. Sprinkle more nut mixture. Repeat process, until all nut mixture is used, usually in 4 layers.

4. Cover with remaining buttered fila. Chill 25 minutes.

5. Cut pastry into small diamond shapes. Brush again with melted butter. Insert whole cloves in center of each piece.

6. Bake in slow oven 325° for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  When slightly browned, remove from oven; slowly pour enough cooled syrup over hot Baklava until completely absorbed.

SYRUP

3 cups sugar
1/2 cups water [I add a little extra water]
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup honey

Combine sugar, water and lemon juice. Boil 10 minutes. Slowly add honey, and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool.

Buon Appetito!

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Mama’s Kitchen: Caprese Bruschetta

caprese bruschetta

It’s the last days of tomatoes and I’m trying to squeeze in as many tomato dishes as I can. My recipe for Caprese Bruschetta is a great way to use whatever tomatoes you have in the fridge regardless of size and color. I also love that this recipe is a twist on two very classic easy Italian dishes.

I came up with this recipe one night out of necessity. I was planning on making a Caprese salad but realized I didn’t have full-sized tomaotes – instead, I just had cherry tomatoes. So, rather than slicing the mozzarella and tomatoes, I diced them up and made a bruschetta (you can also check out my traditional bruschetta recipe here). Here’s how you can make it…

Ingredients:
Fresh Mozarella, diced
Tomatoes, diced
Fresh Basil, chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt and pepper, to taste
Garlic clove cut in half.
Baguette

1. Combine the mozarella, tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and stir gently.

2. Slice the baguette. Brush the baguette with a bit of olive oil and rub the garlic clove (cut side down) on each slice. Toast the baguette slices to desired toast level.

3. Top each slice with the mozarella and tomato mixture.

That’s it! Buon Appetito!

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Mama’s Kitchen: Fresh Tomato Sauce 2 Ways (Raw & Cooked)

tomatoes

Summer in the kitchen means one thing – fresh tomatoes!  I can’t get enough of tomatoes right now.  Every week I go to my local farmer’s market and buy a few pounds of tomatoes.  It looks like a lot and I wonder if I’ll be able to use them all but sure enough by the end of the week they’re gone and I can’t wait to go back to the farmer’s market.

I have posted several tomato sauce recipes before – I make a few different kinds and I’m always trying new recipes.  To someone not familiar with Italian food maybe all tomato sauce is the same.  But for me, they are all subtley different and have their time and place.  When I received my issue of Fine Cooking in the mail and it included not one, but two fresh tomato sauce recipes, I was ready to try them.

Both recipes yield enough for one pound of pasta.

Raw Fresh Tomato Sauce

The first recipe is for Raw Fresh Tomato Sauce  – that’s right, the tomatoes are not cooked.  This recipe is so easy and really delicious.  I especially like it for summer because the raw tomatoes add a lightness to what would otherwise be a heavy dish.

raw fresh tomato sauce

3 lb. ripe tomatoes, cored
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh basil
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt

Cut a 1/4-inch slice from the tops of the tomatoes. Peel the tomatoes with a vegetable peeler, using a zig-zag motion, halve them crosswise, and remove and discard the seeds. Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch dice and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the basil and oregano.

Just before serving, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a 1-quart saucepan until shimmering hot (but not smoking); pour over the tomato mixture, add 2 tsp. salt, and mix well. Toss with cooked pasta and serve.

Cooked Fresh Tomato Sauce

The second recipe is for Cooked Fresh Tomato Sauce.  It’s a very similar recipe, but the tomatoes are cooked down to give you a rich dish that’s full of flavor.  I did make a few tweaks to this recipe – I had to add basil because I can’t see tomato sauce without basil and I added some red pepper flakes for a kick.

cooked fresh tomato sauce

3 lb. ripe tomatoes, cored
5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp. finely chopped garlic (2 medium cloves)
Fine sea salt

Peel the tomatoes and coarsely chop them.

Put 4 Tbs. of the olive oil, the parsley, and garlic in a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. When the garlic and parsley begin to sizzle, add the tomatoes and 1-3/4 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down and are thick and saucy, 35 to 70 minutes, depending on how much liquid the tomatoes release. Toss with cooked pasta and the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil and serve.

The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to use it, reheat and toss with cooked pasta and the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil.

The beauty of these recipes is that they are great starting points and you can add any of your favorite flavors to elevate the dishes.

Buon Appetito!

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