I was recently offered the opportunity to join a group of bloggers as guests of the Animal Agricultural Alliance, to tour three pig farms (Sow Farm on Prestage P12B/McDaniels Complex, Nursery Farm L&W Ammons and Finishing Farm C&C Top Hog)* in North Carolina. At a glance it seemed like an amazing opportunity, they would pay our expenses and we would enjoy the chance to learn something new. But I also knew it was a trip that would come with emotional and psychological risks. Without much hesitation, this part-time vegetarian decided Continue reading ‘Swine & Wine Italian Pork Stew (Bourguignon)’
I have a love of figs. There is something romantic about this biblical fruit; it is sensual. Maybe it is its the shape or perhaps it is the texture. Whatever it is that draws me in, it is simply an amazing and delicate fruit.
They were said to be Cleopatra’s favorite food, there is no denying that these buxom purple and greenish yellow fruits are sexy in both appearance and texture. For obvious reasons, Continue reading ‘Dark Mission Fig Streusel Bars’
Living in Northern California, with a generally moderate climate, I do feel spoiled by the constant flurry of good fresh foods I have access to. While I am cognoscente of it, I have an indulginest attitude. Ergo- I am lucky, I am appreciative, and I enjoy every opportunity to partake in the available local bounty. This time of year the bounty is abundant with the most succulent tomatoes and fresh herbs.
Good produce makes for great food. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a great cook to prepare delicious food. What you need is Continue reading ‘Insalata Caprese’
The secret to enjoying the last of those long summer nights is a no-fuss do ahead meal with the added bonus of not having to wash any pots and pans. This is a great week night meal or fun dinner to do when entertaining. In keeping with my theme of the past few weeks, here is another easy summer meal to tuck into your “favorites” foodie file.
As I look towards Labor Day long holiday weekend, I want to keep the food aspect of entertaining my guests simple Continue reading ‘Campfire Prawns & Corn Wheels’
Fava Beans (or broad beans) although very common in Italy are not usual fare in the U.S. While they do continue to grow in popularity, they can be a chore to prepare. Fava beans, when in their pods, look like an overgrown sweet pea. Their taste is richer than most other beans; smoother and richer.
It never fails, I am suckered in each time. During the spring and summer I hunt fava beans out at the farmer’s market and I select a couple pounds of the plumpest, bright green pods I can find. Hand selecting each bean as I diligently run my hand along the exterior of the individual pods to ensure that there are nice fat beans inside. I remind myself that it is important not to go for pods that are bulging, as these are typically older and might have a slightly bitter taste. And while it always seems like a lot of beans when they are in their pods, one pound of un-peeled beans will garner roughly 1/3 cup of favas.
But I digress. Fast forward to that moment when I get home with my coveted glorious bag of fava beans and realize that I have now committed myself to peeling, boiling, shocking, peeling again and then finally cooking the scant ¼- ½ cup yield of beans. Typically I purchase them for my mom, as she loves to make a traditional Sicilian Fava Bean soup recipe that was handed down to her by my grandfather. It isn’t a recipe I would consider complex, but it is one that I always look forward to devouring. She covets them equally. Upon the arrival of the fava beans she guards these pods like gold.
Over the last few years in addition to buying her fava beans she has even managed to convince me to purchase and peel them for her before handing them over for her cookery. But this year I held out. I made a secret voyage to the Marin County Farmer’s Market and purchased a few pounds. I’ve been wanting to experiment with these beauties, so I didn’t divulge that I had purchased any. But like any mother, her antennas were up and without even trying she found out from a friend of mine that I purchased them! It was on. “Oh, I hear you bought some fava beans today,” she remarked. “Did you get some for me?” >my radio silence prevails< “Well not exactly. I was going to try out some new recipe ideas,” I explained. “Humm, so we not going to have any fava bean soup this summer? Or the pork and fava bean dish? Are you sure?” she questioned. “I’ll share my creations,” I say convincingly.
I am pleased to report that success was achieved. No need to go through the typical painstaking multistep preparation process. >drum roll PUH-leze< This is a super simple mind-blowing appetizer recipe. No shucking, boiling, shocking, peeling again and then cooking. Three steps, wash, season and roast! It’s a summer miracle- roasting the pods renders the second outermost skin edible!
The Un-Fava Bean Recipe
Toss clean whole fava bean pods in good quality olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss on the upper most level of the BBQ. Cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes on each side. The exact cooking time will depend on the size of the pod. When the pods loose their crisp firm form and become slightly browned and wilted they are cooked. Place the roasted pods on a plate or in a shallow bowl and sprinkle with kosher salt or sea salt. Encourage guests to eat them out of the pods similar to edamame. The skin is where all of the good flavors reside so it is I wouldn’t recommend pre-peeling them. However, if opting to go this skinner route then add a nice sprinkling of kosher or sea salt to the naked beans.
No BBQ? Well no problem-o. Spread the fava bean pods onto a baking sheet, in a single layer, and roast at 450 degrees for approximately 25 minutes, turning once half way through the total cooking time. Cook until wilted and tender.
Blackberries make summer memories
Summer simmers along, with hot days and warm still nights. This is the sign of a good blackberry summer. The berries hang heavy and ripe on their briers, waiting for eager hands to gather them. Heaving buckets heaped with berries comprise the Mt. Shasta Blackberry Festival’s iconic food – blackberry pie. As the summer days melt away, this end-of-summer staple, sweet tangy blackberries, ease us into the next season.
For our family, the Mt. Shasta Blackberry Festival has been a staple. There is nothing quite like a good ole’ fashioned summer party to push away the back to school blues. The potato sack races, watermelon eating contest and balloon toss contests are often picturesque images seen only in a Martha Stewart magazine but here, Continue reading ‘Blackberry & Proscuitto Goat Cheese Herbed Pizza’
One of my favorite things about traveling is the opportunity for food discovery. Even common dishes can take on a new local spin or inspire food creativity. This summer we headed to the mid-west to spend some time with good friends. Had it not been for them we may have never made it to Milwaukee and I can honestly say that we would have really missed out. It was a fantastic trip- the food, the people, the history, the fun. It was really a time to put the last 3+ months behind us and to focus on summer and friendships.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you more about the food. My friend Maria and her husband Robbie appreciate good food whether they are dining out or cooking-in. Over the years we’ve shared many meals together and this past February we took an amazing foodie adventure trip to New Orleans, Robbie’s home town. It was off of the charts delicious. Definitely a trip to remember. Our latest trip was no slouch either, Maria and Robbie created a list of fun things for us to do, places to explore and places to eat when they weren’t preparing delectable meals. A true vacation!
As you may have heard through the grape vine, Wisconsin is B-I-G on cheese. While we were visiting the Wisconsin Dells (Wis Dells), one of her recommendations was to dine at Mac’s– a macaroni and cheese shop. It was FANTASTIC –and yes, we are still talking about it! We ordered, then taste tested a few dishes, and without hesitation put in a second order, which left us with more food than we could eat. Without question we asked for to-go containers and packaged it all up.
The next day, as we drove back from the Wis Dells to Milwaukee to reconnect with our friends and have a much anticipated farewell BBQ, I started thinking about our leftovers. I have always loved making and eating aranchni (fried Italian rice balls made with leftovers and other goodies) so why not make something similar with the leftover mac and cheese?! When we arrived at their home, a beautiful farm house built in the 1800’s, we gave it a try. The result was worthy of this post and has me pondering other fun ways to prepare this dish again.
Wis Dells Fried MAC & Cheese Bites
2 cups mac and cheese, fresh or leftover /p>
1 large egg
1/8 cup Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp salt
2 slices, cooked chopped bacon (optional)
1 TBS vegetable oil
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Place Italian breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese into a bowl and set aside.
If preparing mac and cheese from scratch, see link above. If using leftovers, place mac and Cheese in a bowl. In a separate bowl beat one egg and add it into the mac and cheese mixture. Add in bacon and combine well. Begin to form into 1-inch sized balls (golf ball size). Coat each ball well with breadcrumb mixture. Place poppers on baking sheet. When all of the mixture has been used, add vegetable oil to a 10-12 inch pan. Heat on medium-high and then add in as many poppers as can fit comfortably with room to turn and brown; working in batches will be necessary. Turn poppers regularly to crate a crispy outer crust. Place on plate and set aside in a 100 degree oven until ready to serve.
Summer in Florence, Italy conjures up memories of light meals involving quick summer preparations. And this past week with the heat temperatures hitting over 100 degrees Fahrenheit I was on the prowl to capture a taste of Italian summer.
Whenever I think of Italy, I flashback to my year spent in Florence with Zia Maria Rosa and Zio Andrea by my side. I’d be lying if I told you it doesn’t all seem like a wonderful dream. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. These precious moments have become a large part of who I am. At the time I didn’t share the passion I now have for cooking…baking yes, but cooking was limited to dinner parties.
Zia Maria Rosa and Zio Andrea eagerly took me under their wings and opened my eyes to countless wonderful places and meals. There wasn’t a meal that went by that I didn’t ask Zia Maria Rosa for her recipes. She made even simple dishes sing with flavor. Our weekly dinners and weekend shopping trips to the market for ingredients are coveted deep inside the cockles of my heart. Over the years they’ve shared in all the milestones of my life and are now two names that happily drip off of the lips of my children.
These past months of recovery have forced me to consider new ways to put a smile on my face. As I shed my former self, three months post injury, I thought a post with the word NUDE would not only put a childish smile on my face but would garner a great deal of attention in a foodie porn kind of way.
Gnudi (pronounced “nu-dee”) is a type of gnocchi made from ricotta cheese and a scant bit of flour. The result is a pasta dumpling that some describe as “nude” ravioli, or filling without the pasta — that is to say, light, fluffy, and creamy. These creamy ricotta creations are actually deceptively light and shine with simple sauces and fresh ingredients– mushrooms, tomato and basil, butter and sage are all amazing with this summer treat.
Ricotta Kale and Spinach Gnudi
1 pound fresh whole milk ricotta, drained
1/2 cup spinach, finely chopped
1/2 cup kale, finely chopped
1/4 cup Peccorino, freshly grated
6 tablespoons bread crumbs
1/4 cup flour, plus flour for rolling
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup salted butter
10 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup Peccorino, freshly grated
Place a large pot of salted water over medium high heat. Cover with a lid and bring to a rolling boil.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Using a food processor combine kale and spinach and finely chop. Set aside.
In a large bowl blend the ricotta and the egg together. Mix in the bread crumbs, cheese, flour, kale, spinach, salt and pepper. Knead lightly.
To test the consistency of the dough scoop a heaping tablespoon of the mixture and form it into a ball. Lightly flouring it. Drop it into the boiling water; if it does not hold its shape and rise to the surface of the water within a minute, add more bread crumbs to the dough.
Once the consistency is correct, form the dough into torpedo shapes, approximately the size of golf balls. Lay the gnudi on pre-lined baking sheets. Dredge in flour to coat, tapping off the excess. Slide formed gnudi into the boiling water and cook for approximately 2-3 minutes, until they rise to the top. Remove the gnudi using a slotted spoon after they float to the top. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan; working in batches if necessary. To test for doneness, scoop out a ball and press it with your fingers: the dumpling dough when cooked should bounce back, leaving no indentation.
While the gnudi cook, melt the butter in a medium saute pan and continue cooking until golden brown color appears. Add sage leaves and cook until slightly crisped then remove from heat. Use sage as garnish.
Arrange gnudi on a platter and lightly drizzle with a butter and sage sauce, add freshly grated cheese, and serve immediately.
I started my recovery journey 11 weeks ago, which at times feels like a major detour from my previous life. There are days that make me believe that I am making incredible strides in my recovery. There are also of course days where I feel simply bewildered or annoyed that I spend so much time rehabbing such a small (albeit critical) part of my body. The best way I can explain how I feel on most days is that I have a GIANT headache in my hand. I now realize how blissfully ignorant I was to have had the luxury of both hands and arms working without pain. As a food blogger I am constantly using my hands to cook, type, take photos and ….well Continue reading ‘Cheesy Linguine with Smokey Garden Tomatoes’
Single tasking. What a brilliant idea to have a name to go with my state of mind and being. I was attempting to multi-task nine weeks ago when I injured myself and now I am a new convert to the mindset of single tasking. It goes perfectly with my ‘keep things simple’ concept. What better way to slow down this crazy pace of life than to just focus on one thing and to do it as best as you possibly can. What I’ve learned during this unexpected journey is how much more I grasp out of every conversation when I am focused, the little things I notice and the stories I hear.
Three months ago as I started planning out the summer program for my kids I jokingly said to a friend of mine, “Wouldn’t it be great to have one of those summers like when you were a kid and the days seemed as if they lasted forever?” Never did I imagine that I was about to have that kind of a summer, where I would literally sit and observe life going on around me. Upside? Along the way I found that I was able to flex my ‘attention’ muscle. Once I figured out how to get past my anger and disappointment for being so careless as to have such an accident with a knife, I became focused on the now and living in the now.
Life has a funny way of yanking you into the present. Like it or not there are some very defining moments in our lives when karma shakes us and gets us to pay attention. While it is a dark rabbit hole to focus on the areas of loss, it is also a part of the process of healing and accepting. In these past months I’ve learned that people can really surprise you, and usually for the better. And it is not the jolting moments that you define you but those touching moments in between that remind you about what is good.
When I think back on these past nine weeks, I recall getting three sets of stitches, feeling sick to my stomach and wishing a kajillian times that I could turn back the clock. But if I had turned back the clock I might have missed a few things…like being reminded at how deeply I am loved by my family; the visits and meals friends and family sent to help take some of the burden off of my husband while he took charge of the work of two people. I would have missed the extra hugs from my daughter, the jokes from my son, blogging with my mom, my aunt, Rosa and Kevin…I would have missed a lot of my days as I rushed and multi-tasked my way into summer and very important memories would have evaporated like the drops of dew on the morning leaves. I remember Jim Croce singing ‘Time in a Bottle‘…
If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day ’til eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you…
If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then
Again, I would spend them with you…
What did I learn? I learned that spending time with my family and friends is the best way to make days last forever in my memory.
For me summer also has its memorable foods to cherish. These warm months conjure up visions of juicy sweet tree ripened stone fruits…apricots, cherries, nectarines, and peaches. In this recipe the dried white peaches combined with the crunchy cinnamon flavored oats give the granola a delicious twist of summer flavor. If I could bottle the taste of summer breakfast cereal then this is the recipe!
Peachy Keen Granola
2 cups oats
1/2 cup red quinoa, uncooked and rinsed
1/2 cup sliced honey roasted almonds (Trader Joe’s)
2 TBS flaxseed
2 TBS sunflower seeds, shelled and unsalted
1 TBS wheat germ
1 TBS chia seeds (Trader Joe’s)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
2 TBS coconut oil (Tropical Traditions Gold Label)
1 cup dried white peaches, finely chopped
1/3 cup pistachios, shelled and unsalted (optional)
1/2 cup pecans, lightly sweetened (Trader Joe’s)
1/3 cup coconut flakes (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl combine all ingredients except the nuts, dried peaches and coconut flakes. Bake for 10 minutes, then stir and continue cooking an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately add in remaining ingredients. Allow to cool completely before transferring to an air tight container.
2 cups dried white peaches, chopped (Trader Joe’s)