Monday, March 28, 2011

Presto Pesto

Some of the most delicious dishes have come into creation by accident. And sometimes a side dish is so tasty it becomes the main attraction. Both were the case when I whipped up a batch of pesto on a whim the other night.

We needed a little something to complement the main dish--chicken, I think--and after scouring the fridge and pantry, I realized we had some whole wheat pasta and a whole lotta basil. And anytime there's an abundance of basil, I think of pesto. And when we happen to have all of the ingredients on hand (cheese, nuts, olive oil, garlic), I feel like it would be a crime not to make some.

Super fast, super easy, it's a hungry girl's sauce-come-true: throw a clove of garlic, a bunch of basil leaves, salt, pepper, grated cheese, and a handful of nuts (we had sliced almonds) in the food processor. Mix until combined, stream in some good olive oil with the processor running and presto! You've got pesto.

I tossed some rotini with the vibrant green goodness over low heat, then added a splash of cream (since we had some) to finish the sauce. And how did it turn out, you ask? Well, when the hubs can't even tell that the pasta it's on is whole wheat, it's definitely a sauce worth making again.

Happy Searching!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Amazing Asparagus

Asparagus is one of my all-time favorite veggies. The lovely springtime stems are tied for first place with my other fave, green beans. I could eat boatloads of both, and usually in a similar preparation: lightly steamed, then sauteed with garlic, olive oil, S&P. But during Spring Break, I was reminded of one of the most amazing asparagus dishes. This may be the tiebreaker...

After choosing our delicious main course, my friend Sarah and I stumbled upon Giada's recipe for Prosciutto-Wrapped Roasted Asparagus. It's hard to decide what was more appealing about the recipe...the deliciousness or the simplicity.

Roasting intensified the sweet, nuttiness of the asparagus and made the tips crispy (which I love). And after letting them cool, we got to wrap each one in a little prosciutto overcoat. Just half a slice for each spear, enough to transform the humble vegetables into scrumptious superstars.

Simple. Savory. So amazing.

So what's your favorite veggie? What's your favorite way to prepare it? If you're looking for a new favorite, check out the recipe below.

Happy Searching,

Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto
from Giada De Laurentiis's Everyday Italian

12 asparagus spears [about 1 pound], trimmed
1 TB olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
6 paper-thin slices of prosciutto, halved lengthwise

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel the bottom half of each asparagus. On a heavy baking sheet, toss the asparagus with the oil, salt, and pepper. Put in the oven and roast until the asparagus is tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Wrap each asparagus with 1 piece of prosciutto, exposing the tips. Arrange on a platter and serve at room temperature.

Makes 6 appetizer servings or 3 side servings.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vodka Sauce with Penne

I've been taking a little break from writing to enjoy Spring Break and a visit from one of my besties, Sarah. She flew in from New York and was itchin' to experience some suburban activities that she's missed since living in the big city (grocery shopping without taking the subway, cooking in a fully stocked kitchen, etc). I was, of course, more than happy to oblige! We spent our days together shopping, cooking, eating, and reminiscing about our shenanigan-filled friendship.

We sought inspiration from Giada's Everyday Italian cookbook, which I hadn't used in ages. But what a great collection of recipes! We ended up making two delicious dishes and shared a little feast.

The main dish that stole our hearts (and later, stomachs) was the Vodka Sauce with Penne. We started by making our own marinara sauce which was really easy, just required a bit of chopping. Once that was underway, we got the Vodka Sauce simmering (both recipes follow). It was well rounded and had just the right mix of sharp, acidic sweetness (from the vodka and tomatoes) and luscious depth (from the cream and parmesan). And to sassify it a bit, we added some roasted shrimp and sliced cremini mushrooms.

We almost had as much fun making it as we did eating it...almost. It tasted pretty amazing.

Stay tuned for some other scrumptious selections from our Spring Break Menu!

Happy Searching,

Marinara Sauce
from Giada De Laurentis's Everyday Italian 
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 [32 oz] cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thicken, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. [The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.]

Makes about 2 quarts/8 cups.

Vodka Sauce
from Giada De Laurentis's Everyday Italian 
3 c. Marinara Sauce
1 c. vodka
1/2 c. heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

In a large heavy skillet, simmer the marinara sauce and vodka over low heat, stirring until the mixture reduces by one fourth, about 20 minutes. Stir in the cream and continue to simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1/4 tsp of pepper. Season the sauce with more salt & pepper to taste.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Sometimes I become a little preoccupied with a particular dish or ingredient. I will go through phases of craving something for days and weeks on end. A few years ago, I went through a peanut butter-banana phase, where I so loved the combination, I could hardly have one without the other. I've gone through a grapefruit phase, where I had one for breakfast and then another for a snack (this went on for a couple of weeks). It's like I just can't get enough of a good thing!

A few years ago, I went through an avgolemeno phase. I made it once a week for over a month. I was crazy for avgolemeno. It's easy to see's a deliciously simple yet incredibly flavorful Greek soup. And it has some of my all-time favorite ingredients: lemon, eggs, and pasta (orzo, a rice-shaped pasta to be exact).

The other night when we were on the tail end of our grocery supply, I realized we had all the key ingredients and was resourcefully inspired to whip up a batch. It was just as tasty as I remembered, and just as easy.

All you have to do is boil some chicken broth, throw in the orzo, whisk up some eggs and lemon juice, and combine it in one big pot (okay, it's almost that simple...check out all the recipe deets here). We were out of parsley (which is the garnish the recipe calls for) but we had some dill which was even tastier. It's a traditional Greek herb, after all. I also topped it with a little arugula and some shaved Pecorino Romano cheese for a bit of flavor and texture contrast.

Because the eggs are slowly heated by the broth, they create a thick and creamy base. The lemon provides just the right amount of tart acidity to balance the richness of the eggs. And the orzo is delicately suspended in the slightly sour soup.

Bright, creamy, perfectly salty. It's definitely worth obsessing over.

Happy Searching!
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