Clams with Bucatini

Sometimes, you just need a bowl of pasta that screams comfort and Summer all in one. This pasta is close to my heart for a number of reasons, one being it lets me taste the ocean without physically being there. Chris and I decided not to do any trips this Summer, since we are saving for a nice Fall trip. It sounds fine, at first, but as the mid-July slump took over, I found myself desperately needing to be by a large body of water, soaking in the sun, and eating the fruit of the sea. It’s a Summer tradition for most folks who grew up on the East Coast. I felt something missing all Summer and I realized that was why. What are some of your favorite Summer vacations? (more…)

So back to the pasta. I have never, ever cooked anything that was considered alive. In fact, I had cooked my best friend a lobster dish a few weeks back. Instead of paying for the cheap whole lobster, that I would have to kill myself, I opted for the much more expensive lobster tail option. I just couldn’t bring myself to do the deed. I saw this recipe for clams and pasta in the July issue of Food Network’s magazine. It had everything I wanted out of Summer: briney, lemony, buttery pasta with tender, sweet clams mixed throughout. I cooked a lot of garlic, then added the wine, then gently placed the clams on top, covered the pot and walked away for 7 minutes. Opening that pot was the most beautiful surprise. All of the clams were widely open, soaking it the wine and garlic they had just been cooked in. See my notes on caring for the clams at the bottom! This recipe is too easy and too delicious not to make. I made it again this weekend and was equally satisfied! Be sure to serve this with tons of napkins! A lot of slurpin’ with happen! Happy pasta making!

Winter Stuffed Shells

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Saturday and Whole Foods are the only two words that will make Chris get out of his comfy sweatpants and brave the crowds with me to grocery shop. Whole Foods will have tons of samples out, I guess making his trip more enjoyable (and mine too! Who am I kidding?). Last year, they had this interesting Gouda titled, “Winter Gouda.” I didn’t need to know what was in it, I was already intrigued. The cheese was a salty and mellow Gouda, studded with flecks of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. The combination was out of this world! It also inspired me to take those flavors to the next level. What could be better than a beef and tomato stuffed shell, bathing in a glorious spiced Gouda sauce? Not much. This recipe might be for a little more than two people but no one hates the idea of easy leftovers! Winter Stuffed Shells is warm, comforting with a spicy edge, and something you probably don’t normally have on your menu.

Sicilian Spaghetti

It was the summer of our venture as newly weds. We weren’t your typical newly weds where we both had jobs and a family to come back to after the honeymoon. No, we decided to leave everything we had known and move straight across the country. Maryland to California, 3 days after our much anticipated wedding. After learning more than enough about the other person in just 7 short days, we settled into our first apartment together in the heart of Los Angeles. It was a quaint and cozy classic with not much room to spare but to us, it was perfect. One night, after stressing about this new life, I had realized I should better learn how to somewhat cook (does throwing a can of Cream of Mushroom over some chicken count as cooking? Boy, I’m glad those days are long gone!). We were extremely poor with not much in the pantry so I pulled together this delicious pasta dish. It’s unusual when you are used to those delectable creamy pasta dishes. But, Chris will hound me if I don’t make this at least once a month. (more…)

Do you remember when you were a kid or even a teenager and you had to ask your parents for something you knew they wouldn’t give to you? It came down to your approach. There was a certain way to sound and look while asking, that almost ensured your success. Well, I am going to attempt to do the same thing with you…now. This pasta is full of flavor! Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, fresh parsley, cough**anchovies**cough, olive oil. See, easy, not so scary ingredients. In all seriousness, you will never find me munching on some pizza covered in anchovy fillets. I can’t do it. But, what anchovies add to dishes in terms of flavor, is remarkable. So if you or someone you know doesn’t like anchovies, still make this. You don’t taste anchovy as much as a salty flavor. Also, since there aren’t a lot of ingredients, try to reach for premium quality products. It will always make whatever you’re eating so much more delicious.

Our ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: Those anchovies we aren’t scared about, extra virgin olive oil, spaghetti (this was a brown rice spaghetti), crushed garlic or garlic paste, fresh parsley, black pepper (I know I usually don’t put salt and pepper in the ingredient line up but it’s soooo necessary here), breadcrumbs (fresh is best if you can), and parmesan.

As our pasta is boiling away, we make our sauce. I know it’s not the most appetite invoking sauce but once it’s tossed with our pasta and breadcrumbs, you will believe in this pasta once more.

We combine our pasta with our sauce. Magic is about to happen. It really is. See that black pepper, it needs to get in here…now!

Toss that pretty thing until it’s nice and mixed through. Make sure you don’t overcook your pasta. Since there is so much tossing happening here, it will fall apart. Cooking it to al dente will make a perfect spaghetti!

I like to add sausage to this but it’s yummy on it’s own. The ball is in your court!

One more pic for good luck! Happy ‘sghetti making!

Mini Niçoise Tuna Melts

These are your childhood meets elegant. I love taking a classic and making it new. Not totally new where you can’t recognize it anymore. Just new enough that you taste the classic flavors but in a new way. That’s what gets me going. Tuna melts have my heart. They’re part of that special group of meals that you forget about until you eat them and then furiously wonder why it’s taken you so long to get here. Why don’t I make these more often?! That’s what goes through my head when I eat a tuna melt. And I bet I’m not the only one…or am I? Queue in the X-Files theme song. (more…)

Have you ever had a niçoise salad? It’s a salad composed of tomatoes, eggs, olives, and anchovies and dressed with a vinaigrette. Usually, fresh tuna is also added to make it a complete meal. In these melts, I make some changes from the usual: sun dried tomatoes instead of fresh, no anchovies (not because I don’t like them but because I didn’t want to get my blender dirty), and the biggest change of all: no mayonnaise. Yup. I’m sorry. But that is what takes these to the next level. Instead of a mayo based dressing, we make a vinaigrette that would normally be paired with the niçoise salad. BUT the creaminess of the gruyere and eggs make up for the lack of creaminess from the lack of mayo. Not confusing at all.

Our French ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: Baguette, sun dried tomatoes, parsley, gruyere cheese, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, olives, tuna, hard boiled eggs (look at those yellows), and shallots.
*Just a little tip when buying canned tuna. Make sure the can says dolphin safe or pole caught. It’s a better way to fish for tuna that won’t hurt dolphins in the process. Fishing can be a tricky thing!

We first make our vinaigrette. Can you guess how many times I had to google vinaigrette for spelling? Don’t. Just Don’t.

Then, we begin our niçoise madness. If I had a dollar for every can of tuna I have opened in my life, well, I’d have a lot of dollars. Does that saying ever go anywhere? Am I missing something or just not witty enough? I dunno. Our vinaigrette meets our tuna niçoise ingredients.

Time to top our cute little bread slices with some niçoise love. Oooo lala.

The gruyere is sprinkled on top. These are tuna melts afterall.

All we do is place them under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Easiest appetizer ever. This would also be a great tuna salad if you don’t do the cheese thing.

I love these. I really do. These would be great to kick start any football season. Oh and if you don’t like olives, I would encourage you to still add them. I don’t like them at all but loved them in this. The amount I have added makes then barely noticeable but essential! Happy melts making!