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!

Chicken Milanese with Spicy Tomato Peach Salad

I find the best inspiration for cooking isn’t found in endless recipe searches on the Internet nor through a quick scroll through Pintrest. Going to the market and seeing what’s in season really gets my wheels turning. It’s like I’m a contestant on Chopped but without the stressful time limit. I have a few basic recipes in my head that I can alter to whatever I’m feeling for that day. I don’t need to get my Iphone greasy by trying to read a recipe as I go. This is cooking from the soul, my friends. (more…)

Chicken Milanese is an Italian classic that leaves you with a blank canvass with what to place next to it. To keep it on the lighter side, a salad seems to be the best option. I love combining sweet with savory so this Chicken Milanese with Spicy Tomato Peach Salad was a no brainer. Make sure your tomato and peach are perfectly ripe and you got yourself a show stopper. Spicy frisee pulls all of the elements together. Did I mention this is incredibly quick? Oh and butter.

Our chicken breasts are traditionally breaded and cooked in some olive oil and butter for good measure.

While our chicken cooks, our salad is combined. Capers are necessary here. Look at that cute peach peeking through. I’m soooooo glad it’s (almost) Summer!

I also pan-fried some prosciutto for one last crunch. So glad I did! A lot of people don’t enjoy prosciutto but when you fry it, its flavor changes. Check it out! I know there are a few more steps I didn’t picture but this recipe is very easy and ideal for a hectic week. Happy dinner or lunch making!

Prosciutto Mozzarella Flatbread

I know I’ve been pretty MIA lately and my posts have been few and far between. I appreciate you stopping by; whether it’s out of anticipation of a new post, or a revisit to an old post for the recipe, or if it’s just the first time for you. Warm weather spurs something within my soul towards cooking I normally don’t feel in the Winter. Then I step outside and the thick Maryland humidity slaps me in my face and demands I wake up. Standing over a hot stove? I’ll pass. And the worst part is, IT’S NOT EVEN JUNE (well, I guess now it is but it wasn’t a couple of days ago!). I’m afraid I’m going to either melt before Summer actually gets here or chop off all of my frizzy, curly hair because a bun isn’t cutting it. Either way, we will get through Summer in one cool piece and we will savor it, because, you know, Winter is always coming. (more…)

In my absolute stubborn attitude of not wanting to stand over anything hot, I offer you flatbread! This flatbread was inspired by a simple and very delicious panini I enjoyed in my recent trip to Las Vegas. I know the words simple and Vegas don’t go together and trust me, this isn’t my last Vegas-inspired food post. But…I loved these ingredients so much together I needed to recreate it and so I did. I use unleavened Lavash as the crust. I get this from my local Trader Joe’s and it’s the perfect cheat to a thin crust pizza! Fresh pesto is best, although if you have landed yourself a good grocery store find, you can use that too. I love fresh mozzarella on pizza, it melts perfectly and feels familiar, like Italian grandmothers have been doing this for years. After a quick trip to the oven, a simply dressed arugula salad and salty, thinly sliced prosciutto ribbons are added last minute. I’m always tempted to add something more, just one more thing. But then I take a bite and can’t believe there is so much flavor in such a simple gathering of good ingredients. This is how I survive summer without withering from all the heat in my kitchen. Plus, who doesn’t want pizza for dinner?

We first “schmear” our lavash with some fresh pesto.

Top with fresh mozzarella.

Give it a quick trip to the broiler. Don’t walk away! It only takes a couple of minutes for the lovely mozzarella to melt.

Toss the arugula with a healthy pinch of salt, good extra virgin olive oil, and delicious prosciutto. This flatbread is light, herbacious, and the easiest dinner ever. Happy flatbread making!

Crispy Kale Caesar

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Doesn’t food taste so much better when it’s pretty? This curly kale caesar kept making bedroom eyes at me with its adorable little curves and crannies that were just begging to be filled with a smoky, tangy caesar dressing and delicately topped with fresh parmesan curls. Placing this delicacy underneath the hot broiler was the least I could do and in return, it gave me a perfectly charred, slightly salty, cheesy appetizer with no fuss. Kale is perfect for this recipe because it holds up while being broiled. Romaine would have been nice too, but would need a different approach when preparing, such as cut into quarters instead of separating the individual leaves. I like to add a light sprinkling of smoked paprika to my dressing for an extra flavor element. We loved this “salad” as an introduction to our pizza dinner and cannot wait to give it another go! A fun little hint: instead of broiling your kale, you could also grill it after brushing it with the dressing. ‘Tis the season!

Look at those webs of cheese!

Herbed Feta Mini Peppers

The Winter time barely allows for anything fresh to pass through my pantry doors. Stuffing vine-ripened tomatoes is a dream when it’s the dead of winter and we still have a few months until those delicacies are back in season. Instead, I decided to stuff mini sweet peppers with an herbed feta mixture for a light appetizer. You only need a few to set off the hunger pains, as you wait for the main dish. Double the recipe for a party appetizer!

Late Summer Salad

I like to think that at the end of a season, a better one awaits. There shouldn’t be mourning from one season to another, for we don’t know what the new season might bring. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way but transitions can be tough. Along with a new season, uncertainty, insecurity, and fear are close behind. Luckily, for me, the only major transitions right now are the seasons changing and the company I work for is moving to a new location. Both transitions are very much welcomed but I know that’s a gift. Here’s to making the best of transitions. (more…)

Ok, enough with my philosophical rant. I guess that’s what happens when I blog right before bedtime. But seriously, I love the Autumn and all that it brings. Lately, it feels like Summer doesn’t want to let go and Autumn isn’t telling her she should. With that stubborn attitude comes confusion in the kitchen. Do I roast a chicken or make a fresh salad? Do I grill or throw together that pumpkin pasta I couldn’t resist just leaving alone on the shelf? I’m very confused but one thing I know is that it’s definitely not the time for chili just yet. This salad is for those of you, like me, who love the vibrant flavors of the Summer but long for the coziness of Fall. The fennel and apple make this salad super fresh and help balance the acidity of the vinaigrette. Plus, did I mention honeyed goat cheese? No? Honeyed goat cheese.

Here is our late harvest ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: Extra virgin olive oil, red onion, apple, (I used Honeycrisp for a sweeter flavor but if tart is more your thing, Granny Smith will do just fine), fennel, lemon juice, arugula, dried cherries, shaved brussels sprouts, rosemary, Dijon, honeyed goat cheese, and apple cider vinegar.

I call this piece Controlled Chaos. We throw all of our ingredients that are not being used for the vinaigrette into a bowl. Save the goat cheese for last because it will dissolve if added in too soon. We admire this beauty and then move onto our vinaigrette.

Our vinaigrette is all sass. It’s tangy and with the rosemary, it has that subtle lemony herb flavor. We pour it over our greens and toss. Don’t add the goat cheese yet!

Sprinkle the goat cheese over individual servings or better yet, crumble the goat cheese and let your guests add it to their salad. It adds a wonderful sweetness that brings it all together. Side note: If you can’t find honeyed goat cheese, just add honey to your non-honeyed goat cheese. This isn’t a “good bye Summer” salad; it’s more of a “it’s been real Summer, now I’m going to hang with your friend Fall” kind of salad. Happy salad making!

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!

Sage Butter Pork Chops with Roasted Sweet Tomatoes

I came up with this recipe when dreaming of Fall a couple of weeks ago. The morning air was cool with no humidity in sight. I tried said recipe   and opted for a pizza night instead. If you spend your time and money on a recipe that goes awry, you deserve a pizza night. I can write you a doctor’s note if that’s what you need to convince your family. But again, who needs much convincing when pizza is for dinner. So I’m back at it, changing it up. Instead of a succulent loin, I’m using easy peasy boneless pork chops. Instead of smearing our sage compound butter all over the meat before cooking, we add a pat to each pork chop before they go into the oven. See, we all live and we learn. Thank you for accepting me. (more…)

Before my heart gets all pittery and pattery for signs of orange leaves and sweater weather, I wanted to send a nod to summer by using what’s left of the summer produce. Two things I know people are up to their knees in: peaches and tomatoes. Oh and squash. Tricky, tricky. Well, this tomato recipe is great for those tomatoes on their way out. You know, a little too soft to eat raw but not soft enough to consider the hungry bunnies anxiously waiting outside. We roast the tomatoes making their sweetness intensify and giving them a more satisfying texture. You could serve these guys with your summer squash or green beans. Also, these tomatoes make a simple and fresh tomato sauce for any lonely pasta.
Disclaimer: This post might feel super long but the amount of time it takes to make this recipe isn’t. I just got photo happy.

Our Summer meets Fall ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: Boneless, center cut pork chops, lemons, fresh sage, brown sugar, ground mustard, garlic powder, salt, butter, fresh thyme, olive oil, garlic, small tomatoes (these are heirloom but grape or cherry also work!), and balsamic vinegar.

We first make our compound butter so it can harden in the fridge. A compound butter is simply ingredients added to softened butter then is hardened in the fridge. Sage, butter, lemon juice blended. Roll it in plastic wrap and forget ’bout it…until you need it for the pork chops. I am using salted butter and will ALWAYS choose to do so. If you join me, keep that in mind as you season your pork. If unsalted butter is your thing, you might want to add a pinch more salt to the chops.

We season our tomatoes with olive oil, brown sugar, thyme, garlic, and balsamic vinegar

Our spice blend of salt, garlic powder, and ground mustard powder is rubbed onto the chops.

The pork chops are sauteed to get that golden color. Remember that sage butter? Slice it up and put onto the chops.

Then, to get even fancier, we slice our lemon and lay the slices on the pork. An easy step but a worthwhile step. Plus, look how cute those lemon slices look! Now time for the chops to get the oven treatment.
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This is what our tomatoes look like when done. Do you see the glorious sauciness and tenderness? I thought maybe the addition of mozzarella would make these extra good but the good, honest truth is that they are perfect on their own.

Tomatoes represent Summer in such a bright and sweet way; while the pork chops are bringing in their Fall flavor with the sage butter. I love it when we can all come together.

Now, I’m going to give you a big tip and you might owe me your first born because of it (not really but maybe take some pics?). If you have leftovers, put the whole thing on a bed of pasta. Leftover makeover: pork and tomato edition. A dab of that butter never hurt anyone, either.

Happy dinner making!

BLTA “Spring” Rolls with 3 Dipping Sauces

I’ve been asked a lot lately what is the premise of my blog? Or rather, what kind of food do I make? These questions stump me because I haven’t really thought about it. I just blog about the things that matter to me most. I make food that I eat and think that you would enjoy. Does it need to be more than that? Maybe. But until then, I’m going to keep making meals that make us both feel special. Cool? Cool. If you need a theme to follow then these spring rolls are really going to throw you for a loop. Don’t worry! It will be fun! (more…)

I do have measurements for this recipe but the best part is…do what you want! How many times in life are you told to do that? Adjust to what you like: a little more avocado (always), a little less bacon (never). Whatever floats your boat! I will say make a few to practice with first. Things can get a little tricky but also can be easily mastered. As you can see with the ones I made, perfection isn’t the goal but yumminess is.  We ate these for dinner but they would be sublime as an appetizer or a fun snack!

Check out our ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: My grocery store had these adorable little lettuces but any salad mix would work too! Bean sprouts, red onion, heirloom tomatoes (because they were leftover from this), avocado, red pepper, rice paper, bacon (bow down), and asparagus. Can I tell you a secret? I cooked my asparagus in my bacon grease. I don’t believe in waste.

Rice paper is where this madness begins. Soak it and lay it onto a damp cloth. Most rice paper wrappers will have the directions on them. Let’s load up on the goodies! Don’t see your favorite veggie here? Add it! Are we getting carried away? Let’s roll that little guy.

We move onto our 3 dipping sauces. Why 3? Because I’m OCD and I like things in threes. You could totally do one or two. Take mayo, green chilies, garlic, pepper and salt. I know, I know. That’s a lot of mayo. Where is my greek yogurt/mayo combo? Well, when I make a sauce and put mayo in the title, I really mean it. Pulse that baby!

Another fun sauce is basil with sun dried tomatoes. Add a little extra virgin olive oil if it gets too thick. A pinch of pepper never hurt anyone here. Pulse.

Our avocado, lime, Sriacha sauce is exactly what it sounds like. I added the bright red Sriacha with the green avocado and pulsed together. Don’t be like me. Just pulse the avocado, lime, and a little greek yogurt to soften things up a bit. Drizzle with Sriacha once you have put the avocado sauce in a dish or else your pretty, ripe, green avocados turn a puke green. Sorry…

I love the playfulness of this dish. We use our hands to dip and enjoy. I’m sure this will be a fun change from the usual weeknight casserole or salad. The bacon is staring at you. Say hi! Happy “spring” roll making!

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