Shrimp Scampi Pasta with Lemon Butter Sauce

Shrimp Scampi Pasta
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Shrimp Scampi Pasta

The temperatures are rising and the sun is shining which means one thing – Spring is finally here. For me, that means lighter flavors, fresh herbs, fruits and veggies from the farmers market, and seafood, seafood, seafood.

Ingredients


I decided to make a lovely Shrimp Scampi Pasta in Lemon Butter Sauce that is fresh, light and fairly simple to make (not to mention absolutely scrumptious!)

Sauteed Shrimp in Lemon Butter Sauce

I found some fresh, succulent jumbo shrimp and sautéed them in butter and olive oil with garlic, making a bright, velvety lemon butter sauce by adding lemon juice, lemon zest, and some white wine. I added a little extra butter into the sauce, threw in a few scallions and fresh garlic, and topped it off with some fresh parsley and a pinch of cayenne and red pepper flakes to give it some extra flavor and kick. If you want to make the sauteed shrimp and skip the pasta for a lighter dish, go for it – it’s totally amazing on it’s own or with a salad and some crusty bread (and a glass of white wine to accompany, of course!) Enjoy.

Shrimp Scampi Pasta in Lemon Butter Sauce

Yield: 4

This is a perfect dish for Summer, featuring sauteed shrimp in a lemon butter sauce, served over fettucine with fresh parsley and garlic.

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus 1 1/2 teaspoons for sauce
  • 3/4 pound fettucine (or linguine, angel hair, spaghetti)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp (about 12 jumbo or 16 large shrimp), peeled and deveined, tails intact
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 large scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 lemon, zest grated for sauce plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • pinch of cayenne
  • Garnish: parsley, lemon zest, red pepper, salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Drizzle the vegetable oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.
  2. Prep all ingredients (chop garlic, parsley, green onions, zest and halve the lemons and squeeze juice, measure out oil, lemon juice, wine, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes).
  3. Melt butter and olive oil in another large pan over medium-low heat and add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.
  4. Add the shrimp, salt, and pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add parsley, lemon zest, wine, lemon juice, lemon slices, scallions and red pepper flakes; cook for 1-2 additional minutes. Stir and remove from heat.
  5. When the pasta is done, drain the cooked pasta and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve with additional chopped fresh parsley, lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste, cayenne and red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve with a glass of white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc) and a green salad or crusty bread.
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http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2012/05/13/shrimp-scampi-pasta/

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

 

An Interview w/ Italian Chef Pia Vallone :: Spring Vegetable Soup Recipe

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Pia Vallone / Mascarpone Mousse
Chef Pia Vallone / Mascarpone Mousse with Almond & Cookie Crumb

I love Italian food. I mean really loooove Italian food.. And who doesn’t? But especially authentic, homemade Italian – cooked with fresh ingredients and simple, healthy recipes that are downright divine. I recently took a cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City with Chef and Culinary Instructor Pia Vallone, who teaches the Techniques of Italian Cooking course. It was a 5-week intensive class 6 hours long. Lots to learn in a short amount of time. Chef Pia, a native of Italy and graduate of ICE, taught us a a variety of recipes from different regions of Italy spanning the basic recipes and techniques.

Wild Boar Ragu w/ Matriaciani
Wild Boar Ragu w/ Matriciani

We made fresh pasta and risottos, hearty ragus and fresh and creamy sauces, roasted and braised meats, seafood dishes, soups and stews,

Baked Tomatoes with Oregano / Baked Shrimp with Garlic, Parsley & Crumbs
Baked Tomatoes with Oregano / Baked Shrimp with Garlic, Parsley & Crumbs

roasted and braised vegetables (my favorites were the Roasted Tomatoes and Stuffed Wine-braised Artichokes), desserts such as Classic Tiramisu, Mascarpone Mousse and Rustic Italian Apple Crostata,

Radish, Spinach, Romaine and String Bean Salad
Radish, Spinach, Romaine and String Bean Salad

and healthy, fresh Italian salads and small plates.

Making Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi
Making Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi

We always had red and white Italian wine and fresh Italian bread to accompany, and learned the customs of eating the way the Italians do – start with an “antipasti” (appetizer), next order a “primo” (first course usually consisting of pasta, risotto, minestrone or other soups), then pick your main “secondi” (second course usually a meat or fish dish), have a small bit of “formaggi” (cheese) after your main, then on to “dolci” (sweets/desserts such as cheese, fruit, sweet wine, and coffee/cappucino).

Sage Brown Butter
Sage Brown Butter

We made some of the most amazing Italian food during this class and learned classic authentic cooking techniques that I was able to bring home with me to prepare my own delicious Italian food. In fact, I was so impressed with Pia’s class that I had to interview her to share her culinary background and story along with a recipe with all of you! Enjoy.

  1. Can you tell me a little bit about your culinary training and professional background? What was your first job as a Chef and what was that like?

My first and only hands-on restaurant experience was in an Italian restaurant in London (cannot remember the name of the restaurant), near Victoria Station, in the summer of 1978. A friend of mine who worked as an executive chef there, offered me a job as a sous chef. After a month of hard work, I had to leave the restaurant, because my visa was about to expire and soon after, I returned to Italy. The second experience related to food, was working for several years as a bookkeeper for a restaurant and corporate catering. There I learned so much about food and was exposed to new ingredients and flavor profiles, although I worked in the establishment’s office. As for training, I graduated from The Institute of Culinary Education in NYC and hold a Culinary Arts diploma and a Pastry and Baking Arts diploma. I currently work at ICE as a Manager of Kitchen Assistants and as a Recreational Chef Instructor, though I have worked in different areas in the company, within the past 10 years.

  1. When did you realize you wanted to be a Chef? Who inspired you most as a young cook and what did you learn from them?

I always loved cooking and eating, but I began to spend time experimenting with recipes from various kinds of cuisines in my home kitchen, cooking for friends when I arrived to New York in 1980. Wanting to get involved with food and becoming a chef was a second career change for me, which began in 2001.

 My greatest inspiration was my father, who was a gourmand and a terrific cook. I spent many hours in the kitchen with him during my childhood, helping out, observing him and absorbing all the knowledge I could. From my father, I learned passion, love and appreciation of good food and the importance of using fresh ingredients.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about your culinary style and what makes your menus and recipes unique?

My style is mainly rustic. I like rustic food for its simplicity and because it is nourishes the body and soul. My menus and recipes are unique, because the ingredients I use are accessible and inexpensive.

  1. Is there a difference in the recipes you create/the food you eat in Italy versus the Italian food here in the United States and what are the main differences?

The difference between food in Italy and food here…? Food in Italy is extremely fresh, mostly organic and seasonal. Its flavor(s) cannot be replicated in dishes cooked outside of the Country. Food in Italy is also quite simple. In fact, most of the best food I have ever eaten there was prepared with just a few ingredients. On the contrary, Italian American food is the result of ‘imported’ traditions and transformations, mostly due the immigrant’s longing for the ‘Old Country’. Immigrants, who arrived here tried to capture flavors and freeze memories, by utilizing similar ingredients grown in a different terroir. Nowadays though, great Italian chefs live here in the States, so the differences between Italian food in Italy and the US is narrowing down.

  1. In your opinion, what are the most important elements when creating a recipe from scratch?

The most important elements are: fresh ingredients, simplicity and focus, Make sure to tastes the food while cooking it.

  1. What is your signature dish or your favorite recipe?

My favorite dish is ‘Roman Style Tripe’, a dish that brings back childhood memories.

  1. What is your favorite spice or ingredient to cook with and why?

I love black pepper, which I use in all savory recipes. Besides liking its pungent flavor, I add it to dishes because it helps improve digestion.

  1. What is your favorite cooking gadget or kitchen item you can’t live without and why?

I own many gadgets and often buy the new ones that are the latest invention in the market, but always tend to use the familiar ones over and over. A gadget I cannot live without is a hand held grater, because it is efficient and does not use too much space in the kitchen.

  1. Do you have any advice for aspiring chefs and home cooks?

Start by cooking a simple recipe, one with 4 or 5 ingredients. Learn basic skills and techniques at first and then move on to a larger repertoire. Patience, practice and repetition are important to achieve success with cooking, as with other things in life.

  1. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?

Yes. I am always looking to inspire others to cook. It is a pleasure to see that people are interested in cooking and familiarizing themselves with ingredients. Sharing passion for food and cooking with people is an all-around relaxing experience for me.

Spring Vegetable Soup
Spring Vegetable Soup

Spring Vegetable Soup

Yield: serves 6

2 small carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 small zucchini, diced
1 small butternut squash, diced
1 bunch escarole, chopped
½ cup peas, frozen
1 tablespoon basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for bread and for drizzling on soup
4 quarts chicken stock
1 small ciabatta bread
Sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste

  1. Sauté carrots, celery and onions in a large stock pot over medium heat, for approximately 5 minutes, making sure that you stir the vegetables while they cook.
  2. Add chicken stock to the pan. Increase the heat to high, cover the pan, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Slice bread into 1” thick slices. Brush slices with the additional olive oil on both sides and place in a sauté pan over low heat. Turn bread slices once and cook until they are golden brown. Place bread in a tray and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside.
  4. Add butternut squash to the stockpot and cook for 3 minutes.
  5. Add zucchini and peas to the stockpot and cook for 3 more minutes.
  6. Add escarole, basil, parsley, salt and pepper and cook for 4 additional minutes.
  7. Remove two ladles of soup from the stockpot and puree in a blender, then return the pureed soup to the pot (the puree will thicken the soup). Stir and cook for 1 minute, then turn off the heat.
  8. Add some grated cheese into the soup and stir. Ladle soup in individual bowls, drizzle oil and sprinkle additional cheese.

Recipe Copyright © Pia Vallone 2010.

Photo credits: Kristen Hess and Pia Vallone. 

California Dreamin’ :: Chicken, Wild Mushroom & Fontina Cheese Lasagna

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Room with a view
Room with a view

On a recent trip to San Diego with a group of friends, we made an awesome dinner one night, and definitely one to remember. We rented an amazing house right on the ocean at Mission Beach that had gorgeous views of the sunset  – –

Sunset
Sunset

a huge round disk of bright orange, yellow and red hues sinking into the horizon – absolutely breathtaking..

Chicken, Spinach & Wild Mushroom Lasagna
Chicken, Spinach & Wild Mushroom Lasagna

My friend (Paula) showed up with a delicious recipe for Chicken, Spinach & Wild Mushroom Lasagna (by Daniel Boulud) which was an amazingly creamy, savory dish to die for! The lasagna is made with a creamy base of sauteed celery and onions, white wine, nutmeg, flour and cream mixed with fresh spinach, wild mushrooms (we used Chanterelles but you can use any mix of wild mushrooms you prefer) and chicken breast. We topped off the lasagna noodles and chicken and mushroom mixture with several gooey layers of Fontina and Parmesan cheese, and baked it into a bubbly pot of goodness in the oven.


We served it with some Parmesan-Garlic Crostini and a green salad, and of course a few bottles of white wine to accompany. Daniel Johnnes, wine director of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants suggests choosing a wine from the Campania region of Italy, such as the 2009 Fiano di Avellino from Feudi di San Gregorio ($19). An alternative is Occhipinti SP68 IGT Sicilia Bianco 2009 ($26). Both of these choices are medium bodied with bold flavor and a soft texture.

Noodle Slap
Noodle Slap

**Note*** Men should definitely stay out of a female-dominated kitchen to avoid a big noodle slap when making a dish as good as this! Enjoy 🙂

Parsley and Fontina Cheese
Parsley and Fontina Cheese
Chicken-Mushroom-Spinach
Chicken-Mushroom-Spinach
Lasagna Ready For Oven
Lasagna Ready For Oven
Parmesan Garlic Crostini
Parmesan Garlic Crostini
Rooftop Sunset
Rooftop Sunset

Oh, and don’t forget the rooftop with great friends and an amazing view to top it all off. We had such an awesome time I’m already planning my next visit back to this gorgeous beach..

Dusk, Mission Beach San Diego
Dusk, Mission Beach San Diego

Until then, I’ll just keep dreaming about that fiery red glowing sunset… 🙂

California Dreamin’ :: Chicken, Wild Mushroom & Fontina Cheese Lasagna

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 10-12

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons EVOO
  • 2 medium onions, diced fine
  • 2 celery stalks, diced fine
  • 1 pound wild mushrooms (chanterelles, black trumpet, hen of woods), trimmed and washed, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 pound spinach leaves, torn and washed, no stems
  • 4 tablespoons butter, plus extra grease to pan
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 bunch Italian parsley leaves, chopped
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 16 dried lasagna noodles
  • 1 pound of Fontina cheese, diced or cut into medium-thin slices
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Prep all vegetables (chop onions, celery, spinach, mushrooms, parsley), cut up chicken and pat dry.
  2. Measure out all wet and dry ingredients (wine, cream, milk, flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper, grated Parmesan).
  3. Cut Fontina cheese into small dice, or medium-thin slices for layering.
  4. Sauté celery and onions with salt and pepper over medium-low for 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add mushrooms, cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add spinach, salt and pepper, cook until wilted and mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat and reserve.
  5. Add butter to same pot, adjust heat to medium. Season chicken on all sides with salt and pepper, add to butter. Cook stirring 6 minutes until chicken is browned. Add wine, simmer until almost reduced. Sprinkle flour over the chicken and cook, stirring for 5 mins, allowing flour to coat the chicken and absorb the liquid.
  6. Gradually stir in cream and milk, scraping pot, stirring with a whisk to break up cooked flour. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, allow liquid to thicken. Reserve 1 cup of liquid and remove pot from heat, add cooked mushroom and spinach mixture. Add parsley, season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Cook lasagna noodles 8 mins in salted water. Drain and rinse in cold water. Toss with 2 tablespoons EVOO.
  8. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9x13 baking pan. Layer 4 noodles on bottom. Top with 1/3 chicken mixture and 1/3 Fontina cheese. Repeat layers twice, finish with layer of noodles. Spread reserved sauce over noodles and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. (can put in fridge or freezer at this point, tightly covered with aluminum foil or plastic wrap).
  9. Cover with foil or lid and bake for 30 minutes. Increase heat to 400 degrees and remove foil and cook until golden brown and bubbly, another 10-15 mins.
  10. To make the Parmesan Garlic Crostini:
  11. Slice a loaf of Italian bread into 1/4-1/2 inch slices and drizzle with olive oil, shredded Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown and crunchy.
  12. Sprinkle the lasagna with chopped parsley, some extra grated cheese if desired, and serve with the parmesan garlic crostini.

Notes

Serve with a leafy green salad with a vinaigrette dressing, some crusty garlic bread and a dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.

The lasagna can be made a day ahead to save time, just keep it tightly covered with plastic wrap of foil and pop it in the oven when ready to bake.

Freezes well too - wrap in plastic and foil in individual portions and reheat in the microwave or oven.

http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2012/05/04/california-dreamin-chicken-wild-mushroom-fontina-lasagna/

 

Fabulous Food Finds @ NY Restaurant & Food Show

Grand Queso, Wisconsin Cheese
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Int'l Restaurant & Foodservice Show NY
Int'l Restaurant & Foodservice Show NY

Last week I attended the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show in New York City, an annual event put on by the New York State Restaurant Association. The show took place in the massive Jacob Javits Center and was a mecca of amazing food, restaurant interiors and equipment, local and artisan food vendors, master chefs, professional restaurant marketing experts and industry speakers. Highlights of the show were: the New York Wine Expo showcasing some of the top wineries and wine producers from around the world, the Japan Pavillion showcasing the latest equipment, liquors, foods and cooking techniques from Japan, and the New Product Showcase which highlighted some of the newest and coolest food products to hit the market. The Pride of New York showcase had amazing local and organic food producers and farmers, wineries and snack foods from around New York State.

There was a live Pastry Chef Competition, Master Chef demos by Chef Fritz Sonnenschmidt and Chef Kevin Cottle, a Healthy Foods Pavillion, Ultimate Barista Latte Art Challenge, and the best part – Gourmet Row which was an endless row of delicious food suppliers, producers and vendors showcasing and sampling all of their amazing goods. Many of the show’s sponsors had special cooking demos and tastings around the convention center: NespressoNordic Spring Water, Kikkoman and Medallion Foods, Taft Foodmasters, SPE Certified, Marlisa Brown – The Gluten-Free Gourmet, Pastry Chef Larissa Raphael of Telepan Restaurant, Executive Chef Kazutaka from Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, talks on restaurant marketing and video by Branding Shorts, and more. Super fun show, and inspiring for Chefs and Restaurateurs alike.

Now for my favorite food finds at the show (see below) *** also check out the SLIDESHOW of more tantalizing food and photos from the show!

GranQueso, Wisconsin Cheese
GranQueso, Wisconsin Cheese

www.eatwisconsincheese.com

Nespresso Zenius
Nespresso Zenius

http://www.nespresso.com

Stella Fontinella
Stella Fontinella

www.stellacheese.com

Karl Ehmer Sausages and Meats
Karl Ehmer Sausages and Meats

www.karhlehmer.com

Gorgeous Pasta
Gorgeous Pasta
Ravioli
Ravioli

http://josephsgourmetpasta.com/ 

Yakisoba Noodles
Yakisoba Noodles

www.twinmarquis.com

Specialty Oils & Vinegars
Specialty Oils & Vinegars
Gourmet Flavored Sea Salts
Artisan Salt Company Gourmet Flavored Sea Salts

www.connoisseurspecialtyfoods.com

Iichiko Shochu
Iichiko Shochu

www.iichiko.co.jp

Finger Lakes Harvest Wine Cake
Finger Lakes Harvest Wine Cake

http://poppletonpastries.com/

Bonewerks Demi-Glaces
Bonewerks Demi-Glaces

http://www.bonewerksculinarte.com/

La Panzanella Crispbreads
La Panzanella Fieri Crispbreads

http://www.lapanzanella.com/

Japanese Carrots
Japanese Carrots
Gourmet Teas
Gourmet Teas by The Teaologist

www.theteaologist.com

Baked in Brooklyn Pita Chips & Flatbread Crisps
Baked in Brooklyn Pita Chips & Flatbread Crisps

www.aladdinbakers.com 

Pig Roast
Pig Roast

www.buckheadbeef.com

Blue Marble Ice Cream
Blue Marble Ice Cream

www.bluemarbleicecream.com 

Red Jacket Orchards Apple Juice
Red Jacket Orchards Apple Juice

www.redjacketorchards.com

Cowbella Dairy Garlic Herb Butter
Cowbella Dairy Garlic Herb Butter

www.cowbella.com

Ginger Ale 1776 Beverage Co.
Ginger Ale 1776 Beverage Co.

http://www.heartbreakingdawns.com/1776-beverage-co/

EdgyBurgers
Edgy Burgers

www.edgyburger.com

Portal Los Andes Chilean Wine
Portal Los Andes Chilean Wine

Buy online at Valley Wine and Spirits

Death by Chocolate
Death by Chocolate
Taleggio Cheese - Alma Gourmet Foods
Taleggio Cheese - Alma Gourmet Foods

www.almagourmet.com

Rick's Picks Artisanal Pickles
Rick's Picks Artisanal Pickles

http://rickspicksnyc.com/

Ciro Italian Foods
Ciro Italian Foods

www.concadorofood.com

Gelato and Frozen Pops
Gelato and Frozen Pops
Hammer Stahl Knives
Hammer Stahl Knives
Local New York State Canning
Local New York State Canning

 

Crescenza-Stracchino
Bel Gioioso Crescenza-Stracchino

www.belgioioso.com

Juice Poppers
Juice Poppers

 

Amazing Macaroni + Cheese > There’s No Place Like Home

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macandcheese-2

So here is my award winning Mac and Cheese recipe that I am proud to share with all of you! Grand Prize Winner in the Challenge Dairy Real Heritage Recipe Contest for my Amazing Macaroni and Cheese! Not only did they send me a generous cash prize, but also a huge shipment of all the kitchen tools and cooking equipment a happy cook could ever ask for! I am grateful for this opportunity to submit my winning recipe and to be a part of this amazing recipe contest.

Check out my story and winning recipe below, and check out my recipe and more contest winners on Challenge Dairy’s website.


—–

There’s No Place Like Home

Growing up I always associated food with a sense of comfort, warmth, fulfillment and stability. This is something I attribute to my Mom’s home-cooked meals and nights around the dinner table with my family as we discussed the events of our day, bonded through sharing the heartwarming, delicious meals together and after the meal was done, cleaned the kitchen with our Mom and bonded by watching a television show together before going to bed and getting ready for school the next day. Mom would make Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans, homemade Lasagna with a salad and garlic bread, Grandma’s Beet Soup with homemade Polish potato noodles, or a yummy, savory Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy – these were all of our favorites and also heirloom recipes that were handed down from my grandparents and generations past.

That was a long time ago, or so it seems, and since those days I have lived in numerous cities and another country, and still cherish enjoying good food with good people. But nothing compares to those home cooked meals and the sense of comfort they gave me when I was young – those days gave me a solid ground to stand on for life.

One gloomy, dark day last January, I was cooped up in my tiny New York studio apartment feeling completely miserable from the freezing cold weather and had a serious case of the Winter blues. I felt an undying urge to make a home-cooked meal like Mom used to make to cheer me up and get me out of the dismal mood I couldn’t seem to shake. New York can do that to you sometimes – it is one of the greatest cities in the world, but can also take you to the depths of darkness on those dark, freezing, nasty days in the middle of Winter. That day I decided to go on a quest for comfort. Something warm. Something cozy. Something heartwarming. Something that would fill my soul and renew my spirit.

My head started spinning, and I immediately felt energized and motivated with this new task at hand. What would cheer me up and transport me back in time? After furiously searching through all of my recipes, I found the perfect remedy to ail my blues – a big whopping batch of luscious Macaroni and Cheese. Not just an ordinary one (like the kind you get in a blue box with packets of dried chemical-laden cheese dust), but one that called for some delicious gourmet ingredients to take this kid-friendly recipe and turn it into a serious pot of adult-sized comfort.

I hopped in a cab to Zabars on the Upper West Side with thrill and anticipation. The freezing rain was coming down sideways and beat against the windows. Once I arrived, I headed straight for the Cheese department and was in my glory with their selection of international cheeses that pierce your nose as soon as you walk in the door. I picked up a creamy Italian Mascarpone, some fresh grated Parmesan Reggiano, a chunk of Gruyere and a block of Fontina. Then I found some fresh garlic, heavy cream, premium real butter, smoked thick cut bacon and of course, imported Italian pasta – this was a recipe for a mean Mac and Cheese.

I prepped my ingredients and carefully crafted my dish of gourmet deliciousness. The pot was brimming with a melted creamy cheese concoction and I poured the luscious ingredients into my baking dish, watching with anticipation as the warm, savory smells filled my kitchen. After an hour of waiting anxiously to savor my creation, I scooped up the bubbly goodness into a bowl and upon tasting the first bite with its brown crispy crust and tangy creamy cheese, was transported back to a time of comfort and bliss, when I didn’t have a care in the world, a simpler time and place that seemed long gone from today in my stressful, fast-paced city life.

Who cares about the weather, I thought – I had arrived. I was home.

——

Ingredients

¾ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
5 ½ tablespoons Challenge European Style Butter (salted), divided
6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
dash of nutmeg (⅛ teaspoon)
dash of ground cayenne pepper (⅛ teaspoon)
1 ½ cups Gruyere or Comte, grated (3 oz.)
1 cup Fontina, chopped into small pieces (5¼ oz.)
1/2 cup mascarpone
1 ½ cups dry elbow macaroni (6 oz.)
4 slices bacon or prosciutto, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cook the bacon or prosciutto, drain and crumble and set aside.

In a small sauce pan, melt 2½ tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Add the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, toss well, and set aside.

Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, do not let the flour burn. Pour in the milk and cream; cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add salt, pepper, Gruyère, Fontina , mascarpone, nutmeg and cayenne. Continue to stir until the cheese is melted and incorporated. Remove the pot from the heat.

Prepare pasta according to package directions for al dente (7 – 8 minutes). Drain the macaroni and combine with the cheese sauce. Add crumbled bacon/prosciutto and parsley; mix well.

Pour the macaroni mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Serve hot and garnish with fresh parsley. Yields 4-6 servings.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Wild Mushroom Sauce

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Ricotta Gnocchi and Wild Mushroom Sauce (Gnocchi di Ricotta Con Sugo de Funghi)
Ricotta Gnocchi and Wild Mushroom Sauce (Gnocchi di Ricotta Con Sugo de Funghi)

As far as I’m concerned, gnocchi are little pillows of love, goodness and deliciousness. Especially when they are homemade..that is a true labor of love. It’s not that they are difficult to make, but definitely time consuming, but with a little patience the end result is worth the wait! Gnocchi (Italian plural for gnoccho) are basically homemade dumplings that can be made from flour and potatoes, or in this recipe made with ricotta, parmesan cheese and flour. These dumplings have a thick and creamy consistency with grooves for holding a rich sauce made with cream and cheese, or a chunky meat sauce such as a bolognese or a luscious wine and wild mushroom sauce made with porcini, cremini and chanterelles in the recipe below. The gnocchi can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer and then boiled just before serving with the sauce of your choice.

To make the Gnocchi:

2 c ricotta cheese
1 c grated parmesan
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
Sugo de Funghi (recipe follows)
4 tsp fresh tarragon leaves
1 c grated parmesan cheese


Ricotta and parmesan cheese

In a medium bowl combine the ricotta and parmesan.

Mix flour into ricotta and parmesan

Gradually stir in the flour, adding more if necessary, until a soft dough results.

Knead and form the dough

Turn the dough out and knead until the dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. If the dough becomes sticky while kneading, add more flour.

Divide and cut the dough

To form the gnocchi, divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a cylinder about 3/4 inch thick and cut each into 3/4 inch lengths.

Make ridges in the gnocchi with fork tines

Dip a fork in flour, and holding the fork in one hand, roll each piece of dough over the back of the tines to form ridges.

Freeze the gnocchi for 30 minutes

Refrigerate the gnocchi for 30 minutes or freeze.

Cook gnocchi until they rise to the surface

To cook the gnocchi, bring 4 to 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add the gnocchi, stir in 2 tablespoons of salt, and cook until the gnocchi rise to the surface of the water, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain well, toss the gnocchi with the sauce. Garnish with tarragon leaves and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Wild Mushroom Sauce (Sugo de Funghi)

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup dry Marsala wine
6 tbsp butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb. chanterelles or other wild mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 tbsp tomato paste
4 c chicken stock
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream

Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in Marsala wine

In a medium bowl, combine the dried porcini and Marsala with enough hot water to cover and allow the mushrooms to soften about 30 minutes.

Strain the porcini and reserve the liquid

Strain the porcini through dampened cheesecloth or a coffee filter, reserving the liquid. Rinse the porcini to remove any sand deposits and chop roughly.

Chop the cremini and chanterelle mushrooms

Meanwhile, chop the additional wild mushrooms and place in a large mixing bowl.

Saute mushrooms, onions and garlic

In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the cremini, chanterelles and porcini, and saute until cooked through about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add tomato paste to liquid and mushrooms in pan

Add the tomato paste to the reserved soaking liquid and add this mixture to the mushrooms.

Add stock and bay leaves and seasonings

Add the stock and bay leaves, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and simmer gently until slightly reduced, about 15 minutes.

Add the heavy cream

Add the heavy cream.

Reduce by half

Reduce by half, about 10 minutes

Until sauce is thick and creamy

Until sauce is thick and creamy..

and completely delectable!

and ready to serve over the gnocchi.

Toss the gnocchi with mushroom sauce

Serve the mushroom sauce over the gnocchi. Toss with parmesan cheese and tarragon. Serve with a green salad and a robust red wine. Enjoy!

Makes about 3 cups.

Recipe from the Institute of Culinary Education

Crazy Good: Truffled 3-Cheese Pasta w/ Pancetta & Garlic

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Truffle-Pancetta-3 Cheese-Pasta

I can’t remember the first time I tried anything made with truffles, but now and then I find myself lusting after these delicious things – let me tell you why..

Truffles have an intoxicating scent and flavor that is indescribable, and make any dish the most delicious thing you will ever experience in your lifetime. I’m not even a huge mushroom fan, but truffles somehow induce euphoria every time I taste or smell them. Unfortunately truffles are pricey, and usually reserved for a special occasion or night out but I felt the urge to splurge and make this dish on an ordinary night, just because. I used a White Truffle Oil in this recipe, which is really just an olive oil infused with the essence of the truffle flavor. If you have the budget to buy some real truffles, feel free to shave some of these beauties straight into the dish. Or you can also use a Truffle butter which has pieces of truffle in it in place of the olive oil.


The nutty, savory and buttery truffle flavor goes perfect with the trio of parmesan, sharp cheddar and mascarpone cheese, making a luscious creamy sauce for the pasta. The pancetta gives the pasta a nice smoky flavor with less fat than regular bacon, and the garlic and onion give it another layer of awesome flavor. You could also substitute mushrooms or spinach in place of the pancetta to make this a vegetarian dish. Topped off with some golden brown buttery crumbs then baked to perfection, and you’ve got a truly divine, grown up pasta dish that will blow your Mama’s Mac and Cheese away.

Oh, and be prepared to swoon upon first bite.

————

In a large saucepan, melt 1 tbsp of butter and saute pancetta over medium-high heat until browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Sauteed Pancetta

Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and saute for another minute.

Sauteed Onions, Garlic and Red Pepper

Stir in 3 tbsp of butter and let melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute to make a roux (thickener for the cheese sauce). Gradually whisk in 3 1/2 cups of milk and simmer until sauce thickens (stirring often) for 5 minutes, and then remove pan from heat.

Three Cheese Sauce

Whisk in cheddar, mascarpone and parmesan cheeses until smooth, and add a little more milk if the cheese sauce seems too thick. Sprinkle in a dash of nutmeg, a dash of cayenne and a dash of paprika. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir and remove from heat.

Crumb Topping

In a medium skillet, melt 4 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat. Add panko breadcrumbs and stir through so that the butter coats all the crumbs, and they turn a light golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Toasted Breadcrumbs

Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh or dried parsley, set aside.

Pasta

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a 13×9 casserole or glass baking dish with cooking spray or butter. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente for 5-8 minutes. Drain the pasta and shock with cold water.

White Truffle Oil

Place pasta into the casserole dish and coat with the truffle oil.

Add Pancetta to the Pasta

Toss in the cooked pancetta…(mmmm!)

Three Cheese sauce

Pour in the cheese sauce…(dreamy!)

Baked to Perfection

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the pasta and bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Heaven on a Plate

Let cool for a few minutes, and dig in! (you’ll never be the same).

Crazy Good :: Truffled 3-Cheese Pasta w/ Pancetta & Garlic

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 8

This is a luscious cheesy pasta dish made with three cheeses, crispy pancetta and truffle oil. Perfect comfort food for a Winter day. And oh so delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 6 slices of pancetta, chopped
  • 1 c. of onion, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 c. whole milk
  • 2 1/2 c grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 8-8.8 oz container mascarpone cheese
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Dash of cayenne
  • Dash of sweet paprika
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 c. japanese panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley (or 1 tbsp dried)
  • 4 tbsp white truffle oil
  • 1 lb. tube pasta (macaroni, penne, rigatoni, or your choice)

Instructions

  1. Make the Cheese Sauce:
  2. In a large saucepan, melt 1 tbsp of butter and saute pancetta over medium-high heat until browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and saute for another minute.
  4. Stir in 3 tbsp of butter and let melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute to make a roux (thickener for the cheese sauce). Gradually whisk in 3 1/2 cups of milk and simmer until sauce thickens (stirring often) for 5 minutes, and then remove pan from heat.
  5. Whisk in cheddar, mascarpone and parmesan cheeses until smooth, and add a little more milk if the cheese sauce seems too thick. Sprinkle in a dash of nutmeg, a dash of cayenne and a dash of paprika. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir and remove from heat.
  6. Make the Crumb Topping:
  7. In a medium skillet, melt 4 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat. Add panko breadcrumbs and stir through so that the butter coats all the crumbs, and they turn a light golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh or dried parsley, set aside.
  9. Make the Truffled Pasta:
  10. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a 13x9 casserole or glass baking dish with cooking spray or butter. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente for 5-8 minutes. Drain the pasta and shock with cold water.
  11. Place pasta into the casserole dish and coat with the truffle oil.
  12. Toss in the cooked pancetta...(mmmm!)
  13. Pour in the cheese sauce...(dreamy!)
  14. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the pasta and bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  15. Let cool for a few minutes, and dig in! (you'll never be the same).

Notes

You can also use any pasta you like, but make sure to use something with ridges or curls to catch all the creamy cheesy sauce. Substitute a veggie for the pancetta such as spinach or mushrooms to make this a vegetarian dish.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Pasta Favorites, 2010.

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Ragu alla Bolognese w/ Handmade Tagliatelle :: Onion, Olive & Rosemary Focaccia :: Blood Orange Panna Cotta

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ragu alla bolognese

A Classic Italian Dinner for any Special Occasion

The following collection of recipes are from an Italian cooking class I took recently with Chef Peter Johnson at The Institute of Culinary Education. The Ragu alla Bolognese we made is the official “Classic” Bolognese Ragu recipe (deemed official by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina in 1982). Bolognese Ragu originated in the city of Bologna in Northern Italy. This rich, chunky meat sauce is created with a base of finely chopped onions, celery, and carrots (the holy trinity otherwise known as ‘Mirepoix‘), white wine, ground beef or veal (or a mixture if you prefer), tomato paste, milk and a touch of cream and simmered on low for 1-2 hours to let all the flavors meld together. The key is to cook slow and low to ensure a tender flavorful ragu sauce.

Handmade Tagliatelle


We made the Tagliatelle Pasta from scratch, first making the homemade dough by slowly mixing eggs into a flour mound until all the flour and eggs are mixed through, then letting the dough rise for about an hour and running it through a pasta machine to create long, super thin bands of dough and finally cutting the individual pasta strips by hand. You’ll need a lot of space, a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of love – but the handmade pasta is totally worth the effort!

rosemary_focaccia

We made a delicious Onion, Olive and Rosemary Focaccia Bread to serve with the pasta and Bolognese Ragu, so crispy and savory and good!

blood orange panna cotta

And of course we topped off the meal with a delicious Chianti and a Blood Orange Panna Cotta for dessert. Blood oranges have a crimson, blood-colored flesh, are smaller than an average orange and are grown in Texas and California, but originated in Sicily, Italy. They have a sweet-tart flavor that goes delicious with the sweet-tart Greek yogurt and cream in this light, refreshing dessert.

Ragu alla Bolognese w/ Handmade Tagliatelle :: Onion, Olive & Rosemary Focaccia :: Blood Orange Panna Cotta

Yield: Makes 2 cups; serves 6

Gorgeous savory homemade pasta and bolognese sauce paired with homemade focaccia bread and a blood orange panna cotta for dessert makes a delicious Italian meal for any special occasion.

Ingredients

  • Ragu alla Bolognese Sauce:
  • 1 (5 oz) piece pancetta, finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped in a food processor
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped in a food processor
  • ½ small yellow onion, finely chopped in a food processor
  • ¾ pound lean ground beef
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • Salt and Fresh ground Pepper to taste
  • Homemade Tagliatelle:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Onion, Olive & Rosemary Focaccia:
  • Dough
  • 2 ½ tsp (1 envelope) yeast
  • 1 scant cup warm mashed potatoes
  • 2 c warm water
  • ½ c plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ c extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ c water
  • Toppings
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
  • ½ c thinly sliced onions
  • ½ c pitted Kalamata or Gaela olives
  • ½ c grated Pecorino cheese
  • Blood Orange Panna Cotta:
  • 2 ½ cups blood orange juice (fresh squeezed, approx. 12 oranges), divided
  • 1 ¾ tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1/3 c. sugar, plus 2 tbsp, divided
  • 7 teaspoons finely grated orange peel, divided
  • 2/3 c. plain Greek-style yogurt (Fage)
  • 2/3 c. heavy whipping cream
  • ½ tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp cardamom seeds, crushed (from about 16 pods)

Instructions

  1. Put the pancetta into a heavy-bottomed medium pot (preferably terra-cotta) over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until its fat has rendered, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the celery, carrots and onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 15 minutes (caramelize the mire poix over low heat).
  3. Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until broken up and lightly browned and beginning to sizzle, about 5 minutes. Add the wine to the pot; cook until evaporated, about 4 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the tomato paste and 2 tbsp water; add to the pot and stir well to combine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally and adding some of the milk, little by little, until all the milk is added and the sauce is very thick, about 1½ hours.
  4. Season the ragu with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir in the cream right before serving and toss with the pasta. Top off the pasta with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  5. Homemade Tagliatelle:
  6. Form the flour into a mound on your work surface (stainless steel or cutting board) and create a well in the center. Sprinkle 1 tsp kosher salt over the flour. Add the eggs, yolk, olive oil and 2 tbsp water to the well.
  7. Using a fork, incorporate eggs and liquid in a slow circular motion, pulling in a small amounts of flour until dough becomes stiff.
  8. Knead dough, adding a little flour as necessary, to prevent sticking, until it’s smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap; let rest for 30 minutes.
  9. Cut dough into quarters.
  10. Flatten 1 quarter into a rectangle (cover the other quarters with a towel to prevent from drying out). Sprinkle some flour on your surface and on top of the dough and pass it through a pasta roller set (KitchenAid accessory or hand roller) set on the widest setting.
  11. Fold dough into thirds, creating another rectangle; feed open edge through pasta roller set at widest setting. Fold again; roll twice more using same setting. (Keep sprinkling some flour on both sides of the dough to keep from sticking as you go).
  12. Decrease setting one notch and roll pasta through again; repeat, decreasing setting by one notch each time until you’ve reached the second-to-last setting, creating a 1/16 inch-thick sheet. (The sheet will be quite long and continually get thinner as you go, so you’ll need two hands to do these last few rolls to keep the dough from ripping or sticking together).
  13. Sprinkle sheet with flour; halve cross-wise. Transfer to a flour-dusted parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough, adding flour-dusted parchment paper between each layer.
  14. Tightly roll each sheet, from short end to short end; cut cylinder cross-wise into 3/8 inch-wide strips.
  15. Unroll strips and toss with cornmeal or semolina; spread on a floured parchment sheet and cover with a kitchen towel. Let dry for 30 minutes.
  16. Cook Tagliatelle in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain; transfer to a bowl and toss with 2 cups of the Bolognese Ragu. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  17. Serve with warm Foccacia bread, an Italian green salad and a glass of Chianti. Mangia!
  18. Onion, Olive & Rosemary Focaccia:
  19. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  20. Add the yeast to warm water and stir to mix through. Let the yeast and water mixture sit for a few minutes. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the yeast mixture, potatoes, 2 cups of water, and ½ cup of oil. Add the flour and salt and using the paddle attachment, mix at a low speed for 2 to 3 minutes. The dough will be sticky and rough.
  21. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to ferment until doubled, 45-60 minutes. Coat half a sheet pan with the 2 tbsp of oil and press the dough evenly into the pan. Let the dough rest periodically if it seems too elastic.
  22. Press the rosemary, onions, olives and cheese evenly into the surface of the focaccia and allow the dough to double, about 30 minutes. With the point of a pastry knife, pierce the dough gently at 2 inch intervals. In a squirt bottle, combine the remaining oil and water. Shake well and spray across the focaccia, moistening it well. Add your favorite toppings.
  23. Bake until well browned on the top and bottom, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly, cut into squares and serve.
  24. Blood Orange Panna Cotta:
  25. Pour 1 cup juice into medium saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 15 minutes.
  26. Stir in gelatin mixture over low heat until gelatin dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/3 c. sugar and 5 tsp orange peel; stir until sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Strain into medium bowl, pressing on solids. Discard solids in strainer. Cool juice mixture 10 minutes. Whisk yogurt, cream and lemon juice into orange juice mixture until smooth. Divide among six small goblets or sherbet glasses. Chill until set, at least 4 hours ahead.
  27. Stir 1 1/3 cups orange juice, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp orange peel, and cardamom in medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil until reduced to 6 tbsp, 16-17 minutes. Strain syrup into small bowl; chill.
  28. Spoon some of the syrup over each panna cotta and serve. For extra garnish, serve with some berries and some sprigs of mint.

Notes

Bolognese recipe from the Bolognese Chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, decreed as the official “Classic Ragu alla Bolognese” recipe in October 1982.

Blood Orange Panna Cotta recipe sourced from Bon Appetit, January 2011.

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Bolognese Ragu

 

Handmade Tagliatelle

 

 

In the Mood For Love

scallops
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Recipes To Spice Up Your Valentine’s Day


“Aphrodisiac: any of various forms of stimulation thought to arouse sexual excitement. Aphrodisiacs may be classified in two principal groups: (1) psycho-physiological (visual, tactile, olfactory, aural) and (2) internal (stemming from food, alcoholic drinks, drugs, love potions, medical preparations)”.

We’ve all heard that there are certain foods that have aphrodisiac powers, but which ones and what effect do they have on romance? There are several foods that increase passion and the mood for love – almonds, arugula, asparagus, avocado, bananas, basil, chilies, chocolate, coffee, figs, garlic, ginger, honey, nutmeg, oysters, pinenuts, raspberries, strawberries, black truffles, vanilla and wine, just to name a few.


Truffles are said to stimulate and sensitize the skin for touch. Vanilla’s scent and flavor is known to increase lust. Chilies increase blood flow and sex drive. The chemicals in chocolate trigger neurochemicals in the brain that increases passion. Red wine relaxes and stimulates the senses.

For Valentine’s Day, I rounded up a few recipes featuring some of these love-ly passion-inspiring foods, guaranteed to spice up your night and make it one to remember!

Broiled Oysters with Fresh Herbs, Garlic and Cheese

Herbed Oysters

Ingredients:

24 fresh oysters
¾ cup of breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of olive oil
½ teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped
½ teaspoon of fresh basil, chopped
¼ teaspoon of fresh marjoram, chopped
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Shuck the oysters and set aside on the half shell. Discard the remaining shells.

In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, garlic, mustard, olive oil, thyme, basil, marjoram, lemon zest and Parmesan.

 Top each oyster with about 1 teaspoon of the breadcrumb mixture and place the oysters on a baking sheet. Cook under high broiler (grill) for about 6 minutes or until the oysters are crispy and golden brown.

 Serve hot, with a wedge of lemon and your favorite hot pepper sauce on the side. Pop open a bottle of your best bubbly and indulge with your honey.

Recipe adapted from www.oysterrecipes.org

Milk Soup with Truffles au Gratin

Truffle Gratin

Ingredients:

2 c. of chicken juice (gravy)
2 + 2/3 c. of milk cream
1 oz. of fresh truffle
2 lbs. of fresh bread
2/3 c. of truffle juice
1/3 c. of milk
2/3 c. of egg whites
Salt, white pepper

Preparation:

Reduce the chicken juice to half.

Add the milk, milk cream and reduce again.

Add the truffle juice and reduce until you get a nice texture.

Check on seasoning and put aside for the moment.

Preparation of the bread toasts:

Whisk 2/3 c. of cream, season with salt and pepper.

Cut the bread into 1 inch thick slices and cut them into circles (2 inch diameters)

Toast both sides of the bread pieces, dig one side on the piece and pour the wiped cream into it, bake it “au gratin”
under the broiler for a few minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

Recipe originated from French-Truffles.com

Chocolate Chicken

Chocolate Chicken

2 lbs. chicken, cut up — (2 to 2 1/2)
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil — (1 to 2)
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. anise seed
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 tsp. fresh pepper
2 tsp. hot crushed red peppers
1/8 tsp. cayenne (or to taste)
Sesame seeds

Brown chicken in a medium skillet in hot oil. Remove to a large (13x9x2) cake pan or baking dish. Pour oil from skillet and add the stock. Simmer 5 minutes. Mix cocoa with vegetable oil to form a paste. Add cloves, cinnamon, anise seed, and blend. Stir spice mixture into simmering stock and simmer 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. 
Pour mixture over the chicken parts. Cover and bake in preheated 350-degree oven until chicken is tender (around 1 to 1 1/2 hours). Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds over a bed of rice.

Spicy Scallops with Capellini

Scallop

Ingredients:

1 pound sea scallops, quartered if large
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 small dried chipotle chile with seeds, stemmed and chopped
Fine sea salt
1/2 pound capellini

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large shallow glass or ceramic baking dish, toss the scallops with the oil, wine, parsley, garlic and chipotle. Season with salt and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the oil is sizzling and the scallops are firm.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the capellini until just al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain; transfer to a serving bowl. Add the scallops and their juices, toss well and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Recipe originated from Food and Wine magazine.

Coffee and Chocolate Braised Short Ribs

Chocolate-Coffee Braised Short Ribs

Ingredients:

Olive oil or lard
5 lbs beef short ribs
Salt and Pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
2 cups strong coffee
1.5 cups chopped tomatoes, with juice (or one 28 oz can)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup unsweetened chocolate (70% or higher cacao)
Cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

Preparation:

Rinse short ribs under cold water and pat dry, season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron pan or Dutch oven over medium high heat.

Place a few of the short ribs in the pan, being careful not to crowd them. Brown the short ribs well on all sides until they have a nice seared brown color. Transfer the meat to a plate and continue to cook the rest of the ribs. When done, remove all of the meat to the plate.

Reduce the heat to medium. If you used a cast iron pan for the browning, heat more oil in a large oven safe covered casserole dish. If you’re using a Dutch oven, just keep on cooking.

Add the onions and peppers and cook until the onions are translucent, approximately 5-10 minutes. Next mix in the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the brown sugar and spices and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the coffee, chopped tomatoes, and tomato paste and bring the whole mixture to a boil.

Return the short ribs to the pot and cover. Braise in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours. Mix in the chocolate until melted. Season ribs with salt and pepper, and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, pasta or polenta. Indulge in a nice hearty red such as a Cabernet or Zinfandel or Shiraz which goes great with the chocolate and spicy flavors in this dish.

Recipe adapted from the Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook

Arugula and Avocado Salad With Shaved Parmesan and Toasted Pine Nuts

Arugula Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

2 bunches arugula, washed and dried ( about 6 cups)
1 avocados, peeled and sliced
Shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese, to taste

Lemon Dressing

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
4 -5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions

To make the dressing, in a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and garlic. Slowly whisk in olive oil until the mixture is creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Place arugula in a serving bowl and add dressing to taste. Mix well. Top with avocado slices, drizzle a bit more dressing over them and season with a pinch of salt. Using a vegetable peeler, shave slivers of Parmesan over the top.

Top off the salad with some toasted pine nuts for an extra crunch (and spice to your Valentine’s Day!)

Serves 4.

Recipe originated from Food.com

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster

Ingredients

¼ cup (½ stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup banana liqueur
4 bananas, cut in half 
lengthwise, then halved
¼ cup dark rum
4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Instructions

Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately. Prepare to swoon almost immediately.

Recipe originated from Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans.

Chocolate Honey Mousse

chocolate mousse

Ingredients

12 oz of dark crispy chocolate
5-6 dessert spoons of pure honey
3 cups of fresh cream

Instructions

Mix together dark chocolate (should be crushed into pieces), 5 dessert spoons honey and ¾ cup of fresh cream. The ingredients
should be mixed over luke warm water. This mixture will need to be stirred constantly, till the dark chocolate stats to melt and combines itself with the honey and cream.

Once all three ingredients have blended into one another, keep it aside for it to cool.

While the chocolate mixture is kept aside to cool, start whipping the remaining cream (2 ¼ cups) but not very firm.

Once the cream is whipped and the chocolate mixture is cool, gradually and slowly fold the cream into it. Blend this mixture well.

Take a special serving dish and carefully pour the whole mixture into it and keep it to set in the refrigerator.

The chocolate honey mousse can also be poured into separate individual bowls as it does make a lavish amount.

If the mousse is poured into one whole serving dish, the chocolate honey mouse might take about 3 to 4 hours for it to set well.

Chocolate honey mousse can be served with creamy vanilla ice cream. Garnish with crushed nuts as a topping.

White Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Raspberry Tart

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cup of walnuts, finely chopped
¾ cup of unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 ½ cup of flour
1 teaspoon of freshly-grated orange zest
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 cups of fresh raspberries
12 oz of white chocolate, chopped
½ cup of heavy cream, warmed
½ cup of whipped cream, to garnish

Directions:

In a bowl with an electric mixer, blend walnuts, ¾ of the butter, sugar, flour, orange zest and egg until thoroughly combined, and press into an 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Freeze the shell for 15 minutes.

While the shell is freezing, preheat your oven to 375°F.

 Bake the shell in middle of your oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

 Allow the shell to cool on a rack.

Remove the side of pan and transfer the shell to a plate.

 Fill shell with 2 ½ cups of raspberries.

In a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt the white chocolate. 

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the cream and the remaining butter, whisking until smooth.

 Spread the white chocolate mixture over the raspberries, smoothing top and chill, covered, for 3 hours or overnight.

Garnish the tart with whipped cream and remaining ½ cup of raspberries.

Serve at room temperature.

Recipe originated from www.raspberryrecipes.net

Read more about Aphrodisiac Foods and History

An Intimate Gathering: Holiday Dinner Party Menu

steak with mushrooms
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Since the holidays are rapidly approaching, I’m planning an intimate dinner party with friends featuring some of my favorite recipes to make a delicious, warming and elegant meal. Filet Mignon with Mushroom and Rosemary Sauce for the entree, Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese as a side, Pear, Arugula and Pancetta as an accompanying winter salad, and rich, decadent Chocolate Mousse for dessert.

Filet Mignon with Mushroom and Rosemary Sauce

Filet Mignon has always been one of my favorites, and it is one of the most elegant cuts of steak, and served medium rare is juicy, tender, and succulent. Top it off with a Mushroom wine sauce, serve it with a Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut salad with Vinaigrette and a Cheesy Pasta side dish with a kick, and you’ve got an elegant dinner party menu for a small group of friends. I saw this recipe on Giada DeLaurentis’ show Giada at Home, and it caught my eye as the perfect dish for an intimate dinner party with friends around the holidays.

steak with mushroom sauce


Ingredients

Steaks:

Vegetable oil cooking spray

2 (8-ounce) filet mignon steaks

Kosher or Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

Gravy:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large or 4 small shallots, minced

2 cups (about 5 ounces) assorted mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake and button, coarsely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry Marsala wine

1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preparation:

Steak: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a small baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside. Season the steaks with salt and pepper, to taste. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes for medium-rare doneness. Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes on a cutting board.

Gravy: In the same skillet used for the steak, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beef broth and rosemary. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until half of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cutting across the grain, slice the steak into 1/4-inch thick slices and arrange on a platter. Pour the sauce into a serving bowl and serve alongside the meat.

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Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese is a classic comfort food and every year I go on a search for a new recipe and this one caught my eye. (Bon Appetit magazine Dec 2010 issue). This recipe originates from the popular Seattle restaurant, Roaring Fork by Chef Robert McGrath. It’s made with roasted poblano chile peppers which gives it a nice kick and extra texture and flavor to the cheesy goodness. The recipe calls for macaroni and red onion but I decided to substitute penne for the macaroni and shallots for the onion, and added a teaspoon of smoked paprika, extra cheddar cheese and a few slices of crumbled pancetta on top to dress it up a bit. You can also toss the pasta in a cast iron pan and top it off with some buttery panko bread crumbs and throw it in the oven for 30-40 minutes on 350 degrees for a crunchy delicious topping. It makes 6 appetizer or side-dish servings.

green chile mac and cheese

Ingredients:

1 whole fresh poblano chile plus 1/4 c. chopped fresh poblano chiles

1 tbsp corn oil

1/4 c. chopped red bell pepper

1/4 c. chopped red onion (or shallots)

1 garlic clove, minced

4-5 slices of pancetta, diced and cooked

1/2 c. fresh or frozen thawed corn kernels

3/4 c. whipping cream

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 c. fresh cooked macaroni (2/3 c. dried) or penne (or any tubular shaped pasta)

1/2 c. grated hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese

Topping: Melted butter and Panko bread crumbs, put entire dish in a cast iron pan, top

with buttered crumbs and bake in oven until topping is crunchy and golden

Preparation:

Char whole chile directly over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Transfer to paper bag, seal. Let stand 15 mins. Peel, seed, and coarsely chop chile. Transfer to processor, puree until smooth.

Chop the pancetta and cook until crisp in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove bacon and drain on a small plate with paper towels and reserve some of the bacon drippings and add the oil back in to the pan.

Add 1/4 c. chopped chile, bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Saute until soft, about 4 mins. Add corn; stir 1 minute. Add cream and chile puree; bring to boil. Add macaroni and cheese; stir until cheese melts and mixture is heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and top with pancetta crumbles.

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Pear, Arugula and Pancetta Salad

This is one of my favorite winter salads made with peppery arugula, fresh sliced pears, pancetta and a crisp Champagne Vinaigrette. It goes perfect with the steak and pasta and gives a fresh flavor to the meal.

pear and arugula salad

For vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar

1 tablespoon mild honey

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

For salad:

2 oz thinly sliced pancetta (4 to 5 slices)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 firm-ripe pears

4 cups baby arugula or torn larger arugula (1 1/4 lb)

3 oz ricotta salata, thinly shaved with a vegetable peeler

Toasted Walnuts for topping

Make vinaigrette: Whisk together vinegar, honey, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a salad bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined well.

Make salad:
 Cook pancetta in oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning frequently, until just crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain (pancetta will crisp as it cools). Tear into bite-size pieces.

Halve pears lengthwise, core, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add pears to dressing along with arugula, cheese, and pancetta, tossing to coat. Top with a handful of toasted walnuts for some crunchy texture.

Read More: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pear-Arugula-and-Pancetta-Salad-235734#ixzz16appSya9

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Chocolate Mousse

I can’t think anything else on the planet that I love more than chocolate. Whip up this delicious ingredient with brandy and cream and you’ve got the perfect French dessert – chocolate mousse. Dark and rich, creamy and decadent – it’s the perfect ending for a special dinner party with friends during the holidays. I found this recipe on Molly Wizenberg’s blog, Orangette (she’s one of my favorite Bon Appetit food writers, ever!). This recipe is adapted from the original recipe in Cook’s Illustrated, 2006.

chocolate mousse

Ingredients:

8 oz. Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate, 60% cacao, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 tsp. instant espresso powder

5 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. brandy

2 large eggs, separated

1 Tbsp. sugar, divided

1/8 tsp. salt

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cold heavy cream

For serving:

Very lightly sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings

Combine the chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso powder, water, and whiskey in a medium heatproof bowl. Place over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of gently simmering water, and stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat.

In another medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, 1 ½ teaspoons sugar, and salt. Whisk until the mixture lightens to a pale yellow color and thickens slightly, about 30 seconds. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, and whisk until combined. Set aside for about 5 minutes, until just warmer than room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until frothy. Add the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons sugar, increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Detach the whisk and bowl from the mixer, and whisk the last few strokes by hand, making sure to scrape up any unbeaten whites from the bottom of the bowl. Using the whisk, stir about ¼ of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, to lighten it. Then, using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites until only a few white streaks remain.

In the now-empty mixer bowl, whip the heavy cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken. Increase the speed to high, and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the mousse until no white streaks remain. Spoon into 6 to 8 individual serving dishes – I like to use teacups – or, if you’re feeling casual, mound it up in a single serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

For best texture, let the mousse sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with very lightly sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

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