It’s that time of the year again, time to attack all that great basil and tomatoes from your vegetable garden (or your favorite vegetable stand).  Below are two of my favorites.  The 1st is what I call “Pesto Butter”.  This little bundle of deliciousness goes with so many great dishes, sauces, breads, etc.  You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to this butter…..the other is my oven roasted tomato sauce.  My friend Amy always provides me a nice sample of tomatoes from her very large garden.  Usually I have already “canned” my tomatoes, so I have found that the oven roasting is perfect, delicious and ohhhh so easy!

Pesto Butter:

1-2 cups fresh basil removed from stems
3-4 cloves garlic
2-3 stick of butter (no margarine ever!), softened

Place your basil in a salad spinner, run under cold water and spin to dry.IMG_5501  In the bowl of a food process add 3-4 (more or less if desired) cloves garlic.  IMG_5502

Process until garlic is chopped.    IMG_5503Add basil leaves and continue to process until basil is chopped.  Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula, add softened butter (2 sticks) and continue to process until smooth.  IMG_5504If the color is too green, add another stick of butter and repeat.  IMG_5506Using a small scoop, scoop pesto butter onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper (easy clean up).  IMG_5508

Place pan of pesto butter into the freezer.  Come back an hour later (or more), remove frozen butter and place into a zip lock bag.  Return butter to your freezer and use as desired…..will freeze for 12 months.

Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

5-8 lbs fresh tomatoes, quartered, cored and seeded
2-3 teaspoons salt
1-2 teaspoons black pepper
¼-½ teaspoons chipotle peppers (optional)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch fresh herbs, thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil (or 1 teaspoon of each dried)
3-4 cloves garlic, sliced

Preheat oven to 225°F.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, toss gently to coat.  Place tomatoes in a 9×13″ baking dish.  Roast 2 hours or until tomatoes are slightly browned and soft.

Ingredients in Oven RoastedIngredients in Oven Roasted

Cool tomato sauce, place in a zip lock bag and freeze for future use.  Use for spaghetti, over fish, pizza, bruschetta…..YUM!!!!

Buon Appetito!!!!!

Pesto Butter, Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce


Here are some of my favorite summertime side dishes, sure to please all of your family and friends!  Enjoy!!!

IMG_5277Asian Slaw
Ingredients:

1 (12 ounce) package coleslaw mix (preferably an Asian blend)
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Spice Islands® Ground Ginger
½-1 teaspoon wasabi powder
¼ teaspoon Spice Islands® Garlic Powder
¼ cup Mazola® Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Spice Islands® Sesame Seeds, lightly toasted*

Empty slaw mixture into a medium size mixing bowl and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl combine honey, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, wasabi powder and garlic power. Whisk until well blended. Slowly pour in oil, whisking continuously to emulsify dressing. Add sesame seeds and pour over greens. Toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight, if possible.

*To toast sesame seeds, place in a dry non-stick skillet over medium heat and toss until lightly golden.

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Southern Style Barbecue Beans for a Crowd

Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 1 ½ hours
Serves: 10-15 people

1 teaspoon Mazola® Corn Oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 fresh jalapenos, minced
2/3 cup Weber® Sweet “N Spicy BBQ Sauce
½ cup ketchup
½ cup water
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon Spice Islands® Minced Garlic
½ teaspoon Spice Islands® Cayenne Pepper
1 tablespoon Weber® Smokey Mesquite Seasoning
1 lb. cooked, shredded pulled pork
2 (28-ounce) cans baked beans
2 (15-ounce cannellini beans, drained
2 (15 ounce) black beans, drained
1 (10-ounce) can Ro-Tel® Original Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilles, drained
½ lb. thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces.

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

In a medium size skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and jalapenos, cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients (except bacon), and toss until well blended. Transfer mixture to a 13 x 9” baking pan. Top mixture with a single layer of bacon pieces over the top. Bake 1 ½ hours, or until beans are bubbling and bacon is rendered (if desired, place under broiler for a minute or two for extra crispy bacon). Let cool for 10-15 minutes. Serve.  Freezes well!

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Roasted Corn & Tomato Salad (recipe coming soon)

 

Bon Appetito!

Summertime Picnic Side Dishes


It’s that time of the year again folks…….I bet you never knew just HOW easy it is to “can your own tomatoes”.

I started canning tomatoes soon after Bob & I were married…(1977).  I always believed home grown tomatoes made a better sauce than any store bought can tomato on the market (yes, even the ones from Italy).  My family has NEVER had store bought sauce….

When I started canning,  their was really no easy way of canning tomatoes; you would purchase the tomatoes (or grow them), score the bottom of the tomato with a sharp knife and plunge the tomatoes into boiling hot water.  Once the tomato skin would break away you would then plunge the tomatoes into cold water (to stop the boiling), then skin them using your favorite knife.  This took hours, some times a couple of days.  I am happy to say that my family has helped in this process.

Years ago I came across the best tool ever……I have always loved having a vegetable garden, however it never produced as many tomatoes as I needed to get me through a year of homemade sauce. This tool is called Electric Tomato Press”. This tool changed my canning life!  I can now go to the farmers market, purchase 3-4 boxes of tomatoes, ($8-10 per box)  and with the help of my family have about 40-50 quarts “put up” in a couple of hours.  These “canned” tomatoes will last a couple of years.

Below you will find a video that Jen and I made several years ago, “Canning 101”.  I hope this encourages you to try this technique.  My family has fond memories over the past 30 some odd years of this fun family project.  Not only will you have the best sauce, but you will make the “best family memories”

Buon Appetito!


One of my favorite Italian dishes to make is Gnocchi, also known as “little dumplings”.    Typically these are made with potatoes, semolina or flour, eggs, and served with a sauce.  I prefer the lighter ricotta version.  I have to say, these are SO easy to make, you only need 30 minutes and you will have an amazing dinner for your family and friends.  I sometimes make these with spinach and sometimes not.  My recipe and photos are for both.  I hope you enjoy!

You will need 16 ounces of whole milk ricotta, 2 eggs, 1 ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon white pepper and 1 cup of cooked chopped spinach (all the water must be removed).

DSC_0003It helps to have a gnocchi board, you can purchase one on Amazon for about $5.00.

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, olive oil, eggs, spinach (if desired) salt, and pepper with a wooden spoon in a large mixing bowl. Add the all-purpose flour in 3 parts, stirring after each addition.  You want the dough to be slightly sticky, add more flour if needed.
Bring the dough together in a ball and cut off one-quarter of it. Dust the work surface with all-purpose flour to prevent sticking, and roll the cut-off piece of dough into a dowel shape about 5/8 inch in diameter. Cut the dowel into 5/8-inch pieces. Dust some parchment paper with polenta or corn meal.  Roll each dumpling on the gnocchi board.

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Place the gnocchi on the prepared sheet pan.  Repeat with the rest of the dough, quarter by quarter.


Place the prepared gnocchi in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the Pancetta Cream Sauce, you will need 1 6 ounce package pancetta, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 shallot chopped, 2 gloves garlic, minced,  ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (if desired) 1 14.5 ounce can Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes, ½ cup heavy whipping cream.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is crisp, about 5 minutes.

IMG_5208Remove the pancetta from the pan and reserve, leaving the fat behind.
Add the oil, butter, diced shallots and garlic to the hot pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the shallots have softened, about 5 minutes.  IMG_5209

Add the can tomatoes, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes.  Add the reserved pancetta and heavy cream,  cook an additional 2-3 minutes (or until the cream is hot).

Cook the gnocchi in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Serve tossed with a bit of the Pancetta Tomato Sauce, top with chopped basil and freshly grated Romano cheese.  Alternatively, you can freeze the uncooked gnocchi for up to 2 weeks.

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Ricotta/Spinach Gnocchi:
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 1/4 – 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup cooked chopped spinach, squeezed dry (if desired)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon white pepper

Pancetta Cream Sauce:
6 ounces thick-cut pancetta (about 3 1/4-inch slices), diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
One 14.5 ounce can Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes
½ cup heavy whipping cream
4-5 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

Combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, olive oil, eggs, spinach (if desired) salt, and pepper with a wooden spoon in a large mixing bowl. Add the all-purpose flour in 3 parts, stirring with after each addition.  You want the dough to be slightly sticky, add more flour if needed.

Bring the dough together in a ball and cut off one-quarter of it. Dust the work surface with all-purpose flour to prevent sticking, and roll the cut-off piece of dough into a dowel shape about 5/8 inch in diameter. Cut the dowel into 5/8-inch pieces. Dust some parchment paper with polenta or corn meal.  Roll each dumpling on the gnocchi board. Place the gnocchi on the prepared sheet pan.  Repeat with the rest of the dough, quarter by quarter.Place the prepared gnocchi in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the Pancetta Cream Sauce, heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the pancetta from the pan and reserve, leaving the fat behind.
Add the oil, butter, diced shallots and garlic to the hot pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the shallots have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the can tomatoes, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes.  Add the reserved pancetta and heavy cream,  cook an additional 2-3 minutes (or until the cream is hot).

Cook the gnocchi in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Serve tossed with a bit of the Pancetta Tomato Sauce chopped basil and freshly grated Romano Cheese.   You can freeze the uncooked gnocchi for up to 2 weeks.

Buon Appetito!

Ricotta/Spinach Gnocchi with Pancetta Tomato Cream Sauce


This past Christmas I purchased an Anova Precision Cooker for my son, Rob, who loves to cook.  He was very skeptical when he opened the box and asked “what is it”?  Well, just what exactly is a precision cooker you might ask…..it’s an immersion circulator that is used to cook sous vide….and what is sous vide cooking?

Sous vide” is French for “under vacuum” and refers to the process of vacuum-sealing food and cooking it in a temperature controlled water bath. However, that’s a bit of a misnomer. You don’t need to vacuum seal your food to cook sous vide. Instead, this technique is really about bringing food to a very precise temperature and holding it there for a period of time, which is why we refer to the technique as “precision cooking.”

Chefs around the world use sous vide cooking to prepare food to the perfect level of doneness while also retaining its nutrients, but the technique isn’t just limited to high end restaurants. In recent years, affordable countertop sous vide equipment like the Anova Precision Cooker have made sous vide cooking available for home use.

To cook sous vide, first prepare your food of choice — it can be anything from a steak or a chicken breast to corn on the cob — then place it in a plastic vacuum-sealed or zipper lock bag. Attach your immersion circulator to a pot of water and set the desired time and temperature. Clip your sealed bag of food to the pot and let it cook, the circulator moves water around the pot, ensuring a consistent temperature throughout. Once your food has finished cooking, you can sear it, serve it, or even save it for later. It’s simple, convenient, and produces professional quality results every time.” 

It didn’t take Rob very long to perfect the sous vide technique.  He would always call me or text me and tell me how fantastic all the food was that he made with the Anova.  I have to admit,  I was jealous!!!  Here are some pictures of just a few of his creations, burgers, steaks, rack of lamb…..Yum!

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This past Mother’s Day I posted a link to Anova on Facebook and made a subtle hint about it making a great gift for mom.  WOW…..did it work!  I was so excited when Rob & Cecile sent me the Anova….I couldn’t wait to try it out.  So far I have made burgers, steaks, and boneless beef tips.  All have been wonderful.  I have been itching at the bit to try baby back ribs.  Well, its the bit…..

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THE RUB

Then seal and add to pot:

Now the fun part, turn the Anova cooker on and set the temperature to 145F and the timer on for 20 (YES 20) hours and forget about it…..

20 Hours Later:

Remove the bags of ribs from the pan.  Ribs can be placed in the refrigerator if not ready to use them right away (but take them out and let them come to room temperature before finishing).

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Now comes the really fun part….light the grill (or you can use a grill pan or place the ribs on a sheet pan and place under the broiler).

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Once the charcoal is hot (around 350F) place the ribs on the grill, presentation side down,  for 2-3 minutes, turn the ribs over and baste with your favorite BBQ Sauce (we love Weber Spicy).  Close lid and cook an additional 3-5 minutes.  Remove ribs from grill, serve…

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Definitely the MOST tender, moist, flavorful ribs I have ever had.  The hint of smoke was perfect, the meat didn’t fall off the bones (that’s a Memphis no-no).  ” Properly cooked ribs will pull cleanly off the bone with your teeth, but they will still have some resilience and chew, like a properly cooked steak, but not be tough.”

Here’s the recipe….enjoy and Buon Appetito!

Sous Vide Baby Back Ribs

The Rub:

2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Weber Smokey Mesquite Seasoning
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon salt
liquid smoke

Mix all dry ingredients together until combined. Sprinkle over both sides of ribs. Set ribs aside for 1 to 2 hours.

Divide ribs into 3 pieces. Place each piece in a zip lock or food saver bag and place a few drops of liquid smoke into each bag. Place sealed bags in preheated water bath for 20 hours, set at 145°F.

Remove ribs from bath. Place on a grill pan, under the broiler, or on a hot grill for 3-5 minutes per side. Baste with your favorite BBQ Sauce, if desired.

Sous Vide Baby Back Ribs



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This dish easily wins the award for one of the fastest, easiest and most delicious recipes out there.  Total time – 45 minutes, which includes 10 minutes to peel and devein shrimp.  I bet most people have all the ingredients in their cabinet, except the shrimp.  :o)

Prep time:  10-15 minutes
Cook time:  30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb. raw shrimp (20-25 count), peeled and deveined
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup butter
½ onion or 1 shallot, finely diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 14.5 ounce cans of Red Gold, Petite Diced Tomatoes
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh basil
Black pepper to taste
¼ cup chicken stock
¼ cup heavy cream
1 lb. capellini, cooked al dente, drained – reserve a few tablespoons of the cooked pasta water*
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
Good quality Romano or Parmigiano-reggiano cheese, shaved or grated

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and oil.  Add chopped onion (or shallot), garlic and red pepper flakes.  Reduce heat to low and cook until onions are soft and transparent, about 10 minutes.

Add diced tomatoes, fresh thyme, basil, black pepper and chicken stock.  Increase heat to medium low and continue cooking 20-30 minutes.  Add raw shrimp, cook until shrimp turns pink, about 5 minutes.  Add heavy cream and reserved pasta water, simmer 2-3 minutes.

Place cooked pasta in a large serving bowl, pour sauce over pasta and top with fresh chopped parsley and grated cheese.

*Make sure you GENEROUSLY salt the pasta water before cooking your pasta, about 2-3 tablespoons.

Buon Appetito!

 

Capellini with Tomatoes and Shrimp