Posts tagged ‘Italian’

September 8, 2015

Caprese Pasta Salad

Caprese Pasta Salad

If you’ve been reading this blog for much time, you probably know that I’m a big fan of culinary challenges. Unusual ingredients, strange kitchen set ups – you name it. Recently though, I completed a trial like no other.

I spent two weeks as a vegetarian.

Yes, it’s true. Your humble blogger and avowed carnivore went fourteen days without a single bite of meat. It was part of a deal that my girlfriend and I made to “eat healthier,” because meat is “bad for you.” In exchange she agreed to give up sweets for two weeks. I think I got the raw end of the deal.

(For the record, there is ample evidence to suggest that eating less meat contributes to better overall health. There, I admitted it.)

So what did I learn from the experience?

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August 8, 2015

Pancetta, Pea, and Mint Pizza with Pistachio Sauce

Pancetta, Pea, Pistachio Pizza

This pizza is your new best friend.

It will give a ride to the airport at a moment’s notice. It knows when something is wrong before you even say a word. It always has the next round.

I kid, of course – but this is a darn good pie.

The pistachio sauce is a nutty, subtle alternative to the more traditional aggressive red and rich white pizza bases. The salty, smokey pancetta and crisp sugar snap peas are like a see-saw, rocking your tongue gently back and forth between two flavors. Everything is bound together by mozzarella, and cut with just a hint of mint to keep things cool.

The pizza as a whole manages to be both indulgent and refreshing at the same time. As the midsummer heat begins to fade into temperate Autumn evenings, you may find yourself more attached to it than you’d care to admit.

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February 25, 2014

Bruschetta Diabla

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It’s my 100th post on Rosemary Renaissance!

When I first started this blog I never expected it would be anything more than an idle side project, but seeing readership rise steadily and hearing from you all about the recipes I put up here is what has pushed me to be a more adventurous chef. So whether this is the first post you’ve seen or you’ve been following my (mis)adventures in the kitchen since my first post back in 2011, I’d like to thank you all so much for reading.

Since good cooking should always be a labor of love, it’s fitting that my 100th post is one of the dishes that I made as part of a four-course Valentine’s Day dinner for my wonderful girlfriend, Maggie. It’s the second year I’ve cooked on Valentine’s Day and she hasn’t complained yet, so I must be doing something right!

The Bruschetta Diabla is a twist on the classic tomato-and-basil Italian appetizer. The tomatoes are burst using direct heat and then reduced into a sweet, tangy and spicy compote with garlic and red pepper flakes. They are paired with buttery, meaty mushrooms and aromatic basil atop crunchy baguette slices for a compact burst of flavor.

Whether you’re looking for an appetizer for a fancy dinner or want to host a swanky cocktail party, these little bite are the perfect fit!

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January 1, 2014

Wild Mushroom and Spinach Gnocchi

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Happy 2014 everyone! In the spirit of new year’s resolutions and self improvement, this recipe is the story of a culinary challenge that I finally overcame last year.

Ever since I started cooking, homemade gnocchi has been my Everest. I looked at countless recipes and tried multiple times to make it, but I could never get it quite right. It was always wound up a sloppy mess or an over-floured taste-dud.

This Christmas though, I finally figured it out.

The trick, at least for me, was to give up on the idea that the dough should feel like pasta dough. With pasta, the dough tends to be pretty tough and not sticky at all. But if you try to get gnocchi dough to that consistency you’ll wind up adding so much flour that it ruins the flavor. Instead, the trick is to flour the outside of the dough just enough to roll it out. It’ll still be a little sticky and hard to work with, but the result is delicious.

And this recipe is the perfect way to dress a well-made gnocchi! All the ingredients are delicate and inviting, and together they form a rich yet sublime palette of flavors. The leeks impart a subtle onion flavor, while the mushrooms and parmesan provide notes of umami. And while you may be tempted to skip the sherry in this recipe, you shouldn’t. It adds a fantastic extra dimension to the already wonderful thyme-cream sauce.

Best wishes (and dishes) for the new year!

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September 3, 2012

Italian Broccoli Fritter Stack

Every once in a while I cook something really, truly, supremely delicious.

It happens about once a year. In 2011 it was the Benedicto Italiano, which to this day is still probably the best thing I’ve ever made. In 2012, it’s this Broccoli Fritter Stack.

I have to give credit where it is due. This dish was inspired by the innovative broccoli fritter recipe over at rock star food blog Smitten Kitchen. Typical fritters are chalk-full of starchy goodness (potatoes, flour, rice, etc.) but these ones are made almost entirely of broccoli, with just enough parmesan and flour to hold them together. It’s the essence of broccoli, with just the right amount of frill.

The ensemble cast is just as important for this recipe, however. The portabello mushroom is simple – seasoned with just a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper – but flavorful, filling and tender. The sausage-infused sauce is slightly sweet, spicy and, most importantly, ruggedly filling. All you really need is something to sop up all the leftover goodies. Ciabatta? Done.

Presentation is always a secondary concern – substance before style – but this dish knocks it out of the park on that count as well. Each layer is vibrant and unique, with basil ribbons on top sealing the deal.

Cook this. Now. You won’t be disappointed.

Italian Broccoli Fritter Stack

  • 1/2 lb Italian sausage (I prefer spicy, but mild is fine)
  • 16 oz marinara sauce
  • 4 portabello mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • Broccoli Parmesan Fritters
  • 2 ciabatta rolls
  • 3-4 large basil leaves
  1. Heat a large non-stick skillet to medium high. Saute the Italian sausage until crispy and lightly browned, approximately 7-10 minutes. Add the marinara and reduce heat to low. Continue to stir periodically.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the stems from the portabello mushrooms. Divide the olive oil, salt and pepper evenly and apply to the mushrooms. Place the mushrooms in the oven and cook until lightly tender, approximately 12-15 minutes.
  3. Prepare the broccoli parmesan fritters per Smitten Kitchen instructions.
  4. Cut the ciabatta rolls in half and toast lightly in the oven. Lay down a ciabatta roll, portabello mushroom, broccoli fritter and a dollop of sausage-marinara sauce. Top with a handful of basil ribbons and serve.
February 26, 2012

Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil and Chèvre Macaroni and Cheese

We’re drawing close to the end of Winter, and I’m going to take every opportunity possible to make comfort food while it’s still seasonally appropriate.

So a few weeks back I trekked through the snow to meet up with a couple friends and whip up this zesty version of a classic comfort food dish: Mac and Cheese.

Gourmet macaroni and cheese is all the rage these days amongst upscale restaurants. You can’t hardly look at a menu without seeing gruyère-and-lobster, blue-and-fig-and-rosemary, green chili, or countless other variations of the dish. Some people are tired of the trend, but to me it exemplifies one of the greatest techniques in cooking: the ability to separate the flavors from the vehicle – in this case, macaroni – and apply new ones to the dish.

I chose to use a handful of Italian ingredients to liven up the profile of the macaroni and cheese. Although normally somewhat aggressive flavors, the sun-dried tomato, basil and chèvre are all mellowed by each others presence. The tartness of the sun-dried tomato is balanced by the creaminess of the sauce, while the herbal notes of basil cut through the sharp, salty chèvre. The combination creates a distinctive, but deceptively tempered, dish.

This is a hearty meal with Italian flair is perfect for any dark, rainy evening. To serve, I recommend red wine and roaring fire.

Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil and Chèvre Macaroni and Cheese

  • 2 cups macaroni
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomato, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup chèvre
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 10 basil leaves, roughly shredded
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

 

  1. Cook the macaroni al dente according to instructions. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat a large saucepan to medium-high. Add the butter, onion, garlic and sun-dried tomato and saute for 6-8 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent.
  3. Reduce the heat to low. Add the heavy cream, chèvre, mozzarella, black pepper and oregano and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  4. Combine the macaroni, shredded basil and chèvre sauce in a large casserole dish and mix together until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese over the top and place the casserole dish in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
November 2, 2011

Mushroom, Leek and Spinach Risotto

There’s nothing quite like the beginning of fall.

All those dishes that were too hearty, too heavy, too rich for summer are finally back on the market. My first autumnal foray? One of the most delicious dishes around – Risotto.

Risotto is a rice dish that originated from northern Italy. What differentiates it from more traditional styles is the method of cooking. Instead of steaming in a pot, stock is added in small amounts and cooked uncovered. The result is a more flavorful, creamier, richer dish that is filling – and a perfect fit for the chilly evenings that have arrived in Seattle.

Pairing risotto with well-seared, earthy mushrooms, rustic leeks and hearty spinach, this recipe epitomizes the spirit of fall. The addition of a bit of white wine in place of chicken stock towards the end provides a little bite – a nice counterpoint – to the richness of the other ingredients.

This dish pairs perfectly with a wide variety of entrees, a nice white wine, and nearly any fall/winter seasonal beer. Serve it and fall into the bliss of autumn!

Mushroom, Leek and Spinach Risotto

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 6 mushrooms, cut into 1/8 inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 leek, diced
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 packed cup of spinach, lightly chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste

 

  1. Heat a pan to medium-high. Be sure to allow the pan to heat fully before proceeding. Add 3 tablespoons of butter and melt evenly in the pan. Just as the butter begins to brown, add the mushrooms to the pan. Toss every minute for two minutes, add the remaining butter, and continue to toss every minute until the mushrooms are seared on either side, approximately 5 minutes. Set the mushrooms aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil to medium in a large pan or pot. Add the leeks and garlic and saute until partially cooked, between three to five minutes.
  3. Add the rice, toss until evenly coated and allow to toast for five minutes or until lightly browned.
  4. Add 1/3 cup of the chicken stock to the pot/pan and stir quickly to ensure the risotto does not burn. As the chicken stock nears complete evaporation, add another 1/3 cup. Continue this process of adding liquid 1/3 cup at a time – switching to white wine when the chicken stock is exhausted – until all the liquid is used up. Remove the pan from heat.
  5. Add the mushrooms and spinach and mix evenly into the risotto. Allow to sit for a few minutes to lightly cook the spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. To serve, pack the risotto into a small bowl or cup and overturn onto the plate. To garnish, roll a spinach leaf and slice into thin ribbons; place the ribbons on top of the risotto with a slice of mushroom.
August 6, 2011

Benedicto Italiano

Simply put, this dish is magnificent.

It starts with a toasty, chewy English muffin that soaks up all the extra sauce and yolk to make sure nothing slips away. The prosciutto on top of that is crisp, crunchy and salty. After that, the poached eggs are rich and creamy and the yolks run out onto the plate the minute a fork pierces them. Atop it all is a robust hollandaise with classic Italian flavors of fresh basil and sun-dried tomato.

Traditional Eggs Benedict is a great dish, but it often leans too strongly towards richness and decadence.  This Benedicto Italiano uses lighter prosciutto and cuts through the heaviness with tart sun-dried tomato and refreshing, aromatic basil. It’ll definitely leave you feeling full, but the flavors are explosive and perfectly balanced

In the end though, any attempt at describe this dish will fall short of the real deal.  The only way to know what I mean is to make it yourself!

Benedicto Italiano

  • 5 eggs
  • 5/8 cup of butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 pinch of cayenne
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, rehydrated and diced
  • 2 slices of prosciutto
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 English muffin

 

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°.  Fill two pots with water and bring to a steady simmer.
  2. Place the prosciutto on a foil covered baking sheet and slide into the oven to cook while making the sauce and poaching the eggs. The prosciutto should cook for approximately 10 minutes, so be sure to remove it on time if you don’t finish the next steps in time.
  3. Take three eggs and separate the yolks from the whites.  Combine the yolks and melted butter in a stainless steel bowl and whisk together until thickened.
  4. Add the lemon juice and cayenne to the egg mixture.  Place the stainless steel bowl on top of the first pot, making sure the bottom doesn’t touch the water, and continue to whisk vigorously until the volume has increased by half. Remove from the heat and add the basil and sun dried tomato, mixing thoroughly.
  5. To the second pot add the vinegar and bring to a very light boil. Poach the two remaining eggs so the yolks are still slightly runny (If you don’t know how to poach an egg, Smitten Kitchen has an excellent how-to here).
  6. Lightly toast the English muffin. To assemble the dish, place a prosciutto slice atop each English muffin half followed by a poached egg. Top with a couple spoonfuls of the tomato-basil hollandaise and garnish with a few basil ribbons.
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