Recipe to the rescue, but a tad bit too late

Here’s a true  story. The names have been changed.

My friend Bob met a lovely woman on a very popular dating site. Her name was Dominique. One of the things he particularly liked about her profile was that she said she loved to “tinker around the stove top” and “was very intimate with her oven.”

“Writing like this showed she not only had a sense of humor, but revealled she might have some cooking skills,” Bob said as he shared his storied account.

After speaking on the phone, they discovered they both loved Italian food and decided their first date would be to meet at an Italian restaurant.

They met, had immediate chemistry and got along swimmingly (that’s my word) after that first date. Bob and Dominique had three subsequent dates in which he took her to upscale and eclectic restaurants in Los Angeles.

While talking over the phone about their next date, Dominique said,” I would like to invite you out to dinner.”

“Really,” said Bob. “Ok you can pick the restaurant.”

“I have just spot – Casa Domi,” she said.

Bob said he paused a moment and searched his mind for Casa Domi. When he suddenly realized what she meant, she said, “You sir will be dining at my table and I am making one of your favorite entrees – spaghetti with meat sauce.”

Dining at Casa Domi

Bob was really excited about the offer to dine at her table. After all, her profile said “she loved to tinker around the stove top and was very intimate with her oven.” And besides that, he reasoned things must be moving along nicely  with his new lady because he got an invite to dinner – something that has rarely happened to him.

When Bob arrived, she greeted him at the door wearing an apron, the sign of a real cook he thought to himself. And the smell of garlic wafting through the air was almost intoxicating.

He sat in the family room adjacent to the kitchen sipping a generous pour of pinot noir  she gave in a beautiful etched, long stem wine glass.  He could see a pot simmering on the stove top and vegetables for a salad on the cutting board. Bob said he felt like a little boy anxiously waiting for his favorite dish.

The long awaited main course

Dominique called him to the table and they started with a garden salad and garlic bread.  After they had finished  the salad,  she said  it was time for the “ll platto principale” which she quipped meant “main course” in Italian.

The bowl of pasta and ground meat she placed in front of him left him almost paralyzed. Never had he seen such an unappealing bowl of contents swimming in a red, waterly liquid.

“It was an absolutely disappointing site Ronni,” said  Bob, which is my nickname. “And to make matters worse, it tasted sweet and reminded me of Campbell’s SpaghettiOs with  ground turkey pilled on top.

Bob said he struggled through the meal and ate most of it.

Recipe rescue needed

“My lady needed a serious recipe rescue Ronni,” said Bob adding that he just couldn’t bring himself to tell her how awful he thought it was.

My friend Bob is a great guy. He’s stilling seeing his new lady and he asked me for a simple spaghetti recipe he can make when he invites her over for dinner.

This is my go to recipe when I want to make spaghetti that is familiar, yet updated and slightly – if I dare say – elevated. The sauce is rustic and flavorful. The Kalmata olives give it a Mediterranean vibe. The sliced chicken garlic sausage is a healthier choice and takes this dish just beyond ordinary.  Using the quick cooking fettuccine noodles makes it quick to get on the table so you can get to the business of enjoying the company of your date.

While this recipe wasn’t the lifeline Dominique needed to save her kitchen credibility,  perhaps it could the lifeline to save yours. Oh and by the way –  if you are silently saying “thank you,” imagine me saying “you are welcome.”

Easy Date Night Pasta

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A fresh, light, Italian-inspired pasta recipe perfect for an intimate dinner.

Ingredients

1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/3 cup Kalmata olives, halved
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
Cracked pepper to taste
1 pound Hillshire chicken garlic sausage, sliced
1 -15 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes )
1-8 ounce can tomato sauce (El Patio Salsa de Jalapeno featured here; for saucier dish use two cans and increase salt and oregano to taste)
Olive oil for sautéing
1/3 cup olive oil
Pasta (this recipe used about 8 ounces of al dente Artisanal egg fettuccine noodles)
Fresh chopped basil or flat leaf parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions


1.  Fill a large Dutch oven pot with 5 quarts of water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil.

2.  Next, to a large non-stick skillet set on medium heat, add 3 tablespoons olive. When oil is heated, add chopped bell pepper and onions. Sauté 2-3 minutes until tender, stirring frequently.

3.   Add garlic, chopped oregano and halved Kalmata olives and sauté until garlic is fragrant, stirring frequently, about an additional 1-2 minutes.

4.  Add can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1/3 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to the skillet. Stir well. Cover and simmer slowly for 15 minutes.

5.  To a separate non stick pan, add a little olive oil and lightly brown sausage slices on each side. Once browned, remove from pan and set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel.

6.  Add pasta to the water, which should be boiling vigorously at this point. Cook pasta according to al dente instructions.

7.  Once pasta is done, drain thoroughly and add pasta along with browned sausage slices to simmering tomato mixture. Use a large wooden spoon or thongs to gently toss and incorporate noodles and sausage into the sauce. Turn off heat and cover.

8.  Serve with fresh chopped basil or flat leaf parsley and Parmesan cheese. Makes about 4 servings.

Simple ingredients make this dish easy and delicious.

Simple ingredients make this dish easy and delicious.

This sauté of onions, bell pepper, garlic, chopped oregano, oregano  and halved Kalmata olives is intoxicating. 

All ingredients incorporated and pasta is ready to be plated.

Easy Date Night Pasta plated with fresh chopped flat leaf parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.

 

 

 

Be a fearless Valentine

Love can be scary.croxetti-pasta-heart

Now that I have your attention, I’ll repeat it again – love can be scary.

It has frightened me many a time because it requires such vulnerability, compromise and dare I say surrender.

But to find love and experience love requires a bit of fearlessness not only in your pursuit of love but in your expression of love when you think you have found “the one.”

Why am I, a food blogger, talking about love?

Valentine’s Day has a way of making me think about the pursuit of love and more importantly, the preservation of love.

The way to the heart

We’ve all heard the adage that the way to the heart is through the stomach, right? Well actually you heard it this way; the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But I submit that this phase should be gender neutral because my heart has been enraptured a time or two by a gentleman whose  fearless culinary skills took my breath away with each bite of  a  wonderfully prepared meal he made for me.

Valentine’s Day is approaching and perhaps you had a fleeting thought of making a romantic meal then that thought vanished as quickly as it appeared. I say be a fearless Valentine and make that romantic meal.

My Roasted Yellow Bell Pepper Alfredo Pasta with Pan Grilled Shrimp is a fearless choice and Valentine’s Day worthy.

The pan roasted yellow bell peppers and the hint of nutmeg makes this creamy sauce warm and cozy. The grilled shrimp makes it decedent and satisfying. If you can find Croxetti pasta,  you will certainly elicit a “wow what an interesting pasta” response.  If you can’t get your hands on a bag of Croxetti, use Farfalle or Bow Tie pasta. Yes, this dish arouses the palate and the senses as well.

Here’s a suggested menu for your Valentine:

Starters

Salad featuring your favorite garden greens. Be adventurous and add some thinly sliced Asian pears or Honeycrisp apples brushed with a little lemon juice, walnuts, cranberries and a little roughly chopped fresh mint. Toss the salad with a delicate champagne vinaigrette you can purchase from most grocery stores or specialty markets.

Entrée

Yellow Roasted Bell Pepper Alfredo Pasta with Pan Grill Shrimp – recipe below.

Dessert

Pound cake (store bought or homemade) with vanilla ice cream drizzled with a Limoncello liquor and shaved white chocolate if you dare.

If you decide to pass on making this meal for Valentine’s Day, by all means plan some time to make it at a later date. The love shown in making a meal for someone who puts a sparkle in your eyes shouldn’t be limited to Valentine’s Day. Preparing a meal for that special  someone is definitely a way to their heart all year long.

Roasted Yellow Bell Pepper Alfredo Pasta with Pan Grilled Shrimp

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Ingredients
1 large yellow bell pepper
1/3  cup chopped red onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 tablespoon butter
16 ounces half and half
3 cup Croxetti  or bow tie pasta (uncooked)
½ fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 pinch of nutmeg
½ – 1  teaspoon salt to taste
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
Oil (canola, corn, grapeseed)
3 tablespoon pine nuts
cracked pepper
parsley, roughly chopped

Method
To a non-stick skillet set on medium heat, add pine nuts and stir until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside in a separate dish.

Rinse shelled and deveined shrimp and pat dry. Add a little cooking oil (about 1 tablespoon) to a non-stick skillet set on medium heat. Add half of the shrimp, lightly sprinkle with salt and cook until medium brown on both sides. (Remember over crowding the pan will cause the shrimp to steam instead of cook and get a nice, brown color.) This may take approximately 2-3 minutes for each side until they are done.

Remove shrimp from pan into another dish and keep warm. Add more oil if needed and repeat with the remainder of the shrimp. When done, remove and cover with foil to keep warm.

picmonkey-collage-pine-nuts-shrimp
Cut bell pepper into strips. (Note: for best results, steam bell pepper strips 3-4 minutes in a steamer basket before browning in skillet.)

Lightly coat a non-stick skillet with cooking spray.  Heat pan on medium heat. Add bell pepper strips and brown on both sides. Color should be slightly charred. Remove from heat and cool.  Place bell pepper on a cutting board surface and chop into pieces. Set aside.

picmonkey-collage-bellpepper
Begin cooking Croxetti or bow tie pasta accord to al dente directions.

croxetti-pasta

In the same skillet used for the bell pepper, add butter. When melted, add chopped onion and sauté  on medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute.

Add half and half, a pinch of nutmeg, salt and Parmesan cheese to pan with the onion and garlic mixture.  Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently about 2-3 minutes until sauce is thickened.

Remove pan the from heat and carefully pour sauce into a blender. Add chopped bell pepper to the blender. Place a towel over the blender top and hold it down securely. Blend the mixture until smooth.

picmonkey-collage-croxetti-in-sauce-shrimp
Pour mixture back into a skillet. Add a little cracked pepper.  Heat about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add cooked pasta and lightly toss pasta until it is completely covered with the sauce.  Add pan grilled shrimp to pan and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

Serve with fresh chopped parsley and addition grated Parmesan cheese if you like.

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Earth-Day-2016I love planet earth.

I love Earth Day.

When you think about it, every day is Earth Day. But each year on April 22nd the world pays collective homage to the planet that sustains our lives and  pauses to raise our awareness on how we can protect it. Continue reading

How to fill “your modern pantry” with real with possibilities

Whats in your pantry web smallThe pantry used to be the nerve center of the kitchen.

When I was a little girl, mom had it stocked with lots of stuff from canned foods – some in canning jars – to dried beans and spices. Our moderately stocked pantry was a symbol of comfort and security for our family.  It was never bare or barren. When you looked in my mom’s pantry, you immediately knew that she was a cook whose objective was to make sure her family was well feed with hearty, rib sticking, and filling meals. Continue reading