Tag Archives: Italian

Midweek Menu: Zuppa Toscana

When we used to be more likely to frequent chain restaurants, one of my husband’s favorites was always the Olive Garden (I am fairly certain he still craves their alfredo). My staple when we had a meal there was Zuppa Toscana soup. I liked that it was creamy, but not too heavy, and zesty. The balance of sausage, kale, potatoes and spicy red pepper worked for me, and I’ve always wanted to try making it at home, but I had kind of forgotten about it. Then, last week at the farmer’s market, I stumbled across some Toscana Kale, and the name reminded me of the soup! So, I headed home to try making a batch of this restaurant favorite. The results were successful (and less salty!), except for the absence of those processed, frozen, yet addictive, breadsticks.

Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients:

Ingredients

Perfectly in season ingredients!

  • 1/2 lb. spicy Italian sausage, bulk or casing removed (I had sweet from Valley View Farms, so I added red pepper flakes when I cooked the sausage)
  • 1 onion (Jett’s Natural Produce)
  • 3 cloves garlic (Apple Ridge Farm)
  • 1/3 c. white wine
  • 2 medium potatoes (Heritage Farms CSA)
  • 1 bunch kale (to make 2 c. chopped, from Jett’s Natural Produce)
  • 2 c. chicken stock (homemade from Valley View Farms chicken bones)
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 c. milk (Keepsake Farm)

Directions:

  1. Crumble sausage and cook in dutch oven, then remove with slotted spoon to set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, dice onion and mince garlic.
  3. Add onion and garlic to sausage drippings and cook and stir over medium heat until onions are translucent.
  4. Meanwhile, dice potatoes and chop kale.
  5. Add wine to pan, scraping up browned bits from bottom.
  6. Add potatoes, kale, broth and water to dutch oven.
  7. Bring pot to boil, then cover, reduce heat and let simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  8. Return sausage to dutch oven.

    Simmering

    Just after adding sausage back to soup.

  9. Add milk and stir.
  10. Serve hot with fresh ground black pepper and crusty bread.
Zuppa!

Zuppa!

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Is That Spaghetti?

Last week, I purchased a spaghetti squash from Jett’s Natural Produce. I was hesitant to try it after an awful microwave-cooking attempt a couple of years ago, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give this fake-out food another try. I’ve got to say that spaghetti squash intrigues me, but disturbs me a bit at the same time. It’s ability to transform from what looks like any other winter squash into a pile of noodle-like substance is beyond my comprehension. It tastes great and is a fantastic healthy option when you are in the mood for Italian, but there’s something of a mind trip for me to get over.

On this attempt, I stuck with the oven as my cooking method, and the results were much better than from the microwave. Paired with a fresh tomato sauce concocted with some of my last tomato harvest and some basil I had chopped and frozen with just a touch of water in ice cube trays, this was a great inexpensive and nutrition packed meal to have after an energetic Zumba workout. Plus, aside from the sprinkling of cheese my husband added on at the last moment, this meal is vegan!

Spaghetti Squash with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

Ingredients

Fresh flavors create this healthy meal

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash (Jett’s Natural Produce)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • a few scallions (Jett’s Natural Produce)
  • 2 cloves garlic (Apple Ridge Farm)
  • 2 c. cherry tomatoes (my garden)
  • 4 T. fresh basil (I harvested from my garden, coarsely chopped it, then packed it into ice cube trays with just enough water to hold the leaves together when it froze. I thawed these for the recipe.)
  • sprinkling of cheese, optional (garlic herb from Keepsake Farm)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and place halves cut side down in baking dish. Add 1/2″ water to pan.
  3. Bake squash halves for 45 minutes or until skin is easily pierced with a fork.
  4. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.
  5. Chop garlic and white ends of scallion (reserving green tops) and add to skillet. Cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Halve tomatoes and add to skillet with basil.
  7. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until tomatoes have softened and formed a saucy base.
  8. When squash is finished, remove from oven and carefully flip halves over. Use a spoon to scrape seeds from center.
  9. Using a fork, separate the squash flesh into strands and add to skillet, tossing with sauce. Slice green tops of scallions and add to skillet. Sprinkle with cheese if desired and slurp the “noodles” down!
Spaghetti Squash

A light yet satisfying meal.


Nude in the Candlelight

Last weekend, my kitchen was full of nudes in the candlelight.

Whoa! What?! Lack of electricity can make one a little loopy, but I think I would have noticed a bunch of naked people in my apartment. Instead, I am referring to gnudi, a delightful Italian pasta/dumpling I discovered for the first time right around the moment our power went out. Gnudi does mean nude in Italian, referring to the fact that these are similar to naked ravioli filling. Simple to create (even in the dark), flavorful and fluffy, these pillows of cheesy dough may have surpassed gnocchi on my palate. I stumbled across a recipe for gnudi when I was searching for something different to do with some very fresh ricotta I picked up from Keepsake Farm.

By 6:30pm on Saturday, many of my friends had already lost power and had it returned, so I thought that we were safe from the risk of power outage. My husband had been out since 7am working in the cold, shoveling and chainsawing downed limbs at the historic sites in town. He’s a huge fan of Italian food and I was sure he’d be hungry for something warm when he got home, so I decided to try out this rustic dish.

I pulled the ingredients from the fridge, took a picture, and began mixing up the pasta dough, listening to some Primus on my iPod. Then, over the notes of Les Claypool, I heard a loud crack/thud, followed by several flashes of my lights. Then, darkness. Crap. Eggs, meat and cheese out of the fridge, dough half made and no power. Looking out the window, it was obvious most of the city was in the dark, and I could see strange green and purple flashes across town as transformers blew, so I figured it wasn’t coming back any time soon.

Fortunately, though, we have a gas cooktop, and I was equipped with my headlamp (I am really starting to recognize the value of that gadget!), so I lit a yummy-scented candle, got out the box of matches for the stove, and carried on making gnudi for dinner. I served my gnudi with meatballs and fresh tomato sauce to make for a heartier meal for my hard-working man, but the dumplings would also be great with a light olive oil sauce.

Gnudi & Meatballs

Note: These pictures are awful. Sorry. Ingredients spotlit by head lamp don’t look all that appetizing!

Meatballs and Sauce Ingredients:

Meatballs & Sauce Ingredients

Meatballs & Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef (Valley View Farms)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. white wine (this was leftover from a work event, red would work, too)
  • 1 onion (Jett’s Natural Produce)
  • 2 cloves garlic (Apple Ridge Farm)
  • 1 egg (Valley View Farms)
  • 2 c. cherry tomatoes (my garden)
  • handful fresh oregano (my garden)

Gnudi Ingredients:

Gnudi Ingredients

Gnudi Ingredients

  • 16 oz. ricotta cheese (Keepsake Farm)
  • 1/2 c. flour, plus some for dusting
  • 1 bunch greens (I used turnip greens from Apple Ridge Farm, but beet greens, spinach or chard would also work.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. aged cheese (I used Keepsake Ferale from Keepsake Farm, but you could also use gouda or parmesan)

Directions:

  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil.
  2. Combine ground beef with egg and form into 1 inch balls.
  3. Chop onion and garlic and sautée in olive oil in large skillet for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add meatballs and cook until outsides are browned, tossing occasionally.
  5. Meanwhile, halve tomatoes.
  6. When meatballs are browned, add wine and stir, scraping off any browned bits from surface of pan.
  7. Add tomatoes and bring to simmering. Reduce heat to low and cover for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Meatballs & Sauce

    Meatballs & Sauce

  8. While sauce simmers, chop greans and cook, stirring frequently, in another skillet until just wilted.
  9. Fluff ricotta with fork in large bowl.
  10. Add flour, 2 eggs, and greens. Mix well.
  11. Grate or finely crumble the cheese into the ricotta mixture. Mix well.
  12. Roll the mixture into 1″ balls, setting them on a floured surface. Turn the balls on the surface to coat the outsides lightly in flour. Slightly flatten each one.

    Uncooked Gnudi

    The light coating of flour provides a bit of body for the outside of the dumplings.

  13. Drop the dumplings into boiling water. Cook for two minutes longer than it takes for them to rise to the surface of the pan.
  14. Gently remove and strain gnudi, then toss with a bit of olive oil and serve hot with tomato sauce.
Gnudi

Sure to bring warmth to any cold, dark night!


Girls’ Night Gnoshing: Italian Roasted Veggie Dip

Each Wednesday a group of my friends and I get together for a night of testosterone-free hanging out. Sometimes we head to Roosevelts (if they are not having an obnoxious DJ) for gravy cheese fries & $4 mixed drinks and sometimes we gather at someone’s home for a BYO night. Either way, it’s sure to be a night of laughter, booze and good food.

A couple of weeks ago, girls’ night was going to be at a friend’s home, and I realized I didn’t have anything to bring! A quick survey of the kitchen didn’t turn up any prepared snack food, and I was out of alcohol. All I had were vegetables! I was pretty well stocked on eggplant, so I thought of making baba ganoush, but I didn’t have any tahini on hand. So, I pulled out what I could find and figured if my friends didn’t like it, we just wouldn’t eat it. Well, all of it was gone by the end of the evening, so I take that as a good sign. Bring this Italian dip with you next time you need an easy snack and you’ll be all set!

Italian Roasted Veggie Dip

Ingredients:

[My husband was kind enough to roast the veggies for me while I was running errands, so I don’t have a picture of everything raw.]

Simple ingredients for a complex-tasting dip.

Simple ingredients for a complex-tasting dip.

  • 1 large eggplant (Heritage Farms CSA)
  • 1 large onion (Jett’s Natural Produce)
  • 1 large tomato (Heritage Farms CSA)
  • 2 cloves garlic (Heritage Farms CSA)
  • 12-15 fresh basil leaves (our garden)
  • 4 sprigs oregano (our garden)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 T. lemon juice (I didn’t have any, so my dip darkened a bit, but was still tasty)

Directions:

  1. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and sprinkle with salt. Let rest 10 minutes.
  2. Cut onion into thick slices.
  3. Cut tomato in half.
  4. Place veggies cut side down on cookie sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, or until eggplant is soft. Let cool enough to handle.
  5. Meanwhile, chop garlic in food processor.
  6. Add basil and oregano to food processor, pulse until finely chopped.
  7. Scrape pulp out of eggplant skins and add to food processor.
  8. Add tomato and onion to food processor.
  9. Process until smooth.
  10. Slowly add olive oil while processor is running until dip is desired consistency.
  11. Let sit at least 1 hour before serving with crackers, toasts or pita chips.
Italian Roasted Veggie Dip

Italian Roasted Veggie Dip


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