Welcome to my world!

I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A taste of Italy all week

I'm catching up on posting from the past month, so this was actually originally written in September.  I'm sure by the time we leave on vacation at the end of September IceDaddy will be tired of my theme, but for some reason, the food that appealed this week was Italian-inspired.  On the list were a plethora of pork products (ooooh love THAT alliteration!) and pasta.  Since we still have summer corn in the stores, I took advantage of that to create a corn and bacon pasta.  One of two "trends" I've noticed in my cooking magazines was to incorporate corn with pasta, which seemed a little unusual to me.  One recipe I found was from Bon Appetit and it used corn to make a pesto.  Sounded good, but somewhat complex for a first go at pairing corn with pasta.  I ended up choosing a "quick" meal of sauteed corn and bacon with a ricotta cream sauce, found in my Cooking Club magazine. 

The dish was unique, but Ice gave it two thumbs up.  It really gets done in phases, so from a make-ahead perspective, cooking the pasta could be done even a day ahead.  If done that way, I would recommend tossing with some olive oil to keep the pasta separated.  I cooked up the thin penne pasta, and set aside while focusing on the sauce.  The bacon was sauteed until crispy.  My twist on the dish was to then saute chicken tenders in the bacon fat.  After the chicken was cooked, I removed to a plate to rest and cut into chunks prior to adding back to the pasta.  Sauteed up corn (fresh cut from the cob) in the pan, added basil, ricotta cheese, and pasta water.  That is the secret to creating a creamy sauce without heavy cream.  Once heated through, I added in the pasta, chicken, and bacon to toss.  A great way to celebrate the end of summer corn.

Now, Ice won't partake, but I LOVE brussel sprouts.  I don't know why, but it's just one of those "weird" foods that I eat and have loved since I was a kid.  If you like cabbage, I think you'd like this.  Cooking Light  had a recipe for sauteed brussel sprouts with shallots.  Pretty simple - cut up a boatload of shallots (definitely don't buy at the regular grocery store as you'll spend like $3 on enough shallots to make the recipe - buy at the produce market), trim up the brussel sprouts and slice thinly (I cut the bottom off, then sliced into thirds), mince two garlic cloves, and get cooking!  Saute up the shallots until soft in some olive oil (medium-high heat), add garlic, then brussel sprouts, 1 tsp of sugar, and cook about 5 minutes until the sprouts are brown.  Season with salt and pepper and serve!  I think they were tasty good and had both the sharpness of the sprouts and the sweetness of the carmelized shallots and sugar.

I have to admit, I succumbed to a pre-prep ingredient this week - mushroom ravioli from the refrigerated section of the supermarket.  I was buying the ricotta for the corn and bacon pasta and noticed a new line of fresh ravioli at Target - Monterey Pasta Company.  I found a limited edition portabella mushroom ravioli.  It spoke to me, and I anticipated the need for a quick meal at least one night this week.  Since I had some fresh tomato sauce from last week left over, I was able to make a meal in about 10 minutes - 5 to boil the fresh ravioli, then another 5 to heat up the tomato sauce, saute some prosciutto until crispy, and then mixing them together.  Yum!  The mushroom ravioli was limited edition to take advantage of the seasonal produce, so I'm not sure how long it will be around, but I plan to buy a few more! 

Rounding out the week was a sandwich.  First up is the sandwich.  It was a riff on a Cooking Light recipe from the same edition on a mozzarella, ham, and basil panini.    I paired ciabatta bread with fresh mozzarella, sliced prosciutto, and mustard, cooked on a griddle and pressed.  When Ice and I were in Florence last year, we fell in love with a mozzarella and prosciutto panini, so while I respect the use of ham in CL (a more commonly available ingredient), there's just something about the taste of the prosciutto that is more successful with mozzarella - they just scream "eat us together!"  I decided to pair the sandwich with a recipe I had at my brother's house last week that was so different but really amazing - blackened green beans.  Yep - I know it sounds bizarre, but go with me on this.  There is a local burger place in Philly that basically takes green beans, adds oil and blackening seasoning, and cooks them up crisp-tender.  Not that it's a substitute for potato chips, but it does add the crispy texture and salty flavor.

Blackened Green Bean "Fries"
1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed
1/2 - 1 Tbsp. blackening seasoning (pre-prepared or make your own)
1 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. olive oil, divided

Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt liberally.  Blanch the green beans in the boiling water.  Remove and add to ice bath of water, salt, and ice.  (The water should taste like the ocean).  After the green beans have cooled, remove to paper towels and blot dry.  In a bowl, add the green beans and 2 tsp olive oil.  Toss to coat.  Add blackening seasoning and mix.  Heat a skillet to medium-high heat and add 1 Tbsp. olive oil.  When oil is hot, add the green beans.  Saute the green beans until heated through, about 2 - 3 minutes.  Serve immediately.


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