Orecchiette with Creamy Herb Ricotta Sauce, Grilled Zucchini Pepper Salad

by Jennifer

This dinner was yummy, even though the yellow plate doesn’t do it justice eye appeal-wise.  Get the salad started first as it can sit for a bit (and gets better with the sitting).  For parents of young kids, two of my three (the third is pretty selective, but he did eat some) had huge helpings of the pasta and loved it.  Serves 4 adults.

Orecchiette with Creamy Herb Ricotta Sauce

  • 1 lb orecchiette
  • 3/4 cup fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs – I used about half chives, and half a mix of oregano, sage and thyme
  • 1 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil;  cook pasta until al dente according to package directions.  Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/2 cup cooking water.

In a large bowl combine ricotta through black pepper.

Stir in pasta and reserved cooking water, mixing well, then serve hot.

Grilled Zucchini Pepper Salad – from Gourmet magazine

  • 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4”-thick slices
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into four pieces each
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp packed light brown sugar
  • 2 TBS chopped basil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare grill for medium to medium-high cooking.  Toss zucchini and peppers with 2 TBS oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Grill vegetables 3 – 4 minutes per side, until just tender and grill marks appear.  Transfer peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.  Peel peppers and cut into 1” pieces;  slice zucchini into 1” pieces as well.

In a medium bowl whisk together remaining 2 TBS oil, vinegar, brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add vegetables and basil, mixing well to coat, and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

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Angel Hair Pasta with No-cook Tomato and Basil Sauce

By Ira,

I make this every summer when the tomatoes are at their peak. It’s very important to use the best tomatoes you can find and a good quality salt. With so few ingredients, it makes a big difference to the overall taste of the dish. All you need to do is combine the chopped tomatoes with basil, garlic, and olive oil, then stir in the angel hair pasta and top it with Parmesan cheese. Very easy and delicious.

Serves 4-6

  • 5 large tomatoes or 7 medium ones
  • 2 handfuls sliced basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Maldon sea salt or Himalayan salt preferably, or sea salt
  • freshly grounded black pepper
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • Parmesan cheese to serve

Note that I like to have a generous amount of tomatoes with my pasta. If you prefer less sauce, use 4 large tomatoes.

Start by boiling the water for the pasta. Add 1 tablespoon salt before adding the pasta.  Note that it only takes 2 minutes for the angel hair pasta to cook, so add the pasta to the water when your sauce is ready.

In a large bowl, combine the diced tomatoes, basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Be generous with the salt. Taste and add more accordingly. Stir and set aside until pasta cooks.

Add the angel hair pasta to the tomato mixture and mix well. Serve with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas

by Jennifer

I’m going to come clean:  this recipe is supposed to serve 4 and tonight it really only served 2 and a bit.  Adapted from Gourmet magazine, it’s simple to make and delicious, but one of my children declared he liked it “except for the sauce”, and another decided she doesn’t like lemon;  the third gamely ate a couple gnocchi and called it a day.  Though I seem to recall that when I last made this dish, before kids, my husband and I ate the entire thing that time, too…..

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, not defrosted
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 5 oz. baby spinach
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 lb. dried potato gnocchi
  • generous 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano

While you’re waiting for a large pot of salted water to come to a boil, simmer the peas, cream, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.

After 5 minutes, add the spinach in batches, tossing gently just until all the spinach wilts.  Meanwhile cook the gnocchi until al dente (they should all be floating on top), reserve some cooking water, and drain.

Remove pan with spinach from the heat, stir in the lemon zest and juice,

then add the gnocchi and cheese, stirring to combine.  Add some reserved cooking water to thin the sauce if desired.

Grilled Cheesy Polenta with Quick Tomato Sauce, Grilled Caesar Salad

by Jennifer

The polenta needs to be made ahead, with time to cool;  you can do this up to a day before you plan to serve it.  You can grill the polenta and romaine while the sauce is simmering.  The polenta serves 6 – 8;  the salad serves 6.

Grilled Cheesy Polenta with Quick Tomato Sauce

For polenta:

  • 6 cups water
  • 3 cups coarse cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 lb. cold mozzarella, cubed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 – 4 garlic cloves, chopped

For Quick Tomato Sauce, from A Fresh Taste of Italy by Michele Scicolone:

  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, undrained
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • pinch dried oregano
  • pinch dried basil or 6 leaves fresh basil, torn into pieces

For polenta:

Coat a 13” x 9” pan with cooking spray.  Bring water to a boil in a large pot.

Slowly whisk in cornmeal and salt, lower the temperature to medium, and cook, whisking,

for 5 minutes, or until it’s very thick.

Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.

Pour polenta into the pan, let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until solid.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and garlic in a small saucepan over low heat for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.  Prepare grill.  Cut polenta into 6 – 8 squares.  Brush each square with garlic oil, then place garlic-oil side down on grill and

grill for 8 minutes, or until there are grill marks and the crust is golden.  Brush top side with garlic oil before flipping polenta over and grilling second side for another 8 minutes.  Serve hot topped with Quick Tomato Sauce.

For tomato sauce:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat;  add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant.

Add tomatoes and their juices, salt, pepper, and dried herbs (if using fresh basil, wait until the sauce is done to add).

Cook, gently crushing the tomatoes and stirring occasionally for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until thick.

Grilled Caesar Salad – adapted from Gourmet magazine

  • 2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 of a baguette or loaf of French bread, sliced (supposed to be 1/2” thick slices, I think I managed 1” slices at best)
  • 1 large egg
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 3 hearts of romaine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Prepare grill.

In a blender or small processor, chop garlic, then add anchovy paste, olive oil, salt and pepper, blending well.

Brush bread slices, both sides, with this dressing, then grill bread, about 1 – 2 minutes per side, until toasted.  Slice bread in half or quarters and set aside.

Add egg and lemon juice to dressing and blend for 2 – 3 minutes, or until emulsified.

Slice romaine hearts in half lengthwise, then grill, cut side down, for 2 minutes,

or just until grill marks appear.  Slice romaine hearts cross-wise into wide strips.

Toss together romaine, croutons and cheese;  add dressing and toss well.

Shrimp Scampi with Preserved Lemon and Fennel on Polenta, Romaine Salad with Anchovies and Parmesan

by Jennifer

This recipe, adapted from Bon Appetit, serves 4 – 6.  Serve with Romaine Salad with Anchovies and Parmesan.

Polenta:

  • 4 1/2 8-oz. bottles clam juice
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups polenta (coarse cornmeal)
  • 3/4 tsp hot sauce
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Shrimp Scampi:

  • 3 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lbs. large shrimp, cleaned
  • coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bulb fennel, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped, seeded tomato
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 TBS chopped preserved lemon
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
For the polenta:
Combine clam juice, water and cream in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking, and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, for 15 minutes.
Whisk in hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste, then remove from burner, cover, and keep warm until scampi is finished.  (Add a little water before serving if it gets too thick.)

For shrimp scampi:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shrimp, season with coarse salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring once, for about 2 minutes, or until the shrimp begin to turn opaque.  Transfer shrimp to a plate.

Add the fennel through garlic to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is tender, about 4 minutes.

Add cream, bring to a boil, and

stir in shrimp, tossing to coat, just until the shrimp is cooked through, about 1 minute.  Divide polenta among plates and top with scampi.

Leek and Mascarpone Cheese Risotto, Grilled Asparagus

by Jennifer

This risotto, adapted from Cooking Light, is wonderful, requires a little forethought.  You make the broth first, so either leave enough time beforehand, or make it up to a day before.  The easiest way to wash leeks is to chop them first, then rinse them well with cool water in a colander.  I served the risotto with grilled asparagus:  prepare your grill, take one bunch of asparagus – about a pound or so – and toss it with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill for about 5 minutes or so, turning once, until lightly charred but still crisp-tender.  Serves 4 – 6.

  • 8 cups water
  • 6 large leeks, chopped, divided
  • 2 cups parsley, chopped, divided
  • 1 cup basil, chopped, divided
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 onion, cut into small chunks
  • 1 celery stalk, cut into 1” pieces
  • pinch saffron threads
  • 2 TBS unsalted butter
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 TBS chopped preserved lemon OR zest from one lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Combine water, 2 cups chopped leeks, 1 cup parsley, 1/2 cup basil, and salt through celery in a large pot, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, lower heat to a simmer and let broth simmer for about 35 minutes.

Drain broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium-sized pot, discarding solids.  If you felt like measuring it (I did not), you should have about 5 1/2 cups broth.

Add a pinch of saffron to the pot and keep the pot on low heat.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add remaining leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Add wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed.

Add 2 cups of hot broth and cook, stirring frequently,

until liquid is almost absorbed.

Repeat with another 2 cups of broth.  Add remaining broth, and when liquid is almost absorbed,

add remaining parsley, basil, mascarpone cheese, Parmesan cheese, preserved lemon or lemon zest, salt and pepper, stirring well until cheeses melt.

Serve immediately.

Tofu Steaks with Tomato-Olive Sauce over Whole Wheat Penne, Cauliflower with Capers

by Jennifer

Tofu is not just for Asian cooking!  The sauce can be made up to a day ahead.  After cooking the cauliflower in the skillet, wipe it clean and use it to pan-fry the tofu.  This dinner serves 4.

Tofu Steaks with Tomato-Olive Sauce over Whole Wheat Penne – adapted from Cooking Light

  • 13.25 oz. package whole wheat penne
  • 3 TBS olive oil, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 14 oz. package extra-firm tofu, pressed if you like, sliced into 4 equal portions and patted very dry

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

In a large skillet, heat 1 TBS olive oil over medium heat, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes and let sauce simmer for 10 minutes.

Add olives and let cook for another minute or two.

Remove from heat and add parsley and black pepper.  If you’re not making the sauce ahead and would like to only use one skillet, transfer sauce to a smaller pot to keep warm and rinse out pan to use for the cauliflower and then the tofu.

Cook penne according to package directions until al dente;  drain.  Meanwhile, heat 2 TBS olive oil over medium heat in the skillet until it shimmers.

Add tofu and cook, turning once, until both sides are golden brown, about 4 minutes or so per side.  Divide penne among 4 plates, top with a slice of tofu, and top that with sauce.

Cauliflower with Capers – adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1 lemon, sliced in half cross-wise
  • 1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 TBS chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp capers, drained
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Fill a large pot about half-way full of water, add 1/2 lemon, and bring to a boil.

Cook cauliflower in boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and discard lemon half.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then cook the cauliflower for 6 minutes, until crisp-tender and slightly charred in places.

Add garlic and cook until fragrant.

Transfer cauliflower and garlic to a bowl and add the juice of the remaining lemon half, parsley, capers and salt, tossing well.