Monday, October 27, 2014

In Season - Kale & Apple Salad With Dates & Pecorino

Apple Picking at Seven Ponds Orchard, Watermill, NY Photo: NK 
I renew my love for Kale around this time each year. I think it's the chill in the air that gets my mind wandering to heartier, darker veggies. However, the inspiration for today's salad actually came from another kind of in-season produce - the gorgeous Apples we picked last weekend out on Long Island's Seven Ponds Orchard.

Sweet red Apples, so delicious this season, and bitter Kale, are really natural companions. We'll combine them today into one very well rounded salad. Dried Dates add a note of honey and Pecorino Romano Cheese provides the salty counterpoint. This superfood salad also travels well and does not get soggy overnight (thanks to Kale's sturdy leaves) It's great to pack as a lunch or if you need a make ahead dish for a potluck. For more ideas from our Kale archives check out Kale & Coconut Salad With Garnet YamsKale & Parsnip PanzanellaKale & Turnip Salad With Honey Lemon Vinaigrette. 

 Now let's get to it. 

Kale & Apple Salad With Dates & Pecorino, Photo: NK 

Kale & Apple Salad With Dates & Pecorino
Serves 6-8
Fresh Picked Macoun Apples, Photo: NK

1 Head of Curly Kale, ribs removed and discarded, leaves cut into thin ribbons
1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice (plus a bit more) 
1/4 Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Honey, Maple Syrup, or Agave
1/4 of a small, sweet White Onion, thinly sliced, or one Shallot thinly sliced
1 small Red Apple or 1/2 a large Red Apple, cored & thinly sliced 
3 Ounces of Pecorino Romano Cheese, diced
5 Dried Dates, diced 
Salt to taste


Photo: NK 
1. Combine Kale in a bowl and toss with Lemon Juice and Olive Oil. Toss very well and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes, tossing several times. 

2. Add the Honey and toss again. Next, add the Onion, Dates and Pecorino Cheese. Sprinkle a little Lemon Juice on the sliced Apples and then add them to the salad. 

3. Combine again and taste for Salt. Add a few dashes to taste if needed. 

Serve and enjoy! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Weekend Roundup - Good Eats + Pumpkin Beer

Hello Fall! Let's keep it simple this week with quick look into the food we enjoyed during our recent autumn weekend out on Long Island. Of course, we won't let you leave without at least one recipe for food or drink, so we'll close with an awesome way to serve everyone's seasonal favorite, Pumpkin Beer. 

First, there was breakfast - delicious French Toast made using Panettone. If you haven't tried making it this way, you should!

Mom's Panettone French Toast. Photo: NK

That evening, after a day filled with apple picking and scenic drives, a simple dinner sounded most appealing. We put together an Antipasti plate using some of the leftovers we had on hand. Just a little something to whet our appetites. With only a few appetizing items like Prosciutto and Mozzarella, you have all you need to start a really satisfying and shareable plate. For tips on how to craft a winning Antipasti Platter, check out our post about the Italian Family Table. 

Our impromptu Antipasti Platter, Photo: NK 
House Specialty Linguine with Clam Sauce, Photo: NK 
For the main course, we reverted to our house specialty, an easy and fast bowl of Linguine with White Clam Sauce. We make this dish quite a bit but it never gets old. 

Here's the how to. Important Note: the recipe linked above was intended for make-ahead preparation (i.e. for a large party). To adapt it for everyday use, prep/measure your ingredients and simply set a large pasta pot of salted water to boil. Then you can begin to cook the clam sauce base and clams as per recipe instructions, and finish the pasta according to package instructions. Pasta should be done a bit before the clams if possible. 

Relaxing weekends may also call for a little beer, wine and general merriment. Since it's the season of pumpkin everything, we knew just what we'd be drinking. Despite some palpable pumpkin fatigue in the general public, we're still not bored of this gourd. For a great, quick pumpkin fix, try Pumking, our favorite of the many pumpkin beers on the market. If you're looking for an easy pumpkin-inspired dinner, check this silky Pumpkin Orzo

As promised, here's how to serve your Pumpkin Beer with a little extra pizzaz: 

Pumking Beer With Cinnamon Sugar Rim
In a plate, mix equal parts Cinnamon and Sugar and add optional dashes of Nutmeg or Pumpkin Pie Spice. Dip your pint glass in another saucer of water or a little of the beer. Place the wet rim in the Cinnamon Sugar Mixture to rim the glass. Pour in the cold Pumking Beer. Serve and enjoy! 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Leftover Makeover - Strozzapreti With Fast Sausage Ragu

I don't know about your house but around here, two frozen Italian Sausage links do not a dinner make. When I'm faced with odd amounts of ingredients leftover from other recipes (1 chicken leg, anyone?), I try and challenge myself not to let them go to waste.  I've found using them as a springboard for new meal ideas is a great strategy. That's why when pasta night rolled around (we need our fix about once a week), I took to the web to find a Sausage Ragu recipe worth trying. Not surprisingly, I landed on a familiar place for inspiration, Lidia Bastianich's  website. 

Our fast-cooking Sausage Ragu over Strozzapreti Pasta, Photo: NK 

Our light adaptation of Lidia's Rigatoni with Sausage Tomato Sauce would provide us a great opportunity to use some of the pantry and freezer items we had on hand (it's never a bad idea to have cans of whole tomatoes at the ready for sauce making). As with many ragu recipes, Lidia's is rather long-cooking. As such, we've tweaked the preparation considerably to make this more along the lines of a 45 minute cook time (down from an hour and a half). What does this mean for you? Well, for one, you can make this on a weeknight when you've got a little time to spare. Do certainly try the longer technique when you have time, but we managed to achieve fairly well-developed flavor and richness with minimal effort, and that's just how we like to roll on work days. Purchasing fresh herbs like Basil (we also added minced fresh Parsley to mix) and using good quality canned Tomatoes and Italian Sausage is the key to achieving a very flavorful sauce fast. And, if you don't happen to have a bottle of wine open, you now have an excuse! Weekday be damned! 

Now for pasta talk; we used a fun but hard to find pasta shape called Strozzapreti. It looks like a longer version of Cavatelli and interestingly, the name means Priest Stranglers… eek! Of course, any short, spiral pasta would be a worth vehicle for this satisfying sauce. Buon Appetito and enjoy! 

Strozzapreti With Fast Sausage Ragu
Adapted from Lidia Bastianich
Serves 4-5 as an entree
3/4 Pound Strozzapreti or other short or spiral pasta
1/2 Pound Sweet Italian Sausage - about 2 links
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil + more for drizzling
1/2 Cup White or Red Wine, whatever's on hand, divided
1 large Garlic Clove, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper or to taste
1 Cup Yellow Onion or other Sweet White Onion, diced
7 Basil Leaves, cut into ribbons then minced + sprigs for garnish
3 Cups (24 ounces) Canned Whole San Marzano or Plum Tomatos, crushed by hand or gently with a potato masher
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 Cup Italian Parsley, minced
1/2 Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, freshly grated

1. Remove the Sausage casings and discard. Crumble the Sausage meat into a medium bowl. Now pour half of the wine over (1/4 cup) and stir to be sure the meat is evenly moistened. 

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, drizzle the Olive Oil. Add the Onions and cook until they start to soften, roughly 5 minutes. Now add the Garlic and Crushed Red Pepper Flake, stirring well. When everything is sizzling, pour in the Sausage Meat, breaking up any chunks. Stir well. 

Photo: NK
3. To the skillet, add the remaining 1/4 cup of Wine and turn up the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, as the wine cooks down and the Sausage begins to brown, approximately 10 minutes. 

4. At this point, you'll want to start preparing your pasta in boiling salted water according to the package directions. Drain it and set it aside. You can also make it in advance of the sauce if easier, just save some pasta water or a bit of oil to help unstick it if necessary.

5. Once Sausage has browned, pour in the tomatoes and all their juices and stir well with the other ingredients in the skillet. Add the Salt and Basil ribbons and turn up the flame to bring the sauce to a bubble. Allow it to warm about 5 minutes, stirring, until fully heated through. (Note: here is where if you have more time, you can certainly simmer this sauce longer. You'd simply need to add a half cup of water, stir, and then partially cover the pot to vent. Lower the flame to keep the sauce at a gentle bubble and cook about an hour.)

Photo: NK
6. Turn off the flame and scatter the Parsley throughout the sauce. Add the drained Pasta to the skillet and toss to incorporate until sauce is well distributed. Finally, add about half of the grated cheese to the skillet and toss until incorporated. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

7. To serve, plate the pasta and sauce and drizzle each serving with a little Olive Oil. Next, optionally garnish each bowl with a few Basil Leaves. Pass the remaining grated cheese around the table. 


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Date Night Dinner in Minutes - Meyer Lemon & Cream Spaghetti

Meyer Lemon & Cream Spaghetti, Photo: NK 
There's absolutely no reason an elegant dinner can't also be easy and fast. Whether you're up for treating yourself to a fantastic home-cooked meal or preparing to entertain a special someone, it's always nice to have a perfect (and perfectly simple) recipe in your back pocket. To that end, we'd like to introduce you to this sensuous plate of Meyer Lemon & Cream Spaghetti.

With just a few easy to find ingredients (regular Lemons work just fine if you can't find the milder, more floral Meyer variety) it comes together very quickly and is, I assure you, impossible to mess up. Just be sure to have your mise en place set up before you begin because the process, though simple, is very time sensitive. The dish you'll create is absolutely scrumptious and very worthy of a company meal. It makes for a fantastic vegetarian pasta course and works in every season. 

Meyer Lemon Cream Spaghetti
Lightly adapted from the Best of the Best Cookbook
Recipe by Todd Porter & Diane Cu, Bountiful
Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2-3 as an entree
Preparing the cream sauce, Photo: NK

1/2 Pound Spaghetti
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 
2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
1/3 Cup Dry White Wine
1 Tablespoon Meyer Lemon Zest (or Organic Lemon)
3 Tablespoons fresh Meyer Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons finely minced Italian Parsley
1/2 fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano plus more for serving

Note: Before you start, chop, measure, and prepare all your ingredients before you begin the cooking process! 
Beautiful Meyer Lemons, Photo: NK

1. Boil Spaghetti according to package directions in well salted water. 
2. When the Spaghetti is about halfway finished, you'll want to start the sauce. In a large sauté pan, whisk the Oil, Cream, and Wine. Turn the flame to medium-high so that the mixture comes to a simmer. Leave it simmering about 3 minutes, whisking now and again.

3. Once the Pasta is finished, drain it and add it to the sauté pan. Toss in the Lemon Zest, Lemon Juice, and Cheese. Blend by gently yet thoroughly tossing. Add the minced Parsley and toss again.Taste the pasta for Salt and add a sprinkle if needed. You can also include extra Lemon Juice or Cheese if desired. 

4. Serve right away and enjoy!