Friday, June 24, 2011

Italian Pasta Salad

Summer just screams pasta salad. I don't like the kind covered in mayonnaise though. I prefer a vinaigrette-type dressing - or bottled Italian dressing for that matter. This recipe is a delicious and fresh tasting option for all your summer parties. Did I mention it is incredibly easy to prepare?

No, I mean REALLY easy. If you can chop vegetables and cook pasta, you can make this dish. Trust me.

1/2 lb pasta of your choice, cooked and drained
3 cups assorted chopped vegetables of your choice (broccoli, green peppers, onions, corn, tomatoes, etc)
* I par cooked the broccoli in the pasta water for a few minutes
8 oz (small bottle) Italian dressing

Combine all ingredients except dressing in a large bowl. Add dressing; toss well. Serve chilled or at room temperature. That's it.

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled to feed more people. It can also be easily modified to assist you in emptying out your refrigerator. Because Shaun and I are the only two in our house, I frequently have half pounds of pasta lying around... this is a great way to use it up (along with veggies that are on their last leg). You can even add some cubed cheese to jazz up the dish. Like anything marinated, it is best to make this a day ahead of time and then serve it. Even if you only have a few hours, it's better than eating it right away. The dressing really gets absorbed by the cooked pasta so that it is bursting with flavor in every bite! I served this salad with garlic bread so I could soak up any last juices. It's better than licking the plate, don't you think?

Pack up your salad and take it with you to a friend's house.
They will love you for it.
Tutti Mangia!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tomato, Onion & Avocado Salad

Nothing says summer like a fresh salad like this one. Take a trip to your local farmer's market right now and buy the ingredients for this dish.

Are you home yet?

Okay. Good. Now get ready to read the recipe for your new go-to side dish that will impress your friends over and over this summer. You must be sure to use the freshest tomatoes and avocados you can find. When there are so few ingredients in a salad like this, they have to be perfect. You really want their flavors to stand out. Here is the recipe I adapted from Simply Recipes, an amazing blog written by Elise Bauer. You have to take a moment to thumb through her index of recipes. I am positive you will find something you like, aside from this recipe of course.

2 pints cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 of a large red onion, sliced
2 avocados, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
Red wine vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the sliced tomatoes on a serving platter. Arrange the slices of red onion and the chunks of avocado over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with parsley, garlic and oregano. Drizzle everything with red wine vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

I can guarantee you that I will be making this salad a few more times this summer. I am thinking about making it for lunch, all by itself, one day. Tonight I chose to make it as a side dish with a frozen pizza. What can I say? I didn't get home from work until 7:15pm - and on a Friday, that just sucks. Shaun was lucky he got this out of me.

It is so hard for me to find avocados at their peak but I did it when I bought the ingredients for this salad. I lucked out with the tomatoes also, although that is not so hard to do. The ones I ate in this salad were bursting with a sweetness that popped in your mouth. When you combine those tomatoes with the creaminess of the avocado and the tang of the red wine vinegar, your mouth just tingles with the flavors. It's like you can't stop eating it.

Let me know if you agree.

Tutti Mangia!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork with Sage and Capers

Do you need an easy weeknight dinner idea for this week? This recipe comes from Curtis Stone and one of his cookbooks that I own called Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone. He is a very handsome Australian chef whose accent I L-O-V-E. (sorry Shaun!) He had a show on TLC called "Take Home Chef" where he would approach women in the food store, go home with them, and make a complete meal to surprise someone in their life. I'm sure you've seen it at some point or another. Want to know another fun fact about Curtis? He was named one of People magazine's Sexiest Men Alive in 2006. Hmm... I wonder why?

A man who can cook? There is nothing sexier than that.

6 1/2-inch-thick boneless center-cut pork chops (4 ounces each)
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 slices prosciutto
3 tbsp olive oil
18 sage leaves
2-3 tbsp drained capers
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Zest and juice
of 2 lemons
1 6-ounce bag
baby spinach

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Season pork with salt and pepper and wrap a slice of prosciutto around each chop's center.

2. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over high  heat. Add chops and cook until golden brown and cooked through, 3-4 minutes on each side. Put on a plate to the side. Do not wipe out the skillet.

3. Add 1 tbsp oil and the sage leaves to the skillet and cook for 1 minute over medium-high heat; remove sage. Remove pan from heat and whisk in the capers, butter, lemon juice and zest. Add chops back to the pan to warm through and combine with the sauce.

4. At the same time, add spinach to another deep pan and cook until it has wilted, about 2 minutes. Combine spinach and sage in the same pan with the pork and sauce. Serves 4.
I served this dish with some roasted new potatoes dusted with salt and pepper. It was a great compliment to the pork and as a bonus you could dip them in the sauce! The capers and prosciutto added a tart saltiness to the pork chops. The lemon cut into that to mellow it out so it wasn't too overpowering. It was great to have the addition of spinach in this dinner - it really rounded out the whole meal. For something that came together so quickly in the kitchen, it really packs a ton of flavor! It's definitely a step-up from pork chops and applesauce.

Tutti Mangia!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spanish Spaghetti with Olives

Need a fresh new take on spaghetti with meat sauce? Try this recipe with a Spanish twist! It's a great way to incorporate new and different flavors into an otherwise mundane weeknight dinner. It's very healthy for you as well - I found it on the Cooking Light website. I swapped out ground turkey for the ground beef because it's my preference and also decided to use canned tomatoes instead of jarred marinara sauce. First off, I was not raised to use jarred sauce, and second, it has no added sugar and all that junk in it - just tomatoes!

Shaun said this dish tasted like a kicked up version of American Chop Suey. For those of you who do not know what this is (I did not either until I met Shaun), it's a dish he grew up eating. In a nutshell, its ingredients consist of elbow macaroni and ground beef in tomato sauce. I understand his thought process. I personally think it is very similar to picadillo, a traditional dish in Latin American countries. Also delicious. The ingredients used in this dish are very different than what you might be used to, but they work great together.

8 oz spaghetti
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp crushed
red pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 oz ground turkey
2 cups marinara sauce OR canned tomatoes
1/2 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed olives*
1/4 dry sherry
1 tbsp capers
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided

*If someone that you are cooking this for does not like olives (*ahem* Shaun), feel free to omit them until the end. I did not miss their saltiness in the tomato sauce but it was definitely a nice addition to the final product.

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; saute 4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; saute 1 minute. Stir in oregano, celery salt, red and black pepper. Crumble turkey into pan; cook 5-7 minutes or until turkey is browned, stirring to crumble. Stir in marinara sauce, olives, sherry, capers and 3 tbsp parsley. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.
3. Add spaghetti to sauce mixture. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tbsp parsley. Serves 3 or 4.
*depending on how much you eat!

I served this dinner with some crusty garlic bread and a salad with simple balsamic dressing on the side. It came together very easy plus I cheated and prepped ahead! While making dinner the night before, I cut up the onions and garlic and cooked the spaghetti and then stored them in the fridge. It helped so that when I went to make this dinner it only took about 20 minutes. Even if you don't want to do that, it's still easy enough to make after work.

Tutti Mangia! 
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