Posts Tagged Tuscan herbs

Braised Pear and Wild Rocket Arugula Salad

Arugula-RocketThis salad borders on the decadent. I mean, the variety of flavors, from sweet to savory, is incredible. Arugula (also known as Rocket) is an amazing green. I’m not one to eat iceberg lettuce anyway. I generally use Boston lettuce, romaine, red leaf or green leaf for my salads…anything but iceberg. And I always add arugula.

My Good Karma partner in crime, Bill, gave me this recipe. This is one of those recipes I received with absolutely no measurements. I laughed when I saw it. So, I played with it a bit and came up with this recipe. This recipe should serve three or more.

Ingredients

3 Asian or Bosque pears (Asian preferred, but sometimes hard to find)

Wild rocket (baby) arugula

Honeyed Chevre goat cheese log

Walnuts or Pecans

1 Sweet Maui or Vidalia onion

White Balsamic vinegar

Extra-virgin olive oil

Fresh-ground black pepper

4 tbsp light brown sugar

4 tbsp unsalted butter

Directions

Thinly slice the pears and braise in the butter; add the brown sugar at the end and be sure that the pears are coated. Remove from the stove and set aside.

Add arugula to a salad bowl.

Slice the onion super thin in whole circles. Break apart and scatter over the arugula.

Add generous dollops of the honeyed chevre over the arugula and onions.

Scatter the braised pears and the nuts over the top of the salad.

Prior to serving, add the fresh-ground black pepper, and drizzle olive oil and white balsamic over the top. Toss gently to mix.

 

 

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Vine Ripened Tomatoes With Goat Cheese, Pistachios, Fresh Basil and Balsamic Drizzle

Vine_Ripe_TomatoOkay, I have not yet taken a photo of this appetizer. I promise that I will as soon as possible, but I made this on a whim for a cookout and just didn’t get the chance. So, you will have to visualize this for the time being. You’re not going to layer these tomatoes in slices. You’re going to literally put the tomatoes back together after you cut them and dress them with goat cheese, pistachios and balsamic drizzle.

These are not only very easy to make, but also seriously addictive, I warn you. A friend of mine made these and told me that their guests ate so many of these appetizers that they never got to the main event.

Ingredients

6 vine-ripened tomatoes

1 cup pistachios, roughly chopped

8 oz goat cheese

2 tbsp Tuscan Seasoning (McCormick’s makes a great product)

Balsamic drizzle

8 large fresh basil leaves, trimmed and cut in strips

6 toothpicks

Directions

The first thing you want to do is slice off a bit of the bottom of each tomato so that they will stand up without rolling on their sides. Set aside.

Take the goat cheese out of the fridge and remove it from its packaging. Allow it to sit for about an hour until it comes to room temperature and becomes soft. Once it has reached that point, blend in the Tuscan seasoning. There’s no need to add salt. The Tuscan seasoning incorporates enough salt.

Slice each tomato into three layers, leaving the stems on the top piece. Spread goat cheese on the bottom layer, add pistachios, a few pieces of fresh basil, and some balsamic drizzle. Do the same with the second layer and put it on top of the bottom layer. Put the top piece on and put a toothpick through the top to hold it all together. Repeat for all tomatoes.

Just before serving, apply some balsamic drizzle on top of the entire batch. If you have any chopped pistachios left over, just distribute them around the edge of the plate. This is great served with crusty Italian bread and a nice glass of red wine.

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Baked Mac and Cheese With Chipotle Panko

Baked Mac and CheeseNo question about it. What I’m about to give you for a recipe is for adults. There’s no way kids will like Chipotle Panko breadcrumbs on their mac and cheese. In fact, my kids don’t like any breadcrumbs on their mac and cheese, unfortunately for them. So, here’s the deal: If you make this for them, leave off the breadcrumbs unless you ask them first. I make two versions. One is decidedly for adults because I add stuff in as well. The other is for the kids.

I also find that kids like milder cheeses, so I switch it up when I’m making it for kids. In other words, I put more Monterey Jack in for the kids, and less Cheddar. For adults, I’m liable to do just about anything. And I confess I’m a cheesaholic.

This is one of the greatest comfort foods on the planet. It distresses me when kids (who may be visiting) ask if it’s from the box. Ah, that would be a big, fat “No.” Not happening.

So, when you look at this recipe, pay close attention to the notes. This is one of those foods where you can think totally outside the recipe.

Ingredients

16 oz pasta (Anything goes here, except for spaghetti. I like to use Farfalle (bowties), Casserole Elbows (instead of regular elbows), Medium Shells, Rotini, or Cavatappi)

8 tbsp (one stick) butter plus an additional 4 tbsp (for the top when baking)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tbsp Tuscan seasoning (McCormick brand; great product)

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

5 cups milk (whole or two-percent; your choice)

Chipotle Panko breadcrumbs (or regular Panko; your choice)

2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup finely-grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

The first thing I do is cook the pasta in a large pot until it is partially done. You’re going to bake it in the oven for at least 30 minutes, so you don’t want to cook it completely. Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside. Another thing you can get out of the way is prepping yourself a large casserole dish by rubbing the inside thoroughly with butter. I use the tub butter for this job, specifically the light butter made with canola. It works just fine.

In a medium sized pan, heat the 4 cups of milk until just boiling. Set aside. While you’re doing that, take the same pan you cooked the pasta in and melt the 8 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat. Once melted, add in the flour and whisk continually until the mixture turns light brown. Remove from heat and whisk in the Tuscan seasoning, Kosher salt, and pepper.

Now, add the milk a little at a time. You’ll note that the mixture will be really thick in the beginning, but it will thin out. Once the milk has been incorporated, return this concoction to medium high heat and whisk until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. You really don’t need to check this out. You can tell when it’s ready. Trust me. Remove from heat yet again, and add all of the cheese. Mix well until all the cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth.

Now, add the partially-cooked pasta and mix well until the pasta and cheese is thoroughly incorporated. Don’t worry if you have to add a few drops of cold milk to this. Again, think outside the recipe. Do what you have to do.

Spoon the mixture into your greased casserole dish and top with Chipotle Panko Breadcrumbs. Take the additional 4 tbsp butter and cut it up so that it sits on top of the breadcrumbs.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling freely.

Cooking Notes

There are a lot of things you can do with this dish. It’s unbelievably versatile. For kids, you may want to eliminate the Chipotle Panko Breadcrumbs and replace them with regular breadcrumbs. I simply use two different casserole dishes. One with; one without. Again, that’s up to you.

But there are a number of things you can add in besides spinach:

  • Chopped and sauteed Pancetta
  • Blanched broccoli florets
  • Sauteed red, yellow and orange peppers
  • Defrosted frozen peas (one of my all-time favorites)
  • Baby Kale (do not microwave before you bake)
  • Baby Spinach (do not microwave before you bake)
  • Thinly sliced tomatoes

All of these additional ingredients, except for the tomatoes, should be added in when you add the pasta to the cheese concoction. With the tomatoes, you can simply layer them with the pasta mixture in the casserole dish.

A Note About Cheese

Let’s talk cheese. The recipe calls for Cheddar and Monterey Jack. You can simply switch the two around and use 1 cup of cheddar and 2 of Monterey Jack for a mac and cheese with milder flavor. Keep the Parmesan as is. Other cheese that can be used in this recipe include Shredded Swiss, Edam, Fontina, or Mozarella, Six-Cheese Italian…even Four-Cheese Mexican. Hey, when it comes to cheese, anything goes.

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Balsamic Roasted Brussel Sprouts

brussel-sproutsLet’s talk about Brussel Sprouts. I know. Don’t turn up your nose. If you cook them right, they really aren’t bitter. We don’t want to eat them raw. We don’t want to boil them. But I’ve got to tell you, I’ve made true Brussel Sprout haters into Brussel Sprout lovers with this recipe. And there are a whole lot of good reason to eat Brussel Sprouts. I’m not going to go into detail in this blog, but you can click here for a rundown. Depending upon where you buy these, they come two ways. Either they are sold individually (sometimes prepackaged) or what I like to call “on the vine.” Doesn’t matter which way you buy them.

Roasting vegetables is one of my favorite things. Generally speaking, I like them quite brown when they come out of the oven. Sometimes when I take these out of the oven, they are crunchy (which I like). But really, you get to decide when to take them out. All that really matters is that they are soft (you can tell by checking with a fork) and browned to the degree you want them to be browned. This is where you apply that “think outside the recipe” thing.

Ingredients

1-1/2 lbs Brussel Sprouts

3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp rainbow pepper

2 tbsp minced garlic

2 tbsp Tuscan Seasoning (I use McCormick’s; great stuff)

4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Balsamic Vinegar Drizzle (you can make a reduction by yourself, or you can buy it ready to go)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Trim off the bottom of the sprout, remove the outer layers and cut in half. Be aware that sometimes a few leaves fall off. Don’t toss them if you’re a lover of crunch. I throw them in the pan.

Toss the sprouts with the olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, salt, rainbow pepper and Tuscan seasoning. Place them in a roasting pan.

Roast at 375 degrees for about 35-40 minutes.

Remove from oven, place on serving dish, and drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar Drizzle.*

Add-Ins: These are delicious just as is, but I’ve got to tell you about bacon. Every once in a while, I like to  cook about five slabs of apple cider cured bacon (Carando makes a good one) nice and crispy, then break them up. (A nice alternative is chopped Pancetta, which is Italian bacon). Before serving, toss the sprouts with the bacon, then apply the drizzle. Wow! Another great add-in just before serving is a half cup of parmesan. Can’t go wrong. Hell, use both the bacon and the parmesan.

*You can make your own drizzle by dumping a bottle of Balsamic Vinegar in a heavy bottom pot. The only other thing you need is a stirring implement and plenty of time. You don’t want to simmer the vinegar. It has to be a slow process that can take up to two hours. Be sure to vent your kitchen, especially if you have kids. They can get pissed off with the smell.

Alternatively, Vervacious in Maine makes some delicious Balsamic Drizzle. I’ve used the Espresso Balsamic and the Chocolate Balsamic in the past. There is a link to Vervacious on the blog. Other specialty stores also carry this.

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Oven-Roasted Asparagus

This is one of those “I don’t measure everything” recipes I’m so famous for. It’s a pretty simple recipe, and the result is outstanding. In other words, you simply can’t go wrong with this.

 

 

Ingredients

1 bunch Asparagus (about 2 lbs.)

Olive Oil (about 3 tbsp. Eyeball it. See what I mean?)

1 tbsp. Tuscan Seasoning (McCormick makes a great bottled seasoning)

Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Espresso-Balsamic Drizzle (Vervacious makes a great product here)

Directions

Simple stuff here. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the hard ends off the asparagus. This stuff is too tough and will not roast well. Lay the asparagus out in a roasting pan, and make sure that they don’t overlap. If you need more than one pan, use it.

Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and Tuscan Seasoning. Roast in a 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes. You don’t want the asparagus to be too limp or too hard. You want it to be, as my partner Susan would say, “just right.”

Place on a serving plate and drizzle with Espresso-Balsamic Drizzle.

I’ve spoken about Vervacious products. They are great. Balsamic drizzle is thicker than Balsamic vinegar. You can certainly make it yourself by making a reduction of balsamic vinegar and adding a quality espresso coffee product, but why bother when others can do it for you? I’ve certainly done it before but — unless you’re a purist — it’s not necessary.

This is outrageously good.

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