Friday, May 28, 2010

Gnocchi with Pesto, Chicken and Sundried Tomatoes

Gnocchi is a delicious and rich "pasta" made of potatoes. If you've never tried it you must! It is silky and light, like little, pillowy clouds. And it is so fun to eat! It absorbs sauce and is mild in flavor and so can be paired with just about anything. Last night I made gnocchi with chicken, sundried tomatoes and pesto sauce. It was flavorful and rich without being heavy, and it was so easy to make! If you can't find gnocchi this flavor combo would work well with any thick pasta such as penne. Enjoy!!

Gnocchi with Pesto, Chicken and Sundried Tomatoes
Soft, pillowy gnocchi with flavorful pesto and chewy sundried tomatoes.
Serves 3

1 package gnocchi
1/2 cup prepared pesto
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup white wine
2 small or 1 large chicken breast
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Heat 1 T. of oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Season chicken breast with salt and pepper and cut into bitesize pieces. Cook in skillet until almost cooked through. Remove and reserve.

Cook gnocchi according to package directions.

Meanwhile, add a little more oil to the skillet and reduce heat to medium. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes until it begins to soften. Add the sundried tomatoes and wine and cook until wine reduces by half. Add the chicken back in.

Drain the gnocchi and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Add gnocchi and pesto to skillet. Stir to combine. If it seems dry add some of the pasta water until the consistency is right. Add a bunch of grated Parmesan cheese, a sprinkle of salt and lots of black pepper. Serve with crusty bread.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Strawberry Bruschetta

Looking for a fun and delicious appetizer to add to your repertoire? Strawberry Bruschetta is simple, beautiful and yummy! I first enjoyed this unique appetizer at my friend's wedding shower and instantly fell in love. As you know, I love just about anything that can be served on toasted bread! Fresh sliced strawberries adorn a spread of cream cheese and cinnamon and are drizzled with honey for a sweet and savory treat. Get ready to eat the whole plate!

Strawberry Bruschetta
A sweet and fun appetizer treat. 
Serves 6-8

1 skinny loaf French bread ("take and bake" is best but a baguette would also work)
1/2 pound strawberries, rinsed and sliced
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (or if you can get your hands on marscarpone cheese it's fantastic in this!)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Slice the loaf thinly and arrange pieces on a baking sheet. Bake for 5-6 minutes until crunchy on top but not completely hardened. Remove and let cool. Once cooled spread each piece with cream cheese then sprinkle with cinnamon. Top with two strawberry slices and drizzle with honey.

This snack is addictive. You've been warned!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Shrimp Tacos with Pico de Gallo

There is something about a taco that feels like summer. Perhaps it's the crisp veggies, the fresh flavors, or the fact that I can eat them with my hands. Whatever the reason, I love tacos! Instead of my usual chicken or beef version I recently mixed it up with shrimp coated in panko breadcrumbs and pan fried. (If you haven't used panko breadcrumbs yet get on it. These Japanese crumbs are perfect for coating any kind of meat and giving it a crunchy, deep-fried texture without the added fat!) The crunchy shrimp perfectly complimented the soft tortillas and crisp, fresh veggies. With a sprinkling of cheese, a smattering of sour cream and guacamole, and a big scoop of pico de gallo, I'd call it one fantastic taco!

Shrimp Tacos
Fresh and flavorful! 
Serves 2

1/2 pound raw shrimp
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 T. taco seasoning
3 T. canola or vegetable oil
1 T. Mexican hot sauce, optional

Shredded lettuce
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour Cream
Pico de Gallo, recipe follows
Guacamole (recipe

6 soft-taco size flour tortillas

Dry off the raw shrimp with paper towels. Mix the egg, milk and hot sauce together in a bowl, and add the shrimp and stir until coated. Mix the panko breadcrumbs and taco seasoning in a large food storage bag. Add the shrimp and shake until coated in breadcrumbs. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add shrimp and cook for 1-2 minutes until browned and crispy, then flip and cook other side for 1-2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

To assemble the taco spread a little sour cream and guacamole on the tortilla. Top with shredded lettuce. Add 4-5 shrimp and then top with pico de gallo and shredded cheese. Enjoy!

Pico de Gallo
A fresh and delicious addition to any meal! 
Makes about 1 cup

2 fresh tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped
2 T. chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T. minced onion
1 T. fresh lime juice
Kosher salt

Stir ingredients together in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and lime juice. Serve.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Family Supper- Spaghetti and Meatballs and Bonus! Meatball Hoagies

My parents and sister came to visit and after a five hour drive I thought they'd enjoy a home cooked meal. After all, how many of these meals has my mom made for me?! I wanted to make something homey, comforting, delicious and Italian. Enter spaghetti and meatballs! This is one of my favorite meals to make. Ever. I love to form the meatballs into little balls of perfection, oozing with sauteed veggies, herbs and fresh cheese. And making homemade pasta sauce is always a joy, as it is so very easy and fills the entire house with the smells of Italy. I served the entree with a light Strawberry and Greens Salad in a Balsamic Vinegarette, Marinated Asparagus and Garlic Bread. Served with a fantastic bottle of our favorite Merlot, this meal sure did satisfy!

Spaghetti and Meatballs
The ultimate comfort food. 
Serves 6 plus extra meatballs

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 cup milk
4 thick slices firm white bread, crust removed
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground Italian sausage
1 large egg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups heated homemade pasta sauce, recipe follows, or good quality jarred tomato sauce
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Leaves from 3 sprigs fresh basil
1 pound spaghetti

Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and parsley and cook until the vegetables are soft but still translucent, about 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let cool.

Pour enough milk over the bread in a bowl to moisten and let it soak while the onions are cooling. Combine the meats in a large bowl. Add the egg and Parmigiano and season generously with salt and pepper. Use your hands to squeeze the excess milk out of the bread and add that to the bowl along with the cooled onion mixture. Gently combine all the ingredients with your hands until just mixed together. Don't overwork or the meatballs will be tough. Roll into similar sized meatballs. (I got 16 meatballs about the size of pool balls.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a 3 T. of oil in the frying pan over medium heat and brown the meatballs on all sides, about 10 minutes. Put them into a baking dish and spoon about half of the tomato sauce over. Lay the fresh mozzarella over top and drizzle with olive oil. Put the meatballs in the oven and bake until the meatballs are cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and put it onto a large serving platter. Pour on the rest of the sauce and mix well. Spoon the meatballs on top of the spaghetti and garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately along with extra cheese.

Homemade Pasta Sauce

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand, liquid reserved
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and about 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce is thick, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil and season again.

Bonus! Meatball Hoagies
Got extra meatballs? Here is the perfect leftover recipe!

2 meatballs, halved
1/4 cup tomato sauce, plus more for dipping
Provolone cheese
Sauteed onions and peppers, optional
Basil leaves, optional
1 hoagie bun

Arrange halved meatballs cut side down on hoagie. Top with sauce, cheese and veggies. Bake at 375 degrees for 5-10 minutes until heated through. Serve with extra dipping sauce.

Wine of the Night
Cosentino Winery
2005 Reserve Merlot
Napa Valley

We don't drink a lot of Merlot but wanted to give this vintage from our favorite Napa Valley winery a shot. It was delicious! Spicy on the nose with aromas of pepper and pomegranate with an evenly developed palate of ripe black cherry, anise, and cedar. Ripe tannins set the profile for the finish of dried cranberry, citrus zest, and sage.