Sunday, May 31, 2009

Melissa's Mediterranean Pasta

My husband loves this recipe and requests it all the time. I made it up one night using odds and ends in the kitchen about ten years ago.
5 Tbs. of your best Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbs. Salted Butter
½ Medium White Onion – evenly chopped
3 cloves Garlic – evenly and finely chopped
1 lb. Dried Penne Pasta
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 oz. Extra Moist Sun Dried Tomatoes – Julienne Cut
1 cup halved Spanish Olives stuffed with Pimento
3 oz. Pine Nuts
2 – 14oz cans quartered Artichoke Hearts - drained
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
Large handful of fresh basil leaves - chopped
½ cup Shredded Asiago Cheese

The sun dried tomatoes should be the moist and chewy kind that do not require re-hydrating.

In a heavy large skillet bring olive oil and butter to a medium high temperature just before smoking. Add chopped white onion and reduce heat to medium. Cook until lightly caramelized – about 20 mins., stirring and tossing so that they cook evenly. Remove from heat. Let cool 5 mins. – add chopped garlic and stir. Set aside.

I like to use white onions because they have lower water content than yellow and maintain better flavor than red when sauteed. If you overcook the onion it becomes bitter. The garlic should be just slightly heated.

Heat another heavy dry skillet until hot, add Pine Nuts to toast. Toss continuously until slightly golden. Do not leave them, they will burn. Remove from skillet just before they are golden - they brown very fast. Put them on a plate to cool.

Bring large pot of water to a boil, add salt, then add Penne and cook 6 – 8 mins. or until as Al-Dente as you like it.

Strain pasta and add to a very large mixing bowl. Pour caramelized onion and garlic with oil over the hot pasta. Salt and Pepper to taste. Stir to coat pasta.

Add sun dried tomatoes, olives, ½ of the pine nuts, artichoke hearts, Parmesan cheese, and ½ the fresh basil leaves. Stir lightly to mix well.

Transfer to serving bowl, add remaining chopped basil, asiago cheese, and pine nuts on top. Garnish with fresh basil top.
We ate this alfresco last night with bakery whole grain bread, very casually. Tom drank a hearty red Zinfandel, I had my usual Denney house Pinot Gris, and Trey had pomegranate juice. We listened to John Prine. Life doesn't get much better.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

AND . . . . .she cooks again!

The Dinner Party~

A friend visited from St. Paul, MN recently. We had a dinner party at our house to welcome him back to Auburn - he and his family lived down the street from us for years and we are best of friends. We had a "Family - Trio" . . .three families that worked, studied, played, worshiped and lived in the neighborhood together. We miss that third leg of the stool a lot. We welcomed him with wide open arms and much love.

I was lucky enough to host the party - and made most of the food myself, from scratch.

My Internet friend from Seattle (I've met his wife and many friends - and I feel like I've met him as well) asked a few months back that all of his friends who cook to post their "from scratch" recipes with pictures. I'm posting the recipes from this party, For Darren~

When I make something from scratch, I have a routine: I Google the dish and I read lots of recipes from,,,,, and any other source that comes up in Google. Then I take the highest rated recipes and blend them to take the best elements from each and "create" my own "from scratch" recipe. If it turns out well, I make a recipe card and keep it~ This night - everything was a keeper!

We started the night with a White Wine Sangria, Salsa, Chips and Corona with Limes.

White Wine Sa
1 Navel Oranges
1 Lime
3 Cups Orange Juice
1/4 cup Rose's Sweetened Lime Juice
1 Bottle White Wine (as sweet or dry as you like it - but don't skimp)
1 16 oz bottle of Sprite

Slice the Orange in healthy 3/4 in. slices, then quarter the slices, reserve ends
Slice the Lime in 1/2 in. slices, then quarter the slices.
Place all slices in pitcher and squeeze juice from end pieces over slices.
Add remaining ingredients except Sprite and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, add Sprite.

Replace wine with Orange Juice and Sprite to your liking - to serve non-alcoholic version. I tied kitchen twine on the pitcher that had wine in it.

1/2 cup each, finely chopped:
White Onion
Red Bell Pepper
Green Bell Pepper
Yellow Bell Pepper
Plum Tomatoes, and
1 Small Jalapeno

15 oz can Yellow Corn -drained
15 oz can Black Beans - drained and rinsed
3 Tbs. Taco Sauce

Mix well and refrigerate.
Add chopped fresh cilantro just before serving.

I slightly heated the chips in a pre-heated 350 degree oven to give them a "homemade" feel and taste.

Mexican Lasagna
serves 12

1 1/2 pound of ground chuck
1/4 pound of Chorizo (Mexican Sausage) made into 1/8 inch balls
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
28 oz can of tomato sauce
6 oz can of tomato paste
1/2 cup of water
2 packages of McCormick Taco seasoning
1 Tbs. ground cumin

8 oz. pkg. Ricotta Cheese
12 oz. pkg. Sour Cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Egg
2 Tbs. chopped Cilantro
Fresh Ground Pepper

Slices of Mozzarella Cheese
Grated Asiago Cheese
More chopped Cilantro

10 - 12 Burrito size Flour Tortillas cut into 1 inch strips

Brown the ground chuck in a large cast iron pot. Cook the Chorizo meat balls in a separate skillet until done - approximately 8 mins. Add all remaining meat sauce ingredients and meat balls to ground chuck in cast iron pot. Simmer for 20 mins. Cool.

In separate bowl, mix all cheese mixture ingredients well.

Spray large 9 X 13 or larger baking dish with non-stick spray

Layer as follows:

1/8 meat sauce
Flour Tortilla strips to cover
1/2 cheese sauce
Mozzarella Slices to cover
1/2 remaining meat sauce
Flour Tortillas strips to cover
remaining cheese sauce
Mozzarella slices to cover
Remaining meat sauce

Cover with foil and refrigerate two hours, but no more than 24 hours.

Bring to room temp.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 mins, remove foil and continue baking for 15 mins. Remove from oven and sprinkle with grated Asiago cheese. Let set for 15 mins. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Salad was simple - pre-packaged spring mix, sliced red onion, Mandarin oranges, roasted pecans and almonds and prepared corn bread croutons - choice of Italian, ranch, or balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

I did not take any pictures of the main course, salad, having dinner or the after laughs -- now I wish I had. I always get the feeling that it's staged when we take pictures and the evening loses its intimacy. The longer I blog and am on facebook - the more this changes. I like having the pictures and I like living in the moment. I can do both.

Tiramisu in Martini Glasses
serves eight

2 pkgs. petite lady fingers
(I found these at Kroger. They are not as crisp as most, but rather had a cake texture to them.)
1 cup International Coffee - Dark Mayan Chocolate - made extra strong and cooled
1 pkg. instant chocolate pudding prepared by package directions
1 eight oz. package mascarpone cheese at room temp.
8 oz. heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract4 Heath chocolate bars, crushed

Slightly moisten lady fingers with coffee and line sides of eight large martini glasses with them.
Mix chocolate pudding into room temp mascarpone cheese until well blended and spoon into glasses completely covering lady fingers.
Can be prepared to this point and refrigerated overnight.
Whip cream, powdered sugar and vanilla together until stiff and top each glass.
Top with crushed heath bars.

This recipe and photograph remind me of Sandra Lee. . . .I should have mentioned that at dinner. . . for a laugh.

It was a great night~ We all smiled and laughed. WE MISS YOU, TIM! and your family. Auburn just isn't the same without you.