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Let me start out by saying YES this was a very tasty meal, I am so proud of myself for making this dish.  Of course many people are probably thinking, “piece of cake” but for me there was something about making the sauce with fresh cockles intimidated me.  I was determined to try and there right near the front of my favorite supermarket, Wegman’s was a big iced display of fresh mussels and clams.  And there was Gus;  Gus is the chef in residence at the Wegman’s store in Ocean, NJ.  He has a station near the front and next to the vegetables and it’s his job to cook tasty bites for customers using Wegman’s ingredients.  He ALWAYS has a great recipe for me so I headed straight to him to get his take on white clam sauce.  He happened to be cooking zucchini squash in a ginger soy sauce – very good!  Gus gave me his recipe and I took some notes, but knew that I was going to tweak this recipe myself.

A photo of clams

Fettucine with White Clam Sauce

Here’s what I did:

Olive oil to cover the bottom of a braising pan

2 cloves of garlic minced

1/2 to 1 whole Vidalia onion ( I happened to have a half in the fridge)

red pepper flakes 

1 small container of Wegman’s Garlic Cheese Butter

2 cups of chicken broth (use vegetable broth if you are vegetarian) I never thought to use broth, added great flavor,

1/2 cup of white wine

1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley

1-2 TBS fresh oregano

1 bag of fresh clams

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Shredded or grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1 # Barilla linguine (i’m convinced Barilla pasta has a lovely flavor of its own and adds another flavor to the dish)

Prior to preparing the meal put the clams in a basin of cold water with a lot of salt to soak for at least 30 minutes.  The clams will rid themselves of any sand.  I let them sit longer and changed the water a couple of times and put some ice in at one point to keep them cold.  Then I put them in a bowl in the refrigerator.

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.

Heat oil in braising pan on medium.  Add onion, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook till softened and golden.  Add the chicken broth and white wine, raise the heat slightly and cook down about 1/3 to 1/2.  

Add the container of garlic cheese and half of the parsley.  Toss in the oregano.  Add the clams and turn up the heat.  As the clams begin to open in 5-7 minutes, remove the clams with a slotted spoon to a bowl and start to shuck them, leaving as many as many as you would like to remain in the shell.  I tried to pick out the smaller ones to put aside for the pasta.  Once I started shucking I put the linguine in the boiling water.

When the pasta is about a minute away from being done, I put the clam bodies back in the pan. Season with salt and pepper. I reserved a cup of pasta water in case I needed it to add to the sauce.

Drain the linguine and add to the sauce in the braising pan.  Toss well.  Sprinkle grated cheese on top, the rest of the parsley and add the clams in the shell. 

Buono Appetito! Mangia!

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English: An American actually discovered durin...

Microwave Oven

And you thought your microwave was just for reheating take-out food or rewarming your cup of coffee.  Well check out this list of 10 things you never thought your microwave could do!

 

  1. Cutting Onions Just Got Easier – Trim the ends off your onions and put them in the microwave for 30 seconds on HIGH.  Your eyes won’t sting when you peel them.
  2. Brown Sugar Rock Solid – Place a dampened paper towel in the box and close the lid.  Put in the microwave on HIGH for 20-30 seconds.
  3. Cleaning the Microwave – uh oh you put the spaghetti in the micro for too long and too high.  Fill a small bowl with water and add some white vinegar.  Place bowl in the microwave and heat it on HIGH for a couple of minutes until the mess softens and will wipe clean easily.
  4. Fix Your Old Honey –  a jar of crystalized honey can be restored in your microwave.  Remove the lid and heat on 50% power for 2 minutes.
  5. Get A Hot Compress Quick – Wet a wash cloth or hand towel and heat on HIGH for one minute.
  6. Juicier Lemons + Limes – Put the whole lemon or lime in the microwave and heat for 10-20 seconds on HIGH.  It will be easier to squeeze and yield more juice.
  7. Make Sure Your Containers Are Safe To Use – we’ve all heard about the danger in re-using take out food containers to reheat food.  You can check it out by placing a mug, that you know is microwave safe, with cold water in it.  Put the mug in the container and heat on HIGH for one minute. If the water is hot and the container is cold, it’s safe to re-use.
  8. Don’t Blanch, Just Microwave – You can peel tomatoes and peaches easily by placing in your microwave and heating on HIGH for 30 seconds and then let them sit for 2 minutes.  They should peel easily.
  9. Long Live The Potato Chip – If your potato chips have gotten soggy, place them on a paper towel and heat them briefly in the microwave till they crisp.
  10. Forget To Soak The Beans Overnight? – Place the beans in a bowl and cover completely with water.  Add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda and heat on high for 10 minutes and then let them rest for 30-40 minutes.

Thanks to Gail who sent me these clever time-saving ideas.

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I had so many titles in my head tonight, I didn’t know which one to go with…Cheap Eats Tonight, Leftovers Italian Style, Work With What You Have,  Let’s Look In The Pantry, to name a few.  

Here’s the back story;  Sunday night we had Sausage and Pepper Subs for dinner, see previous post, https://pbenjay.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/a-simple-street-fair-supper-from-the-kitchen/.   The sausage was an Italian Hot Turkey sausage and I used red, yellow and orange peppers and Vidalia onions and we bought a small loaf of Semolina Italian bread.  I cooked the whole package of sausages and so there were a few leftover. At the time I didn’t have a plan as to how to use them.

I wasn’t sure that my husband would be home for dinner tonight, so I thought about how to utilize the sausages for a quick and easy meal to make for myself.  Best laid plans…He stayed home and so I ventured into the kitchen to create something.  Looking in the pantry and freezer, a plan came together!

I sautéed a few cloves of garlic in some olive oil and added a couple of slices of Vidalia onion.  While that was cooking, I put a saucepan of water on to boil.  Once it started to boil I added a cup of Farro, turned the gas down and covered the pot.  

I almost always have a large bag of broccoli florets in the freezer and I tossed in a couple of handfuls and let them cook a while.   Then I sliced the sausage links and put them in the skillet.  Looking through the pantry I found a can of Roman Beans and decided to throw them into the mix.  I usually rinse and drain all canned beans but for some reason I thought to read a possible recipe using these beans because I was unfamiliar with them – Have no idea why they were in the pantry cabinet!  Well, the side of the can had a recipe for Rice and Beans and it stated that the beans should be added with their liquid so that’s what I did.  Lastly, I put a few shakes of Herbes de Provence in the pan, put a cover on it and kept stirring the Farro.

GOYA Roman Beans

GOYA Roman Beans

When the Farro was done, I drained it and put it in one bowl and my created mix in another.  Needless to say it was really tasty and I was pleased that I had created the dish.  By the way, I say needless because otherwise I would never post the recipe, LOL.

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For the past several days, I’ve been planning on making the Spring Pasta recipe I posted earlier this week.  However every evening one thing or another prevented me from making it.  And before you read any further, I still haven’t made it!  BUT I did make another pasta dish utilizing seasonal vegetables.  

I gave my husband a choice between a wok stir-fry of chicken and vegetables or pasta.  He picked pasta probably thinking he might get an Arrabiata sauce and meatballs, NOT!  I sent him to Fairway to buy some ingredients but being the non-cooking man/husband that he is, he didn’t put it together that what he bought would be what he ate.

This recipe comes directly from Barilla’s web site and after reading through it I knew it would be easy to make and hopefully tasty  too.  I’m telling you all this because I altered the recipe slightly and will explain along the way.

Rotini with Braised Fennel, Carrots & Scallions

Rotini with Braised Fennel, Carrots & Scallions

Barilla’s Whole Grain Rotini with Braised Fennel, Carrots & Spring Onions

Ingredients

1 box Barilla Whole Grain Rotini (he forgot and bought regular)

4 TBS extra virgin olive oil

1 Clove garlic (I used 2 and could have used at least one more)

2 Fennel bulbs

1 Medium Carrot (he brought home a bag of small carrots) (I used several >1 medium carrot)

1 bunch of Scallions

1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese (I used all I had in the house but was somewhat short)

1 TBS Fennel fronds chopped (I used a lot of the fronds)

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil

Sauté minced garlic in oil in a large skillet, until garlic turns slightly yellow, about 3 minutes ( I used a large braising pan)

Cut the fennel bulbs in half, then in thin slices – I cut the cores out first

Add to skillet, along with the carrot cut into roundels (rounds) about 1/8″ thick.

Braise for about 10 minutes, covered, over medium high.

Season with salt and black pepper; keep covered and cook through, stirring occasionally. I cooked longer judging when fennel was cooked and slightly softened.  At this point I thought there would not be enough sauce so I added chicken broth or to keep it vegetarian, use vegetable broth.  

Cook the pasta according to box directions

Stir the scallions cut on a bias 1/2″ long, cook an additional 3 minutes. I also added a shake or two of red pepper.

Once the pasta is done (I put aside a cup of the water) and drained, add it to the vegetables and toss to coat.

Stir in the grated cheese and the fronds.

We both thought the dish was tasty but it could have been more so!  It needed the full amount of cheese and possibly more offered on the table. The red pepper gave it some zest and I think it would have been very bland and dry without the chicken broth.  By the second helping we both said how delicious it was.

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Wednesday Is Prince Sphaghetti Day

Wednesday Is Prince Sphaghetti Day

I probably should have saved this for ThrowBack Thursday, I mean who remembers Prince spaghetti?  Growing up in an Italian family, I certainly do remember the macaroni products we had in our home.  My father did buy Prince spaghetti, however I clearly remember the LaRosa brand boxes of shells and I think the family favorite was Ronzoni.   When I was a young married, I always stuck with Ronzoni and because I saw my parents pour the pasta out of the pot and into a colander and then rinse it, I did the same!  I can’t remember now when I learned that was definitely NOT the thing to do!  Rinsing the pasta removes some of its flavorful starch that was released during the cooking process.  Not only do I NOT rinse my pasta, I often save a cup of the water to add to my sauces.  Specifically the pasta water is used in many of my vegetarian pasta dishes to make a thin sauce that may also have some broth, butter or oil.

Look For The Red Rose

Look For The Red Rose

What do I buy now?  I love the taste of Barilla macaroni products although so many of my Italian friends swear by De Cecco.  So recently, I purchased some De Cecco linguine and I swear it didn’t have the same flavor.  De Cecco is made in Italy so I’ll give it a few more tries and see if I like the results.

This Wednesday, even though it is STILL raw and cold outside, not to mention raining,  I thought I would try welcoming Spring into the apartment with a truly Spring-like pasta dish.  To quote Pure Wow , the site where I found this recipe by Erin McDowell; “We had a good run, soups and stews.  But as temperatures rise and flowers bloom, we’re ready to swap rich and hearty for light and fresh”.

PASTA WITH PEAS, ARTICHOKES, LEMON AND MINT

Serves 4-6  Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb bucatini, spaghetti or other long pasta

1 1/2 cups fresh peas

12 marinated artichoke heart quarters, drained

3 TBS unsalted butter

1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese

2 TBS lemon juice

Salt

2 TBS freshly chopped mint for garnish

Lemon zest for garnish

Directions

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water, cook till pasta is al dente, 6-8 minutes (or according to package instructions). One minute before pasta is done, add the peas to the pot.  Before draining, ladle out and reserve 1 cup pasta water. 

Drain pasta and peas in colander and immediately add artichoke hearts.  Toss to combine.  

Return pasta and vegetables to the pot, then add the butter and Pecorino cheese, and toss to coat.  Add 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water to and the lemon juice, and continue tossing until the mixture forms a creamy coating.  Add additional water if needed.  Season with salt to taste.

To serve, transfer pasta to plates, and top with mint, lemon zest and black pepper.

Pasta Peas & Artichokes

Pasta Peas & Artichokes

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This morning I made this breakfast for my husband and myself.  It was easy to put together and yummy too!  I got the recipe from The Pioneer Woman‘s blog and she got it from the Fireside Restaurant in the Omni Berkshire in NYC!  Ree Drummond,  The Pioneer Woman lives in Oklahoma and when I saw this recipe, I knew it would be great and definitely good for my perpetual  diet.   I printed it out and first tried it out on my daughter when she returned from the hospital with her third child – good for a nursing mom who wants to lose the baby fat.

Carb Buster Breakfast

Carb Buster Breakfast

Ingredients

1 TBS butter or olive oil

1/2 cup Diced Zucchini

1/2 cup Diced Yellow Squash

1/2 whole Medium Onion, Cut into chunks

Salt and Pepper

1 whole Tomato, sliced thick

2 whole eggs

1 tsp vinegar

1 slice Cheese (Monterey, Jack, Cheddar, Swiss etc)

Optional: a couple of links of chicken or pork sausage

Preparation

Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onions and cook 2-3 minutes or until starting to soften.  Add the zucchini and squash, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir to cook for 3-4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Grill the tomato slices on a grill pan or simply sear them in a hot skillet.  Remove and set aside.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a gentle boil.  Add the vinegar.  Use a wooden spoon to carefully stir the water into a circular “whirlpool”.  Crack one egg into the water and allow it to swirl around in the water until the egg begins to set.  Let it stay in the water for 1 minute, then remove with a slotted spoon.  Repeat with second egg.

Spoon the vegetables on a plate or in a bowl, set the eggs on top.  Lay the tomato slices on the side.  Place the cheese slice on the side so that it starts to soften from the heat.

Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper and serve.

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So last night was in fact a food fest and we ate and drank according to tradition.  There were the required 4 cups of wine which in reality can be 4 sips and the Schmurra matzo, the bitter herbs, the Charoset, and the egg in salt water.  Briefly just in case I have some readers who up to this point have no clue as to what I’m talking about let me clarify.  There is a traditional Seder plate and on it there’s Charoset which is a mixture of apples, cinnamon, sugar and walnuts all processed to symbolize the mortar and brick the Jews made as slaves for the Pharaoh.  Maror is the bitter herbs (horseradish) which symbolizes the bitter life of the Israelites during the time of their enslavement, Zeroa, a shank bone as a reminder of the Paschal lamb offered as a Passover sacrifice. Bytzah, a hard-boiled egg symbolic of the loss to the two temples (and also ecumenically symbol of  Spring and new life) which was served in Chazeret , salt water which represents the tears of the people and also the bitterness.  So much for that lesson on some of the Seder meal.

I brought my asparagus dish and it was a big hit.  I’ve made this dish for many years for Easter dinner as a perfect Spring side dish with some symbolism of its own.  First of all, asparagus are associated with Spring and that’s when they are most  plentiful and fresh in the markets. The egg sauce symbolizes what the egg has always represented – new life, rebirth and isn’t that what Spring is all about?  There’s also mustard (the seed of which is a Christian symbol of belief and faith) and vinegar which can be interpreted to mean the bitterness and sorrow of the Jews before being freed.

Asparagus w/ Egg Sauce*

Asparagus w/ Egg Sauce*

** This photo depicts an egg sauce with mayonnaise in it which is why it appears white.  Your sauce will be yellow and only chopped egg whites will garnish the sauce. More like a Hollandaise with chopped egg whites on top.

Ingredients:

1 # fresh asparagus 

1 hard boiled egg

1 raw egg yolk

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp white pepper

1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard

1 1/2 TBS white vinegar

1 tsp salt

Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water to cover  till crisp tender and bright green – 5-7 minutes.  I used an asparagus steamer.  Immediately immerse in a large bowl of ice water with ice cubes to stop the cooking.  Drain on paper towels and refrigerate covered.

Mash the hard cooked egg yolk in small bowl with the raw yolk and mustard till smooth.  Gradually add the olive oil whisking till smooth.  Combine the vinegar, pepper and salt and add to oil mixture.  Whisk thoroughly.

To serve:  Lay asparagus on a platter, spoon the egg sauce over and garnish with chopped egg white.  It makes a lovely presentation and is served at room temperature so if you are bringing a side dish, this is perfect to travel.

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