Pasta alla Ceccha

Pasta alla Ceccha

  Some summer days just beg for easy cooking, and this past week was full of them! Sometimes serendipity intervenes and provides you with what you need. At a race I ran last week, one of the vendors was giving away yellow tomatoes. Tomatoes!!! So we came home loaded down with little packages of delicious tomatoes, just in time to make a dish that is summer simplicity at its best. 

Italian cooking makes the best use of simple, ripe, seasonal foods and this dish  is one of my favorite ways to get our pre-run carbs without turning the kitchen into a sauna. The sauce is a raw tomato sauce that is flavorful and satisfying without being heavy. Tossed with hot pasta, it fills your kitchen with the amazing aroma of basil and garlic. Try this with your best, ripe summer tomatoes! This recipe is based on one from Giada deLaurentis and is a favorite summer staple.

Pasta alla Ceccha (serves 4)

  • 1 lb pasta
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes or the equivalent in ripe, regular tomatoes
  • 3 green oinions, white parts and a little of the green
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ounce parmesan cheese
  • A generous handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1″ pieces
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente.
  2. In a food processor, combine all remaining ingredients except mozzarella. 
  3. Pulse until all is combined but still chunky. Don’t puree ( although if you do, it’s not the end of the world).
  4. Toss the sauce with the hot cooked pasta.
  5. Add the fresh mozzarella and serve immediately.

See? Easy peasy! Enjoy!

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Sweet Potato, Chorizo and Pepper Pizza

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It’s fall, y’all. Time to break out the boots, cozy sweaters and the fall recipe book! This recipe includes one of my favorite fall flavor combinations–locally made bulk chorizo sausage and roasted sweet potatoes. We buy our bulk chorizo from Mae Farm, a local farm that raises pigs in the highest ethical standards, with lots of room to roam and be pigs. Their chorizo is pretty phenomenal and I can’t wait for fall so we can make this pizza again! By the way, this same combination of flavors works great in a quesadilla as well! If you are feeding people who aren’t fans of spice, you can leave out the chili in adobo sauce.

This pizza is a knife and fork pizza. Or at least a two napkin pizza. It is chock full of late summer/early fall goodness, like roasted sweet potato, sweet onions, locally made chorizo sausage, and colorful, fresh bell peppers. This pizza is a meal In itself. I had originally planned to have a salad with dinner, but once I saw how huge the pizza was, I decided to save the salad for another night!

Pizza is one of those incredibly versatile meals that can make the most of whatever you have in the pantry or refrigerator. I’m including my whole wheat crust recipe because it is filling and higher in protein and fiber. You could replace it with whatever crust you like, though. I’m definitely going to make this again during football season!

Sweet Potato, Chorizo and Pepper Pizza (makes 4-6 serving)

  • 1 recipe whole wheat pizza crust (see below)
  • 1 large sweet potato, roasted, with flesh removed from skin (compost the skin)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 bell peppers (I used 1 each of red, yellow and green), washed, seeded and chopped
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (optional)
  • 1 lb. chorizo bulk chorizo sausage
  • 1 cup canned organic black beans
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  1. Prepare the pizza crust and let rise.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. In a 12″ skillet, brown the chorizo sausage over medium heat. Place a strainer over a thick layer of paper towel and pour sausage and drippings into the strainer and set aside.
  4. Return the skillet to the heat, and add the olive oil, onion, garlic and peppers. Stir together and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft and there is no liquid in the pan. Remove pan from heat.
  5. On a lightly greased or flour dusted baking sheet, stretch dough out to make your pizza shape (I prefer square pizzas, but that’s me).
  6. Spread the sweet potato over the crust and sprinkle the drained chorizo over the sweet potato.
  7. Add black beans on top of the sausage, then add the pepper mixture over all.
  8. Cover the vegetables with a generous amount of cheese.
  9. Bake the pizza for 15-20 minutes.
  10. Cut and serve immediately.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (makes 2 rounds of dough)

  • 1 pckg. yeast
  • 1 3/4 c. warm water
  • 4 c. whole wheat all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit for 5 minutes until completely dissolved and a bit foamy.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer (w/dough hook attached), combine flour, salt and olive oil.
  3. While mixer is running on low/med low, add yeast water to the flour in a stream.
  4. Allow mixer to knead dough for about 4 min.
  5. Cover bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place for 1.5 hours or until doubled in bulk.
  6. Punch down dough and divide into two pieces (we divided it into 3). Each ball will make a pizza. You can freeze half for another time or let each dough ball stand covered for 20 minutes.
  7. Shape and make your pizzas according to the recipe directions.

Strozzapreti with Mushrooms and Ricotta

IMG_2649An essential component of eating locally is being prepared when the local food universe brings you something delicious, even if it wasn’t planned. Such was the case when some absolutely lovely shiitake mushrooms came my way from a local farm. Since they are very delicate and have a short shelf life, we needed to make something amazing with them…very quickly. I could have used my usual stir fry recipe and added them in, but when I have something special and delicate, I like for it to have the chance to be the star. Enter Bon Appetite online! THIS wonderful recipe found its way into my Facebook news feed and it was like the food universe was in agreement that I must eat mushrooms this week. In case you’re wondering, when the food universe speaks, I usually listen. Sometimes the universe tells me I need some Five Guys, in which case I also listen and EAT, but mostly it tells me nice, healthy things.

This is my adaptation of the Bon Appetite recipe (the original is HERE). My version doesn’t look as beautiful, but such is life. Basically, I cut the pasta required in half and increased the vegetables in the sofrito, but I pretty much followed the basic recipe. It is absolutely delicious, with a delicate flavor and a light dish that is perfect for these late summer evenings. We will definitely make this again!

Strozzapreti with Mushrooms and Ricotta (serves 2)

  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 large, organic carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, cleaned, trimmed and diced
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground, black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 lb. (8 ounces) strozzapretti pasta
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 ounces fresh, shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 3 soft-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half
  1. Make a sofrito by sauteing the onion, carrot and celery in 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Vegetables should be soft. Add salt, pepper and smoked paprika and saute an additional 2-3 minutes. Add sofrito to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Boil water for pasta in a stock pot. Add a handful of Kosher salt to the pot. Add the pasta and stir.
  3. In a deep saute pan, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute for about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the garlic to the saute pan and stir, cooking for 3o seconds.
  5. Add the sofrito to the mushrooms and stir well.
  6. When pasta is done (about 9 minutes), add the pasta, Parmesan cheese and a bit of pasta water if needed. Combine all ingredients well.
  7. Plate the pasta by topping each serving with dollops of ricotta cheese and egg halves.
  8. Serve immediately.

 

Polenta with Mushrooms, Kale and Egg

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This dish made a rather unconventional Valentine’s Day supper for us this year. Tired of the usual “let’s grill a steak,” we opted for a simple, but delicious dish of polenta (in our case we used local stone ground grits), winter greens, rich mushrooms and onion, topped with a farm egg and shaved Parmesan cheese. It was a delicious, almost-vegetarian meal that was both warming and nutritious.

Polenta with Mushrooms, Kale and Egg (serves 2)

2 cups water
1/2 cup stone ground grits or polenta
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cream or almond milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 cups kale or Swiss chard, cleaned and chopped
Kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

2 fresh farm eggs

Add the water and salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
While water is heating, add the olive oil to a skillet and heat to medium high. Add the onion and cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until the onion is soft.
Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium.
Add the mushrooms to the skillet, stir well, add some salt and pepper and sauté for about 5-6 minutes.
While mushrooms are cooking, add the grits to the boiling water, stir well and cook according to directions (about 6 minutes). Add the milk and butter. Stir well and keep grits warm.
Add the kale to the skillet, stir well and cook 5 minutes or until the kale is wilted. Correct seasonings, if needed.
Heat a small, non-stick skillet over medium heat and cook the eggs to your desired doneness (I like them to have runny yolks).
Assemble the dish by adding hot grits to two bowls. Top with the mushrooms mixture. Add an egg and some shaved Parmesan cheese to the top of each bowl.
Serve immediately.

Turkey Hash

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I love having leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. In fact, I have been known to buy a second turkey after Thanksgiving, just so we could have more yummy turkey dishes. Crazy, right? Crazy and delicious!

This dish is a family favorite–we all look forward to decorating for Christmas and enjoying a hearty bowl of this simple combination of turkey, herbs, stock and vegetables. In fact, this recipe uses up a lot of those leftover bits of vegetables and herbs that seem to linger in the refrigerator after Thanksgiving. Efficient, delicious, hearty and healthy–what could be better?

Turkey Hash (makes 4 servings)

  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, washed and chopped
  • 2-3 cups chopped, cooked turkey
  • 1 lb. potatoes, washed and sliced thin
  • 4 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Cooked rice (optional)
  1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the chopped onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the onions are soft.
  2. Add the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  3. Add the carrots and celery and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add all remaining ingredients except rice, stir well, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes. Vegetables should be very tender and stock should have reduced by half.
  5. Check seasonings and correct if needed.
  6. Serve immediately in bowls as is or over cooked rice.

Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Pasta

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Tom and I are starting our Jeff Galloway half-marathon training program next week and I am busy reading about foods that will help fuel us without weighing us down. I know pasta is considered a “no-no” in many circles, but whole grain pasta just can’t be beat for giving me long lasting carb energy.

This pasta recipe came about from a Pinterest pin by Lauren’s Latest. The original recipe for Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Alfredo sounded so good, I couldn’t wait to try it. Fortunately, our peppers here are going crazy this fall, so beautiful sweet red peppers are quite affordable at the farmers markets. I increased the amount of red bell pepper and added some fresh shrimp and some local, organic Shitake mushrooms, but otherwise I stuck pretty close to the original recipe.

The result was a light and delicious pasta that had a fresh taste, but also had the rich taste of the goat cheese. We used some basil-black pepper local goat cheese from the Hillsborough Cheese Company, and it was super with the red peppers.

Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Pasta (makes four servings)

  • 1/2 lb. spaghetti pasta
  • 3 large red bell peppers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup fat free half and half
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated asiago cheese
  • 6-8 fresh, Shitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
  • 1 lb. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
  1. Heat a gas grill to high.
  2. While grill is heating, toss the whole bell peppers with the tablespoon of olive oil. Using tongs, put the peppers on the hot grill. Cover and let cook for about 8 minutes, turning peppers every 3-4 minutes. Peppers are done when the skin is charred all over.
  3. Put the hot peppers in a large bowl and cover the bowl with a lid or a plate. Let steam for about 15 minutes.
  4. Put a stock pot of water on to boil (for pasta).
  5. While peppers are cooling, heat the grapeseed oil in a deep skillet. Add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes, until soft.
  6. While onions are cooking, remove the charred skins, stems and seeds from the roasted peppers. Chop the peppers and add them to the skillet. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring well.
  7. Add the cup of half and half, asiago and the goat cheese. Stir until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes or so.
  8. Pour the mixture into a blender or CAREFULLY use an immersion blender to puree the pepper/goat cheese mixture (NOTE: my pan was too shallow, making a splattery mess once I cranked up the immersion blender. I ended up pouring the mixture into a large, deep bowl, pureeing it, and returning it to the pan.)
  9. Cook the pasta according to directions.
  10. While pasta cooks, add the shrimp and mushrooms to the blended sauce, and cook until shrimp are pink and opaque–about 6 minutes.
  11. Drain the pasta and add pasta to the pan with the sauce. Toss to coat the pasta well.
  12. Serve immediately. Garnish with fresh parsley or more cheese.

Summer Egg Salad

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Egg salad. Oh yes, summer is here.

When the days are warm and no one feels like cooking (well, not me anyway) and the thought of something cool and creamy for dinner makes everybody happy, it is time for egg salad. This is one of those dishes that is quick, easy, delicious and very budget-friendly–even if you buy farm fresh eggs like we do.

Any dish where eggs are the star deserves farm fresh eggs. We buy our eggs from farmers who pasture raise their chickens–not only do the egg yolks look healthier in color, but the eggs themselves taste noticeably better than grocery store eggs. They are also healthier for you, providing more omega-3 fatty acids than factory eggs and packing more protein as well.

I know people who don’t like to make this dish because they have a hard time peeling their hard boiled eggs. The recipe below details my system and I have never had this go wrong. Yet.

You can make this cold salad up to 24 hours ahead. Keep in the refrigerator with a slightly damp paper towel or piece of plastic wrap covering (touching) the surface of the egg salad to prevent any discoloration. Egg yolks, like avocados or bananas, react quickly to oxygen in the air and can turn brown. This doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it won’t be as appetizing.

We serve our egg salad with locally made sourdough from La Farm bakery or honey whole wheat from Great Harvest Bread Company. Pumpernickle is good, too, if you can persuade your children to eat it (if you can, please send tips). It is also delicious served on a bed of greens. Good sides for egg salad include homemade pickles or pickled okra, celery sticks, carrot sticks or even kale chips!

Egg Salad (makes about 3 cups)

  • 6 farm fresh eggs
  • 2 stalks organic celery, trimmed and diced (optional)
  • 1/3 cup good quality mayonnaise (we used Dukes)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  1. Gently put the eggs in a stock pot or large saucepan. Add water to cover eggs by 1″ and cover pot with lid.
  2. Heat pot over medium high heat until water starts to boil. Remove from heat, and let sit for 12 minutes.
  3. Unocover pot and remove eggs to a colander. Run cold water over the eggs to stop the cooking process.
  4. One at a time, take each egg and gently tap it all over its surface so that the surface of the egg has small cracks all over it.
  5. Holding the egg under a stream of cold water, gently peel the shell from the egg. The running water helps a lot. If some of the white sticks to the shell, that’s ok. You’re going to mash them up anyway. Put the peeled egg in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  6. Continue with all your eggs until they are all peeled and in the mixing bowl. With the back of a fork, mash the eggs so you have a rough mixture of egg whites and yolks.
  7. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix together with the fork until you have a thick, yellow mixture. Add more mayonnaise if your mixture seems too dry. Taste for seasoning and correct as needed.
  8. Serve on bread, toast or on a bed of greens!

Roasted Broccoli and Shrimp

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My friend Jerry sent me this recipe last year (thanks, Jerry!) and it has become a staple for us, especially when time is tight. This recipe features local, organic broccoli and NC shrimp–a simple, and amazingly good combination. Although it wasn’t in the original recipe, I sometimes add sliced red bell pepper when I have it fresh.This recipe is light, but satisfying and quite tasty. Don’t skimp on the coriander seeds or hot pepper–they infuse the entire dish and make it something special. Healthy, quick and easy to make, this recipe hits all the marks for a succesful, weeknight dinner. And even better, it only uses one bowl, a cutting board and one baking sheet, making cleanup super quick.

A note about shrimp. I bought large-sized shrimp and 10 minutes was just right for roasting. If you buy medium or small shrimp, you may want to back off on the roasting time. If you don’t have access to local or U.S. shrimp (or you just don’t like shrimp), you could probably try this with a thick, locally available fish (here that would be tuna or swordfish) cut into chunks. Scallops might be good also!

You could also play around with what vegetables to include, and make this a truly seasonal dish. I can’t wait to see how we can work our Produce Box veggies into this dish over the spring and summer!

Roasted Broccoli and Shrimp a la Jerry

This makes 3 servings or 2 servings for hungry seafood lovers!

  • 2 lbs. broccoli
  • 1 lb. fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • One red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. whole cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp. of ground)
  • 1/8 tsp. hot chili powder (I used red pepper flakes)
  • 1 lemon, zested with lemon reserved for serving
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
  • Rice, quinoa or other cooked grains
    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
    2. Cut the broccoli into large florets with some stem remaining.
    3. Cut the red bell pepper into strips and cut each strip in half crosswise.
    4. In a bowl, toss the broccoli florets and bell pepper with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, coriander, cumin, hot chili pepper, and salt and pepper to taste.
    5. Put broccoli and pepper mix on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.
    6. In the bowl, toss shrimp with remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil, lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste.
    7. Add to the broccoli mix and pop back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until the shrimp is pink and opaque, but not overcooked.
    8. Serve over rice with lemon wedges and you are done!

Stir Fried Scallops and Bok Choi

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We are increasingly finding that in a world of complicated, specialty recipes, some of the best dishes we make have just a few basic ingredients. This super easy stir fry is an example of this. It focuses on fresh North Carolina scallops from Locals Seafood, a small farmer’s market-based seafood delivery service that supplies our family with all of seafood. Their North Carolina scallops are the best I have ever had, no question. So this week, we treated ourselves to fresh, NC scallops while using up some of the extremely prolific Chinese cabbage from our garden and a leftover portobello cap from our little “pizzas”. Turns out, this is a great combination we’ll make again. The sweetness of the scallops and the greens balance well with the earthiness of the mushrooms. Tom and I ate the whole thing by ourselves!

Stir Fried Scallops and Chinese Cabbage (makes 2-3 servings)

  • 1 lb. fresh scallops, sourced as locally as possible
  • 1 head organic Chinese cabbage or bok choi, washed, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 large portobello mushroom cap, wiped clean and sliced
  • 1 organic onion, peeled and diced
  • 1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tbsp. organic coconut oil, divided
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
  • Organic rice or Asian noodles, cooked
  1. In a wok or large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. coconut oil over high heat.
  2. Add onion and stir fry quickly for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add mushrooms and continue stir frying quickly for 1 minute. Add greens, ginger and garlic and continue stir frying for another 2 minutes, or until greens are wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove vegetables to a bowl, wipe wok and heat remaining 1 tbsp. coconut oil over high heat.
  5. Add scallops and stir fry 1-2 minutes (this will depend on how thick your scallops are).
  6. Add vegetables back to wok, heat for 1 minute and turn off heat.
  7. Serve over hot, cooked rice or noodles or just by itself.

Pierogi with Crispy Broccoli and Brown Butter Sauce

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It is very cold here in central NC (in the mid-20s) and icy. And all my boeuf bourguignon is gone (dang). I’m craving carbs and comfort food, but I’m too busy during the week to make a big pasta production. So this week I experimented with cooking some locally made pierogi.

At last week’s farmers market, I visited the booth for Melina’s Pasta and found some delicious-sounding pierogi stuffed with blue cheese and bacon. I had never made pierogi before, but I was assured that it was easy. Boil like pasta and toast lightly in butter. I can do this.

You can use this basic recipe with any kind of pierogi or ravioli. If you live in central NC, find Melina’s Pasta–I HIGHLY recommend the blue cheese and bacon pierogi (how could that combination go wrong, I ask you?). It was a terrific blend of flavors–not too strong on the blue cheese.

Pierogi with Crispy Broccoli and Brown Butter Sauce (serves 2 as an entree or 4 as a side)

  • 12 fresh or frozen pierogi
  • 2-3 cups finely chopped organic broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste
  1. In a stock pot, heat water for pasta until boiling.
  2. Add pierogi to water and cook according to package directions (8 minutes for our frozen pierogi).
  3. When pierogi are almost done cooking, melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. When foam subsides, add the finely chopped broccoli to the pan and cook.
  4. Using a slotted spoon or spider, remove the pierogi from the water and add to the saute pan. Cook pierogi on each side until lightly toasted and browned,about 1 minute per side.
  5. Remove pierogi and broccoli to a warmed bowl and top with chopped parsley.
  6. Serve immediately.
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