Orecchiette with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon

20140712-111932-40772767.jpgWhen I was growing up in the 1970s, there were four kinds of pasta know to us in suburbia: spaghetti, macaroni, lasagna noodles and, if we were feeling very exotic, manicotti. That was pretty much our full repertoire of Italian pasta (I’m not counting Chef Boyardee ravioli because I don’t think it counts as any distinct food group at all). I was well into adulthood before I experimented with pasta dishes that didn’t involve meaty tomato sauce or tons of cheese. Now, however, I love to experiment with all kinds of pasta dishes as well as pasta shapes. On our trip to Italy, Tom and I had the opportunity to try many local pasta dishes that we continue to make at home–none of them drowning in sauce and all of them featuring fresh, seasonal vegetables and seafood. Yum. It was astounding the variety of shapes and sizes of pasta available in Italy. I wanted to fill my suitcase with them!

One of my favorite pasta shapes is orecchiette (or “little ears”) pasta. Shaped somewhat like a little hat, this pasta holds sauce well and is very satisfying. I think you can find this pretty much anywhere now, but if you can’t find it, you can easily substitute penne.

Now that we are seriously increasing our running mileage, I am trying to incorporate more pasta dishes into our meals. This dish is one we experimented with this week and it is really delicious! I’m a huge fan of smoked salmon, but you could easily substitute some grilled or pan seared salmon instead and it would be fabulous (or shrimp…or chicken…pasta is flexible that way). We have been lucky to score some local mushrooms this week and we added them to the dish for an earthier, meatier flavor. So good!

Give this a try for a nice summer supper!

Orecchiette with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon (serves 4-6)

  • 16 oz. orecchiette pasta
  • 2 tbsp. organic butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 cups fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed
  • 4 oz. smoked salmon
  • Zest of 1 organic lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
  1. In a stock pot, bring heavily salted pasta water to a boil.
  2. Add orecchiette to the stock pot and cook according to directions (12-13 minutes)
  3. In a large saute pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat until butter is melted and begins to foam.
  4. Peel and mince the garlic. Add to the saute pan. Cook 1 minute.
  5. Add the sliced mushrooms and saute for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Chop the asparagus into bite sized pieces and add to the mushrooms. Cook an additional 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Pull or chop the smoked salmon into bite sized pieces and add the salmon and lemon zest to the saute pan.
  9. Heat for 2-3 minutes until salmon is warm and vegetables are cooked, but still a bit crisp.
  10. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and add to the saute pan. Toss all together until well combined.
  11. Add small amounts of the pasta water as necessary to make a light sauce. Correct seasonings if needed.
  12. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

 

 

Fish with Fennel and Tomato

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This is an oldie, but a goodie! Just made this again this weekend and was reminded of how wonderful I few simple ingredients can be!

Someday, I am going to retire and move to Italy. In my mind, that retirement includes doing yoga on the sunny balcony of an apartment in Cinque Terre, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. And shopping in the weekly market to buy fresh cheese and produce and local olives, capers, tomatoes and fish. And socializing with the other local old people who gather at the market. That image of coastal Italian splendor often helps me get through challenging days. It’s a nice mental happy place that includes food!

This recipe may become the tangible representation of my idyllic dream. With some fresh fish from Locals Seafood, local, organic fennel, fresh local tomatoes and parsley and thyme from our garden, this is a quick, summertime winner. If you want to grill your fish, you could do that and make the sauce in a separate dish–easy!

Fish with Tomato and Fennel (4 servings)

  • 4 fish fillets (we have used Spanish mackerel and swordfish with equal success)
  • 1/4 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 6 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup unpitted olives (optional)
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian, flat leaf parsley
  • Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook without browning until it is soft (about 15 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the thyme and garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Stir well.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, olives and capers to the pan. Raise the heat a bit and cook until the mixture is thick, but not dry (about 15 minutes depending on how much liquid your tomatoes hold). Reserve and keep warm.
  4. Cook fish to your preference (I pan seared ours, but grilling would be great also).
  5. Plate the fish and top with the tomato and fennel sauce. Garnish with parsley.
  6. Pour yourself a glass of wine, inhale the delicious aroma and dream…

Fish with Tomato and Fennel

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Someday, I am going to retire and move to Italy. In my mind, that retirement includes doing yoga on the sunny balcony of an apartment in Cinque Terre, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. And shopping in the weekly market to buy fresh cheese and produce and local olives, capers, tomatoes and fish. And socializing with the other local old people who gather at the market. That image often helps me get through the most stressful workdays and puts a smile on my face in the most tiresome meetings. It’s my mental happy place.

I found this recipe today in the New York Times and it may become the tangible representation of my idyllic dream. A culinary happy place. With some fresh fish from Locals Seafood, local fennel, local tomatoes we froze whole over the summer and some organic olives and capers, I think this will be a winner. When we canned and froze tomatoes over the summer, I envisioned being able to coax a bit of summer in the dead of winter and this may do just the trick. For Tom, I will leave off the olives (actually, I will add them to my plate :-)) so we can both be happy. Will post photos of the final product!

Fish with Tomato and Fennel (4 servings)

  • 4 fish fillets (I’m using NC striped bass)
  • 1/4 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 6 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup unpitted olives
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian, flat leaf parsley
  • Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook without browning until it is soft (about 15 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the thyme and garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Stir well.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, olives and capers to the pan. Raise the heat a bit and cook until the mixture is thick, but not dry (about 15 minutes depending on how much liquid your tomatoes hold). Reserve and keep warm.
  4. Cook fish to your preference (I will pan sear these babies).
  5. Plate the fish and top with the tomato and fennel sauce. Garnish with parsley.
  6. Pour yourself a glass of wine, inhale the delicious aroma and dream…
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