Italian Potato Salad

When I was growing up my mother would make Italian Potato Salad during the summer months. This potato salad is lighter and healthier than traditional potato salad with mayonnaise, and you don’t have to worry about the mayo going bad in the heat.

This dish reminds me of July 4th celebrations during my childhood. I grew up in a small town in Western Pennsylvania. The town was built around a steel mill that extended the length of the town, which is about 1 1/2 miles long. We lived on the Main Street of town, and on July 4th the parade was held there. People came from all over Beaver Valley and even from parts of Ohio to watch the parade. Everyone lined up along the Main Street to watch as the floats and marching bands went by, and the children waited anxiously to grab the candy and treats that were thrown into the crowd by the fire trucks.

Our prime location for the parade route turned our house into the place to be. Family and friends came from all over to celebrate the holiday with us. Mom put on a big spread and the celebration lasted from morning until after the fireworks that night. It was a special day.

Make your celebration special, and try this recipe.

Ingredients:
28 – oz. baby red potatoes
1 – cup thinly sliced yellow bell pepper
1/3 – cup diced red onion
1 – cup grape tomatoes
1 – tsp. chopped fresh lemon thyme
1 – tsp. salt
1/2 – tsp. ground black pepper
1/3 – cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 – cup red wine vinegar
4 – fresh basil leaves
1/2 – tsp. dried oregano
1/2 – tsp. garlic powder

Directions:
Clean the potatoes in cold water. Bring a pot of water to a boil then add 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the potatoes and boil them whole for about 10 minutes until they are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and let cool until you can handle them.

Dice the onion, slice the tomatoes in half, and cut the pepper into thin slices. Add the vegetables to a large bowl.

 

In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, vinegar, salt, black pepper, oregano, and thyme.

Now slice the potatoes in half or in quarters if they are a little bigger.  Add the potatoes to the bowl with the vegetables. Pour the dressing over the potato mixture and mix well.  Roughly chop the basil leaves and toss in to the potato salad.

Let stand about one hour before serving.
For the best flavor serve at room temperature.

Buon appetito!




Fettucine with Egg, Garlic and Olive Oil

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Fettuccine all’uovo, aglio e olio di oliva

This dish is simply delicious. The closest dish to which I can compare it is Spaghetti alla Carbonara without the guanciale (bacon).  Growing up we called it “white pasta”. No one could make this dish like my mother. Although the ingredients are very basic, they pack a lot of flavor. When mom served this dish, it was a real treat. It was and still is the ultimate comfort food for my family. It was not unusual for some of my cousins to ask Mom to make it for them when they visited. It’s so simple that you always have the ingredients available. However, as simple as it is, it takes some practice to get it right. I have put together step-by-step instructions, so give it a try, you will not be disappointed.

Ingredients:
1 – box (14.oz) fettucine (or any long spaghetti you like)
5 – cloves garlic
1/2 – cup extra virgin olive oil
2 – eggs
1/2 – cup pecorino romano cheese (more for serving)
1/2- tsp. ground black pepper
1 – tsp. dried oregano
1/8 – tsp. peperoncino (red pepper flake)
1 – tbls. salt

Directions:
Put a large pot of water on the stove to bring to a boil. In the meantime prepare the other ingredients. Peel the garlic and smash it with the side of a large knife and set aside. In a small bowl add the two eggs, 3/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 cup pecorino cheese and whisk well. Set aside until the fettuccine is cooked.

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When the water comes to a boil, add 1 tablespoon salt and the fettuccine. Cook until al dente (a little bite) or according to the package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, heat about 1/2 cup olive oil in a small skillet, then add the peeled garlic. Sauté on a medium-low flame until golden brown (do not let the garlic burn). After a few minutes as the garlic begins to soften, use a fork to smash the garlic to release more flavor. Be careful with the hot oil.

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Remove the garlic from the oil and discard. When the fettuccine is just about ready, add a pinch of pepperoncino to the hot oil and 1/4 teaspoon oregano. Reduce the flame to low to keep the oil warm.

When the fettuccine is ready, before draining the pasta, reserve two cups of the pasta water in a small bowl and set aside. Place the fettuccine into a serving bowl and add the whisked egg mixture, and one cup of the pasta water and mix well.

Add egg mixture to pasta
Adding egg mixture to pasta

Adding pasta water
Adding pasta water

Next add the hot oil to the pasta.

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The hot pasta water and hot oil will cook the egg.  Mix through and add another 1/4 cup pecorino cheese.

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The cheese and egg should make a creamy sauce.  If it seems dry you can add a little more pasta water if needed.

Mix well and serve immediately.

Buon appetito!




Garlic Mashed Potatoes

img_1086Mashed potatoes go great with many dishes. The creamy, buttery texture of the potatoes is the perfect comfort food. The little extra effort you need to make homemade mashed potatoes is well worth it. This recipe adds flavorful garlic and olive oil to make the potatoes extra special.

Ingredients:
4 – large Idaho potatoes
8 – cloves garlic
1/3 – cup whole milk (heated)
5 – tbls. unsalted butter
4 – tbls. extra virgin olive oil
2 – tsp. salt

Directions:
Fill a medium sized pot with water and bring it to a boil. Peel the potatoes, rinse them in cold water and then quarter them. When the water begin to boil, add 1 teaspoon salt and the potatoes. Put the lid on the pot and bring it back to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the flame to medium-low and let cook at a light boil for about 10-12 minutes or until a fork goes through the potato pieces with ease.

In the meantime, peel the garlic and smash it with the side of a large kitchen knife. Pour extra virgin olive oil in a small skillet and add the garlic. Sauté on a medium-low flame turning often to ensure it does not burn. After the garlic begins to soften, smash each piece with a fork to release all the flavor into the oil. Cook another minute or two. Turn off the heat and remove the garlic pieces from the oil. Set aside until the potatoes are ready.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them in a collander. Return them to the pot and add the butter, 1 teaspoon salt (more if you prefer), and mash with a potato masher or you can also use a hand mixer. Add the warm milk to the potatoes and continue mashing. Pour the garlic olive oil into the mashed potatoes. Mix well until smooth and creamy.

Serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings