Pico de Gallo with fresh made Tortilla Chips

Pico de Gallo, tomatoes, onion, cilantro

Pico de Gallo is a delicious, healthy, versatile condiment to use any time of the year.  It is especially delicious in the summer months when tomatoes are in season.  The freshness of the tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and lime go great with tortilla chips, on tacos, on top of nachos, or with your favorite grilled meats.

You can use store bought pico de gallo, but this is so simple to make you won’t want to use store bought again. Not only is it great to serve at a party or barbecue, but because it is so easy to make you will want to keep it on hand to serve at home any time.

Here it goes…

Ingredients:

2 – cups dices ripe tomatoes
1/2 – cup diced onion
1/2 – cup cilantro
1 – jalapeño or Serrano pepper (optional)
1 – lime
1/2 – tsp. salt

Directions:

Dice the tomatoes, using a knife instead of a food processor so that the tomatoes are in small pieces and not crushed into a liquid sauce by the blades of the food processor. This will make a nice chunky salsa.

Chop finely the onion, jalapeño, and cilantro (we like a little heat, but if you do not you don’t have to use the jalapeño). Place all ingredients in a bowl and squeeze the juice of one lime over the tomato mixture and sprinkle the salt.

Mix well and set aside for about 30 minutes to let the flavors develop. 

Refrigerate it if you are not going to use it the same day; however, remove it about one hour before you want to use it to allow it to return to room temperature.  I always serve the pico de gallo at room temperature because it tastes best that way.  

Serve with fresh made tortilla chips . . .

It is very easy to do and the result is well appreciated.

Cut the corn tortilla in half and then in half again, making four triangle shaped pieces.  Heat a little canola or vegetable oil in a large skillet.  Place the triangles pieces in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown, then flip and cook the other side. It only takes a couple minutes, so do not walk away from the stove.

Remove to a paper towel and sprinkle with a little salt.  Continue cooking the rest of the tortillas.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy!




Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad, Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Basil

Caprese Salad

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4-5

Caprese salad is made with only four main ingredients, so it is important that you use the best ingredients possible.  I like to use mozzarella di bufala (mozzarella made with buffalo milk). You can find an imported Italian brand in most warehouse clubs. Otherwise buy the best fresh mozzarella you can find from an Italian cheese store. I have been craving this salad since my recent trip to Italy. I went with my sister, niece and cousins. We had a great trip, but the one thing that my niece, Jasmine, had to have every day was Insalata Caprese. We visited Capri where this salad originates. The tomatoes were at their peak, and the mozzarella di bufala was the best we ever had. So, with this traditional Caprese recipe, I am reliving my trip to Italy.

Ingredients:
1 – lb. ripe Campari or vine ripened tomatoes
10 – oz. mozzarella di bufala
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 – fresh basil leaves
1/4 – tsp. dried oregano
Salt

Directions:
Slice tomatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices. Arrange them on a plate in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and oregano, then drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the tomatoes.

Campari tomatoes

Slice the mozzarella in 1/4 inch thick slices, and arrange them on top of the tomatoes. Sprinkle with a little salt and a pinch of oregano. Taste the mozzarella before you add salt to determine how much is needed. Drizzle a little olive oil over the cheese and top with pieces of basil. Tear the basil with your hands; do not cut it with a knife.

Tomatoes, mozzarella, basil

Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!
Caprese, Salad, Tomatoes, Mozzarella




Farro and Tuna Salad

Farro, Tuna, Tomatoes, Capers

Farro and Tuna Salad
This is a great any time meal that is healthy, hearty, and delicious. This recipe is easy to make and packs a lot of nutrition. Farro is my favorite whole grain. It has a nutty flavor with a nice bite to it. Not only is it delicious, but it is also high in fiber and protein and is a good source of vitamins and minerals.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1 cup farro
6 oz. can Italian tuna in olive oil
1/3 cup diced shallot
1/3 cup diced celery
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 tbls. capers
1 tsp. fresh thyme
2 tbls. fresh parsley
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. oregano
salt
ground black pepper

Directions:

Bring a small pot of water to a boil, add 2 teaspoons of salt, and cook the farro according to package directions. Do not over cook. It should be al dente. In the meantime, dice the shallot, celery and set aside. Chop the parsley and thyme, and slice the tomatoes in half.

When the farro is ready, drain it and place it in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and set aside to cool for about 15-20 minutes.

When the farro is cooled, add the rest of the ingredients and another 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Mix well. Taste it to see if it needs salt. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Buon appetito!

Farro, Tuna, Salad, Capers, Tomatoes




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!




Grilled Zucchine and Tomato with Mozzarella and Basil

Zucchini and tomatoes are two of my favorite things, and summer time is when they are at their best. This is a light meal that is perfect for a hot summer day. It is healthy, delicious and easy to make. It can be used as a main dish, appetizer or side dish.

Ingredients:
2 – large zucchini
2 – ripe tomatoes
1 – ball of fresh mozzarella
10 – basil leaves
Salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Herbs de Provence
Garlic Powder
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions:
Slice the ends off the zucchini then slice it in half across the middle.


Cut a thin slice of the skin from two sides of the zucchini length wise. Then cut thick long slices, about 1/4″ in thickness. Next cut thick round tomato slices.

Lay out the zucchini and tomatoes and drizzle a little olive oil over each of them. Then sprinkle each slice with a little salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and Herbs de Provence to taste.

In the meantime, heat the stove top grill and coat it with non-stick cooking spray. When the grill is hot, place each slice of the zucchini and tomatoes on the grill, seasoned side down. While the vegetables are cooking, drizzle the other side with a little olive oil and the seasonings.

Cook the tomato slices about 3 minutes on a medium-high flame before turning over. Do not over cook them or they will fall apart. The zucchini will take longer, about 4-5 minutes, until tender. When ready turn them over and cook the other side in the same manner.

Since the tomatoes cook sooner, you can place them on top of the cooked side of the zucchini to prevent them from over cooking, while the zucchini finishes cooking.

When the zucchini is almost done, place a slice of mozzarella cheese on top of each stack of zucchine and tomato, then place a lid on top to melt the cheese.

Remove each stack from the grill and place a basil leave on top of each one.

Serve immediately

Note:  A little drizzle of a balsamic reduction works very well with this.




Focaccia with Potato, Grape Tomatoes, and Rosemary

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Focaccia di patata con pomodorini e rosmarino

This focaccia is moist and delicious. I like to serve it by itself or along with cheese and various types of salami. I learned how to make this from my best friend, Roberta. The unusual thing about this recipe is that it is made with potato. This is a common method used in Italy. The potato gives the focaccia the perfect texture…it is soft and moist and the crust has just the right amount of crispness. The focaccia also is a great alternative for making a sandwich.

Ingredients for focaccia:
1 – large Idaho potato (5 inches long)
1 – pkg. Active Dry Yeast
1 3/4 – cups warm water
1 – tbls. sugar
5 – cups all purpose flour
1 – tbls. salt
1/4 – cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for coating)

Toppings:
15 – grape tomatoes
1 – tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 – tsp. coarse sea salt
2 – tbls. extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:
Scrub a large Idaho potato and place it in a pot of water to boil until a fork can be inserted into it easily, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and let cool completely. Peel the potato and mash with a potato masher or you can use a potato ricer if you have one.

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Take 1 3/4 cups warm water and add one package of Active Dry Yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar. Stir and let stand about 10 minutes while the yeast activates, and becomes bubbly.

After 10 minutes
After 10 minutes

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture.

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Using the dough hook of your mixer, mix the flour and yeast until semi-incorporated, about 1 minute. Next add the mashed potato, salt, and 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil.

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Continue mixing the dough for about 5 minutes.

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The dough will be a little sticky. Turn it out on to a lightly floured board.img_1339

Continue kneading by hand about one minute more until the dough is soft and elastic.

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It should be slightly sticky, do not over work the dough. Pour a little olive oil in the mixing bowl and return the ball of dough to the bowl.

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Drizzle a little oil on top of the dough, cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and let rise for about 2 hours in a warm area. The dough should double in size.

Doubled in size
Doubled in size

Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out on to a lightly floured board and knead by hand for about one minute. The dough should feel smooth and silky.

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After kneading by hand

Pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil on a jelly roll pan (12″ x 17″) and spread around to cover the surface. Place the dough on the pan and stretch with your hands to fill the pan with the dough. It does not have to fill the pan completely. Using your fingers, poke holes in the dough.

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Drizzle a little oil over top and spread it around with your hands. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise for another hour until it doubles in size.

Doubled in size
Doubled in size

While the dough is rising, slice in half about 15 grape tomatoes, and chop about 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, but first remove the needles from the stem. Set aside until the dough is ready to go into the oven.

Once the dough has doubled in size, place the tomato halves cut side down on the surface of the dough. Press them in gently. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil over the top and spread it evenly with your hand. Then sprinkle the rosemary and salt evenly over the surface.

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If you do not like rosemary or tomatoes, you can use almost anything you like, such as onion, olives, peppers, and various herbs and spices.  Be as creative as you like.

Bake in a preheated 425° oven for 25-30 minutes, until the focaccia is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and slide the focaccia out of the pan onto a cooling rack.  Let rest about 10 minutes before slicing so that you do not release all the steam.

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Buon appetito!




Linguine with Shrimp, Grape Tomatoes in a Light Cream Sauce

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Two of my favorite things put together….pasta and shrimp. I created this recipe a few years ago when I was having some friends over for dinner. I wanted to create a recipe with a nice balance of sweet tomato and savory capers enhanced by a light cream sauce. I find that the half and half adds just the right amount of richness without being too heavy. Give it a try. It is easy and quick to make.

Ingredients:
1 – lb. large shrimp, cleaned and deveined
2 – cloves garlic
2 – tbls. tomato paste
1/4 – tsp. crushed red pepper
3/4 – cup white wine (use a good dry table wine that you like to drink)
2 – tbls. capers
1 – cup grape tomatoes (cut in half)
3/4 – cup half and half
Salt
Ground black pepper
1 – lb. linguine
1 – tbls. chopped fresh parsley
Pecorino or Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:
Heat a large pot of water on the stove for the pasta. When the water comes to a boil, add 2 tsp. salt and the linguine. Cook until al dente (a little bite) or according to the package directions.

In the meantime, prepare the shrimp and sauce. It does not take long to make, so the sauce should be ready by the time the pasta is cooked. Rinse off the shelled and deveined shrimp in cold water (I buy the shrimp already deveined; this saves a lot of time). Dry them off on paper towel and then sprinkle with salt and black pepper to taste. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on a medium flame. Peel the garlic and smash it with the side of a large kitchen knife. Add it to the hot oil and sauté about 2 minutes, then add the shrimp. Stir often and cook until the shrimp start to turn pink, about 2 minutes.

Now add the crushed red pepper and tomato paste. Stir the tomato paste and let cook about 1 minute before adding the wine. Add the wine and stir to deglaze the pan and incorporate the tomato paste. Turn the flame down to low and let cook until the wine is reduced by half. This takes about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir often and watch so that it does not all evaporate. Remove just the shrimp and set aside.

Add to the skillet the grape tomatoes and capers and cook about 2 minutes. If the capers are the large variety, chopped them before adding. Next add the half and half. Stir and let cook about 2 minutes more. Return the shrimp to the sauce, stir and cook about 1 minute more to finish cooking the shrimp. Add about 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper and salt to taste. Taste the sauce before adding salt because the capers are salty. Before you add the pasta remove the garlic cloves from the sauce.

When the pasta is ready, drain it and add to the skillet with the shrimp and sauce. Mix through and top off with one teaspoons chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!

Note: In the Italian tradition, cheese is not served with seafood; however, if you want to add grated pecorino or parmesan cheese then please do.




Bruschetta 3 Ways

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Bruschetta is a simple and versatile appetizer to make for any dinner party or holiday gathering. You can use what ever ingredients you like…vegetables, cheese, beans, prosciutto or other cured meats. The only secret is to use good ingredients. Here are three easy ideas for you to try.

Ingredients:
1 – loaf of French baguette or crusty long loaf of Italian bread
2 – cloves garlic
Extra virgin olive oil

Bruschetta #1: Tomato and Basil:

Ingredients:
2 – medium ripe tomatoes
1/2 – medium shallot
7 – fresh basil leaves
1 – tbls. fresh parsley
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
2 – tbls olive oil

Directions:

Dice the tomatoes. I suggest dicing them by hand so they maintain their texture. Place the diced tomatoes in a medium sized bowl. Add finely diced shallot and chopped basil. You can stack the basil leaves together, roll them, and then chop them all at once. This makes it a little easier to do.  Next chop the parsley and add to the tomatoes.  Drizzle the olive oil and add salt and black pepper to taste.  Mix and set aside until ready to use.

Slice the bread on a diagonal, about 1/2″ thick. Place under broiler or toaster oven until lightly golden brown. Do not leave the bread unattended, because it will toast very quickly. Remove the bread from the oven, and take a peeled clove of garlic and rub it on the surface of the warm toasted bread. Brush olive oil over the bread and top with tomato mixture. Serve immediately.

Bruschetta #2: Goat Cheese, Walnuts and Honey

Ingredients:
4 – oz. Goat cheese
4 – oz. raw walnuts
Honey

Directions:

Toast the walnuts (the quickest method is on the stove). Do not chop the nuts. Place them in a dry, heavy skillet on a medium flame. Cook them about 2 minutes until they start to brown. Stir constantly so that they do not burn.  Set aside until ready to use them.

Slice the bread on a diagonal, about 1/2″ thick. Place under broiler or toaster oven until lightly golden brown. Do not leave the bread unattended, because it will toast very quickly under the broiler. Remove the bread from the oven, and spread the goat cheese directly on top while the bread is still warm. Place two or three pieces of walnut on top of the goat cheese, and then drizzle with honey. Serve immediately.

Bruschetta #3: Cremini Mushrooms and Red Bell Pepper:

Ingredients:
1 – red bell pepper
1 – medium shallot
10 – oz. cremini mushrooms
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1/4 – tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth and slice in quarters (more if mushroom is large). Slice the red pepper in half and remove the stem and seeds then make 1/4″ slices. Heat 1 tbls. of olive oil in a large skillet and add the peppers. Cook about 2-3 minutes until they just start to soften. Dice the shallot and add to the peppers along with the mushrooms. Add salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir and sauté until the mushrooms begin to brown and the onions soften. It will take about 6-7 minutes on a medium flame. Stir often to avoid them sticking to the pan.

Prepare the bread in the same manner as for Bruschetta #1.

Buon appetito




Bucatini all’Amatriciana

Bucatini, Pasta, Amatriciana, Pancetta

Bucatini all’Amatriciana is a classic Roman dish. The sauce is hardy and pairs perfectly with the thick bucatini pasta.  This is one of my family’s favorite meals.  When we visited Rome this is one dish that we ate multiple times.  This recipe is also very popular with my niece, Jasmine.  She asks me to make this for her every time I visit her.

The sauce is simple to make, and uses only a few ingredients.  I am making the dish with pancetta (Italian bacon) instead of the traditional guanciale (pork cheek) because it is easier to find.  I think the taste is equally good.

Ingredients:

1 – lb. bucatini pasta
1 – 28 oz. can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
1 – medium – large onion
3 – cloves garlic
6 – oz. pancetta
1/2 – tsp. crushed red pepper flake (or to taste)
1/4 – tsp. salt
1/4 – tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 – cup pecorino romano cheese

Directions:

Cut the onion in half, then make thin half-moon slices.  Heat a large skillet and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil; add the onion and sauté until translucent.  In the meantime, dice the pancetta into small pieces and mince the garlic.  Once the onions are translucent, push them to one side of the skillet and add the pancetta.  Cook until lightly browned; add the garlic, crushed red pepper and cook about 1-2 minutes more.

Blend the whole peeled tomatoes in a blender, just for a couple of seconds.  Pour the tomatoes into the skillet and add salt and pepper and stir.  Be careful not to use too much salt because the pancetta is salty.  You can always add more later.  Once the tomatoes start to bubble, turn down the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 20-25 minutes.

Put on a large pot of water to boil.  Add salt and throw in the bucatini.  Cook as directed on the box, but check it about 2 minutes prior to the time the directions suggest. The pasta is best if it is cooked al dente (it should be a little firm to the bite).

Drain the cooked pasta and place in a large serving bowl.  Add the sauce and pecorino cheese and serve.

Enjoy!