Italian

fresh homemade pasta

I’ve been on a fresh homemade pasta kick lately. That’s because I just bought a Mercato Atlas Wellness 150 pasta maker (yes, it’s made in Italy). I’ve been wanting to try my own hand at pasta-making at home, and Luca from this season’s ”MasterChef” recommended me this particular brand, saying he’d gotten it as a wedding gift and loved it.

Atlas Pasta Machine
And now, I do too. The hubster’s eyes brighten every time I bring the pasta maker out of the closet because, well, being a guy, he likes anything mechanical. So it’s nice to have such an eager helper in the kitchen while making pasta. So far, I’ve made two types of pasta: a mushroom duxelle stuffed ravioli topped with a white wine tomato and basil sauce; and angel hair with shrimp, garlic, tomato, and white wine sauce. (We’ve had an influx of tomatoes in our garden this summer, so I’ve been constantly putting them in my pasta dishes.)

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roasted pork and provolone sandwiches

I haven’t posted a recipe in a while. It’s mainly because most of the things I’ve been cooking lately are recipes going into my cookbook (which, I might add, is slated to publish in May). So, of course, in order to entice you to buy the cookbook, I can’t be posting them all over the web, right?
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prosciutto arugula pizza with homemade bread machine dough

To be extra cheesy, either shape your pizza into a heart shape. Or just add more mozzarella and parmesan. Hyuk hyuk.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. I can’t even remember the last time I was excited about V-Day. Maybe in middle school when carnations and candy-grams were sold, and the more you collected, the more popular you looked. How lame and superficial now that I think back on it. But those were the woeful days of adolescence, I guess.

Now that I’m thirty-something and have a permanent Valentine, Valentine’s Day has turned into a consumer-driven joke of a holiday. It’s not even really a holiday. We all still have to go to work on Tuesday. Double-lame.

I realize this post is sounding cynical. But in reality, I feel like every day should celebrate those we love. Not just spouses and significant others but parents, cousins, friends, and pets. Why should it be just one day a year that we do something nice for those we love? Indeed, Valentine’s Day exists only to make Americans waste their money on bouquets and stuffed bears and to make the singles feel worse. Bah humbug.

People ask me what my husband and I are doing for V-Day. A few years ago, I enjoyed going out to a nice restaurant. Then it would be just going out to any restaurant and engaging in the act of conversation and communion together. This year, I just want to cook a meal at home with my hubby.

Last time, I gave you lamb chops. But if you’re not that fancy food kind of person, here’s a less expensive yet just as tasty alternative. What is more romantic than Italian food? Ever since we bought a bread machine, we’ve enjoyed making our own pizza dough at home. The possibilities are endless for pizza—you can virtually top it with anything you see lying around in your fridge. That’s the beauty of it. Lately, my favorite toppings for homemade pizza are prosciutto, arugula, and fresh mozzarella. After our pie at San Francisco’s Pizzeria Delfina, I became a fan of arugula. I used to dislike this leafy green because of its bitterness, but now I find the dry taste a good balance to richer, fattier foods (like prosciutto). Maybe I’m all growns up now. **Tear**

If you get the right fresh ingredients, this simple pizza will blow you away. So go ahead, score some points with your Valentine by way of the stomach. Or if you’re single, indulge yourself. If the Blind can Cook it, so can you. Buon appetito!

 

: Prosciutto Arugula Pizza

: Uses pizza dough made from a bread machine

 

  1. 1 c. flat beer
  2. 2 tbsp. butter
  3. 2 tbsp. sugar
  4. 1 tsp. salt
  5. 2.5 c. all-purpose flour
  6. 2.25 tsp. yeast
  7. dried herbs to taste (oregano, rosemary, thyme)
  8. olive oil
  9. pizza sauce
  10. prosciutto, cut into strips
  11. arugula, roughly chopped
  12. fresh buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced
  13. parmesan cheese

 

  1. Add beer, butter, sugar, salt, flour, yeast, and any herbs if using into bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select DOUGH setting, and press START.
  2. Remove dough from machine when cycle is complete. Roll or press dough to cover pizza pans or stones, using dusted flour to prevent dough from sticking. Brush lightly with olive oil. Cover and let stand 15 min.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Bake empty pizza crusts for approx. 10 min.
  5. Remove from oven and add sauce and mozzarella. Bake another 10 to 15 min. or until crust is lightly browned and crispy.
  6. Remove from oven, top with prosciutto and arugula. Grate parmesan cheese to taste. Serve hot.

 

or a much quicker method, use premade pizza crust like Boboli.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 25 minute(s)

penne with vodka sauce

Penne with vodka sauce

Spicy and creamy

In the recipe exchange I had participated in, I received a recipe for penne a la vodka. I pieced that recipe together with one I found on All Recipes and came up with this one. It was the third dish to the four-course Italian birthday meal, and Joy even said the sauce was her favorite part of dinner. The great thing about this dish is it’s quick and simple and delicious. This is definitely a valuable addition to the repertoire. I even got to use parsley picked fresh from our garden. If the Blind can Cook this, you definitely can.

Recipe: Penne with Vodka Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. uncooked penne pasta
  • 2 (3.5 oz.) Italian sausage
  • 3 strips of pancetta or bacon, cut into pcs.
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 med. onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. vodka
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  1. Cook penne al dente. Drain.
  2. In a med. saucepan, heat oil over med. heat. Remove sausage from casing and add to pot along with pancetta or bacon, breaking up the sausage and stirring until browned. Add garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes; cook until fragrant.
  3. Add tomatoes and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer approx. 15 min.
  4. Add vodka and half-and-half or cream, and bring to boil. Toss with penne and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve with parmesan cheese if desired.

Variations

I used turkey Italian sausage and turkey bacon for a slightly healthier option. Taste is not compromised.

For a little green in the dish, consider adding spinach into the saucepan as you add the tomatoes. Simmer until spinach is to desired wiltedness.

Cooking time (duration): 30

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: Italian

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tuscan potato soup

Tuscan potato soup

Missing the kale. Boo.

The second course of the Italian birthday dinner was this Tuscan potato soup which is very similar to Olive Garden‘s bottomless potato soup. I found the copycat recipe online years ago and have been making it since. It’s a little spicy (which you don’t expect), and the blend of vegetables, meat, and the creamyb chicken broth all make for a flavorful soup. Because it’s not too thick, it’s not super filling, and thus makes a proper second course for a four-course meal. But because it’s creamy, it’s still hearty enough to please the palate.

The kale adds a little texture and color to the soup but my husband had picked out the wrong kale at the grocery store–I needed the curly, leafy kind but he chose one that tasted like straight-up grass and dirt. Who knew there was more than one kind of kale? So sorry, but this phohto doesn’t have the green kale. And remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

Recipe: Tuscan Potato Soup

Summary: A knock-off of Olive Garden’s soup

Ingredients

  • 3 (14 oz.) cans chicken broth
  • 9 c. water
  • 3 to 5 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, loosely grounded
  • 4 lg. red potatoes, unpeeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 lg. white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 to 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2/3 c. half-and-half
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tbsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 c. chopped kale leaves

Instructions

  1. In a lg. stockpot, combine water, chicken broth, salt, and potatoes. Set to a low boil.
  2. In a separate pan, fry up bacon until slightly crispy. Set bacon aside, saving the grease in the pan.
  3. In the same pan used to cook the bacon, add the Italian sausage, onion, and olive oil. Simmer on low until sausage is cooked through, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add bacon and sausage mixture into the soup pot. Mix the garlic, cayenne pepper, and half-and-half into the soup pot. Cover and simmer on low for 30 min.
  5. Five min. before serving, stir in the chopped kale leaves.

Variations

I used turkey bacon and Italian turkey sausage for a slightly healthier option. (And also because my husband doesn’t eat pork.)

Cooking time (duration): 60

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: Italian

Microformatting by hRecipe.

bruschetta

Bruschetta

Voila! Classico antipasto italiano.

A classic antipasto italiano–Italian Appetizer–is bruschetta, pronounced with a short “u” as in “brush” and a hard “ch” sound like a “k” as in “basket”. Many Americans incorrectly use a long “u” and a soft “shh” sound, and while this is acceptable in most English speaking countries, I like to use the authentic Italian version, complete with rolling R’s and gusto.

Now that we’ve got the pronunciation stuff out of the way, let’s move on to the dish itself. I recently hosted another birthday dinner for friends Joy, Joanna, Heari, and Teresa. Their birthdays stretched way back from February and into the future to May; everyone’s lives had just been too busy for us to coordinate dates. But finally, during a recent Saturday evening, we found ourselves seated around my farmhouse table sharing a meal together.

I decided to go with A Night in Tuscany as the theme since they all enjoy those ever-so-reputedly-bad-for-you carbs. For the first course of the four-course meal, I made this classic bruschetta dish. It turned out yummy; the red onion added a sweet yet pungent kick to each bite. I used Genovese basil fresh from our garden and a saltier, French butter on the baguette slices before baking. The creamy richness of the butter (which my dad bought for us from a Vietnamese grocery store) added an extra oomph to the bruschetta. Perfection in every bite. If the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

Recipe: Bruschetta

Summary: Original recipe courtesy of my friend Karen

Ingredients

  • 4 roma tomatoes, diced & strained
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • minced garlic (optional)
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • balsamic vinegar to taste
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 baguette, sliced into 3/4″ slices
  • melted butter
  • 1/8 c. grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a med. bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, and basil. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Toss well and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, spread butter on each baguette slice. Bake at approx. 350 degrees for 3 to 5 min. or until butter is melted and bread is lightly toasted.
  3. Top with tomato onion mixture. Add parmesan cheese on top if desired.

Variations

You can add minced fresh garlic to the tomato and onion mixture if desired. Italian food is known for the garlic, after all.

Cooking time (duration): 20

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: hors d’oerves

Culinary tradition: Italian

Microformatting by hRecipe.

shrimp & tomato linguine

Photo courtesy of Love to Cook



With half a bottle of chardonnay still left over from our wedding, I’ve been looking for recipes that call for dry white wine. In addition to using it on the scallops a la Julia Child and the mushroom risotto, I found this recipe online. It is also a good opportunity to use up the last of those ripened tomatoes from your garden. I am eating the leftovers as I type this entry, and the dish tastes even better after a day in the fridge.

Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.


Recipe: Shrimp & Tomato Linguine

Summary: Original recipe from Cindy in Pensacola on All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (optional)
  • 4 c. tomatoes, diced
  • 1 c. dry white wine
  • 1 portobello mushroom cap, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 (16 oz.) pkg. linguine pasta
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1 tsp. red chili pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic and onion and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, mushroom, and wine. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Once tomatoes have simmered into a sauce, add butter and season with salt & pepper.
  2. While tomato mixture is simmering, cook linguine according to directions for al dente pasta.
  3. Season shrimp with red chili pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Heat remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook shrimp until pink on the outside and no longer translucent in the center, about 5 minutes. Add shrimp into sauce, and serve over linguine with grated Parmesan if desired.

Quick Notes

My laziness screwed me again! Instead of dicing the tomatoes, I merely chopped them so they did not result in a sauce-like consistency. They were more like chunks. Make sure you chop them up into small pieces, about 1 cm. cubes, so they will soften and result in the right texture. Next time, I’m using the Magic Bullet.

My shrimp turned out slightly overcooked. (I seem to have this problem with shellfish.) The thing with shellfish is there is such a small window after it’s fully cooked but before it becomes too tough. I might have to look into this in a future blog post.

The preparation time below of 45 minutes excludes the shrimp peeling.

Variations

The original recipe didn’t call for onion nor mushroom, but I found some in the fridge and decided to add them. Onion and mushroom usually go well with any Italian-based dish, so why not?

The original recipe also called for Cajun seasoning instead of chili pepper flakes, but I like the less salty spice of pepper flakes more so switched it up.

I also was too lazy to devein the shrimp. (Us Asians tend to eat shrimp poop all the time.) Is it really that harmful for you? Sounds like a future blog post.

Cooking time (duration): 45

Diet type: Pescatarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: Italian

Microformatting by hRecipe.

mushroom risotto

Risotto is something you always hear about on those ever-so-popular reality cooking shows of late. You have the amateur chefs sweating over the hot stove, their arms tired from the constant stirring motion. And in the end, the judges always remark in their British accent that the risotto is “unduh-cooked, ovuh-cooked…” So of course, you avoid attempting risotto in your own kitchen.

Well, I’m here to tell you if the Blind can Cook it, so can you. Sure, it’s tedious–you willhave to stand over the stove and possibly sweat for an hour, and yes, your arms may ache. But if you’re tenacious and follow the fairly simple recipe, you will have restaurant-quality risotto. All it takes is time and patience.

This mushroom risotto was the accompaniment to the scallops for Jade and Uyen’s birthday dinner. Everyone raved about it; I think it was the favorite (with the exception of John since he isn’t fond of mushrooms). You can serve it as a side dish, but it’s good enough to eat alone. Thanks to Myleen on All Recipes for the original version. Remember: if the Blind can Cook it, so can you. Bon appetit!




Recipe: Mushroom Risotto

Summary: My version of the Gourmet Mushroom Risotto from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 6 c. chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 portobello mushroom caps, coarsely chopped
  • 1 reg. pkg. white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1.5 c. arborio rice
  • 1/2 c. dry white wine
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 stalk green onion or 3 tbsp. chives, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 c. parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan, warm chicken broth over low heat.
  2. Warm 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove mushrooms with their liquids, and set aside.
  3. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil into the large saucepan, and stir in shallots. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, add wine, stirring constantly until wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 c. broth to the rice, stirring constantly until broth is fully absorbed. Continue adding 1/2 c. broth at a time, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed and rice is al dente, about 45 to 60 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, cheese, and green onion or chives. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Cooking time (duration): 90

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: supper

Culinary tradition: Italian

Microformatting by hRecipe.

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