Saturday, October 31, 2009

Seafood and squash casarecce

Here's a light pasta with fresh prawns, scallops and squash, fresh herbs and casarecce

Chicken pineapple soup

Now that my Italian classes start at 7 pm, I'm back to making soups early evening, so I can have a bowl or two before I head out to class, and have another bowl or two when I return home around 9:30. Eating late is not the healthiest, but after some hours of Italian class, it's always nice to come home to some already prepared food, relax and fill the belly. Plus, I always feel like I burn a lot of energy after class. As soon as I climb into my car, I can feel my tummy grumbling....

I bought a big pineapple the other day, cut it up in slices and saved the core to make this soup.
Talk about being frugal!

This clear brothy soup is fragrant with a hint of sweetness that comes out of the pineapple. The chicken thigh holds enough flavor and tenderness when cooked.

Chunks of chicken thigh
pineapple core, cut into 3 - 4 pieces
2 - 3 odens, cut into pieces
sliced mushrooms
For some greens, I think Chinese mustard leaves would go great with this soup.

Halloween pappardelle

Our first Hallowen in Texas.

Couple of blocks down our neighborhood, there are lots of folks dressed up roaming the streets, bar hopping. We prepared lots of candy, but Michele and I have been the only trick-or treaters have came our way this weekend, and although we have had several Halloween costume ideas, none of them were actioned out. ( Just to throw out some of Michele's creative ideas: "Chunky Monkey", one of us would be chunky and the other be monkey, to pay our respect to Ben & Jerry....another was to dress up as Bobby Flay, wear an apron and have a blender of red sauce and another blender of green sauce) So it ended up just the two of us, enjoying a cozy relaxed Saturday night with some home cooking.

Our first Haloween in Texas, Italian pasta style.

Pappardelle ( thick egg pasta) with seasonal squashes, yellow squash and zucchini, combined with Italian sausages and red peppers...a colorful "fall" pasta for Halloween night.


4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, no casings
1 pound zucchini, julienned
1 pound summer squash, julienned
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 diced red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus sprigs, for garnish
Salt and pepper
1 pound fresh pappardelle
splash of any white wine


In a large stockpot over high heat, bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil.
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, cook 2 tablespoons of olive oil together with sausage. Cook until sausage is browned, about 6 minutes. Add zucchini, squash, onions, red pepper and 1/4 cup chopped basil and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the squash has begun to caramelize. Season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of white wine.
Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until just al dente. Drain reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Pour cooked pasta and 1/2 cup pasta water into the saute pan with the rest of the ingredients. Toss and serve!

We like our pastas peppery, so we added a couple of extra tablespoons of fresh cracked pepper, just enough to make our lips slightly perk when slurping in this pasta.

For the main course, we had veal chops, just simple salt and pepper, seared quickly on both sides and then popped into the oven. It was such a delicious, tender, milky, veal.....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Warm White Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding

This weekend, we were invited to a friends' house warming party, and I thought of making either a desert or quiche since we had two cartons of fresh eggs at home. I learned that the host had several savory appetizers lined up already, so I decided to go with a bread pudding. Bread puddings are one of the simplest deserts one could ever make! I thought of making the bread pudding in cupcake tins, to avoid the slicing/serving for the expected 50 - 60 guests.
It came out quite successful. One of the kind-hearted guests asked me if I was the bread pudding master! What a nice compliment - the best thing one could ever receive =)

This bread pudding is soft and moist, and the cherries cut the sweetness just nicely.

24 1/2-inch brioche, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries
8 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 stick of butter


Preheat oven to 400°F.
Bring cream, milk, and sugar to simmer in heavy large saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Whisk eggs in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot cream mixture into eggs. Whisk in Grand Marnier and vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg

Butter eight 1 1/4-cup soufflé dishes; arrange on rimmed baking sheet. For alternative, use cupcake baking dish. In another bowl, mix and crumble together brown sugar and butter

Place brioche cubes at the bottom of each dish. Top each with 1 heaping tablespoon of cherries. Sprinkle with white chocolate. Divide custard among dishes, using about 3/4 cup for each. Let stand 30 minutes, pressing down on bread occasionally. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture.

Bake bread puddings until tops are puffed and brown, about 40 - 50 minutes. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes.
Enjoy and serve warm. Pairs well with a caramel sauce or white chocolate sauce( but I personally am not a fan of caramel and gooey sauces) but this is yummy enough to stand on its own.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Reminiscing Portugal...making Cataplana

Two summers ago, Michele and I took a trip that became our most favorite - a two week adventure in Portugal. Portugal is such a gem - great wines, delicious seafood and pastries, a variety of beautiful beaches ( rocky cliffs and sandy ones), tile-covered houses, and gentle people. We spent most of our time in Lisbon and exploring Algarve and its beaches....and surprisingly, we found our love for Portuguese food, especially Cataplana, which is a savory stew. Of all the different Cataplanas we had, we enjoyed seafood and pork the most.

Me ( extremely tanned) with our very first Cataplana at a restaurant at Portimao
Tapas, Portuguese style, lots of seafood!

One of the posadas we stayed at...

This week, we decided to make amêijoas na cataplana, which is a clam, pork, sausage and bacon stew. Seafood and pork three ways! Making this dish would take us back to our wonderful trip we had in Portugal...the summer where we just went beach hunting, posada hopping, and ate lots of amazing food.

The recipe Michele worked on is inspired by Andrew McMeel's Cataplana, but of course, we made our own slight tweaks and added arborio rice....making a combination of Portuguese seafood and pork stew/ Risotto.....
1 can (28-ounce) Italian diced tomatoes
tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 (1/4-inch-thick) slices bacon, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 chopped yellow bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 jalapenos, diced
4 ounces andouille sausage cut into ¼-inch
dice 8 ounces pork tenderloin cut into ¼-inch cut
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
3/4 cup of Arborio rice
2 pounds little neck clams, cleaned
ciabatta bread


There's a specific cataplana pot, but since we did not have one, we used a dutch oven instead.

In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot enough to sizzle a piece of bacon. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the onion and red and yellow peppers and sauté, stirring, for 8 minutes, or until the vegetables are wilted and beginning to turn golden. Add the garlic and jalapeno, sauté for 2 - 3 minutes. Stir in the andouille and pork tenderloin and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Sprinkle with the paprika and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine, tomatoes, and parsley and bring to a boil. Add 3/4 cup of arborio rice. Decrease the heat to low and cook, for 30 - 40 minutes, or until liquid is slightly reduced, the sauce becomes thick and the rice is cooked. Spoon half of the sauce into the cataplana; spoon the clams on top. Spoon the remaining sauce on top. Secure the cover in place.

In the meantime, slice ciabatta bread and toast it in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.
Place the cataplana over medium heat and cook for 10 minutes, or until the clams have opened. Bring the cataplana to the table and, using oven mitts, carefully remove the cover. Discard any clams that failed to open. Spoon the clams, risotto and rich sauce into warmed shallow bowls and serve at once with toasted ciabatta bread.

With the jalapenos cooked in the stew, this dish is really spicy... its delicious because you can taste all the layers of sausage, bacon, bell peppers, and clams.... all so yummy with a depths of savory!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

birthday and cake, and carbonara

This is a first - got a lovely carrot cake for my birthday! loved it. I love, love carrot cake and it's so nice to have this instead of a heavy chocolate buttercream cake....( I feel less guilty while turning almost 30)

And believe it or not, we finished this entire cake by ourselves in 3 days
The day after my birthday, Michele made a yummy carbonara...

simply e delizioso

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Italian german hamburger

We have been doing quite a bit of jogging/running these couple of weeks, and especially dedicate a pretty good hour and half of jogging on Saturdays. Strangely, exercise makes me crave for more protein and meat. Luckily, I get pampered when Michele heads up the kitchen over the weekend to make some creative meals. Michele really likes a juicy, tender, spicy burger on crunchy ciabatta bread. Since we had sukiyaki last night and I had enough red meat for the weekend, Michele went with a combination of veal and pork for burger patties.

It was funny that when we arrived to Central Market, Michele told me that they were playing Italian pop songs. Next thing we knew, we saw these red and green tags placed everywhere in the grocery store, with Italy sprawled across I guess it was an Italian themed weekend for the store to promote Italian produce.


For the cherry tomato relish:
one box of cherry tomatoes
1 chopped garlic
1 chopped jalapeno
For the burger patties:
2-3 garlics, finely chopped
half pound of ground veal
half pound of ground pork
a splash of lager beer
1/4 pound of procsiutto
3/4 cup of Asiago Cheese , dice
salt and freshly ground pepper