Category:  Fun Foods

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Pasta alla Messicana

In Fun Foods, Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On April 16, 2010 0 Comments

In the summer of 2007 I worked at my aunt’s restaurant, La Locandina, located in Southern Italy. Having been exposed to Mexican cuisine for many years in California, I decided to bring ingredients to make foods from south of the border. When I prepared and served Mexican food, the Italians went wild over new flavors such as cilantro, avocados and chiles, especially in this pasta dish that I created. Make my Mexican pasta and post comments to let me know how your guests liked it!

Prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
3 large vine-ripened tomatoes, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, rinsed and chopped (measure first, then chop)
1-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound any variety short pasta
2/3 cup frozen peas
2/3 cup whole kernel corn, frozen
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned (cut into matchsticks)
1 large ripe avocado (peeled and cut into cubes or slices at serving time – this prevents blackening)
2 fresh Serrano chiles, finely chopped and set in a small serving bowl
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, set in a small serving bowl

1. In a 4-quart pot, bring 10 cups of cold water to a boil.

2. In the meantime, combine the tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, 3/4 teaspoon salt and olive oil in a large porcelain or glass serving bowl. Toss lightly and set aside.

3. Add pasta and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the boiling water and cook on medium heat, uncovered and stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes or until pasta is al dente (crunchy tender).

4. After 8 minutes, add the peas, corn and carrot to the pasta during the last minute of the boil (if softer pasta is preferred, cook another minute or two).

5. Drain the pasta, peas, corn and carrot in a colander.

6. Transfer the pasta and cooked vegetables to the bowl containing the tomato mixture. Toss lightly and taste.

7. Serve in individual bowls and garnish pasta with the avocado. Ask guests to add chiles and cheese, if desired.

Accompany this exciting pasta dish with your choice of red or white wine.

Buon Appetito!
Buen Provecho!

Tips:

To avoid overcooking pasta, begin tasting it after a 6-minute boil. Most pasta varieties require an 8 to 10 minute-boil.
When cooking pasta containing durum wheat semolina, there is no need to add oil to the water.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Hummus Heat with Pitas & Vegetables

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods, Vegetables On April 9, 2010 4 Comments

Hummus is a garbanzo bean dip from Mediterranean countries but has now become popular all over the world. Even kids are reaching for a pita wedge or a carrot stick to dip in hummus. My addition of the chipotle chile accounts for the “heat”. Make Hummus Heat for your friends and family and watch it disappear in moments.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Makes: 2-1/2 cups

Ingredients:
1-1/2 to 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained -or-
One 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
4 tablespoons sesame Tahini*
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Juice of 1 small lemon
1/2 chipotle chile** in adobo sauce
2 fresh parsley sprigs
2 to 3 six-inch pita breads, cut into wedges
4 to 5 celery stalks, peeled and julienned
2 to 3 large carrots, peeled and julienned
1 large or 5 small Persian cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick circles

1. In a food processor, blend the garbanzo beans, tahini, garlic, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, lemon and chiles to a grainy paste.

2. Taste and adjust olive oil, salt, lemon and chipotle chile levels (you may add more, to taste).

3. Transfer the hummus to a 3-cup serving bowl. Make a small well in center (about 1/2-inch deep) and fill it with olive oil; place parsley sprigs as garnish in center of olive oil in well.

4. Serve as an appetizer, accompanied by pita wedges, celery, carrots and cucumbers.

Tip: For a thinner consistency, add more olive oil or 1 tablespoon of sour cream.

Note: “Cooked garbanzo beans” refers to dry garbanzos and following package cooking instructions.

*Sesame tahini is a paste made with ground sesame seeds and can be found in the ethnic foods section of large supermarkets or in Middle Eastern grocery stores.

**Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce are sold in cans and can be found in the ethnic foods section of large supermarkets or in Latin American grocery stores.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Nancy’s Express Tomato Bruschette

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods On March 26, 2010 1 Comment

 TomatoesfromGardenWatermark

One night last week I came home from work late and realized I had not prepared dinner in advance – I usually do this a day earlier. I looked around my kitchen and spotted some ripe tomatoes in a basket. I made these bruschette (Italian for “toasts”) in a rush – 10 minutes.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
8 one-inch thick slices Italian bread
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
4 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped red onion (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or Italian parsley leaves
3 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup grated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano)

1. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and position 6 inches away from top oven broiler-grill.

2. With oven setting on “broil”, toast the bread slices on one side only.

3. Transfer the bread slices onto a platter and drizzle them lightly with some oil; set aside.

4. In a medium bowl, gently toss together the tomatoes, onion, chopped basil or parsley with 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper.

5. Taste and adjust oil and seasonings.

6. Spoon equal amounts of the tomato mixture over the bruschette and top with some cheese.

Serve immediately.

Note: Traditional bruschette recipes begin with the rubbing of a cut clove of garlic on each slice of bread, followed by the toasting procedure.

Tip: To remove the bite but not the flavor from sliced or chopped raw onions, place them in a bowl of cold water, give them a squeeze and drain. Use in recipe as directed.

Text ©2010 Nancy Real