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Butternut Squash & Mint Fusilli

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On November 17, 2015 0 Comments

Thanksgiving is about the Fall harvest – its abundance and our gratitude. Typical vegetables used for this great feast are cranberries, nuts, potatoes, yams, pumpkin and squash.

Most of us incorporate these food ingredients into the dishes from our heritage. Many of you already know that we Italians begin a meal with pasta. And so, on Turkey Day, my first course will be Butternut Squash and Mint Fusilli. It’s fresh, fast and easy. Buon Appetito to all of you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Prep time: 20 to 25 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

4 cups chopped butternut squash (cut into 3/4-inch cubes)
3 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 pound fusilli pasta (this can be substituted with another variety of short pasta)
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons slivered, fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Prepare the Butternut Squash:
1. Place the butternut squash cubes in a 2-quart saucepot; cover with water.

2. Cover the sauce pot and bring the squash to a boil.

3. Boil the squash for 3 to 5 minutes or until it is crunchy-tender when pierced with a fork.

4. Drain the squash and transfer it to a glass or porcelain bowl to cool for about 10 minutes.

5. After 10 minutes, in a 12-inch, nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil.

6. When oil is hot (but not smoking), add the cubed butternut squash and stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes.

7. After 3 to 4 minutes, toss in the crushed garlic and cook for 1 more minute; set the skillet with the squash aside.

Boil & Assemble the Pasta:
1. Meanwhile, bring a 4 to 5-quart sauce pot of water to a boil.

2. When water boils, add 3/4 teaspoon salt to the water and the fusilli pasta.

3. Cook the fusilli pasta for 8 to 10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente or crunchy-tender.

4. As the pasta cooks, warm up the butternut squash in skillet on moderate to low heat.

5. After 8 to 10 minutes, drain the fusilli pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the boiling liquid.

6. Toss the drained fusilli pasta into the butternut squash in skillet; add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved liquid and toss to warm through.

7. When pasta and butternut squash are warmed through, taste and add more salt (if needed) and a dash of ground black pepper.

8. Divide the pasta among 4 to 6 bowls and garnish with slivered mint leaves.

9. Ask guests to add some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to their Butternut Squash & Mint Fusilli.
White Wine Pairing: chilled Fiano di Avellino or Pinot Grigio.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

Burger Bliss

In Fun Foods, Sandwiches, Panini & Burritos On August 21, 2010 10 Comments

Last week, while in La Jolla, California, my husband and I decided to stop at a deli for lunch. Since our server spent so much time raving about the burgers (the house specialty), it was clear that I should try the turkey burger. I anticipated being served a delicious burger made with choice meat, garnished with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions, etc. However, I soon found myself biting into a leathery, salty patty containing equal parts dry meat and overcooked rice grains. I must admit that my dog, Enzo, is served better meat than that!

A few days later in Los Angeles, I decided to have the burger my way – I combined ground turkey with fresh veggies, herbs and spices. As I bit into my deli specialty, I finally experienced that long awaited burger bliss.

1/2 medium brown or white onion
1/2 small zucchini
1/2 medium carrot, peeled
1 pound extra lean ground beef or dark ground turkey meat (organic meat preferred)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 large eggs, beaten with 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (optional)
Dash ground cumin and ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. In a food processor, grind together the onion, zucchini and carrot until finely chopped.

2. In an 3-quart glass or porcelain mixing bowl, combine the chopped ingredients with the ground meat, mint, parsley, salt, bread crumbs, chipotle chiles, cumin and nutmeg with a fork until mixture is uniform.

3. With wet hands, divide meat mixture into six portions.

4. Shape each portion into 4 to 5-inch patties, about 1/2 inch thick; set aside on a platter.

5. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Cook patties in two batches on medium high heat, 5 to 7 minutes per side.

6. To test doneness, press down on one burger with a spatula. If juices run clear, the burgers are done.

7. Place burgers inside panini rolls and place on a serving platter; transfer to dining table.

6 panini bread rolls preferred
2 tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
1 red onion, finely sliced
6 lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
Condiments (catsup, mustard, relish)

1. On a serving platter, arrange the sliced tomatoes and onions alongside the lettuce.

2. Place the platter and the condiments next to burgers on table. Ask each guest to garnish their own burger.

Serve burgers with a side of fries or gourmet veggie chips.

Note: Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce are sold in a can and are found in the ethnic foods section of most supermarkets or in Latin American grocery stores.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Fancy Fennel Salad

In Salads On August 17, 2010 3 Comments

Due to the pronounced anise flavor of fennel, it has always been difficult for me to eat this bulb. I discovered that if I combine fennel with other ingredients, such as lemon, olive oil, and mint, it transforms into a delicious food. Recently, I arranged it on a plate with tomatoes and oranges. The color scheme turned out very lively and the fennel salad – quite fancy.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

2 fennel bulbs, green stems discarded
2 vine-ripened tomatoes
4 medium oranges, peeled, rind removed
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
4 tablespoons finely shredded mint leaves
12 assorted pitted olives (I use 6 kalamata and 6 green olives)
1. Using a potato peeler, lightly peel outer section of fennel bulbs.

2. On a cutting board, slice the bulbs lengthwise, making 1/4-inch thick pieces; set aside.

3. Cut tomatoes and oranges into 1/4-inch thick slices and arrange them with fennel slices, intermittently, on a plate.

4. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

5. Finish the salad with a sprinkle of shredded mint leaves and garnish with olives.

Serve Fancy Fennel Salad alongside Salmon Nicoise Salad; Kiwi, Mozzarella & Papaya Skewers; or Roasted Peppers (recipes previously published by The Kitchen Buzzz).

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real