Pasta Primavera

Pasta primavera is an easy dish to prepare and there are many variations. Primavera means spring in Italian. This dish makes me think of the famous painting by Sandro Botticelli, La Primavera (The Allegory of Spring) which takes up an entire wall in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. The dish is made with fresh vegetables, pasta and a light sauce. I reserve some of the water from the pasta and use that along with grated Parmesan cheese for the sauce.

Botticelli Primavera from Wikipedia

La Primavera

Pasta Primavera

  • 1/2 Lb. rotini pasta
  • 1 zucchini sliced and cut in fourths
  • 1 yellow squash sliced and cut in fourths
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper chopped
  • 20 cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 5 fresh basil leaves chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta al dente and save some of the pasta water (1/4 cup). Prepare all your vegetables and roast in the oven on 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Slice tomatoes in half. Mix the cooked pasta, roasted vegetables, sliced tomatoes, garlic powder, basil, salt and pepper, pasta water and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl and serve. This dish can be served warm or cold.

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This dish is plated on a plate I purchased in Florence, Italy at Rampini Ceramics.  I purchased a set of their dishes in 2002 which was located at Piazza Ognissanti which is the location of the Church of all Saints where Sandro Botticelli the aforementioned artist is buried.

Rampini 1

Rampini 2

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Easter Baking

Are you going to do any baking for Easter this year? Baking cookies for Easter is my favorite occasion for decorating cookies with royal icing. My inspiration came from a set of springtime cookie cutters which have a lamb, bunny rabbit and a butterfly. Since Easter is only a little over a week away, it’s time to get inspired. Here are some sugar cookies I’ve made in the past. I use Martha Stewart’s sugar cookie and royal icing recipe. I better get busy if I am going to bake any this year.

Easter Cookies 2008

Easter Cookies 2008

Easter Cookies 2009

Easter cookies 2009

Easter Cookies 2011

Easter cookies 2011

Easter Cookies 2014

Easter cookies 2014

Easter Cookies 2015

Easter cookies 2015

 

Easter Cookies 2016

Easter cookies 2016

 

Caponata (Eggplant Appetizer)

When I was growing up my mother purchased this all the time in a can. I remember how happy she looked when she was eating it. I remember how pretty the purple eggplant was on the can too. She never prepared it since none of us kids would have eaten it. I don’t like anchovies so my version does not have any in it. My mother also ate sardines out of a can while us kids would watch her in amazement.

Caponata

  • 1 Italian eggplant sliced into 1″ cubes
  • 2 cups chopped cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup celery chopped
  • 1/2  cup yellow onion chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced green olives
  • 1 Tbsp capers
  • 1/8 cup white vinegar
  • 1 – 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • Olive oil for sauteing
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Optional: Slice one zucchini into 1/2″ discs , roast and place on a piece of bread and cover with the eggplant appetizer.

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Cook the eggplant in olive oil for 10 – 15 minutes until it turns brown and set aside. Saute the celery and onion in a pan for 10 minutes.  Put the eggplant, celery, onions, olives, capers, vinegar, tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper in a sauce pan and cook for 20 minutes on low. This can be served cold or warm with crackers, bread or over pasta.

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Pesto & Smoked Salmon Bruschetta

This is my favorite bruschetta and it has my favorite ingredient in it . . .  CAPERS!

Pesto

  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup roasted pine nuts
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor until the pesto is creamy and smooth. Add more oil if you want your pesto more fluid.

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Smoked Salmon Bruschetta

  • 1 French Baguette
  • 1 – 4 oz. package smoked wild sockeye salmon
  • 1 red onion minced
  • 1 jar large capers
  • 1 – 8 oz. container mascarpone cheese
  • prepared pesto
  • olive oil for bread

Slice the baguette in 1/2 slices. Place the slices on a baking sheet, spread olive oil on each slice with a pastry brush and heat in the oven on 350 degrees for 5 – 10 minutes to warm them. Remove bread slices from oven and spread a thin layer of mascarpone cheese, a layer of pesto, cover with a piece of smoked salmon and sprinkle with minced red onions and capers and serve immediately.

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Spinach Salad with Caramelized Pecans & Avocado Dressing

Spinach Salad

  • 1 bunch of baby spinach
  • 1 cup pecans caramelized
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes
  • 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

Wash, rinse and dry spinach. Cut pecans in half, heat butter and brown sugar in a small skillet and stir until caramel in color. Add the pecans and continue to stir until they ar coated. Remove pecans and set on a flat surface to cool. Slice the grapes in half. Toss the spinach, cheese, grapes and pecans together in a large bowl and serve with dressing.

Avocado Dressing

  • 1 ripe hass avocado
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. The dressing will be thick. If you want it more fluid add more water.

 

 

Chicken Piccata

This is an easy dish to prepare with simple ingredients. However, you must like capers. I cannot say enough good things about capers. Whenever I have this dish at a restaurant there are never enough capers on it. For some reason they are treated like little nuggets of gold. That is one reason to make it at home. Also I only purchase the large capers so I get more of the flavor of them. I added a simple steamed vegetable medley of baby carrots, yellow and zucchini squash.

Chicken Piccata with Steamed Vegetables

  • One chicken breast pounded out flat
  • Flour to dredge the chicken breast in
  • Juice of one half of a lemon
  • 1 Tbsp of butter
  • 1 Tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp of white wine
  • 1 Tbsp large capers
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pound out the chicken breast on a cutting board until it is flat and dredge it in white flour to coat it on both sides. Add olive oil and butter to a saute’ pan. Add the chicken breast to the pan and cook until it turns golden brown on both sides. Remove the breast from the pan and add the white wine to the sauce in the saute’ pan and stir it in. Then add the capers and warm them in the pan. Add the lemon juice to the pan. Pour the sauce over the chicken breast and serve immediately.

Chicken Piccata Prep

Chicken Piccata

Caramelized Onion & Gorgonzola Cheese Flatbread

Caramelized Onion & Gorgonzola Cheese Flatbread

  • 1 Lb. Prepared Pizza Dough (purchase in deli section of grocery store)
  • 1 red onion caramelized in butter
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives sliced
  • 1/2 cup sun sugar or cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • 1 tsp. Italian spice
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice onion into thin slices and saute’ in butter for several minutes until the slices turn brownish purple in color. Slice olives in half lengthwise. Slice tomatoes in half. Roll out the pizza dough using flour and a rolling-pin into a rectangular shape the size of a baking sheet. Coat the bottom of a baking sheet with olive oil. Place the dough on the baking sheet. Coat the flatbread dough with olive oil. Spread all the toppings on the dough placing the cheese and spice mix last.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until the dough is golden brown on the edges. This is delicious served warm or cold.

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