Category Archives: Italian

Home is Wherever

Cabbage & Polenta

Cabbage and Polenta

Kitchen is set up, unpacked, and finally usable – and with that the first recipe from our new place in Baltimore!  While it took a fair bit of time to get to this point, it feels like things are finally get back on track with new routines and ways to do things.   With that I have been cooking in our new place but I’ve been relying on old favorites, things that I could easily put together while also working on the million other projects going on.   This recipe falls in to the category of old favorite, as I grew up eating it, but it took a bit of time to figure out how to make this vegetarian.  Cabbage and polenta was a family tradition, we knew that if my Grandma was visiting we would have this filling dish at least once.  I attempted to make it a few months ago ala veggie but the resulting taste just wasn’t the one I remembered.  I debated using a meat substitute but in the end I decided to stick with the vegetables and adjust the seasonings.

Home is Wherever

Serves 5-6

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 1/2 cups baby bella mushroom, quartered
  • 3 carrots, cut into thin round slices
  • 1 head green cabbage ( around 1 1/2 lbs), chopped
  • 1 14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes
  • 2 cups low sodium vegetable stock, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large and deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 7 minutes, allowing to garlic to turn golden. Add the dried spiced, then stir well and cook for a minute before adding the mushrooms.
  2. Cook for 7-10 minutes, mushrooms should be soft and onion golden, before adding the carrots and cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the spices from burning.
  3. Add the cabbage along with the stewed tomatoes, bay leaf, and 1 cup of the vegetable stock. Bring to a quick boil, then cover and turn heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes, adding more stock as needed. Remove lid, stir, and take a quick taste to see if seasonings need adjusted, adding salt & pepper as needed.
  4. Serve hot over the baked polenta.

Notes

Thick egg noodles can also be used in place of the polenta

http://www.dancingveggies.com/blog/2013/11/home-is-wherever.html

Growing up my Grandma would have made the polenta on the stove top, but I went for baked polenta in order to save time and energy.  I also added 1/2 tbsp of dried oregano to the recipe to give an extra kick – which worked perfectly!

You and Your

Vodka Sauce

Vodka Pasta

I would say that my garden has gone in to overdrive but that’s not entirely accurate.  While last year I was able to harvest a number of peppers and eggplants this has been the summer of tomatoes – producing in such insane numbers that I have started going to friend’s houses with at least a bag of red goodies to share.  I’m not sure why the other vegetables aren’t producing, but the tomatoes are doing their best to make up for them!  Last Friday I was stuck with a huge bowl of gorgeous Black Pearls, which are between a grape and a plum tomato size wise, and wanted to do something that would be quick and easy – and not heat up the kitchen too horribly.  After digging around in the pantries I decided to recreate one of my favorite sauces figuring that would take care of most of the tomatoes along with some of the fresh herbs I had picked that morning.  I don’t remember the first time I had vodka sauce but there has always been something about this smooth yet acidic sauce that makes me feel all warm inside – a big bowl of comfort if you will.  With all of the events of the past month this was exactly the type of dish I was craving, so I set to work researching vodka sauces to get an idea of the basic ingredients as well as how I could change it up to make the sauce my own.  I knew I wanted it on the spicy side, and that I wanted to avoid the cream that many recipes included (see I can listen to the doctor!), but other then that I just kept adding spices (and booze!) until it tasted just right.

Vodka Sauce

Serves: Makes 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, diced
  • 4 lbs tomato, 3 lbs peeled & 1 lb unpeeled (the meatier the better!)
  • 1 shot vodka (I used smirnoff)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp greek yogurt (coconut or cow - soy tends to give a bad aftertaste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 7-10minutes, garlic should be slightly golden. Add the tomatoes, cover, and allow to cook for 20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes to help break down the tomatoes.
  2. Turn heat to low and add the vodka along with the spices, then recover and cook for 10-15 minutes before stirring in the yogurt. Allow to cook for a final minutes, using an immersion blender if the sauce is too chunky.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper then serve with your favorite cooked pasta! Top with fresh basil, fresh grated cheese, fresh capers, or some more tomatoes!
http://www.dancingveggies.com/blog/2013/07/you_and_you.html

While I used skin on and skin off tomatoes to add texture, this recipe would also work well with just skin off tomatoes or canned tomatoes if recreating outside of tomato season.    I’m also sending this recipe over to /52weeksofcooking for their tomato week, though I am a day late.  Hoping that this bowl of comfort will also help to get me back on track as I have sooooo many delicious recipes to share!

Note: in order to keep this recipe gluten-free make sure to use a pure-potato, corn, or grape vodka such as the ones on this list.

To the Beat

Beet Risotto 

Beet Risotto

I have this habit of becoming borderline obsessed with something and then trying to incorporate it into everything.  Be it a type of food or a cooking technique or a serving style – I enjoy exploring all aspects with something before pushing it to the back burner.  With my recent beet discovery lots of food has been turning pink around here, as I try to figure out which ways of cooking beets are acceptable and which ways are just not for me.   One of my favorite ways to experiment with a new food is to use it in preparations that I’m familiar with: pasta, omelettes, pizzas, and grain dishes.  While I’m not quite brave enough to try beet pizza this week I decided to give beet risotto a whirl, figuring beets are the perfect local ingredient for two blog challenges I’m participating in.  The first one is for the weekly challenge sponsored by /52weeksofcooking while the other is the awesome monthly challenge Simple and in Season which is hosted by the incredible Ren.  Beets are just starting to come into season here in the DC area, and I’ve been snatching them up for my experiments.  By time I had my beet realization it was too late for this growing season but I’m planning to add some to next year’s garden – along with the carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant that are currently growing.

Beet Risotto

serves 4-5

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used almond but dairy or soy would work)
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 3/4 cup beets, shredded with "juice"
  • pepper
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and fresh herbs and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the herbs from burning. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes, make sure to coat the rice in the oil.
  2. Meanwhile heat the vegetable stock in a small saucepan over medium heat (for best results try to match the temperature of the stock to the rice mixture)
  3. Add the white wine and milk and continue to stir. Once liquid has been absorbed begin to add the vegetable stock, 1/2 cup at a time, always letting it absorb before adding more and continuing to stir. After adding around 3 cups add the beets then taste the rice for consistency, and continue to test every 1/2 cup until reaching the desired texture.
  4. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Top with freshly ground pepper and/or Parmesan cheese and enjoy!
http://www.dancingveggies.com/blog/2013/06/to-the-beat.html

I have to admit one of my favorite parts of this dish might be watching the dish go from a basic cream to a vibrant magenta.  However my favorite damask apron is not appreciating this new addition to the kitchen so I might have to start looking for a more beet tolerant apron.  Anyone have any suggestions?!?!

Simple and in Seasom

New Friends

Spinach & Zucchini “Lasagna”

Spinach & Zucchini Pasta Bake

Bonus Secret Recipe Club entry!!!!  I’m a member of Group A of the Secret Recipe club but this month I was called in to assist a member of Group B that wound up orphaned.  As soon as I saw the name of the blog I knew I was in for a delicious treat as Heather’s Fit  Mama Real Food blog is stuffed with healthy and easy dishes.  I drove right in to her recipe page as I knew I had no time to lose with this – I needed to pick a WOW recipe NOW.  With the help of my husband I was able to narrow it down to a few (applesauce! refried beans!) options (carrot cake DONUTS!!!), all of which only required a quick stop by the store on the way home.  In the end I avoided the cream cheese icing (seriously??? carrot cake donuts!!!) and went with a healthy dinner option: Spinach and Zucchini Lasagna.  I had to make a few changes to the recipe (ricotta for cottage cheese) and also changed it from a lasagna to a pasta bake since I wanted the dish to be done before the incoming storm (and potential power loss).  Honestly this recipe is more like two recipes since you get a simply awesome tomato sauce as a bonus!

Spinach and Zucchini Pasta Bake

serves 4-5

Ingredients

  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 zucchini, diced into moons (sliced in half length ways, then small moon shaped pieces)
  • 4 cups frozen spinach, thawed and the excess water pressed out
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 16 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 lb whole white rigatoni
  • 12 ounces low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. In a medium pot over medium-low heat, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sauce, garlic, basil and half the sea salt. Simmer uncovered while you prep the remaining ingredients.
  2. Add the zucchini to a medium skillet (coated with olive oil spray) and cook over medium-high heat until the zucchini is browned and soft. Set aside. Add the onion next and cook until soft and translucent. Set aside.
  3. In a large pot, boil water and cook noodles until al dente - drain and set aside.
  4. Combine ricotta chese with eggs, pepper, the remaining sea salt, and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl or food processor.
  5. Place a scoop of the tomato sauce in a 13×9 in baking dish, making sure to spread it along the bottom and up the sides of the dish. Spoon in a third of the noodles, then a third of the ricotta cheese (spreading evenly), following with another spoonful of sauce. Repeat - finish the final layer with the grated mozzarella cheese.
  6. Bake at 375 for 30-35 min. Let stand 5-10 minutes before digging in!
http://www.dancingveggies.com/blog/2013/06/new-friends.html

Make sure to check out Heather’s blog for all her delicious recipes – as well as pictures of her adorable baby.



Let it Burn

Cannelloni al Forno

Cannelloni al Forno

Nothing like an Italian challenge to get back in the swing of things!  It’s been a bit of a challenge getting everything back in order, as I’m used to having at least a week’s worth of recipes ready at any time.  While I had prepared a number of posts for while I was on my trip I didn’t take in to account the adjustment time once I returned.  So with that in mind I have been going on a cooking/baking rampage in order to insure no more gaps in posts.  Thankfully I had a few blog challenges waiting for me when I got back, including the Italian challenge from r/52weeksofcooking.  I knew rather early on that I wanted to do a stuffed pasta, and that I wanted to focus on seasonal greens for the stuffing.  I decided to go with canneloni and two varieties of chard along with some young spinach.

Canneloni al Forno

Serves 5-6

Ingredients

  • 16 canneloni (fresh or dried)
  • 2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 basil leaved, chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/2 cup red swiss chard (or rainbow chard)
  • 1/2 cup fordhook swiss chard
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup bechamel sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce

Instructions

  1. Preaheat oven to 375. Depending on type of noodle being used, precook and allow to cool before stuffing.
  2. While noodles are cooling mix together the ricotta, basil, onion, garlic, and greens in a large bowl. Add the egg and continue mixing.
  3. Stuff the canneloni with the cheese mixture, about 3 tbsp in each noodle and place in a single layer on the bottom of a 10x11 or other casserole dish. Top with the two sauces then cover in foil and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and then bake for a final 10 minutes, edges of the dish should start to brown and the sauce should be bubbling.
  4. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes then serve and enjoy!
http://www.dancingveggies.com/blog/2013/05/letitburn.html

As an added bonus a friend joined us for dinner, supplying an amazing salad that went perfectly with the pasta and some sourdough bread.  Nothing like sharing a great meal with friends!