Penne with Smoked Salmon and Vodka Cream Sauce

 

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Hi fellow friends and bloggers, it has been a loooong time since I updated my blog!  For good reason though, this summer has been crazy busy.  In June I married my amazing fiancé and then embarked on our honeymoon to Asia!  What a wild ride, I wish I could do it all over again, but alas, my child needs schooling and so all good things must come to an end.

It’s been 8 months since we moved to Madrid, and that also has been super crazy, making new friends, my daughter is in a new school, hubby in a new job……and me, well I have a new blog!  From now on, all my sweet baking confections will be on San Luis Baking Co.  I hope you enjoy and visit!

So, for our recipe.  Another new adventure has been my potted tomato plants.  We eat tomatoes like they go out of style, but most importantly, my hubs and used to go crazy because finding Italian tomato varieties here is close to impossible.  On one trip to Italy, I bought three types of tomatoes, Pacchino Cherry, which is an heirloom from Sicily, small, but sweet as sugar; San Marzano, which hails from Campania (around Naples, Italy) and is one of the best varieties to make sauce; and Costoluto Fiorentino, which is a large heirloom from Tuscany which makes for a killer salad tomato!  I harvested the seeds, planted in the beginning of May, and voila! This has been my first foray into tomato gardening, and it has had its ups and downs, but I am amazed at the yield that I have had!  So our recipe today includes my cherry tomatoes, straight from the vine.  I know most of us don’t have tomatoes at home, so try to find the ripest, sweetest cherry tomatoes to make this dish.  The tomatoes’ acidity balances well with the mellow cream, and the smokiness of the salmon pairs perfectly in this dish, it’s a winner!

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So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 3-4

300g Penne Pasta

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp chili flakes

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup Vodka

200 ml heavy cream

100 g smoked salmon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp fresh Italian parsley, minced

In a large stockpot, put water and 1 tbsp salt to boil.  In a medium sauté pan over medium low heat, add the olive oil.  When hot, add the chili flakes and the garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 4 minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn.  Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for another 2 minutes.  Add the cherry tomatoes, salt and a 1/4 cup of water, and lower the heat to low.  Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the water has evaporated by half.

Raise the heat to high, and add the vodka and carefully light to flambe; to burn off all the alcohol.  Lower the heat to a minimum, and add the cream and stir.  Take off the heat and add the salmon, pepper and give it a good stir.  Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  When it is done, strain all but a tbsp of the water, and toss it in the pan with your sauce.  Raise the heat on your pan, and cook on high for about 2 minutes, until all the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce.  Sprinkle with the parsley, and serve immediately.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Cotoletta alla Milanese or Wiener Schnitzel

Cotoletta alla Milanese

 

Tomayto, tomaahto……let’s NOT call the whole thing off.  Which ever way you call it, it’s delicious.  The difference between the two dishes is minimal, in Austria, it is generally fried in butter, and in Italy in olive oil.  I prefer the Italian version, not because it is tastier, but mainly because it is healthier.  Either way, this is one of my favorite go-to dinners.  Super easy and quick, it marries perfectly with a simple arugula (rocket) and parmesan salad with a lemon -olive oil vinaigrette.

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If you are pressed for time, but are craving something sinful and filling, this may become your go-to dinner too!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 3

3 thin veal or beef cutlets, trimmed of fat

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

2 cups plain breadcrumbs

1/2 olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 150C.  Salt and pepper the cutlets, and in one bowl add the eggs, milk, Parmigiano and some more salt and pepper; mix well.  In another bowl add the breadcrumbs.  Place them side by side.

Dip your cutlet into the egg mix, and then in the breadcrumbs.  Pat the breadcrumbs in well.  Dip again in the egg mix, letting most drip off, and then dip back in to the breadcrumbs and pat them well, until slightly dried.  Place on a tray and repeat with the rest of the cutlets.

In a large, non-stick frying pan, add the olive oil; heat to medium.  When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the cutlet and fry for about 4 minutes, turn and fry for 4 minutes more.  Place on a heat proof plate in the hot oven while you fry the rest.

Serve with a side salad or potatoes if you’re really hungry!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Pesce al Acqua Pazza – Sea Bream in “Crazy Water” Sauce

Pesce al Aqua Pazza

Acqua Pazza is probably one of my favorite styles of baking fish.  I tried it in Positano for the first time, and I was so enthralled with it, it completely embodies what you want to eat in summer in the Mediterranean.

Acqua Pazza literally means, crazy water.  I guess the crazy part is that it has just a touch of chili pepper, but if that’s what crazy means, I am totally “loco” over it!

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Super simple to make, it will literally take you all of 40 minutes to make this.  Most of the ingredients you will probably have in your pantry already, all you need is some delicious super fresh fish.  We decided on this beautiful Red Sea Bream, very typical here in Spain.

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Easy enough for a weeknight meal, but spectacular for an early lunch now that the weather is warming up!   I hope you try it, cause I am sure you will be hooked too!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1  2kg whole firm fleshed white fish, such as Corvina, Snapper, Sea Bream, or Sea Bass.  Ask your fishmonger to clean it for you.

Salt and Pepper, to taste

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp chili pepper flakes

1/2 large onion, sliced

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tbsp capers

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp lemon juice

Lemon slices, for garnish

Pre heat the oven to 200 C.  Wash the fish thoroughly, inside and out.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place in a large baking dish.  Set aside.

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium low heat.  Add the chili pepper, onion, and garlic, and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the cherry tomatoes and raise the heat to high, stirring.  Add the white wine and capers, and cook for another 5 minutes, or until super fragrant.  Take off heat and add the 1/4 cup water and lemon juice.  Let cool for about 5 minutes, and pour over fish, add the lemon slices to the top.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, serve immediately.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Saveur Magazine Classic Recipes No.59- General Tso’s Chicken

General Tso's Chicken

As a child, every Friday night we would go to a Chinese restaurant with my father’s side of the family.  Nothing gave my father more pleasure than to order half the menu.  Of course, we would get the round table with the lazy susan, so no one had to really stretch that far to have all the different options he had ordered.  I, usually just ate a bowl of steamed peas or sautéed mushrooms.  Silly me. It wasn’t until I was about 10 that I discovered this dish, tangy, crispy, spicy and sweet all the same, I fell in love.

After moving to Spain, one of the things that I miss the most about living in the States, is good Chinese take out.  We do have Chinese take out, but it is nothing in comparison to the variety that we have back home.  It is such a shame, most of the time it all comes in a pool of its own oil, making everything soggy, bland and basically inedible.

So I was really happy to see that Saveur had included this recipe into their classics.  It took me a while to make, because finding the right ingredients here is quite difficult.  I still haven’t found somewhere close by to my house where I can buy them, but for this occasion I made an effort.  The only thing I couldn’t find were scallions.  Even in Barcelona they were hard to get!

So, on to the recipe.  I loved it.  Obviously less sweet than the restaurant version, this one was more tangy and it had such a great consistency.  Not overly spicy, which shocked me due to the amount of chili peppers I threw in, but that was great.  My family doesn’t tolerate spiciness as much as I do.  Surprisingly, my daughter was the one who enjoyed it the most.  Always the picky one, she even asked me to pack it up for lunch at school the next day.  My fiancé, however, not so much.  He hasn’t been exposed to the amount of Chinese food as I have, so his taste buds aren’t used to the complex flavours of this type of cuisine.  Nonetheless, it was delicious and a success!

Rankings:

Overall points: 7.6/10

Difficulty: Easy

Availability of Ingredients:  Easy for my American counterparts, a little harder for continental Europeans

Recipe:

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. chicken stock

7 tbsp. cornstarch

6 tbsp. rice vinegar

6 tbsp. tomato paste

5 tbsp. light soy sauce

4 1/2 tsp dark sou sauce

2 1/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 in cubes

3 1/2 cups plus 9 tbsp. peanut oil

3 egg yolks

2 tbsp. minced ginger

2 tbsp. minced garlic

16 chiles de arbol

2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

Thinly slice scallions, to garnish ( I used leeks)

1. Whisk stock, 1 tbsp cornstarch, vinegar, tomato paste, 3 tbsp light soy sauce, 1 tbsp dark soy sauce, and 3 tbsp water in a bowl; set aside.

2. Place remaining cornstarch and both soy sauces, chicken, 3 tbsp peanut oil, and egg yolks in a bowl; toss.  Pour 3 1/2 cups peanut oil in a 14″ flat-bottomed wok; heat over med-high heat until a deep fry thermometer reads 375 degrees.  Working in batches, add chicken; fry, tossing, until cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels; set aside.  Discard oil; wipe wok clean.

3. Return wok to high heat, and add remaining peanut oil.  Add ginger, garlic, and chiles; fry, stirring constantly, until fragrant and chiles begin to change color, about 30 seconds.  Add reserved sauce; cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken; fry, tossing constantly, until evenly coated with sauce, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in sesame oil.  Transfer to a serving plate; top with scallions.  Serves 2-3.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Blackberry and Cornmeal Muffins

Blackberry and Cornmeal Muffins

 

It’s been one of those weeks.  A pipe burst in our apartment, and we have had severe damage to our floors and walls.  Nothing like inept handymen sent by your landlord to further make a mess of the situation.  Apart from that, it’s been rainy, cold, and I’m kind of homesick.

That means it’s time for me to get baking, and make some feel good treats for breakfast so I can get my butt to the gym, whenever these lovely men think they’ll finish making holes in our floor!

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This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes cookbook.  I love the taste of blackberries, but don’t really enjoy eating them raw.  They are way too grainy and seedy for me, and store-bought always seem to be incredibly tart!  I always dream of walking through some field, and picking them off their bush, and taste the sweet ripeness that only the sun can provide.  Alas, the only time I have had contact with any wild blackberries is when my daughter brought back silk worms from school as a project.  I had no idea that they only ate blackberry leaves, so I had to hunt out a tree and pick the leaves so they wouldn’t die.  Even though I ABHOR any type of worm.  But, I just can’t let a living thing die, disgusting or not.

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Today we found an array of berries at the market, and I love me some blueberries for breakfast, but picked these up thinking I would make the muffins I saw in Martha’s book.  Brought them home, picked up the book, read the recipe and then realized I don’t have any cornmeal.  I only had Arepa flour.  (Arepas are Colombian cornmeal patties- delicious!)  Even though in Martha’s book it stated for cornmeal, I swapped it in, lessening the amount of sugar that the recipe originally called for.  The Arepa flour that I have has some sugar already in the mix.  I didn’t want them to be overly sweet, either, and I wanted to be able to taste the tartness I find unappealing in the raw berries.  It worked perfectly.  Nice and cornbread like, soft, fluffy, and moist, berries bursting when you take a bite.  Definite “picker upper” on a cold rainy day!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes

Makes 12-16 muffins

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup fine ground yellow cornmeal

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature

2 large eggs, room temperature

7 tbsp butter, melted and cooled

1 -2 containers (6 oz each) fresh blackberries

1. Preheat oven to 375 F (190C).  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.  Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar.  In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs and melted butter, pour over flour mixture, whisking to combine.

2.  Fill each lined cup with a scant 1/4 cup batter.  Top batter with blackberries (3-4 berries per cup), then sprinkle evenly with remaining sugar.

3.  Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until evenly browned on top, 20- to 25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before removing muffins.  They are best eaten the day they are baked, but will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Fusilli with Goat Cheese Cream Sauce, Bacon and Pistachios

Fusilli with goat cheese cream sauce, bacon and pistachios

 

Lately, with my dieting, work, guest blogging, wedding planning, exercising and dieting, I have been very uninspired to blog.  I mean, who would want to read a post about another chicken breast with spices and a salad????  That is my boring food life at the moment.

Last night though, after a grueling workout, I decided I was going to treat myself.  And treat myself I did.  Not only did I have pasta, that forbidden fruit in dietland, I had it with cream and cheese and bacon.  Yes folks, I went all out, threw caution to the wind and had myself a mini smorgasbord! I was actually planning on having another salad, I had some beets roasting in the oven, the goat cheese ready, the pistachios chopped, just waiting on my rucola to arrive, when I suddenly had a massive craving for pasta.  So, I combined the goat cheese, cream, pistachios with some bacon, and poured that goodness over some pasta.   Let me tell you, my family was happy.  They are not excited at all to be partaking in my diet.

So, if you’re not dieting and you feel like treating yourself too, here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

500g Fusilli pasta

1/2 tbsp Olive oil

4 slices of Bacon, finely chopped

2 tbsp of Pistachios, shelled and chopped

250ml Cream

Goat cheese, to taste

Parmesan Cheese

Salt and Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

In a large stock pot, bring water to boil.  Cook the pasta according to package directions.  In the meantime, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and bacon, and cook until it is crispy but not burnt.  Add the chopped pistachios and stir, cooking for another 3 minutes.

Lower the heat to low, and add the cream, goat cheese and salt.  Cook, stirring constantly until the cheese has melted completely.  Turn off heat.

Drain pasta, and toss with sauce.  Sprinkle with some black pepper and parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.

 

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

Saveur Magazine Classic Recipes No. 74 – Garides Saganaki (Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta)

shrimp

Sometimes, you come across a recipe and you read it and think, hmmm, ok, sounds nice but you really don’t think much of it.  Well, this one was like that for me.  Last night, with Paolo’s parents here on a visit, we decided to give it a try, and we were all spectacularly pleased with it.  First of all, it was super easy to prepare, and very quick.  If you have these ingredients on hand, you can make this dinner in 30 minutes, tops.  Secondly, the flavor!  Oh my lord…..the tomatoes and melted feta were heavenly, add to that the nuanced hint of the ouzo, it turned an already delicious dish into something more than special.  The secret to this dish is to really buy the best ingredients possible.  Since it only has about 8, and in small quantities, it really begs for you to go all out.

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One thing that I absolutely recommend you to do.  Have lots of fresh crusty bread on hand.  You’ll be sopping up this sauce for sure!

Overall points: 8.5/10

Difficulty: Easy

Availability of ingredients: Readily available, if you can’t find Ouzo, use any other anisette liqueur

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 small yellow onion, chopped

1/2 medium hot green chile, stemmed and finely chopped

1 1/4 cups canned whole, peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 large head-on shrimp (about 12 oz.) bodies peeled (heads and tail shells left intact), deveined

4 oz. Greek feta, coarsely crumbled

2 tbsp ouzo

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

1. Heat broiler to high.  Heat oil in an 8″ round metal gratin dish or a heavy ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and chile, and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, and season to taste with salt and pepper; cook until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

2. Arrange shrimp in dish, spoon some sauce on top, and continue to simmer until shrimp are pink and just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.  Scatter feta around shrimp, then transfer dish to broiler, and broil until feta begins to melt, about 2 minutes.  Remove dish from broiler.  Warm ouzo in a tiny pot over low heat, then ignite it with a kitchen match and pour over shrimp and feta.  When flames die out, garnish dish with parsley, and serve.  Serves 2.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

 

About 7 years ago, I had the most wonderful nanny, her name is Adrienn.  She hails from Hungary, and my daughter and I were lucky enough to be taught a few wonderful dishes that she prepares.  This salad is something fantastic.  Simple, easy, healthy.  It is a perfect side dish to many dishes, not necessarily Hungarian.

I remember her making this the way I assume her family taught her.  She didn’t use measuring spoons or cups, all she did to make the dressing was grab a glass and fill it with the desired quantities of what she needed.  I studied her closely, me being the perfectionist in the kitchen, and this was a challenge.  I am quite accustomed to making dishes that people have taught me this way, but still get a little nervous when they do.

I am going to share this recipe with you the best I know how, feel free to tweak it as you need, because to some it may lack salt, and to some it may be too sweet.  The one thing I do stipulate, as she said to me, please try to use Hungarian Sweet Paprika.  I am told it is the best!

Hungarian Paprika

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1 large cucumber, thinly sliced with a mandoline (or as thin as you can get it with your knife)

3/4 tbsp sugar (or to taste)

3/4 tbsp paprika

1/2 tsp salt or more to taste

Water

Distilled White Vinegar

Place the cucumber slices in a deep bowl.

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To the cucumber, add the 1/2 tsp of salt, and mix well with your hands, coating all the slices.  In a large drinking glass, fill half of it with water, and add the sugar and paprika.  Mix well until the sugar is completely dissolved.  You should have a very red liquid.  Add the vinegar a little at a time, until you reach your desired acidity, I think it should be at least a tbsp.  Add your dressing to the cucumber slices, and let marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

 

Your cucumber slices should be quite soft.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Bucatini all’ Amatriciana

Bucatini all"Amatriciana

This is another one of those favorite tried and true recipes of mine.  Frankly, the first time I tried Amatriciana I was in Miami, and how far from the reality it was.  The best Amatriciana I have ever had, is obviously, in Rome.  Hands down unbelievable.  That trip to Rome sealed my fate forever, because my daughter learned what a good Amatriciana and a good Carbonara was……so mom better learn how to perfect them quick, cause boy, she’s a food snob if there ever is one!

As many Italian dishes, it has dubious origins, some say the Swiss canton of Grisons, some say Amatrice…..and also, there is the onions/no onions?  Chili pepper/no Chili pepper?  I prepare it the way the Romans do.

Chili Pepper, one of these beauties that I brought back from Napoli

Chili Pepper from Napoli

 

And the other key ingredient, Guanciale (cured pork cheek).  Not bacon my friends, guanciale is the stuff of Gods.  If you’re not vegetarian that is.  Then it’s devil’s speak.

GuancialeAs you see, there is a lot more fat on pork cheek.  I mean, if you think about it, no one ever does cheek workouts……except for when we eat, so I guess that’s why there’s that teeny sliver of non fatty meat, for chewing effort.

And, I do use onions.  Only a bit, but that is how the Romans prepare it.  There is also a debate on what type of fat, olive oil, or lard?  Well, if you’re not afraid of it, go ahead and lard it up!  I do, it gives it a damn incredible pork-y taste, and hell, you’re not going to eat this everyday, so give your diet a break and eat some fat!

That said, it is a very very easy dish to prepare.  The beauty is in the simplicity of the ingredients.  The best tomatoes, the best guanciale, and of course, Pecorino Romano!  Don’t be putting on the northern neighbor Parmigiano, or some Roman might come flying into your kitchen and scream “ ti spacco la faccia!!! ” *

So, if you are so inclined, here’s what you’re going to need!

Serves 4

100g Guanciale, sliced or diced

1 small onion, minced

1 chili pepper, chopped

1/2 tbsp pork fat or olive oil

450g crushed tomatoes

Salt and Pepper to taste

400g Bucatini Pasta

Grated Pecorino Romano

 

In a large sauté pan, place the guanciale, onion and chili pepper, and pork fat or olive oil over medium high heat.  Cook until the onion is translucent, and the guanciale is golden.   Add the tomatoes, salt, and lower the heat to a simmer.

Bring the water for the pasta to boil.  Cook the pasta to 2 minutes before package directions.  Strain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the boiling water.  Add the Bucatini and the water to the sauté pan where you have the sauce, and turn up the heat to medium.  Cook, tossing the bucatini with the sauce until it coats it all evenly.

Serve with the freshly grated pecorino and pepper.

Buon Appetito!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

* That in Italian means, I smacka you face!

 

 

 

Cherry Tomato, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart

Cherry Tomato, Roquefort, and Caramelized Onion Tart

 

Last night we had a small gathering at a friend’s house, and since she offered up her wonderful roof top terrace, I wanted to chip in not only by bringing some wine, but making something to take to the party.   But, I also didn’t want to spend too much time cooking, since that is what I do everyday, for my family, and for work.  I do love what I do, but sometimes I just don’t feel like doing anything.

Well, this recipe is perfect for those situations, and it works just as well for dinner, or lunch in a pinch.  The prep time is absolutely minimal if you buy some store-bought pizza dough or Pate Brisee.  This leaves you plenty of time to enjoy your friends or family, and all you have to do is serve a salad to go with it, and you have an exquisite, easy meal.  Isn’t that the best?

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1 store-bought Pizza or Pate Brisee dough

1 box cherry tomatoes, halved

1 onion, sliced

1 small package blue cheese

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 sprig of thyme

3 tbsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, add the oil, sugar, thyme leaves, and the sliced onion.  Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until the onion is softened and turning golden.  Strain the onions, set aside.

Roll out the dough, and heat the oven according to package directions.  Place the sliced cherry tomatoes randomly over the dough, leaving a 2 inch border on all sides.  Top with the caramelized onions and the blue cheese.  Place on a baking tray in the middle rack of the oven.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until your dough is crisp.  Remove from the oven.  It’s best when eaten warm, not boiling.  And it tastes marvelous cold, too!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla