Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

Roasted Wild Mushrooms

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Here is another easy to prepare side dish. Mushrooms are considered to be a “superfood” due to their nutritional benefits, so you can feel great about eating this delicious and healthy side dish.

Roasted Wild Mushrooms

12 to 16 ounces of your favorite wild mushrooms
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Rinse and gently pat dry the mushrooms. Drizzle with a little olive oil, add a sprinkle of salt and a grind or two of fresh pepper.

Roast at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes (the size and type of mushroom will make a difference, so watch carefully).

From left to right: Velvet Pioppini, Nebrodini Bianco, Shiitake, and Forest Nameko mushrooms.

From left to right: Velvet Pioppini, Nebrodini Bianco, Shiitake, and Forest Nameko mushrooms.

You can roast the larger mushrooms whole and add the smaller mushrooms after 10 minutes or so. You could also slice the larger mushrooms and cook them all about 15 to 20 minutes. There is such variation in the mushrooms that it might take a little trial and error to get them to your liking. We cooked all of these at the same time and the smaller mushrooms (Velvet Pioppini & Forest Nameko mushrooms) were a little more cooked that I would have liked, but they were still delicious.

Serving suggestion ... serve on top of pasta with a brown butter sage sauce.

Serving suggestion … serve on top of pasta with a brown butter sage sauce.

To make a brown butter sage sauce for pasta, place 1 tablespoon of salted butter in a heavy bottomed pan and heat on medium-high heat until the butter begins to bubble and turn golden brown and cook until the butter is a deep golden brown. Watch carefully as the butter can go from perfect to scorched very quickly. Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, whisk together, and allow to heat through. Add about 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh sage and cook just a few minutes on medium-low heat to infuse the sage flavor throughout. Add the cooked pasta and gently toss to coat. Portion the pasta onto plates and top with the roasted mushrooms. Garnish with fresh sage.

A Glorious Day for a Ride

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Yesterday was cold, wet, and windy. Today was glorious. The air was clean and fresh, the sun was warm, and the breeze was gentle. It was perfect weather for an afternoon ride. Overall, this was a pretty good weekend!

I enjoyed a rare trip to the Davis Farmer’s Market.

Romanesco Broccoli ... something about the light at this display really caught my eye.

Romanesco Broccoli … something about the light here really caught my eye.

I had a craving for lamb, so I picked up a nice piece at my local Costco. I marinated it in some coffee, herbs, red wine, and balsamic vinegar. I cooked a bit of it last night and served it with spinach fettuccine, a rustic charred heirloom tomato sauce, and wild mushrooms.

Rustic Lamb Hunter-Style Pasta Dish ... what would you call this? It was amazing. The photo does not even begin to do it justice.

Rustic Lamb Hunter-Style Pasta Dish … what would you call this? It was amazing.

The photo does not even begin to do this dish justice. If I may say so myself, it truly was at least as good as any dish I’ve had in any restaurant.

The rest of the lamb marinated overnight and is now in a pot of Irish Lamb Stew made with Stout and Coffee. It smells delicious. I’ll be serving it shortly on a bed of Colcannon (simply smashed Yukon Gold potatoes with some baby kale mixed in). Photos to follow.


Chicken Cacciatore Recipe

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

This is a very rustic and comforting meal. It’s pretty easy to cook and makes for a wonderful post-ride recovery dinner in cold weather.

“Cacciatore” means “hunter” in Italian, and is typically made with either chicken or rabbit. You could easily make this vegetarian or vegan by omitting the meat and making some good, hearty mushrooms the star of the dish. There are nearly as many different recipes for Chicken Cacciatore as there are cooks who make it, and some of us have several variations of our own recipes. Here’s one way I make it.

Chicken Cacciatore
serves 4-6

1 1/2 pounds of chicken, bone in, skinned
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and cubed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (more if you dare!)
1 large carrot, shredded
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup dry wine (white or red, your preference)
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 bay leaf
3 large sprigs of fresh thyme
2 large sprigs of fresh parsley (optional)
2 to 6 ounces of tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
fresh chopped thyme & parsley, for garnish

Mis en place:  prepare and assemble all of your ingredients.

Skin the chicken, pat dry with paper towels, season with a little salt and pepper. Be careful to not over season at this stage. Cover and keep refrigerated until you’re ready to cook them.

Remember to always wash your hands, cutting boards all utensils thoroughly with hot soapy water after handling raw chicken. 

Clean and prepare your vegetables, keeping each one separate for now. Cut the fennel into about 1/2-inch cubes. Shred the carrot (or if you prefer, slice into 1/8-inch thick slices). Trim and slice the mushrooms into about 1/4-inch thick slices. Chop your tomatoes.

I have been using a mixture of heirloom cherry tomatoes lately, but you really can use any kind of fresh tomato for this. Keep in mind that some tomatoes have more liquid than others, so this is where the tomato paste comes into play. If your tomatoes are very juicy, you’ll want a little more of the tomato paste than if they’re on the dryer side.

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium high heat. Place the chicken in the pan and brown on both sides. This will take about 5 to 10 minutes. Remember that you’re not cooking the chicken all the way at this step, just beginning to develop some flavors by browning the meat. Remove the chicken, set on a clean plate, cover and set aside while you cook the vegetables.

Using the same pan, if necessary add about half of the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic and cook very briefly, being careful to not burn it. Add the fennel and stir to coat with the oil. Caramelize it a bit to bring out the natural sweetness, but be careful to not burn it.

Caramelize the fennel to bring out the natural sweetness.

I love fresh fennel, but if you don’t, feel free to substitute onion.

Add the fennel seeds and chili flakes; stir to combine well. Transfer the fennel to a large bowl and cover to keep warm. Add the carrots to the pan and saute just to lightly brown and soften them a bit. Remove from the pan and add to the cooked fennel. If necessary, add the remaining olive oil to the pan and allow to heat a bit. Now add the mushrooms and cook until browned.

Now return all of the cooked vegetables to the pan, stir to combine well, and add the wine. Raise heat to high and cook until most of the wine has evaporated. This should take at most a minute on high, so watch carefully at this step.

Reduce heat to medium and add the chopped tomatoes, bay leaf, sprigs of thyme and parsley. Stir to combine well. Return all of the vegetables to the pan, stir to combine well. Add the chicken. Bring the entire mixture just to a boil and then reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes. You’ll want to cook this until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and tender.

Check the consistency of the sauce. If you want it to be a little thicker, then add some tomato paste. Add about 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired thickness. Then, season to taste with salt and pepper.

This is a very rustic and chunky sauce. Feel free to puree it a bit before adding the bay leaf, whole sprigs of herbs, and chicken. It’s entirely up to your preference.

I like to serve this over a good quality whole grain or spinach pasta. It’s great with a crispy, refreshing side salad and crusty Artisan bread.

I prefer chicken legs because they cook up more tender and flavorful than the breasts, but you can use whatever cut of chicken you like. When cooking this dish for a group, I like to use a whole, cut up chicken so everyone has a choice of their favorite. I always skin the chicken, regardless of the cut I use. I just don’t like all that extra fat in the dish.

Chicken Cacciatore

Serve with a whole grain pasta and garnish with a bit of cheese and fresh herbs.

I am sure hoping to get a ride in today, but the weather here is looking very iffy and I am fighting a cold. It might just end up being a Farmers’ Market and make a big batch of soup kind of day.

Chicken Cacciatore

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

One of my culinary “specialties” when I was kid was Chicken Cacciatore. I’m not sure when or where I first had it, but it inspired me to find my own way of preparing it. Growing up we ate lots of spaghetti and lots of chicken legs. So, why not together?

Initially I started out with jar of prepared spaghetti sauce, whichever brand my mom happened to buy (which was whatever brand was on sale). I simply browned the chicken legs in a little oil in our large Revereware skillet, then poured in the jar of spaghetti sauce and probably also a can of tomato paste. I would cook this on medium high heat until the sauce is heated through, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the chicken is cooked through and falling off the bones. We served this over spaghetti and generously garnished with that grated Parmesan cheese that comes in the shiny cardboard tube.

Over the years, my Chicken Cacciatore has evolved quite a bit to a fully from scratch dish including fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, fresh herbs, and sometimes onion or fennel, freshly grated cheeses, and NO pasta sauce from a jar. Perhaps a bit of tomato paste, depending on how much liquid the fresh tomatoes produce, but that’s the only non-scratch ingredient in the sauce.

Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken Cacciatore … recipe to follow later.


Vegetable Lasagna

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

There are lots of ways to make vegetable lasagna, but this is one of my favorites.

Simply take your favorite lasagna recipe and make a few modifications. Don’t have a favorite recipe? Then just use the one that’s on the box of lasagna noodles and make a few changes:

  • To your tomato sauce, add shredded carrots, eggplant, fresh fennel, and zucchini; add sliced fresh mushrooms and chopped fresh tomatoes.  Saute the vegetables just to soften a bit, then add the sauce and simmer until the flavors combine – at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours. If you have a few fresh basil leaves, that would be great, too. Just tear them up a bit and add to the sauce while it’s simmering.
  • Use ground lean turkey instead of ground beef or fatty sausages. For a little extra flavor, add some crushed fennel seeds and red chile flakes. while you’re cooking the ground turkey. I like to cook the meat in with the tomato sauce, but some recipes call for the meat to be added in a separate layer.
  • For the cheese filling – substitute fat free cottage cheese for ricotta cheese, add spinach.
  • Use reduced fat cheeses, and go easy on the amount of cheese you add – you’ll be surprised at how much you don’t miss it! I put most of the mozzarella on top just to give it the illusion of cheesiness.

These simple changes will lighten up your lasagna. It’s also a great way to get vegetables to those who don’t care for vegetables.

Your sauce will be chunky - full of lean ground turkey and healthy vegetables!

So I guess it is true … you can have your lasagna and eat it, too!

Enjoy a lightened up version of lasagna!

Coming Soon – Vegetable Lasagna

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Coming Soon ... How to lighten up your favorite lasagna recipe ...

Pasta with (Healthy) Meat Sauce

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

This is so easy to put together and makes for great leftovers.

Healthy Meat Sauce

2 pounds of lean ground turkey
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds, slightly crushed
optional – red chili flakes for a little heat
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced (more, if you desire!)
1 small red onion, finely diced
8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced (either white or crimini mushrooms will be great)
2 pounds of fresh roma tomatoes, cut into about a 1/4-inch dice (keep the juice!) or 1 can of crushed tomatoes (about 28 ounces)
2 tablespoons pesto, or about 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 4-ounce can of tomato paste
1 large jar of your favorite prepared marinara sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Your favorite pasta (I’m partial to either whole grain or spinach pasta)

For garnish, freshly grated or shaved cheese, such as Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago, & freshly chopped basil and/or parsley

Line a colander with 2 layers of paper towels and set aside. In a large, heavy bottomed skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey, fennel seeds, and chili flakes; cook thoroughly. Some people like to chop it up really finely, but I like some chunks in there, so break the meat up as much or as little as you like. When it’s cooked through, scoop the meat into the colander, cover to keep warm, and allow any excess fat to drain. If you’re using lean turkey, there shouldn’t be much. Set the meat aside for now.

Wipe out the skillet, add the second tablespoon of olive oil and heat on medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook a little, being careful to not brown it. Add the sliced mushrooms and saute a few minutes, just until softened. Add the diced onions and cook a few more minutes, just until the onions are translucent.

If you are using fresh tomatoes, add them now. Stir well and allow to cook over medium heat until they’ve softened a bit. Then add the meat, pesto or chopped basil, tomato paste and stir to blend well. Finally, add the prepared marinara sauce and stir to combine well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you are using canned tomatoes, then add them with the marinara sauce.

Cook over low heat, gently simmering, while you prepare your pasta. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

To serve …

Ladle your pasta into a bowl, top the hot pasta with some freshly grated cheese.

Top with the hot sauce. This is wonderful with a garnish of mushrooms cooked in a bit of red wine.

For the garnish of mushrooms cooked in red wine … credit must go to Tia Stella … and I’m typing this from memory, so hopefully I’m not missing anything. What you’ll need:

1 tablespoon each butter & olive oil
6 ounces of white mushrooms, cleaned and cut into about 1/4-inch thick slices
a generous splash (well, maybe 2) of dry red wine
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy bottomed skillet, until the butter melts and just starts to bubble a bit. Add the mushrooms, saute a few minutes to soften. Add the red wine and stir, cooking until the wine is reduced and you’ve got a nice slightly thickened sauce. If you want, you can add a little bit more cold butter* to help thicken the sauce and make them kinda’ decadent. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

*If you add a bit more butter, start with about a teaspoon of cold butter cut into small cubes, and whisk it in to the pan. You’ll want to be careful at this point to not let it get too hot or the sauce will “break” and the butter will separate out make the sauce oily (for lack of better word at the moment!)

If you don’t like to cook with wine, you could use a good balsamic vinegar in place of the wine.

This would be a great meal after a big bike ride like the Napa Valley Tour de Cure. Come ride with me! There is still plenty of time to sign up. If you don’t or can’t ride, please consider donating to my ride. Please help me reach my goal to be a Champion again this year! I am a long way from reaching my goal this year, so any help will be much appreciated.

Coming Soon … Pasta with (Healthy) Meat Sauce

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Spinach Linguine with Meat Sauce - made with super lean ground turkey

This would be a wonderful meal the night before, or the night after, a big bike ride!

As Promised … Pasta Primavera

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

This is an awesome dinner to serve the night before a big ride. To make it a great recovery meal, serve it as a side dish with some good lean protein such as fish, chicken, turkey, or pork tenderloin.

Pasta Primavera

1 tablespoon good olive oil
Assorted vegetables*, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into about 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 can tomato paste
1 jar of marinara sauce
your favorite pasta

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy bottomed skillet. Saute the vegetables for a few minutes, just to start them cooking. Add the tomato paste and marinara sauce. Stir to combine well. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and allow to simmer for about 15 to 30 minutes. How long you cook the sauce will depend on how crisp you like your vegetables. I tend to like mine on the crisp side, so when I prepare a Primavera this way, I only cook the sauce 15 to 20 minutes.

Cook your pasta according to the directions its packaging. Drain the pasta, and if desired, toss with a little olive oil.

To serve …

Portion your pasta into a bowl.

Ladle your Primavera Sauce over the pasta.

If desired, sprinkle with a little freshly grated cheese, such as Parmesan, Asiago, or Romano. A good, crusty bread will be a nice accompaniment, also. If you feel like something a bit richer, then feel free to add a bit of Italian Sausage, sweet or spicy would be good. To keep it on the light side, be sure to use a lower fat sausage, such as chicken or turkey.

* Tonight I used asparagus, carrots, fresh fennel, French green beans, heirloom cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, and snap peas. You can use any combination you like! That’s the beauty of a recipe like this – it is so very flexible. It’s easy, nutritious, low in fat, and delicious, too.

Coming Soon … Pasta Primavera

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

On the stove right now is a big batch of super healthy, super easy Pasta Primavera sauce. It’s loaded with veggies, low in fat, nutrient-rich, and flavorful. I’ll post the recipe soon.

Pasta Primavera Sauce ... perfect with spinach linguine!