Thursday, June 30, 2005

Penne con Zucchini e Gorgonzola

In the impossibly beautiful hilltown of Trevi, located in Umbria, we enjoyed a quiet day and night strolling the narrow streets, gawking at Roman and medievel architecture, and dining on fabulously fresh foods. Okay, that could describe just about any day in any hilltown in Italy. But this one...we felt such a sense of place and comfort here. Dinner was at Osteria Posta Vecchia, at the top of the town in the piazza, a little place full of ambiance and kindly people. The waiter seemed very pleased by our thoughtful choices of the courses, saying they would compliment each other beautifully. The primo was a dish of penne with tender zucchini and gorgonzola. Fabulous. And -as I discovered when I returned home and recreated the dish - easy, too!

1 shallot, minced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
white wine
lemon zest

thyme, minced


Cook the penne. You'll need about a pound for 4 to 5 people.

In a large skillet, heat some olive oil, then saute the shallot and garlic until tender and fragrant but not colored. Toss in the zucchini and saute about a minute. Splash in some wine (about 1/3 cup). Toss the skillet to distribute. Add a little bit of minced fresh thyme and lemon zest (about 1/2 tsp. each). They impart subtle background flavors. Add about 1/2 cup gorgonzola (Italian gorgonzola dolce if possible). Stir until it starts to melt and toss in the hot, freshly cooked and still-dripping penne. Toss and serve.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


I have a gigantic rosemary bush in my back courtyard. It has been hacked at several times but always grows out of control again. It provides a nice vibrant green next to the house, and a gives off its fragrant aroma whenever we brush past it.

But what to do with the overgrowing herb other than using bits of it at a time to flavor dishes? I cut branches and put them in a vase as greenery with my cut roses. But for cooking, I like to use it in several ways. I often cut three or four branches and use them together to baste roasting chicken. It imparts a subtle flavor. I also use branches, stripped of all the needles, as skewers. They're perfect for grilling sausages. So if you find yourself with an abundance of rosemary, fire up the grill and give it a try.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Rigatoni di Agropoli

On our last trip to Italy we stayed at a fabulous villa in a small town up the hillside from the city of Agropoli. We loved it! The countryside was beautiful, the little town was cute and friendly, and the house had such a relaxing atmosphere. We cooked there a couple times, but visited and then revisted a great trattoria in Agropoli which offered simple fare at great prices. This dish was so good we ordered it on both visits.

I am a "food tourist" so when I return freom trips I try to recreate the dishes I've enjoyed. This one was pretty easy to figure out. The area just north of Agropoli is where much of the famed mozzerella di bufala is made, so that was an obvious ingredient. Try to find the mozzerella ovolini or balls of mozzerella rather than the more chewy, stringy American version.

1 pound of rigatoni
Extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 hot Italian sausage links - remove casings and crumble
3 cloves garlic
12 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
a sprig of thyme
1 ball of mozzerella
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

Start the pasta boiling.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and then add the sausages and garlic. Use a fork to break up the sausage into small pieces while sauteeing until it's cooked. Add the tomatoes and thyme; cover and cook about 15 minutes. Add the cheeses, stirring over low heat until melted.

When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain and add it to the pan. Stir to combine and serve.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Green Beans

It's that time of year, when green, fresh produce begins to appear in the stores and in my garden. We've been enjoying the peas we planted in early spring, harvested a handful or two at a time, and are awaiting the appearance of the green beans. I found some beautiful, thin beans at the store, though and whipped them up for a delicious side dish to our grilled steak last night.

Fagiolini con Gorgonzola

You will need: green beans, olive oil, a clove of garlic, a handful of crumbled gorgonzola, some toasted walnuts

Steam or boil the beans until tender. Drain, and immerse in cold water to stop the cooking and set the color.

In a skillet, heat a drizzling of olive oil, then add a clove of garlic which has been sliced in half. Saute it until the garlic begins to color, then remove and discard it. (You just want it to flavor the oil.) Add the green beans, a sprinkling of salt and a generous sprinkling of freshly-ground pepper. Toss to coat and reheat the beans. Arrange on a serving plate. Sprinkling with crumbled gorgonzola cheese, then top with chopped, toasted walnuts.

So good!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Picnic Chicken

I love a picnic. I must get that from my grandma, whose greatest joys were spent eating outdoors...either on her back porch or at a nearby wooded park that ran along the town's reservoir. And while I like to grill, for most picnics I prefer a more "grab-and-go" approach, taking things that can be easily transported and easily eaten, rather than having to cook once we arrive at our picnic spot. This chicken dish fits the bill...I really like cold chicken for a picnic and any number of accompaniments can complete and compliment the meal. This is a great make-ahead dish, as I usually make it the night before.

4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips

about 2/3 C. dry breadcrumbs
2 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/3 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano or Parmigiano cheese
1/4 cup flour
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon or so of water
*A nice change of taste can be had by mixing a little bit of freshly grated nutmeg into the egg. It's just enough to add taste and variety without overwhelming the dish

Oven 375
Spray or oil a baking sheet.
Combine all the dry ingredients together. Dip the chicken strips into the egg mixture and then the breadcrumb mixture and place on the baking sheet. Spray or drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake about 20 minutes, turning once, until cooked through.

Refrigerate until ready to go!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Turkey Jack Sandwich

A local restaurant, Flying Star, makes these tasty sandwiches. I love the flavor - the green chile really makes the sandwich! - and they're a super-easy lunch or a quick dinner, especially when paired with a crispy green salad with lots of veggies on it!

Sliced turkey
slices of Monterrey Jack cheese
chopped green chile - don't leave this out!
good Sourdough bread

Butter one side of each bread slice. Make a sandwich of the ingredients - turkey, cheese and lots of green chile. Toast on a hot griddle or skillet until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melting.