In terms of food, I do believe this is my favorite time of year. Summer. Aside from the two outdoor weddings photographed on 100+ degree days, she's been treating me well. Our local market is exploding with color and flavor; eggplant, tomatoes, peaches, melon and squash make it into our basket every Saturday. Our dinners are simple, inspired by the abundant fresh produce and the desire to keep it all as whole as possible. While I do love to cook, the idea of spending an hour preparing dinner over a hot stove is less than desireable in the middle of July. Which is why this recipe is my new favorite.
Sarah is my office mate, Beyond the Flavor partner, fellow food lover, and very dear friend. Nearly every afternoon we turn away from our computers and ask what the other is having for dinner. On Monday, when I was clueless about our evening menu but mentioned that I had a bowl full of beautiful, ripe tomatoes, she told me about this dish. It is about as simple as it gets, relying fully on the flavor of summer's best bounty. Tomatoes are chopped to bite-size pieces and tossed with sliced basil, minced garlic, and a generous amount of olive oil. The mixture is then refrigerated for at least an hour before being folded into hot, cooked pasta. Add some sausage (which we'd grilled the previous evening), salt, pepper and Parmigiano, and dinner is served.
Happy weekend, friends!
Summer Tomato Pasta
To make this dish vegetarian, remove the sausage and add red pepper flakes to your marinade.
3 large tomatoes
1 cup grape tomatoes
12 leaves fresh basil
6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup good-quality olive oil
1 cup crumbled hot italian sausage, cooked
1 pound brown rice pasta
salt + pepper
fresh Parmigiano Reggiano
Chop tomatoes. Slice basil. Mince garlic. Toss all together in a shallow dish with olive oil and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Cook pasta. I like to bring my salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and then turn off the heat and cover the pot with a lid. The pasta should be done in 8-10 minutes.
Drain pasta and add back to pot. Toss with tomato mixture and add crumbled sausage. Salt + pepper to taste.
Serve with shavings of Parmigiano and an arugula salad.
Last Saturday another ten inches of snow fell across Charlottesville, blanketing my city in delicate drifts of sparkling white. I awoke in the wee morning hours, just as soft gray light started to seep through the cracks between the blinds over the bedroom window. Aside from the soft snores of the dogs nestled at my feet, all was quiet. The typical sounds of tires meeting asphalt, wind rustling tree branches and birds chirping from their power line perch were nonexistent, lost in the insulation provided by a muffling snow.
I slid out of bed, thankful that I'd kept socks on my feet and wouldn't have to endure the cold hardwood floor against bare skin. Padding out to the kitchen I paused at a window to peek outside and was greeted with an idyllic view. Three inches of snow does wonders for an imperfect ground, provides each and every limb of surrounding trees with sugary peaks along their length, silences a high-trafficked road. I couldn't deny that I enjoyed this scene - my outside world painted white; bright and shiny and devoid of mud. I stood there, mesmerized by my transformed street and the plump flakes still spiraling down from a silver sky, and made up with Winter.
Finally, the promise of a cup of coffee and a long kitchen agenda were enough to pull me from my trance. To have an entire Saturday with no errands, no obligations, no sunshine-filled sky tempting me to leash up the dogs for a hike in the woods, seemed luxurious. Despite the snowflake-clogged air, the light pouring through our windows was clear and bright, the ground having become a natural reflector as I slept. My camera screamed at me to get started, to not waste a single, brilliant moment. I simmered and sauteed and baked and photographed all day, stopping every once in awhile to marvel at the still-falling snow that had gifted me this time.
This soup emerged with perfect timing, the kale softening just as Brian came in from shoveling our sidewalks and driveway. Hearty with potatoes and greens, flavored by bright leeks and spicy sausage, it promises to warm the coldest of bodies and satisfy the grayest of minds. You can't help but to be thankful for Winter as the thick broth slides down your throat, the heat of the sausage spreading from inside out, a sensation not necessarily welcome during the Summer months but oh so tasty against a backdrop of falling snow.
This soup is very easy to make, coming together in just 45 minutes. The hot Italian sausage is a key player, infusing the broth with wonderful flavor and heat.
Spicy Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup
2 large leeks, rinsed and sliced to 1/4-inch strips (about 3 cups total)
2 cups diced onion
3 large Russet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (leave about 1/2 the skin on the potatoes)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
8 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 pound of hot Italian sausage, removed from casings
3 cups of chopped kale (stems removed)
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
Melt butter in large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks, onions and potatoes and stir to coat with butter. Cover pot, reduce heat to low and let vegetables sweat for 15 minutes.
Remove cover and add broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Drop sausage in small chunks into soup. Cover and let simmer for 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are fork-tender.
Remove 2 cups of soup from pot, avoiding large chunks of sausage. Puree those 2 cups in a blender until smooth. Add back to soup pot and stir to incorporate evenly. Add kale and cover pot, allowing to simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
Remove cover and lower heat. Add heavy cream and stir to incorporate. Heat through, but don't let the soup simmer again or the cream will curdle a bit (as in my photos).
Salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe, and Bella Eats, made its debut on SuzySaid - Charlottesville on Monday. I have been asked to contribute a recipe each week to the site, and am so excited to be part of such a wonderful online resource for women in my city. If you're from Charlottesville or the surrounding area, check out SuzySaid - Charlottesville for information on upcoming events and local businesses. And tune in each Monday for a new recipe from Bella Eats!
After all of the indulgent foods that we consumed between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, Brian and I have been more than ready to get back into our typical, mostly healthy*, eating routine. We've bookmarked page after page of easy-to-prepare, full-of-veggies, yet still homey and comforting meals in some of our favoritecookbooks, and also in some newtitles gracing the bookshelf. It is my hope that the month of January on Bella Eats will help all of us to get back on track and break our dependence on cheese plates before and dessert after most meals, as lovely as that may have been.
*To be clear, Brian and I believe in non-restrictive eating and the idea that nothing is off limits as long as moderation is practiced. So don't be surprised when small amounts of butter, cream, bacon etc. still appear in the lists of ingredients for recipes that claim to be healthy. Balance is key to a healthy diet, and we strive to prepare meals that are full of flavor and satisfying so as not to feel deprived of something that is important to us - delicious food!
Whenever I feel off-track, out of balance, the need for a healthy meal after weeks of parties and holidays and travel and restaurants...I turn to dark greens. Full of nutrients and flavor, the consumption of a heaping pile of kale, collard greens, swiss chard, mustard greens or spinach as a side dish or addition to soup or salads has me instantly feeling like myself again. The most common preparation for us is to simply saute' any of the above greens with extra-virgin olive oil and garlic, finishing them with a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly-ground pepper. Occasionally though, I'll have the desire to try something different, such as when our friends gave us a heaping pile of mustard greens from their garden just before the big snowstorm hit in December.
Mustard greens have a spicy, peppery taste, and these particular greens were especially flavorful. We'd sauteed some in our typical fashion and, while still enjoyable, the spiciness was on the verge of being too overwhelming for us. I turned to Vegetables Every Day for an alternative method of preparation (our go-to book for veggies, always) and was so pleased with the result of my search. The creamy sauce and sweet onion tempers the spiciness of the greens but still allows their mustardy flavor to shine through. I could have eaten the entire bowl-full as a meal on its own.
Brian and I enjoy greens on the side of many dishes, but a recent discovery has been the deliciousness of greens on top of one of our favorite meals, sausage with peppers and onions. We stocked up on pork sausage from Double H Farm to get us through winter, and will throw a few links on the grill for a quick and tasty lunch or dinner quite often. Saute' red bell peppers with sweet onions in a bit of olive oil and garlic until tender. Serve sausage on a bun (whole wheat, for a healthier alternative) topped with peppers and onions and a generous helping of these greens. Add extra Dijon mustard if you're as big a fan as we are.
Wash the greens in several changes of cold water, then strip off the leafy green portion from either side of the tough stem. Discard the stalks and rip the leafy portions into small pieces. Add the greens and 1 tsp salt to the boiling water. Cook until the greens are tender, about 8 minutes. Drain well.
Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the greens and toss to coat with the butter and onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Whisk the cream and mustard together in a small bowl. Add this mixture to the skillet and cook just until the greens absorb some of the sauce, 3 to 4 minutes. Adjust the seasonings and serve immediately.
I have a confession to make. I’ve been keeping this utterly delicious dish from you for, oh, 2 months or so. What happened you ask? Bella Eats Pie Month, that’s what. Just as I was about to share this recipe for fresh, egg-laden pasta tossed with a homemade tomato sauce and spicy chunks of Italian sausage, I had this crazy idea to bake a different kind of pie each week for 5 weeks. And then, I needed a break. So I apologize, dear readers, for the delay, knowing full well that I’ve kept you from enjoying this warm and comforting meal as Winter starts elbowing its way into the last half of Autumn.
Last week we had an especially dreary few days with rain and winds sweeping through Charlottesville, dropping our temperatures into the 30’s and 40’s. It was the kind of weather that had me wearing my scarf while sitting behind my computer at the office, drinking hot tea every hour while thinking about thick stews and hearty casseroles. This dish popped into my head several times, the memory of silky pasta laced with tomato sauce prepared and frozen at the peak of summer causing my mouth to salivate and my belly to warm.
It is the hearty, homey, comfortable meals that I crave when the air temperature transitions from brisk to downright cold. Unlike the summer months, when we'd rather be lazily sipping vino verde on the back deck while munching on a quickly assembled salad, Brian and I spend a significant portion of Winter in our kitchen, not minding the extra heat the stovetop produces in order to simmer a pot of soup for hours or the labor required to roll out thin sheets of freshly made pasta for a pan of bubbly lasagna. With chilled darkness falling well before we leave the office, our kitchen is a welcome source of warmth waiting for us at the end of each day, providing a space for us to pour energy into meals that will warm our bodies from the inside out.
Fresh pasta is one of those luxurious-sounding meals that seems as if it should be impossible to make at home, in the amount of time allotted for dinner preparation in busy lives. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. Requiring only 30 minutes of rest in the refrigerator before being passed through a pasta machine, the dough can be made in a mere 10 minutes' time. Your sauce can be simmering with whatever additions you've chosen to enhance it with as you turn the crank and catch the golden sheets of floured dough, fold them carefully and cut them into your desired shapes. After a quick dunk in a pot full of boiling water you are ready to garnish the silky strands with whatever mixture has been simmering on your stove, filling the air with the pungent aroma of tomatoes, garlic and herbs, or perhaps the sweet smell of browned butter and sage.
I assure you that, although fresh pasta requires more time and attention than opening a box of dried linguine to dump into boiling water, it is completely, totally, undeniably worth the effort. We'll be making it often these next few months, so I'll be referring back to this recipe in future posts, I'm sure. It can be used for any shape of pasta desired.
1-2/3 cups semolina flour (if unavailable, bread flour will do)
3 large eggs
8 egg yolks
Because this recipe is so egg-y, I recommend using eggs as high in quality as you can find. Ours came from Double H Farm outside of Charlottesville.
Place both flours on a clean work surface. Make a well in the center of the flours and add the eggs and egg yolks. Break up the eggs with a fork and slowly bring the flour into the well, incorporating the flour and the eggs until a dough starts to form. [I am AWFUL at this part, and always get egg all over my counter. Jamie says you can make the dough with an electric mixer or food processor, which I will try next time]. Knead with your hands until a smooth, silky and elastic dough forms. ** Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Remove your dough from the fridge and divide into 4 pieces, putting three of the four back in the fridge. Flatten the smaller dough ball into a disk and dust with flour on both sides. If you have a pasta machine (they are only about $40, I have one made by Atlas) run the dough through on the widest setting possible. (you can also roll out by hand with a rolling pin, but I've never tried it.) Fold the dough in half and run through the machine again, repeating this process several times on the widest setting to get an evenly textured sheet. Flour each side of the dough. Step your machine down to the next smallest setting and run the dough through. Repeat, flouring the dough each time you step down the setting on your machine until you get the pasta to 1-2 mm thick (#6 on my machine...).
Cut pasta into desired shapes.
**NOTE: The dough will be very wet at first, when all of the flour is incorporated with the egg. Start to knead, coating your hands with flour every minute or so to prevent the dough sticking too terribly. if after several minutes the dough is still very wet, add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, kneading well after each addition until the dough achieves a smooth, elastic consistency. It should take about 10 minutes of solid kneading, total.
Pappardelle with Spicy Sausage Ragù
one batch of Fresh Pasta (recipe above)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 pound spicy Italian sausage, removed from cases and cut into bite-size pieces (ours is fro Double H Farm, outside of Charlottesville)
3 cups of homemade tomato sauce (recipe below) or your favorite jarred sauce
parmesan for shaving over top
Cut your sheets of pasta to 12" lengths. Dust with flour on both sides and fold in half. Cut into thirds, so that you wind up with strips of pasta about 12" long by 1-1/2" wide. Set aside.
Heat olive oil over medium heat in nonstick skillet. Add sausage and brown for 2-3 minutes. Add onions, garlic and red bell pepper. Saute' for 8-10 minutes, until onions are translucent and sausage is cooked through.
Add tomato sauce to pan and heat through. While sauce heats, boil pasta until al dente, 5-6 minutes. Drain.
Serve pasta with a heap of ragù and shaved parmesan on top.
Homemade Tomato Sauce
I realize that tomatoes are out of season nearly everywhere at this time, and that most of us are left with pink, grainy globes that only resemble Summer's favorite fruit. This sauce can also be made with high-quality, canned, whole tomatoes.
Also, this recipe is approximate. No tomato sauce is ever exactly the same and should always be tweaked according to your tastes.
Oh my, what a weekend. With our deadline at the office behind us Brian and I were finally able to relax for Two. Whole. Days. We took advantage of the sunshine on Saturday with a trip to the farmer’s market and tasks in the garden, while Sunday’s rain allowed time for baking and reading to the mellow sounds of somefavoritebands. We even entertained Friday night. As far as weekends go, this one was definitely good for our mental health, and much needed.
Our kitchen finally feels loved again, as do our stomachs. Simplicity was key to most of what was prepared and consumed because we were still in recovery from the weeks of late nights and take-out food (sadly, crockpot minestrone only lasted for a couple of days). After that long of a hiatus one really doesn’t want to rush into anything too complicated too quickly, and we were in need of some instant gratification.
So many good, simple recipes came from the grill, oven and food processor that I had a hard time deciding which to share first. Ultimately I decided on this one because it was the most recent of my options and looking at the photographs caused my mouth to salivate at the memory they evoked. Also, I love that the simple pasta dish uses fresh ingredients purchased at the farmer’s market Saturday morning - sweet Italian sausage from one favorite farmer and tender mustard greens from another. If only I’d stopped by the Everona Dairy booth I’d have had local sheep’s milk cheese to use instead of store-bought parmesan. Next week...
Spring greens are abundant right now and any variety would do, but I think that the spicy bite of the mustard greens really makes this dish shine. If you decide to use a milder green such as kale or swiss chard, you might want to kick up the flavor with hot Italian sausage instead of sweet, or some red pepper flakes tossed in the skillet with the onion and garlic.Pasta with Sausage and Spring Greensserves 3
3/4 lb brown rice pasta
1 bunch mustard greens (about 1 lb), leaves separated from stems and rinsed well (stems discarded)
1 lb sweet italian sausage, removed from casing and chopped into bite-size pieces
1/2 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup shredded parmesan, plus extra for topping
1 tbsp fresh parsley
salt + pepper
Boil pasta, drain, return to pot and set aside.
Rinse mustard greens and drain.
Saute' sausage in non-stick skillet for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and onion and continue to cook until sausage is browned.
Add mustard greens to skillet and cover. Cook mixture, stirring occasionally, until greens are wilted (4-5 minutes).
Meanwhile, heat chicken broth over medium heat in small saucepan. Whisk in 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese, stirring until cheese is melted. Add fresh parsley and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
Pour parmesan broth over cooked pasta. Add sausage/mustard green mixture and stir well.
Serve immediately with parmesan shaved over the top.
Have I mentioned how much I love this community? Because I do. You all are so kind! Thank you for all of your sweet comments and concern - you have no idea how much I appreciate it.
I'm sorry for my doom and gloom post yesterday, and for leaving you all hanging. I've spent the weekend going over things with my hubb and am feeling much better about the whole situation. I should know more tomorrow or Tuesday and can share then, but I'm starting to see the positive side of things and do believe that everything will be for the better.
Most of my eats this weekend weren't that exciting...some leftover red beans, some Five Guys (I know...shocking!!! My once every 6 months burger...), banana pancakes and lots of Ben + Jerry's. Can we say comfort food?!?!? But I did spend this afternoon in the kitchen making my hubb's birthday cake (which I will share with you tomorrow!) some potato salad for a pot luck dinner (which I will also share sometime this week) and this yummy cabbage + apple slaw, which paired perfectly with the bratwurst my hubb pan-fried for sandwiches.
I haven't done much with cabbage in the past...mixed it with greens in salads, boiled it down with potatoes, carrots and ham for a New England Boiled Dinner, shredded it up to make a filling for potstickers. Although slaw is an obvious use for cabbage I have somehow managed to escape these last few years without ever experimenting with it.
I've seen a few cabbageslawrecipes pop up in the blog world over the last couple of weeks, but decided to try out my own. We had some bratwurst in our freezer from Babes in the Wood, and my hubb was just saying that we don't make sandwiches for dinner often enough. I grabbed a couple of apples from our fruit bowl and the open bottle of cabernet on the counter. I was hoping for something sweet and tangy, a nice compliment to the spiciness of the brats and the dijon mustard I knew my hubb would pair with them.
Oh sweet [and tangy] success. This sandwich was so delicious and satisfying, and the slaw was the star of the show. I suggest a ciabatta roll and butternut squash fries on the side...YUM.
Cabernet + Apple Slaw
3/4 head of red cabbage, about 2 pounds
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tart apples, thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt + pepper
Remove all tough outer leaves. Quarter cabbage through stem, remove core of cabbage. Slice cabbage into thin strips.
Heat oil in large soup pot. Add onion and saute until tender and golden, 5-6 minutes. Add sliced apples and saute an additional 2 minutes. Add garlic and saute an additional 1 minute.
Add cabbage, cover and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add wine, cover and saute for an additional 10 minutes. When cabbage is tender, remove lid and turn up heat to cook off the last of the liquid.
Remove from heat and toss cabbage mixture with vinegar and salt + pepper to taste.
Top with toasted pine nuts.
Tomorrow is my hubb's birthday and we're having a little party at his office. I am so excited to try the cake I baked today...my first ever from-scratch, made on my own cake. Only the best for my love. Here's a little preview...
That's raspberry puree' oozing from between layers of decadent chocolate cake. And right after I took this picture I covered the whole thing with chocolate ganache. Oh yes I did. :)
Have a lovely Monday, everybody!
...and back to reality. The hubb and I head back to Virginia tomorrow (sniff sniff) and enjoyed the last of our meals with my family today. The food and company have been fabulous, but I think we're going to need a week of detox to recover from all of the decadent foods we've been consuming! Today wasn't too bad, but I did manage to fit 3 pieces of Pumpkin Ooey Gooey Butter Cake in. Here's today's eats...
Breakfast: Another fabulous smoothie, this one heavy on the pineapple, and a piece of the pumpkin ooey gooey butter cake.
Lunch: My momma and I went to Olive Garden while our hubbs were out fishing. Olive Garden is a tradition for us...we loaded up on the all you can eat salad, soup and breadsticks, my fave! We also had calamari to start. It was a fantastic lunch! :)
Snack: Another piece of pumpkin ooey gooey butter cake (unbelievable, I know).
Exercise: I went for a run this evening! It was so much more pleasant at 5pm than at 9am...we had a great breeze coming off the ocean and the sun was set behind the trees and houses. I only did about 2-1/2 miles running with some walking warm-up and cool-down. I'm REALLY proud of myself...I ran 4 times while on vacation and am planning a run tomorrow morning before we get on the road. Last year at Christmas, even though I was training for the 10-miler then too, I only managed to run once on our week-long vacation. Yay for progress!!! :)
Dinner: The hubb and I brought my stepfather sausages from our favorite farmer in Virginia, Babes in the Wood. We grilled them up and had leftover Indian potatoes and cauliflower, cranberries, and a huge salad.
I had 1/2 a hot italian link and 1/2 a bratwurst link. We also had some homemade nectarine preserves on top of the sausage after I took this picture, which was very tasty. My stepfather gave me a jar to take home to Virginia so you'll be seeing it prominently featured I'm sure...
Dessert: Another piece of pumpkin ooey gooey butter cake (they are tiny pieces, but this is really getting embarassing...).
After dinner my stepfather taught me how to can preserves!!! I'm so excited, I want to be able to can this summer when we get our garden going again. Tonight we made the cranberry "ketchup" I made last week (email me if you want the recipe) so that he could teach me his methods.
So I'll be on the road a good part of tomorrow and Wednesday. We've decided to get a hotel on the way back to break up the trip a bit (yay!) so depending on internet availability I may or may not have a Tuesday evening post. Rest assured, the eats won't be all that interesting as we hit Subway on our way up the east coast... :) I am going to be thinking about some resolutions during the long car ride so stay tuned for some breathtaking, soul-defining thoughts when I'm back in VA......kidding. :) What are you all thinking about for New Year's Resolutions?