Spaghetti with Italian Turkey Sausage, White Wine, and Fresh Tomatoes

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What not a better way to celebrate the summer then by incorporating the fruits of our labor (no pun intended) into yummy summer-y recipes?  Our vegetables plants have been providing us with steady bountiful “crops” of tomatoes, as well as basil.  I didn’t want to repeat last year’s terrible bout of laziness, in which ALL of the vegetables were not harvested.  Not one tomato.  It all went to waste, especially after all the time, effort, and money that I invested to set up drip lines. This year is going to be different.

And for the past several years, I’ve been telling myself to just buy one tomato plant because we end up with way too much tomatoes (and it usually goes to waste).  I even told my partner to stop me from buying two plants.  But sure enough, I left the nursery with TWO tomato plants again.  After I harvested a very large bowl of tomatoes, I told my partner to remind me to buy only one tomato plant next year.  Her response, “I told you this year, but you were too stubborn to listen.”  Ugh.  She’s right.  I was too stubborn to listen.  And now we have way too many tomatoes.  You know what’s funny?  I’ll probably be too stubborn to listen next year and many years after.  I don’t think I’ll ever learn my lesson.

My partner did say that she LOVES pasta when we first started dating.  So guess what we’ll be having for dinner for the next many weeks to come?

You guessed it!…

Spaghetti with Italian Turkey Sausage, White Wine, and Fresh Tomatoes

4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1.5 links sweet Italian turkey sausage, remove from casing
1.5 links hot and spicy Italian turkey sausage, remove from casing
1 (15 ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
3/4 cup Sauvignon Blanc
1/2 teaspoon dried red hot chili flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 heaping cupful grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnishing
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
Whole wheat spaghetti pasta

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the sweet and hot turkey sausages until well combined. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the whole wheat pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions for al dente.  Drain the pasta in a colander and return to the pot; cover with a lid to keep warm.

In a separate skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the garlic and onions and saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  If the garlic is browning too quickly, turn down the heat to medium.  Add a dash of kosher salt to the onions to help it sweat a little bit.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil.  Add the ground turkey sausage to the pan and saute until browned and no longer pink over high heat, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Be sure to crumble/break up the sausages while it is cooking in the pan.

Once the sausages have browned, add the white wine to deglaze the pan and dissolve/scrape the browned bits that have crusted to the skillet.  Cook for about two minutes over high heat.  Add the cooked garlic and onions, crushed tomatoes, red chili flakes, and bring sauce to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes.  Adjust seasoning with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.  [Do not over salt the sauce as you will be adding grated parmesan to the dish.]

Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss until well-coated.  Add the grated parmesan cheese and toss again until it has been thoroughly incorporated.

Serve on a big platter family style or on individual serving plates.  Garnish with fresh basil leaves, cherry tomatoes, and extra grated parmesan.

Makes 4 servings.

Eggplant Parmesan with Smoked Mozzarella

We’ve been trying to practice what we’ve learned from watching Food, Inc., a few weeks ago and have been trying to buy local things.  So we’ve been dedicating our Saturday mornings to buying produce from our local farmer’s market.  We have two farmer’s markets on Saturday mornings… one downtown and one in the more posh side of town.  The problem with the latter is how ridiculously expensive the items are.  I might as well go to Whole Foods if I want to pay that kind of price.  And the thing is that it’s not even organic.  I think people are paying more for the location, and the idea of buying from a farmer’s market.  There are also too many stands that only sell chocolate, coffee, pastries, and honey.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anything wrong with that.  In fact, it’s great to be able to purchase those items, but what I want are more produce stands!!  Because in the end, I still end up at a grocery store to finish off my grocery list.  It’s also too overcrowded.  People bumping into you without saying “excuse me.”  People pushing you aside to grab the plentiful squash that you are picking through.  Large crowds irritate me.

So we found a downtown farmer’s market that has really, really fresh produce for way lot less.  The stands offer a large variety of produce.  And it isn’t too crowded.  It’s FABULOUS!  We walked away with 3 pounds of tomatoes, 3 pounds of apricots, a flat of strawberries, 4 large bunches of spinach, 2 pounds of squash, 6 lemons, 6 limes, 3 green chiles, 4 pounds of small cucumbers, 1 ginger root, 4 large eggplants, and 1 pound of sugar peas for $20.  Yes.  That’s a good deal.  And the only thing that I needed from my grocery list that I couldn’t purchase at the farmer’s market was cumin seeds, and green onion.  That made me happy.

Eggplant Parmesan with Smoked Mozzarella

1 large eggplant
1 1/2 cups flour
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups panko
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
8 ounces fresh smoked mozzarella cheese, sliced
6 cups homemade marinara sauce
Fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Slice the eggplant horizontally into 8 thick slices. Sprinkle a little a salt onto both sides of the eggplant slices. Place it on a rack over a baking sheet to draw out excess water, about 30 minutes. Rinse eggplants, and pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside.

Place flour and one teaspoon of salt on a shallow plate, and combine well. In another shallow plate, pour the panko onto it.

In a separate shallow dish, whisk together the egg and water.

Take one eggplant slice and lightly dredge each side in flour. Next dip it in the egg, and then to the panko. Generously coat the eggplant with panko. Place panko’ed eggplant onto baking sheet. Repeat for the remaining seven slices of the eggplant.

Place baking sheet into the oven and bake for about 6 to 8 minutes, until the panko has turned golden to golden brown and the eggplant is soft. Flip onto the other side, and repeat the same baking process. Turn the broiler on, and remove the baking sheet from the oven. Sprinkle each slice with parmesan cheese and top with sliced smoked mozzarella, and place it back into the oven. Allow the cheese the melt and brown a bit before removing from oven, about 2 minutes. Pay close attention to the eggplant and cheese so that it doesn’t burn. Remove from oven.

Ladle 1/3 cup of your favorite marinara sauce onto a small plate. Place one slice of eggplant on top of the marinara sauce, then spoon a little marinara sauce over it. Repeat with a second layer of sliced eggplant, and spoon over a little marinara sauce. Top with fresh basil leaves. Repeat entire process with the rest of the sliced eggplant.

Makes 4 servings.

Caprese Bruschetta

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We love basil.  We love bread.  We love mozzarella.  We love garlic.  We love tomatoes.  We love all these ingredients combined into one little morsel of love.  We love a lot.

What do you love?

Caprese Bruschetta

One loaf of crusty Italian or French bread
10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
6 ripe roma tomatoes, seeded
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
8 bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls), cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive, plus extra for brushing bread
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Position rack to the center of the oven.

Cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch dices, and the bocconcini into 1/4-inch cubes. Place the tomatoes and mozzarella in a bowl, and mix in the finely minced garlic, dried oregano, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Mix well, and then adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking. Lastly, toss in the chopped basil and incorporate into the tomato mixture.

Slice the bread diagonally into about 1/2-inch thick slices. Brush each slice of bread with extra virgin olive oil. Place the bread on a baking sheet and bake for about 5-6 minutes, or until the bread begins to toast.

Arrange the bread on a serving platter, oil side up. Spoon tomato mixture onto each slice of bread. The bread will get soggy, so this must be served and eaten immediately. Conversely, you can also have the guests spoon the tomato mixture if they desire to do so at their time and convenience, and to their liking.

Makes 12 slices of bruschetta.

Fresh Basil Pesto… the perfect prescription to doctor up pasta, grilled chicken or salmon, or as a dip!

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Our basil and parsley have been growing out of control. Okay, that’s sort of an exaggeration. But it has been doing quite well since we planted the starter plants. We made it our goal to harvest and use everything from our small “farm” this year because we let everything die or go to waste last summer.  It’s true.  We had roma tomatoes, basil, key limes, and peppers growing up, down, and sidways, and we left it to die.  We always have so much fun with planting the starter plants, but rarely do we ever enjoy the fruits of our labor. It’s silly.  But I think it’s pure laziness, and partly because who wants to harvest stuff when it can get up to 115 degrees F during the summer months.  Blech.  But this year is going to be different.  I can feel it.  I intend to eat every darn thing that grows this year, whether I get sick of it or not.  Again, another exaggeration.  But you get the point.

Anyway, getting back to this post.  So what not a better way to use up the basil and parsley than to make a pesto. Especially since I had extra parmesan, lemons, and garlic lying around from my latest obsession with caesar salads. We also always have an abundance of a variety nuts in our freezer for salads, desserts, and what not.  Basil pesto is our favorite prescription to doctor up pasta, over grilled chicken or salmon, as a sandwich spread, and as a dip for our caprese “salad” skewers for party hors d’oeuvres.

What’s your favorite way of using pesto?

Fresh Basil Pesto

3 cups fresh basil, packed
1 cup fresh Italian parsley, packed
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more for tasting
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt, to taste

In a medium sized pan over medium heat, toast pine nuts until they get fragrant. Watch these carefully as these can get toasty fragrant to burnt very quickly.

In a food processor, combine the basil, parsley, pine nuts, garlic, solive oil, and lemon juice. [But not the parmesan cheese. We'll get to that in just a little bit.] Pulse until the mixture has a smooth, but thick paste-like consistency.

Poor the basil mixture into a medium-sized bowl, and fold in the parmesan cheese. Mix until the cheese has been thoroughly incorporated.  Add more lemon juice and salt to taste. But trust me, you really won’t need anymore salt after this because of the saltiness from the parmesan cheese. However, do add more lemon juice because it really livens up the pesto sauce. But then again, we like lots of lemons in almost everything we eat :)

Makes 3 cups of pesto.

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