Arugula Salad with Roasted Cauliflower, Golden Raisins, Parmesan, and Toasted Pine Nuts with a Lemon Vinaigrette

This is our first weekend home in over a month, and while it’s good to be in the comfort of our own home; I was feeling somewhat nostalgic of our trip we took to the Russian River.  It was the perfect weekend get-a-way, kind of trip, that wasn’t too far, but just far enough to relax, eat, and drink plenty.  We kayaked eight miles down the Russian River, enjoying the company of one another and the scenery around us.  We visited… oh who are we kidding, wine-tasted at some of the most beautiful vineyards/wineries around Sonoma county.

We also dined at some amazing restaurants, too.  The one restaurant that we constantly reminisce about is Boon Eat + Drink in Guerneville, CA.  It was such a sweet restaurant right off the one main street.  The food was simple and seasonal; creative, but not over-the-top.  It was, well, perfect.  The one dish that still stands out to me the most was the arugula salad with roasted cauliflower, golden raisins, and toasted pine nuts tossed with this spicy, lemon dressing.  It was just so fresh and crisp.  The flavors of each ingredient complimented one another so well.  It was brilliant.

 I’ve been meaning to recreate this dish, and what not a better day than today while we reminisce of our trip.  And I must say, my creation is pretty spot on, if not better.  I’m just sayin’ :)

Arugula Salad with Roasted Cauliflower, Golden Raisins, Parmesan, and Toasted Pine Nuts with a Lemon Vinaigrette

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 bunches baby arugula
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/8 crushed red chili pepper flakes
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss cauliflower with olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste. Place onto a large baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and crushed red pepper flakes until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together the arugula with the lemon dressing, toasted pine nuts, and golden raisins. Plate the salad, and garnish with shaved parmesan.

Makes 4 servings.

Oven-Fried Truffle and Parmesan Potato Chips

Alright, so I have another new favorite obsession.  What’s new, right?  My obsessions don’t seem to last very long.  Out with the old, in with the new!  These truffle and parmesan potato chips are incredibly addicting.  And the smell of the truffle oil!  OMG, it’s intoxicating!  Our house was filled with the fragrant aroma of truffles!  These potato chips are hard to resist, so make a large batch!  Nosh on these bad boys by themselves, with a beer, alongside a sandwich or burger, or whatever you fancy.  Me?  Well, I like mine with a cold bottle of beer, but will eat them all sorts of ways.  I’m not picky :)

What’s your favorite way of devouring potato chips?

Oven-Fried Truffle and Parmesan Potato Chips (adapted slightly from The Family Kitchen)

3 medium to large baking potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white truffle oil
3-4 pinches of sea salt
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using an 18×13 jelly roll pan, brush on two tablespoons of olive oil until fully coated. Place pan in the oven and heat for 10 minutes.

While the pan is heating in the oven, place the potato slices into a large mixing bowl, and toss with truffle oil and salt. Set aside.

Carefully line the potato slices on the hot baking sheet. Place pan into the hot oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes. Flip the potato chips with a pair of tongs and bake them for another 5 minutes. The chips will darken a little as they bake, but just don’t let them burn. If the potato chips still aren’t crispy, flip those potato chips over and bake for another few minutes. [Do not walk away from these chips, as they can easily go from almost crispy, to burnt.]

Remove the pan from the oven, and transfer the chips to a payer of paper towels. Sprinkle with grated parmesan, and allow them to cool. The excess oil will be absorbed by the towels. The potato chips will also crisp up slightly as they cool.  Once cooled, store in an air tight container for a few days.

Roasted Asparagus and Enoki Salad Drizzled with Truffle Oil

We had the best wood-fire wild mushroom pizza drizzled with truffle oil during our vacation week of gluttony.  It was to die for.  I’ve been craving that pizza since, but because we are on our quest to lose the weight that we gained from our vacation, I wanted to cook something that involved mushrooms and truffle oil minus the carbs.

On our way back home from vacation, we stopped by the Korean market and got some beautiful oyster and enoki mushrooms.  I was so excited to make my asparagus and oyster mushroom salad (the enoki mushrooms were reserved for miso soup tomorrow), but to my dismay, the oyster mushrooms started to grow fungus on itself and not in a good way :(  I was so distraught.  [Yes.  Distraught.  Haven’t you learned that I’m a bit of a drama queen, yet? :)]  I really, really wanted that warm salad tonight with the truffle oil.  Actually, I just really wanted the truffle oil.  So fortunately I still had the enoki mushrooms and thought I’d give it a try instead, and sure enough it tasted just as good!

Roasted Asparagus and Enoki Salad Drizzled with Truffle Oil

1 pound asparagus, ends trimmedd and cut to 3-inch lengths
2 packages enoki mushrooms, cut 2 inches off the base and pull/shred apart
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Small block of parmesan cheese
Truffle oil, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Toss asparagus and enoki mushrooms with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread onto a cookie sheet and roast for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms start to brown and the asparagus spears are tender. Remove from oven.

Toss the roasted asparagus and mushrooms with the lemon juice and arrange onto a platter. Shave the parmesan over the salad, and finish with a drizzle of truffle oil.

Serve immediately.

Makes 4 side salads.

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.

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.

Roasted Ratatouille Bisque with Parmesan Crisps

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I’m losing my mind.  I have been so forgetful lately.  And I feel like it’s only getting worse.  I’ll think of something that I need from the bedroom, walk to the bedroom, and completely forget what I needed in the two seconds it took to walk to the bedroom.  I know the example is a common problem for a lot of people.  However, I seem to be doing this many times during the day, several days a week!  Here’s another example that I have been doing a lot of lately… I go to the grocery store with a huge list of items to purchase, gather all the stuff, place all the items on the belt at the cash register station, and just as I am about to pay I realize that my wallet was left at home!  It wouldn’t be so bad if I went to the grocery store a few blocks away, but the two places I love to shop at is a 15-20 minute drive EACH way.  So what should be a 45 minute endeavor, ends up being an hour and a half grocery store trip from hell!  No bueno. This cuts into my limited cooking time.

Ratatouille Bisque with Parmesan Crisps (adapted from Modern Comfort Food)

For the soup:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into quarters
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 red bell peppers, seeds and pith removed, sliced
1 small eggplant, peeled and diced to large cubes
1 medium-sized zucchini, peeled and diced to large cubes
2 1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes (mix of heirlooms, cherry, vine and plum tomatoes), cut into halves
6 sprigs of thyme
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups of chicken broth
1/4 cup fat-free half and half
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Spread the tomatoes, red bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, garlic cloves and onions onto a baking tray.  Use two baking trays to not overcrowd the baking tray with too many vegetables.  I find that when I “crowd” the baking tray, the veggies tend to “steam” rather than roast properly.  Drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.

Remove vegetables from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot. Add 3/4 of the chicken stock, thyme, cayenne, and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third.

Remove sprigs of thyme from the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to medium heat, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining chicken stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Garnish with a parmesan crisp.  Forget the crouton.  Do the crisp.

For the parmesan crisps:

2 cups shredded parmesan cheese

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking liner. Sprinkle four 1/4-cup mounds of parmesan about 2 inches apart onto each prepared baking sheet; slightly flatten with a spoon. Bake until golden-brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool for 30 seconds. Using a thin metal spatula, drape the crisps over a rolling pin until hardened into shape, about 3 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Lemon Chicken Noodle Soup

I roasted a four pound chicken following Thomas Keller’s recipe for dinner the other night.  The roasted chicken was AMAZING.  I usually break down the chicken after dinner so that the chicken doesn’t take up too much room in the refrigerator.  It also makes it easier to just grab and go for meals the days after.  But I didn’t want random meals of chicken incorporated into salads, wraps, and such. I wanted something better. I wanted Giada’s lemon chicken soup with spaghetti. I enjoy chicken noodle soup, but it can be a bit boring.  This recipe just blows boring chicken noodle soup out of the waters!  It’s super flavorful, and warms you up from head to toe on a cold wintery day.  If you are not a citrus lover, I would suggest cutting the lemons back as it may be overpowering for some.  This is a wonderful lemony soup.  We heart our citrus.

Lemon Chicken Noodle Soup (adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
6 bay leaves (or a few dried bay leaves)
1 (four-inch) piece Parmesan cheese rind
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 cups (about 5 ounces) spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
4 cups diced cooked roasted chicken
2 cups grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt

In a large stockpot, bring the chicken broth, lemon juice, bay leaves, and Parmesan rind to a boil over medium-high heat.

Add the carrots and simmer until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the broken pasta and cook until the pasta is tender, for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken and heat through, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf and the Parmesan rind and discard.  Stir in 1/2 of the cheese and the parsley.  Season with salt, to taste.  Ladle the soup into serving bowls and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Makes 8 servings.

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