One of my best friends from college was in town this weekend and I was so excited to cook for her. I spent many Sunday afternoons in her Italian family’s kitchen learning the tricks of authentic Italian cooking.(Shoutout to Mama Caruso for teaching me how to cook beet greens. I never waste the greens now!) Here we are in her mom’s kitchen back in 2008:
After much deliberation, I decided on salad, focaccia,pasta, and stracciatella ice cream. I love packing in nutrients before a decadent meal, which is why this salad has seeds, avocado, and two kind of romaine.
Burrata Avocado Salad
1/2 head Romaine lettuce
1/2 head red-leaf Romaine lettuce (you could easily do 1 head of regular Romaine, but I love the color contrast)
Palmful sunflower seeds
Palmful pumpkin seeds
4 oz burrata (good mozzarella will do if you can’t find burrata)
Handful cherry tomatoes, preferably on the vine
Balsamic vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1) Chop Romaine and toss in a serving bowl.
2) Toast sunflower and pumpkin seeds. I did this in my Dutch oven while it was heating up for my pasta. (Yay multitasking!) A “palmful” is probably about 1/8 cup, if you really want to measure. Add seeds to lettuce.
Entertaining note: This is a good stopping point if you are prepping before guests arrive. Make the dressing and wait until you’re ready to serve before cutting into the avocado and burrata.
3) Cube and add in avocado and burrata.
4) Toss salad with Balsamic vinaigrette.
5) Lay cherry tomatoes on top for a gorgeous presentation. Serve with good focaccia.
1/8 cup good Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch brown sugar
1) In a jar, combine ingredients (in order) while whisking fervently. Store in the fridge until ready to use. This is enough dressing for two. Simply use the 1-3 Balsamic to olive oil ratio and up the amount of garlic and seasoning if you need to multiply to amount.
Fresh Zucchini Pasta with Chicken Sausage
5 links good chickens sausage (I used spinach & feta chicken sausage), sliced into rounds
1 fat zucchini or two small zucchini, halved and sliced
4 small white onions or 2 medium white onions, halved and sliced
1 can organic diced tomatoes
1 box pasta
Parmesan (don’t you dare measure this)
Bunch Italian parsley
1) In a large dutch oven, brown sausage in a bit of olive oil. This should just take a few minutes over medium heat. Remove sausage, slice each piece in half, and set aside.
2) Turn the heat down to low. Without draining or cleaning the dutch oven, add zucchini and onion slices. See all that brown at the bottom of the dutch oven? Free flavor! Add a pat of unsalted butter, a drizzle of olive oil, and a few dashes of salt. Babysit the pot for a few minutes, continuing to stir to evenly coat the veggies. Toss in some chopped italian parsley and stir well.
3) Enjoy a glass of wine, make a salad, call your mom. Whatever strikes your fancy. The beauty of caramelizing zucchini and onions is that it’s a low, slow process, which is why it’s one of my favorite things to do when I have guests over. I left the pot on my lowest heat setting for at least an hour, stirring occasionally. You can also do this at a higher heat in a shorter amount of time if you’re in a rush. The point is to cook the veggies until they’re nicely caramelized.
4) When you’re ready, boil water for the pasta. Add salt to the water and cook according to package instructions. Mine took ten minutes.
5) When you add your pasta to the water, turn Dutch oven heat up to medium low, add in sausage until warmed through, then tomatoes. Grab a measuring cup and throw about 1/4-1/3 cup starchy pasta water into the Dutch oven. This will help keep the sauce together.
6) Always taste your pasta to check for doneness. Drain pasta and add to the Dutch oven, stirring well. Add heaps of parmesan and Italian parsley. Enjoy!
I’ve been playing around with coconut milk a lot lately and decided to try Whole Foods’ recipe for coconut milk ice cream. I followed the recipe exactly (something I rarely do) except I melted 5 oz of semi-sweet chocolate and drizzled it in ribbons in the ice cream maker to make stracciatella ice cream. The texture of the ice cream was icier than my normal homemade ice cream but the real coconut flavor was delicious. I don’t prefer the texture but if for some reason you want dairy free ice cream or just feel like shaking things up, it’s worth a try! Here’s my take on Whole Foods’ recipe.
Coconut Milk Stracciatella Ice Cream
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
1 (13.5-ounce) can regular coconut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate
1) In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar together until pale yellow, about two minutes. Add light and regular coconut milk and whisk together until well combined.
2) Transfer to a medium pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spoon. This should take about ten minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
3) Transfer to a bowl and chill for a couple of hours, until cold.
4) Transfer to an ice cream maker and churn according to package directions, about 20 minutes.
5) When ice cream is almost totally set, melt chocolate.While ice cream is still churning, slowly drizzle in melted chocolate. The second the hot chocolate hits the frozen ice cream, it will solidify into those impossibly delicate stracciatella chocolate shavings.
6) Give ice cream a stir. Transfer to tupperware and let set in freezer for at least two hours. I shaved bittersweet chocolate on top to look fancy.
For Katie and her family, for always opening up their kitchen to me.
Aren’t these lovely? Katie brought this gorgeous bouquet as a hostess gift.