Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil (Aglio e Olio) with Artichokes, Crisped Salami and Pine Nuts

Somehow I managed to spend most of this day thinking it was Saturday. Which is really ironic, that I thought it was basically everybody's favorite day of the week, when it was actually what is known universally as everyone's least favorite day of the week. I think it's just being in the thick of the summer break, I'm all backwards!

Anyway, now that I am back in the realm of Monday, I have this great recipe to share. And it is as great a Monday recipe as any other day. I love spaghetti with garlic and oil. It's one of those life's simple pleasures kind of dishes. Minimal ingredients yielding extraordinary results, in not a lot of time. Well I decided to Guild the Lily, so to speak and add a few extra things, like artichokes, Genoa salami and toasted pine nuts to the traditional Aglio e Olio.

Let's just take a second to talk about the Genoa Salami component of this dish. Okay? So I decided I would thinly slice it and render it crisp, like bacon or pancetta. All I can say is, "Why on earth don't I see this being done in the food world more often?!?". It is incredibly delicious, I mean, everyone says bacon makes it better, but I declare to you here tonight that crisp Genoa salami makes it better too!

Okay, now that I got that out of my system, we can move along now...

There is a lot of garlic in this recipe... a lot. But don't be scared because most of it you cook down for about 10 minutes until it's very mellowed out. Then I stir in just a bit more raw garlic after the pasta is cooked and I'm giving everything a final toss. So yeah, it's garlicky, but it's not like punch you in the face garlicky (if you get my meaning by that??). And it is pasta with garlic and oil, so I guess you'd have to be a fan of the stinking rose to want to make this dish in the first place. Enjoy!

Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil (Aglio e Olio) with Artichokes, Crisped Salami and Pine Nuts
makes 4-6 servings

1 lb. spaghetti
kosher salt & pepper
1/3 c. pine nuts
3-4 oz. thinly sliced Genoa salami, sliced into thin strips and separated with your fingers (they tend to stick together)
6 T. plus 1 t. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 T. finely minced garlic, divided
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1 lb. frozen, quartered artichoke hearts, thawed and drained well
3 T. lemon juice
1/3 c. minced fresh parsley

1. Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add about 1 T. of kosher salt and spaghetti. Cook, stirring occasionally until the pasta is al dente (according to package directions), drain, reserving about 1/2 c. of the starchy pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot and set aside while preparing the remaining ingredients.

2.  Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, add pine nuts and toast, watching them carefully as they can burn extremely easy. When lightly toasted, remove pine nuts from skillet and set aside. Return pan to heat, add 1 t. oil and salami. Cook stirring often, separating the strips, until the salami is crisp and browned, about 5 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour out the rendered fat from the skillet and wipe out with paper towels.

3. Return the skillet to the burner, reduce the heat to medium-low. Add 3 T. oil, 2 1/2 T. of the minced garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently until the garlic is sticky and straw-colored, about 10 minutes. Scrape the garlic and oil into a small bowl. Return the skillet to the burner and increase the heat to high. Add 1 T. oil, the thawed artichokes and 1/4 t. kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the artichokes are well browned (adjusting the heat as necessary) about 6 minutes. 

4. To the drained pasta, add the browned artichokes, cooked garlic and oil, remaining 1/2 T. raw garlic, remaining 2 T. olive oil, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, parsley, salami and pine nuts. Add in the reserved pasta cooking water as necessary if the dish is lacking moisture. Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper. 


Cashew-Sesame Quinoa Salad

Every now and again I exceed my own expectations in the kitchen, and this happens to be one of those times.

When I am in the "developing mode" for a recipe, it's kind of like a vortex of ideas and ingredients swirling around in my head, I will add in and eliminate elements until I feel like I've found a good starting point. After we got back from our family trip a few days ago, I was really feeling like I needed some kind of "detoxing" type of meal after all of the treats that inevitably are had during family vacation times. So when I settled on a quinoa salad and decided to go in the Asian direction with it, the "idea vortex" ensued. I've been throwing single-serving salads together for my own lunches for years, but whenever I would attempt to make an Asian type salad dressing, I could never quite seem to hit the mark I was going for, they were okay - just not great.

So when I was brainstorming this salad, I was trying to think of how I could make a dressing that would turn out better than my previous attempts. Then the idea hit me - peanut sauce, it's creamy and ultra-satisfying with a nice thickness to it. I thought about adding peanut butter to the recipe, but I knew I wanted to use cashews as an element to this salad so then I thought, "why not make cashew butter with some of the toasted cashews?". So into a blender I added a handful of my toasted cashews with a little oil, then I thought back to the tahini paste I posted awhile back and I also threw some toasted sesame seeds in there with the cashews. Once everything was broken down I added in the rest of my Asian-inspired dressing ingredients - garlic, ginger, soy sauce, fresh lime juice and a few other things. This dressing was perfect! Just the right amount of everything with a great texture too.


I could see using this dressing on a standard green salad, or as a dip for veggies or spring rolls. And it was just right for this quinoa salad. Another great bonus: this salad holds up beautifully in the refrigerator. I made it almost 2 days ago and it's as fresh as when I first made it. Packed with so many great things like nuts, quinoa, kale, edamame, carrots, red bell pepper, and this delicious dressing. This is a salad that not only tastes amazing, you can feel good about eating it and it will keep you satisfied for hours.

Cashew-Sesame Quinoa Salad 

1 c. quinoa, rinsed well and drained
1 1/2 c. water
1/4 t. salt
1 1/4 c. raw cashews, lightly toasted - divided
1/4 c. sesame seeds, lightly toasted - divided
4 T. canola oil, divided
2 T. lime juice
2 T. water
1 T. soy sauce
1 t. toasted sesame oil
1/2 t. chili garlic sauce
1/2 t. sugar
1/2 t. grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 c. edamame
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 lg. carrots, grated
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 packed cups of chopped baby kale leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges (optional)

1. Prepare the quinoa: Bring the rinsed & drained quinoa, 1 1/2 c. water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the water is just absorbed and the quinoa is tender, 15-20 minutes. Spread the quinoa out onto a large, baking sheet and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, set aside.

2. Make the dressing: In a blender, add 1/4 c. of the toasted cashews and 2 T. of the toasted sesame seeds, along with 2 T. of the canola oil. Blend until creamy. Add the remaining 2T. canola oil, lime juice, 2 T. water, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce, sugar, ginger and garlic, blend until emulsified.

3. Finish the salad: To the quinoa, add the edamame, bell pepper, carrots, scallion, kale, the remaining cashews, sesame seeds and the dressing. Mix well to combine. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.

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Frittata "Brinner" Sandwiches - Southwest Style

Okay, so I suppose you could categorize these in the "anytime" type of meal. "Brinner" is just the term that kept popping into mind as we sat and ate these for dinner. In case you aren't familiar with the term "brinner" it's just an easier way to say breakfast-for-dinner. Whatever time you eat them, in my opinion, an egg sandwich always hits the spot.

So anyway, we're back from our family adventuring, and we had a great time! We experienced the Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park which was a ridiculous amount of fun. Then we headed camping for a couple of nights at the coast. I ♥ camping so much, I really wish we could get out camping more often. It's so refreshing to get away from technology centered living and experience simplicity. And on a side note I finally got to try out some of that dry shampoo I keep hearing about and all I can say is WHERE HAS THIS BEEN ALL MY LIFE!?! If you have fine hair, and find it impossible to ever skip a day washing it like I do then this stuff might be a life/time saver for you too.

Food highlights from our trip:

On our way out of the water park we stopped in at a little upscale burger place (I'm not sure how else to describe it -  maybe artisan?), where I ordered at hemp seed veggie burger that was so good, I have got to get my hands on some of those tasty, crunchy little seeds. Delish!

Our second day at the coast we headed into Astoria and found this little tugboat that's been repurposed into a fish n' chips food cart called The Bowman. The line was down the sidewalk so we figured it had to be good. After an hour long wait in line (worth it) and chatting with the locals and outta towners alike, we got what was probably the most flawless order of fish n' chips I've ever had, which is all they sell there at The Bowman, whatever fish is the catch of the day/fries/pop, this particular day they were offering tuna. I believe they open at 11am and sell fish n' chips every day til they run out. Awesome!

• And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that my husband makes the best camp breakfast ever. And he outdid himself with the full french toast breakfast he made this time around, thick Texas toast french toast, with fresh berries and crispy bacon - I am feeling a little swoon-y right now just talking about it. ♥

So that was our trip in a nutshell. Now of course I am in need of the proverbial "vacation from the vacation", but it was so worth it. This meal was my answer to not really being in the mood to cook after getting back home. Breakfast for dinner seems to be one of those go-to ideas when you just want to get it on the table and be done with it. The frittata I made here is a take on one of my personal favorite ways I like to make my scrambled eggs, which is with cheddar cheese and salsa. I put a little more into these by adding crumbled bacon and sliced scallion. The frittata comes together so fast, you can have this meal on the table in no time.

 Frittata "Brinner" Sandwiches - Southwest Style
makes 4 sandwiches

For the frittata:
1 T. unsalted butter
4 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1/2 c. finely shredded cheddar cheese
2 medium scallions, thinly sliced
6 eggs, lightly beaten
salt & pepper
1/2 c. chunky salsa, drained of excess liquid

6 soft ciabatta sandwich rolls, split, toasted and buttered
sliced avocado

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees f. In a small bowl combine the crumbled bacon, cheese and scallion, set aside. Season the beaten eggs with a little salt & pepper.  Melt butter in a 10-inch oven safe nonstick skillet over medium heat until the butter melts and the foaming subsides. Add the eggs to the skillet and immediately sprinkle the bacon-cheese mixture over the top, spoon the drained salsa evenly over the top. Using a heat-proof spatula mix the frittata in small circular motions until the egg begins to set up into soft curds. Continue to cook, running the spatula around the edges of the frittata and lifting, letting the uncooked egg flow to the outer edges. (All this should take only a couple of minutes, start to finish.) When the frittata is mostly set with just the top looking a little runny, place the fritatta in the oven to finish cooking, about 3 minutes or so. Slide the frittata out onto a cutting board and cut into wedges for serving. 

2. Add the frittata wedges and sliced avocado to the toasted rolls. Serve.


Cherry Mojitos

This post has been published automatically as I am out with my people having a bit of summer fun. Our kids have been troopers over the past couple of breaks we've had while my husband and I have been busy with different home improvement projects (we have grass in our back yard now by the way, hooray!). So we figured it was time for some much deserved recreation time and treat them to a couple of days at a nearby water park. Then we are home to do a quick turn around and leave for a 3 day camping trip at the coast, which I am especially excited about, I love camping but I especially love the coastline of the Pacific Northwest. The weather will be cool and breezy, I am looking forward to taking some photos on the beach, (there's an old shipwreck near where we'll be and an abandoned military defense installation that was was in use spanning the Civil War through World War II). So Things will get just a little quiet here over the next few days. But then I'll be back, reinvigorated and ready to go. 

In the meantime I will leave you with this beautifully hued cherry mojito. Probably one of the best drinks I've ever had was a delicious blackberry mojito at one of my most favorite Seattle restaurants, Tom Douglas' Palace Kitchen. I just love mojitos, they are a perfect harmony of flavors, fresh cooling mint leaves, tart lime, a bite of light rum, and a nice sweetened fizzy backdrop to bring it all into perfection. Such a perfect cocktail on a warm summer evening. I may even sneak the makings for these along in our camping gear for my husband and I to enjoy after the kids are asleep.

Cherry Mojitos

*note: this recipe makes a fairly large batch of cherry simple syrup. Feel free to cut the proportions in  half and it will yield approximately 1 1/4 c. (the recipe as-is makes about 2 1/2 c.)

For the cherry simple syrup:
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. water
1 lb. fresh cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped

To make a  cherry mojito:
plenty of crushed ice
a few fresh mint leaves
1 T. fresh squeezed lime juice (sometimes I like to add a little more)
1/4 c. cherry simple syrup (fruit included)
1.5 oz. light rum
sparkling water or club soda

Add a  generous scoop of crushed ice into a highball glass, drop in the mint leaves (I like to tear them a little bit before I drop them in to help release the flavor). Using a muddler, or the handle-end of a wooden spoon, bruise the mint leaves by muddling the ice and mint together. Add lime juice, simple syrup and rum, stir well. Top off with sparkling water or club soda.

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Caprese-Style Stuffed Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction

I have reached that point in the summer now where I am kicking myself for not having planted a couple of tomato plants in the back yard this year and a big pot of basil to go along with it. Eight years ago I grew the most amazing garden which included 4 types of heirloom tomatoes and it was the best food summer I think I've ever experienced. I always find myself comparing what I am eating each summer to all the amazing food I enjoyed that year. And really  it was all centered around those amazing tomatoes, there is just really nothing in the world that compares to a tomato from your own garden. I swear I am going to have that experience again, it just didn't happen THIS summer.

And you know, that's okay. As dreamily wonderful as heirloom tomatoes certainly are, I have a great recipe to share today using plain old run-of-the-mill vine tomatoes from the grocery store. And with a few tricks, these tomatoes are sweet and juicy and flavored like my favorite summer Caprese. But next summer, as you all are my witnesses, I promise I will be dining daily on giant Brandywines, Green Zebras and Purple Cherokees, with some Sweet 100s on the side.

Caprese-Style Stuffed Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction
serves  4 as a main course, 6-8 as a side

1 c. balsamic vinegar
8 vine ripened tomatoes, about 2-3 inches in diameter
1 1/2 t. sugar 
kosher salt & pepper
4 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 c. couscous
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/8 t. red pepper flakes
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 c. finely chopped basil
3/4 c. plus 2 T. fresh grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, 1/2 c. shredded, the rest cut into 1/2-inch dice

1. In a small sauce pan, bring balsamic vinegar to a simmer over medium high heat, simmer until the vinegar is reduced to 1/4 c. Set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 375 degrees f.

2. Slice the top 1/2-inch off of each tomato (reserve tops) and using a sharp spoon or a melon baller (I used an inexpensive aluminum tablespoon-sized measuring spoon) scoop out the cores and seeds from the tomatoes into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl to catch the juices. Using your hands, break up and squeeze the pulp from the tomatoes to extract as much liquid as possible. Reserve 2/3 c. of the tomato juice (if needed add enough water to the juices to equal the 2/3 c.). In a small bowl combine the sugar and 1 1/2 t. kosher salt and sprinkle evenly inside the tomatoes. Lay the tomatoes cut-side down on a plate and set aside for 30 minutes. 

3. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the couscous and cook, stirring constantly until the couscous is coated in the oil and beginning to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper flakes, stir until evenly dispersed and fragrant. Add the reserved tomato juice and remove from the heat, cover and let sit until the couscous is rehydrated, about 7 minutes. Gently fluff with a fork, stir in the lemon juice, basil and 3/4 c. Parmesan. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Then fold in the diced mozzarella.

4. After the tomatoes have sat for 30 minutes, blot the insides of the tomatoes dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the cavities lightly with salt & pepper. Fill the tomatoes with the stuffing. Drizzle the remaining 2 T. olive oil in a 13x9-inch baking dish. Add the tomatoes to the baking dish. Combine the 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella and the remaining 2 T. Parmesan, sprinkle over the tops of the tomatoes. Season the reserved tomato tops with salt & pepper and place in the empty spaces in the baking dish. Bake until the tomatoes are softened but still hold their shape and the cheese on top is spotty-brown, 20-25 minutes. Serve the tomatoes, drizzled with the balsamic reduction.


Blueberry Crumble Tart with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream

A couple of weeks back when I posted my Apricot Frangipane Tart, my youngest requested that I make a blueberry pie, so this post is essentially inspired by him. A sweet tart for my sweetheart. ♥

As I type this I am realizing that this tart embodies a few types of desserts all in one. First there's the tart, of coarse, it's also a crumble or crisp, but then it's also a cookie, because the crust here is basically one giant oatmeal cookie. And finally there's the topping which is whipped cream with just a little bit of the spirit of cheesecake thrown in there. Wow! It's a blueberry-cookie-crumbe-cheesecake cream-tart. How can that not be good??

And indeed it is very good! As I was putting it together, I was wondering if I should have picked up some ice cream to serve with this in lieu of the cream cheese whipped cream. We are in the midst of a heat wave right now (and yes I made a tart, requiring me to turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Two words - air conditioner, big time grateful for it!) and the cream just wasn't striking me as the "perfect" thing to go along with this, plus I have a deep an undying affection for pie and ice cream. In the end I was pleasantly surprised that the cream cheese whipped cream was the perfect thing that really gave this tart a special finishing touch.

Blueberry Crumble Tart with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream
makes an 11-inch tart

For the tart shell & topping:
1 1/2 c. whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/3 c. old-fashioned oats
1/2 c. packed dark (or light is fine too) brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
12 T. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 T. water
For the blueberry filling:
4 c. fresh blueberries
1/3 c. granulated sugar
4 t. cornstarch
1/8 t. salt
1 T. lemon juice
For the cream cheese whipped cream:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 c. confectioners sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees f. Spray an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl combine, flour, oats, brown sugar, 1/2 c. granulated sugar, baking powder and 3/4 t. salt. Add the butter pieces and using your fingertips rub the butter and the flour mixture together until the butter is broken down and incorporated into the flour mixture (it should look streusel-like). Remove 1 1/2 c. and reserve. To the remaining mixture add the 2 T. water and mix. The dough should be able to hold together at this point, similar to cookie dough. 

2. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan. Place the tart shell in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, the shell should looks set and just beginning to brown around the edges. Remove the tart shell from the oven. 

3. In a large bowl, combine the filling ingredients and toss well to combine. Add the filling to the par-baked tart shell, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle the reserved crumb topping over the top of the filling. Place in the oven, reduce the heat to 350 degrees f. and bake until the juices are bubbling and the topping is browned, 45-55 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving. 

4. To make the cream cheese whipped cream: In a medium bowl, add the softened cream cheese, confectioners sugar and pinch of salt. Using an electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, mix. Slowly add in the heavy cream, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure that everything gets well incorporated. Increase mixer speed and beat to soft peaks. Serve, spooned on top of the tart. 


Hawaiian Barbequed "Huli-Huli" Chicken

I promise, this is the kind of barbequed chicken that will make you popular at your next backyard cookout. It may look like regular run-of-the-mill bbq chicken, but the flavor is anything but. Imagine something like teriyaki chicken and barbqued chicken having a love-child (in Hawaii) and getting the best of both worlds, juicy chicken that's been marinated in soy, ginger and garlic, then glazed with a spicy, flavorful barbeque-like glaze made with tons of pineapple juice - so good!  I love making chicken quarters on the grill, they're flavorful and as long as you don't incinerate the skin with flare-ups, they are practically impossible to overcook.

And this chicken is so great served with sticky rice and a crisp salad. The salad I made here is a take on a salad they serve at one of the teriyaki places near my house. It's just a simple iceberg salad with this slightly sweet  poppy seed dressing. It's a perfect refreshing counterpart to the super flavorful chicken.

Hawaiian Barbequed "Huli-Huli" Chicken
serves 4-6 

For the brine:
2 quarts (8 c.) water
2 c. soy sauce
6 garlic cloves minced (I used a microplane grater)
1 T. grated fresh ginger
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
4-6 chicken leg quarters, trimmed of excess fat and skin
For the glaze:
3 (6 oz.) cans pineapple juice
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. ketchup
3 T. rice vinegar
4 garlic cloves minced
1 T. grated fresh ginger
1-2 t. Asian chili-garlic sauce (depending on how spicy you want it)

1. Brine the chicken: Combine all of the ingredients for the brine in a large bowl or pot. Submerge the chicken in the brine, cover and refrigerate anywhere from 1 hour but no longer than 8 hours (or the chicken with be too salty). Remove the chicken from the brine and dry with paper towels.

2. Make the glaze: In a saucepan combine the glaze ingredients. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer until the glaze is reduced to about 1 cup, this can take anywhere from about 25-45 minutes. Set aside to cool until ready to use.

3. Grill the chicken: Preheat your grill on high heat for about 15 minutes. Scrape clean and oil the grill grate. Add the chicken pieces, skin-side up and immediately reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and grill until the chicken is well-browned on one side about 25 minutes (checking occasionally for flare-ups.) Flip the chicken and continue to cook until the skin is browned and crisp and the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees, approximately another 25 minutes. Remove the chicken from the grill and brush with the glaze. Serve the chicken, along with the remaining glaze. 

*To make the salad 
1/3 c. mayonnaise
2 T. milk
1 T. canola oil
1 1/2 t. rice vinegar
1 t. light brown sugar
1/4 t. onion powder
1/8 t. poppy seeds
salt & pepper 

**Combine all of the ingredients for the salad dressing, season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve over your salad of choice. (I used iceberg lettuce, shredded carrot and sliced green onion.)