Primavera Pasta and Dreaming of Italy

italyfresh pasta in italy

Anyone else day dreaming of summer, Italy, and pasta? Eight years ago exactly I was in the middle of my spring term abroad in Florence. I had the chance to study art history, photography, and attempt to learn basic Italian phrases, while really getting an education in who had the best pizza and gelato in town.

pizza italy

I fell in love with the culture, art, fresh tomatoes and olives, discovered pecorino cheese,  and tried to converse with my host mom who made incredible pasta every night, but didn’t speak a word of English. Each night she would cook a new gourmet dinner and almost all included a pasta course, sometimes as the main dish but often as a side. Cooking to her was seasonal and effortless. I cherished our dinners together despite the language barrier. We would sit with the English-Italian dictionary on the table and point to words when we couldn’t communicate.

We mostly communicated through food and facial expressions and this experience truly taught me that food is one of the most powerful and beautiful languages.

One night my good friend and roommate, Anna, and I taught our host mom and her granddaughter how to make pancakes. The ultimate American food! I regret not asking her to teach us how to make pasta or for some of her favorite recipes. I hope go have the chance to go back and visit and learn how to make authentic Italian pasta with her or other Italian grandmas/chefs/experts.

italian host fam

This inspired me to enter a pasta competition I learned about through an upcoming Italian food event in Houston.pasta event

This blog post has been entered in the Pasta Blogger Competition (Houston 2018)”. You can learn more about the event here which will be a foodie dream filled with over 20 different Houston restaurants preparing their favorite pasta creations. Here are the details, it will be a delicious and indulgent evening!
Authentic Italian Table:
A Celebration of Pasta, Italy’s gift to the world!
Sunday, May 20, 2018
2-5 p.m.
Bayou City Event Center
9401 Knight Road
Houston TX 77045
$35 per person
Click here for event registration info.

To get in the Italian and pasta spirit I made a recipe that represents the colors of the Italian flag while focusing on seasonal produce from the farmers market, and Italian cheese from Central Market . I was excited to discover fresh pasta from Casetta Catering at the Memorial Villages Farmers Market. The pasta is handcrafted by Italian Chef Francesco who imports his flour from Italy. This is the real deal and we are lucky to have access to authentic fresh Italian pasta here in Houston.

italian pasta

I sautéed asparagus, zucchini, red peppers, cherry tomatoes, and green peas in Bellucci Italian olive oil.

While this was going, I added the fresh pasta to boiling water for just under two minutes. Another perk of fresh pasta is it cooks super fast and you want to make sure you keep the perfect al dente texture.

Once I combined my fresh veggies with the pasta, I topped it with toasted pine nuts, a drizzle of pesto, and lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese!

To continue with the Italian celebration, I served a cheese board with cheeses from the incredible Italian cheese section at Central Market. These included: fontina fontal which was my favorite, a pecorino romano which is a classic salty Italian cheese, and the wildcard was a ubriaco di raboso cheese which is a semi hard cheese from Trevisio with a deep violet color and a fruity finish. I am obsessed with castelvetrano olives, the bright green delicious ones that come from Sicily, so this had to make it on the cheese board as well. To give Texas a shout out I had to use my Texas shaped cheese board.

Lastly, the finishing touch of our Italian celebration included blood orange Italian soda with gin and rosemary. The perfect refreshing cocktail to enjoy with all the pasta and cheese!

This is the perfect meatless Monday pasta dish and was a big hit with my friends. I can’t wait to try all the pasta dishes at the upcoming pasta celebration on May 20th, hope to see you there!

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Matzah Madness

How’s everyone’s Passover going so far?! This is the final stretch and wanted to share some classics with you in case you are in need of some inspiration or looking to try matzah recipes for that first time! It’s often my non Jewish friends who are most intrigued by matzah creations so I hope everyone will enjoy!

The assortment above is matzah crackers made with my friend Danielle who is always game for food styling with me. She invited me over for Grey’s Anatomy + matzah with goat cheese, pears, pistachios and honey! Yum. We added wine and played around with other combos including avocado matzah “toast” with tomatoes and everything but the bagel seasoning. Dessert was matzah chocolate and raspberries.

Nothing beats matzah pizza for a quick, versatile, and always delicious matzah meal. This is perfect for lunch or a snack or when you just need hot melted cheese (me all the time). The best matzah for this is classic salted or unsalted, manischevitz brand is my go to . Try to avoid egg matzah for this as it can get soggier which is not what you want for a crisp matzah pizza. Start with tomato sauce or pesto, any sauce will do! Then add your favorite shredded cheese and toppings. Some of my favorites include: mini peppers, Basil, three cheese blend, roasted tomatoes, and mushrooms! It’s a DIY canvas.

Matzah brei is a classic Passover breakfast that is delicious any time of year! You can make it savory or sweet. The sweet variety is sort of like a play on French toast. I love topping it with jam, cinnamon sugar, and a dollop of sour cream. Hoping to make a savory Mexican styled matzah brei migas this is weekend. For a classic matzah brei recipe you need: 1.5- 2 sheets of matzah, 2 eggs, a generous splash of milk, dash of vanilla or if you’re going sweet, add a pinch of salt. Break the matzah up in the egg and milk mixture and coat for about 1-2 minutes. Don’t let it sit longer! Heat up a skillet with butter and add the matzah brei mixture stirring quickly as if you were making scrambled eggs. Once eggs set to your desired consistency, serve immediately and top with your toppings of choice. This raspberry jam has been the real winner this Passover for me. I found it at the Blue Field Farmer’s market in Eado and am now hooked. Would order online too and easily say it’s the best raspberry jam I’ve tasted which can really elevate your breakfast!

If you only have 1 minute for breakfast, matzah with cream cheese and everything but the bagel seasoning from Trader Joe’s is the answer. Could also skip cream cheese and do this with avocado, yum!

No Passover is complete without matzah crack! Basically matzah toffee that is seriously addictive. I’m partial to this Smitten Kitchen recipe, but you can’t go wrong with any Carmel chocolate combo on here. Warning, it gets sticky so use parchment paper plus foil!

Hope you enjoy! What are your favorite recipes with matzah?

Peach- Pizza -Party!

The end of August always is bittersweet and one of the things I miss most every fall is peach season. Before we are bombarded with pumpkin spice everything, I am making it a mission to enjoy the end of stone fruit season to the fullest before it’s gone. I’ve been adding ripe peaches to everything from salads, to tropical smoothies, and even to pizza!

When Whole Foods Market reached out to collaborate on a recipe with peaches I was super excited and immediately knew I had to combine it with my other true food love, cheese. What better way to celebrate the end of summer than with this cheesy sweet and savory peach pizza? Ricotta, burrata, parmesan, basil, and a balsamic drizzle make this easy to whip up any day of the week. Add some rose’ and call your friends and you’ve got yourself a swanky pizza party!

Peaches are currently on sale at Whole Foods Market in Dallas and Houston as part of their summer savings promotions, talk about a sweet deal! The peaches will be $1.49 a lb, they will be $2.50 off and can be found in the organic yellow peaches section. Be sure to stop by this week to stock up.

Peach Pizza Recipe:

1 ball of pizza dough from fridge section

3 peaches sliced

1 handful of fresh basil

4 oz of whole milk burrata cheese

1/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan

4 oz of ricotta cheese

Drizzle of balsamic glaze and olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 500•
  2. Let dough chill on counter for at least 30 minutes. Divide in two and put other half away for another pizza.
  3. Start to stretch and knead dough with your hands and then with a rolling pin creating a round-ish shape. If you’re struggling to create a perfect circle, don’t worry, it’s artisan!
  4. Lightly brush the dough with olive oil.
  5. Spread ricotta cheese on the dough creating a thin layer to coat the crust.
  6. Arrange sliced peaches over the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle 1/2 the parmesan cheese on top of pizza.
  7. Bake on pizza stone or baking sheet for 13 minutes or until golden in color
  8. Garnish with fresh basil, remaining parmesan, the burrata, and a balsamic drizzle! Enjoy immediately 🙂

*Disclosure: I have a partnership with Whole Foods Market and was compensated for my work, but all words and opinions are my own.

Easy Cheesy Empanadas 

Hello from the other side! 2016 has been off to a crazy busy start so I’ve been behind on blogging but excited to share some new recipes and restaurant reviews with you all!  With the Super Bowl happening this afternoon I figured it was a perfect time to share a recipe to make to spice up your game day snack spread.

I’m not going to lie, I could really care less about the game and pretty much show up to a super bowl party purely for the guacamole and commercials. Anyone else with me on that? If you are looking for something new to add to the table, these four cheese empanadas hit the spot! My dear friend Zoe has become quite the empanada expert and taught me her empanada secrets over a girls cooking and wine date last night. Hope you enjoy as much as we do!
To start preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Here are the ingredients you will need:

2/3 cup ricotta (the full fat kind is worth it for this recipe)

1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded

2/3 cup feta cheese crumbled

1 cup Parmesan cheese

3 eggs

2 boxes refrigerated Empanada tapas- Goya is the best. Can be found in speciality markets or Mexican grocery stores. Fiesta in Houston sells them if you’re nearby.


Directions:

In a large bowl combine all four cheeses and 3 eggs and mix thoroughly. At this point you should probably be sipping on wine too…


Remove the empanadas one by one and keep each on the circular saran wrap to help assemble.


Next scoop a dollop of the cheese mix into the center of each tapas. This was a generous scoop, you just want to make sure it doesn’t explode!


Next lightly dab water around the edge of half of the tapa to help it stick as you carefully fold over in half.

Once folded pinch the corner to create a point. Fold over the point and pinch again creating another point . Repeat the process until the empanada is fully closed and looks like these beauties.


It’s all about tightly pinching and folding one point after the next, sounds confusing but after your first few you will be a pro! Zoe’s are the ones that look prettier than mine but she says I’ve improved since our first lesson 🙂

  Next brush each empanada with olive oil and sprinkle with sugar to add a touch of sweetness (optional but YOLO).

Put the empanadas on a lined tray with waxed paper and bake for around 20-25 minutes. You want them to be lightly golden. Let cool until you can’t wait any longer and enjoy!

Flash back to our first empanada date with the real empanada expert, Cynthia! She’s been making empanadas for over 25 years. We made delicious meat ones that time and of course enjoyed over mate.

Happy cooking and super bowl snacking!

Apple Cranberry Cobbler

This cobbler recipe is my dad’s signature Shabbat dessert dish.  There isn’t even an official recipe, it has evolved based on what we have in the pantry or in our fruit bowl. You can throw it together at the last minute if you’re entertaining and no one will know how easy it is to make. It’s always a huge hit and my brother and I would always hope there would be leftovers to eat  the next morning cold out of the fridge! It’s arguably just as good that way, though others may prefer it hot out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Basically you can’t go wrong eating this anytime of day. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do. We all have our own preference on using either canned or fresh fruit. Both options are great though if you are in a pinch for time the canned option works well and is easy to always have on hand in your pantry. When fresh cranberries are in season I often will use those. Try both or even swap  out the apples for pears. There are lots of options and it’s a perfect way to enjoy Fall produce. This could also be great for your Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving tables…
Apple Cranberry Cobbler Recipe:

Preheat oven to 350•

2 cans of Ocean Spray whole berry cranberries or 2 cups of fresh cranberries

2 cans of apple slices or 4 sliced and peeled Granny Smith apples

Mix the fruit in an ungreased baking dish.

Next combine:

1 stick of melted butter,margarine, or coconut oil

1 and 1/4 cup of brown sugar

1 and 1/4 cup of oats

1 and 1/4 cup of flour of your choice

Mix together to form a crumble and then evenly distribute over the fruit.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until it starts to just slightly bubble. Avoid burning the crumble topping, watch carefully around the 40 minute mark and you cover  with foil if necessary at the end.

Enjoy! It’s great with ice cream or with yogurt for breakfast.

Go-To Green Smoothie

I dare you to swap your morning coffee and pastries for green smoothies for one week.  I know it may sound scary, but I have been amazed at how much more energized I feel having a green smoothie as my drink of choice for breakfast.  Depending on what you add (ex: nut butter or protein powder), it can also be a meal replacement. Starting my day with this delicious blend of fruits, veggies, and protein leaves me feeling refreshed, healthy, and balanced instead of jittery and starving by 10 am.  I hope you enjoy the recipe and I encourage you to swap out ingredients to find your own personal favorite combo!
Sarah’s Go-To Green Smoothie Recipe:
1.5 cups of Coconut Water (I’m loving Central Market’s Brand or Vita Coco)
1 cup of rinsed Kale leaves or Spinach
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 dash of cinnamon
Blend on High and Enjoy! Note this will taste best if you have a high powered blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec.