Primavera Pasta and Dreaming of Italy

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

CourseHorse Cooking Class- Sur La Table!

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I’m finally back from my whirlwind of a trip to New Zealand + Australia and I’m excited to catch up on some blog posts! Soon I will be posting a recap of our adventuress.

A few days before the trip I went to an amazing Tour of Italy: Tuscany cooking class at Sur La Table with my friend, Stephanie.  I was contacted by CourseHorse , a company that offers a wide variety of courses and learning opportunities. CourseHorse is essentially a discovery and booking tool for local classes.  I was amazed at the wide variety of classes they offer including: fitness, languages, life schools, tech skills, professional skills, and cooking.  I was excited about the unique range of cooking classes they  plan to offer in Houston and have been wanting to try a class at Sur La Table so it was the perfect opportunity.  While my class was compensated, all of my opinions are my own and I have already signed-up for another cooking class since I loved the experience so much.

We attended class at the River Oaks Sur La Table location. I knew we were off to a good start when I saw this magical sunset upon arriving.

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The class was small and personalized with only around eight people which really allowed us individual attention with our insightful instructor, Chef Monica Tapia.  In addition to making a three course gourmet meal, I learned tips along the way from Chef Monica about proper knife skills, the best way to cut veggies and meat, how to create the perfect base for soup, and many other kitchen prep tricks.

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When we arrived, everything was already set-up  in portioned out stations with all the ingredients. We each received name tags, aprons, light refreshments, and quickly started working in teams on the first course. I would recommend going with a friend if possible since you do typically work in teams of two, but everyone was also very friendly if you did go on your own.

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Did I mention the class was BYOB?! We brought a lovely Pinot Noir that complemented our Italian feast perfectly. The first course was my favorite with the hearty and healthy ribollita Tuscan soup paired with a pecorino and shaved fennel salad. This soup was seriously to die for and could easily be a meal in itself.  We learned that this soup used to be considered a peasant soup based on vegetables that were easily grown in the garden and made with day old bread. The robust flavors of tomatoes, white beans, a parmesan rind, garlic, pancetta, and onions all made a rich and complex broth. We stirred in kale at the end to get in some extra greens. I already made this soup again since it was so easy and tasty, perfect for a weeknight meal. I also fell in love with this simple salad of freshly shaved fennel with greens. We made a light and zingy lemon garlic vinaigrette which was made for a refreshing side salad.

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Next up we seared Bistecca alla Fiornetina on small grills. These steaks were lightly seasoned with herbs and lemon.  We were pretty full from the first course but these steaks were perfectly seasoned and grilled so it was hard to resist! It was fun getting to taste our dishes throughout the class and it definitely turned into a full dinner, make sure you go hungry!

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We couldn’t end the class without a sweet treat and these indulgent chocolate hazelnut filled donuts were SO delicious.  I had never had Bomboloni before (which is probably a good thing because these are dangerous), but they were so fun to make.  These Tuscan-Style mini yeasted donuts are a great dessert to impress friends with or to enjoy for a special meal. I had never made doughnuts from scratch before and will have to find another excuse soon to whip these up.

I am so glad CourseHorse offers such great cooking classes in Houston and am excited to continue trying more classes. Keep in mind that they are currently in beta mode for Houston.  More classes will be coming soon and be sure to sign-up with your email address to receive more info once classes are live! Stay tuned for details on my next class at Sur La Table where we will be making homemade pasta 🙂