One of the things I love about traveling is that it forces me to try new foods and new combinations of familiar foods. I am forever grateful for Italy for introducing me to a surprising combo that stole my heart, fragole con aceto balsamico — fresh strawberries drizzled in balsamic vinegar. Most of the time, it’s served as a dessert, but paired with the peppery bite of arugula and the amazingly tangy taste of plum tomatoes, it makes a wonderfully simple lunch on a summer day or a stunning accompaniment to grilled steak or chicken.
Tag Archives: basil
Once you try fresh, homemade gnocchi, you’ll never want to go back to the dense, store bought kind. The real deal are pillowy, tender dumplings. They are filling without being too heavy. Scared of making your own pasta? Don’t be. This is a great way to start.
Now, how about turning that homemade pasta into a weeknight dish that will impress your friends or family? The primo piatto Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, a melt-in-your-mouth blend of soft dumpling, light tomato sauce, basil, and gooey mozzarella is your answer. This is comfort food, Campanian style.
Once you use fresh basil, it’s hard to go back to the dried stuff. For a couple of dollars, you can get far more that you could need in a week at the local farmer’s market. Ashamed that I was throwing any away, I decided to grow my own in a little planter on my kitchen window sill. But, I swear that little guy sprouts new leaves faster than I can come up with ways to use them, despite my repertoire of Italian dishes. Then I remembered Thai basil, a.k.a holy basil.
Like most Thai stir-frys, Gai Paht Bai Grapao (Chicken Stir-fried with Holy Basil) comes together so quickly that if you’re planning to serve it with rice, you’ll want to start cooking the rice before you even start prepping your ingredients for the chicken, which makes it perfect for a weeknight supper. Oh, and it uses a whole handful of basil leaves, so now you have no excuses for letting them go to waste.
I never had a craving for pasta until I found out I couldn’t have it anymore. At the time, the gluten-free pastas on the market were inedible, and my only experiences with sauces came from a can or jar, so I was content to write off ever having it again.
Italians, not accepting life without at least an occasional plate of pasta, had already discovered gluten-free replacements for semolina that could still deliver the perfect strand of al dente spaghetti. I’m not even sure why I even bothered to walk down that aisle at the market, but it was like discovering a whole new world. I bought up several boxes – out of fear that I would never again find gluten free pasta – without a clue of what I would do with it.
Enter an Italian neighbor eager to teach me. Despite watching her make meatballs at least a dozen times, I never thought to write down the recipe, because they included bread crumbs. When a friend said he was craving spaghetti and meatballs, I was determined to recreate a gluten and egg free version. I like to use a few slices of crushed gluten free crisp bread, but you can try panko or cracker crumbs. Play around with the spices in the meatballs to suit your tastes. The tomato sauce isn’t strongly seasoned, so that it balances the flavorful meatballs.