Tag Archives: tomatoes

Berries bite back

IMG_1887One 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.

Strawberry and Tomato Salad

Lunching in Tuscany

20140531-155554-57354274.jpgIt’s just starting to get hot here – like 100F hot – and thankfully the humidity hasn’t kicked into full steam mode.  Still, it’s hard to think about eating anything heavy, especially in the middle of the day.  And, who wants to slave over an oven or range when you’ve escaped the heat outside?

A few cans, a few minutes at the cutting board, and presto chango —

Insalata di Tonno e Fagioli (Tuna and Cannellini Bean Salad)

Now, pour yourself a nice, chilled white wine and pretend you’re in Tuscany!

Getting saucy

Albóndigas en Salsa de Tomate (Meatballs in Tomato Sauce)

Setas al Ajo (Garlic Mushrooms)

I’ve been craving paella lately, and it’s so much better when its shared alongside a good Spanish red and a lively conversation.  Sounds like the recipe for a dinner party!!!

If I’ve learned anything entertaining friends, it’s that not everyone shows up on time – maybe they get lost or maybe they’re just not obsessively punctual like yours truly.  So, I fix an appetizer or two that we can munch on as the group comes together.  The main course tends to be something that comes out of the oven after the last guest arrives or can stand the rest.  Or, occasionally in the case when I haven’t had time to prep the ingredients in advance, isn’t even close to ready and becomes its own entertainment as guests stand around my open kitchen watching me finish cooking.

Normally when I make paella, my tapas selection tends towards olives, marcona almonds, sausages.  This time, I decided to try a couple of warm tapas, Albóndigas en Salsa de Tomate (Meatballs in Tomato Sauce) and
Setas al Ajo (Garlic Mushrooms).

Note to self: buy more GF bread next time!!! The sauce on these meatballs was so good, one friend kept going back and scooping out one meatball and two or three spoonfuls of the sauce, which he would them mop up every last drop of with the GF bread I had toasted.  Another piled mushrooms on pieces of toast like bruschetta, so that the garlicky sherry sauce would soak in.



Fisherman’s Masala

One of the best things about living on an island is the abundance of fresh seafood.  Even better, on this island you can find a plethora of whole and ground spices in the souk for pocket change.  Even though I know they won’t keep forever, I’m already daydreaming about what I will ship home when it comes time to leave (spices only…not the fish!).  And, since I can find all those whole spices, why not try my hand at making my own curry powders, like this machali masala.

Fresh tomatoes, on the other hand, are harder to come by since it’s so hot here, especially tomatoes that haven’t been refrigerated.  So, the other day made a chutney out of them, which I’ve been eating on pretty much everything until I can find a mold to make idlis.

Now, back to the seafood and spices…  Thakkali chatni is also a perfect complement to mild flavored seafood.  Put them all together, and you have a healthy, quick, and tasty weeknight supper.

Curry Dusted Scallops with Spicy Tomato Chutney

Little pigeons?


A dear friend of mine and I were talking about her Christmas vacation, and she told me about teaching her daughter their family’s tradition of making stuffed cabbage rolls.

If a 5 year old could learn, it was about time for me to.  Of course, I made a few tweaks, like using brown rice and replacing half the rice with lentils.

Warning: Golabki (“little pigeons” in Polish) take a little time to assemble, so they’re really not a weeknight dish if you don’t have a couple of hours to cook. The good news is that they’re not labor intensive, and you’ll be rewarded by the flavor that develops.  Oh, and if you think they’re good out of the oven, wait until you reheat them for a quick lunch.

Golabki (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)

The fat cat’s favorite


My mom used to love Garfield.   I could never get past the incongruity of a cat who loved lasagna.  But, maybe I had never had a really good lasagna.

I love the idea of lasagna.  Pasta, sausage, cheese, tangy tomato sauce… an easy, filling meal perfect for low fuss entertaining.

Unfortunately, it is an immune system nightmare, with one land mine after another.  I see it on menus and secretly pine for a dish with so many things I can’t have.

Then, one cold evening, I came across GF lasagna noodles at my neighborhood organic market, and I knew my lasagna-less days were over.  This lasagna is more Italian-American inspired than it is Italian; I’ve never been a huge fan of traditional sugo alla bolognese and béchamel.  Like most lasagne, it tastes even better after a day or two.  Of course, Garfield would never let it sit that long!

Fluffy Pillows


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.

Buon Appetito!!!

One Dish for All

20130817-125923.jpgOne of my favorite things to make for a dinner party is paella.  Traditional paella is gluten, dairy, and egg free, without having to be adapted. The leftovers taste phenomenal. Oh, and I also like the drama of unveiling the pan at the table, although I’ve only managed to keep my guests out of the kitchen while I was preparing it only once.

This week’s dinner presented a unique challenge, as two of my guests were vegan, one follows a kosher diet, and the rest were meat lovers.  My heart was set on paella, though, so I thought I’d adapt my paella valencia recipe and see what happened.  (I also made a traditional paella for the meat lovers.)  The result  – even the meat eaters enjoyed the paella vegetariana but no leftovers. 😦

Here’s a sangria to go with it, even though you’ll only find tourists drinking it with dinner in Spain.

Chasing Waterfalls

As soon as the weather starts to get warm, I get a craving for salad.  But I don’t want just any salad; I want a Thai beef salad called Yum Neua Yang Nam Tok.  I confess, I’ve based my rating of more than one Thai restaurant solely on how well they balance the flavors in this salad.

Nam tok translates as waterfall, and I’ve heard the name refers to the beads of moisture that rises to the surface of the grilled beef as nears the perfect cooking temperature.  Unfortunately, I always remember the story after I’m done grilling the meat.  I guess I’m just too eager to eat it!


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.

Buon appetito!

Spaghetti & Meatballs

%d bloggers like this: