Diane Seed’s Asparagus Risotto


Diane Seed is known to those who have been fortunate enough to attend her occasional classes, as a teacher who weaves a spell, while she infuses Italian history and a story with each dish she creates with you.  I had the pleasure of spending an evening with her and it was truly the highlight of my cooking journey.  She is fascinating, and so pleasant. She glides in the kitchen with an ease that is contagious. I found myself be very child-like and wanting to mimic her every move.

One of the dishes we made while I was graced with her presence was Asparagus Risotto. She taught me most people feel the need to make their risotto with Arborio Rice, but she compared it to Minute Rice and she said Carnaroli Rice is the only rice for GOOD risotto. When I came back home I couldn’t find it though.  I found some on Amazon.com to order.  I also found it in the North Beach or Little Italy while I was in San Francisco.  So you might have to search for it in your hometown.

I hope you take the time to make this dish. It is truly an indulgence well worth it.  This is taken from my notes.  Enjoy her comments about some of the ingredients!

Enjoy and Happy Cooking,                                                                                  

Vonnie

Ingredients:

2 pounds fresh green asparagus

salt

1 3/4 oz butter (

1 medium onion, finely chopped

10 ounces Carnaroli rice (the only rice to use Anything else used will taste like Minute)

8 ounces good dry white wine ( cook with what you would drink, not cheap)

a little light stock,  (asparagus water about 3 cups or more)

1 3/4 ounce freshly grated parmesan cheese (buy a good quality and grate it yourself)

black pepper, Freshly ground                                                    

Directions:

Cut off the extreme tips(1 to 1 1/4 inch) of the asparagus and reserve.  Cut the remaining stalks into pieces (1 3/4 inches) and cook quickly in a little salted water.  When they are tender,  puree and sieve to eliminate any tough fibers.  Stir this pulp into cooking liquid to make an asparagus stock. (this is the salted water the asparagus cooked in).

Melt 1 1/2 ounce of the butter in a large pan, add the onion and let it begin to soften before adding the asparagus tips. With a wooden spoon ( must be a wooden spoon) stir in the rice and let it absorb in the flavor of the butter and pour in the wine.  Turn up the heat so the wine evaporates quickly then ladle on a little of the boiling asparagus stock.  When the rice has absorbed the liquid add another ladle of stock and continue in this way until the rice is cooked. You may need to use a different stock if the asparagus stock is finished before the rice is tender.  It is important to add only boiling stock a little at a time to the rice.  This process usually takes about 20 minutes and needs constant care. ( just like a baby or a man!!)

When the rice is cooked check for seasoning and stir in the remaining butter and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Add your black pepper to your taste.

Deutsch: Abgesackter Carnaroli Reis; Risottoqu...

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Italian Vegetable Pie


This week I chose a dinner which I love to make. This is a go-to recipe that comes out perfect and satisfying every time. I also love how versatile it is. You can substitute the vegetables to whatever is your liking.  Also, if you want, you can substitute ground beef, ground sausage, a combination of both, or ground turkey for the tofu. When I make it with meat, I use 1/2 pound ground beef and a 1/2 pound of ground hot Italian sausage. Brown and drain before adding to the vegetables.  Also, a nice add-in is a couple of handfuls of washed and chopped fresh spinach. Stir in after simmering and before assembling. Round out your dinner with a nice tossed salad and fresh bread.
Enjoy and Happy Cooking~
Vonnie 

                                                                                                                                         

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 (12.3-ounce) package firm tofu, drained and crumbled * 
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (25.5-ounce) jar fat-free marinara sauce
6 cooked lasagna noodles, cut in half crosswise
Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* Substitution for tofu: 1 pound ground beef, 1 pound ground Italian sausage, 1 pound ground turkey, browned and drained

Preparation:

 
Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, chopped onion, mushrooms, tofu, and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomato paste, Italian seasoning, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper, and marinara sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes.

Arrange the noodles spoke like in the bottom of an 8-inch round baking dish or 9 inch deep dish pie plate coated with cooking spray. Spread 3 cups tomato mixture over noodles. Fold ends of noodles over tomato mixture, and top with the remaining tomato mixture and cheeses. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes.

Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad


This is a delicious and tangy cold pasta salad with grilled vegetables that is so satisfying it’s perfect for Meatless Monday! I serve mine with warm cornbread muffins, and green grapes.  This is a great way to beat the heat and have a great, satisfying dinner. What a great way to end very busy day. Add a glass of your favorite wine or iced cold beer!

PS…for the meat-eaters, just add 1 pound of  your favorite grilled meat or seafood.  I love this with grilled shrimp, chicken or steak thinly sliced.
Enjoy and Happy Cooking,

Vonnie


Ingredients:
1 pound penne pasta, cooked and rinsed in cold water
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves washed, dried, and thinly sliced
2 TBSP. lemon juice
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 large onion, thickly sliced in rounds
2 medium zucchini, peeled,thickly sliced in rounds
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper thickly sliced and cut into chunks
1 cup of grape tomatoes
1/4 cup Italian dressing
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Directions:

Combine mayonnaise, basil, lemon juice and red pepper flake in a large bowl. Add cooked pasta and toss.
Heat grill on high heat. Place onions and zucchini on grill. Turn heat down to medium. Grill for 2 minutes and turn. Add the rest of the vegetables except tomatoes. Cook until vegetables are tender. About 5 minutes. Add tomatoes. Cook for 2-4 minutes. Remove vegetables from grill and add to pasta.  Add Italian dressing to pasta and vegetables.  Toss mixture and mix well.  Add lemon rest and parmesan cheese. Stir and serve. Can be served warm or cold.
Serves: 6

Italian Sausage with Mussels and Pasta


Whenever I vacation to the East Coast, I eat as much seafood as I can.  It just seem like the right dinner to have when I am so close to the ocean.  Last week, I had the pleasure of spending a time in Belmar, NJ with my best friend Kerry and her children John and Claire,  parents Buz and Maureen,  cousin Cathy and Uncle Dan Sullivan(who made me an honorary Irishwoman and was the highlight of my stay)!  Their family heritage is so rich, and I loved hearing Dan tell wonderful stories of the past,  sharing coffee with Cathy every morning,  playing on the beach with the kids and meeting and loving all of Kerry’s friends. We had so many laughs.   One thing I enjoyed with every meal was fresh mussels.  So I dug out this recipe to make here in good old Plymouth and continue my love affair with seafood.

What I love about this recipe, there are no real set ingredients. You can adjust the vegetables to your liking and the flavors of the sausage. If you don’t like mussels, you can use clams.  The possibilities are endless.  I use homemade Italian hot sausage from my local market.  They have wonderful favors and they are made fresh everyday. They also have a wonderful seafood department.  When you are buying mussels have the seafood specialists rinse them.  Sometimes they open up and rinsing them closes them and that’s what you want.  Any that stay open, toss them.  When you bring them home, refrigerate until you are ready to cook.  They should have a salty ocean air smell.

Now to share my Irish heritage:  “May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light,
May good luck pursue you each morning and night”.

Enjoy and Happy Cooking,                                                                                     

Vonnie

 

Ingredients:

1# Italian sausage, grilled and sliced or cases removed and crumbled
1 bag of mussels
1 28 can of diced tomatoes with juice
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 bell peppers, any color and diced
red pepper flakes
parmesan cheese, freshly grated
olive oil

Pasta
1# angel hair pasta, cooked el dente
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup olive oil
fresh basil, chopped
parmesan cheese, freshly grated
black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Coat a large deep skillet with olive oil and heat to medium. Add peppers, onions, and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes. Add can of tomatoes with juice, Stir. Cover and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and stir. Add mussels and stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Keep lid on the whole 5 minutes without peeking! Stir and cover. Cook for another 3-5 minutes. Mussels should be opened . Any that don’t open, discard. Stir in Italian sausage and parmesan cheese. Serve on top of pasta.

Pasta:
Heat oil over medium heat and add garlic. Watch closely and stir. When garlic get to a golden color, add to cooked pasta. Toss and add pepper, parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

Deb’s Brown Butter Gnocchi with Spinach


This is a recipe that was given to me by my dear friend Debbie and fan of Challenge. She is a food-aholic just like me! We are always emailing one another with recipes we have tried, created or read! I’m not sure which this recipe falls into, but if I had to guess she created it! I love how simple everything comes together, even her salad recipe at the end. When I opened the email I knew it was perfect for Meatless Monday. You can always add some leftover grilled chicken or a little ham for your meat lovers.

 

Here’s Debbie’s email:

Hi cooking buddy. I had to share this delicious recipe with you so you can in turn pass to all your Challengeu2cook fans!

Hope you love as much as we all did. I made 2 batches. One meat-free and one with grilled chicken. I LOVED both! Hope you do too!

Love ya,                                              

Deb                                                                                                                   

 

 

PS…Tell me if you like the salad. I fell in love with it and the dressing is so good We need to start bottling our dressings!

 
 
 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 (16-ounce) package vacuum-packed gnocchi
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach, torn
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • leftover grilled chicken, sliced  or cubed ham

 

Preparation
  • 1. Cook gnocchi according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.
  • 2. Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts to pan; cook 3 minutes or until butter and nuts are lightly browned, stirring constantly. Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute. Add gnocchi and spinach to pan; cook 1 minute or until spinach wilts, stirring constantly. Stir in salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  PS   Prepare a quick salad to accompany the gnocchi: Combine 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add 6 cups gourmet salad greens, sliced tomatoes and cucumber chunks  to bowl; toss gently to coat.

Italian Sausage with Mussels and Pasta


What I love about this recipe is there are no real set ingredients. Can can adjust the vegetables to your liking and the flavors of the sausage. If you don’t like mussels, you can use clams. there are endless possibilities. I use homemade Italian hot sausage from my local grocery store. They have wonderful favors and always fresh. Any flavor would work in this recipe. I also get my mussels from there. When you are buying mussels have the seafood specialists rinse them. Sometimes they open up and rinsing them closes them and that’s what you want. Any that stay open, toss. When you bring them home, refrigerate until you are ready to cook. They should have a salty ocean air smell.
 
Enjoy and Happy Cooking,                                                                                                   
 
 
 
 
Ingredients:1 # Italian Sausage grilled and sliced1 bag of mussels
1 28 can of diced tomatoes with juice
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 bell peppers, any color and diced
red pepper flakes
parmesan cheese, freshly grated
olive oil

Pasta
1# angel hair pasta, cooked el dente
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup olive oil
fresh basil, chopped
parmesan cheese, freshly grated
black pepper, to taste

 
Directions:Coat a large deep skillet with olive oil and heat to medium. Add peppers, onions, and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes. Add can of tomatoes with juice, Stir. Cover and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and stir. Add mussels and stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Keep lid on the whole 5 minutes without peeking! Stir and cover. Cook for another 3-5 minutes. Mussels should be opened . Any that don’t open, discard. Stir in Italian sausage and parmesan cheese. Serve on top of pasta.Pasta:
Heat oil over medium heat and add garlic. Watch closely and stir. When garlic get to a golden color, add to cooked pasta. Toss and add pepper, parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

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Baked Eggplant


Baked Eggplant was one of my favorite dishes my Grandma Taylor used to make. Her recipe was Norma Antenuccis, a Warren, Ohio celebrity. In the 1950′s, she had a segment on the local tv station and then went on to publish a cookbook. My grandma and Mrs. Antenucci were friends. I love the old time cookbooks that share their family stories and great recipes and this is one of the best. This recipe is my childhood. It’s one of the things I think of when I remember my Grandma Taylor cooking in her kitchen.
Today I dedicate this Meatless Monday to my Grandma Taylor and my dear friend Josette Busuttil who asked for the recipe and is always supporting Challengeu2cook.
I hope you enjoy and Happy cooking.                                                 
 
 

Baked Eggplant
This is from page 49 of Norma presents….a Collection of her favorite recipes.

“Another one of my mother’s specialties. You just haven’t tasted anything until you’ve tried this”.

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant or 2 small ones
2 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
water
1 can tomato paste plus 2 cans water
1 tsp. basil leaves
Shredded mozzarella,  or a combination of mozzarella and  parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Peel eggplant and slice in 1/4 inch slices. Sprinkle with salt.
2. Beat eggs, add salt and flour. This makes a thick batter. Thin down with about 1/3 cup of water to the consistency of pancake batter.
3. Dip slices of eggplant in batter and fry until brown on both sides. in hot shortening.
4. Heat tomato paste that has been diluted with water in a sauce pan. Add salt and pepper and 1 tsp. basil leaves. Heat ti boiling.
5. Place slices of fried eggplant in a casserole dish, pour some of the tomato sauce over them, sprinkle with cheese. Repeat layers until all eggplant is used. Be sure to end up with sauce and cheese on top.
6. Bake uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.

You may find it necessary to make more batter for the eggplant. This varies depending upon the size of the eggplant and amount that is absorbed by slices.

Leftover spaghetti sauce can be substituted for the tomato paste. This naturally imparts a great deal of flavor to the dish. You can also substitute whole tomatoes for the paste.

To complete this meal, you can serve with a side of spaghetti and some grilled Italian sausage and a simple salad.

*For a variation, add thin slices of fresh Mozzarella cheese between layers.

*For another variation place cooked broccoli between layers.

Italian Vegetable Pie for Meatless Monday


This week I chose a  meatless dinner which I love to make. This is a go-to recipe that comes out perfect and satisfying every time. I also love how versatile it is. You can substitute the vegetables to whatever your liking.   If you want, you can substitute ground beef, ground Italian sausage ,or a combo of the two for the tofu.  Also,seasoned ground turkey works nicely. When I make it with meat, I use 1 pound ground beef and hot Italian sausage. Brown and drain before adding to the vegetables.  I also like to add  a couple of handfuls of washed and chopped fresh spinach.  Stir in after simmering and before assembling. Round out your dinner with a nice tossed salad and fresh bread.
Hope you enjoy.  Let me know your dinner stories. I love hearing them all.
As always….Happy Cooking,                                                                                          

                                                                                          

Ingredients
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 (12.3-ounce) package firm tofu, drained and crumbled
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (25.5-ounce) jar fat-free marinara sauce
6 cooked lasagna noodles, cut in half crosswise
Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded  mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preparation
Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, chopped onion, mushrooms, tofu, and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomato paste, Italian seasoning, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper, and marinara sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes.

Arrange the noodles spoke like in the bottom of an 8-inch round baking dish or 9 inch deep dish pie plate coated with cooking spray. Spread 3 cups tomato mixture over noodles. Fold ends of noodles over tomato mixture, and top with the remaining tomato mixture and cheeses. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes.

Grocery Cart Ambush


I went to my local market today and decided to do one of those Grocery Cart Ambush. You’ve seen and read about  TV personalities or dietitians who come upon regular people shopping and go through their grocery cart and help them make better/healthier choices.  Ok…so I didn’t exactly do that,  but I did ambush some grocery carts! They didn’t have people pushing them, but the wind was doing a pretty nice job of keeping me on my toes chasing after them.  And I didn’t help regular people make better/healthier choices. I did however, choose their grocery lists LEFT in their grocery cart!

Here’s where I’m going with all this.  I thought I would post one of the groceries list I chased down and see what kind of recipes everyone can come up with from the items. Use as many items as you can and try not to add items unless they are pantry/fridge items(oils, butter, milk spices, etc). I will see what I can come up with too! This should be lots of fun!

As always enjoy and happy cooking,                                                                 

                                                                                      

Grocery List:

Zucchini

Carrots

Yellow and Red Peppers

Garlic

Spring Mix

Raspberries

Mint

Oranges

Parmesan Cheese

Salmon

Milk