Tag Archives: Barefoot Contessa

Parmesan Thyme Cocktail Crackers

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Well, I think the holiday season is officially upon us. For some corporations people, the season has been breathing down our throats alive and kicking since the end of October, but I dislike getting involved in anything that smacks of the merry holiday spirit until after Thanksgiving. But, it’s now December, so here I am, merry spirit and jingling bells!

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All month long I’ll be sharing ideas appropriate for the season. Personally, I grew up celebrating Christmas, so in the spirit of write what you know, I’ll be sharing some recipes appropriate for Christmas dinner or brunch, but my hope is that most of them could be translated/adapted to a table for whichever holiday you celebrate.

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I’ll also be posting several ideas for the holiday cocktail parties! Because we all get invited to or host them all month long; sometimes we’re asked to bring a dish, other times we host it ourselves and do all the work. Either way, you have to make some food decisions, and I’m going to hook you up with elegant, delicious, small bites that would be perfectly at home in any seasonal cocktail party.

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Starting with these beautiful, amazing little crackers, perfect to nibble accompanied by a cocktail or glass of wine. They are about two bites each, require no utensils whatsoever, and your guests will go nuts for them. Elegant AND adorable, full of flavor, perfect chewy texture, and the pop of fresh thyme is really what makes these. I loved them, and hopefully you will too. Enjoy!

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Source: ever so slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten

{One Year Ago: Pumpkin Ice Cream}

Ingredients:
8 tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 oz. (about 1 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
Up to ¼ cup water

Directions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 1 minute. With the mixer on low speed, add the Parmesan, thyme, salt and pepper, and combine.
With the mixer still on low, add the flour a little at a time and combine until the mixture is in large crumbles. Slowly add the water, 1 tbs at a time, until the dough begins to come together.
Dump the dough on a floured cutting board, press it into a ball, and shape the ball into a 9-inch log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut the log into about ½-inch-thick rounds with a sharp knife. Place the rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Bake 17-22 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once halfway through. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Roast Butternut Squash Salad with apple cider vinaigrette 5594

So, growing up, I don’t think we ever served a salad at Thanksgiving. Or did we? Perhaps we did, and I just didn’t eat it. It wouldn’t have been the only thing at the spread that I declined (stuffing/dressing, cranberry sauce…). Care to weigh in, Mom? 🙂

But, even if my family of origin (probably) didn’t have salads at our Thanksgiving table, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t, or shouldn’t. If you want a seasonal, light yet satisfying salad before carving your bird, please look no further. This one is fantastic. I was so in love…

roasted butternut squash salad with apple cider vinaigrette 5603

I served just this as our dinner one night last week (a good option if you also decline salads at the Thanksgiving table) and I had zero problems plowing through two plates of it. The sweetness of the squash balances out with the bitterness of the baby arugula, and then you play off those flavors with a slightly sweet apple-y vinaigrette and salty cheese. The crunch of toasted pecans plays in perfectly, rounding out the bowl and proving that a good salad is a thoughtfully-constructed feat.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette 5589

I highly recommend you make this one before the season is up. It is soooo unbelievably good. Enjoy!

{One Year Ago: Pumpkin Apple Cake}

Source: slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten

Ingredients:
1 (1 ½ lb.) butternut squash, peeled and diced
Olive oil
1 tbs maple syrup
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 tbs dried cranberries
6 tbs cloudy apple cider
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tbs minced shallots
1 tsp Dijon mustard
4 oz. baby arugula
½ cup pecans, toasted
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 400 F.
Place the squash on a sheet pan. Drizzle with about 2 tbs olive oil, the maple syrup, plus salt and pepper to taste. Toss well. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan in the last 5 minutes of roasting.
While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, cider vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook about 6 minutes, until reduced to 2-3 tbs. Remove from the heat, whisk in the mustard, ¼ cup olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste.
Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture and the pecans. Spoon the vinaigrette over the salad and toss well. Garnish with the cheese and extra black pepper, if desired. Serve immediately.

Watermelon Mojitos

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Happy Fourth of July!!! Today I am concluding my week of Watermelon Recipes with this delicious little libation, perhaps perfect for your holiday shindigs! My particular northeast area is experiencing the margins of Hurricane Arthur this year, so we’ll need something to cry into as our beach plans got ruined.

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I hope you are having better weather than me, and that you have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend (don’t you just love it when July 4th falls on a Friday?!? It’s the best!). Please help yourself to one of these summery mojitos – they are a wonderful watermelon twist on the original drink. Enjoy!

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Oh and don’t forget – this week we also saw light and healthy Watermelon Gazpacho with Crab Salad, followed by this crazy-but-true, delicious Watermelon Cream Pie!

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{One Year Ago: Bacon Blue Cheese Burgers}

Source: slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? by Ina Garten

Ingredients:
About 15 mint leaves, coarsely torn by hand
1 cup watermelon puree
6 oz. light rum
¼ cup simple syrup
3 tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
Sprig of mint and a watermelon spear/chunk, for garnish

Directions:
Place the mint leaves in a small pitcher and bruise them with a wooden spoon. To the pitcher, add the watermelon puree, rum, simple syrup, and lime juice. Stir to combine. Fill 2 highball glasses with ice and pour the drink into the glasses. Garnish with a mint sprig and a spear of watermelon. Serve immediately.
Makes 2 highball drinks. Could easily scale up for a party, just make the drink in a large pitcher. Could also serve in rocks glasses for smaller servings if desired.

Banana Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Banana pecan cake with Cream cheese frosting

Once again, it’s that time of year when we are bombarded with talk of New Year’s resolutions. Weight-loss companies and gyms descend upon us with ad after ad trying to convince us to partake of their services, to “make this year your year” and finally shed those last few pounds. You can’t get on social media or watch any morning show this time of year without hearing about how we’re all supposed to be making tons of New Year’s resolutions – start keeping a journal! more date nights with your significant other! gossip less! – many of which we’ll break in mere weeks.

overripe bananas

So I’m not going to be too big on the resolution front this year, but I am using the New Year as an excuse opportunity to start a new blog project, which I’m very excited to share with you! Starting Monday, each week will be a themed week of blogging, where each day’s recipe will revolve around a stated ingredient, cooking/baking method, cuisine, etc. – variations on a theme, if you will. 🙂

banana pecan cake, before frosting

This idea started rolling around in my head a few months ago; I’ve spent some time fleshing it out, and I think it will be really fun. I am a list maker, and my brain responds very well to patterns and sequences and the like, so it’s quite easy for me to organize my blog this way. Also, when I cook I tend to enjoy finding an ingredient or cooking/baking method and then want to explore it and stick with it for a while, then move on to something else. So this way, I’ll be able to share that without things seeming like I’m stuck in a rut. And this is quite flexible too – I’ll keep doing it until, well, until it’s not fun anymore, I guess. 🙂

Banana Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

And no, it’s not a New Year’s resolution, because I will not feel guilty if it doesn’t end up working out for whatever reason! This starts on Monday, and I’m so excited for this!! I hope you, all my dear readers, will love it.

banana pecan cake

And now let’s eat cake! This is one of the simplest yet tastiest cakes I’ve ever made. And since it’s only one layer instead of two, there’s less calories per slice. How’s that rationalization? Lol! It’s a great use-up for those bananas quickly blackening on your counter, it comes together quickly, and tastes more impressive than it looks. I used pecans mainly because I had some, but walnuts work well too. Whatever you like. Enjoy!

slice of Banana Pecan Cake

Source: Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? by Ina Garten

Ingredients:

CAKE:
3 overripe bananas
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
½ cup canola or vegetable oil
2 large eggs
½ cup sour cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans, plus a handful extra for decorating the cake

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
6 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
6 tbs unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Directions:
Make the cake: preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease a 9” round cake pan. Set aside.
Peel the bananas and place them in a large mixing bowl. Mash them somewhat with a fork. Add both sugars and then beat together with an electric mixer until combined. Add the oil, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and orange zest. Beat until smooth.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing as you go. When the flour mixture is almost or just barely combined, turn off the mixer and complete mixing it with a spatula. You want it just combined. Stir in the chopped pecans.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
When the cake has cooled, make the frosting. Add the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla to the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Alternately you can add the ingredients to a clean mixing bowl and use a hand mixer with clean beaters. Either way, beat the ingredients together until just combined. Add the sugar a little bit at a time and mix until smooth. (If you dump the sugar in there all at once, you’ll end up wearing most of it.)
Using a rubber spatula, plop the frosting, in gobs, on the center of the top of the cake. Using an offset spatula or a butter knife, spread the frosting evenly to the edges of the top of the cake and smooth the top. There’s probably enough frosting to coat the top and sides if you want, but I kept mine just on top because 1) it’s way less messy that way, and 2) I am a fiend for a good cream cheese frosting, and I loved a thick layer.
Place the extra pecans decoratively on top of the frosted cake. Slice into wedges and serve.

Truffle Butter Roast Turkey

Truffle Butter Roast Turkey

A couple weeks ago, I was perusing my Recipe Index, planning out the Thanksgiving-y dishes I’d make and share for this year, hoping to give my readers an idea or two of what to serve for your Thanksgiving spreads, and it occurred to me there is no Thanksgiving turkey anywhere here. And now I shall correct that.

Thanksgiving turkey, ready for the oven

I spent the day on Monday prepping and roasting this bird, which brought back memories of the first Thanksgiving Matt and I were married. I was in law school, and law students don’t really get a Thanksgiving break per se, seeing as finals are imminent. So we stayed home, but we still wanted a Thanksgiving dinner. I was not much of a cook then, so I naively figured, oh how hard can it be to whip up a Thanksgiving dinner for two? Just a few dishes, some turkey, and a pumpkin pie.

truffle butter rubbed turkey, before roasting

Well, a small Thanksgiving spread can be very easy and doable, but roasting a whole turkey when you don’t know what you’re doing can raise the difficulty level, oh I don’t know, just a tad. I found a recipe online, and it assumed I was a much more advanced cook than I was, so the directions weren’t idiot-proof. The recipe said to roast the bird at a low temperature, I think around 300 F. But I remembered that I’d always seen my mom covering turkeys in foil, so I did too. I checked the internal temperature after about two hours and it was nowhere near done. So we let it go some more; the internal temperature was slogging upwards at a snail’s pace, and we were getting hungry.

truffle butter roast turkey

A couple phone calls to my mom later, I learned that covering the bird in foil is only required if you’re cooking at a higher temperature, and cooking at around 300 F did not require this step. Oops. All told, the bird took seven hours to cook. Yep, seven friggin hours, and no, it was not a huge turkey. But may I just say, it was then and still remains the most delicious roast turkey I have ever tasted. It was unbelievably moist and tender.

truffle butter roast turkey leg and wing

And though it was so superlative, it was the hugest pain in the katoosh, so I have exactly zero plans to replicate it. In the meantime, this lovely bird will more than suffice. It was plenty tasty, I guarantee you no one will complain, and since you’re using truffle butter, your guests will think you went all out for them. In reality, truffle butter really isn’t that expensive if you only use it a few times a year. I picked up 4 ounces for $7. Cook time only took 3 hours, and we absolutely loved it. And unlike the one I tried all those years ago, this one really is idiot-proof. I highly recommend! Oh, and don’t forget to make gravy like I did. It’s moist enough that gravy isn’t technically needed, but isn’t it always wanted? That is precisely why I don’t have any photos of a composed plate of food….

Truffle Butter Roast Turkey, breast carved and sliced

roast turkey leg and wing

{One year ago: Stuffing Bruschetta}

Source: adapted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten

Ingredients:
1 (12 to 14) lb. whole turkey, thawed completely if frozen, neck and giblets removed
3-4 oz. white truffle butter, at room temperature
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1 large yellow onion, cut into eighths and peeled
1 whole head of garlic, unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
Large bunch of fresh thyme

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Drain any juices from the turkey cavity and place the turkey skin-side down on a rack in a roasting pan. If you do not have a roasting pan, simply wrap a baking sheet in foil, then stick a cooling rack inside it. Place the turkey on the cooling rack and proceed.
Pat the entire turkey dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the underside of the turkey with salt and pepper, then flip it over so it’s sitting skin side up.
Remove your rings, and with clean hands, gently run your fingers between the skin and the meat to loosen the skin, starting at the cavity end. Take care not to tear the skin. Depending on how long your fingers are, you’ll likely get only halfway up the breast. It’s fine; much more important to not tear the skin than to loosen the whole thing.
Place about half of the softened truffle butter under the skin and gently massage it to spread the butter under as much of the skin as possible. Take the rest of the butter and spread it on the legs, wings, and the upper part of the breast that didn’t get any butter under its skin.
Season the cavity generously with salt and pepper. Place the onion, garlic, and about half the thyme sprigs in the cavity. Tie the legs together with kitchen string, and tie one length of string around the bird and the wings to keep the wings close to the body during roasting.
Sprinkle the rest of the outside of the bird with salt and pepper. Remove 1 tablespoon of leaves from the remaining thyme sprigs and chop them. Sprinkle them evenly over the turkey.
Slide the turkey into the oven and roast for 2 ½ to 3 hours, until the internal temperature of the center-most part of the breast reads 165 F. Halfway through cooking, or whenever the skin has turned golden and crispy, loosely cover the bird with foil. If it appears your bird is cooking too slowly or too quickly, you probably have the meat thermometer inserted incorrectly. Jab it a few other places and get a read on where the bird really is. Mine took exactly 3 hours.
When the turkey is cooked through, remove it from the oven and let it rest, covered tightly with new foil, for 15 to 20 minutes. Carve and serve with the pan juices.

French Apple Tart

French Apple Tart

When you go apple picking and come home with a plethora abundance of the lovely fruit, it’s pretty much sacrilege to not make at least one pie with your stash. Last year I made a wonderful, deep-dish, double-crust apple pie. Basically the classic version. It was comforting, earthy and so delicious. I even made it again for Thanksgiving.

french apple tart, before baking

But this year I wanted something different in the realm of apple pies, and this tart seemed ideal. It was. Beautiful to look at and beautiful to eat. And while this might not have been what the French had in mind, once it’s cooled to room temperature, you can totally pick it up with your hands and eat it like an open-faced hand pie!

French apple tart, before baking

This tart is more difficult and fussy to make than your standard American apple pie. It just is. I know it’s all vogue these days to say that French food really isn’t fussy (really!), but I’m not always convinced that’s entirely accurate. This was a little fussy. You do need a ruler to measure the pie dough as you’re rolling it out. And I will HIGHLY recommend completely and thoroughly wrapping your baking sheet in foil first. I didn’t; I just lined it with parchment paper, baked the tart, and then had a hell of a time getting the crusted burnt sugar off the baking sheet later.

French Apple Tart

French apple tart

Also, I could have easily halved the amount of glaze called for, so that’s how I’ll write it; of course you can increase that amount if you wish. And I think that’s it! Enjoy this one guys, it really is a showstopper apple dessert everyone will love.

French apple tart

Source: adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tbs sugar
12 tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks or pats
½ cup ice water

2 large apples, such as Granny Smith (you want apples that will stay sturdy when baked)
½ cup sugar
4 tbs cold unsalted butter, small-diced
¼ cup apple jelly
1 tbs brandy

Directions:
First, make the pastry crust. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk lightly to combine. Add the butter and use your pastry blender to cut in the butter until it’s the size of small peas. Add the ice water and stir together with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until the dough has mostly come together. Use your hands to knead in the last little bit of crumbs. Form the dough into a rectangular (as much as possible) shape and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Tightly wrap a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Then line it with parchment paper. Set aside.
Flour your rolling pin. On a floured surface, unwrap the dough and roll it out to slightly larger than 10×14 inches. With a sharp knife and a ruler, trim the edges to make a 10×14” rectangle. Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet. Keep the baking sheet away from the preheating oven while you prep the apples. Stick in the refrigerator if necessary.
Peel the apples. Use a melon baller and sharp paring knife to remove the core. Thinly slice the apples across in ¼” thick slices.
Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. Sprinkle the apples with the full ½ cup of sugar and dot with the butter.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during baking. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out.
When the tart is done, remove from the oven. Heat the apple jelly together with the brandy. Brush the apples and pastry edges completely with the jelly mixture. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula and carefully slide it to a wooden cutting board. Let it cool a bit, then serve warm with vanilla ice cream or at room temperature.

Italian Prune Plum Crisp

Italian prune plum crisp

Thank goodness for the lovely Ina Garten, because if it weren’t for her, I might have never known about Italian prune plums. They are a special kind of plum with a terribly short growing season, lasting only a few weeks at the end of August and the beginning of September. Thanks to her, I’ve now tasted them. And they are indeed very special and wonderful.

Italian prune plums

Italian Prune Plums

First off, they’re smaller and more oval shaped than regular plums. Secondly, they are less sweet – much less sweet, in fact. The only recipes from Ina I’ve found using them are desserts, but upon tasting them, I started scheming what I could do with them in savory dishes. I think they might hold up to being grilled quite nicely, in fact. We shall see… sometime…

Italian prune plum crisp, before baking

And since I am now opening up my mind to crisps/crumbles, despite the fact that I remain firmly ensconced on Team Cobbler, I really, really enjoyed this. This would be a perfect dessert for someone who doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, as the Italian plums aren’t the least bit cloying. It’s certainly one of the least sweet desserts I’ve ever had. And if you can’t find these Italian plums or miss the season, you could sub in regular plums. Though in that case, I would back off on the amount of sugar called for by a little bit. Enjoy!

Italian Prune Plum Crisp

A few recipe notes: these plums are so easy to pit. Most of them came out just using my fingers; use a small cereal spoon for the stubborn ones. Secondly, the crisp topping as written made a little too much. You could back off the recipe by a third if you wanted and that would probably be fine. Lastly, cassis is black currant liqueur. If you don’t have it and don’t want to buy a large bottle for only six tablespoons, I definitely understand. I had some so I did use it, but if I hadn’t found a bottle of it in my liquor cabinet, I probably would have gone with a combination of fresh squeezed lemon juice and water, or maybe another fruity liqueur, depending on what I had lying around. Let me know what you think in the case of substitutions!

Italian Prune Plum Crisp

{One year ago: White Chicken Chili}

Source: slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten

Ingredients:
3 lbs. Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered
1 ½ cups brown sugar, lightly packed
¼ cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of kosher salt
6 tbs crème de cassis liqueur
TOPPING:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and diced

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease a 9×13” glass baking dish.
In a large bowl, combine the plums, brown sugar, flour, salt, and cassis. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
For the topping, combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, oats, and walnuts in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and stir lightly to coat. Then use your pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture. The mixture should be crumbly and the butter should be the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the plums.
Place the baking dish on top of a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the plums are bubbling and the top is browned. Let cool for about 10 minutes at least. Serve warm or at room temperature.

No-Cook Tomato-Basil Pasta Sauce

No-Cook Tomato-Basil Pasta Sauce

Yesterday I featured a recipe using blueberries (candy from the produce aisle, right?) so today let’s talk about cherry tomatoes. I love cherry tomatoes in the summertime; I tend to stay away from them in the wintertime. But during summer, when they’re bursting with sweetness, and so plump and juicy, I adore them!

summer cherry tomatoes and basil

Oh, and let’s also briefly discuss heat and humidity. The formidable duo has been New York’s theme song lately; that humidity is a killer! You can’t stand outside for more than about two minutes before perspiring, and ten minutes of walking transforms you into a sweaty, exhausted bowl of hot mess. So a no-cook pasta sauce is most definitely in order.

No-Cook Tomato-Basil Pasta Sauce

This one does take a little planning, as the sauce has to meld together for about four hours. But it’s all hands off time, and it’s worth it. This dish is so fresh, light, filling, and juicy; and if you’ll allow me one horrid cliché, it really is summer in a bowl.

No-Cook Tomato-Basil Pasta Sauce

You can use any long cut pasta here that you want; I used angel hair for two reasons. 1) because I love it; and 2) because it cooks fast, and I didn’t want to have heat on any longer than necessary. Enjoy!

Source: Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

Ingredients:
4 pints cherry tomatoes, halved (get whatever looks best that day)
Extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
18 large basil leaves, julienned, plus extra for serving
1/2 tsp crushed chile flakes
Kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 lb. dried angel hair pasta, or other long-cut pasta of your choosing
1 ½ cups grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Directions:
Combine the cherry tomatoes, ½ cup olive oil, garlic, basil, chile flakes, 1 tsp salt, and the black pepper in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 4 hours.
Just before you’re ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions. When the pasta is ready, drain well and add it to the bowl of tomatoes. Add the cheese and some extra fresh basil leaves and toss well. Serve with extra cheese.

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

Spaghetti con Aglio e Olio

In this book*, Rachael Ray claims that if she could knowingly choose her last meal, this pasta dish would be it. At first glance, that seems like an unlikely choice, mostly because it’s so unbelievably simple. I mean, if you could choose your last meal, knowing it was in fact your last meal, wouldn’t you want something terribly extravagant and luxurious? But then you taste this dish, and you get it.

Spaghetti con Aglio e Olio

Aglio e Olio

It’s one of the more delicious pasta dishes I’ve ever tasted. Despite how much I love it, I don’t make it often, mostly for fear that I’ll eat the entire bowl in one sitting. It’s so simple but so beautiful. And as a bonus, it comes together uber-quickly so it’s perfect for a busy weeknight, and you probably already have all the ingredients on hand. I really cannot possibly over-emphasize its supreme taste. Just writing this post makes me want it again – soon!

pasta aglio e olio

*I do not, and probably never will, own this book or its predecessor. The idea of what your last meal would be is just too morbid for me. I suppose it’s somewhat interesting to think about in an abstract, passing sort of way, but having two volumes concretely dedicated to such an idea sitting on my bookshelf staring at me is a bit too much. No thank you.

spaghetti con aglio e olio

Source: slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? by Ina Garten

Ingredients:
Kosher salt
1 lb. dried spaghetti
1/3 cup olive oil
8 large garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of kosher salt and cook the pasta according to package directions. Set aside 1 ½ cups of the starchy pasta cooking water before you drain the pasta.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet, one that is large enough to hold the cooked pasta. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, just until it’s fragrant – don’t overcook it! Add the pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more. Carefully add the reserved pasta water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add a teaspoon of salt, and simmer 5 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by a third.
Add the drained pasta to the sauce and toss well. Shut off the heat, add the parsley and cheese and toss well. Allow the pasta to rest off the heat for 5 minutes for the sauce to be absorbed. Taste for seasoning and serve warm with extra Parmesan on the side.

Irish Soda Bread

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Happy Day-After St. Patrick’s Day! I hope everyone’s celebrations were happy and safe, and that you weren’t too hung over this morning. Growing up, my family never celebrated, or really even acknowledged, St. Patty’s Day. I learned pretty early on to yell, “My underwear’s green!” at school to avoid being pinched.

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And I suppose it’s weird that we never recognized the day because … there’s a lot of Irish blood in my ancestor line, especially from my mom’s side! And you can definitely tell that we’re part Irish, too – my mom and her sister have beautiful heads of fiery red hair, as did their late father. And I suppose we’ve all been known to have a little bit of Irish temper too. On occasion. Maybe… 😉

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So while many of my fellow food bloggers, like Kevin and Michelle and Lisa and Tara, have been blogging St. Patty’s Day food fare, I really have not. Frankly, I haven’t really been home to cook much over the past two weeks, so it’s just something that might have otherwise been done, but wasn’t due to circumstances.

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But, I wanted at least one contribution to the holiday I never really celebrated. For the first time, I made Irish soda bread, an impressive looking loaf that is really simple and quick to throw together. Believe it or not, there’s no yeast! And no yeast means no rising, no punching down of dough, no wondering if it has really doubled in size. There’s about 1 minute of kneading, but I think that’s manageable for everyone.

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This particular version was a little sweeter than most due to the dried currants. Though I’m certainly no expert on soda bread, I do understand they are not a traditional component; yet I still found them to be a welcome addition. They rehydrate in the oven and add a subtle sweet chewy note. Very nice!

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Source: Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

Ingredients:
4 cups plus 1 tbs all-purpose flour, divided
3 tbs granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
4 tbs unsalted butter, cold, diced
1 ¾ cups buttermilk, shaken
1 large egg
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 cup dried currants

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Combine the 4 cups flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour. This doesn’t take very long.
With a fork, lightly beat together the buttermilk, egg and orange zest in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture.
In a small bowl, combine the currants with the remaining tablespoon of flour. Add to the dough in the mixer and mix on low speed until it comes together. The dough will be very wet and sticky.
Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead it a few times, then shape it into a round loaf. After you knead it, it will no longer be very sticky. Place the loaf onto your baking sheet. Lightly cut an X on top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.
Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. To serve, cut slices with a long serrated knife.