Sunday is my lazy day and one of my favorite things is to make a nice home cooked meal. I love taking my time, sipping some wine as afternoon fades into evening while I prepare my ingredients. I chop, mince and measure until I have a perfect mise en place set up. When I see that neat row of ingredients ready and waiting I feel invincible, whatever is on the menu, it’s going to come out great.
As the leaves start to change and the climate gets cooler, we turn toward comfort foods. We crave baked pastas and hearty stews to warm us up from the inside out. While paging through my recipes I wanted something a little different than the norm. When I came across this Jambalaya, I absolutely knew it would hit the spot. Such a simple list of ingredients and minimal effort rewards you with a creamy, spicy dish chock full of plump, juicy shrimp and flavorful smoky sausage. Every bite has a depth of harmonious flavor and pleasant textures. It’s decadent and delicious and worth every bite.
Some recipes come entirely out of necessity. About a month ago I made a fresh batch of Spinach & Ricotta ravioli, (recipe coming soon!) and as I started to fill the raviolis I realized that I would have a large quantity of filling left over. I had two choices, to make another batch of ravioli dough sometime in the near future or find another use for the filling. As my weekends booked up, and the filling sat taking up too much real estate in my freezer, it became clear that I would not have the time it would take to make more dough. I pondered about using it to stuff a chicken, or making rice balls, but I didn’t want to damage the integrity of the filling. That’s when Pinterest saved the day. All those hours of absentmindedly pinning lasagna roll-up variations made a light bulb go off in my brain. I could offer the same comfort and depth of flavor as a baked pasta without sacrificing an entire day for preparation.
The spinach & ricotta filling here is the real shining star, it is not bland and mundane like other similar pasta fillers, but packed with flavor and the roll-ups really showcase the delicious flavors without letting the pasta overshadow them.
Eggplant Caponata was one of my mom’s many signature recipes and I recall her preparing it quite often. Funny enough, it has also been the hardest to replicate. First, I couldn’t find the recipe even though I was sure of the cookbook it originated from. Then, a recipe index search yielded no results for Caponata. Frustrated I gave up the search, before ultimately going through page-by-page and finding a curious recipe for “Pickled Eggplant” with the Italian “Caponata” written below it. The recipe appeared to have basic similarity to mom’s, but ultimately I realized it was used a guideline and I would have to go about recreating her version by memory.
I remember coming home from school many afternoons with some trouble or another, my mother placing a cutting board and knife in front of me and letting me chop vegetables for the spread as we talked. The familiar tangy, sweet and savory smell of the Caponata melding together in the background. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Caponata is a Southern Italian (My Grandmother isn’t reading this, right?) tomato based eggplant spread, chock full of vegetables and finished with sliced black olives. It is a light and fresh appetizer to nosh on with crackers and a glass of wine and can be served warm or cold. Thankfully, we’ve had a thriving crop of eggplants in our garden this year, it took 4 attempts, but I finally got it right.
Wanna look like a rockstar at your next holiday gathering, while also using your OCD tendencies for the good of all? Yeah, me too. Hence, Caprese Salad. It looks all big and fancy, it’s way over priced at restaurants and it takes about 10 minutes to throw together. Not to mention the fact that someone is going to find one thing on the plate they like. (My sister only eats the cheese much to the dismay of my perfectly organized plate.)
I like to serve this salad staggered, that way it’s easy to scoop into neat little piles of goodness, so you get creamy mozzarella, sweet basil and juicy tomato in each bite. Also, if you lay the slices like this, you can hide the tomatoes you butchered because you can’t cut straight and you don’t have the good sense to just buy yourself a mandoline already and have done with it.