Tag Archives: garlic

Garlic Salad, My Most Requested Dish

10 Aug
GS Ingredients

Ingredients for Garlic Salad

Given all the food I cook, it should be annoying that something so ridiculously simple as my garlic salad would be the dish people currently request the most. Annoying, that is, if I didn’t love it myself and could eat it every night.

And often do.

GS - salad

Garlic Salad

I say its “my” garlic salad because I landed on this recipe after many, many attempts and variations. But to be honest, it’s my attempt at recreating a favorite dish from growing up, Mama Colichia’s House Salad. Colichia’s Italian Village was opened by Mama Colichia in 1935 in Port Arthur, Texas. I’m not sure the original location but when our family was going, which was often (same for much of my hometown), the restaurant was in the Colichia’s house on Proctor Street. The tables were set up in the living room and dining room and Mama Colichia worked out of her kitchen. 

The food was pure old fashioned Sicily and absolutely wonderful. I always ordered either the Veal Parmigiana (mostly) and the lasagna (on special occasions). The Spaghetti and Meatballs were also a town favorite. But the most remarkable dish that came out of that kitchen was the house salad Mama Colichia served with every meal. She made each salad by hand right before it came out of the kitchen. She used — and pardon my Texas-French — a shitload of garlic and distilled white vinegar. Good Lord, that salad. You can live on it.  We would talk about it as a family, obsessing on it. My dad, whom Mama Colichia loved, thought for years she put a dash of Dr. Pepper in the salad, because she used a Dr. Pepper bottle to hold her vinegar. (It works great!) You could see her making the salad when the swinging door dividing the kitchen from the dining room would swing back and forth when the waiters walked through the door. 

While Mama Colichia passed years ago and the house on Procter is no longer an Italian Village, her children and grandchildren still run updated versions at home and I always slide in to have the salad. 

Over the years, I’ve tried different variations to see if I could get close. I’ve finally ‘mastered it’, if you can call the rather ramshackle recipe below mastering. No matter. I will in no way claim this is a good as Mama Coilichia’s, but if/when I ask people what they want for dinner, I hear this the most. And so I give it to you.

Don’t be scared of the garlic. It’s good for you and you will love this.

Oh, and when I made this salad to take the pictures for the blog, I ate the whole bowl. It’s all I ate for dinner, with a martini, so don’t think I’m a pig. And I’m a rabbit, I love all salad in general. But yes I ate the whole bowl. It’s that good.

GS garlic salad

My dinner

For the recipe, click here: Continue reading

Spaghetti Squash Amatriciana

3 Feb

I love me some pasta but lately I’ve fallen in love with Spaghetti Squash. A quick roast in the oven turns the insides of this amazing gourd into strands pretty close to the real thing. Depending on your diet, spaghetti squash is healthier than pasta. Once you start using it, there are an almost infinite number of ways you can use the ‘noodles’. And except for pesto, every pasta sauce I’ve tried with it sings. 

spaghetti-squash

Spaghetti Squash noodles

I fell in love with Spaghetti Squash making a marvelous Cacio e Pepe version. Cacio e Pepe, made with pecorino cheese and fresh ground black pepper, is a pasta dish I could eat every night of my life. After making the spaghetti squash version dozens of times, I decided to branch out and invented an oven roasted version of another classic pasta sauce, Amatriciana. The name comes from the Italian town Amatrice, recently in the news as the town was hit badly by a number of earthquakes in 2016.

A spicy tomato sauce made with red and black pepper, red onions and guanciale, I first tried Pasta Amatriciana at a wonderful neighborhood Italian restaurant in New York City, Lupa. That dish blew me away so much I ordered a second bowl at the same sitting. More please. In the years since I’ve made various versions at home, usually substituting pancetta for the guanciale. I still love the pasta version, made entirely on the stove top, but lately it’s this oven roasted version, tossed with spaghetti squash, I eat all the time. 

Don’t just trust me. A great friend of mine, Rob, who is Italian, says he loves the spaghetti squash version better than with regular pasta. (Don’t tell his mother he said that.) Trust me or trust Rob, you will love this version of the classic dish. It might not be the most beautiful plate you’ve ever served, but when it tastes this terrific, who cares?

And you can eat it guilt free!

spagsquashamatingredients

Ingredients for Spaghetti Squash Amaticiana

Click for the recipe Continue reading

A Killer “No-Cook” Summer Pasta

30 Jun
Summer Pasta Ingredients

Ingredients for a fresh summer pasta

My favorite season is Fall for a variety of reasons, not least of which is I look best in fall clothes and it’s all about me. Summer is wonderful, however, because summer means fresh vegetables everywhere. If a bounty of fresh veg doesn’t mean happiness to you, you haven’t been served vegetables the right way.

I have a good friend who refused to eat vegetables, no matter how I served them. Only after years of cajoling did I convince her to try some of mine. She is now a vegetable freak, she can’t get enough. One night she finally explained, “My mom used to take broccoli and boil it until it was white. That’s how she cooked all our vegetables. I thought that was how vegetables tasted!”

Makes me want to weep for vegetable haters everywhere.

blossoms

Summer’s Bounty

While we covered a great way to cook vegetables in an earlier post about roasting (Sunday Night Vegetable Roast) another of my favorite ways to eat fresh vegetables is with pasta. In the fall when not in season, roasted vegetables are a wonderful combination with pasta. But when you have vegetables fresh off the vine, there’s no need even to cook them! Trust me on this.

Continue reading

“Sunday Gravy”

5 Mar

 

A bowl of Sunday Gravy

A bowl of Sunday Gravy

Occasionally in life you meet someone who truly changes your life. This happened to me in 1998 when I decided the time was right to buy a house. On the advice of a friend, I met with a realtor, Phyllis Harb, who took me on as a client. Two and a half dizzying weeks later I found myself in escrow on a beat up but amazing old fixer-upper that is probably the house in which I will die.

Finding the house and fixing it up is a story for another day.  And if that were my only interaction with Phyllis, I would be blessed because not only has the house changed my life, she is an amazing person who guides you through a very stressful time.  Thankfully that was not my only interaction with her.  Over the years she has become a dear and trusted friend.  Phyllis is one of the more thoughtful and generous persons I’ve ever met.

Phyllis herself has a wonderful home and once a year or so she will have a few ‘former clients’ over for cocktails and dinner.  Last year about ten of us showed up for her version of what East Coast Italians call ‘Sunday Gravy’, a meat laden tomato sauce Esquire described as “A sacred meal for a sacred day born in the kitchen of an Italian-American family.”

Phyllis's kitchen during the process

Phyllis’ kitchen during the process

As any follower of this blog knows, I love tomatoes and love me a great tomato sauce. I’ve already done posts on tomato sauce here and here and here. When Phyllis served us this deep rich sauce over pasta, however,  I knew I was going to do another post because when I took my first bite, I thought I was going to die. It was so @#%#$ good!! Once again, Phyllis changed my life. I told her that night she had to teach me how to make it and she readily agreed.

Just a few of the ingredients

Just a few of the ingredients

pots

Two pots toward the end of the process.

This is an amazing sauce. It’s incredibly thick, marvelously so. Packed with meat, it has a rich, divine flavor. I served a batch on Oscar night and everyone at my house declared it the best red sauce they had ever eaten. It truly is that good.

For more great pictures and the incredible recipe, click here: Continue reading

“Never, Ever, Ever….” Vol II

8 Mar

When I posted Never, Ever, Ever Vol I, my dear friend Jan emailed to say I made her feel guilty. Given my Catholic upbringing, my response was… success! So, here to heap yet more guilt upon you, I give you Vol. II.

Never, ever, ever buy broth. Ever. Seriously. Don’t do it.

You talkin’ to me?

This means you. Never do it.

Most important fact first: homemade broth is hands down the easiest thing you can do in the kitchen. I’m not asking you to engage in some wild Martha Stewart craziness like wallpaper your office with leftover magazine covers you first have to dye or, horrors, make a gingerbread house. Making broth at home is easy. Even easier than vinaigrette, subject of the previous guilt inducing post. As with vinaigrette, broth made at home is infinitely better, in every way, than even the best store bought broth. It saves you money and it’s better for your body and it’s better for the environment AND it tastes much better, both the broth and anything you make with it. That’s a lot of ‘ands’, all worth making your own.

Did I mention how good it tastes? I doubt anyone would open a can of Swanson’s and drink it. Yet that’s what I do every time I make homemade broth. I drink some of it from a cup by itself, it’s that good.

Even with my crappy iPhone camera you can see a big difference between the clear, pure homemade broth on the left and an expensive store bought, pasteurized version on the right:

Compare 2

Homemade broth vs. store bought

Did I mention it was easy? While I’ve included some longer instructions below, this is all you need to know:

Throw a bunch of stuff in a pot, bring it to a boil, turn it down, let it simmer, strain it… broth! That’s it. 

broth

A pot of broth simmering on the stove

It’s also, dare I say it? Fun. There are few things I have come to enjoy more in the kitchen than making broth. Chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, mushroom broth… it’s effortless yet very satisfying. I first discovered the brilliance of homemade broth when learning to make risotto. I love me some risotto, all kinds. People like to create a bunch of drama about risotto but it isn’t that difficult. One evening I made risotto with my own broth rather than from the store. The difference was amazing. So I dove into making broth.

Continue reading

Best. Guacamole. Ever.

15 Feb

While I genuinely feel very sorry for the avocado haters, given the incredible wonderfulness they miss on a daily basis, ultimately, who cares. I mean, seriously: more for me. And while I am all over simply cutting an avocado in half, sprinkling on a little salt, a dash of Tapatio, and inhaling said avocado, few things in this world bring me such joy as a good batch of Guacamole.

Guac 5

I guess this is part of my Texas/Tex-Mex roots. I’ve been a fanatic for guacamole since, well, ever. Over the years I have played around with various ways of making it until finally, a couple of years ago, I landed on the perfect combination. You need a few important staples in your cabinet and one very important ‘piece of machinery’ but if you, like me, go crazy for guacamole, do yourself a favor: get what is needed, follow the steps below and you will end up with the Best. Guacamole. Ever.

Click here to continue and find out how!

“Never, Ever, Ever….” Vol I

7 Apr

According to The Internet, which is never wrong, salad dressing probably kinda/sorta came into being about 2000 years ago when the lovely people of Babylonia began to use oil and vinegar to dress lettuce. I’m glad someone started the trend. See, I’m a rabbit: I not only love salad, I love just lettuce. All kinds of lettuce, every kind. I even love iceberg lettuce, such great texture, what a wonderful crunch. While I love eating all kinds of lettuce naked, I also love a good salad dressing. This leads to the first in a series subtly entitled “Never, ever, ever!”

Never, ever, ever buy salad dressing in a bottle. Ever.  

There’s only one reason to think you should buy salad dressing in a bottle, which is ease. Come on Tom, seriously. I don’t have all kinds of time. It’s so easy. I pick it up at the store, I crack open the bottle, I pour it on some lettuce, instant salad. 

Um, No.

With a little initial prep, almost the same amount of ease gives you a dressing that is much healthier than anything you can get in a bottle. So making it at home makes much more sense. Plus, it tastes infinitely better. Trust me, do this once and you won’t go back. You have to go to the store to buy the bottled dressing. Instead, while at the store, buy a few of products to have on hand for prep and you are ready, anytime, to make your own dressing. Eventually, you won’t even be able to use a bottled dressing as you’ll begin to taste the chemicals and processing. Making your own salad dressing, along with broth, an upcoming post, and tomato sauce, an upcoming post, are the easiest first steps to transforming your cooking, kitchen and eating habits. Plus, I’ll say it again, homemade dressing tastes so much better. You don’t have to love cooking or being in the kitchen to ease your way into your own dressing. And my homemade vinaigrette is, well, incredible. And versatile… it’s great on it’s own but you can also use it as the basis for a number of other dressings. It’s so easy. Here we go:

Click here for the how to!