In our effort (Will has been super supportive by doing the “no wheat” thing with me! What a great husband I have!) to completely cut out wheat from our diets, I’ve also cut out processed sugar. Most things that have sugar also have wheat, but I realize that this is about more than just cutting out the wheat and finding ways around it, this whole “no wheat” thing is about getting healthy and clearing my body of the wheat (did you know that our bodies cannot properly break down the hybridized wheat we now eat? It takes our bodies approximately 6 months to clear the wheat out of our bodies! Yikes!). Over the past several months since we began this process, I’ve come to understand that it’s not just changing the foods that I place in my shopping cart, it’s also changing the way I think about food and how that food will help or hurt my body. Sugar is one of those things that makes my tastebuds happy but does not improve my health or add any nutritional value. So, instead of reaching for the Ben & Jerry’s (which I love), instead I’ve found an alternative for those ice cream cravings, especially on those hot summer days.
A friend of mine recently told me that you can make ice cream from frozen bananas. I admit I was extremely skeptical, but I decided to give it a try any way. If you leave the frozen bananas in the food processor long enough, eventually, it will soften and take on the texture of a soft ice cream. Will and I have added frozen berries to the creamed bananas to give it additional flavor. Our favorite is a raspberry-banana mixture. Will wants to try adding some peanut butter or cocoa powder. We haven’t tried it yet, but feel free to give it a whirl–just let me know how it turns out! These could probably also be frozen into popsicles. I hope you enjoy this healthy alternative for something cold and sweet!
Banana-Raspberry “Ice Cream”
3 large bananas, sliced into quarter-sized pieces
3/4 cup frozen raspberries
Place cut bananas on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Set cookie sheet in freezer until bananas are frozen (approximately 40 minutes). Remove bananas from cookie sheet and put into food processor. Cover, and run food processor until bananas begin to cream and stick together (approximately 4-5 minutes). Add frozen raspberries (or other frozen fruit), and mix until just combined. Serve and enjoy!
Each month I await eagerly for my copy of La Cucina Italiana magazine. It’s one of the few magazines I still subscribe to, even though I realize that I can find most of their content online. When the latest issue arrives, I like to sit out on our deck (as long as it’s nice and warm!) and read through every article and recipe. It ends up being quite a long break from work or whatever else I have going on that day, but it becomes a mini trip to Italy for that afternoon. I’ve also started receiving their “Recipe of the Week” emails, which are fun for those weeks in between issues. Several months ago, one of their Recipe of the Week emails featured a polenta recipe. Since it was still a little chilly out, polenta seemed like the perfect evening meal. With the tomato sauce, cheese, and sausage, this recipe bears a slight resemblance to pizza, but that’s about where the similarities end. The polenta has a denser texture, but highlights the cheese and sausage really well. This is a great recipe for those of us who crave pizza but can’t run over to Round Table for a slice. I hope you enjoy it!
White Polenta with Sausage and Fresh Mozzarella
Courtesy of La Cucina Italiana
Unsalted butter (for greasing pans)
4 cups water
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
Fine sea salt
1-1/2 cups coarse white polenta
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 (14-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice (preferably San Marzano)
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
1/2 pound pork sausages
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
Grease two 8-inch round cake pans with butter.
In a large saucepan, combine water, 2 Tablespoons oil, bay leaves, and 3/4 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Slowly add polenta in a thin stream, whisking; reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until polenta is thickened and tender, about 40 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves.
Transfer polenta to prepared pans, spreading evenly with a rubber spatula. Let polenta cool completely in pans on a wire rack.
In a large saucepan, heat remaining 2 Tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and their juices; stir and break up tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add wine, whole sausages, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring sauce to gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1-1/2 cups (30 to 40 minutes). Remove from heat.
Heat oven to 400 degrees with rack in middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove sausage from sauce and cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds.
Turn out polenta rounds onto prepared baking sheet. Top with sauce, spreading sauce to 1/2 inch from edges of polenta. Arrange sausage and cheese on top. Bake until cheese is melted and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Serve warm, with a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of pepper. Serve and enjoy!
I have exciting news! My Spinach, Potato, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Frittata was recently featured on yummly.com’s blog posting about “Breakfast foods made better with bacon.” Check it out here!
In other news, I realized that it’s been several months (yikes!) since my last post. In the months that I’ve been absent from Tomatoes and Basil, we’ve discovered I have a wheat intolerance. I seriously almost cried in the doctor’s office when I thought of all the delicious bowls of pasta that he was asking me to stay away from. Needless to say, this has created a challenge for finding yummy foods that I can eat without causing a stomach ache (although, I suppose the stomach ache could be worth it for just the right dish!). I’ve taken my time away from the blog to try new recipes and find delicious dishes to share with you. Don’t worry, I’m not going completely gluten-free on you; however, you will notice that I will be posting a combination of recipes–some that are wheat-free and some that aren’t (for those of you who have systems that can handle the wheat). Look for some new recipes to come soon!
Will’s Valentine’s Day dessert was a little less involved this year than in previous years. We ended up spending our Valentine’s Day night serving dinner to low-income families. After serving dinner and cleaning up, we picked up dinner at Chili’s and ate a low-key dinner on the couch. Nothing terribly fancy, but I felt I needed to do something sweet and homemade for him, in spite of our nontraditional Valentine’s Day. I found this recipe in Life: Beautiful, a Christian lifestyle magazine, and since we both love chocolate and raspberry, it seemed like the perfect Valentine’s dessert. We will definitely be making this one on a regular basis, but be warned: they go fast!
Dark Chocolate-Raspberry Cream Tartlets
1 oz. dark chocolate
1 package pre-baked mini phyllo shells (approx. 12)
2 Tablespoons mascarpone cheese, softened
1/3 cup low-fat raspberry yogurt
Additional dark chocolate, for garnish
In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt 1 ounce dark chocolate on high power in microwave, stirring every 20 seconds until melted. Spoon approximately 1/2 teaspoon chocolate in each phyllo shell. Freeze for 5 to 10 minutes to harden chocolate.
In a small bowl, stir together mascarpone cheese and raspberry yogurt until well combined. Spoon mascarpone mixture into phyllo shells. Place a raspberry in each shell.
Melt additional dark chocolate to drizzle over raspberries. Serve and enjoy!
Did my tease about a Michael Chiarello dip recipe entice you back? I hope so!
A year and a half ago, Will and I spent a couple days in Napa celebrating our anniversary. We wine tasted and ate our way through the days we were there. Seriously, we had more places that we wanted to eat at than days and meals that we were going to be in town! Remarkably, we were able to get a last minute reservation at Michael Chiarello’s Yountville restaurant Bottega. My parents have raved about this place, so we knew if we could get in, it would be the perfect anniversary evening meal. We were not disappointed! After being seated, the wait staff brought the most amazing Parmesan cheese dip and bread. We were so distracted by this amazing dip that the waiter had to come back several times before we finally looked at the menu and decided on entrees. In all reality, we could have made an entire meal out of the bread and “Parm dip” as Michael calls it. We didn’t, and the rest of the meal was just as wonderful. But, the dip was really the stand-out item from our meal, so when we got home, we tried to recreate it, based on the flavors and ingredients we could pick out. Unfortunately, at the time, our attempts fell far short of the real version, so you can imagine my delight when we found the recipe!
This is by far our favorite dip, and one that, if you ask us to bring an appetizer, this will probably be it. The flavors of the Parmesan and Asiago with a slight hint of heat from the red pepper flakes, pepper, and garlic work so well together. The nice thing about this dip is that it can go on anything–bread, veggies, crackers; I’ve even thought about spreading this over cooked chicken. This recipe makes a lot, which is perfect for sharing, or bringing as a hostess gift. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Salsa Di Parmigiano (“Parm Dip”)
Courtesy of Michael Chiarello
½ pound Parmesan cheese, not too dry
½ pound Asiago cheese, not too dry
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
Remove any rind from the cheeses and chop the cheeses into rough 1-inch chunks. Pulse the cheeses in a food processor until reduced to the size of a fine pea gravel. Transfer the cheese to a bowl and stir in the green onion and garlic. Add the oregano, rubbing between your fingers to release it’s fragrance. Add the black pepper, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. Stir well. Cover and let stand at room temperature at least 4 hours before serving.
Have you missed me? Or, perhaps the better question is have you missed having some new recipes from Tomatoes and Basil to try?
I apologize for my several-month hiatus. Life this fall was unexpected with work being unusually stressful and hectic, my sister living with us while taking prerequisite nursing classes, my grandmother passing away, several trips to see family, and then, of course, the holidays. I loved having my sister so close–being able to try new recipes with her, sitting and watching girly movies, and just hanging out together. Spending time with my sister and family was a much higher priority (and let’s be honest, way more fun!) than sitting in front of my computer screen after a long day of work and meeting deadlines to write eloquently and persuasively about a delicious and tempting new recipe you have to try. However, with the holidays and crazy deadlines behind me and a new year full of potential ahead, I’m ready to get back to a consistent posting groove. I hope you will stick with me in this new year of recipes and life!
So, to kick off the year, let’s start big! As you know, I love risotto! It is one of my favorite cold-weather comfort foods and so versatile because you can throw almost anything into risotto. I’m always looking for new ideas of how to make risotto different and delicious; my most recent inspiration came from a surprising place. A week before Christmas, I was on the treadmill at the gym, trying to run the work-stress out of my body, and one of the gym staff members changed the channel of the TV hanging in front of my treadmill. Normally, they have the news and Sports Center on all the TVs. (I actually don’t mind watching basketball or baseball games on TV when I’m treadmilling it. It’s a good motivator to keep going.) But, this guy changed it to the Nate Berkus show. I’d never even heard of the show, but it caught my attention because I recognized his guest…Michael Chiarello. Will and I love Michael Chiarello’s restaurant Bottega in Yountville and his former restaurant Tra Vigne in St. Helena. So, of course, I was hooked! Michael was showing Nate Berkus and the audience how to make a dip that Will and I have been trying to figure out how to make for months (look for more on that in a later post!), but then he turned to making butternut squash risotto. Oh my goodness! I was ready to leave the gym early and go home to make it right away. However, I did finish my workout. And, we ended up making the butternut squash risotto with my family a week later. The butternut squash is full of flavor and surprisingly light, enhanced by its combination with the fontina cheese and sage in the risotto. It does take a little bit of time to make this, as you need to prepare the butternut squash prior to starting the risotto, but it’s well worth your time. For the roasted squash, I actually halved the recipe for the seasoning mixture, as the first time we made this, the mixture on top became scorched and we scraped it off. The halved version turned out perfectly though. My altered version is below. Everyone loved this dish, and I will definitely be making this recipe regularly during the fall and winter. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
Butternut Squash and Fontina Val d’Aosta Risotto
Adapted from Michael Chiarello
2 cups 1-inch cubes butternut squash (from a 4-pound squash)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon finely shredded fresh sage, or 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
Sea salt, preferably gray salt, and freshly ground black pepper
About 6 cups chicken stock
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 cups Arborio rice
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup dry white wine
1 Tablespoon finely shredded fresh sage
3 cups shredded fontina cheese (not packed)
About 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For the squash: Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Put the squash chunks into a large bowl.
Heat a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat and melt the butter until it foams and begins to brown. Add the sage (or the garlic, one or the other but not both), followed by the vinegar and brown sugar. Stand back, as the mixture may spatter. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes to meld the flavors, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture over the squash and toss well.
Arrange the squash on the prepared pan, cover with aluminum foil, and bake until very tender and caramelized, about 40 minutes. Remove the foil and increase the oven temperature to 425ºF for 5 minutes to caramelize the squash further. Remove from the oven and baste the squash with the liquid in the pan. Let cool briefly, then puree in a food processor until creamy. For the risotto: In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep it at the barest simmer while you make the risotto.
For the risotto: Heat a large sauté pan or heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil, and cook the onion until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the rice and the minced garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is pearly white with a translucent outer layer. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until very little liquid is left in the pan. Ladle in 1 cup of the hot stock. Reduce the heat to medium-low, keep the rice at a gentle simmer, while stirring frequently, until almost all the liquid is gone. Ladle in 1/2 cup of the hot stock and repeat, ladling in 1/2 cup of stock each time most of the liquid has been absorbed. All together, counting from the first cup of stock, you’ll stir and cook for about 18 to 25 minutes. Taste the rice to decide when it’s done: it should be creamy, firm in the center but without any hint of crunch. Stir in the butternut mixture, remove from the heat, and stir in the shredded sage and the fontina. Serve and enjoy!