italian

In the Kitchen with Dad: Steamed Clams, Pasta, and Clam Sauce

My Dad is the best. Over the holidays, I decided that my Dad needed to do some culinary exploring. And I knew that he would be more than happy to do some cooking with me.

Growing up I always remember my Dad for making those big delicious meals. On a Sunday I’d get up to see that he’d already gone to the store and picked up a turkey, or a flank steak (my personal favorite, right Dad?), or the makings for a delicious summer barbeque. You know, the kinds of meals that you could just eat and eat and eat. Until you felt ready to explode. Then you’d have some more. Oh, and he makes the BEST scrambled eggs with corned beef hash. No joke.

So for Christmas, Dad got some gourmet gifts from O & Co. on Newbury Street. The ingredients for a great dinner: chili infused olive oil, basil pesto, olives, and pici pasta. He was a happy camper, and even happier when I told him this meant he had to make dinner with me, and that steamed clams would be involved.

To find clams, we ended up at about 5 different stores. We obviously decided to do this the same day the blizzard hit NY, but we were persistent, and we finally found Cherry Stone clams to use. In a blizzard. Some things in life are important.

Pasta and Clam Sauce with Steamed Clams

Ingredients for the Pasta and Clam Sauce:

  • 1 pound of pasta (recommended: fettuccine, linguine, or spaghetti – we used the pici pasta, but that’s not so easy to find)
  • Olive oil
  • Chili infused olive oil (optional)
  • 1/2 a medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 small cans (6.5 oz each) Snow’s Bumblebee chopped clams
  • 1/4 cup of the liquid from the steamed clams

Ingredients for the Steamed Clams:

  • Fresh Littleneck or Cherry Stone clams (we used 36 Cherry Stone clams, but use as many as you want)
  • Olive oil
  • Chile infused olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced finely
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup of a white wine (pick one you like)

To prepare the clams, submerge them in a large bowl with cold water. This will help any dirt come out of the clams before cooking. I let them sit for about an hour before I started cooking. Also, put on the water for the pasta to come to a boil.

In a large pot, add both olive oils for the steamed clams over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and let them cook until they turn translucent.

Drain the clams well, then transfer them to the pot. Add the white wine and cover. Let the clams steam over medium heat. Once they open fully, they will be ready to eat. This took about 25 minutes.

While the clams are steaming, add both olive oils for the sauce to a large pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook about 5 minutes. Add the olives and tomatoes, and reduce heat to medium-low. Let cook while you wait for the pasta water to boil, stirring occasionally.

Once water is boiled, add pasta and cook according to directions.The pici pasta took at least 20 minutes to cook. It is a much thicker pasta, which needed more time than the usual fettuccine or linguine.

With about 4 minutes left on the pasta, add the chopped clams and liquid from the steamed clams to the sauce. Stir and let simmer for about another 5-10 minutes before serving.

At this point, your clams should be ready and open. Discard any that did not open.

Serve the sauce over the pasta, with the steamed clams on the side to enjoy together.

Everything was so good. The chili infused olive oil gave it just a slight kick in the back of your throat, very slight but a great flavor.

Thanks for cooking with me Daddy! He asked if we cold make it again for breakfast the next morning, so I think it’s safe to assume he liked it. I already have our next meal together planned out.

We also made some toasted bread by cutting up Italian bread, brushing both sides with olive oil, then toasting it under the broiler of the oven for about 2 minutes per side. We used the basil pesto as a spread and it was awesome.

And the best part about cooking? The unspoken rule is that if you cook, everyone else cleans. Thanks to our clean-up crew: my sister Melissa, her boyfriend George, and my little munchkin Abby, who just loves to help.

Ready for our next meal Dad?

Christmas Eve Dinner with the Family

It was great having some time off over the holidays to spend with both mine and Dane’s family. This time of togetherness always means some great gatherings and plenty of food to go around.

One thing my sisters and I haven’t outgrown yet (and probably never will at this point) is being silly at the table. It drives my mom nuts, but it was Christmas Eve and we don’t get to spend nearly enough time together with them being in NY and me in Boston.

I made panko crusted chicken with a pink sauce, along with garlic bread. It’s my mom’s favorite and somehow our fun at the other end of the table seemed to go unnoticed…

Even my cutie pie niece enjoyed her “magetti”. That’s two year-old for spaghetti, for those of you who don’t speak fluent toddler.

We might be getting older, but I’m pretty sure the scene at dinner will always look something like this.

I guess with faces like these, you just can’t stay mad for too long. Even after 20-something years of joking around at the dinner table. Love you Mama Bear!

What’s it like at your dinner table over the holidays? Hope you all had as much fun as we did!

Stuffed Bell Peppers

You may remember my sudden love of Stuffed Bell Peppers after I had one at Bottega di Capri a few weeks ago. I found myself really wanting on for dinner one night, and figured I had enough sense to figure out how to make them myself at home. After playing around with my recipe, I created this one which was delicious (in my humble opinion).

Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • 2 large green bell peppers
  • 2-3 sausage links (depending on how much you want)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 of a small onion, diced
  • 2 cups of cooked rice (I used Minute Rice to make my life easier)
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small can of diced tomatoes
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Start out by making a sauce that you’ll use for the filling and for cooking the bell peppers. Heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and diced onion and cook until it starts to become translucent. Add the diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and salt and pepper to your liking. Let simmer while you’re prepping for the filling.

Moving on to the filling now, starting with the sausage. Remove the casing from the sausage links, and break it up. I usually just use a knife to cut it up a bit. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a frying pan and over medium heat. Add the sausage and let it cook. Be sure to keep an eye on it, and break it up into small pieces using a spatula while it’s cooking.

Cook the Minute Rice according to the instructions on the box to make about 2 cups of cooked rice.  Set aside for now.

Once the sausage is cooked, add it to the sauce and stir well. Take about a cup and a half of the sauce and add it to the rice. Add in the grated cheese and stir it all up!

I couldn’t help myself at this point, I had to try some. I could have stopped right here and just eaten this the way it is. But I pressed on.

Cut the top off of two bell peppers and clean out the seeds. Fill both peppers with the rice filling (you may have extra filling depending on how large your peppers are – you might even be able to squeeze a third pepper from it). Add the peppers, standing up, back to the pot of sauce to simmer covered for about 30 minutes. This will cook the peppers through to make them soft.

Serve the peppers with a little more sauce on top and enjoy! I was so happy with this meal and had it for dinner and then lunch again the next day. So good!

Enjoy!

Bottega di Capri, Brookline

On Saturday afternoon Dane and I decided to venture into Brookline and find a place to eat. We passed a few places until one caught our eye: Bottega de Capri. Sounds Italian, and therefore is probably delicious.

We were right. The restaurant was small, smelled heavenly, and was a place to grab a quick bite. There was one big problem though, and that was picking what to order. Bottega di Capri offers freshly made specials that change each day, along with a set menu of sandwiches, paninis, and pasta.

We decided to each get a sandwich for lunch, but couldn’t resist getting a stuffed bell pepper to share too.

Bresaola, if you are wondering, is a dried and salted lean beef which has a dark reddish color. And it is DELISH.

That stuffed pepper was one of the best things I have ever eaten. It was beyond description good. The pepper was perfectly cooked and it was stuffed with rice, cheese, sauce, sausage, and I’m sure some other things I couldn’t even identify. I became so obsessed with stuffed peppers after eating it that I developed my own recipe for it (which I’ll post soon).

Bottega di Capri was very reasonably priced and the staff was great. We picked the brain of the gentleman helping us before deciding what we wanted, and he was patient and gave some great information. I only wish we could have eaten more!

I cannot wait to go back here again. In fact, I think I’ll go for lunch tomorrow. Ciao!
Bottega di Capri on Urbanspoon

Tresca, North End, Boston

Dane and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary of dating about two weeks ago (Yes, I know we’re married now. But 3 years! We had to celebrate). He decided to surprise me and made reservations at Tresca in the North End, which is on our Restaurant Wish List. When we got home from work, we set off and I didn’t know where we were going.

If you’ve ever walked by Tresca in the North End, it’s the one with one table outside on a balcony overlooking Hanover Street. I knew as we were walking up that it’s where we were going once we crossed the street onto Hanover. Unfortunately, it was cold and started raining just as we were getting there so we didn’t get to sit outside. Instead we chose a nice corner table and went out onto the balcony after dinner.

On a Monday night, Tresca was almost empty which was lovely. Our waiter was fantastic and gave us the daily specials (and both of us ended up ordering one) along with some wine suggestions (again, which we ended up ordering). The atmosphere was comfortable, but also sophisticated, which was perfect for our anniversary dinner.

We couldn’t help ourselves and had to start with some calamari. The portion was huge and so delicious.

I ended up ordering ravioli stuffed with sausage, cheese, and broccoli rabe. Not sure what the sauce was but there was definitely garlic and wine in there. Dane ordered the seared wild boar with a blueberry, wine, and balsamic vinegar reduction.

We ate slowly and sipped our red wine together. Everything was absolutely delicious and we loved being able to take our time and enjoy it all together. Afterward dinner, we went out to the balcony where we would have been eating, if not for the rain.

We’ll certainly visit Tresca again. Here’s hoping Dane will try again and surprise me this summer with a reservation at the table outside!

Tresca on Urbanspoon

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