Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer Cocktail and Garden Wandering

We had a very relaxing Fathers Day this year. The weather was perfection. The food and conversation were flowing. My father has a huge garden in a rural setting in northern CT. I brought my camera and a tasty cocktail and just wandered around capturing the dappled sunlight on the newly blossoming plants. I find it very soothing to look at flowers close up through a camera lens. You are alone with the world of the flower and get to know its beauty in fine detail.
I came up with this cocktail as the perfect expression of summer refreshment, containing all of my favorite summer flavors. Fresh strawberries and refreshing limoncello combined with the lightness of bubbly Italian prosecco...just delicious. Perfect for your next summer celebration!

Summer Cocktail:

Ingredients
  • 1 bottle prosecco
  • 1 cup limoncello
  • 1 cup strawberry puree (about 1 pint fresh strawberries)
  • 1 TBSP agave nectar
  • 8-10 fresh mint leaves for garnish
Instructions
  1. To make the strawberry puree, place hulled berries in a food processor or mini prep with a splash of water and puree on high until smooth. Strain out seeds in a fine mesh strainer using a spoon to mash the pulp through, just separating out most of the seeds. Add the agave nectar to the puree and stir to blend.
  2. Place the strawberry puree and the limoncello in a large pitcher or bottle. Slowly pour in the prosecco being careful of the bubbles overflowing. Stir well to combine. 
  3. Add the fresh mint leaves torn into small pieces.
  4. Serve immediately over ice
Serves 4-6


Monday, June 16, 2014

Awesome Tofu Parmesan Recipe!

Continuing my current obsession with Tuscan food, I developed this recipe for a simple tofu Parmesan after successfully cooking my first homemade red sauce (see previous post). I wanted to make this a bit lighter than your traditional mozzarella and ricotta drenched dish and I found that by highlighting the amazing, tasty, fresh sauce and lightly fried, great quality tofu (I used The Bridge tofu), I didn't need tons of cheese to make this heavenly. Rather then drowning the tofu in an eggy batter, I just lightly dredged the slices in naturally gluten free brown rice flour and fried them in a little olive oil. Adding the tiniest bit of butter to the frying pan adds an incredible flavor to the tofu without adding too much fat. This would be so beautiful for a potluck or holiday meal and tastes like it took tons more time then it actually did to create.

Simple Tofu Parmesan:

Ingredients
  • 1/2 recipe fresh red sauce (see previous post)(about 2 cups)
  • 3 cubes good quality organic, extra firm tofu, drained and pressed of excess water and sliced in 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 3/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 12 oz freshly shredded mozzarella (fresh or part skim)
  • 4-5 TBSP olive oil for frying
  • 2 TBSP butter for frying
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves, torn for garnish (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp each sea salt, freshly ground pepper

Instructions
  1. To press tofu, place drained cubes in 2 layers of paper towels and press down to release extra water and firm up tofu before slicing. 
  2. Place rice flour, salt and pepper on a plate and lightly dredge each slice of tofu in the flour so there is a thin coating of on each side of tofu slices. 
  3. Heat 3 TBSP olive oil and 1 TBSP butter in a large sauce or saute pan under medium heat and fry tofu slices in batches until golden on both sides, about 4-5 minutes on each side. You will need to add a bit more oil and butter with each batch to keep tofu crisp. (Try to keep an eye on the heat so as not to burn the butter). Place fried slices on a clean plate lined with a paper towel. 
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. In a 13" x 9" lasagna pan, place a layer of red sauce on the bottom (about 1 cup) and place a layer of half the fried tofu slices on sauce. Spread a thin layer of red sauce over tofu. Sprinkle slices with half the mozzarella and half the Parmesan cheeses. Then place another layer of remaining tofu slices over the cheese layer, repeat with remaining red sauce, then mozzarella and Parmesan layers. Top with torn basil leaves if desired.
  6. Place a sheet of tin foil over the dish (loosely so as not to stick to the cheese) and bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 12-15 minutes more until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned around edges. Let sit for 5-7 minutes before serving.
Mangia!!
Serves about 6-8

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Tuscan Red Sauce and Yummy Gluten Free Pasta!

I've been reading an excessive number of Italian cookbooks lately, especially those about Tuscan cooking. Even though most of the books are very meat centric, I'm growing an intense appreciation for the simple preparation of quality ingredients often with limited seasonings.

I jumped in head first with my first attempt at a homemade red sauce. I felt like I was channeling someones Tuscan grandma as I hung out in the kitchen, dutifully stirring my sauce for an hour. Tasting and sniffing and tasting. I also discovered the use of San Marzano tomatoes which made a huge difference in the balance of flavors and bright red color of this sauce.
I created this for my awesome Tofu Parmesan recipe (coming soon to the blog) so I made a large batch. This will be enough sauce to make it through a lasagna or baked dish along with some extra for pasta or canning. You can also halve the recipe if you just need enough for a meal or two.

A note on the pastas I use: I have found that when I need a great quality dried gluten free pasta to stand up to a time consuming homemade meal, I spend a bit more cash and use Le Veneziane, a corn based pasta from Italy that comes in lots of cute shapes. (They haven't paid me!) The texture and flavor are amazing and a gluten eater would totally never know it was gluten free!
Fabulous! Buon Appetito!

Tuscan Red Sauce:

Ingredients
  • 2 cans San Marzano tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic minced
  • 1 small red onion chopped
  • 1 cup basil leaves loosely packed (10 -15 leaves)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan on medium heat, saute red onion in the olive oil for 4-5 minutes until soft. 
  2. Add garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes until slightly golden, not browned. 
  3. Stir in chopped tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Turn down heat to a gentle simmer and cook sauce for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Right before serving, add basil leaves roughly torn and stir until wilted. So simple and yummy.