Posts tagged ‘Italian Cooking’

January 29, 2012

Spicy Peperonata

Spicy Peperonata

I get together with my college girlfriends once a year for a weekend of belly laughing, binge eating and drinking. I know they’re reading this, so let’s be honest ladies – our days of being able to drink all night, dance like Beyoncé’s back-up dancers and eat as much as we’d like are long over. They were viciously taken away from us with the birth of our children, turning 40 and as my 13-year-old reminds me, our lack of present day coolness.

What we lack in coolness is compensated for by our collective chefness. I don’t think that’s a word, but I’m going with “chefness.” We are all brilliant cooks, and when you put us together we make a killer spread that would make Gordon Ramsay proud. And if he’s not proud, one of our other talents is being able to curse like truck drivers, so we can give it right back to him! I guess I had too many glasses of wine when I gave this recipe to my friend during our last weekend together. She called me with questions over the holidays and I had no idea what she was talking about, and had no written recipe here to help her. I think I just threw a little of this, and a little of that together to make this spicy peperonata. Thanks to Kristin, for helping me pull this together.

Peperonata can be served on crostini as an appetizer, as a topping for sandwiches, or even as a side with grilled meats. You can control how spicy you make this – we like it hot.


  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup capers
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2-1 cup jarred sliced hot cherry peppers, packed in vinegar, drained and stems removed (more or less, you decide)
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Rub the outsides of the whole peppers with a little olive oil and kosher salt. Set the peppers on a sheet tray covered with foil (helps with clean-up). Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the peppers begin to slump and brown, turning them periodically as they roast.

Remove the peppers from the oven, place them immediately in a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the peppers cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes. This will make removing their skins really easy. Once cool enough to touch, peel off the skins and remove the seeds. Slice the peppers in long, thin strips and place them in a bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients to the peppers and stir. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

This can be made a day in advance. The longer it sits, the better the flavors come together. If making in advance, wait to add the chopped fresh basil until right before serving.

January 12, 2012

Minestrone Soup with Fresh Pesto

Minestrone Soup with Fresh Pesto

When I want to feel like a fancy peasant, I make soup. I say fancy peasant because the reality is I’ve been too fortunate in life and I am too high maintenance to be a real peasant. But after reading those mammoth Ken Follett novels depicting the life of peasants from the 12th and 14th centuries, hunkering down at the end of a deplorable day to a bowl of soup and day-old bread, I think we all have a little peasant in us when we make a big pot of soup. I love those soup recipes with a long list of ingredients that look like a daunting task, but are almost as simple as making a sandwich. This week I decided to make a big pot of minestrone soup. Swirled right before serving with a dollop of homemade basil pesto, served with a hunk of good multi-grain baguette and a spread of our favorite cheeses.

In my recipe below, I used a few creamy yukon gold potatoes rather than pasta. Feel free to swap the yukons for a cup of so of your favorite small pasta shape. It is best to cook the pasta separately and add it to the bowls when served. This prevents the pasta from getting mushy. The addition of fresh pesto was fantastic, and added to the fresh flavor of the vegetables. If you don’t feel like making it yourself, there are some decent jarred pestos on the market. I should mention that making this pesto takes minutes with big results.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE MINESTRONE (Makes a big pot of soup)

  • 3 –  1/4″ slices pancetta, diced (about 1/3lb)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 15oz can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 14oz can diced tomatoes
  • 10 cups chicken stock
  • 6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 or so cups savoy cabbage, chopped
  • 4 small yukon gold potatoes, cut in wedges
  • 1″ chunk parmesan rind
  • 1 zucchini, 1″ dice
  • 6oz green beans, snipped
  • Kosher salt & pepper

Place a large stock pot on medium-high heat and pour a little olive oil in the bottom of the pan. Add the diced pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally until it begins to crisp up. Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the pancetta and cook, stirring until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the beans, diced tomatoes, chicken stock, thyme, bay leaves, cabbage, potatoes, and parmesan rind. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir, bring to a boil and immediately reduce to low heat. Simmer covered for one hour, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning about half way through.

After one hour, add the green beans and diced zucchini and cook for another 15-20 minutes.

Serve with a dollop of fresh pesto on top and a big hunk of fresh baguette on the side.

* You can easily make this soup vegetarian by omitting the pancetta and using vegetable stock. Remember to remove the bay leaves and parmesan rind before serving.


  • 1 clove of garlic, halved
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste

Put the garlic and basil in a small food processor and blend. Add the olive oil and process again until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the cheese, and season with salt and pepper. The parmesan is salty so you don’t need to add too much salt.

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