Friday, August 28, 2015

Busiati with Pesto Trapanese

 The tomato love continues -- Here's yet another way to use up some of those tomatoes ripening by the bushel in your garden. For those of you without your own vegetable gardens, get yourself to a farmer's market or roadside stand to buy some, because this recipe is not only delicious, but fast and easy to prepare. A food processor is all you need - no cooking required, except for dropping the pasta into boiling water (and when Italians are ready to boil the pasta, they say "butta la pasta" which literally means "throw the pasta").

In this case, I used busiati, a long, twisty, corkscrew-like pasta, but if you can't find it, use fusilli.

Busiati is the traditional pasta shape that's used with pesto Trapanese, a sauce that hails from Trapani, a city on the western coast of Sicily. The origins of the dish are unclear. Some say it was inspired by pesto Genovese, from Ligurian sailors who were stopping off at Trapani's port. Others claim it's derived from Liguria's agliata, a pasta dish using only olive oil, garlic, walnuts and tomatoes.

Whatever its origin, it's now become part of my summertime repertoire when tomatoes are plentiful and at their peak.

Here are the cast of characters for this dish: cherry tomatoes (you can use plum or heirloom or any type, really), extra virgin olive oil, whole almonds, garlic, salt, basil, and red hot pepper flakes. I used parmesan cheese but you could also use pecorino cheese.

Keep some of that hot pasta water handy in case you want to thin out the sauce.

My favorite way to eat this dish is hot, although it tastes good lukewarm or cold too.

Everything gets thrown into a blender and whirred until it's creamy. It may not be the most attractive looking pesto, but it sure tastes great.

The sauce is also delicious on broiled or baked chicken or fish, or vegetables, or even as a spread on sandwiches.

But first try it on pasta. I'll bet it becomes one of your favorite summer meals.

Ciao Chow Linda is also on Instagram, as well as Facebook and Pinterest. Click here to connect with me on Facebook, here for my Pinterest page, and here for my Instagram page to see more of what I'm cooking up each day.
And if you live in the Central N.J. area, join me this Saturday, August 29 at 11 a.m. at the West Windsor Farmer's Market, when I'll be on a panel discussion with other food writers and photographers, including Rome-based Katie Parla and NJ Monthly columnist Pat Tanner.

Pesto Trapanese

From Lidia's Italy

printable recipe here

¾ pound cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet

12 leaves fresh basil

⅓ cup whole almonds, lightly toasted

1 garlic clove, crushed and peeled

¼ teaspoon peperoncino

½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for cooking the pasta

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound pasta

½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated 

Rinse the cherry tomatoes and pat them dry. Rinse the basil leaves and pat dry. 

Drop the tomatoes into the blender jar or food processor bowl followed by the garlic clove, the almonds, basil leaves, peperoncino and 1/2 tsp salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine purée; scrape down the bowl and blend again if any large bits or pieces have survived. 

With the machine still running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream, emulsifying the purée into a thick pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning. (If you're going to dress the pasta within a couple of hours, leave the pesto at room temperature. Refrigerate for longer storage, up to 2 days, but let it return to room temperature before cooking the pasta.) 

To cook the spaghetti, heat 6 quarts of water, with 1 tablespoon salt to the boil in the large pot. Scrape all the pesto into a big warm bowl. 

Cook the pasta al dente, lift it from the cooking pot, drain briefly, and drop onto the pesto. Toss quickly to coat the spaghetti, sprinkle the cheese all over, and toss again. Serve immediately in warm bowls. 

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 24, 2015

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes

Wondering what to do with all those luscious tomatoes ripening in your garden right now? There are only so many tomato salads one can eat in a day. After making bruschetta, pizza, gazpacho and tomato sauce (and popping a few tomatoes whole into plastic bags for the freezer), I needed another idea.

Thankfully, I found it on Domenica Marchetti's blog, Domenica Cooks. As soon as she posted this classic Roman recipe, it struck a note of nostalgia and hit one degree of separation. My late friend Clo, who was a native of Rome, (and who was also friends with Domenica's mom) used to make these each summer. Although I've made tomatoes stuffed with quinoa, it was time for me to follow Domenica's lead (and bring back memories of Clo) and stuff tomatoes with rice.

They are delicious hot, warm, lukewarm or cold - perfect to take on a picnic or a lunchbox.

Start by hollowing out the tomatoes - cut a rim with a small paring knife around the circumference of the tomato. Scoop out the pulp with a spoon.

Place the pulp into a colander and press out the juices as much as possible (or until you get tired).

Pour those juices into the cooked rice and mix with the herbs and cheeses.

Place a little oil on the bottom of the baking pan, then spoon the rice mixture into the tomatoes and cover the tops with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 1/2 hour, or until the top is nicely browned.

Ciao Chow Linda is also on Facebook and Instagram. Click here to connect with me on Facebook and  here for my Instagram page to see more of what I'm cooking up each day.
And if you live in the Central N.J. area, join me on Saturday, August 29 at 11 a.m. at the West Windsor Farmer's Market, when I'll be on a panel discussion with other food writers and photographers, including Rome-based Katie Parla and NJ Monthly columnist Pat Tanner.

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes

Adapted from Domenica Marchetti's "Pomodori Ripieni"


  • Extra-virgin olive oil

  • 12 ripe round medium tomatoes

  • 3 cups cooked Arborio or long-grain rice (I used arborio)

  • 1 cup cubed or shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus a few leaves for garnish

  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary


Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rub the bottom and sides of a baking dish just large enough to fit the tomatoes with olive oil. 

Boil the arborio rice in an uncovered pan on medium heat with the water, about 12 minutes. I like to slightly undercook it since it will cook further in the oven once inside the tomatoes. Nearly all the water should be absorbed by that time. Dump into a bowl.

Slice the top off each tomato. Set a colander over a bowl and scoop out the insides of the tomatoes, leaving a wall about 1/4 inch thick. I used a small paring knife and spoon.  Just be sure not to pierce through the tomato. Set the tomatoes aside; press the pulp and seeds to extract as much tomato juice as possible into the bowl. Discard the solids that remain in the colander.

Combine the cooked rice with the juices from the tomatoes. Stir in the mozzarella and Parmigiano cheeses, along with the parsley, basil, and oregano. Season with a little salt and pepper. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil and mix everything together well. 

 Spoon the rice mixture into each tomato, filling to the top without overstuffing. Sprinkle a little extra shredded mozzarella on top. 

Bake uncovered for 35-40  minutes;  Remove from the oven and let cool until warm or at room temperature. Scatter a few basil leaves over the top and serve. (Leftovers are delicious straight from the fridge.)

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 17, 2015

Grilled Shrimp with Red Rice Salad

Grilling season is in full swing, but before you know it, summer will be over and we'll all move on to heartier soups and stews. But while the weather's still warm and friends stop by for a barbecue, here's a recipe to try before the season's over:

 shrimp bathed in a herby, garlicky marinade, then threaded onto skewers and grilled over hot coals.

Try serving the shrimp over a rice salad, as I did, using a combination of red rice and white rice, plus a bunch of vegetables. You don't have to be dogmatic about the recipe - just use whatever you have on hand or what you like. At this time of year, backyard vegetable gardens and farmers' markets are bursting with fresh produce, so it's easy to come up with flavorful combinations.

I never cooked with red rice until I spotted it recently at a local market. It's commonly grown in the Himalayan mountains, Southern Tibet, Bhutan, Southern India and more recently, the Camargue region of Southern France. I learned that it's a culinary and nutritional superstar, rich in minerals like potassium and magnesium. It's also a good source of fiber and complex carbohydrates. As if that weren't enough, it's loaded with antioxidants too, similar to what's found in deep purple or reddish fruits and vegetables.

For this cold rice salad, I was afraid if I used red rice only, it might end up looking like dog food, so I added in some white rice to make it a little more visually appealing. I added lots of vegetables too, and honestly, with the shrimp skewers covering the top, the salad wasn't even visible at first. I used a simple dressing of mayonnaise mixed with lemon juice, an idea from my buddy, Marie of Proud Italian Cook.

You can make the salad a day or even two ahead of time, freeing you up the day of your party or picnic. The shrimp can also be served cold, although I like them best when they're hot off the grill. 

Ciao Chow Linda is also on Facebook and Instagram. Click here to connect with me on Facebook and  here for my Instagram page to see more of what I'm cooking up each day.

And if you live in the Central N.J. area, join me on Saturday, August 29 at 11 a.m. at the West Windsor Farmer's Market, when I'll be on a panel discussion with other food writers and photographers, including Rome-based Katie Parla and NJ Monthly columnist Pat Tanner.

Grilled Shrimp

for the marinade:

1/2 cup olive oil

6-8 cloves garlic, minced (the more the better)

minced fresh herbs (I used parsley, oregano, thyme and basil)

a few shakes of red hot pepper flakes

salt, pepper

2 pounds raw shrimp (I like to buy wild shrimp caught in the U.S.)

Mix all the above ingredients, except the shrimp. Clean the shrimp, removing the shells and cleaning out the central vein. Place the marinade and shrimp in a bowl and place in the refrigerator for at least two to three hours. Thread the shrimp on skewers and cook over a hot grill for about two minutes on each side. Alternately, preheat the broiler in your oven and cook for a couple of minutes.

Red Rice Salad

1 cup red rice

1 cup white long grain rice

5 cups water

3 carrots, cooked or raw, your choice, minced

1/2 cup minced green or red pepper

1 cup minced tomatoes, deseeded

4 scallions, chopped

2 ears of corn, raw or cooked, your choice, and cut from the cob

a large handful of minced herbs, your choice (I used parsley, thyme and oregano)

salt, pepper

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup lemon juice

Cook the rice in water. Let the rice cool, then add all the other ingredients, except the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Mix the mayonnaise with the lemon juice and add to the rice, stirring it in thoroughly.  Taste and add more seasonings or more mayonnaise and lemon juice, according to your taste. Serve chilled with the shrimp skewers on top.

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Kale, Three Ways

Is there anyone out there who hasn't eaten kale? Who is still a kale hater? Let me help convert you.

In the last few years, kale seems to have become the poster child for healthy eating.

The benefits of eating kale include not only its high fiber content, but it's also rich in nutrients and low in calories. Check out more of the health benefits on this website here.

I admit I was late jumping on the kale bandwagon, and the only kale I grow in my garden is the lacinato or Tuscan kale (sometimes called dinosaur kale), which is called cavolo nero in Italian and is typically used in the Tuscan soup ribollita (recipe here). 

This dish of beans, sausage and kale is something I normally make with swiss chard or escarole, but I decided to try it with kale instead. While I still think Swiss chard has a sweeter taste, kale is perfect for this recipe since it stands up well to the longer cooking time required for the beans and it reheats without any loss of flavor. In fact, reheating only improves the taste.

I used these beans I bought from - fagioli del purgatorio - and loved them. These didn't need presoaking and maintained their shape even after reheating. They're native to Gradoli, a town in Lazio. The name "purgatory beans" dates back to the end of the 1600s, when they were boiled and dressed with olive oil and salt, and eaten as part of a meatless meal for Ash Wednesday, called "pranzo del purgatorio."

Even though it's summer here, I've made this dish a couple of times because of all the kale growing in my garden. It freezes beautifully too, though, so make some for one of those cold winter nights when you don't want to cook.

I've used my kale in a couple of other ways this summer too. 

Maybe I'm the last person on this planet to try kale chips. I was inclined to dislike them, but everyone I served these too (and me too), thought they were delicious. They're really easy to make and they're a healthy snack alternative. I used a recipe from Ina Garten, aka, The Barefoot Contessa.

Pull out the center rib from the kale, then spritz with some good olive oil, a shake of salt and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes.

They're crinkly and taste kind of like parmesan cheese. Without the cheese, I'm not sure I'd be sold on kale chips. But this platter disappeared quickly.

The other kale dish that was a hit was this kale salad. You don't need a bonafide recipe. Just chop some raw kale, add some corn shaved off the kernels (I cooked the cob for about three minutes first ), then I chopped some carrots and parboiled the bits for a few minutes. I added some red onion, toasted hazelnuts and chopped shishito peppers from my garden, but you could use red peppers or any vegetable you like. Parmesan cheese shavings were tossed in too, then the whole thing was mixed with an easy-to-make dressing of mayonnaise thinned with lemon juice - an idea I got from my buddy Marie, of Proud Italian Cook

It made a refreshing lunch and I didn't have to feel guilty about that piece of cake I ate following the salad.

Kale, Beans and Sausage

2 T. olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 cloves garlic

1 bunch of lacinato kale chopped (I used approximately eight cups, but you don't have to be exact)

1/2 pound Italian sausage

1 cup dry fagioli del purgatorio beans (or another small, white bean, but you'll probably have to soak them ahead of time, unlike the fagioli del purgatorio beans)

2 cups water

1 parmesan cheese rind

herbs of your choosing - I used fresh parsley, thyme and oregano

salt, pepper to taste

hot red pepper flakes 

roasted red pepper or bits of chopped tomato (optional)

Remove the casings from the sausage and place in a saucepan, covered with water. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then remove the sausage and slice, but retain the water for later use. In another pan, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Add the kale to the pot and the water leftover from cooking the sausage. Let the kale cook down for about five minutes (with the lid on), then add the beans, the sausage, the water and the parmesan rind to the pot. Don't add the salt yet, or the beans will toughen, but DO add the pepper, the herbs and the red pepper flakes. I sometimes add a small amount of chopped tomato and/or roasted red peppers. Let everything simmer with the lid on for about one hour, or until the beans are tender. Keep checking and add more water if necessary. When everything is cooked, add the salt. If it's not "soupy" enough to your liking, add more water. 

It's great served with grilled bread that's been rubbed with raw garlic and olive oil.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 3, 2015

Cherry Almond Cake

I do love cake but it's been a while since I posted one here on Ciao Chow Linda. I've been feasting on summertime fruits and (sh!) an occasional ice cream when I've had the urge for something sweet. But after picking up a package of frozen cherries at Trader Joe's and simultaneously noticing a post from Stacey Snacks on a cake using frozen cherries, I knew I had to make this recipe. 

Make sure to pat the cherries dry before placing them in the batter. I used about 3/4 of the package, or 12 ounces. Use the remaining frozen cherries for a smoothie, as Stacey did.

If you can't find the frozen cherries, I'm sure the recipe works equally well with fresh cherries (pitted of course), or any other fruit. It's moist, has a tender crumb and a delicious almond flavor.

Sprinkle almonds and some sugar on top before baking. If you've got coarse sugar, it's more decorative than table sugar, but not crucial.

I used a springform pan, but the original recipe, from Martha Stewart, shows it baked in a pie pan. Either one works.

Give it a little dusting of powdered sugar, and enjoy. 

Cherry Almond Cake 

courtesy of Stacey Snacks by way of Martha Stewart

printable recipe here

8 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
12 oz. bag of defrosted frozen cherries (pat them dry)
sliced almonds for the top
sugar for the top

Cream the butter with the sugar, eggs, extract and sour cream.

Add in the flour, baking powder, salt & almond meal.

The mixture will be nice and fluffy and yellow.

Pour into a buttered 9" pie dish (I used a springform pan) and dot the top with the defrosted cherries. almonds and a tablespoon of sugar for the top.

Bake 40-45 minutes at 350F.

Bookmark and Share