I would like to start this post by extending a sincere "thank you" to Haley Suzanne at Appoggiatura (gosh, I hope I didn’t butcher the spelling) for an award that she honored me with. Apparently, I occasionally "make her day," via this blog and my "sunny disposition." Obviously, she hasn’t seen me before I have my morning caffeine fix. Seriously though, Haley, I am humbled by your kind words, and I encourage everyone to click on over to Haley’s beautifully photographed blog for a sampling of her culinary grace notes, as she so eloquently puts it (although I would love to say that I came up with that phrase on my own.) As the recipient of this award, I am now tasked with passing it on to some other bloggers who make me smile. After many sleepless nights of surfing the blogosphere, analyzing posts, and agonizing over who would make the cut—O.K., I’m over-dramatizing this a bit. Here are five talented bloggers who help to brighten my day (drumroll):
- Candy, at The Courageous Cook, has a fairly new blog, but with her lighthearted and amusing stories, which accompany each recipe, I am a frequent reader. Candy is also a talented contest cook, who is heading to the Gilroy Garlic Festival next week, so stop by and wish her luck!
- Anne, at Cooking With Anne, always has the most beautiful photos of what is growing in her garden in Pennsylvania. I was particularly captivated by the squash blossoms.
- Shannon, from Writing as I Eat, is not only a talented cook, but a darn funny one too! Read her post about her recent trip (her third) to the Pillsbury Bakeoff. I told you that she is talented. You might have also seen her as one of the featured contestants on Food Network’s coverage of the Bakeoff. She had that sinful looking tart….
- I like to visit Jeni at I Found Happy because she writes all about Durham, North Carolina, where I went to grad school, and one of the sleeper great food cities in America. Jeni, next time you go to Foster’s, tell Sara Foster I said "hi!"
- Finally, for dessert, there’s Amy of Sweet Freak. How can you not love a site whose URL is dessertsfordinner.com? Amy’s blog is all about NYC’s best sweets, and boy, am I going to be well equipped with ideas come my next trip to the Big Apple!
So there you have it, my sure-to-cause-a-smile list ‘o blogs. Drop by over your morning coffee and start your day out right!
Today, keeping with yesterday’s "marathon training" theme, I made one of Eric’s favorite pasta salads for him to graze on over the next few days. Named after the traditional basil, tomato, mozzarella Caprese salad, this recipe was inspired by one of Ina Garten’s many simply delicious "why didn’t I think of that?" creations, which I’ve worked on enough times to finally tweak it to perfectly suit our tastes. Because it is a lighter pasta dish, this recipe works year-round, and from my experience, it is a true crowd pleaser, so keep it in mind for your next potluck or dinner party. Here are a few tips from preparing this colorful, healthy, and hearty dish:
- Pine nuts can be expensive, so if you don’t have any on hand, or if you cannot find some at a reasonable price, then by all means substitute some toasted and chopped walnuts or hazelnuts for a similar effect.
- Depending on whether or not I can find good basil in my grocery store, I’ll often substitute chopped arugula, which has a bit more of a bite, but it works very nicely in this recipe.
- This dish can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature. Serve it as a main dish, or use it as a side for grilled chicken or fish.
- I mentioned this in previous postings, but my current preferred pasta is the line that includes flaxseeds from Trader Joe’s. This pasta has great texture, a nutty flavor, and at 99 cents per pound, you can’t beat the price.
- If you can’t find good ripe tomatoes, feel free to substitute a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes or fire-roasted diced tomatoes.
Whole Grain Penne "Caprese"
8 ounces whole grain pasta
14 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, divided
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons capers, drained
3/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted, divided
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 pound ripe roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, julienned
In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until it is al dente, according to package directions. Drain the pasta and toss it with some olive oil in order to prevent it from sticking. Place the pasta in a large bowl.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine 7 of the sun-dried tomatoes, the red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, 4 olives, and the crushed red pepper. Puree the mixture until fairly smooth. Add half of the tomatoes to the processor, and pulse several times, until the mixture is almost smooth. Add the other half of the tomatoes, and pulse 2 or 3 times, so that the sauce contains larger pieces of tomato. Season with salt and pepper.
Chop the remaining kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes and add them to the pasta in the bowl. Add the mozzarella and pine nuts to the bowl and toss to combine. Pour the sauce over the pasta, sprinkle with the Parmesan and the basil, and toss well to coat.