Penne with Squash Blossoms

Summer came in late for us here in New York City. It’s already September and I’m only starting to see summer produce at the farmers’ markets. It was with some shock that I bought squash blossoms when I saw them at my Harlem’s produce stand one Tuesday morning while walking my dog Atticus.

Ingredients:
olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
a handful of parsley, finely chopped
12 zucchini blossoms, halved; stems removed if hardy
salt
6 saffron threads
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 egg yolk
penne pasta
Pecorino Romano, shaved

1. Put a large pot of salted water over high heat; this will be your pasta pot.
2. In the meantime, heat a splash of olive oil and the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the red onion, celery, carrot, and parsley, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are translucent. Add the zucchini blossoms, a pinch or two of salt, and the saffron, and stir gently to mix.
3. Add about 3/4 cup of broth, and stir to combine. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the rest of the broth a splash or two at a time, taking about 5 minutes to add it all. Stir frequently. Allow the sauce to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and only a thin film of thickened broth remains in the pan. Remove from the heat.
4. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk slightly with a fork. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until tender but al dente. When the pasta is almost ready, place the zucchini blossom sauce back over medium heat. Use a small measuring cup to scoop up about 3 tbsps of pasta water and, whisking constantly with a fork, gradually add the hot water to the egg yolk: together, they should make a loose, pale yellow liquid. Pour this mixture into the sauce in the skillet, stirring well. Scoop some cooked pasta into a serving bowl, and toss with the sauce. Top with shaved cheese.

Golden Beets Fennel Grapefruit Salad with Cumin-Fennel Seed Dressing

We skipped spring this year here in New York City and went directly to tropical summer. It’s so hot and humid right now that I can’t recommend turning your oven on, but when alas, I did, because I can’t help but eat beets. I roasted 2 bunches of beets and refrigerated them to make 3 different salads in a span of a week.

Here’s one that I loved so much because the dressing is not your typical olive oil-vinegar dressing. The cumin stood out here as an unexpected taste because it looks like a regular salad. Goes to show that it’s not always about the main ingredients sometimes.

Ingredients:
4 small golden beets, peeled and cut into wedges
olive oil
2 tbsps red wine vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp cumin seeds, grounded
1 tsp fennel seeds, grounded
mache, or any mixed greens
1 grapefruit, peeled and sliced
1/2 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
salt and pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 425º. Toss the beet wedges with some olive oil and sprinkle them with salt. Spread them on a baking dish and roast until tender, about 25 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar and the maple syrup. Add the cumin and fennel seeds. When the beets come out of the oven, toss them with some of the dressing. There should be some olive oil coating the beets. If not, drizzle a little more olive oil.
3. Assemble your salad. In a salad bowl, toss greens with the grapefruit and fennel slices, and then the dressed beets. Drizzle some more of the red wine vinegar-maple syrup dressing all over for a little sheen. Season with some pepper and serve.

Roasted Asparagus and Tomatoes with Burrata and Speck

I was looking for inspiration to make use of the last fresh burrata I bought from Arthur Avenue and the $5-a-bunch asparagus that are populating grocery stores at the moment. I saw some pretty photos on foodiecrush that caught my eye so I went to work and created my own version with the ingredients I already had.

The original recipe calls for prosciutto but I already snacked on my half-pound bounty and only had speck left so I used that instead. I also had spicy soppressata so I tucked a few torn slices in to serve as the salt of the salad. foodiecrush also suggested some basil leaves but I skipped them, and used the mache leaves I had rather than arugula.

It was a very good salad. The umami of the tomatoes with the cured meats was unbelievable. The softness of the burrata tamed the saltiness down and balanced the overall flavor of the salad. I highly recommend to make this salad this summer to satisfy and impress.

Ingredients:
1 bunch asparagus, chopped in 3 and thicker stalks discarded
5 cherry tomatoes, halved
oil
salt, pepper
chile flakes
mache leaves
fresh burrata cheese
a few slices of speck
a few slices of soppressata

1. Place asparagus spears and tomatoes in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and chile flakes. Be a little light-handed with the salt, as the cured meats will lend their saltiness to the salad as whole. Transfer them on a baking sheet and broil for about 12 minutes or until asparagus becomes soft and tomatoes begin to brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
2. Assemble your salad. Make a bed of the mache leaves in a shallow bowl. Top with torn burrata and tuck in slices of meat here and there. Scoop in the asparagus and tomatoes. Drizzle in some more olive oil if necessary and sprinkle with pepper.

Related post/s:
foodiecrush has some pretty photos

Sugar Snap Pea and Shiitake Mushroom Burrata Salad

I adapted this from a New York Times recipe after a trip to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx here in New York City. I had the long weekend to welcome the summer season so my friend Dash and I met in the old Italian neighborhood to eat some meats and cheeses.

It had been years since my last trip there and I wanted to go back to Calandra Cheese to buy their homemade burrata cheese. Besides eating it in all its glory and with prosciutto and hot salami from Calabria Pork Store, I wanted to try it with a salad that used the season’s ingredients.

I’ve never fried shiitake mushrooms before but doing so here added some more meatiness to this salad to break the crunchiness of the sugar snap peas. The gooeyness of the burrata softened it overall and the red chile flakes gave it a nice kick. The original recipe required a bed of greens and pine nuts, but I ended up skipping those just because I didn’t have them.

Ingredients:
olive oil
fresh shiitake mushrooms, destemmed
salt and pepper
1 ball of burrata cheese
sugar snap peas, destringed, roughly chopped
lemon juice
red chile flakes

1. Fry the shiitake mushrooms. In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the shiitake mushrooms, pleats up. Sprinkle salt all over them. Fry until light brown and then turn to fry the other side. When done, remove to a strainer and set aside.
2. In a serving bowl, break the burrata cheese and toss with the sugar snap peas, lemon juice and red chile flakes. Slice the mushrooms and add them in. Drizzle with some olive oil if needed.

Fennel and Fava Bean Salad

Seattle has always been on my list of places to visit because I’ve heard so many good things about the fresh produce in Pike Place Market. Before starting my new job after 4 years at Fast Company, I flew to Seattle and met with my friend Lily, who flew in from San Diego. We ate for 4 days, checking most of the spots I research and culled from Facebook friends and Anthony Bourdain’s recommendations.

Because spring arrived in the west coast earlier than the east, we ate a lot of fiddlehead ferns, pea shoot leaves, and fava beans. I’m pretty sure that I balanced my sushi overload with all the greens I ate.

Starting anew in New York a week later, I wanted to eat healthier so I stopped by Fairway in the upper west side to fill my basket with a lot of fruits and vegetables. This recipe comes from a Food & Wine Magazine piece that uses some pricey ingredients like pumpkin seeds, shelled pistachios, and pine nuts. I didn’t want to spend any more than I needed to, so I ended up using the blanched almonds I already had and toasted them before crushing them with my mortar and pestle.

Ingredients:
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper
1/4 cup fava beans, shelled from about 15 pods
1 small fennel, sliced thinly
a handful of blanched almonds, toasted, crushed
cayenne pepper

1. Make the dressing. In a screw-top jar, shake some olive oil with the garlic and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Shell the fava beans. Open the pods and remove the beans. In a small pot of salted boiling water, blanch the beans for a minute and remove with a strainer to an ice water bath. Drain and shell the beans. The shells should come off easily and the bright green beans should pop out.
3. In a salad bowl, mix the fava beans with the fennel and the crushed toasted almonds. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and then toss with the dressing.