Sunday, February 27, 2011

Crostini with Pesto, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Mozzarella

These crostini ("little crusts") are an easy, elegant, and delicious appetizer, snack, or meal accompaniment. These things are serious flavor bombs, and they're one of my favorite ways to use up leftover pesto.

This recipe does not contain quantities or measurements, because it's so easy to adapt to make as few or as many as you want, depending on the number of people you'll be serving.


French baguette or submarine/hoagie rolls, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
Prepared basil pesto
Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and cut into julienne slices
Shredded mozzarella cheese

Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet. Broil until one side of the bread is lightly golden.

Flip the bread over so that the toasted side is down. Spread the untoasted side of each slice with pesto, and then top with the sun-dried tomatoes. Sprinkle generously with mozzarella.

Broil until the mozzarella is melted and bubbly.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

A pile of spinach doesn't have to be boring. This recipe dresses it up with wine-soaked raisins and toasted pine nuts - all sauteed in garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil.

Either black or golden raisins will work well in this recipe, although I I think the golden ones look prettier.

Serve it as a side dish, or make it a meal with some steamed brown rice and crusty bread.


1/4 cup raisins, black or golden
1/4 cup dry white wine (or water, if you don’t want to use wine)
1 pound fresh baby spinach
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

In the microwave or on the stove, heat the wine almost to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add the raisins to the wine. Let the raisins soak in the hot wine for about 15 minutes. Drain the raisins, and discard the wine. Place the drained raisins on paper towels to dry.

Rinse the spinach, but do not dry. The water clinging to the spinach will help to steam it during the cooking process.

In a large skillet, saute the spinach over medium-high heat just until wilted. Transfer the wilted spinach to a colander and set aside.

Wipe any spinach liquid from the skillet, and then heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, and saute for a minute or two until golden and fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn. When the garlic is golden, remove it from the pan and discard.

Add the pine nuts to the garlic-infused oil in the skillet, and saute over medium heat for a few minutes until the pine nuts are lightly golden.

Add the raisins to the skillet and saute for another minute. Be careful not to let the pine nuts burn.

Return the spinach to the skillet, along with salt and pepper to taste.

Saute over medium heat for another 2-3 minutes to reheat the spinach and blend all the flavors.

-- 2 servings

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Penne with Walnuts and Gorgonzola

A gourmet meal does not necessarily require lots of ingredients. This simple and easy pasta dish is packed with flavor, but uses only a few ingredients.

It is elegant enough for a special occasion, but quick enough to prepare after work on a weeknight.


1/2 pound penne pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese (approx. 4-6 ounces), at room temperature*, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the penne according to the package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the walnuts and cook, stirring, until walnuts are lightly toasted. (The walnuts can turn too brown very quickly, so watch them carefully.)

Add the cooked pasta to the walnut mixture and toss.

Add 1/2 cup of the gorgonzola. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Go easy on the salt, as the gorgonzola is salty.) Toss lightly, until the gorgonzola is warm but not completely melted.

Transfer the pasta to serving plates. Top with the remaining gorgonzola, and serve.

-- 3-4 servings

* Note: Take the gorgonzola out of the refrigerator when you start to heat the water for the pasta. It should be close enough to room temperature by the time you’re ready for it.