At our house, a wedge salad shows up most often in the good ol’ summertime. One week there’s a run on BLTs and the next, wedge salads begin to appear at the side of grilled burgers or chops. There’s no good reason not have them come winter, but maybe it’s about tomatoes? I would, however, be the first person to tell you homegrown Colorado tomatoes are not so terribly wonderful even in high summer. So, no. They are not Illinois tomatoes, nor are they New Jersey tomatoes. They crack from overwatering or they wait for October snows only to be ushered into the house for a very sad and slow paper bag ripening. Sometimes they’re ready (or rotted) by Thanksgiving. That said, I’ve not a true complaint as I keep a large carton of Campari tomatoes on hand 52 weeks a year. Which is why, once in a happy while during January, a summer-ish wedge makes an appearance on our dinner table, much to my husband’s thrilled amazement and big-eyed wonder. (He’s a big wedge fan because #1 he loves blue cheese and #2 he loves bacon more. If there’s a wedge on a restaurant menu, he’ll order it. Almost always.) And when I was pondering all of this the other day, ready for our January splurge, I wondered why we couldn’t have a wedge for breakfast? I love eggs with any vegetables; you might remember. I mean, nearly everyone eats Huevos Rancheros with lettuce and tomato, don’t they? Some breakfast tacos come with shredded lettuce and tiny diced tomatoes, too. What about veggie benedicts? Our favorite breakfast place serves a ton of salads with fried eggs, or avocado toast, or omelets. And anyway, bacon — a main wedge ingredient — is for sure breakfast food. So why not a BREAKFAST WEDGE? A nice hunk of blue-cheesy lettuce and some lacy fried eggs. Really crisp bacon. I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea. Maybe a side of UK grilled mushrooms and tomatoes?
Over the years, I’ve taught a number of Italian cooking classes, one more enjoyable than the last and no doubt I’ve learned as much as anyone in the groups. A few minutes are always spent discussing the basic courses of an Italian meal while listening to a stellar Italian opera aria or two, though we rarely have time to make them all, more’s the pity. Having traveled to Italy a number of times, I learned it was no secret Italians themselves only have time for such luxurious repasts during special family get-togethers, Sundays, or holidays — much like Americans. In Naples, a tour guide confided to me, “We love just pasta for lunch; it’s a favorite. Or pizza!” It was cool hearing that.
Here in the states, pasta is rarely a first course (“primi”), which it is for that special Italian meal:
Primo / Primi or primo piatto / primi piatti – first plate/s, usually pasta or risotto; you could also have a “bis di primi” or “tris di primi”, where they give you a small portion of two or three different types of pasta so you can sample.
Date night meals have been unique and even innovative for a lot of folks during the pandemic, mostly because instead of jumping in the car and heading for the nearest $$$$ restaurant, we’ve been forced to plan, create, and cook (clean up/boohoo) at home. Ordering food online or even shopping only once a week to limit time in stores means we must think ahead, deciding on a menu and making sure all of the ingredients are available, ready to use, and even thawed. (I hate thawing.) Not only that, there’s setting the table. Locating a bottle of wine. Turning on some decent music. Maybe finding a movie you haven’t seen. Getting out of your pajamas for dinner. Or not.
Christmas breakfast should be, without a doubt, nearly carefree. That being said, it must also be delectable, desirable, and delightful all the while taking care of itself while you open gifts, listen to A CHRISTMAS CAROL, or zoom with the family or friends. Egg breakfast or brunch casseroles — also known as stratas — fit the bill perfectly and are endlessly adaptable to ingredients on hand. This bacon (ham? sausage? veggie crumbles? chorizo?) version topped with brightly colored chopped peppers (mushrooms? tomatoes? jalapeños? zucchini? fennel?) provides six or eight servings but is also perfect for a smaller group who also might enjoy leftovers. That would be us. Though we are rarely at home alone for Christmas, we are this year as are many people all over the world. We’ll make our brunch dish a day ahead, of course, bake it on Christmas morning, and enjoy it over the whole weekend. We might even freeze a couple of pieces for an easy weekend brunch in January.
Serving one? Halve the recipe, which works perfect in an 8 or 9-inch square casserole dish. Relish for a couple of days, share, or freeze.
“What would you like for breakfast?” I asked. “I never met an egg I didn’t like,” said my very dear friend Chris Kliesen Wehrman with a gleam in her eye one morning after she had spent the night at our house.
Pancakes are the answer when the question is, “What’s for dinner? I haven’t been to the store and there’s nothing thawed. It’s late and we’re hungry.” My happy guess is you have flour, eggs, milk, and syrup or honey. Maybe, if God is good, you have some bacon in the freezer. Enter the fall breakfast for dinner and why not? It’s not something you do often, but when you do, you think, “THIS is a great idea!” Ok, this might not have fit in the “diet,” but I didn’t overdo.Continue reading →
NEW BAKING CLASS: Make Your Pie and Eat It, Too! Basics of American pie baking just in time for Thanksgiving. Given two Saturdays in November: November 7 and November 14, 1 – 4 pm. 6 openings for each date. $55. per student includes pie making ingredients/instruction, dessert, coffee, and digestif (after dinner drink), if desired. See CURRENT CLASSES above right.
My good friend Pam is a marvelous alto.She’s a fine cook, too. I know this because she and her husband are in our wine group and I get to sample her tasty fare fairly often. Here she is looking gorgeous and cooking at a house we rented near the Paso Robles wine country a couple of years ago.
This summer I discovered another talent of Pam’s; she, along with her husband, is an avid, generous gardener. Arriving last week at our house for a laid-back deck burger fest complete with homemade ice cream, she walked in brandishing a bouquet of sumptuous late summer herbs and two bright-as-sunshine summer (yellow) squash. Several very busy days went by and while I had pulled some herbs out for a dish or two, I hadn’t touched the summer squash. I’ve been on a serious diet for months and hadn’t had a bite of pasta all summer long. When I DO make pasta, it’s usually a good-quality whole-wheat variety and rarely white pasta. But yesterday it was time for a treat; I pulled out the Cipriani’s pappardelle and began grilling the squash with some big Portobello mushrooms. Try thiseasily-made-vegan dish for your end-of-summer grilled supper:
PAM’S SAGE PASTA WITH GRILLED SUMMER SQUASH AND PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS
1 pound cooked and drained Pappardelle pasta–Cipriani’s is my favorite (Vegan pasta for vegan version.)
Set cooked and crumbled bacon aside, if using.
Heat grill to medium high. Toss squash and mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper. Grill, turning midway, until grill marks are quite dark and the squash is tender. Remove and set aside. Slice mushrooms into 1/4-inch pieces. If grilling indoors on the stovetop in a grill pan, you may have to grill in batches. (Cook pasta now if you haven’t done so already.)
In the meantime, heat butter/oil in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium flame and cook onions until quite soft. Add garlic, a good pinch each of crushed red pepper, salt, black pepper, 2 tablespoons minced sage, spinach, and all but 1/3 cup diced tomatoes. Cook another minute or two, stirring, or until spinach begins to wilt.
Stir in cream or rice/nut milk along with Parmesan cheese, if using. Lower heat and simmer 2-3 minutes. Add grilled mushrooms and chopped, cooked bacon, if using. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Gently add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir. Taste again and adjust seasonings as needed.
To serve, divide pasta between four bowls adding reserved grilled squash along side, on top, or around. Garnish with the reserved tomatoes and minced sage. Top with toasted bread crumbs for vegan version.
*Fresh sage is usually available in grocery stores, but if you can’t locate it, stir in 1/4 teaspoon dried, rubbed sage. Taste and add more if you like. Skip the sage garnish, perhaps substituting chopped fresh parsley instead.