the ultimate comfort food: spaghetti with clams

When I need comfort food, there is very little than can compete with a big bowl of perfectly al dente spaghetti, butter, clams, garlic, and yes, a fabulous pecorino.  I don’t care if all of Italy sneers in my face because I enjoy shellfish with cheese. I happen to like it, so THERE.  I totally understand the argument that cheese can mask the natural aroma of great seafood, but I’m tired of this antiquated myth circling about that eating cheese and seafood will give you an upset stomach, and/or make you a trashy human being. It won’t and if you like the taste, I hereby give you permission to grate away.

This quick dish can be filed under 10-minute meals.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound of pasta
  • 4 Tablespoons of butter
  • 1 medium shallot, loosely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cans of clams (I used the 6.5oz cans of Trader Joes’ Maine Whole Cherrystone Clams)
  • Salt to taste
  • Grated Pecorino or Pamesan (optional, to taste)

Recipe:

  • Vigorously salt a large vat of water and bring to a boil.
  • Throw in the pound of pasta once the water is hot and time it according to your preference. I usually cook spaghetti for 8 1/2 minutes, testing it along the way until it has the perfect bite.
  • Meanwhile as the water boils and pasta cooks, heat 2 Tablespoons of butter on a skillet. Be careful not to let it burn (I love ghee, or clarified butter for this very reason).
  • Once the pan is hot, toss in the shallots and cook for one to two minutes. Then add the garlic. After another minute finally add in the clams.
  • Drain the pasta and then throw it back into the pot, along with the clams. Toss 2 more Tablespoons of butter (or however much you need to get the pasta coated).
  • Salt to taste and grate fresh pecorino or parmesan over each serving (optional).

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Salmon Tacos in a Carmelized Agave Butter Sauce with Mango Salsa

The moment I realized I had all the ingredients I needed to make these tacos happen tonight, I got excited. Probably a little too excited.

Salmon tacos have been on my list of ultimate comfort food since I tried them for the first time a couple years ago at one of my favorite Mexican places called Taco Mesa in Costa Mesa. They serve this incredible salmon taco with a creamy butter sauce along with a mango relish that is to die for. But, at $4/taco I soon realized that I needed to recreate this in my kitchen and save some dough. This recipe is all-the-way-paleo if you just omit the tortilla (replace it with mixed greens!) There’s something so incredibly delicious about salmon with agave and butter as well.

Ingredients (makes 2 servings)

  • 2 pieces Wild Salmon
  • 2 tbsp butter (I use clarified butter, also called “ghee“)
  • 2 tbsp agave syrup
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 3/4 onion
  • handful of cilantro
  • 2 yellow mangos
  • 1 lime or 1/2 lemon (I like using lemon more and more in my salsas these days)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • tortillas (for a treat I use flour tortillas, but tonight I used an Ezekiel flourless tortilla)

Recipe:

1. Chop up the onion, tomato, cilantro and mango and combine in a bowl to make the salsa. Add fresh lime or lemon juice and then salt and pepper to taste.

2. Heat up the grill (I just use a George Foreman) and add the salmon to the grill with the skin still on, face-down. Cook for about 3 minutes on one side, depending on the heat of the grill you’re using. Flip over and continue to cook. You can peel off the skin at this point (Fun fact: salmon skin really grosses me out for some reason… if my hand accidentally touches it I jump, squeal and get really skeeved)

3. Once the salmon has cooked for a few more minutes, I flip it over once more to cook for about a minute on the side that had the skin (so it gets those nice, even grill marks).

4. Meanwhile, I combine the agave syrup and ghee into a small saucepan or frying pan, and melt it together on low heat. I gradually turn up the heat while stirring, allowing the agave to bubble and caramelize.

5. Transfer the salmon to a plate and pour the butter sauce over the salmon.

6. Heat either two small tortillas per person, or one large tortilla. If you have a tortilla skillet, great! If not, you can use the grill or the toaster oven.

7. Add the salmon and salsa on the tortilla and eat!

Sage & Butter Filet Mignon with Yam Fries and Asparagus

Wow this blog has gathered a lot of dust! 6 months worth of dust… my excuse has always been that I don’t have enough time, but I finally admitted to myself that since I spend hours watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (judge away) and staring vacantly at Facebook, I have no excuse. Since I last posted we moved to a (way better) apartment closer to L.A., I started grad school and the boyfriend and I traveled to Rome and Sicily in December (major food post to come). Things have definitely been on the up and up and I am now settling into 20 days of spring break (thus, the rekindling of this site!). I’m hoping to infuse this blog with some broader topics though as I move forward (because there is more to life than grub) so be on the lookout for posts on fitness, music, health, DIY, fashion and general rants. I’ll first start by posting an easy recipe from last week.

As some friends and family know, I’ve been slowly leaning towards eating more and more Paleo (a.k.a. “the caveman diet”) and for a solid two weeks I was following Whole30, which is an even stricter version of Paleo where you only eat high-quality meat & fish, vegetables, fruits and certain fats like olive oil, seeds and nuts for 30 days. Well, I didn’t make it to 30 days. I technically didn’t make it past four days, but I’m going to be delusional and not count a certain night of excessive drinking post-performance. It just didn’t happen, alright?

I nonetheless feel amazing while eating Paleo and the more I research, read and experiment the more it makes sense. For the first time in a LONG time a lot of my stomach issues disappeared and I am now 10 pounds away from weighing what I did in highschool. How do you like them egg rolls? My only complaint is that we (non-cavemen) have unfortunately been conditioned to have something called variety. So, I am trying to figure out how to eat paleo “most of the time” while being able to dip into my fav non-paleo meals without getting too cray-cray. I mean, a life without pasta and wine is not a life.

With that said, let’s talk about STEAK:

Filet mignon is seriously my favorite cut of beef and is one of the many perks of eating Paleo. It melts in your mouth, is tender and soft and is a super low-maintenance cut. All l I did was salt & pepper it and then seared it over high heat until rare. I took some fresh, chopped sage and simmered it on low heat with a couple teaspoons of clarified butter (also know as “ghee”). I chopped up some yam fries and sautéed some fresh asparagus with shallots and olive oil, and had dinner ready in 20 minutes.

[I always cut the ends off my herbs, stick them in some water and cover to keep them fresh throughout the week.]

Oh, this is making me nostalgic. Lately I’ve been indulging in a little too much sugar, and half and half in my coffee, and spaghetti, and Trader Joe’s appetizers, and bites of the boyfriend’s Del Taco quesadillas, etc…. and the result is, I don’t feel too snazzy. I’m planning to return to the “straight and narrow” starting on Monday. I’d start back up tomorrow but we are visiting the fam for brunch and while I am a strong woman, I don’t know if I can (or really want to) pass on my Dad’s amazing waffles. Before I head to sleep though, look! I bought some new Asics so I can look cool at the gym again. My old running shoes had holes in them (yes, plural) and they squeaked. I was getting some funny looks from the little old ladies at the YMCA. But now I’ll show them!

Cheesy Garlic & Mushroom Calzone

I’m trying to catch up on some of the recipes from 2011 that I left in the dust on my hard drive. This was a really fun recipe and a delicious dinner. It’s economical and easy to make, and you can make it into a healthier calzone by simply substituting lighter cheeses, whole wheat flour and putting more vegetables in it.

The first step is making the dough. This, for me personally, is a lot of fun, and easy to do. I think dough is always better when made a couple hours ahead of time. You definitely need at least one hour for it to rise, so this isn’t a fast dinner.

*Note: this recipe yields two large calzones!*

Ingredients for 

the dough:

  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2- 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp olive oil
I always combine the yeast, water, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, sugar and salt for about ten minutes before adding in the flour. Then I mix it together, using a fork at first and once it clumps together, I knead it on a lightly floured chopping board. I knead the dough for about 10 minutes, turning it over, pressing in, and so on until it feels soft ( some people say it should feel like skin). I always do the poke test. Once the dough pops back after being poked, it’s ready. Then, set it in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Coat it in the oil, cover with plastic wrap, and then let it rise for about an hour, until it has doubled in size. 

Preheat the oven to 375 when you are ready to roll out the dough. Separate the dough into two portions. Roll both of them into circles.

To make the filling for one calzone, simply combine 1/2 to 1 cup ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese,  1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms and 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves. Now, you can fill it with anything you like. I personally love a four-cheese calzone, but you can fill it with more vegetables to make it healthier. I also used light ricotta in this one. Arrange the filling on half of the calzone.

Fold the calzones in half and secure with a fork. Using a baster brush, cover the whole thing with an egg wash (beat one egg in a bowl). This will give it that gorgeous color and crisp!

Bake for about 30-40 minutes. Enjoy with your favorite sauce!

Dee’s take on Nana’s Baked Mac ‘n Cheese

Since I date a vegetarian, macaroni and cheese has become one of my tastiest dishes and a guaranteed hit with the boyfriend. It’s quick, simple, delicious and I never need to reference a cookbook when assembling it. True, it’s not the healthiest option, but pair it with a salad and you can kind of justify it.

I made this for New Year’s Eve din-din at home, paired with some Trader Joe’s baby back ribs (for me), a salad and some cornbread. We had a fun time just hanging out at home, detonating poppers & banging on pots and pans.

My recipe comes from my Nana, who taught me how to make baked macaroni about a year ago.

Ingredients:

-butter, 4 TBSP
– half & half, 1 cup
-flour, 4 TBSP
– milk (1% – whole milk), 3 cups
-elbow macaroni (1 box)
-1 stick of cheddar cheese (or you can use different cheeses to make a more “gourmet-style” three or four-cheese macaroni)
-salt (to taste)
-breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup or so

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Immediately add the flour and begin stirring until it is incorporated into the butter.

2. Add the milk and the half & half and whisk until mixed together. As the milk heats up, grate the cheese into the milk mixture. You can also buy pre-shredded cheese or a four-cheese blend and slowly add it in, whisking every minute or so.

3. Meanwhile, boil the macaroni for about 6-7 minutes (or until al dente) and drain and pour into a Pyrex 13 x 9 baking dish or casserole pan.

4. Once the roux is thick and the cheese is melted, pour it directly over the pasta in the casserole dish.

5. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and casually arrange small cubes of chopped butter over the bread crumbs.

6. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

7. Take your cholesterol medication.

YUM.

Let’s Get STEAMY

The New Year is a time for all of us to reflect on our lives, contemplate our achievements and failures, look into the future and pledge resolutions for making us better people, and to LOSE WEIGHT!

Just kidding! ( but not really…) On New Year’s Day the whole nation realizes that eating Halloween candy, stuffing, English toffee and buttered rums nonstop for three month’s causes some unflattering bulges and a serious case of lowered self-esteem due to ill-fitting pants. I personally did a decent job this Fall up until December 10th. Then, I just went crazy and ate star-shaped sugar cookies for breakfast. It was like Hansel and Gretel in my apartment for three weeks. But now the fairy tale is over, I’m 5 pounds heavier, and it’s time to shift back into a more veggie-centric eating plan.

This leads us to today’s dinner: “A boring, vegetable soup.”

At least, that’s what I thought as I lifelessly began chopping carrots. But, surprisingly enough, it wasn’t boring and turned out to be quite tasty and filling. Plus it is  worth 1 Weight Watcher’s point a cup.

To make a tasty soup, all you need to do is throw a mix of your favorite vegetables into a soup pot. I used broccoli, celery, spinach, carrots, zucchini, onion, garlic, red pepper and cauliflower. Pour in enough chicken stock so that the vegetables are covered and then bring it to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat to low and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Season with thyme, lemon juice, pepper and (lots of) sea salt. You can also add in some noodles or rice if you need your carb fix.

What is YOUR favorite low-calorie dinner? I’m taking suggestions for upcoming posts. In addition to the vegetables, I’m starting up Pilates again, which I’m really happy about! I’m so sore I can barely manage to do basic functions. No matter how much walking or running you do, nothing will leave you more sore than a Pilates class.

Now I’ll leave you with this hilarious, and kind of inappropriate, “morning warm-up” workout video. I had visions of myself making a video of me attempting this, but then I realized I would live a life of shame from then on… so I decided against it.

Salmon, Fusilli & Homemade Pesto

I am so behind on posts, it’s border-line ridiculous. I have dozens of great recipes and posts to publish and I am devoting tonight towards writing  a few entries.

This morning Dhiren and I were talking about the impending New Year and 2012. I was complaining expressing how overwhelmed I feel with all my “projects.” I love photography, cooking, teaching and singing equally, but finding time for all of those things in one day is close to impossible. On top of this, I’m also committed to getting fit and losing weight (down 10lbs since September!) and that takes tons of time and a wholelotta commitment as well. Days when I’m able to sing, get some photography work done, cook, eat well, practice, work out and teach come about once a month. Most days I’m left feeling… frazzled.

BUT, Dhiren reminded me that the beauty of this food blog is that it helps to keep me sane. It’s nice having a hobby where you don’t feel a pressure make money with. It’s a total labor of love. And since I need to eat  on a daily basis (sometimes hourly) it’s easy to incorporate it in my life. So here’s a toast to this food blog, for keeping me sane in 2011 and giving me the chance to test out a LOT of different recipes and ideas in the kitchen.

Today I’m highlighting one of the tastiest dishes I’ve had in a long time– oh, and it’s healthy too! Salmon on a bed of fusilli topped with homemade pesto. Dhiren made the pesto, and since it’s his recipe, I’m going to ask him to write a guest post on it soon. This doesn’t even warrant a recipe, since I didn’t season the fish myself either.

I simply bought a package of Wild Pacific Chimichuri salmon at TJ’s, boiled the pasta, let Dhiren make the pesto and threw it all together. This was literally ready in 15 minutes! I LOVE easy, filling meals that keep you full for a long time.

The next couple posts will be much more detailed. Stay tuned for Sicilian Fig Cookies, Homemade Calzone and Bread Pudding! MMM. ‘Tis the season to break your diets.