Caprese-Inspired Pasta

Main Dishes, Recipes

I was pretty proud of this dish. I’ll be honest, I gave myself a little pat on the back for coming up with this super duper simple-but-creative recipe to utilize some fresh cherry tomatoes gifted to us by one of the guys at work. But shortly after I started writing this entry I googled “caprese pasta,” and as it turns out, I was not the first to think of this wonderful creation. Darn. That burst my bubble a little but no matter – I still hope you will enjoy our take on caprese pasta!

The finished product – buon appetito!

Caprese, in case you haven’t ordered it at a ristorante recently, is typically a cold appetizer of tomato slices, mozzarella, and basil arranged in colorful layers and drizzled with a good olive oil (and sometimes balsamic vinegar as well). After seeing the beautiful bright red ripeness of the homegrown tomatoes, I knew we wanted to cook them minimally if at all.

Aren’t they beautiful?

At the farmer’s market, we found an artisanal cheese maker who sold a stunning fresh burrata and we had to get some to pair with the tomatoes. We are also excited to use the meyer lemon oil we recently purchased from Global Gardens in Los Olivos to replenish our pantry. Finally, I snipped a few leaves off our little basil plant, the first of our hopeful herb garden. What follows is a surprisingly easy recipe for a refreshing entree that tastes like summer. (I know it’s fall, but summer doesn’t have to be over yet!)

Ingredients:

1/2 lb dried pasta (we used Barilla spaghetti but feel free to use shapes or whole wheat or gluten-alternatives)

10 cherry tomatoes or a couple of larger tomatoes, diced

1-2 tablespoons olive oil (highly recommend meyer lemon infused olive oil if you have it!)

A handful of fresh basil leaves

2 oz burrata or fresh mozzarella

Salt and pepper to taste

First cook the pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, prep your tomatoes.

Prepped tomatoes

When the pasta is done, drain the water but do not rinse.

In a skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil and add the diced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Saute the tomatoes for about 3 minutes, or just until the juices are released and the pan starts to look “saucy”.

Tomatoes workin’ up a sweat!

Add the pasta and toss to coat. Taste and season again if needed.

Toss, toss!

Take the pan off the heat and divide into dishes. Finish with a drizzle of meyer lemon infused olive oil, dots of burrata, and a chiffonade of basil. Serves two hungry carb-lovers. Buon appetito!

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Peach Crisp and Tenerelli Orchards

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

Quick, before summer ends! Run out and pick up some of the yummiest peaches you can find! Got ’em? Good.

Summer peaches!

It’s become part of our weekend routine now to swing by the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market on Sundays. Summer, my friends, is peach season and boy, do they look and taste great. We always stop by the same stall to get our peaches — the Tenerelli family farm. They grow dozens and dozens of varieties of peaches, most of which I’d never even heard of, and each week is always a pleasant surprise. They stole our hearts when we first tried their snow bright peaches — super sweet white peaches that are best served when they are extra ripe and are so soft that they bruise when you look at them. Amazing. I had never tasted a peach that tasted quite so… peachy. We returned week after week to try their other varieties – snow angel peaches (also white, more crunchy, and oh so sweet), glacier peaches (whites, crunchy, a bit more tart), and most recently, their O’ Henries, a yellow peach that truly captures the balance of sweetness and tartness that comes to mind when you think of the iconic peach. Just today we also tried their Ryan Sun yellow peaches, or as they affectionately refer to it – the ugly fuzzy ones.

Ryan Suns (aka “the ugly fuzzies”)

We brought some O’ Henries home and while I love eating peaches just the way they are, I wanted to turn these into a crisp. A crumble. You know, I honestly don’t know the difference between those terms. Usually they refer to hot-out-of-the-oven baked fruit topped with crumbly streusel-like topping and (if I’m lucky) served a la mode, so that’s good enough for me. A quick Google search tells me that a crisp is simply the British name for a crumble. So I guess this could be called a peach crumble, but because I love British accents and want to speak with one someday, let’s call it a crisp. (By the way, in case you’re wondering where the “cobbler” figures in, it’s basically a crumble/crisp with bits of dough instead of streusel as the topping, making it more similar to a peach pie.)

Voila – peach crisp!

Ingredients:

Peach Mixture

6 peaches, white or yellow or both (I used 2 whites and 4 yellows)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract, optional

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Crumble Topping

1/2 cup butter (1 stick – frozen or very cold)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup oats (1 minute quick oats for oatmeal is fine)

Prepped peaches

The first step is to prep the peaches. They need to be peeled, pitted, and sliced, and if your knife skills need work (like mine), this may take a while. I waited until after I finished slicing all the peaches before preheating the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the peach slices in the baking dish, add the vanilla and cinnamon, and toss to coat evenly. Set aside.

Lotsa butter!

Next, prepare the crumble. Most recipes will tell you that you need to “cut” the butter into the flour mixture until the butter breaks up into smaller-than-pea-sized bits. Doing this by hand would take a lot of work, even with a pastry cutter. Instead, I used my trusty little food processor. Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Slice the butter into thick pats, about 1/4 to a 1/2 inch thick, and throw them into the processor bowl too.

Crumbly goodness!

Pulse until the texture looks crumb-like. Add the oats and pulse just once or twice to mix. I tried making this crumble topping with butter straight from the refrigerator and it turned out sticky and doughy; it doesn’t brown quite the same way, so I’d recommend using frozen butter if you can.

Ready for the oven!

Top your peaches with an even layer of the crumble mixture. I used an 8″ x 8″ baking dish and sprinkled all of my crumble, which yielded a really thick crusty layer. I liked it, but if it’s not your thing, you can either use just enough to cover all the peaches (anywhere from half to 3/4 of the recipe) or use a 9″ x 12″ baking dish keeping in mind that this would spread the peaches out in a thinner layer as well.

Bubbly browned crumble topping

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the peach juices start to bubble and the topping gets roasty-toasty. Serve hot or cold, with ice cream or without. It keeps in the refrigerator for a few days (if it doesn’t get completely devoured first!) and reheats well in the microwave for a minute or two.

Beautiful O’ Henry peach from the Tenerelli Orchards

Whether or not you decide to try this recipe, I hope you’ll still run out to your farmer’s market (or grocery store – we don’t judge) and grab some peaches before summer ends. There’s nothing quite like enjoying fruit at the peak of the season. And if you’re local, we recommend swinging by the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market! It’s so quaint and there’s a certain comfort in seeing the same vendors and farmers setting up shop every week. Not to mention how fun it is to discover new fruits and vegetables as they start to come into season. Enjoy!

Day 2b: Sonoma Farmer’s Market & Mamma Tanino’s

Food Adventures, Napa & Sonoma

After visiting Lancaster Estate and Medlock Ames we were just about dead tired, quickly hopping back into the security of the car and its air conditioned heaven. Healdsburg was a good hour away from the city of Sonoma and we were expecting to arrive in time for the Sonoma Tuesday Night Farmer’s Market. After checking into the nearby hotel, we took a brief stroll to the park in front of city hall where the farmer’s market was located.

The entire block and surrounding neighborhood were bustling with people enjoying the sun and mingling around the tented shops. Stalls of produce from nearby farms lined the walkway around the city hall building carrying a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables. The colors were spectacular and we were enjoying the beautiful day so much that we had forgotten to take photos of the area.

Having drank most of the day and filling up on wine, we had forgotten to eat very much for lunch and were famished. At 6:30pm and without a reservation at any restaurant, we should’ve known better than to try walking into the restaurants that enclosed Sonoma Square. We decided to try Mamma Tanino’s – a place a little out of the way that we found on Yelp, a homely-looking, literal hole-in-the-wall in the corner of a strip mall. The patrons seemed to be an older, more local crowd. The interior was a warm, cozy space with an obnoxious yellow glow that enveloped every nook and cranny. This glow, while warm, took a terrible toll on the quality of our photos, but please bear with us.

Alice found out an interesting piece of information about Chef Gaetano that we didn’t want to speculate about its accuracy: he was accepted into culinary school at the age of 13 and graduated at 15. We managed to verify this information with his wife Kimberly who runs the front of the house.

Without further adieu…the noms:

Housemade Focaccia

The table bread was a simple fresh-baked focaccia that was extra toasted and a little burnt on its extremities. We didn’t mind too much, and I myself am a fan of slightly charred bread. Alice found a piece that tasted like pizza crust, in a good way.

Appetizer: Calamaretti Fritti

Fried calamari was very crispy but the batter was unevenly coated and didn’t adhere well to the calamari. The homemade pomodoro sauce had a little kick that kicked me in the…taste bud. The creamy tartar sauce with capers wasn’t all that special but I’m glad we were given the choice of two different dipping sauces.

Pappardelle Bolognese

Alice had the homemade, hand-cut pappardelle accompanied by a ragu-style sauce with beef, beef stock, carrots, and mushrooms. Just a little al dente to give it a more firm texture, making it a hearty and winning combination.

Gnocchetti Piemontese

I ordered another one of their homemade dishes – hand-cut mini gnocchi with a creamy tomato sauce. Texture was more like a cloud than a pillow, extra light and fluffy. I was able to polish off the entire dish and was left wanting more but that’s not to say that the portion was too small – it was just that good.

Tiramisu

I have to admit that this was definitely not that great of a tiramisu. There was a little too much marscapone and it was made using both rum and kahlua. When it came down to it, the tiramisu had a strange sour taste to it, perhaps from the kahlua or perhaps from the marscapone, but we couldn’t tell. Either way, the tartness tasted a bit awkward.

All in all, Mamma Tanino’s was a great find. It’s unfortunate that their location in the forlorn strip mall seems to have a negative impact on their business. People of Sonoma, swing by and give them a try! The pasta dishes are awesome and the service, courtesy of Kimberly, is very friendly.

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Check out Mamma Tanino’s Ristorante: www.mammataninos.com

500 W. Napa St. Suite 512
Sonoma CA, 95476

See their Yelp reviews here!

Day 3.5: Seattle – La Buona Tavola and Pike Place Market

Food Adventures, Seattle

We allotted a whole afternoon to exploring Pike Place, the iconic farmer’s market of downtown Seattle, so we thought it would warrant its own entry in our One Week, Three Cities series.

Obligatory Sign Shot – Super Touristy, We Know

Our first stop – the first Starbucks, of course! The line was out the door, but we (well, mostly Martin) were there to pay homage to this mecca of frappuccinos and chai lattes. The drinks are exactly the same, so this visit is really all about the novelty of the experience.

Original Starbucks Logo = 3x Topless Mermaids/Sirens

Making our way back to the main entrance to the Market, lattes in hand, we spotted a sign for La Buona Tavola. Brittany at the Seattle Caviar Company had told us about a great truffle shop near Pike Place, and we knew we were in the right place. Rei H., the Truffle Queen, was so welcoming and helpful.

Assortment of Truffle Products

The store was quite crowded, but after asking her a quick question about the varieties of white alba truffle oil they had on the shelves, she went and set up a mini tasting just for us – a little shot glass sized cup of potato soup. First a sip of just the soup. Then she added a full dropper (1 mL?) of truffle oil and had us try again. Foodgasmic! We also partied it up with tequila shots (just kidding – but she did have us lick the back of our hands to try the truffle salt). Another fascinating product they carry – truffle caviar. The fishy flavor and dark tint come from squid ink, and the synthetic pearls very closely resemble “true” caviar. For our dessert tasting, a 1:2 ratio of white truffle cream to a Nutella-like chocolate hazelnut cream. YUM. We couldn’t resist – we left the store with a TSA-friendly bottle of white alba truffle oil and a packet of 10% concentration truffle salt. We’re definitely looking forward to using these gourmet ingredients soon!

Oysters Galore

Onward to the main atrium of Pike Place — the Pike Place Fish Market, where enthusiastic yells and tossing of salmon attracts thousands of visitors daily. A bit of a tangent here – my mom collects magnets from every state she has been to, so I’ve made it a habit to pick up some magnets during my travels for her refrigerator. My dad, however, is far less of a souvenir-receiving kind of guy. BUT – the last time I went to Seattle, I brought back some salmon jerky and he loved it. To this day, I think he considers it one of the best and most useful gifts I’ve given him. This time I made it a point to pick up some more so we flagged down one of the guys to scoop up a 1/4 lb for me. They store it in whole strips — you can see the long backside of the salmon, just like the fillets they sell at your local grocer. Awesome stuff.

Menagerie of Teas and Spices

At Rei S.’s suggestion, we stopped by Market Spice. Before you even enter the storefront you can smell the fragrance of dozens, nay, hundreds of spices and teas wafting through the air. Upon entering, you can’t help but notice the floor-to-ceiling shelves of jars, each filled to the brim with spices and teas ranging from the ordinary pantry basics to the unique rub mixes, tea blends, and even catnip!

The Ever-So-Popular Matcha

I couldn’t resist its beautiful bright green color, so I snagged a 1/4 lb of matcha. We also brought home some catnip as a souvenir for Percee.

We spent hours wandering through the maze-like hallways and multiple levels that make up Pike Place.

Mushroom Medley

From fresh produce stands selling the last of chantrelles of the season to rows and rows of dried pastas in every shape, color, and flavor imaginable to artists selling their homemade wares, there really is something for everyone here. On one of the lower levels, there’s a comic book and assorted geekery store called Golden Age Collectibles as well as a numismatic (and baseball card collectors’) haven. Then once you’ve had your fill of the Market, you can cross one of the skybridges over to the Waterfront to check out the many restaurants, toy shops, arcade, and more!

Collection of Cheeses

Sure it’s a bit touristy, but I can’t imagine a trip to Seattle being complete without stopping by for a latte at the first Starbucks, watching the guys toss fresh salmon at the Pike Place Fish Market, sniffing and gawking at all of the fresh fruits and vegetables, and exploring the nooks and crannies of Pike Place.

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Check out Pike Place: www.pikeplacemarket.org

Located at 1st & Pike in Downtown Seattle

Check the website for hours

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Check out La Buona Tavola Truffle Cafe: www.trufflecafe.com

1524 Pike Place
Seattle, WA 98101

See their Yelp reviews here.

Be sure to say hi to Rei the Truffle Queen if you see her! :)