30 minute Dinners: Spaghetti with Shrimp, Broccolini and Basil

broccoli shrimp tastefood

This light and lovely dish is healthy, low maintenance, and delicious. A series of quick cooking steps ensures that each component is perfectly cooked before tossing together to serve. Tender broccolini spears and sweet shrimp are independently sautéed with chili flakes and olive oil just long enough to brighten in color and coax out their natural flavors without overcooking. A simple tomato sauce consisting of plum tomatoes and garlic has a short simmer just long enough to blend while still tasting fresh. Then all of the elements come together in a big serving bowl with a shower of fresh basil leaves which release their aroma in the warmth of the dish. This recipe is a keeper and can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. It’s perfect for easy family dinners and simple cooking on a warm summer day.

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Broccolini and Basil
Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti or linguine
Extra-vrigin olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 pound broccolini, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails intact
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup whole basil leaves, torn if large
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain  and transfer to a large serving bowl.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the broccolini and sauté until bright in color and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the broccolini to a plate and lightly season with salt.
3. Add 1 tablespoon oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes to the same skillet.
Add the shrimp and cook over medium-high heat until pink on both sides and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to another plate and lightly season with salt.
4. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the sugar. Simmer over medium-low heat until slightly thickened, 5 to 7 minutes, breaking the tomatoes apart with a spoon.
5. Add the tomato sauce, shrimp, broccolini, and basil to the spaghetti and gently stir to thoroughly combine. Garnish with a generous grind of black pepper and serve immediately.


Duck Crostini with Radicchio Slaw and Roasted Apricots

Duck Crostini TasteFood
Messy is ok sometimes – especially when you are heaping lots of delectables onto crisp crostini. In such the case it’s inevitable that some of the ingredients will tumble onto the plate, creating random ‘garnishes’. This is when the term rustic comes in handy. Rustic implies comfort and nothing too fancy, with an emphasis on adjectives such as finger-licking and delicious. Or at least that’s how it works here.

Crostini are a fun way to present a light and casual meal. They are also a great way to showcase simple fresh ingredients and use up interesting leftovers. For this recipe I used duck meat that was leftover from my current cookbook project. I shredded the leg meat and quickly caramelized it in the oven, then mounded it over the toasts. While chances are you may not have leftover duck loitering in the back of your fridge, duck legs can usually be found at your local market or butcher. Otherwise, shredded pork is a great substitute. The point is to have a little fun building your crostini, and try to be creative with what you’ve got. And it’s ok if they are messy – just call them rustic.

Duck Crostini with Radicchio and Apricots
Makes  12

Radicchio slaw:
1 small head radicchio, shredded
1  1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1  1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of black pepper

2 apricots, halved and pitted
Vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 (1/2-inch thick) ciabatta or sourdough bread slices, cut in half
Extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces cooked and shredded duck leg meat with skin
1 tablespoon rendered duck fat (or vegetable oil)
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Coarsely chopped Italian parsley leaves for garnish

1. Combine the radicchio slaw ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
2. Heat the oven to 375°F. Brush the apricots with oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish and bake, skin-side down, until the flesh is soft, about 10 minutes. Remove and cool; do not turn off the oven.
3. Arrange the bread slices in one layer on a baking tray. Brush the bread  with the olive oil and lightly season with salt. Bake in the oven until golden and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove and cool.
4. Turn on the oven broiler. Combine the duck ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Spread in a baking dish and broil until brown and beginning to crisp in parts, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring once.
6. Drain the radicchio. Arrange the bread on a serving platter. Mound some of the radicchio over each bread slice. Top with a few pieces of duck and a small dollop of apricot flesh. Garnish with parsley and additional salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Asparagus Carbonara

Asparagus Carbonara TasteFood

Just grill it – in a skillet. My favorite cooking vessel is my cast iron skillet. Not only is it versatile in the kitchen, it’s handy on the grill. When it’s too hot to cook in the kitchen, I move outdoors and use my grill as an oven and a stovetop, and my cast iron skillet becomes a grill pan. Last night I made a simple carbonara pasta dish on the grill. Carbonara is the Italian version of chicken soup – a supremely comforting meal for all ages – consisting of pasta and bacon whisked with a slick sauce of eggs and cheese. It’s a family favorite year round, which I like to lighten up with seasonal vegetables.

If you use a gas grill, prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. The pasta may be boiled on the grill in a grill-proof pot (most are), and the bacon and asparagus may be prepared in a cast iron skillet. Alternatively, use your stove!

Asparagus Carbonara
Serves 4

The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs when mixing. Be sure to do this away from the direct heat to prevent the eggs from scrambling.

8 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 pound orecchiette

3/4 pound thin asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook the bacon in batches in a large skillet (or on a griddle) over medium heat until the fat renders and the bacon is crispy. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel. When cool enough to handle, break into small pieces. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the skillet.
2. Whisk the eggs and cheese in a bowl until smooth; set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the orecchiette and cook until al dente; drain.
4. While the pasta is cooking, add the asparagus, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Saute over medium heat until the asparagus are bright and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the orecchiette and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly add the eggs and cheese, stirring constantly to coat the pasta and to prevent the eggs from cooking. Add the bacon to the skillet and stir once more.
5. Serve immediately garnished with black pepper and grated cheese.

Greek Tabbouleh Salad

Greek Tabbouleh Salad TasteFoodWhen it’s super hot outside (like now), who wants to cook? (Not me!) In the heat of summer, dinner prep should be low maintenance with oodles of fresh ingredients. I like to make all kinds of salads brimming with crispy garden vegetables, often including a grain or legume and not-so-much heavy meat protein. These salads can stand in for a light dinner, or accompany anything fresh off the grill. Tabbouleh salad is a favorite of mine, a Middle Eastern mixture of bulgur wheat, handfuls of fresh herbs, peppers and spice. It’s light yet substantial with a kick of heat to wake up any lazy tastebuds enjoying a siesta.

Greek Tabbouleh Salad
Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 cups bulgur
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, diced
1 poblano pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely diced
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup crumbled feta

Combine the bulgur, water, and lemon juice in a bowl. Cover the bowl and let stand until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur is tender, about 20 minutes. Add the oil, cumin, salt, black pepper, and cayenne and stir to blend. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. If the bulgur is too dry, add additional olive oil to achieve your desired consistency. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop. Serve as is, or add to pita pockets with spoonfuls of tsatsiki and harissa.


Lisbon Snapshots #TasteFoodTravel

Afternoon Light - Casa de Pasto

Casa de Pasto



Rooftop Sunset

Sao Roque

Sao Roque

Chiado Wine Bar

Chiado Wine Bar


LX Factory

LX Factory

Pastéis de Nata

Pastéis de Nata


Summer Berry Spritzers and a Mojito

~ Blackberry, Lime and Mint Spritzers~

It’s summertime and the living is easy. And what better way to enjoy the sultry season than with a refreshing, thirst-quenching drink? During this window of time when berries are prolific, I like to make a syrup which I add to drinks.  Depending on the mood or time of day, I’ll stir a few spoonfuls of the vibrant, tangy syrup into icy glasses of Prosecco or sparkling water. If we’re feeling extra festive, I’ll muddle a jigger-full with mint, lime and rum and call it a mojito. The following recipes call for blackberries, but raspberries are a great substitute. And if you’re lucky enough to have a bunch of black currants growing in your garden, then go for it.

Blackberry Syrup
Makes about 1 cup.

12 ounces blackberries
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until blackberries soften and release their juices, about 10 minutes. Cool. Purée in a food processor, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Discard the seeds.

Blackberry Spritzers
Makes 1 

Ice cubes
1 part blackberry syrup
2 parts sparkling water, white wine or Proscecco
Lime wedge and mint leaves for garnish

Fill a wine or cocktail glass with ice. Add syrup and sparkling water. Stir. Garnish with lime and mint.

Blackberry Mojito
Makes 1 

1/2 lime, cut in 4 wedges
2 sprigs mint, plus extra leaves for garnish
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) blackberry syrup
Crushed ice
1.5 ounces white rum
Sparkling water
1-2 blackberries for garnish

Muddle 2 lime wedges, mint sprigs and syrup together in a sturdy highball glass. Fill the glass with crushed ice. Pour rum over ice. Top with sparkling water to taste. Garnish with whole blackberries, remaining lime wedges and mint.


Strawberry Cake

strawberry cake  tastefoodReprinted from the TasteFood archives, because it’s the end of the school year, and  we all deserve cake.

More strawberries, you say? You bet. I am greedy at this time of year when spring produce is cluttering up the market shelves. A rotation of asparagus, peas, and strawberries passes through our kitchen to the table on a daily basis. You would think we would tire of all of this goodness, but it never seems to be the case. It also helps to have a variety of recipes to choose from to change things up a bit. While nothing beats fresh strawberries with a little cream, put a few aside to make this simple cake. It’s light, gently sweetened, and generously studded with more strawberries than you know what to do with. Actually, I don’t mean that – we all know what to do with strawberries. Just be sure to save some to make this cake.

Strawberry Cake

I halved my jumbo sized strawberries in the pictured cake, but recommend quartering them if very large, so they will begin to break down while baking, making a luscious juicy mess.  Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, divided
1 pound strawberries, halved – or quartered if very large

Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 10-inch (25 cm) pie or tart pan (I used a 9-inch extra-deep pie pan).

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the butter and 3/4 cup sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, buttermilk, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest on medium speed. Add the flour and mix to combine without over-mixing. Spread the batter in the prepared dish. Arrange the strawberries, cut-side down, on top of the batter, gently pressing to partially submerge. Squeeze in as many strawberries as possible – it’s ok to be greedy. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake in the oven until the top of the cake is light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Before serving, sprinkle 1 teaspoon lemon zest over the cake. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Ricotta Beet Bruschette with Garden Pesto

beet pesto plate tastefood
There’s something very pleasing about an open-faced sandwich a.k.a. bruschetta in Italy, tartine in France, or smørrebrød in Scandinavia. The filling becomes the topping, which is a lovely reflection of the sum of its parts and a visual tease, beckoning a bite. It begins with day old bread which gets a revitalizing browning on the grill. From there you can get as creative as you like. This rendition includes fresh ricotta, roasted beets and a generous smear of a garden pesto I made with parsley and mint.

Ricotta Beet Bruschette with Garden Pesto
Makes 6.

Garden Pesto:
2 cups fresh parsley
1 cup fresh mint
1 small garlic clove
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 slices day-old ciabatta or country loaf bread, about 3/4-inch thick each
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh ricotta cheese
6 roasted and peeled baby beets, cut into wedges
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh baby oregano and thyme flowers

Make the pesto:
Place the parsley, mint, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped. With the motor running add the 1/2 cup oil in a steady stream until blended. If too thick, add extra oil to your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven broiler or a grill. Brush the bread slices with oil. Broil or grill until toasted golden on both sides but still tender in the center. Remove and cool the bread for 5 minutes. Smear the ricotta on the bread, then drizzle some of the pesto over the ricotta. Top with beets. Brush the beets with a little oil and season the bruschetta with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh oregano and thyme flowers. Serve whole or cut in half for smaller bites.

Jerk Chicken

jerk chicken

Jamaican Jerk is a thick and heady Afro-Carribean marinade chock-a-block full of ingredients. Don’t let the lengthy list of spices and aromatics deter you. All you need is the fire of a grill to unify the flavors and create a spicy-sweet finger licking dinner – perfect for a summer barbecue. The heat in the marinade traditionally comes from Scotch Bonnet peppers (super hot). I’ve modified that with jalapeños – but feel free to go all out with a scotch bonnet (carefully seeded with gloved hands!) if you dare. And remember – as with most meat marinades, the longer the chicken can soak in the marinade, the better the flavor.

Jerk Chicken
Serves 6

6 garlic cloves
4 scallions, chopped
2 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded (optional)
1 (2-inch) knob ginger, peeled, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 chicken legs and/or breasts with skin and ribs

1. Place the marinade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to form a paste. Arrange the chicken in a large baking dish. Rub the marinade all over the chicken and under the skin where possible. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
2. Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium heat. Grill the chicken over indirect heat until charred and golden brown and thoroughly cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size and thickness. During the last few moments of grilling, move the chicken to direct heat to char the skin as needed.
3. Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley.

Rhubarb Boysenberry Crisp – Gluten Free

berry crisp

It was one-stop shopping at the farmer’s market this weekend. A little rickety table in the far corner of the maze of our Sunday market was lined with pint-sized cartons seeping with blue-violet blotches. They brimmed with wild raspberries, blueberries, and – best of all – boysenberries, a tart flamboyant cone-shaped berry resembling a floppy blackberry. Next to the berries was a wide wicker basket filled with dainty upright rhubarb stalks awash in green and fuschia. The message was clear: Come and get it. And so I did.

Rhubarb Boysenberry Crisp (Gluten-Free)

I made this dessert for our dinner guests that night, one of whom is gluten-free. The topping was crisp, nutty and sweet, faintly spiced with cinnamon – delicious for gluten-free and gluten-lovers alike. Serves 6.

1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup oats (gluten-free or regular)
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
2 cups boysenberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine all of the topping ingredients, except the butter, in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Place the rhubarb and half of the boysenberries in an 8 x 8-inch (or similar size) baking dish. Sprinkle the sugar over and gently mix to combine. Whisk the orange juice and cornstarch in a small bowl. Pour over the fruit and gently stir to coat. Arrange the remaining boysenberries over the top of the fruit, then evenly spread the topping over the fruit.

Bake in the oven until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, about 45 minutes. If the topping browns before the filling is fully cooked, then loosely cover with foil to prevent burning. Remove and cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.