Shrimp Saltimbocca

A couple of weeks ago we took Jon’s brother, who was in town visiting, to the airport up in Baltimore. I never miss an opportunity to visit a fancy grocery store, so we all went along for the ride. Had a nice dinner, hit up the sale racks at Antrho, and dragged Uncle Trevor through every aisle at Whole Foods before dropping him off at the airport. Then we stopped by the new Wegmans location in Crofton on the way home. I always love visiting their delicatessen, and I couldn’t resist having a few slices of the most gorgeous proscuitto I’ve ever seen sliced off to take home with me. And come home with me they did…along with some awesome peppered salami and sliced chorizo. I had to fend off Jon from eating all the “gabagool” in the fridge.

What he didn’t eat, I decided to use to do a fresh spin on one of my very favorite classic Italian dishes. Traditionally, this is made with a chicken breast. Which is awesome. But our local seafood joint happened to have some gorgeous, large shrimp in this weekend and the wheels in my head started turning.

It was a little bit more time consuming than chicken breasts, just because of wrapping shrimp individually in the prosciutto. But, your efforts are well rewarded. The salty richness of the proscuitto permeates the shrimp, rendering some of it’s fat and getting nice and crispy. Then a pan sauce is made from the browned bits, garlic, white wine, lemon juice, and butter. I served it over pasta, but I think it would be a wonderful appetizer or first course on it’s own. I’m so glad I remixed this one, because I think I like it better than the original!

Spaghetti with Clams

I’ve mentioned before that we live in a small town in a rural area, full of small towns just like ours. And in these small towns, it’s not uncommon for someone to have 2 professions. Like, the chief of police also owns the only extermination company for a 50-mile radius. Or the mayor of the town, who also owns an electric supply company. Or Jon’s boss at NASA, who farms cultured clams in his spare time…

We’ve been wanting to get a bag of “littlenecks”, the smallest and tenderest of clams, for quite some time now, but Jon would always forget to mention it to Scott for some reason or another. Finally last week, he remembered to remember, and a big bag of these guys were waiting for him in the office refrigerator on Monday morning. I knew I wanted to do a pasta with clam sauce, but all the other ones I had tried in the past were kind of lackluster. So, I turned to Giada. I’d found both of her cookbooks in the thrift shop for $1/piece (one man’s trash is another man’s comeup!) and there was a recipe that looked great, yet had a simple ingredient list – precisely what this dish should be.

And, I’m pleased to report that this recipe fully lived up to my expectations. A punch of garlic, a little bite from the addition of white wine, and then just an awesome brininess from the clams that rounds out all the flavors and brings everything together. So quick, too. Dinner is literally done in the time that it takes to boil the pasta! Winner, winner – clam and pasta dinner. Have a great weekend, kids!

Rigatoni with Beef & Sausage Ragù

I don’t know about where you guys are, but there was a hint of fall in the air here this weekend. We turned off the air-conditioning and opened up all the windows, and I even had to don a long-sleeved shirt at the local fireman’s carnival on Friday night.

Needless to say, I was feeling something in the way of comfort food. And what better fits that bill than a big bowl of baked cheesy pasta? My girlfriend made this dish for me after we brought home our first son Andrew, over 5 years ago now. She drove all the way from Annapolis to come and make us this pasta, and share dinner with us. It quickly became a favorite in our home, and consequently my “go-to” baked pasta dish.

Ground beef and spicy Italian sausage is simmered in a rich tomato sauce, releasing all their meaty flavor into the sauce. Then at the end, a bit of heavy cream is stirred in…making it lighter in flavor, but yet richer at the same time. Layered with a bit of mozzarella cheese before baking, it’s becomes bubbly and crusty in the oven – everything that a baked pasta should be. Paired with a glass of red, a fresh green salad, and some crusty bread – it’s the perfect Sunday meal to gather your family around the table. We intend to enjoy every last day of summertime, but I’m definitely looking forward to that chill in the air being here to stay!

Caprese Pie

If you guys are anything like me, you have a “thing” for delicious mozzarella cheese. There’s nothing better than those salty little bites of chewy goodness, am I right? So, when I was asked to participate in the 2013 Galbani® Caprese Challenge, I couldn’t have been more honored or excited. Any chance to work with mozzarella, ripe red tomatoes, and fresh green herbs and you can count me in!

Galbani Mozzarella Fresca™ is made in the Italian tradition of fior di latte using fresh cow’s milk. The cheese is gently stretched and kneaded, then fresh-sealed, leading to a fresh mozzarella cheese that is unparalleled in texture and flavor. The cheese is slightly firm and salty–wonderful! They also offer other delicious varieties packaged in water, as well as a marinated variety, which would be a perfect addition to any antipasto platter.

The Mozzarella Fresca was recently named a favorite fresh mozzarella by the editors of Saveur Magazine, and for good reason. It melts beautifully but maintains its body–great chew factor! I also found that when melted, it released very little liquid. So often with other mozzarella cheeses I’ve tried, they released so much water–that’s no good for a pizza! Galbani Mozzarella Fresca is truly a superior product. Look for it in your local supermarket’s specialty cheese display.

So, without further adieu, here is my entry for the 2013 Galbani Caprese Challenge. A simple pie crust filled with layers of ripe tomatoes, Mozzarella Fresca, herb sautéed onions, and a splash of balsamic vinegar then baked to bubbly perfection. Paired with a green salad, it’s the perfect light summer meal. Such a great way to put all of those gorgeous summer tomatoes and fresh herbs to use!

Voting is open now, so go vote! To celebrate this fun challenge, Galbani is giving away all kinds of fun prizes to voters through August 9, with a grand prize of $500 given to a random voter at the end of the contest. You can enter once a day, so go check out the other blogger’s fun spins on the classic Italian dish Caprese, and vote for a chance to win some great prizes!

2013 Galbani Caprese Challenge

Disclaimer: I have been compensated for my time to create an original recipe for the Galbani Caprese Challenge. As always, all thoughts are my own.