Friday, July 27, 2012

Pasta alla Carbonara

I have decided to post this recipe, which is a very basic one, as part of my efforts to clarify what is "authentic" Italian and what is not. This is how it is done in Italy. No peas. No large amounts of cream. And no, the eggs are not properly "cooked". I love Carbonara, it's a go to when you are starving and want a rich dish but don't have much left in the fridge. The only problem is the pancetta. I have tried to find one here in the states that was exactly as the one in Italy. The closest I have come is some diced pancetta I found at the Fresh Market, I think the brand was Fiorucci, but it still didn't taste the same. Anyway, if you want you can also substitute pancetta for some thick cut bacon, which actually might taste even better in the end, or some German Prosciutto but be careful with that because sometimes it can be a little too salty.

Ingredients for 4 people

4 eggs (3 egg yolks + 1 whole egg)
1/2 lb of diced pancetta
1/2 pound of grated parmesan
1 lb of thick spaghetti


- In a pan cook the diced pancetta over medium heat without adding any oil. Cook until the fat is transparent and the pancetta is slightly crispy and remove from the heat.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add 1/4 cup of salt to it.
- In a large bowl toss the eggs and the parmesan cheese, make sure the cheese is enough so that the mixture becomes very thick. Add the pancetta.
- Cook the pasta as directed.
- Drain the pasta and IMMEDIATELY add to the egg mixture, the heat from the pasta will help "cook" the egg. Toss vigorously and serve with black pepper on top.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Quick Tilapia/Swai/Flounder with Cherry Tomatoes and Olives

I find white fish pretty boring, I have to admit. I usually think you should let the flavor of a fish speak for itself, when it does have a flavor of its own, but I find tilapia, swai and flounder to be all pretty bland and overall tasteless. But I do enjoy eating fish and I know it's healthy to eat it often, plus these kind of fish are easy to find even in Illinois and often not very expensive. You can find them often reasonably fresh but I do like to buy them frozen, that way I don't have to worry about cooking them the same day I bought them or else they will spoil. The recipe includes olives, but they are completely optional, some people like them, some ( like me) not so much, unless they are in a martini of course! It is a quick way to make any white fish taste a lot more interesting and flavorful and you will find yourself eating fish a lot more often. I like serving this fish with a side of steamed brown rice.


Olive oil
1 or 2 fish fillets per person
All purpose flour
2 cups of cherry tomatoes
2 anchovy fillets ( optional)
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup of fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup of finely diced black olives (optional)


- Salt the fish fillets then coat them in flour by pouring the flour in a large plate or shallow baking dish and then coating the fillets on both sides
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half or quarter them depending on the size.
- In a large skillet put 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and turn the heat on medium
- When the oil is hot cook the fillet for about 3 minutes per side working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan.
- Once the fillets are cooked take them out of the pan and reserve them on a plate.
- In the same pan add some oil ONLY if necessary and add the garlic and the optional anchovy fillets. Cook on medium low for a couple of minutes making sure the garlic doesn't burn and pressing the fillets with a wooden spoon to make them "melt" into the oil.
- Add the tomatoes to the pan, add salt and cook on medium until the tomatoes are soft but not completely liquid, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add the olives and the parsley and turn off after 1 minute.
- Put the fish back in the pan allowing the sauce to cover the fillets and serve.

Pasta with Smoked Salmon in Creamy Vodka Sauce

This pasta will look like something very fancy but it really doesn't take much time or skill to make, actually I think it's pretty foolproof. The ingredients might be a little expensive (especially the smoked salmon) so it's not something I do everyday, but it is a nice idea if you are entertaining guests and want to impress them with something easy to cook.

Ingredients for 2 people

1/2 lb of bowtie/farfalle pasta
1 package of smoked salmon ( usually they are between 4-6 oz)
1 small onion
olive oil
1/3 cup of vodka
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 teaspoon of tomato paste


- Finely dice the onion
- Place a 2 quarts pot of water on the stove on medium
- In a frying pan pour approximately 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the onion in it on medium until the onion is soft and transparent. Avoid burning the onion by keeping the fire on medium low. If it's still getting brown too quickly you can add a dash of white wine or even some water.
- Cut the salmon in little bits of about half an inch.
- Add the salmon to the onion and stir it allowing it to caramelize a little.
- Add the vodka and cook until the salmon is caramelized and the vodka has mostly evaporated.
- Add the cream and the tomato paste. The tomato paste doesn't add much in terms of flavor but makes the sauce pink which looks prettier with the pink salmon.
- Cook for a few minutes on medium low allowing the cream to thicken. Once the cream is thick enough turn off.
- When the water is boiling add about 1/2 cup of salt then cook the pasta as directed.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet. You can turn the stove back on for a few minutes to help the sauce really stick to the pasta.

New England Fish,Clam and Corn Chowder

I modified this recipe from one on As usual the recipe from Epi included a lot of what I consider to be unnecessary steps to make the recipe sound more fancy and discourage people from actually cooking and it also had less variety in the ingredients. I like a variety of colors and textures in my soup so I added the clam and the corn, which I thought would never be bad in a chowder.
I used frozen/canned goods because I live in Illinois where fresh fish is hard to come by and because this way I can make this soup any time since most of the ingredients are staples in my pantry anyway, but of course it would taste a lot better with fresh ingredients so feel free to substitute.


4 slices of bacon
1 medium onion
1 lb of potatoes
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of dried thyme
2 cups of fish stock or chicken broth
1 can of small neck clams
1 package of frozen cod fillets ( approx 1 lb)
1.5 cups of frozen corn kernels
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of chopped parsley


- Cut the bacon slices into little strips
- Wash, peel and finely dice the potatoes ( the dices should be about 0.5 inch small)
- Make sure the cod is thawed or immerse the plastic bag in room temperature water to thaw more quickly
- Get the corn kernels out of the freezer to thaw. You can also put them in a small colander and rinse them with room temperature water to thaw more quickly
- Finely dice the onion
- In a large stockpot cook the bacon so that it renders the fat. Once it is starting to brown remove the bacon bits from the pot with a slotted spoon and place them in a plate with paper towels. Reserve them for later.
- Cook the onion in the bacon fat for a few minutes, until it is soft and translucent but not browned.
- Add the potatoes, the thyme, the bay leaves and mix well to coat the potatoes with the fat.
- Add the fish stock/chicken broth as well as the water from the can of clams ( make sure the liquid is enough to just about cover the potatoes, if it isn't enough add more stock or some water).
- Bring the pot to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes until the potatoes are soft but not mushy.
- You can choose to leave the cod fillets whole or chop them before hand. I like chopping them because I like everything to be bite sized, but some people like to leave them whole and then fish them out and cover them with soup, it's up to you.
- Add the cod, the clams and the corn to the soup. Cook for about 5 minutes if you cut the cod in chunks, a little longer if you put the whole fillet but not longer than 10 minutes, to avoid overcooking the fish.
- Add the cream and let get back to a boil for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste
 ( remember you are going to put those bacon bits on top of the soup so don't overdo it!)
- Serve with the bacon bits and the chopped parsley on top. If you can let the soup rest for 15 minutes before serving it, even better.