Orecchiette with Asparagus and Sausage

A little over a month ago it was Valentine’s Day, and on this specific day I had dinner with the love of my life. We ordered a pasta dish—along with a lot of other dishes to share because I was super mega hungry that day. I can’t really remember those dishes right now. I guess they’re unimportant since they didn’t stay in my head. This pasta, however, was the best dish I’ve had in a restaurant in a really long time. Probably in forever, but don’t quote me on that because I don’t want to make that kind of commitment to one dish so early on in my life. The pasta in question was something out of this world. Perhaps it was all just a dream. I’m convinced it was voodoo magic brought to me on a white plate, and that if I return to that restaurant now it wouldn’t be the same. That’s how it always is. I’m okay with that though, because I decided to recreate it at home. I decided to challenge myself, to see if I could actually make it without having much to go on except for the memory of a delicious night. As it turns out, I must have some of that voodoo magic myself, because not only was my pasta better than the one from the restaurant, it also happens to be ridiculously easy to make. Not to mention the fact that for the same price of the restaurant dish, you get an entire potful instead of just one small plate’s worth. It’s a win win situation. The ol’ ball and chain even said it was the best thing I’ve ever made. I don’t know if I should be flattered or offended. I’ll go with flattered.

It’s made with orecchiette noodles, in case you didn’t already guess that part, hence the name. Orecchiette actually comes from two Italian words that mean “ear” and “small,” which gives you the word for “small ears” because the pasta looks like little ears. Aaah. There’s a little trivia for you to throw out at your next cocktail party. You can thank me later. Both versions of the dish, the fancy restaurant and my own, have crispy ground sausage and are loaded with peas. Lots of peas. (Have I told you that I’m a sucker for peas?) The one at the restaurant had broccoli rabe and I’m a total fan of broccoli rabe but when I first tried to recreate it, I couldn’t find any at the grocery store. I almost cried right there in the produce section by the bagged salad mixes. It was a sad sight to see. There was, however, an abundance of asparagus staring at me because it happens to be spring here, and I’m all for seasonal fresh produce. So I stopped crying and decided to give it a go with asparagus and as it turns out, I preferred it much better. Life is funny sometimes the way it points you in the right direction without you really knowing what in the world is going on. Now, I’m only making it with asparagus and I’m topping it off with a heaping amount of lemon infused ricotta cheese because, um hello RICOTTA CHEESE, people!

Have you ever fallen in love with a dish you’ve tried at a restaurant or in someone else’s house? So much so that you go home and try to recreate it for yourself, determined to make it just as good, if not better? If you have, share some of your experiences down in the comments section below, I’d love to hear about them. Mostly because I want to know I’m not the only crazy one out there, but also because I’m curious to hear what dishes make you happy. In the meantime, let’s make this pasta dish and become addicted together because that’s what friends do. They become addicted to food with you.

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Salmon Cakes with Creamy Dill Sauce

I used to hate salmon. Not like “I sort of disliked it, didn’t really care for it,” kind of hate. No, it was definitely more like “I loathed it with a passion greater than life itself,” kind of hate. It was one of my biggest fears, if not the biggest. My worst nightmare come true. Whenever I’d see salmon I’d go into a fit of rage. Uncontrollable anger would swell up deep inside of me, in the pit of my stomach, that of which you cannot even begin to fathom. It truly would be a scary sight to see. I’d sooner eat liver and onions than eat salmon, and that’s saying something because have you tried beef liver before? It’s not the tastiest thing on earth, to put it nicely. I’d throw tantrums, push people out of the way and flip a table over (Real Housewives style) because I did not want to eat salmon. And that was just last week. Now, seven days later, and about twenty salmon cakes in, I am a believer. Salmon is my new obsession. Hey Salmon, hey! Where have you been my entire life? Let’s be best friends for life. Call me every five minutes.

Maybe it’s all the delicious flavor in these salmon cakes? Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m eating savory cakes (yeah, that’s cool) that appeals to me? I’m not sure but whatever it is, I wasn’t living before now. My eyes were closed and these cakes have opened them. I only wish I had discovered salmon cakes a long time ago. Think of all the tables that could have been saved in the process, but most importantly, think of all the salmon I could have been eating. All that salmon I missed out on. Is it weird that the best part of this recipe wasn’t the salmon itself, but the creamy dill sauce instead? I mean, talk about something you can get addicted to. Be weary my friends. I think you might need a support group on hand, after you try it for yourself.

You know, the more I think about it, the more I know it was definitely the creamy dill sauce that has made salmon not so scary for me. The fear and anger is gone, replaced now with a yearning for salmon this and salmon that. I owe dill sauce my entire life, so much so that I’ll have to name my first child Dill Sauce. Don’t laugh, it’s happening. In the meantime, let’s just be content with eating nothing but salmon cakes, drenched in creamy dill sauce for the remainder of my life. Or until I find a new obsession, whichever comes first. If you need me, I’ll definitely NOT be in the kitchen, head in the fridge eating cold salmon cakes with dill sauce all over my face. That’s totally not me, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

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Gazpacho: Two Ways

I don’t have the best memory. Okay that’s putting it mildly. If I’m being honest, I have the worst memory ever. Like on the planet. In the history of memory having, I’m at the very bottom. I envy my sister who can seriously remember things from inside the womb. It’s scary how much she can recall from when she was tiny and itty bitty. We’ll be talking about something in particular and then all of a sudden she’ll bust out a memory and include when, where, what she was wearing, what she had said and what she was doing on a specific date. She’ll say something like, “Remember when I was born, I came home from the hospital wearing that yellow bunny onesie and played in my crib?!” Okay I exaggerate. I on the other hand, can’t even remember what I ate yesterday. This is not an exaggeration. I have very little recollections of my childhood. I mean sure I remember a few things here and there and bits and pieces of certain moments when I was young, but for the most part my mind’s a blank. My sisters will gladly tell you that I was oblivious as a kid. Always wandering off and in my own world, never paying attention. I guess this is what happens when you’re the only boy and the youngest in the family. There are certain things however that I do remember. Like the traditional putting up of the christmas tree. Putting the tinsel one strand at a time, we weren’t allowed to throw clumps of shiny tinsel all at once. The fact that my mother would only make soup on the hottest days of the year. How I couldn’t sit still for the life of me and was constantly moving around, jumping, grabbing, or pushing buttons as a kid. The way my mother would hide our halloween candy (in her closet up above the shelf) giving us only one piece a day. Talk about torture. It took about 2o minutes for my sister and I to find it, climb up and sneak a few (okay like 10) pieces of candy a day. Sorry mom. I also recall the constant watching of a certain movie. This movie in particular probably defines my entire existence. Not only because it was released the year I was born but because we’d watch it all the time to this day. It is by far the fondest memory I have. Now that I’m older it’s definitely one of my favorite films.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, a foreign film from Spain by Pedro Almodóvar —hands down his best work of all time. I learned two things from watching this movie so often throughout my entire life. One, that no one is as badass as Pepa Marcos and two, gazpacho can solve all of your problems in more ways than one. This dish will forever be synonymous with that movie for me until the end of time. Whenever I hear someone mention gazpacho or if I see it on a menu somewhere this movie and the spiked gazpacho with 25 or 30 sleeping pills will come to mind. So here we are today making not one, but two gazpacho recipes. There’s a scene towards the end of the film when the police are asking the main character what exactly is inside the gazpacho. I remember wanting to make it (minus the drugs of course) as she listed off the ingredients in it. “Tomate, pepino, pimiento, cebolla, una puntita de ajo, aceite, sal, vinagre, pan duro y agua. El secreto está en mezclarlo bien.” The secret is in mixing it well she claimed, and she’s right. I also remember thinking what in the world is gazpacho. It looked like plain ol’ tomato juice to me. It’s cold soup friends. Wonderfully delicious cold soup. So I’m giving you two gazpacho recipes. My take on this classic Spanish dish. Perfect for the summer weather. The first is a chunky watermelon gazpacho served with grilled shrimp and the second is a traditional smooth gazpacho, just like in the film.

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Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Let’s just face the cold hard facts. Sometimes it’s way too hot to get in the kitchen and rattle them pots and pans (sorry Bill Haley) over the fire or heaven forbid, turning on the oven. Talk about torture. On those days I just don’t eat. No I’m kidding (mamma, of course I eat). On those days I actually try not to cook. I guess I should say I don’t like to make extravagant meals, slaving away in the kitchen for hours on end, because I actually do cook, they’re just super fast dishes with minimal actual “cooking” involved. Not to mention, who wants to eat a hot meal when it’s deplorably hot outside as well? I don’t folks, I don’t. That’s when these easy and refreshing meals come into the picture. Recipes that cool me down without making me spend too much time in the heat of the kitchen. Recipes that are super easy to put together, and utilize ingredients I already have on hand in the fridge or pantry because the last thing I need is to have to go to the market to buy ingredients for dinner. Is it too much to ask for to have such recipes at my disposal? No, not really. That’s totally reasonable. Yes I just answered my own question and no I’m not ashamed of it. Welcome to the inside of my head ladies and gentleman.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that I’ve put up a healthy recipe on here. High-fives and pats on the back are totally appreciated. I’ll even accept some A-OK’s and thumbs up. I mean I deserve brownie points for such a feat. Cue the flying pigs. Start the freezing over of hell. For the greater part, most of my recipes are rich desserts that are full of butter and sugar and chocolate and you know what, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what breakfasts of champions are made of. I just don’t want you guys to think that’s all I bake and cook and eat so I thought I’d show some variety with this dish, which I happen to make at home all the time. It’s a hit. Just ask my family, they’d tell you, “It’s a hit!” I may or may not have paid them to say that, no big deal. So why not let it be a hit at your house too? You can even take all the credit, go ahead I’m giving you permission. When someone asks you how’d you come up with such a delicious recipe you can say you made it up. “I don’t know how I come up with such things. I surprise myself sometimes. I guess I’m a genius.” Look at that, I’m even telling you what to say. Free of charge. You can pay me by making the recipe and trying it out for yourself. And if you want to invite me over to help you eat it, well I won’t complain.

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