Italian pasta salad

This is not your traditional pasta salad. It’s way better.

I grew up with the classic Italian pasta salad being served at every party. You know the one…tri-color pasta tossed with cubes of salami, red & green peppers, black olives (the kind in the can), provolone and everything is covered in bottled Italian dressing. I have eaten this pasta salad enough in my day that I am more than happy to never eat it again, and haven’t considered making it in years, but I recently came across a recipe that made me fall back in love with Italian pasta salad and it’s SO much better!

Italian pasta salad

I came across this recipe while watching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they discussed the common problems with traditional pasta salad such as soggy vegetables, tasteless dressings, texture inconsistency, lack of creativity, and uneven distribution of ingredients. The ingredients, while similar to the more common Italian pasta salad described above, are much more robust and elevated. They referred to the ingredients in this salad as “antipasti inspired” and I love that!

The dressing is made from garlic and anchovy infused extra virgin olive oil that is then blended with spicy pepperoncini peppers & salty capers. It’s delicious! It is all then tossed with antipasti inspired ingredients like olives, sundered tomatoes, mozzarella and salami.

A note on anchovies. I know I probably just turned a lot of people off from this recipe with that scary word “anchovy,” but you have no idea how often anchovies are used in restaurant cooking, dressings and condiments and you don’t even know it. In the case of this pasta salad, they melt into the oil and you won’t even know they are there but you will notice the depth of umami that the anchovy brings to the party. I don’t understand these people who hate on anchovies, but if you are one of them, I think you just need to get over it. You’re missing a world of flavor.

Feaster’s Tip:

I agree with America’s Test kitchen’s recommendation on selecting salami. We both prefer a small, individually packaged, dry Italian-style salami. However if it is unavailable, you can ask the deli counter for thick cuts of Genoa salami and then cube it. But the quality is of cold cut style salami is not as good as individual packaged sausage style salamis.

Italian Pasta Salad
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
 
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 8 people (side dish)
Author: Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Ingredients
  • 1 pound fusilli
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3-5 garlic cloves minced (depends on your tolerance for garlic.)
  • 5-6 anchovy fillets rinsed, patted dry, and minced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup pepperoncini stemmed, plus 2 tablespoons brine
  • 3 tablespoons capers rinsed
  • 2 ounces 2 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • ½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes sliced thin
  • ½ cup pitted kalamata olives quartered
  • 8 ounces salami cut into ⅜-inch dice
  • 16 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese cut into ⅜-inch dice and patted dry
Instructions
  1. Slice half of pepperoncini into thin rings and set aside.
  2. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until pasta is tender. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water until chilled. Drain well and transfer to large bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, combine oil, garlic, anchovies, and pepper flakes in a small sauce pan over a gentle heat just until bubbling. Remove from heat. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Set aside. (The purpose of this is just to infuse the oil with flavor and melt the anchovies.)
  4. Transfer the whole pepperoncini to food processor. Add capers and pulse until finely chopped, 8 to 10 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add pepperoncini brine and warm oil mixture and process until combined, about 20 seconds.
  5. Add dressing to pasta and toss to combine. Add tomatoes, olives, salami, mozzarella, and pepperoncini rings and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Right before serving, toss with arugula & basil.
Recipe Notes

Make ahead – Salad can be refrigerated for up to 3 days but do not add the basil or arugula. Let the salad come to room temperature and then toss the arugula and basil right before serving.

corn & basil salad

Featured in Greenwich Lifestyle magazine – July 2020

Everyone loves corn in the summer- it’s sweet, savory, and genuinely makes people happy!

We are all familiar with the preparation of the summer classic “corn on the cob” but an even better way to highlight this popular summer vegetable is is to make a beautiful, bright corn salad.

Corn & Basil Salad
Few things represent summer more than fresh corn and basil

This simple, delicious recipe is sure to be the star side dish at your next bar-b-que. (Better still, it’s a great way to use up all that basil that is starting to peak!) Corn & basil salad is a fantastic way to highlight the best of our local summer produce and herbs. The perfect complement to any summer gathering.

Feaster’s Tip: You can make it ahead. Here is how.

  1. Cook, prep & refrigerate the corn.
  2. In a separate container, make the dressing, omitting the basil, and refrigerate.
  3. About an hour before serving the salad, dress the corn being careful not to overdress (you may have extra dressing).
  4. Right before serving add the basil so it stays crisp and retains its color.
Corn & Basil Salad
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
20 mins
 

Corn and Basil salad is the perfect side dish for a your next barbecue

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 5
Ingredients
  • 5 ears of corn shucked clean
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn for 3 minutes until the starchiness is just gone. Drain and immerse it in ice water to stop the cooking and to set the color. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob.
  2. Mix together in small bowl vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Gently combine kernels (and tomatoes, if using) with the vinaigrette.

  4. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil. Taste for seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature.

Roasted Parmesan Broccoli

Broccoli is the king of the vegetable kingdom. Well, at the vest least, the king of my vegetable drawer.  It’s my favorite vegetable and simply roasted, it is my go-to side dish most days of the week.  I know I’m not alone in this and I think that is probably why none of us think about broccoli as anything special and certainly not the side dish you think to include when planning a special occasion dinner. But THIS Parmesan Roasted Broccoli recipe from Ina Garten is life changing!This dish, however, is another story. It’s not just good enough for a special occasion dinner, it may actually compete for the best thing on the plate. I have more people comment on this side dish than any other always saying the same thing, “This is the best broccoli I have ever had. What did you do to it?” Well, the answer is simple- I followed the recipe!

This is my absolute favorite broccoli recipe and  just trust me, it will be yours too!It’s lemony, salty and decadently rustic.The trick to this dish is about preparing the ingredients ahead of time because it gets assembled quickly at the end of its roasting time.Prep ALL the ingredients and set aside before beginning to roast your broccoli. Then right as it comes out of the oven and you are preparing to serve, find a sous chef to assist you. Have them toss the broccoli in a large mixing bowl while you add in the prepared and measured ingredients. This will ensure even distribution of flavors and ingredients. Otherwise, you’ll have pockets of too much lemon, or too much salt, etc., so it’s important to be prepared with an extra set of hands!

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: International
Keyword: broccoli, side dish, vegetarian
Servings: 6
Author: Ina Garten
Ingredients
  • 4 to 5 pounds broccoli
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled and thinly sliced
  • Good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts or slivered almonds toasted
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves about 12 leaves
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

  2. Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. You should have about 8 cups of florets. Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 5 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

  3. Meanwhile prepare all the remaining ingredients, measured out and set aside ready to toss in quickly when the broccoli comes out of the oven. (You'll need to move quickly!)

  4. Remove the broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, Parmesan, and basil. Serve hot.

Chive risotto cakes

One of the great indulgences in life is Risotto. But how about risotto cakes? You take one of the most wonderful foods and you can fry it….Mmm Mmm Good.

Risotto cakes are really easy to make. Make your favorite risotto recipe and chill it, form small patties, coat in panko bread crumbs and fry.

I am a big fan of Ina Garten’s Chive Risotto cakes. The recipe is really easy and everyone will think it took you hours of slaving over the stove!

Risotto Cakes
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
25 mins
 
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked and chilled Risotto (best if left overnight)
  • 1 cup panko flakes
Instructions
  1. Spread the panko in a shallow dish.

  2. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil on med-high heat. 

  3. Form patties out of the risotto and coat in the panko crumbs. 

  4. Place the patties in the oil and cook for about 3 minutes on each side until the risotto cakes are crisp and golden. 

  5. Drain on paper towel and serve hot. 

corn & basil salad salad

Ilove most vegetables…corn is not one of them! I think it’s over used, always over cooked (but that’s a subject for a whole other post!) and makes a mess! However, this corn salad is a staple when we bbq, attend a picnic or just want a break from the standard summer pasta salads – it’s my go-to summer salad recipe and I just love it! In recognition of this Labor Day weekend and all the Backyard BBQ’s and boating trips we will all be enjoying, I wanted to share this simple, delicious recipe with you! It’s sure to hit the spot!

Corn & Basil Salad
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
20 mins
 

Corn and Basil salad is the perfect side dish for a your next barbecue

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 5
Ingredients
  • 5 ears of corn shucked clean
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn for 3 minutes until the starchiness is just gone. Drain and immerse it in ice water to stop the cooking and to set the color. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob.
  2. Mix together in small bowl vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Gently combine kernels (and tomatoes, if using) with the vinaigrette.

  4. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil. Taste for seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature.

fried zucchini flowers

Fried zucchini flowers are a special, Italian, seasonal treat and one of my all time favorite things to eat.

fried zucchini flowers

Zucchini plants produce large, beautiful flowers for the bees to come and pollinate which results in gorgeous zucchini fruit. But they have another wonderful purpose on this earth- for eating! You occasionally can find zucchini flowers available in a specialty food store but I have never seen them look fresh enough to purchase. I do order them at select restaurants at select times of year, but really, nothing compares to picking your own and frying them up within minutes of picking.

The Recipe

Fried Zucchini Flowers
Ingredients
  • Zucchini Flowers
  • Olive Oil
  • All Purpose Flour
  • 2 Eggs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne pepper and/or paprika (optional)
  • Fleur de sel
Instructions
  1. If you are picking your own zucchini flowers, pick the flowers when they are a healthy size, have not yet begun to wilt and are closed. Gently twist the bottom and pull out the insides of the flower. It should come out in one piece like in the picture here. 

  2. Heat oil just to frying temperature. (Don’t let it smoke! It’s ready when it takes one minute to fry a cube of bread or you can see the oil start to swirl on it’s own.) 

  3. In a medium size bowl, season the flour with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, paprika and a dash of cayenne pepper.

  4. Whisk 2 eggs in a separate bowl.

  5. Dredge the flowers in the flour, shake off excess flour and dip in the egg.

  6. Fry for about 2 minutes on one side and about 1 minute on the other side. (They fry very quickly so don’t walk away! Fry just long enough to cook off the egg and flour and produce a crispy flower.)

  7. Drain on paper towel and season immediately with a sprinkle of flour del sel.  Enjoy hot.

stuffed brussel sprouts

Icame across this gem of a recipe for stuffed Brussel Sprouts by Jerry James Stone who has an awesome vegetarian food blog. He takes incredible photos, produces killer “how -to” videos, and is a great inspiration to me. I have learned some pretty cool tricks of the trade from from him- you should definitely check him out.

Now I won’t lie to you. These little suckers take some work. But like most things, the more you do it, the better you get at it. I have made them enough times that now I can bang them out pretty quickly, but it wasn’t always that way. You just have to get the hang of it but trust me- it’s worth it! James made a great how-to video that shows you how to execute his recipe. I highly recommend the watch.

James combines the cored out pieces of Brussel sprouts with garlic, breadcrumbs, herbs, ricotta cheese, and parmesan cheese and then stuffs them back into the shells of the Brussel sprouts. The result is pure, bite sized deliciousness!

Stuffed Brussel Sprouts
Ingredients
  • 15 very large Brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1 cup Parmesan shredded
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3 Cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • Olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degree F.

  2. Wash the sprouts, trim the ends and halve them through the core. 

  3. Par cook the Brussels. To do so, fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add the sprouts cut-side down. Cook for 1-2 minutes, remove them, separate them, and let them cool.

  4. Core the sprouts. (Tip: Watch the video above for this next step. James reached us how to quickly core the Brussels sprouts in just a few minutes.)

  5. Finely chop the cored out Brussels sprouts pieces. Add the chopped sprout insides and 3 cloves of minced garlic to a sauce pan. Sauté over a medium-high heat. Cook until the chopped sprouts are tender and the mixture is aromatic. 

  6. Mix the sprout & garlic mixture with the ricotta, Panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, thyme, basil, marjoram and dried sage. Add a dash of salt and taste the mixture. You want it to taste a bit overly salted because it will be less salty once they are baked.

  7. Using a small spoon, fill the Brussels sprouts with the stuffing. Over fill them. 

  8. Bake for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees or until the caps are crispy and slightly burnt.