Summer Carbonara

A bit of an aside before I get to the carbonara. I really love Sundays, I remember them from my childhood that we regularly shared them with my grandparents. On one side more formal and on the other more relaxed with all of us kids allowed to “help”. For years I’ve been working to recreate this for my own children, those memories to me are precious, and they have grown more so since my grandparents have passed. Every Sunday my husband’s parents and mine are invited; my parents live further away so they are not as frequently able to join us, but my husband’s parents are cloose and regularly join us for Sunday dinner. My MIL brings the salad for our dinner, every week it is wonderful.

This week was no exception:

 Onto the carbonara… After making the Double Chocolate Pavlova I was left with a number of extra egg yolks. While I was browsing around on Saturday evening I came across a corn carbonara, ooh that could work, but then I looked at the details…NO EGGS!? I searched a bit more and found one that I was searching for the corn. I decided I could work with it, the recipe is a combination of both and a hit. I can also comment that both recipes were “supposed” to be for 4 people, I served 6, two of whom are very active teenagers, and had plenty leftover for lunches, and it reheated perfectly.

For the protein, I racked my brain for what would go well and kept coming back to the same idea – crab cakes. Yes, I can make them, I have made them, but Holiday Market is so close and their meat and seafood counter is amazing. Their crab cakes are delicious and reasonably priced, and I was able to find this treat at the counter too: 

It adds a nice heat to the crab cakes and all of the ingredients are real! I work for a chemical company, which means I can pronounce pretty much everything in most ingredient lists so the “don’t buy it if you can’t pronounce it” rule doesn’t work, but I hold true to the intent and don’t buy anything that’s unnatural. The crab cakes are easy to cook, brown in olive oil over medium heat, don’t crowd the pan.

 Pasta Carbonara with Corn and Chiles

makes 6-8 servings as part of a meal


  • 1 pound fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ pound pancetta, ⅛” thick cut, finely diced
  • 4 ears corn
  • 2 Italian cherry chile peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 extra-large egg yolks
  • ½ cup parmigiano-reggiano
  • ½ cup pecorino-romano cheese
  • ¼ cup chives, ~⅓” pieces


1. Cut the kernals from the corn and set aside, then scrape excess corn milk from cobs into a bowl by firmly running the back of a chef’s knife down the sides.

2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

3. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and brown for about 3-5 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the corn kernels and lightly brown their edges, stirring, about 5 minutes. Add the chile peppers, garlic and thyme and stir for 2 minutes. Return the pancetta to the pan and add half of the parsley and wine and simmer on low heat.

4. In a small bowl, beat eggs with the corn milk then whisk in the reserved pasta cooking water, stirring constantly until combined.

5. Put the pasta in a large bown and toss with the egg mixture, corn mixture, cheeses, and toss to combine well. Top with the chives and remaining parsley, then serve with additional cheese.


Weekday Entertaining

This week, was a little busier than our typical schedule. On top of  work (for us and our eldest), karate, and soccer, we squeezed in haircuts for everyone, the eldest had to ref one night, I went to bunco in the neighborhood, we hosted our neighborhood board meeting, and had clients over for dinner. We wrapped up the week today enjoying a UM win at the Big House over BYU. This evening I’m relaxing, the pizza is ordered and I’ll be pouring the wine after I pick it up. Sadly, with the speed of the week I neglected pictures.

Cooking after work can be a challenge, entertaining takes that to the next level and planning is key! After my skirt steak Sunday dinner I broke down a 7 lb. pork shoulder to make sure that was ready for the week. I used to shy away from large cuts of meat and even more daunting were bone-in cuts, but when I was shopping this week, that was best looking cut. I removed the excess fat and bones, and cut it into about 8-10 large pieces which I cover with foil and a rimmed cookie sheet and kept it in the fridge until Tuesday. (Pizza is ready, time for wine.)

On Tuesday, the boys had pizza and I was running to bunco so I had a bit of time after work to pick up the fresh ingredients for the client dinner and then run home for the rest of the prep of the pulled pork sliders, I made the rub and evenly pressed it into the pieces of pork, covered it back up, and returned it to the fridge. I also made the vinegar sauce and then ran to bunco.

On Wednesday, I put the pork in the crock pot and headed off to work. I got home about 5, pulled out the cookie sheets and had my younger son bake the cookie dough that I made on Sunday. While he worked on  that I started the slaw (the yummy one my MIL brought over for the Low Country Boil), shredded the pork, reduced the sauce, and then finished the coleslaw and put it in the fridge to get a chill. (I would have preferred to make it on Tuesday, but ran out of time.) After that was set, I cut up some carrots, celery, and bell peppers. I set the table with the slider buns, veggies, dip, pork, sauce, cheese, pickles, sliced jalapeños, slaw, chips, and cookies (Nestle’s original recipe – it’s the best).

All week at work we had 2 of the team members from a key client in town for an important project; it’s been ongoing for about 4 years, so we know the team rather well. Over the years I’ve taken a bit of sass for talking about what I cook a lot, but never cooking for them. So I decided to take the plunge, since I wasn’t in the mood for another restaurant this week. I carefully selected the menu to avoid allergies and food preferences and ended up with the following menu:

  • Strawberry Balsamic Baked Brie
  • Sun-dried Tomato Goat Cheese and mixed marinated olives
  • Shrimp and Lobster in Key Lime Sauce
  • Herbed Garlic Rice
  • Roasted Asparagus
  • Double Chocolate Pavlova with Mascarpone Cream and Raspberries

I left work a touch early, picked up fresh bread from the local market and headed home. My first objective was the Pavlova, although simple it needs to bake for over an hour and then cool slowly in the warm oven. (It can be made a day in advance, but the board members are great and we chatted long after the meeting was done.) The meringue is fairly simple, just be gentle when folding in the cocoa, chocolate, and vinegar. You may still see the specs of chocolate, but it shouldn’t be streaky. Once it was in the ovn with the timer set I could move on to other activities. The next task was to clean the shrimp and lobster, chop the lobster, and then set them in the fridge on paper towels in individual bowls so that they drain and dry before you cook them.

I then rinsed and sliced my mushrooms and set them aside to dry on an old towel until I needed them. I minced the garlic: 3 cloves into the lobster skillet and 8 into the pot for the rice. The Brie was next on the list, I cut the rind from the top (no need to be perfect) and set it in my Brie baker. The next step was to clean a pint of strawberries, quarter them, and put them in a small pan with sugar and balsamic vinegar, and then cleanedd the raspberries  and set them aside to dry. I also had the rice measured, my lime ready to be squeezed, parsley and basil chopped, the table set with china, and wine chilled. My friend and coworker arrived 15 minutes early to help with last minute details.

She put out the goat cheese, olives, and crackers on our breakfast bar then snapped the ends off of the asparagus while I put the brie in the oven, started the rice, and cooked the strawberries. I poured the berries over the brie, returned it to the oven and just after my guests arrived, served the brie. My kitchen is arranged so that guests can sit at the bar while I cook. As they enjoyed appetizers, I whipped the Mascarpone Cream, topped the Pavlova and set it in the fridge. Just as the rice finished cooking I stirred in the herbs and started the mushrooms. At the same time I started the shrimp and lobster I broiled the asparagus,  they were thin and only took a few minutes. My target for serving was 8, and I was very excited when we all sat down at 8:04.

 Slow-cooker Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwiches

serves 12


For dry rub:

  • 3 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix ingredients in small bowl to blend.

For Vinegar Sauce:

  • 4 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons hard cider
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated onion

In a large nonreactive saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer the sauce to a container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

  • 2 untrimmed boneless pork shoulder halves (also known as Boston butt; about 6 pounds total)
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • Buns or slider buns
  • Assorted toppings

Place pork, fat side up, on work surface. Cut into 8-10 very large pieces. Place on large baking sheet. Sprinkle dry rub all over pork; press into pork. Cover with plastic; refrigerate at least 2 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)

Place in a slow cooker with enough vinegar sauce to almost cover. Cook on low for 7 hours (if home turn over at 3-4 hours). Strain sauce into a medium size sauce pan and then shred pork and return to crock pot (on warm setting only). Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce by half. In a small dish whisk together the cornstarch with about ¼ cup of the reduced sauce and then whisk into the sauce. Return to a boil and continue until sauce reaches desired consistency (it will continue to thicken slightly while it cools).

If desired stir some of the sauce into the pan with the pork and serve the remainder with the sandiches along with your desired toppings (i.e., pickles, slaw, cheese, jalapeños).

Apple-Cabbage Slaw

serves 6-8


  • 1 pound green cabbage (about ½ medium head), cored and thinly-sliced
  • Table salt
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1 scallion, sliced thin
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Ground black pepper


In a colander, toss together the cabbage with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Let sit until wilted; about an hour. Rinse with cold water, drain and dry cabbage well with paper towels. Add the cabbage to a large bowl with the apple and scallion.

In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar, oil, Dijon mustard and red pepper flakes to a boil. Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss to coat. (Yes, it is hot when you pour it over the veggies.)

Cover and refrigerate the slaw until chilled (1 hour to 1 day). Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Baked Brie with Balsamic Strawberries


  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, cut into quarters
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 8 ounce round of brie


Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the strawberries, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Cook stirring occasionally while the juices cook down slightly and the strawberries soften, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove packing from brie round. Slice the top rind off of the top of the brie. Return the brie round to the bottom of it’s wooden packaging container. Place on a baking sheet and bake 7-10 minutes. Top with balsamic strawberries and bake an additional 3-5 minutes. Serve with bread or crackers.

Lobster in Key Lime Sauce

This isn’t quite the same as the way I made it above. I’ve made it a couple of times now, and I have determined that the shrimp, although delicious, detracts from the lobster. I recommend choosing one or the other and I chose lobster for drafting the recipe.  You could also do this with just a simple long grain rice rather the the herbed one that I prepared.

cook 20-30 minutes ∙ makes 6-8 servings ∙ difficulty Easy

  • 1/2 cup butter, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound mushrooms, fresh, sliced
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 3 pounds Florida lobster tail meat, chopped
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • juice of 1 Key Lime, freshly squeezed (regular lime is okay too)
  • 8 cups cooked long-grain rice


Cook rice according to instructions.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 T. butter and sauté garlic until just fragrant. Add the mushrooms and scallions, and sauté until just tender, about 2 minutes, remove from pan with slotted sppon and set aside. Add 2 T. butter with lobster and pepper flakes and sauté until the lobster is just cooked, about 2 to 3 minutes (cook in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding your skillet and be careful not to overcook). Return the mushroom mixture and add the remaining butter, wine, key lime juice; continue cooking until butter melts and is thoroughly mixed throughout the seafood. Serve with rice.

Roasted Asparagus

I don’t really have a recipe for this, simply spread out your stalks on a rimmed cookie sheet, drizzed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then salt and pepper and toss to mix. Broil for about 3 minutes and serve. It should still be crisp. 

Herbed Rice

No recipe for this either,  in your saucepan add  minced garlic to taste with a bit of olive oil. Heat over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant and just beginning to color. Stir in the rice so that it is well coated and then subtitute broth for the water listed on the package.  Otherwise, cook as directed and stir in freshly cchopped basil and parsley when it’s done. (~½ cup for 6-8 servings of rice)

Double Chocolate Pavlova with Mascarpone Cream & Raspberries

prep 20 min ∙ cook 1 hr 15 min ∙ makes 10


For the Pavlova

  • 6 large egg whites
  • Pinch salt
  • 1½ cups superfine sugar (see note)
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

For the Marscapone Cream

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, cold
  • 1½ cups heavy whipping cream, cold
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Topping

  • 1½ cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, grated or shaved into curls (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a dark marker, draw a 9-inch diameter circle on the parchment paper by tracing around a 9-inch cake pan or plate. Flip the paper over so your meringue won’t touch the marker.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy soft peaks form, about a minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the sugar; continue beating until stiff peaks form, 8-9 minutes. (The meringue will be glossy.
  3. Pass the cocoa powder through a sieve or sifter and add to the meringue. Add the vinegar and chopped chocolate. Using a large rubber spatula, fold the mixture until well combined. It should be a light mocha color with no white or brown streaks.
  4. Secure the parchment paper to the baking sheet by adding a dab of meringue under each corner. Mound the meringue onto the parchment inside the circle. Using the spatula or a butter knife, spread the meringue to fill the circle. Even the top and sides just slightly — it shouldn’t be perfectly smooth or overworked. Place in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the meringue is puffed and crisp all over, yet still a bit wobbly underneath if you touch the center. Don’t worry if the top is cracked — that’s normal and it all gets covered with whipped cream in the end. Turn off the oven, prop the oven door open, and leave the meringue in the oven to cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. (The meringue won’t collapse as much if it cools gradually.)
  5. Before serving, carefully peel the meringue off of the parchment paper and place it on a serving platter. In a medium bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese, heavy cream and vanilla until combined. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until it holds soft, pillowy peaks. Do not overbeat; it should not be too stiff or grainy. Mound the mascarpone cream onto the meringue and gently spread it out about an inch from the edge (don’t worry if the meringue cracks in the process). Top the pavlova with the raspberries and sprinkle the shaved chocolate over top. Cut the pavlova into wedges, wiping the knife in between slices, and serve.

Note: If you don’t have superfine sugar, place regular granulated sugar in a food processor and pulse until fine, about 30 seconds. This pavlova can be made ahead and assembled up to 12 hours ahead of time. Keep in the refrigerator.

European Dinner

When I’ve travelled to Europe for work there have been days when I have been so exhuasted that I have just wanted something simple for dinner so that I could go back to my hotel and rest. In those circumstances I have been fortunate to find a simple sandwich an a bottle of wine to take back to my room. Simple over there is not the fast food we find here, instead it is a sliced baguette, cured meat, local cheese, and herbs. Monday around here includes 3 different meal times so this is my take on that sandwich. I was headed to karate with kid 2 so I didn’t get to enjoy it with the nice wine, but my husband said it paired nicely with the VJB Nebbolio we had in the wine fridge (sigh).   

Mozzarella and Capicola Sandwiches with Tapenade

makes 4 servings


  • 1 teaspoon capers, rinsed, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated orange peel
  • 1¼ cups Niçoise or Kalamata olives, pitted, divided
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing and drizzling
  • 1 tablespoon (packed) chopped fresh basil plus 24 whole leaves for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 24″ long narrow baguette, split horizontally in half
  • Thin-sliced cured meats (such as hot capicola or prosciutto)
  • Thin-sliced salami
  • 8 ounce balls fresh mozzarella cheese, drained, cut into ⅓”-thick slices


Combine first 4 ingredients in mortar (or small food processor); mash with pestle to paste. Add 1 cup olives and mash to coarse paste. Chop remaining ¼ cup olives and stir into mixture. Mix in ¼ cup olive oil, chopped basil, and lemon juice. Season tapenade with pepper. (Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Drizzle cut sides of baguette with additional olive oil. Thickly spread tapenade on bottom half of each baguette, then top with meat, mozzarella slices, and basil, dividing equally. Thinly spread tapenade on top half and sprinkle with pepper. Press the sandwich together and wrap in saran until ready to serve; up to 24 hours.

Skirt Steak with white wine?

Well, I managed to get everything on the list done yesterday, it was 10: 30 when I finished breaking down the pork shoulder, but it was done and the scraps went out in the garbage, whew.

This evening I tried two new recipes. The first, was a skirt steak, not marinated, not grilled. It was simple enought for a weeknight meal, even though it carried the Sunday dinner. Skirt steak is a long thin steak commonly used for fajitas; it has a thin, opaque membrane on one side which should be removed (omission of this step yields a very tough cut of meat). All recipes that I have for skirt steak call for it to be marinated; this recipe called for the steak to be seasoned with salt and pepper and then seared to medium rare. The recipe below reflects the minor changes I made,

  • I used olive oil rather than vegetable oil
  • I increased the steak from  12 oz. to 2 lbs. (have you seen teenagers eat?)
  • I doubled the other ingredients to accomodate the increased amount of steak
  • I used “normal-sized” shallots rather than small ones

Skirt Steak with Shallot Pan Sauce

makes 6-8  ∙ difficulty Easy ∙ source Bon Appétit | January 2015

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 lbs. skirt steak, cut crosswise into pieces 6-8″ long
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


Heat oil in a large stainless-steel or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Season steak with salt and pepper and cook, turning occasionally, until deeply browned and an instant-read thermometer registers 130° (for medium-rare), 8–10 minutes. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Reduce heat to medium and cook shallot and mustard seeds in residual fat, stirring occasionally, until shallot is softened and mustard seeds are toasted, about 4 minutes. Add thyme sprigs, wine, lemon zest, and water, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until liquid is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Add butter, swirling pan to melt; season pan sauce with salt and pepper.

Thinly slice steak against the grain and serve with pan sauce for spooning over. 

My last change was more preferential than an actual edit, I poured the sauce right over in it the serving dish rather than set it on the side. I create enough dishes while cooking, another isn’t really necessary.

Sunday dinner has to have a vegetable, I opted for green beans with mushrooms. Green beans and I have a strange history, I had a special hate for them until I was almost 20. My mother gardened, and with her bounty of vegetables and fruit she canned and froze them the way she was taught by her mother. I honestly had no clue that green beans were ever served not canned; while she loves them, I do not. However she did teach me well, I discovered sautéed green beans with my future in-laws. She had made them one of the first dinners that I ate at their home, I couldn’t say that I didn’t like them, it would be insulting; as a guest my only option was to eat them and smile. I’m still happy I was raised correctly, they were wonderful and remain a regular vegetable in our house, and yesterday I served them with cremini mushrooms. I don’t really have a recipe for green beans, I snap the ends, par boil them in salted water for 3 minutes and then drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. I then wash the mushrooms, trim the stems, and cut in half if they are large. The mushrooms are seasoned with black pepper and sautéed over medium-high heat so they get golden brown, I then add the beans, season the entire dish with salt and pepper, and sauté for about 3 minutes so that the beans are hot but still crisp. (Don’t add salt with the mushrooms, they will sweat and you won’t get that golden exterior.)

And Sunday dinner must have dessert; a recipe from epicurious caught my eye. I was again hesitant, but based on the ingredients I decided that the three reviews of the recipe must be wrong. They said it was horribly dry. They were VERY wrong, it’s perfect. Just be gentle when you fold so that you don’t collapse your egg whites. I served it with 2 gelatos, sea salt caramel and blueberry. The blueberry was the better match, it brought out the lemon.

Torta di Ricotta e Polenta

makes 8 servings ∙ source


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup clear honey (preferably unheated)
  • Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla powder or vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1¼ cups almond flour (or 1¼ cups almonds, blitzed into flour)
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 cup ricotta, generous
  • ½ cup flaked (slivered) almonds


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the base of an 8-inch springform tin with baking parchment and set aside.

Place the butter, half of the honey, the lemon zest and vanilla in a bowl and use an electric mixer to beat everything until creamy. Add the egg yolks and continue to beat for a further minute. Add the almond flour, polenta and ricotta and fold everything together.

Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until softly peaking in a separate bowl. Add the remaining honey and continue whisking until peaking again and well blended.

Slowly fold the egg whites into the cake mixture. Turn the mixture into the prepared cake tin and sprinkle the flaked almonds evenly over the top. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The center of the cake might look slightly wobbly at first, but it will firm up when the cake cools down. Leave to cool completely before removing it from the tin.


Served with a blueberry gelato. In the convection oven, I used convection bake set to 300 for 40 minutes.


I’ll have more cooking soon, but I wanted to share a quick insight on how it’s possible to work full time and cook as frequently as I do. Every week on Saturday or Sunday, we map the whole week with everyone’s activities. Then based on what is going on, we set the menu. I use Paprika to track all of my meals and recipes, but there are a number of options. The grocery shopping is done on the weekend as well and then Sunday is not only used for Sunday dinner but also some prep for the week. This week’s menu:

For those who know me, yes this Thursday is an oddity, I am typically at karate, however I have clients in town for work and I’m tired of going out; they will be getting a treat! This afternoon, I’ll be breaking down my pork shoulder and making the tapenade, vinegar sauce, and chocolate chip cookies.

Anniversary Dinner

No cooking for me today. Although I love to cook, I also love the restaurant where we got engaged. Today is our 20th wedding anniversary and we celebrated at the The Earle. The key to their food is the elegant simplicity, it has been another inspiration for my cooking over the years. Our favorite appetizer is the roasted garlic, even though I make it myself now I rememer the first time I had it when I was so amazed that roasting garlic could change the taste so much.

They serve it with a Kalamata olive puree, avocados, goat cheese, and sun dried tomatoes with crostini and mixed greens. The wine you see in the back was an anniversary treat, a white Chateauneuf du Pape.

Our meals tonight were delicious as usual, although tempted as usual by their duck breast I elected to have the pesto stuffed salmon and my husband had the veal scallops with garlic and mushrooms.

 Both were divine. Dessert wrapped up the meal, an apple tartin in warm cream; unfortunately it smelled so good that we forgot to take a picture, but I suspect that there will soon be a recreation here with apple season upon us.

Evolution of Olivia’s Pasta

My kids are weird, not a terrible surprise their parents are weird too. What I’m referring to in this case is that they eat everything…really.

Several years ago we went to Disney World and stayed at Old Key West Resort, although I can’t remember their exact ages they were young, instead of ordering from the kids’ menu we allowed them to pick an entrée and split it. One evening we dined at Olivia’s which is the resort restaurant and the boys selected Penne Pasta with Asiago Cheese with shrimp. They insisted that we try it and they indeed had selected well, it was delicious. It was one of the first meals that I decided I could recreate at home. The menus were paper, I made a few notes, folded it up and brought it home where it earned a space in my cookbooks.

IMG_0122-0 IMG_0117-0IMG_0120-0

I made it, it tasted exactly the same and was an immediate hit. But our tastes have changed over the years and the last time I made it, well over a year ago, it seemed bland and it fell off of the radar. On Sunday, I was doing my weekly planning and my older son mentioned that it had been a really long time since I had made Olivia’s Pasta. I consented and opened the recipe:


Today I implemented my plan, I would make it, but it wouldn’t be the same, it would be better, and with a bit of warmth. I removed the tails from my shrimp and set them in the strainer to dry. I went outside and clipped some fresh parsley and basil, then pressed 5 enormous cloves of garlic into a cold skillet. I poured some of the olive oil from my sun-dried tomatoes into the skillet and drained the rest of the oil.

IMG_2502 IMG_2503

While the water for the penne came to a boil, I chopped my ingredients and seasoned the shrimp with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Just as I threw in the pasta, I heated up the garlic and oil while stirring to make sure it didn’t burn, as soon as it was fragrant I threw in the shrimp. Once it was about ½-cooked, I added the sun-dried tomatoes and most of the fresh herbs and continued cooking until the shrimp was close to done. I tossed the spinach on top and covered the skillet for about a minute to start the wilting. I then stirred in the spinach. At that point the pasta was just finished and I poured it into the bowl and topped it with shrimp mixture and the remainder of the fresh herbs.


I stirred it all together with the asiago and served it with my favorite Italian white, Fazi Battaglia Verdiccio. IMG_2505IMG_2507

The boys still think it’s perfect.

The revised recipe is as follows:

Olivia’s Pasta
prep 15-20 minutes ∙ cook 10 minutes ∙ difficulty Easy ∙ source Shannon Stacey

  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • salt
  • pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 5 ounces baby spinach, fresh
  • 1 jar sun-dried tomatoes, drained and julienned, reserve oil
  • 1 Tbsp. basil, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
  • 1½ cups asiago cheese, freshly grated, divided
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated


1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

While cooking pasta…
2. Season shrimp with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.
3. Heat 2-3T. of olive oil from tomatoes with minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, add shrimp and continue to sauté until turning pink (will not be completely cooked at this point.
4. Add sun-dried tomatoes and most of the basil and parsley, continue to sauté until shrimp is just cooked.
5. Add spinach, cover for about 1 minutes and then stir until it just begins to wilt.
6. In a large bowl combine pasta, shrimp mixture, and asiago cheese.
7. Serve with Parmesean.


If using dried herbs instead of fresh, add in with the shrimp.

Fresh Tomatoes

On Sunday, my new neighbor asked me if I liked tomatoes – yes, without question; I love them in all forms and dishes. On Monday, he brought me over a full shopping bag of plum tomatoes. 🙂

My husband and eldest are less than fond of eating them fresh, so I had to use some of them in a way that they would enjoy too. Pasta quickly came to mind and I turned to my favorite starting point,  for ideas. I came across a recipe for a fresh tomato sauce with Kalamata olives (another favorite) and knew it would work. 

As an aside on recipes, I use them frequently but not as rules. It’s important to remember that your tastes and preferences are not the same as the author’s. Also some recipes have been written for speed in the kitchen and while some shortcuts are ok, others can negatively impact the flavor of the dish. If you look up this recipe, you will find that the original version has a grand total of 6 minutes of cooking time, I expect so that it can entirely be done while your pasta boils. While raw onion has it’s place, my preference in a fresh tomato sauce is to taste the tomatoes not the onions; so my version below is different, their natural sweetness is released and the flavors come together. Also in my notes is an optional inclusion of meatballs, my husband and boys have made it clear that they prefer a protein with their meals. 

I also included a salad (don’t overlook the importance of vegetables). I tend to buy pre-washed organic lettuce and greens and always wash them myself, it just isn’t worth the risk. To add an Italian flair I got mixed spring greens, added on sliced leftover Cappicola (from the Italian Panini), and small balls of fresh Mozzarella cut in half with a balsamic dressing. 

Fusilli with Fresh Tomato and Olive Sauce

makes 6-8 ∙ source Bon Appétit | August 1999


  • 2 T. cup olive oil
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives, pitted, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ⅓ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1½ pounds plum tomatoes (about 8 large), chopped
  • 4 oz. tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 pound fusilli (or similar-sized pasta)
  • 1½ cups coarsely grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil


Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and heat until translucent, about 10 minutes. Then add garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Stir in olives and tomato paste then continue cooking for a few minutes longer. Add tomatoes and vinegar, season to taste with ground pepper, then simmer unil tomatoes have fallen apart, 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package instructions.

Place the cooked pasta in a large bowl and toss with 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese and fresh basil and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with remaining Parmesan cheese.


Stirring in the basil at the end keeps it fresh and green in your dish. 

Optional: I also slowly seared 2 lbs. of 1 oz. meatballs and stirred those into the dish.

This is just before I sturred it all together; makes for a prettier picture.

Labor Day and into the week

Labor Day itself was classicly simple: burgers, salad, and a side of pasta. Again I believe in easy, possibly oddly this includes leftovers. I have heard many utter the phrase “I hate leftovers”; I love them. No, I don’t think anyone should eat the same thing over and over again. (I get shivers when I hear someone say I made a big batch of “fill in the blank” so we could eat it all week long; YUK!) I love them because they are an opportunity to save time and be creative.

As mentioned, Monday was simple, my boys did little of anything with school looming, the highlight was a good friend of my youngest coming over and cleaning out his closet so that he would be well-dressed in high school. Late last week I made a house favorite for dinner, Tortellini with Pesto (nut-free), since it is just as good cold as hot I made extra, this was our pasta side to accompany a package of organic mixed greens and Spicy Shrimp, Bacon Burgers. I tossed my 2 lbs. of ground chuck into my mixing bowl with salt & pepper, a finely chopped jalapeño, chopped leftover bacon (about 5 slices), and the leftover shrimp from the Low Country Boil (coarsely chopped). I shaped them into 1/3 lb. burgers and cooked to medium rare with a chipotle gouda on top. For the non-pork eating friend, I made a single burger with chopped spinach, feta, jalapeño, and salt & pepper.

Tuesday continued the leftover trend with a meal of barbeque chicken, Cajun potato salad, and Southwestern sauté. Also from the Low Country Boil, I had a leftover andouille, pototoes, and corn (the clams seemed to vanish) so I looked through and found the Cajun potato salad and my own list of recipes in Paprika holds the Southwestern sauté. While I have included both below as if they were being made from scratch, I did simply cube the potatoes and andouille and cut the corn off of the cob.

And I haven’t forgotten the barbeque chicken, the rub is good on any bone in chicken destined for barbeque and we disvovered this sauce while on vacation in Florida last year.

I may need stock in this company – it’s another empty bottle..

If you haven’t guessed the leftover trick, turn it into something new, use it as an ingredient.

Tortellini with Pesto

cook 10 minutes ∙ makes 4 ∙ difficulty Easy


  • 2 cups basil leaves, fresh, packed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup Parmesan, freshly shredded
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1½ pounds tortellini, cooked


In a food processor, pulse the basil and garlic until roughly chopped. With the machine on, slowly pour in the oil until just blended. Stir in cheese, salt, and pepper and mix until just blended.

Toss the pesto into cooked tortellini.

This can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Cajun Potato Salad with Andouille Sausage

makes 6 to 8 ∙ source Bon Appétit | July 1999


  • 1 tablespoon plus ⅛ cup olive oil
  • 8 ounces andouille sausages or hot links, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into ½-inch pieces
  • 3 pounds red-skinned potatoes, peeled, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • ⅔ cup sliced green onions


Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausages; sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and drain.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add potatoes; cook just until tender, stirring occasionally, about 9 minutes. Drain well. Whisk vinegar, pepper sauce and mustard in large bowl. Transfer warm potatoes to bowl with vinegar mixture and gently toss. Gently mix in sausages, bell pepper, celery, green onions, and 1/8 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Southwest Summer Corn Saute

prep 15 minutes ∙ cook 7 minutes ∙ serves 4-6


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon rubbed sage
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 small poblano chili, finely diced
  • ¾ cup sweet corn kernels
  • 1 small zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 cup canned hominy, drained (or full can if you don’t have another use)
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced


Melt the butter with the sage, chili powder and salt in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the onion and poblano chili. Cook and stir until the onion begins to soften at the edges, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the corn, zucchini, and hominy. Cook over high heat until hot, 1 minute. Add green onions, cilantro and additional salt to taste. Serve hot.

Barbecued Chicken


  • 3-4 pounds chicken, cut in pieces (with skin and bones)
  • 2 tablespoons 4-3-2-1 Spice Rub
  • Barbeque sauce

4-3-2-1 Spice Rub (source Bon Appétit | July 2013)

  • 4 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper

Makes enough spice rub for two whole chickens. Double or triple the recipe and use it all summer.


For chicken:

Prepare grill for medium heat. Season chicken with 4-3-2-1 Spice Rub. Grill, turning occasionally, until lightly charred, 15-20 minutes. Continue grilling, turning and basting with barbecue sauce often, until chicken is cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165°F, 8-10 minutes longer.

Labor Day Weekend, continued

Sunday was our day to share with family and friends, we spent the afternoon at the in-laws pool and then the 11 of us convened at our house for dinner. Saturday rather than Monday to allow us to spend a little more time with the sangria. For big gatherings, I share the tasks, everyone is typically happy to do their part for the festivities. For our Low Country Boil, my MIL made two cole slaws, one with green apple and another more traditional with red cabbage, both with a vinegar base. My neighbor made the red wine Sangria and her husband put together dessert, lemon pound cake and strawberry basil sorbet. All were amazing, but I’ll return to the boil. I had three recipes I had been eying up and this is culmination of the efforts. We had a few stumbles along the way, for example one recipe called for steaming the whole thing and when we realized that it was going to take hours for the potatoes we scrapped the steaming and dropped them down into the boiling beer. The taste was worth the wait. During the last 10 minutes I heavily brushed thick slices of fresh sourdough into garlic butter and grilled them; my 16-year old says that this was the best part, sopping up the broth with good bread.

This recipe contains represents the final product along with the corrections.

Low Country Boil

prep 25 minutes ∙ cook 1 hr 30 mins ∙ makes 10-12 ∙ difficulty Medium


  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, cut in half and then in wedges
  • 6 cloves garlic heads
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • Black pepper, freshly ground
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 4-6 bottles lager or brown beer (just to cover potatoes)
  • 2 pounds baby redskin potatoes
  • ½ cup chives, thinly sliced
  • 2½ pounds andouille sausage, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 6-8 ears corn, shucked and cut in half
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • 40-48 littleneck clams (4/person), scrubbed and rinsed
  • ½ cup thinly sliced (about 3) scallions, green and white parts
  • 2 pounds large shrimp
  • 1-2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning (stir into raw shrimp)


In a very large stockpot, stir together the potatoes, onions, chives, bay leaves, thyme, garlic cloves, salt, and pepper and cover with the beer. Cover the pot and heat to a boil and then simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, 20 to 30 minutes depending on the size.

Add the sausage, nestling each piece into the broth. Top with the clams and green onions, then the corn with the parsley. Cover and cook until the clams begin to open, 15-20 minutes. 5 minutes after adding the clams, add the shrimp. Remove from heat when the clams have opened and the shrimp are done.

Serve with grilled garlic-buttered sourdough bread.