Spaghetti With A Sweet Pepper Cream, Arugula, And Speck

Spaghetti With A Sweet Pepper Cream, Arugula, And Speck

I’m usually a bit suspicious of sauces made with bell peppers, because they tend to have a rather bitter and unpleasant taste. Roasting the peppers is a good way to avoid this problem and add a layer of smokiness, but I have to admit I avoid the process of roasting peppers myself like the plague. For some reason, it always ends up such a mess – the peppers first come out of the oven in all their roasted glory, but when I set out to peel them, it goes downhill from there. What I am left with is a battlefield of shriveled up peel that sticks to my fingers like glue, and pieces of bell pepper that are smashed beyond recognition. Not a good idea. I don’t like store bought roasted peppers either though, because they just don’t taste that good and have a strange “preserved” texture to them.

Enter this wonderful sweet bell pepper cream. No roasting or peeling required at all, and the best part? The sauce is incredibly creamy, yet there’s not a lick of cream in it! And making it couldn’t be any simpler. Just simmer onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers in extra virgin olive oil and water until they are tender and the water has evaporated, give it a few spins in a blender, and voila, you have an exquisite sauce for spaghetti!

The subtle sweetness of the bell pepper sauce forms a lovely background for the sharp arugula and the salty Speck in this dish. It’s great with some crusty Italian bread, and a nice glass of red wine. If you need inspiration for picking a good bottle of red, head on over to Stevie and Heguiberto’s great blog, Weird Combinations where you’ll find lots of fun reviews of (Californian) vineries and their liquid products!

Spaghetti With A Sweet Pepper Cream, Arugula, And Speck (serves 4)
400g spaghetti
200g red bell pepper, cut into small cubes
100g red onion, thinly sliced
100g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
4 slices Tyrolean Speck
arugula
extra virgin olive oil
salt

1. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a casserole pan and add onions and peppers.
2. Sautee over high heat for about 2 minutes, stirring.
3. Add tomatoes and 500ml water.
4. Salt to taste and let simmer uncovered until peppers are tender and the water has evaporated.
5. Blend in a blender until creamy.
6. Cook spaghetti al dente in plenty of boiling and salted water.
7. Drain spaghetti. Do not rinse.
8. Mix sauce and pasta in the same pot you cooked the spaghetti in.
9. Divide spaghetti among plates, and top each plate with a slice of Speck and a few stems of arugula.

Enjoy!

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Cantaloupe Salad

Cantaloupe Salad With Parmesan Croutons

Some flavors are a match made in heaven. Think of sticky rice with mango, or cantaloupe and prosciutto. Whenever I have cantaloupe, I always want a slice or two of prosciutto with it. The salty prosciutto perfectly balances the sweetness of the melon, and it’s such a perfect combination of flavors that can hardly be improved upon. Or so I thought.

The classic ham/melon pairing gets seriously dressed up in this wonderfully refreshing salad, which makes an elegant appetizer or a light lunch on a hot summer day. For a new twist, I used Tyrolean Speck instead of prosciutto, which has a more rustic and smoky aroma than its Italian cousin. There’s also the mellow taste of mozzarella, while mint and basil add little bursts of summer flavor throughout the salad. For a nice crunch, the salad is topped with lemon and parmesan croutons and dressed with a lovely olive oil and balsamic vinegar marinade. If you can’t find lamb’s ear lettuce, substitute with arugula. If unavailable, use prosciutto instead of Tyrolean Speck.

Cantaloupe Salad With Parmesan Croutons (serves 4)
For the croutons:
90g baguette, cut into small cubes
30g grated parmesan cheese
20ml extra virgin olive oil
finely grated peel of 1 lemon
salt

Dressing:
1/4 garlic clove, finely chopped
50ml extra virgin olive oil
20ml balsamic vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt, pepper

1/2 Cantaloupe, cut into thin slices
12 thin slices Tyrolean Speck
250g mozzarella, torn into small pieces
lamb’s ear lettuce or arugula
handful of mint leaves
handful of basil leaves

1. In a bowl, mix bread cubes, parmesan, oil, lemon zest, and salt to taste.
2. Sautee coated bread cubes in a pan over high heat until crunchy and golden.
3. Set aside and let cool.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for the dressing.
5. Cut melon into small wedges.
6. Arrange lettuce on plates, and top with melon, mozzarella, and Speck.
7. Drizzle dressing over salad right before serving.

Enjoy!

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Thai Red Chicken Curry

Thai Red Chicken Curry

After last week’s fun truffle indulgence, it was time to cook something a tad bit healthier, so my husband requested one of his favorite dishes, Thai red curry. Perfect, I thought, because I had some curry paste at home that needed to be used up. The funny thing with Thai curries is that while I love Indian and Sri Lankan curries, I very much dislike Thai curries. I’m not sure what it is that I find so awful about them, but I suspect it’s the combination of the curry paste and the coconut milk. Those ingredients are each delicious on their own, but when they come together in a Thai curry, it’s all over for me.

However, and I know this is going to sound somewhat bizarre, I greatly enjoy cooking Thai curries! There’s something very satisfying about the way these highly fragrant curries are put together. It only takes a few ingredients (all of which are available at Asian markets, and most even at regular grocery stores), a little bit of chopping and stirring, and almost no cooking skills to produce a complex and intensely flavored dish that is as easy to prepare for one as it is for a whole crowd.

The secret though to a great Thai curry lies in the curry paste, because it is the single ingredient that’s responsible for 99% of the final product’s flavor. Nothing, of course, compares to home made curry paste, but I find that store bought brands produce fabulous results. So far, my favorite brand is Maesri (no, I am not getting paid to say that), which is available in the US. I haven’t been able to locate it in Austria, so I’ve had to resort to importing it myself. Luckily, so far I’ve always made it passed the Austrian customs officials unnoticed…

Feel free to substitute the chicken in this recipe with lean pork, and the zucchini with eggplant or bamboo shoots.

Thai Red Chicken Curry (serves 4)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons red curry paste
2 cups coconut milk
1 teaspoon thinly sliced Kaffir lime leaves (fresh or frozen)
1lb chicken breast, cut into small strips
2 tablespoons palm sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 – 2 zucchini (depending on the size), cut into small pieces
1 handful of fresh Thai basil leaves

1. Heat oil over high heat in a wok. Add curry paste and stir-fry for a few minutes.
2. Add 1/2 cup of coconut milk and the Kaffir lime leaves. Simmer for a minute, stirring.
3. Add chicken and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Add remaining coconut milk, palm sugar, and fish sauce. Simmer for a few minutes.
5. Add zucchini and cook until the chicken and zucchini are done.
6. Remove from heat and stir in basil leaves.
7. Serve with jasmine rice.

Enjoy!

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