Croxetti with Smoked Salmon

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Last April when my husband and I visited New York City for my birthday, we went to Eataly. I could have spent much more time there, but my “other half” has limited patience shopping. We checked out the whole place, which requires a map if you want to do it in an orderly fashion, and then ate an incredible lunch.

My husband convinced me to shop online at Eataly.com instead of dragging groceries back home in my suitcase. In retrospect I think it was a trick to keep me from really shopping, but nonetheless I did grab a few Italian goodies.

One was Croxetti, a beautiful embossed pasta that I’d never seen before. I have since learned that the spelling can vary, but these “pendants” are Ligurian in origin.

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Over the many years of Croxetti development, the “traditional” designs have varied. The following photo is an example of a wooden stamp used for embossing, taken from the blog A Path To Lunch.

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I highly recommend reading the blog post I highlighted above. The blog’s authors, Martha and Mike, describe and photograph a meeting with the craftsman Mr. Pietro Picetti, who custom designs croxetti stamps in his workshop in Varese Ligure, Liguria.

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For the croxetti, I chose a light cream sauce with smoked salmon, hoping it would be a delicate enough sauce to not destroy the integrity of these delicate pasta discs once cooked.
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No real recipe is required. The pasta is cooked according to the package directions.
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I sautéed a few minced garlic cloves in hot olive oil, just for a few seconds, then added cream to the pot. Pour enough in the pot to lightly coat the pasta, about 12 ounces of cream for the 1.1 pound of croxetti.

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Julienne thin sliced of smoked salmon or lox, and add them to the cream. Heat through.

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Gently add the drained pasta discs to the cream and let sit, stirring once or twice as necessary to allow the cream sauce to coat the croxetti and get absorbed.

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Serve warm and sprinkle with capers, if desired.

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If you would prefer a thicker sauce, consider adding a little Marscapone or ricotta to the cream.
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Other options for this simple recipe would be to use butter instead of olive oil, and one could include clam juice with the cream for a fishier yet less rich sauce. Also, lemon zest would be a nice touch.

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If you happened to have fresh dill, a few leaves would be pretty on the pasta, but I only had dried dill leaves.

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The croxetti actually didn’t end up being as delicate as I assumed they would be. Of course I treated them gently as well. They were really fun to eat!

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Chicken Paillard

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Avec Eric is a PBS TV in the United States. It features the Eric Ripert, co-owner and executive chef of Le Bernardin in NYC – still one of the most highly rated restaurants in NYC.

The show involves a visit to a part of the world, talking to fishermen or farmers or chefs. From his travels he gains inspiration and the shows end with Mr. Ripert preparing a dish influenced by what he saw, tasted, and learned.

Sometimes, for me, he is hard to understand because of his pretty heavy French accent. I shouldn’t really comment because my French is terrible, and at least Mr. Ripert is bi-lingual. But what really comes across in Avec Eric is his love of all things food and wine, and his perfectionism. And he seems like a really nice man.

What does make me laugh is that he’s best friends with Anthony Bourdain. Can you imagine a more opposite pairing of people?!!!

In any case, the recipe I’m posting today is based on one I saw Mr. Ripert make at the end of his show, after he visited Chianti, Italy, to witness olive oil production.

The recipe has many ingredients, and I’ve even left a few out. But the flavors and textures are fantastic.
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Chicken Paillard
Based on Eric Ripert’s recipe, to serve 1

2 tablespoons white raisins
2 tablespoons vincotto
2-3 small ripe tomatoes
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Sliced green olives
Capers
Olive oil
1 breast chicken
Salt, pepper
Dried thyme
Pine nuts
Chiffonade of basil
Lemon

Soak the raisins in the vincotto, warmed slightly, and set aside.
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Set the oven on 450 degrees.

De-seed and finally chop the tomatoes and place in a small bowl. Add the shallot and garlic, and olives and capers according to your taste. Season with salt and pepper, stir well, and set aside.
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Pour a little olive oil in a small baking dish.

Slice the chicken breast horizontally, without cutting all the way through, so as to butterfly it. Place it in the baking dish and season with salt and pepper.

Add the raisins and vincotto to the tomato mixture along with a little dried thyme.


Stir well, then spoon the mixture on top of the chicken.
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Sprinkle on a few pine nuts and drizzle with a little olive oil
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Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then turn off the oven but keep the skillet in the oven 5 more minutes.
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Immediately place the paillard on a plate. Drizzle the liquid from the baking dish over the chicken.
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But we’re not done yet. Sprinkle on the basil and add a squeeze of lemon, and then serve!

Cooked this way, the tomato mixture caramelizes with the high heat, but the chicken remains moist.
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Because it’s still summer where I live and I was able to use wonderfully ripe tomatoes, I celebrated this dish along with rosé.
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This recipe than be doubled or quadrupled.

Tuna with a Vinaigrette

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This recipe was inspired by a meal Stéphane made my daughter and I when we visited him in France last year. If you’re not yet familiar with this culinary wizard and photographer extraordinaire, check out his blog at My French Heaven, and his business website for his custom food and wine tours at Your French Heaven.

We only had four full days in our French heaven in April of 2014, but oh, they were four of the best days of my life. We visited chateaux and castles, walked the countryside, sampled Bordeaux wines, and ate lunches and dinners prepared and served by Stéphane himself. Can you imagine?!!! You don’t even have to lift a finger. Unless you want to.

Every morning the three of us visited farmers’ market in four different towns, and planned the daily meals then. One dinner created by Stéphane was based on a lovely sea bass he purchased on one of these mornings.

As you can see in the photos, Stéphane baked the fish in a salt crust. Then he prepared a simple, yet obviously unforgettable pine nut vinaigrette to go over it. And that is the reason I’m making the tuna today – just as an excuse to create a similar vinaigrette.

I didn’t pay attention to his exact recipe, and if I had I wouldn’t share it with you! But it’s one of those that can be altered to your personal taste in any case.*


I love sea bass and other white fish. However, if I had to choose my favorite fish, it would be tuna, with salmon as a close second. I think I like the stronger flavors of these, although there’s also nothing more fabulous than delicate white fish when it’s cooked perfectly. And Stéphane’s was perfection.

The ingredients of this vinaigrette are fairly basic, and not too subtle to pair with the tuna.

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As I typically do with recipes, I’m only listing the ingredients I used; the amounts are up to you.
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Tuna with a Pine Nut Vinaigrette

Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Capers, drained
Minced garlic
Toasted pine nuts
Chopped parsley

Ahi, thick steaks preferably
Olive oil

Begin by adding equal amounts of olive oil and vinegar to a small bowl. The overall amount depends on how many you’re serving but trust me when I tell you that this vinaigrette stores well in the refrigerator! Add a handful of drained capers.

Add the garlic, the pine nuts, and then the parsley. Stir well and set aside.


Meanwhile, sear your tuna steaks to your liking.


Serve the vinaigrette at room temperature.

I poured some over the tuna steaks, but also served extra on the side.
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It’s just that good!!!

* It’s obvious from the photos at the top that Stéphane used shallots instead of garlic, and dill instead of parsley. This just shows how versatile the vinaigrette is!!!

Capered Butter Sauce

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I first came across this sauce with a recipe called Meatballs with Caper Butter Sauce. I followed the recipe and was really impressed with the sauce. As with many great recipes – ridiculously easy and delicious!

I could see this sauce not only on meatballs, but on any kind of fish, over filet mignons, and boiled potatoes. But today I thought I’d try it with chicken breasts.

Capered Butter Sauce

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup capers, well drained

Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; you don’t want to brown it.

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Once it’s melted, add the lemon juice and capers.

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Heat through, then place in a bowl for serving and keep warm.

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I served the sauce over chicken, and with steamed broccoli as a side. A simple, but flavorful meal.

I had already cooked the chicken breasts sous vide the previous day, and when I got them out of the refrigerator they looked like this:

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I added some butter and a pinch of paprika to a skillet and heated the butter over fairly high heat. Then I browned the chicken breasts on both sides.

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When everything was ready, I placed one chicken breast on a plate topped with some of the warm caper butter sauce, and placed the steamed broccoli on the side. The broccoli was good with the sauce, too!
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White Bean and Tomato Salad

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Beans, beans, beans. The more I eat, the more I’m addicted! I really love making beans from scratch, because still love the idea of creating meals for pennies. And a pot of beans can be turned into multiple meals.

But I’ve also touted my loved of canned beans on this blog – especially canned Great Northern beans for making my white bean dips. And I love canned black beans, because they make fabulous black bean salads, or a quick black bean dip. So I keep canned beans on hand always.

Today I’m going to show you how simple and easy it is to make a bean salad – this time using Navy Beans, priced at $1.19 per can.

But what’s even better than canned beans being inexpensive, is that they’re extremely healthy, and can be dressed up however you want! Black beans lend themselves beautifully to Mexican and Southwestern dishes, but for me, personally, I keep my white beans for Mediterranean-inspired salads.

They can be a healthy and hearty side dish, or make a whole meal. And, they’re good year ’round, depending on the ingredients.

So today I’m making a navy bean salad with tomatoes, and topping it with capers, shallots, and chives, because chives have returned to my garden. You can add oregano or basil, or anything you want to this salad. That’s the fun of playing with bean salads! Enjoy!


Navy Bean Salad

2 – 16 ounce cans navy beans, well drained
1 container cherry tomatoes
1-2 shallots, diced
Capers, drained
Chives, chopped, or parsley if you prefer
Olive oil and vinegar, or a basic vinaigrette*

Place the drained beans in a medium-sized bowl.
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Slice the cherry tomatoes in half lengthwise and let them hang out on a paper towel to drain a bit.
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Add the amount of vinaigrette you want to the beans and give them a toss. Right before serving add the tomatoes and stir them in gently.
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Place the beans in individual serving bowls; 2 cans should make 4 servings unless this salad will be a whole meal.


Sprinkle the bean salad with shallots, capers, and the chives. Feta cheese would also be a wonderful topping, but I kept this salad cheese-less today!

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Alternatively, you could add all of the ingredients together in the salad. I was looking for a more purely bean and tomato salad, with some toppings.


Taste for seasoning, especially salt and black pepper.

Serve at room temperature.

* My home-made vinaigrettes tend to be about half vinegar and half olive oil. I often add fresh garlic, and maybe some Dijon mustard, plus I always add salt. That’s it. I love vinegar with bean salads, and tend to use lemon or lime juice-based dressings with grain salads for some reason. But you could certainly substitute lemon juice for vinegar in this case. Use what you love!

note: If money is an issue for you, keep your eye on bean prices. Where I live, Cannelini beans cost twice as much as Great Northerns, and Frijoles Negros cost twice as much as black beans. They’re just considered and treated more “gourmet” with the foreign names!

Double Olive Pasta

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There’s nothing quite like fresh pasta in its many forms. The texture is light and fluffy, and yet still durable to hold up to sauces and fillings.

But I must give credit also to the fabulous world of dried pastas. Whenever I’m shopping at a new store, I grab pastas with unique shapes and also flavors. Just for fun. Who wants to only cook spaghetti and elbow macaroni?

So a while back I was on the Open Sky website, and came across a company that sold gourmet food items called Valois Gourmet. (I hope the link works for everyone.)

There were two that I couldn’t resist buying – olive pasta and sweet potato pasta (not pictured).
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The pasta brand is Morelli, and is an Italian product. The pasta actually contains minced green olives, plus dehydrated spinach – perhaps for a little color.

Check out these pumpkin pie roasted almonds from Valois Gourmet, too! What a great nibble to have around during the holidays.

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In any case, to me, there’s nothing quite like a flavored dried pasta that speaks for itself, which is the case of this variety. Because of the olive flavor, so little else is needed. A little shallot or garlic, a little tomato, some capers, and maybe some extra olives for olive enhancement. And there’s always Parmesan. Simple.

So here’s what I did with this olive fettuccine.

Double Olive Pasta

Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
3 shallots
1 – 15 ounce can diced tomatoes, well drained*
1 – 8.8 package pasta with olives
Sliced olives, I used a Mediterranean mixture
Capers, optional
Parsley, optional
Toasted pine nuts, optional
Grated Parmesan, optional

Place the olive oil in a skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute them for a few minutes.
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Then add the drained tomatoes.
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Cook the mixture until there almost no liquid remaining in the skillet; set aside.
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Cook the pasta according to directions on the package, which in this case was four minutes.

Have any of you used this handy silicone gadget that keeps boiling water from overflowing? It’s a miracle worker. I think about 4 out of 5 times that I cook pasta the boiling water overflows. And we all know that it’s not that easy to clean up. This product is made by Kuhn Rikon, and it’s called a spill stopper. It comes in two sizes. Just FYI.
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You have two options when you cook dried pasta. Firstly, if you cook it al dente, plan on adding some kind of liquid to the pasta dish once it’s tossed with the tomato mixture. This can be broth, some pasta water, or even cream. The pasta will continue to “cook” and absorb liquid.

Secondly, If you cook the pasta until soft all the way through, plan on tossing the pasta with the tomato mixture and serving immediately.

Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain well.
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Add the pasta to the skillet and toss everything together.
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Serve immediately if the pasta is fully cooked. If it isn’t, take about 15-30 minutes to add liquid of choice, and let the pasta soften in the liquid, adding as much liquid as necessary. Then serve.


Sprinkle the pasta with cheese, olives, capers, and parsley, if using any or all of these toppings.

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Normally I would add some cayenne pepper flakes to a similar pasta dish, but in this case, I want to enjoy the olive flavor from the pasta.


* If your canned tomatoes are good quality, make sure to save the tomato juice. If the canned tomatoes are in essentially water, don’t bother.

note: In the summer I would use fresh, peeled tomatoes for this pasta, and probably include fresh basil. But during the other months, canned tomatoes are a wonderful substitute – as long as you buy a high quality canned tomato.

verdict: I was truly impressed with this product! There is definitely an olive flavor. The pasta made for a lovely lunch, but for dinner I’d definitely serve it with some good sausages or pork tenderloin.

Meatballs in Creamy Caper Sauce

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It’s commonplace to pair meatballs and a red sauce, but this recipe is a lovely alternative. The only prerequisite is that you must love capers!

This recipe comes from one that most likely I copied from a cookbook borrowed from the local library. It’s from the days I had higher priorities than spending lots of money on cookbooks, so I simply borrowed the books, read them, and marked the recipes I wanted to keep. Then my husband would use the copier at work; he was always very nice about this. But, of course, he always got fed well so it was a win-win for him!

I’d then cut out the recipes and glue them on cards. But unfortunately, I cannot share with you the source of this recipe because I never thought to add those details to the recipe cards. It’s really sad that I didn’t, and I apologize to you as well.
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I’ve made this recipe the way it is on the card, and it’s divine. I’m pretty sure I made it for other people, because my husband won’t eat capers.

The recipe involves meatballs, that you make any way you want, but they must be made on the small side, and then they’re boiled/steam cooked in a seasoned broth. From the broth you make the sauce, which involves sour cream and capers.
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On this post, I’m not really focusing on the meatballs, because everyone has her/his own favorite recipes for meatballs, but more on the way they’re cooked, as well as the sauce. The dish is not terribly photogenic, but really tasty.


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Meatballs in a Creamy Caper Sauce

Meatballs:
1/2 ground pork, 1/2 ground turkey, white meat only, 12 ounces each
1/2 small onion, diced
2 eggs, beaten
Some amount of breadcrumbs, I used dried, about 1/4 cup
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Coarsely ground black pepper
Parsley, which I forgot to put in the meatballs*

In an extra large bowl, place the meats, the onion, eggs, and breadcrumbs. Then add the seasonings.

Use your hands and mix everything together well, without over mixing. You don’t want the meatballs to turn out dense.

Using a scoop, if you feel you need one, form the meat mixture into small balls, about 1″ in diameter.

Meanwhile, pour 1 cup of chicken or beef broth into a large, flat skillet. I used chicken broth powder to season the water.

The original recipe called for lemon juice, a strip of lemon peel, a bay leaf, and some pickling spices to be added to the broth. I decided to make my broth a little more on the herbaceous side. I also omitted the lemon altogether.

I picked some fresh oregano, parsley, and rosemary and placed them in the broth, along with a few bay leaves. Then I simmered the broth for about 15 minutes. You could always do this step first, before you make the meatballs.

When the broth is ready, remove the herbs. Adjust the amount of liquid, if necessary; there should be about 1/4″ minimum on the bottom of the skillet. Make sure the broth is simmering, then add a batch of meatballs.

Cover the skillet and let the meatballs cook through. This will hardly take 5 minutes or so; you could always check one to see if it’s just done in the middle. You don’t want to overcook them.


Remove the cooked meatballs with a slotted spoon, place them on a clean platter, and continue with the remaining batches. You’re left with some meat and onion bits in the seasoned broth, but that didn’t bother me. If it bothers you, pour the liquid through a sieve, and then back into the skillet. You should still have about 3/4 cup – 1 cup of liquid. This will dictate the amount of sauce you end up with, so adjust accordingly.

At this point, with the broth simmering, add a teaspoon of cornstarch and whisk well, then add 2 heaping tablespoons of sour cream or creme fraiche. Whisk well, then stir in about 1/4 cup of capers.

Add the amount of meatballs you want smothered with this sauce, and leave the rest for another purpose. Cook the meatballs gently, turning them around in the sauce. Give them a minute, and then serve.

I served these meatballs to myself with some steamed asparagus, and it was a very nice combination. The original recipes suggests egg noodles, which would work if you have a lot of sauce.

If desired, top the meatballs with a few more capers and some chopped parsley before serving.

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* I feel that parsley is really underappreciated and under used, especially in the U.S. I think we still think of it as only a garnish on a plate. But in meatballs, for example, it not only adds a fresh flavor and a pretty color, but it adds moisture as well. But omit it if you don’t love it.

note: In the original recipe, you are also supposed to add chopped capers to the meatballs, which is a very good addition. Since my husband was going to be eating a majority of these meatballs, I omitted them.
Also, think about the different ways that you can season the broth, using peppercorns, allspice, star anise, orange peel, garlic, and much more. It’s a brilliant way to add flavors to the basic broth base of the sauce.
Also, I didn’t add any salt to either the meatballs or the sauce; I feel that the capers lend enough saltiness, but this is your choice.