Sicilian Pesto Trapanese

Sicilian Pesto Trapanese | A Little Yumminess

One of our favorites as far as pasta sauces go is summery, bright green pesto Genoevse (basil, garlic, pinenuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil). When we start to see cherry blossoms on the trees and get a whiff of spring in the air (like right about now….) I start counting down the days until we begin to find giant bunches of fragrant Italian basil at the farmer’s market. My kids have gotten past the aggressively green hue of pesto Genovese and happily scarf it up and I always keep a special, secret little hoard in the way back of my freezer just for me.

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You Need to Make This! Jackson Fillmore’s Zucchini Carpaccio

Jackson Fillmore is one of our favorite casual little trattorias in San Francisco. It’s the kind of place where we have fallen in love with certain dishes and, despite being tempted to try a special or something new off the menu, we always end up ordering the same thing. One of the dishes we always get is the zucchini carpaccio, a simple and delicious starter of zucchini, toasted almonds, pecorino cheese and parsley. It’s really, really delicious. I might even add one more “really” for good measure.

I recently threw a bridal shower and thought it would be a perfect addition to the summery buffet I had planned. As luck would have it, I found that Jackson Fillmore had posted an excellent video on this very dish and how to make it.  I love this recipe so much I wanted to share it with all of you. There is minimal cooking involved, just the toasting of almonds (they use slivers, I like sliced). As the video points out, the way you cut the zucchini and the pecorino is the key to the dish. After some of my own experimentation, I like the end result of cutting the zucchini on the bias in slices about 1/8″ thick and then stacking and cutting the slices on the bias again into matchsticks. As far as the pecorino goes, just shave it into curls with a vegetable peeler.

A lot of little ones I know seem to like the flavor of dry, salty cheeses like Parmegiano Reggiano and Pecorino. So as long as you have no nut allergies to contend with, this would be a great one to add to your repertoire. You can get older kids into the act by having them make the cheese curls and tossing everything all together at the end (in the video, he tosses everything in a hot pan, but I usually add the toasted almonds to a bowl with the zucchini and toss off-heat).

This dish is best served right away while everything is still warm and toasty from the almonds, but you could definitely cut the zucchini and shave the pecorino a bit in advance to simplify things as you’re putting the rest of dinner together.

Give it a try.  You’ll love it!

Video Courtesy of Jackson Fillmore.

Something Slow and Something Quick: Homemade Pasta + Tomato Sauce with Almonds and Roasted Garlic

Once in a while on when we’ve got got a little extra time on a Saturday or Sunday, we make homemade pasta. It’s a bit of a project, but sometimes when the weather isn’t great or we feel like tinkering in the  kitchen, it’s just the thing to keep us entertained.

My favorite pasta dough recipe comes from Marcella Hazan. She has a great step-by-step description, but in a nutshell it involves using the “well method” to combine 1.5 cups flour and 3 eggs which will yield a little over a pound of pasta. [Regular all purpose flour is fine, but if you want to get fancy, try “00” pizzeria flour. I drag Luca to Rainbow Grocery every couple of months to stock up on our niche pantry items like 00 flour, sea salt, capers, and vanilla beans — which they have in bulk along with tons of other great things. It’s a cook’s paradise and a fun mini food adventure. As a bonus, you can grab a couple of tacos from the El Toyanese Taco truck which is usually parked just down the block.]

After combining the eggs and flour, knead for 8 minutes (Marcella is exact about this) until the dough is as smooth as a “baby’s bottom”. I’m always amazed by the transformation of these two simple ingredients into a wonderfully smooth dough precisely at that 7th or 8th minute. It’s like magic! Then wrap the dough in plastic, throw it in the fridge and let it rest 20 minutes or until you’re ready to roll it.

Luca was taking a nap during pasta dough part, but was eager to help with the rolling and cutting when he woke up. He pulled up a chair and helped me crank the pasta machine (3 times through the largest setting and once through each successively smaller setting) and caught the pasta on a floured tray as it came through the cutter. I gave him a tiny dough ball and a mound of bench flour to play with which kept him very happy and busy while I finished up the rest. Fresh pasta is quick to cook, just boil for a couple of minutes in nicely salted water.

Tomato, Roasted Garlic & Toasted Almond Sauce

Another mom shared this recipe on the playground one day. It’s like toastier version of regular old tomato sauce and not too much of a stretch for kids. By contrast to the homemade pasta endeavor, it comes together quickly  — especially if you roast your garlic and toast your almonds ahead of time.

Drizzle a head of garlic in a little olive oil, wrap it in aluminum foil and roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minute until soft. You can do this in advance.

Toast 1/2 cup of slivered or sliced almonds in a dry pan on the stove until golden. They go from golden to burned quickly so toss frequently and watch carefully, you can’t really leave them alone. Remove the almonds from the pan as soon as they have color.

To a blender add 2 1/2  cups tomatoes and the toasted almonds (you could use plain tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, flavorful fresh tomatoes or a combination). Slice the end off the roasted garlic head and squeeze the garlic into the blender and puree everything until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste: salt, pepper, drizzle of olive oil. If you want a little kick add a few pinches of red pepper flakes or puree in a little fresh garlic.

Warm the sauce through a bit and toss with hot pasta. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated parmesan cheese. A sprinkle of minced basil or parsley would be nice, but is totally optional.