April 13, 2012


Quick 2 Cheese Polenta with Tomato Mushroom Sauce
Ingredients:
1 tube pre-made polenta or, if making from scratch use 1 cup polenta grits, 3 cups whole milk, salt and pepper, and stir over a medium-low heat for 12 minutes until cooked through. 
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated or sliced Provolone cheese
A small handful of slivered or sliced almonds
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter
2 sprigs fresh sage, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
Small bunch parsley, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Small bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
To Make:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine polenta, egg, Parmesan  cheese, Provolone cheese, almonds, chopped sage, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon butter. 
Grease a baking pan with olive oil and press the polenta mix into it. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top so it can get a nice browned crust. 
Stick it in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until slightly golden brown. 
To make the sauce, in a large skillet/pan, heat up a bit of olive oil and add in the garlic. Saute for 30 seconds on medium heat.
Add in the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Do not touch the mushrooms while they cook so they can brown. A couple of minutes per side. 
While mushrooms are cooking, season with salt and pepper and add in the thyme, half of the basil, and half of the parsley. 
Once mushrooms are browned, add in the diced tomatoes with all the juices from the can. Stir so it doesn’t catch. 
Add in the tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and keep stirring until the sauce has cooked down a bit. 
Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. 
Remove from heat. Take polenta out of the oven. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the polenta and let it melt over it. 
Let the polenta sit for 5-7 minutes before serving so it can set. 
Once ready, in large bowls spoon out polenta and pour the sauce over it. Garnish with remaining chopped parsley and basil and grate a tiny bit of Parmesan on top. 
Enjoy!
This is a delicious dish that is a lot faster than most polenta dishes (only 30 minutes as opposed to the 1.5 hour ones) and tastes just as good! 

Quick 2 Cheese Polenta with Tomato Mushroom Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 tube pre-made polenta or, if making from scratch use 1 cup polenta grits, 3 cups whole milk, salt and pepper, and stir over a medium-low heat for 12 minutes until cooked through. 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated or sliced Provolone cheese
  • A small handful of slivered or sliced almonds
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • Small bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Small bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

To Make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine polenta, egg, Parmesan  cheese, Provolone cheese, almonds, chopped sage, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon butter. 
  3. Grease a baking pan with olive oil and press the polenta mix into it. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top so it can get a nice browned crust. 
  4. Stick it in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until slightly golden brown. 
  5. To make the sauce, in a large skillet/pan, heat up a bit of olive oil and add in the garlic. Saute for 30 seconds on medium heat.
  6. Add in the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Do not touch the mushrooms while they cook so they can brown. A couple of minutes per side. 
  7. While mushrooms are cooking, season with salt and pepper and add in the thyme, half of the basil, and half of the parsley. 
  8. Once mushrooms are browned, add in the diced tomatoes with all the juices from the can. Stir so it doesn’t catch. 
  9. Add in the tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and keep stirring until the sauce has cooked down a bit. 
  10. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. 
  11. Remove from heat. Take polenta out of the oven. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the polenta and let it melt over it. 
  12. Let the polenta sit for 5-7 minutes before serving so it can set. 
  13. Once ready, in large bowls spoon out polenta and pour the sauce over it. Garnish with remaining chopped parsley and basil and grate a tiny bit of Parmesan on top. 
  14. Enjoy!

This is a delicious dish that is a lot faster than most polenta dishes (only 30 minutes as opposed to the 1.5 hour ones) and tastes just as good! 

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April 5, 2012


Fresh Pesto with Basil and Mint
Ingredients:
Large bunch fresh basil
Handful pine nuts or almonds
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese
1 lemon
1 clove of garlic
Salt and pepper
A few mint leaves
To Make:
Wash and pick off the basil leaves. Roughly chop. 
Grate a handful of Parmesan cheese. 
Make the pesto by combining in either a food processor or a mortar and pestal, a large handful of basil, a handful of pine nuts or almonds, the juice of 1/2 lemon,  1 clove garlic, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (depending on how moist the pesto gets), grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and a few mint leaves (optional). Mix everything together until it becomes a smooth paste. 
Enjoy on pasta, bread, or in sauces! 

Fresh Pesto with Basil and Mint

Ingredients:

  • Large bunch fresh basil
  • Handful pine nuts or almonds
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few mint leaves

To Make:

  1. Wash and pick off the basil leaves. Roughly chop. 
  2. Grate a handful of Parmesan cheese. 
  3. Make the pesto by combining in either a food processor or a mortar and pestal, a large handful of basil, a handful of pine nuts or almonds, the juice of 1/2 lemon,  1 clove garlic, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (depending on how moist the pesto gets), grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and a few mint leaves (optional). Mix everything together until it becomes a smooth paste. 
  4. Enjoy on pasta, bread, or in sauces! 

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Broccoli Pesto Pasta with Basil and Lemon
Ingredients:
1/2 lb dried tagliatelle or fettuccine pasta
Large bunch fresh basil
Handful pine nuts or almonds
1 head of broccoli
Olive oil
1 small potato
Parmesan cheese
1 lemon
1 clove of garlic
Salt and pepper
A few mint leaves
To Make:
Peel and wash the potato. Using the peeler, “peel” the potato into thin slices until the whole potato is sliced. Set aside.
Cut off the broccoli florets. Set aside.
Wash and pick off the basil leaves. Roughly chop. 
Grate 3 ounces of Parmesan cheese ~ about a cup
Make the pesto by combining in either a food processor or a mortar and pestal, a large handful of basil, a handful of pine nuts or almonds, the juice of 1/2 lemon,  1 clove garlic, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (depending on how moist the pesto gets), a handful of grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and a few mint leaves (optional). Mix everything together until it becomes a smooth paste. 
In a large pot, cook pasta according to package. 2 minutes before it is done, add the broccoli and potato slices. Drain when done, saving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. 
In the same pot, combine the fresh pesto, rest of the Parmesan cheese, rest of chopped basil leaves, and some of the cooking water to loosen the sauce.
Add in the pasta and broccoli back into the pot and give it a big stir. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. 
Divide into serving bowls. Grate a bit more Parm over it, maybe a basil leaf or two, and a wedge of lemon. 
Enjoy!
This is a fresh and healthy pasta dish that tastes amazing! Try it!

Broccoli Pesto Pasta with Basil and Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb dried tagliatelle or fettuccine pasta
  • Large bunch fresh basil
  • Handful pine nuts or almonds
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small potato
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few mint leaves

To Make:

  1. Peel and wash the potato. Using the peeler, “peel” the potato into thin slices until the whole potato is sliced. Set aside.
  2. Cut off the broccoli florets. Set aside.
  3. Wash and pick off the basil leaves. Roughly chop. 
  4. Grate 3 ounces of Parmesan cheese ~ about a cup
  5. Make the pesto by combining in either a food processor or a mortar and pestal, a large handful of basil, a handful of pine nuts or almonds, the juice of 1/2 lemon,  1 clove garlic, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (depending on how moist the pesto gets), a handful of grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and a few mint leaves (optional). Mix everything together until it becomes a smooth paste. 
  6. In a large pot, cook pasta according to package. 2 minutes before it is done, add the broccoli and potato slices. Drain when done, saving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. 
  7. In the same pot, combine the fresh pesto, rest of the Parmesan cheese, rest of chopped basil leaves, and some of the cooking water to loosen the sauce.
  8. Add in the pasta and broccoli back into the pot and give it a big stir. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. 
  9. Divide into serving bowls. Grate a bit more Parm over it, maybe a basil leaf or two, and a wedge of lemon. 
  10. Enjoy!

This is a fresh and healthy pasta dish that tastes amazing! Try it!

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March 27, 2012


Healthy Turkey Stuffed Jumbo Shells
Ingredients:
12 oz jumbo pasta shells
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg
Fresh parsley, chopped
Dried Italian seasoning
1 jar of favorite tomato sauce
Salt and pepper
To Make:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cook jumbo pasta shells according to package, 5-6 minutes. Remove from hot water immediately so they don’t over cook. 
In a large skillet, heat up some olive oil and add garlic and onions on medium heat. Once onions are golden, add the ground turkey and season with salt and pepper and a shake of dried Italian seasoning. Cook until browned.
Remove from heat and drain excess liquid. Transfer to a big mixing bowl and allow to cool. 
Once cooled, combine in the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, a handful of chopped parsley, and the egg. Mix together.
Using a large spoon, stuff the pasta shells with the turkey and cheese mixture and arrange in a baking dish. 
Spoon over top, the tomato sauce. Allow from some between shells. 
Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top.
Finish off by drizzling a bit of olive oil on top and stick it in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until cheese has melted. 
Serve with a sprinkling of the remaining chopped parsley. 
Enjoy!

Healthy Turkey Stuffed Jumbo Shells

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 jar of favorite tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper

To Make:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook jumbo pasta shells according to package, 5-6 minutes. Remove from hot water immediately so they don’t over cook. 
  3. In a large skillet, heat up some olive oil and add garlic and onions on medium heat. Once onions are golden, add the ground turkey and season with salt and pepper and a shake of dried Italian seasoning. Cook until browned.
  4. Remove from heat and drain excess liquid. Transfer to a big mixing bowl and allow to cool. 
  5. Once cooled, combine in the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, a handful of chopped parsley, and the egg. Mix together.
  6. Using a large spoon, stuff the pasta shells with the turkey and cheese mixture and arrange in a baking dish. 
  7. Spoon over top, the tomato sauce. Allow from some between shells. 
  8. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top.
  9. Finish off by drizzling a bit of olive oil on top and stick it in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until cheese has melted. 
  10. Serve with a sprinkling of the remaining chopped parsley. 
  11. Enjoy!

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January 23, 2012


Prosciutto Wrapped Sugar Snap Peas (Recipe by Marina)
Ingredients:
A handful of sugar snap peas
2-3 slices of prosciutto
Goat cheese crumbles
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Dried basil
Thyme
Honey
To Make:
Cut prosciutto slices in half.
Arrange 2-3 sugar snap peas on one end of each prosciutto slice.
Roll the snap peas into the prosciutto.
Arrange rolled snap peas on a plate.
Sprinkle over top with goat cheese crumbles.
For dressing, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, a pinch of dried basil, a pinch of thyme, and a tiny squeeze of honey. Whisk everything together until incorporated.
Drizzle over the prosciutto wrapped snap peas.
Enjoy!
This is a simple recipe that enhances any dinner.

Prosciutto Wrapped Sugar Snap Peas (Recipe by Marina)

Ingredients:

  • A handful of sugar snap peas
  • 2-3 slices of prosciutto
  • Goat cheese crumbles
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Dried basil
  • Thyme
  • Honey

To Make:

  1. Cut prosciutto slices in half.
  2. Arrange 2-3 sugar snap peas on one end of each prosciutto slice.
  3. Roll the snap peas into the prosciutto.
  4. Arrange rolled snap peas on a plate.
  5. Sprinkle over top with goat cheese crumbles.
  6. For dressing, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, a pinch of dried basil, a pinch of thyme, and a tiny squeeze of honey. Whisk everything together until incorporated.
  7. Drizzle over the prosciutto wrapped snap peas.
  8. Enjoy!

This is a simple recipe that enhances any dinner.

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December 28, 2011


Food Interview #11: Olives in Italy

Andy Goldfarb

Olive oil grove in Italy.

Andy is a retired executive living in the Sherman Oaks region of Los Angeles. He does not work in food. However, he is an avid fan of food, with only the best tasting ingredients making it to his plate. His love of prime food produce and his passion for world travel has taken him and his wife, Denise, to Italy, where they have come to own their very own house and olive grove. I sat down with him to get some details about an adventure many only dream about.

How did you come to own an olive farm?

My wife Denise and I love Los Angeles. You can get anything you want here. We absolutely love it. From the farmer’s markets to having your own trees in the backyard, it’s paradise. But we like to travel at least once a year. If you’ve seen Under the Tuscan Sun, that’s what inspired us. So we went to look at properties in southeast Tuscany and came upon the one we have now. It came with the olive trees.

So did you know anything about olive farming before buying it?

No, we had to learn everything. When we first bought it, there were 500 trees. Now there are approximately 1200 trees that are anywhere from 9 to 400 years old.

Did you decide to sell the oil once you learned more about the process?

We never had any intention of making olive oil for anyone else but ourselves.

Do you personally work the farm or do you have help?

We wanted to do something while in Italy so when we bought this property we learned to work the land from the neighbors and other locals. We also have employees that come and tend to the farm when we are here in the States. The olives have to be harvested for the oil pressing in November so it has to be done quickly. The faster they work, the more oil they get as payment. It’s their motivation to do the best job possible. And, we make really outstanding olive oil. We’ll give away a few bottles to friends and the rest is for family. My brother has a winery, Anomaly Vineyards in St. Helena in Napa Valley. He sells a limited amount of olive oil from our farm. Our oil is labeled under the Anomaly name like his wine.

Take me through the process of making olive oil.

There are three varieties of olives that come from a mix of trees that we have. This makes a blend of flavors. These olives are hand-picked off of the trees. There’s a spread net at the bottom to catch them. You have to press them right after you pick them, but certainly never more than 3 days later. It takes over two weeks to pick all of the trees. Then, they’re pressed. You can’t eat these olives so they’re only good for the oil.

What kind of presses do you use?

There are two kinds of presses. First there’s an old stone mill press and you put everything into it and run it multiple times. The problem with it is the cleaning process. Everything is run through it so all the residue that ends up coming away is hard to clean between presses. It’s fun for that rustic feeling but too hard to clean. This lends itself usually to potentially unhealthy situations because your neighbor’s olives may have been sitting around for weeks and have possibly gone rancid. If your olives are next in line, they could become tainted right from the start.

The other press is more modern and it makes all kinds of oil. It’s located in a really big modern industrial building not far from our house. So we truck the olives over and a conveyor belt takes everything, stems and pits included. Everything is washed and then pressed. The grinders separate the liquid from the sludge. That liquid is then separated into oil and water by a huge centrifuge and the oil is this dark green that has a peppery taste to it. That is the preferred taste for Tuscan and Umbrian olive oil.

We share the press with other farms in the area but our oil is one of the best, if not the best. We make about 1500 litres of oil but we only get to keep about 750 litres of it. About half of all the oil made goes to the workers who are paid in oil for their time and work. And this year, we lost more than half of the crop to hail so it was even less so we are only producing about 500 liters that we split with the workers.

What’s the difference between normal olive oil and extra virgin olive oil?

Nothing except the quality of the olive and the oil. What’s on the market isn’t labeled correctly. I see bottles labeled virgin, extra virgin and it’s all the same. What you need to look for is first or cold pressed. The best oil must be cold pressed below 30 degrees Celsius and it’s the first press. Everything after that is the mush that’s taken away that is reprocessed at temperature again to make a lesser quality oil.

Does Italy have the best olive oil?

Yes, Italy has the prime conditions for making the best oil but everything depends on the land. If it’s at an angle, if it gets the right amount of sun, if the soil is right. It all depends on region as well. Tuscany has a big olive oil that goes well with meat dishes while Sicily has a lighter one, that accommodates it’s fish-based cuisine. Also, a lot of oil sold in Italy is actually from abroad. A lot of it is Spanish, Greek, and Turkish. And a lot of it is mixed with other seed oils. So the bottle might say Italian but it was actually made in another country and bottled in Italy. It is legal for an Italian olive oil seller to say that foreign oil is Italian if they import the olives legally. This is crazy, but, unfortunately, true.

What do you think about the plight of small farms during these economic times?

Hopefully, there isn’t one. There’s been a huge resurgence of small farms and they mostly do well, certainly better than 10 years ago. People who want to buy fresh produce will pay the money to buy it. It’s not that different than going to Whole Foods, the prices are similar. There’s a growing market place now that didn’t exist before and there are farmer’s markets everywhere. Small farms are on the rise.

What’s the best part of having a home away from home in Tuscany?

It’s beautiful there. We love going there. Our house and the setting. Watching the sun set with a bottle of wine. Seeing the sun lighting the land and having this incredible oil. It makes a great gift for friends too. There’s nothing better than a slice of fresh bread with oil, you don’t need anything else. And we love having family visit us there.

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Andy Goldfarb olive oil olive grove Italy interview food interview series