Monthly Archives: October 2019

When In Spain, Again…

We’ve been traveling in Southwest Spain for about two weeks now, and I plan to post a more extensive blog once I’m settled back home. But I just couldn’t miss this opportunity to gush over a recent a “entrante” (first course) we shared at El Blanquillo in Ubeda, Jaen Province.

An FYI, Jaen is the olive capital of the world and while driving the countryside, all one can see is miles and miles of olive groves, a patchwork quilt if you will. Tomorrow we get to enjoy a personal 3-hour visit and tasting at the Oleotourismo in Begijar… but that’s another blog…

Alcachofas con Jamon y Queso Gratinada, otherwise known as Artichokes with Spanish Ham and Cheese, was absolutely divine! Since we were splitting the dish, they gave us four stuffed artichokes as opposed to the usual three.

Now I can’t guarantee this selection will be as good anywhere else (the rest of our meal was top-notch also), but I certainly want to give it a go once we are home and artichokes are in season!

Stay tuned for more postings on Spanish cuisine sometime in the near future…


Sweet or Hot, Your Choice

Orecchiette with Sausage and Arugula—A ragu of ground pork and wild fennel from Sardinia served as the inspiration for this quick and easy pasta dish. Dry vermouth and citrusy lemon zest perfectly balance the richness of the Italian sausage and the pepperiness of baby arugula.


Orecchiette is a coin-sized, saucer-shaped pasta ideal for catching flavorful bits of sausage, scallions and fennel seeds; if you can’t find orecchiette, small shells and cavatelli work well, too.

Our preference is usually for the hot spicy sausage but I went with the sweet this time around. And as is customary for us, I reduced the amount of pasta down from one pound to 12 ounces (which is how many boxes are packaged nowadays anyway). It’s easy to do, but don’t forget to reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta. You will need it to build the sauce.


Orecchiette with Sausage and Arugula

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 lb. orecchiette pasta
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
  • 1 lb. sweet or hot Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 bunches scallions, sliced, white and green parts reserved separately
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • ¼ cup dry vermouth or white wine
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 5 ounce container baby arugula, roughly chopped
  • 1½ ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated (¾ cup), plus more to serve


  1. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water, then drain. Return the pasta to the pot.
  2. While the pasta cooks, in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it into small chunks, until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel–lined plate, then pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.
  4. To the fat in the pan, add the scallion whites, garlic and fennel seeds. Cook over medium, stirring, until the scallions are softened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add the vermouth and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until most of the liquid evaporates, about 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the reserved cooking water, the lemon zest and half of the scallion greens. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Pour the mixture over the pasta, then add the sausage. Cook over medium, stirring, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Add the arugula and toss to wilt. Off heat, stir in the Parmesan.
  9. Serve sprinkled with the remaining scallion greens and drizzled with oil; offer additional Parmesan on the side.

Recipe from


Ground Beef Pad Thai

Traditional Bangkok-style Pad Thai—where it is the ultimate street food—is dry and light bodied, with a fresh, complex, balanced flavor. It should be reddish-brownish in color, not bright red and oily. It also happens to be one of the most ordered take-out dishes in America.

Commonly, Pad Thai is a stir-fry dish made with rice noodles, shrimp, chicken, or tofu, peanuts, a scrambled egg and bean sprouts. Here is an easy and approachable version made with ground beef and can be made in about 20 minutes.

The typical sauce is made with tamarind paste, palm sugar, fish sauce, and garlic. Now I’ve previously gone the make-it-yourself route, and the easiest and best way to make pad Thai is to make the sauce in advance and use as little or much as you need—which you can refrigerate up to a month; but for this quick recipe, go ahead and buy an already prepared jarred version.

Bulk up the serving size of this Beef Pad Thai recipe by adding in lots of healthy veggies like matchstick carrots, snap peas and scallions. Look for whole-grain brown-rice Pad Thai noodles to add an additional 3 grams fiber to each serving. And OK, if you insist, add in a scrambled egg or two.


Ground Beef Pad Thai

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 8 ounces pad Thai rice noodles, preferably brown rice noodles
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • ¾ pound lean ground beef
  • 2 cups stringless snap peas
  • 2 cups matchstick carrots
  • ½ cup chopped scallions
  • ½ cup prepared pad Thai sauce
  • Chopped peanuts, cilantro and lime wedges for serving


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles in boiling water according to package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid and drain the noodles.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef, and cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add snap peas, carrots and scallions, and cook, stirring often, until the peas are bright green, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add sauce, the noodles and about half of the reserved cooking liquid; stir with tongs to coat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, adding more of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten if necessary and stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes longer.
  5. Serve hot with chopped peanuts, cilantro and lime wedges.