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For our first anniversary, we spent the day in Santa Fe, which is known for some really good restaurants (among other things) in this part of the world. We hard time deciding where to grub, but we knew we wanted something different that we couldn’t get around here. We ended up at Amavi, a regional Mediterranean restaurant. Our entire meal was delicious, but one thing in particular stuck with us — our appetizer of steamed clams, mussels and Spanish chorizo. Every bite was delicious, including the crusty bread that sopped up all the juices. We were determined to recreate the dish, and this was our attempt.

Our biggest task was finding Spanish style chorizo. Mexican style (ground, uncooked, seasoned pork) is everywhere around here, but we really struggled to find Spanish style (dried, cured, seasoned pork). We ended up finding some at Talin Market, so we picked up two packages and were on the hunt for sample recipes and ideas. We weren’t sure what else was in the appetizer we h ad at Amavi other than the obvious contenders — clams, mussels, chorizo and some kind of broth. We searched for a lot of recipes, and ended up using this one we found on another food blog (which I have subsequently fallen in love with), giving it our own little spin. (I’m the only fan of mussels in our house, so we used more clams in their place.)

Here’s what you’ll need:
Serves: 4 (BTW, I’ve decided it probably makes a lot of sense to tell you how much of something you’re cooking, so I’m now including servings in my posts!)
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1 onion, diced
– 3 to 5 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1 or 2 fennel bulb(s), thinly sliced
– salt and pepper
– red pepper flakes
– 1/2 tsp paprika
– 1 lb Spanish style chorizo, sliced
– 1 cup dry white wine
– 1 cup clam juics
– 3 dozen clams (you can use pre-cooked frozen clams)
– 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
– juice of 1/2 lemon

In a high-sided saute pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute for one to two minutes until they begin to sweat out, then add the garlic and fennel. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and paprika. Continue to saute until the onion becomes translucent and the fennel starts cooking down. Add the chorizo to the pan and stir to combine (you don’t have to worry about cooking time here because Spanish chorizo is already cooked). We let the chorizo brown a little, but it didn’t cook for more than five minutes.

Add the wine and clam juice to the pan and bring to a boil. As soon as the wine and clam juice comes to a rolling boil, add the clams. Stir to combine and immediately cover the pan. Steam for three to five minutes, or until all the clams have opened up, discarding any that may not have opened. Remove from the heat, stir in parsley and lemon juice and serve over freshly cooked spaghetti (make sure to get plenty of juice to soak up with a good loaf of bread).

Pasta with Clams and Chorizo

This wasn’t a replica of our amazing appetizer (I think we may have been missing some kind of tomato product?), but it was pretty damn good. The fennel, which wasn’t in the original, added a great crunch and flavor to the dish. The clams absorbed all the wonderful flavors of the wine and chorizo and were perfectly cooked. And the broth…it was amazing. The mixture of wine, clam juice and lemon juice really worked well together, not to mention all the flavors it picked up from the chorizo and fennel. It made a great light sauce for the pasta and was perfect for soaking up with bread — lots of bread. We’ll definitely be making this again, but next time there will be some type of tomato involved.

Make sure to check out Las Vegas Food Adventures for this and other great recipes (and restaurant reviews). And if you’re in the Albuquerque/Santa Fe area, make sure to plan a meal at Amavi, you won’t regret it.

I love Giada De Laurentiis, I think she’s a great cook and a great TV host. We have two of her books and watch her show all the time, and any recipe of her’s we have tried hasn’t disappointed. For the first time ever I used mascarpone cheese in a savory dish, and it was delicious. After trying Giada’s orechiette with sausage, beans and mascarpone, I have a feeling I’ll be using it more often. We followed the recipe pretty close since this was our first time trying this dish, but there are some things we’ll try next time around (more on that later).

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 lb of small shaped pasta
– olive oil (for sauteing)
– 1/2 to 1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed (Giada calls for turkey sausage, and this is our preference as well, but any Italian sausage will work just fine)
– 1 small onion, chopped
– 2 tbsp fresh oregano (or 1 tbsp dried)
– salt and pepper
– red pepper flakes
– 1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
– 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and drop the pasta. When the pasta is done cooking, reserve about one cup of the water for the sauce. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the sausage and onions, breaking up the sausage into small pieces, until the sausage browns and the onions cook through, about ten minutes. Season the sausage and onions with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes (if using dried oregano, add it at this stage too). Once the sausage is cooked through, add the beans (and oregano, if using fresh) and cook for about two minutes. Add the pasta water to the pan, using the liquid to help scrape the brown bits off the bottom. Once the water begins to simmer, add the mascarpone cheese and stir until it has melted and created a creamy sauce, about two minutes. The longer you let the sauce simmer, the thicker it will get. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and add it to the pan with the sauce. Toss to coat, and you’re ready to serve!

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Giada’s recipe didn’t call for any garlic or red pepper flakes (which is odd for Giada). We decided to add red pepper this time, but I think next time we’ll also add garlic. The flavor and texture of this dish was amazing. It was so creamy, but not heavy like an alfredo sauce. The sausage and onions gave the whole dish a great rustic flavor. Taking the sausage out of the casing gave it a different texture than just cooking it and cutting it into slices. I think it really made the dish what it was.

Billy actually found this recipe when we were putting together our menu last week, and I heard “peas” instead of “beans.” That got us thinking — next time we make this (which will be soon!) we’re going to add peas. I think it would give the dish a great flavor and a little extra burst of texture in every bite.

This recipe can be found in Giada’s latest book, Giada’s Kitchen, or on the Food Network Web site.

There are probably only two (maybe three) meals that I could eat until the whole things is gone. My mom’s sausage casserole is one of them. It’s so simple (both to do and flavor-wise), but the flavor is truly addicting. All this really is is basically layers of potatoes, cabbage and onions, kielbasa sausage and bechamel sauce for flavor and moisture.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 lb. kielbasa sausage (one package is usually a pound), sliced into 1-inch slices
– 1/2 head of cabbage, cut into strips
– 1 large yellow onion, cut into strips
– 1 large russet potato, cut into thin slices
– 1 1/2 cups bechamel sauce (any recipe will do)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

You can use any kind of casserole dish you have, but the measurements above will work best using a 13 by 9 inch pan. First, coat the bottom of the pan with a little of the sauce — just enough to make an even layer. Next, begin layering the ingredients, starting with potatoes, then cabbage, onion and finally, sausage. Add more sauce and layer everything again. Once the pan is full, put one last layer of potatoes and sauce (to help keep the moisture in) and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake the casserole at 375 for about an hour, or until the potatoes are cooked through (this will depend on how thin your potatoes are sliced). Let the casserole cool a little before serving to allow the sauce to thicken a little. And, that’s it! You’re ready to serve up a couple of bowls of deliciousness!

Deliciousness on a Plate

Deliciousness on a Plate

I can’t even tell you what the best thing about this casserole is. The sauce gives everything a wonderful creamy texture and the potatoes, onions and cabbage cook to absolute perfection — the perfect balance between crisp and fresh and soft, melt in your mouth goodness. The great thing about this dish is that everything is good on it’s own, but when you get a bite filled with a little of every component, it’s like a flavor explosion. The creamy-ness of the potatoes and cabbage mixed with the smoked flavor of the kielbasa is pure heaven. This casserole really is a must-try meal…and it’s perfect for this time of year!

The great thing about sausage, peppers and onions is that everything is cooked in one pot and the only other thing you need to go with the meal is a good, hard roll or two. SPandO is a meal that I consider a “classic” Italian dish (I’m actually not sure if it really is classic or not, but it seems like it should be if it isn’t already). It’s got all of the classic Italian flavors — wine, tomatoes, meat and…wine. What makes it even better is that it’s really simple to make and it doesn’t take much effort at all.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– Olive Oil (for cooking the sausages)
– 1/2 to 1 lb Italian sausage (we like to use hot Italian turkey sausage)
– 1 to 2 bell peppers, sliced
– 1 onion, sliced
– salt and pepper to taste
– red pepper flakes
– 1/2 tsp dried oregano
– 1/2 cup fresh basil (or about 1/4 cup dried)
– 2 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
– 2 tbsp tomato paste
– 1/2 to 1 cup red wine
– 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes

The first thing you want to do is cook the sausages. Heat the oil over medium heat in a deep-sided pan large enough to hold everything and cook the sausages until brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Once they’re cooked through, take them out of the pan and set aside until they cool down. Add the peppers and onions to the same pan (you might need more oil, depending on the kind of sausage you’re using) and cook them until they’re the consistency you like, anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Finally, add the salt, pepper, red pepper, garlic and herbs and cook another 2 to 3 minutes (you want the garlic to cook down a little, but still keep a lot of it’s flavor).

Once all the veggies are cooked through, add the tomato paste, stirring to combine, then the wine and tomatoes. Make sure to scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan after you add the liquid. Bring the pan to a simmer. In the mean time, cut the sausages into smaller pieces, about 4 to 6 inches each. We like to cut them in half, then cut the halves in half length-wise (did that make sense?). Assuming the wine and veggies are simmering away, add the sausages back into the pan. Continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened to desired consistency. And…that’s it! Easy enough, right?

My favorite way to make an SPandO sandwich is to cut a tip off of a long roll then hollow it out, leaving a little bit of the middle inside the roll so that you have crust, but also yummy fluffyness inside. Stuff the hollowed out roll with plenty of sausage, peppers, onions and juices. The best part? You can use the bread that you took out to sop up more juice! Y-U-M.

The perfect SPandO sandwich

The perfect SPandO sandwich

P.S. This is a combination of recipes…my mom’s “famous” sausage, peppers and onions, and Giada de Laurentis. Click here for Giada’s recipe.

During our honeymoon in Durango, Billy and I went to a restaurant/brewery called Steamworks. There, they are known for (well, besides their beer of course) their Cajun seafood boils. When you order one, they come out and put a huge sheet of wax paper on your table and about five minutes later they come with a huge bowl of seafood, sausage, potatoes and corn and dump it all in front of you on the wax paper covered table. No utensils, no plates…just napkins and the 10 fingers that God gave you. This was seriously one of the best meals we had ever eaten. It was a lot of fun to eat, but also amazingly delicious. The Cajun spices flavored all of the seafood and other ingredients but the heat didn’t overpower everything. Immediately after clearing the whole table, we were wondering how we could do this ourselves. Well, we figured it out and man, is it worth it….

You can use any kind of seafood you like, but the “classic” mixture is crab, shrimp and crayfish. We use crab knuckles because they’re cheaper than legs, they have a lot of meat and they’re easier to crack with your hands. We use about a pound of each kind of seafood (it sounds like a lot, but for four people, it’s the perfect amount). Make sure to leave the shells on all of the seafood, but you want to devein the shrimp and clean everything up before boiling. You’ll also need about a pound of small red (or white, whatever you prefer) potatoes, four cobs of corn, and a pound of smoked sausage. You can leave the potatoes whole (they won’t fall apart this way), cut the cobs of corn in half, and cut the sausage into about 1/2 inch pieces. And, that’s it! Very simple.

Zatarain’s makes a Cajun seafood boil spice mixture that comes in a little bag that you just throw in the boiling water. This little package of heaven has everything to need to flavor your seafood boil. Throw it in the water after it comes to a boil and the water will turn a translucent red in a matter of minutes. (By the way, you need enough water to fit all the the ingredients without crowding the pot. That means you need a pretty huge pot.) Throw the potatoes into the pot and let them boil away for about 15 minutes. Next, add the corn and the sausage and continue to boil for another 10 or so minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Now, take the potatoes, corn and sausage out of the pot and put on a big cookie sheet with tinted aluminum foil to keep warm. Throw in all the seafood and let boil for about five minutes, or until everything is cooked through. Add the seafood to the cookie sheet with the veggies and sausage and dig in (literally)!

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Be prepared to eat more food than you’ve ever eaten before because it’s nearly impossible to stop if there’s still food in front of you. It may just look like a pile of stuff, but I promise it’s absolutely delicious.

Since our tomato plants have started to produce a million (okay, maybe not a million, but close!) tomatoes per day, we’ve been trying to come up with lots of different uses for the little buggers. They’re delicious by the way…and if you’d like some, you’re in luck.

Anyway, last night we made quite the summery (is that a word?) pasta. It was really simple, but also tasty.
Here’s what you’ll need:
– 2 tbsp. butter
– 2 tbsp. olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
– 5 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
– salt and pepper to taste
– 3/4 to 1 lb. fresh cherry tomatoes cut in half
– 1/2 cup white wine
– splash of lemon juice
– 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
– 1 cup (about) reserved pasta water (take it out at the last minute before draining the pasta)
– freshly grated Parmesan cheese

The sauce will take no longer than the pasta will take to cook…so start the water and let it come to a boil before doing anything else. Heat the butter and oil together in a pan over medium-high heat and when it starts to bubble add the garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Let the garlic cook until it starts to turn slightly brown (be careful not to overcook it otherwise it will become bitter). When the garlic starts to turn, add the wine and let it simmer, reducing by half.

Tomatoes Simmering Away

Tomatoes Simmering Away

At this point, the pasta should be at least half way cooked. Add the tomatoes and continue to simmer until the tomatoes start to burst (yum). At the last minute, add the basil and stir together. The pasta should be done by now. Drain the pasta, toss with the sauce and as much of the reserved water as you’d like (depends on the consistency you’re looking for), and you’re done! You can add sausage or shrimp or whatever else you like to this and it would still be just as tasty. (This time, Billy and I tossed in some sausage.)

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

This is a typical “sauceless” pasta, so what you’re looking for is basically a little bit of liquid covering each strand of pasta. There’s n o real science to the whole thing, as long as it tastes good, that’s all that matters. I hope your variation comes out as good as ours did!