A friend of ours is traveling to California later this week and staying in the area we visited last month. She was asking for recommendations of places to see and do. Naturally I'm heading to the central coast region of California for this week's travel Tuesday post.
I took Friday afternoon off of work to get everything ready. By 2:30 the food was all prepped, the table set, and so I lay down for a much needed nap.
Once our guests arrived for our annual St. Patrick's Day dinner we started off we started off with drinks and appetizers in the family room. Paul and I had a pear martini. For the apps we had mini double stuffed potatoes and Irish Blue Cheese Shortbread coins.
After nibbling, sipping, chatting, and lots of laughing we moved into the dining room for the main course.
Glazed corned beef, roasted carrots with honey and pistachios, colcannon.
After dinner it was back into the family room for dessert - an Irish Apple Tart with shortbread crust and crumble.
All in all a perfect evening - great food, drink, and company.
I have not been cooking much at all since we've come home from California. Work has been obnoxiously busy so there has not been a ton of time to putter in the kitchen. Of course this means a lot of meals grabbed on the fly - you know what that means . . . likely why I could not do up my pants last Friday. LOL
Anyway, I think I have digressed.
I made these stuffed shells a few weeks ago. They were amazing! Normally stuffed shells are made with a cheese stuffing - these ones will awake your inner caveman with the inclusion of sausage. Throw in some spinach and cheese and you have an amazing meal.
It is a simple recipe to follow - speaking of simple, did I say I found it on the Simply Recipe blog? My only caution - it makes a lot! We had a meal, a second meal, sent some home with friends, and then froze the rest. Not a problem when it tasted this great but if you weren't prepared to feed an army you might want to consider halving the recipe.
Sausage and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
1 12-ounce package jumbo pasta shells 1 Tbsp olive oil 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed 1 Tbsp minced garlic 1 large egg< 16-ounces ricotta cheese 10-ounces chopped frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry, chopped further (or 10 ounces chopped fresh spinach) 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil 1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 28-ounce can tomatoes with herbs, including the liquid, tomatoes broken up (or your favorite tomato or pasta sauce)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (1 teaspoon salt per quart of water). Cook the pasta shells according to the instructions on the package. Drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage to the pan, breaking up the sausage into smaller bits. Cook sausage until cooked through, and no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute more. Remove pan from heat.
Beat the egg lightly in a large bowl. Mix in the ricotta, chopped spinach, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, basil, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and sausage mixture. Fill each cooked pasta shell with some of the ricotta, spinach, sausage mixture.
Spread 1/2 cup chopped canned tomatoes over the bottom of each of the baking dishes. Arrange the stuffed pasta shells in the dishes. Spread the remaining tomatoes over the top of the pasta shells.
At this point you can make ahead, to freeze (up to four months) or refrigerate before cooking. (If freezing, cover with foil, then wrap with plastic wrap.)
Heat oven to 375°F. Cover the pans with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbling. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese, bake uncovered for 10 more minutes.
I confess that prior to this I always used a packet of powder to make my hollandaise sauce for things like eggs benedict or to serve with steamed salmon or asparagus. This is simple and easy - trust me, you'll never use another method. This recipe makes enough for 2 servings of eggs benedict or asparagus. I've tried several ways to make hollandaise sauce; this method works every time and is very quick.
Microwave Hollandaise Sauce
2 egg yolks 1/4 lemon juiced, or to taste pinch salt pinch cayenne pepper 1/4 cup butter, melted
Beat egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, and cayenne pepper together in a microwave-safe bowl until smooth. Slowly stream melted butter into the egg yolk mixture while whisking to incorporate.
On the Saturday of the SlowBowl Shannon had arranged wine tastings at the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. The Wine Ghetto is a unique collection of wineries, tasting rooms, and production facilities located off Pacific Coast Highway 1 and 12th Street. The Wine Ghetto has about 20 boutique tasting rooms to choose from all arranged in an industrial mall type setting. It is pretty cool - you just park your car and go from tasting room to tasting room.
A Filipino food truck arrived at noon so you could order some delicious treats to fill your stomach as you tasted all of that wonderful wine.
After about 4 hours we went back to the house and napped before the Saturday night party.
We left the snow behind and headed to California for a long weekend of fun. We shoppedm toured wineries, tasted olive oil, met up with good friends, and ate some wonderful food. I can't wait for slow bowl 2009.