Cosmo does Tuscan (or a variation of it…lol)

Sunday. Usually a day to spiritually reflect and also gather together over a meal with some of your closest friends. This weekend, I was inspired to cook dinner for two of my friends and decided to go the Italian route. Nothing says comfort like Italian, right? Or fried chicken…lol

Anywho, I decided to make penne with a creamy saffron sauce with pancetta turkey bacon, broiled eggplant with tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette, mesclun greens tossed with champagne vinaigrette, peach iced tea, and strawberry vegan cupcakes.

I blogged about the penne dish a couple of weeks ago after I took this “20 minute meal” class at FIG cooking school. The dish that we prepared in classed used pancetta, but because one of my buds does not eat pork, I had to get a little creative.(side note: if you are not pork adverse, I definitely recommend you use the pancetta…though my version was yummy, but pork gives the dish an extra umph). I ended up using turkey bacon instead and it gave the dish an almost beef like flavor. The saffron made the dish I swear.Here’s my stab at the dish:

The recipe(courtesy of Hiede Lang of the FIG cooking school):

Penne with a Creamy Saffron Sauce and Pancetta Turkey bacon

1 white onion finely diced (I used a yellow onion and it came out fine)

8 oz pancetta diced (I used Turkey bacon…about 6 pieces finely chopped up)

1 cup heavy cream

1-2 teaspoons saffron (I would use 1 teaspoon because saffron is very powerful. Plus its very expensive. If you go to Trader Joe’s you can get a small vial under $6)

1 pound penna pasta

1 bag frozen organic peas (I wouldn’t necessarily use a whole bag. A half or even a 1/4 of a bag would be enough)

1/2 cup grated parmigianino reggiano (I would get a chunk of it and grate it yourself. It tastes so much better than the pre-grated version)

1. In a 10 or 12 inch skillet, saute the onion and pancetta bacon together on medium heat until the onions become tender and the pancetta bacon a bit crispy, about 5-10 minutes.

2. Place saffron in a small bowl or ramekin, and pour 2 teaspoons of warm water over. Set aside.

3. Add the cream to the pan, along with the saffron and pancetta turkey bacon and cook over medium low heat for just a few minutes, being careful not to boil the cream.

4. Add peas to the sauce, and simmer just until peas are hot (1-2 minutes)

5. While the sauce is simmering, bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook penne al dente. Drain the pasta and toss immediately with the saffron sauce.

6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

7. Generously sprinkle dish with Parmigianino reggiano ( I poured 1/2 of the amount directly in the pan and tossed and saved the rest for people to sprinkle on it)

Along with this lovely dish, I made broiled eggplant, which came out surprisingly well. I spotted the eggplant at a farmer’s market on Friday and decided to bring it home and make a main dish with it. However, I wasn’t sure if eggplant as a main dish would have been filling for my meat loving friends, so I made the penne as the star attraction. So the eggplant became the opening act. I found a recipe online before I left work for broiled eggplant and decided to do that in combination with some tomatoes (from the same farmer’s market) and balsamic vinaigrette. YUM!

BROILED EGGPLANT

Printed from COOKS.COM

I would recommend if you use a big eggplant to treat it to remove the bitterness prior to cooking it. Click here to look at two ways how to do this. I prefer the salt method.


Line broiler pan with aluminum foil and brush or spray with olive oil. Heat pan while preparing egg plant. Peel egg plant (I didn’t peel the egg plant) and slice 1/4″ thick.

Beat 1 egg well, add 1 tsp. olive oil, 1/4 tsp. each of: salt, black pepper, garlic powder, oregano and basil; and beat again. Slip slices into egg mixture and then cracker or bread crumbs (I used panko crumbs) turning to coat both sides. Put slices on broiler pan and roast until golden brown, turn and brown other side.

If breading becomes dry, remove broiler pan from oven and spray eggplant lightly with olive oil spray; return to broiler.

“Broil” is usually the highest setting of your oven, and normally the top rack is used, just under the element or burner. Some stoves may have a special drawer for broiling; while this is helpful, it isn’t required for this recipe.

While broiling, you should not walk away because the eggplant will easily burn. Watch carefully

** To go with the eggplant, I just cut up some grape tomatoes and tossed them with some balsamic vinaigrette.

Mesclun greens with champagne vinaigrette

In order that we could have some greens, I made a salad with a yummy champagne vinaigrette(that I also learned to make at the FIG cooking class). It differs from the Neely’s version, but it is still oh so good. Here’s the recipe:

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1-2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

4 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

1-2 teaspoons tarragon, or other herb

3/4 cup olive oil

In a medium bowl, whisk the vinegar and mustard well. Add the shallots (I didn’t have shallots, so I used two cloves of garlic that I finely minced)

Gradually whisk in the oil until blended.

Season the vinaigrette with salt, pepper, and tarragon, or another herb you like instead of tarragon, such as rosemary or dill.

Pour some of the dressing (to your taste) over the greens and toss and serve immediately.

Cupcakes and Peach tea

Iced tea is relatively easy to make. The tricky part is picking the right tea. I used Country peach passion by celestial seasonings. I also made the strawberry vegan cupcakes I blogged about recently. They were a hit again. Maybe next time I will try mango or pineapple?

Overall, it was a night of sharing stories, laughter and of course good food. I look forward to many more nights surrounded by friends this summer.  What are some of your favorite dishes to share with friends?

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This entry was posted in being present, cooking, cupcakes, friends, let them eat cake, martha stewart eat your heart out, recipes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Cosmo does Tuscan (or a variation of it…lol)

  1. Pingback: Who runs the 5K? Cosmo! | Fashionably Cosmopolitan

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