The Four Seasons of Pasta

October 7th, 2015


Tuscany Countryside


Before we left for Italy I was sent an advance proof from the publisher of a new cookbook called The Four Seasons of Pasta by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara Jenkins.  It was released this week.  Acclaimed food writer Nancy Jenkins (The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook ) teams up with her Master Chef daughter Sara, owner of two NY City restaurants (Porsena and Porchetta), to publish this unique book on pasta.  It focuses on fresh ingredients from the four seasons.  Dressing pasta with fresh ingredients results in dishes that celebrate this humble and readily available product.

Four Seasons of Pasta

When Nancy Jenkins first moved to Tuscany in the early 1970’s, she quickly embraced pasta.  Over the years, she and her daughter, while cooking in their Tuscan farmhouse, have been inspired by this “queen of the table” as described by true Italians.  Because it is Autumn, I decided to concentrate on that section of the cookbook.  It includes combinations like Pumpkin and Pumpkin Seed Maccheroncini, Pasta with Crumbled Sausage, Sage, and Winter Squash and Chestnut Ravioli with Brown Butter, Sage, and Fennel.  I chose to make their Zuppa di Pasta e Ceci (Rich Chicken Soup with Pasta and Chickpeas).  It also includes Tuscan kale, which is a great Fall green.


For this Autumn recipe, it would be wise to make a rich, flavorful chicken stock.  But if you are short on time, a boxed chicken stock will also work.  The authors recommend dried chickpeas, but frankly, I used a can of chickpeas because time is limited right now.  And I am still suffering from jet lag. They also recommend adding diced chicken to the soup.  I roasted a chicken when we returned home yesterday because I was anxious to be cooking in my own kitchen again.  So the rest of that chicken went into the soup.


We will be enjoying this soup tonight.  The weather has cooled.  We are glad to be home.  But Italy is an amazing country with inspiring cuisine.  There will be more posts about Italy soon.  I highly recommend this well researched cookbook from two  Italian authorities on all that Italy has to offer.  It was a treat to come home and make this easy authentic dish.


6 cups Rich Chicken Stock
1 to 2 bunches fresh greens (I used kale)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon finely diced pancetta or thick, country-style bacon
1 garlic clove, lightly smashed with the flat blade of a knife
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked chickpeas, well drained (I used one can of chickpeas, drained)
1 cup pasta (small shapes are best, I used mini wheels)
1 dried red chili pepper, if desired
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino sardo, or other firm cheese

Bring the chicken stock slowly to a simmer over medium-low heat.

While the stock is heating, prepare the greens, stripping away the tough center stalks where necessary and slivering the leaves.  You will have 7 to 8 cups trimmed and slivered greens.

Combine the oil and pancetta in a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat.  Cook until the pancetta fat starts to run and the the little cubes begin to brown and  crisp.  Add the garlic and continue cooking, raising the heat slightly, until the garlic has browned on all sides.  Remove the garlic and set aside.  Add the greens to the pan with the water clinging to their leaves. (You may not be able to get all the greens in at once; let the early ones cook down a bit, then add another handful, and keep doing that until all the greens are in the pan.)  You may wish to add about 1/2 inch of boiling water to the pan to keep the greens from scorching.  Cook the greens until they are thoroughly limp, adding salt and pepper to taste.

By now the stock should be simmering.  Add the greens and pancetta to the stock.  You may add a tablespoon or so of liquid left in the bottom of the greens pan, but don’t add a lot more because it may darken the clear, rich color of the stock.  If your wish, chop the reserved garlic  clove and add it to the stock.  Stir in the chickpeas and pasta, along with as much or as little or the dried red chili as you wish. (Add the diced cooked chicken, if available, at this point.)  Let simmer until the pasta is done, 8 to 10 minutes.

Serve immediately, while the soup is hot.  Pass the grated parmigiano at the table.

Reprinted by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara Jenkins, 2015.

Printable Recipe

Zucchini Tart with Sweet Corn, Basil and Parmesan

September 4th, 2015

zucchini Tart 1

This was such a quick and easy tart to put together.  There is not much that puff pastry can’t do to make your life easier.  It always makes a stunning presentation.  The hardest part of assembling this tart was slicing the zucchini on the mandolin.  I have an aversion to that device.  It is so sharp that it scares me.  I made my husband do the slicing.  We used both a green zucchini and a yellow zucchini, plus freshly shucked sweet corn.


The flavors of garlic, butter and basil enhanced this lovely flaky creation.  Enjoy it with a salad and a glass of Rose’ wine.

I am having technical issues this week.  My Son gave me a new computer that I am still trying to get used to.  Then the lens that I always use for my photography stopped working.  I had to use my fixed close-up lens.  Hopefully I will have all of these issues settled by the time we leave on our trip.  More news next week.  Have a great weekend.



  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 ear of corn, shucked and kernels removed from cob
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 egg


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Roll out the puff pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet. Using a paring knife, gently score approximately 1/4 inch from the edge to create a border being careful not to cut all the way through.
  3. In a microwave safe bowl, add the butter, basil and garlic. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds or until the butter is melted. Brush half the butter mixture on the puff pastry inside the border. Arrange the zucchini on top of the butter and top with the corn. Sprinkle the parmesan over the tart and drizzle with the remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Whisk the egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of water. Brush the border of the puff pastry with the egg wash and transfer to the oven. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the edges are puffed and golden brown. Transfer to a serving platter and serve warm or at room temperature.

Printable Recipe

Dirty Dancing Weekend

August 13th, 2015


We are looking forward to the Dirty Dancing Festival in Lake Lure this coming weekend, August 15th.  It has become a tradition in Lake Lure since 2010.  The year after Patrick Swayze’s death, it was decided that the town would honor the star and the movie with a festival that would raise money for pancreatic cancer research.  It has been a draw for Dirty Dancing fans ever since.  As one of the major sites of the filming, Lake Lure is the perfect venue.

We bought our small cottage on the lake in 1984.  Little did I realize that in the Fall of 1986, Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey and the cast and crew were in residence at the Lake Lure Inn filming scenes around the lake.  At that time it was a low budget film. No one had ever heard of Patrick Swayze or Jennifer Grey.  Lake Lure was not the only film location. Parts of the movie were also filmed in Virginia.  I wrote a post about our stay at Mountain Lake, Virginia and the confusion about the scene where Baby was put in the corner. I thought it was in Virginia and sat at that corner table, but as it turned out, it was really in Lake Lure. Many of the scenes were filmed in Lake Lure. To teach Baby how to master the move of being held in the air after leaping from the stage, Johnny suggested that they practice in the water. The “lake lift” has become an iconic move.  From what I have heard, because it was late autumn, Patrick and Jennifer were very cold in the frigid water.  A big part of the festival today is a contest to see which couple can perform the best lift.  The above couple did very well.

This couple did their best. . . . .   the picture makes me smile and laugh.  These are two of our guests who rented our small cottage for two weeks a few years ago. Jenel is very talented on the computer and photoshopped a very convincing recreation of the lift.  She offered to do one of David and me, but I wasn’t too sure that it would be a pretty picture.  Maybe after we are toned and buff.  Ha!  But I totally love their picture!

Salmon in Parchment Vegies

We are still trying to eat well.  I have posted about this recipe for salmon in parchment before, but thought it was worth a repeat.  It is one of David’s favorite creations.  You can see the details for the dish here.  One of the things I love about it, other than the taste, is that you can make the parchment packages ahead of time and just bake them when you are ready.  They would be perfect for camping wrapped in foil rather than parchment paper.  Or after an afternoon attending a festival.  Enjoy your weekend.   “Have the Time of your Life”.



This is a very simple, delicious and fool-proof way to prepare salmon with vegetables. And, it looks fancy and festive, but it is so easy. You can use any combination of vegetables that suits your fancy. Listed below are some of the ones we commonly use, but you can substitute or include others such as, leeks, and snow peas, anything that can be cut into thin pieces so that it cooks rapidly. You can also substitute any other type of fish fillet that you might have on hand or can find, and you also might want to experiment with other herbs and spices.

Here are one possible set of ingredients per packet, i.e. per serving

one 8 oz salmon filet
¼ cup julienned carrots
¼ cup julienned green onions
¼ cup julienned broccolini
¼ cup julienned red or green pepper
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp dry white wine
basil ½ tsp dried or 1 tsp chopped fresh
2 lemon slices
3 pats of butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg beaten-to seal the packets

Place a salmon filet to the right of the center of a 15” square of parchment paper. Salt and pepper the filet to taste. Sprinkle the olive oil, garlic, and basil over the salmon. Arrange the julienned vegetables on top of the filet. Place two lemon slices and three butter pats on top. Sprinkle the wine over the top and add a little more salt and pepper to the top of the vegetables. Use a brush and the egg wash to paint the edge of paper all the way around to help seal the packet. Fold the left side of the paper over the fish and vegetables and start at the top left corner making small overlapping folds all the way around the three open sides. When you get to the final fold, turn it under to help keep it from unfolding. Prepare as many packets as you want servings and place on a baking sheet in a 400 deg oven for about 18-20 minutes. The fish will actually be done in about 15 minutes, but the veggies will benefit from the extra time, and the fish will remain moist and tender from the cooking method. To serve, place a packet on each plate along with whatever starch you are serving, and cut the packets open with a sharp knife so the contents can be removed to the plate.  Enjoy.

Printable Recipe

Pearl Barley Salad with Harrisa Chicken

August 5th, 2015

Pearl Barley Salad 1

When the weather gets too steamy, dinner inside becomes a haven of cool comfort.  But I still like to putter in the kitchen and a multiple step salad is the perfect solution.  All of the ingredients in this dish need your separate attention.  The broccoli needs to be blanched and put on ice.  The zucchini is sliced in long strips, cooked on a grill pan and then diced. The pearl barley needs to simmer until done.  The chicken needs to marinate a while in the fridge before placing on the grill pan to cook.  The almonds are best browned in a pan.  The rest of the work is just chopping and mixing.  But the end product is worth the effort.  Put on a little music, gaze at the hummingbird feeder outside your window occasionally, and enjoy the time spent.

Pearl Barley Salad 2

In my effort to try grains other than white rice, I found that pearl barley is a nutritious substitute.  It is rich in fiber and essential minerals.  I’m sure this salad would have been even better if I had the called for harrisa pasta in which to marinate the chicken.  Harrisa is a Moroccan paste made from hot peppers and spices. I plan to make this again when I can make it to a Middle Eastern market or my friendly Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.  Since it only called for 1 teaspoon, I felt safe in leaving it out this time.  I did add spices to my marinade to give the chicken some extra flavor.

Pearl Barley Salad 3 Close

This is a colorful salad with lots of flavor.  It is perfect for a quiet summer evening at home when you have time to chill out in the kitchen.

PEARL BARLEY SALAD WITH HARISSA-SPICED CHICKEN (Adapted from What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davies )

1 skinless, boneless chicken breast fillet, cut into thirds lengthways
1/4 cup sliced blanched almonds
1 cup pearl barley
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head broccoli, broken into florets
1 zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthways into then strips
3 scallions, trimmed and finely sliced
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
large handful arugula or other greens to scatter over top

Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon store-bought harissa paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch sea salt

To make the marinade, place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.  Put the chicken into a shallow container and pour the marinade over, making sure the chicken is well coated.  Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, place almonds in a small saute pan and cook over medium heat shaking occasionally until almonds are browned.  Set aside.

Place the pearl barley in a saucepan and cover with 3 cups cold water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 35 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water, then set aside in a bowl to cool slightly.  Place the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil and some black pepper in a small bowl and whisk together, the pour this mixture over the pearl barley, stir to coat and set aside.

Cook the broccoli in a saucepan of simmering water for 2-3 minutes, then drain and plunge immediately into a bowl of iced water.  Drain again and set aside.

Brush each side of the zucchini strips with a little olive oil.  Heat a skillet or grill pan and cook the zucchini strips on both sides until light golden-brown.  Leave to cool slightly before dicing finely.

In the same grill pan over medium high heat cook the chicken with its excess marinade for 10 to 12 minutes or until the chicken is caramelized on the outside and cooked through and the marinade is bubbling.  Remove the chicken and juces an set aside, covered, to rest for 5 minutes before slicing each chicken strip very thinly.

Place the chicken, almonds, pearl barley, broccoli, zucchini, scallions, and tomatoes into a large bowl and mix thoroughly to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Scatter with arugula leaves and serve.

Printable Recipe

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Peach Fennel Salsa

July 22nd, 2015

Grilled pork tenderloin with peach salsa 1

The first recipe I ever posted here was a pork tenderloin preparation that is still one of my favorites.  What is so likable about pork tenderloin is that it has a mild flavor and marries well with numerous ingredients.  With summer in full swing it just makes sense to pair it with a salsa made with some of the summer bounty, which includes peaches.  There are so many salsa recipes out there now.  We are no longer limited to tomato based salsas.  I recently posted a recipe for watermelon and blueberry salsa. Now I am in love with this peach and fennel salsa.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Peach Salsa 2


The recipe came from The Tupelo Honey Cookbook.  Tupelo Honey Cafe is a restaurant in Asheville, NC.  I believe they have another one in Knoxville, Tn.  “Reflecting the independent and creative spirit of the New South,  Tupelo Honey Cafe dishes up Southern comfort with innovative flavor pairings.”  It is always a revelation to eat there.  This combination of peaches, crunchy fennel, red onions and roasted red bell pepper is an example of one of the innovative dishes that they serve.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin 3

When you serve this salsa with grilled pork tenderloin, you will understand why it is such a great combination.  By the way, I have photographed several pork tenderloin dishes over the years and I have decided that it is one of the hardest meats to “make pretty”.  But put it on a platter with this peach fennel salsa and your aesthetic self and your camera will be proud.  Not to mention your taste buds.


4 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds)

1 cup Peach Fennel Salsa

Preheat your grill to medium-high.  Combine the rosemary, olive oil, Worcestershire, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Place the pork in the bowl, covering it well with the rosemary mixture, and set aside for 30 minutes.  Cook the pork loin on the grill for 12 to 14 minutes, until medium, turning every couple of minutes to ensure it cooks evenly.  Remove the pork from the heat, let rest briefly and the slice into 1-inch thick pieces, topping each with the salsa.


1/2 cup diced fresh fennel (bulb, stalk, and feathery leaves, tough outer layer discarded)
2 cups peeled and diced peaches (about 4 large peaches)
1 cup diced roasted red bell pepper ( I used jarred peppers)
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
4 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the fennel, peaches, bell pepper, onion, garlic oil, and salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Refrigerate in an airtight container for at least 30 minutes.  The salsa can be kept refrigerated for 2 days.

Printable Recipe

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.