Guacamole is a wonderful accompaniment to southwestern and Mexican food. It is also a wonderful dip on its own and can even be used as a spread on sandwiches as well. It isn’t complicated to make and you can make it spicy or not depending upon your taste. One of the things that makes it delicious is the use of fresh ingredients. We go to Mexico almost every year and we enjoy getting guacamole every time that we do and enjoy the large portions that we get.
2 Avocados – diced
1 Medium Tomato – finely diced
1 Jalapeno – finely diced (seeds removed if you don’t want it spicy)
1 Garlic Clove – minced
1 tbsp Red or Yellow Onion – finely diced
Juice of 1 Lime
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cut the avocados in half, using your knife to carve around the large seed. Twist the avocado to separate the two halves, the seed will remain in one of the halves. Using a knife, carefully chop into the seed so that the knife is slightly embedded. Twist the knife to remove the seed and carefully remove the seed from the knife blade. Use a spoon to separate the flesh of the avocado from the skin by tracing the spoon along the inside of the skin and place the flesh into a medium bowl. You can dice the avocado prior to removing it from the skin or after it is in the bowl. Add the rest of ingredients and mix thoroughly. If you prefer a creamy guacamole, you can mash the avocado dices as you stir, or leave some of the dices whole if you prefer a chunkier guacamole. Serve with chips.
Needless to say, there are hundreds of restaurants in New York, many of them Italian. Many, if not most, of them serve wonderful food from family recipes that they brought with them from the Old World. During our stay in Manhattan, we came across one of these small, family owned and run, restaurants and stopped there for lunch as we walked the streets of the city. We ended up trying a couple of their daily specials, one ravioli and the other fettuccine. Both of them were wonderful, but we especially liked the fettuccine as it was different than most pasta dishes that we have had. In our attempt to replicate it, we had little to go on other than the picture that we took during our meal, but it turned out to be delicious as well as very simple to prepare. As is often the case, simple dishes with only a few ingredients can often be some of the best.
1 lb Fresh Fettuccine
1 lb Baby Spinach
1 lb Ground Pork – unseasoned
2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
1 tbsp Garlic Powder
1 tbsp Red Pepper Flakes – more or less depending on how spicy you would like it
1/2 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
4 tbsp Unsalted Butter
6 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Be sure to use plain ground pork and not a seasoned pork sausage. In a large bowl, combine the pork, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, red peppers, salt and pepper and be sure to incorporate the spices throughout the meat. It is best to work the meat and spices with your hands as you would if you were going to make meatballs. Set the pork aside for about 30 minutes to let the seasonings infuse the meat and allow the meat to come to room temperature. Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil to medium-high heat. Add the pork, breaking it up into rough bite size chunks as it browns. Sauté the pork until it is fully cooked and slightly browned, about 10 minutes while stirring frequently. Remove the pork, leaving as much of the oil and fat, and set aside on a plate with a paper towel to drain. Add the baby spinach in batches and heat until it is wilted and soft. The spinach will reduce to about 1/4th as it wilts. Once all of the spinach has been cooked, reduce the heat to low and combine the pork and spinach. Cook the fettuccine according to the package directions, being sure to reserve about a cup of the pasta water. In a large bowl, combine the butter and the fettuccine and mix thoroughly until the pasta is coated. Combine the pork, spinach, and pasta water and toss gently together. Divide onto plates and shred the parmesan cheese over top and serve.
To say that the food of Tuscany, at least Florence and Lucca where we ate, is delicious is an understatement. What makes it so good? Fresh ingredients, fresh pasta, and a true love for food. You can expect to find authentic, brick-oven, fire-roasted pizza and a wonderful variety of pasta dishes. What you shouldn’t expect is to find dishes that you have never heard of and are not sure of what they are. Authentic Italian food can be found throughout the world and it seems to be one of the few cuisines that has exported itself without losing its fundamental roots. The difference, as we have said, is the attention to detail and the use of the freshest ingredients.
There is something about the tomatoes and herbs that are grown in Tuscany that seem to truly make a difference. Despite the fact that there were so many pasta dishes available, we tended to gravitate towards fresh seafood and items that might be a little more unique. Throughout Europe, we found that food was always prepared using what was in season and not just a set menu that was served throughout the entire year. We truly enjoyed the wonderful food that we tasted during our time there and will measure all Italian meals in the future against these wonderful creations.