This is the fifty-second installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
When people first hear “chia,” they most immediately think of Chia Pets, the little figurines that grow chia sprouts to simulate fur (not very appetizing, right?). In their raw form, chia seeds are tiny, grainy, and crunchy black specs that are bland in flavor. They aren’t usually eaten by themselves, but can be used in a number of ways to enhance a dish, especially nutritionally!
Chia seeds originated with the Aztecs and Mayans in Central America, as the word “chia” is actually the ancient Mayan word for “strength.” The seeds come from the plant, salvia hispanica, which is in the mint family. Tiny and packed with nutrients from antioxidants to vitamins, chia seeds are also a great source of fiber and protein. Because of this, they are often used in many breakfast staples: thrown into smoothies or oatmeal, sprinkled on cereal, or baked into bread. Fun fact! Chia seeds also can absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid because of their high soluble fiber content that produces a gel-like consistency. In combination with liquid, they can be used as an egg substitute or mixed with milk to make a pudding.
Chia pudding is one of my favorite go-to breakfasts. It takes 5 minutes at most to prepare and can often be made the night before. Creamy and thick with a gel-like texture, the chia seed pudding is refreshing, tasty, and packed with enough nutrients to give you lots of energy for the day. Like smoothies or oatmeal, there’s a variety of chia seed pudding recipes, and you can always add different flavors and toppings—cocoa powder, peanut butter, yogurt—to change it up. The recipe I’m sharing is a simple but yummy introduction to the chia world. Let the fun begin!
½ cup milk of choice (almond, whole, oat, coconut)
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon honey
Topping of choice (berries, fruit, granola, etc.)
First, pour the milk into a jar or container. I love using almond milk, but you can pick your favorite! Add the chia seeds and honey to the milk. Stir the mixture well before letting it settle for about 3 minutes. Stir the mixture again to break up the clumped seeds.
Cover the container with a lid, and place it in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight if possible. Two hours is just enough time for the chia seeds to absorb all the liquid. I usually make the chia seed pudding at night so I can have it for a quick breakfast the next morning.
After the allotted time, remove the container from the fridge. When the seeds absorb the liquid, they become soft, almost like tapioca pearls. The pudding should be nice and thick. If it is too liquidy, just add some more chia seeds, but make sure to always maintain the ½ cup to 2 tablespoon ratio of milk to chia seeds. Top the pudding with your favorite fruit. This recipe makes one serving. Enjoy!
This is the fifty-first installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
No individual raised on American culture, especially in the Northeast, can fail to recognize the cultural cornerstone that is pumpkin spice. From the infamy of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, to its incorporation into every baked good conceivable, pumpkin spice has come to dominate autumnal culture. If you were to ask what the flavor of fall is, anyone born in the last century would respond with pumpkin spice. It is clearly inescapable, but where did this flavor—or flavors—come from?
A mixture of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger, pumpkin spice was first mentioned in American cooking and baking in early 20th century recipes. It only became the commercialized product we know it to be in the 1950s when spice giants like McCormick began selling pre-mixed pumpkin spice. Considering the age and historical significance of all its respective components, pumpkin spice is a relatively new development; a look at its individual ingredients is where we will find the most insights into the history and cultural significance of its flavor.
First mentioned in Chinese writings of 2800 BCE, cinnamon is derived from the bark of the Cinnamomum verum, or true cinnamon tree, which is native to Sri Lanka. Different languages and cultures developed different names for the spice based on its uses or growing patterns, but the name “cinnamon,” as it is referred to in English, is derived from the Arabic word ‘amomon,’ which means fragrant spice plants. Cinnamon began its major worldwide transitions to other regions such as South America and the West Indies in the 18th and 19th centuries. It can be grown in most tropical regions, making it a very versatile spice found throughout cultures worldwide.
Cloves are the unopened flower buds of the evergreen Syzygium aromaticum, which is native to Maluku Islands of Indonesia. Unlike the other elements of pumpkin spice, cloves were relatively slow to spread to the rest of the world. Their cultivation was limited to certain countries, notably Zanzibar, which previously produced a majority of the cloves in the spice trade.
Nutmeg comes from the seeds of the nutmeg fruit, which grows on the Myristica fragrans, an evergreen tree native to Banda. Nutmeg has an especially rich history; it was particularly significant to the Romans, who are thought to have discovered it and began using it around 1 CE. Much like the other spices in pumpkin spice, Nutmeg found its way to worldwide cultivation in the West Indies, South America, and other tropical and temperate regions. In the 13th and 14th centuries, like many spices, nutmeg was prized by the wealthy, particularly for its hallucinogenic properties.
Ginger may be the oldest flavor in pumpkin spice. It is the root of the Zingiber officinale, a flowering plant originating from Southeast Asia. Ginger’s use in medicine means that it has seen widespread cultivation. It is mentioned in historical documents dating as far back as 5000 years ago in India and China, but ginger’s diversity means its specific origins are somewhat difficult to pinpoint.
The spices of pumpkin spice are diverse, each with a unique history, but they have still managed to come together in the past century to define our flavors of fall and winter. Their cultural omnipresence is undeniable, and sometimes polarizing. Critics of the pumpkin-spice-everything movement seemingly take up arms every fall season, fighting in zealous opposition of pumpkin, but the seasonal battle has yet to conclude. Although I cannot convert the critics or supporters of the pumpkin spice movement, I do have a recipe that may be able to appease both parties.
My auntie Carol’s sweet potato pie has always been the household choice for enjoying autumnal flavor. It is sweet, rich and delightfully spiced. It is somewhat ironic that pumpkin spice goes into a pie that contains no pumpkin, but it’s a modification of the Southern staple that bridges the divide between pumpkin overload and the flavor of fall.
1 cup unsalted butter, frozen, cut into ½-inch pieces
8 tablespoons ice water
6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into approximately ½ inch pieces
2 cups white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste
1 cup evaporated milk
4 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
A pinch salt
1 ½ cups margarine
A pinch of nutmeg (optional)
Begin by making the crust. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl or food processor, combine the salt and flour. Add the cold butter to the mixture and pulse until the mixture has a texture similar to that of wet sand. Alternatively, if mixing by hand, cut together the butter and flour with a fork until there are some pebbles of butter remaining and the texture has reached that of wet sand.
Transfer the dough to a smooth, sizable work surface. Slowly add the ice water, periodically mixing by hand or with a bench scraper. You may not need to use all the water, so add it slowly. Be careful not to overwork the dough as it may result in a less tender final crust. Once the dough has reached a shaggy but cohesive texture, wrap in plastic wrap or place into an airtight container and move to the fridge until ready to use.
Next, move on to the pie filling. Place the sweet potatoes into a pot and add cold water until all the potatoes are submerged. Bring the water to a simmer over medium high heat, and cook until fork tender. Drain the sweet potatoes in a colander and leave them to cool, then transfer them to a large mixing bowl and mash. Add sugar, vanilla, evaporated milk, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, salt, and margarine to the mashed sweet potatoes, and stir until the mixture is homogeneous.
Then comes the assembly process. Remove the dough from the fridge and divide into two equal halves. Flour your rolling pin and surface. Roll each half into a roughly circular sheet, approximately 1/16 of an inch thick and slightly larger than a 9-inch pie plate.
Drape a sheet of dough into each of your two ungreased pie dishes. Lift, drop, and press the dough so that it lines the walls and corners of the dishes. Trim excess dough from the edges and crimp, or press the dough’s edges into a pattern if desired. Dock or poke holes in the bottom of the dough with a fork or toothpick to prevent it from rising in the oven, then par-bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until the edges of the crust have turned a light blonde color.
Evenly divide the filling between the two prepared pie dishes and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the surface of the pie has darkened slightly and the crust is golden brown. Carefully remove the pies from the oven and let them cool completely. If desired, sprinkle nutmeg atop the pie as a garnish. Cut a slice and enjoy!
This is the fiftieth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
It is difficult not to derive a certain nostalgia from the last dish I made at home. Reminiscent of a fleeting moment, it whispers a reminder of summer’s finality. For me, it is a meal that is characterized not entirely by flavor, but by the company in the kitchen. A recipe rightly prepared in an organized symphony of the sizzling of fish and the mother-daughter banter over the adequate amount of sriracha.
There is a distinct spirit of summer communicated through this dish. And so, I share this recipe with indescribable urgency as the influx of pumpkin spice begins to overwhelm the aisles of Trader Joe’s. It is in insistence to grasp the vanishing moment by your taste buds, to seize the peaches off of the shelves before it is too late. My recommendation is not to regard the calendar, but rather, to devour the last bite of August—even if it is already October.
Living on Cape Cod requires a tolerance for seafood. Ironically, I am a recent addition to the fish-eating crowd. What I’ve learned from each and every tourist-grab on the corner of this and that beach is the gravity of spices when it comes to preparation. Most of all, I can affirm—from personal experience—that wrapping seafood in a tortilla can persuade even the biggest fish skeptics.
This fish taco recipe captures robust flavors in an impeccable pairing of textures. Blackened fish, peach salsa, and a drizzle of sriracha aioli compose an effortless unity of sweet, savory, and spicy that insists on your indulgence.
For Fish Tacos:
1 1/2 lbs thick-cut fish (options include cod, halibut, mahi-mahi, or grouper)
In order to serve the fish hot off the stove, I recommend preparing the toppings first. To make the salsa, combine the peach, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, olive oil, and lime juice in a bowl. Mix the ingredients well and season to taste with salt. Then, cover and chill the salsa until ready to serve. Mango can also function as a substitute for the peach; its sweetness will also add balance to the spice of the jalapeño and sriracha aioli.
Next, place the shredded red cabbage, spinach leaves, scallions, and cherry tomatoes into small serving bowls to be set aside for additional toppings. For the sriracha aioli, mix the mayonnaise, lime juice, and sriracha together in a small bowl. The mayonnaise mellows the heat of the sriracha, and the amount you use can be adjusted to your spice preference. The lime adds flavor while liquifying the consistency of the thick mayonnaise, allowing the aioli to be lightly drizzled onto your taco.
Cut your choice of fish into large, finger-length chunks to allow for more spice coverage, faster cooking, and an easier fit for the tacos. I prefer grouper, but any thick-cut fish, such as cod, halibut, or mahi-mahi will work. Once cut, generously coat all sides of the fish with the blackened seasoning and set aside. The spice blend can be easily store-bought or quickly-prepared in the combination of paprika, onion powder, sea salt, garlic powder, black pepper, cumin, chili pepper, cayenne pepper, and adobo seasoning.
In a large skillet, preferably cast iron, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Lightly swirl the olive oil to evenly coat the bottom of the skillet. As the olive oil starts to sizzle, place the fish in the skillet, and cook each piece for approximately 3 minutes per side or until the fish is completely cooked and significantly charred on the edges.
While the fish is cooking, heat the tortillas in a non-stick skillet until warm and browning on the edges. Take the tortillas and fish off of the stove and place them on separate serving platters. Allow your guests to create the tacos to their liking, adding the peach salsa, fresh-cut produce, and spicy aioli as toppings and enjoy!
This is the forty-ninth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
Since moving back to school, I’ve missed my family’s home-cooked meals—nothing beats my mom’s and grandma’s delicious dinners. In particular, I miss our traditional Guatemalan staples: tortillas, beans, rice, and some form of cooked plantains. A perfect mix of salty, sweet, and savory, these ingredients pair well together, creating a hearty, satisfying food experience. When I was home, I would sometimes get bored of eating the same traditional side dishes with the same meals, but what can I say—distance really does make the heart grow fonder. In fact, I recently started craving the foods I would’ve sighed at a month ago. I miss my grandmother’s platanos, or lightly fried plantains, the most. Sticky, buttery, indulgent, these golden-brown delights are a comfort food my entire family reaches for at the dinner table. With their light, natural sweetness, platanos complement a rich meal and always make dinner a bit more interesting.
Plantains may just look like strange, gigantic, starchy green bananas (I will admit, I thought this as a kid), but they are actually quite versatile, easy to cook with, and tasty. They are beloved in many cultures, especially in the Latin American community. In fact, plantains are so common that they are always a part of an authentic Latin American dinner in some way, ranging from Puerto Rican and Dominican deep-fried tostones to the deliciously sweet, caramelized plantains in my family’s dessert recipes.
As I have learned from my grandma, there are countless recipes for cooking them depending on their ripeness: you can crisp them up or cook them until soft and chewy, have sweet ones with a sprinkling of sugar, or add a dash of sea-salt for homemade snackable plantain chips. The possibilities are endless, fun, and absolutely scrumptious! I am sharing this particular recipe for fried sweet plantains because it is the recipe we enjoy most frequently at home. Plus, it is a warm, comforting, homey dish perfect for the colder months we are now entering. Ultimately, platanos are a great recipe to make when you are pressed for time and need to whip up something fairly quickly. Their unique, customizable, salty-sweet flavor will be pleasing to all!
2 plantains, yellowish and ripe, sliced
¼ cup of vegetable or canola oil (approximately enough to cover half of the plantain slices)
A dash of salt, and/or sugar
Start by placing a medium-sized pan on the stove at medium heat. Add your oil of choice, and heat the oil until it is just about to bubble. Because you are lightly frying as opposed to deep-frying the plantains, you don’t need a ton of oil—just enough to generously coat the bottom of the pan.
As the oil heats up, slice the plantains sideways, across their width. This is similar to cutting a banana into circular pieces to make banana chips/coins. For softer, mushier platanos, slice the plantains into thick pieces. For crispy, crunchy platanos, make the pieces a bit thinner.
Next, add a few of the sliced plantains to the hot oil. Don’t add too many to the pan at once, or else you may accidentally burn them. After a couple of minutes, the plantains should turn a golden-brown or caramel color. When this happens, flip the plantains over and cook the other side. Do this until there are no more sliced plantain pieces left.
Once both sides are amber colored, they have been fried to perfection and are ready to be taken out. Use a spatula or slotted spoon to remove the platanos from the pan and place them on a plate covered with paper towels. This step is important because the paper towels will soak up any excess oil. Make sure to spread the platanos out when placing them on the plate. In my experience, this will prevent the platanos from sticking together or forming a clump. Pat the platanos dry, add a dash of salt or sugar, and serve while hot!
For an extra finishing touch, serve the platanos with sour cream mixed with sugar, an extra sprinkling of salt, or even a drizzle of honey! Each combination adds an exciting new element of flavor to the platanos. However, they are also just as delicious on their own! This recipe feeds about 4 people, so grab a handful before they are gone!
This is the forty-eighth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
Melt-in-your-mouth, flakey salmon over a bed of warm quinoa and kale—this delicious dinner is an easy go-to whenever you are craving something fresh! I love seafood in all its shapes and forms, whether cooked fish, sushi, or shellfish. At home, we eat A LOT of salmon, because it is easy to find and goes well with so many flavors. My family even has a binder dedicated to our favorite seafood meals, filled with lots of salmon-based recipes, of course.
I come from a family of great chefs, and we all love to help each other out. This is part of what makes our family meals fun and tasty! Growing up, my cousins and I would always hang out in the kitchen, stirring pots or peeling potatoes, whether it was at my grandparents’ house, aunt’s and uncle’s, or my own.
Over quarantine, I got even more into cooking. Before, I always loved helping in the kitchen with my parents or grandma, but I never really took charge and cooked meals on my own. So, I decided to start. I began offering to make dinner for my family most nights, following whatever recipe my mom would leave out for dinner that evening. My parents were thrilled to have someone else do the cooking. And, I came to love this part of the day: playing music in the background, sautéeing, sizzling, and mixing whatever was on the menu for that night. I’ve found that cooking allows me to step back from the craziness of my day, and take time for myself—something I never really do.
As the weeks went on, I learned how to chop quicker, season better, and became more comfortable in the kitchen. I even decided to make a food Instagram to showcase my new found passion to friends and family. I started following other food blogs and spent my time scrolling through artsy food pictures, finding new recipes to try: quick breakfast foods, baked goods, snacks, and full meals. Even though we have a variety of recipes in our binders and cookbooks, it is always nice to change things up. I wanted to expand beyond them and loved finding new things to try, especially because we were not eating out as much.
This recipe was inspired by a food Instagram post of a summery salmon dish with a citrus sauce over rice. One night for dinner, I put my own spin on it with ingredients we already had in our house. It is so simple but so delicious that it immediately became a repeat in the Vuono household.
This recipe serves 4.
4 skin-on salmon fillets
1 can of chickpeas
2 cup quinoa
4 cups water
1 tsp chili powder
1 bag of organic chopped kale
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Lemon Citrus Salt:
1/2 cup white wine
1 shallot, minced
1 cup butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 lemon, juiced
First, cook the quinoa. To do this, place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, rinse thoroughly under cool water, and drain. Heat 3 teaspoons of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil becomes hot, toast the quinoa in the pan for about 2 minutes. Make sure to stir the quinoa constantly as you do this! Add the water and a pinch of salt, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan with a lid, and cook for 15-20 minutes. With the lid still on, remove the pot from heat, and let the quinoa rest for 5 minutes. Then, remove the lid and gently fluff the quinoa with a fork. Add the chickpeas to the quinoa and mix. Place the lid on top to keep the mixture warm.
Now, sauté the onions and kale. To do this, peel and finely chop the onions. In a frying pan over medium-high heat, warm 1-2 tsp olive oil. Add the onions, salt, pepper, and chili powder to the pan and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Stir this mixture occasionally. Add in the kale, and cook for 1-2 minutes or until wilted. Place the saute on a plate, cover, and set aside.
Next, cook the salmon. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel and season generously with salt and pepper. Over medium heat, in a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the salmon skin side down, and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the skin is crisp. Turn the salmon over and continue cooking for 2-4 minutes, or until the flesh is opaque and flaky.
Next, make the sauce. I found this lemon citrus sauce recipe from Food. In a small saucepan, heat up the wine and minced shallots. Bring to a boil and reduce over medium-high heat. Only 2 tablespoons of liquid should remain. Lower the heat and whisk in the butter, a few pieces at a time. Continue whisking until the sauce is smooth. Add the cream and lemon juice while continuously mixing the sauce. Place the top on the saucepan until serving time so that it stays warm.
Lastly, transfer the kale mixture to a bowl, topping it off with the quinoa-chickpea mixture and salmon. Dizzle as much sauce as you’d like, and serve!
This is the forty-seventh installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
Sitting at my desk in my home in Miami, Florida I reminisce about college, wishing that I was on campus in Boston. The past few days I’ve been missing my friends who went back to campus and having major FOMO (fear of missing out). I also miss the independence I have in Boston as I find myself doing so many chores and contributing to the wellbeing of my whole family. This is something that I am not used to doing, because I am usually only home for short periods of time, during which my family usually spoils me. Now, I find myself having to ask permission when I go places, cooking meals for the whole family, and barely leaving the house because of COVID-19.
To be completely honest with you, other than my friends, what I long for the most is my trips to Wegmans, Oath, Amelia’s Taqueria, and Sweetgreen. These trips were changes to my daily routine that I looked forward to all week when I was in Chestnut Hill; they were a chance to get away from campus and to enjoy something different from dining hall food. That is not to say there’s anything wrong with BC Dining’s food, only that it just gets boring after a while.
In particular, I’ve been really craving a tasty and fresh Sweetgreen salad. Tragically, there are no Sweetgreen locations in all of Florida. So, I had to get creative and invent my own rendition of one of my favorite fall seasonal salads from Sweetgreen: the Harvest Bowl. The main vegetables in this salad are kale and sweet potatoes. To be honest, I’m not usually a fan of kale’s acidic flavor, but in this salad, it works very well, because it compliments the tanginess and fruitiness of the other ingredients. This recipe satisfied my craving, and for a moment, made me feel like I was back on campus in Boston.
1 bag of kale (about 4 cups)
3 chicken breasts
1 cup of wild rice
2 sweet potatoes
2 red apples
½ cup of sliced almonds
½ cup of crumbled goat cheese
¼ cup of olive oil
2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
2 tsp of dijon mustard
1 tsp of honey
½ tsp of salt
¼ tsp of ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium pot with a lid, boil 1 cup of water over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the wild rice and a pinch of salt. Cover the pot with a lid, and reduce the heat to low. Cook the rice for about 45 minutes or until it absorbs all the water. After, fluff the rice with a fork. Next, remove from the heat and cover the rice for an extra 5 minutes so that it steams.
Next, peel the skins off the sweet potatoes. With a sharp knife and a cutting board, slice the sweet potatoes into thin pieces about ¼ inch wide and 1 inch long. Place the sweet potato pieces on a greased baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place these in the preheated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Flip the pieces over, and leave in the oven for 7 to 8 more minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
While the sweet potatoes are in the oven, prepare your apples. If you do not like apple skin, you can peel them first, but this is not necessary. Then, slice the apples into pieces similar in size to the sweet potatoes, ¼ inch wide and 1 inch long.
In a medium-sized pan on medium heat, grill the chicken breast until fully cooked. This usually takes roughly 5 minutes per side, but the cooking time may vary depending on the size and thickness of the chicken breast. When the chicken is fully cooked, the juices that come out when you cut into it will be clear. If the juices are pinkish, the chicken needs to be cooked for a little longer. Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the heat and place it on the cutting board. Dice the chicken into small cubes that are about the size of your thumb nail.
While the chicken breasts are grilling, roast the sliced almonds. To do this, place the sliced almonds on a small pan over low heat. After about 30 seconds, flip over the slices of almonds. Repeat this step until the sliced almonds turn into a lightish brown color. Beware: pay close attention to them because they burn extremely easily! Roasting the almonds is completely optional; they can be added to the harvest bowl raw or even be omitted.
In a large serving bowl, combine the kale, grilled chicken, wild rice, roasted sweet potato pieces, sliced apples, sliced almonds, and crumbled goat cheese.
To make the dressing, in a small bowl, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, salt, and pepper. Using a fork, mix these ingredients together until the dressing looks like one liquid with no division between the balsamic vinegar and the olive oil. Pour this dressing onto the large serving bowl and use salad serving utensils to mix everything together. Voila! You just made a Sweetgreen salad at home!
This recipe serves about 4 people. Leftovers can be saved in the refrigerator for around 1 week. Avoid putting the dressing on the harvest bowl when storing it in the fridge.
This is the forty-sixth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
Loved by kids and adults alike, buttered noodles are a timeless, homey classic. From the gooey, melty cheese to the perfectly cooked pasta, this simple dish is the perfect comfort food for all. I mean, who doesn’t love cheesy, buttery pasta?
It is no wonder why there are many versions of this iconic dish in different cultures. Coming from an Italian family, cacio e pepe is what my family likes to call our preferred version of buttered noodles. Whether we are in a rush or sitting down for a Sunday night pasta dinner party with the whole family, cacio e pepe is a tasty, satiating dish that we always welcome. I remember my excitement when my Nonna would whip up this decadent meal for me after a busy day of playing outside and helping my Nonno in his vegetable garden in the backyard. This dish also brings up fond childhood memories for my dad—he recalls coming home from school and seeing his favorite warm meal prepared with love by his mom, waiting on the kitchen table, ready to be enjoyed. This dish is a nostalgic staple for generations in our family, like in most Italian households. It is simple enough for a kid’s pallet but is still rich, savory, and satisfying every time—perhaps some would even say, the culinary equivalent of a warm hug from a loved one.
Cacio e Pepe is similar to pasta in Bianco or buttered noodles. It is an ancient Italian dish dating all the way back to the Roman Empire. Legend has it that this recipe started as an easy, practical food for the shepherds because it was durable, easy to carry, did not take long to prepare, and did not spoil quickly. As the name, which translates to “cheese and pepper,” implies, cacio e pepe is a simple dish. With just two main ingredients prepared carefully with the right cooking technique make this dish so delicious. While the recipe can vary from region to region, I’m sharing my dad’s recipe, which he learned from his northern Italian parents. No matter which recipe you follow, high-quality Italian ingredients are a must. Authentic to the style of the Romans, an abundance of freshly ground black pepper and imported grated cheese are critical to achieving the great flavor. Together, with the pepper, cheese, and pasta, the high-quality elements with bold flavors combine to form a harmonious, hearty meal.
1 lb of pasta, any of your choosing
½ – ¾ stick of butter
2 cups of pasta water
Approximately ½ cup 2% milk
Approximately ½ cup cheese, freshly grated, as desired
Salt and pepper, to taste, but heavy on the pepper
**It is also important to have a large, heavy saucepan for the best results; it will distribute heat gradually and evenly without burning the ingredients.
Start by boiling a pot of water over medium heat. The water should be well salted, with at least one teaspoon. Once the water is boiling, add your pasta of choice. A rough-surfaced pasta is more desirable, as it can hold more of the sauce, but any type works for this versatile dish. Traditionally, tonnarelli is used, but long spaghetti works well too. Bow ties and shells can also be good for adhering to the smooth, creamy sauce. Cook the pasta over medium heat for approximately 6 minutes. Be sure to not overcook the pasta—you want it to be al dente, so it is okay to turn the heat off a bit prematurely while it still feels a bit hard. It should have a tender “bite” or snap when you are trying it. Once the pasta is cooked to perfection, set the pasta aside and save at least two cups of the pasta water.
In your heavy saucepan, prepare the sauce—the star of the dish. Start by cutting the butter into chunks and placing the pieces in the saucepan under low heat. You do not want the butter to burn or brown the butter—just lightly melt it. Add the pepper to the butter as it melts. Next, add the milk. Finally, add the cheese. Emulsify it slowly with a couple of ladles of pasta water, and mix it all together. Be careful when adding the milk to the sauce as it can easily overheat and curdle, causing the fats to separate from the water. Use this technique when making the sauce so that it becomes silky and smooth and has the proper consistency: Have the heat on a light simmer and gently stir the components together. Then, slowly add some high-quality grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.
Once the sauce is light yet rich, it is ready. Turn off the heat, add the pasta to the sauce, and toss. Make sure to evenly coat the pasta. You can vary the ratios of cheese and pepper to your liking, but be sure to finish off the dish with lots of black pepper for serving; it should be visibly seen in the pasta. Ѐ finito! Buon appetito!
This is the forty-fifth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
SIZZLE! SIZZLE! SIZZLE! When I was young, I often came home from school to this sound. I’d immediately run to the kitchen to see what my mom or dad was making. Most days, someone was preparing a curry; the sizzle I’d hear was the onions browning in the pan. As a child—and still today—I loved curry. However, because I ate curries practically every day, the excitement I felt wore off after a while. Every so often, I would hear something else: the sizzle of green chillies being deep fried. On those days, my dad would be making one of my favorite snacks, chilli bajjis.
Chilli bajjis are incredibly spicy but delicious deep fried green chillies—an Indian fritter of sorts. Eaten as a tea time snack or sold by street vendors in India, chilli bajjis are a staple of South Indian cuisine. While the first bite of the chilli bajji is extremely crunchy, the second bite is when the spice really kicks in. It feels like your mouth is on fire. Your eyes may even begin to water. You continue eating the bajiis anyways; it’s that delicious. The next bite is surprisingly refreshing. That’s when you finally taste the onion filling and its hint of red chilli powder and lemon juice.
Choosing the correct chilli for this snack is very important. In India, people tend to use the spiciest chilli they can get their hands on. Unfortunately, these chillies are not sold in regular American grocery stores. Instead, people usually buy them from specialized Indian supermarkets. When I had a chilli bajji in India for the first time, I was shocked by the sheer amount of spice. My eyes watered as I ate, but it was so delicious that I had to finish it all. As I’ve gotten older, I have become more accustomed to the spiciness of these chillies and react more quietly to it. For those with a lower spice tolerance, eating the chilli bajjis with some sort of tamarind sauce or chutney reduces some of the spiciness of the snack. Some people go so far as to use normal chillies that can be found in any American grocery store.
10-12 medium sized green chillies
4-6 cups vegetable oil for deep frying
2 cup besan flour
⅔ cup water
2 tsp. baking powder or baking soda
2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. red chilli powder
1 medium yellow onion
First, clean the chillies by running them under warm water. Use a paper towel to pat them down, making sure that they are completely dry. With a sharp knife, make one long slit down the length of the chilli. When doing this, make sure that you do not accidentally cut the chilli in half. This step is important, because it will allow you to add a filling into the chillies after they are fried.
Next, make the batter that you will dip the chillies in before frying them. To do this, mix the besan flour, baking powder or baking soda, salt, 3 teaspoons of red chilli powder, and water together until all the ingredients are well combined. This should form a batter that is similar in consistency to pancake batter. If the batter is too thin, add some more besan flour; if it is too thick, add a little bit of water.
Prepare to deep fry the chillies. Add the vegetable oil to a large pot and heat it on medium flame. To test the temperature of the oil, place a drop of the batter in the oil. You will know that the oil is hot enough to use when the batter rises to the top and begins to sizzle. Dip a chilli in the batter, make suring that it is evenly coated. Gently place the chilli in the pot of hot oil and fry for 3-5 minutes or until it has a nice golden-brown color. Repeat this process for the rest of the chillies. Set the deep fried chillies aside so that they can cool as you proceed to the next step. You can either dispose of the oil or save it for your next deep-fried dish!
Chop the yellow onion into small pieces. In a small mixing bowl, combine the onions with the remaining teaspoon of red chilli powder. Squeeze half of a lemon into the onion mixture and combine well.
Finally, add 1-2 spoonfuls of the onion mixture into the slit of the fried chillies; make sure that the onion mixture is spread evenly throughout the slit of the chilli. This recipe should be served right away, and it tastes even better when eaten with tamarind sauce or chutney. Enjoy!
This is the forty-fourth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
Vuono Sunday brunches have always been the highlight of my week. My family and I all love to cook, and ever since I started fourth grade, we have kept up with this tradition almost every other weekend. Most of my dad’s side of the family lives nearby, so we all gather at our house for Sunday mornings full of great food and fun. While the rest of the family arrives by 11 a.m., our busy morning begins at 9:30, with Mom preheating the oven, Dad chopping the ingredients, and my brother, Ryan, and I running down after just waking up to help start the feast.
Our menu is pretty consistent; we always have mouth watering turkey sausage, fluffy scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, hot waffles or pancakes, and, of course, my favorite: the incredible veggie quiche. Our tasks are divided between the four of us: Dad sizzles up the sausage and eggs; Ryan whisks away at the batter; Mom cuts the fruit and jumps up to flip the pancakes or waffles. In the last few years, I’ve mastered the quiche.
Our brunch tradition truly encapsulates our family’s shared love for cooking. My brother and I have always loved helping out in the kitchen, but now we are actually capable of cooking by ourselves. I cherish this family time in the kitchen, catching up on our week, as all our busy lives move in so many different directions each day. And to top it off, we get to share an amazing, home-cooked meal with my cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
The veggie quiche, although just one part of our brunch feast, is my favorite aspect and the one I’ve taken over the last few years. Warm out of the oven with a crisp golden crust, every forkful of this veggie quiche is creamy, soft, and delicious!
3 large eggs
1 ½ cup of milk
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 ½ cup sliced cremini mushrooms
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped yellow squash
1 cup chopped zucchini
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ frozen pie shell (I like Wholly Wholesome 9” Organic Pie Shell)
First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and remove the pie crust from the freezer. You also can make the pie crust from scratch, but I’ve found that the Wholly Wholesome crust is delish (and a whole lot easier…don’t worry, I won’t tell)! You can also check out an easy pie crust recipe here. Set the pie crust aside and prepare the vegetables.
A variety of veggies is best, and this is one of my favorite combos. Finely chop the mushrooms, bell pepper, squash, and zucchini. Next, place a medium pan on the stove on medium heat.. Add the olive oil and the vegetables to the pan and sauté until the vegetables are softened and brown. This step typically takes 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
Next, grate approximately 1 cup of Parmesan cheese over a bowl. To prepare the custard filling, use a whisk to thoroughly combine the eggs, milk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
Now it’s time to assemble the quiche! Place the pie crust on a pie plate and transfer the vegetables to the crust. Add the cheese, spreading it out evenly across the crust. Pour the egg mixture into the pie crust, until it is filled to the brim. Be careful not to over-pour to prevent overflowing and a big mess!
Carefully transfer the cooking tray to the oven. Bake the quiches for approximately 35-40 minutes. To see if the quiches are cooked, insert a toothpick into the center; when the quiche is ready, the toothpick should come out clean. Let the quiches cool for at least 10 minutes before eating. Slice the quiche into wedges for the whole family, and serve!
This is the forty-third installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
Milanesas de Pollo (Chicken alla Milanese) is the perfect representation of my mixed Italian and Argentinian heritage. Though a simple breaded chicken, this dish has so much to offer. It has been a staple of my childhood. While many children in the United States grow up eating chicken tenders, I grew up on Milanesas de Pollo, or Chicken alla Milanese. Since my family is part Italian and Argentinian, this meal is one that is found in both sides of my heritage. They have similar cooking processes but are served in different forms.
Commonly known as chicken parmigiana, Italian Chicken alla Milanese is typically served covered in a marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese and accompanied by a side of pasta.The phrase alla milanese means cooked in the style of Milan, which happens to be the birthplace of my grandfather. However, there is a historical controversy on the origins of the purportedly Italian dish. The Austrians believe that they were indeed the founders of the dish, with their schnitzel, but the northern Italians claim that the Austrians plagiarized it from them.
The Argentinian Milanesa is considered the unofficial national dish of the country. Argentines love eating anything with meat, in any shape or form. When Italians immigrated to Argentina and introduced their alla milanese recipes, Argentinians were soon delighted by the treasure. They began to develop their own versions of the dish – a slice of ham and fried egg on top, and one of the most popular variations being Sanguich alla Milanga. Sanguich alla Milanga is a french baguette sandwich filled with a Milanesa of any selection of meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Another popular Argentinian play on the dish is to eat it with puré de papa – mashed potatoes.
In my family, milanesas are the perfect solution to any missing meal at a family gathering. While this dish is sure to please any of the appetites, it is also quite simple to make and does not require much creativity. It is extremely versatile and can be eaten in many different scenarios. It makes the perfect main course at dinner, cold snack at the beach, base for a sandwich, or star of a kid’s boxed lunch.
1 package of chicken breasts (about 4 pieces)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp of chopped parsley
½ tsp of salt
⅛ tsp black ground pepper
3 cups bread crumbs (preferably Panko)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover a baking tray with aluminum foil and spray the foil with oil to avoid sticking.
Cut the chicken breast in half lengthwise. To do this, place the chicken breast on the cutting board with the smoothest side facing down. Place the palm of your non-cutting hand on top of the chicken breast. Use a sharp knife to slice horizontally through the side of the chicken breast until you have two separate thin pieces. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the sliced pieces of chicken breast, and use a meat pounder to smash the chicken so that each piece becomes fully tenderized. If you do not have a meat pounder, you can use any tool that resembles this tool. For example, I used the back of a lemon squeezer. This step is critical so that the chicken does not become dry when it is being cooked.
Once all the pieces of chicken are tenderized, remove the plastic wrap and season by massaging each piece of chicken with garlic and parsley and sprinkling salt and pepper to taste.
Crack the eggs into a deep plate. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and ⅛ teaspoon of pepper to the eggs while whisking them. Pour the bread crumbs into a separate large deep plate.
Now the assembly process begins. First, dip a piece of seasoned chicken into the whisked eggs. Flip the chicken piece as you are dipping it into the whisked eggs to ensure that the piece of chicken is evenly coated. Next, use a fork to lift up the chicken, and place it onto the plate with the bread crumbs. Like the eggs, make sure that the chicken piece is evenly coated in the bread crumbs. This may require you to get your hands dirty by pressing the crumbs to stick onto the chicken. Place the pieces of breaded chicken onto the prepared baking tray. Spray them with oil for further crunchiness, and place the tray into the oven for 30 minutes or until the corners are golden brown.
These milanesas are accompanied well with any condiment and any side of your choice or even be put into a sandwich. My go to condiment choice is Dijon mustard with a little bit of mayonnaise, and my go-to side dish is a sweet potato puree. Enjoy!