Saturday, December 9, 2017

12-9-17 Gemelli w artichoke hearts & bottoms

I had dinner all figured out. It was going to be my precious Patience’s favorite ingredients – artichoke hearts and peas.  Alas, not long into the preparations I discovered there were no peas in the freezer. What could I do? What goes with artichoke hearts... artichoke bottoms, which we happened to have in the freezer, and dinner was saved.


1.     Gemelli
2.     Frozen artichoke bottoms
3.     Artichoke hearts in water
4.     Leeks
5.     Garlic
6.     Celery
7.     Olive oil
8.     Fresh dill and dried tarragon
9.     Lemon juice
10. White wine
11. Butter
12. Pancetta diced
13. Red pepper flakes
14. Chicken broth – about 1/3 cup


Note – I’m describing the steps I took as I worked my way through this dish. The key is the ingredients, and how you use them is up to you.

Cook the pancetta, remove and set aside, and remove the grease from the pan.
Add olive oil to the pan and cook the leeks and celery until soft, and them add the garlic and continue cooking over low heat.  Add the chicken broth, artichoke bottoms and hearts, and red pepper flakes, plus a splash of wine, and cook covered  until the artichoke is totally defrosted and soft.  Add the herbs and about 1 tbsp of butter and cook uncovered to thicken the sauce.  Before the pasta is done, add the lemon juice and pancetta .

Add the pasta with some pasta water to the pan and mix well.


We both gave this a 10, easily.

Friday, December 8, 2017

12-8-17 Aglio Olio

The pasta gods have been good to me, granting me another night in pasta heaven.  Working on the outline for a Pasta Journal, I realized that for years I’ve been making Aglio Olio Crudo (oil and garlic uncooked) and not the traditional Aglio Olio. Tonight I decided to change that.


1.     Spaghetti
2.     Olive oil
3.     Garlic – 1large clove thinly sliced
4.     Butter –about 1 tbsp
5.     Red pepper flakes
6.     Parsley
7.     Salt and pepper
8.     Grating cheese


Cook the garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil until golden. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the butter, parsley, and the pasta and mix well. I added about a ¼ cup of pasta water and a few drizzles of olive oil.  Serve with a parsley garnish.


Of all the pasta dishes I prepare this is the most personal. It triggers immediate treasured memories of my parents and our extended family. If I were to be granted oneå last meal, it would be this, and I would depart with a smile on my face.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

12-7-17 Spaghetti with anchovies and Ciabatta crutons


If you like anchovies you will love this dish.

I was cooking for myself tonight, so I decided to try something that I know would not be a favorite of Patience.  She appreciates “anchovies light” and I’ve been anxious to try a little “anchovies heavy”.


1.     Spaghetti – linguine or angel hair could easily be substituted
2.     Olive oil
3.     Garlic – 1 large clove pressed
4.     Anchovies – 4 fillets finely chopped
5.     White wine – about 2-3 tablespoons
6.     Red Pepper flakes
7.     Fresh oregano and tarragon
8.     Salt and black pepper
9.     Ciabatta bread cut into bite sized cubes


Coat the bread in olive oil and toast on the stove top (or oven if you prefer). Set aside.
In a small bowl mix the anchovies, garlic and wine and cook in olive oil with the herbs and red pepper flakes until the achovies break down, in a skillet large enough to eventually accommodate the pasta.

Add the pasta to the skillet along with some pasta water and black pepper. and mix thoroughly. Serve with fresh herb garnish and the croutons.


If you love anchovies you will love this dish. All I can say is I loved it and can’t wait to do it again – the next time I’m alone.

With a sprinkling of salt, the croutons are a great snack with a glass of wine.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

12-6-17 Spaghetti w Leek, Zucchini, and Anchovies

This is a “refinement” on a dish I first prepared 2 years ago. (I think refinement sounds much better than variation.) I want to include it in a Pasta Journal I’m working on and thought I could improve on the original recipe by adding 2 ingredients, sundried tomatoes and pancetta.

1.     Olive oil
2.     Garlic- pressed
3.     Anchovy fillets – 3- finely chopped
4.     Pancetta
5.     Leek  white and light green part thinly sliced
6.     White wine
7.     Basil fresh or frozen
8.     3 sundried tomatoes coarsely chopped
9.     Tomato paste – 1 tablespoon
10. Salt and pepper
11. Spaghetti


Cook the pancetta and remove from the pan – set aside to drain. Mix the garlic and chopped anchovies with 1 tablespoon of white wine, then cook in the same pan, adding a little olive oil, until the anchovies dissolve.  Add the Leek , Zucchini, salt and pepper, and Basil and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to brown.  Turn down the heat, add a splash of wine, the sundried tomatoes, and the tomato paste, mixing thoroughly.

Add the pasta and the pancetta to the sauce, plus pasta water as needed and mix thoroughly.  Drizzle with olive oil and serve with grated Grana Padonna cheese.


I had a lot of misgivings about this the first time I made it…until I tasted it.  It turned out to be a winner.  I loved the rustic appearance and taste, the combination of Leek and Zucchini with the Anchovy base is incredible. The addition of the new ingredients made it even better.

NOTE – for all Anchovy haters – they add a richness to the flavor without an Anchovy taste.  Patience always tells me not to tell our guests when I use Anchovies in this way.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Gemelli with buttenut squash sauce


I could not remember what I had in mind when I purchased this package of pre-cut butternut squash from Midtown Market earlier this week, but decided it was time to put it to work tonight...with pasta, of course. Most of the recipes online call for roasting the squash, but I had little interest in doing that tonight.


1.     Gemelli pasta
2.     Butternut squash cut into ¾ “ pieces
3.     Onion and Garlic
4.     Bacon – coarsely chopped
5.     Olive oil
6.     Chicken broth
7.     Sweet vermouth
8.     Sundried tomatoes coarsely chopped
9.     Fresh sage finely chopped
10. Heavy whipping cream
11. Parmigiano cheese


I sort of made this up as I went along, deciding at the last minute to add the wine and the sundried tomatoes.

Cook the bacon until crisp, remove and drain, and pour the remaining fat from the skillet. Add a small amount of olive oil and prepare the onion and garlic.  Finely chop the squash in a food processor and add to the pan, along with a cup of chicken broth. Also add some finely chopped sage – about 2-3 leaves, a sprinkle of bacon bits, the sundried tomatoes, and a splash of sweet vermouth. Cover and simmer until the squash is soft.

Several minutes before the pasta is ready add the cream and about ¼ cup of cheese and stir well. Add the pasta and some pasta water and mix well. Serve with bacon garnish.


I had my doubts about this during the preparation, but they were immediately put to rest with the first taste. Patience, who has no problem telling me what she thinks about the dinner I serve her, loved it. We both agree it would be a good dish for company.

The next time I do this I will not be so lazy and will roast the squash. This dish will definitely be in the Pasta Journal.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

11-30-17 Angel Hair pasta with Cod


An earlier dish with a minor twist.


1.     Angel hair pasta
2.     Cherry tomatoes
3.     Cod fillets
4.     Olive oil
5.     Shallots and garlic
6.     Kalamata olives
7.     Fresh tarragon
8.     Sweet vermouth


Prepare the shallots and garlic in olive oil. Add the tomatoes, fresh herbs, a splash of wine, and the kalamata olives.  Cook uncovered for about 15-20 mins. To reduce the liquid. Add the cod and continue cooking until the fish is cooked and breaks apart with a fork.  Add the pasta and serve with a tarragon garnish.


I’ve served this before, but tonight added the Kalamata olives for a slight tweek to the flavor.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

11-29-17 Farfalle with green tomato sauce

A new pasta experience tonight

This was inspired by a recipe in the Italian food magazine called Gambero Rosso. The English edition has been discontinued but Italian edition is still in print. The truth is – the tomatoes are to be roasted, which I did, to the point of burning them. Patience saw the dejection on my face and suggested that I sauté them instead. Since we have an ample supply of green tomatoes I started over.


1.     Green tomatoes coarsely chopped (3)
2.     Olive oil
3.     Garlic & onion
4.     Fresh basil leaves – I used frozen basil leaves from last years crop)
5.     Farfalle pasta
6.     Red pepper flakes
7.     Romano Pecorino cheese
8.     Dry Vermouth
9.     Butter


Prepare the onion and garlic in olive oil. Add the tomatoes, ¼ cup of dry vermouth, basil, salt and pepper, and cover and cook over med-high heat for about 30 minutes until the tomatoes break down. With large fork mash the tomatoes to a creamy sauce, cover, and keep warm. Just before the pasta is ready I added a tablespoon of butter to the sauce while Patience was not looking, along with some of the pasta water.  Add the pasta and about ¼ cup of the grated cheese and mix well.


Without any garnish this is not an attractive looking dish. But looks are deceiving, and this was very good. The sauce was sweet, but not overpowering. We agreed there were a number of ingredients that could add to its appeal: bacon or pancetta, mushrooms, and kalamata olives, to name just a few. I was pleased to have a new ingredient at my disposal…the green tomato. I have looked at hundreds of pasta recipes and this was the first one I found for a sauce using  green tomatoes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

11-22-17 Angel Hair pasta with a creamy tomato-lobster sauce

So simple, but oh so good.

The inspiration for this dinner began when Patience pointed out that there was a healthy crop of Dill still in the porch garden.  Knowing it would be several days before we would run out of Thanksgiving leftovers I decided we needed pasta tonight.


1.     Angel hair pasta
2.     Onion and garlic
3.     Olive oil
4.     Del Monte diced tomatoes with basil and oregano
5.     Heavy whipping cream
6.     Basil and fresh dill
7.     Lobster meat (lump crab meat will also work.)


Prepare the onion and garlic in olive oil, cooking until soft, then add the diced tomatoes and the basil. After 5-10 minutes blend the sauce in a food processor or use a hand held processor, then add the lobster and some fresh dill and continue cooking over low heat. Several minutes before the pasta is ready stir in the cream.
Mix the sauce with the pasta and garnish with fresh dill.


Patience and I both gave this a ten-plus plus-plus. The sauce was light, with a gentle sweetness that comes with the Del Monte tomatoes. Fortunately there was enough sauce left over so we will be enjoying this again in the not so distant future.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Last Porch Pasta of the season?

Fettuccini with eggplant and greens

1.     Japanese Eggplants
2.      Mixed greens
3.     Olive oil
4.     Carrot thinly sliced
5.     Shallot
6.     Garlic
7.     Dry Sherry
8.     Fresh Oregano and Tarragon
9.     Sundried tomatoes
10. Al dente brand mushroom Fettuccini


Prepare the soffrito – shallots, carrots, celery, and garlic.  Add the eggplants and cook covered over low-medium heat.  After several minutes add a splash of dry Sherry and the fresh herbs, along with a few chopped sun dried tomatoes in oil.   Continue cooking while waiting for the pasta water to boil. Add the mixed greens and 1/3 cup of chicken broth about 10 minutes before the pasta is expected to be ready.  Add the pasta when ready and mix thoroughly.


This may be our last “porch pasta” for the season. The eggplant plant appears to be headed toward plant heaven after having a great season, and it looks like the greens will be joining it. The basil is done, but the tarragon, oregano, thyme, and rosemary look like they may be around a bit longer. The tomatoes are quickly becoming history, however we have a counter full of green ones we picked to save from the freeze.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

CONFLICTED….the armchair travel artist studio newletter #142


Oh how we suffer for who we are. Here I am in these “winding down” years, and I find myself caught up in this huge dilemma, torn between two opposing forces: the desire to retire to my recliner with books, pen, and paper, spending the day ruminating and generally doing nothing, and the never ending desire to go into the studio and create an epic body of work.

It’s an interesting dynamic. When I’m alone with my thoughts (that sounds better than ruminating.) my brain shifts into overdrive and begins to fill my head with ideas for new work with new subjects and different mediums. I envision one or more portfolios of paintings and drawings, pushing against the boundaries of my craft to become a better artist. It is so easy to do all of this in the comfort of my chair nestled in a quiet corner of our living room. From that chair I can do anything and everything. Unfortunately I can’t spend all day in this chair, so I have to find a way to act on all these brain-based aspirations I have, and the result is the Arm Chair Travel Artist!

Armed with a laptop computer and Google Street maps I have been traveling the world seeking inspiration for drawings and paintings. It’s been fun revisiting the streets I walked during my time in Bologna Italy seven years ago, but I’ve probably spent more time traipsing about the UK and the Netherlands.  I love the architectural differences in the various regions and cities, and for now Edinburgh is my favorite.  I’ve completed several in this series, and have several more in progress.

Maggie Dickson's  wc 12x18   Edinburgh

On the Water  wc  18x18  Amsterdam

The Bay Hotel  wc 12x15  Robin Hoods Bat UK

I finally have dates for the exhibit of my new clay prints at the Art Guild of Paducah. The show will run from Oct. 25th to Nov. 25th, with reception on November 3, from 5-7 at the AGP gallery at 115 Market Square.

The river portfolio exhibit is tentatively set to open on Janurary 11th at the River Discovery Center in Paducah. I will have more details later.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Eggplant, Mixed mushrooms and fresh tomato sauce

Sitting on the kitchen counter was a basket of Japanese eggplants and 4 ripe tomatoes, all from the porch garden, waiting to become tonight’s dinner. I had all day to think about how I would make that happen.


1.     Wild mushroom fettuccini (by al Dente)
2.     Japanese eggplants quartered lengthwise
3.     Mixed mushrooms
4.     Fresh tomatoes cut in half and grated on the coarse side of a hand grater, skins discarded
5.     Sundried tomatoes in oil, coarsely chopped
6.     Shallots
7.     Olive oil
8.     Garlic
9.     Fresh basil and tarragon
10. Mozzarella coarsely grated


Cook the shallots and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown. Add the tomatoes and herbs, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. In the meantime, heat olive oil in a separate skillet until hot, and cook the eggplant until golden brown and soft. Remove each piece as they are done and drain on a paper towel. Add the eggplants to the tomato sauce, along with the sundried tomatoes and continue cooking over low heat while the pasta is cooking. Add the pasta to the sauce and top with the mozzarella. You can do this in the serving dish or in the individual dishes.


The fresh tomatoes produce a sweet sauce (that you can’t get from canned tomatoes) that is enhanced by the sweetness of the eggplants. Both are tempered slightly by the sundried tomatoes. The mixed mushrooms add a satisfying texture to the dish.