Friday, April 17, 2009

Little Italy - oh and a new puppy!

Meet Addy May!
About a month ago I finally convinced my husband that we needed to adopt a puppy. Not just any puppy. A black, female, pug puppy . This was no small feat! It took two years of begging, pleading, negotiating, bribing, I even thought about blackmail. He always said no. We already have an 8 year old pug named Zona who is King of the house. We travel too much to take care of puppy. We have a new(ish) house that a puppy would destroy. They're too much work. I mean, he had some good arguments.

Then one magical day. A Thursday to be exact. A pug rescue group posted a picture of this adorable, perfect, healthy female pug puppy. She needed me! I could see it in her eyes. She was calling to me! I quickly emailed Andy, telling him, "She needs a home." He emailed back, "Cute."

I started to send messages to the rescue group telling them how perfect I was for this puppy. Well, they started as messages and developed into full fledged essays. I pleaded my case to the foster mom. And then I pleaded my case to my husband. Maybe I just wore him down. Or maybe the picture of this adorable puppy called to him also. But finally he said, "We can go look at her."

After we passed a home inspection, bought the entire puppy section at our local pet store, we drove out to Omaha to meet and adopt the puppy. We named her Addy. Addy May.

She's the most perfect puppy ever! (And she loves me!) She's not destroying the house. We realized we really don't travel THAT much. And Zona's losing weight because he has someone to play with and go on walks with. Andy has even professed his love for the newest member of the family and confessed that he is, in fact, happy we adopted her.

Shortly after we adopted her, I took off in a jet plane with my mom for San Jose, CA to visit my brother, leaving my new puppy with Andy and Zona. Despite missing my puppy, I had so much fun with my family! We walked through a red wood forest, strolled the Santa Cruz pier, and made the short drive to San Francisco to ride the trolleys, shop in the Haight-Ashbury district, and of course, eat in North Beach (Little Italy).

When I think of North Beach I think of Trattoria Contadina. A delicous Italian bistro on the corner of Union and Mason. It's one block off the beaten path. And it's an intense hike uphill from the wharf. And I mean UPHILL! But it's heaven on a plate and worth every bead of sweat you work up by the time you arrive. This ristorante is so good, you'll need a kleenex to dab the tears that will fall as you bite into their expertly prepared dishes. I did. I started with a Salad Caprese. The tomatoes weren't in season, but I looked past it as the pesto and basil and fresh mozzarella on top of fresh greens were so flavorful.

I've had the pleasure of eating at Trattoria Contadina three times. I always order one of the specials. This time I ordered Spinach Fettuccine with Sea Scallops and Mushrooms in a Basil Cream Sauce. I ate every bite and proceeded to plan how I would recreate this dish when I returned home.

I started with some shitake mushrooms. Stemmed and chopped into small strips. I reserved the stems for stock or the cream of asapargus soup I've been planning on making one of these days.

Then I prepped some shallots.

Next, I made a basil chiffonade by stacking the leaves, rolling it into a cigar and slicing very thin strips.

The last thing to prep are the scallops. I bring them out of the fridge, blot them dry and check them over to remove the thick muscle that sometimes is overlooked by the monger. These scallops were dry frozen which makes me happy because I know they're not water logged and will taste fresher. Well, as fresh as any seafood can really taste in land locked Nebraska. I slice the scallops in half horizontally before gently searing them.

Spinach Fettuccine with Sea Scallops and Shitake Mushrooms in a Basil White Wine Cream Sauce

1 box Spinach Fettuccine
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Garlic, minced (Don't use garlic out of a jar. And use as much fresh garlic as you can stand! I love it!)
About 2 Shallots finely chopped
Shitake Mushrooms (you decide how many, stemmed and sliced into thin strips) Can also use Cremini Mushrooms if Shitakes are unavailable.
Sea Scallops (you decide how many) blotted dry, sliced in half horizontally
Dry White Wine (I used 1/2 c. at least - you be the judge)
1/2 c. to 1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream (I rarely measure, just add until it looks good and taste delicious.)
Salt and Pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan (let's say 1 cup)

After prepping my shallots, mushrooms, and scallops I bring large pot of water to a roaring boil and generously salt it with Kosher salt. Add pasta and cook according to directions on box.

While waiting for the pasta to boil, I heat enough olive oil over medium heat to cover the bottom of a large dutch oven. Add shallots and garlic. Once they begin to soften I add the mushrooms and let them start to brown. Remove shallots and mushrooms from dutch oven. Increase heat to medium high. Add more olive oil if necessary. Season scallops with kosher salt and pepper and add to dutch oven. Cook 1-2 minutes on each side and remove from pan. They'll cook more later.

De glaze the pan with the white wine. (And pour yourself a glass - this is a must.) Let wine simmer for a few minutes letting the alcohol evaporate and the flavors concentrate. Scrape up all the brown yummy bits also known as fond up from the bottom of the pan. Add basil, reserving some for garnish. (Some people add their basil in the beginning of the cooking process, but I think it retains more flavor if it goes in towards the end. Plus then I have less of a chance to burn it, something I'm very good at.) Then add the cream. Sprinkle some Parmesan over the top and stir to combine. (By some Parm, I mean a handful. It's good stuff!) Taste for seasoning. Add some freshly ground pepper. Add salt if needed. (I needed it.) Let sauce simmer and slightly thicken. Add shallots, mushrooms, and scallops back to pan. Reduce heat to medium low.

Pour yourself one more glass of wine. (Hey! You deserve it! You've been working hard!)

Drain pasta and reserve a ladle full of starchy pasta water. (Just in case.) Add pasta to dutch oven. Coat pasta with sauce. If sauce is too thick, thin out with reserved pasta water. (Mine was fine and I ended up discarding the water.)

Serve in large pasta bowl. Sprinkle some Parmesan and basil on top and enjoy!

I thought this recipe was ALMOST as good as the dish I had at Trattoria Contadina.
It's definitely an indulgence!

Here's one more pic of my helper in the kitchen.
She's always by my side.
As Always, Happy Cooking!


  1. Too cute! And the dog's sweet too! Just kidding, that is one adorable pupster. Enjoy every second with her!

    Dinner looks real good too.

    I love California.

  2. She's a very sweet puppy! We spend a lot of time together as I work out of my living room as a music teacher.

    It's hard having my little big brother so far across the country, but its an awesome place to visit!

    We're headed to NYC in the fall. What are the must-eat places you'd recommend?

  3. Mmm... that basil looks good... Have you potted any of that yet? How is the gardening going?

  4. I haven't potted ANYTHING yet. I'm in a wheelchair this week and next! So, once I'm mobile and back on my legs I'll start planting. But I'm really tempted to do a few different types of basil. I also want to try the tomatoes that grow upside down. How's your garden going?