The Happy Tummy

for the love of food

Category: dinner

Cooking on the Weekend

On free weekends I like to cook and cook and cook.

The end of summer is yes for butternut squash sage ravioli. I was a bit burnt out on scratch-making pasta, so I substituted wonton skins. Not bad, and less time consuming. Semolina flour helps dry them out a bit so they don’t stick to one another.

Warm beet salad also says end of summer to me – relatively light but still hearty. It’s like its got one foot in summer and one foot in fall. Straddling.

Grilled pork tenderloin, butternut squash ravioli in brown butter sage sauce, and caramelized beet salad with almonds, goat cheese, raw red onion and balsamic vinaigrette.

I charred some eggplant and red bell pepper while the pork tenderloin was going, removed the peels and blended them with some sauteed yellow onion and garlic clove. With a dollop of Greek yogurt in the middle, it made for an excellent dip with pita chips. It would also be a great sandwich spread, maybe with some cucumber, sprouts, avocado and hummus. I’ll have to try that later.

And because one can never have enough dips, heirloom tomato salsa with white onion, garlic, jalepeno and lime juice.

As summer winds down my bf’s parents find themselves with a bounty of yard-grown vegetables, particularly tomatoes. A classic caprese salad is one of my favorite ways to eat them. Try it with burrata instead of mozzarella (mozz was used here) for something super luscious. The basil comes from the herb garden.

Squash and zucchini are also in abundance in the back yard, and succotash is becoming one of my new favorites. The trick (well, a trick) is to add a teaspoon or two of finely chopped marjoram. It’s a flavor that makes people go, WTF is that? but in a good way.

Goes well with dill mashed potatoes and spice-rubbed pork tenderloin.

Three-Day Weekend

It’s always fun to have visitors at our out-of-the-way home, especially on a relaxed three-day weekend.

Frozen grapes are a fine way to cool wine without watering it down.

I don’t typically think to eat a hot dish for summer’s lunch, but this tortellini soup was surprisingly light and satisfying with an herby ricotta filling and scratch-made broth. The dough was scratch-made too.

The barbecue sauce on the babyback ribs had pasilla chiles and dried cranberries – smoky, sweet and tangy. I’m typically too lazy to make my own sauce, but this may become a trend.

Cheesy, chivey twice-baked potatoes are great friends with just about any barbecue dish.


We recently went to Jamie’s in Sacramento for the first time because Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, to which I am addicted, told us to. Here is what we had:

That’s a steak sandwich topped with onion rings. That’s a perfectly-cooked New York steak sandwich topped with crispy hot onion rings. Just giving you two sentences there, to choose from.

The special that day (one of many) was a mixed seafood grill served almost like cioppino – in a perfectly herbed tomato sauce, finished with a lash of heavy cream. The seafood: halibut, scallops, prawns and a generous heaping of crab.

Jamie’s is actually Jamie’s Broadway Grille, with an e, for extra points (no one is keeping track of those points). Regardless of its pedigreed name, Jamie’s has the dark, jolly feeling of a dive, and their drinks do not lie. They.Don’t.Lie.

Fettuccini with Summer Squash

I’ve been wanting to cook something like this for some time, so when I recently came into some garden-grown summery squash, I went for it, with gusto.

I made the pasta fresh, and sliced three different kinds of yellow gourds in a mandoline, expertly managing to not slice myself*. The veggies were par-boiled for a hot minute, then shocked in an ice bath. The simple sauce is minced garlic, white wine and heavy cream, reduced, and finished with lots of parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper.

They key to any good pasta dish, no matter how simple or elaborate, is to move the al dente pasta directly from from the salted boiling water to the simmering sauce. Sauté for some minutes, and the sauce will not only adhere much better but will also absorb into the pasta as it finishes cooking. Then you can impress your friends by fancily flip-tossing the pasta with the pan. Friends love to be impressed!

*The first time I used a mandoline I went to the hospital. It was icky.

This Pizza > That Pizza

My hermano and I recently dined at our local Patxi’s (don’t try, not worth the mouth-pain) Pizza. He gets his panties all in an uproar about deep-dish pizza; I do not. It looks pretty good here, though.

I continue to maintain that the world’s best pizza is Roundtable – it is,  literally, the last honest pizza. Countless friends and peers agree (approx. 4), and it’s become my go-to dining establishment whenever I touch down on American soil after an extended absence. It.Is.So.Fucking.Good. Even better when slathered in ranch.

I don’t understand New York-style pizza. It’s very floppy.

Salmon Pasta and a Spinach Salad

Creamy salmon pasta with peas and dill is for when you don’t mind eating something pretty fatty. It’s also fresh and delicious, so just think about that part, and not the other thing.

Spinach salad with freshly hulled strawberries, crispy bacon and poppyseed dressing is also excellent, and actually is a nice compliment to the salmon pasta. It can also become a meal of its own with the addition of some chopped hard-boiled egg.

I should also mention that the pasta is hollow. Hollow! It is thus more fun to eat.

It’s called perciatelli, and it’s great for cream sauces and thinner tomato sauces. The sauces adhere to it. Oh, how they adhere.

A Taco

Here it is: a taco.

There is a type of carne that comes from Richmond, California, that only my BF’s brother knows where to buy. I don’t get it often, but I seriously seriously love it. I think about it a lot.

We can generally agree that tacos are awesome, and come in infinite varieties. This one has mystery-best-in-the-world steak, shredded cabbage, radishes, onion, tomato, avocado, queso fresco and my favorite hot sauce, Tapatio. It was good, the way a taco should be.

As you can see, it’s also fun to eat tacos out on the patio.

In addition: The place mats are a gift from my boss in Shanghai. They’re by Jim Thompson, the celebrated American textile-ist who, after successfully revitalizing the Thai silk industry, disappeared in Malaysia.

Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

I’ve taken to barbecuing a lot on the weekends, because I figured out how to do it.

This chimichurri marinade, which I used as a sauce, is fresh, tangy and good as hell. I want to say it’s Argentinean? Probably.

It tastes awesome for dinner and then awesome again for lunch the next day, but as a sandwich.

I tried to do the thing where you parboil the potatoes, then smash them til they’re about a half-inch thick, and then crisp them up. That failed. Nonetheless, half-mashed potatoes + butter = yum. And garlicky haricots verts. That’s French for smallish green beans.

UPDATE: Made it again, but with grilled new potatoes.

Artichokes and Pizza

Making pizza at home is so super easy if you have two things: 1) store-bought dough and 2) a pizza stone. I got mine from Cost Plus World Market. Yeah!

Skip the tomato sauce and go with a thin spread of olive oil and minced garlic, then scatter dark caramelized onions evenly around the dough circle. Sprinkle grated mozzarella (or thin slices if you prefer), parmesan and crisped prosciutto bits, then layer with mandoline-sliced new red potatoes. You might want to blanch those in some salted water for a minute before topping the pizza with them. We didn’t, and they were…crispy. But whatever, it was soooo good, you guys! And fresh basil!

I’m trying to think if I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like artichokes. I probably have because of statistics, but I love ’em. Dipping sauces are also fun to make. I do mine with a bit of mayo, curry powder and/or lemon juice, salt and pepper. And they go great with The Greatest Drink in the World.

Many people are particular about their martinis, and I am one of them. I make mine the way my dad made his, every Friday night. This ritual was creatively known as The Friday Night Martini. He pours half a capful of dry vermouth over a handful of ice in a shaker, gives it a shake and dumps the extra. 1.5 to 2 ounces of gin are added to the vermouth-covered ice, given a healthy shake, and transferred to a glass. A plump olive is added, and lo. The Friday Night Martini.

Crab Feed

Did you ever do swim team in the summer, and the whole team would gather before a big meet to carbo load, and also everyone would shave down to be more hydrodynamic? Dozens of kids of all ages wielding razors and cans of shaving cream, having at it.

Looking back on it, the group shaving thing was weird. But the carbo load, or “pasta feed” as we called it, was pretty cool.

Anyways, this is a crab feed. No shaving involved.

This is how my BF’s family does it. You make little sandwiches on sourdough bread spread with tartar sauce and layered with a piece of butter lettuce and crab meat. The crab is drizzled with some melted butter and lemon, then topped off with a bit of homemade cocktail sauce. It sort of begs for a big fat gin martini with a plump and briny olive.

BF Scott’s dad is not one to ever half-ass a big family meal. He threw together some excellent Polish sausage, tender potatoes, sweet corn and scrimps in a pot. I was able to eat much more than I care to admit. With butter on top.

Guess who wanted some.