Pad Thai

DSC_0656 copy

Last week was an incredibly eventful and wonderful week.  As we get closer and closer into summer, I have to admit I am getting busier and busier! I have 4 parties for clients coming up, and an event with a charity I have been helping organize. It has all been a lot of fun to plan and be a part of, but time really is flying by!

We had a really nice weekend with friends: getting to know new friends and spending time with some older friends. Sunday was a beautiful day as well and we took Kuda pup for a 2 hour walk in the woods.  She swam in the river and played with her friends.  She was completely exhausted last night, and only got up to eat dinner and go out before bed.  A tired pup is a happy one, I can tell you that!

Anyway, the blog has been a little neglected because of how busy I have been, but I did manage to cook a few things over the weekend to build up some photos and recipes to post in the upcoming week. I made a really delicious, but quite involved Pad Thai last week, and it was SO GOOD.  I am sharing the recipe with you today, but know this recipe does take about an hour to assemble and cook. Next time I am going to sub in half zucchini noodles for the pad thai noodles and make this dish a little healthier.

We love Thai food and often with take out it can be quite heavy.  Thankfully this wasn’t heavy or greasy at all, so with the added zucchini noodles next time, it is going to be even better for you!

DSC_0647 copy

What you need:

  • 8oz dried pad Thai noodles
  • 1lb whole shrimp (with heads on if you can get them)
  • 3 tbsp oil, divided
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • white pepper, to taste
  • ½ block of extra firm tofu, cut into thin rectangles
  • 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups Chinese garlic chives cut in inch long pieces
  • 3 medium eggs, (preferably at room temperature)
  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts washed and drained
  • 1-2 tbsp Asian chili sauce (optional)
  • 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp roasted peanuts, crushed (optional)
  • a handful of cilantro leaves (optional)

Soak the pad thai noodles in warm water for about 20 minutes, and drain. If the noodles are in really long strands, cut them into 10- to 12-inch lengths.

Remove the heads and shells from the shrimp and collect them into a bowl. Wash and devein the shrimp and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in your wok over high heat until just smoking. Add the shrimp heads and shells.

Stir-fry until all of the shells are bright orange, and add ⅔ cup water. When liquid comes to a boil, press the shrimp heads with your spoon to bring out the flavor and color.

DSC_0651 copy

Simmer for another 5 minutes and remove from heat. Strain the shrimp stock into a bowl and discard the heads and shells.

Add sugar, tamarind paste, fish sauce, and white pepper to the stock and mix well.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in your wok over high heat and cook your shrimp for about 2-3min.

Remove them from the pan and set aside.

Set the wok to medium high heat and cook the firm tofu in the wok in one layer, and sear on both sides until slightly browned (about 1 to 2 minutes). Next, add the shallots, garlic, and chives. Turn up the heat to high.

DSC_0653 copy

Add the noodles and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, or until all the ingredients are combined. Pour the tamarind-shrimp sauce mixture over the noodles, and stir fry for another minute or so.

Push the noodles to one side of the wok to make way for the eggs.

Crack the three eggs in, using your spoon to lightly beat them in the wok. Fold the eggs gently without completely scrambling them, and when they’re about 60% done, fold the noodles over the eggs.

Lastly, add the bean sprouts. Stir fry everything at high heat until the bean sprouts are just cooked.

Toss in the cooked shrimp, chili sauce, and soy sauce, and serve the Shrimp Pad Thai with crushed peanuts and cilantro on top, if using.

This Pad Thai was so delicious, James had about 3 bowls of it!

Orzo Spinach Pasta

DSC_0570 copy

We have had an eventful couple of weeks here at Casa Burke. I turned 30, which was great, we threw a huge party for said 30th, my parents flew up and then got stuck here – thanks winter storm Stella, and then I got lasik eye surgery! Luckily, last week and this week are Spring Break for most Greenwich schools, so I didn’t have too much client work to juggle with the family visit and then eye surgery.

I am pleased to say I now have 20/20 vision, which is such an awesome 30th birthday gift! It is life changing to not have to wear contacts or glasses anymore. I got glasses around the age of 8, and contacts around the age of 11 because I was that super cool kid who was lucky enough to get braces at the same time…. I will give you a moment to imagine how popular/cool I wasn’t…

Anyway, I have worked a couple of parties for clients lately and planned the food for my own party, but sadly I was neglecting the blog.  Tsk Tsk… I know! But today is a new day, and I can see clearly the road ahead! I have an exciting salsa project in the pipeline and a few other cool developments, so over all The Gourmet Cocina is cooking! (pun definitely intended… still imagining how cool I am not?)

Today’s recipe is part of a two part series.  I will post the pork tenderloin that we served with this pasta tomorrow.  The pasta is definitely a stand alone, and really yummy and healthy!

DSC_0564 copy

What you need:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2-3 cups orzo pasta
  • 1 cup sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 cups of spinach
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (a high quality one)
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot of salted water cook your orzo according to the packaging instructions.  Mine said for 10-12min.

Meanwhile, using about a tablespoon of olive oil, sauté your onion in a good, heat conducting pan on medium-low heat until translucent, about 8 minutes.

Add in your garlic and cook for about a minute until fragrant.

Pour in the sherry wine vinegar and reduce by half.

DSC_0566 copy

Once your pasta is done and your vinegar has reduced, drain your pasta and mix together the reduction and the pasta in a large bowl.

Add in your fresh spinach, and the heat of the pasta and sauce will cause it to wilt slightly.

Add in the balance of the olive oil, the fresh lemon juice, and sea salt and pepper to taste.

This dish is so fresh and delicious, and would be a great accompaniment to a lot of different things.  Feel free to add parmesan or pecorino or even goats cheese if you want, but I kept this dairy free.





Sausage Marinara


Well we are back from our glorious vacation in Hawaii, and majorly back to reality.  We were away for about 9 days, and it was so nice to get away to somewhere warm and not stress about anything for a few days.  Don’t get me wrong, we are very blessed people, but we do have things come up from time to time.  Since being home, I have not stopped moving: running errands, doing laundry, networking, going to meetings, and James has become insanely busy with work.

He has worked late every night so far this week, and today we have already gotten about 8 inches of snow and are expected to get up to another 5.  So as busy as he is, he is working from home, which is inevitably a bit more inefficient, but lucky for me as I get to distract him every so often.

Given the winter storm Niko, yesterday I made sure to run out and get plenty of food and snacks to get through today and potentially tomorrow.  Lots of fresh fruit, and yummy dinner and lunch options.  When I know I have James home, he is usually my guinea pig! Thankfully he will eat anything, so I do recipe testing usually on weekends and he gives me his honest opinions. This recipe was one of my experiments, and James really enjoyed it! I’ve got a few more tests up my sleeve for our snow day and weekend, and will share those recipes as I perfect them.


What you need:

  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1lb hot Italian sausage, removed from the casing
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup basil plus 1 tbsp, chiffonade
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan, warm about a tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.

Add in your minced onion and cook until translucent, about 8 min.

Once your onion is cooked, add in your minced garlic and cook for about a minute.

Then add in your sausage removed from the casing and cook until browned and cooked through, about 10min.

If your sausage is really oily, drain out some of the oil before adding in the red wine so that your sauce isn’t too greasy. Once you add in the wine, cook down for about 5 min.

Add in your crushed tomatoes and 1 cup of chiffonade basil. Save the extra tbsp for garnish at the end. Season with sugar, salt and pepper. Chef’s tip: the sugar cuts the acidity of the tomato, and you only need a small amount to round out the flavor of your sauce.

Lower the temperature and partially cover the sauce.  Let simmer for at least 30min, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of salted water and cook your pasta according to the package instructions .

Once its done, you can either add your pasta to the sauce for the final minute of cooking, or you can cook it longer in the water and top with sauce at the end. I prefer to toss the pasta in the sauce for the final minute, but its up to you.

Top with your fresh basil, and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.

The beauty of this dish is that you don’t need too many ingredients, and because the sausage already has so much flavor, the sauce has this wonderful smokey, spicy flavor to it.

This is the perfect cold winter night pasta dish, and I highly recommend it!


Lemon Salmon and Artichoke Pasta


As you know, Valentine’s Day is coming up, and many of you will be making plans for a romantic evening. Sometimes that means going out on a date, and for others that means cooking dinner together at home. Before James and I were married, our dating anniversary was actually February 12th, so we have never celebrated Valentine’s Day and instead just celebrated our anniversary.

This year marks 8 years since our first date, so even though we have a new anniversary now, our wedding anniversary, I think we might stick with tradition and have our date night meal on the 12th and stay in the 14th. Plus I am turning 30 this year, so I am making sure to plan the most festive/fun times for my birthday MONTH of March! In the Ruiz family, we always enjoy a birthday month, and luckily James has embraced this tradition wholeheartedly.

Since salmon is pink, rose wine is pink, and this adorable plate I just got is also pink, I thought why not theme this meal for a fun Valentine’s dinner option! It is really light, so you don’t risk feeling overly full after dinner, and it is super easy to make. You can impress your date with this dish without even breaking a sweat!


What you need:

  • 2 salmon filets
  • 3 lemons, zest and juice
  • 1 can of artichoke quarters, drained
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 1/4 cup of parmesan
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (good quality)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • penne pasta, or any other pasta of your choice

Start by heating your oven to 350F and setting a pot of salted water to boil on the stovetop.

Season your salmon with salt and pepper, and some lemon zest. Squirt the juice of half of a lemon on the salmon as well and bake in the oven for 10-15min.


Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, but usually around 10-12min to have it al dente.

Meanwhile, mix together your artichokes, capers, parmesan, olive oil and the juice and zest from two lemons. Season with salt and pepper.


Let the mixture sit and marinate while your fish and pasta finish cooking.

Once the salmon is done, remove it from the oven and use two forks to shred it off of the skin.

Drain your pasta, but reserve about 1/4 cup of pasta water.

Add the pasta and shredded salmon to the bowl with the artichoke mixture and toss.  Pour in about half the pasta water and toss again.

Serve warm fresh from cooking, and enjoy with a nice glass of rose.

This is so delicious cold as well, and could be a fun thing to make in advance for a romantic picnic instead of your typical date.

You’ve got to love the two for one!


Roasted Cauliflower Pasta


With a new and exciting week ahead, I had to do some major meal planning in advance.  My inlaws come into town on Friday so I planned out everything for this week that we would need, anticipated their breakfast desires, and wrote out a list of everything else we might need for Thanksgiving!

I would never be able to keep things straight without lists, no question! When it comes to planning ahead, I always try to make sure we get enough variety.  My husband could eat the same thing every day for lunch and dinner and would likely not need a change for months! I on the other hand, love to try new things, and very quickly get sick of eating the same thing. I don’t mind one day of leftovers, but any more than that and I am out!

Every week we try to eat fish, chicken and a red meat, and sometimes a vegetarian option. This keeps our bodies healthy, and ensures we get plenty of variety in what we eat every day.  This also means we aren’t relying too heavily on red meat for our main protein source. Though delicious, it’s important to have balance and eat light and fresh.

This pasta was a really tasty vegetarian option, and it was full of flavor!


What you need:

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

  • pinch of grated fresh nutmeg

  • 1/2 tsp. each sea salt and pepper

  • fresh thyme leaves

  •  1/2 lb. fusilli noodles

  • 2 Tbsp. greek yogurt

  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

  • 2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

  • zest and juice of one lemon

  • sea salt and pepper, to taste

  • seasoned breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 425F

Onto a rimmed baking sheet, break up the head of cauliflower into small pieces.

Toss them with the oil, paprika, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Make sure each piece has some seasoning and oil, and spread them evenly to roast.

Roast on a higher shelf for 25 min, stirring halfway through until browned and cooked through.

Cook the pasta noodles al dente in a large pot according to instructions.

Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Put the noodles back into the pot with 1/3 cup of the pasta water, the greek yogurt, butter, parmesan and lemon juice and zest and toss until everything is evenly coated.

Add a little more pasta water to loosen, only if needed.

When you serve your pasta, top it with some seasoned breadcrumbs and a little more parmesan cheese if you like.  The lemon juice and greek yogurt give this pasta a really light taste, and the cheese and breadcrumbs give it some decadence.

Enjoy with a nice white wine and some candles!

Spaghetti Bolognese


Sometimes, like election nights, you just want a little comfort food. We have a lot riding on today, and James and I actually have a deal to not watch all of the coverage tonight. I fear we won’t truly know the results until midnight or possibly tomorrow, so rather than stress over something we cannot control, we will take our minds off it.

Spaghetti bolognese is James number one favorite meal.  Enchiladas verdes with chicken may be a close second, but I can say with confidence, spaghetti bolognese wins. So what better food to comfort us on this cold and stressful evening?

Over the summer we had one wedding in Florence and another in Cap d’Antibes a week apart.  We decided to rent a car and drive from Italy to France as they are really close together. One of our stops was to visit one of James cousins and her family in Bologna. The home of bolognese sauce.

His cousin is married to an Italian man from Bologna, so when he offered to make us pasta bolognese for dinner we JUMPED at the chance! Did I mention this Italian man used to be a chef?! Talk about an amazing opportunity! Anyway, he let me in on his technique for making bolognese sauce, so this recipe is an adaptation of the true Bolognese way.


What you need:

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 3-4 tbsp double concentrate tomato paste (this is VERY important)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves minced
  • 8-10 cremini mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 cup red wine (chianti or cabernet – full bodied)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil sliced thinly
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 16oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

One of the great things about spaghetti  bolognese is that you can make the sauce well in advance, in giant batches, and freeze it for later use.  The flavor locks in and it is great to make in advance!

In a large pot or dutch oven heat some extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat.

Season your beef with salt and pepper and brown it in the pan.  Making sure to break apart the beef as it cooks.

Add in your garlic cloves and cook until fragrant.  To the pan, add the double concentrate tomato paste and cook it for a few minutes. This is the base of the sauce and gives it the smooth flavor you are looking for.

Once the double concentrate paste cooks for a few minutes, add in the red wine and cook down for 3-4min.

Add in the mushrooms if you are using them and cook for 5 min.

Then add in the can of crushed tomatoes and half a can of water. The tomato paste will balance the acidity from the can of crushed tomatoes.  Often you hear of people adding sugar to bolognese sauce, the double concentrate tomato paste prevents that from being necessary.

Season your sauce with salt, pepper, and the red pepper flakes and let it simmer for 30min to an hour on low heat.

At the end of your cook time add in your fresh herbs and stir them in cooking a further 5-10min.

Good bolognese sauce is a labor of love, and does take some time, but it is so worth it!

Eat it with your favorite pasta or veggie noodle and feel free to top it with parmesan cheese.

Oh and God Bless America, no matter what happens, this is one awesome country!

Hot Italian Sausage Pasta


So yesterday was #nationalpastaday, so obviously we had to celebrate! We have an amazing local butcher nearby that makes the most amazing sausages, so I thought I would buy a spicy Italian sausage to use as the base for this dish. This was a total culinary experiment, and it was delicious!

Families – again, this is a great dish to sneak in a leafy green!  I added kale to this because it had the flavor I was looking for, but if you want something a little lighter, you could add spinach, collards, or chard.

We love pasta, and I feel like I start every blog with an emphatic statement like this, but by now you can tell, we just love food! We don’t love cream sauces or creamy pastas, so in general our pasta dishes are pretty healthy and balanced, this being no exception.  You could sub in a veggie noodle here or a gluten free pasta, but for now we will leave the recipe as it is.


What you need:

  • 1lb hot Italian sausage (removed from the casing)
  • 1-2 portobello mushrooms cubed
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 3 garlic gloves minced
  • 1/2 bunch of kale removed from the stems and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of white wine (chardonnay is a great option)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of pecorino Romano cheese
  • Pasta of your choice

Set a large pot of salted water to boil for your pasta. We used trotolle, but feel free to use any type of pasta you like.

In a large non-stick pan, add a small amount of olive oil and warm over medium-high heat.

Add in your shallot and garlic and cook for 2-3min until soft.  Add in your sausage meat removed from the casing and break it apart while cooking for about 10 minutes.

Add in your portobello mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add in your kale and wine and cook down for about 5 minutes.


Finally stir in your pecorino.  If your pan is big enough add your cooked pasta to it, if not, mix your hot pasta with your hot sausage mixture in a large bowl.

Reserve some pecorino to sprinkle on top for serving.

It’s best to drink the same wine you added into the pasta to really bring out the flavors! It’s even better to drink this wine while cooking!