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Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta vegetarian

Spicy Pasta Puttanesca with Loads of Fresh Herbs

Spicy Pasta Puttanesca with Loads of Fresh Herbs

Summer is winding down and I find myself in a mad dash to use every last summer tomato I can get my hands on.  Which is absolutely why this spicy little pasta dish happened.

I whipped this up on the fly the other day, trying to use up all my baby tomatoes before they went bad.  Normally I can’t keep tomatoes around due to all the “tomato snacking” that goes on in my house.

Spicy Pasta Puttanesca with Loads of Fresh Herbs

Pasta Puttanesca is one of my favorite pasta dishes.  Onions, garlic, anchovy, a bell pepper from the garden along with a handful of chopped fresh summer herbs, salty capers and olives and last but not least, summer baby tomatoes.  All nicely sautéed and warmed in my favorite extra virgin olive oil and then splashed with a hearty handful of fresh grated parmesan.  For extra spice,  I sneak in a few sliced pickled jalapeno.

Ahhh… food just doesn’t get any tastier.

Spicy Pasta Puttanesca with Loads of Fresh Herbs

I’m going to miss the sweet little red beauties when they’re gone. I rarely purchase them out of season and only when my family feels they need a cherry tomato fix.  Hands down, fresh tomatoes taste best in summer.  However, in the fall and winter months I use organic canned tomatoes.  They’ve been canned at the peak of ripeness and infuse a sweet tomato flavor in the winter version of this dish.

During the winter months, I often fold in some cooked ground Italian sausage for a hearty one dish meal.

What I love most about Pasta Puttanesca is it’s many versions and interpretations swimming around recipe land.  Many chefs and home chefs prepare cherished versions of this dish.  It’s one of those lovely recipes that lends itself so beautifully to the variety of the season.

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


Spicy Pasta Puttanesca with Loads of Fresh Herbs

Pair this lovely dish with my fave DaVinci Chianti

serves 4-6


1 lb thin spaghetti or linguine, cooked according to package directions

1 small red onion, diced

1 small red, orange, purple or yellow bell pepper, thin sliced

3-4 anchovies

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 tablespoon sliced pickled jalapeno (or more to taste) or a pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes

1 heaping tablespoon of capers

Handful of assorted olives, sliced

Handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Handful of fresh basil, chiffonade sliced

1-2 sprigs oregano, leaves removed and finely diced

1 pint cherry or baby heirloom tomatoes, sliced

2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.  I use California Olive Ranch Arbosana Olive oil

Squeeze of lemon

Handful of fresh grated parmesan cheese

Fresh cracked black pepper

You may or may not need any additional salt, so be sure to taste for seasoning


Prepare your pasta according to package directions.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Sauté the onion, peppers and anchovies until onions and peppers are soft.  The anchovies will melt into the oil.  This creates lovely, deep and rich flavors.

Next, stir in the garlic and sauté for one minute longer.

Turn the heat to medium low and stir in the jalapeno or crushed red pepper flakes, capers, olives and fresh herbs.  Let the mixture heat and simmer for a few minutes, allowing all the delicious flavors to meld together.

Fold in the tomatoes, add a squeeze of lemon and then sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper and taste for salt.  You may or may not need any additional salt due to the anchovy, capers and olives.

Add the cooked pasta to the skillet of veggies tossing to coat.  Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and then pour the pasta onto a platter, ladling all the stray olives and tomatoes on top.

Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve.





Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Salmon Seafood

Wild Salmon with Caramelized Fennel and Roasted Potatoes

wild salmon with caramelized fennel and roasted potatoes

Wild Salmon with Caramelized Fennel and Roasted Potatoes

Although my reality is not winning an Oscar or a Golden Globe, it feels that momentous.  I’ve been honored.  As some of you know, I’ve been awarded the Culinary Arts winner of the 2013 DaVinci Wine Storyteller’s Experience.

Very soon, I’ll be traveling to Vinci, Italy, courtesy of DaVinci Wine – home to the historic Cantine Leonardo Da Vinci, where DaVinci Wines are produced.  I will have the opportunity to visit and experience the rich history of the region and experience the culture of generations of wine growers, local chefs and artists.

DaVinci Wine Storyteller Experience

Winner 2013 DaVinci Wine Storyteller Experience

I’m thrilled to join three other winners on this extraordinary adventure, Kristina Havens, Leela Cyd and Jim O’Donnell.  They will also be writing about this experience from their professional perspectives, which should prove to be lovely beyond words and art.

Follow along with me on my DaVinci Wine Storyteller Experience via DaVinci Wine Facebook Page and Karista’s Kitchen blog, Facebook page, PinterestInstagram and Twitter.  If  you happen to stop by the blog, check out the most recent social media activity on the Social Stream page.

I bid you Bon Voyage with this enticing little feast.  Italian inspired, farm fresh, seasonal and somewhat effortless.  Ahh… I like that word.  Effortless  🙂

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


Wild Salmon with Caramelized Fennel and Roasted Potatoes

Serves 4


For the fish:

1 1/2 – 2lbs wild salmon (preferably fresh if you can find it) Or the traditional Italian recipe uses Red Mullet

Salt and Pepper

1-2 tablespoons Healthy oil of your choice or Ghee (clarified butter)

For the remaining dish:

1 – 2 medium fennel bulbs, ends trimmed (save the stalks for soups and stews) and 1/2 inch thick sliced.

1 1/2lbs baby potatoes (I adore fingerlings for their creamy texture), cleaned and halved or quartered to create uniform size for roasting.

Handful of capers, drained

Handful of Italian parsley, chopped

1/4 -1/2 cup white wine

1-2 tablespoons Olive oil

1-2 tablespoons Ghee (clarified butter) or butter

Salt and Pepper


Pre-heat the oven to 375F and toss the cubed or quartered potatoes with a few tablespoons olive oil and then dust with salt and pepper.  Place the potatoes on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet and roast until golden brown and soft.  About 10-15 minutes depending on size.

While the potatoes are roasting heat a tablespoon or two of ghee (clarified butter) in a large sauté pan over medium high heat.  When the butter is melted and frothy, add the sliced fennel and toss in the butter.  Turn the heat to medium and allow the fennel to cook and caramelize for about 10-15 minutes.  Continue tossing the fennel every few minutes or so.  Watch the temperature and adjust as necessary.

Cut the salmon into 4-6 pieces. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and either place the salmon in a baking dish and roast in the oven at 375F or pan sear in a large skillet over medium high heat with a tablespoon or two of oil or ghee (clarified butter).  This dish is also delicious with grilled salmon.   Click here for pan sear techniques.

When the fennel begins to brown, take the pan off the heat and add the wine.  Place the pan back on the heat and let the wine reduce until almost completely dissipated, stirring just a bit.  Then add the capers, Italian parsley, roasted potatoes and a drizzle of oil or ghee if needed.  Combine and then remove from the heat.  Taste for salt and pepper.

Place a portion of fennel and potatoes on four plates and then top with the wild salmon.  Garnish with Italian parsley and a squeeze of lemon.   Serve with DaVinci Pinot Grigio.

Buon Appetito!

This recipe is adapted from a Traditional Italian Red Mullet and Fennel dish.



Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pork

Italian Slow Roasted Pork with Rosemary White Beans

Italian Slow Roasted Pork with Rosemary White Beans // Karista's Kitchen

This Italian Slow Roasted Pork with Rosemary White Beans is what the Bennett crew calls “pork and beans”.  Most definitely not the traditional pork and beans I grew up on, you know, the kind that’s heavily laced with sweet barbeque sauce and lots of smoky bacon.

Although the traditional pork and beans is a delicious dish, especially at a summer barbecue, this Italian slow roasted pork with rosemary white beans is a lovely and aromatic alternative for the Autumn and Winter months.  It’s a simple and humble dish that is herby and lush in flavor and hearty in texture.

If I’m making this dish on a weeknight, and I forgot to soak the beans the night before, I use organic canned beans and it works just as well.  I also use these rosemary white beans on my Arugula and White Bean Salad. 

Italian Slow Roasted Pork with Rosemary White Beans // Karista's Kitchen

I have several pork recipes on Karista’s Kitchen, and I must say they’re all divine.  But this dish definitely highlights some of my favorite flavors… Italian herbs (which happen to grow abundantly almost year round in my herb garden).

Rosemary, oregano, and Italian parsley are all exquisitely aromatic and beautifully flavor this pork recipe.  Combined with tomatoes, onions and garlic and set on a bed of rosemary white beans, this delicious Italian slow roasted pork makes a distinctive and enticing fall meal.  And of course it’s a slow cooker meal which is a super plus!

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


Slow Roasted Italian Pork Shoulder with Rosemary White Beans

Serving Size: 4-6

Slow Roasted Italian Pork Shoulder with Rosemary White Beans


  • 3-4 lb Pork shoulder, boneless, cut into 3 inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • Sunflower or Safflower oil, or any high heat oil is fine
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 3-4 inch stalks fresh oregano (can substitute with 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
  • 2 3-4 inch stalks fresh rosemary (can substitute with 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed)
  • 2 3-4 inch stalks fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen organic)
  • 1 bay leaf
    For the beans
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) cannellini beans with liquid
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped (for garnish)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped (for garnish)


  • In a large skillet, or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper and brown the pork in the hot skillet. Once the pork has browned transfer to a slow cooker, or a platter if using a Dutch oven.
  • Next add the onions to the skillet and saute until just wilted, then add the garlic and saute one minute longer. Add the fresh herbs, white wine, tomatoes and bay leaf. Stir the ingredients until blended. If using a slow cooker, pour the sauce over the pork and cover with the lid. Set on low for about 5-6 hours, or until the pork is fork tender.
  • If using a Dutch oven, place the pork back in the Dutch oven with the sauce. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and place in a pre-heated 300F oven for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. The pork will be done when it is fork tender. If using a bone in pork shoulder, braising time will be up to 2 1/2 hours.
  • While pork is braising, prepare the beans. Place beans in a medium pot and heat on low. Add the fresh rosemary and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Cover the pot and let the beans slowly simmer for about 15 -20 minutes. The rosemary white beans can be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated. Just reheat when ready to serve.
  • To serve, place warm rosemary white beans on a platter and top with the slow roasted Italian pork. Ladle a bit of sauce over the top and garnish with fresh Italian rosemary and fresh sage. Serve remaining sauce on the side.
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    Beef Grilling Kid Friendly

    Steak Diane

    Arriving home from a fun day trip to Port Townsend, WA last weekend,  I grabbed two one pound packages of ground beef out of my freezer to use for dinner, or so I thought.  When I went to prepare Suzie Q’s ( pet name for our little gal) famous Grizzly Burgers, I opened up one package of ground beef and one package of beautiful beef tenderloin.  I hadn’t planned on grilling the tenderloin, and truth be told, I was saving those little darlings for a special weekend meal.

    Karista's Kitchen

    Port Townsend, WA Marina

    I couldn’t let those tasty steaks go to waste so my special weekend meal turned into a lovely weeknight event.  As my little gal said “Mom, we celebrated the weekend on a weeknight”.  Which is just dandy as it is summer after all, and who says a beautiful beef tenderloin must be reserved for the weekend…except me of course.

    Karista's Kitchen

    Port Townsend, WA

    I’ve been chomping at the bit to prepare the flavorful recipe made famous by Julia Child, Steak Diane.  I haven’t found much about the history of this famous dish, other than it’s very similar to the Steak au Poivre.  And according to Larousse Gastonomique, the description “a la Diane” is given to certain game dishes dedicated to the mythical Goddess Diana (the Huntress).  The earliest known mention of this decadent sauce is from a 1907 publication by Escoffier.

    Karista's Kitchen

    A little stormy at the Marina in Port Townsend, WA

    I can see why it’s stood the test of time.  This rich, flavorful sauce, yet light in texture, is a most lovely compliment to the tenderest cut of beef.  It’s also a wonderfully versatile sauce that can dress your favorite roasted pork tenderloin.  Fast, fresh and classic French, your family and friends will be completely delighted with a meal of Steak Diane.

    Keep dinner simple… Enjoy the flavors of life.  Happy Cooking!

    Serves 2


    2 6-8ounce beef tenderloin steaks, pounded into thinner cuts (substitute with your favorite cut of beef, pounded out a bit)

    Kosher or sea salt

    Fresh cracked black pepper

    2 tablespoons clarified butter

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    ¼ – 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots

    2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

    ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

    ¼ cup Brandy, Madeira or Cognac (If I’m out of Brandy I substitute with dry white wine)

    2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

    Dash of Worcestershire sauce (about a teaspoon)

    ¼ cup beef broth (you can substitute with water)


    Season the beef with salt and pepper.

    In a large skillet add the butter and olive oil and heat on medium.  When the butter is frothy and hot, pan sear the beef until nicely golden brown.  Transfer to a platter.  (you can also grill the steaks if you prefer)

    Add the shallots and garlic to the pan, turning the heat down if needed.  Sauté for a few minutes until the shallots and garlic are wilted but not browned.

    Whisk in the Dijon mustard, Italian parsley, brandy, lemon juice, Worcestershire and broth.  Let the liquid simmer for a minute or two.

    Add the beef back to the skillet and let it reheat in the sauce a minute longer.  Taste for seasoning.

    Transfer beef to individual plates and ladle sauce over top.  Serve immediately.

    This classic dish is fabulous served with mashed or roasted potatoes, roasted broccoli or asparagus.

    Halibut Sassy Side dishes Sauces, Salsas and More Seafood

    Italian Parsley Vinaigrette with Mandarin Oranges over Halibut and Mixed Greens

    I love a simply prepared halibut.  Just a nice pan seared filet with a little something drizzled over the top.  Add some fresh spring greens tossed in my fave Italian parsley vinaigrette and my lovely fish meal just became beautifully delicious.  

    The robust flavor of the Italian parsley compliments the sweetness of the delicate mandarin oranges.   And as a bite of this halibut with fresh dressed greens and plump sweet mandarins, all sitting prettily on my fork makes its way to my mouth… I’m thinking, this is a mouthful that makes me smile (and makes me want to lick my plate).

    Serves 4

    The salad with vinaigrette makes a lovely side dish for any fish meal. 


    1 ¼ lb Halibut Cheeks

    Flour for dusting

    Salt and Pepper

    Olive Oil

    1 tablespoon butter

    1 cup Mandarin oranges

    Fresh Spring Greens


    ½ cup olive oil

    ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

    2 tablespoons honey

    2 tablespoons cider vinegar

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Whisk all ingredients together.  Will hold in the frig for several days.


    Salt and pepper halibut cheeks and then lightly dust in flour, shaking off excess. 

    Heat a heavy skillet on medium heat and add a tablespoon or two olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter.  When the oil/butter is nice and hot, but not smoking, add the halibut to the pan.  Let the halibut sear for about 3 minutes on each side, or until a nice golden crust has formed. 

    Transfer halibut to a platter. 

    To serve:  Plate the halibut, drizzle a little vinaigrette over the halibut and then sprinkle with mandarin oranges.  For a beautiful plate: Toss the greens in the vinaigrette and then put a nice mound of greens on a plate.  Top with the halibut and Mandarins, then drizzle with the vinaigrette.  Delicious and Beautiful!

    For a Salad: Dress fresh spring greens with the vinaigrette, add fresh chopped green onions, mandarins and candied chopped pecans.  A complimentary side to most any meal!  Or add diced chicken to the salad for a delicous brunch or lunch.