Linguini, Smoky Avocado Sauce, Black Beans, Lime

avocado pasta

Linguini, Grilled Avocado Sauce with Lime & Cilantro
Topped with Black Beans, Red Onion & Serrano

Been seeing the avocado puréed, and used as a sauce or dressing a lot lately? I sure have. With pasta, as a substitute for mayonnaise in tuna salad, as a substitute for hollandaise with fresh fish or vegetables. Great heart-healthy ideas all!

Here, I take flavors that pair well with avocado such as lime, green chile, red onion, cilantro, black beans…and re-mix them into a refreshing green pasta dish. And by adding one more layer of flavor – smoke – the silky sauce takes on another dimension. Lime juice keeps it bright, and serrano kicks up the heat. It’s a healthy pasta fiesta!

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Baby Candy Stripe Beet Fettuccine, Beet Syrup

Baby Candy Stripe Beet Fettuccine, Beet Syrup

Fresh Egg Fettuccine with Braised Red Cabbage, Red Onion, Roasted Red Beet
Red Wine Butter Sauce & Beet Syrup
Thyme-Scented Baby Candy Stripe Beet with Fresh Chervil

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t toss those adorable blushing baby candy stripe beets into the pasta. Their charm would have been sadly lost. So the thyme-scented little chioggias were simply sliced in half and arranged around the pasta, with the most incredible concentrated beet syrup, and dainty little sprigs of fresh chervil.

We’re celebrating betacyanin, the pigment that gives beets their fantastic color, which also happens to be a powerful antioxidant. Candy Beet Fettuccine is the second course in a striking beet-centric vegetarian meal prepared for the 5 Star Makeover Cooking Group’s monthly challenge featuring the BEET. It joins first course, Baby Golden Beet Salad, in a color competition, posted yesterday here. Red, pink, or gold?

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Lobster & Okra Fettuccine, Spicy Gumbo Sauce

Lobster & Okra Fettuccine, Gumbo Sauce
Maine Lobster & Homemade Pickled Okra
Tossed with Fresh Fettuccine
Spicy Gumbo Sauce
Ground Sassafras & Celery Leaf Garnish

Lobster & Okra Fettuccine, Gumbo Sauce
Will you be entertaining anytime soon? May I suggest this dish as a pasta or main course, it’s a show stopper. A twist on Louisiana’s gumbo, but with fettuccine and pickled okra. The depth and complexity of the gumbo sauce made from a golden brown roux will WOW your guests, as, of course, will generous morsels of fresh Maine lobster. Pickled okra counterbalances with a refreshing zing. Those not too fond of okra will be impressed, there is none of that usual slipperiness.

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Table Setting

My blogger friends Maryann of Finding La Dolce Vita and Marie of Proud Italian Cook suggested that I enter this table setting competition sponsored by Barilla Pasta.

For many years, my friend Lauren and I would enter the Los Angeles County Fair Table Setting Competition in September. We would arrive early in the morning. We had one hour to set our tables, then spent the rest of the day at the Fair. The LA County Fair is one of the largest in the country. Some of our fair highlights include: sampling the Gold Medal wines, the garden and flower exhibits, betting on the horse races at Fairplex, barbecued corn on the cob, falafels, the livestock and my favorite – the piglets! The LA County Fair is fantastic, if you are in LA in September, definitely go! And make sure to visit the Table Setting Competition in the Creative Living Building.

The neat thing about this online competition is that I don’t have to schlep the entire table setting to Pomona California, or anywhere else for that matter. Set it up in the dining room, take some photos, then upload!

And let me tell you, schlepping your table setting is a process. Because you are using all your nice china and glass, you have to wrap everything just so carefully.

Now the inspiration for this table came from another blogger friend, Simona of Briciole. A while back she wrote a post about pears and Italian expressions. The theme for our Romantic Italian table is:

Cascare Come Una Pera Cotta
To Fall Head Over Heels In Love

No Italian dinner is complete without wine, tonight’s choice is a 1990 Barolo. That is a 750ml bottle – it is dwarfed by the over sized wine glasses and over sized candles, and humongous basket. It is neat to spend time setting a table when you don’t plan to cook. The creative energy is spent on the table itself. But if we were to cook, our pasta course would be a fettuccine with pears, gorgonzola, and candied walnuts.

Last weekend, my dear friend Peggy from Denver, was visiting me. We spent hours collecting objects from all over the house (and under the house; the “placemats” are terra cotta floor tiles) arranging our final setting. These are the photographs we submitted to Barilla. Win or not, we had a blast!
A special thanks to Peggy, Lauren, Maryann, Marie, and Simona.