VANILLA LATTE is a blog dedicated to food & travel with occasional random stuff thrown in. It is managed and written by me, Maggie Ha.

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Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe & Provolone 17Nov11

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe & Provolone

I’ve been meaning to post this dish for a really long time. It is quite possibly my favorite go-to pasta dish. I would say it’s the pasta dish of all time but Mac n Cheese will always win that fight. But since Mac n Cheese, to me, means making a béchamel, using 4-5 cheeses, and patiently waiting for the baking part to be done…. this simple orecchiette dish wins for being quick, easy and so delicious!

I absolutely love Broccoli Rabe, aka Rapini. I love it’s nutty bitterness and vibrant green color. It’s also jam packed with good for your vitamins. As a side dish, I like to sauté with a little olive oil, so you really keep the flavor of broccoli rabe. Maybe a little grated Pecorino on top. Mmm. Okay so say you don’t love Broccoli Rabe as much as I do, you can easily substitute with other hearty greens like broccolini, spinach, or kale. I’ve tried the variations, nothing beats the rabe with this recipe! The provolone is a perfect sweet balace to the bite of the rabe. You’ll have to just trust me and try it. Bon appétit!


Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper, Fresh Basil & Parmesan 7Jun11

Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper, Fresh Basil and Parmesan

I know… I’m getting “where have you been?!” from everyone. Well, it’s been a while but I’m finally back with another post. I’ve been travelling a lot lately so it’s been tough finding time to cook and write about it. But I’m back at home now and the first thing I wanted was some home cooked comfort food. For me, comfort food can mean many things. Usually it’s inspired by what I saw last on TV or what image I saw last, or a dish I’ve been craving for weeks. This time, all I wanted was a simple pasta dish with some fresh basil.

This dish is incredibly easy to make and super quick. Perfect for whipping up a fast dinner after a long day of work. It has very little sauce, but lots of flavor. Theres nothing better than a simple home cooked meal.. mmm! So happy to be home!

Spinach Pasta Bake! 29Jul09

Spinach Pasta Bake!

YAY! This is Vanilla Latte’s 100th post! Well to be specific, this is Vanilla Latte now as a food and travel blog’s 100th post, I deleted the ones that were irrelevant from 5 years ago. So for such a celebration, I would like to share one of my favorite mac and cheese recipes. Now this isn’t the one I normally make for dinner parties that involve 5 cheeses, that one will have to wait. This version is an attempt to be slightly healthier… I threw in spinach! :) Okay it’s not that good for you. Anything that starts as a roux and involves adding milk and cheese always ends with ooey gooey goodness that can’t be that good for you.  Ah well, that’s why it’s a celebration!

I’ve used low fat milk, low fat cheese, and spinach. Little ways to make sure this delicious dish won’t cause a heart attack. But feel free to live on the edge, use full fat milk and cheeses! MAN my mouth is watering as I’m writing this. So delicious and easy to make. And really good leftovers with a splash of Tabasco. Hope you like it!


Cauliflower Cannelloni 25May09

Cauliflower Cannelloni

Cauliflower cannelloni doesn’t exactly sound very exciting, but believe me, it’s delicious. Great way to squeeze in your veggies as well! I saw this dish on one of Jamie Oliver’s shows… I cannot seem to find the recipe online so I’m not quite sure how accurate I am. I got the main parts of it down but I may have added a bit more here and a little less there. It all came out great anyway!

The shredded Parmesan cheese on the top with the mozzarella made the entire house smell like pizza. I loved the added crunchy texture the toasted cheese adds to the ooey gooey sauce. You almost forget that you’re eating cauliflower! The filling is actually cauliflower, broccoli and broccoflower boiled and then cooked down with olive oil, chilies and anchovies. You can make it without anchovies for a vegetarian option.

I have another cannelloni recipe that’s a bit more low fat but hey we’ve got visitors in town and Vini’s been begging me to make this for a while. Low fat will have to wait! I’ll post that recipe at a later date. In the meantime, hope you like this one!


Pea & Spinach Pesto Pasta 17May09

Pea & Spinach Pesto Pasta

I was sorta on a pasta kick lately because I was training for the half marathon. I think I take carbo loading a little too seriously. It’s the one time when I have a good excuse to eat lots of pasta, so why not! I’ve been using bucatini a lot lately because a.) I bought quite a few boxes and b.) I love the thickness/strawness! You try to slurp but you can’t cause it’s hallow! Great alternative to spaghetti!

Anyway, this recipe is really quick and pretty healthy. Well, at least I tried to make it really healthy. I only used a little bit of cheese in the pesto. I guess the only thing that’s “bad” is the extra virgin olive oil… which most cultures will say that it’s good for you! Such a quick and simple dish, it’s perfect for dinners during the week. Hope you enjoy it!


Baked Spaghetti 10May09

Baked Spaghetti

Ooo baked spaghetti! Kind of like lasagna or baked ziti but not really at all. I’ve been meaning to make this for a while. I can’t quite remember where I saw this done, perhaps it was on Martha’s show, or just one of the delicious photos on tastespotting.com. Either way, I remembered the basics, cook spaghetti, make toppings, bake.

So I improvised a bit, it still came out tasty. I think if you add more sauce, it turns more lasagna. If you add more ricotta and mix it around, it’s more ziti like. I kind of kept mine more on the vegetable heavy side, still on my health kick ya know. I also used bucatini pasta, it’s spaghetti with a hole in it, they’re basically like straws. If you stick to spaghetti I think it will keep it’s shape a bit more, the bucatini wanted to wiggle around a bit more. Try it out!


A Lighter Creamy Spinach Pasta 8Sep08

light creamy spinach pasta

I’m not going to lie, it tastes MUCH better with full cream and lots of it. Luckily Ii only had milk which means, yay low fat white sauce! Sorta?

1/2 lb (8 oz.) of fafalle pasta (you can use any pasta) – cooked al dente (don’t forget the salt in the water!)
2 cups of milk (heavy cream or half and half for the fatty version)
4 springs of fresh thyme
1 french shallot diced fine
3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1 bunch of spinach – use the leaves only and wash thoroughly in cold water
extra virgin olive oil
red chili flakes
dried oregano
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
chili oil to garnish

Step 1: The Spinach
Make sure to wash the spinach leaves thoroughly because there’s lots of sand in spinach. Feel free to buy a bag of baby spinach instead. Bring a pot of water to boil. Blanch the spinach leaves for about 15 seconds and place in ice water. Make sure to put the ice UNDER the colander so you don’t have chunks of ice in your spinach. drain and squeeze out as much water as possible. Use a paper towel to get the remainder out. Roughly chop the cooked, dried spinach and set aside.

Step 2: The Sauce
In a large saucepan, melt the tablespoon of butter. throw in the shallots and saute until translucent – about 3 minutes. Now throw in the garlic, dried oregano, fresh thyme, salt and pepper and some crushed red pepper for another 3 mins but turn the heat to low. By this point you will need to add a small drizzle of olive oil. Let everything simmer for another few minutes and then slowly add in the milk or cream and bring to a simmer. stir often and let that reduce down to about halfway. Now add in the spinach and mix thoroughly to get the sauce in the leaves. And finally fold in the pasta.

Plate and garnish with chili oil, some more freshly grated parm, some fresh cracked pepper – whatever you feel like! I personally like spice so chili oil with chili flakes for me!

light creamy spinach pasta

Zucchini Lemon Garlic Spaghetti 20Aug08

zucchini lemon garlic spaghetti

This was dinner tonight. Inspired by the zucchini strand spaghetti from smitten kitchen. But a completely different flavor… the only things in common are zucchini and spaghetti really. This is a very quick and easy, light spaghetti dish that I’ve altered from my lemon fettuccine with sun dried tomatoes. Hope you like it!

3/4 lb of spaghetti (about 2 quarter-sized diameters worth) – cooked al dente
2 zucchini – grated through a large grate
4-5 cloves of garlic – chopped fine or through a garlic smusher
1 shallot – sliced thin
1 1/2 lemons
zest of 1 lemon
parmesan cheese
crushed red pepper flakes
fresh ground pepper
chili oil (optional)

Step 1: Spaghetti time
While spaghetti is boiling, prep your ingredients! Grate your zucchini or cut them into very thin long slivers. Chop up the garlic and shallot. Make sure to add salt and olive oil in the spaghetti. When the spaghetti is al dente, turn off the heat and dump the water. Do not strain! Pour out as much as you can without using a colander. The starchy water will help soak up the lemon juice later.

Step 2: Flavors
While your spaghetti is boiling, heat up about 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan. Throw in the garlic and let that cook in low-medium heat. Then throw in the shallots. Add another tablespoon of butter and the crushed red pepper flakes (as much as you’d like really). Let that simmer until the garlic bits turn a little toasty and the shallots are translucent.

Step 3: Mix it up
Once the garlic and shallot looks toasty, now add in the lemon zest and lemon juice. bring that to a nice simmer and add another table spoon of butter. Once that’s melted, slowly add in the spaghetti. You don’t need to pour in the excess water. add salt and fresh ground pepper to the mix. Let that sit and bubble for about 2 mins mixing constantly to let the flavors work into the pasta. Now toss in the zucchini and mix for another 2 mins – if you chopped them by hand, you might want to throw them in before the pasta. Plate your pasta and add freshly grated parmesan cheese, fresh ground pepper if you want, and drizzle some chili oil.

If you don’t like lemony flavor, this dish is so not for you. If you don’t like spice, I woudn’t suggest this either. The spicy mix complements the lemon really well so you want to make sure you add a little extra! Enjoy!

Asparagus, Pea, Bruschetta Pasta 5May08

mmmm yum

bow-tie pasta – boiled al dente with a pinch of salt
asparagus-  washed cut into slant
frozen peas
tomatoes – diced
garlic – chopped very fine
sweet onion (the yellow one) – diced
fresh basil leaves – chopped fine
balsamic vinegar
olive oil

Step 1: The base
Saute onions in olive oil until clearish. This is where I like to throw in my seasonings – red chili flakes, salt, pepper. Add a little bit more olive oil then throw in the frozen peas and cook until bright green. Add a little bit more olive oil then throw in the asparagus!

Step 2: The bruschetta
While you’re working on step 1, cut up all the pieces for the bruschetta. Mix the tomatoes, garlic, basil leaves, balsamic vinegar and olive oil and let it sit.

Step 3: The mix
When the asparagus is tender, turn off the heat and throw in the cooked pasta. Stir and add olive oil where needed.

Step 4: Plate
Layer the pasta mix onto the plate first. Then add the bruschetta to the top. Salt and pepper to your liking.

Can be served hot or cold!

I have several variations for this dish but this was the latest one. I may like this one the best so far!

Latest Latte

Ground Support

My local favorite is currently Ground Support in SOHO. I go there almost every day for a smooth creamy soy cappuccino or if it’s hot out an iced soy latte. When I’m not in a hurry to run out, I try to take a few extra minutes to enjoy the coffee in the shop… you know, chat with the staff, catch up on some calls and best of all… people watch. Always some interesting characters in NYC!

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