Summer Cheese Board

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Happy Memorial Day! I’d like to tell you I’m currently lounging in the pool, sipping on a cold drink atop a float in the shape of a pineapple…but that simply would not be true.

I hope you are getting your fix of R&R this weekend. Believe it or not, my favorite thing to do with some extra time off is clean. Organize and clean. De-cludder, de-stress. They go hand in hand. Ever since I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’ve felt an urge to purge. To rid myself of the unnecessary “stuff.” I’ve always loved purging, but this book gave me a whole new outlook on it. Things I had been hoarding became easier to say goodbye to. It became more simple to let go of the things that did not bring me real joy. Organized home, organized life!

I’ve decided to curate a cheese board each season, starting with summer. Memorial Day, the un-offical official start! I could eat cheese and charcuterie every single night for dinner. It just never gets boring. Why? Because there are endless combinations and configurations and ways to make each bite different and exciting. Textures and flavors, salty and sweet, soft and crunchy. There are countless ways to adapt to your tastes, offering a new experience with each little pick and taste.

For the summer edition, I centered everything around a cheese I recently discovered: French Brie with Garlic & Herbs. Brie is wonderful all on its own. The addition of the dried herbs takes it to level 2, with new depth and freshness that wasn’t there before. Creamy and dreamy. From there, I selected an assortment of fruits, nuts, and meats that say summer to me. I can personally guarantee that if you show up to any gathering with this in toe (don’t forget a bottle of Riesling, chilled) you will be the instant life of the party. No questions asked. Get on it!

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

  • Fresh burrata
  • French brie with garlic & herbs
  • Extra sharp cheddar
  • Black pepper salami
  • Prosciutto di Parma
  • Dried apricots
  • Red grapes
  • Blackberries
  • Sesame breadsticks
  • Black pepper water crackers
  • Parmesan crips
  • Walnuts
  1. Leave cheese and meats out at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to board assembly.
  2. Arrange cheeses, meats and remaining ingredients as you see fit. There is no wrong or right way in my book! Place things next to each other that you want your guest to experience together.
  3. Pair with chilled Riesling.

Mint Infused Chocolate Chip Cookies

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

For months I’ve been itching to by fleur de sel. Fancy, delicate sea salt… perfect for topping chocolate chip cookies resulting in that balance of salty and sweet. The other day I finally sprung for it. The above shot was like the moment I’d been waiting for. Pure satisfaction: perfectly round balls of cookie dough. I resisted the very real temptation to eat the dough raw.

The awesome Andrea Bemis is the author of this recipe, found in her new book Dishing Up The Dirt. Fresh mint, infused into melted butter, gives these cookies a subtle yet super fresh twist. I am all for it. The best part? Nature has given me free mint for the picking, right on the side of my landlord’s driveway. These cookies were destined to be.

Without a doubt, this is the best cookie recipe I’ve ever tried. Melted butter makes for thats perfect chewy consistency that I love in cookies. I’m sold on Andrea’s recipe. I doubled it the first time I made these. Take that, Monday!

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Makes about 12 large cookies

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • heaping 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, plus additional for topping cookies
  • sprinkle fleur de sel on each cookie
  1. Place the butter and the mint in a small saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter, swirling the pain occasionally. The butter will foam and froth, then crackle a bit as it cooks. A few brown bits may form, and thats totally fine. Once the mint is fragrant (after 2 to 3 minutes), set the mixture aside to cool for 30 minutes (you don’t want it to solidify, just to cool down and let the mint infuse the butter). Strain the butter through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to press the mint leaves to extract any juices.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and both sugars until the mixture is completely smooth and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, beat for 1 minute longer.
  3. In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, scraping down the bowl as needed. Fold in the chocolate chips and continue to mix until well incorporated.
  4. Scoop the dough into a ball, place it on a piece of parchment paper, wax paper or plastic wrap, and flatten it slightly into a thick disk. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. About 15 minutes before you’re ready to begin baking, place racks in the center and upper third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with parchment.
  5. Use a scant 1/4 cup scoop to form he dough into mounts on the prepared baking sheets, placing more more than 4 cookies per sheet. Leave about 3 inches between each cookie; they’ll spread while they bake.
  6. Top each cookie with a few extra chocolate chips, a sprinkle of fleur de sell and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking, until they’re golden and lightly brown on the bottom. 14 minutes was the sweet spot in my gas oven. Let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. Let one baking sheet cool to room temperature before reloading with the remainder of the dough.
  7. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze them for up to a couple of months.

Recipe adapted from Andrea Bemis, Dishing Up The Dirt.

Fazzoletti Pesto with Asparagus and Burrata

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

I started this blog almost immediately after a close friend of mine suggested it a year and a half ago. That same evening I came up with the name Cuoco Contento. For those who don’t know, Cuoco is my married name. It translates to the noun “cook” in Italian. Believe it or not, I didn’t even know that when Joshua and I got married in 2014. I also didn’t like to cook before we were married. Actually, it wasn’t that I didn’t like to, it was that I simply never tried to. Living at home I commuted to college and, towards the end, lived off a less-than-stellar diet of boxed soup and sushi takeout. My wild passion for the kitchen began the very first night I cooked for Josh. If you are wondering, it was chicken parm. He approved.

With that in mind, the word “contento” translates to “happy.” It was simplest and most straight-forward word I could think of. No frills, no elaboration. Recipe planning, grocery shopping, food prep and cooking make me truly happy. The entire process is like therapy. Hosting guests in our my home makes me giddy. I am, quite literally, a happy cook.

Through my teen years and into young adulthood I’ve sought after contentment at different times. The word “content” means to be “mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are.” What a virtue! I am far from perfect, a feeling we can all relate to. Life throws different things our way. How we handle them is up to us.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18 NIV). You can interpret this how you like, but on some level I believe this means that we need to look at the big picture. The bright future. No one can convince me otherwise: the best is yet to come. Always. How terrible would it be if we thought that today (or 10 years ago) we hit our peak? That our prime time was up and over with? I believe that we’re all ever-developing beings, constantly changing, growing and learning– even if you’re 85 years old. Often times we need to go through the storm in order to appreciate the sun. Having patience through the rain is the tough part. There is glory to be revealed in all of us.

I’ve been looking for a way out of a storm in my life for a while now. But every time I do, I feel God telling me that instead of getting me out of it, he will get me through it, if I only trust Him. Really trust Him.

I am a “working document.” Constantly making mistakes, coming under discipline, learning and growing. There will never come a day when I will wake up and say, “okay, now I’m perfect!” It’s just not possible. We are human. We fall. We are tempted. We try to hold the weight of our world on our shoulders. And we come back to the realization that we are not the one in control. And really…thank God for that.

It all boils down to one thing: trust. If I truly trust God, with my whole being, I would not worry about my job. I would not worry about money. I would not worry about my family’s future. Being content means being satisfied and happy with the way things are right now. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’ve struggled with it for years. You’re not alone if you do. There’s nothing wrong with having a hustler’s mentality, always wanting to reach higher levels. I believe God honors that ambition. But it is not healthy is to find it impossible to enjoy today because you can’t stop daydreaming about tomorrow.

There is a huge, bright light at the end of my husband’s medical school journey. We talk about our plans, even though there are about 200 different directions we could be lead at that time. Everything about our lives after his graduation is completely up in the air. Where we’re live being at the forefront of our minds. That part excites me even though it is so unknown. Yet, getting to a place where I can patiently wait for that huge, bright light has been one of the biggest challenges for me. I get why people say that patience is a virtue. So many times Josh has said to me, “you need to enjoy today.” And I know he’s right. I’m emotional just writing this, because it’s a message that hits me like an arrow straight to the heart.

Why is it so hard for us to wait? Why is it so hard for us to let go of the steering wheel and let God drive? The most interesting thing to me is that I have no problem having the biggest faith when it comes to Josh’s career. If ever even the smallest speck of doubt or fear enters his mind, I jump on it immediately and with such confidence tell him that God’s already worked it out. That God has made a way for him already. Look at His provision for you so far! Trust Him! I’m so sure of that, when it pertains to his life. So much so, it’s often frustrating when he doesn’t always see it for himself. How is it that we can be so sure of God’s provision in the lives of others but can’t seem to grasp it on our own lives?

God is watching over us. More than that, he is right there beside you, holding your hand, wanting so desperately for us to trust Him with our whole hearts. He’s the one who is saying to us, “I’ve already worked it out. I’ve already made a way for you. Look at my provision in your life so far! Trust me!”

Every day I am learning that nothing is too difficult with God’s help. What might seem impossible in our human weakness is not impossible with Him. I’m so fragile. So prone to complaining, to discontentment, to unhappiness if I let it take hold of my heart. Stand firm against it.

I pray that if you are struggling with being content that your heart would be filled with peace today. To rest and know that God’s timing is perfect. That he longs to give good gifts to his children who only trust him. Be happy today. Enjoy this moment, because you’ll never get it back.

Whenever I start to feel less than content with my current situation, I rehearse these things in my heart:

  1. Crush every fear. It has no place in my life.
  2. Trust God. His ways are not my ways, His thoughts are not my thoughts. Let Him take control of the things we can’t.
  3. Be still and know that He is God. He is good. He is love. His promises remain true for all of time.
  4. Be thankful for where you are, how you got there and what you have been given.

My dear friend Liz and I shared a quiet Sunday afternoon in my pint-sized apartment talking, laughing, cooking (and eating) as we reminisced about our college trip to Milan now five years ago. Liz is a HUGE talent, and so humble, check her out on Insta!

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Fazzoletti Pesto with Asparagus and Burrata

Serves 2

  • 2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more as needed
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano, plus more for shaving
  • 1 bunch asparagus tips, blanched
  • 1 ball fresh burrata cheese
  • course ground pepper
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour and salt. Add the eggs and yolks and mix just until a ball begins to form, about 30 seconds. Switch to the dough hook and add a few drops of water if the dough is dry. Turn the dough out into a bowl, sprinkle it with a little flour, cover it with plastic or a cloth and let it rest for about 30 minutes. You may refrigerate the dough wrapped in plastic, until you’re ready to roll it out, for up to 24 hours.
  2. In a food processor, combine the basil with a pinch of salt, the garlic and about half the oil. Blend, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container, and add the rest of the oil slowly. Add the toasted nuts and cheese. Pulse until relatively smooth, or you can leave it a bit more on the chunky side.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt. Divide the dough into four sections. Roll though through the pasta attachment on the number 1 setting about 10 times, folding the dough in half with each pass. Pass through the number 3 setting once or twice. Repeat this with the other 3 sections of dough until you have 4 pasta sheets.
  4. Cut the dough sheets into 3×3 or 4×4 squares. They can be rough, no need to break out the ruler. Gently add to boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. The dough squares should rise to the water’s surface. Reserve the pasta water.
  5. Toss the pasta with the pesto and blanched asparagus tips. Add a spoonful of pasta water if pesto needs to be thinned out. Sprinkle generously with black pepper and shaved parmesan cheese.
  6. Divide burrata between two dishes and serve.

Pasta recipe adapted from New York Times Cooking.