This past weekend I visited a counterpart in Houston, Texas. Despite the fact that it was a work related trip, I had a ball. (Which is not surprising, considering I love my job, and I loved meeting my other half in Houston). Houston, however, I had been hesitant about visiting again. Having been there before with my husband, and feeling out of the loop with so many Irish pubs, heavy food, and heavy concrete surrounding our hotel, I cannot say I was too much of a fan. (Austin has always been a bit more my scene).
That being said, I soon discovered that there was much more to meet the eye. With only one evening to enjoy out on the town, my amazing tour-guide found the perfect place for us to venture.
COPPA, a warmly lit Italian ristorante, was a welcoming sea of square tables, set minimally enough to suggest easy conversation, the potential for shared plates, and a non-pushy, sort-of rustic simplicity. After a long day of travel and work-related banter, the setting sun, trickling in from the windows, was pleasantly peaceful, refreshing, and friendly.
Although not initially starving, you would have never have guessed by my eagerness to try the warm plate of olives we ordered. Certainly a highlight, the olives were delightful– as if they came straight from Italy– fresh, buttery, and perfectly warmed.
Although their menu did not spell vegetarian, it was obvious from the assortment of veggies on the menu that there were plenty of plants to choose from. In fact, my lovely date for the evening had already called ahead, making sure veggies were an option.
Available they were!
I enjoyed a bounty of fresh arugula and a beautiful platter of steamed vegetables. Another highlight was the marinara sauce– which was so exceptional, I could not help myself to request two large bowls. So delicious, the marinara was fresh and creamy enough to be enjoyed as a tomato soup appetizer.
(A quick shot of my pretty platter of steamed greens– golden beets, collard greens and green beans).
So inspired was I by my Italian experience, I came back to my own concrete world in Dallas, and created an Italian inspired dish. Because I cannot share Coppa with you, please enjoy this new flavorful and naturally low-fat dish of mine.
Spaghetti and Meatballs, Vegan and Gluten-Free
This dish is rich with the condensed flavor of sun dried tomatoes, but with little oil, it is hardly heavy or greasy. The portabella mushrooms offer a meaty texture and density, and are a delightful compliment to the fresh but light bite of basil and pungent garlic. Between the unique taste of capers and sun-dried tomatoes, this dish is perfect as is, without the need for added salt.
Meatball Spaghetti Sauce
- 2 tbsp organic capers, rinsed in cool water
- 15 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in water for 15 minutes prior
- 1 tbsp olive oil, preferably organic and unfiltered
- 3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- 1/2 tbsp raw garlic, minced
- 1 baked portabella mushroom
Remove stem and place on cookie sheet. Bake mushrooms (2) at 400 degrees for 5-8 minutes or until juicy on the top of the cap. Carefully remove and use one for the sauce and save the other for your spaghetti.
- 1 large zucchini, “spiral-ized”, or peeled with a perforated vegetable peeler
- 1 chopped portabella mushroom, baked
Spice this dish up with red chili flakes, and enjoy.
What are your favorite Italian dishes? Recipes?