Good Morning everyone!
I'm off to Pittsburgh for the weekend so I can meet some of my bakespace friends! I'm very excited to meet them and also a little nervous of the long drive. Wish me luck! I'll be taking lots of pictures to share with you next week!
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I used to be afraid of pesto. I'm not sure why but I didn't grow up eating it. I had it once at a friend's house for the first time. It was over pasta and there were pieces of potato in it. I really liked it. Then as usual I wouldn't order it out because what if it didn't taste the same. What if I only liked it that way because the particular person who made it did something so unique and special? Not really. The older I get the more I have gotten over my fear of eating new things. I wouldn't be much of a foodie if I didn't try new food, would I? The next time I had Pesto was when Steve's mom made it. I was definitely nervous but I was in the stage of my relationship where if Steve liked it I would just eat it because I didn't want to seem difficult or picky. Turned out that again I loved it! I made sure I got my hands on the recipe and this is what I've been using ever since. It comes from an out of print James Beard Cookbook that I can't get my hands on. (It has since been reprinted AND CHANGED in the new cookbook and the measurements don't work for us.) This is a great dish to make when it's too hot to turn on the oven or when you simply want to use some of that beautiful summer basil.
Here's the James Beard Recipe - Thank You Lyn for sharing this with me!
1 cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup parsley
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup pinoli nuts
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (I always use Locatelli Romano)
½ tsp. salt
Place all ingredients in a blender and whirl until a thick uniform paste is formed, add more oil if paste is too thick. This amount is enough for 1 lb pasta. Pesto may be stored in refrigerator for several weeks or in the freezer for several months. Place in a jar or container and coat with a thin layer of olive oil, cover tightly.
Note: You can use chicken broth to thin out the paste if you don’t want to add more oil.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Happy Belated Father's Day everyone! I am so not good at posting those holiday recipes before the holiday. I really don't get how so many bloggers do it. I don't make the dishes until the day of so the photos aren't available until after. Do you have the recipe saved and then all you have to do is add the photo? Someone fill me in on the secret please!
If you're a regular reader (thank you, thank you, thank you!) then you know that I am part of a wonderful group of foodies over at bakespace.com. If you haven't heard of it I suggest you stop what you're doing (please come back later!) and go check it out. Bakespace is a place for foodies like you and me to swap recipes, store them in an online kitchen, get answers to your food related questions and most importantly for me, meet some awesome people! In fact, this weekend I am taking a drive to Pittsburgh along with my friend and fellow bakespacer, Carolyn. One of our lovely members Karen is kind enough to host a large group of us so we can all finally meet face to face. I have already been lucky enough to meet some of those that are close to me and have made some great frienships that will last a lifetime. I'm really excited to meet my online family who I speak to every day in the forums.
Thanks to some of my bakespace friends I learned how to make the perfect ribs. This is a no fail method and Steve and I have made it together two weekends in a row now. I'm sure some of you make your own sauce for the ribs but we have found this premade sauce which is so delicious that I'm not even going to bother with anything else. Steve's dad introduced me to it and I'm hooked. It's called "Bone Suckin' Sauce" You can't get it at your average supermarket but more higher end ones do carry it. Click here to find it at a store near you. The sauce is gluten free and contains tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, honey, molasses, mustard, horseradish, lemon juice, onions, garlic, peppers, natural hickory smoke, natural spices and salt. Nope, no one is paying me for this plug, we just really like the sauce.
So this is a method not a recipe. There are no amounts so just use your judgement. We used baby back ribs the first time and regular ribs the second time. The baby backs are much leaner and take less time to cook, we like those the best. I also suggest buying the ribs already seperated. You may pay a few bucks more but it's worth it.
Boil your ribs in a mixture of beer, water, garlic powder, brown sugar, soy sauce, salt and pepper. If using baby backs boil for 1 hour, if using bigger fattier ribs boil for 1 1/2 hours. I used a large covered pot and had my flame on high until they came to a boil then lowered them to medium. When the ribs are cooked take them out of the water and put them in a single layer in a large pan. Cover with sauce and let marinate for about 30 minutes or longer. (I had them sitting in the sauce for a couple of hours.) Cook on grill for 2-3 minutes per side until they are lightly charred, basting each side with sauce as they cook. Since the ribs were already cooked when you put them in the marinade you can put them right back into the same pan that has the remaining sauce. Toss them in the sauce and serve. How easy is that?!?! I know some people cook them on low for 5-6 hours but I don't think that's necessary, seems like a huge waste of time for me.
The ribs were so tender that as soon as we bit into them they fell right off the bone. The flavor was delicious and they were a big hit at both of our Father's Day Celebrations. Give this method a shot and you won't be disappointed.
When we're busy I forget to take pictures but my brother came to the rescue!
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY DAD!
Monday, June 15, 2009
Once again I find myself ready to cook dinner but without a plan. I had some chicken breasts in the fridge that I planned on seperating and marinating to put on the grill during the week. Key word there is planned. I wanted to do it, I really meant to but it didn't happen. As usual, I found myself looking inside my pantry to see what I could come up with. I know I keep telling you that you need to keep a well-stocked pantry but I haven't filled you in on exactly what I keep in mind. It's coming. I promise. In fact, I have the post all written up and waiting to be published. I just need to take a good picture. At some point next week the post will be up and I'm just giving you fair warning, it's a pretty long one.
Tonight I had chicken defrosted which isn't usually the case when I have to throw something together without a plan and it definitely came in handy. As always, you can substitute pretty much everything. Use whatever pasta you like, fresh tomatoes, diced tomatoes, petite diced, etc. You can change the peas and cannellini beans to artichoke hearts and mushrooms. The key here is use what YOU have in your pantry. Here's what I did.
Farfalle with Chicken and Diced Tomatoes
1 lb farfalle pasta
1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 - 15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed (I only used half of the can)
1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces (I used one large)
2 cubes Dorat frozen basil or a handful of fresh basil, torn into pieces
a handful of frozen peas
1/4 cup white wine
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, cracked (to flavor the oil and chicken)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 cup part skim ricotta
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. In a medium saute pan (I use a "chicken fryer"). Saute chicken and cracked cloves of garlic in extra virgin olive oil. Remove chicken to a plate and discard garlic.
2. In same pan add diced onions and sliced garlic and saute until onions are translucent but do not let the garlic burn. Add white wine to deglaze pan while using a wooden spoon to pick up anything the chicken left behind.
3. Add diced tomatoes and basil. Season with salt and pepper and then cover. Let the sauce simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the raw tomato taste is gone.
4. Add beans, peas and cooked chicken with any accumulated juices, until heated through (about 5 minutes).
5. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water. When pasta is al dente toss with sauce adding a little pasta water if the sauce is too thick or needs to be stretched. At this time add ricotta to hot pasta and sauce and stir to combine.
Friday, June 12, 2009
I made these mushrooms last year as a first course when our friends Nick and Kelly came over for dinner. Nick liked them and Kelly asked me for the recipe so she can make it for him. I had to make it again because I didn't remember what I did (this was pre-blog and I didn't write it down). I hope it tasted as good as it did last time and again I don't have exact measurements this is a taste as you go kind of thing but I'll do my best. I bet that won't help Kelly too much. Oops.
4 portabello mushrooms, stems removed and reserved
1- 10 oz box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
part skim ricotta cheese
About 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese plus more for sprinkling on the top
About 1/4 cup romano cheese
salt and pepper
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
extra virgin olive oil
1. Clean mushrooms by gently wiping with paper towel or vegetable brush. Do not rinse. Clean the stems and remove the woody ends. Chop and set aside.
2. Saute onion and stems in extra virgin olive oil, then add garlic. Let cook for about 1 minute. Add white wine and let it simmer for a minute or two.
2. Add spinach breaking it up with a spoon and add a little oil if you need to. Combine spinach with onion mixture, season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
3. Once cooled add some ricotta a couple of tablespoons and a time and stir until it's a creamy mixture but not an overwhelming amount of ricotta. You want to still taste the spinach. This will probably come out to about 1/2 cup to 1 cup. Add romano cheese and taste it. Add more salt, pepper or cheese until it's seasoned to your taste.
4. In the meantime, heat a medium saute pan and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Add mushrooms to the pan and season both sides with salt and pepper. When mushrooms are cooked, top them with a good amount of spinach ricotta filling and sprinkle with a little more mozzarella. Put under the broiled to heat through and melt cheese.
Serve as a side dish or first course.
note - I didn't use the broiler to melt the cheese this time because it was really hot in the kitchen that day. You can skip this step if you want to.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Last week I went to my friend Gina's house and showed her how to throw together a pantry meal. Her pantry is well stocked and it was easy to come up with a quick dish. Gina and I like a lot of the same foods and like me she has kalamata olives in her fridge. I realize that I use them a lot and you all must be tired of seeing them in my recipes. If you don't like them leave them out and put in whatever you like, maybe some artichoke hearts! Yum! I call this picchi pacchi because it's made with diced tomatoes and basil and I've seen variations of this but they all contain diced tomatoes.
Gina and I have different preferences when it comes to pasta. I will always choose lined pasta such as penne over ziti. I just feel like the sauce sticks better because it fills up the the ridges. It really doesn't matter though, this dish was delicious!
Ziti with Pantry Sauce
1 lb pasta
1 medium onion, diced
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (Dorat frozen cubes from Trader Joes)
2 teaspoons of chopped basil (Dorat frozen cubes from Trader Joes)
2 - 16 ounce cans petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1 tablespoon capers
Splash of white wine
extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
In a medium saucepan saute onion and garlic in extra virgin olive oil. Add garlic and basil and stir (frozen cubes will melt and cook quickly). Add a spalsh of white wine and let the alcohol cook out (about a minute or so). Add tomatoes, capers and olives, stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 20- 30 minutes. About halfway into cooking time, add pasta to boiling salted water. When pasta is al dente combine it in the pan with sauce. Toss to combine sauce with pasta.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I'm going to be honest with you. Chicken Milanese is a nice way of saying fried chicken cutlet. If you order it in a restaurant you usually get salad on top of a fried chicken cutlet or flattened out chicken breast but that's all it is. I'm not trying to dismiss the deliciousness (is that a word?) of it but I don't want you to think it's anything fancy. I like to be honest. Chicken cutlets were on the menu every single week when I was a kid. Everyone loves them, they're easy and quick to make.
Fried chicken cutlets are prepared the same way I prepared the eggplant parmigiana this week. The chicken is dipped in an egg mixture and then breaded in seasoned bread crumbs and fried in canola oil. If you're wondering why I'm using canola oil and not olive oil or extra virgin olive oil it's because it's a very light oil. It has a high smoking point which means that it can tolerate a high temperature before smoking and burning and therefore ruining your food and setting off the smoke alarms. I also like to reserve my more expensive oil for vegetables and salads for when I make chicken marsala or something similar. I usually mix evoo and butter for those. The difference is that for those dishes I'm just lightly and quickly sauteing small amounts of chicken. I don't know, that's just the way I've always done it. If you want to use olive oil mixed with butter for a different flavor go ahead, I'm sure it will taste great. You could also add the step of dredging in flour before you egg it again and then dredge it in breadcrumbs. I know a lot of people do it that way and to be honest, i'm really not sure why. It's an extra step in my opinion and my mom and grandmother never did that but if you want to, go ahead. My cutlets are crispy and crunchy on the outside without the flour. Another preference is where you put your seasoning. My mom always seasoned the egg mixture and used plain breadcrumbs. There are people who season the breadcrumbs and not the egg mixture. Either way is fine but I like to play it safe and season both. It can't hurt, right?
splash of milk
salt and pepper
parsley (fresh or dried)
canola oil, for frying
1. Beat eggs and mix with milk, salt, pepper and garlic powder and a few teaspoons of cheese.
2. In another dish mix breadcrumbs with garlic powder, parsley and about 1/4 cup romano cheese (maybe more).
3. Dip cutlets in egg mixture (let excess drip off) and then cover with breadcrumbs pressing down with your hands to get the breadcrumbs to adhere to chicken. Do this on both sides.
4. At this point, if you like you can make bread patties or polpette (that's what Nanny called them) to snack on before dinner is ready. Once all your cutlets are breaded add the breadcrumbs to the egg and mix it together with a fork. Once combined form little patties with your hands.
5. Let oil get very hot. Make sure you use enough oil to completely cover the pan and go up the sides a little bit. You don't want to keep adding cold oil to the pan because it will drop the temperature and the cutlets will absorb too much oil.
6. As your cutlets and patties are done add them to a paper towel lined plate and put a piece of paper towel between each layer to absorb excess oil.
7. Eat your cutlets as is or add a squeeze of lemon, a chopped salad, bruschetta, whatever you like, your options are unlimited.
These are my little bread patties. They are so delicious!
Escarole is a delicious vegetable that I don't think gets enough attention. It can be eaten raw as a salad or sauteed in garlic and oil or it can be added to soups for some extra vitamins and flavor. I like it all of these ways but this time I sauteed it. It's soft and crunchy at the same time and is very similar to bok choy. Escarole grows in the dirt and like leeks can be very dirty. Make sure to clean each leaf to remove any dirt or grit that may be hidden.
1 head of escarole, cleaned well and chopped if you like (not necessary)
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
10 small cloves garlic (less if you don't like a lot of garlic, my cloves were small)
1. Heat large pan and add a good amount of extra virgin olive oil. Add garlic and let it cook over medium heat for a few minutes.
2. Add escarole to pan and be careful that the oil doesn't spit at you. If your leaves are wet this will happen. However, I like when there is some water on the leaves, it helps to cook the escarole. Just make sure you completely cover the pan with the escarole to block the oil from getting you.
3. Let the escarole cook for a minute or two and then toss it in the oil with tongs to cover it all in the garlic flavored oil. Just like spinach this will shrink down to less than half of what you originally had. If you are using more than one head of escarole add it in batches as it shrinks down.
The escarole should still have a slight crunch. The outer leaves have a nice thick white stalk and that will stay crunchy the greener leaves and the more delicate inner leaves will be softer. Would you believe that Steve actually liked it. When you aren't afraid to try something you would be surprised at the things you never knew you would like.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Eggplant Parmigiana is one of those things that I don't order out. I have encountered too many issues with this dish in restaurants and ended up not enjoying my meal. While I keep the skin on when I make my fried eggplant, I do not like the skin on it on this dish. It doesn't actually need it to stay together because it is breaded and if you do leave the skin on it could create a mess when chewing and trying to pull of the piece of skin that has gotten stuck in your teeth. Not fun. The other reason is that sometimes the eggplant is sliced too thick and is somewhat firm in the center. I like the eggplant layers to meld together and just melt in your mouth. That's how it was always made when I grew up and this is how I make it now. So, if you like melt in your mouth eggplant, you'll like this dish!
Again, I don't measure for this dish but if you've made chicken cutlets before it's the same thing.
1 medium sized eggplant
splash of milk
salt and pepper
italian style breadcrumbs or plain breadcrumbs seasoned with parsley & garlic powder
canola oil, for frying
16 oz mozzarella cheese, grated or sliced
1. Peel eggplant and thinly slice about 1/4 inch thick.
2. Beat eggs and add a splash of milk, salt and pepper.
3. Season breadcrumbs (whichever you chose) and add romano cheese.
4. Dip eggplant slices (cover both sides) in egg mixture and then in breadcrumbs patting down with your hand to help crumbs adhere to the eggplant. Do this on both sides.
5. Using a large frying pan, brown eggplant slices on both sides in canola oil. Make sure your oil is very hot because eggplant sucks up oil like a sponge. Drain slices on a paper towel (don't forget to eat a piece when it's cooled, it's just as yummy plain!).
6. In a medium sized deep baking pan (I used my medium rectangular pyrex)ladle some marinara sauce to lightly cover the bottom. Add slices of eggplant slightly overlapping (if they are sliced thin you can do this). Add another layer of sauce, sprinkle of romano cheese and mozzarella. Don't put the mozzarella on too thick. Add another layer of eggplant and continue to layer the same way until all of your eggplant is used. The last layer should be mozzarella.
7. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. Let eggplant settle for 5-10 minutes before slicing.