Monday, August 31, 2009
I'm kind of broke at the moment, so I'm trying to come up with cheap dishes that I can make with what I have in the house. And since my pantry is literally packed with couscous (I found it at the local discount store for 99 cents a box!) I thought it would be a good idea to cook up a batch and bring it to the office for lunch. Of course you can also use it as a side dish, but I find it filling and tasty enough to have it as a stand alone dish.
Makes 4 servings
1 box plain or flavored couscous (I used sundried tomato and garlic couscous today)
1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 small zucchini
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons kalamata olives
3 tablespoons raisins
1 sprig fresh mint
Salt and pepper
Soak the raisins in warm water for about 20 minutes.
In the mean time bring the broth to a boil, add couscous, stir and remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 7 minutes. Fluff with work and set aside.
Chop the zucchini and tomatoes, slice the olives. Add to couscous. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mince the mint, drain the raisins and add to the couscous. Serve warm or cold.
Friday, August 28, 2009
So it was kind of weird when I moved to the U.S. and started dating my American boyfriend to hear him say "I don't really like pasta." I mean, how on earth could that possibly be? Could I even consider dating someone who doesn't like pasta? To me it would be like dating someone who doesn't enjoy wine or doesn't like cats. A deal-breaker. So I decided that he didn't like pasta because he had never had good pasta. I was right (aren't I always?). I made him all the pasta recipes in my repertoire and he loved them all. Nowadays, years later, he's the one that bugs me all the time asking for pasta. One of his favorites, pasta alla carbonara, is an awesome dish which is easy to make but has to be eaten IMMEDIATELY. When it's ready everyone has to sit down and eat. Unless you want it to turn into a gluey mess, that is.
PASTA ALLA CARBONARA
3/4 pound spaghetti
1 small onion
4 pancetta slices, 1/2 inch thick (if you can't find pancetta substitute 1/4 pound of bacon)
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons grated Romano cheese
A few tablespoons of milk
Mince the onion and cut the pancetta slices in small cubes. Place both in a skillet and sautee on medium high heat until onion is translucent and pancetta changes color. Don't overcook!
While onion and pancetta are cooking, prepare spaghetti in abudant boiling water with a handful of rock salt.
In a small bowl beat the eggs with cheeses and pepper to taste. Add a little milk at a time to make sure that the mix isn't too dry.
When spaghetti is cooked, drain and add to the skillet with onion ad pancetta. Toss well. Remove from heat. Pour egg mixture in skillet, mix quickly and serve immediately with grated cheese and black pepper on the side.
NOTE: if your mixture is too dry add a little more milk. If it's too runny add cheese.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I was born and raised in Italy, so of course I knew nothing about beer can chickens until a few years ago. I don't remember where I had my first one, but the notion of cooking a whole chicken with a beer can up his butt was quite hilarious (I'm easily entertained, I guess) and the result was a juicy, delicious chicken. Ever since then I've been trying to find the perfect recipe to make my own and -after a few tries- I think I've come up with one that is good and spicy. The secret is to keep the breast from drying up, which is pretty easy if you baste it with lots of liquids before you put the bird on the grill. The marinade also infuses the meat with a delicious BBQ-like flavor, while the beer and the liquid smoke do the same from the inside.
BEER CAN CHICKEN
1 whole chicken
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
6 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 can beer
3 tablespoons barbecue smoked seasoning
Preheat grill on medium high.
Remove and discard giblets and neck from the chicken. Loosen skin from breasts and drumsticks by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat.Be careful not to pierce the skin -it's what keeps the bird from drying.
Combine ketchup, sugar, paprika, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder and vinegar in a bowl. Rub it under loosened skin and over breasts and drumsticks.
Place on preheated grill, lower heat and cook slowly, with the lid closed, for about 1 1/2 hours or until desired internal temperature is reached.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Last night, though, I flipped out and it had nothing to do with wine. Well, it kind of did... but not in the way you're thinking. This is what happened. My friend Janet and also my friend Tracey have been asking me to post a recipe for a certain "mock" pizza I make using phyllo dough, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese. Yesterday seemed like a good time to make it, so after work I picked up some cherry tomatoes and some bresaola (Italian cured meat) and headed home, happy as a clam. I didn't even let the phyllo dough intimidate me -which is saying something since I hate the way the littler bugger likes to get all dry and brittle in a matter of seconds of being thawed out. I sliced my tomatoes, made my cheese mixture, sliced some green onions and proceeded to layer sheets of phyllo dough and spoonfuls of cheese -five of them- and then topped my creation with the tomatoes, green onions and a little more cheese for good measure. So what possibly could have gone wrong, you might wonder?
While I was preheating the oven I decided to unload the dishwasher -and this is where it all goes to hell. I slipped on a tiny bit of water and -with my elbow- broke my glass of wine that was sitting on the counter... right next to my mock pizza. Pieces of glass flew literally everywhere, especially on the food and I found myself in a puddle of wine and borken glass, while all of the sudden my dinner plans had gone -quite literally- down the drain. I won't lie:I cried. Not in Julie Powell hysterical fashion, but I cried. And then, because it was 10 p.m., I was tired and mad at the world I did what any Italian would do: I poured myself a new glass of wine and made my favorite pasta dish: pasta alla puttanesca.
PASTA ALLA PUTTANESCA:
1/2 pound spaghetti
24 ounces canned pureed tomatoes
4 tablespoons capers, minced
1 cup black olives, minced
2 garlic cloves
1 small onion, minced
Crushed red pepper
Cook pasta in boiling, salted water.
While pasta cooks, heat EVOO in a large skillet and sautee garlic for a minute or so, making sure it doesn't burn. Add onion and cook for a minute.
Add tomato puree and adjust seasoning with crushed red pepper and very little salt. Stir in minced olives and capers, miz well and taste. It should be plenty salty.
When noodles are cooked drain and add to the skillet, mix with sauce and serve. And no, after all that happened last night I didn't take a picture of it!
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Last weekend, while camping with our good friends Jayne and Bruce, we ate a delicious breakfast burrito Jayne made to nurse us back to life on Sunday morning. After a long day and a long night of drinking it was just what we needed: nutritious, packed with protein and -at the same time- meat-less. Not that I have anything against meat, but for some reason I don't digest it too well when it's mixed with eggs. I love it, but my stomach doesn't. So I was thrilled when Jayne started working on the burritos and said that they were vegetarian burritos. Of course I tried to help her, but she wouldn't let me. She kept telling me to just sit down and sip on my beer (hair of the dog, you know?) while she chopped, diced and minced away. So I used the spare time to drink ice cold beer way before noon and -also- take pictures of the burritos in the making. Unfortunately there's no picture of the finished product -as soon as the fillings and the salsa were ready everyone devoured them so fast I had to hurry up and grab one before they were all gone.
1 large flour tortilla
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 jalapeno pepper, sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Shredded Mexican cheese
1 cup tomato, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 onion, sliced
1 wedge of lime
1/2 jalapeno pepper, chopped
Heat up a little butter in a skillet and brown onions, bell pepper and jalapenos.
While vegetables cook, put together salsa: mix all ingredients, season to taste with salt and dess with lime juice. Set aside.
When vegetables are crisp tender, add eggs to pan, season with salt and pepper and cook until desired degree of doneness. Add cheese and stir.
Warm tortillas in microwave.
Fill each tortilla with refried beans, egg mixture, top with salsa and sour cream. Roll up and enjoy!
Friday, August 21, 2009
The co-op, of course, gave me not one but three of this strange vegetables. That meant finding not one but three recipes to get rid of the things before they went bed. The first recipe I found was on the back of the co-op's newsletter -a medley of root vegetables by renowned chef Wolfgang Puck. I liked it enough to try it, but of course had to somehow change it and make it "mine". It turned out really good and yes, the purple kohlrabi tastes great!
ROOT VEGETABLE MEDLEY:
8 carrots, peeled and trimmed
10 baby turnips, peeled
6 baby potatoes, skin on, cut lengthwise in halves
2 onions, peeled and cut into quarters
1 purple kohlrabi, peeled and cut into thick wedges
1 celery root, cut crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices
1 whole head garlic, separated into cloves, unpeeled
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Put all your vegetables and the herbs in a large baking dish. Season well with salt and black pepper, drizzle generously with olive oil, and toss them to coat evenly.
Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and cook, stirring the vegetables occasionally, until they are tender and golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
PEAR AND CHOCOLATE TART:
1 whole clove
1 piece lemon rind
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
Peel and chop 6 pears and cook them in a saucepan with 1 tbsp butter, 1 whole clove and a piece of lemon rind (as big as the one you'd use for a martini). After 15 minutes they should be nice and soft. Remove from heat and let them cool off.
In the mean time, for the pastry shell: mix 1 1/2 cups of flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 sticks of softened butter, 3 egg yolks, 1/2 teaspoon dry yest and grated rind of half a lemon. Knead until you have a heavy, smooth ball of dough. Take 1/3 of it and set aside.
Place a large square of on your working surface, place biggest of the two doughs on it and roll out with a . Lift parchment paper and place in a 11 inch pie dish. Pour pear mixture on the dough. Break a small dark chocolate bar into pieces and scatter over pear mixture. Take the little ball of dough and roll it out on a piece of parchment paper like you did with the first one. Gently slide the second "disc" of dough and use it as a lid over the pear mixture. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes or until it looks done.
Let cool and enjoy!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Easy, right? Who needs a recipe to make something as simple as bruschetta? Well, after having seen (and eaten) brushcetta at local restaurants and at friends' house I feel compelled to post a real Italian version of the popular appetizer. Most people will be amazed to find out that there's no cheese -non: no mozzarella, no parmesan, no romano- on bruschetta. Also, you don't need a ton of garlic to give it its signature flavor. Too much garlic simply makes it taste too strong, while killing the other more delicate flavors of tomato and olive oil. So hold the garlic, put the cheese back in the fridge and try this recipe -you'll never order some artichoke and sundried tomato absurdity again.
Another plus? This appetizer is a breeze to put together, no matter where you are. I made bruschetta on my recent camping trip and it was an easy and delicious way to start off our evening meal.
8 slices of bread (ciabatta, baguette, Cuban... use your favorite)
2 cloves of garlic
3 medium sized, good quality, on-the-vine tomatoes
Salt, to taste
Crushed red pepper, to taste
Preheat grill on low or -if you want to make these on a grill pan- heat grill pan on low heat.
Cut the tomatoes and half onion in small cubes and mix them in a medium bowl. Season with salt and crushed red pepper. Dress with a little olive oil and set aside.
Place bread slices on grill and toast lightly on both sides, making sure the bread doesn't burn. In the mean time cut each garlic clove in half. When bread is ready, remove from grill and immediately rub garlic flesh side down on both sides. Discard garlic. Top with tomato mixture and serve. Trust be, the bread will have a wonderful garlic flavor but you'll also be able to taste the other ingredients. Buon appetito!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
This was our campfire. Tommy went to the campgrounds store, bought lots of wood and brought it back to the trail right before sunset. I'm proud to say that I was responsible for it and it roared and roared until the wee hours of the morning.
I love Christmas lights. They looked really pretty after the sun set.
On Sunday morning we sat at the table outside and we prepped vegetables for Jayne's awesome breakfast burritos. It was the perfect cure for a killer hangover...
And last but not least, some wildlife. I have NEVER seen a squirrel laying down like this. He was chilling on a picnic bench and wans't afraid of humans. As a matter of fact, he was quite curious and approached me, sniffing the air and hoping for food:
Monday, August 17, 2009
US 31 isn't the most trafficked road, as you can tell. And -as you also can tell- the weather can change pretty quickly in Florida in August.
Welcome to Arcadia. We havn't sold any hot jumbo boiled peanuts in a while, probably since Hurricane Charley.See? There was some food involved. As soon as we arrived at Bruce and Jayne's trailer I made some bruschettas to snack on. We grilled the bread on the portable gas grill and they turned out perfect.
This is Peace River. It was late in the afternoon and the weather was turning a little ugly, as it often happens in the summer in Florida. Unfortunately as soon as we got there it started raining, so we headed back to the trail to drink beer and cook dinner!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
This isn't the best picture, but I literally had to fend off my whole family while I was trying to take a couple of photos that wouldn't suck. Oh and my niece and nephew who constantly begged to "take the pictures for me". The appetizer of grilled mozzarella and bread, served over a bed of heirloom tomatoes and pesto, was a hit.
I recently joined a local co-op and for $25 a week I get two begs full of all kinds of fruit and vegetables. Luckily enough, on my first week I received a bunch of beautiful, organic roma tomatoes, which I used for this recipe together with a yellow heirloom tomato that I had bought for... let's say A LOT of money at Whole Foods. The tomatoes, my mom's homemade pesto and good mozzarella and bread all played very important roles in this easy, summery appetizer.
Did I mention that is made on the grill? So you don't even need a kitchen to enjoys these skewers!
SPIEDINI OF BREAD AND MOZZARELLA
1 loaf ciabatta bread or other rustic Italian loaf
2 8-ounce packages of mozzarella bocconicini
5 medium sized tomatoes (red, green, yellow... whatever you have handy!)
3 tablespoons high quality pesto
Mediterranean sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
Cut each mozzarella bite into 4 pieces and set aside.
Slice bread into thick, 1 1/2 inch slices. Cut each slice into 6 pieces, so you get 6 bread cubes out of each slice. Place bread cubes in a bowl and season with olive oil and salt.
Chop tomatoes into small cubes and place on the bottom of a serving dish or a pyrex. Season with salt and pepper, set aside.
Starting with a piece of bread, skewer bread and mozzarella on a bamboo skewer so you have four pieces of bread and three pieces of cheese on each skewer.
Grill skewers on low heat for a couple of minutes on each side, making sure you don't over-melt the cheese. Serve over bed of tomatoes and eat immediately.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
We've all seen the movie. The Pixar cartoon about the cute little rat that wants to become a chef. I particularly enjoyed it, not only because I think Pixar movies are sheer genius, but also because the whole plot revolves around the relationship between chef and restaurant critic. Of course ever since I've seen the movie I've been obsessed with creating the perfect ratatouille, the French peasant dish that eventually wins over the heart of the -aparently heartless- restaurant critic. Last night I made a pretty good one, even though I say so myself. So here it is: the perfect side dish to make when you have a lot of vegetables sitting around the kitchen.
1 small eggplant (not those giant, flavorless ones, please...)
2 small zucchini
4 cloves of garlic
1 red bell pepper
1 can of good quality chopped tomatoes, such as Del Monte
Salt and pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarsely chop all the vegetables and mince the herbs.
In a large dutch oven pour a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and gently saute the sliced garlic and onions, until tender. Add eggplant and zucchini and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Add bell pepper, tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add minced herbs, cover and cook on low for 5 minutes more. Serve as a side dish or as a main course with slices of bread.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
If you like ribs, this recipe is a must try. My mom got it from the local Roy's restaurant (part of Roy Yamaguchi's empire), slightly tweaked it to better fit our taste and started serving it whenever she needs to feed a crowd. The major change she made is the quantity of marinade, which she makes more of, so that the ribs are tastier and more tender. Also, instead of finishing them off under the broiler we throw them on a hot grill, which leaves those lovely grill marks on the meat. Either way they are delicious and the meat literally falls off the bone. They make a great appetizer or a main course, depending on how much food your serving.
ROY'S KILLER RIBS:
4 pounds pork baby back ribs
2 /1/2 cups hoisin sauce
2 tbsp minced garlic
3 tbsp minced ginger
3 tbsp Chinese chili garlic paste
3/4 cup honey
Cut the slabs in half and place in a pot full of boiling water. Gently boil for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until rib bones pierce through the meat and meat looks cooked.
Remove from water and let cool off.
To make marinate combine remaining ingredients and place in refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 450F.
Baste ribs with marinade on both sides, place on a cookie sheet and cook in hot oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes. Separate ribs, baste with remaining marinade. Either broil for a few minutes or cook on grill for 3-5 minutes. Enjoy!
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Pretty much my whole family is in town right now and we are constantly trying to come up with meals that easily serve a crowd (if we all go to my parents' house at once -like we did last night- there is 16 of us!). Yesterday, while the kids played in the pool, I made a batch of this chili and we made wonderful chili dogs. My mom also made her killer ribs -I'll post the recipe for those as soon as I get it from her.
CHILI (WITH NO BEANS)
1 pound ground sirloin
Salt and pepper to taste
2 onions, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 10-ounce can Rotel tomatoes with habanero peppers
1 10-once can V8 tomato juice hot and spicy
1 10-ounce can tomato paste
3 tablespoons cumin powder
6 tablespoons chili powder
Place meat in a large dutch oven and season with salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes, stirring to crumble. Add chopped vegetables, tomatoes (with their juices), tomato juice, tomato paste and spices. Stir well to mix. Lower heat to low. Simmer, covered, for about two hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with sweet pepper relish on hot dogs.
Friday, August 7, 2009
I kid you not, these cheeseburgers are famous around here. And around Italy, which makes them famous in two different continents. Now THAT is something, right?
Growing up I was always unimpressed with McDonald's overcooked, thin patties of mysterious "meat". Barbecues at friends' houses -the kind where they cook the meat to death until there isn't one drop of juice left in it- didn't help the matter at all. So when my boyfriend made me his famous cheeseburger for the first time I was like "WOW". All of the sudden cheeseburgers were my favorite food and my family quickly converted as well. We now request his burgers every time there is something to celebrate and he's more than happy to make them even fore crowds of 20 or more. What makes them special is that the cheese instead of being on top, is inside the patty and it oozes out when you bite into it. Yummy!
TOMMY'S FAMOUS CHEESEBURGERS
Ingredients per person:
5 oz. ground sirloin
1 slice American cheese
1 leaf crunchy lettuce
2 slices of tomato
a few very thin slices of onion
a table spoon of chopped green olives
bread and butter pickle chips
Mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
Martin's hamburger potato bun (no substitutes!!)
Divide the meat in two equal parts and, using your hands, make two thin patties. Fold cheese slice in four, place it in the middle of one patty, place the other patty on top and seal the sides with your fingers. You know have a cheese stuffed patty.
Cook on a medium/hot grill until medium rare or medium. Don't overcook!
On the bottom bun place the leaf of lettuce. This will keep the bun from getting soggy. Top with ketchup, tomatoes, burger, mayo, onions, olives and other half of the bun. Enjoy!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
SPINACH AND PROSCIUTTO ROLL-UPS
10 oz. frozen or fresh chopped spinach well drained
1 cup of mayonnaise
1 bunch chopped
1 oz. envelope Ranch style dressing mix or seasoning blend to taste
3 prosciutto slices, finely chopped
8 flour tortillas
Stir together first 6 ingredients, then spread evenly on tortillas.
Rollup jellyroll fashion, pressing edges to seal. Wrap in plastic wrap.
Chill 4 to 6 hours, cut into slices. Can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen until ready to use.
Monday, August 3, 2009
I absolutely love this recipe. My mom found it on La Cucina Italiana magazine a few years back and we enthusiastically started making these spiedini (Italian for skewers) for parties and family gatherings. It's great summer recipe because you out to good use the bounty of fresh zucchini and bell peppers that we get to see in June, July and August. The eggplants... not so much. Not in Florida. They are too big, too expensive and they usually don't taste like much, which means that eggplants have quickly become one of my least favorite ingredients. But everyone else loves them, so I put them in the spiedini anyway. Yes, I'm THAT nice =)
SPIEDINI OF VEGGIES, MOZZARELLA AND AROMATIC BREAD
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 small eggplant
16 cherry mozzarella balls
2 cups of Italian bread
1 bunch of fresh parsley
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves
Cut vegetables into 1/2 inch thick chunks and grill on a grilling pan. Set aside on a plate and season with salt. On each skewer place two of each: red pepper, eggplant piece, zucchini slice, yellow pepper piece, mozzarella ball.
Using fingers, break bread into very small pieces. Heat olive oil and garlic cloves in a skillet for a minute, until fragrant. Add bread, season with salt and pepper. Let bread soak up oil for 30 seconds. Add herbs, stir and remove from heat.
Sprinkle bread mixture over vegetable skewers and serve with extra olive oil on the side.