Tag: italian

5 Ideas for Quick and Easy Weeknight Meals

5 Ideas for Quick and Easy Weeknight Meals

 

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With work, holiday shopping, social obligations and more, it’s not easy to cook every night. Ordering takeout is easy but it’s not cheap. Here’s something I hope will help you out:

 

Weeknight Meal Planning Guide

 

Steak pizzaiola in a bowl
This is a bowl of delicious “meat candy.”

1.) Monday: Steak Pizzaiola (in a slow cooker)

If you haven’t tried this yet, what’s stopping you? Do you need a slow cooker or maybe one of those Instant Pots that are all the rage?

Seriously, this is the best slow cooker recipe out there, developed by a professional chef who always cooks authentic Italian. He calls this “meat candy.” Take 10-minutes to prepare the ingredients before throwing them in the pot and then wait a couple of hours and you’ll see why.

 

2.) Tuesday: Quick, Easy Turkish Eggplant Casserole

Eggplant dish in pan
If you use a cast iron skillet to make the sauce you can layer the eggplant in it and then bake it in the oven (using only one pan).

This looks, smells, and tastes delicious. It’s like eggplant parm without all the work and without all of the fat. A pinch of cinnamon adds depth and takes this to another world.

 

3.) Wednesday: Mexicali Chicken

Close up of Mexicali chicken
Gooey, delicious comfort food.

Just four simple steps for gooey pseudo-Mexican comfort food.

 

4.) Thursday: Marco’s Fuscilli

How hard and long does it take to boil water? That’s how hard and long it takes to make this. Nothing could be simpler or tastier.

 

5.) Friday: Breakfast for Dinner, Gingerbread Pancakes

Pancakes with melted butter
Save the best meal for last.

Yes, you could just scramble up a couple of eggs, but this is much better, especially around the holidays. It’s the bold flavor or gingerbread in one of the lightest pancakes you’ll ever eat.

 

Bonus: 10-Minute Crostini

Crostini with salsa
These are great for holiday get-togethers.

There’s nothing quicker and easier than this appetizer (of course you could make this a meal if you ate enough of them). Three ingredients: guacamole, salsa, and a good baguette. You know what to do.

 

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy the Holidays,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)

Steak Pizzaiola (In a Slow Cooker)

Get a free Rootsliving eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy
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(Above: Watch the video to see how Boston Chef Dante de Magistris makes steak pizzaiola in a slow cooker or read the recipe below.)

(more…)

Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

All that blogging about nepitella made me hungry and so for dinner tonight, I whipped up this tasty dish with ingredients I had on hand. If you don’t have nepitella, you’re forgiven this time, and can substitute a mixture of basil and mint. So what is nepitella? Find out here.

Nepitella plant
(Nepitella is in the mint family and the plant looks like mint.)

Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

October 16, 2018
: 30 min
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • One pound of spaghetti
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (a quarter of a cup should do it)
  • Button mushrooms, sliced. (About 12-16 oz.)
  • Capers (about 1 tablespoon.)
  • Nepitella (About 1 tablespoon of chopped up fresh. A little less if using dried.) (A mixture of basil and mint can be used as a substitute.)
  • A pinch of red crushed pepper
  • A half-pinch of nutmeg (this spice is powerful, use caution and add just a little. You can always add more if you desire.)
  • Garlic (one clove, sliced)
  • Butter (About a 1/2 tablespoon for taste.)
  • Parmesano (aka: parmesan) cheese (about 1/4 cup.)
  • Salt (to taste)
Directions
  • Step 1 Boil water in a large pot. When water boils, add spaghetti.
  • Step 2 While water is boiling, cook mushrooms in about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with nepitella and salt.
  • Step 3 Half-way through cooking, add the red pepper to the mushrooms. Add the capers too.
  • Step 4 Cook mushrooms until well done. During the last five minutes, add the garlic (be careful not to burn). And add a half pinch of nutmeg (be careful, this spice is strong).
  • Step 5 Drain the spaghetti and put it back in the empty pot. Add the mushroom mixture and stir. Add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the butter. Sprinkle on the parmesan cheese. Add salt to taste and serve.
Quick Tomato Sauce

Quick Tomato Sauce

This simple recipe comes from the classic nineteenth-century Italian cookbook, the Artusi. Although it’s a bit more complicated and time-consuming than opening up a jar of sauce, it’s still pretty simple and quick to make. And it’s definitely worth the effort as it creates a very plain, simple tomato sauce that you can use in a variety of dishes.

Quick Tomato Sauce (From the Artusi)

October 15, 2018
: 1 hr
: Easy

It doesn't get any more authentic than this. From a classic nineteenth-century Italian cookbook. It's easy to make and worth the effort.

By:

Ingredients
  • Tomatoes (About 1 1/2 pounds, preferably Roma or plum tomatoes)
  • Salt and pepper (Just a dash, to taste)
Directions
  • Step 1 Blanch the tomatoes: that means drop them in boiling water for about a minute. This makes it easier to peel them.
  • Step 2 Peel, de-seed and chop them.
  • Step 3 Drop the tomatoes into a pot with just enough water to keep them from sticking to the bottom.
  • Step 4 Simmer the tomatoes until done (About 20 minutes. No more than 30 minutes). Stir occasionally. And add salt and pepper.
  • Step 5 Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.
Torta d’patata

Torta d’patata

(Above: Torta d’patata before putting it in the oven where it develops a light, brown, crust.)

This is a recipe from my grandmother Bruna’s kitchen. It’s a very thin and savory potato cake made with swiss chard.

Peeled potatoes in a colander.
Mashed potatoes is the starter for this dish.
Mashed potato mixture on a cookie sheet.
Spread the mashed potato mixture out onto a floured cookie sheet.

You basically make mashed potatoes and then add some savory ingredients before spreading it on a cookie sheet and baking it.

My grandmother was born in the hills of northern Tuscany, so I believe this recipe is very much a Tuscan specialty. I made this as part of the “Julia (Child) Meets Bruna” dinner party meal plan, and a version of it also showed up in the “Southern France Vegetarian” meal plan.

Here’s the recipe:

 

 

 

Torta d'Patata

October 15, 2018
: 1 hr 15 min
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • Potatoes, peeled, washed, and cut in half (about 4 pounds)
  • Onion, chopped fine (1 large)
  • Garlic (1 clove, smashed or split in two)
  • Fresh parsley, chopped (a small handful or about 1/4 cup)
  • Fresh sage, chopped (About 2-3 tablespoons)
  • Fresh mint, chopped (A small handful or about 1/4 cup)
  • Swiss chard, chopped (1 bunch, about 8 leaves with stems trimmed)
  • Chicken bullion cube (1/2 a cube)
  • Grated parmesan cheese (3/4 cup)
  • 2 Eggs
  • Butter (1-2 tablespoons)
Directions
  • Step 1 Put potatoes in boiling water and cook until very tender. Drain in a colander and then make mashed potatoes with them. (I put the potatoes through a ricer so there are no lumps.
  • Step 2 In a frying pan, saute the onions until translucent and then add the garlic, parsley, sage, and mint. Stir for about a minute and then add the swiss chard. Cover and cook until swiss chard shrinks and is ready to eat.
  • Step 3 Dissolve half a chicken bullion cube about 3/4 cup of hot water.
  • Step 4 Add all ingredients (from frying pan and the chicken stock you just created) to the mashed potatoes and stir.
  • Step 5 Add the grated cheese, the 2 eggs and the butter to the mashed potatoes and stir until the eggs and everything are well blended.
  • Step 6 Grease a cookie sheet with Crisco shortening. Sprinkle flour over it to cover the pan. Turn out excess flour.
  • Step 7 Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, spread mashed potato mixture evenly over cookie sheet.
  • Step 8 Place in a 350 oven until lightly golden brown (be careful not to let bottom burn). This should take about 20 minutes, give or take 5 minutes or so.
  • Step 9 Take from the oven and sprinkle salt over the top. Cut into large squares or rectangles.

 

 

Ma’s Stuffed Peppers

(Above: Watch the video to see how these are made. This is an easy recipe and the kids like them too.) (more…)

Best Super Bowl App: AI (Asian-Italian) Chicken Wings

Best Super Bowl App: AI (Asian-Italian) Chicken Wings

This is the killer app for Super Bowl Sunday or for all those games leading up to it. (more…)

Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

Get a free Rootsliving eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy
the Holidays.”  

My friend Antoinette (who was born in Italy and is one of the best cooks I know) brought these to my house for a dinner party. They’re so good, it’s hard to stop eating them. And then when she told me how easy and fast they are to make I had to try it.

 

Nutella on a wonton wrapper and a spoon
All you need is a 1/4 teaspoon of Nutella for each cookie, maybe even a little less.

 

These cookies can be made well in advance. The cookies come out crunchy and sweet. And it’s very hard to stop eating them.

With only three ingredients — wonton wrappers, Nutella, and vegetable oil — these are a breeze to make. You put a dab of Nutella in the middle of a wonton wrapper and then fold it over so you have a triangle. Then you press down on the edges, being sure to get any air bubbles out.

 

A jar of nutella and some uncooked cookies.
Nutella is a chocolate and hazelnut spread, very popular in Italy.

 

Some other recipes recommend sealing the edges with a beaten egg, but I found this wasn’t necessary. I also suggest making up a bunch of these before you start deep frying because the frying goes very quickly and you need to pay attention so that the cookies don’t burn.

 

Nutella cookies frying
Pour about 1/2 inch of oil in a good frying pan and don’t take your eyes of the cookies.

 

Be sure to control the heat too. You don’t want the oil to start smoking. If you see it start to do that quickly turn down the heat or even remove the pan from the flame (if you’re cooking with gas). You want the oil to remain clean and you want the cookies to be lightly brown.

 

Nutella cookies draining on a paper towel.
Transfer the cookies from the frying pan to a plate lined with a paper napkin so they can drain.

 

One final note: I always believed there were many similarities and/or opportunities to blend Italian cooking with Chinese cooking and this recipe proves it.

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy the Holidays,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)

Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

September 20, 2018
: Easy

You can make these at a moment's notice and are great to bring to a party. Just be sure to keep a close eye on them so they don't burn.

By:

Ingredients
  • Nutella (buy a small jar)
  • Wonton wrappers
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vegetable oil
Directions
  • Step 1 Put a dab of Nutella (less than a teaspoon will do) into the middle of a wonton wrapper. Fold the wrapper over so that it creates a triangle. Press down the edges until they stick.
  • Step 2 Heat about an inch or so of vegetable oil over high heat in a good skillet (I used a cast iron skillet).
  • Step 3 Drop three or four wonton cookies into the oil and cook on each side for about 30 seconds or less (just until light golden brown). Remove cookies to a plate lined with paper towels so the oil can drain.
  • Step 4 Put cookies on a platter and sprinkle powdered sugar over both sides. I used a sieve to sprinkle the sugar evenly.

 

Chickplantasagna is Born

Chickplantasagna is Born

(Above: Layered like lasagna, with eggplant, chicken, and zucchini, chick-plant-asagna was born out of necessity.)

We were hungry.

I had eggplant, zucchini, some leftover cheddar cheese and a new block of Parmigiano-Reggiano in the refrigerator. All day long I thought of those ingredients and asked myself what I could make for dinner. Around 4 p.m., the answer came to me.

 

I just needed chicken cutlets so I stopped at the supermarket on my way home and found some chicken tenders that looked better than the other cuts of chicken there. I brought them home and flattened them between two pieces of aluminum foil (I had nothing else). And that’s where our story (recipe) begins.

 

Zucchini on a cutting board with eggplant slices
You start by slicing the vegetables and baking them. Notice how the eggplant slices (top left) have only a little skin left on them.

 

I don’t believe that salting the eggplant and letting it drain helps get rid of the bitterness so I never do that. Instead, I make sure to buy a really good eggplant: one that is dark in color, one that has a smooth skin without blemishes, and one that is firm to the touch. And I peel the skin, leaving vertical stripes, so that when you slice the eggplant, each slice only has a little skin on it. I believe this helps to keep the bitterness to a minimum.

 

Slices of eggplant on a cookie sheet
Brush the vegetables with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt before baking.

 

After you bake the vegetables, fry the chicken, and saute a tomato and wine sauce, you assemble the dish ending with a layer of cheese and fresh salsa.

 

A close-up of salsa, cheese, vegetables

 

The dish was delicious but it still needed a name. I posted a photo of it on Facebook and asked for suggestions. My friend Katie M. suggested Chickplantasagna. It was the perfect name for a perfect dish.

Chickplantasagna

August 10, 2016
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • Chicken tenders (About 9 or 10, flattened by pounding them with a rolling pin between two pieces of wax paper, parchment paper, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil.) Or, if available, use thinly sliced chicken cutlets.
  • Eggplant (1 dark, purple — firm, but not bruised — beauty).
  • Zuchinni (1)
  • Red pepper (1)
  • Cheddar cheese (about 1/4 cup shredded)
  • Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup, grated)
  • Fresh salsa (about 1 cup)
  • Tomato Paste, imported and from a tube (about 3 or 4 good squirts)
  • Red wine (about 1/3 cup), and a little water too.
  • Garlic (1 clove, torn open with your fingers)
  • Olive oil, regular, not extra-virgin (about 1/2 cup)
  • Lemon pepper
Directions
  • Step 1 Take the skin off the eggplant by peeling off strips of it using a vegetable peeler. The eggplant will look like it has stripes as some of the skin remains.
  • Step 2 Cut thin (about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick) slices of the eggplant. Brush olive oil on one side of each slice. Brush olive oil on a cookie sheet and put eggplant, dry side down. Cook in a 450 degree oven, turning over once, until both sides are brown.
  • Step 3 Cut thin slices of zuchhini (about 1/4-inch to 1/2 inch thick). Put oil on both sides. Cut long strips of red pepper (about 1/2 inch thick) and put oil on both sides. Cook zuchhini and red pepper on a baking sheet in a 450 degree oven until done.
  • Step 4 Fry chicken cutlets in a little olive oil and the clove of garlic. Sprinkle with lemon pepper.
  • Step 5 When chicken is done, heat frying pan again. Add the tomato paste and the wine and water and stir. Add salt and pepper. Let the wine and water evaporate a little bit. Stir scraping the bottom of the pan. Add about 1 tablespoon of butter and stir some more. Turn off heat.
  • Step 6 Assemble the dish by putting a little olive oil on the bottom of a ceramic baking dish, along with a few tablespoons of the fresh salsa. Add half of the chicken cutlets. Pour over half of the tomato paste sauce. Add half of the cheeses. Top with half of the zuchhini, red peppers, and eggplant slices. And then repeat this with the remaining ingredients, ending with the rest of the cheese and some fresh salsa.
  • Step 7 Bake in a 350 degree oven until cheese melts.

Giant Peruvian Lima Bean Soup (From Taranta Restaurant in Boston’s North End)

Taranta Restaurant in Boston’s North End is unique. It serves a combination of Italian and Peruvian cuisine following the ethnicity of chef/owner Jose Duarte.

Here’s a recipe I got when I was shooting Dorm Room Chef videos for the Boston Globe. It’s delicious and very healthy.

Watch the video to get the recipe. It’s only 2 1/2 minutes long and the recipe is pretty easy to make. I also wrote the recipe below.

I’ve made it dozens of times and plan to make it again soon, now that the weather in this part of the country is getting colder.

Giant Peruvian Lima Bean Soup From Taranta Restaurant

October 19, 2015
: About 6 servings
: 10 min
: 6 hr
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • Giant Peruvian lima beans (About 1 1/2 cups). I couldn’t find anything labeled “Peruvian lima beans” at the supermarket so I just bought the largest ones there.
  • Water (About 1 1/2 cups)
  • Chicken stock (About 3 or 4 cups)
  • Garlic, chopped (A few cloves)
  • Celery, chopped (About 1/2 cup)
  • Carrots, chopped (About 1/2 cup)
  • Potato, diced (About 1/2 cup)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (3 or 4 tablespoons)
  • Egg (1 large egg per serving)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  • Step 1 Add the lima beans, the water, and enough chicken stock to completely cover the beans (about 1 1/2 cups) to a crockpot and cook for about 6 hours.
  • Step 2 Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a pan over medium heat. Add the celery, garlic, carrots, and potatoes and cook until tender (about 3-5 minutes).
  • Step 3 Add the lima beans and the remaining chicken stock to this pot and cook until nearly boiling.
  • Step 4 Add one egg at a time and stir gently to cook the egg. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Step 5 Serve each portion of soup with one egg. Pour a little olive oil over the top of each serving too.

 

 

Caponata, aka: Sweet and Sour Eggplant

Caponata, aka: Sweet and Sour Eggplant

(Above: Caponata on slices of Italian bread makes crostini.)

This recipe is one of the best I found in a very long time. It is a delicious blend of sweet and sour flavors with a mingling of soft and crunchy textures that melts in your mouth creating a desire for more and more. It is addictive.

The recipe, first printed in the 2005 edition of Gourmet Magazine, got the highest score on Epicurious.com: four forks, and the 18 people who reviewed it said they would make it again.

So what is caponata and what can you do with it? It’s a blend of bite-sized eggplant, tomatoes, celery, green olives, and red bell peppers that have been enhanced with some garlic, onion, parsley, basil, sugar and red wine vinegar.

The original recipe called for salting and draining the eggplant presumably to make it less bitter. I don’t believe in this procedure and find that picking a fresh eggplant that is dark purple and firm and with few, if any scars, works better. I also suggest peeling off the skin to create long white and purple stripes.

It is delicious, by itself as a side dish, or when mixed with pasta. It also makes the best crostini when spread generously over toasted ciabatta slices. It’s very versatile and can be used imaginatively in a thousand different ways. I just put the last of it on some lavash bread, along with some goat cheese and arugula to create a roll-up sandwich. It was better than an eggplant (or chicken, or veal) parm sandwich on a braided roll.

This recipe takes a little work but it’s worth it. It makes a big batch that you can enjoy for several days or even a week. Enjoy!!

CAPONATA, AKA: SWEET AND SOUR EGGPLANT

September 20, 2015
: 20 min
: 1 hr 30 min
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 lb eggplant (preferably small but not Asian)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (preferably Sicilian)
  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 11 garlic cloves (from 2 heads), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (preferably from a tube)
  • 1 (28-oz) can whole Italian tomatoes, finely chopped and juice reserved
  • 5 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup large green Sicilian olives (6 oz), pitted and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup drained bottled capers, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Directions
  • Step 1 Peel the eggplant to create long purple and white stripes. Then cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Step 2 Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté three fourths of garlic, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute.
  • Step 3 Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  • Step 4 Add tomatoes with their juice, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Step 5 Bring 2-3 cups of salted water to a boil in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart saucepan, then cook celery until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking.
  • Step 6 Heat 1/4 inch oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until it’s hot but not smoking and then fry the eggplant in 4 batches, stirring and turning constantly with a slotted spoon, until browned and tender, 3 to 5 minutes per batch. (Heat oil between batches.) Transfer to paper towels.
  • Step 7 Pour off all but 2 tablespoons oil from skillet, then reduce heat to moderate and cook onion, bell pepper, and remaining garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes.
  • Step 8 Add tomato sauce, eggplant, celery, olives, capers, vinegar, sugar, pepper, and remaining teaspoon sea salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.
  • Step 9 Cool to room temperature, uncovered, then chill, covered, at least 6-8 hours. Just before serving, stir in parsley and basil. Serve cold or at room temperature.

 

Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

(Above: This gnocchi dish can be served as an appetizer or as a main course.)

In most anything in life, you have to work with what you have. And in cooking, the seasons dictate what ingredients are best or available. On a recent trip to Calareso’s Farm Stand in Reading, Mass. I was intrigued by one pound packages of pumpkin gnocchi.

Now I’ve cooked gnocchi before, usually in a tomato sauce, but the savory pumpkin flavor needed something else. So I brainstormed. Pumpkin pie is good with whipped cream so I opted to go with a cream sauce and a little hint of nutmeg.

But this wasn’t going to be dessert. I had to keep it (dinner) real. Cheese would help keep the dish on the savory side and I decided the nutty taste of fontina, combined with some freshly grated imported parmesan cheese would do the trick.

I then imagined all of this gooey, sweet, savoriness melting in my mouth, but it was missing something: a healthy clean foil to the heavy richness. I decided it needed some greens. I had some broccoli rabe on hand and decided to give it a go.

The result was a sweet, savory, gooey piece of heaven, offset by the bitterness of a good healthy green vegetable. The icing on this savory cake? Thinly sliced almonds.

Note: This will serve four as a main course. Gnocchi is very filling. You don’t need much for each serving.

Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

October 4, 2012
: 4

This doesn't take long to make, perfect for a weeknight supper. However, it will impress guests too.

By:

Ingredients
  • Pumpkin gnocchi (1 pound)
  • Fontina Cheese (4 ounces, chopped up)
  • Imported parmesan cheese (1/3 cup or to taste)
  • Heavy cream (About 1/4 to 1/2 cup)
  • Scallions (About five or six, chopped)
  • Broccoli Rabe (1 small bunch, cleaned of leaves and stems. Keep only about an inch or two of stem after the floret. Cut florets in half length-wise.)
  • Almonds (About 1/8 cup, sliced thin)
  • Nutmeg (A small dash, just a few specks. Be careful.)
  • Salt, pepper (to taste)
Directions
  • Step 1 Steam broccoli rabe until done, but not soggy. Don’t overcook. It should have some bite. (I used a large pasta pot with a colander insert and steaming basket. It’s one of my favorite and most used cooking tools. )
  • Step 2 Cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling water for about three minutes (just until they float). Don’t overcook.
  • Step 3 In a saute pan cook the scallions until translucent and then add the cream, heating it up, but don’t let it boil. Add a small dash of nutmeg: we’re talking a few specks here. Nutmeg is very strong and can easily overpower a dish. Taste it. You just want a hint of nutmeg flavor. You can always add more if you like, but once you put it in, you can’t take it out. Be careful!
  • Step 4 Add cream sauce, fontina cheese, parmesan cheese, sliced almonds, and broccoli rabe to the cooked gnocchi and stir until cheese melts and everything is well blended.
  • Step 5 Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a side salad.
Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

(Above: Nice is a fun city that does a great job of blending the old and the new.)

Nice is in Southern France, near the Italian border, and so the cuisine there is a mixture of Italian and French. On our first visit we ate well and were able to pick up some great recipes: some that blend both cuisines and some that take classics and make them new.

Aerial view of the beach in Nice
(The French Riviera in Nice is a great summer spot with many wonderful flavors to explore.)

Three of these recipes we got from our favorite restaurant there, La Zucca Magica: a vegetarian restaurant with dishes so rich, no one missed the meat. Unfortunately, that restaurant has closed but I still have very fond memories of one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

 

Man sitting on a bench overlooking the port in Nice.
(La Zucca Magica, aka the Magic Pumpkin, was located near the port.)

 


Meal Plan: Mostly Vegetarian

When we got back, we had several dinner parties, including one with this meal plan:

 

First course: Cantaloupe Gazpacho With Crispy Prosciutto. (Recreated from Le Comptoir in Nice)

A bowl of orange cantaloupe soup.

 

Second course: Tomato Stuffed With Pasta Salad. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Tomato stuffed with pasta

 

Third course: Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Stuffed swiss chard.

 

If you want to have a completely vegetarian dinner, you can either omit the prosciutto in the first course or you can serve this dish instead: Patata Ball in Tomato Sauce (just substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth in this recipe). (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

potatoes in tomato sauce

 

And for dessert you could serve this tried-and-true classic that has been enjoyed in Provence for many generations: La Tourte De Blettes.(From a recipe card purchased in the market in St. Remy.)

A slice of pie
(La Tourte De Blettes translates to Swiss Chard Pie, but don’t let that fool you. It is sweet and can be served as both an entree and a dessert.)

 

Gnocchi Di Pollo E Patata Soup

Gnocchi Di Pollo E Patata Soup

Gnocchi di pollo e patata sounds so much better than chicken and potato gnocchi. But they both taste the same: light, savory, elegant.

This recipe, from the classic Italian cookbook from 1894 The Art of Eating Well, by Pellegrino Artusi, makes many gnocchis so it’s great to make and freeze. And then when you crave gnocchi, you’ll always have it on hand.

Gnocchi Di Pollo E Patata Soup

November 28, 2010
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • For the broth:
  • A whole chicken (1)
  • Celery Stalk (1, split in half)
  • Carrot (1 whole, peeled and cut in half)
  • Salt/Pepper (to taste)
  • For the gnocchi:
  • Mealy potatoes, peeled, boiled and pressed through a ricer or strainer (1/2 pound)
  • Small chicken breast, boiled and minced (Use one from the chicken you used to make the broth).
  • Parmesan cheese (3/4 of a cup)
  • Egg yolks (2)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Nutmeg (a pinch)
  • Flour (3-4 tablespoons)
Directions
  • Step 1 To make the broth: Put a whole chicken in a large pot and cover with cold water.
  • Step 2 Add celery and carrot, and salt and pepper.
  • Step 3 Bring to a boil. Then lower heat and simmer for an hour or more.
  • Step 4 Remove chicken. Pour broth through strainer into a large plastic container and refrigerate over night.
  • Step 5 The next day, take the fat off the top of the broth with a soup spoon.
  • Step 6 To make the gnocchi: Mix all of the ingredients, except the flour, together well.
  • Step 7 Work the flour into the mixture to bind it.
  • Step 8 Roll the mixture on a floured surface into a snake, the diameter of your little finger.
  • Step 9 Cut the snake into 1-inch lengths. Put what you don’t use into a large freezer bag and put in a freezer for later use.
  • Step 10 Simmer the gnocchi in the broth. They are very delicate and may fall apart. Don’t be too concerned as when they fall apart, they flavor the broth.

Lasagna, from The Figs Table

This lasagna has a crunchy top, but a soft middle.
This lasagna has a crunchy top, but a soft middle.

Chef Todd English makes a good lasagna.

I still remember one I had at his Olive’s Restaurant in Boston that was made with veal.

He has a knack for taking an old standard and then being innovative, without being preposterous, paying more attention to the flavors of a dish than the flair.

On Sunday I made one of his lasagnas from his other restaurant, Figs. Figs is more casual and family-friendly, and so is this lasagna.

He deviates from the traditional lasagna recipe by using no-boil noodles, Fontina cheese and fresh mozzarella. But I have a confession to make: I bought the standard, rubbery, mozzarella by mistake, instead of the fresh balls of mozzarella, and the result was still very good.

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • Olive oil (1 tbsp.)
  • Garlic cloves (5, thinly sliced)
  • Onion (1 small, chopped)
  • Sweet Italian Sausage (1 1/2 pounds, casings removed, and crumbled) (English says you can experiment here with different types of sausages and recommends trying spicy chicken.)
  • Diced Canned Tomatoes (6 cups). (I actually used a box of diced tomatoes; a can of San Marzano whole tomatoes, chopped up; and one large fresh tomato from the farmers market, chopped.)
  • Fresh Basil Leaves (1/2 cup, chopped)
  • Kosher Salt (1/2 – 1 tsp.)
  • Black Pepper (1/2 tsp.)
    For the layers:
  • No-Boil Lasagna Noodles (About 1 1/2 boxes)
  • Fresh Mozzarella (1 1/2 pounds, cut in large dice)
  • Italian Fontina Cheese (3/4 pound, sliced thin)
  • Part-Skim Ricotta Cheese (2/3 pound)
  • Fresh Basil (1 bunch; several leaves)
  • Kosher Salt (2 tsp.)
  • Black Pepper (1 tsp.)
  • Parmesan Cheese (1 to 1 1/2 cups, freshly grated)

What I did:

To Make the Sauce:

Stir occasionally as needed.

Add oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and toast it for about 3-4 minutes. Add the onion and cook until golden, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the sausage and cook until fat is rendered, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper and discard any excess fat.

Add the tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes.

Add the basil and cook until the mixture begins to thicken, about 10 minutes.

Fresh basil adds a bright lift to the flavors in this dish.
Fresh basil adds a bright lift to the flavors in this dish.

To Assemble the Lasagna:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put a light coating of olive oil on a 9 x 12 roasting pan or lasagna pan.

Fill a large bowl with hot water. Dip the noodles and then drain.

Cover the bottom of the pan with noodles.

Spread some sauce over the noodles.

Top with a little mozzarella cheese (it does not have to cover completely)

Top with a little Fontina cheese (it does not have to cover completely)

Top with small dollops of Ricotta cheese. Place pieces of fresh basil on top.

Sprinkle lightly with parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

Repeat this five times.

Top with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle lightly with parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven until golden brown, hot and bubbly, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Serve immediately or put in refrigerator to eat later.

This lasagna took a few hours to make but was easy.
This lasagna took a few hours to make but was easy.

Lasagna often takes best the second day. To reheat, put in a 350 degree oven and cook until heated through, about 30-40 minutes.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

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Kathy’s Fried Olives

Kathy’s Fried Olives

(Photo and recipe by Kathy Micheli)

Someone’s aunt took her recipe for fried olives to the grave.

So that someone told my sister-in-law about this wonderful Italian delicacy and asked if anyone in our family had a recipe. They didn’t, so Kathy thought about it for awhile and came up with this.

She served them to us last weekend as an appetizer and they’re delicious: crusty, but not greasy, on the outside; tangy, sweet and hot on the inside. I can’t be sure what that good-cooking aunt would think of them, but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if you don’t love them.

Kathy's Fried Olives

November 10, 2009

By:

Ingredients
  • Large Sicilian green olives, pitted. (If you buy unpitted olives, you can whack them with the flat end of a big knife and pick the pit out.)
  • Boursin cheese
  • Flour, about 1/4 cup
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Panko breadcrumbs (about 1/2 cup), mixed with grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup).
  • Olive oil for deep frying
Directions
  • Step 1 Fill each olive with cheese (if the olives break apart when pitting, the cheese will hold them together.)
  • Step 2 Dredge the olives in flour
  • Step 3 Dip olives in beaten egg
  • Step 4 Roll olives in breadcrumbs
  • Step 5 Deep fry in olive oil
Grilled Pork Chops with Peppers and Capers

Grilled Pork Chops with Peppers and Capers

This was the first recipe I made out of my newest cookbook, Mario Batali Italian Grill, and the results were amazing.  Trish commented that she had a hundred flavors mingling in her mouth while she ate this.

 

And although the recipe says it serves six, three of us finished it off as we all had seconds. (Note: Recipe calls for pork chops to sit in brine overnight.)

Grilled Pork Chops with Peppers and Capers

June 18, 2009

By:

Ingredients
  • For the brine:
  • 4 1/2 quarts of water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • For the main dish:
  • 6 pork rib chops
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
  • 3 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
  • 8 bulb onions, trimmed and quartered, or 2 red onions, halved and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 1/2 cup Gaeta olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, with their brine
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions
  • Step 1 In a saucepan, combine 2 cups of the water, the salt, and brown sugar and heat over high heat, stirring, until the salt and sugar dissolve.
  • Step 2 Pour into a large deep bowl or another container large enough to hold the pork and the brine.
  • Step 3 Add the peppercorns, the bay leaves, and the remaining 4 quarts of water. Stir to mix well.
  • Step 4 When brine is completely cool, add the pork chops. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Step 5 The next day, heat olive oil in large pot over high heat until very hot. Add the peppers, onions, olives, red pepper flakes, and capers and cook, stirring for 10 minutes, or until the peppers and onions are beginning to soften. Add the wine and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and set aside.
  • Step 6 Drain the chops and pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Step 7 Place chops on hottest part of the grill and cook for 7 minutes, unmoved. With tongs, carefully rotate the chops 90 degrees to create nice grill marks and cook for 4 minutes more. Turn the chops over and cook for 5 to 9 minutes more, making sure they are cooked inside.
  • Step 8 Transfer the chops to a platter, spoon the pepper mixture over it and serve.

 

Tricia eating outside on our patio table
Tricia enjoyed these chops in our backyard.

 

 

Roasted Vegetable Napoleons

Roasted Vegetable Napoleons

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I got this recipe more than two decades ago and it stands up to the test of time. It’s from the now defunct Gourmet Magazine, the January 1996 edition. I used to have a subscription to that wonderful publication and saved all of the issues. I still make these stacks a few times a year for family and friends who request them. Trish, particularly, is fond of them.

 

Sliced zucchini on a cookie sheet
Brush the vegetables with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper before baking.

 

They are easy to make. You roast the vegetables on cookie sheets with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then you assemble the stacks, skewered with rosemary sprigs. Bake in the oven at 450 degrees.

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Roasted Vegetable Napoleons

June 9, 2009
: 6
: Easy

There's a little bit of work to this: slicing and baking. But it's still pretty simple to make.

By:

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices
  • 1 1/4 pounds zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices
  • 4 large plum tomatoes(about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices
  • 2 medium red onions cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices
  • 1 pound medium red potatoes, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices
  • 3/4 cup ricotta
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella, cut into six 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 6 fresh rosemary sprigs
Directions
  • Step 1 Brush cookie sheets with olive oil and place slices of vegetables on them. Brush the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven until tender and lightly browned.
  • Step 2 Stir ricotta, salt, pepper, and thyme in a bowl.
  • Step 3 Assemble the stacks on an oiled cookie sheet as follows: Eggplant slice, ricotta mixture, two potato slices, two zucchini slices, one slice of onion, a slice of mozzarella, two tomato slices, two more zucchini slices, and another onion slice. Top this with more ricotta mixture and then cover it all with an eggplant slice. Make five more of these.
  • Step 4 Put a hole through the stack using a metal or wooden skewer. Then stick a rosemary sprig through that hole. Rosemary sprig should have leaves on the top remaining inch which will stick out of each stack.
  • Step 5 Bake the stacks for about 5 minutes until cheese melts and vegetables are warmed throughout. Serve with a side dish of orzo or rice.