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Easy Weeknight Pasta, Part Two
Nov 30th, 2010 by

My friend Michael enjoyed a plate of this updated pasta dish on a recent visit to the RootsLiving kitchen.

My friend Michael enjoyed a plate of this updated pasta dish on a recent visit to the RootsLiving kitchen.

Tweaking basic recipes with some of your favorite ingredients keeps things exciting, fresh and new.

This basic pasta recipe from the bible of classic Italian cooking, the Artusi, was featured in a post here a year ago. I recently upgraded it to include one of my favorite ingredients: eggplant.

The differences between the original recipe, called “Neapolitan-Style Macaroni II” and this updated version are as follows:

  • I added eggplant. Buy a firm, dark eggplant. Cut off the bright green top. Take a vegetable peeler and make vertical stripes from the top to the bottom of the eggplant. Cut thin slices (less than a 1/4-inch thick). Dip in an egg scambled with a splash of milk and dredge in bread crumbs. Fry in olive oil and drain on a plate with a paper towel.
  • I substituted penne for the thick macaroni that is packaged like small bird nests inside a plastic bag.

Cut up the eggplant and add with the other ingredients to the pasta.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

(Note: If you’d like to print this recipe, click on the headline on this post and then use the print button at the bottom of the post. In other words, print from the “permalink” not from the homepage.)

Gnocchi Di Pollo E Patata Soup
Nov 28th, 2010 by

Roll the dough into a snake with your fingers before cutting it.

Roll the dough into a snake with your fingers before cutting it.

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 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.

First the broth:

Ingredients:

  • A whole chicken (1)
  • Celery Stalk (1, split in half)
  • Carrot (1 whole, peeled and cut in half)
  • Salt/Pepper (to taste)

What I did:

Put a whole chicken in a large pot and cover with cold water.

Add celery and carrot, and salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil. Then lower heat and simmer for an hour or more.

Remove chicken. Pour broth through strainer into a large plastic container and refrigerate over night.

The next day, take the fat off the top of the broth with a soup spoon.

To make the gnocchi:

Ingredients:

  • 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)

What I did:

Mix all of the ingredients, except the flour, together well.

Work the flour into the mixture to bind it.

Roll the mixture on a floured surface into a snake, the diameter of your little finger.

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.

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.

Find more recipes in the Food section.


(Note: If you’d like to print this recipe, click on the headline on this post and then use the print button at the bottom of the post. In other words, print from the “permalink” not from the homepage.)

Lasagna, from The Figs Table
Sep 20th, 2010 by

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.

(Note: If you’d like to print this recipe, click here or on the headline on this post and then use the print button at the bottom of the post. In other words, print from the “permalink” not from the homepage.)

Making Dinner During a Heat Wave
Jul 10th, 2010 by

This ancient Italian recipe is quick and easy to make and won't heat up your kitchen.

This ancient Italian recipe is quick and easy to make and won't heat up your kitchen.

Afternoon thunderstorms gave some relief from the Greater Boston area heat wave today.

And so, I returned to the kitchen after a week of take out, cold cereal, and quick omelette dinners.

But it’s still hot. So what’s a well-intentioned cook to do?

Tonight, I’m making some “Easy Week Night Pasta.” Here are some other recipes that won’t heat up the house (too much) but are certain to bring a warm smile to your face:

1.) Beach Salads and Bruschetta

2.) Octupus’s Garden Gazpacho With Leftover Chicken Hummus Sandwiches

3.) Mortadella and Ham Salad Tapas

4.) Grilled Braciole Fit for a Saint

5.) Breakfast for Dinner: Gingerbread Pancakes

6.) Soup & Sandwich Night With Style (Instead of Take Out)

Find more dinner ideas in the Food section.

Best Super Bowl Appetizer: AI (Asian-Italian) Chicken Wings
Feb 4th, 2010 by

If you like your chicken wings on the sweet side, you can add a little brown sugar too.

If you like your chicken wings on the sweet side, you can add a little brown sugar too.

This is the killer app for Super Bowl Sunday.

I’m not sure how or when it happened but the most popular appetizer for Super Bowl Sunday is chicken wings. Hot and spicy, barbecue, or sweet with honey mustard are the usual favorites. But here’s something different and guaranteed to be addictive.

There are many similarities between Asian cooking and Italian cooking and this recipe, which is based on a recipe my mother used, blends the two cultures’ spices perfectly. I’ve doctored it up a bit over the years. They’re easy to make and this recipe can be expanded to feed any size crowd. (Note: I eyeball everything, so don’t worry about exact measurements.)

Ingredients/Shopping List:

  • Chicken Wings (About 20)
  • Soy Sauce (Buy a premium brand, such as Kikkoman; About a cup. Don’t spare the soy sauce.)
  • Garlic (About 5-6 cloves, sliced thin)
  • Ginger (If fresh, about 1 inch, peeled and sliced thin; If ground powder, about 3-4 tbsp.)
  • Dried Basil (About 1 tbsp.)
  • Dried Oregano (About 1 tbsp.)
  • Tabasco Sauce (About 5 drops; you can add more or less according to how hot you like it. I find, 5 drops to be on the mild side.)
  • Sesame Seed Oil (About 1 tsp.; This is the killer ingredient and you don’t need much to add much flavor.)
  • Black Pepper (1/4 tsp.)
  • Olive oil (just enough to grease a cookie sheet)

What I did:

Put wings in a bowl you can seal tight.

Add all ingredients in order that they appear above. Make sure to sprinkle the soy sauce over all of the wings.

Put cover on bowl and shake it good for 30 seconds or so.

Let it rest in the refrigerator. Overnight is best to let the marinade seep in. However, I’ve made them without resting them at all. Simply by shaking the bowl and then putting them in the oven and they’ve come out good and tasty. Shake it a few times during the resting time.

Give it one last shake before spreading wings onto a cookie sheet, greased with a little olive oil. (You may want to line cookie sheet with aluminum foil greased with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.)

Cook in a 350 degree oven for about one hour (turn over after 30 minutes, cook another 30 minutes, and then serve).

These can be made ahead of time, as they’re good hot or cold.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

(Note: If you’d like to print this recipe, click here or on the headline on this post and then use the print button at the bottom of the post. In other words, print from the “permalink” not from the homepage.)

Pane alla Cioccolata (Chocolate Bread)
Jan 5th, 2010 by

This light, fluffy bread with chocolate chips takes several hours to make because the dough needs to rise twice.

This light, fluffy bread with chocolate chips takes several hours to make because the dough needs to rise twice.

This lightly sweetened bread is great with a cup of coffee or a glass of red wine. The recipe comes from “The Italian Baker” cookbook, by Carol Field.

I’ve made this several times before but this time it tasted better than ever. The texture was light and more like soft Italian bread. In the past, it’s had more of a cake consistency. I think the difference was sifting the flour (actually I don’t own a flour sifter and instead push the flour through a fine sieve with a butter knife) and using a food processor (instead of working it all by hand).

And oh yes, in the past I’ve spread cream cheese over each slice but this time I splurged and used Mascarpone. I’ll never use anything else or make it any other way.

Recipe: Makes 2 round or oval loafs

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup, plus 1 tbsp, warm water
  • 4 1/2 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour (sifted or pushed through a fine sieve with a butter knife)
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tbsp, sugar
  • 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups of warm water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp butter, at room temperature, cut up into four pieces
  • 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips

What I did:

Stir the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar into 1/3 cup, plus 1 tbsp of warm water in a small bowl. Let stand until foamy (about 10 min.)

Put the flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a food processor fitted with a dough blade. Process with several pulses to mix well.

Stir 1 1/4 cups of cold water and the egg yolk into the dissolved yeast.

Put the pieces of butter ontop of the dry ingredients in the food processor.

With the food processor running, pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube as quickly as the flour can absorb it and process it until the dough gathers into a ball.

Process for another 40-45 seconds, pouring the chocolate chips through the feed tube during the last 10 seconds.

If necessary, knead dough a little more on a floured surface until it is velvety, elastic, and moist.

First Rise: Put dough in an oiled bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let it rise until doubled (about 2 hours).

Second Rise: Punch the dough down and cut it in half on a lightly floured surface. Shape each piece into a round or oval loaf and place on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Heat the oven to 450 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake 30 minutes longer.

Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Spread Mascarpone cheese on a slice and enjoy. Makes a good dessert or breakfast treat.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

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