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Make Biba’s Mother’s Fried Meatballs For Your Valentine
Feb 12th, 2011 by
These are great served anyway: in a sauce with or without a sub roll or just plain on a dish.

These are great served anyway: in a sauce with or without a sub roll or just plain on a dish.

These are so delicious they’re an act of love. Like all good things they take a little work but aren’t the loved ones in your life worth it?

Restaurant owner and cookbook author Biba Caggiano has the best recipe for meatballs or polpette (as the Italians call them).

What makes them truly great and different is that she uses a variety of meats, including mortadella, and each ball is dipped in egg and breadcrumbs before fried, giving them a tender crust.

They’re so delicious you can eat them plain, without tomato sauce. But I like them with a light sauce: one that isn’t overcooked and where you can taste the fresh tomatoes.

I also deviate a little from her recipe by adding some ground beef. Biba’s mother’s recipe just uses the following meats: ground veal, pork sausage, and mortadella.

Here’s my recipe based on her’s:

Ingredients:

  • White bread (4 slices or 2 large and thick slices of Italian bread)
  • Milk (1 cup)
  • Ground veal (1 pound)
  • Ground beef (1 pound)
  • Ground pork (1/2 pound)
  • Mortadella, chopped finely (1/2 pound)
  • Nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Grated Imported Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano) (2 cups)
  • Large eggs, lightly beaten (6)
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • Dried bread crumbs (2-4 cups)
  • Olive oil (Enough for frying)

What I did:

Remove crusts from bread and soak in milk for about 5 minutes.

Drain the bread and squeeze out as much of the milk as possible. Add the veal, beef, pork, mortadella, nutmeg parmesan cheese, and 3 eggs. Season with salt and pepper and mix until combined well.

Take a small amount of the meat mixture and shape it between the palms of your hand into a ball about the size of small egg. Place on a plate and continue to do this until all of the meat mixture is used.

Lightly beat the remaining 3 eggs in a bowl. Dip the meatballs in the egg mixture and then roll them in the breadcrumbs. Flatten them slightly with the palms of your hand and put them in a single layer on a cookie sheet or large platter. They can be refrigerated for several hours. Just be sure to tightly cover them with plastic wrap.

Heat an inch of oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium-high heat. As soon as the oil is hot, lower the meatballs in batches with a slotted spoon. Do not crowd the pan as this will cause them to cook unevenly and burn. When they’re golden on one side (about 1-2 minutes), turn them over and brown on the other side. Once they are cooked through, transfer them to a dish or platter lined with paper towels to drain.

You can serve them just like this. Or you can put them in a large pot of your favorite tomato sauce over low heat and cook them a little more.  You can use this tomato sauce recipe (adapted from my mother’s recipe) but I’d omit the sausage and possibly add a fresh tomato, chopped fine, or a can of diced tomatoes to give it a fresh taste.

Stir occasionally being careful not to break apart the meatballs. Serve this and it will strike a chord in the hearts of people you love, stronger than an arrow from Cupid’s bow.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

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.)

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