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Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon

(Above: Be sure to dry the beef with paper towels before frying. Damp meat won’t brown properly.)

This is the classic beef bourguignon recipe from Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook” cookbook.

It is complicated and can take several hours but it is delicious.

If you’re looking for an easier recipe where you throw everything into a pot and wait 2 hours, try this one: Beef Bourguignon II: An Easier Recipe.

Either version goes well with this meal plan that features a side of torta d’patata: Julia Meets Bruna .  We made that for a Christmas dinner party for six and there was plenty to go around.

 

Tricia holding a plate of beef stew
Tricia holds a plate of beef bourguignon with a slice of torta d’patata during a Christmas dinner party.

Boeuf BOURGUIGNON (From Julia Child)

October 15, 2018
: 6-8
: 4 hr
: Difficult

By:

Ingredients
  • 3-4 pounds boneless beef stew meat cut into cubes.
  • Olive oil
  • 2/3 cup of carrots
  • 5-6 cups of red wine (I used my award-winning homemade zinfandel)
  • 2-3 large, unpeeled cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 cups of tomatoes (1 whole unpeeled tomato, cored and chopped, plus a can of drained Italian plum tomatoes)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • Salt
  • 4 tbs flour and 4 tbs of softened butter to make a paste for the finishing sauce, called “beurre-manie” sauce
  • 24 small onions, cooked in oil until brown, and then braised over the stove in a mixture of chicken stock and red wine (which covers them only half way). Cook until tender but not falling apart.
  • 3 cups of quartered mushrooms, cooked in oil and butter and chopped shallots, until tender and golden brown.
Directions
  • Step 1 Dry the meat with paper towels and then brown in batches in a large frying pan with a film of olive oil. Transfer browned beef into a large stockpot.
  • Step 2 Leave a spoonful of the fat in the frying pan and cook the sliced carrots, stirring and tossing until brown. And then scrape them out of the pan and into the stockpot with the beef.
  • Step 3 Pour a cup of wine over the hot frying pan and deglaze, scrapping up all of the bits on the bottom of the pan and then pour over the beef and carrots in the stockpot.
  • Step 4 Add the garlic and four more cups of wine to the stockpot. Fold in the tomatoes. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and salt to taste. The liquid should just about cover the beef. If it doesn’t add more.
  • Step 5 Bring to a simmer on top of the stove, and then cook at a slow simmer for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Step 6 Put a colander inside a sauce pan and drain mixture from stockpot. Rinse out the stockpot and put the beef and carrots back in it.
  • Step 7 Degrease the cooking liquid by skimming a spoon on top to take out the fat (about tablespoons or so). Boil the liquid to reduce it a little and adjust seasonings to your taste. You should have about 3 cups.
  • Step 8 Make the beurre-manie sauce by mixing the flour with the butter with very clean hands until if forms a paste or a lump, resembling dough. Whisk this into the cooking liquid until dissolved and then bring the mixture to a boil again so that the sauce thickens. (Note: If the sauce is not thick enough, make some more of the beurre-manie sauce and repeat.)
  • Step 9 Pour sauce over beef and carrots in the stockpot. And then fold in the onions and mushrooms. Simmer for about 2 minutes to blend all of the flavors.
  • Step 10 Serve on a plate with potatoes and a slice of crusty bread.Eat with a nice glass of zinfandel.
Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella

Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella

Here’s a recipe from one of my favorite restaurants: La Zucca Magica, in Nice. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed a few years ago, but I have very fond memories. It was an Italian vegetarian restaurant that had gotten much acclaim from guide books and the New York Times.

We didn’t have this dish at the restaurant but I made it when we got home using a recipe that was posted on the New York Times site that has since disappeared. Still, you can watch the YouTube video of NYTimes writer Mark Bittman making the dish.  And I was able to save the written recipe (see below).

There are multiple flavors and textures that work well together in this tasty delicacy. The fresh healthy green of the soft swiss chard leaves; the savory taste of saffron; the bite of the lemon zest; and the sweetness of the Parmesan and fresh mozzarella cheese all make your taste buds dance.

I served this as the third course in a three course meal I created from recipes I got in Southern France. Although none of the courses contained meat, the three courses were very filling. The first course was a cantaloupe gazpacho with crispy prosciutto. The second course was a tomato stuffed with pasta salad. 

Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella

October 15, 2018
: 6
: 1 hr
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • Vegetable broth (6 cups)
  • Arborio rice (1 cup)
  • Saffron (1 large pinch)
  • Lemon (1 small, zested)
  • Butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Parmesan Cheese (1/2 cup grated
  • I recommend using the best, Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Swiss chard leaves (6 large)
  • Mozzarella (1/2 pound cut into small cubes)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (enough to drizzle over the leaves)
Directions
  • Step 1 Make risotto by heating up 1 tbsp of butter and adding the rice. Stir and then add one up of the vegetable broth. Keep heat on low to medium. When the liquid is absorbed add another cup and stir until all three cups are used. Rice should be barely tender.
  • Step 2 Dissolve saffron in juice of one lemon. Add to rice, along with butter, Parmesan, zest of one lemon and pepper to taste. Allow rice to cool a bit. Rice can be made in advance at this point (up to 1 day), but do not refrigerate it.
  • Step 3 Poach chard leaves in about 2 cups remaining broth for about 45 seconds. Take out, drain on a dishcloth, and cut out the hardest part of central stem. Reserve cooking broth.
  • Step 4 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With wet hands, form 6 balls of rice 2 to 3 inches across. Dig a hole in each ball and insert mozzarella. Wrap each ball in a chard leaf.
  • Step 5 Put balls in a close-fitting oven pan, with enough reserved broth to come about a half-inch up the sides of the balls. Bake 20 minutes.
  • Step 6 Serve balls topped with a little more broth, more lemon zest, Parmesan and olive oil.
Tzatziki (Greek Dip)

Tzatziki (Greek Dip)

(Above: This Greek dip is healthier and less fattening than sour cream based dips, but tastes just as good, if not better.)

After our first trip to Greece in 2011, I started experimenting with some Greek dishes.

This is a very addictive yogurt and cucumber dip and is served everywhere in Greece, including on Gyros you buy from street vendors. We like it as a dip for lightly toasted pita chips, which we served at our Big Fat Greek Mother’s Day Party.

We also had our friend Chris and his family (who are from Crete) over for dinner and they raved about this dip, so it must be authentic.

Tzatziki (Greek Dip)

October 13, 2018
: 20 min
: 1 hr 20 min

This is easy to make in about 20 minutes but you should let it rest in a refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

By:

Ingredients
  • Greek yogurt (16 oz.). It’s better with the whole fat Greek yogurt, but I’ve used the low-fat and non-fat Greek yogurts and it’s been great too. It just depends on whether you want to save a few calories or not. Whatever you choose, it’s less fattening and more healthy than any sour cream dip: and much tastier.
  • Cucumber (1 large)
  • Garlic cloves (3 cloves. The recipe I have calls for 5, but I found it too strong. And I love garlic.)
  • Dill (A small bunch. About 1-2 tbsp.)
  • Olive oil (1/8 to 1/4 cup. The recipe I have calls for a 1/2 cup, but I found less is best.)
  • Salt, pepper (to taste)
  • Lightly toasted pita chips
Directions
  • Step 1 Put salt, garlic, and dill in a food processor and mince fine.
  • Step 2 Wash the cucumber and peel strips lengthwise so the cucumber looks like is has stripes. Then grate it and dump it into a colander to drain. You can press down on the small pieces to get more moisture out.
  • Step 3 If the yogurt isn’t already strained, then dump it into a colander too to allow excess moisture to drain out.
  • Step 4 Put yogurt, cucumber, garlic mixture, olive oil, salt and pepper into a bowl and mix thoroughly.
  • Step 5 Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Several hours or overnight is even better.
  • Step 6 Serve with lightly toasted pita chips. (Simply cut pita bread into triangles. Brush on olive oil and salt and bake in a 400 degree oven on a cookie sheet until lightly toasted.)
Carol’s Cheesy Fig Delights

Carol’s Cheesy Fig Delights

(Above: The best bread in the Boston area is made at Bricco Panetteria, hidden down a short alleyway in Boston’s North End.)

The key to this simple recipe is to buy the best french bread available.

Although what passes as freshly baked baguettes at most chain supermarkets will work, try seeking out something better, perhaps at a locally-owned bakery in your neighborhood. I wrote an article for the Boston Globe on this bakery, which is truly special: the baker follows old-world and slow-cooking techniques to create the perfect loaf: crunchy on the outside and airy on the inside.

My friend Carol brought these to a potluck music party. They couldn’t be any easier to make, especially if you set it up so that guests make their own. Here’s the recipe:

Carol's Cheesy Fig Delights

October 12, 2018
: 5 min
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • French bread, cut up into small rounds
  • Fig jam
  • Goat Cheese
Directions
  • Step 1 Put jam and goat cheese in separate small bowls.
  • Step 2 Put bread on a platter
  • Step 3 Let guests make their own “delights” by spreading fig jam on bread and goat cheese on top.

Ma’s Stuffed Peppers

This is an easy one and the kids like them too. Feel free to dip them in ketchup.  (more…)

Healthy Green Gazpacho Soup

Healthy Green Gazpacho Soup

I created this recipe after tasting green gazpacho soup for the first time last month. (more…)

Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

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.

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

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. Here’s what you need to do:

Nutella Cookies

September 20, 2018
: 2 min
: 30 min
: 30 min
: Easy

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. (Some other recipes recommend sealing the edges with a beaten egg, but I found this wasn’t necessary). Note: I suggest making up a bunch of these before you start deep frying because the deep frying goes very quickly.
  • 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.

 

 

Cold Taiwanese Sesame Noodles With Peanut Sauce

Cold Taiwanese Sesame Noodles With Peanut Sauce

This is how you make Taiwanese street food.

I know because I got a subscription to Universal Yums for my birthday. Each month, I get a box of snacks from a different country along with a fact book about the country.

This month’s booklet included this recipe, which is quick and very easy to make. And it tastes perfect on a hot, muggy night in August.

Here’s the recipe:

Cold Taiwanese Sesame Noodles with Peanut Sauce

August 18, 2018
: 10 min
: 15 min
: 25 min
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • Peanut butter (or sesame paste), 1/4 cup
  • Soy sauce, 2 tbsp.
  • Rice wine vinegar, 2 tbsp.
  • Sugar, 1 1/2 tbsp.
  • Garlic, 3 cloves finely minced
  • Ground ginger, 1 1/2 tbsp.
  • Water, warm, about 1/4 cup
  • Asian wheat noodles, like udon or soba
  • Sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
  • Spicy scallion stick (optional)
  • Cucumber slices (optional)
  • Raw carrot cut into thin matchsticks (optional)
  • Shredded chicken (optional)
Directions
  • Step 1 Combine peanut butter (or sesame paste), soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic, ginger, and warm water in a bowl. Set aside.
  • Step 2 Cook noodles according to package directions. Then drain and rinse under cold water. Mix in optional ingredients and then the sauce and stir well.

 

A Quick, Easy, One-Pan, Weeknight Eggplant Delight

A Quick, Easy, One-Pan, Weeknight Eggplant Delight

Turkish Eggplant Casserole: Imam Bayildi

RECIPE UPDATE (May, 30, 2018): So last night I made this dish by baking the eggplant instead of frying it and it tasted just as delicious. I couldn’t tell the difference, except maybe the meal was a little lighter (which was my goal). I’m sure it definitely had less calories. What I did was brush olive oil on both sides of the slices and then bake them on a cookie sheet in a hot (425 degree) oven, being careful to turn each slice over as it turned brown. I  then assembled the dish according to the recipe below.

This dish is similar to eggplant parmesan but without the cheese and without as much work. It is, however, as delicious as that Italian favorite. And a dash of cinnamon sends it to another world.

I got the recipe from the “Feed Me Phoebe” blog. Phoebe describes herself as a gluten-free chef, obsessed with finding the sweet spot between health and hedonism. And I can attest that this casserole feels very indulgent while you’re eating it.

I changed the original recipe slightly, most notably using a large eggplant rather than 2 medium eggplants, and I found that I needed a little more tomato sauce. The next time I make it, I may try baking the eggplant after brushing the slices with olive oil, as the eggplant slices soaked up a lot of oil during the frying process. But maybe, that’s why it tasted so good.

Here’s the recipe, which can be made using just one cast-iron pan:

Turkish Eggplant Casserole: Imam Bayildi

March 23, 2018
: 20 min
: 1 hr
: 1 hr 20 min
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • 1 large eggplant (I don’t salt it as recommended in the original recipe as I believe that makes it more acidic. Instead, be careful to select a very firm eggplant with little or no blemishes. The color should be a deep purple. And then peel it vertically in strips so that it looks like it has thin purple stripes before you slice it into 1/4-inch slices, horizontally (the original recipe suggests slicing it lengthwise).
  • Sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Olive oil. Use a good grade regular frying-style olive oil, not extra-virgin
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • About 18-24 oz of diced tomatoes from a can or box. (The original recipe recommended 14.5 ounces but I found I needed more.)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, divided in half
Directions
  • Step 1 Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a cast iron skillet (or oven-proof skillet). If you don’t have one, you can use a regular frying pan and then this dish becomes a two-pan meal as you’ll need to bake it all in the end in a small roasting pan or lasagna pan.
  • Step 2 Fry eggplant slices over medium heat until golden brown (about 2 minutes on each side) and add more oil as needed so eggplant doesn’t stick or burn. Remove the cooked eggplant to a plate.
  • Step 3 Add onion to skillet and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, chili flakes, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and cinnamon. Cook for one minute more, until fragrant. Carefully pour in the tomatoes and simmer until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in half the parsley.
  • Step 4 Remove most of the tomato sauce from the pan, leaving only a thin layer (about 1/4 cup) spread evenly over the bottom. Add one layer of the eggplant in the pan over the sauce and then top with more sauce. Continue to add layers of eggplant and sauce, as if you were building a lasagna.
  • Step 5 Cover with foil and cook in the oven for about 45 minutes until eggplant is soft and sauce is reduced. Garnish with remaining parsley and let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing it. You can serve it warm or at room temperature.
Seared Scallops with Peas, Mint, and Bacon (Prosciutto?)

Seared Scallops with Peas, Mint, and Bacon (Prosciutto?)

I served it with a side of rice, mixed with parmesan cheese and parsley.
I served it with a side of rice, mixed with parmesan cheese and parsley.

My friend Ray, who owns a fishing boat in Gloucester, gave me a bag full of scallops on Saturday that were caught that day. I got around to cooking them Tuesday night and they were still fresher than anything you could buy at a reputable fish market.

The pea/mint mixture is sweet.

My wife, who doesn’t ordinarily like scallops, ate them all up saying they were better than lobster. And I’m not a big pea fan, but combined with the mint, the green puree made this dish sublime.

This recipe was billed as easy, quick, and good enough to serve to company, according to the Epicurious website. I agree, although it does dirty a few pots and pans. The recipe said it would take 22 minutes to make (This is a good timeline but don’t use it while you cook as ingredients aren’t included) and it took me about 30.

I didn’t have any bacon, so I used imported prosciutto instead. But other than that, I didn’t change a thing. So here’s a link to the recipe.

Chickplantasagna is born

Chickplantasagna is born

Layered like lasagna, with eggplant, chicken, and zucchini, chick-plant-sagna was born out of necessity.
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 Parmesan 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.

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.)
  • 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

Here's what the dish looks like before putting it in the oven.
Here's what the dish looks like before putting it in the oven.

The Process:

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.

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.

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.

Fry chicken cutlets in a little olive oil and the clove of garlic. Sprinkle with lemon pepper.

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.

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.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until cheese melts.

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.

The End

Find more recipes in the Food Section.

Short Ribs Provencale

Short Ribs Provencale

There's a variety of complex flavors in this dish.
There's a variety of complex flavors in this dish.

This recipe is time consuming but it’s well worth the wait. I found it on Epicurious. Cookbook author Rick Rodgers said the editors of Bon Appétit magazine asked him to create the ultimate version of braised short ribs and this is what he came up with, based on elements of various short rib dishes he enjoyed at several restaurants.

I took it a step further by using short ribs I got at a local Massachusetts farm. I also had a pound of bacon and a chicken sausage I needed to cook, so I cooked them in the dutch oven before I cooked the short ribs. Before adding the ribs, I took out all of the oil left from the bacon and sausage except for about two tablespoons. I don’t think cooking bacon and sausage is necessary but I do believe it added even more depth to the wonderful flavors found in this dish.

I didn’t have any black olives so I used what I had on hand: olives stuffed with blue cheese. I also served the short ribs over mashed potatoes and covered it all in a blanket of the delicious sauce. Here’s the recipe. Bon appetite!

Find more recipes in the Food Section.

An Easy Recipe For Making English Muffins From Scratch

An Easy Recipe For Making English Muffins From Scratch

(These english muffins are much better than store bought and contain only a few natural ingredients: not a long laundry list of chemicals you can’t pronounce.)

I made english muffins from scratch for the first time this morning. And I’ll be making these again — maybe every week.

English muffins are relatively cheap and available at grocery stores so why would anyone want to make their own? Two reasons:

  1. Warm, with melted butter and strawberry jam, I'm going to make these on a regular basis.
    Warm, with melted butter and strawberry jam, I’m going to make these on a regular basis.

    Chemicals: Read the ingredients on any store-bought english muffin package and the list of ingredients is long, with names of things I do not recognize.

  2. Taste: I’ve been buying Thomas brand english muffins and the taste is good but it always seems synthetic to me, especially the corn-flavored muffins. Is it real corn flavor or is it a corn flavor that was invented in some lab? I’m not sure. But one thing I’m certain of is the taste of these homemade english muffins far surpasses the store-bought processed ones.

I found several recipes online but this one from the kitchn.com looked like the simplest and used basic ingredients I had in my pantry. You don’t have to, but it’s best if you make the starter and dough the night before and let the dough rise in your refrigerator overnight. One other tip. You cook these muffins in a skillet on top of the stove under very, very low heat (when I did it, you could barely see the flames beneath the pan).

Here’s the recipe:

 

You cook these muffins in a skillet over a very low flame. I suggest popping them into a 350-degree oven for a few minutes too.
You cook these muffins in a skillet over a very low flame. I suggest popping them into a 350-degree oven for a few minutes too.

Ingredients:

For the dough starter:

 

  • All-purpose flour or bread flour, 3/4 cup (3 1/3 ounces)
  • Water, 1/2 cup
  • Active dry or instant yeast, 1/2 teaspoon,  (or 2 tablespoons active sourdough starter)

 

For the English muffin dough:

  • Milk, whole or 2%, 1 cup
  • Active dry or instant yeast, 1 teaspoon
  • Sugar, 2 tablespoons
  • Unsalted butter, melted, 2 tablespoons
  • Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • All-purpose or bread flour, 3 to 3 1/4 cups (13 1/2 to 14 1/2 ounces)
  • Cornmeal for dusting
  • Butter for the skillet

 

Roll the dough into balls and let them rise for two hours.
Roll the dough into balls and let them rise for two hours.

What do do:

  • Make the dough starter: Mix the flour, water, and yeast for the starter in a small mixing bowl. Beat until the batter is smooth and glossy, about 100 strokes.
  • Let the starter sit 1 to 12 hours: Cover the starter and place it out of the way for at least 1 or up to 12 hours. The starter will become increasingly bubbly the longer it sits and will double in bulk. The longer you can let the starter ferment, the better the flavor and structure of your finished English muffins. (I let mine sit for about 6 hours and the taste was tangy but mild.)
  • Whisk together the milk, yeast, and starter: In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, combine the milk and yeast for the dough. Scrape the starter into the bowl and use a whisk to break it up and dissolve it into the milk. It should become quite frothy.
  • Mix the dough together: Add the sugar, butter, and salt to the bowl and whisk to combine. Add 3 cups of the flour and stir with a stiff spatula until you form a shaggy, floury dough.
  • Knead the dough: With a dough hook on a stand mixer, knead the dough until it comes together in a smooth ball, 5 to 8 minutes. Alternatively, knead by hand against the counter. If the dough is very sticky like bubble gum, add extra flour as needed, but err on the side of caution. The dough is ready when it forms into a smooth ball and springs back when poked; it will feel slightly tacky to the touch, but shouldn’t stick to the bowl or your hands. (I kneaded mine by hand and within a few minutes, the dough was smooth and springy.)
  • Let the dough rise overnight in the fridge: Transfer the dough to a large bowl lightly filmed with oil. Cover and place in the fridge overnight or for up to 3 days.
  • Divide and shape the muffins: Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a pastry scraper to divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece gently against the counter to shape into smooth, round balls. (Don’t worry too much if each piece is the exact same size. Mine weren’t and yet I was pleased with the results.)
  • Transfer the muffins to a baking sheet to rise: Scatter cornmeal generously over a baking sheet and arrange the balls on top, spaced a little apart. If you have muffin rings, place them around the balls at this point. Sprinkle the tops of the balls with more cornmeal.
  • Let the muffins rise until puffy: For dough that was refrigerated, this will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours; for room temperature dough, this will take about 1 hour. Depending on the size of your muffin rings, the muffins may not totally fill the rings — that’s okay.
  • Warm a skillet: When ready to cook the muffins, warm a large skillet over medium heat. Melt a small pat of butter — enough to just coat the bottom of the pan and prevent sticking.
  • Cook the muffins 5 to 6 minutes on one side: Working in batches, transfer a few of the muffins to the skillet — allow an inch or so of space between muffins and do not crowd the pan. If using rings, transfer the muffins with their rings to the pan. Cook until the bottoms of the muffins are golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. (I found that I had to keep the flame very low as the muffins cooked quickly and you really want to cook them slowly.)
  • Flip and cook 5 to 6 minutes on the other side: Flip the muffins and cook the other side until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. If you prefer thinner, less puffy English muffins, you can gently press the tops with the spatula to prevent them from rising too much.
  • Adjust the heat as needed: If your muffins seem to be browning too quickly on the bottoms (or not quickly enough), adjust the heat as needed. (If you find that your muffins are browning too quickly, throw them in the oven at 350°F to finish baking through.) (I found putting the muffins in the oven for a few minutes was a good idea to ensure the insides were cooked through.)
  • Finish cooking all of the muffins: Transfer cooked muffins to a cooling rack. Continue working in batches until all the muffins have been cooked. Add a small pat of butter to the pan between batches to prevent sticking.
  • Split and serve! Split the English muffins with a fork, spread with butter or jam (or both!), and eat. English muffins will keep for several days in an airtight container on the counter and are fantastic warmed in the toaster oven. Fresh English muffins can also be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and kept frozen for up to 3 months.

You can eat these english muffins a few minutes after frying them without toasting them, but I found putting them in a toaster for a minute, just to get a light crackle on them was best. Thanks to all who watched my cooking demonstration on Periscope. I hope I didn’t make too much of a fool of myself.

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.

 

Baked Stuffed Shrimp

Baked Stuffed Shrimp

A meal fit for a king (or a birthday boy).
A meal fit for a king (or a birthday boy).

Growing up, this was my favorite dish. My mother would make it for me every year on my birthday.

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to post the recipe. Here it is:

Ingredients:

  • Jumbo shrimp. If you’re buying frozen, get the 8-12  pack. Don’t buy the COOKED frozen shrimp as most are tasteless and won’t work with this recipe, anyway. You should plan on at least three shrimp per person. But four is even better.
  • Ritz Crackers, about two cups, crushed.
  • Butter. Unsalted is best. About one stick. Melted.
  • Lemon juice, about 1 tablespoon.
  • White vermouth or white wine. About two tablespoons.
  • Salt, about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon.
  • Pepper, a few shakes or twists of the grinder.
  • Garlic powder, just a couple of pinches. Remember, this is very strong and can easily overpower a dish. Use caution.
  • Old Bay Seasoning, or paprika. About 1/2 teaspoon.

I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper to make cleanup easier.
I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper to make cleanup easier.

Procedure:

Thaw shrimp overnight in refrigerator or put in a colander and run cool water over them until they thaw. Peel them, if necessary.

Slice shrimp down the curved back and remove vein if necessary. (Sometimes, the shrimps are already deveined, even in packages that say they are not. If you can’t find a vein, don’t worry about it. If you can’t see it before it’s cooked, you won’t see it after it’s cooked. Removing the vein is aesthetic, not mandatory.) Be sure to make a deep cut so the shrimp are butterflied.

Place on a cookie sheet. Line with parchment paper for easy cleanup.

Brush shrimp with a little of the melted butter and bake at 325 for about 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven. They should not be cooked through yet.

Combine the Ritz Crackers, the melted butter, lemon juice, white wine or white vermouth, salt, pepper, garlic powder and Old Bay Seasoning to make the stuffing.

Spoon a round blob of stuffing over each shrimp and bake until done, about five to seven minutes. The shrimp will be a firm whitish/pink color with red stripes around the edges.

Serve with rice and your favorite greens. I served mine with a bok choy and raisins side dish.

Bok Choy With Raisins (A Winning Side Dish Is Born)

Bok Choy With Raisins (A Winning Side Dish Is Born)

The sweet blends perfectly with the sour in this tasty side dish.
The sweet blends perfectly with the sour in this tasty side dish.

This side dish is a definite keeper. I made it up yesterday, while trying to come up with a good green side dish to go with baked stuffed shrimp.

At first I was thinking of an arugula salad, but didn’t feel like driving three or four miles to a farm stand where I can get it at a good price: less than $2 for a good-size bag. And I wasn’t going to spend $6 or $7 for arugula at the Stop & Shop, just a few blocks from my home. So, I set my sites on the Asian supermarket, which is about a 1/4 mile from my house.

Super 88 doesn’t sell arugula, but they have an amazing selection of bok choy. And it’s cheap.

I thought about stir-frying it with some scallions and then a crazy idea hit me on how to offset the subtle bitterness of the greens with something sweet. Raisins! And just to keep things real, I decided to finish it off with a vinaigrette, a balsamic vinegar being a perfect match to bring out the flavor of the raisins.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Bok Choy. I used about 15 pieces of the baby bok choy and it was enough for three people. Washed and chopped into 2-inch pieces.
  • Scallions, about 6. Cut off with about 2-inches of green showing and then sliced into small wheels.
  • Peanut oil, about 1 tablespoon.
  • Garlic, one clove, crushed.
  • Raisins, about 1/2 cup. I used regular raisins, but I think golden raisins may work even better.
  • A balsamic vinaigrette, about 2 tablespoons. You could also use Italian dressing.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Procedure:

Heat the peanut oil in a wok, spreading it around to coat the sides.

Add the scallions and cook until translucent.

Add the garlic and the bok choy and stir to coat with the oil. Cook for a minute or two.

Add the raisins. Stir everything occasionally and cook until greens are wilted but the white parts of the bok choy remain crisp.

Add the vinaigrette and stir to coat. Put lid on wok and cook on low heat for a minute. Then turn heat off.

Serve with your favorite protein (chicken, beef, pork, fish, even eggs).

Find more recipes in the Recipe index.

A Classic Vinaigrette

A Classic Vinaigrette

This salad dressing recipe is so easy and delicious, I stopped using store-bought dressings years ago. It takes less than five minutes to make. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil. Here’s where you use extra-virgin olive oil if you have it. About half a cup.
  • Vinegar. Balsamic or red wine vinegar can be used depending on what you feel like. A little more than an ounce. (Remember: a good ratio for vinaigrettes is about 3 parts oil to one part vinegar. Adjust to your liking.)
  • Garlic, one large clove.
  • Salt, preferably Kosher salt. About 1/2 to 1 teaspoon.
  • Dijon mustard, about 1/2 teaspoon.

Procedure:

Put garlic in a bowl with the salt. Take a heavy fork and mash it good until it becomes a paste.

Add the olive oil and then the vinegar.

Add the mustard and whisk.

Pour it on your favorite salad and mix it up.

Find more recipes in the Recipe index.

Forget the Snow, It’s Stew-A-Palooza – 2015

Forget the Snow, It’s Stew-A-Palooza – 2015

Dorm Room Chef: Dante de Magistris Makes Steak Pizzaiola from Mark Micheli on Vimeo.

(This is one of my favorite recipes from the weekly Dorm Room Chef series I produced during 2014. It’s steak pizzaiola made in a slow cooker: easy and delicious. Watch the video above, or read the recipe below.)

Here’s a collection of stews I compiled from good restaurants and cookbooks. I’ve made them all and enjoyed eating them more. Hopefully, you’ll have some of these ingredients on hand so you can make one of these dishes. But if not, watch the video and look at the pretty photos. It will warm you up more than looking at snow photos on Facebook.

The governor of Massachusetts declared a snow emergency and I’m declaring it stew-a-palooza — 2015!

STEWS TO MAKE ON A COLD WINTER DAY

  1. Geneva’s Quick Chicken And Shrimp Gumbo
  2. Shrimp Saute
  3. Easy Beef Bourguignon
  4. Coq Au Vin Blanc (The same as Easy Beef Bourguignon, only with chicken)
  5. Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon
  6. Blanquette De Veau (French Veal Stew)
  7. Lobster Stew
  8. Steak Pizzaiola

Steak Pizzaiola (in a slow cooker)

January 27, 2015
: 4
: 10 min
: 3 hr
: 3 hr 10 min
: Easy

This is one of my favorite Dorm Room Chef recipes. It’s easy — you just throw everything into a slow cooker and wait — and it’s delicious. Lots of flavors here — tart from the capers; sweet from the peppers; and hot from the red pepper flakes — with none of them overpowering the other. And it makes enough for four hungry college students.

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 lbs sirloin flap beef, (steak tips) sliced thin against the grain (about ¼ inch thick)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, (or more if you like it hot)
  • ½ teaspoon dry oregano
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons capers, plus some of it’s juice
  • 1 can 12 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino cheese
  • 1 small bunch fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 red or green pepper, sliced up
  • 1 medium size zucchini, sliced in half moons
Directions
  • Step 1 Place all ingredients in a slow cooker, mix it up, put the lid on, turn to high heat, set timer for 3 hours. Serve hot.
Frozen Fruit and Yogurt Rollups

Frozen Fruit and Yogurt Rollups

Here a blueberry and mango combination was used.
Here a blueberry and mango combination was used.

It’s Super Bowl Sunday and I’m making chili, chicken wings and pub kettle chips but to make myself feel better about those indulgences I searched online for something healthier.

You have to let the rollups sit in the freezer for 2 hours before you can eat them.
You have to let the rollups sit in the freezer for 2 hours before you can eat them.

I found this recipe for frozen fruit rollups: a perfect dish to make with kids. And lucky me I had kids on hand to help out as my great niece and two great nephews spent the night with us. With a little guidance, they were able to make their own rollups and had fun choosing which frozen fruit to use.

I bought bags of frozen blueberries, strawberries, mangos, and a bag that had a combination of bananas and strawberries. And I used vanilla-flavored greek yogurt.

Find more recipes in the Recipe index.

This one had strawberries and bananas.
This one had strawberries and bananas.
Pub Kettle Chips

Pub Kettle Chips

(Above: These chips would go great with watching a football game or just watching the snow fall.)

This was an appetizer eureka!

It isn’t often that I strike gold while dining out but I did on a recent visit to Providence, Rhode Island. By striking gold, I mean tasting something so incredibly delicious and yet so simple to cook it makes you think “Why didn’t I think of that?” This happened on a visit to Union Station Brewery in downtown Providence. The dish? Pub Kettle Chips.

For a mere $7.99 you get a large platter of homemade kettle potato chips with melted cheddar cheese, bacon and sour cream. Mmmm! Goes well with beer (but then again, what doesn’t?)

I recreated them at home by doing the following:

Pub Kettle Chips (From Union Station Brewery in Providence, RI)

December 17, 2013
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • Potato Chips (Use kettle chips, such as Utz Mystic Gourmet Dark Russet Potato Chips.)
  • Extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Bacon, cooked and chopped into pieces
  • Scallions, chopped
  • Sour Cream
Directions
  • Step 1 Spread a layer of potato chips on a cookie sheet.
  • Step 2 Sprinkle with extra-sharp cheddar cheese and bake in 350 degree oven until cheese melts and chips are hot.
  • Step 3 Cook bacon and crumble it or cut it into small pieces and then sprinkle on top of chips.
  • Step 4 Sprinkle with chopped scallions. And put a couple of large dollops of sour cream on top.

 

Chicken in Milk: Strange, but True

Chicken in Milk: Strange, but True

After browning the chicken I poured the grease into a baking dish and roasted potatoes, carrots, parsnips and apples for a side dish.
After browning the chicken I poured the grease into a baking dish and roasted potatoes, carrots, parsnips and apples for a side dish.

This was a pretty simple recipe, albeit an odd one. You basically put a chicken in a pot, brown it on all sides, remove the grease and then add milk, lemon zest and a cinnamon stick. The result is a tender, juicy and sweet, chicken with some unexpected flavors. I’d definitely make it again.

The recipe came from Jamie Oliver. I followed that recipe but took the advice of another cook who recommended cooking it covered for the first hour. Get the recipe here.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

Audio Slideshow: Roasted Applesauce

Audio Slideshow: Roasted Applesauce

Click on image to watch a short video on how to make roasted applesauce from scratch.
Click on image to watch an audio slideshow on how to make roasted applesauce from scratch.

Not sure what to do with all of this season’s apples? Make applesauce. Not sure what to do with all that applesauce?

Put it on pork chops. Mix it in yogurt. Add it to oatmeal. Swap it for oil in box cake-mixes. Swap it for sugar in recipes and save about 670 calories per cup. Toss it in a smoothie. Pour some in pancake batter. Spread it on a cracker, a piece of toast, plain bread, or a peanut butter sandwich. Freeze it for later. Eat it with a spoon. Dab a little behind your ear instead of perfume.

OK. The last one is a joke. But you get the point. Applesauce is versatile. And here’s an easy recipe that includes using the skins: the most nutritious part of the fruit that will help keep the doctor away. Read over the recipe below and watch the audio slideshow (above) before you start chopping all of those apples.

Ingredients:

  • Large apples: 9. Try using three different varieties for a more complex flavor.
  • Brown Sugar: 2-3 tablespoons.
  • Cinnamon: 1 tablespoon.
  • Lemon Juice: About 1/4 cup.
  • Brandy: One shot.

What I did:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash apples. Cut into quarters and core.

Place apples cut-side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Bake in oven for about 30 minutes or until apples begin to turn to mush.

Let apples cool for about 10 minutes and then put them in a food processor.

Add brown sugar and cinnamon and pulse in food processor until well blended.

Add lemon juice and brandy and pulverize in food processor until well whipped and skins disappear.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Mushrooms Stuffed With Nepitella Pesto

Mushrooms Stuffed With Nepitella Pesto

It came to me in a dream: nepitella pesto. I thought that maybe I had invented the idea but a quick search online turned up one reference to it at a restaurant in New York called Osteria Morini.

There they team nepitella pesto with buffalo mozzarella on crostini or with fresh whipped ricotta topped with peas and asparagus. I’m sure that doesn’t taste bad, but what were they thinking? Everyone knows nepitella pairs perfectly with mushrooms and artichokes: everyone, in the small minority of people in this country who have heard of nepitella.

Nepitella plant

So let me let you in on the secret. Nepitella is an herb that grows wild in Tuscany (and in my driveway after I transplanted a small plant from my grandmother’s garden about 15 years ago). Some describe it as a cross between oregano and mint, but I believe it’s more like a cross between basil and mint. And I wouldn’t think of cooking mushrooms or artichokes without it.

So when I was inspired to try to make nepitella pesto the logical use for it was to stuff mushrooms with it. And the result was perfect.

Stuffed mushrooms

The pesto by itself, without any cooking, was much stronger than a basil pesto: more earthy and with a sharp bite, almost spicy flavor. But when it cooked inside the mushrooms, the taste mellowed into a more mild buttery flavor: still very earthy but without the sharpness of the raw nepitella pesto.

If you’d like to try this, finding nepitella will be a challenge, but a search online revealed a few places that sell the plant. Or just stop by my driveway: there this evasive plant grows wild in cracks and along narrow dirt patches along the fence.

Nepitella Pesto (And Stuffed Mushrooms)

September 4, 2013
: 45 min

Making the pesto probably takes about 15-20 minutes; add another 20-25 minutes to make the stuffed mushrooms.

By:

Ingredients
  • Nepitella leaves (washed, about a half a cup)
  • Pignoli nuts (about 1/4 cup)
  • Garlic (4-6 cloves)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (about 1/2 cup)
  • Parmesan cheese (About 1/4- 1/2 cup
  • Imported, freshly grated. Don’t use the stuff they sell in a jar
  • Or use freshly grated Romano and/or Pecorino if you’d like to save some money.)
  • Kosher salt and pepper.
  • Mushrooms
Directions
  • Step 1 Put nuts and garlic in food processor with a steel blade and process for about 15 seconds.
  • Step 2 Add nepitella leaves, salt and pepper.
  • Step 3 With processor running slowly add the olive oil until it’s completely pureed.
  • Step 4 Add cheese and process for another minute.
  • Step 5 If you don’t use it right away, put in refrigerator with plastic wrap touching the top or with a film of olive oil on top. This will prevent discoloring.
  • Step 6 To stuff mushrooms:
  • Step 7 Pull off stems, clean caps with paper towel.
  • Step 8 Put clean caps in a baking dish that has been greased with a small amount of olive oil.
  • Step 9 Spoon in nepitella pesto and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. You can serve it as is or with a shaved piece of parmesan cheese on top and/or a pignoli nut.
Mexicali Chicken

Mexicali Chicken

This is pseudo Mexican at its best.

You won’t find many recipes on RootsLiving that use processed food. But today we’re making an exception because this one is tasty, easy to make and has been pleasing crowds for decades.

I made it yesterday, Super Bowl Sunday, because if there’s one day of the year that calls out for processed food, this is it.

Ingredients:

  • Boneless Chicken tenders (1-2 pounds)
  • Rice Pilaf (2 boxes, Near East)
  • Refried beans (1-2 cans)
  • Taco Seasoning (1 packet)
  • Monterey Jack Cheese (1 package of shredded)
  • Onions (2 small or medium, chopped)
  • Water (about 3/4 cup)
  • Salsa: (About 1/2 cup)
  • Olive oil (1-2 tablespoons)

What I did:

Make the rice pilaf according to package directions.

Saute onion in olive oil and cook until translucent.

Add chicken and brown on both sides.

Sprinkle taco seasoning and salsa over chicken. Add water. Stir and cook until some of the water evaporates and chicken is done or just about done. Do not overcook.

Heat up the refried beans in a small pot.

Spread rice evenly in the bottom of a baking dish.

Spread a line of the refried beans down the middle.

Put cooked chicken on both sides of the refried bean line.

Sprinkle cheese all over.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Beef Bourguignon II: An Easier Recipe

Beef Bourguignon II: An Easier Recipe

Here’s a quicker and easier recipe than Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon.

With temperatures in the 40s yesterday I was looking to make something in my dutch oven. So I looked on the Staub website and found this recipe. It’s time consuming (needs two hours in the oven) but pretty simple to make and dirties only one pan: your dutch oven.

Once you crisp the bacon, brown the beef, and saute the mushrooms, you throw everything back into the dutch oven and wait 2 hours for it to be done. I don’t have the steamer insert so I didn’t make the potatoes as described in this recipe on the Staub website. Instead I opted for mashed potatoes and some crusty bread.

You could also serve it with torta d’patata, according to this meal plan.

Beef Bourguignon II: An Easier Recipe

November 9, 2012
: 2 hr 40 min
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • Salt, to taste
  • 5 slices thick-cut smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 lb. crimini mushrooms, stems removed and cut into quarters
  • 2 1/2 lb. beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup beef broth, divided
  • 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 lb. whole pearl onions, peeled
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • 3 cups red Burgundy wine or Pinot Noir
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Directions
  • Step 1 Heat a 5 qt. cocotte over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, stirring often, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate.
  • Step 2 Add the mushrooms to the cocotte and cook until golden and just tender, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mushrooms to the plate with the bacon.
  • Step 3 Season the beef generously with the salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, warm the cocotte. Working in 3 batches, brown the beef on all sides until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes per batch. Transfer the beef to a plate.
  • Step 4 After the last batch of beef is browned, deglaze the cocotte with 1/2 cup beef broth, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Return all the beef, bacon, and mushrooms to the cocotte. Add the flour, stir to coat evenly, and cook for 1 minute.
  • Step 5 Add the carrots, pearl onions, garlic, and tomato paste to the cocotte. Add the brandy and simmer for 30 seconds. Add the wine, remaining beef broth, and bouquet garni to the cocotte and increase the heat to medium-high, bringing the liquid to a boil.
  • Step 6 Transfer to the oven and cook for 1 hour. Check the stew and give it a stir. Continue cooking the stew, covered, until the beef is fork-tender, 30 to 45 minutes more. Taste the liquid and season with salt and pepper, if desired, and discard the bouquet garni.
  • Step 7 Spoon the beef bourguignon into a shallow bowl. Serve with potatoes and garnish with parsley.

 

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.
Risotto (This time with mushrooms and eggplant)

Risotto (This time with mushrooms and eggplant)

(Above: This is a perfect dish to welcome fall in New England.)

You can add many things to risotto but mushrooms (especially porcini) are my favorite. I made this dish up last night with vegetables I had on hand: cremini mushrooms and eggplant. Feel free to omit the eggplant, it’s just as good.

Making risotto is not hard, but it is an art. The key is adding small amounts of hot liquid to the rice, only enough for it to be absorbed a minute or two at a time. This ensures the dish will be not only flavorful but will have the correct texture: think al dente (with a little bite); never soggy or water-logged.

And of course, the main thing you do, is stir it properly. Don’t stir it too much, just enough to keep it from burning on the bottom. Cook it on medium to low heat: just enough to maintain a medium simmer. (Tip: Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan while stirring and lower the heat if you think the liquid is evaporating too fast or if there is a danger of the rice burning.)

You can serve this as a main meal (serves four) with a side salad; or as a side dish. And if you’re out to impress, try serving it as a side-dish inside a parmesan basket.

Risotto With Mushrooms and Eggplant

September 24, 2012
: 1 hr 15 min

This dish takes about 45 minutes to make if you work fast. Add another 15-minutes to 30 minutes if you work at a leisurely pace.

By:

Ingredients
  • Arborio rice (1 pound). Accept no substitutes, this is what makes risotto, risotto.
  • Chicken broth (About 44 ounces). You can use home-made stock (the best), or canned broth, or some bullion cubes with water or a mixture of all. You can also use a little white wine. Last night I used a combination of canned broth, chicken bullion cube, and a porcini bullion cube with hot water. Whatever liquid you use, be sure to heat it up before you add it to the rice.
  • Onion (1 small or a 1/2 of a large onion
  • chopped)
  • Olive oil (About 1/4 cup
  • enough to cover the bottom of a medium-sized pot
  • plus more to coat the eggplant and mushrooms.)
  • Mushrooms (About 8 oz.
  • chopped)
  • Eggplant (1 small or 3/4 of a large eggplant, sliced thin)
  • Nepitella (About 1 tablespoon. A mixture of dried basil and mint will also work).
  • Parmesan cheese (About 1/2 cup, grated
  • or to taste)
  • Butter (About 1-2 tablespoons)
  • Pepper (Just a sprinkle, to taste)
Directions
  • Step 1 Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pot over low heat. Add diced onion and cook until translucent.
  • Step 2 Add rice and stir. Add more olive oil if needed, just enough to coat the rice. Cook for a minute or two, stirring occasionally.
  • Step 3 Ladle in the liquid, just enough to cover the rice and stir. When liquid is absorbed, add more liquid, just enough to cover and stir. Continue doing this until risotto is done (about 45 minutes).
  • Step 4 In between stirring the risotto, coat a cookie sheet with olive oil and salt (kosher is best). Put down a layer of eggplant and brush tops of eggplant slices with oil and salt. Bake in a 400-degree oven, turning over when bottom is brown. Do the same with the mushrooms. Add nepitella to the cooked mushrooms and set aside.
  • Step 5 When risotto is done. Stir in eggplant and mushrooms. Stir in butter and parmesan cheese. Add pepper to taste.

 

Tomatoes Stuffed With Pasta Salad

Tomatoes Stuffed With Pasta Salad

Here’s another recipe from La Zucca Magica, an Italian vegetarian restaurant in Nice. We had another version of this stuffed tomato when we ate there last month that was equally as delicious and had curry in it. I couldn’t find that recipe online and don’t think I’d do a good job of recreating it either.

I found this recipe from the restaurant on the New York Times site. I used four very large tomatoes but still had too much stuffing left over, which wasn’t a bad thing. It was great to eat all by itself outside the tomato too.

This was a great second course in a three course dinner I recently served that included a first course of cantaloupe gazpacho with crispy prosciutto and a third course of chard stuffed with risotto and mozzarella.

Mangia! Or should I say Bon Appetit!

Tomatoes Stuffed with Pasta Salad

August 8, 2012
: 45 min
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, more for baking dish
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 pound spaghetti
  • 3 tablespoons small black olives (nicoise), pitted and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, preferably salt-packed (rinsed with warm water)
  • 12 basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 or 3 marjoram or oregano leaves, or a pinch of dried
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped
Directions
  • Step 1 Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove top third of each tomato.
  • Step 2 Scoop out some flesh and chop it, along with the top third. Salt inside of tomatoes and turn them upside down while you proceed.
  • Step 3 Cook yellow pepper in a tablespoon of oil with half the garlic, until soft. Break spaghetti into little bits and cook in salted boiling water just until tender. Drain and rinse in cold water.
  • Step 4 Mix together the chopped tomato, cooked pepper, spaghetti and all other ingredients except mozzarella.
  • Step 5 Stuff tomatoes, first with cheese, then with tomato mixture.
  • Step 6 Put in an oiled baking dish and bake for about 15 minutes, or until hot. Serve hot or warm.
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.)

 

Eggplant and Mushroom Stacks

Eggplant and Mushroom Stacks

Roasted eggplant tastes great, is low-calorie and can be used in a variety of dishes.
Roasted eggplant tastes great, is low-calorie and can be used in a variety of dishes.

I improvised this dish one night using ingredients I had on hand. The taste is savory, sweet, and comforting. And it’s something that can be whipped up in about half an hour.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Eggplant (Make sure it’s firm, shiny and a dark purple. This is key, as I don’t believe in salting eggplant and draining it to get out the bitterness. If you buy a perfectly ripe eggplant without bruises, it won’t be bitter.)
  • Mushrooms (about 8 oz.), fried in olive oil, salt and pepper. I like to also add a sprinkling of dried or fresh nepitella. But since that’s hard to come by, you could also use a combination of basil and mint.
  • Cream cheese (About 2 or three tablespoons; just enough to mix in with the cooked mushrooms).
  • Sun-dried tomatoes in oil (1 jar).
  • Arugula (About a cup)

What I did:

Wash and peel the eggplant vertically, leaving vertical, purple stripes.

Cut thin (About 1/4 of an inch) round disks of the eggplant.

Brush on olive oil and salt on both sides. Bake in a 400-degree oven on a cookie sheet. Brown on one side and then turn over. This should take about 15 minutes for each tray of eggplant. Set aside.

Mix cream cheese into cooked mushrooms.

Top an eggplant slice with a couple of tablespoons of the mushroom mixture.

Top this with a few slices of sun-dried tomatoes in oil. And then top that with a few leaves of arugula. And top it all off with another slice of eggplant.

You can serve it as is, or heat it up in a hot oven for just a minute before serving.

Serve this with roasted broccoli or other roasted vegetables if you wish to make dinner a total vegetarian treat.

Twice Basted Asian Barbecue Chicken

Twice Basted Asian Barbecue Chicken

You bake this chicken but the sauce makes it taste like it was barbecued.
You bake this chicken but the sauce makes it taste like it was barbecued.

I invented this recipe probably close to 20 years ago. However, I made it last night for the first time in years.

It’s easy and very flavorful. The soy sauce makes it salty and the mixture of herbs makes it memorable. So I’m not sure why I forgot about it but I’m glad I remembered it.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breasts with the bone in (About 3, each cut in half)
  • Dijon mustard (About 1/4 cup)
  • Soy Sauce (About 1/2 cup)
  • Roasted sesame oil (1 teaspoon)
  • Sun-dried tomatoes (I prefer the “in-oil” kind for this recipe, but the dry ones are fine too) (About 1/4 cup)
  • Tabasco sauce (2-3 drops)
  • Fresh rosemary (1 tablespoon)
  • Tarragon (A pinch of dried, or a tablespoon of fresh)
  • Chopped scallions (about 1/4 cup — chopped onion is fine too)
  • Ginger (About a tablespoon of freshly grated or a pinch of dried)
  • Mushrooms (About 6 or 7 small ones cut up)

What I did:

Put chicken pieces in lightly oiled baking pan.

Mix up all of the ingredients, except for the mushrooms, and spread about 1/2 to 3/4 of it over the chicken pieces.

Bake in a 350 oven until done (about 60 minutes).

Blend mushroom pieces into the left over sauce. And then spread sauce over chicken pieces during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Serve with corn on the cob, bok choy, baked potatoes, rice, corn bread or whatever suits your fancy.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

Moussaka

Moussaka

(Above: Maggie holds a plate of Moussaka and Greek salad.)

This is an untraditional moussaka recipe from Julia Child. I changed it slightly. It’s a bit time consuming (about 2-3 hours) to make but worth the effort. And unlike eggplant parmesan, you don’t have the tedious chore of dipping the eggplant in egg and breadcrumbs.

We served this at our Big Fat Greek Mother’s Day Party.”

Moussaka

May 11, 2011
: 10-12
: A Little Difficult (Takes Some Work)

By:

Ingredients
  • Eggplant (2. Make sure they’re firm, shiny and a dark purple. This is key, as I don’t believe in salting eggplant and draining it to get out the bitterness. If you buy a perfectly ripe eggplant without bruises, it won’t be bitter.)
  • Olive oil and Salt (Enough to brush each eggplant slice.)
  • Dried herbs (I used a very small amount of oregano, thyme, and mint.)
  • For the lamb mixture:
  • Ground lamb (1 1/2 pounds)
  • Fresh parsley (1/2 cup, pressed down)
  • Onions (2 medium, to make about 1 1/2 cups, minced)
  • Garlic (2 cloves, minced)
  • Canned Italian plum tomatoes (2 cups, strained and drained)
  • Red wine (3/4 cup)
  • Allspice (1/8 tsp.)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • Egg (1 large, beaten)
  • For the topping:
  • Butter (3 tbsp.)
  • Flour (1/4 cup)
  • Hot milk (2 cups)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Mozzarella cheese (1 cup, grated)
  • Nutmeg (1 small pinch)
  • Swiss cheese (1/2 cup, grated, to top the topping)
Directions
  • Step 1 Wash and peel the eggplant vertically, leaving vertical, purple stripes.
  • Step 2 Cut thin (About 1/4 of an inch) round disks of the eggplant.
  • Step 3 Brush on olive oil and salt on both sides and lightly sprinkle with the dried herbs. Bake in a 400-degree oven on a cookie sheet. Brown on one side and then turn over. You can cover the cookie sheet with aluminum foil during baking. This should take about 15 minutes for each tray of eggplant. Set aside.
  • Step 4 Chop the parsley in a food processor, remove and reserve. Add the onions and chop with on/off pulses. Remove and saute in a frying pan with 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Add the minced garlic.
  • Step 5 When onions are tender, add the ground lamb. Brown very lightly.
  • Step 6 Fold in tomatoes, wine, parsley and allspice, salt, pepper. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring frequently for about a half hour or until the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape in a spoon. Taste periodically and adjust seasoning.
  • Step 7 Remove from heat and stir in the beaten egg.
  • Step 8 Lightly oil a baking dish (one the size of a good lasagna will do) and line it with a layer of eggplant.
  • Step 9 Spoon half the lamb mixture over it and then add another layer of eggplant. Add the rest of the lamb mixture and end with another layer of eggplant.
  • Step 10 To make the topping, do the following: Cook the butter and flour together for about 2 minutes without coloring, stirring with a wooden spoon.
  • Step 11 Remove from heat and pour in all but 1/2 cup of the hot milk. Whisk vigorously to blend thoroughly.
  • Step 12 Put it back on moderately high heat and whisk slowly until it comes to a simmer. Add in the rest of the milk in drips and drabs. Be careful to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon.
  • Step 13 Whisk in salt and pepper to taste.
  • Step 14 Remove from heat and stir in mozzarella cheese.
  • Step 15 Spoon the hot sauce over the top of the eggplant. Shake the baking dish to allow it to sink down.
  • Step 16 Sprinkle the swiss cheese evenly on top. Bake for 45 minutes in a 350-degree oven until the top is a light brown and bubbling.
  • Step 17 Serve warm or tepid, but not too hot. It’s good cold, too.

 

Best Lobster Stew Recipe, Ever!

Best Lobster Stew Recipe, Ever!

Try this one for your New Years Eve dinner party.

The recipe is from Morrison’s of Portland, Maine. The restaurant was featured on the Food Network where the Deen brothers declared they made the best lobster stew they ever tasted.

This recipe couldn’t be any easier to make. I made it Christmas Eve with lobsters I purchased at Market Basket. I even had them steam them for me so all I had to do was crack open the shells and take out the meat.

Best Lobster Stew, Ever

December 27, 2010
: 6
: 30 min
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • Lobster meat (1 pound or figure about 2 or 3 pound-and-a-quarter lobsters.)
  • Butter (1 stick)
  • Paprika (1 tablespoon)
  • White Pepper (just a dash)
  • Heavy Cream (2 cups)
  • Evaporated Mile (2 cups)
  • Whole Milk (2 cups)
  • Sugar (just a pinch)
Directions
  • Step 1 Melt butter in a pan large enough to hold 6 cups+ of liquid.
  • Step 2 Cut up the lobster meat (saving some good-looking claw meat to add as a garnish to each bowl) and add it to the butter.
  • Step 3 Add paprika and pepper.
  • Step 4 Cook the lobster meat in the butter for 8-10 minutes. You want to let the flavor of the lobster escape into the butter.
  • Step 5 Add the three milks and a pinch of sugar.
  • Step 6 Heat it up, but DON’T LET IT BOIL. Serve in bowls with a choice piece of lobster meat for a garnish. Eat with crusty bread.
Vegetable and Cheese Strata For a Breakfast Meeting

Vegetable and Cheese Strata For a Breakfast Meeting

The strata took center stage at last week's breakfast meeting.
The strata took center stage at last week's breakfast meeting.

Working from home has its benefits and one of them is being able to plan a breakfast meeting in your own backyard.

Last week I held an editor’s meeting in the great outdoors. No sterile company conference room or institutional cafeteria for us.

Since we’re a new company, the purpose of this meeting was for everyone to meet each other and share notes on how best to get started with the work at hand. Everyone learned from each other and I believe the seeds of friendship were sowed amid laughter and free flowing conversation that lasted more than two hours.

That’s right, a two-hour meeting that was productive and fun. I like to think the food (see below) and music (Beatles) had something to do with that.

Here’s the menu:

Vegetable and Cheese Strata

Fresh fruit bowl

Lemon/Cranberry Scones (OK, I bought these. No recipe here) with butter and strawberry jam.

Fresh Iced Tea

Coffee

Vegetable and Cheese Strata (Recipe from the Feb. 1991 edition of Gourmet Magazine):

Don't tell my son, Gabriel, we borrowed his mug for our meeting.
Don't tell my son, Gabriel, we borrowed his mug for our meeting.
  • Ingredients/Shopping List:
  • Onion (1 1/2 cups, chopped)
  • Scallions (1 cup, chopped)
  • Mushrooms (3/4 pound)
  • Olive oil (3 tbsp.)
  • Red bell pepper (2, about 2 cups, cut into thin strips)
  • Green bell pepper (2, about 2 cups, cut into thin strips)
  • Italian bread (About 1 loaf; enough to measure 9 cups, cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • Extra-sharp cheddar cheese (10 oz or 2 1/2 cups, grated)
  • Parmesan cheese (1 cup, grated)
  • Large Eggs (12)
  • Milk (3 1/2 cups)
  • Dijon-mustard (3 tbsp.)
  • Tabasco (6 or 7 dashes or to taste)

What I did:

Cook the onion, scallion and mushrooms in oil over low heat, stirring until the onion is softened.

Add bell peppers and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over moderate heat, stirring for 10-15 minutes or until liquid evaporates and peppers are tender.

Arrange half of the bread cubes in a buttered shallow (4 1/2-quart) baking dish.

Spread half of vegetable mixture over bread cubes and sprinkle half the cheddar and half the parmesan cheese on top.

Arrange the remaining bread cubes over the cheese layer.

Top with remaining vegetables and then the remaining cheese.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, the milk, the mustard, the tabasco, and salt and pepper. Then pour this evenly over the strata.

Chill the strata covered, overnight.

Let the strata stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before baking it in the middle of a 350-degree oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until it is puffed, golden and cooked through.

This recipe serves 8.

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.)

Ribollita Soup

Ribollita Soup

Also known as “Tuscan Bean Soup,” this is a real crowd pleaser. I’ve tripled this recipe and fed nearly 50 people with it at our annual Christmas open house party.

I got this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, but incorporated a few short cuts so you can make this in about 1 1/2 hours. Using a food processor to chop all of the vegetables also helps make the work go faster.

The taste is sweet and a little sour with a punch of heat from the crushed red pepper flakes. It’s a great, hearty soup on a cold winter night.

Ribollita Soup

December 6, 2009
: About 12
: 1 hr
: 1 hr 30 min
: Easy-Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • 1 large can of cannellini beans (about 19 oz.)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 pound diced pancetta
  • 2 cups chopped onions (about 2 onions)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (about 3 carrots)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon salt (I always use Kosher as it’s the most flavorful.)
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 oz.) can Italian plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups sourdough bread cubes, crusts removed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (preferably the imported Parmesan Reggiano), for serving
Directions
  • Step 1 Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot.
  • Step 2 Add the pancetta and onions. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent. (Stir occasionally)
  • Step 3 Add the carrots, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Continue cooking over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. (Stir occasionally)
  • Step 4 Add the tomatoes with the puree, the kale, and basil. Continue cooking over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. (Stir occasionally)
  • Step 5 Rinse the cannellini beans under cold water. Puree half of them in a food processor with about 1/2 cup of water.
  • Step 6 Add pureed beans to the soup. And then add the remaining half of the whole beans. And stir.
  • Step 7 Add the eight cups of chicken stock.
  • Step 8 Bring soup to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
  • Step 9 Add the bread cubes to the soup and simmer another 10 minutes.
  • Step 10 Serve hot in large bowls. Sprinkle a little freshly grated parmesan cheese on top. And then drizzle a little olive oil over it.
Easy Weeknight Pasta

Easy Weeknight Pasta

This old classic is quick, easy, and delicious: perfect for a weeknight.
This old classic is quick, easy, and delicious: perfect for a weeknight.

Sometimes you need a recipe like this to remind you how easy perfection can be. This is a simple tomato and pasta dish that dates back to the classic Italian cookbook, “The Art of Eating Well,” published in 1891 by Pellegrino Artusi. Artusi travelled throughout Italy collecting the best family recipes from each region.

This one is from Naples and is called, “Neapolitan-Style Macaroni II.”

Ingredients:

  • One pound of macaroni (Penne can be used as it absorbs the sauce well)
  • Two large slices of onions
  • 1 1/4 pounds of peeled, seeded tomatoes (4 or 5 will do)
  • Fresh basil (a bunch minced)
  • Butter (1/2 stick, plus two tablespoons)
  • Olive oil (2 tablespoons)
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (about a 1/4 – 1/2 cup)

What I did:

Saute onion in two tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. The onion will split into rings as it cooks. When it browns, press it down with a spoon and then discard.

Stir in the tomatoes; add basil, salt and pepper.

Simmer until done. About 1/2 hour or until it’s not watery.

Cook pasta until al dente. Add sauce; 1/2 stick of butter; and grated parmesan cheese.

Serve with garlic bread and a salad, if you like.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

Our Signature Dish: Root Soup

Our Signature Dish: Root Soup

I’ve always loved vichyssoise soup (served warm) and decided one day to build on that. The result is this soup.

This is the signature dish of RootsLiving. It encompasses everything that RootsLiving is about: it’s simple, uses fresh ingredients of the season,  healthy (so healthy it should ward off the flu) and delicious.

BONUS: And if you leave out the cream and butter, it’s low-calorie. (If you substitute water for the chicken stock, it’s just as good and zero points for you weight watchers out there.)

Root Soup

November 4, 2009
: 20 min
: 45 min
: 1 hr 5 min
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • 6 leeks (chop off the roots and leaves
  • use just the white and light green part, discard the rest.)
  • 5 cups diced potatoes
  • 3 cups diced sweet potatoes
  • 3 cups diced carrots
  • 8-10 cups chicken stock
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Dash of nutmeg (Nutmeg is strong so use no more than 1/8 teaspoon.)
  • Butter (1-2 tablespoons, or less)
  • Heavy cream (About 1/4 cup)
Directions
  • Step 1 Put everything in a pot (except for the nutmeg, butter and heavy cream) and bring to a boil.
  • Step 2 Lower heat and simmer, covered loosely for about 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
  • Step 3 Wait until ingredients cool and then puree in a blender in batches (if ingredients are still warm or hot, be careful not to burn yourself).
  • Step 4 Heat up soup, add nutmeg, butter and the heavy cream (don’t let it boil.)
  • Step 5 Serve with a crusty bread (french, ciabatta, italian etc.)
Last Minute Sunday Steak Dinner

Last Minute Sunday Steak Dinner

When you run out of time this dish is quick and easy to make at the end of the day.
When you run out of time this dish is quick and easy to make at the end of the day.

I had dreams of making a chicken parmesan last Sunday. But as I went through my daily chores, the time for doing that dwindled. So next I thought, I’ll make a roast beef. That’s easy and quick to throw together. But by the time I went to the supermarket, there wasn’t enough time in the day left to cook it in a 350 oven for 1-2 hours.

So I grabbed what looked good. And what looked good that day in the meat section was eye of the round steaks. And they were reasonably priced too. So I threw them in the cart and headed back to the produce section with thoughts of a scallion and mushroom sauce to pour over them.

And here’s the result:

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 1/4-inch thick eye of the round steaks.
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (crushed with the palm of your hand)
  • 12 oz of mushrooms
  • 6-8 scallions
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • Dab of butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. of veal or beef demi-glace (available at Williams Sonoma). Or 1 beef or porcini mushroom bouillion cube.

What I did:

Drizzle olive oil in a pan cook scallions and mushrooms until mushrooms are soft and scallions are translucent. Remove and set aside.

Add garlic and steaks (after garlic cooks a little, pick up with a fork and rub each piece of steak on both sides as it cooks)

Flip steaks over, cook until done. Remove and set aside.

Deglaze the pan with the wine (turn up heat if necessary) and scrape all of the beef renderings at the bottom.

Add the demi glaze or bullion cubes and stir. Stir in a dab of butter. Reduce mixture to about half.

Turn heat down. Add the steaks, mushrooms and scallions and cover. Cook on low for just a minute or two.

And serve with your favorite side dish (brown rice, fresh string beans, mashed potatoes, broccoli, whatever.)

This dish is quick and easy enough to make on a weeknight too.

Find more quick and easy recipes in the Food section.

Work Night Dinner: Octopus’s Garden Gazpacho/Sandwiches

Work Night Dinner: Octopus’s Garden Gazpacho/Sandwiches

Here’s something to kick off a weeknight in the late summer: two quick and easy recipes, perfect to make and eat after a long day of work or to enjoy while you’re working through dinner.

An Octupus’s Garden Gazpacho with Leftover Chicken Hummus Sandwiches

BEWARE: This Octopus's Gazpacho may attract a puss or two.
BEWARE: This Octopus’s Gazpacho may attract a puss or two.

(Tip: Gazpacho should sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before eating, so you could make this the night before. This soup is also very low in calories. For you Weight Watchers, it’s about 4 points per serving with the shrimp — or only 3 points without.)

An Octopus’s Garden Gazpacho

This recipe came from Parade Magaziine via Epicurious. The original name was Farmstand Gazpacho, but my brother Peter (who first made this for me) had the brilliant idea of adding shrimp to it, so I changed the name.

Eating this is like eating a bowl of nature and combined with the shrimp, you may feel like a playful sea otter surfacing from the deep with a fresh morsel in his mouth.

Octopus's Garden Gazpacho

September 12, 2009
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 cups, about 1 large, peeled and diced (1/4 inch) cucumber
  • 2 cups, about 2, diced (1/4 inch) red bell pepper
  • 2 cups, about 2, diced (1/4 inch) ripe tomato
  • 1/2 cup, about one small, diced (1/4 inch) red onion
  • 2 cups of tomato juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 dashes Tabasco sauce (You can add more if you like it more spicy. I added four dashes and found that suited my taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Shrimp (about 16 whole, medium-sized cooked shrimp. More or less to suit your taste.)
Directions
  • Step 1 Place all of the diced vegetables in a large bowl. Add tomato juice, vinegar, oil and Tabasco. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Step 2 Transfer half of the mixture to a blender or food processor and pulse the machine on and off to coarsely puree the ingredients. Return the pureed mixture to the bowl and stir to combine.
  • Step 3 Add eight of the shrimp to the soup. Save and refrigerate the other shrimp to use as garnish around the cup or bowl. Refrigerate gazpacho for 4-6 hours. I put it in the refrigerator for only three hours before eating it and it was fine.
  • Step 4 Put soup in bowls or cups and hook a few shrimp around the rim. Serve with your favorite sandwich.

I made the following sandwiches with some leftover fried chicken and what I had hanging around my icebox. (The tomato and cucumber in the sandwich echoed some of the main ingredients of the soup making this a perfect combination.)

Leftover Chicken Hummus Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • Good, real, Italian bread (I used a loaf of pane francese)
  • Leftover chicken, sliced thin
  • Tomato slices
  • Cucumber slices
  • Hummus

What I did:

Cover one bread slice with chicken. Put slices of tomato on top and add salt and pepper. Put slices of cucumber on top. Spread hummus on the other slice of bread and make a sandwich.

 

Dinner on a Moonlit Beach

Dinner on a Moonlit Beach

The summer isn’t over yet.

A good way to enjoy the beach is to go at the end of the day when the sun is low, the crowds have left, and parking rates are either reduced or completely waived. Bring dinner and a bottle of wine and watch the sun set.

Here’s what I made for our beach excursion this past weekend:

Beach Salads and Bruschetta

September 8, 2009
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • Some ripped up spinach leaves
  • Some ripped up arugula leaves
  • Two tomatoes, sliced and chopped
  • Half a cucumber, sliced thin and then cut into quarters
  • Two tablespoons of anise, chopped into small bits
  • A dozen or so queen-sized, pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
  • Two tablespoons of capers
  • Half a can of chick peas
  • Half pound of cooked salmon chopped into cubes or two hard-boiled eggs, sliced (I made the salmon for me, but substituted eggs for Trish, because she doesn’t like salmon).
  • Your favorite salad dressing. I used all-natural, bottled Greek dressing.
  • Bruschetta Ingredients:
  • Thick slices of Italian bread, toasted under the broiler
  • Two garlic cloves, gently crushed
  • Three or four tomatoes
  • About 20 fresh basil leaves
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
Directions
  • Step 1 Mix everything in two separate plastic bowls: one with the eggs and the other with the salmon.
  • Step 2 How To Make the Bruschetta: Rub the toasted Italian bread slices with the garlic and drizzle a little olive oil over them. Then slice into thick strips. Wrap in wax paper or put in plastic container.
  • Step 3 Chop tomatoes and put into bowl.
  • Step 4 Stack the basil leaves on top of each other and roll up. Then slice into strips. Sprinkle strips on tomatoes and toss with a little olive oil. Add salt.

 

 

Packing up bruschetta for the beach really isn't that difficult.
Packing up bruschetta for the beach really isn’t that difficult.At the beach, spread the tomato mixture on top of the toast slices and eat as an appetizer before the salad. Pour a glass of wine, watch the sunset, and maybe even take a moonlight dip in the ocean.

 

Asian Shrimp Salad

Asian Shrimp Salad

Good recipes endure. And Trish has been making this recipe for more than 20 years. It’s a favorite appetizer at Christmas time in the RootsLiving house, but she also made it this week when we had our next-door neighbors over for a cookout.

She found the recipe in an old cookbook that a previous tenant left in her apartment before we were married.

Asian Shrimp Salad

August 13, 2009
: About 6 as an appetizer
: 15 min
: 15 min
: 1 hr
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp
  • 1/4 lb sliced ham
  • 1 small green pepper
  • 4-6 spring onions (scallions)
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • For the Dressing:
  • 4 tablespoons of peanut or light sesame oil
  • 4 teaspoons of vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of grated, fresh ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili oil (optional)
Directions
  • Step 1 Cut the ham into ribbons.
  • Step 2 Halve the pepper, remove the seeds, and slice finely.
  • Step 3 Cut the spring onions (scallions) diagonally.
  • Step 4 Rinse the bean sprouts and nip the ends.
  • Step 5 Combine the shrimp and ham with the vegetables in a bowl and chill until ready to serve.
  • Step 6 For the Dressing: Place all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and beat with a fork or whisk until it thickens a little.
  • Step 7 Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat evenly.

 

Prized Recipe: Chicken with Polenta

Prized Recipe: Chicken with Polenta

(Special thanks to professional food photographer Russell French for photographing this meal. His photos appear courtesy of Russell French Studio.)

This is one of my prized recipes. My grandmother, Bruna, used to make this and it was my favorite dish when I was a little boy.

I remember sitting at her kitchen table, with a glass of red wine mixed 50/50 with ginger ale (that’s what the kids got to drink). I’d pluck out the little black olives that were covered in a red sauce and stick them on all ten fingers, and then eat them one by one. My fingertips would be hot and then instantly cool as I ate each one.

Here’s the recipe from that memory:

Chicken with Polenta: The Chicken Recipe

July 27, 2009
: 6-8
: 30 min
: 45 min
: Medium

This is what you call peasant food, created in northern Italy where my grandmother learned to cook it.

By:

Ingredients
  • Chicken: I like to use a mixture of bone-in breasts and bone-in thighs. For this recipe, you could use four bone-in breasts
  • and four bone-in thighs to serve between 6 and eight people. You could also use a whole chicken, cut up, or even rabbit.
  • Two or three sweet Italian sausages
  • About 16 oz. of mushrooms
  • One can of pitted black olives
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cans of tomato paste (and about the same amount of water)
  • Two or three garlic cloves
  • A sprig of fresh sage or about a tablespoon of dried sage
  • A sprig of nepitella or about a tablespoon of dried nepitella. Can also substitute a combination of basil and mint. (Optional)
  • About four or five tablespoons of olive oil
  • About 1/3 to 1/2 cup of red table wine
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of nutmeg
Directions
  • Step 1 Clean fat from chicken and soak in salted water.
  • Step 2 Boil sausage for about three minutes.
  • Step 3 Fry sausage with chicken, one clove of garlic (crushed), sage, salt and nutmeg in about one tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Step 4 Fry mushrooms in about one or two tablespoons of olive oil, with garlic clove (crushed), and nepitella. And then add to chicken.
  • Step 5 Add red wine, pitted black olives, tomato paste and dissolve with water to make a sauce.
  • Step 6 Heat in oven. If heating in oven immediately after cooking, set at 350 and heat for only about 15 minutes or so. If you’re not going to serve it for a while, turn heat down to 250 or even 200 just to keep warm. (Don’t overcook chicken as it gets tough.)

Chicken and Polenta: The Polenta Recipe

July 27, 2009
: 6-8
: 15 min
: 15 min
: 30 min
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • Three cups of corn meal
  • Seven cups of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Directions
  • Step 1 Bring seven cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a boil over medium high heat.
  • Step 2 Gradually stir in three cups of corn meal in a slow and steady stream. Stir vigorously as you add the corn meal to avoid lumps. Continue to stir vigorously until polenta is a creamy, yet stiff, consistency. (Tip: Have boiling water on hand in case polenta gets too thick.)
  • Step 3 You can either spoon polenta onto plates in a small pile or you can dump the whole pot of polenta on a large wooden board and let it spread out and cool a bit before slicing into rectangles or squares.
  • Step 4 Spoon tomato sauce from chicken dish on top of polenta when serving.