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BREAKING NEWS: Barbecued Chicken Parmesan
Aug 10th, 2012 by

I love the colors in this photo: the red tomato sauce; the multi-colored table; and the green grass beyond.

I love the colors in this photo: the red tomato sauce; the multi-colored table; and the green grass beyond.

Here's my new skillet for the grill. I think I'm going to get a lot of use out of this.

Here's my new skillet for the grill. I think I'm going to get a lot of use out of this.

We interrupt this menu from Nice to let you know about a wonderful dinner I created this week with ingredients I had on hand.

Last Christmas my brother gave me a skillet and roasting pan that are designed to use on the grill. I had a craving for chicken parmesan and didn’t want to turn on the oven so I came up with this recipe for the grill.

I made the tomato sauce ontop of the stove in the RootsLiving kitchen. But everything else was cooked and baked on the grill.

Quick Tomato Sauce
(This simple recipe comes from the classic Italian cookbook, the Artusi).

Ingredients:

  • Tomatoes (About 1 1/2 pounds, preferably Roma or plum tomatoes)
  • Salt and pepper (Just a dash, to taste)

What I did:

Blanch the tomatoes: that means drop them in boiling water for about a minute. This makes it easier to peel them.

Peel, de-seed and chop them.

Drop the tomatoes into a pot with just enough water to keep them from sticking to the bottom.

Simmer the tomatoes until done (About 20 minutes; no more than 30 minutes). Stir occassionally. And add salt and pepper.

Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.

Barbecued Chicken Parmesan

Ingredients

  • Chicken cutlets (About 1.5 pounds will serve four people)
  • Tomato Sauce (see recipe above)
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese (2-3 large balls)
  • American Cheese (I know foodies out there are grimacing. I decided to use small strips of American cheese because I wanted something to melt over the chicken and fresh mozzarella doesn’t do that too well. Trust me, the flavor combination works!)
  • Parmesan cheese (Just enough to sprinkle over each layer of cutlets. And for heaven’s sake, use the imported Parmesan. That stuff they sell in a jar in the supermarket is plastic. There, did I redeem myself?)
  • Eggs (1 large)
  • Breadcrumbs (About a cup)
  • Milk (Just a splash)

What I did:

Mix the egg and the milk in a bowl until well blended.

Dip the cutlets into the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumbs being sure to coat both sides.

Spread olive oil over your grilling skillet with a paper napkin or towel.

Cook the cutlets one or two at a time in the skillet over the grill. Turn over so both sides are cooked.

Line your roasting pan for the grill with aluminum foil. And coat the foil with some olive oil.

Spread some tomato sauce over the foil and then put down a layer of cooked cutlets.

Top the cutlets with slices of fresh mozzarella and then top that with a small strip of American Cheese.

Cover the cutlets with tomato sauce and then sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese over that.

Make layers of this until you run out of cutlets.

Loosely cover the roasting pan with some aluminum foil. Put the pan on the grill and cover the grill. Cook until the cheese melts and the sauce bubbles.

Serve with a salad and/or rice. Or serve it with some corn on the cob (for something really different, try this Italian Corn on the Cob recipe from Mario Batali).

The smoked flavor of this dish really makes this different than the usual chicken parmesan. In the winter you could get a similar flavor by using smoked mozzarella and an oven. But winter is a long time off!

Make Biba’s Mother’s Fried Meatballs For Your Valentine
Feb 12th, 2011 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my recipe based on her’s:

Ingredients:

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

What I did:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find more recipes in the Food section.

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

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

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

Chef Todd English makes a good lasagna.

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

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

What I did:

To Make the Sauce:

Stir occasionally as needed.

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

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

Add the tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes.

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

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

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

To Assemble the Lasagna:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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

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

Cover the bottom of the pan with noodles.

Spread some sauce over the noodles.

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

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

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

Sprinkle lightly with parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

Repeat this five times.

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

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

Serve immediately or put in refrigerator to eat later.

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

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

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

Find more recipes in the Food section.

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

Little Ears Filled With Eggplant & Sausage
Feb 5th, 2010 by

You can't go wrong with impromptu pasta dishes made with fresh ingredients you already have at home..

You can't go wrong with impromptu pasta dishes made with fresh ingredients you already have at home..

I can’t pass up a good-looking eggplant. If I see one at the grocery store I buy it, regardless of my dinner plans for the week. This is because a good eggplant is not always easy to find. I’d say there’s about a 50/50 chance of finding a good one.

And what does a good one look like? It should be a deep, dark purple (nearly black with lighter highlights revealing themselves under the bright grocery store lights). The skin should be blemish free, smooth, and taut. It’s also a good sign if the stem end is a bright green or at least shows signs of recently being so. And it should be heavy when you pick it up so that when you rap it gently with a closed fist it produces a low dull thud.

I won’t buy a lesser eggplant. I’ll change my dinner plans if I can’t find one. And that’s because eggplants of a lower quality are bitter and are responsible for giving all eggplants a bad name. This has resulted in cooks doing crazy things with eggplants, such as slicing it, putting it into a colander, salting it, and letting it sit until the juices run out. In my earlier cooking days, I tried that and found it resulted in an eggplant that still is much bitter than using a fresh one without all of this nonsense.

The key is using a good, fresh eggplant, and doing what you will to it quickly after peeling and slicing it. Don’t let it sit around getting brown.

I also partially peel my eggplants before slicing them. I do this by cutting off the stem end and then using a vegetable peeler to vertically peel strips off the eggplant from stem end to the bottom. This creates an eggplant with purple stripes. And then I slice it thinly — about a 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch or less.

Since cooking eggplant is often an impromptu act for me, I often come up with interesting recipes based on what I have on hand. This recipe came about on one of those occasions.

(This is a good dish to make if you have a little leftover tomato sauce. The Italians use a sparse amount of tomato sauce on their pasta, usually only enough to color it a deep orange, not a heavy red.)

Ingredients/Shopping List

  • Orecchiette pasta (or small conchiglie, also called shells). (1 pound). Orecchiette comes from the Italian for little ears and in fact looks like little ears.
  • Eggplant (1 or 2 firm and fresh specimens; chosen, peeled and sliced as described above.)
  • Sausages (3 sweet Italian links)
  • Tomato Sauce (about 1 cup, your favorite or mine.)
  • Olive oil (enough to coat the eggplant slices and 2 cookie sheets)
  • Salt (I use Kosher salt for everything.)
  • Parmesan cheese (About 1/2 cup grated, or to your taste)

What I did:

Bring a large pot of salted water (use a good amount of salt) to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente.

While water is being brought to a boil, peel and slice an eggplant as described above. Put slices on an oiled cookie sheet and brush olive oil on top of each slice. Make sure both the tops and bottoms of each slice have a thin layer of olive oil on them. Sprinkle slices with Kosher salt and cook in a 350 degree to 400 degree oven until brown on each side. Turn slices over half-way to make sure each side is a golden or dark brown. (Don’t worry about overcooking them. The thin slices will have a crisp paper texture and will taste great. Just be sure you don’t burn them!) Cook 2 cookie sheets of eggplants in this way.

When eggplant slices are done, cut them into quarters.

Crumble the sausage links into a hot frying pan with a light coating of olive oil. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over them. Cook until done. And then transfer to a dinner plate lined with a paper towel to drain off the excess grease.

Heat the tomato sauce up over the stove.

Drain the pasta into a colander and then pour it back into the empty pot. Add sausage and stir. Add the eggplant and stir. Add the tomato sauce and stir. Add grated parmesan cheese and stir. Serve hot.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

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

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