Advertisements

Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes


Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, one of my favorite holidays of the year. Celebrating thanks with friends and family around the table with a feast of delicious food – it doesn’t get any better. There’s so much for me to be thankful for: my health, my job, my friends, family and loved ones, the roof over my head, the amazing places I have traveled to and the people and things I have experienced along the way, and the mere fact that every day is a new adventure, with hopefully many more to come.

Throughout the years I have collected my favorite recipes from my family, friends and cookbooks, as well as created a few of my own. I want to share these with you to enjoy just as I have, wishing all my readers a delicious holiday filled with thanks this year..Enjoy and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Soup with Blue Cheese Toasts

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 tbsp minced shallots
3 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small baguette, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
blue cheese crumbles

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Add onions, celery, carrots and shallots. Saute over moderate heat until onions become transparent. Add canned pumpkin, broth and water. Cook until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and puree the mixture in a blender or processor. Return the mixture to saucepan, add chopped thyme and cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reheat over low heat until hot, do not boil. Place baguette slices on baking sheet and broil until golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven and sprinkle the toasts generously with blue cheese crumbles. Serve soup with toasts floating on top as garnish.

Serves 4-6.

Recipe from Whole Foods Market

Orange-Romaine Salad with Walnuts and Bacon

1 (10 oz.) package of chopped romaine lettuce
6 green onions, sliced
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1/4 c. walnut pieces or pine nuts (lightly toasted)
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Orange Vinaigrette
1/3 cup of red wine vinaigrette
1/3 cup of fresh orange juice (from 1 orange)
2 tsp sugar or sweetener

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts in an even layer onto a baking sheet and roast for approx. 15 mins until golden brown. Set aside.

Preheat a saute pan and cook bacon until crispy, crumble and set aside.

Slice green onions, and peel and section oranges.

To make orange vinaigrette, whisk together red wine vinaigrette, fresh orange juice and sugar.

Toss together all ingredients, top with crumbled bacon and toasted nuts.

Serves 8.

Butternut Squash Puree

3 butternut squash, halved and seeded
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
6 small shallots, halved
4 tablespoons orange blossom honey
6 sprigs fresh thyme
pinch of ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heat oven to 400° F. Place the squash skin down onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Season with the salt and pepper and top with the shallots, honey, thyme, pinch of cinnamon and butter.

Cover the squash with foil. Roast until softened, 45 to 60 minutes. Uncover and set aside until cool enough to handle. Working in batches, scoop some of the softened squash and shallots from the peels into a mixing bowl.

Puree the squash mixture with a blender until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl. Repeat with the remaining squash and shallots. Serve warm.

Serves 6-8.

Recipe adapted from Real Simple and Food Network.

Broccoli Casserole

2 eggs, beaten
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tbsp butter, melted
3 cups of broccoli, chopped (frozen or fresh)
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine first 7 ingredients, fold in the broccoli. Transfer to a greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish.

In a medium saute pan, melt 2 tbsp butter and add bread crumbs, stir. Toast breadcrumbs until lightly golden, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the broccoli mixture and bake for 30-35 minutes until bubbly and heated through.

Serves 8.

Buttery Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

1 head garlic
drizzle of olive oil
3 lbs. baking potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold)
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tbsp minced chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the head of garlic in half and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap garlic in foil and place in a small baking dish, bake for 30-45 minutes until the garlic cloves are soft. Set aside.

Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks and bring to boil in a large covered saucepan with salted water. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender and pierce easily with a knife. Drain the potatoes well and return to the pan, over medium-low heat to remove any excess moisture.

In a large mixing bowl, place potatoes, butter, squeezed roasted garlic bulbs and half of the milk. Whip with a hand blender on high speed, slowly adding in the rest of the milk until potatoes have a creamy consistency.

Mix in the chives, salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with additional butter if desired.

Serves 6.

Recipe from Williams-Sonoma, Comfort Food

Creamed Corn with Bacon and Garlic

4 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
2 cups of sweet corn (white and yellow mix)
1 tbsp bacon fat or olive oil
2 tsp garlic, chopped
2 tbsp sweet onion, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
sweet paprika, for garnish
2 tbsp chives, chopped fine for garnish (can also substitute fresh mint)

Cook bacon in a pre-heated saute pan over medium-high heat, drain on paper towels and set aside.

Remove all but 2 tbsp of bacon fat in the pan, add the garlic and onions and saute until soft and golden.

Puree 1 cup of corn in a blender, and add with the additional corn kernels into the pan with the onions and garlic, saute for 3-4 minutes.

Chop the bacon into a medium dice and add to the corn, garlic and onions mixture.

Finish the mixture in the pan with heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste, stirring through.

Garnish with paprika and chopped chives or mint.

Serves 4-6.

Roasted Turkey and Gram’s Sausage Sage Stuffing

1 c. butter (2 sticks)
¾ c. finely minced onion
12 c. coarse bread, torn into cubes, crusts removed
1 ½ c. chopped celery (stalks and leaves)
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. poultry seasoning (to taste)
1/2 tbsp. dried sage or 1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped fine
1 can chicken broth
¼ c. hot water
1 lb. pork sausage, browned and crumbled

12 lb turkey
butter, softened
salt
sage, dried
thyme, dried
basil, dried
fresh ground pepper (black and white)
cayenne pepper

In a large roasting pan, break up bread into coarse cubes (about 2-3 loaves). Heat a large heavy skillet over medium high heat and brown pork sausage until cooked thoroughly. Remove the sausage and pour over the large roasting pan full of bread crumbs.

Next melt 2 sticks of butter in the same skillet that the sausage was browned in and cook onions and celery until soft and lightly browned, stirring often. Add salt and pepper and stir again, remove from heat and pour on top of bread crumb and sausage in the roasting pan.

Add the chicken broth, poultry seasoning, sage, additional salt and pepper to taste and stir thoroughly throughout crumbs and stuffing mixture. Add ¼ c. hot water to stuffing until moist (not wet but not too dry of a texture). Cover roasting pan and let sit in the refrigerator over night.

The next day, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep the turkey by rubbing it all over with butter. Wrap ends of legs and wings with aluminum foil to prevent burning while cooking. Sprinkle salt, sage, thyme, basil, and three peppers (black, white and cayenne) onto turkey and rub in well.

Loosely stuff the turkey with stuffing just before roasting and add any leftover stuffing to a roasting pan. Cook the turkey breast down for the first 45 minutes, basting occasionally with poultry juices. Place leftover stuffing in a roasting pan, cover with foil and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, basting with turkey juices to keep it moist. Rotate turkey on its side and cook another 15 minutes, flipping sides and cooking on the other side for another 15 minutes. Flip the bird over breast up and keep basting and roasting the turkey about another 30 minutes until temperature reads 165 degrees in the breast and 170-175 in the deepest part of the thigh. Remove stuffing in roasting pan and turkey. Allow turkey to rest 20-25 minutes on a carving board before serving.

And don’t forget to make a homemade gravy with the crunchy brown bits and pan drippings (skim off the top layer of fat first), by adding a 1/3 cup of flour and 1-2 tbsp of butter, stirring for a few minutes to make a roux, then slowly add in the liquid (1-2 cups of chicken stock, some brandy or 1 cup white wine, 1 tbsp of cider vinegar and a little salt and pepper to taste) Whisk it into a creamy goodness right in the roasting pan on the stove over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes until it thickens, and serve hot on the side with the turkey and stuffing. Yum!

Makes 3 quarts of stuffing for a 12 lb turkey

Gram’s Stuffing recipe adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook, 1962

Brown Sugar Buttermilk Pie

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp fine salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3-5 tbsp ice water

For the filling:
3 tbsp all purpose flour
3 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 3 tbsp ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (you can add additional ice water if necessary, up to 2 tbsp, 1 at a time); do not overmix. Form dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12 inch round. Place in a 9 inch pie plate, fold overhang under, and crimp edges. Prick dough all over with a fork. Place a sheet of parchment paper over dough and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edge is light golden brown about 15 minutes; remove parchment and weights.

Make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, eggs and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in buttermilk, nutmeg and cinnamon until combined. In a small saucepan, heat butter over medium, swirling pan occasionally, until golden brown and most of the foam has subsided, 8 to 10 minutes. Immediately whisk into buttermilk mixture. Pour filling into pie shell and bake until set but still wobbly in center, 25-35 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, 2 hours before serving. Can be refrigerated and wrapped in plastic for up to 3 days.

Serves 8.

Recipe from Martha Stewart Everyday Food, November 2011

Spiced Mulled Wine

1 bottle red wine (Merlot or Cabernet)
1 tsp almond extract
2 cinnamon sticks, plus a few extra for garnish
3 whole cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp honey

Pour wine into a double boiler (a metal mixing bowl over boiling water in a saucepan) and warm over medium heat.

Add the almond extract, spices and honey and stir until dissolved. Reduce heat, cover and simmer gently, stirring on occasion.

Serve in heat-resistant glasses or mugs, garnish with additional cinnamon sticks, if desired.

Serves 4-6.

Advertisements

Classic Comfort Food:: Beef Stroganoff


Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff is a dish that always reminds me of home  – my mother used to make this on cold winter nights as a special treat for my Dad who is a total ‘meat and potatoes guy’ – obsessed with anything including beef, noodles and gravy. Maybe it’s a German-Polish thing?? She oftentimes prepared this dish with ground beef for a quick and easy dinner, but I’ve adapted her recipe a bit by adding a few extra ingredients to make my own savory version by adding some wine, fresh garlic and thyme. True comfort food for a chilly night, just like Mom made it.

Ingredients:

½ lb. fresh white mushrooms, sliced (2 cups)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp butter
¼ c. flour
2 lbs. round steak (sliced ¼”-1/2” thick)
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/3 c. red wine
1 1/2 c beef broth
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped fine
1 c. sour cream
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine
1 package wide egg noodles

Preparation:

Boil a large pot of water and cook egg noodles per directions. While water is boiling, heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion, mushrooms and garlic until soft in 2 tbsp butter and remove from pan. Cut steak into strips 2 ½” long and ¾” wide. Melt remaining 2 tbsp butter in pan. Toss steak strips in flour and coat. Brown meat in butter until well browned on both sides. Add salt and pepper, worcestershire, wine and broth. Simmer on low, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender (about 1 ¼ hours). Add mushrooms, onion, garlic, thyme and parsley and cook approximately 7 mins, until sauce thickens. Add sour cream, stir until smooth and remove from heat. Serve over hot buttered egg noodles and garnish with more parsley. Enjoy with some crusty bread, a green salad and a glass of red wine.

To make a casserole: combine beef stroganoff mixture with cooked egg noodles with butter and spoon into a greased casserole dish. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees in the oven and then top casserole with crunchy fried onions and bake 10 mins more until onions are crunchy and golden brown.

Serves 6-8.

Other Beef Stroganoff Recipes you may enjoy:

Epicurious Beef Stroganoff

Rachel Ray’s Beef Stroganoff

Williams Sonoma Beef Stroganoff 

 

Hawaiian Chicken with Grilled Pineapple Salsa :: Frozen Watermelon Martinis


Hawaiian Chicken with Grilled Pineapple Salsa

Hawaiian Chicken with Grilled Pineapple Salsa

Grilling with fruit is an easy and staple technique in the summertime – it gives fresh flavor to ordinary BBQ dishes and is a healthy compliment to whatever it is your grilling. This recipe is a Spicy Hawaiian Chicken with a grilled pineapple salsa, made of cilantro, jalapeno pepper and onion (if you prefer a less spicy dish, substitute a red bell pepper instead of the jalapeno). The BBQ sauce is spicy and sweet made with honey, garlic, hot sauce, ketchup and soy sauce (you can also make less spicy by adding more ketchup and soy and honey in place of the hot sauces). The dish is rounded out by a side of rice, perfect mixed in with the pineapple jalapeno salsa and grilled chicken. Top it off with a refreshing frozen watermelon martini (recipe following) – made with vodka, fresh juicy watermelon, crushed ice and some cosmopolitan martini mix…now that’s a sweet and savory dinner perfect for a summer night. Enjoy!

Ingredients

1/4 c pineapple juice
3 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Country Sweet sauce
1 tbsp Chili Garlic sauce
1/2 tbsp Cholula hot pepper sauce
Fresh ground pepper
4 chicken breasts (skinless, boneless, preferably organic for plumper breasts)
Cooking spray
4 pineapple slices for grilling, then diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and deveined, chopped (or 1/2 red bell pepper)
2 cups cooked rice (white or yellow)

Combine the first seven ingredients to make the BBQ marinade and add the chicken breasts, storing in a Ziplock bag or covered baking dish, reserving some of the marinade for basting. Let marinate for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.

Prepare the rice per package instructions, keep warm and fluff with a fork when ready to serve.

To prep the grilled pineapple salsa, chop the jalapeno pepper, red onion and cilantro into a medium dice, mix together and set aside to add grilled pineapple for serving.

Heat the grill or grill pan over medium-high heat (spray the grates or pan with cooking spray just before grilling). Grill chicken breasts about 6-7 minutes per side, basting with the reserved marinade a few times on each side until the chicken gets a nice golden brown color and grill marks. Grill the pineapple slices about 1 minute until browned and chop into medium diced pieces. Mix pineapple chunks into the jalapeno, onion and cilantro mixture, and serve with the chicken and rice. Garnish with some extra cilantro leaves and salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.

Frozen Watermelon Martini

Frozen Watermelon Martini

Frozen Watermelon Martini

2 c watermelon, seeded, cut into chunks
1 tray ice cubes
4 shots vodka (less or more to taste!)
4 shots cosmopolitan martini mix (I used Master of Mixes Martini Gold)

In a blender, puree the watermelon into a thick consistency then add ice cubes, crushing to a medium fine mix. Add vodka and cosmopolitan martini mix and blend until thoroughly mixed. Add more vodka or some Cointreau orange liqueur, if desired, and pour into martini glasses. Garnish with a wedge of fresh watermelon.

Serves 4.

On the Menu: Cooking with Fresh Seasonal Ingredients


Scallops and Asparagus

Scallops and Asparagus

Spring has arrived! It’s my favorite time of year when everything comes alive…flowers are blooming, streets are buzzing, the sun is shining, and the freshest fruits and vegetables are available at the local markets. Asparagus, Strawberries, Avocados – three lovely, seasonal ingredients perfect for a light and refreshing Spring menu. The salad has marinated strawberries in a Strawberry Balsamic Viniagrette, which gives them a sweet, tangy flavor – a perfect complement to the crunchy toasted almonds, bacon and avocado in this delicious spring salad. The Scallops are pan-seared in a roasted garlic chardonnay marinade with a splash of lemon, served with a side of sautéed fresh asparagus. Enjoy!

Pan Seared Scallops with Garlic and Lemon and Sauteed Asparagus

Ingredients

16 Large Sea Scallops
¼ c. Roasted Garlic Chardonnay Marinade (Tavern on the Green)
2 tbsp EVOO
1 lemon, sliced into wedges
Lemon Pepper (Trader Joe’s)
1-2 Green Onions, sliced
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Kosher Salt to taste

Preparation

In a plastic freezer bag, place scallops and ¼ c. marinade and lemon pepper, coat scallops well. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Prepped ingredients

Prepped ingredients

Chop the green onions and parsley and reserve for topping the scallops.

Asparagus

Asparagus

Cut off the ends of the asparagus (tough parts of the stem), rinse and pat dry. In a pre-heated sauté pan over medium-high, sauté the Asparagus in a tablespoon of olive oil with a splash of lemon juice and lemon pepper for about 5-6 minutes until cooked through.

After scallops are done marinating, take them out of the bag and dry off with paper towels. Place them in the same sauté pan, adding remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt and lemon pepper.

Pan-seared Scallops

Pan-seared Scallops

Sear the scallops for approx. 2-3 minutes per side until browned and cooked through. Sprinkle scallops with some fresh lemon juice and remove from pan.

Place asparagus and scallops on a plate and garnish with chopped green onions, parsley and a lemon wedge.

Serves 4.

Strawberry, Bacon and Avocado Salad

Strawberry, Bacon and Avocado Salad

Strawberry, Bacon and Avocado Salad with Toasted Marcona Almonds

Ingredients

1 lb of mixed lettuce
1 pint of fresh strawberries, sliced
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 ripe avocado, sliced
½ cup of Rosemary Marcona almonds, toasted (Trader Joe’s)
3 green onions, sliced thin
3 tbsp of EVOO
3 tbsp of Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar (Tavern on the Green)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

Preparation

Slice the strawberries into thin slices and place in a sealable plastic bag with the 2 tbsp Strawberry Balsamic vinegar in the refrigerator, let marinade for about an hour.

Prepare salad dressing, mix olive oil, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and mustard together, slowly whisking in oil until it is mixed well and set aside.

Fry bacon in a pan until cooked well and drain on paper towels. Let bacon cool and crumble for salad topping. Set aside.

Rosemary Marcona Almonds and Green Onions

Rosemary Marcona Almonds and Green Onions

Place almonds in a separate pre-heated medium-sized pan with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle kosher salt over the nuts. Cook and stir for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown and toasty.

Slice the avocados and green onions.

In a large salad bowl, toss the lettuce and vinaigrette together, mixing well, and top salad greens with the marinated strawberries and sliced avocados.

Garnish the salad with crumbled bacon, green onions, toasted almonds, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.

Chicken Enchiladas de Mole Negro


Chicken Mole Enchiladas

Chicken Mole Enchiladas

I recently took some visiting friends to a great new Mexican restaurant called Pelea Mexicana, located on the edge of Tribeca and Soho on Lispenard St. and 6th Ave. The space is impressive with tall ceilings, brass and wood furnishings, lively music, homemade tortillas, hot sauces, and authentic Mexican dishes made with fresh ingredients. In the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, I sampled their classic Oaxacan-style Enchiladas de Mole Negro, served bubbling hot with a melty layer of Chihuahua cheese, velvety mole sauce and shredded chicken with onions inside corn tortillas, baked to perfection.

Mole is a common dish in Mexican cuisine, (pronounced Moh-lay) which is prepared with a rich, reddish brown chili-chocolate sauce using dark chocolate and guajillo peppers (you can find these at your local fresh market or online at Marx foods or Penzeys Spices). Slightly spicy with a touch of smokiness, Mole Enchiladas are usually prepared with chicken but can also be made with pork or shredded beef, (or go vegetarian with corn, beans and rice filling). To save time, you can prepare the sauce ahead of time, and use pre-made shredded chicken, beef or whatever filling you decide on. Bake them in a clay or ceramic pot and serve directly from the oven in the dish, garnished with cilantro or green onions, along with a side of chips and a variety of salsas and a tangy lime margarita. Ole!

Chicken Enchiladas de Mole Negro

For the enchiladas:

6-10 flour or corn tortillas, small size
1.5 c shredded chicken
1/4 c light sour cream
1/4 c green onions, chopped
2 c grated white cheese, halved in 2 equal parts (queso fresco or chihuahua)
Salt and Pepper

For the Mole Sauce:

2 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
4 dried guajillo peppers, seeds & stems removed
4 cloves garlic
1/4 c warm water
1 14 oz can whole tomatoes, with juices
2 c chicken broth
1/4 c premium dark chocolate, chopped finely
Salt and pepper
Garnish: Cilantro and/or green onions, chopped

Directions for Mole Sauce:

Saute bacon in a saucepan over medium high heat until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy. Remove bacon, discard or save for another purpose. Add onion, carrot and celery and saute until softened, about 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, puree chilies, garlic and water in a food processor. Strain through fine mesh strainer.

Add tomatoes, broth and strained chili puree to vegetable mixture. Simmer on high heat for 20-30 minutes until well incorporated and sauce has reduced and thickened. Strain, pressing on solids. Stir in chocolate until melted. Salt and pepper to taste, keep sauce warm.

Directions for Enchiladas:

Mix chicken, sour cream, green onions and half of the cheese in a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.

Lay out tortillas, fill with chicken mixture.

Roll tightly and lay in a ceramic or clay baking dish that has a thin layer of mole sauce already spread on the bottom (to prevent sticking and burning).

Cover with remaining sauce and top with remaining Chihuahua cheese.

Bake at 325 for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Let stand a few minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

Cooking with a Purpose: Tavern Direct + NCMEC


I recently was fortunate enough to meet Lou Bivona, Managing Partner of Tavern Direct and Founding Member of National Center for Missing & Exploited Children/NY and sample some of his gourmet products to cook with. Tavern Direct has a fantastic line of flavorful, gourmet marinades, dipping and finishing sauces, 14-16 year barrel-aged balsamic vinegars infused with real fruit and herb oils all made with premium, all-natural ingredients bottled under the Tavern on the Green name. The best of all about this wonderful cooking line is that a portion of all their proceeds goes to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a charity committed to help millions of children through the sales of their products.

Tavern on the Green Oils & Marinades

Their product lineup includes Oils, Herbs ‘n More featuring Garlic with Rosemary Oil, Chili Pepper with Garlic Oil and Pepper with Lemon Oil. Their Marinade, Dipping and Finishing Sauce line includes Central Park Signature, Wasabi Wonder, Smokin’ Chipolte and Asian Lemon. The Marinade trio features Chandelier Chardonnay and Fire Grilled Garlic, Old Vine Cabernet and Fire Grilled Garlic and Toscana Garlic Parmesan. The Balsamic Vinegar line is premium and gorgeously flavored with options such as Citrus on the Green (infused with Orange, tangerine and lime), Blackberry and Ginger, Autumn Fig with Vanilla, and Summer Strawberry. Last but not least, they have a robust 1870 Steak Sauce as well as a sesame Golden Ginger Teriyaki Sauce, perfect for marinating steak, chicken and fish for stir-fries and grilling.

Tavern on the Green Garlic & Rosemary Oil
With so many gorgeous sauces and marinades to choose from, I had a hard time choosing which one to cook with first. I chose the Garlic with Rosemary Oil in their Oil, Herbs n’ More collection to make a fantastic, delicious meal of Pan Seared Pork Chops, Roasted Zucchini with Garlic and Parmesan and Pecan Brown Basmati Rice with Garlic. With all the wonderful oils and vinegars and marinades in this line, I’ll be cooking up a storm and planning food and wine pairings and special recipes, and aim to share all my creations and cooking experiences with you throughout the year. Stay tuned for more!

For more great recipes and info about Tavern Direct, visit www.taverndirect.com.

To make a donation to NCMEC , visit their secure website.

**This was not a paid endorsement for Tavern Direct, NCMEC or Tavern on the Green.


Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Garlic and Rosemary

Serves 4
Total Prep time: 30 mins
Total Cook time: 1 hr
Cooking skill: Intermediate

Ingredients

4 large boneless pork chops (about 1 ½ inches thick)
Tavern Direct Garlic with Rosemary Oil
4 Garlic cloves, sliced
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh or dried rosemary leaves

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees and adjust the oven rack to middle position.

Marinade pork chops in the Garlic with Rosemary Oil in a plastic freezer bag or baking dish and place in the refrigerator for up 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Once chops are done marinating, cut 2 slits about 2 inches apart into each chop, using a sharp knife. Insert sliced garlic cloves into slits and sprinkle entire surface of each chop with 1 tsp of salt. Place them in a roasting pan or baking sheet and let stand room temperature for about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle chops with freshly ground pepper and rosemary and transfer baking sheet or roasting pan to oven. Cook until meat thermometer inserted into the center of the chops registers 120-125 degrees (approximately 30-45 mins).

Heat 1 tablespoon of the Garlic with Rosemary oil in a 12 inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking. Place 2 chops in skillet and sear until well browned and crusty, 1 ½-3 minutes, lifting once halfway to redistribute the fat underneath each chop. (reduce heat if browned bits in pan bottom start to burn). Using tongs, turn chops and cook until well browned on second side, another 2-3 minutes. Transfer chops to a plate and repeat with remaining 2 chops, adding extra tablespoon oil if pan is dry.

Reduce heat to medium. Use tongs to stand 2 pork chops on their sides. Holding chops together with tongs, return to skillet and sear sides of chops until browned and meat thermometer in center of chops registers 140-145 degrees, about 1 ½ minutes. Repeat with remaining 2 chops. Let chops rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes until ready to serve. Sprinkle with some extra Rosemary if desired to garnish.

Pair the Pan-seared chops with Roasted Zucchini with Garlic & Parmesan and Pecan Brown Basmati Rice (recipes follow) and a light, crisp Chardonnay to top off the meal. Delicious!

Roasted Zucchini with Garlic and Parmesan

Serves 4
Total Prep time: 15 mins
Total Cook time: 30-45 mins
Cooking skill: Easy

Ingredients

4 medium zucchini
Tavern Direct Garlic with Rosemary Oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Fresh or dried rosemary leaves

Preparation

Wash zucchini and cut in half length wise, chopping off ends, and cut in half again. Arrange zucchini in a glass baking pan and drizzle the Garlic with Rosemary oil over the zucchini. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and top the zucchini with the shredded Parmesan cheese and fresh or dried rosemary. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 mins until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.

Pecan Brown Basmati Rice with Garlic

Serves 4
Total Prep time: 15 mins
Total Cook time: 1 hour
Cooking skill: Easy

Ingredients

1 cup long-grain brown rice
1-2 tablespoons Tavern Direct Garlic with Rosemary Oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
¼ cup green onion, sliced thin (for garnish, optional)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preparation

Prepare brown rice in medium saucepan, following package instructions.

About 15 minutes before the rice is done, heat 1-2 tbsp of Garlic with Rosemary oil in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened and begins to yellow, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and pecans; sauté over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the garlic is tender and pecans are browned slightly, about 5 minutes.

Remove rice from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Spoon brown rice into a bowl; spoon the onions, garlic and pecans on top and toss lightly to combine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with some chopped green onion if desired.

Garlic Rosemary Pan-Seared Pork Chops, Parmesan Zucchini + Pecan Brown Basmati RIce

In the Mood For Love


Recipes To Spice Up Your Valentine’s Day


“Aphrodisiac: any of various forms of stimulation thought to arouse sexual excitement. Aphrodisiacs may be classified in two principal groups: (1) psycho-physiological (visual, tactile, olfactory, aural) and (2) internal (stemming from food, alcoholic drinks, drugs, love potions, medical preparations)”.

We’ve all heard that there are certain foods that have aphrodisiac powers, but which ones and what effect do they have on romance? There are several foods that increase the passion and mood for love – Almonds, Arugula, Asparagus, Avocado, Bananas, Basil, Chilies, Chocolate, Coffee, Figs, Garlic, Ginger, Honey, Nutmeg, Oysters, Pinenuts,  Raspberries, Strawberries, Black Truffles, Vanilla and Wine, just to name a few. Truffles are said to stimulate and sensitize the skin for touch. Vanilla’s scent and flavor is know to increase lust. Chilies increase blood flow and sex drive. The chemicals in Chocolate trigger neurochemicals in the brain that increases passion. Red Wine relaxes and stimulates the senses. For Valentine’s Day, I rounded up a few recipes featuring some of these sexy foods, guaranteed to spice up your night and make it a LOVELY one to remember!

Herbed Baked Oysters recipe

Herbed Oysters

Ingredients:

24 fresh oysters
¾ cup of breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of olive oil
½ teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped
½ teaspoon of fresh basil, chopped
¼ teaspoon of fresh marjoram, chopped
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Shuck the oysters and set aside on the half shell. Discard the remaining shells.

In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, garlic, mustard, olive oil, thyme, basil, marjoram, lemon zest and Parmesan.

 Top each oyster with about 1 teaspoon of the breadcrumb mixture and place the oysters on a baking sheet. Cook under high broiler (grill) for about 6 minutes or until the oysters are crispy and golden brown.

 Serve hot, with a wedge of lemon and your favorite hot pepper sauce on the side.

Recipe originated from www.oysterrecipes.org

Milk Soup with Truffles au Gratin

Truffle Gratin

Ingredients:

2 c. of chicken juice (gravy)
2 + 2/3 c. of milk cream
1 oz. of fresh truffle
2 lbs. of fresh bread
2/3 c. of truffle juice
1/3 c. of milk
2/3 c. of egg whites
Salt, white pepper

Preparation:

Reduce the chicken juice to half.

Add the milk, milk cream and reduce again.

Add the truffle juice and reduce until you get a nice texture.

Check on seasoning and put aside for the moment.

Preparation of the bread toasts:

Whisk 2/3 c. of cream, season with salt and pepper.

Cut the bread into 1 inch thick slices and cut them into circles (2 inch diameters)

Toast both sides of the bread pieces, dig one side on the piece and pour the wiped cream into it, bake it “au gratin”
under the broiler for a few minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

Recipe originated from French-Truffles.com

Chocolate Chicken

Chocolate Chicken

2 lbs. chicken, cut up — (2 to 2 1/2)
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil — (1 to 2)
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. anise seed
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 tsp. fresh pepper
2 tsp. hot crushed red peppers
1/8 tsp. cayenne (or to taste)
Sesame seeds

Brown chicken in a medium skillet in hot oil. Remove to a large (13x9x2) cake pan or baking dish. Pour oil from skillet and add the stock. Simmer 5 minutes. Mix cocoa with vegetable oil to form a paste. Add cloves, cinnamon, anise seed, and blend. Stir spice mixture into simmering stock and simmer 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. 
Pour mixture over the chicken parts. Cover and bake in preheated 350-degree oven until chicken is tender (around 1 to 1 1/2 hours). Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds over a bed of rice.

Spicy Scallops with Capellini

Scallop

Ingredients:

1 pound sea scallops, quartered if large
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 small dried chipotle chile with seeds, stemmed and chopped
Fine sea salt
1/2 pound capellini

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large shallow glass or ceramic baking dish, toss the scallops with the oil, wine, parsley, garlic and chipotle. Season with salt and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the oil is sizzling and the scallops are firm.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the capellini until just al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain; transfer to a serving bowl. Add the scallops and their juices, toss well and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Recipe originated from Food and Wine magazine.

Coffee and Chocolate Braised Short Ribs

Chocolate-Coffee Braised Short Ribs

Ingredients:

Olive oil or lard
5 lbs beef short ribs
Salt and Pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
2 cups strong coffee
1.5 cups chopped tomatoes, with juice (or one 28 oz can)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup unsweetened chocolate (70% or higher cacao)
Cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

Preparation:

Remove the short ribs from their package and rinse them under cold water. Pat them dry. Season the short ribs liberally with salt and pepper. (Use more salt than you think you will need). Heat the olive oil or lard in a cast iron pan or Dutch oven over medium high heat.

Place two or three of the short ribs in the pan. Be careful not to crowd the short ribs. You want to brown them, not steam them. Brown the short ribs well on all sides. You want the outsides of meat just a tad under burnt. Transfer the browned meat to a plate and continue to brown the rest of the meat. When done, remove all of the meat to the plate.

Reduce the heat to medium. If you used a cast iron pan for the browning, heat more oil in a large oven safe covered casserole dish. If you’re using a Dutch oven, just keep on cooking.

Add the onions and peppers and cook until the onions are translucent, approximately 5-10 minutes. Next mix in the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the brown sugar and spices and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the coffee, chopped tomatoes, and tomato paste and bring the whole mixture to a boil.

Return the short ribs to the pot and cover. Braise in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours. Mix in the chocolate until melted. Season with the cilantro and salt and pepper.

Cook’s Notes: I cooked my ribs in a Dutch oven, but the next time I make this dish I’ll brown the ribs in the cast iron pan and then transfer them to the Dutch oven. I also think the chocolate makes a big difference. I received some Scharffenberger chocolate as part of a gift bag and I used that. However I think the Theo chocolate had a smoother taste, even though they were the same percentage cacao.

We served the short ribs over pasta, but I think rice would have been a better side kick to this dish. The sauce is very flavorful with the coffee, chocolate, and the peppers, and rice would just soak it all up. Cook the rice and plate a bed of it. Then serve the short ribs and sauce over the top. Mashed potatoes would also work well here and the addition of some sort of starch would make this a complete meal.

Recipe originated from www.cooklocal.com, adapted from the Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook

Arugula and Avocado Salad With Shaved Parmesan and Toasted Pine Nuts

Arugula Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

2 bunches arugula, washed and dried ( about 6 cups)
1 avocados, peeled and sliced
Shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese, to taste

Lemon Dressing

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
4 -5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions

To make the dressing, in a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and garlic. Slowly whisk in olive oil until the mixture is creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Place arugula in a serving bowl and add dressing to taste. Mix well. Top with avocado slices, drizzle a bit more dressing over them and season with a pinch of salt. Using a vegetable peeler, shave slivers of Parmesan over the top.

Top off the salad with some toasted pine nuts for an extra crunch (and spice to your Valentine’s Day!)

Serves 4.

Recipe originated from Food.com

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster

Ingredients

¼ cup (½ stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup banana liqueur
4 bananas, cut in half 
lengthwise, then halved
¼ cup dark rum
4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Instructions

Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.

Recipe originated from Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans.

Chocolate Honey Mousse

chocolate mousse

Ingredients

12 oz of dark crispy chocolate
5-6 dessert spoons of pure honey
3 cups of fresh cream

Instructions

Mix together dark chocolate (should be crushed into pieces), 5 dessert spoons honey and ¾ cup of fresh cream. The ingredients
should be mixed over luke warm water. This mixture will need to be stirred constantly, till the dark chocolate stats to melt and combines itself with the honey and cream.

Once all three ingredients have blended into one another, keep it aside for it to cool.

While the chocolate mixture is kept aside to cool, start whipping the remaining cream (2 ¼ cups) but not very firm.

Once the cream is whipped and the chocolate mixture is cool, gradually and slowly fold the cream into it. Blend this mixture well.

Take a special serving dish and carefully pour the whole mixture into it and keep it to set in the refrigerator.

The chocolate honey mousse can also be poured into separate individual bowls as it does make a lavish amount.

If the mousse is poured into one whole serving dish, the chocolate honey mouse might take about 3 to 4 hours for it to set well.

Chocolate honey mousse can be served with creamy vanilla ice cream. Garnish with crushed nuts as a topping.

White Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Raspberry Tart

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cup of walnuts, finely chopped
¾ cup of unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 ½ cup of flour
1 teaspoon of freshly-grated orange zest
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 cups of fresh raspberries
12 oz of white chocolate, chopped
½ cup of heavy cream, warmed
½ cup of whipped cream, to garnish

Directions:

In a bowl with an electric mixer, blend walnuts, ¾ of the butter, sugar, flour, orange zest and egg until thoroughly combined, and press into an 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Freeze the shell for 15 minutes.

While the shell is freezing, preheat your oven to 375°F.

 Bake the shell in middle of your oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

 Allow the shell to cool on a rack.

Remove the side of pan and transfer the shell to a plate.

 Fill shell with 2 ½ cups of raspberries.

In a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt the white chocolate. 

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the cream and the remaining butter, whisking until smooth.

 Spread the white chocolate mixture over the raspberries, smoothing top and chill, covered, for 3 hours or overnight.

Garnish the tart with whipped cream and remaining ½ cup of raspberries.

Serve at room temperature.

Recipe originated from www.raspberryrecipes.net

Read more about Aphrodisiac Foods and History

A Taste of Tuscany


Essentials of Tuscan Cooking

Eggplant Crostini

Tuscany (Toscana) is probably one of the most beautiful and scenic regions of Italy and the most popular places to visit, known for its rolling hills, mesmerizing sunsets,  rustic landscapes, vineyards, farmhouses and olive groves. I have not had the opportunity to visit there yet, but I love the cuisine and it’s first on my list when I plan my next trip to Italy.

Tuscan cuisine is a simple and earthy way of cooking, which centers around fresh and local ingredients from the farming region such as olive oil, greens, poultry, beans, beef, pork, rabbit, lamb, and sausages. Crostini is a famous antipasti which are little toasted breads spread with toppings such as olive tapenade or chicken liver pates. Bruschetta is also a popular antipasti made with rustic bread, fresh chopped tomatoes and garlic. Other popular dishes from the area are Panzanella (bread salad), Minestrone soup, Pasta Fagiole (cannelloni bean and pasta soup) and Ribollita.

Because of the ample farm land in Tuscany and areas surrounding Florence, there is a large production of olive oil, grapes and wine, and a variety of fruits and vegetables and herbs such as pears, oranges, thyme, rosemary, tomatoes, wild mushrooms, artichokes, asparagus, spinach and beans – all main ingredients in Tuscan cooking. Risotto is an earthy dish that incorporates many of these vegetables and cheeses from the region. Fennel is another ingredient often used in salad and sautéed with meat dishes. In Florence, Pecorino (a salty sheep’s milk cheese) tends to have herbs, garlic and red pepper added for flavor and is served shaved in salads or as cut in chunks served with grapes, olives and rustic breads like Foccacia bread with rosemary and olive oil.

Almond and Anise Biscotti and Oranges in Marsala Glaze are standard desserts and most of the wine that originates in the area is Chianti, aged in small oak barrels. Another popular white wine is Vernaccia, ranging from light and crisp to full-bodied, made in a small medieval town known as San Gimignano.

The following is a sampling of some of my favorite Tuscan recipes that use rustic and earthy ingredients originating from a Tuscan Cooking class I took at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC. If you’re interested in learning more about Tuscan cooking there are a variety of cookbooks sold online, as well as cooking excursions in Tuscany with local chefs and other sites dedicated to Tuscan cooking.

Mushroom Risotto

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom stock:

½ lb. cremini mushrooms

½ lb. white button mushrooms

½ lb. shitake mushrooms

2 quarts chicken stock

½ c. dried porcini mushrooms

4 tbsp butter

3 oz. Madeira wine

Risotto:

3 tbsp butter

2 shallots, finely minced

4 c. Arborio rice

¾ c. white wine

Mushroom stock (reserved)

1 tbsp. minced chives

1 tbsp. Italian parsley

¼ c. grated Pecorino Romano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the mushroom stock, wash and trim the stems of the fresh mushrooms. Reserve the stems and slice the mushroom caps for use later in the recipe. (Make sure to dust of the dirt first and don’t soak the mushrooms).

Combine the chicken stock, stems, dried porcini mushrooms in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes over low heat. Strain through a cheesecloth and reserve the liquid for the risotto.

Heat a large sauté pan and add 4 tbsp of butter. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until browned. Deglaze the Madeira and reduce until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Reserve the mushrooms. (Try to let the Madeira glaze sit, don’t stir).

For the risotto, heat a wide pot or rondeau (flat bottom pot with tall sides) over medium-high heat and add 2 tbsp butter. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir the mixture together to coat the rice with the shallots and butter.

Add the white wine, lower the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine has evaporated. Begin adding the mushroom stock, a large ladleful at a time. Continue to add the mushroom stock (slowly and continuously), stirring constantly until the rice is just cooked through and all the stock has been absorbed, about 20 mins. The rice should be slightly al dente but have a creamy consistency and not dry.

Stir in the reserved mushrooms, the remaining tablespoon of butter, chives, and parsley. Top off the risotto with Pecorino Romano and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6.

Pork Chops with Fennel

Pork Chops with Olives and Fennel

¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

4 pork rib chops, bone in

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 tbsp. fennel seeds, crushed

1 c. white wine

2 fennel bulbs, cored and quartered or cut into eighths

6 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, roughly chopped

¼ c. Gaeta olives, pitted

1 spring rosemary

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with sides over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it turns brown, and remove the garlic. Season the pork chops with salt and add them to the pan. Cook until one side is brown, then turn and brown the other side. Remove and reserve until later. Add the fennel seeds to the pan and cook for 1 minute (toast them lightly to release oils and flavor, watch closely to not  burn them).

Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze with wine. Return the pan to the heat and cook until wine nearly evaporates. Add the fennel pieces, tomatoes, olives and rosemary.

Bring the liquid to a simmer and add the pork chops back to the pan. Cover the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes more or until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F. Remove the chops and if liquid is too runny, reduce until it coats the back of a spoon.

This recipe can also be made with veal chops, and for extra flavor and to ensure juicy chops that won’t dry out, soak them in a brine overnight made out of 2 quarts of water, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of salt and throw in some chopped up herbs such as rosemary or thyme.

Makes 4 servings.

Pollo alla Toscana

Pollo alla Toscana (Tuscan Chicken)

2 c. dried navy beans, soaked overnight (or canned beans drained and rinsed)

1/3 c. diced slab bacon or pancetta

2 (4 lb.) chickens, cut up into 8 pieces each

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Flour for dredging

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

2 celery ribs, diced small

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup white wine (dry and crisp, such as Chablis)

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tsp. freshly minced rosemary

3 canned plum tomatoes, chopped

2 tbsp freshly minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Drain and rinse the soaked beans. Discard the liquid.

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add the rinsed and soaked beans. Cook them until they are soft, but not mushy. Drain the beans, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Cook the bacon in a large rondeau or Dutch oven until just browned. Using a slotted spoon put the bacon on paper towels to drain, reserving the fat in the pan.

Pat the chicken pieces dry, season with salt and papper and dredge in flour, shaking off any excess. Heat the bacon fat over high heat and when it is hot, add the chicken and cook, in batches, turning the pieces once, until the skin becomes golden brown and crisp. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Add the onions, celery and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze with the wine. Return the pan to the heat and bring it to a boil, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and reduce by 1/3. Return the chicken and bacon to the pan, add the beans, thyme, rosemary, tomatoes, and 2 cups of the reserved beans cooking liquid (liquid should come half way up the pan, use more or less accordingly). Cover, place in the oven and cook for about 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink and most of the liquid has absorbed. You may have to add more liquid if it looks dry.

Season with salt and papper to taste and garnish with parsley.

Makes 8 servings.

Cipolline Onions

Cipolline Agro Dolce (Caramelized Cipolline Onions)

2 lbs. Cippoline onions

6 tbsp sugar

½ c. red wine vinegar

8 sage leaves

¾ c. extra-virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside.

Blanch the onions for 2 minutes in boiling water. With a slotted spoon, immediately remove the onions and place them in ice water. Remove when cool and peel removing the stem and first layer of skin.

In a large baking dish, mix the onions, sugar, vinegar, sage, olive oil, and salt making sure that onions are coated evenly (this makes a lot of liquid so you don’t need to use it all).

Bake in the oven for approx. 60 mins, or until the onions are well caramelized. Make sure to turn the onions and watch them while in the oven, taking care to not let them burn.

Makes 6 servings.

Pear and Fennel Salad

Pear and Fennel Salad

2 fennel bulbs, cored and cut into thin slices

8 cups mixed salad greens (red leaf, Bibb, Boston and Radiccio), washed and dried

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon

3 red Bartlett or Bosc pears, cut in half, cored and thinly sliced

Combine the fennel with the salad greens. Refrigerate until ready to toss.

When ready to toss, add the salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Toss gently and arrange on individual plates or a platter. Top with the pear slices and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Glazed Oranges and Biscotti

Oranges in Marsala Glaze

6 large navel oranges, peeled and pith removed (save one peel with pith removed)

¼ c. sugar

¾ c. sweet Marsala wine

½ c. Cointreau (orange liqueur)

12 mint leaves

In a small saucepan with boiling water, simmer the orange peel over high heat for 5 mins; drain and set aside. When cool, slice into julienne strips.

Separate each orange into sections, removing all membrane between sections. Place sectioned oranges in a large bowl, cover and chill.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, Marsala, and Cointreau. Bring to a boil over medium heat until the mixture has reduced by half or until it becomes syrupy. Add orange peel strips to the syrup and chill. To serve, spoon orange sections into individual dessert dishes. Top with Marsala glaze. Garnish with mint leaves.

Tip: this dessert is delicious topped over Vanilla ice cream and served with Almond and Anise biscotti on the side.

Makes 6 servings.

Other Tuscan recipes you might enjoy:

Panzanella (Bread Salad)

Peach Bellini

Crostini with Roasted Eggplant

Olive Tapenade

Chicken Liver Pate

Pasta e Fagioli

Minestrone

Ribollita (Bread Soup)

Bistecca alla Florentine (Tuscan Steak)

Almond and Anise Biscotti

There’s No Place Like Home


Growing up I always associated food with a sense of comfort, warmth, fulfillment and stability. This is something I attribute to my Mom’s home-cooked meals and nights around the dinner table with my family as we discussed the events of our day, bonded through sharing the heartwarming, delicious meals together and after the meal was done, cleaned the kitchen with our Mom and bonded by watching a television show together before going to bed and getting ready for school the next day. Mom would make Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans, homemade Lasagna with a salad and garlic bread, Grandma’s Beet Soup with homemade Polish potato noodles, or a yummy, savory Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy – these were all of our favorites and also heirloom recipes that were handed down from my grandparents and generations past.

That was a long time ago, or so it seems, and since those days I have lived in numerous cities and another country, and still cherish enjoying good food with good people. But nothing compares to those home cooked meals and the sense of comfort they gave me when I was young – those days gave me a solid ground to stand on for life.

One gloomy, dark day last January, I was cooped up in my tiny New York studio apartment feeling completely miserable from the freezing cold weather and had a serious case of the Winter blues. I felt an undying urge to make a home-cooked meal like Mom used to make to cheer me up and get me out of the dismal mood I couldn’t seem to shake. New York can do that to you sometimes – it is one of the greatest cities in the world, but can also take you to the depths of darkness on those dark, freezing, nasty days in the middle of Winter. That day I decided to go on a quest for Comfort. Something warm. Something cozy. Something heartwarming. Something that would fill my soul and renew my spirit.

My head started spinning, and I immediately felt energized and motivated with this new task at hand. What would cheer me up and transport me back in time? After furiously searching through all of my recipes, I found the perfect remedy to ail my blues – a big whopping batch of luscious Macaroni and Cheese. Not just an ordinary one (like the kind you get in a blue box with packets of dried chemical-laden cheese dust), but one that called for some delicious gourmet ingredients to take this kid-friendly recipe and turn it into a serious pot of adult-sized comfort.

I hopped in a cab to Zabars on the Upper West Side with thrill and anticipation. The freezing rain was coming down sideways and beat against the windows. Once I arrived, I headed straight for the Cheese department and was in my glory with their selection of international cheeses that pierce your nose as soon as you walk in the door. I picked up a creamy Italian Mascarpone, some fresh grated Parmesan Reggiano, a chunk of Gruyere and a block of Fontina. Then I found some fresh garlic, real cream, prime European butter, smoked thick cut bacon and of course, imported Italian pasta and this was a recipe for a mean Mac and Cheese.

I prepped my ingredients and carefully crafted my dish of gourmet deliciousness. The pot was brimming with a melted creamy cheese concoction and I poured the luscious ingredients into my baking dish, watching with anticipation as the warm, savory smells filled my kitchen. After an hour of waiting anxiously to savor my creation, I scooped up the bubbly goodness into a bowl and upon tasting the first bite with its brown crispy crust and tangy creamy cheese, was transported back to a time of comfort and bliss, when I didn’t have a care in the world, a simpler time and place that seemed long gone from today in my stressful, fast-paced city life.

Who cares about the weather, I thought – I had arrived. I was home.

Artisanal Macaroni and Cheese

Recipe adapted from Terrance Brennan and Andrew Friedman, “Artisanal Cooking

Ingredients

¾ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup Parmiagiano-Reggiano
5 ½ tablespoons butter
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher Salt
White pepper in a mill
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cayenne
1 ½ cups Gruyere or Comte, grated (from 5 ½ ounces)
1 cup Fontina, chopped into small pieces
½ cup mascarpone
1 ½ cups dry pasta (macaroni, penne or your choice)
4 slices of bacon or prosciutto, cooked and crumbled
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped fine

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the water into a 3-quart pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, cook the bacon or prosciutto, drain and crumble and set aside.

In a small sauce pan, melt 2 1/2 tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Add the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, toss well, and set aside.

Put the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt it over low heat. Add the flour and cook for 5 minutes, whisking constantly, but not letting the flour burn. Pour in the milk and cook for 5 minutes, whisking or stirring with a wooden spoon. Add 4 1/2 teaspoons salt, 4 grinds of pepper, the Gruyère, Fontina and mascarpone, dashes of nutmeg and cayenne, and continue to whisk until the cheese is melted and incorporated. Remove the pot from the heat.

Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, approximately 8 minutes. Drain the macaroni in a colander and add it to the pot with the cheese sauce. Add crumbed bacon/prosciutto and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Pour the macaroni mixture into an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, approximately 30-35 minutes. Serve hot and garnish with fresh parsley. Oh, and be prepared to swoon.

Serves 4 as a side dish. For a main course, double the recipe, serve with a green salad and a glass of wine.

Throwdown! A Quest for the Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs


Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs. Such an unassuming yet classic Italian dish. And who doesn’t love it? Everyone seems to have their own recipe – not only for the sauce, but for the type of pasta they prefer and of course the meatball is the key ingredient that makes or breaks the dish – at least in my opinion. I was never too fussy about sauce in the past, but as I’ve grown in my culinary tastes and techniques (and the influence of my Italian boyfriend), I’ve come to like a simple tomato sauce made with nothing but tomato and basil and garlic and a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper. As far as pasta goes, I’m pretty open minded, but when it comes to meatballs – it either needs to be classic spaghetti or a rotini pasta, something with an edge or ridges that hold the sauce.

Now here comes the tricky part: the perfect meatball. I have had some of the most delicious meatballs in my life and some that more resembled old sponges than the delightfully bouncy and rich texture I think a humble meatball deserves. Not to mention the flavor – a bland meatball is about as pleasing as a piece of cardboard. It’s all about the ingredients that go inside that make it or break it.

So the other night I decided to go on a quest for the perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe and after carefully researching my options, dug up a recipe by Bobby Flay, another by Molly Wizenberg, and another from my Williams and Sonoma cookbook “Comfort Food” (which I am cooking my way through this Winter so expect quite a few comforting recipes on my blog in the next few months!)

recipe throwdown

I analyzed each recipe with a fine tooth comb; and they were all similar but different enough to be unique and have a flavor of their own. Two used pork and veal and beef for the meatballs, one used just ground beef and pork. One called for a cup of finely ground Parmesan cheese, two fresh grated cheese. Molly cooked her meatballs in the sauce, Bobby fried his in a pan and then finished cooking them in the sauce, and Williams-Sonoma baked their meatballs in the oven first and finished them in the sauce. The sauces were varyingly different versions of a Marinara, one used red wine and a bay leaf, one used only tomatoes, butter, onions and salt and the other used a small cubano chile for some extra kick.

ingredients

After comparing all my options, I created my own version (based on what I thought would work for me in terms of flavor and what I had on hand!) I have posted links to the original recipes at the end of my post if you’d like to check them out for yourself, but mine takes the ingredients from three brilliant chefs/authors/culinary legends and makes the perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe. Mission complete!

San Marzano Tomato and Basil Sauce

1 can Tuttorosso Crushed Tomatoes and Basil
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp crushed garlic (or 2 cloves, minced)
1 tsp dried oregano (Spices and Tease gourmet brand is the best!)
1 tsp. Kosher or Sea salt
¼ tsp. Fresh ground pepper

Meatballs

1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
½ c. panko breadcrumbs
¼ c. milk
½ c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tbsp)
¼ c. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ tsp. Gourmet Garlic and Parsley Salt
½ tsp. Kosher or Sea salt
¼ tsp. Fresh ground pepper

1 16 oz. container of Fresh Direct San Marzano Tomato and Basil Marinara Sauce with 1 tbsp Italian tomato paste stirred in (For those of you with no access to Fresh Direct sauces, simply make the homemade San Marzano sauce and cook the meatballs in that sauce when simmering)

1 lb. pasta (of your choice)

MEATBALLS

sauteed garlic

Measure 2 tbsp of olive oil and sauté minced garlic in a pan for about 1 minute until soft and lightly golden (not to high of a heat or the garlic will burn). Remove from the heat and let the garlic cool.

panko breadcrumbs

In the meantime, mix the breadcrumbs with the milk and let stand 10 minutes until moistened.

Fresh Direct San Marzano sauce

At the same time, put the Fresh Direct San Marzano sauce in a Dutch oven over low heat to start warming for the meatballs later on.

Parmesan, Parsley and Garlic

Chop fresh parsley, measure garlic and parmesan cheese.

Egg, Parsley, Cheese

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, garlic and parsley, cheese, salt and pepper until combined.

Meat Mixture and Breadcrumbs

Add the beef and pork to the egg mixture and gently mix until ingredients are combined, slowly mix in the breadcrumbs to the meat mixture using a claw-like gesture with your hands. Do not overmix. Chill in the refrigerator for up to an hour (at least 15-20 minutes).

Meatball prep

After the meat mixture has chilled, roll the meatballs into golfball size balls (should make about 20 meatballs) and arrange on a pan.

Sauteed Meatballs

Heat ½ c. olive oil in a large metal pan over high heat and add the meatballs, frying until golden brown, turning to cook all sides evenly. Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

meatballs simmering in sauce

Add the meatballs (and any scraped up browned bits from the meatball pan) to the Dutch oven into the Fresh Direct San Marzano sauce and cover. Simmer on low heat for about 20-30 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.

SAUCE

Garlic

To make the additional tomato and basil marinara sauce, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté garlic over very low heat in a medium sauce pan until slightly golden.

Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes

Pour the Tuttorosso Tomato and Basil Crushed tomatoes into the sauce pan, adding the other ingredients (salt and pepper, oregano, basil) and top off sauce with another tbsp of olive oil. Simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes.

San Marzano Tomato and Basil sauce

When the sauce is done simmering, add to the Dutch oven, mixing with the additional sauce and meatballs and let simmer on low for another 5-10 minutes. While the sauce and meatballs are simmering, cook your pasta in salted boiling water (and a dash of olive oil) until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs

Drain pasta and serve in serving bowls, topped with the meatballs and sauce. Garnish with additional grated parmesan cheese and minced parsley if desired and serve with a bold red wine and some crusty garlic bread (recipe below). Now THIS, indeed, is the most perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs I’ve ever had – Mangia!

Serves 4-6.

GARLIC BREAD

Garlic Bread

Cut up some Italian bread and add butter and a sprinkle of some garlic and parsley salt. Bake in the oven on 350-400 until toasty and golden brown. Crunchy, garlicky – so good!

ORIGINAL RECIPES

Bobby Flay’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Bobby Flay’s Throwdown cookbook)

Molly Wizenberg’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Bon Appetit Magazine, October 2010)

Williams-Sonoma Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Comfort Food: Warm and Homey, Rich and Hearty cookbook)

Previous Older Entries

Blog Stats

  • 22,353 hits

Calendar

August 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

Ad Free
%d bloggers like this: