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Albondigas en Salsa de Chipolte (Cheese stuffed Spanish Meatballs)


Spanish Meatballs

Albondigas en Salsa de Chipolte (Spanish Meatballs)

These Spanish-style meatballs are a delicious little treat: sweet, smoky and spicy and lavished in a luscious tomato sauce, they are sure to be a hit at your next Tapas or Cocktail party. You can serve them with some stuffed olives and rustic bread for dipping or over pasta or polenta for a full on hearty meal. Ole!

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. coarse ground salt
1/2 tsp. coarse ground pepper
1/3 c. fine dry breadcrumbs
1 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
9 (3/4-in.) cubes queso fresco
2 Tbsp. lard or canola (or other vegetable) oil
1 c. finely chopped white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1 lb.) can whole peeled tomatoes,
undrained, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. beef stock or broth
2 to 4 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
Sliced Chiles and Parmesan cheese, grated for garnish
9 whole pimento-stuffed green olives, for serving
Rustic Bread, for serving

Beat eggs with salt in large bowl. Stir in breadcrumbs; let stand 5 mins. Add beef, pork and cilantro, salt and pepper, cumin and smoked paprika; mix lightly but thoroughly. Divide meat mixture into 18 even portions. Shape 1 portion into flat patty; top with 1 cheese cube. Press meat firmly around cheese to enclose completely and form balls.

Heat lard or oil in deep 10-in. skillet over medium high heat until hot. Fry 1/2 of meatballs at a time, turning occasionally, until brown on every side, about 5 mins.; remove to plate. Remove and discard all but 3 Tbsp. drippings from skillet. Add onion and garlic; saute over med. heat until soft, about 4 mins.

Stir in tomatoes, stock and chiles; heat to boiling. Return meatballs to skillet; reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, until meatballs are cooked through, about 45 mins. Remove meatballs to serving dish with slotted spoon; keep warm.

Transfer tomato mixture to blender container; process until smooth. Return mixture to skillet; heat over high heat to boiling. Pour sauce over and around meatballs.

Garnish with chiles and cilantro or parsley and parmesan cheese. Serve with stuffed olives and rustic bread for dipping or over pasta or polenta for a heartier entree.

Serves 8.

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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.

Spring Fever! Spicing It up with Caribbean Flavors


Caribbean Chicken w/ Guava Pan Sauce, Caramelized Mangoes, Black Beans and Rice

Caribbean Chicken with Guava Pan Sauce, Caramelize Mangoes and Black Beans + Rice

Since I have lived in New York City, this has probably been the longest winter known to man. Last week on another cold, rainy, dismal day I started dreaming about going somewhere warm, sunny and tropical. Where the skies and sea are blue, the sand is white and the warm tropical air breezes through the palm trees and you don’t have a care in the world. I started having flashbacks of a trip I took to Jamaica a while back where the islanders greet you with a smile and the pace of life is laid back, jovial and carefree. One of the things I remember most about my experience there was the food and how delicious it was.

parsley and lemonsMango

They use unique fiery blends of spices (typically Jerk which is used as a rub on grilled meats) accompanied by an abundance of tropical fruits such as citrus, bananas, mangoes, pineapple, coconuts, papaya and guava. Caribbean cuisine is a unique blend of hot and cool, savory and sweet, and a refreshing burst of flavors reflecting the tropical climates in the region.

Lemon Infused Olive Oil with GarlicInstant Gourmet Caribbean Isles

I suddenly had a strong urge to cook a Caribbean dish and I wanted to try my new spice blend from Instant Gourmet, Caribbean Isles. This seasoning is a delicious blend of salt, bell peppers, garlic and onion, paprika and chili pepper and some additional spices – it really is great to use as a Jerk seasoning when you want some spicy flavor that isn’t too hot but very flavorful. You should try some of Instant Gourmet’s other spice blends too – they have an Original Spice blend, a Butter, Garlic and Parsley blend, a Spicy Coffee Steak blend, an Italian blend and a Southwestern Spice blend – all delicious and great on everything!

Guava Paste, Wine and Chicken BrothBlack Beans and Saffron Rice

I had some chicken breasts on hand and thought I would pair it with some black beans and saffron rice as a side dish. I also wanted to experiment with some of the tropical fruits from the region and incorporate them into my dish somehow so I decided to get a mango and some guava paste to caramelize and make a pan sauce for the chicken.

Lemon, Garlic, Parsley and Olive Oil MarinadeMarinating the Chicken

I also marinated the chicken in lemon juice, garlic and parsley and used an infused lemon oil in the saffron rice to give it a nice lemony zing to round out the tropical flavors in the dish.

Traditional Jerk Chicken is usually rubbed with a dry spice blend and then grilled over hot coals to give it a crunchy blackened flavor. I decided to saute the chicken instead and make a savory pan sauce with wine, broth and guava paste to drizzle over the chicken and the rice and caramelized the mangoes by sauteing them in brown butter, brown sugar and a dash of salt and pepper. The black beans were canned (Goya brand) but to make them more flavorful, I added some sautéed onions and garlic, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and a dash of the Caribbean Isles seasoning.

The dish turned out to be a great combination of flavors – the sweetness of the caramelized mangoes complimented the spicy savory flavors of the chicken and black beans and the lemony saffron rice gave it a fresh kick of citrus to round out the dish. It was light, refreshing and a definite departure from this dreary, rainy, cold weather city I live in, a sliver of sunshine for my day – if even for a moment.

Caribbean Chicken with Guava Pan Sauce and Caramelized Mangoes with Black Beans and Saffron Rice

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice plus some lemon zest from 1 lemon
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Instant Gourmet Caribbean Isles Spice blend
4 large skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 tbsp guava paste
1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 tbsp butter (1/2 stick)
1-2 tbsp brown sugar
1 large mango, halved, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
Salt and pepper
1 package of Goya Saffron Rice (Spanish style)
1 can Goya black beans
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 garlic clove, chopped fine
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 green onions, sliced fine

Whisk first 4 ingredients together to make the marinade in a large bowl. Add chicken breasts to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and Caribbean Isles Spice blend on both sides. Cover chicken and chill for 2-3 hours, turning occasionally.

Saffron Rice

When chicken is done marinading, boil a pot of water and prepare the Saffron Rice per the box instructions and cook about 45 minutes until fluffy.

Browning Chicken

Remove chicken breasts from marinade, scraping excess off the chicken. Heat 1 tbsp canola oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken breasts to the skillet and cook until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Wine, Broth and Guava Paste Pan SauceBraising Chicken in Pan Liquids

Add wine and broth to the skillet along with the guava paste and stir until paste is dissolved and blended to the liquids. Bring to a boil. Add chicken breasts to the wine/broth/guava mixture in the skillet and cover, reducing heat to medium and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes (basting occasionally). Transfer chicken to a work surface and let stand for 10 minutes.

In a medium stovetop pan, saute some chopped onion and garlic in some canola oil until lightly browned. Add black beans (don’t drain), and 1 tbsp vinegar and a few shakes of the Instant Gourmet Caribbean Isles spice blend and a dash of salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes and keep warm.

Caramelized Mangoes

Meanwhile, melt butter in another heavy medium size skillet over medium-high heat. Add mango slices, 1-2 tbsp brown sugar, a pinch of salt and stir. Saute until browned, about 2 minutes per side.

Caribbean Chicken, Black Beans and Rice

Boil juices in skillet until slightly thickened and sauce is reduced, about 3 minutes. Drizzle guava pan sauce over the chicken breasts and serve with caramelized mangoes, black beans and saffron rice. Garnish with chopped green onions, parsley and serve with a crisp white wine.

Serves 4.

Recipe inspired by a Bon Appetit recipe for Guava-Stuffed Chicken in Tastes of the World, 2008

Find out more about Instant Gourmet spices online at www.instantgourmetspices.com

Feeling Lucky with Korilla BBQ


Killa Korilla Korean BBQ

KK_logo

Today was one of those days where I looked up at the time and it’s 2:30 and I still haven’t eaten lunch. Maybe the massive New York toasted bagel and cream cheese I ate for breakfast had something to do with it or the fact that it’s Friday and everything seems to be off schedule for some reason.

So I went for a walk around the block to see what I was actually in the mood for today and couldn’t find a darn thing that even sounded appealing. Soup or Chili? Nah, plenty of soup days to come with this NEVERENDING Winter we seem to be experiencing in NYC. Mexican? Nah. Too filling and carb-loaded that I might just have a food coma and fall asleep on my keyboard when I get back to work. Indian? Nah, just had Chicken Tikka Masala a couple of days ago. Another Deli sandwich and a Diet Coke? Nah, I think I might just slit my wrists or die of boredom if that is the only thing I can come up with for an exciting lunch on a Friday afternoon.

Freezing, annoyed and a little discouraged that I couldn’t just find something I really wanted (considering I was still starving even after my bagel and coffee), I stumbled upon this Korean BBQ Food truck that had quite a few people in line, some funky graphics on the menu to explain what the hell they actually serve in that food truck that was so darn appealing, and three young Korean guys inside, with caps and arty glasses and smiles on their faces. (You know, the Williamsburg, Brooklyn foodie types). One of them saw the confused look on my face as I was staring and trying to understand the menu choices and lured me in with a “Just step in line, we’ll help you figure it out”. Then one of the customers that was leaving said “I don’t know what the heck it is, but it’s freaking amazing”. OK – I was intrigued, SOLD.

Feeling Lucky Chosun Bowl

I impulsively said “I’ll have what he’s having” and it turned out to be one of their “I’m Feeling Lucky” Chosun Bowls. “Pick your meat”, he said. “OK, I’ll take the Pulled Pork”, I said. “What kind of rice do you want?”, he replied. “I’ll take the B.K.F.R. – bacon kimchi fried rice”, I said, that sounded pretty darn good. Then he scooted me down the assembly line and added a random assortment of pickled kimchi and mountain wild veggies (bellflower root, soybean sprouts, pickled cucumber, shredded carrots, pickles, mung sprouts and who knows what else), and a sprinkle of shredded Cheddar cheese (which seemed peculiar, but hey who can resist a little cheese on anything?). He topped off the intriguing bowl of ingredients with some scallions, spinach and Korean squash and then added a healthy squeeze of Korean hot sauce. “Oh, and you can add some of the Korilla K’illa Extra Hot Sauce too, please!”, I chimed. For a reasonable 8 bucks, I had a decent, healthy lunch.

I walked back to my office wondering what the heck I just got myself into, feeling intrigued yet excited to dig in. Upon first bite, I was in LOVE. The Chosun Bowl was a great combination of hot and cool, savory and sour, crunchy, spicy and tangy flavors, packed with crisp, pickled veggies surrounding the tender BBQ smoked pork over the savory bacony rice. The hot sauce gave it a kick of flavor and zing that woke up my tastebuds (and motivation to hit the water cooler not soon after!)

Upon completion of my mysterious yet delicious Korean lunch on a Friday afternoon, I was “feeling lucky”, very lucky, due to my newfound food find, indeed.

Korilla BBQ has a variety of other menu items including other bowls, burritos and tacos made your way. They use choice meats, organic veggies and fresh ingredients too, which is evident once you taste a bite of this awesome BBQ. You can find these guys in their Killa Korilla Food Truck in various locations around New York City (just check them out online at www.KorillaBBQ.com for the menu and locations or follow them on Twitter @KorillaBBQ

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

Kristen in Wonderland: Eataly NYC


Welcome to Eataly – a journey through Mario Batali’s
Italian Wonderland

Ah, Eataly. The hottest buzzword in the New York food scene over the past few months. Grand Opening: August 31st, 2010. Mario Batali and Lidia Bastanich’s dream child venue – I needed to get there. Fast.

After hearing all the buzz about this grand Italian Wonderland, I decided to make several attempts to get a quick glance at this gem, but after two attempts of around-the-block lines of people, I started getting discouraged, as my anticipation grew to get a peek at this amazing palace, just taunting me with the sight of it. I could only peek through the windows with my jaws open, chomping at the bit to get in there. As if I were peering through the looking glass, into another land, surreal and far away from mine.

spices and tease

After waiting over a month to get in this place, I was determined to make my way in and begin my foodie excursion. One Sunday afternoon, my boyfriend and I went on a stroll to Madison Square Park, and on the way encountered a pop-up mini food festival and market. There we bought a variety of fresh herbs and spices and French salt concoctions, and then bought some artisan cannolis (Almond Joy coconut and chocolate, Pistachio Cream, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup – um, heaven!) while taking in all the other food stand delights, all the while holding ourselves back to pigging out on fresh Bavarian pretzels, gourmet burritos and Fatty Cue BBQ, knowing our Eataly destination was next.

espresso machine

When we arrived at Eataly, the line was surprisingly non-existent and we bolted through the front door like a couple of kids in a candy shop. We walked in the Coffee Bar entrance, and immediately my eyes grew large and my blood started pumping, taking in the crowds and grandeur of this palatial food hall. First stop: the Cappuccino/Espresso Bar with its enormous, shiny espresso machine and customers milling around it as if they were sitting in a café on the sidewalks of Italy, crowding around the bar, sipping their strong shots of Italian roast, with not a care in the world but to laugh and tell stories with their friends for hours on end. A few counters down and across were imported chocolates and homemade fine desserts such as pastry tarts and mousses, tiramisu and the like. My heart was really pumping now.

desserts

As we passed down the hallway, the floor to ceiling shelves seemed to swallow us in with rows of Lavender Honey, Italian teas, nuts and other bite-sized delights that flickered before our eyes at every angle. I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland, who fell down the rabbit hole and woke up in a strange, new land – intriguing and familiar, enticing and strange. I wanted to explore more and this was just the beginning.

salumi

We made our way down to the Salumi area and picked up some Italian Proscuitto, spicy Sopressata and a big block of Parmigiana Reggiano – hmmm, appetizers for our Italian feast I have already started creating in my mind. Fontina, Romano, sheeps milk cheese, the selection was endless and daunting. The seafood counter was next, with shiny silver, pink and red whole fish, smoked salmon, baby octopus, clams, mussels, shark and swordfish. Some of the creatures were a bit eerie and scary, but fresh and beautifully displayed on ice with handwritten signs describing the fare.

seafood

Next we entered The Piazza – the grand food hall in the center of Eataly with grand arches and domed ceilings carved in fine architectural detail. You could feel a buzz in the air and the energy of a European outdoor marketplace where the Italians gather with family and friends for an all day feast. It emanated a sense of awe and drama, with its tall ceilings, food and wine stations in every corner, a bar and tall tables with stools in the center, as the waiters flew by with massive platters of gourmet cheese, fresh sliced meats, crusty bread and tall flowing glasses wine. I felt a bit claustrophobic as people were fighting their way through the crowds to get a seat in this hectic maze of food heaven.  I was excited. Amazed. I felt as if we had arrived at the Queen’s palace in all its glory and I wanted in.

piazza

We sat at the bar and ordered an Italian dry red, as we sampled some bread and cheese on a cutting board, watching the other patrons eat and drink with a zest for life. In one corner there was a fresh Mozzarella bar, around the corner “Il Pesce”, the seated counter raw bar and antipasto area. We took our wine glasses with us and made our way to the book store near the beer and wine area, and down to La Pizza & La Pasta, a seated counter and table area that serves artisanal dried and fresh pastas and Napoleon 10” pizzas. The smell of baked bread and garlic overwhelmed us as my hunger grew to find my own tasty morsels to whip up an Italian feast at home.

fresh pasta

We made our way to the shelved dry goods, an array of pastas, olive oils, imported cans of tomatoes, capers, artichokes and balsamic vinegars and my hunt became full on for the perfect ingredients for our feast. We bought some whole Cherry tomatoes, Extra Virgin olive oil and garlic, fresh Italian bread, artichokes and jarred basil pesto. I felt dizzy by the overwhelming selection of imported goods, and eventually our shopping cart was so heavy, we needed to take a quick rest from all the madness. We found a hidden kitchen in the back corner of the venue, where Lidia Bastanich holds cooking demos and classes and wine tastings, known as “La Scuola”. This kitchen was stocked and fit for a King as we sat in awe, sipping our wine.

balsamic vinegars

Our journey was slowly coming to an end, 2 hours later, and we passed through Manzo, the formal dining, and meat-centric restaurant, headed up by chef Mike Toscano. It was dark and moody, with a quiet elegant atmosphere. We felt a bit out of place as we snuck through to get back to the main hall to find our way out. We passed the Rotisserie meats bar, eyeing the roasted chickens and meats, and stood at the crossroads signage trying to figure out where to check out. With a slight head buzz from our wine, we passed through the gourmet hall once again, eyeing the chocolates and coffees and desserts. I resisted as the tiramisu and layered cakes and tarts taunted me from the countertops, as my taste buds said yes, and my wallet said no. Pure Torture.

rotisserie chicken

We finally made our way out and headed home, anxious to savor our Italian goodies and prepare our feast. Cracking open a bottle of red, we crushed the cherry tomatoes and garlic, sautéed the zucchini in olive oil, and threw in the parsley and garlic salt we bought from the Spice vendor in the park and our sauce was underway. Sipping our wine and waiting for the Spinach penne and Garlic bread to cook, we nibbled on breadsticks and basil pesto and smiled at each other as I grated the fresh Parmigania Reggiano for our pasta dish.

spinach pasta with cherry tomato sauce

I felt proud and accomplished, as if I had gone to a strange land on an adventure and learned something new. Bettered myself in some way. A fantastical getaway, if only for a moment…I was happy and complete. It felt good to be in the comfort of my own home, enjoying a homemade Italian meal with my man on a Sunday evening. Check. Mission Complete.

Check out all the pictures from my foodie excursion here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=314572&id=775480967 or in my Flickr Photo album here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/artfulgourmet/sets/72157625504117944/

A Taste of Rochester – Top Picks


Rochester, NY may not be the first place that comes to mind for your next culinary travel adventure. But here are several reasons why you should – growing up there has given me some fond memories of delicious, hometown food and restaurants that are worth visiting every time I pay a visit. (In fact, I refuse to visit Rochester without an Abbott’s Frozen Custard in the summertime – vanilla and chocolate swirl, with chocolate sprinkles in a waffle cone, thank you very much!)

Rochester is a melting pot of cultures due to the extensive number of Italian, Polish, Ukrainian, German and European immigrants that settled there in the mid-1800s. For the food lovers out there, you can definitely find some of the best pizza, heroes and wing joints to old-world specialty foods to funky diners and cafes in the trendy parts of the city such as Park Avenue and Monroe Avenue. Here are some of the places you don’t want to miss to get a true taste of the unique array of food in this in All-American town.

Burgers, Hots and Wings

Nick Tahou’s Hots: This is a place you don’t want to miss! Home of the famous “garbage” plate, Nick Tahou’s is a Rochester legend founded in 1918 located near the University of Rochester packed with starving college students gobbling up their legendary mile-high greasy plates after a few too many drinks. The garbage plate consists of either two cheeseburgers or hot dogs smothered in onions and their famous Rochester-style meaty hot-sauce, with a side of macaroni salad and home fries, topped with more hot sauce and the works. Word of warning: you may need some Pepcid the next morning, but it sure hits the spot after a night out at 3 am. www.garbageplate.com

Located at: 3070 West Henrietta Rd., Rochester, NY 14623
~ 585-272-1182.


Anchor Bar
: This is the home of the original Buffalo Wing recipe, founded in Buffalo, New York in 1964 by Teressa Bellissimo. Their wings are big and meaty, crispy on the outside and drenched in the most delicious, buttery hot sauce you’ll ever taste. Make sure to get the generous side of celery and carrots with blue cheese dressing for dipping to cool your flaming lips along with a nice draft lager from the bar to wash it all down for a true experience. Plenty of beer and wing specials daily (.50 cent wings on Tuesdays), and it’s a fun atmosphere in the trendy theatre district area on East Ave. www.anchorbarrochesternewyork.com

Located at: 355 East Ave. Rochester, NY 14604 ~ 585-861-6475


Country Sweet Chicken and Ribs
: Country Sweet is a Rochester-based BBQ joint best known for their special sweet and spicy sauce and succulent barbeque chicken and ribs. The best item on their menu is their colossal-sized crispy battered chicken wings, drenched in their signature sweet and addictive wing sauce so good you’ll want to lick the plate. These are not Buffalo wings and the sauce is an exclusive “Rochester thing”- they are more of a cross between Southern Fried Chicken drenched in a sweet and spicy sauce you’ve never tasted anywhere else. The chicken and ribs are phenomenal too (try the Country Sweet Sampler Dinner with Chicken, Ribs, Wings, Fries, Macaroni Salad and Coleslaw), and you can even purchase a jar of their special sauce to take home with you if you can’t get enough of it on your visit. Located on Mount Hope Avenue, this is one finger lickin’ spot you don’t want to miss when you’re in town.  http://rocwiki.org/Country_Sweet

Located at: 1691 Mount Hope Ave, Rochester, NY 14620 ~ 585.244.3200

Italian and Pizza

Mario’s Via Abruzzi: Mario’s serves classic Italian fare and steaks, in an upscale neighborhood establishment on Monroe Avenue. Owners Mario and Flora Daniele originated in the Abruzzi region of Italy, and opened several restaurants in Detroit, MI and Rochester, NY for 16 years before the grand opening of their Monroe avenue location, that is now the most popular Italian restaurant in town. They use the freshest ingredients and make their own pasta and sauces, and their wine list is extensive and impressive. They are most well known for their family style dinners that include 5 courses: Antipasto, pasta, salad, a main entrée such as Chicken Saltimbocca or Roast Strip Loin served with Garlicky Greens and Beans and Mashed Potatoes and topped off with homemade rum-soaked Tiramisu for dessert. The impressive space is great for special occasions; they are open 7 days a week, accept large parties and reserve the dining room for private events and weddings. They also offer lunch specials and take out and delivery service. http://www.mariosviaabruzzi.com

Location: 2740 Monroe Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618 ~ 585.271.1111


Bay Goodman Pizza
: Established in 1955, Bay Goodman Pizza is a legend in Rochester, known for the best brick oven pizza in town. The establishment is modest, in a small shack-like building with booths and carpeting that looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 50’s. But one bite of their crunchy crust and tangy tomato sauce oozing with gooey cheese and loaded with crispy pepperoni in every bite, and you’ll be hooked for life. Some even say Bay Goodman gives NYC pizza a run for its money – don’t miss this one!  http://www.baygoodman.com

Location: 620 North Winton Road, Rochester, NY 14609 ~ 585.288.0730

Cafes/Diners

Jine’s Diner – Park Ave: Located in the cultural and historic area of Park Avenue, Jine’s is a charming cafe and long time favorite of Rochesterians. Their breakfast menu features 24 types of omelettes, including the Wild Mushroom and Crumbled Bleu omelette and an amazing Mediterranean omelette filled with a blend of spinach, feta and tomato and fresh herbs. Belgian waffles, pancakes and Banana bread French toast are also local favorites for Brunch. Their lunch menu features homemade soups and specialty salads as well as a variety of cold and hot sandwiches that are out of this world. Their dinner menu boasts American favorites such as Pork Chops and Meatloaf and they even offer a Greek menu with savory items like Spanikopita and Souvlaki. Open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  http://www.jinesrestaurant.com

Location: 658 Park Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607 ~ 585.461.1280


Highland Park Diner
: This 1940s gem is an art-deco-styled diner near Highland Park that is actually an old train cabin, finished in stainless steel and original Art Deco style furnishings. Nestled between Highland Park and Cobbs Hill Park on Clinton Avenue South, this is a landmark eating establishment with great diner food to boot. They are famous for their homemade corned beef hash served with eggs, hash browns and toast and serve freshly squeezed orange juice and coarse ground corn grits as a special treat for the Yankee folks Upstate. Their prices are reasonable and the food is delicious, and it’s worth going just for the atmosphere and history behind it. http://www.wherethelocalseat.com/Rochester-Restaurants/Highland-Park-Diner-Rochester-NY-WebID-17562.aspx

Location: 960 Clinton Ave South, Rochester, NY 14620 ~ 585.461.5040


Daisy Flour Mill
: This fine dining establishment is an authentic historic landmark and a special treat for any visit to Rochester. Located on the Irondequoit Creek in scenic Ellison Park, the restaurant originated from an 1848 Grist Mill, now restored with all of the original equipment still in place. They offer classic American Cuisine such as Prime Rib, Norwegian Salmon, Lobster and Shrimp Scampi and a Mixed Grill of Smoked Ostrich sausage, Venison filet and Sirloin Steak smothered in a special cream sauce they call “Robert Sauce”. Their entrees run from $13-26 and include fresh baked rolls, choice of baked, Vermont cheddar au gratin or cracked peppercorn-horseradish whipped red bliss potatoes. A beautiful atmosphere and unique dining experience for intimate dinners to special private events. http://www.gofattie.com

Location: 1880 Blossom Road, Rochester, NY 14625 ~ 585.381.0180

Ethnic Specialty Shops

The Pierogie Guy: Founded by “The Pierogie Guy” Matt Lewis and his wife, Kelly started their business “Melting Pot Foods” with secret family recipes, crafting their own version of this handmade specialty. Every pierogie (Polish stuffed dumpling, steamed or fried) is made by hand, and stuffed with unique flavorful fillings such as Buffalo Chicken, Sauerkraut and Mushroom, Garlic Smashed Potatoes and Pulled Pork. They make their famous dough dumplings swimming in butter in the “Pierogie Dungeon”, in their basement kitchen in East Rochester. All of their ingredients are all natural and sourced from local produce farms in Upstate NY and they put a lot of labor and love into each one. You can find them at Rohrbach’s Brewing Company and Flour City Diner and they are also available at a dozen local area stores such as Mise En Place and Casa Italiana.  http://www.thepierogieguy.com


The Ravioli Shop
: At this specialty Italian shop, all of their fine fresh Pastries, fresh Ravioli and Pasta, homemade sauce and Italian bread are made daily. They also sell gourmet items such as imported olive oil, sea salts, herbs and spices. They have 14 varieties of handmade ravioli including Artichoke, 5-cheese, Broccoli Feta, Lobster, Pumpkin and Asparagus and Goat Cheese. Their sauce contains only tomatoes and salt and their cream sauces use cream sourced from local dairies: Marinara, Tomato with Roasted Red Peppers, Vodka Cream, Alfredo and Mushroom Cream. A true Italian gem to discover. http://www.theraviolishop.com

Location: 260 Winton Road (near Blossom), Rochester, NY 14610 ~ 585.288.6420

Desserts

Abbott’s Frozen Custard: Established in 1902, Abbott’s Custard serves up the richest, creamiest frozen dessert in town. Their custard is slow churned in barrels with a custard base, and they use a special vanilla extract, real fruit purees and endless toppings such as fudge, cookies, candies and sprinkles to top off their delicious sweet treats. Abbott’s has over 40 locations in the nation, grown from a single location on Lake and Beach Avenues across from Ontario State Park. They also offer sundaes, cakes, pies, shakes, floats and flurrys to cool you off in the summer heat.  http://www.abbottscustard.com

Location: 2195 Empire Blvd., Webster, NY 14580 ~ 585.671.6365


Leo’s Elite Bakery & Deli
: A 60 year old family business owned by Pat and Kathy Bemunzio, Originally known as The Balta Pie Company before the family sold their business to General Mills, Leo’s creates special order cakes such as Chocolate Raspberry Rum and German Chocolate, Cannolis, Biscotti, Cookies, Danishes, fresh baked Italian bread, deli sandwiches, subs and wraps. They also create party trays, specialty gourmet salads and heat and serve dinners including homemade meatballs and sauce, pot roast and pulled pork and baked beans. http://www.leoselite.com

Location: 101 Despatch Drive, E. Rochester, NY 14445 ~ 585.249.1000

Fresh Food Markets

Wegman’s: Rochester’s family-owned mega store supermarket chain is a definite must-see on any trip to Rochester. Founded by John Wegman in 1916 as Rochester Fruit & Vegetable Company, he and his brother opened their first 20,000 sq foot store on Clinton Avenue in 1930. Expanding across Rochester and Buffalo and now across the eastern seaboard to New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, Wegmans is now known as one of Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For”. Their stores have an amazing selection of fresh, frozen and prepared food and have now expanded into opening First Market Café at some of their store locations. The larger showcase stores have food courts inside, featuring Sushi Bar, an Asian Wokery Bar, Italian food, brick oven baked pizzas, a Cappuccino bar and more. They offer cooking classes and live demonstration events from their own Wegmans chefs in a wide location of stores and have their own magazine “Menu” and online blog featuring recipes, cooking tips and celebrity chef articles. This is definitely not your average supermarket and worth the trip.  www.wegmans.com

Location: Wegmans Pittsford – 3195 Monroe Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618 ~ 585.586.6680


Rochester Public Market
: Located in the heart of Rochester, the Public Market is open all year around on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Here you’ll find local vendors offering ethnic specialties, farm fresh fruit and vegetables, meat from local farms, and specialty items from home baked goods to flowers, plants, dry goods and jewelry. The prices are fair, due to the fact that consumers can buy directly from producers and bypass the middleman costs and support local and regional farmers.  http://www.cityofrochester.gov/publicmarket/

Location: Pennsylvania Avenue between Niagara St and 1st St, Rochester, NY 14609

Moussaka + Memories of Greece


Classic Greek Moussaka

moussaka

Classic Greek Moussaka, (pronounced moos-sah-KAH) is one of the most well known of all Greek dishes and a staple “comfort food” and main course meal in Greece (as is Lasagna in Italy) and is a culinary experience to those who sample it for the first time. I first sampled this dish while waiting tables in a downtown Buffalo Greek diner during college, and then once again on a trip to the Greek Islands to Mykonos, Santorini and Athens. Needless to say, the real Greek Moussaka blew the Buffalo diner version to pieces, and I decided to take a stab at making it for my Big Fat Greek Birthday party last year.

One of the most delicious versions of Moussaka I tasted was in Santorini, it was served in a glazed clay pot, and had a perfect mixture of spicy meat at the bottom, layered with potatoes and tender eggplant, and tons of béchamel and gooey cheese on top. The vegetables were steaming as I dug into this gorgeous meat and vegetable pie and my mouth watered at the sight and smell of it.

Moussaka can be made in many variations, but the classic recipe uses layers of eggplant, potatoes, a spicy meat and tomato sauce with a touch of cinnamon and a rich and delicious béchamel sauce and bubbly kefalotyri cheese on top. Other variations are Moussaka with Zucchini or Artichokes instead of Eggplant, ground lamb instead of ground beef, or Vegetarian style with Zucchini, Eggplant and Potatoes without the meat. Either way you make it, with its warm and rich flavors and gooey cheese you’ll be hooked.

I made the Moussaka with Zucchini and Potatoes, as I prefer this combination to the eggplant version and it tastes just as good when all the spices from the meat and seasonings soak into the vegetables and are melded together by the creamy béchamel and gooey cheese on top. Be careful to pat dry the vegetables though before layering in the baking dish, as you don’t want the liquids to make the Moussaka too watery as they are cooked down in the oven.

You’ll need a lot of time and kitchen space to make this dish, and if you’re cooking for a crowd, you’ll be safe to double the recipe and make 2 large rectangular baking dishes of it, as it won’t last long. This dish was the hit of the party and I didn’t have one square left at the end of the evening, amongst all the other Greek goodies we had spread out on the table! It’s also a very heavy filling dish, so you may want to serve it alone as the main course, and accompany it with some Stuffed Vine leaves and tzaziki for a light and fresh side dish along with some garlic lemon hummus and grilled pita. Top it off with a light red Greek wine and a shot of Ouzo as an aperitif and you’re on your way to a classic Greek culinary experience and tasty delight from this ancient land.

Greek Moussaka Recipe

Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients:

3 md Eggplants or Zucchini

1/2 c Vegetable Oil

3 lg Onions; chopped fine

2 lb Ground lamb; (or beef)

3 tb Tomato paste

1/2 c Red wine

1/2 c Chopped parsley

1/4 ts Ground cinnamon

Salt

Black Pepper freshly ground

1/4 lb Butter

6 tb Flour

1 qt Milk

4 Eggs; beaten until frothy

Grated nutmeg

2 c Ricotta or cottage cheese

1 c Fine bread crumbs

1 c Grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions: Peel the eggplants and cut them into slices about 1/2 inch thick.
Brown the slices quickly in 1/4 cup of the oil. Set aside. Heat the
remaining oil in the same skillet and cook the onions until they are
brown. Add the ground meat and cook 10 minutes. Pour off excess fat.

Combine the tomato paste with the wine, parsley, cinnamon, salt and
pepper. Stir this mixture into the meat and simmer over low heat,
stirring frequently, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the
mixture from the fire.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Make a white sauce by melting the butter
and blending in the flour, stirring with a wire whisk. Meanwhile,
bring the milk to a boil and add it gradually to the butter-flour mixture,
stirring constantly. When the mixture is thickened and smooth, remove
it from the heat. Cook slightly and stir in the beaten eggs, nutmeg and
ricotta.

Grease an 11×16-inch pan and sprinkle the bottom lightly with
crumbs. Arrange alternate layers of the eggplant and the meat sauce 
in the pan, sprinkling each layer with Parmesan and crumbs. Pour 
the ricotta sauce over the top and bake 1 hour, or until top is golden.
Remove from the oven and cool 20 to 30 minutes before serving. Cut
into squares and serve. The flavors in this dish really improve if you 
make it a day ahead.

Enjoy with a side of Greek Salad and a medium bodied red wine. Opa!

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