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Italian Free-Form Apple Tart (Crostata Di Mele Alla Romana)


Italian Apple Crostata

I have been taking an Italian cooking series at the Institute of Culinary Education and it’s been an amazing opportunity to make fresh pastas, risottos, sauces and classic Italian dishes and desserts. I’ve decided I want to start baking more and was thrilled to learn how to make a lovely free-form apple tart called Crostata Di Mele Alla Romana. This delicious dessert is basically an Italian version of an apple pie but without a pie dish, made on a baking sheet. Super easy and super delicious, and perfect for the holidays.

The handmade dough is rolled out on to a sheet pan, with a delicious warm apple, rum, butter and cinnamon filling, then topped with a lattice crust and sealed together around the edges with rolled dough. The crusty is golden and flaky, with a buttery cake-like texture and is topped off with sprinkled confectioner’s sugar. You won’t be able to resist the smell of warm apples and cinnamon that permeate the kitchen making this the ultimate comfort food for your friends and family. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Pasta frolla:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
3 large eggs

Apple filling:

3 lbs. tart apples, such as Granny Smith
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dark rum
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Egg wash:

1 egg well-beaten, with a pinch of salt

For the dough, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until finely mixed in. Add the eggs and continue to pulse until the dough forms a ball. Shape into a disk, wrap the dough and chill it for at least 1/2 an hour.

For the filling, peel, core and slice the apples thinly. In a medium saute pan, combine the apples with the sugar, butter, rum and cinnamon and simmer uncovered, over low heat until the apples exude their juices, about 10 minutes. Continue to simmer until the filling is fairly dry, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and set a rack in the lower third of the oven. Cover a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment or foil.

making the crostata

Divide the dough in half, roll half into a 12 inch disk and transfer it to the pan. Using a plate or platter as a pattern, cut the dough into a perfect 11-inch circle. Spread the filling to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the dough.

Cut rolled pasta dough

Roll 2/3 of the remaining dough into an 8 by 12-inch rectangle and cut into sixteen 1/2-inch wide strips.

Making the lattice crust

Brush the strips with egg wash and arrange them on the filling in a diagonal lattice. Use the remaining dough and scraps to make a long cylinder.

Making the tart dough edge

Egg wash the edge of the tart and apply the cylinder. With the back of a knife, make diagonal impressions in the cylinder.

Bake the tart until the dough is nicely colored, about 30 minutes.

Italian Free Form Apple Tart

Top with powdered confectioner’s sugar, let cool slightly and slice. Serve with French vanilla ice cream.

*Note: You can also substitute 2 1/2 lbs pitted sour cherries or blueberries, (fresh or frozen) for the apples.

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Big Pot ‘o Goodness: Pasta Fagioli


Pasta Fagioli

Cooking is one of my favorite things to do in the Winter – there’s something comforting about the delightful smells that warm up my apartment on a cold, dreary day. Pasta Fagioli is an Italian soup made with herbs, beans, pasta, tomatoes, garlic and broth, topped off with some fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. And it’s easy to make too – just throw all the ingredients in a large soup pot and cook it slow and low for an hour or so. The end result is a big pot ‘o goodness to warm up your toes.

Pasta Fagioli

Extra virgin olive oil
1/3 pound pancetta, diced
1 onion, diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 cup chicken broth, low sodium
1 spring rosemary
2-3 springs fresh thyme
cheesecloth, for rosemary and thyme herb sachet
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pound ditalini pasta (or any short-tube pasta)
Basil leaves, torn for garnish
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for garnish
Extra olive oil, for drizzling

Coat a large, wide pot with olive oil and add pancetta. Bring to a medium heat and cook the pancetta until it starts to crisp, 4-5 minutes. Toss in the onion and season with salt and red pepper; cook until the onion is soft and aromatic, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add tomatoes and 1 cup of chicken broth, rosemary and thyme sprigs (in cheesecloth sachet), season with salt and black pepper, and bring to a boil; then reduce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the herbs sachet and discard.

Add the cannellini beans and chickpeas to the pot and cook for 20 minutes more.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta two-thirds of the way until it is still fairly hard in the center. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add pasta and cooking water to the pot with the tomatoes and the beans and continue to cook until the pasta is done, another 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with some torn basil leaves, grated Parmigiano cheese and drizzle with some extra olive oil for garnish.

Serves 4-6.

Recipe adapted from Anne Burrell, Cook Like a Rock Star

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.

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 

 

Crazy Good :: Truffle Oil, Pancetta & Three Cheese Pasta


Truffle Oil, Pancetta & 3 Cheese Pasta

I can’t remember the first time I tried anything made with truffles, but now and then I find myself lusting after these lovely things – strange? maybe. but let me tell you why..

Truffles have an intoxicating scent and flavor that is indescribable, and make any dish the most delicious thing you will ever experience in your lifetime. I’m not even a huge mushroom fan, but truffles somehow induce euphoria every time I taste or smell them. Unfortunately truffles are pricey, and usually reserved for a special occasion or night out but I felt the urge to splurge and make this dish on an ordinary night, just because.

The nutty, savory and buttery flavor of the truffle oil goes perfect with the trio of parmesan, sharp cheddar and mascarpone cheese making a luscious creamy sauce for the pasta. The pancetta gives the pasta a nice smoky flavor with less fat than regular bacon, and the garlic and onion give it another layer of awesome flavor. Topped off with some golden brown buttery crumbs then baked to perfection, and you’ve got a truly divine, grown up pasta dish that will blow your Mama’s Mac and Cheese away.

Oh, and be prepared to swoon upon first bite.

Ingredients

1 stick of butter
6 slices of pancetta, chopped
1 c. of onion, chopped fine
1 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3 1/2 c. whole milk
2 1/2 c grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 8-8.8 oz container mascarpone cheese
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cayenne
Dash of sweet paprika
Kosher Salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 c. japanese panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley (or 1 tbsp dried)
4 tbsp white truffle oil
1 lb. tube pasta (macaroni, penne, rigatoni, or your choice)

Cheese Sauce

In a large saucepan, melt 1 tbsp of butter and saute pancetta over medium-high heat until browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Sauteed Pancetta

Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and saute for another minute.

Sauteed Onions, Garlic and Red Pepper

Stir in 3 tbsp of butter and let melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute to make a roux (thickener for the cheese sauce). Gradually whisk in 3 1/2 cups of milk and simmer until sauce thickens (stirring often) for 5 minutes, and then remove pan from heat.

Three Cheese Sauce

Whisk in cheddar, mascarpone and parmesan cheeses until smooth, and add a little more milk if the cheese sauce seems too thick. Sprinkle in a dash of nutmeg, a dash of cayenne and a dash of paprika. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir and remove from heat.

Crumb Topping

In a medium skillet, melt 4 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat. Add panko breadcrumbs and stir through so that the butter coats all the crumbs, and they turn a light golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Toasted Breadcrumbs

Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh or dried parsley, set aside.

Pasta

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a 13×9 casserole or glass baking dish with cooking spray or butter. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente for 5-8 minutes. Drain the pasta and shock with cold water.

White Truffle Oil

Place pasta into the casserole dish and coat with the truffle oil.

Add Pancetta to the Pasta

Toss in the pancetta…(mmmm!)

Three Cheese sauce

Pour in the cheese sauce…(dreamy!)

Baked to Perfection

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the pasta and bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Heaven on a Plate

Let cool for a few minutes, and dig in! (you’ll never be the same)

Serves 8.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Pasta Favorites, 2010.

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.

On The Menu: Roasted Chicken w/ Pinot Noir Sauce and Garlic-Smashed Potatoes


Roasted Chicken and Garlic-Smashed Potatoes

Whenever I have a day off, I normally feel the urge to sleep the entire day and forget the world. After thoroughly cleaning my apartment, getting my laundry together and paying bills all afternoon, I worked up a healthy appetite for a really nice dinner.

However, after exhausting all my energy on mundane activities all day, I wanted to make something simple but delicious, and a dish that I could make with all of the ingredients I had on hand: chicken, wine, garlic and potatoes. The thought of actually having to leave my apartment to go to the grocery store and expending more of my precious energy walking up four flights of stairs bewildered me.

I found this recipe for Roasted Chicken Breast with a Pinot Noir sauce and Garlic-Smashed Potatoes and decided to give it try because it sounded interesting (red wine sauce on chicken?) yet elegant. The chicken came out absolutely perfect; crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside – flavored with rosemary and thyme, and sauteed in a light, seasoned searing flour before roasting in the oven giving it a nice browned flavor. The wine sauce is the trickiest part – you want to cook down the wine in the sauce until it turns into a thick glaze and watch it so it doesn’t burn, stirring often.

The potatoes were pretty amazing – buttery, garlicky, crispy on top but creamy underneath the browned crust. The recipe suggests topping the potatoes with sour cream and chives when serving which I omitted, but instead I added a drizzle of Wegman’s basting oil, flavored with garlic, thyme and parsley on top before I put them in the broiler to give them a little extra flavor and crispier crunch.

I highly recommend a glass of red wine to accompany – and a side of crisp sauteed green beans or sugar snap peas for some extra veg. All in all, it turned out to be the perfect meal for a perfectly exhausting day off.

Roasted Breast of Chicken with Pinot Noir Sauce

Ingredients

2  teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2  teaspoon salt, divided
1/2  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2  teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
8  (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4  cup all-purpose flour
1  tablespoon olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
3  tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2  cups pinot noir
1 1/2  cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
3/4  teaspoon sugar
3  tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Sprinkle thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and rosemary evenly over chicken. Dredge chicken in flour; shake off excess flour. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 chicken breast halves to pan; cook 2 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken over; cook 1 minute. Remove chicken from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and remaining chicken. Arrange chicken in a single layer on the rack of a roasting pan coated with cooking spray; place rack in pan. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 160°. Remove from oven. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.

3. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add shallots to saucepan; sauté 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Stir in wine, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Increase heat to high; bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until wine is reduced to 1 cup. Add broth; cook 16 minutes or until broth mixture is reduced to 1/3 cup. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and sugar. Gradually add butter, stirring constantly with a whisk until smooth. Serve sauce with chicken.

Serves 8.

Source: Cooking Light, Oct 2010

Garlic-Smashed Potatoes

Ingredients

1 3/4 pounds small unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes (about 16), scrubbed
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Preparation

Generously butter glass pie dish. Cook potatoes and garlic in medium pot of boiling salted water until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain; let stand 5 minutes. Discard garlic. Arrange potatoes close together in prepared dish. Using wooden spoon, smash potatoes coarsely until they split open. Drizzle with oil; dot with butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Preheat broiler. Broil potatoes until crisp and golden, watching closely to avoid burning, 8 to 10 minutes. Top with dollops of sour cream; sprinkle with chives.

Serves 6.

Source: Bon Appetit, Feb 2009

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)

An Everyday, Ordinary Dish – Reinvented


Real Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes

Ever since I got my new Williams-Sonoma cookbook, “Comfort Food”
for Christmas, I decided that Winter is a perfect time for staying in and
cooking and pursuing some comfort amidst the freezing and dismal
weather outside. So I’ve decided to cook my way through the book over
the next few months, and found a recipe for Sloppy Joes – a dish I haven’t
had in a looongg time. In fact, I think I’ve only tried them a handful of times
– growing up when my Mom wanted to make a quick dinner but something
tasty and savory.

Cookbook Recipe

Sloppy Joes have definitely gotten a bad rap, but this version ups the ante and
puts them back on the map for a delicious quick dish you can make on a weeknight
that’s hearty and spicy and filling. The ingredients are simple and basic: ground
beef, onions, peppers, celery and the sauce is a spicy-sweet tomato sauce that is
tangy and savory and just too good!

ingredients

Since I wasn’t able to find bottled chili sauce, I made my own by using 3 parts ketchup
to 1 part Chili-Garlic sauce and a small amount of Sriracha sauce (you can find both of
these in an Asian supermarket). I also added a dash of onion salt and a dash of Paula
Deen’s House seasoning
and a dash of Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning to add a little
extra spice and layer of flavors. If you want to make them a bit spicier, throw in a small
amount of chopped green chiles. Also, if you’re using frozen meat and defrosting it, make
sure it’s completely defrosted before cooking, or you’ll need to omit the ¼ c. of water that
the recipe calls for, otherwise the mixture will become too watery.

The key to making a delicious Sloppy Joe is to have a perfect balance between tangy, spicy
and sweet – not too tomatoey and not too sweet like a BBQ sauce. Also, the flavors meld
together as time goes on, so they actually taste better the next day! They are easy to make
and you’ll have leftovers for a few days if you’re eating for one or two. Serve these guys on
toasted buns with some melted cheese and a side of chips or fries. Mmmm-good!

Ingredients

Canola Oil, 1 tbsp
Yellow Onions, 1, diced
Celery, 1 stalk, diced
Green bell pepper, 1, finely diced
Ground Beef, 1.5 lbs
Tomato Sauce, 1 c
Ketchup-style chili sauce, ½ c.
Worcestershire Sauce, 1 tbsp
Dijon Mustard, 1 tbsp
Cider Vinegar, 1 tbsp
Light Brown Sugar, 1 tbsp firmly packed
Kosher Salt, 1 tsp
Fresh ground pepper, ¼ tsp
Sesame-seed or Whole Wheat Sandwich buns, 6 split, toasted

Preparation

onions and peppers

In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and bell
pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.

sauteed ingredients in sauce

Add the beef and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring and breaking up
the beef with a wooden spoon, until it is no longer pink, about 10 minutes.

cooking flavors together

Stir in ¼ c. water, the tomato sauce, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, vinegar,
sugar, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer,
stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes to blend the flavors.

Sloppy Joes

Toast the buns. Place the bottom halves of the buns, cut side up, on warmed individual plates
and top with the beef mixture, dividing it equally. Cover with the bun tops and serve right away.

Makes 6 sandwiches

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