Jewtalian’s Comfort Food

On a cold snowy day it’s natural to think warm comfort food: soups, creamy mac n cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, fried eggplant, chicken or veal, and maybe even lasagna soup! See below many of my comfort food recipes over the years. Click on the recipe name for the link. Enjoy!
Veal Milanese 

Nanny’s Manicotti 

Braised Beef Short Ribs over Polenta 

Spiked Adult Hot Chocolate 

Meat Sauce Over Papparadelle 

Moms Perfect Chicken Cutlets 

Fried Mozzarella Stuffed Eggplant Balls 

Nanny’s Pasta with Meatballs 

Barbacoa Tacos

Mac N Cheese 

Grandma Edie’s Stuffed Artichokes 

Eggplant Rollatini

Homemade Ravioli

Pasta E Fagioli Soup

Beef Stew 

Lasagna Soup

Mom’s Latkes!

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Chicken Tikka Masala

Indian food gets a bad rap. A lot of people including my friends and family say eww curry is gross”, or it “smells bad”, etc. I (regrettably) used to be one of those people but that changed when I actually tried naan, chicken tikka masala and some other delicious vegetarian dishes with chickpeas and cauliflower. It wasn’t love at first taste but now that I’ve had it from good restaurants over the years, I looooove it. A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to make it and so I read some recipes, bought some new spices and (though slightly terrified) went for it! I lightened up the recipe a tad which saves on calories but not flavor. You can find the original recipe here. 



Ingredients
:

8 or so garlic cloves, finely grated

6 teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger

8 teaspoons ground turmeric

4 teaspoons garam masala

4 teaspoons ground coriander

4 teaspoons ground cumin

3 cups 1% yogurt (not Greek)

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

3.5 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 small onion, thinly sliced

¼ cup or more tomato paste

2 tsp cardamom

3 dried chiles de árbol

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (you could add another small can- I didn’t have one or I would have)

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup or so vegetable or chicken broth

¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro plus sprigs for garnish

Steamed brown basmati rice (for serving)

Directions:

Put seasonings in a bowl and combine. Reserve half for later.
Put chicken in a bowl with the grated garlic and ginger.


Add yogurt and half of the spices.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 4-5 hours. You can leave to marinate overnight.

For the sauce:

Put the vegetable oil in the pan on medium heat. Add onions, chiles, tomato paste and cardamom.


Stir for 5 or so minutes while the sauce darkens.

 

Add the other half of the spice mixture and cook for 4-5 more minutes until bottom of pan darkens.

Pour juice of canned tomatoes into the pan. Squeeze the tomatoes with your hands crushing them into small pieces. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.

Simmer for 10-15 minutes so sauce thickens.

Here is a good time to pause if you aren’t ready to proceed. You can shut the sauce off for an hour or two until you’re ready to finish everything. The rest of the process will take a little under an hour.

Put your oven broiler on high.

Add your cup of cream and chopped cilantro. Combine well and add broth. Let simmer on low stirring and scraping black pits from bottom of pan. (It will thinken over the next 30-40 minutes. Stir periodically. ) While that’s cooking, place your marinated chicken on an oven rack.

Place your chicken in the oven under the broiler until it blackens in spots. About 10-13 minutes.


Let it cool for a few minutes so you can handle it. Slice in to big chunks and add to the pan.

Let the sauce simmer another 10 minutes or so. 

Serve with brown rice and enjoy this rich creamy dish.

Pork Carnitas

Initially I was weirded out by the technique of cooking pork carnitas…so much so that I almost scratched the idea. But I didn’t have 8-12 hours to slow cook the pork all day so I was really forced into the decision. And I’m so glad. This pork was so delicious and so tender and unlike anything I have ever made. You can put it on a sandwich with sauce, over nachos covered in toppings and cheese or in a taco, which is what we did.

I couldn’t imagine how boiling the meat could ever get it to look like this…

Ingredients:

For the Carnitas-

  • 4lb boston pork butt
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Cold Water
  • Organic blueberry juice
  • Zest of one orange
  • Seasoned Rub mixture  (see below)

For the Tacos-

  • Corn taco shells
  • Coleslaw: Cabbage & dressing (I made my own using mayo, sour cream, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, a little sugar, salt, lots of pepper, and celery salt).
  • Avocado cream sauce (put an avocado, sour cream, cilantro, a jalapeno and lime juice in a blender-if it’s too tart, add some agave nectar)

Instructions:

Cut the pork in to 1-2 inch cubes and smother in a rub of your choosing.

I used a rub given to me by my neighbor, whose brother owns a BBQ joint in New York. So I can’t exactly tell you what’s in it but I can guess/give you a suggestion.

A combination of salt, pepper, chili powder, coffee grinds, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and maybe some brown sugar. This rub isn’t spicy but very flavorful. Pile it on and don’t be shy. Rub it in to the meat.

Get a heavy pot/pan and put your cut up and seasoned pork in it. Pour water until you reach more than half way up the pork. Then add blueberry juice–I think I used 1/4 cup or so. I also added a splash of orange juice and the zest of one orange.

Add the chopped onion, garlic and salt & pepper. Turn the heat on high and bring it to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce to a roaring simmer. (You can use a nice beer or another citrus/whatever you like. I saw the blueberry juice in the grocery store and thought it would pair nicely with the pork).

 


After 45 minutes…

Stir it occasionally so all the meat gets cooked under the broth. The goal is to get the liquid to reduce all the way down.

After about 2 hours, I took my pork out and turned the heat up a bit, stirring the sauce until it reduced down further.

Put the pork back in. I used two forks to shred the meat a part a bit so they all weren’t big chunks. This is an optional step. At this point you can turn the heat off if you aren’t ready to proceed. I had an errand to run so I left it off for 45 minutes.

Set your oven to 400 degrees about a half hour before you are ready to eat. Put your pork in the oven, uncovered. This will caramelize the meat and reduce down the rest of the liquid, if any. All the fat left in the pan will fry the meat on the high temperature. When it’s done to your liking, take it out and I removed some of the big fatty pieces. They taste good but I’m not a fan! I left mine in probably 40 minutes.

Here’s your meat! Ready to enjoy however you would like.

Can’t ever go wrong with tacos.

Here is my snap chat video from the day –

 

 

Pasta e Fagioli

Soup season is well underway! It’s easy to make, it warms you up, it’s great for leftovers/lunch at work and can be a very healthy meal. Plus you can usually make a great soup with items left in your fridge and a can of beans or lentils.

Pasta e fagioli is one of my favorites, sprinkled with a little parmigiano cheese and you have yourself a comforting well-rounded meal! This soup is packed with veggies and proteins and vegetarians can make it without the sausage.

Ingredients:

  • 1 link, Hot Italian sausage (you can substitute sweet sausage, pancetta, prosciutto or skip the meat all together. But it definitely gives it a nice flavor)
  • Sprinkle of fennel seeds (optional- but I love the flavor it adds to the sausage)
  • 2 garlic cloves (optional)
  • 1/2 of an onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrot stalks
  • 2 small sweet red peppers- or one bell pepper
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 can white cannelloni beans
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 container chicken broth
  • Pasta of your choosing- about 1 cup (I recommend a tiny noodle)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh parmigiano cheese

The nice thing about this soup is you don’t have to include all the veggies or beans I used. It’s all about what you have on hand!

Instructions:

Chop all your veggies and garlic.

Get your large soup pot on medium to high heat, add a little oil and add your sausage. Break it up into tiny pieces with a wooden spoon and brown it.Add in the fennel seeds now if you’re using them. 

Add onions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. 

Then add the carrots, celery and peppers. Stir and let cook for another 2 minutes. 

Then add zucchini and your can of tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir all the ingredients together.

Add in the beans and turn the heat up on the pot. 

Add in any chicken broth or stock you have on hand. You can also use veggie instead. 

Bring it up to a boil. Then reduce. Let the soup cook with the lid cracked. You then have two options with the pasta.

Either 1)  bring your soup up to a low boil and add the pasta in 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat or 2) boil your pasta separately in hot water and add to each dish based on how much you want.

I tend to prefer option 2 only because the noodles will soak up a lot of your broth otherwise. But sometimes option 1 is just easier. Have extra chicken broth on hand in case your broth gets soaked up.

The soup is really ready at any time because all the ingredients are cooked through, but I like to let it simmer for at least a half hour to let all the flavors meld. Then eat with fresh basil and parmigiano cheese.

Enjoy!

Don’t knock ’em til you try ’em “Turkey Meatballs”

I’m not going to lie, the thought of turkey meatballs wasn’t appetizing to me. As an Italian especially, I made some assumptions that they couldn’t possibly be good. I was wrong… And I made these on a weeknight in under a half hour and not only was it a healthy option but it was truly delicious. They were also good leftover. Give em a try!

Ingredients:

  • 1.25 lbs of lean white meat turkey breast
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated or chopped
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup imported parmigiano cheese
  • Tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • Salt & pepper
  • Pam oil spray

Directions

Pre heat oven to 400.

In a mixing bowl, combine the garlic, parsley, onion, egg, bread crumbs and cheese. Mix well and then add the turkey. Roll into balls and place on a sprayed cookie sheet. This recipe made 15 balls which came out to 119 calories each including the sauce and cheese.

Bake the meatballs for 10 minutes. Then place in cast iron pan to finish searing on all sides.


Then add tomato sauce and let simmer for a few minutes.

Then add mozzarella cheese and place under the broiler until bubbly and browned.


Mmmmmmm. Time to eat!

Homemade Ravioli

I’ve wanted to try homemade ravioli ever since I figured out how to make homemade pasta. A Valentine’s Day with wind chills in the negative degrees provided a perfect opportunity to stay home and accomplish this somewhat scary goal– and the hubby even helped! The pasta part really is a two person job. It is also time consuming but SO worth it. The best part is you can use any filling your heart desires. I couldn’t decide what to do so I made 4: 1) mushroom, truffle & goat cheese, 2) spinach, arugula and basil, 3) broccoli rabe and 4) ricotta and basil. This recipe made us about 50 ravioli. Keep in mind they are great to freeze so if you’re putting in the work, you might as well make a lot!

Ingredients:
For the pasta:

  • 5 cups of flour
  • 8 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup water

For the fillings:

Make sure you buy high quality cheese–fresh ricotta if you can. This will make a big difference in the final product.  
Truffle Mushroom & Goat Cheese:

  • Sautee one package of mixed mushrooms in oil and truffle butter. Season with sea salt and cracked pepper. Put the mushrooms in a blender and pulse. Then put in a bowl and add about 3 oz of goat cheese and some fresh parmigiano cheese.      

Broccoli Rabe & Garlic

  • I bought fresh roasted broccoli rabe and garlic with red pepper flakes from A&S fine foods in Stamford. I can’t make a better broccoli rabe and it takes out a few steps. If you are going to do it yourself you should par boil the broccoli and then sautee. Then put it in a blender and pulse. I added ricotta and fresh parmigiano cheese.  img_4879

Spinach, Arugula & Basil

  • Sautee spinach and arugula in some olive oil. You have the option to add chopped garlic as well. Put in processor and pulse. Add ricotta and parmigiano.  img_4881

Directions:

Make a well with your flower in a bowl and add the eggs and water to the center. Scramble the eggs with a fork and slowly bring flour into the egg mixture. This process takes a while. Be patient- you will probably think you did something wrong because the flour isn’t combining right away. Just keep working it.


Once you have incorporated all the ingredients, sprinkle some extra flour on the counter and knead the dough with your hands. You will probably have to put some flour on your hands so it doesn’t stick. You should work the dough for quite a few minutes with your hands until it smoothed out.

 Then place it in a bowl, put a dash of  olive oil on it and rub it all over the dough. Then cover the bowl with a dish towel. Let it rest.

My great grandmother used to roll the dough with a large rolling pin when she made pasta every week. That, I can’t imagine! I use my grandmother’s pasta machine which is much easier. I feed the pasta through twice on 8, twice on 6, twice on 4 and once on 2.

Although now they do make machines to do it for you–whichever way you choose is fine. pasta maker
When you are ready, roll the dough into a log and cut evenly into pieces.

You may want to cut only one piece at first to make sure it’s the right width. Making ravioli isn’t a science but I can already tell that the more you make these, the easier it will become.

Spoon out your mixture on to the pasta sheets. We learned after a few times that pressing the filling down to flatten it out will make a better ravioli.
  

We started by making square ravioli which we were messier to eat but it’s really just a matter of preference.

I don’t have fancy ravioli tools so I grabbed a pizza cutter and a fork. It worked!

What worked even better was when we found a small glass jar to cut the round ones.

I placed them on parchment paper with cornmeal to prevent them from sticking.

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To cook: bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. You don’t want a very high boil as it could damage all the work you just did! They cook in roughly 3 minutes.

For sauce: I found truffle butter and parmesan cheese on the mushroom ones were amazing! I also made a white wine and butter sauce with shallots and parsley that was delicious. And we had a few with tomato sauce. You can’t go wrong!


The cooked product! Yum!

And some with sauce…. Yum, yum, and yum!


  

 

One year later on Christmas day we made these again. It’s such a fun family activity–I highly recommend it! This time we made a pesto sauce and a red sauce. Mmmm mmm mmm!

 

 

Sausage & Pepper Grinders

Sausage and peppers is an Italian classic. It’s easy to make and can be a meal on it’s own or on fresh Italian bread for a delicious sandwich. The catch is that this meal is all about getting the right ingredients. Go to an Italian deli and get their store made sausage, mozzarella and fresh baked bread. The ingredients will make the difference in an average grinder and one that blows you away. This sandwich we made last Sunday night was incredible and the two of us ate two of these…


Ingredients:

  • 3 small hot Italian sausage links and 3 sweet links (or whatever combination you prefer) fresh made at a deli
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1-2 sliced garlic cloves (this is optional)
  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 2 fresh baked Italian grinders
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 can diced San Marzano tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  • Turn your pan on med/high heat and brown your sausages, then remove from pan.
  •  Add olive oil and sliced onions & garlic to pan and sautee until start to brown. 

  • Add your peppers and let them cook down for several minutes. Then add your diced tomatoes, salt, pepper and basil. Bring them up to a simmer and add sausage.
  • Cover the pan with a cracked lid and let cook through and let the favors meld. Roughly 15-20 minutes. You really can’t over cook this dish.
  • Cut your sausages length wise in half so you can place them flat on the bread. Then add the toppings and fresh sliced cheese.     
  • Put in the oven on broil until the bread is toasted and the mozzarella is melted. Then enjoy a truly amazing sandwich. 

A note on leftovers… We had leftover peppers and onions in the sauce but no sausage. The next night I boiled some pasta, tossed it in the sauce, topped with some fresh parm and you have yourself another meal. You can also add some seared chicken or white beans for some protein 🙂  You can’t let that delicious sauce go to waste.

Crock Pot Flank Steak Tacos

We all have busy days when we don’t have time to cook dinner so the crock pot is a wonderful tool for the working….any person. I was very skeptical about putting flank steak in a crock pot but I would never post anything I didn’t think was awesome. 10 minutes in the morning allows you to come home to a ready made meal. Try it for yourself!

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lb flank steak
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • Hot sauce to taste (I recommend Trader Joe’s Green Dragon Hot Sauce)
  • Spice rub of your choice. I used the following: salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and coriander
  • White corn tacos (or whatever you like)
  • Toppings of your choice: mexican cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro, etc but it honestly doesn’t need it

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Directions:

  • Rub your steak with the spices and place in the refrigerator overnight. You can do this the morning of but I was trying to save time. 
  • The next morning put your steak in the crock pot on the bottom.
  • Slice your pepper and onion and put on top of the steak.

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  • Pour the soy sauce and hot sauce around the steak.
  • Cook on low for 9 hours.
  • Shred and serve.

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If you divide by 4 servings and use 2 corn tacos per serving you can see below this is a very healthy dinner option.

Make Your Own BLT Bar

Sometimes simple is better. When trying to decide what to make for a girls lunch last weekend we decided BLT’s were the perfect pool side treat! The key when making something so simple is having the freshest and best ingredients. When you set up your bar make sure you put it in logical order so your sandwich comes together perfectly! Our set up started with: Bread- Mayo- Avocado- Bacon- Tomatoes- Lettuce

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Ingredients:

  • Farm fresh juicy tomatoes cut in 1/4” slices
  • Iceberg lettuce, washed and dried and placed in the fridge to get cold and crisp

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  • Bacon – we provided two kinds. Whole Foods sells a black pepper crusted bacon that adds an extra somethin to your sandwich. We also provided traditional plain bacon. You can certainly fry the bacon but since it was a hot summer day and we wanted to enjoy time at the pool, we placed the bacon on baking sheets lined with cooling racks so the grease could drip through. 20 minutes at 400 will get you crispy bacon. When you take it off the racks, place the bacon on paper downs to cut down on excess grease.

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  • Mayo- we offered light/reduced fat and real
  • Avocado- a good substitute for mayo or addition to in my opinion
  • Bread- a fresh sliced whole wheat loaf and white bread for the traditionalists in the fam

Plate it in order on a table and go to town. Bite into that juicy, crunchy and salty sandwich!

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Real Deal String Bean Casserole with Home-Fried Crispy Onions

We have all eaten some version of string bean casserole. Campbell’s advertises their cream of mushroom soup around the holidays just for that purpose. You’ll even find a recipe on the back of the can. I happen to find canned creamy soup unappetizing so I set out last Thanksgiving to make string bean casserole from scratch–no preservatives or canned anything.  It was worth the extra effort. I promise.

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Photos courtesy of Lisa Effren Photography.

*You can make this in a cast iron pan but we don’t have one big enough.

Ingredients:

Crispy Onions
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced (use 3 if you want to snack-it’s hard not to eat them)
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
Salt & Pepper
Canola oil, for frying

Mushroom Sauce
3 tablespoons or so butter
1 package of mushrooms, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream or similar substitute

1.5 lbs of fresh string beans, trimmed and cleaned

Instructions:

Using a mandolin, cut your onion into thin strips.

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Toss the onions with the flour, bread crumbs, salt and pepper.

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Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a pan and test the temperature by dropping one onion in. It should sizzle.

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Only cook a handful or so at a time in small batches. Place the finished ones on a paper bag lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil. *Beware: hide these somewhere while you compile the rest of the dish- or they will somehow disappear.

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Par boil the string beans in salted water and then place in a ice bath to stop the cooking. The last thing we want are mushy string beans.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

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To make the mushroom sauce:

Over medium-high heat, melt butter in the bottom of a pan or cast iron skillet. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and saute them for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, shallots and saute one minute more.

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Add the flour and combine.

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Add the broth a little at a time and keep stirring. Let it simmer for a minute or so, add the cream and bring to a simmer again while stirring. In about 5 minutes or so the sauce should thicken.

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Pour the mixture over the string beans in a baking dish. Add onions and bake until everything bubbles – about 15 minutes.

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Tuscan Braised Beef Short Ribs

This meal is something you would order in a restaurant and it would come with a hefty price tag. If you make it at home, it’s much less expensive and surprisingly not difficult. The beef short ribs are an inexpensive cut of beef and all you need is time to make it happen! On a snowy Saturday this was a perfect dish to warm us up. Kyle gave this dish rave reviews and said it was in his top 5 meals that I have ever made. The nice thing about this recipe, is if you have leftovers (we did) you can make tacos, grilled cheese, pasta, etc. using the beef and sauce. It’s extremely versatile and downright delicious: the beef falls right off the bone. I served the short ribs over polenta, which I made with salt, fresh cracked pepper and lots of grated parmesan cheese. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Once you get the technique down, you can turn this into a Mexican dish (add chipotle peppers, cilantro, etc) or a sweet/heat Asian dish (fresh ginger, soy sauce, hoison sauce, sriracha, orange zest, scallions, etc.) by mixing up the ingredients.

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Ingredients:

  • 5 pounds bone-in short ribs
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 leek, diced (optional, you can use a full onion instead)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-2 pieces of fennel, diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 bottle red wine (I used San Giovese)
  • 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes and juice
  • 3-4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Fresh oregano
  • Fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaves
  • Beef stock
  • Kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper

Directions:

Take your beef out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Pat them with paper towels until their dry and season with salt & pepper. Set your oven to 350 degrees.

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After all your vegetables are chopped, heat 1 tbsp of oil on high. Once your pan is hot, turn the heat down to medium high and add your meat. Be careful not to add to many ribs at a time as you don’t want to crowd the pan. I seared them in 2 batches. If you crowd the pan and the beef starts steaming you won’t get a nice brown crust. Using tongs, turn them on each side, roughly 3 minutes or so per side, or until they are nice and brown.

Since there is a lot of fat on these ribs, you will start to see lots of oil in the pan. I periodically used tongs and soaked up some of the grease with paper towels. Or you can wait until you are done searing and pour out some of the oil. Reserve about 1 tbsp to saute your veggies.

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When you are done searing all your meat put them to the side.

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Add your veggies into the pan and saute for a few minutes. Then create a little well in the middle. Stir the tomato paste with a whisk vigorously for 30 seconds, then add your flour. Mix all the veggies together. They should have a nice thick coating on them which will help thicken your sauce.

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Add your wine, worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper and bring to a boil. Then let the wine simmer and wait for it to reduce by almost half. The sauce will get nice and thick. Then add your can of tomatoes.

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I chose to use an immersion blender in just half of the pan so the sauce thickened a bit more and that way you don’t have a ton of vegetables on your plate. You can skip this step.

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Add in the beef broth until the ribs are almost covered. Add in whatever herbs you like – I chose 2 twigs of fresh oregano and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover tight, and put in the oven.

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After about 3 hours, your pan will look like this! The meat was so tender, it fell completely off some of the bones before I even picked one up.

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Serve over your cheesy polenta or a pasta like paparadelle or egg  noodles. Sprinkle some fresh chopped parsley and dig in.

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Spiked Nutella Hot Chocolate

I’m not a big lover of chocolate in general but on a cold winter day, after shoveling some snow a cup of hot chocolate will soothe the soul. I saw a few recipes for nutella hot chocolate on pinterest and knew that my husband would love it. So, I did my research and came up with my own version, one that adults can enjoy!  Light a fire and enjoy.

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Ingredients:

nutellaRoughly 4 TBSP of Nutella

1 1/2 TBSP of cocoa powder (I used Hersheys)

2 cups of milk

1/4-1/2 cup of Godiva chocolate liqueur

A pinch of salt

Don’t forget the whip cream to top it all off!

Directions

Heat up all ingredients except for the liqueur in a pot on the stove. Whisk together until smooth and completely hot. Don’t let it come to a roaring boil. Add the liquor at the end and cook long enough just for everything to heat up again. Finish with a pinch of salt and pour in your mugs. Top with whip cream and warm up!

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Nanny’s Homemade Manicotti

Growing up, Nanny often made manicotti for the holidays and special occasions. Soft crepe like tubes, stuffed with ricotta cheese, topped with sauce and more cheese; it’s quite heavenly. Don’t confuse it with cannelloni which is more of a pasta type dough that is stuffed typically with meats and baked in a bechamel sauce.

Each year for Christmas day, Mom and I like to take on a cooking challenge. We have all day, we aren’t getting out of our pajamas, so why not cook something fun? We made just under 100 manicotti and of course froze some for Nanny and other family members. In my opinion, if you are going to put in the work, you might as well make a lot. We paired them with roasted racks of lamp chops (recipe to come later) and sautéed zucchini–a well-balanced holiday meal that hit the spot! These delicate cheesy bites of heaven will satisfy any crowd and you can have fun doing it!

Note: We altered Nanny’s recipe a little as she traditionally puts mint in her ricotta stuffing. We opted to put parsley, basil and mint which worked out well!

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Ingredients & Directions:

Stuffing-

  • 4 lbs of riccota cheese
  • 1 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • About a cup of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • Salt
  • 2-3 eggs
  • Fresh chopped basil, parsley and mint

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Manicotti Batter- (should make roughly 100)

  • 12 eggs
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 cups of milk

If you want to cut the recipe down to 74, us 9 eggs, 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of milk.

Place your ingredients in a bowl and set your mixer to 15 minutes on a low speed.

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The batter should be on the thin side and smooth. Now here comes the tricky part… making the manicotti.

Mom and I wish Nanny was with us to help guide us through the many batches of trial and error. It takes a certain technique. Is it thin enough? It’s too thick. It’s too long or it’s not fat enough. Eventually we got the hang of it. Don’t lose hope.

Heat your griddle or flat pan to about 300 degrees. Nanny says grease it once and once only. The batter will cook fast but you don’t want it to brown/burn. It will bubble slightly and should easily come off the griddle with a spatula.

We used a metal spoon and poured the batter in a horizontal line and using the back of the spoon pushed the batter around in the shape seen below.

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Next to your stove lay out some cooling racks. Transfer your finished manicotti to the cooling racks for a few minutes. You should have lined your counter with wax paper which you will then move the cooled manicotti too (seen below).

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Next comes the stuffing! Don’t be skimpy. Place the filling at the edge and then loosely roll it shut. Don’t roll it tight like a burrito.
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If you are going to freeze some for leftovers, place them in a box on wax paper.
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For the ones you are eating. Place a layer of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Then add the manicotti, top with sauce and parmesan cheese and bake covered at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

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Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Mangia!

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Mom’s Amazing Latkes

Latkes. Fried potato goodness dipped in sour cream and/or apple sauce. We eat them once a year on Hanukkah. They are worth every single calorie and every minute of frying. Of course if you are only cooking for a small family, it’s not that labor intensive. But if you are like us, and want to make 50+ latkes, it takes a bit of time…

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There are many, many variations on latkes. This year since Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving, we are seeing lots of sweet potato latke recipes with sweet and fun toppings. We are sticking to the traditional. We only have them once a year and I want them the same way I’ve been enjoying them for the last few decades. 🙂 However, I highly recommend adding zucchini and even some garlic powder for some extra flavor and goodness. Using less potato and more vegetable is obviously a good thing, and you can’t taste the difference. It’s a great way to hide some veggies and make your kids eat them! 🙂 More photos to come post Thanksgivukkah!

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium potatoes (or substitute one or two potatoes with zucchini)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 eeggs, slightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp. flour – add more as needed
  • Salt & Pepper (season liberally!)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • Vegetable oil for fying
  • Garlic powder (optional)

Instructions:

Peel and rinse potatoes in cold water. Half the potatoes to fit in the grater and then grate the potatoes and onion- I recommend a food processor with a grating disc. You can do them by hand but why bother? We use the julienne grater so our latkes have texture. Otherwise they’re like mush.

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Strain out the liquid. Add eggs, flour, salt, pepper and baking powder. Mix well.

You’ll want to keep your mixture cold if you aren’t frying immediately–especially if you have a large batch like us. Place ice in a large bowl and set your bowl with the mixture in it, in the ice bath.

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Using a slotted spoon, take a small spoonful of the mixture to the frying pan. I suggest using another spoon to press down on the latke making it thin and squeezing out any excess liquid. We like thin and crunchy latkes (see photo). If you want thick potato pancakes, look elsewhere. Then slide the mixture off the pan into the oil.

Taste one of your first latkes. You may need to add more salt so now is the time to test it 🙂

Fry until golden brown on each side. Drain on paper towel-lined brown grocery bags.

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Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream. We made a delicious sour cream topping by adding parmesan cheese and truffle salt.

Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi with Pesto

Homemade gnocchi has been on my food bucket list for some time now and the potato version remains on the list, but I can now cross off the ricotta thanks to my Mom’s birthday dinner wish! We didn’t follow the recipe exactly because well I hate directions, and who has hours to wait for their dough to rest??? I actually got out measuring cups for this one though and I guess it was worth it. Absolutely delicious!

I have quite a few different pesto recipes on my blog. For tonight’s dinner, Mom made a basil and parsley pesto which was delicious. Remember when making pesto, buying the best and freshest ingredients because they will yield the best results.

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Ingredients:

  • 1lb fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated fresh

Directions:

Place ricotta in a strainer set over medium bowl. Chill in the fridge until the ricotta has texture of wet clay, about 1 hour.

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Mix ricotta, 1/2 cup of flour, egg & next 5 ingredients in medium bowl, adding more flour by tbsp until dough is slightly sticky.

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Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle rimmed baking sheet with flour.

Transfer the dough to lightly floured surface. Cut into 4 equal pieces.

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Using your hands, roll 1 piece on floured surface into 3/4 inch-wide log.

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Cut log crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover gnocchi with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour or up to one day. ( Ours chilled for maybe a half hour and we cut them afterwards)

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In a large skillet, melt the butter and keep warm.

Working in two batches, add gnocchi to large pot of boiling salted water, stirring to prevent sticking. Boil until gnocchi rise to surface of water, then continue boiling until cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 mintues longer. Using slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to skilled with melted butter. Toss with pesto and fresh grated cheese and serve! 20131118-105543.jpg

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Enchiladas Roja

Who doesn’t love some enchiladas? Shredded meat in a tortilla smothered with sauce and cheese? I’m in! I’ve previously posted a recipe for enchiladas verde and also a very healthy version of enchiladas. And this time I share with you my spicy roja sauce! And for the record, these aren’t terrible for you if you pay attention to the ingredients you buy.

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Ingredients:

-2 chicken breasts

-2 chicken thighs (optional to add, but the dark meat often adds more flavor)

-2 habanero peppers (only use 1 if you want it mild)

-3 garlic cloves

-3 or 4 small sweet peppers or 1 red bell pepper (If you like your sauce sweeter rather than spicy, consider using roasted red peppers)

-1 large can of tomato sauce

-Handful of cherry tomatoes (optional but I had them on hand so I threw them in)

-Tortillas (I bought a package of whole wheat and a package of spinach, they were only 110 calories which isn’t bad for a flour tortilla. In the end, Kyle and I felt the spinach was much tastier. Also, the whole wheat stands up better to the sauce and doesn’t get soggy as the white flour tortillas usually do- unless of course you fry them first which is customary)

-Manchego cheese, shredded

-Reduced fat Mexican cheese blend

-1/2 of spanish onion

-Fresh cilantro

-Ancho chili powder

-Salt & Pepper

-Olive oil

This recipe yielded two separate trays of 5 enchiladas. I made one for dinner and placed the other in the freezer for a weeknight when we have no food in the house!

Instructions:

In a hot saute pan add olive oil, garlic and peppers. Season with salt and let cook for 5 minutes or so.

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Add tomatoes and tomato sauce to the pan and puree using a hand mixer. Bring to a boil.

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Rinse your chicken and place them into the sauce with salt & pepper. Bring to a low boil then cover and simmer on low for roughly 20 minutes.

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Take the chicken out of the sauce and set aside to cool. Turn heat off the sauce as well.

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Using two forks (or your hands which is sometimes easier) shred the chicken apart. When your chicken is shredded, sprinkle salt, pepper and ancho chili powder on top and mix together.

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Put a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of your baking dish.

To assemble your enchiladas, put your chicken, chopped onion, fresh cilantro and a mix of each cheese in the tortilla. Roll it very tightly and place in your baking dish.

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Pour a layer of sauce over the center of your enchiladas and top it with the manchego cheese. You can choose to drench them all in sauce but I like my tortillas to remain a little crispy so I do it this way.

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Bake in a 350 degree oven for roughly 30 minutes until the sauce and cheese are bubbling. Top with fresh cilantro.

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Serve with a side of black beans which I cooked with onion, lime juice and salt! Cheesy-saucy-goodness.

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Chicken Sausage, Veggies and Tomato Sauce Over Whole Wheat Pasta

What to do when you are craving pasta but you’re trying to be good? Instead of having the pasta as the feature of your meal, use a portion more equivalent to a side. I had some Whole Foods Italian chicken sausage in my fridge and all I could think about was putting it over a large bowl of pasta and covered in parmesan cheese. With this recipe, you can have your cake and eat it too. I satisfied my craving by using lots of protein and fresh vegetables and didn’t overdo it on the carbs and fat.

This recipe yields 3 servings: Dinner for Kyle and I and lunch for me the next day!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 links Whole Foods Italian Chicken Sausage
  • 2 cups whole wheat pasta (I used rotini)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Handful of spinach
  • Fresh chopped basil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Tomato Sauce (I used Jerry’s because it’s the only jarred sauce I will buy, it’s simply amazing! You can use your own sauce, or some canned diced tomatoes.)
  • 3 slices, fresh mozzarella

Instructions:

Put a pot of boiling water on, salt it and add your pasta. When your pasta is done, portion it out into the bowls and put a spoonful of sauce on each one so the sauce sticks to the pasta.

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You can choose to saute all of your ingredients in a pan, or grill all of your ingredients. Out of personal preference, I grilled the sausage and peppers and sautéed the onions and garlic in a pan.

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This is not a necessary step but I am funny about sausage. I like it to have a nice crunchy outside so I sliced it up and threw it on a pan to crisp up the edges.

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Do not dice your veggies into small pieces as you might normally would, instead cut them into larger bite sized pieces so they don’t get lost in the pasta. Remember, veggies and protein are the feature of this dish!

Now add your veggies to the pasta.

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Then add an even number of sausage pieces into each bowl. Finally, add some spinach to each bowl–as much as you’d like.

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Add a few more spoonfuls of tomato sauce to each bowl.

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Top with a slice of fresh mozzarella. Since all the ingredients are already warm, put the bowls under the broiler until the cheese turns golden brown and bubbly.

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I cooked two and put the third in the fridge to save for lunch tomorrow. When they come out, top with some fresh chopped basil and enjoy!

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The Real Deal Bolognese Sauce

A Father’s Day Inspiration…

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This isn’t your typical meat sauce. This isn’t your typical ground beef cooked in a bland tomato sauce. This is the real deal meat sauce; the cook all day Sunday sauce; the shredded, succulent, melt-in-your-mouth sauce that comes gently tossed in a fresh pasta like pappardelle.

The idea of making this sauce started because I knew my dad loves these kinds of sauces, the ones I often seen in authentic Italian restaurants–the ones that won’t let you put your fork down until the last bite is gone. So I started thinking… how could I make this at home for my dad on Father’s Day?

Simple: take the barbacoa recipe and insert Italian ingredients–like soffritto (combination of onions, carrots and celery). Also, add some other kinds of meats to inject a lot of flavor into the sauce. Mom and I set out to the grocery store in search of the perfect ingredients to make our version of this sauce. You can use any combination of meats and ingredients you would like and make this recipe your own! Here is (generally) how we made it. As usual, my measurements are rough. You can make this in a dutch oven like I do with the barbacoa, but since I didn’t have it with me at my parent’s house we made it on the stove without any problems!

Ingredients:

  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 3.5 lbs boneless chuck roast
  • 1 veal osso bucco
  • 3 carrot sticks
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 1-2 onions (we used a red and a yellow)
  • 8 or so cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups red wine (chianti suggested)
  • Salt & fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 large cans san marzano whole tomatoes
  • Olive oil for sauteing
  • Parmesan cheese (parmigiano reggiano is preferred)
  • 1.5 lb of your favorite pasta

We made this for 5 people and had tons of the leftovers…just the way we like it 🙂 It was amazing for lunch the next day.

Instructions:

Start by bringing all the meat to room temperature and seasoning them with salt and pepper. Then saute your meats on high heat to get a nice brown coloring on all sides. If your pan isn’t large enough, sear your meat in batches. They need space to cook.

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Next you will place the veggies in the pan. If you don’t have a pan large enough, temporarily take some of the meat out so your veggies have room to cook. Season the veggies with salt & pepper and let cook 2-3 minutes. Then add the garlic.  (We ended up sauteing the garlic in a separate small pan to really fry and brown them up nice) Let cook for another few minutes.

Put the heat on med-high and add the red wine; let the liquid reduce by half.

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Using your hands take the tomatoes out of the cans and squeeze them, gently breaking them apart before putting them in the pot. Add the sauce from the cans as well. Season with salt & pepper and add fresh chopped basil. (you can also add some red pepper flakes, which we did) Place the lid on very tight. If you think air can get out, put a sheet of tinfoil on top and then seal the edges of the lid with it.

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Let it cook on low heat (the sauce should bubble slightly) or in the oven at 250 for 4 hours or until the meat can easily pull apart with a fork. Remove the chicken skins and any excess fat you see.

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It’s easiest if you take the meat out of the pot and place on a separate dish. Shred the meat using forks or tongs. Take the chicken off the bones. Place the meat back in the pot and bring the sauce to a low boil for a few minutes while you are preparing the pasta.

Cook your pasta al dente and pour into the pot to really absorb the flavors of the sauce. Top with more fresh basil and fresh parmesano reggiano cheese. Mangia!

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Prosciutto Bread

Prosciutto bread has been in our family for years and usually shows up on Christmas Eve courtesy of my aunt Joyce. A few years ago I tried making it at home with my cousin and we changed up the recipe. No matter what ingredients you choose, it is easy to make and it is decadent. Your kitchen will smell like heaven which is always a good thing. I’ll admit it can be a little messy to eat so just be sure you are in good company when you dig in!

Prosciutto Bread

Ingredients:

  • Loaf of fresh Italian bread with a nice crust
  • Garlic, chopped
  • Imported Italian Prosciutto, diced
  • Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • Fresh Basil, chopped
  • Shallots, chopped
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper

Instructions:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a small sauce pan place the oil, garlic, prosciutto, and shallots on medium heat. You want all the ingredients to infuse flavor into the oil and simmer. Let your ingredients cook for 5 or so minutes. Add pepper.
  • Turn the heat to the pan off and add your herbs and cheese.
  • Using a large bread knife, slice your bread in long columns and then across to make a checkerboard. You want to cut down 3/4 of the way through. Be sure not to cut all the way through or you will have a big mess.
  • Spoon your ingredients into every crevice making sure you have completely stuffed the bread.

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  • Place in the oven until golden brown – about 15 minutes.
  • Serve and enjoy this heavenly appetizer.

Italian Garlic Bread with a Twist

Garlic bread is delicious. No matter how you make it, garlic with bread and oil or butter is going to be amazing. But, there is a way to fancy it up and make it even more irresistible. In Southbury, CT there was an Italian market called Villarinas where we always used to order garlic bread which came with roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella. Since we don’t live there any more we decided to make it at home. This is quick and simple and can be used for an appetizer or side dish to compliment any meal. This would be a great addition to your Christmas Eve menu consider the beautiful colors.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Italian bread
  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Roasted Red Peppers
  • Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

  • Place basil, pine nuts, olive oil in a small blender and blend until smooth. Add some parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and blend again until combined. Brush the pesto on your bread evenly.
  • Cut up the roasted red peppers and place around the bread.
  • Top with mozzarella.

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  • Bake in the oven at about 400 until the cheese is bubbly.
  • Cut up in pieces and mangia!

 

Mom’s Perfectly Crispy Chicken Cutlets

Growing up chicken cutlets were a delicious treat for dinner in our house as mom didn’t fry many things. This year for her birthday, Mom had a craving so we made her perfect chicken cutlets and served them in the perfect chicken cutlet sandwich.

You can use this chicken to make chicken parmesan, you can throw it on a sandwich of your choosing, or you can have it on a plate with a side of your favorite veggies and pasta. It pairs quite nicely with pasta and broccoli. If you really wanted to splurge I recommend a heaping side of mac n cheese or fettuccine alfredo.

We always make plenty extra of this dish because however you eat it that night, you’ll want to try it a different way the next day.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken tenders cut into single pieces and pounded if needed
  • Flour
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (we add fresh chopped parsley and fresh grated parmesan cheese)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Milk (low-fat or 1% is what we use)
  • Extra virgin olive oil/vegetable oil 

Directions:

  • Wash and prepare your chicken. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Set up paper bags with paper towels on them to help drain the grease from your chicken.
  • Add 2 eggs to a large bowl and about 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk together well to create an egg wash to dip your chicken in. Add salt and pepper. 

  • In another bowl pour your bread crumbs and add a little flour.
  • Turn your pan on medium high to get the oil ready.
  • Dip your chicken in the egg wash and then transfer to the bread crumbs. Don’t be afraid to really pack the bread crumbs on there pushing with your fingers or fork. Transfer to another plate to get ready for frying.


  • When the oil begins to roll place one piece of chicken in and make sure it makes a sizzling sound. Depending on how thick your chicken is you will cook it about 4 minutes per side. The bread crumbs should get a deep golden brown color. If you see a thick white foam come out of the side of your chicken it means its ready (if you see a runny white liquid that means your chicken is still raw).

  • When your chicken is cooked, place it on the paper towels to suck up some of the oil. Then put in a large baking dish to keep warm with the others.

  • We served the chicken with fresh Italian bread, chopped lettuce, and mayo mixed with hot cherry pepper spread. That’s all you need! **Here’s a tip. Get a head of iceberg lettuce, wash it, dry it and then chop it up fine. Place it in a bowl with a paper towel on top in the fridge. When you get it out later, it will be nice and crunchy for your sandwich! Deeelicious.


Chicken parm and spaghetti!

French Onion Soup with Truffle-Salted Croutons and Gruyere CheeseS

French onion soup is one of the only soups Kyle will enjoy so it’s a natural go to on a fall or winter day. There are many ways to make this soup and I tried to lighten it up by using half the amount of butter normally used. Substituting with a tablespoon of olive oil is a good way to cut down on some of the fat. It’s obviously not an overall light dish but this recipe won’t make you feel like you ate a pound of butter and cheese when you are done.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 sweet onions and 2 yellow onions (or a mixture of your favorites), thinly sliced
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 tbsp or so of olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Beef stock and chicken stock: 1.5-2 quarts in total (traditionally the soup is made with beef stock but I lighten it up by using half and half)
  • Red wine (roughly a cup or so)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh chopped thyme
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • Sliced and toasted French bread
  • Grated Gruyère cheese, enough to cover the top of your bowl
  • Few sprinkles truffle salt

INSTRUCTIONS

1 In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add olive oil on medium to high heat. Add the onions, salt, pepper, bay leaf and fresh thyme. Sauté the onions until they caramelize, about 30 minutes. Stir the onions occasionally.

2 Add 3/4 cup of red wine and bring to a boil. Then lower heat and let the wine reduce to at least half. You want most of the liquid to be gone. Discard the bay leaf.

3 Add the flour and cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes. Make sure not to burn the flour but you want to cook off the flavor.

4 Add the remaining wine, beef and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce and let simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5 Set your oven to broil. Ladle the soup into bowls. Cover with the toast you previously sprinkled with truffle salt. Top with the cheese. Put under the broiler for 5 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. For a fresh garnish add chopped chives or parsley. Serve immediately.

Cioppino

Cioppino is pretty much a fish stew. Contrary to popular belief, cioppino did not originate in Italy. It’s an Italian-American dish. It’s traditionally made from the catch of the day, so you should use fish you can get fresh and is hopefully local when possible. The seafood is combined with tomatoes in a wine sauce, and served with toasted bread. The various combinations of ingredients are up to you.

With seafood reminiscent of summer and hot flavorful broth that welcomes fall it is a perfect September meal. It is extremely flavorful, light, fresh and filling- you can’t beat that! Pair with a salad and a side of garlic bread and you have yourself a perfect meal.

Ingredients

Cioppino-
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 large shallots, chopped
  • 2-3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • Tomato paste (1 tbsp plus)
  • Anchovy paste (1 squirt)
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 5 cups fish stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound clams, scrubbed
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound scallops
  • 1 1/2 pounds assorted firm-fleshed fish fillets, we used cod, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fresh chopped parsley

Garlic Bread-
  • Fresh Italian bread, cut in half
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • 4-5 cloves chopped garlic
  • Fresh chopped parsley
  • Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes

Some ingredients I didn’t use that might be good additions: fennel (sautéed with the onions), capers, halibut (instead of cod though pricier), fresh tomatoes instead of canned, and some marscapone cheese in the sauce for a creamier flavor. Celery is optional.

Directions

Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, shallots, and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato and anchovy paste.

Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, fish stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.

If your fish is thick like ours was, you should put it in first. Keep in mind none of the fish will take long to cook.

After 2 minutes or so, add the clams and mussels to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels begin to open, about 5 minutes.

Add the shrimp and scallops. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, and the clams are completely open, stirring gently, about 5 minutes longer (discard any clams and mussels that do not open).

Optional: Add a tbsp of butter for a nice finish.

Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle fresh parsley on top.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

Garlic Bread:

Simply place the butter, garlic, oil and parsley in a small pot and heat on medium. Don’t bring to a boil or simmer. You just want the garlic flavor to flavor the butter and oil.

Spread on the garlic bread, add salt and pepper, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown. An optional treat: add some fresh mozzarella!

Fettuccine con Pesto

In continuing my theme of using ingredients from the garden, my friend Alex and I recently made pesto sauce. It’s a great time of year to make pesto and it is extremely easy to make. You can switch up ingredients depending what you have on hand making it a very versatile recipe.

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My favorite kind of pesto is a mixture of basil and arugula. Sometimes I use parsley or spinach but since I have a huge fresh basil plant, I wanted that to be my primary ingredient today. I also happen to have a small bagful of arugula in my fridge which I added. Pesto is great on pasta and you can easily add it to proteins such as grilled shrimp or chicken. You can marinate them in pesto or brush it on after it comes off the grill.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts) lightly toasted
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (remember the garlic is raw so the flavor will pack a punch and you don’t want to overpower the pesto)
  • 1-2 cups of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup arugula
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil depending on how much pesto you are making. You want your mixture to be smooth.
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

Directions

Put a large pot of water on the stove, bring to a boil and salt well. Add your pasta. In the meantime, prepare your pesto.

Toast your pine nuts in a small pan until they start to produce an aroma and turn golden brown.

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Using a small food processor add the basil, arugula, pine nuts, red pepper flakes salt and pepper. Blend for roughly 15 seconds. I don’t have a machine that allows you to pour olive oil in while it is running. If you do, this is a great time to use it. If not, just simply add the olive oil and blend until smooth. Finally add the cheese and blend until smooth again.

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When your pasta is al dente strain it and set aside until your pesto is ready. Toss all together in a large bowl and serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

If you have leftover pesto, put it in a small glass jar in the fridge and use it as seasoning on future meals. For example, the next morning I had a nice piece of Italian toast and put 2 slices of tomatoes on top from the garden. I then added a smear of pesto to each tomato. I topped the sandwich with a fried egg over easy. When you cut into the egg it will warm the pesto and you have yourself a fresh and delicious breakfast.

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Eggplant Balls

Italians are very familiar with meatballs, it’s part of our vocab from the time we can form words. “Eggplant balls” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. They could really use a new name. But ever since I saw Giada make these I couldn’t get them off my mind. They are crunchy on the outside, tender and packed with fresh flavors from Italy on the inside. I don’t know why I’ve never made these before. My sister (the photographer) and I had a lot of fun making this dish! Wine helps.

I’ve never used a deep fryer before and I try to be healthy, but you can’t beat the color and texture a nice deep fry provides. I will try baking them the next time for a healthier spin, but for a splurge, this recipe was perfect and delicious. Here is the link to Giada’s recipe which I did modify.

Ingredients

2 Eggplants:

  • Olive oil spray
  • Eggplants cut in half, ends trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Filling:

  • 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 cup Italian plain breadcrumbs, plus extra, as needed
  • Fresh chopped basil leaves
  • 1 large egg
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • A handful or so of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Small mozzarella balls (optional)

Sauce:

  • 2 cups jarred marinara or tomato sauce (I do not like jarred sauce with one exception. Jerry’s sauce. See the photo below. It’s better than sauces I have in most restaurants.)
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a small baking sheet or baking dish with cooking spray. Place the eggplant, cut-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Make 1/2-inch-deep slits over the surface of the eggplant halves using a paring knife. Spray with the olive oil and bake until golden and tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes.

For the filling: Scoop out the inside of the eggplant, using a spoon, and place in a food processor. Blend until the eggplant is smooth.

Add the cheese, breadcrumbs, basil, garlic, salt, pepper and parsley to a bowl and mix well.

Add the egg and eggplant. The mixture should be thick enough to form into balls. Add more breadcrumbs as needed. We made 15 balls out of the mixture, but we made them the size of meatballs. If you want these as an appetizer you could make them smaller.

We added an extra twist that Giada didn’t call for in her original recipe. We thought it would be fun to stuff these with a small mozzarella ball so there was a cheesy surprise on the inside.

For the sauce: Bring the marinara and red pepper flakes to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve. This is the amazing sauce I was telling you about. And it is now sold at Whole Foods. It’s worth every penny. Trust me.

Pour oil into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan to fill the pan enough to cover the balls. Heat the oil over medium heat until it starts to roll. (Giada says if you don’t have a thermometer, a cube of bread will brown in about 4 minutes. We just threw a piece of garlic in to see if it was ready) In batches, fry the eggplant balls until golden, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Serve the fried eggplant with marinara sauce and the grated pecorino cheese. We enjoyed them with a nice big plate of pasta! What’s better than spaghetti and fried eggplant balls? We forgot to take a photo of our dinner plates because well, we were too busy stuffing our faces. Enjoy!