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Monday, December 3, 2012

Big Al Frank's Famous Potato Latkes (with some new tips)

As promised, I am reposting this in time for Chanukah.  This time I've added some new tips, including one from my sister Meryl that I haven't tried, but she says it's great, so take a look!

Frying Latkes in Dad's Skillet
Al Frank's Potato Latkes
Nobody makes Potato Latkes (pancakes) like my dad did.  Even when we copy his recipe it is never exact, but it is pretty close.  He passed this recipe on to me and to my son, and then to my nephews who became our next generation of Potato Latkes champions. 

This recipe is for 10 people, depending on what you're serving with them.  The yams are a variation from Al’s recipe, I added them.  He included them occasionally, but the rest of the recipe is his all the way.

I added a few hints to improve this recipe - things I've learned trying to get these better each time:

Super Crispy Outside, Soft Inside

1. You can use the 'double fry' secret, which is to fry the latkes 3/4 of the way earlier in the day, and right before serving, complete the fry.  They'll be super crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside, just as they should be.  If you put them in the oven to reheat, even at a low temperature, you lose lots of the crispiness. You won't be sorry.

2. When shredding the potatoes, put them in a big colander over a bowl and put cheese cloth in the colander.  Potatoes are wet and you've got to get the moisture out.  Putting the shredded potatoes in a colander will allow them to drain, then you can squeeze them using the cheese cloth to rid of more moisture.  Potatoes must be dry to form the latkes.

3. Meryl's tip for cooking and freezing latkes ahead of time, and keeping them crispy. 
Cook the latkes as you normally would. When the are cool freeze them uncovered on a cookie sheet in a single layer.  Once frozen, put them in a freezer bag.  When you are going to use them, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the latkes in a single layer on a rack in the oven.  DO NOT put them on a pan or cookiesheet or they'll get soggy.

Note: (added later) - At Meryl's Chanukah party this year, she did tip #3 (above) for freezing the latkes and then putting them on a rack in the oven - it works! They were delicious!

Go to the recipe

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Roasted Multi-Colored Cauliflower

Nobody hated cauliflower more than I did when I was growing up. 

I hated almost all vegetables, but I couldn’t even stand to be near the room when cauliflower was cooking! And I knew that my mom would try to make me eat it.  She’d try, but she’d never get more than 1 mouthful passed my lips.  Thank goodness she didn’t know the deal made with our sweet, veggie eating beagle Poochie.

This was my story with cauliflower.  It was on my extreme hate list.  As far as I was concerned it had no redeeming qualities.

Later in life I found out that so many of the foods I hated, I didn’t really hate.  I just hated the way they were prepared!  So, cauliflower got another try and when cooked well, it was delicious!  Who knew?

I decided to try this recipe because my sister Meryl and I were walking through a Farm Market in her town, and we saw 3 different color cauliflowers: white, orange and purple.  They were beautiful! I googled this to see if there was something strange going on and there wasn't.  No food coloring, no genetic engineering, just years of selective breeding. They may even have some extra health benefits like higher beta carotene levels. Pretty, healthy AND delicious!  Yum!

I put the recipe together and my sister Carol did the cooking. Everyone hesitated because of the colors, but once they tried it, they loved it! Yay!  We're heading into winter, the perfect time to think up more cauliflower recipes!

Note: This recipe is fine for regular white cauliflower or multi-colored cauliflower.  I chose to cook with the multicolored for asthetic reasons only.  It was so pretty!

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Skillet Apple Crisp with Granola (or Kashi)

Hurricane Sandy Apple Crisp with Kashi Go Lean
and Butter Pecan Ice Cream
What do you do when you know a hurricane is coming?  If you’re me, you cook. 
I was at my sister Meryl’s house and we were prepared for a big dinner.  We knew there would be a lot of people to feed, so we had that part all planned.  But what would we have for dessert?
Meryl asked me to use some apples she bought at a local farm market.  They were small, windfall apples of all different sorts and they didn’t look so great, but what the heck, they were there, so I’d use them. 
I wanted something easier to make than an apple pie, but something just as comforting.  Maybe even more comforting, and then I the idea popped.  An apple crisp, cooked in a cast iron skillet.  What could be more homey than that?
We had the cast iron skillet, we had the apples, we had really great cinnamon that Meryl got in Morocco, but I didn’t want to use the typical bread crumb topping.  Granola would be great, but she didn’t have any and the winds were picking up so there was no way I was going out to buy any, Then I saw it!  Kashi Go Lean Crisp! Perfect (I hoped). 
I had to hurry because we needed the stove and it is electric – we could lose it at any minute. 
I toasted the Kashi with some butter in the skillet, and then added the apples sugar and cinnamon.  The house smelled like a you'd imagine a house would smell in the 1950s.  Like home. Delicious.
Then into the oven it went.  Everyone who walked into the house asked what I was cooking that smelled so wonderful.  We took it out of the oven to cool, sat down for dinner, and perfect timing, we lost electricity. 
Marc, my son and toughest critic said it was the only apple dessert he really liked.  Yay!  It was a winner, and the best part is, you don’t have to follow the recipe specifically.  If you don’t have one thing, use another.  It’s an old time American recipe and I’m sure there was a different version in each home.  This will now be my standard.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Peanut Butter Crème Icebox Pie - Wow! This is rich!


Peanut butter is as American as mom and Apple Pie.  Mix it with some cream cheese, some whipped cream, a little chocolate and lots of love - Wow..  Rich and absolutely delicious! 

I made this for Rosh Hashana at my sister Meryl's house.  I was a little nervous because I never made this before, but what could be bad, right?  

It was delicious!  Everyone loved it! But even the kids said that they could only eat a little bit of it.  Very rich.  Not at all the kind of pie you can sit down with in front of the television with a fork and a glass of milk (skim of course) and eat half (or all) the pie. A sliver of Peanut Butter Crème Icebox Pie is perfect.  It will make you very, very happy.  Maybe I should learn to make it a little less rich, so you could sit in from of the television with a fork and a glass of milk and enjoy it - but it tastes so darn good the way it is!

The only person who didn't like the pie was my son Marc.  He only likes peanut butter when it is accompanied by jelly on bread. 

I chose to use milk chocolate with this recipe because I really like milk chocolate.  No other reason.  If you prefer dark chocolate, that should be fine too.  I also chose to use chocolate graham crakers to make the crust.  I just love chocolate and peanut butter. 
Like the Nutella Crème Icebox Pie in the April archive on this blog, it isn't a dessert I recommend making often.  It's rich, it's sweet and it's delicious, but it should only be for something very special if you don't want to buy new (larger) jeans
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Monday, October 8, 2012

Ricky Frank's Meatloaf and Cauliflower Puree - Love you Mommy!

Once again, yes, I am a pescatarian, but sometimes I cook meat for my mom.  Mom is 95 years old and if she wants meat, I’m going to make it for her. 
Meatloaf is the ultimate American carnivore comfort food. And this one is for my mom.  The fall weather just arrived, it was raining and this was the way to make mom feel comfy.  We had meatloaf (no, I didn’t taste it), cauliflower puree, luchen kugel (Jewish style mac and cheese) and roasted carrots.  Mom was happy and so was everyone else at the table.  My brother-in-law Steve couldn’t believe that he liked the cauliflower puree – a good Shabbat dinner for all.
Some hints:  mom doesn’t like strong spices, so rather than using straight garlic, I roasted it.  This was something new for her and she couldn’t believe that garlic, on its own, could taste sweet and delicious.  I ended up using the whole head and she said it was just perfect.  I should have used 2 and added the 2nd to the cauliflower puree. 
Mom's mom always put a hard boiled egg in the middle of the meatloaf - of course, I did it too. If you're serving this to kids, it's the prize!  It was the prize for us too, since this is how my grandmother served it and maybe even her mom before that.
I use only beef chuck when I make this.  I know that most people use a combination of beef, pork and veal, but I wouldn't use pork for my mom, and I wouldn't use veal for anyone, so I just stick to beef and my carnivorous relatives loved it. 

This meatloaf was very light, that is, everyone said it didn’t feel like it weighed a ton while and after they ate it.  I believe this is due to 2 things: 1) panko bread crumbs, they’re light and airy 2) not squishing the meat when combining the ingredients.  Squishing the meat when you are trying to combine the ingredients makes it too dense.
One more meatloaf hint - if you want it perfectly shaped (which I really don't care about), you can make it in a loaf pan first and then turn it over into the pan in which it will be cooked.

Then there's the cauliflower puree.  This is great for people who think they hate cauliflower.  A lot of recipes call for cream, which is delicious, but so is the buttermilk and that's the way I choose to go with it.  Make your own choice. I had to beg Steve to just take a little taste, that's how much he hates caulifower.  He ended up having 2 full servings. 
Go to Meatloaf Recipe

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Butter! Ooo-la-la!

I’m an olive oil kind of gal…  I don’t use butter too often except for baking, and even then I often use olive oil (see Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cookies in this blog from January, 2012).  Even when I’m in a restaurant I usually ask for oil for the bread.  But sometimes, in a good restaurant, when the butter isn’t pre-wrapped, I’ll try the butter.  Oo-la-la, butter's good!
I took a really great cheese making class with Chef Katie Rosenhouse at Sur La Table in Hell’s Kitchen, and we not only made mozzarella, ricotta and mascarpone, we also made butter.  I knew that making butter was super easy, because when I was a kid the owner of the farm where we kept our horses would give us gallon jars of fresh milk from the cows he raised.  And true to the adage the cream really did always rise to the top.  Mom would pour the cream into her mixer and make whipped cream and butter.  But I was a little kid, the farm is now a housing development, and we don’t get too much access to cows on the Island of Manhattan, so mom's butter making left with the last cow on Bowne Road in Wayside, NJ. 
Making butter is fast, easy and fabulous!  Wow!  I have to talk myself into not making it all the time or next year’s cholesterol test results won’t be anything like the results I had a month or so ago! But sometimes it’s a scrumptious treat . 

If you have kids, making butter is a great project.  It takes more time (about 15-30 minutes), but it's worth it.  My sister Carol is a teacher and her preschoolers love making butter even though their arms get tired.  Next time it rains and your kids are stuck inside, get some super clean jars, some heavy cream and start shaking!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Granita di Caffè - Con Panna (Espresso ices with Whipped Cream)

I made Granita di Caffè without ever tasting it.  I had tasted some really bad Granita in the City, but my friends from Italy said that you can't determine what Granita di Caffè should taste like from that garbage.  Mine was delicous, but I had an idea how it was supposed to taste, and I needed to be sure.  So, how do you find out that your Granita di Caffè is perfect?  That's easy!  You go to Tazza d'Oro in Roma across from the Pantheon, of course!

I had to resist all the other caffes offering Granita di Caffè con Panna all over the beautiful, very hot Eternal City.  It was more than 10 Euros in Piazza Navona, which made it easy to resist. But, we found it for anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 Euros in other places and it took all my will power not to try it.  Then there it was, large and beautiful, the Pantheon.  Amazing.  And then I turned around and find the other destination - Tazza d'Oro.  Nothing fancy by any means.  Plastic cups, no tables, just lots of very hot people, mostly tourists, waiting on line for a pick-me-up of strong, sweet coffee ice with whipped cream.

So, how did my Granita di Caffè fare?  YAY!!!  I tasted it at the famous Tazza d'Oro and it mine was every bit as delicious!  Needless to say, I was happy.  Give it a try!

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Granita di Limone - the "Real" Italian Ices! It's Summer!

Granita di Limone
Perfect summer cooler
Add some Limoncello and Yummm
 When my dear Albenganese friend Cristina d'Abramo lived with me she was really disappointed when she found Granita in New York City.  It was awful!  So, we practiced and practiced and we got it!  Granita is also great with peaches, strawberries - and a favorite of mine, Granita di Caffe.  It's summer!  What a great way to chill!

It's easy to make, but can take lots of time because you have to scrape it every half hour for the first 3 or 4 hours so it doesn't turn into a lemon rock - it should be soft and snowy.  I've found an alternative which is to pour it into ice cube trays and pop the cubes into a blender and pulse it - don't blend or it willl turn to liquid.

My Italian friends love when I make this, but nobody loved it as much as my dad.  I would go to his house, make it at night and he'd have 2 big helpings for breakfast the next morning.  "Ahhh, good Char".

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pasta al Limone (Lemon Pasta) - A Taste of Sunshine!

Summer is here and to me that means lemon dishes, blueberries, cantelope, Jersey tomatoes, basil, strawberries - Yummmm... 

I love, love, love lemons.  They really do taste like sunshine. 

I was introduced to this dish by my friend Ginger Brokaw on Saturday night at a trendy little place in the East Village called Supper, and it was well worth the wait (they don’t take reservations).  It is one of my very favorite pasta dishes.

I experimented at home, and think I got pretty close with the recipe But, it was missing something.  My Roman friend, Barbara Roppo, was visiting and she said it was missing butter, her mother always uses a little butter.  I didn't believe her. Butter? Not just olive oil?  Well, she was right.  It was missing butter.  Who knew?

Pasta Al Limone is a burst of summer in every mouthful. Served in small quantities it can be an extraordinary first course, or in larger quantities it is a delicious (an unforgettable) main course.  Very different.

This is great served with a spinach or arugula, orange (clementine) and pineapple salad with a lemon/balsamic vinaigrette.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Egg Islands - Who Doesn't Love Breakfast Any Time of Day!

I had 2 favorite breakfasts growing up.  My earliest favorite was 'Lakalas', which was a child's way of saying the diminutive for little latkes, that is, matzoh meal pancakes.  I used to stand on a chair and 'help' my mom or Aunt Mollie make them.  Loved them as a little kid, not so much anymore.

My lasting favorite was and still is Egg Island.  Yes, I know that not everyone calls them Egg Islands, but we did and we still do, and I love 'em! I had the Egg Islands you see in the picture for dinner last night, and even all these many years later, every time I make them I think of the anticipation I felt as a kid when my mom (and sometimes my dad) would make this delicious breakfast. 

Egg Island - A GREAT childhood memory!
I remember being surprised that my friends didn't know what Egg Islands were.  So, I thought my parents must have invented them. Many years later I found out that it wasn't really their invention, but I know they perfected them.

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Orecchiette with Broccoli (Anchovies and Chickpeas)

Most recipes call for broccoli rabe rather than regular broccoli, but my Albenganese friend Cristina d’Abramo taught me this dish and she taught me with regular broccoli, and it was deeee-licious!

I made this as a 2nd pasta for a Spaghettata di Mezzanotte (the first being Spaghetti con aglio olio e pepperoncino – with garlic, oil and hot pepper of course) on Saturday night, and I knew something was missing.  It was delicious, but lacking a taste I knew it should have.  In the middle of the dinner Debbie Fineman (one of 3 Americans at the table) brought up the anchovies.  That was it! The anchovies!  I forgot the darn anchovies!  How can you make this without anchovies!  Well, I did, and as I said it was delicious, but it would have been over the top had I remembered the darn anchovies.
I doubt I will forget them again.
Orecchiette or “Little ears” are easy to find now, so the dish is easy to prepare.  And if you live near a grocer like Fairway or Trader Joe’s, you can get a good imported brand of orecchiette, because as I’ve stated over and over again in this blog, the pasta you buy really makes a difference.

You can add to this recipe, as I did with the Chickpeas (Ceci or Garbanzos) because I am a pescatarian and need protein and this more than a healthy addition, it’s a tasty addition. Lots of people add sausage, be it pork, turkey or whatever you want.  Most people also add breadcrumbs to the pasta after it's cooked.  I usually don't, but it's your choice of course.

I also changed the typical recipe by making it more like a Cacio e Pepe recipe – lots of Pecorino cheese and lots of excellent freshly ground black pepper. 

Ummm – maybe I’ll have this for dinner again tonight!

Hint - The first time Cristina made this pasta for me she told me two things:
   1) When you put the orecchiette into the frying pan, put the flame on high.  It's great when these delicious little ears get just a bit crispy around the edges.
  2)  This delicious pasta dish is always better the 2nd night.  The flavors meld together, add a little olive oil and a bit more Pecorino and you'll be surprised and the difference when you take the first 2nd night bite!

Cristina was right - follow these hints and this dish is extra special!

Go to the Recipe

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Deviled Eggs are Back!

My friend and neighbor Kemp Minife had a great post about Deviled Eggs on her blog for Gourmet Live: 5 Delightfully Deviled Eggs.I hadn't thought about Deviled Eggs as  Passover Appetizer, but they're perfect!  Thanks so much for the idea Kemp! There are so many things you can do to update this 1950's, 60's and 70's appetizer staple.  Take a look at Kemp's blog for great ideas.

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon
I updated mine by using low-fat mayonnaise, a little Dijon mustard, cayenne, some capers and topped with s small slice of smoked salmon.

To help them travel well, I boiled the eggs the night before, cut them in half and scooped out the yolk with a tiny spoon.  I put the white part in a plastic container, and prepared the yolks ahead of time and put that in another plastic container.  I brought a small ice-cream scooper, about the size of a cherry, with me to fill the eggs when I arrived.  I also cut up the smoked salmon into 1 - 1 1/2 inch slices the the night before and put them in a zip-lock bag.  I brought the paprika with me to top the eggs after they were placed on the platter. I knew that my host's kitchen would be busy, so it was important to do as much ahead of time as possible.

Deviled eggs are a great Passover appetizer, but don't forget about them for Easter.  If the bunny drops lots of eggs at your house, they're perfect!

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Nutella Crème Icebox Pie - Passover (milchik ) or Easter

Nutella - who doesn't love Nutella?  OK, my sister Carol, but other than Carol, who doesn't love Nutella?  I was trying to think of a delicious dessert for a sedar, other than Sponge Cake or Flourless Chocolate Cake (the latter being delicious, but it can't be the only delicious Passover dessert). 
I started out thinking I would make this a toasted coconut crust, which would also work well, but I'm going with toasted pecans for this one.  I'll save the toasted coconut for another dessert. Note:  I also made this with a graham cracker crust and it was delicious - there's always so many options!

Lago di Bolsena, Bomarzo Italy -
 My first Nutella gelato
This dessert came to mind a while ago based on the first Nutella gelato I ever had. It was a hot, hot, hot summer day in Bomarzo, a lovely lakeside town in Lazio, Italy.  My friends and hosts Paolo and Agostina gave me a tour of Bomarzo and bought me a Nutella gelato cone that was unforgettable.  A creamy vanilla mixed with Nutella plus scrumptious 'globs' of Nutella.  Mamma Mia, it was wonderful!  Then came the pie.

Nutella Crème Icebox Pie should be creamy and high, and when it hits your mouth - wow!  Happy!

This isn't a dessert I recommend making often.  It's rich, it's sweet and it's delicious, but it shouldn't be a weekly treat by any means.  Remember, something is only special if it's special.  Two or three times a year makes it just that.  Eating desserts like this every week, or even every month, make it just another dessert, There's no way something this rich and sweet should be just another dessert for any of us. 
Enjoy (but not too often or you'll need to buy new jeans)!

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Brisket for Passover and Beyond! What could be bad?

I’m a pescatarian.  I know that it’s unusual to see a brisket recipe from someone who hasn’t eaten brisket in well over 20 years.  But, my mom loves brisket and I love my mom, so I make brisket and some other non-pescatarian foods for her.  She’ll still be in Florida this year for Passover, but I’ve made it for her before and she loved it. 

There’s a few should do’s when you cook brisket, and I’ll list those hints here before we get to the recipe so you can decide what you do or don’t want to do. 

Hint #1 – Brown the brisket in the same pan in which you are going to braise it.  For Passover you won’t dredge it in flour (you will at other times of the year), but you should still brown it for about 5 minutes on each side.  Have some tongs available to turn it and to hold it up when you scrape the pieces of meat that stuck to the bottom of the pot when you were browning.

Hint #2 – Braise the brisket ahead of time.  The day before is great.  You could make it the same day, but it’s always better (and easier) if you make it ahead of time.

Hint #3 - Brisket should be cooked in a heavy pot, like a Dutch Oven, and it should have a tight seal.  I’ve even heard of people making a seal with flour and water around the seal, but then it’s hard to open to check the level of the cooking liquid.

Hint #4 – Keep the cooking liquid level just under ¾ of the way to the top of the meat.  Don’t drown it. 

Hint #5 – This recipe calls for broth as the cooking liquid.  If my sister Carol wasn’t allergic to red wine, I would use half broth and half Cote du Rhone, or a nice Burgundy.  (or maybe all wine and no broth, depending on the mood). There are plenty of good full bodied Kosher wines now.  I haven’t tried too many but I know of Castel, Grand Vin Castel  2003 from Israel, but it’s pricey, as are many of the good Kosher wines.

Hint #6 – Don’t make brisket if you have to meet someone at the airport in 2 hours.  You have to cook it at a low temperature, between 300 and 325 degrees.  And you will cook it for 3-4 hours – with a short break in the middle (see Hint #7).

Hint #7 – Take the brisket out after about 2 hours.  It will still be stiff, let it sit for about 20 minutes.  This is the perfect time to slice it (against the grain of course), then put it (and all the juices) back in the pot. Keep cooking for about 1 more hour.  Why would you slice it at this point?  The meat will be so tender that it may be difficult to slice later.  Do it now and give yourself a break later.  At this point I also scoop out the veggies, and put in new ones - that way they only cook for 1 or 2 hours and they have some of their own flavor left.

Hint #8 - Some people like to thicken the gravy, some don't, it's your choice. If you decide you want to thicken it, here is a hint, and it's not just for Passover even though I'm using Potato Starch.  My mom used flour to thicken or sometimes even oatmeal, but I find that Potato Starch works really well and really fast.  You can use a small bowl with a small whisk, but my mom always used a small jar to shake it up and I find that the small jar method is my favorite. This is your slurry.  It's really important to make your slurry rather than adding the potato starch or flour directly to the cooking liquid or you'll get lumps all over the place.  Add about 1 Tablespoon Potato Starch  first and then add 1/4 cup wine (or water) and shake it up baby.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Polenta - the almost no stir method

I was introduced to polenta (and to most of my cooking skills) by the mom of my dear friend Peter Cauterucci.  Mary Cauterucci could cook.  Had she been born at a different time, she would have been the CEO of a large, very successful company.  Instead she had 11 children and cooked each day like a top chef.  No spaghetti and meatballs in the Cauterucci house, it was high-end northern Italian fare for her family.

She taught me how to make polenta, and I loved it.  But, I hate standing over a stove and stirring.  So, I found a better way (not more delicious, just easier).  I'm not saying it is my invention, but I received tips from friends over the years and I don't know who to thank, so I'm just putting this out here.
        Course Stone  Ground for Polenta                             Fine Ground for Corn Bread & Muffins
Tip #1 - Use course Stone Ground corn meal.  Fine grind is for corn bread, not polenta.  Medium grind is OK, but course grind really gives you the results you want for polenta.  There's instant polenta too, but although it's not terrible, there's nothing like the real thing.

Tip #2 - Use just a pinch of baking powder.  How do you measure a pinch?  My mom bought me measuring spoons that measure a pinch, a smidgen etc, but you don't need that.  Simply pinch some  baking  powder between your fingers and there it is! A pinch!.  I started doing this a few years ago and it really makes the polenta smooth and just the right consistency without all the stirring. I wish I could credit whoever it was who gave me this tip, but I have no idea who it was, sorry.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Bean soup)

In the US most Italian-Americans call this Pasta Fazul. This is probably because most of their ancestors come from the southern tip of the Italian boot, and this is the translation of their dialect.  That pronunciation isn’t Italian.  It is really pronounced Pasta Fa-jo-li.

This is another peasant dish.  Both delicious and nutritious, and no longer just for peasants, you find it in restaurants all over the City.  I love this dish.  It’s perfect on freezing winter afternoons.  Plus, the second day you can either rehydrate it as a soup (the pasta drinks all the liquid) or you can eat it with a fork, it’s a totally different meal.

The pasta you use should hold the sauce.  Great pastas to use are: Conchigliette (small shells), Funghini (little mushrooms), Orecchiette (little ears), Ditalini (small tubes), Quadrefiore (square flowers),  and Gomiti or Chifferi (elbows). Cooking times vary for these, but be sure they are al dente (firm to ‘the teeth’) because they will continue cooking in the soup, and nobody wants mushy pasta.

I use a vegetable base to accompany the tomatoes, but feel free to use a beef or chicken base.  When I have the ends of the Parmigiano Reggiano left I put them in a ziplock bag and freeze them.  When I make the base for Pasta e Fagioli, I throw them in.  They add lots of cheesy flavor.

This is a super dish on cold winter night. Serve it with a crusty Italian pane integrale (whole grain bread) and plenty of Parmigiano Reggiano and if you have any leftovers, don't be surprised to see someone in your family with a bowl of cold Pasta e Fagioli for breakfast! 


Friday, February 3, 2012

Spaghettata di Mezzanotte (aglio olio e peperoncino)! Midnight Spaghetti Party!

I grew up at the Jersey Shore. Like most young people from that part of NJ my friends and I would end up at the Ink Well in West End for coffee and eggs after a night of doing whatever it was we did. It was the very cool place to be, dark, smoky and filled to the brim with the late nighters.

There really are very different
qualities when it comes to pasta
 In Italy it’s not eggs and coffee, it’s spaghetti with garlic and oil and crushed hot pepper - aglio olio e peperoncino.   I learned about this when Marcella Del Signore, la mia amica, a tiny whirling dervish from Umbria (Lugnano in Teverina), her boyfriend Emanuele Cimica, his cousin Velasco Cimica and the lovely Gabriella De Angelis and I spent a weekend at my sister's mountain house in the Poconos.
We spent a good part of the evening sitting around a computer downloading Beatles songs and singing to help Gabriella learn English (singing is a great way to learn a language).  In the wee hours of the night, Marcella yelled out 'Spaghettata di Mezzanotte!' and everyone (except me) started moving.  What was going on?

Marcella started chopping garlic, Emanuele sliced bread, Velasco found a chestnut roaster by the fireplace and put the bread into it to make bruschetta in the fire place and Gabriella took the hunk of Parmigianino Reggiano from the refrigerator and put it on the table with some plates and forks and napkins.

I kept asking what they were doing and they kept answering 'Is a spaghettata!' OK. Is a spaghettata

 It was a midnight spaghetti dinner, spaghetti with garlic, oil and crushed hot pepper.  Delicious.  And with olive oil from the olives grown at Marcella's family home in Lugnano, it is the very best.  

View from Casa Del Signore
Lugnano in Teverina, Italy
My apartment became the place for my friends, gli Italiani, to gather for meals, incluing midnight spaghetti dinners.  Evenings filled with laughter, music, arms flying, wine and always ending in caffe and Limoncello.  It spread from a favorite of gli Italiani to becoming a favorite of our whole group of friends, the latest being my nephew Ryan and his friend Jeff.

Try it.  Instead of heading to the Blue Swan Dinner, or the Viand Coffee shop late at night, or even instead of Fiorello’s, have everyone to your house and have a Spaghettata di Mezzanotte! It's fast, it's cheap, it's super easy, and DELICIOUS!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Garlic Shrimp Risotto and Cannellini Bean & Tomato Salad - An Unplanned and Delicious Dinner Menu -

My son Marc came to visit and I hadn't gone food shopping.  I thought about ordering something, after all, I live in Manhattan, I can order just about anything I want.  But I wanted to prepare a dinner that he would remember. 

I looked in the refridgerator and saw that I had some grape tomatoes, arugula and some freshly roasted sweet peppers.  In the freezer were some shrimp.  If you wonder why I had frozen shrimp, you should ask your fish monger if the fresh shrimp you buy is really fresh.  It probably isn't.  Almost all shrimp is flash frozen and defrosted when you buy it.  So, I keep shrimp in my freezer for last minute meals.

My garlic shrimp risotto is not typical.  However, I have served it to my friends from Italy (from all parts of the boot) and they love it, so give it a try.
Our first course was a cannellini bean, grape tomato and arugula salad.  The main course was garlic shrimp risotto and the finale - meyer lemon olive oil cookies.  An easy unplanned menu that could be last minute for my son, or for a party.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chinese Tea Egg - Happy Lunar New Year!

This was my first try making this delectable marbled delight. It wasn't perfect, but I did it! My first Chinese Tea Egg! It was salty, but not overwhelming, and a little anise-y with all kinds of flavors running through it.  The best part was that there were instant hints of how I could make it even better! 

My colleague, Jason Pow, was my Tea Egg making inspiration - thanks Jason!  Jason also brought in some photos of the New Year's dinner his mom prepared, and I wish I was there!! I will post the photos as soon as he gives me the information on each dish. 

Tea Eggs - for prosperity. Who couldn't use some prosperity!

Go to Recipe

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Easy, Sweet, Delicious, Little Roasted Sweet Peppers

These versatile little roasted nuggets are so delicious and so easy to make that whenever I see them, I have to buy them.  

You can serve these bitesize delights with any meal or as a snack between meals.  I cut them up for a delicious breakfast of peppers and eggs, I bring them to work with my salad for lunch, and I cook them with risotto or pasta or as a side to spicy blackened fish for dinner. You can serve them on a picnic blanket in Central Park, or as part of a formal dinner party.  My favorite is to eat them out of a bowl on my lap while I'm watching TV.  Anytime, with just about anything. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sopa de Milagros (Spanish Garlic Soup of Miracles)

Feel a cold coming on? Coughing? Sneezing? Does your throat hurt?
I have the cure!  OK, maybe not a cure but  it is a heck of a home remedy! And if you're not cured, it is still so delicious and so warming that you can't help but feel better.

Rugged and breathtaking Basque coastlline
 I found out about Sopa de Milagros  (Soup of Miracles) many years ago when I was visiting my wonderful friend Rocio, comadre mia,  in the Basque Country (aka Euskadi or el País Vasco) in northern Spain. She told me about a soup that her father-in-law, Anastasio Lasuen, made when family members were sick.  His remedy was called Sopa de Milagros, and that it really was a miracle if you have aches and pains, or a fever, or you are congested.  I asked her what was so great about it and she simply answered 'it works',  hence the name, Sopa de Milagros. It's one of the many wonders of the beautiful, mountainous, wooded area that reaches well into France (Pays Basque).

Historically Sopa de Milagros is a peasant dish. Like so many other
peasant dishes it is delicious and it has a purpose.  Now people take things like Garlique for good health, but I'll take this super flavorful Basque cure-all any day.  And for those of you who combine the well known Eastern European Jewish cure-all, chicken soup, with the Basque cure-all. what could be bad?

Because this was a peasant dish, Sopa de Milgagros was often sauteed garlic with a soup base of water poured over the toasted bread.  On a good the egg was added.  On a great day the base was made from chicken carcass.

Today, it still works!  My family loves it, my friends love it.  When anyone who knows me is sick, they ask for Sopa de Milagros.  And if you live in New York and make it, your whole floor has the wonderful fragrance of sauteed garlic, so if you're going on a date, or having guests, make sure they have some too.

Go to Recipe

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cookies

T'is the season for Meyer Lemons!  That delicious little hybrid of a mandarin and lemon that only stays with us for a couple of months!
Meyer Lemons

 I should have bought a lot more because there's so many things I want to make, but I'm starting with cookies.  These aren't super sweet cookies.  These are a combination of savory with just a touch of sweet. They're grown-up cookies.
I decided to use olive oil rather than butter to compliment the savory taste I was looking for.  And I added just a bit of dried sage and a little more salt (not table salt) that is usually found in a sweet cookie.  In order to get the savory and sweet together it's important not to use table salt, you need a salt of substance. 

Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cookies
with Espresso
I wasn't looking for a sweet, cakey cookie and I found exactly what I was looking for!

Go to Recipe

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Blackened Shrimp and Arugula Salad

You might wonder why I'm posting so many salad recipes.  Well, there's a reason to my madness. 

First, these salads are meals you can make for yourself or you can make them when you are entertaining friends and they're always a success. Second, it is January 4th.  Just a few days after the holidays and many of us have eaten way more than we should have and the last thing we want to think about is stuffing our faces. 

But, that doesn't mean we have to starve.  Take a minute and read the page titled 'Salads - They are NOT a Punishment!' on the right side of the page on this blog. These salads are delicious! I promise. 

Go to Recipe.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sweet and Smokey Grilled Salmon and Portobello Salad

I hated salmon for a good part of my life.  Then I found out that all the salmon I ate was overcooked and didn't represent how delicious salmon really is.  Salmon should be rare.  Always.

Sweet & Smokey Grilled Salmon and Portobello Salad
I love teriyaki salmon and my favorite teriyaki sauce is really not anything a Japanese person would consider teriyaki, but it is DELICIOUS!  Veri, Veri Teriyaki by Soy Vey has never let me down.  I've used it when cooking salmon for lunch salads and when cooking salmon for a formal dinner party.  It's always a success.

Go to Recipe

Monday, January 2, 2012

Big Al Frank's FAMOUS Potato Latkes

Super Crispy Outside, Soft Inside

Frying Latkes in Dad's Skillet
Al Frank's Potato Latkes
 Wow! I got a request!  How exciting! 

On both Thanksgiving and Christmas I have a special dinner for my expatriate friends who don't celebrate those holidays with their families because they are far from home. This year Xixi  joined us and became a new friend.  She wrote today and said she tried to make the latkes after she had them at my house for the Expat Christmas and Chanukah dinner. 
I'll post the recipe, and will re-post before Chanukah. 
Nobody makes Potato Latkes (pancakes) like my father did.  Even when we copy his recipe it is never exact, but it is pretty close.  He passed this recipe on to me and to my son, and then to my nephews who became our next generation of Potato Latkes champions. 

This recipe is for 10 people.  The yams are a variation from Al’s recipe, I added them.  He included them occasionally, but the rest of the recipe is his all the way.

I added ta couple of hints to this recipe - things I've learned trying to get these better each time:

1. You can use the 'double fry' secret, which is to fry the latkes 3/4 of the way earlier in the day, and right before serving, complete the fry.  They'll be super crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside, just as they should be.  If you put them in the oven to reheat, even at a low temperature, you lose lots of the crispiness. You won't be sorry.

2. When shredding the potatoes, put them in a big colander over a bowl and put cheese cloth in the colander.  Potatoes are wet and you've got to get the moisture out.  Putting the shredded potatoes in a colander will allow them to drain, then you can squeeze them using the cheese cloth to rid of more moisture.  Potatoes must be dry to form the latkes.

Go to the recipe