Saturday, January 11, 2020

QUICK TUSCAN BEAN SOUP

There’s nothing like a steaming bowl of hot soup to warm you on a cold autumn or winter evening. This soup is made with canned beans instead of dried beans, making it quick and easy to prepare. Any variety of white canned beans will be great with this soup, from the smaller navy bean to the medium great northern bean and the larger cannellini bean. 


2 oz pancetta, finely diced 
2 T extra-light olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with 
cotton butcher’s twine
2 bay leaves
8 cups chicken stock
3 (14 oz) cans great northern or 
any white beans, rinsed and drained 
1 (3-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
Chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

In a large pot or Dutch oven, fry the pancetta over medium heat until golden. Pour off most of the grease and discard.
Add the oil to the pot and sauté the onion until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. 
Add garlic and sauté another minute.
Add the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, chicken stock, beans, and cheese rind.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for about 25 minutes.

Remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and cheese rind. 
Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with parsley.

Serve with grated Parmigiano cheese and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Serves 4 to 6 


Saturday, January 4, 2020

CLASSIC CHICKEN PICCATA

Chicken Piccata is on the menu in most Italian restaurants, and it is so easy to prepare at home. The recipe originated in Italy with veal. Serve this with pasta or Risotto alla Milanese.



2 large lemons
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 T freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken stock

¼ cup capers, rinsed and drained
3 T unsalted butter, room temperature
2 T chopped Italian parsley

Cut one lemon in half and cut the half into circles.

Squeeze the juice from the remaining one and a half lemons and set aside.
Cut each chicken breast in half, lengthwise.

In a shallow bowl, add the flour and grated cheese.

Season generously with salt and pepper. 

Dredge chicken in the flour mixture, shake off excess and set aside on a platter or pizza pan. 


Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.
Add the chicken to the skillet and fry for about 4 minutes on each side, until golden. 

Transfer chicken to a heatproof platter and place in oven.
Add the shallot and garlic to the skillet and cook 30
seconds.

Add the wine and slowly simmer while stirring.

Pour in the chicken stock, and lemon slices.
Simmer a couple of minutes.
Stir in the lemon juice and capers and simmer one minute.
Remove skillet from heat and stir in the butter and allow to melt. 
Stir in the parsley and spoon sauce over chicken and serve immediately.

Serves 2


Saturday, December 28, 2019

CRANBERRY MARGARITAS

Margaritas are generally associated with summer but with cranberry juice and fresh cranberries, it is a perfect winter or holiday cocktail.


Course sea salt
2 limes, cut in half
6 oz silver tequila
3 oz triple sec or Cointreau
12 oz cranberry juice
Ice
Fresh cranberries, for garnish

Pour the salt into a small saucer and set aside.

Cut one half of the lime into circles and then cut circles in half.
Run a cut lime over the rim of 3 glasses and dip into the salt.
Squeeze the juice of 1 ½ limes into a pitcher.
Add the tequila, triple sec or Cointreau, and cranberry juice.
Stir to combine.
Fill glasses halfway with ice.
Pour margarita mix into the glasses. 
Garnish with some fresh cranberries and lime wedges.

Serves 3


Sunday, December 15, 2019

CASA LASAGNE BOLOGNESE AL FORNO

I use a combination of Asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in this lasagne. Asiago is similar to Parmigiano because it has a slightly nutty and sweet flavor. The Ragù is enough for two lasagne or enough for another meal or two with pasta. I start out making the Ragù one to three days before I assemble the lasagne. Many times, I freeze the unbaked lasagne to have another evening. Just remember to bring it out to defrost before baking. This style of lasagne is also known as Tuscan Lasagne.  You can also substitute Pecorino Romano for the Asiago.



Ragù
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil, divided
¼ lb pancetta, diced
2 lbs lean ground beef
½ lb ground pork
½ lb ground veal 
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 (13-oz) can tomato paste

4 T unsalted butter

2 cups whole milk
2 t dried oregano
8 leaves fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
¼ t nutmeg
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ t red pepper flakes (optional)

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic 
until fairly fine; like a minced soffritto.

In a Dutch oven, add the 1 tablespoon of the oil and cook the soffritto over medium heat 
for 10 minutes. Spoon mixture into a very large bowl and set aside.

In the same Dutch oven over medium heat, add the rest of the oil and cook the pancetta until golden.
Add half of the ground beef and brown until crumbly, about 10 minutes.
As the meat cooks, break up any chunks with a wooden spoon into small pieces. 
Spoon into the large bowl with the soffritto
Repeat with the rest of the beef, then spoon into the bowl with the cooked vegetables.
Repeat with the pork and veal and brown; leaving in the pan.
Return the browned beef and vegetables to the pot.
Add the wine, stirring up browned bits on the bottom of the pan. 
Add the chicken stock, water, and tomato paste; mix in well.
Simmer very gently, partially covered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add the butter and rest of the ingredients and simmer another 15 minutes.


Besciamella (Béchamel)

6 T unsalted butter
6 T all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
1 ½ t sea salt
½ t grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until foaming; add flour and cook, 
whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Do not brown.
Gradually whisk in milk. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a gentle boil, while whisking constantly. Add salt and nutmeg, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and
simmer 2 minutes, until it thickens slightly.
Turn off heat and set aside.

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
Mix the above cheese together in a bowl.

1 lb fresh lasagne sheets


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.


Spread a layer of ragù in the bottom of a lasagna pan. 

Cover with a sheet or two of pasta, a layer of besciamella, a layer of grated mixed Parmigiano and Asiago, and a layer of ragù.
Repeat 3 more times, ending with a layer of besciamella.

Sprinkle the last of the grated cheeses over the top.


Cover loosely with parchment-lined aluminum foil or spray your inside of the foil with oil and bake in the oven for 1 hour. 
Remove foil, add a little more cheese, and continue to bake another 15 minutes
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 to 12 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serves 6 to 8











Saturday, November 9, 2019

CHICKEN CACCIATORE WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGES & OLIVES OVER POLENTA

Chicken Cacciatore is a hunter's stew. This is definitely one of my Go-To recipes. It is perfect for cold autumn or winter nights. It is definitely a heartier dish with the addition of Italian sausages. We had it one night and had it again for leftovers another weeknight.


4 Italian sausages, hot or sweet
1 T avocado oil
1 T unsalted butter
4 bone-in chicken pieces of your choice (I cut large chicken breasts in half)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 to 10 small white or cremini mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed and cut in half

1 medium yellow onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
½ cup dry red wine
1 28-oz can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, hand crushed
2 T tomato paste
1 T minced fresh rosemary leaves
½ t freeze-dried oregano or chopped fresh oregano
1 bay leaf
½ cup green olives, (I use regular Manzanilla olives stuffed with pimentos)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Basil leaves, chopped, for garnish
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a large skillet fitted with a lid, cook the sausages for 5 to 7 minutes, per side over medium heat.
While sausages are cooking, dry chicken pieces with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
Remove sausages from skillet and set aside on a large plastic cutting board.
Drain off most of the fat and add oil and butter.
Add the chicken pieces in two batches, skin side down. Cook chicken until golden brown on both sides, about 5 to 7 minutes per side. Set aside with sausages.

Add the mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and sauté another minute.
Deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove the browned flavor bits.
Cook for another minute to reduce the wine slightly.
Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, rosemary, oregano, and bay leaf.
Tuck the chicken pieces into the pan.
Cut the sausages into 3 pieces and tuck in the pan.

Cover and simmer slowly for 30 minutes.
Uncover, add the olives and simmer another 15 minutes to thicken the sauce.

Garnish with basil and serve with polenta, grated Parmigiano and a green salad. 


Serves 4 

Polenta for 4

3 cups water
3 cups chicken stock
1 t sea salt
1 ½ cups polenta or coarse yellow cornmeal
2 T unsalted butter
3 T freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and chicken stock to a boil, then add the salt.


Add the polenta in a gentle stream, whisking as you pour.

Reduce heat and let the polenta simmer, whisking constantly for about one minute.
Reduce heat o the lowest setting and let simmer for about 15 minutes. stirring often to prevent from sticking
Remove from heat, add the butter and grated Parmigiano cheese.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.
Set aside to keep warm.

Serves 4

Thursday, August 29, 2019

EGGS IN PURGATORY WITH ARUGULA & PARMIGIANO

Eggs in purgatory is a traditional Italian-American breakfast dish. I added some arugula and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano to make it even more delicious! Add a slice of toasted Italian bread and a cup of cappuccino for a perfect Sunday morning breakfast.


1 T avocado oil or extra-light olive oil
1 large clove garlic, pressed
½ t red pepper flakes
1 (24 oz) jar pureed and strained tomatoes (passata)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T minced basil

4 eggs
2 T grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 bunches fresh arugula
Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes.
Sauté for 2 minutes, then add the pureed tomatoes.
Season with salt and pepper and simmer 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Stir the minced basil into the sauce and spoon some sauce into two small cast-iron skillets or two oven-proof baking dishes.

Nestle two eggs into the sauce in each skillet or baking dish.
Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with Parmigiano.

Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until eggs are cooked to your liking.

Add a handful of arugula to each skillet and a few shaved pieces of Parmigiano.
Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and serve.

Serves 2

* You will have extra tomato sauce for another breakfast or use for pizza.










Tuesday, August 27, 2019

CHICAGO-STYLE ITALIAN BEEF SANDWICHES

My husband, son, daughter, and I lived in Chicago for 2 years. I always loved their Italian Beef Sandwiches. This is my version of this delicious sandwich. I roasted the bell peppers under the broiler for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan, after 10 minutes. You can buy roasted bell peppers in a jar. I think you will love my recipe for homemade Italian Giardiniera Salad (recipe on page 18). Make the Italian Giardiniera Salad at least two days before you make the sandwiches. Roast the beef the day before you make the sandwiches.




1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 lb rump or bottom round roast
1 t fresh or freeze-dried oregano
1 t garlic powder
½ t red pepper flakes
1 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 qt beef broth

Italian Giardiniera Salad (recipe, next post)
Roasted bell peppers, in a jar or your own roasted
Crusty Italian bread, cut into 6 to 8-inch lengths, and cut in half, lengthwise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place sliced onion on the bottom of a roasting pan.
Place roast on top and season with oregano, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.
Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place in oven and roast for 45 minutes.
Pour beef broth in the bottom of the roasting pan and continue to roast for another 20 minutes.
The temperature of beef should register 130 F degrees for rare and 135 F degrees for medium-rare with an instant-read thermometer.

Remove from oven and place roast on a platter to cool.
Scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pan and pour the beef broth through a strainer into a heatproof container. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Place roast in a large container and refrigerate for 24 hours.

The next day that you want to make the sandwiches, remove roast and broth from the refrigerator.
Pour broth in a saucepan and heat to just below boiling; keep warm.

Thinly slice enough beef, for your sandwiches.

Using tongs, dip enough of the beef into the beef broth and then place on the bottom half of each sandwich.
Add a spoonful of giardiniera and a few roasted peppers.
Add top of bread and add a small bowl of the broth to each plate for dipping.