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.



Wednesday, August 21, 2019

FRESH STRAWBERRY GELATO - Gelato alla Fragola

Tis' the season to get strawberries at your local farm stand or market. Once you bring your berries home, the key to keeping them fresh is to kill any spores on the berries. Put them in a bowl of 4 cups of cold water and ½ cup white vinegar. Let them soak for about 5 minutes. Place in a colander and rinse with water. Let them dry on a paper towel. Do this in batches if you have a lot of berries. 
Ice cream contains 15 to 20% butterfat. Gelato contains anywhere from 5 to 7% butterfat. These strawberries were so sweet, I only added ½ cup of sugar. You can add a little more if you prefer your gelato sweeter. The optional addition of pomegranate juice, adds a little more intense flavor and color.



2 pints (4 cups) fresh strawberries
2 cups whole milk
1 T cornstarch
½ to ¾ cup organic cane sugar or granulated sugar
3 T pomegranate juice (optional) 

Remove the stems and leaves from the strawberries and discard.
Cut the strawberries into two or three slices.
Add the strawberries into a blender and blend for a few seconds to chop up the strawberries.
Blend longer if you want a smoother gelato.

Make a slurry by mixing ¼ cup of the milk with the cornstarch.
Mix until the cornstarch is dissolved.

Heat the remaining milk in a saucepan with the sugar.
Just when the milk starts to boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture.
Lower heat and simmer very gently for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat, let cool to room temperature, then stir in the strawberries and pomegranate juice, if using.

Pour into a covered container and refrigerate until completely chilled.
Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Transfer to a covered container and place in your freezer, until firm.

Makes about 3 cups






Wednesday, July 24, 2019

FIGS WITH GOAT CHEESE, ROSEMARY, & PROSCIUTTO DI PARMA

Ernest Novello (his Americanized name) had a fig tree in his backyard in Richmond, Virginia. I believe it kept him close in heart to his Italian heritage. Figs are the fruit of the Ficus tree and are an excellent source of dietary fiber and potassium. They also contain prebiotics which helps support the pre-existing good bacteria in the gut. Don't eat too many at one time due to their laxative effect. Figs should not be washed until ready to eat. The variety I used is called Brown Turkey. 


6 Brown Turkey figs, stems cut off and figs cut in half, lengthwise
4 oz log of goat cheese, room temperature
2 t fresh rosemary leaves, minced
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 oz Prosciutto di Parma, thinly sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Place the figs, cut side up, on a work surface.
In a small bowl, mix together the goat cheese, minced rosemary leaves, and black pepper.
Using a small spoon, add a small amount on top of each cut side of the figs.

Tear small pieces of Prosciutto and place a little on top of the goat cheese.
Place figs on a serving platter and drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil.

You can serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.
Let come to room temperature before serving.

Serves 4 to 6 as appetizers


MASCARPONE AND RASPBERRY ICE CREAM

When raspberries are in season, why not make ice cream with mascarpone cheese? If you love raspberries, you will love this ice cream.



4 large egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup mascarpone cheese
1 t pure vanilla extract
½ cups heavy cream or half-and-half
1 cup chopped fresh raspberries

Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a heat-proof bowl. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk for about 5 minutes.

Place bowl in a sink with some cold water. 
Whisk for another 2 minutes to cool the mixture down.

Stir in the vanilla, cream or half-and-half, and the raspberries.

Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

Spoon into a covered container and place in your freezer for at least 2 hours before serving.

Serves 6

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

LEMON SORBET WITH PROSECCO - Sgroppino al Limone

Traditionally, sgroppino is a refreshing aperitif that is said to have originated in Venice, Italy and is served blended, but this is another way to serve it as a dessert. With the abundance of lemons on the Amalfi Coast, I think it could have been invented there. This is so refreshing on a warm summer evening.




1 cup chilled Prosecco
¼ cup chilled plain or lemon-flavored vodka 
Good-quality lemon sorbet

Fresh mint leaves


Pour ½ cup Prosecco into each champagne flute or Irish coffee glass. 
Equally, divide the limoncello and vodka into each flute or glass.
Add 2 to 3 scoops of lemon sorbet.

Top with mint and serve immediately.

Serves 2 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

CHICKEN VESUVIO

This is my version of the traditional Chicago Italian-American dish. Everyone loves a one-pot meal or in this case, a one-baking pan meal. I cooked this in a large roasting pan even though I only had 3 very large chicken breasts. It is important to have the chicken and potatoes in one layer, to ensure even browning. After baking, I transferred the dinner to a prettier baking pan suitable for the table and for my photo.


4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts or whole chicken legs
1 T balsamic vinegar
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
4 lemons
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
1 T freeze-dried oregano or 3 T fresh oregano leaves
½ cup Sicilian or Spanish olives, cut in half
¼ cup capers, drained
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the chicken in a large baking pan.
Brush balsamic vinegar over the chicken.
Add the potatoes to the pan and scatter on the olives and capers.

Squeeze the juice from three lemons into a small bowl.
Add the garlic, olive oil, and oregano.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
Pour evenly over the chicken and potatoes.

Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and baste with pan juices.
Return to oven and continue to bake another 30 minutes, until chicken is brown and potatoes are golden and tender.

Transfer chicken and potatoes to a platter, pretty baking pan, or individual plates.
Slice the 4th lemon into thin slices and tuck in between potatoes and chicken.
Pour pan juices over and serve with a green vegetable or salad.


Serves 4