Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Show Recipes

Had a great time doing the show today. Halloween and fall always evoke wonderful images of growing up in the midwest. The colors red, yellow and orange bring with them memories of leaves turning colors, gourds, apples and pumpkins (the star fruit of the season!)
As a midwesterner, I was brought up to think of pumpkins as a vehicle for pies, cookies and quick breads. The idea of this symbol of Fall being used for anything savory was foreign to me as I'm sure it was to others those around me. The first thing I remember having in Michigan with pumpkin in it that didn't fall into the aforementioned categories was pumpkin empanadas, a treat I discovered while delivering produce to a Mexican market in Lansing during my short stint as a truck driver, and also one which I have included in the recipes from the show.
But I think since I have an entire Autumnal meal laid out for you, I think I should start with the soup course by sharing a Pumpkin Soup recipe by Chef David Barker, a fellow forum member at Jamie Oliver's website.

Pumpkin Soup

50g (3.5 tablespoons) butter
1 onion, chopped
1kg (2 lbs) pumpkin,de-seeded and cubed
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves (from my garden)
a glass of white wine
2 tablespoons double cream
900ml(3.5 cups) fresh organic chicken stock,hot
an old parmesan cheese rind! plus extra for shavings for garnish!


First, melt the butter on a med-low heat, add the onion and pumpkin and cook for about 5 mins. Then add the garlic and the bay leaves and cook again, for another 5 mins.

Add the wine and let it bubble for a couple of mins to evaporate off the alcohol a bit!!! then add the stock and the parmesan rind (this is a good way to get some great flavour from a thing that you normally throw away)

Now increase the heat and boil the soup for 10 mins, or until the pumpkin is nice and soft. Then set aside to cool down slightly. When it has, remove the bay and rind...

Puree with a stick blender until really smooth. At his point you can loosen the soup up a little with water if it is too thick!

Stir in the cream and season well with salt and pepper, transfer the soup to a clean pan and heat til hot.

Ladle into warm bowls. Top each with a few thin shavings of parmesan and a good drizzle of a great, grassy, peppery good quality extra virgin olive oil.

Coming back to this part of the world, I have a rather interesting salad from the Cerrado area of Brazil, a massive area that covers several regions. I thought this was such an interesting use of pumpkin. Feel free to cut back on the amount of cinnamon if you wish. It does seem to dominate somewhat. But do try this interesting juxtaposition of fried balls of pumpkin with the coolness of the salad greens.

Savannah Salad with Fried Pumpkin

3 cups water
3 teaspoons salt
1 stick cinnamon
2 cups pumpkin balls (cut with a melon baller)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 cups Boston lettuce
1 cup watercress
1/2 cup roasted unsalted cashew nuts, crushed


2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 teaspoons salt
5 tablespoons olive oil

1. In a medium-size pan, boil water with salt and the cinnamon stick.
2. Cook 1/3 of the pumpkin balls at a time for 3 minutes. Strain and place them in a bowl of ice water. Strain again and allow the balls to dry. Repeat process with remaining pumpkin balls. Heal the olive oil in a heavy skillet and add the cinnamon and fry the pumpkin balls shaking the pan to see they don't stick. Remove and reserve.
3. For the vinaigrette, add the cinnamon to the warm skillet scraping the bottom. Add vinegar and salt and whisk in olive oil.
4. Toss the greens with half the dressing. Toss the pumpkin with 5 tablespoons of the dressing. Finally, mound the greens on a platter placing the pumpkins balls around and sprinkling with the crushed cashews.
Drizzle any remaining dressing on top and serve.

With the exception of Chef Suvir Saran's Pork Vindaloo from his first book, Indian Home Cooking, my favorite way to enjoy a long braising of pork comes from the Latin American kitchen and few are better than Pork and Pumpkin stew. Severed with warm tortillas and boiled rice, this is the ultimate Autumn comfort food!

Pork and Pumpkin Stew

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
a 14-ounce can tomatoes, including the juice
2 teaspoons dried sage
4 potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch kale, chopped
2 pounds sugar pumpkin cut into 1-inch pieces

In a heavy pot, heat oil and sear pork in batches until nicely caramelized. Remove to a plate and reserve. Add onion, saute until soft and add garlic stirring just until golden. Add tomatoes, breaking them up and return pork and simmer covered for 1 hour adding water if liquid if not sufficient.
Add potatoes and continue to cook for an additional 20 minutes. Add the kale and pumpkin and cooked covered stirring occasionally until pumpkin is tender. Season with salt and pepper and serve over rice with warm tortillas.

When I was in my early 20's, I drove a produce truck delivering fruits and vegetables to little markets around Michigan. One such market was a Latin American market in Lansing. It was there that I discovered Pumpkin Empanadas, a sort of turnover affair filled with sweetened spiced pumpkin. I believe there were 6 to a package and none to a package by the time I returned the truck to Battle Creek. I requested that particular route every week. I was so pleased when I found a recipe that rivaled those wonderful Mexican pastries I used to enjoy back in Michigan. Try these soon. They are just the thing to include in a Sunday brunch and just beg to be washed down with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate.

Pumpkin Empanadas

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cups cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, separated
1/4 cup ice water
Pumpkin filling

1. Preheat oven to 400°F
2. Stir together flour and sugar and work in butter with a pastry blender. Beat together egg yolk and the water add gradually to flour mixture and mix well.
3. Divide dough in half for easier handling and turn onto a lightly floured board. Roll each ball of dough out thin. Cut dough into 4-inch circles.
4. Fill each circle with approximately 1 tablespoon filling, fold in half, and pinch edges to seal; then flute the edges. Place on an ungreased baking sheet, brush the tops with the slightly beaten egg white, and bake for 15 minutes.

Pumpkin Filling

2 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon anise seed or ground nutmeg

1. Place pumpkin, sugar and anise seed (or nutmeg)Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Cool.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Coq au vin, Milinciani a Canazzu and Lamb Stew

No matter what you call it or what you use in it, stew is the perfect comfort food for those short cold days, the perfect foil for tough cuts of meat and just the thing to make you smile and sigh at the end of the day.
Any culture that's had a tough bird to deal with has a version of chicken stew. One of my favorites is found in the Gourmet cookbook that came out about 10 or so years ago. Not for the diet-conscious, it contains a good amount of cream but is worth the splurge on a special occasion.
A more traditional version, Coq au vin (rooster in wine) comes to us from France and provides all the comfort one needs as well as all the praise the cook will get for serving this to guests.

Coq au Vin

1 chicken, cut up into pieces
4 ounces bacon
1/2 cup pearl onions
4 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Bouquet garni
4 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons brandy
2 cups red wine
Kneaded butter

Saute the bacon and onions in butter until browned. Add chicken, garlic, bouquet garni, and mushrooms and saute until golden with the lid on stirring occasionally.
Pour in 2 tablespoons of the brandy and flame.
Add the wine and simmer lively for 15 or 20 minutes.
Remove chicken and thicken sauce with the kneaded butter.
Add remaining brandy, heat through and serve over chicken.

1 chicken, cut up into pieces
4 ounces bacon
1/2 cup pearl onions
4 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Bouquet garni
4 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons brandy
2 cups red wine
Kneaded butter

Saute the bacon and onions in butter until browned. Add chicken, garlic, bouquet garni, and mushrooms and saute until golden with the lid on stirring occasionally.
Pour in 2 tablespoons of the brandy and flame.
Add the wine and simmer lively for 15 or 20 minutes.
Remove chicken and thicken sauce with the kneaded butter.
Add remaining brandy, heat through and serve over chicken.

1 chicken, cut up into pieces
4 ounces bacon
1/2 cup pearl onions
4 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Bouquet garni
4 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons brandy
2 cups red wine
Kneaded butter

Saute the bacon and onions in butter until browned. Add chicken, garlic, bouquet garni, and mushrooms and saute until golden with the lid on stirring occasionally.
Pour in 2 tablespoons of the brandy and flame.
Add the wine and simmer lively for 15 or 20 minutes.
Remove chicken and thicken sauce with the kneaded butter.
Add remaining brandy, heat through and serve over chicken.

6 tablespoon butter
1 cup flour

Blend together to make a smooth paste

I've often told the story of our first visit to Sicily. A long flight from San Francisco with layovers, it can take around 24 hours (or more) to get to Palermo where you haven't really experienced the proper welcome until you're luggage has been lost. We got the proper welcome. In addition to that, we were dropped off at a place out in the middle of nowhere by a man we had only just met. While waiting for him to come back to get us, we decided to do a little exploring in the countryside which, in no time, left us with mud up to our ankles. Using an outside pump, we washed our socks and shoes and prayed for them to dry before he returned which he did at about the same time we were pulling on still-damp socks and shoes.
Exhausted, cold, wet and famished, he staggered into his office to talk about looking at property, a subject that my battered mind couldn't get itself around at that time. When we finally stood up, stretched and said, "Well, boys, let's go and get a bite to eat," I was pulling my coat on when he pointed to a door which did not lead outside. It led to a darkened descending stairway which I though would be the last sight I would ever see. (Yes, a tired mind is susceptible...) What we found at the bottom of the stairs was a kitchen and a long table at which we were seated and poured out glasses of homemade wine.
As he walked to the stove, the real estate man, Franco, started talking about everyday things and pulled out vegetables, homemade passata, olive oil pressed from his father's olives and dried Calabrian chilies, an ingredient I haven't been without since. In no time he was dishing up a wonderful stew and passing a big bowl of dried pecorino to sprinkle over it. This welcome made me forget about wet feet and lost luggage. This was a warmth to transcend!
It was also a recipe to keep. I had purposely brought a note pad to jot down recipes I might find and was put to work sooner than I thought. Just a note about the peppers, I have found that looking for sweet peppers that are halfway between green and red provides a very different and delicious flavor to any dish where peppers are called for. If you can't locate them, go with regular red, or yellow, or orange...

Milinciani a Canazzu
(Eggplant stew)

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large sweet red bell pepper, chopped
1 eggplant
1 Calbrian dried chili or dried chili flakes to taste
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, chopped
2 or 3 medium potatoes, sliced thick
Salt to taste
Saute onion, garlic, pepper, eggplant and chili in olive oil until vegetables are soft.
Add tomatoes and cook stirring for a few minutes.
Add potatoes and water if necessary cooking until potatoes are tender.
Season with salt and serve with grated pecorino.

Lamb stew is another of those concoctions that every culture has come up with. My most memorable is not made with a tough cut of lamb but with a milk-fed lamb that has not been allowed to mature beyond the age of one month assuring the diner with a tender succulence he won't find in any other lamb stew. Served only at Easter, this Roman preparation is so popular in the Eternal City that it is wise to pre-order your lamb or go very early in the morning on the Saturday before Easter (as I did) to assure your lamb is fresh and available. For the rest of us and the rest of the year, I offer a recipe from the old now-out-of-print Settlement Cookbook.
You should experiment with this by adding some thyme and additional vegetables of choice. I am offering the recipe as given in the book along with the one for baking powder dumplings, a must pairing!

Lamb Stew with Baking Powder Dumplings

1 pound lamb stew pieces
1 medium onion, chopped and divided into to portions
Salt and pepper
1 large potato, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
Baking Powder Dumplings (Recipe below)

Season lamb pieces with salt and pepper and brown well in the oil along with half the chopped onion.
Add boiling water to cover and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
Add the rest of the vegetables and simmer,covered, for 1 additional hour adding dumplings and simmering another 15 minutes covered.

Baking Powder Dumplings

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 scant cup milk

Mix dry ingredients. Add milk and stir just to mix. Drop by spoonfuls into simmer stew. Cover and let cook for 15 minutes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Moqueca de Camarão

Say the term "comfort food" and stew has to be in the top-ten of what first comes to mind.
I think of a long day that deserves a treat at the end of it. It can be a cold day in the Midwest, where I was raised, or just a busy day here in California that begs to be rewarded for just getting through it.
I've also known it as a welcoming gift when I first went to Sicily and it was prepared for us by the one of the first people we met. It was simple yet very memorable and I still love making it.
The stew pictured comes from the Bahia state of Brazil. It calls for dendê, a red palm oil that I highly recommend you searching out before you make this. It lends a flavor that is unique to the cuisine of the region and must be tasted in this dish to be really appreciated. I know that on a number of occasions I will say to make a recipe even if a certain ingredient isn't available. Not in this case, however. Dendê is as key an ingredient as the shrimp! If you do not live near a Brazilian market, no worries! Let the market come to you. is a great source for all sorts of Latin American food products. In addition to dendê, they also carry mandioca torrada (toasted manioc flour), my ingredient of choice when making farofa. I hope you'll go out of your way to get these ingredients and experience these wonderful dishes for yourself.

Moqueca de Camarão

1 lb shrimp in shell, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 (14- to 15-oz) can tomatoes including juice, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
5 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon dendê (palm) oil

Toss shrimp with black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, garlic, and lime juice and marinate, covered and chilled, 20 minutes.
Cook onion and bell pepper in olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cayenne, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes and simmer briskly, stirring, until mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and bring to a boil, then add shrimp mixture and cook, stirring, until shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in dendê oil and remaining 4 tablespoons cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with Brazilian style rice and farofa.

Brazilian style Rice

2 tablespoons oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup rice. long grain
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

Rinse rice in several changes of water to remove starch and let drain in sieve. While rice is draining, saute onions in a pot until translucent.
Add rice and cook, stirring, until it turns a chalky color.
Add 1 1/2 cups water and the salt and bring to a boil.
Lower heat and cook with lid slightly ajar until water is evaporated.
Add remaining water and cook a few more minutes until water is gone and then turn off heat and cover undisturbed for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups toasted manioc flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil and butter in skillet and saute chopped garlic.
Let the flour pour slowly through your fingers into the skillet stirring it into the mixture.
When all the fat is absorbed, move it from one side of the skillet to the other making sure that it all gets toasted well.
Serve over beans or stew or meat.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Frango con Creme de Milho

As you can see, my interest in Brazilian food continues. And there is so much to be interested in! The food, like the culture, is very diverse. But one delicacy that shows up time and again is deep-fried food, something that appears in every culture, it seems, from Chinese to Italian.
This particular recipe turned up on both my Face Book and Twitter accounts from a Brazilian recipe site that has the best food pics around. They also do a lot of simple recipes that can be put together in minutes as well as a few more involved ones such as this is.
I did take liberties with the recipe, something I generally will never do until I've made per the instructions. I detest canned corn! I usually freeze corn every year and if I don't, I use only good quality frozen corn, something that is not too hard to come by. In every other way, I followed the recipe as if it were handed down from God himself. That being said, there are a few ways I will change the next time I make it.
The recipe calls for chicken breast, a cut which I think must be chosen for dishes that will be cooked quickly as it dries out in an instant. Since you want to make sure the filling is heated through completely, you must leave the fritter in the oil long enough for the heat to penetrate. Unfortunately, this can mean that the outer coating of white meat will get a little too dry.
On that account, I think I will use thigh meat the next time or perhaps experiment with ground turkey.
The other thing I may change will be to add some cheese to the sauce.
Also, the original recipe calls for molds for the filling. I just used regular muffin tin molds.

I hope you get around to make this.

Chicken Fritters with Cream of Corn


½ cup milk
1 can of corn with water
1 tbsp butter
½ onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon flour
salt and chopped parsley to taste
2 pounds chicken breast, diced and then briefly pulsed in the food processor, seasoned with salt and pepper
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups coarsely crushed corn flakes

Creamed corn

1 - In a blender put ½ cup of milk and a can of corn with water and mix quickly (or function "pulse") leaving a few pieces of corn. Reserve.

2 - Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a pan and saute
chopped onion until soft. Add 1 tablespoon of flour and cook for 1 minute.

3 - Add the reserved corn mixture and cook until slightly thickened. Season with salt and chopped parsley to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.


4 - Take small patty molds coated with oil, line the bottom and sides with finely chopped chicken breast. In the center of the pan place the creamed corn and cover with a layer of chopped chicken breast. Place in freezer for 30 minutes to firm.

5 - Remove the chicken from the freezer molds, unmold and dip into eggwash and then in crushed cornflakes. Fry in hot oil until golden. Remove and drain on absorbent paper. Serve at once.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Season for Soup

More and more I see that the markets are starting to carry Black Tuscan Kale. If you don't see it with the regular kale, check in the organic produce section which is where they have it at Andy's in Sebastopol, CA.
If you happen to have a vegetable garden, try growing some of this. It does quite well here in Northern California where we've planted it in the Fall with very good results.
The first recipe on the last show uses this in a classic Northern Italian soup called Ribollita. But if you can't get your hands on black tuscan kale, you can certainly use the regular kale instead. I might add that this freezes beautifully.


8 ounces dried cannellini beans
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 dried Calabrian hot chili pepper or dried chili flakes to taste
1-28-Ounce can tomatoes and their liquid, chopped
1 small head savoy or regular white cabbage, chopped
2 bunches of kale (preferably Tuscan black), chopped
6 cups chicken stock
4 cups stale bread, crusts removed

Use one of two methods to cook the beans. Either soak them in water overnight, drain, cook in fresh water adding salt to taste only after tender or
Bring to boil in a large pot. Let boil for two minutes, turn off heat, cover, let sit for 1 hour, drain and proceed as in above with fresh water.
In a large pot, saute onions and pancetta in the oil until onions are translucent. Add carrots, celery, garlic, chili and a little sprinkling of salt and saute until vegetables are tender.
Add tomatoes, cabbage and kale and simmer, stirring, for 10 minutes.
Drain the beans, reserving their cooking liquid. Puree half the beans with some of their liquid and add to soup with the remaining whole beans.
Add stock and enough of the liquid from the beans to equal 8 cups.
Bring to boil and reduce to simmer and continue to cook for 20 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste
Add bread and simmer 10 more minutes mashing the bread against the side of the pot with the back of a wooden spoon to break it up some.
Serve with grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil in each bowl.

I looked at several different Brazilian soups before settling on this one. I think it was the combination of beans, sausage and collards that really crave something like this as a heart and tummy warming soup. Such a combination also seems to just sing Brazil as they are classic staples in the Brazilian diet.

Brazilian Bean Soup

1 pound cooked red beans
1/2 pound linguiça or 1/4 pound dried chorizo
1 bunch collards, chopped
1/4 cup oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 carrots, diced
1 cup small shells, macaroni or other soup pasta

In a large pot, bring 4 cups of water to boil and add beans and sausage.
Cook for 30 minutes removing sausage and beans and reserving the liquid.
In a clean pot, saute onion and garlic in the oil until onion is translucent.
Add potatoes and reserved cooking water from the beans and simmer until potatoes are tender.
Puree adding water if too thick.
Add collards and carrots cooking until carrots are tender.
About 10 minutes before the carrots are done, add pasta and diced sausage.
Correct for seasoning and serve.

I owe my recipe for Corn Chowder to my mom's old neighbor Jillian, a woman originally from Wales who still makes this for friends and family to great cries of praise. I have changed a few things such as the addition of bacon and increase of cheese. (You can never have enough of either!) This does make a lot and if you're watching the calories, make it once and send the rest home with company.

Corn Chowder

1/2 pound good quality smoked bacon, chopped
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
2 potatoes, cubed
2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
3 cups whole milk
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Saute bacon in a large pot. Add celery, carrots and onion and saute until tender. Add stock and heat to simmering. Add potatoes and cook until tender. Add corn.
Make a béchamel of the butter, flour and milk. Add cheese and stir until it melts and blends with the sauce.
Add to vegetable mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper.

I also wanted to include a Bay Area classic which was born in San Francisco but which has certainly traveled the world over in popularity and interpretation.
Although there are several theories as to how Cioppino got its name (ranging from the ridiculous to the more sensible) everyone agrees that it was the invention of Italian immigrant fisherman in San Francisco. This particular version is based on one from our own local-boy-who-made-it-big, Guy Fieri.


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups diced onion
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced fennel
1 red bell pepper, diced
8 large cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
6 cups passata, or equivalent of canned tomatoes passed through a food mill
1/2 cup clam juice
Juice of 2 lemons
4 cups water
3 bay leaves
3 dried Calabrian chilies (chopped)or 3 tablespoons dried chili flakes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ounce Sambuca liqueur
4 pounds Dungeness crab, cooked, cleaned, cracked and broken into pieces
2 pounds little neck clams, cleaned and scrubbed
2 pounds firm white fish such as cod or halibut cut into 2-inch pieces
2 pounds shrimp, shell on, deveined
1 cup chopped parsley
Fresh bread

In a large stock pot over medium heat, add oil and saute onions, fennel, bell pepper and garlic until soft. Add tomato paste and cook until caramelized. Add wine, tomato sauce, clam and lemon juices, water, bay leaves, chili, oregano, basil, salt, pepper and liqueur to sauteed vegetables and simmer for 1 hour. Add crab and simmer for 20 minutes. Add clams and simmer 5 minutes longer. Add cod and continue to cook for another 4 or 5 minutes without stirring.
Finally, add shrimp and cook until it turns pink. Stir in parsley and serve with bread.

The last recipe on the show I didn't give any measurements for as it's a totally thrown together recipe that I literally chop-and-throw into the soup pot! But it's good, hearty and healthy!

Chicken Vegetable Soup with Pasta

1 quart purchased chicken stock
1/2 onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1/2 cup soup pasta such as pastinne, stelline or orzo
1 egg
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Large pinch of dried thyme

Bring stock to a boil, add vegetables and thyme, lower heat and simmer until they are tender.
Add pasta of choice and simmer until tender.
Beat egg and cheese together and drizzle into simmer soup stirring.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

As I mentioned on the show, Monday, I hated cauliflower as a kid. I think the first time I ever ate it willingly was when it showed up on the table hidden under a lake of yellow cheese sauce. Now what kid could resist that? (Don't answer I know there are hard core veggie haters in this world.)
I think a big part of my strong dislike for a lot of veggies had to do with their executions. Boiled or just steamed does not do it for me. That is the sort of fare hospitals serve (and airlines used to).
I think I really grew to love this vegetable when I started learning Italian cooking. So many wonderful combinations for this native Italian vegetable.
Anything in a gratin dish with béchamel and cheese becomes magic in my mouth! But don't stop there. Add bacon, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes and I'm in the throes of ecstasy! Those are the ingredients in the Brazilian treatment of cauliflower gratin pictured above which I made on Monday. I will not go into a treatise on Brazilian food here but suffice it to say that Brazil's rich immigrant history make it's cuisine just as precious!

Couve-flor Gratinada

1 cauliflower
2 oz of bacon into small cubes
2 oz of dried tomatoes into strips
2 oz canned mushrooms
1 cup parmesan grated
2 oz of Mozzarella grated
2 cups ) of milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Grating of fresh nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt butter, add flour and stir until golden. Add milk,
stirring vigorously. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, 2/3 cup of parmsan and
set aside.
Fry the bacon. Add tomatoes and mushrooms. Reserve. In a
baking dish, place the cooked cauliflower followed by the béchamel, bacon mixture and topped with cheese. Bake until golden.

Another of my favorite recipes for cauliflower is also a grantinee with the addition of eggs and ham. It's one that will disappear quickly from your table. Again, it's got béchamel and cheese so what's not to love?

Cauliflower Sformato

1 medium cauliflower
2 tablespoons butter plus more for the baking dish
Béchamel of 1 tablespoon butter, 1 1/2 tablespoons flour and 1 cup milk.
2 extra large eggs, beaten well
1/4 pound boiled ham, julienned
Freshly ground black pepper
Grating of fresh nutmeg
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Wash, trim, separate into florets the cauliflower and boil in salted water until tender. Drain well and set aside.
Melt butter in a large skillet and add cauliflower turning the pieces so each is coated. Remove to bowl and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Make béchamel and add all but 1/4 cup in with the cauliflower. Add eggs, ham, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and 2/3 cup of the cheese mixing well.
Butter baking dish and turn mixture into it spreading the contents smooth.
Spread the remaining béchamel over, sprinkle remaining cheese and dot with small pieces of butter.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a golden crust forms on top.
Let cool some before serving.

I can't tell you for sure whether the next recipe is from Puglia or Sicily as the pasta used (orecchiette) is definitely a Puglian classic but the ingredients sing the song of Persephone, the goddess who returns to the island of Sicily every spring. In any case, this is a recipe I come back to time and again. If you want to tempt the goddess to return soon, drizzle a little truffle oil (black or white) on your serving. I don't know who wouldn't come back from the underworld for a taste!

Orecchiette in Cauliflower Sauce

1 head cauliflower, divided into florets
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 dried Calabrian chili chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes)
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 pound orecchiette
Grated pecorino

Cook cauliflower in plenty of salted, boiling water until tender. Remove with slotted spoon. (Do not discard water.)
Heat oil in a large skillet and add anchovies, mashing them into the oil with the back of a wooden spoon until they dissolve.
Add garlic and chili and cook briefly. Add cauliflower and mash into pan with the back of a wooden spoon.
While you are cooking the above, cook the pasta in the same water in which you cooked the cauliflower adding water if needed.
When pasta is done, transfer to the skillet with a slotted spoon.
Add some of the pasta water to sauce if needed to thin it out.
Garnish with parsley and serve with pecorino cheese.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mesclado de Cholcolate

Posted a picture of this Brazilian chocolate torte and my iphone went dinging like I'd hit the jackpot at Twin Pines Casino!

I was amazed at how easy this is to make. Goes together in no time at all and is perfect for an afternoon indulgence.

Mesclado de Chocolate

100 grams butter

3 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

300 grams butter cookies, coarsely crumbled into nuggets.

100 grams of dark chocolate, melted

100 grams of white chocolate, melted.

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and add honey, stirring well to combine.

Add cocoa powder and stir well to combine.

Fold in cookies.

Pour into a 22 cm, buttered cake pan. Press down on mixture and smooth out with back of wooden spoon.

Pour dark chocolate over top to completely cover smoothing it out with an offset spatula

Pour white chocolate onto the center and with the tip of a wooden skewer, make a pattern of your desire.

Refrigerate for at least one hour or until set.

Remove cake and garnish with cinnamon stick and candied cherries if desired.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bread Salad

The other day while looking over the last of the season's tomatoes, my mind went back to this past summer and to the recipe that sustained me, that let me enjoy the offerings of the season while helping me improve my health and drop a lot of unwanted pounds.

In a recent blog, I mentioned admiration for generations past for taking something that many of us will now throw away (stale bread) and do something remarkable with it. I mean really, Americans pay good money every November for bags or boxes of stale bread (white or corn) with which to stuff their turkeys.

My biggest tip on making bread salad is to use a dry, crumbly type of bread. This will soak up the juices making a thick dressing which adds to the wonderful texture of this salad. The amounts I am going to give are not exact as this is something that I never measure.

Bread Salad

1 pound string beans, cleaned, cut into two-inch pieces, cooked and cooled

1 large red, yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded, deveined and diced

1 cup sweet red onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 cucumber, peeled, halved, scooped of its seeds and diced

2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

3 or 4 slices of bread dried to a crumbly stage

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can good quality tuna (preferably imported from Italy) packed in olive oil

Combine vegetables and beans and mix well.

Crumble bread into salad and mix.

Whisk oil and vinegar together, add and mix

Season with salt and pepper, add tuna and mix to combine.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Stuffed Peppers and Stuffed Cabbage

I wanted to post a picture of the peppers from this recipe as I made them last week but greedily devoured them before they had a chance to pose!
This is a picture of my sister and her partner's pepper crop from this year. A very beautiful array! As I mentioned on the show, if you can't get the long Italian variety of Bull's Horn peppers, you may try Hatch chilies if they are still available. Even if you must use regular bell peppers, try the recipe. I would use either red, yellow or orange. I don't think the taste of green peppers goes with this. Also, if using bell peppers, allow them to bake a little while longer as the flesh is much thicker.

Stuffed Italian Peppers

1/2 cup Arborio rice
8 long Italian peppers
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 pound ground veal
1 large egg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
Few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dry oregano~
3 cups of my Sicilian tomato sauce (Recipe follows)

Cook the rice in salted boiling water for about 12 min. Drain and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven too 400°F.
Cut stems from the peppers. Deseed and devein.
Heat some of the oil in a small skillet and fry the onion just until it wilts.
Remove to a bowl along with the meat, egg, cheese, parsley, oregano and rice and mix well to combine.
Stuff the peppers with the mixture.
Pour some oil in the bottom of a baking dish, place the peppers in it and place in oven for 20 minutes turning the peppers every 5 minutes or so until they are lightly brown.
Pour in enough of the tomato sauce to barely cover the peppers and bake for an additional 40 minutes. Let set 10 minutes before serving.

Sicilian Tomato Sauce

1 quart of passata or one 28-oz can and one 14-oz can of plum tomatoes passed through a food mill.
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste (optional)
1 dried Calabrian hot pepper, chopped (or chili flakes to taste) (optional)
One bunch of basil

In a pot, place the passata, oil and garlic and let simmer for 25-30 minutes.
Add salt and sugar (if using) to taste.
Turn off the heat and let basil steep for a good five minutes.
Remove garlic and basil and strain through a mesh strainer pressing with the back of a wooden spoon to let the sauce drip back into the pan.

As I mentioned on the show, I lost my original recipe for stuffed cabbage leaves. This is not a bad one and I've used it several times. But just a word to the wise cook: Do not keep recipes in a regular manila folder unless you really don't want them!!!!
Nuff sed!

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

1 pound ground lamb
1 large egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice
1/2 cup water
1 large carrot, grated
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Several grinding of fresh black pepper
1 head cabbage
One 28-ounce can tomato puree
1 cup water
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Juice of one lemon

Core cabbage and plunge into salted boiling water until the first layers of outer leaves are tender. Remove from water, let cool slightly and remove limp leaves. Repeat the process until you have 12 leaves for stuffing. Save any leaves not big enough for stuffing. Set aside.
Mix together the meat,egg, breadcrumbs, rice, water, carrot, garlic, salt and pepper and set aside.
Heat the tomato puree, water, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice in a large skillet until sugar is dissolved.
Trim the thick bottom off the leaves to make sure they are supple enough to roll.
With the bottom of the leaf facing you, place some stuffing in the leaf and bring the sides in then roll it up away from you. Place it seam side down in the skillet. Repeat with the remainder of the leaves.
If there is not enough sauce to cover the rolls, add water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours shaking the skillet every so often to make sure the rolls do not stick.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stuffed Artichokes and Eggplants

I think we are all pretty lucky to come from a line of people with good imaginations and a good sense of thrift.
Where we have no problem with tossing out things we feel useless or not fresh enough to bother with, our forbears did not have that luxury of wastefulness but had to use everything to make the food go as far as it could. And we are the ones who enjoy the fruits of those imaginations. The idea of sausage alone bears this out!
But the lowly bread crumb is what makes these two recipes so special. Who would have guessed that old bread could be elevated to such magnificence except the wise person who could not afford to throw it away? I wonder how many of us still buy bread crumbs in the can while tossing out that loaf that got moldy or too stale? (Raises hand. lol)
It really only takes a few minutes to chop it in the food processor and let it dry out on a baking sheet. And you can pat yourself on the back afterwards.
However you do it, breadcrumbs are the stars of the next two recipes along with some important supporting members of course.

Stuffed Artichokes

3 medium artichokes
1 1/2 cups plain breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons parsley, minced
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
1 anchovy fillet, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, enough to moisten the mixture

Take the artichokes by the stem and smash each one on the top of the counter allowing the leaves to spread.
Cut off the stems, peel them and mince them. This you will later add to the stuffing mixture.
With a kitchen shears, cut off the points of the leaves and discard.
Mix all the ingredients together and put some of the stuffing in between the leaves.
Add enough water in a pot to come up 1 1/2 inches. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a few chili flakes in.
Add artichokes so they sit upright. Cover and steam for about 45 minutes or until tender adding more water if it gets too low.

Stuffed Baby Eggplant

8 Japanese or baby eggplant (around 8-9 inches long)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
1/4 cup unflavored bread crumbs, lightly toasted
Enough extra virgin olive oil to moisten
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thin

Trim tops of eggplants, split lengthwise and cut a deep crisscross in each cut side without going down to the skin.
Mix together the garlic, parsley, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Moisten with olive oil.
Stuff each eggplant with some of the mixture making sure to get it into the crevices.
Place in a large skillet and drizzle with olive oil making sure some gets into the bottom of the skillet.
Cover and turn heat to medium high.
When they are tender enough to pierce with the tip of a paring knife, close the heat, top with cheese and replace the lid until the cheese melts.
Serve with good crusty bread to soak up the flavorful oil that will result in the bottom of the pan. This can be poured around the side of the platter on which you will serve the eggplant.

Pasta al Forno (2 recipes)

Yes, I am a week late on these. Hope these two wonderful recipes will sort of make up for the wait. The second one is dead easy while this first one demands a little more effort. Nonetheless, I hope you will put forth the effort as I know you will be greatly rewarded not only by the wonderful taste and texture of this but also my the nods from your guests who are lucky enough to taste it.

Baked Zita with Eggplant

1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/3 inch rounds
Olive oil
Ground black pepper
1 medium onion, diced
1 pound Italian-style sausage (hot or sweet)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
One 28-ounce can tomatoes passed through a food mill. (about the same amount of passata)
1/2 cup chopped black olives
Pepper flakes to taste or 1 Calabrian dried hot pepper, chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
Grating of fresh nutmeg
8 ounces cooked ziti or penne
1 cup fresh mozzarella, diced
1/3 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Salt, pepper and fry eggplant slices in olive oil and drain on paper towels. (Alternatively, you may cook the eggplant on the grill in which case only add pepper after they are done grilling.)
Saute onion and sausage in a little olive oil until onions are tender.
Move onion and sausage mixture to one side of pan and brown the tomato paste.
Add tomatoes, olives, red pepper and cook until thick.
Make a béchamel from the flour, butter, milk and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a casserole, place 1/2 eggplant, 1/2 pasta and 1/2 of sauce.
Top with the béchamel, mozarella and grated cheese.
Bake for 1 hour. Let cool some before serving.

This next one is an easier version of the first in a way as it does not require nearly as much work and can be made even quicker if you happen to have some meat sauce tucked away in the freezer or leftover from an earlier recipe.

1.5 pounds rigatoni
2 cups veal ragu (see recipe below)
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
Salt to taste
1/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
Butter for baking dish

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Choose a baking dish that can accommodate all the
Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water until just al
dente. (It will undergo further cooking so you want it a
little underdone, not much.)
Drain well and place in a large bowl.]
Make the béchamel and add to the pasta along with the ragu
and 1/3 cup of the cheese. Mix well.
Butter the baking dish and add contents of the bowl.
Even out and add remaining grated cheese plus several pieces
of butter scattered here and there.
Bake uncovered in the uppermost part of oven for 10 minutes
or until a brown crust forms. Let set to cool some
before serving.

Veal Ragu

Olive oil
1 pound ground veal
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup onion, finely minced
1 cup celery, finely minced
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt to taste
Sprinkling of ground cinnamon