Herb and Citrus Crusted Fish

herb crusted fish Here’s a simple and easy way to prepare fish and a great excuse to use up some of those fresh herbs you got growing in your garden. It’s healthy, light, packed with flavor and you can get your dinner on the table in no time!

garden herbs There’s no exact recipe here, just pick some of your favorite herbs, I used basil, chives and parsley. Chop the herbs up real good, zest a whole lemon and grate one clove of garlic over a microplane, then mix everything together.

Dijon mustard coated cod Choose a beautiful fish filet, something white preferably, I used wild caught Atlantic cod.

Place your fish on a parchment lined baking sheet, season it with salt and pepper and brush some of your best Dijon mustard all over the top.

Don’t be heavy handed with the mustard, just a nice swipe all over.

herb covered cod Now pat your herb, citrus and garlic mixture right on top, the mustard will help everything stick and add to the flavor.

Drizzle generously with olive oil before placing into the oven.

herb covered cod Roast at 400 degrees F. for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish filets.

herb covered fish Juicy, moist, with a ton of flavor and no breadcrumbs were required!

roasted veggies I roasted tiny patty pan squash along with baby zucchini, mini peppers and sweet potato slices for my side, they took as long as the fish did to cook.

herb covered cod with roasted veggies A healthy, vibrant, dinner indeed!

 

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Summer Polenta Pizza with Grilled Corn and Roasted Tomatoes

polenta with grilled corn and roasted tomatoes Here’s a great way to showcase all those summer veggies that are popping up all over. Cook up some creamy polenta, spread it out in a pan then use it as a delicious base to set all your veggies on top. The polenta will firm up a bit and you’ll be able to cut it into wedges and serve it just like pizza!

ingredients for polenta with grilled corn As far as veggies go, the sky’s the limit as to what you’ll want to top it with, but I couldn’t resist my sweet garden tomatoes and some fresh corn that I recently picked up and decided to grill. My polenta pizza was served as a side to go along with skewered grilled shrimp, but it can certainly stand on it’s own as a main dish along with a salad.

polenta with grilled corn and roasted tomatoes Be generous with the toppings so that every wedge you cut is loaded with goodness. I love slicing my corn kernels into planks, I think it looks more appealing and deepens the flavor.

polenta with grilled corn and roasted tomatoes Speaking of flavor, what’s more intensely flavored than roasted tomatoes? Nothing in my opinion. Spoon those warm juices and sweet tomatoes all over the top, it’s a match made in heaven with the corn.

polenta with grilled corn and roasted tomatoes The polenta base is creamy yet firm, cheesy, herby, and the top is studded with all that summer offers us. It’s oh so good, indulge!

polenta with grilled corn and roasted tomatoes 

Summer Polenta Pizza with Grilled Corn and Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 pint mixed colored cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 garlic clove grated on a microplane
  • olive oil
  • a small handful of fresh basil and parsley
  • 2 ears fresh corn, grilled and cut into planks
  • FOR THE POLENTA
  • 1 cup corn polenta, quick cooking kind
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 teaspoon, salt
  • 2 scallions sliced
  • 1/2 cup or so parmesan or romano cheese

Instructions

  1. Place foil onto a rimmed baking sheet and place cut tomatoes and grated garlic on top.
  2. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper and drizzle all over with olive oil.
  3. Place into a 375 degree F.oven and roast until tomatoes blister and juices run into the oil.
  4. Sprinkle with fresh basil when finished then set aside.
  5. For the polenta place the water into a medium sized saucepan then bring the water to a boil.
  6. Add the butter, salt and quickly whisk in the polenta.
  7. Reduce to simmer and keep whisking til nice an smooth and thickens nicely about 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and stir in grated cheese, parsley, basil and scallions.
  9. Evenly spread polenta on the bottom of a serving vessel.
  10. Place your corn and tomatoes all over the top, including the juices of the roasted tomatoes.
  11. Add more herbs and cut scallions for garnish and a final drizzle of olive oil.
  12. Let the polenta firm up, it doesn't take long, then cut into wedges and serve.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/07/summer-polenta-grilled-corn-roasted-tomatoes.html

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Zucchini Noodles with Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Cream

zucchini noodles with tomatoes and cream Zucchini noodles have been all the rage for quite a while now, I’ve even made them my self and posted it here on my blog. In the past I’ve used my handy julienne slicer to create my “pasta” noodles but recently I bought a Spiralizer to see what all the hype was about.

I’m really not a person who has lots of big gadgets, quite frankly I don’t like cleaning all the different parts, but I’m going to make an exception with this one, I loved it!

What I like about it is that you get long continuous noodles that really look like pasta, it’s super healthy and light, a pasta alternative when you want one, it’s low carb, gluten free and you can create a million different recipes with it just like you can with regular pasta, and just like I did with this dreamy sauce, more on that below!

So far I’ve only tried it with zucchini and yellow squash but it’s also good with potatoes, butternut squash, onions, carrots, cucumbers, the list goes on and on and it comes with three different blades.

zucchini noodles I was surprised how easy it was to use, just cut the tip and bottom off your zucchini, then slice it right in half and attach the big hunk to the slicer, now turn the handle and watch your noodles appear.  I couldn’t stop, I was out of control I used five zucchini and two yellow squash, I had a ton when I was done and it all came out perfectly, nice and curly and long.

zucchini noodleszucchini noodlesspiral vegetable slicer The feature I really love about this is that it actually cores your squash, see the picture above, all the seeds are contained which makes for a nice dry “pasta” and you know how wet zucchini can be. In fact I had so much leftover that I put it into zip bags and two days later the “pasta” was still dry, no moisture at all in the bag which is so typical of cut zucchini, that was a big plus for me!

slow roasted cherry tomatoes Now for that dreamy sauce I paired it with, it came straight out of this book, by Domenica Marchetti. I’m always roasting cherry tomatoes, I’ve done it a zillion times, but never have I placed them into heavy cream and parmesan afterwards. Brilliant!

slow roasted cherry tomatoes and cream

Wow!  I knew I would love this recipe the minute I saw it in her book, it’s decadent and oh so flavorful and actually a little goes a long way. But what’s not to love about slow roasted tomatoes, cream, parmesan, basil and thyme, it’s a match made in heaven!

zucchini noodles with tomatoes and cream And you might not feel as guilty spooning it over healthy zucchini pasta noodles, I didn’t!

Zucchini Noodles with Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Cream

Ingredients

  • 3 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash made into zucchini noodles by using either a Spiralizer or a julienne slicer.
  • For the Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Cream Sauce, adapted from Domenica Marchetti's, (The Glorious Vegetables of Italy)
  • I used a mixture of both yellow and red cherry tomatoes for added color
  • 1 pint of yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 pint of red cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 or 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • small handful, chopped fresh basil
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Arrange the cherry tomatoes cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle all over with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 275 degrees F for 1 1/2 hours until puckered but still juicy.
  2. Heat the butter in a saute pan over medium low heat, when the butter is melted and starts to foam add the shallot, cook until softened.
  3. Scrape in the tomatoes and any juices that collected on the baking sheet.Add the thyme sprigs and pour in the cream, I added half of the cheese by sprinkling it around the tomatoes and into the cream.
  4. Heat gently on low until it simmers. Turn off the heat and stir in basil.
  5. In a larger saute pan, drizzle with oilve oil and place your zucchini noodles on top, gently cooking and carefully tossing until just slightly wilted and still al dente, just a few minutes.
  6. Place zucchini noodles onto a serving platter and spoon the sauce right over the top, adding more parmesan cheese.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/07/zucchini-noodles-slow-roasted-cherry-tomatoes-cream.html

 

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Summer Entertaining with Grilled Whole Fish

grilled red snapper Are you intimidated by the thought of grilling a whole fish? Don’t be, the entire process is actually very simple! The most important thing you can do is to buy your fish from a reputable source and become friends with your fish monger. I trust the guys at my Whole Foods, in fact I told them that I wanted to grill a whole fish and they gave me a couple of suggestions, on the day I was there it was either sea bass or red snapper, to which they highly recommended the snapper, so that’s what I went with.

Your fish monger is your friend, he will do all the dirty work for you, he’ll scale, gut and remove the gills and all you have to do is take it home, stuff it, and stick it on the grill! I told you it was easy!

When you get it home make three or four diagonal cuts on the top of both sides straight down to the back bone, not only will it ensure even cooking but you’ll be able to tuck  lemon slices and shaved garlic inside the slits like I did. Open up the cavity and drizzle good olive oil inside, salt and pepper then stuff it with your favorite herbs, more lemon and a few tomato slices, finish by rubbing the whole fish with olive oil, both sides. It’s that easy, no measuring, just go for it!

 

grilled red snapper Place your fish on a hot oiled grill on low direct heat, flipping only once and cooking until completely opaque, about ten or so minutes per side. (my 2 lb. fish took about 25 minutes). Some of the skin might stick to the grill and peel off when you flip it over but for the most part it will stay intact and the skin will hold everything together and protect the meat from the flame.

grilled red snapper The end result is so delicious, a slightly smoky, moist but yet firm, sweet subtle flavor infused with herbs, lemon, tomato and garlic. So good!

Feel free to drizzle more olive oil on top to finish it off. Oh and if the eye creeps you out like it did me, cover it with a basil leaf!

red, white and blue potato salad Keep your side dishes simple because the fish is really the show stopper. Since it’s 4th of July weekend how about my Red, White and Blue Potato Salad? (recipe below).

red, white and blue potato salad This would go really nice with the fish. Roasted small red, white and blue potatoes along with roasted red pepper chunks, onions, parsley and lots of lemon zest all tossed while it’s warm in an olive oil and lemon dressing.

quinoa tabbouleh with kale Or how about a colorful healthy Quinoa Tabbouleh with Kale and Grilled Vegetables this would be a wonderful side as well plus can make it the day before, and that’s a good thing!

Cook 1 cup of rinsed quinoa with 2 cups of water, cool it down, then add any grilled veggies you want, I used red and yellow pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, then to that I added red onion, 1/2 can of chick peas rinsed, sliced grape tomatoes, lots of curly kale and parsley, all tossed in a lemon and olive oil dressing.  Sorry, no exact amounts, just add in as much as you want, you’ll know when to stop.

 

tomato, avocado and mozzarella salad Or you just might want to keep it real simple by making a layered Tomato, Avocado and Fresh Mozzarella Salad, just be sure to top it off with some good quality olive oil and fresh chopped fragrant basil, a summer staple for sure!

Have a Happy, Healthy 4th!

Red, White and Blue Potato Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. assorted small red, white and blue potatoes cut in half
  • 1 large red bell pepper cut into 1 inch dice
  • 1/2 red onion sliced thin
  • 4 scallion, sliced
  • handfull each of chopped parsley and chives
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • lemon and olive oil dressing

Instructions

  1. Coat potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 425 F. until fork tender.
  2. Roast the chopped red pepper at same temp in a separate pan while potatoes are roasting, until tender.
  3. When potatoes and peppers are done, toss into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, parsley, chives, scallions, red onion and zest, toss well and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Drizzle on desired amount of lemon and olive oil dressing.
  5. LEMON AND OLIVE OIL DRESSING
  6. Start with fresh squeezed lemon juice, about 3 tablespoons, a small smashed garlic clove, whisk in good olive oil, salt and pepper. Taste it as you go along checking for the right balance of juice vs olive oil, you’ll know when you get it just right!
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/07/summer-entertaining-grilled-whole-fish.html

 

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Summer Crostini with Garden Pestos

crostini with garden pestos Now that summer is in full swing there’s usually always something to harvest daily from our veggie garden, some days it’s just a few stalks of kale or swiss chard, a tiny bunch of broccolini or a few cherry tomatoes. Nothing yet to make a huge meal from, but perfect for making small bites!

garden basil One thing I do have an abundance of right now are fresh herbs, the rain just exploded their growth. Basil, mint, thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage and tarragon are growing all over the place and I feel so guilty if I don’t use them all!

garden herbs I was recently gifted with some garlic scapes, (thanks Julie and Ken) so I thought making a few different pestos would be the perfect way to start using up all my bounty.

homemade garden pestos So I made my trusty Basil Pesto, and tried out two new ones, Pea and Mint, and Garlic Scape and Kale Pesto. If you use your food processor you can whip these up in no time! Pesto’s are so versatile you can put them in and on just about anything, pastas, grilled meats, soups, pizzas, veggies, fish, omelettes, I could go on and on, I even throw some in when making egg salad!

crostini with garden pestos Another fun way to eat up your pestos is to slather some on top of  crostini. Crostini are thin slices of toasted bread drizzled with olive oil and garnished with  endless possibilities. By adding  in your favorite charcuterie, grilled veggies, various cheeses, good olives, fresh fruit, etc. you can create an elegant antipasti, lunch or dinner, just don’t forget the wine!

crostini with garden pestos I was in love with this recipe the minute I saw it, a crusty piece of bread topped with pea and mint pesto, creamy Burrata cheese and a slice of prosciutto, this is to die for, it’s a meal in itself! The only thing I changed up in the recipe was the cheese, I used grated parmesan for mine.

If you don’t want to use meat try some thinly sliced grilled zucchini to replace it.   Again, I repeat, to die for!

crostini with garden harvest Here are some other ideas for crostini using up whatever you might have growing in your gardens.

crostini with garden harvest Roasted tomato slices topped with basil pesto***** Mascarpone cheese topped with garlic scape and kale pesto, roasted mushrooms, leeks and thyme*****

Ricotta topped with garlic and red pepper sauteed broccolini***** Goat cheese topped with garlic and red pepper sauteed swiss chard*****

crostini with garden harvest It’s all good! Small bites, big flavor, simple and sophisticated!

Garlic Scape and Kale Pesto

Ingredients

  • 2 garlic scapes cut in chunks
  • 2 cups kale, stems removed
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds or walnuts
  • 1/3 cup grated romano cheese
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a food processor add garlic scapes, nuts and kale, pulsing until chopped up fine.
  2. Add in cheese, red pepper and salt and pepper, process until incorporated.
  3. While machine is running, pour olive oil down the tube until you get a loose consistency.
  4. Cover and refrigerate.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/06/summer-crostini-garden-pestos.html

 

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Celebrating with Timpano!

timpano It’s Timpano time again! If you’re a regular reader of my blog you know I previously featured Timpano a few times already in the course of my almost seven years here on Proud Italian Cook. I can’t help it, it’s such a celebratory meal, like making homemade ravioli, I don’t make it that often but when I do, it’s for a special occasion.

Many years ago I watched the movie Big Night, which by the way I think is one of the best “foodie” movies ever made, two brothers own a restaurant that’s not doing so well so they try and impress there guests by making a Timpano.

Stanley Tucci is in the movie and the actual Timpano recipe comes from his own personal family. To me the highlight of the movie was the  Timpano scene. It will be forever embedded in my mind,  here’s a You Tube clip, and the minute I saw it I knew I would be making this spectacular meal, it’s like an event, it actually consists of very common ingredients, nothing much out of the ordinary, but the presentation is extraordinary!

ingredients for making timpano When making Timpano you’ll find that it’s all about using the correct pan which so happens to be  made of enamelware, you have to have the right size and shaped pan to hold three pounds of pasta, provolone, eggs, mini meatballs, Genoa salami, sauce and grated cheese and it has to be deep enough so you can make several layers before it gets nicely wrapped into the dough and when you finely unmold it, there’s a nice dome like shape to it, here’s what I use.  This recipe feeds at least 16 people!

I’m not going to kid you, it’s a labor of love, but isn’t that what we all do for special occasions, we go all out?  What I really like about making Timpano is that everything can be prepped way ahead of time. I make all my sauce and mini meatballs a week before and stick them in the freezer until the day before, then a couple of days before the party I boil and peel my hard boiled eggs, dice up the provolone and Genoa salami, and make sure I have plenty of romano cheese grated.

Over the years I’ve adapted the recipe a little, I don’t make the heavy ragu that the original recipe calls for, I personally don’t think you need it, there’s so much meat that goes into the layers anyway, to me a nice light marinara made with olive oil, fresh basil, garlic and good San Marzano tomatoes is just right, of course I always make plenty of extra sauce because you’ll want to spoon some on each piece.

The recipe gives you the exact amounts of cheese, salami and meatballs you should use but I always throw in extra, the only thing I do exact is the hardboiled egg amount.  I will post the link to the original recipe at the end of this post.

rolled out timpano dough I can’t tell you how much I love this dough, it comes out perfect every time, I make it the night before, wrap it good in plastic wrap then refrigerate it, just bring it to room temperature before you start to roll it.  Be patient when rolling, let it rest, then roll, it needs to be thin, you should be able to see the counter coming through the dough.

rolled out timpano dough The dough circle needs to be big enough to drape the bowl like in the photo above because once you start adding all the ingredients the sides will rise up a bit, plus you need enough to be able to cover and wrap all the ingredients inside.

steps in making timpano Then all the layering begins! See the bottom picture of the pan? look at the edge, you can see the pan design coming through, that’s how thin your dough has to be otherwise your Timpano will be too heavy and crusty and you don’t want that!

making timpano Layered up to the top, almost done with the filling!

topping off the timpano Add the last layer of sauce and a drizzle of beaten eggs all over the top to seal everything in.

wrapped timpano ready for the oven Wrap it, trim it, and stick it in the oven! My advice is to read, read, read the recipe, I even printed it out and highlighted the important steps so I wouldn’t forget, at one point you have to take it out of the oven and put foil over the top and then back in, if you forget this step with the foil it can ruin the whole thing, my poor friend did that once, so please use a timer and pay attention when it dings.

finished baking timpano Every oven is different but the Timpano should be golden brown with an internal temperature of 120 degrees.

Timpano When you unmold it you can’t just cut into it, a very important step is to let it rest, I repeat, let it rest! If you don’t you’ll have a gloppy mess, and that would be so sad after all that work. Go pour some drinks and mingle with your guests, give it about an hour, believe me it will still be hot.

cut open timpano Then you’ll be able to cut it into sharp clean wedges for everyone, see how nice and thin that dough is?

grilled vegetable platter You might wonder what to serve with Timpano, well since it’s summertime I decided to make a platter of grilled veggies and a nice big Italian salad, that’s it, that’s all you’ll need, trust me.

plated timpano slice Cut your wedges which are nicely held together and spoon warm marinara on top, you’re ready to dig in!

a wedge of timpano If you’re lucky enough there might be a piece leftover for the next day…

celebrating with timpano We had a lot to celebrate, with a ton of hard work and endurance my daughter received her yoga teacher training certificate, it was also my sons birthday, and my niece and a good family friend just completed a triathlon. We’re very proud of them all, they work extremely hard but they sure know how to party!

Here’s a link to the Timpano recipe, within that recipe you’ll find another link to the Family Tucci ragu.

 

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Summer Entertaining Ideas

grilled clams and squid Summertime entertaining is in full bloom with backyard barbeques, pool parties and endless celebrations. Here’s just a few of my tried and true recipes that I make quite often during the summer and have always been a hit with friends and family.

Impress your guests with some Grilled Calamari, I buy mine already cleaned so all you have to do is marinate it in olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. When you’re ready to grill it, place it into a grill basket so it’s easy to toss around to achieve a nice char, it only takes about 5 minutes with the gas burners on high.

Grilled Clams with Tomato, Wine and Sausage Sauce, I would say this is a terrific dish for Father’s Day, it’s a manly meal, messy and good, just serve some crusty bread to soak up that luscious sauce! grilled seafood Did you know you can cook lobster on the grill? Well you can and it tastes amazing! I always remove the lobster meat this way, it’s full proof, then all you have to do is brush your lobster down with a mixture of garlic and butter or olive oil, sprinkle paprika on top then place shell side down with the lobster meat perched on top directly on the grill,  cook on medium until opaque, so delicious!

How about a Seafood Boil, it’s casual eating where every thing is placed in front of you and all that is needed is some cold wine and good conversation!

Anything planked is fine by me, salmon, cheese, vegetables, shrimp, you name it, I’ve done it and posted it here on my blog. The smokey wood flavor that comes from the boards enhance everything you place on it.  Here’s another favorite of mine, Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops. summer grilling Who doesn’t like Beer Can Chicken, it always comes out so moist on the inside and crispy on the outside, it never fails!

How about some pork? You can’t go wrong with Italian sausage, ribs or chops. But maybe you’re in the mood for some shish kabobs complete with the veggies, all you’ll need is a salad or two on the side and your meal is complete! Italian party food Nine times out of ten at every big party I always serve  Sausage and Peppers and Baked Mostaccioli, you got to have some pasta, and besides it feeds a ton of people! party sides We’re artichoke obsessed in my family and these Grilled Artichokes always go so fast, they’re easy to make, it’s a nice light summertime version.

Make an impression with a beautiful round platter filled with thin cut Zucchini Carpaccio, sprinkled with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, a great way to use up all your garden zucchini and a pretty impressive looking side dish. grilled veggie pizza Grilled Veggie Pizza, Oh My! I have two words for you. Make It! grilled shrimp and orzo salad Next time you have to bring something to a party, bring this! Orzo with Grilled Shrimp and Feta, the flavor combination is out of this world good. I get asked to make this all the time.

INGREDIENTS
Grilled shrimp (marinate the shrimp in lemon peel, lemon juice, olive oil, crushed garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes, then grill)
Cooked orzo pasta
Diced and seeded English cucumber
Diced red onion
Crumbled feta
Grape tomatoes, halved
Kalamata olives
 Lemon zest
Mint, parsley, oregano
Make a vinaigrette by whisking 3 parts good olive oil to 1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice, add 1 crushed garlic clove, salt and pepper. Taste it to your liking either adding more or less. Place all ingredients in a bowl, adding all the herbs, more feta, (make sure it’s in small crumbles) pour your vinaigrette over all the ingredients, taste it and make sure you have enough of everything! Adjust it to your liking.
Garnish with lemon slices.     Note: This was a huge catering pan, I used 3lbs. of cooked orzo and 2 lbs of medium shrimp, the rest of the ingredients I just judged until I thought I had enough, look at it and taste as you go!

party desserts And lastly you have to have some kind of dessert, my friend Debbie makes the best good old fashioned Lemon Bars, a combination of buttery shortbread and tangy, bright lemon. They’re irresistible and get devoured! She’s happy to share her recipe with you below.

And finally, this Grape Salad, people go bonkers over it, there won’t be one grape left in the bowl, trust me!

Happy Entertaining!

Deb's Lemon Bars

Ingredients

  • FOR CRUST
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temp
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup, powdered sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • FOR THE TOPPING
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups, granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons, fresh lemon juice ( a must!)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350, mix crust ingredients and pat into a 9 x 13 ungreased pan, spread to corners. I do this with my fork and fingers.
  2. Cook for 15 - 20 minutes, while it's cooking make the topping.
  3. Mix the topping together and pour carefully over the baked crust and bake for additional 25 minutes.
  4. Cut with a sharp knife after it has cooled and then dust with powdered sugar.
  5. Note from Marie:( I added lemon zest for garnish, totally optional )
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/06/summer-entertaining-ideas.html

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Blossom Onions Grilled and Planked with Red Pepper Aioli

Planked blossom onion You know those famous bloomin onions that are battered, deep fried, loaded with calories and sodium? Well here’s my version, it’s seasoned with fresh and dried herbs, olive oil and grated romano cheese, then they’re placed on a plank, grilled and served with a red pepper aioli sauce for dipping.

You can serve this as an appetizer or a side at any of your cookouts, it’s way healthier, the flavors taste amazing, and it has a great presentation.

cutting blossom onions First you have to select large sweet onions, I chose vidalia onions for this recipe, nice big ones. Next, you have to figure out how to cut the onions properly, I didn’t know how to do that until I did a little research on Google and found this step by step process, it was very helpful, easy to do ( with a sharp knife) and worked out perfectly.

Once you cut the onions properly the whole thing will blossom out just like a flower with petals, the more wedges cut into the onions the prettier it will look, that’s why you need to use large ones.

Then it’s all about the seasonings you choose and you’re ready to go, use your favorites.  Of course I made my onions Italian style, dusting with the dry first and then garnishing with the fresh. You can do spicy Cajun ,Mexican stlye, whatever sounds good to you, but always finishing the onions off with a generous drizzle of olive oil all over.

Do all your oiling and seasoning prior to placing on the plank to avoid flare ups, but it’s still a good idea to have a spray bottle filled with water near the grill just in case.

planked blossom onion I wanted to try planking my onions and using a hickory board this time, but you can certainly make this without a plank by simply wrapping the onion in heavy duty foil and placing the bundles straight on the grill for around 30 minutes or so, towards the end open up the foil so it gets golden on top.

Sometimes grilling planks can be hard to find especially when you want to try different wood flavors besides cedar, here’s a great online source.

planked blossom onions I cooked mine low and slow until the petals pulled off easily, it took about an hour, but the smell was intoxicating, I don’t have to tell you how good grilled onions smell, you can just imagine!

planked blossom onionsplanked blossom onion A quick red pepper aioli is delicious for dipping as you’re sipping a nice cold drink by your side. Enjoy!

Blossom Onions Grilled and Planked with Red Pepper Aioli

Ingredients

  • Large sweet onions, like Vadalia's
  • 1 large grilling plank, cedar, hickory, maple, etc. soaked for over 2 hours ( I could fit 3 onions on mine but plank sizes vary).
  • Italian seasoning blend, dry
  • grated romano or parmesan cheese
  • granulated garlic
  • paprika
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh herbs for garnish
  • FOR THE RED PEPPER AIOLI
  • 1 cup of roasted red peppers, either made yourself or a good jarred one that has been drained and patted dry well
  • 3/4 cup of good organic mayonnaise
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Prepare your onions by cutting 1/2 inch off the stem end, then peel all the skin off.
  2. Place onion cut side down, then 1/2 inch from the ROOT make a downward cut straight to your cutting board.
  3. Repeat to make four evenly spaced cuts around the onion.
  4. Continue slicing evenly between sections until you have 16 evenly spaced cuts.
  5. Turn the onion over and separate the petals.
  6. on foil ( for easy clean up) sprinkle your onions with the Italian seasoning mix, salt and pepper and grated cheese.
  7. Finish by generously drizzling olive oil all over.
  8. Place on plank, if using.
  9. Have grill heated on low and cook until petals pull off easily and our soft and tender. About 1 hour.
  10. Garnish with fresh basil and parsley.
  11. FOR THE AIOLI
  12. Place all the ingredients into a food processor until well blended.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/06/blossom-onions-grilled-planked-red-pepper-aioli.html

 

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Shaved Spring Vegetables with Garden Herbs

shaved spring vegetables Paper thin slices of shaved raw vegetables makes up this light, bright salad that has tons of color and crunch, it’s the perfect springtime and summer side! Imagine a piece of grilled fish served along side this salad, it just screams healthy and good for you!

colorful salad ingredients This recipe is specifically related to spring but it can be easily adapted by using fresh summer, fall or winter vegetables as well.

shaved spring vegetables What is a must for this recipe is the use of a mandolin, that’s the only way you will achieve thin and delicate slices, if you don’t have a mandolin I highly recommend getting one, I’m surprised how many times I use mine and it was very reasonably priced.

garden herbs I actually just recently tasted this salad at one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, Quartino, where small plates of freshly made Italian food is served and meant to be shared, this was one of the things we ordered and it was delicious and Chef John Coletta was gracious enough to pass on the recipe.

shaved spring vegetables I got carried away in the produce department as I often do and bought three different colored beets and three different colored carrots but you really don’t need to do that, using just one of each would be fine.

Don’t let eating raw beets scare you, they have a natural sweetness to them in their raw state, along with a nice crunch.

shaved spring vegetables Arugula and fresh garden herbs get tossed into this salad which enhances the flavor of all the shaved vegetables.

shaved vegetable salad with lemon olive oil Chef Coletta recommends a nice lemon and olive oil dressing for this salad but I was fortunate to receive some wonderful lemon infused extra virgin olive oil from Sorrento, via a wonderful company olio2go, that represents Italy’s finest olive oils. The intense flavor quite frankly, took this salad over the top!

Shaved Spring Vegetables with Garden Herbs

Ingredients

  • Adapted from Chef John Coletta
  • 1 small bunch of radishes, sliced paper thin
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, sliced paper thin
  • 4 stalks of celery, sliced paper thin
  • 1 yellow, red and orange carrot, peeled, sliced paper thin
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced paper thin
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced paper thin
  • beets, 1 striped, 1 yellow and 1 red, peeled, sliced paper thin
  • a generous handful of arugula leaves
  • 4 TBLsp, chives, cut into 1 inch sticks
  • 4 TBLsp, Italian parsley leaves
  • 2TBLsp, fennel tops
  • 4TBLsp celery tops
  • DRESSING
  • 2 TBLsp fresh lemon juice
  • 6 TBLsp, extra virgin olive oil, (or use lemon infused olive oil as I did.)
  • sea salt or kosher and ground black pepper, to taste.

Instructions

  1. Wash the vegetables well, peel beets and carrots with a vegetable peeler. Slice and prep all vegetables before, using a mandoline. Place the vegetables, herbs and arugula into a bowl. Drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil onto the vegetables and herbs, toss and season with salt and pepper. Arrange salad on a platter or bowl. Put the dressing on 15 minutes before serving to infuse and soften the vegetables slightly.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/05/shaved-spring-vegetables-garden-herbs.html

 

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Vegetable Pasta Salad with Broken Lasagna Noodles

vegetable pasta salad with broken lasagna noodles Here’s a pasta salad that’s great for entertaining, you can bring it to your next party or serve it all summer long, it pairs perfectly with just about anything you put on your grill. It’s colorful, fresh and looks pretty on a platter!

ingredients for pasta salad You can prep everything ahead of time, placing it all on your platter and then just before your going to serve it, drizzle on the dressing.

vegetable pasta salad with broken lasagna noodles I saw this salad in a BHG magazine and what attracted me to it was the broken lasagna noodles, a little different twist on your typical pasta salad which is usually made with bow ties or rotini pasta, plus I really loved the addition of green beans and tiny mozzarella balls.

vegetable pasta salad with broken lasagna noodles The combination of flavors take this salad over the top! This could easily be a meal in itself or the perfect side dish for your next cookout. Time to fire up the grill!

Vegetable Pasta Salad with Broken Lasagna Noodles

Ingredients

  • Adapted from BHG magazine
  • 8oz. dried lasagna noodles, broken into 3-inch pieces, or 3 cups of any pasta of your choice
  • 2 cups fresh, cooked thin green beans, (haricots verts)
  • 8 oz. bite size mozzarella balls
  • a handful of kalamata olives
  • 1 small yellow squash, sliced into thin rounds on a mandolin
  • 1 small zucchini squash, sliced into thin rounds on a mandolin
  • 1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes, preferably multi colored
  • 1 cup of arugula or spinach
  • 1/2 cup of thin sliced red onion
  • 2-3 oz, of salami cut into quarters

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta, rinse in cold water and pat dry.
  2. Arrange all the ingredients onto a nice big platter.
  3. Drizzle with a Lemon and Olive Oil Dressing or your favorite vinaigrette.
  4. For Lemon and Olive Oil Dressing.
  5. 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  6. zest of 1 lemon
  7. 2 or so tablespoons of lemon juice
  8. pinch of salt and pepper
  9. 1 garlic clove grated on a microplane
  10. Whisk it all together until incorporated, feel free to double this!
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/05/vegetable-pasta-salad-broken-lasagna-noodles.html

 

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Cedar Planked Shrimp with Parsley Pesto Sauce

cedar planked shrimp I read somewhere that said grilling fish on a cedar plank is the difference between a substandard cookout and a bodacious backyard blowout. Oh how true those words are! There’s something about that smoky, aromatic flavor that gets infused into your fish, it’s out of this world good!

cedar planked shrimp with parsley pesto sauce If you’ve never experienced the taste of anything cooked on a plank I encourage you to give it a try.  In the past I’ve done salmon several times, scallops, cheese,  and one of my most popular recipes, planked portobellos. Today I’m here to tell you to please make this shrimp!

The shrimp gets tossed in a light pesto made of parsley, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes and then as it’s cooking you brush even more of the pesto on, it’s so good!

cedar planked shrimp Remember to always use un-treated food safe planks. I recently got a good buy at my Costco, 8 boards, different lengths for 6.99. The hardest thing to do is to remember to soak your boards, I like to soak mine for around 2 hours. I usually fill a rimmed baking sheet with water, then submerge the board, and anchor it down with something heavy.

cedar planked shrimp Grill some lemon halves on the side they’ll plump up and get real juicy, you can squeeze the juice on your fish or use it for dressing in a salad to go along with your shrimp, it’s wonderful!

cedar planked shrimp I cooked my planked shrimp on a gas grill set at medium heat until they turned nice and pink, maybe 15 minutes or so but check accordingly to your own grill. Try not lifting the lid too often because the wet cedar creates an amazing smoke which infuses your shrimp. Have a spray water bottle handy in case you get flare-ups.

cedar planked shrimp with parsley pesto sauce Seriously, you have to try this!

Cedar Planked Shrimp with Parsley Pesto Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 food safe, cedar planked board, soaked for 2 hours
  • 1 lb. of 21-25 shrimp, cleaned and deveined and patted dry
  • 1 large bunch of Italian parsley
  • the zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated on a microplane
  • a pinch or more of red pepper flakes
  • olive oil to loosen the pesto

Instructions

  1. Mix pesto up by using all the ingredients, set a little bit aside for brushing on the grill.
  2. Toss shrimp in mixture, coating it all over.
  3. Take your board out of the water and pat dry, rubbing the top only with olive oil.
  4. Place your cedar board on a clean and dry baking sheet for ease in carrying it out to the grill.
  5. Arrange shrimp on top, I placed 2 together to form a circle.
  6. Cook on medium high heat until shrimp is cooked and nice and pink brushing with remaining pesto half way through.
  7. Take the 2 lemons that were used for the zest, cut them in half, drizzle with olive oil and place cut side down on the grill, remove when nice grill marks are formed.
  8. Serve your shrimp right from the plank, enjoy!
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/05/cedar-planked-shrimp-parsley-pesto-sauce.html

 

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Spring Vegetable Ricotta Tart with Phyllo

spring vegetable ricotta tart What do you do with a bunch of asparagus, some artichoke hearts, a handful of fava beans, a leek and a few cherry tomatoes? You make a tart of course!

I always buy a pound or two of ricotta every week and I like to keep a box of phyllo dough handy at all times, it’s amazing what you can do with it, it’s so easy and forgiving to work with, and besides, I love the crunch factor it gives!

spring vegetable ricotta tart The ricotta cheese is pumped up and flavored with a hint of garlic, fresh basil, grated romano, asiago and fontina cheeses and an egg which makes for a creamy and very flavorful filling  to have on top of the crunchy phyllo.

spring vegetable tart

Press your pre-roasted vegetables right into the ricotta mixture and bake until the phyllo reaches a rich golden brown and the ricotta sets up.

All you’ll need is a salad on the side and your spring meal is complete!

avocado and tomato salad This is the salad I served with my tart, a combination of tomatoes, avocado and olives on a bed of arugula with a lemon and olive oil dressing.

Dig in, you won’t even miss the meat!

Spring Vegetable Ricotta Tart with Phyllo

Ingredients

  • I used an 11 1/2" x 7 1/2" rectangle tart pan with removable bottom so the recipe will reflect that size pan, but feel free to adjust the recipe if using a 9 or 10 inch round tart pan instead.
  • 4 cups of ricotta, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • handfull of chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup of grated romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup of grated fontina
  • 1/2 cup of grated asiago
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 sheets of phyllo dough
  • olive oil, preferably in spray form
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut in half diagonally
  • a large leek, cleaned thoroughly and sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 cup cooked and shelled fava beans or replace with peas
  • 1 heaping cup or so of artichoke hearts
  • 1 cup or so cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Instructions

  1. Pre-roast all veggies except the tomatoes, if using fava beans have them preboiled with skins off, if using peas instead, frozen and defrosted is fine.
  2. In a bowl whip the romano, asiago, fontina along with the basil, garlic and eggs into the ricotta until well incorporated.
  3. Layer each sheet of phyllo one by one into your olive oil greased tart pan fitting it in around the bottom and sides and spraying or brushing each sheet with olive oil as you go, if it rips don't worry it will look fine in the end.
  4. When finished layering each sheet spread the ricotta mixture all over.
  5. Press your veggies all around into the ricotta.
  6. Drizzle the top of the tart and sides of dough with olive oil, sprinkle with romano and bake.
  7. Bake in a 400 F. oven, keep checking after 15 minutes, make sure the crust is deep golden and ricotta is set.
  8. Let it cool down before you cut into it.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/05/spring-vegetable-ricotta-tart-phyllo.html

 

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Chicken Nicoise Salad

chicken nicoise salad The latest kick I’ve been on is making composed salads. Just what is a composed salad you might ask? Here’s the definition, “A salad in which the components are elaborately put together or arranged, then drizzled with a vinaigrette rather than tossed”.

A composed salad is a balance of different colors, flavors and textures and when it’s arranged on a platter it’s very appealing to the eye, and the more color the better!

I repeat, it must be placed on a platter, no bowls allowed and no tossing!

chicken nicoise salad It doesn’t matter what ingredients you use, the possibilities are endless! We all know of the famous Tuna Nicoise salad, well I swapped out chicken for the tuna and used other ingredients that I had on hand.

This salad was inspired from a rotisserie chicken I got from Whole Foods and some vegetables I cooked up before they went bad, which in my case were beets, red potatoes, green beans and some peppers. I added in hard boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes, artichoke hearts and olives, placed it all on a bed of arugula and drizzled it with a fresh lemon and olive oil dressing. This is a very substantial salad, maybe a little bread on the side and that’s it!

chicken nicoise salad No exact recipe here just let your imagination go wild, use what’s in season and what you have on hand, it’s hearty, healthy and oh so delicious!

 

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Roasted Vegetable Tart with Eggplant Crust

vegetable tart with eggplant crust Here’s an all vegetable tart with an extra healthy spin on a it because there’s no pastry involved when putting it together!

roasted eggplant

eggplant crusted tart Thick sturdy slices of roasted eggplant form the perfect crust to encase all your vegetables, it’s healthy, much lighter and very pretty in it’s presentation.

eggplant crusted tart Simple to do with just a little prep work of roasting or grilling your vegetables ahead of time, then all you do is layer the cooked eggplant all around your tart pan, your favorite cheese will bind it all together.

vegetable tart with eggplant crust Arrange all your vegetables on top and then place it all into the oven.

vegetable tart with eggplant crustThe cheese will bond everything together when melted, and the top will be nice and golden, just like this!

vegetable tart with eggplant crust It’s crispy on the edges and creamy in the middle. Would you care for a slice?

vegetable tart with eggplant crust Enjoy!

Roasted Vegetable Tart with Eggplant Crust

Ingredients

  • 9 inch flutted tart pan with removable bottom, lightly brushed inside with olive oil
  • 3 medium eggplant, cut longwise into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 zucchini, cut on the diagonal
  • 1 yellow squash, cut on the diagonal
  • a handful of grape tomatoes, halved
  • 6 to 8 small asparagus
  • shredded fontina and asiago cheese,plus a couple of tablespoons of grated parmesan.
  • chopped basil and parsley for garnish
  • olive oil

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425 F. drizzle a sheet pan with olive oil, place eggplant slices on top, sprinkle with salt and pepper and more olive oil, roast until soft and nicely golden, watch so they don't get well done and too crispy, you want them still pliable. Set aside.
  2. Roast the zucchini and yellow squash the same way. No need to roast asparagus or tomato slices.
  3. To arrange the tart place eggplant slices all around the pan and bottom, you want the rounded part of the eggplant to form the scalloped edge.
  4. Shred enough cheese to generously cover the bottom of the tart then arrange your veggies all around.
  5. And some of the shredded cheeses on top but do not totally cover the vegetables, you want to be able to see them.
  6. Place tart pan on top of a baking sheet and place into a 400 F. preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, the cheese should be melted and the top a golden brown.
  7. Cool down before cutting.
  8. **** NOTE***** You can replace roasted veggies with grilled.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/04/roasted-vegetable-tart-eggplant-crust.html

 

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Grilled Vegetable Salad

grilled vegetable salad Here’s a fresh and healthy side dish to serve along anything you’re about to throw on your grill this weekend. It’s a combination of grilled veggies and a salad all in one! I actually recreated this from a salad I had at a restaurant recently.

grilling vegetables It couldn’t be easier to make, just grill up your favorite veggies, go for a variety of colors, the more color the better, it adds to a pretty presentation. I even used some mini eggplant I found called Indian eggplant, which I thought gave it a nice visual and something different.

grilled vegetables All the vegetables can be grilled ahead of time and set aside until you’re ready to plate everything together.

grilled vegetable salad Crisp romaine lettuce is dressed with a rich, slightly sweet aged balsamic vinaigrette. I also added sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and creamy avocado into the mix.

Feel free to crumble some creamy goat cheese or feta on top with a sprinkling of pine nuts for more bling!

grilled vegetable salad This is great for entertaining with ease and the presentation is gorgeous sitting on your platter!

Grilled Vegetable Salad

Ingredients

  • red, yellow and orange bell peppers
  • eggplant
  • zucchini
  • yellow squash
  • asparagus
  • artichoke hearts, grilled or canned, drained of any liquid
  • sun dried tomatoes ( soft and tender)
  • sliced avocado
  • crumbled feta or goat cheese and pine nuts, (optional)
  • FOR BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE
  • 1/4 cup of a good aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup, extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced finely
  • 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Prepare and slice all your veggies, place in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill them all ahead of time until tender with nice grill marks, set aside.
  2. Whisk all your balsamic vinaigrette ingredients together until well incorporated.
  3. Right before you're ready to eat place chopped romaine, sun dried tomatoes into a bowl and dress with the vinaigrette, place onto your platter.
  4. Take the same bowl, toss in all your grilled veggies and carefully drizzle balsamic vinaigrette all over them, not too much, a little goes a long way, taste to your liking.
  5. Carefully arrange the veggies on top of the lettuce mixture with slices of avocado all around the perimeter.
  6. Add cheese and nuts if so desired.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/04/grilled-vegetable-salad.html

 

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Pork and Cabbage Involtini with a Spring Vegetable Side

pork and cabbage involtini Even though it’s officially spring the weather is always fluctuating here so it often dictates what we eat. When it’s sunny and warm my first choice is to go out and grill something, but when it’s cool, rainy and dreary there’s no doubt dinner will be inside simmering on my stove.

pork and cabbage involtini That’s how this cabbage dish came about. You might think of stuffed cabbage/ involtini as only a hearty winter dish filled with meat and rice, but actually this version minus the rice and some breadcrumbs was light and super delicious, perfect for a cool spring evening!

This recipe comes courtesy of Debi Mazar and her Tuscan born husband Gabriele Corcos via their cooking show, Extra Virgin, one of the few shows I watch on The Cooking Channel. The original recipe is here, I adapted it slightly.

Little bundles of ground pork seasoned with scallions, garlic, romano cheese and parsley wrapped tightly with a tender leaf of savoy cabbage simmering in a flavorful garlic and basil marinara sauce. This is good, really good!

spring vegetables I thought a nice medley of spring green vegetables would complement the involtini and I was right, it was all that I needed to complete the meal.

I used a mixture of asparagus, artichoke hearts, and fava beans roasted together with olive oil and shaved garlic. FYI, Trader Joe’s has precooked frozen fava beans for a short time, I still had to peel the outer skins off but they were really good.

pork and cabbage involtini with spring veggies Rain or shine you’re going to love this!

Pork and Cabbage Involtini with a Spring Vegetable Side

Ingredients

  • INVOLTINI
  • 1 head savoy cabbage
  • 1 pound good ground pork
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 scallions, sliced small
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup grated romano cheese
  • 1 handful parsley, chopped
  • SAUCE
  • 1 quart of homemade marinara or an outstanding store bought one for convenience,
  • I make mine with crushed whole canned tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, olive oil, chopped garlic and fresh basil.

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Carefully separate the best 12 leaves from your savoy cabbage
  3. Rinse, then add them in batches, to the boiling water for 2 minutes
  4. Remove leaves and quickly rinse under cold water, then pat dry
  5. Mix together the pork, scallions, eggs, garlic, romano cheese and parsley in a large bowl, then season with salt and pepper.
  6. Lay a leaf of cabbage on a cutting board, trim the thick stem at the bottom and place 2 generous tablespoons of the pork mixture in the middle.Roll up the leaf, tucking in the sides.
  7. Place seem side down on a plate until all leaves are completed.
  8. If your marinara is premade just pour some into the bottom of a heavy skillet with sides and lid.
  9. If you need to make your own, pour 1/4 cup of olive oil on bottom of the pan add 4 or 5 cloves of chopped garlic, let it sizzle a little then pour in your 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes with 1 teaspoon of salt, then add in some torn fresh basil leaves.
  10. Place the involtini on top of the sauce, nestle them in seam side down and turn heat to a low simmer, spooning some sauce on each bundle.
  11. Place a lid on top and cook until meat is cooked through and cabbage is tender.
  12. Garnish with fresh basil and grated romano cheese.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/04/pork-cabbage-involtini-spring-vegetable-side.html

 

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Making Easter Lamb Cake

Easter lamb cake Walk into any Italian bakery at Easter time and you will see lamb cakes, they’ve been a yearly tradition in many households since the late 194o’s and 50′s. They’re used as an eatable centerpiece for your Easter table or to give as a gift during the season.

I’ve always wanted to make my own Easter lamb cake but I never had the molds that I remembered from my childhood, plus I didn’t think I could ever pull it off anyway!

vintage lamb cake molds In comes my friend Janet who’s been making these cakes every Easter since 1947, she makes them for her family and also gives them away as gifts. So I asked her if I could hang out with her one day and watch/help her make one, and she kindly said yes.

I was especially excited because she had the vintage mold that I remembered as a child, it was well used and still in perfect working order. She told me all the ladies back in the 40′s and 50′s made lamb cakes and as a child her mother and grandmother taught her how to make them and to keep up the tradition.

vintage GH cook book She pulled out some older vintage recipes for making lamb cakes, like this one published in 1953 in a Good Housekeeping cake book.

lamb cake recipe Over the years Janet has perfected her own recipe for lamb cake which is a nice sturdy sour cream pound cake flavored with vanilla and other extracts of your choice, we also added some rum to ours.

mixing cake batter Watching Janet whip up the batter was like watching a pro in action, I swear she could do this in her sleep!

greased and floured lamb cake mold I was in charge of buttering and flouring the mold, she instructed me to get into every nook and cranny, using my clean fingers to get in there. She stressed how important it was so as not to have your cake stick.  She said I did good!

filling lamb cake mold with batter Janet recommends placing your mold on a baking sheet for easy in and out of the oven. Pour your batter only in one side of the mold, always the face side down, never fill both sides of the mold, never, and make sure you don’t fill past the rim, you’ll have problems when you release it.  Another tip she had was to take a spoon and carefully place batter into the ears, face and neck, if it sinks down add a little add more, none of those areas should be lacking any batter.

Janet also likes to reinforce the ears by adding a toothpick in each, the ears are tiny and you don’t want them to break off, some people put a toothpick or skewer in the neck also, but she never had a problem with it.  Make sure your edges are all clean, take a paper towel to wipe them off. Now attach the empty back of the mold and you’re ready to bake!

baking a lamb cake Janet told me not to worry if you see the mold spit open a little towards the end of the baking time, it’s normal as the cake rises inside. She even stood it upright and baked it like that for the last few minutes.

Easter lamb cake If you’re going to frost it right away the cake has to be completely cooled down, do it in the standing position after you get it out of the mold, so have a cup of coffee like we did and be patient!

If you want to bake your lambs ahead of time feel free to freeze them at this point, before you decorate them, just make sure they’re cooled down and wrapped well for the freezer.

 

mixing frosting Now the fun part begins, it’s time to decorate the little lamby! Janet whipped up the frosting in no time as she was telling me in disgust just how terrible store bought frosting is and why people just don’t make there own because it’s so easy. I totally agree!

Her frosting consisted of 1 stick of unsalted butter, powdered sugar, half and half and vanilla, no recipe, just until you get the right texture, you’ll know, she said.

decorating an Easter lamb cake You can decorate your lamb anyway you want to, be creative!

applying coconut on a lamb cakeTake your frosting and cover the lamb completely with it, all over, except where your eyes and nose will be placed. You don’t have to be perfect because the flaked coconut sticks very well and will cover any flaws. Remember, no coconut on the eye nose area.

decorating an Easter lamb cake The eyes where made with 2 plumped up raisins that she squished down to form an oval shape. To prepare the nose she dabbed a little red food coloring on the tip and then placed half of a maraschino cherry on top.

decorating an Easter lamb cake Tie a pretty ribbon of your choice around the neck, Janet said she use to put tiny bells on the ribbon but can’t find them so much anymore.

decorating an Easter lamb cake We used paper grass to place all around the lamb to finish it off, Janet doesn’t like using the other kind because it flies around too much. Add eggs and jellybeans for additional color and whimsey all around.

Easter lamb cake Thank you Janet for a fun day of baking, I feel like a pro now and have the confidence to make my own so much so that when I got home I went on Ebay, saw a vintage lamb mold and put a bid on it, wish me luck!

For those of you who would like to try this on your own, here’s a mold similar to the one I used. A perfect addition to your Easter table!

Making Easter Lamb Cake

Ingredients

  • FOR CAKE
  • 3 cups flour, sifted
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, large
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons rum extract, optional
  • FOR THE FROSTING
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 heaping teaspoon vanilla
  • powdered sugar and half and half or milk to make the right consistency
  • FOR DECORATING
  • 1 bag of flaked coconut
  • 2 raisins
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • red food color
  • piece of ribbon
  • paper Easter basket grass
  • assorted jellybeans

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. generously butter and flour lamb mold.
  2. Beat butter, add sugar and extracts and beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Add flour with baking soda until well incorporated.
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time alternating with the sour cream until batter comes together.
  5. Pour batter into prepared face side of the lamb mold, facing down on a baking sheet.
  6. Fill to the rim wiping up the edges clean.
  7. Reinforce the ears by placing a toothpick horizontally in each ear.
  8. Carefully place lid on and bake for 1 hour, but check for doneness 10 minutes before.
  9. FYI, you will have leftover batter with this recipe, enough to make a small cake.
  10. For Decorating, make the frosting with the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, half and half and a pinch of salt, mixing until you get a nice semi firm frosting.
  11. Add raisins for eyes, a cherry for nose and tie a ribbon around the neck.
  12. Cover platter with Easter grass and jellybeans.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/04/making-easter-lamb-cake.html

 

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Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes and Shallots

salmon with roasted tomatoes and shallots  I’m always on the look out for different ways to prepare salmon. I actually saw this recipe in the current magazine, BHG Fast and Fresh, the picture of the red cherry tomatoes against the pink salmon instantly caught my eye.

So today I give you a simple, healthy, no fuss, extremely tasty meal to make!

 Roasted cherry tomatoes along with garlic and shallots makes for a very moist and flavorful fish that’s also vibrant in color!

roasted asparagusRoast a bunch of asparagus on the side, it pairs nicely with the salmon, no heavy carbs required.

 I added dollops of fresh basil pesto to mine which heightened the flavors even more.

salmon with roasted tomatoes and shallots It’s amazing what can be made in just one pan, this is great for a quick weekday meal or worthy enough for dinner guests!

The original recipe calls for 3 lbs. of salmon but I used only 2 individual portions, changed up the amounts and added fresh basil and pesto. Here’s my version.

Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes and Shallots

Ingredients

  • wild salmon, 2 individual portions
  • 1 1/2 pints of cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, shaved
  • fresh basil
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Into a baking dish add the tomatoes,some fresh snipped basil, garlic and shallots, drizzle everything with olive oil, a little salt and pepper and roast uncovered for 15 minutes
  3. Place salmon, skin side down on tomato-shallot mixture.
  4. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt and pepper.
  5. Roast uncovered 15 to 18 minutes depending on how thick your fish is basting it once with all those juices during the cooking time.
  6. Place dollops of basil pesto on cooked fish when finished. (optional)
  7. Garnish with lemon zest.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/03/salmon-roasted-tomatoes-shallots.html

 

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Puff Pancake with Fresh Blackberries, Mascarpone and Ricotta Cream

puff pancake with blackberry, mascarpone and ricotta cream Puff pancakes are super easy to make and very impressive. It’s something you’ll want to serve for a leisurely weekend breakfast or for a very special occasion holiday brunch like Easter or Mother’s Day that will soon be upon us.

filling for puff pancakeSpring is just around the corner and berries are popping up in all the grocery stores, which is why I couldn’t resist taking home these beauties I found last week. I immediately knew I would showcase them in all their fresh glory as a topping to my puff pancake!

puff pancakeThe batter comes together quickly, it gets poured into a hot buttered pan then placed into a preheated oven for 25 minutes, it puffs up really high then deflates. Even if you get a few cracks like I did it’s no big deal!

puff pancake with blackberry, mascarpone and ricotta creamThose cracks will soon be smothered with a luscious mascarpone and ricotta cream, the perfect base to plop and nestle in your berries.

puff pancake with blackberry, mascarpone and ricotta creamMake sure to have a pot of rich, bold coffee brewing, warm up some maple syrup and generously dust that berry pancake with powdered sugar!

puff pancake with blackberry, mascarpone and ricotta cream

puff pancake with blackberry, mascarpone and ricotta creamSit down and enjoy, breakfast is served!

Puff Pancake with Fresh Blackberries, Mascarpone and Ricotta Cream

Ingredients

  • For The Batter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk, ( unsweetened almond milk works as well)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • For The Filling
  • Fresh blackberries
  • 1 1/2 cups of ricotta, drained
  • 5 oz. mascarpone cheese, room temp
  • zest of 1 orange
  • powdered sugar to sweeten
  • powdered sugar for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 F.
  2. Have a 12" oven proof skillet ready.
  3. Mix all of the batter ingredients together using a hand mixer so no lumps appear. Flour, milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt.
  4. Place the tablespoon of butter in the skillet and put it into the 450 degree oven until it melts.
  5. Take pan out and pour in batter and swirl around.
  6. Place pan bake in oven and set timer for 20 - 25 minutes, batter will puff up high, you might need to prick it to release some steam.
  7. Remove pan when sides are deep golden.
  8. Meanwhile mix up your filling.
  9. In a bowl add in the ricotta, mascarpone and orange zest, then add some powdered sugar to desired sweetness.
  10. Whip until blended.
  11. When pancake is done and cooled down a bit spread mascarpone ricotta mixture all over then dot with blackberries.
  12. Generously dust with powdered sugar and serve with a drizzle of warmed maple syrup.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/03/puff-pancake-fresh-blackberries-mascarpone-ricotta-cream.html

 

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Paella, With An Italian Twist

Italian style paella I make no claims to be an expert in paella making, in fact I’ve only attempted to make an authentic version once, and it turned out just ok. I much prefer to put an Italian twist on my own version of paella. You see I’m not such a big fan of saffron, which so happens to be one of the star ingredients in traditional paella. It’s not that I dislike it, I just hardly ever cook with it, so it’s not really a “go to” spice for me.

So instead of flavoring my rice with saffron which by the way produces a beautiful color and unique flavor, I like to flavor my rice with a roasted red pepper puree. Not conventional, but it does taste amazing and it creates a beautiful golden red color to the rice.

making Italian style paella In the past I’ve made and posted here on my blog, an all Vegetable Paella, a great party dish, main course or side. This time I wanted to change it up and do something different by adding a mix of Italian sausage and chicken, some red and yellow peppers and broccolini.

making Italian style paella After you saute your onions and garlic you add in your rice with red pepper puree and then spread and flatten the rice to cover the bottom of your pan. I use a wide 14″ paella pan with a hard anodized bottom. Now have some fun and place and arrange creatively all your colorful ingredients around the pan.  The last thing you do is carefully ladle warm broth on top of everything.

Italian style paella The end result is a spectacular pinwheel of color, delicious rice, a one pan meal that has a WOW factor with really not much effort at all, providing you do a little prep work beforehand.

Italian style paella Paella is the perfect party dish, put it in the middle of your table and everybody digs in! I can’t wait until the snow melts because the next one I make will be out on my grill. maybe with some seafood.

Italian style paellaItalian style paella I hope you try my Italian version of paella, I think you’ll love it as much as we do!

Paella, With An Italian Twist

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken legs, skin on, browned
  • 2 chicken thighs, skin on, browned
  • 3 big pieces of Italian sausage links, browned then cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 red and yellow pepper, cut into strips and pre-roasted (400 F. Drizzled with olive oil)
  • 1 bunch of baby broccolini, pre-boiled for 5 minutes then placed in an ice bath to retain color
  • 1 1/2 cups of rice, a short grain like carnaroli or arborio
  • 4 cups of chicken broth, warmed
  • 1 cup roasted red pepper puree, store bought or made by using 4 red peppers, blistered, peeled, cored and then placed into a food processor until pureed.
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 medium onion, large diced
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, shaved
  • grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • olive oil

Instructions

  1. Start out by browning your chicken pieces in the paella pan, get a nice crust on both sides and almost cooking it through but not quite, set aside.
  2. Wipe out the pan of excess oil, then do the same for the sausage links removing excess oil as well.
  3. Drizzle olive oil in pan then add in your shaved garlic and onion, saute until soft and golden.
  4. Toss in the wine and let it cook down for a minute.
  5. Add all of the rice and half, or a little more, of your red pepper puree. Toss until coated then flatten rice mixture on to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Sprinkle rice with a handful of the grated cheese, some salt and pepper.
  7. Take sausage chunks and arrange around the pan along with the chicken pieces.
  8. Creatively arrange the rest of the veggies all around the meat.
  9. Carefully ladle all 4 cups of warm broth on top.
  10. Take a pastry brush and brush the top of the chicken with more red pepper puree for added flavor and dotting a little more all around if you want to.
  11. Cook medium low, covered loosely with foil until moisture disappears.
  12. Place covered pan in the oven at 375 for 15- 20 minutes to make sure the meat is cooked through.
  13. Finish on top of stove until rice is desired tenderness.
  14. Total time, around 45 minutes or so.
  15. Let it rest for a few minutes.
  16. Garnish with chopped fresh basil and parsley.
  17. Feeds 4 generously.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/03/paella-italian-twist.html

 

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Colored Cauliflower Frittata with Red Pepper, Onions and Brie

colored cauliflower frittata Last week my daughter stopped by and dropped off a huge bag of fresh, different colored cauliflower, the bag was so big I had to shared it with three people!

I couldn’t decide what to make with it, I wanted something that would showcase all their vibrant colors, and then I thought, why not a frittata?

raw colored cauliflower Have you tried the different colored cauliflowers? Basically they taste the same as their white cauliflower cousin but actually they have much more health benefits. The purple variety has the same amount of antioxidants that you would find in red wine and blueberries. The green version is high in vitamin A and C and the orange is filled with beta-carotene. So not only are they colorful and pretty to look at, they’re super good for you.

colored cauliflower frittata I love to make frittatas, you can eat them for breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner. You can serve them with a salad or a nice steamy bowl of soup for a hearty complete meal.

colored cauliflower frittata

I pre- roasted all my cauliflower before I put the frittata together and I was pleasantly surprised to see how all the colors intensified even more in the roasting process. I added some creamy brie to heighten all the flavors.colored cauliflower frittata With a crisp salad on the side, it was the perfect Yin and Yang!

Colored Cauliflower Frittata with Red Pepper, Onions and Brie

Ingredients

  • 10 inch oven proof skillet
  • 6 eggs
  • a healthy handful of grated romano or parmesan cheese
  • 1 red pepper, large dice
  • 1 medium red onion, large dice
  • pre-roasted colored cauliflower, enough to spread around a 10 inch pan ( eat the extra)
  • pieces of brie cheese,scattered on top, rind removed
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Pre- roast cauliflower at 400 F. on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper until soft and slightly caramelized.
  2. Beat 6 eggs along with the grated romano or parmesan.
  3. In 10 inch skillet drizzle olive oil and saute the onion and red pepper together until soft.
  4. Add the egg mixture on top, medium low heat and let eggs set a bit..
  5. After it sets, place roasted cauliflower all around. By letting the eggs set first the cauliflower will sit on top and not sink into the egg mixture.
  6. Dot with pieces of brie.
  7. Now place the whole oven proof skillet under the broiler until golden brown and brie has melted.
  8. Don't walk away! Stay close to the broiler and keep checking, it doesn't take long.
  9. Let pan cool down for 10 minutes then cut into wedges.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/02/colored-cauliflower-frittata-red-pepper-onions-brie.html

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Round Veggie Lasagna

round veggie lasagna Let’s throw tradition out the window today and make a round lasagna, yes you heard me, a round lasagna! It makes for a great presentation especially when placed on a raised cake platter, all the ingredients are nicely contained within and the best part is it can be cut into picture perfect wedges without any cheesey mess.

I’ve been making round lasagna’s for quite a while because they’re fun and not the norm, here’s an old blog post I did way back in 2008. Do you have a special occasion coming up? Change things up and make a round lasagna, your guests will be impressed!

Making a round veggie lasagnaI decided to do a veggie version this time instead of the classic with roasted eggplant, zucchini, yellow and red peppers and onions, my cheese of choice was ricotta, romano and fontina, but honestly you can do any version you want, your own favorite combination of ingredients that you and your family love in lasagna.

This recipe is really all about the pan, you have to use a spring form pan!

round veggie lasagna A spring form pan will give it the perfect shape plus it has an easy to release clasp on the side with a removable bottom so it does all the hard work for you, just don’t be in a hurry to release it, let it rest when it comes out of the oven, a lasagna stays hot for a good hour.

round veggie lasagna I always make sure to have extra warm sauce to spoon on each wedge.

round veggie lasagna You can use fresh pasta sheets or dry that you boil yourself, you can’t use the preboiled kind in making this because it’s all about shaping your pasta sheets around the pan and you can’t do that with those thin precooked kind.

round veggie lasagna slice Step out of your oblong comfort zone and make a round lasagna next time!

Below I’m giving just tips and tricks to ensure a nice clean release of your lasagna, the ingredients you can make your own, have fun!

Tips on Making a Round Lasagna

Ingredients

  • These are just suggestions for an 8 or 9 inch spring form pan with removable bottom
  • Have a pot of sauce ready to go like marinara or a bechamel, plus extra for spooning on top of each cut wedge..
  • 1/2 lb or more depending on what size pan you have of boil your own pasta sheets, cooked al'dente.
  • Ingredients of your choice for layering, if using veggies cut them on the flat side instead of diced and have them pre-roasted and ready to go, or stick with a more classic version.
  • roughly 1 1/2 lbs of ricotta cheese mixed with generous amounts of romano or parmesan, 2 eggs, salt, pepper and fresh herbs like basil or parsley.
  • A nice shredded melting cheese like fontina or mozzarella.

Instructions

  1. Cover the bottom of a baking sheet that has sides with tin foil, you'll thank me for this because there might be some leakage of juices.
  2. Brush or spray olive oil on the inside and bottom of your spring form pan.
  3. Start layering. Sauce first, then pasta sheets, cutting to form around the pan, more sauce, ricotta cheese mixture, other ingredients like veggies,sprinkle the shredded cheese and more romano on top.
  4. Repeat for three layers total, ending with sauce and some cheese on top.
  5. Place filled pan on the foil lined baking sheet and bake at 375 F. for 45 minutes.
  6. Cool on a rack so air gets on the bottom and let it rest for 1/2 hour, take a knife and go around the sides of the pan before you release it.
  7. Release clasp and place the whole lasagna on a nice platter.
  8. Make sure it's not steaming hot when you cut into it.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/02/round-veggie-lasagna.html

 

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Deep Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta with Orange

dark chocolate panna cotta with orange Twenty four years ago in Portland Oregon I ordered a Mocha Valencia at Starbucks, it was a flavor explosion of chocolate and orange, and ever since that first taste I’ve been hooked. It’s a decadent match made in heaven!

chocolate panna cotta ingredients Over the past years I have come to appreciate and love dark chocolate, I use to be a milk chocolate girl only, but now it doesn’t do anything for me, in fact it tastes way too sweet. With rich dark chocolate, a little piece goes a long way and definitely satisfies my sweet tooth.

I decided to make a panna cotta using my two favorite flavor combinations, chocolate and orange. Panna cotta means “cooked cream” it’s a very simple and luxurious dessert to make with just a few ingredients. All you have to do is simmer cream and sugar together, mix in some flavors and add gelatin to make it set.

A family member gave me some gelatin sheets she brought back from Italy, but in all honesty I was clueless on how many sheets to use in an American recipe, I tried twice and each time my panna cotta was like rubber, the spoon wouldn’t even go in! So on the third time I gave up and used good old Knox brand made in the U.S.A.

dark chocolate panna cotta Did I tell you that I’m also obsessed with sea salt and chocolate? The flaky kind… Oh my!

dark chocolate panna cotta Grab some dark chocolate and make this for your special Valentine.

dark chocolate panna cotta Rich and indulgent with every swipe of your spoon!

Now if chocolate and orange is not your thing, here’s some other chocolate combinations you might like instead from my archives.

 

chocolate ricotta tart CHOCOLATE RICOTTA TART

triple chocolate scones TRIPLE CHOCOLATE SCONES

flourless chocolate hazelnut cake FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE and HAZELNUT CAKE

chocolate panini CHOCOLATE PANINI with POUND CAKE AND STRAWBERRIES

Happy Valentines Day!

Deep Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta with Orange

Ingredients

  • 2 cups, plus 1/4 cup of half and half or heavy cream
  • 1 envelop of KNOX gelatin
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 1/2 oz. chopped dark chocolate, 70%
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pure orange extract or Grand Marnier
  • orange zest and flaky sea salt for garnish

Instructions

  1. Pour the 1/4 cup of cream into a bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top, set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. In a pan place the remaining 2 cups of cream, sugar, zest and extract and bring to a simmer. Remove off heat when edges start to bubble.
  3. Whisk in chocolate pieces until well combined and glossy.
  4. Add in gelatin and stir until completely dissolved.
  5. Pour into desired vessels and chill at least 2 or more hours in the fridge.
  6. Garnish with orange peel and salt when ready to eat.
  7. You will get at least 4 to 5 servings.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/02/deep-dark-chocolate-panna-cotta-orange.html

 

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Baked Cod with Blood Orange, Fennel and Olives

baked cod with blood orange and fennel Are you having the winter blahs? Here’s a dish that will perk up all your senses, it’s light, bright, healthy and super flavorful and most likely a nice diversion from all the Super Bowl snacking you might have done.

cod with blood orange and fennel It’s so simple to make, everything goes in one baking dish, the more colors the better! You could use any white fish you like, I bought fresh Alaskan Cod that was on sale at Whole Foods but it would be equally good with sea bass or even halibut.

cod with blood orange and fennel I’ve seen fish cooked with blood orange and fennel before but I thought the addition of yellow peppers, olives, red onions, tomatoes and garlic would pop out the flavors even more, and it did!

baked cod with blood orange and fennel The mild sweetness of the fennel and peppers, the citrus flavor from the oranges, the briny olive taste, the juice from the tomatoes along with the garlic and onions, I promise you’ll be smacking your lips!

baked cod with blood orange and fennel A quick midweek meal or a dish pretty enough to serve to guests!

Baked Cod with Blood Orange and Fennel

Ingredients

  • Feel Free To Double Recipe!
  • 1/2 lb. fresh cod
  • 1 blood orange, peel cut off all around, then sliced
  • 1 bulb of fennel, sliced thin into strips
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 large yellow pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 3 garlic cloves, shaved
  • handful grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • handful of kalamata olives
  • fennel fronds
  • chopped parsley
  • olive oil

Instructions

  1. Drizzle oilve oil on the bottom of a shallow baking dish.
  2. Scatter 3/4 of the veggies, citrus and olives on top, adding another drizzle of oil all over.
  3. Place fish on top and add remaining vegetables and other all around making sure to place some blood orange slices on top of the fish.
  4. Scatter fresh chopped parsley and fennel fronds all around.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Douse everything again with olive oil!
  7. Bake uncovered at 400 F. for 15 minutes or until fish is done according to thickness and veggies are soft.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/02/baked-cod-blood-orange-fennel-olives.html

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It’s a Chicken Cacciatore Kind of Day!

chicken cacciatore

It’s another frigid day here in Chicago, brutally cold weather with wind chill warnings, school closings and Artic air! You don’t have to convince me to stay inside. It’s definitely a comfort food kind of day, so a nice pot of slow cooked and braised Chicken Cacciatore it is!
fixings for chicken cacciatore Once the initial few steps are done, the browning of the chicken, sauteing your vegetables, deglazing, adding in your tomatoes, you can sit back for a couple of hours and let all the aromas fill your kitchen with comfort and warmth. Chicken Cacciatore is a classic Italian dish also referred to as hunter’s stew, I make it a few times during the winter and I just realized today that I never posted it on my blog, so here it is!

Carrots, onions, garlic, yellow and red peppers, assorted mushrooms ,olives, spices, herbs, tomatoes and wine when slow cooked and reduced makes the most delicious sauce to soak into your chicken and the bonus is, it tastes just as good if not better the next day!

chicken cacciatoreA mixture of crimini and shiitake mushrooms add nice texture and flavor to the sauce as well as oregano, basil, parsley and thyme.

chicken cacciatore This is rustic food, family style, hearty and oh so satisfying! Boil up some pasta to soak up those juices or a nice creamy polenta.

chicken cacciatore Maybe some warm crusty bread? Either way I can assure you this dish is amazing and one of my family’s absolute favorites.

chicken cacciatore

Mangia! Mangia!

Chicken Cacciatore

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, bone-in,skin on and each breast cut in half for smaller pieces
  • 8oz. mixed mushrooms, like crimini and shiitake
  • 1 onion, diced medium
  • 1 small yellow and red pepper, diced medium
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, shaved
  • pitted kalamata olives, a large handful
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz. can of tiny whole tomatoes or if not available just whole tomatoes.
  • Assorted herbs, parsley, basil, oregano and thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Season chicken with salt, pepper and sprinkled oregano.
  2. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet, drizzled with olive oil.
  3. Place chicken skin side down and do not move it until it reaches a deep golden brown and it's easy to turn, brown other side for a few minutes. Remove chicken and set aside.
  4. Add vegetables, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, a few twigs of thyme, saute for 5 minutes.
  5. Add wine and let it reduce.
  6. Add chicken broth and tomatoes.
  7. Toss in 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper and chopped fresh basil.
  8. Place the chicken back into the pan and sink into the juices.
  9. Simmer on low, stove top, for a couple of hours or until chicken falls off the bone. Uncovered.
  10. Garnish with fresh parsley.
  11. Serve with cooked pasta, polenta or warm crusty bread.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/01/chicken-cacciatore-kind-day.html

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Individual Kale Baked Eggs

kale baked egg

 

What do you do when you’re stuck in the house, it’s frigid outside and you have a nasty winter cold? I like to stay inside where it’s warm and play with food. I saw this idea while mindlessly wandering the web one day. Individual portions of eggs that were baked in kale leaves, how cute is that? Since I had everything on hand I thought I’d try my own version. It looked healthy and simple to do, so why not!

kale baked eggs

 

I decided to whisk my eggs up with grated romano and asiago cheese for added flavor but you can certainly plop a whole egg right in the middle like the original recipe. I used curly kale because that’s what I had, but any variety would do. I bent a larger leaf so it would fit inside the muffin pan then anchored it down with sliced cherry tomatoes and a cube of cheese.

kale baked eggs I was curious to see how they would turn out and how it would  all taste cooked together but I was pleasantly surprised. The eggs puffed up and stayed right inside the crispy kale cups and of course they had a nice flavor with the different cheeses and tomatoes.

kale baked eggs I don’t think I would make these for a crowd but if you have the patience you certainly can. Personally I think they would be excellent for a small brunch or a special breakfast because visually it looks very impressive and pretty on your plate. As far as flavoring your eggs, well the sky is the limit! Think goat cheese, feta, brie,  bacon, sausage bits, herbs, I could go on and on!

kale baked eggkale baked eggs

They came out nice and easy from the muffin tin, just be careful because the kale gets crispy and fragile. I misted my kale with olive oil and sprinkled a tiny bit of salt on top which gave it the taste of the popular kale chips that are all the rage.  They looked pretty all lined up on a white platter too!

kale baked egg Tasty, cute, healthy, what’s not to like?

Individual Kale Baked Eggs

Ingredients

  • For six individual portions I used;
  • 6 eggs, scrambled
  • 6 large kale leaves or enough to cover muffin tin hole with some extending over for easy removal
  • 1/3 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup or more shredded cheese of your choice
  • 3 or 4 cherry tomato slices per muffin cup
  • 1 small cube of cheese to anchor bottom of kale leaf
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Spray or grease muffin tins with olive oil.
  3. Whisk 6 eggs preferably in a pourable container along with the grated and shredded cheese or anything else you might add, plus salt and pepper.
  4. Take a kale leaf or 2 and place it into greased muffin tin, anchor it down with a wedge of cheese and sliced cherry tomatoes.
  5. Carefully pour egg mixture on top to about 3/4 full.
  6. Mist or drizzle olive oil all over kale leaf and sprinkle with salt.
  7. Bake until eggs are set, at least 15 minutes but check according to your oven.
  8. Let cool for 5 minutes then carefully remove.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/01/individual-kale-baked-eggs.html

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King Oyster and Crimini Three Cheese Mushroom Tart

three cheese mushroom tart This is a savory tart with a crispy phyllo dough bottom that’s slathered with a creamy, cheesy base that becomes the perfect platform to anchor earthy, meaty mushrooms on top!

three cheese mushroom tart A mixture of ricotta, mild goat cheese and grated parmesan is blended together for the cheese base, with just a touch of herbs folded in.

king oyster mushroomsOyster mushrooms have a mild earthy flavor with a nice bite, the consistency of a tender Shitake. A little goes a long way when you start slicing them up.
roasted mushrooms Don’t try and roast them in the oven like I did the first time unless you are on constant vigil, they cook up super fast and before you know it they’ll be all shriveled up. I suggest you saute them in a skillet just until they’re lightly golden brown on each side. The crimini mushrooms can take a roasting in the oven with no problem at all!

three cheese mushroom tart with phyllo This tart works beautifully for a brunch, lunch or dinner, all you have to do is serve a simple green salad beside it.

mushroom tart Satisfaction Guaranteed!

King Oyster and Crimini Three Cheese Mushroom Tart

Ingredients

  • 11x7 inch tart pan with removable bottom
  • 5 full sheets of phyllo dough folded in half to make 10 layers
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese, well drained
  • 1 cup mild goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, a mixture of parsley, basil or any other favorites
  • 1 lb. crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 finely minced garlic clove
  • 1 package of 3 large or 4 medium sized king oyster mushrooms, sliced lengthwise
  • olive oil and extra grated cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Either spray or brush olive oil onto the tart pan.
  2. Prepare mushrooms ahead of time by sauteing oyster mushrooms until golden brown and roasting the crimini in a 400 F. oven drizzled with olive oil and tossed with the 1 garlic clove until golden.
  3. Carefully open up the phyllo dough working with one sheet at a time and keeping the rest covered with a sheet of wax paper.
  4. Fold one sheet of phyllo in half and place it into tart pan and either spray or brush with olive oil, sprinkle with grated cheese and black pepper. Do this for each layer until 5 full sheets are used which folded in half equals 10 layers. Don't be afraid of phyllo, if it rips continue on it's very forgiving.
  5. FOR THE CHEESE MIXTURE. Combine ricotta, goat and parmesan in a medium bowl and blend together using a hand mixer, add a drizzle of olive oil to loosen it a bit.
  6. Fold in herbs and add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Spread cheese mixture all over last phyllo layer.
  8. Place cooked mushrooms over top.
  9. Place tart pan on top of a baking sheet and place in the oven at 400 F. for 25 minutes or until phyllo is a nice golden brown.
  10. Let tart sit for 10 minutes before cutting.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/01/king-oyster-and-crimini-three-cheese-mushroom-tart.html

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Butternut Squash – Filled Roasted Pork Loin

butternut squash filled pork loinWhat do you get when you open up a pork loin, rub it down with garlic, olive oil and tuscan herbs, smother it with roasted mashed butternut squash and then tie it back up? I’ll tell you… The most delicious flavor combination with an absolutely beautiful presentation!

Tuscan herbs I saw this recipe in the cookbook Fabio’s Italian Kitchen, the minute I saw the photo I was smitten and couldn’t wait to make it. Swirls of butternut squash between layers of pork, what’s not to like! This is the second time I’ve made this roast, the first time I followed the original recipe but this time I adapted it a little bit using those Tuscan herbs in that cute little crock above that were gifted to me by family who vacationed in Florence, Italy a few months ago. It’s a combination of sage, rosemary, crushed peppercorns and thyme.

cut and rolled out pork loin The most important thing about this recipe is that you have to cut open your pork loin properly and turn it into a 1/4 inch thick slab. The book explains how to do it but I needed a visual so I found a YouTube that showed me very quickly how to do it. After I opened it up I pounded it down to the thickness I wanted.

pork loin with Tuscan herbsThen all you have to do is rub your herby mixture all over the top.

pork loin spread with butternut squash Next, take your pre-roasted and mashed butternut squash and spread that on top of your herb mixture. Feel free to use your favorite mix of herbs, any combination would do. In the book Fabio just used garlic with minced sage which I tried the first time and that was very, very good!

pork loin tied and stuffed with butternut squashNow carefully roll up the loin not pressing down too much as you don’t want that filling to squish out, then tie it up with some butchers twine!
butternut squash stuffed pork loin I wish you could have seen how the whole roast looked when it was finished and I made that first cut, it was a perfect spiral of goodness but it was pitch dark and my inside lighting did not do it justice so I took these photos the very next day for you so you could see how nice the spirals of squash turned out.

butternut squash stuffed pork loin This dish is amazing and it certainly has the ” Wow” factor! You really need to make this soon. Here’s my adapted version.

Butternut Squash – Filled Roasted Pork Loin

Ingredients

  • 1 small butternut squash, cut lengthwise, seeds scooped out and roasted until tender at 375 F.
  • 1 pork loin 2 1/2 lb.
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced finely
  • 3 tablespoons or more of a Tuscan dry herb mixture of sage, rosemary, thyme and cracked black peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • heaping teaspoon of salt
  • butchers twine

Instructions

  1. After the squash is cooked tender and cooled, mash it up.
  2. In a small bowl mix the olive oil, herbs, garlic and salt together and let it sit for a bit.
  3. Open up your pork loin to 1/4 inch thickness
  4. Rub oil and herb mixture all over the top.
  5. Spread mashed butternut squash on top and all over herb mixture.
  6. Start at one end and roll up and tie with butchers twine.
  7. Place pork loin in a roasting pan, brush with more oil and herb mixture then roast in the oven at 375 F. until internal temperature reaches 165 F.
  8. Cut into thick slices and present the whole loin at the table for serving.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/01/butternut-squash-filled-roasted-pork-loin.html

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Farro and Arugula Salad

farro and arugula saladIf the holidays left you craving something green and healthy right now, no worries, I have the perfect salad for you! I’m currently in love with this salad, thanks to my friend Stacey who posted it on her blog. I could literally eat this for lunch all week, and I have!

farro salad ingredients

Simple but superior ingredients is what makes this salad so scrumptious. Cooked farro, that wonderful chewy and nutty tasting Italian grain is tossed with baby arugula, cherry tomatoes, pitted nicoise olives, buttery and over the top extremely addictive Marcona almonds and really good feta.

Speaking of feta, I’ve been obsessed with the brand that you see above for some time now, I buy it at my Costco, it’s about $11.00 for a 2 pack. It’s outstanding and a little goes a long way because the flavor is so intensified. No comparison in taste to the feta crumbles you can buy in the stores, none what so ever! If you can’t find this particular brand just get the real deal.

All those ingredients and flavors combined with premium extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice for your dressing and you have a salad that you will crave and dream about eating, it’s that good!

farro and arugula saladIf I were you I would cook up a whole bag of farro, stick it into a container in the fridge so it’s handy when you want to toss this salad together, especially if you plan on eating it for lunch during the week.

farro and arugula salad I chose nicoise olives because I adore them along with a lemon and olive oil dressing which went heavenly together, but you can certainly use pitted kalamata olives and a vinegar based dressing like my friend Stacey did. You can’t go wrong, it’s all good!

Farro and Arugula Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of cooked farro
  • 1 lb. baby arugula
  • handful of marcona almonds
  • 1/2 cup, sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup nicoise olives
  • 1/2 cup good feta crumbled
  • FOR THE DRESSING
  • 1 lemon
  • olive oil

Instructions

  1. Make the dressing by squeezing the juice of one lemon into a small bowl then whisking in olive oil and tasting until you get the right balance.
  2. Place all the ingredients into a bowl and then toss with the dressing adding salt and pepper to taste.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/01/farro-and-arugula-salad.html

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Celebrations, Traditions and Good Eats!

making ravioliRecently I got together with my side of the family to make ravioli for our Annual Ravioli Night with The Cousins dinner. We incorporated this tradition a few years ago when a dear close cousin of mine past away. Her mother, (my aunt) and my mother, were not only sister in laws they were best friends. They would always cook together and be together during the holidays so all of us cousins wanted to do the same thing along with our own families. We use their cherished ravioli recipe that has been handed down to all of us.
making ravioli Making ravioli for a crowd is probably not the smartest thing to do, you really have to be organized. We make and form the actual ravioli on trays which gives them a consistent look, size and seals them perfectly. I do this a couple of weeks ahead of time and then all get put into the freezer. I make all the dough and the fillings the night before we gather together so everything is ready to go, I use my trusty food processor method for the dough which always works perfectly and never fails me.

When morning comes around, all I have to do is take the dough out of the fridge and get to room temperature. Ten batches of dough yields 400 ravioli, I’m going to cut that down a bit for next year, we finally figured out the right amount to make so there will still be enough leftover for everyone to take a container home.

making ravioli We set aside the whole day to make them, only stopping for lunch in between and a few coffee breaks, this year we made 200 meat and 200 cheese.
homemade ravioli Once we get our mojo working properly the ravioli start coming together quickly. We all have our jobs, I usually do the rolling of all the dough with my pasta machine then after they’re formed I’ll get them into the freezer and then when frozen solid I’ll put them into freezer bags.

homemade ravioli I did a blog post a while back on making ravioli for a crowd, here’s the link there’s some good tips on how to get it done efficiently.

cooking ravioliOne thing I didn’t want to do is have pots of water boiling on my stove with 30 people in my house, so the night before the actual party all that messy work is finished.  I also make sure that days before my sauce is all pre-made and ready to go.

I boil each and every one of the ravioli the night before the party and place them single layer on commercial quality full size foil sheet pans that I get from a restaurant supply store, they work great plus it’s a throw away with no clean up!
cooking ravioli After they cool down I cover the pans with heavy duty foil and keep them cold overnight. When it’s party time all I have to do is pop the whole pan in the oven at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes, they get perfectly warmed and the pans are great for serving but more importantly there’s nothing major for me to do on party day with a house full of people.

aftermath of boiling 300 ravioli No one sees the disaster on my stove from the night before with all the boiling going on, that’s a good thing! Believe it or not it gets all clean and shiny in time for the party!

ravioli partyRavioli Night with The Cousins is now an annual event in my house, we do it a couple of weeks before Christmas and we all look forward to it every year!
homemade ravioli Can you see why I love those big pans? I can get 60 to 70 ravioli single layer on one full sheet pan, they’re great for a big party.

homemade ravioliWe keep our menu simple, it’s basically the same every year, meat and cheese ravioli, a couple of different salads, good bread, my brothers famous sausage and peppers and chicken that he makes on a charcoal grill. There’s plenty of wine and tons of desserts.
meat raviolicheese raviolitoasting with homemade limoncelloAnother tradition that is now added to our annual Ravioli Night with The Cousins is my daughters homemade limoncello, it’s the best and truly one of the highlights of the night, she makes it every year with much love and care and we all look forward to sipping it. We toast to those who aren’t with us any longer and to all our families here and now. The younger cousins kept doing multiple toasts throughout the night, it was so much fun!  That’s my daughter, upper right hand corner picture, bottom center holding a glass. Thanks V!

It may seem like a lot of work to pull this all off but I can honestly say that it’s worth every bit, and besides we’re creating memories and traditions for a lifetime!
Christmas dinner

And last but not least I’ll leave you with a photo of our Christmas dinner as it might be something you would want to create for New Years Eve. Crab stuffed shrimp, I’ve made it before but this time I made a lemon aioli for dipping the shrimp, it added a ton of flavor and was a nice compliment. Corzetti pasta with pesto was on the side along with a salad, but the one thing I’m super excited about more than anything else is that I finally figured out how to make a proper lobster tail and how to get the meat out of the shell in one piece! I watched a You Tube about it and it all came out without a glitch, literally!

So if you’re staying home on New Years Eve and want to make a special elegant meal I would highly recommend this lobster tail and my crab stuffed shrimp along with a nice bottle of champagne to celebrate and bring in 2014!   Salute!

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A Homemade Decadent Gift, Mendiants

gifting mendiantsNeed a last minute gift idea? You can make these quick and very decadent little French confections called Mendiants.

I instantly got inspired to make them the second I saw them featured on the beautiful blog, Manger. They’re surprisingly simple to make and inexpensive yet they look like such a high quality treat!
mendiant toppings Gather up some dried fruit and nuts, I’m sure you have some in your pantry or cabinets already, use whatever you like, you won’t need much just a handful of each. One other component I added was flaky sea salt, the salt complimented the chocolate so well and gave it a little crunch, I highly recommend using it.

melting dark chocolateMake sure you use premium dark chocolate and slowly simmer until melted over a double boiler. I bought a 1 pound bar and was able to make 42 mendiants out of it.
mendiants Some ideas for toppings are orange peel, apricots, cranberries, golden raisins, figs, coconut, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds and cashews to name a few. I did plump up my figs, cranberries and golden raisins by placing them in boiling water for 1 minute, make sure to dry them off.

mendiantsA little goes a long way, you can quarter your figs and cut off small slices from your apricots, you don’t even need to add as much topping as I did.
mendiantsgifting mendiants Now go find some pretty little boxes to place them in and you’re good to go!

Wishing all of you my dear readers a Very Merry Christmas! xox

Mendiants, a French Confection

Ingredients

  • Inspired and adapted from the blog, Manger.
  • 1 lb. premium dark chocolate, chopped
  • A small mix of dried fruits and nuts, set out and ready to go

Instructions

  1. Line baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Melt 80% of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over an inch of gently simmering water. When chocolate is melted take off the heat and add the other 20% of the chocolate, stirring until all is melted.
  3. Take a teaspoon of the melted chocolate and drop on to the parchment and smooth out a round disc shape.
  4. Only do 6 at a time,so as not to cool down the chocolate, then add your desired toppings and finish by sprinkling them with the flaky sea salt.
  5. Continue until finished, if chocolate starts to harden, place bowl over the simmering water again to melt. ( I didn't have to do it, it stayed melted and warm).
  6. Let them harden in a cool place or your refrigerator for 15 minutes, then lift off.
  7. Makes 42
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/12/a-homemade-decadent-gift-mendiants.html

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Making Homemade Corzetti Pasta

red pasta machineWhen the holidays start approaching I always get the urge to make homemade pastas. I make ravioli each year but I also enjoy making some other out of the ordinary pastas, like corzetti.

Corzetti  are thin round coins of fresh pasta dough that get stamped out and embossed with a beautiful design using a handmade artisanal tool called the corzetti stamp. The look is so unique, not something you see often, eatable works of art!

I recently received a brand new shiny red pasta machine as a gift so I couldn’t wait to break it in!
pasta dough I’ve only made corzetti a few times, once was with my girlfriends when I first got my new stamps, we spent the whole day together making garganelli and corzetti pasta, I did a post on it a couple of years ago here.

Recently I got inspired to make it again after reading my friend Adri’s beautiful post on her corzetti, I also decided to use her dough recipe which I highly recommend if you decide to make them. Her dough recipe is simply made with unbleached flour, an egg and water. I used the food processor method and it came together perfectly!

corzetti stampsYou can order these heirloom quality crafted stamps from Artisanal Pasta Tools. We are so fortunate to have such a skilled craftsman here in the U.S. that makes these stamps and other traditional pasta tools, otherwise they were only available in Italy.
stamping corzetti Making corzetti is a true labor of love but I can’t imagine a more beautiful pasta to serve for a very special occasion. I wouldn’t recommend making them for a crowd but for a smaller dinner party they are wonderful. They’re just so extraordinary your guests will surely be impressed!

corzetti stampsAfter you get your dough together you’ll want to roll it out thin with a pasta machine. You cut the coin shape with one part of the stamp then flip it over and place the pasta disc on top and then pressing down using the part with the handle, each side will have a design embossed into the pasta, they’re amazing to look at!

making corzetti I even got my granddaughter to help me make some, she caught on right away and did a great job!corzetti pastacorzetti pastacorzetti pastaYou can freeze them individually which I do, single layer on a baking sheet and then when frozen I place them into freezer bags for later use.
boiling corzetti pasta When you’re ready to eat them place into salted boiling water, they will rise to the top and only take about 3 minutes to cook. Scoop out gently with a handheld spider strainer. Treat them with tender loving care.

corzetti pasta with sauceAlthough the traditional way to eat corzetti is with a pesto of some sort, we love them just the same with marinara spooned all over the top.
corzetti pasta with sauce And don’t forget to sprinkle generously with freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese, so, so delicious!

corzetti pasta with squash and kaleI had some leftover so I tossed them into a brown butter sauce with grated parmesan cheese and added sauteed kale and roasted butternut squash for a wonderful midweek dinner.
corzetti pasta with herb pesto Here’s the more traditional way to serve corzetti, a pesto made with olive oil, parsley, basil, garlic, parmesan and walnuts, it’s so scrumptious and really highlights the design.

Once a year I make this and it’s well worth the time and effort, a beautiful tradition indeed!

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Creamy Polenta with Butternut Squash and Spinach

polenta with butternut squash and spinachI can’t think of a better dish for a cold wintery night. Creamy, cheesey, polenta laced with roasted butternut squash and chopped spinach. Guaranteed to warm you up from the inside out. Comfort food in the most delicious way!
Christmas wreath Chicago received it’s first snow yesterday and with temperatures predicted mostly in the teens all week the reality of winter is in full force, so it’s comfort foods that are calling my name.polenta with spinach and butternut squash Hearty enough to eat alone or with a nice green salad or it’s just plain wonderful as a side dish next to baked chicken or roasted pork.polenta with sausage and peppers Have leftovers? No problem, you can easily morph your leftover butternut squash polenta into another meal by topping it with chunks of Italian sausage and roasted peppers, this is crazy good!

butternut squash polenta with sausage and peppersbutternut squash polenta with poached egg But if all you have left is just a teeny bit, no worries, you can mold it into a small ramekin, warm it up, unmold and plop a cooked egg on the top, my favorite!

Creamy Polenta with Butternut Squash and Spinach

Ingredients

  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into small dice and pre-roasted
  • 1 cup, instant style polenta
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup or so grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • 2 cups chicken broth, homemade or low sodium store bought
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra olive oil for drizzling

Instructions

  1. Roast squash at 400 degrees on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast around 15 minutes or until slightly golden. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan add the broth, water, 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and slowly start whisking in the polenta, keep whisking so as not to get lumps, it will bubble and squirt, be careful!
  4. Switch over to a wooden spoon and keep stirring until thickened, remove from heat.
  5. Fold in the grated cheese, the spinach and the butternut squash, drizzling more olive oil all over the top.
  6. Serve immediately.
  7. Leftover polenta can be warmed up the next day by adding more water or broth, or leftovers can be molded into ramekins.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/12/creamy-polenta-with-butternut-squash-and-spinach.html

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Garlicky Mussels with Fregola

mussels with fregolaWell I’m officially “turkeyed out” until next year so it’s time to change it up here with a nice pot of mussels! Did you know that mussels are an inexpensive, sustainable shellfish that gives a boost to your immune system and your brain? Many people shy away from mussels thinking they taste fishy, to the contrary, if you buy them fresh from a good source they have a nice clean meaty flesh and smell just like the ocean plus they take on all the flavors that you use to cook with them.

Mussels are not just for special occasions like Christmas Eve, they can be a very quick dinner in the middle of the week or the weekend and it amazes me just how inexpensive they are, even at my Whole Foods when not on sale I can get them for 4.99 a pound and they’re even cleaned and debeard! Just make sure to grab a good bottle of wine while you’re there, sipping wine and eating mussels go hand and hand.
fregola I normally make my mussels with a sauce that has lots of shaved garlic, white wine, red pepper, a few ladles of marinara or cherry tomatoes and that’s it, sometimes pasta on the side sometimes not. This time I made it with Fregola, the Italian version of Israeli couscous. Fregola comes from Sardinia, it’s a firmer semolina pasta shaped like little pearls that has a toasted and nutty flavor. mussels with fregola This is rustic eating at it’s best, my favorite. Just put the pan in the middle of the table, have plenty of napkins, your wine close at hand, a separate bowl for your shells, and dig in!mussels with fregola The juice of the mussels, the garlic, wine and tomatoes is what flavors the Fregola pasta, every bite is a delight! mussels with fregolamussels with fregola

A little crusty bread on the side for sopping up doesn’t hurt either!

Garlicky Mussels with Fregola

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs mussels, fresh, cleaned and debeard ( May substitute all clams or a mix of both)
  • 5 cloves garlic, shaved ( shaving the garlic is a must!)
  • 12 cherry tomatoes sliced, or a couple of ladles of homemade marinara
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup or so, white wine
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil, extra for finish drizzle
  • 1 1/2 cup of pre-cooked Fregola, according to package. ( May substitute Israeli couscous)
  • chopped parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large pan with sides and lid combine olive oil, all the shaved garlic and red pepper flakes until golden on medium heat, then add tomatoes.
  2. Add mussels with the white wine, stir to get them coated then increase the heat to high and cover with a lid.
  3. Cook until all the mussels are open, about 5 minutes.
  4. Spoon in the pre-cooked Fregola, coating it with the sauce.
  5. Add chopped fresh parsley all over the top plus an extra drizzle of olive oil.
  6. Serve immediately.
  7. Discard any unopened shellfish!
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/12/garlicky-mussels-with-fregola.html

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Next Day Turkey Soup with Corzetti Pasta

turkey soup with corzetti pasta I made this quick soup for lunch today using my leftovers from turkey day. I didn’t boil the carcass like I should have for a couple of hours because it got tossed ( I know, I know), instead I just used one leg and one wing that I had saved and it still was mighty good!

I make this type of soup often in the winter, beans with greens, with or without pasta, sometimes chicken, sometimes not, turkey in this case, and other vegetables I want to use up.

turkey soup with corzetti pasta I recently made some Corzetti, which are thin rounds of pasta which is embossed and stamped with a design (more on that in a future post). I had one bag left in my freezer so I added that to my soup but you could certainly add some nice shells or even broken up lasagna sheets, basically any favorite pasta of your choice, it’s all good. With in an hour my soup was on the table and warming me up!

Turkey soup with Beans, Greens and Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 turkey leg and 1 wing leftover and cooked from Thanksgiving
  • 1 extra large leek, cleaned and sliced
  • chopped kale, a few handfuls
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 cans, cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 slices of chopped precooked bacon, optional
  • water and broth, enough to cover turkey parts plus a little more
  • 2 parmesan rinds to flavor broth
  • 1/2 lb of cooked pasta, tossed in a tiny bit of olive oil and set aside separately
  • parsley, red pepper flakes and thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste, plus grated cheese

Instructions

  1. In a large pot add turkey leg and wing and enough broth to cover plus a little more. Add in parmesan rinds.
  2. Cook turkey meat for around 40 minutes then remove leg and wing, take the meat off and then place shredded meat back into the pot.
  3. In a saute pan add leeks, or onions, garlic and kale until slightly wilted, then add to large pot.
  4. Add rinsed beans and chopped cooked bacon.
  5. Add seasonings and cook for 20 more miinutes, remove rinds.
  6. Ladle into bowls then add your cooked pasta and additional cheese.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/11/next-day-turkey-soup-with-corzetti-pasta.html

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A Few of my Favorite Thanksgiving Sides

roasted autumn veggiesBesides all the traditional dishes of Thanksgiving like stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans and cranberries, I like to throw in a few extras, sometimes it’s simply roasted seasonal vegetables.
roasted autumn veggies Different shaped squash, colorful carrots and vibrant greens are the perfect backdrop on a pretty platter, you can roast them ahead of time, reheat in a hot oven and finish them off with a good drizzle of balsamic glaze!

kale and brussel sprouts In my family we all like brussel sprouts in some form or another so I always try to have them on my Thanksgiving table, this year I’m doing a Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad. ( recipe below)kale and brussel sprout salad It’s fresh, crunchy, creamy, slightly sweet with a tiny bit of heat and laced with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, lemon and Marcona almonds and plumped cranberries.

kale and brussel sprout salad I seriously could eat this for lunch everyday, it’s that good! Pull out a large bowl because you’ll be surprised how much it makes with just one bunch of kale and half a bag of brussel sprouts. I encourage you to double the recipe please!cipollini in thyme and parmesan cream Everyone needs a little decadence during the holidays and these Cipollini bathing in Creamy Parmesan and Thyme sauce are the perfect addition to your table, besides they’re small and a few on your plate won’t hurt you! Cipollini are the saucer shaped onions but you can certainly replace them with pearl onions which are even smaller.cipollini in thyme and parmesan cream Roast your onions ahead of time in a 400 degree oven until golden, then place them into a shallow baking dish. Meanwhile in a separate saucepan place 2 cups of cream and three sprigs of thyme, salt and pepper, when cream starts to come to a boil remove pan from the stove and stir in 3/4 cup of grated parmesan, add salt to taste, then spoon it over and around the onions. Sprinkle additional 1/4 cup of grated parmesan on top and place into the oven at 450 for 15 minutes or until the cream has thickened.creamy fennel Creamy Fennel with Parmesan and Thyme, another decadent treat! Prepare it the same way as the onions above, slightly roasting the fennel before hand. I used three bulbs thinly sliced.pumpkin gnocchi I usually make a side of pasta on Thanksgiving and either Butternut squash or Pumpkin Gnocchi is always a wonderful complement to the turkey dinner.butternut squash stuffed shells But my all time favorite are these Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash, Spinach and Ricotta.  All the flavors of a butternut squash lasagne stuffed into individual pasta shells, one or two on your heavily loaded plate is plenty and there’s no hassle cutting into a big lasagne, what could be better than that?  Happy Cooking!

Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of Tuscan kale, chopped with stems removed
  • 1/2 lb. brussel sprouts, sliced thin or shredded in a food processor
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 large celery stalk, sliced thin
  • 1 cup of plump dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup of Marcona almonds
  • 3/4 cup coarsely shredded parmesan cheese
  • FOR THE DRESSING
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 small smashed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard

Instructions

  1. Place chopped kale, shredded sprouts, carrots, celery, dried cranberries and almonds into a large bowl, sprinkle cheese all around.
  2. Whisk olive oil, lemon, garlic, red pepper and Dijon together in a smaller separate bowl then toss with the kale and sprout mixture, adding more cheese and olive oil if needed. Cover and refrigerate or eat immediately.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/11/a-few-of-my-favorite-thanksgiving-sides.html

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