Herb and Citrus Roasted Chicken

herb and citrus chicken I know I’m posting this on Meatless Monday, but save it for another day, a midweek meal or even a special occasion, it’s that good, it’s simple to make and the bright colored citrus makes it look elegant and pretty!

It’s filled with juicy fresh lemons and oranges, lots of garlic and herbs and when roasted together the flavors are divine!

herb and citrus chicken I found this recipe on Pinterest and was instantly drawn to it, you can use a whole cut up chicken, other chicken parts or you can adapt the recipe like I did using just the breasts, either way it’s bullet- proof!

herb and citrus chicken The citrus juice mingles perfectly with the olive oil, garlic and herbs, a nice bright dish on a cold winter day!

herb and citrus chicken 

Herb and Citrus Roasted Chicken
 
Ingredients
  • 2 bone in, skin on chicken breasts, or other chicken parts
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 whole lemons, one juiced and one sliced
  • 2 whole oranges, one juiced and one sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, dried
  • 1 teaspoon , garlic or onion powder
  • red pepper flakes, a good pinch
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • ¼ cup of olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • fresh thyme and rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Whisk together the olive oil, honey, lemon and orange juice,dried seasoning,paprika, red pepper flakes, onion or garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Place chicken into a baking dish and pour mixture on top turning to coat all sides, at this point you can let it marinate for a little while if you have the time for even more flavor infusion.
  4. Arrange the sliced citrus and onion all around and underneath the chicken.
  5. Place fresh thyme and rosemary throughout and a good drizzle of olive oil.
  6. Roast uncovered for about an hour or until juices run clear and chicken is fully cooked.

 

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Fish Filet Roll Ups on Shingled Red Potatoes and the Winner of my Giveaway

stuffed sole on potato shingles If you plan on staying in for dinner on Valentine’s Day, and you’re still on the fence as to what you want to make, look no further! I’m giving you an easy and elegant meal that you can prepare ahead of time for you and your special someone, it’s impressive and filled with flavor.

It’s actually a revision of an older recipe I did on my blog about five years ago. The key is you’ll want to use a mild white fleshed fish fillet, one that can easily be rolled, not too thick and not too tiny in size either. I was going for cod but my fishmonger suggested I use Petrale sole, which is not like a true sole but more like a flounder. I told him I wanted to stuff and roll it and he said it would be perfect for that, and he was right!

If you can’t find Petrale sole, try flounder, cod or better yet ask your fishmonger, they know what’s best.

julienned vegies The inside of the fillets are generously brushed with a good quality basil pesto, please make your own if you can because the flavor of the pesto will really shine through, anything inferior will not be as good. The fish is then stuffed with a mixture of julienned carrots and zucchini, then rolled into nice little bundles.

shingled red potatoes The fish bundles are cooked right on top of thinly sliced shingled red potatoes, when finished everyone gets plated their very own pretty presentation.

stuffed sole on potato shingles A crispy topping of panko, lemon and garlic adds superior flavor, texture and crunch to the finished dish.

stuffed sole on potato shingles You’ll have plenty of room for dessert after this!

flourless chocolate cake And for dessert I highly recommend this  Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake, we absolutely loved it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The winner of the Mediterranean Basket Giveaway is, Marisa Franca.   Congratulations Marisa! Please email me with your address and I’ll get that sent out to you right away.

Fish Filet Roll Ups on Shingled Red Potatoes and the Winner of my Giveaway
 
Ingredients
  • mild white fleshed fish filets ( I used 4 for this recipe) sole, flounder or cod, thin enough to roll and big enough to stuff.
  • 2 carrots and 2 zucchini, julienned, do not use the seeds of the zucchini
  • good quality basil pesto
  • 8 or 9 tiny red potatoes, thinly sliced with a mandoline, do not use the ends
  • panko bread crumbs
  • lemon zest
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parsley for garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees, Toss sliced potatoes into a bowl and coat with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  2. On parchment, layer the sliced potatoes in a shingled pattern overlapping the slices making a rectangular raft to hold the fish bundle, make sure you can see the potato slices on all 4 sides of each raft.
  3. Take the inner side of each fillet and generously brush it with the pesto from end to end.
  4. Place a handful of the veggies on the small end of fillet then roll up and secure with tooth pick, place seam side down onto potato shingles.
  5. Brush top of bundles with pesto so the panko mixture sticks, sprinkle with paprika.
  6. To make the panko mixture, mix 1½ cups of panko with 1 smashed garlic clove and the zest of 1 lemon.
  7. In a small saute pan drizzle olive oil and crisp up the panko mixture until golden.
  8. Press the panko mixture onto the top of each fish roll up, drizzle with olive oil and bake until fish is cooked and potatoes get crisp on the edges.
  9. Sprinkle with parsley for garnish.
  10. Use a nice wide spatula, get right under the potatoes and carefully lift up.

 

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Tuna Nicoise Tart with Phyllo and a Giveaway

tuna nicoise tart Here’s a twist on the traditional Nicoise salad, same ingredients used, but instead of a salad it’s put into a tart form that has a crispy phyllo dough crust. This is wonderful for a brunch or light dinner served with a green salad on the side.

The inspiration for this tart came after I received a beautiful Mediterranean basket filled with Genova tuna and lots of other goodies.  I’ve always been a big fan of Genova Tonno and have it stocked in my pantry on a regular basis, so I was excited for the offer ( and you will be too!)

The reason why I personally buy and use Genova tuna in my own kitchen is because it’s certified wild-caught yellowfin, and it’s poached in pure olive oil and has no preservatives or additives, it’s all good!

ingredients for tuna nicoise tartGenova Tonno The rich olive oil flavored tuna enhances this tart along with the other ingredients I used, tomatoes, green beans, olives, capers, peppers, hard-boiled eggs and roasted red potatoes.

tuna nicoise tart Layered phyllo dough is the base for all the ingredients which get baked into a creamy egg and mustard mixture, this is over the top good!

tuna nicoise tart Make this for your loved ones they’ll be glad you did!

tuna nicoise tart And for your added pleasure, swipe a little pesto on top for a nice finish!

Genova tuna And now for, THE GIVEAWAY!

One lucky reader will receive this beautiful Mediterranean Basket filled with Genova tuna, Pamela Clarks cookbook, Mediterranean Cooking, an olive wood serving board from Sur La Table, a bag of couscous, a nice bottle of wine, cheese, crackers and other Mediterranean pairings like tapenade and pesto.

This giveaway is open to continental US residents only. To enter, leave a comment telling me what your favorite Mediterranean food is. Please leave only one comment per person, no anonymous comments will be accepted as I will need an email address to contact the winner.

Comments will not be accepted after 11:59 p. m. central time Thursday February 12, 2015. Winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Friday February 13, 2015.

If you are reading this via Facebook or are a subscriber through RSS feed you must come and comment on my actual blog to enter the giveaway.

Good Luck Everyone!

Disclosure: I received the same Mediterranean Basket described above and was compensated for my time, all opinions are my very own.
Tuna Nicoise Tart with Phyllo and a Giveaway
 
Ingredients
  • I used a 7½ x 11½ inch tart pan with removable bottom, if you use a smaller one just adjust the ingredients.
  • 1 can of Genova brand tuna packed in olive oil
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • yellow, orange and red bell pepper, ¼ each, sliced thin into strips
  • olives, pitted and sliced, kalamata or green, a good ½ cup
  • capers, 1 or 2 tablespoons sprinkled about
  • green beans, precooked, steamed, a good handful
  • cherry tomatoes, sliced ½ cup to ¾
  • tiny red potatoes, sliced the same size and roasted until slightly golden, 8 or 9 or enough to scatter about the tart pan.
  • 6 to 8 layers of phyllo dough, each layer sprayed or brushed with olive oil
  • FOR THE CREAM MIXTURE
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Spray tart pan with olive oil, layer first sheet of phyllo, fitting it in around the tart pan. Spray or brush layer with olive oil, repeat until all 6 or 8 layers are used, if using a smaller tart pan adjust, keep in mind you want a nice crust that will hold all the ingredients.Place tart pan on top of a baking sheet for easy oven removal.
  2. Whisk eggs, cream and Dijon together then pour mixture into the tart pan.
  3. Arrange the ingredients on top of the creamy egg mixture, placing clumps of tuna all around. Arrange as you wish to fill in your pan, pressing down ingredients slightly to anchor into the mixture.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until egg mixture has set and phyllo is a nice golden color.

 

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Game Day Eats

firecracker shrimp Whether you’re a true football fan or just one that likes to watch the commercials and the halftime shows like I do, you’ll need some good food to munch on this Sunday. Here’s a few more ideas in case you want to add a little something more to your table.

ingredients for firecracker shrimp My version of Firecracker Shrimp. It’s so simple to put together, just butterfly your shrimp because you’re going to stuff it with a mixture of good Cheddar and goat cheese, or cream cheese if you prefer. Into the cheese mixture add diced jalapeno, as hot as you like, diced green onion, salt and pepper. Then do your self a favor and make your bacon in the oven, on foil, at 400 until soft and still pliable.

firecracker shrimp Take a dollop of the cheese mixture and place it on top of each of the butterflied shrimp, the ratio of cheese I like to use is 2 parts goat or cream cheese to one part Cheddar.

I personally don’t like to wrap my shrimp in bacon because all I taste is bacon and not the shrimp too much, so I just place a nice thick piece on top of the cheese mixture, nestle it right on top.  But if you prefer to wrap the whole thing up, go for it but buy some thin cut bacon, mine is always too thick.

Sprinkle each shrimp with a cajun seasoning, a quick drizzle of olive oil and bake on a foil lined baking sheet at 400 until shrimp turns nice and pink and the cheese is melting.

mediterranean grilled cheese Or how about a gooey Mediterranean Style Grilled Cheese Sandwich? It will satisfy your soul!

mediterranean grilled cheese Get some good hearty bread, fresh mozzarella and feta for the cheese, or any other good melting cheese, like Brie or Fontina, then layer on arugula, roasted red pepper, olives and marinated artichoke hearts. Slather both sides of the bread with butter and cook till golden and all the cheese starts oozing out.

roasted fingerling potatoes You can serve your grilled cheese with these irresistible Roasted Fingerling Potatoes. Make a bunch because they go fast!

No real recipe here just cut them in half, put them in a bowl and sprinkle them well with olive oil, oregano, garlic powder, paprika, rosemary, romano cheese, sea salt and pepper. Toss well and place on a baking sheet into a 425 hot oven until golden and crispy, keep checking and turning them. If you have a convection setting like I do, use that, they crisp up really nice and fast.

buffalo chicken meatballs I love these Buffalo Chicken Meatballs, ( you can use turkey also). Blue cheese, carrot, celery, onion all packed inside each one, then baked and drenched in hot sauce and butter, so good, one bite wonders!  I got the recipe here.

I love blue cheese and because I had extra crumbles I whipped up a dressing by adding some sour cream, mayo and a bit of milk.

Great for dipping the meatballs into and the crunchy celery and carrots I served on the side.

buffalo chicken meatballs Happy Munching!

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Kale and Quinoa Patties with Sundried Tomatoes and Romano Cheese

quinoa and kale patties I opened my freezer the other day and saw a quart size container of cooked quinoa, I like to do that with different grains, I always make extra and freeze some, it’s nice and handy, and makes for some quick meals during the week. I do it with quinoa, couscous, farro and rice, a quick defrost and you’re ready to go!

quinoa and kale patties I decided to try my hand at making quinoa patties, and being a “newbie” at this I searched the Internet for some inspiration. Kale and quinoa sounded like a good combination to start with and then I gave it my own little Italian twist.

quinoa and kale patties Most of the recipes I saw added a bunch of breadcrumbs, I wanted to try making them without bread, so I just added more cheese instead and surprisingly they came out perfect! I added sundried tomatoes to mine, romano cheese, a little basil. Think about what you might have on hand, like shredded carrots, diced red pepper, other types of greens and cheese, different kinds of herbs, basically the sky’s the limit on additions.

quinoa and kale patties They’re very versatile, and a nice meatless meal that you can make ahead and reheat. I served mine alongside a simple salad for lunch, and topped them off with some tzatziki sauce.

quinoa and kale patties I also served them as a main course with a warm roasted red pepper sauce and a nice side of mixed veggies.

quinoa and kale patties And if you have any leftover at all, just plop a crispy fried egg on top for a wonderful breakfast, it’s so darn good!

Kale and Quinoa Patties with Sundried Tomatoes and Romano Cheese
 
Ingredients
  • Recipe adapted from Every day Dishes and DIY
  • 2½ cups of cooked and cooled quinoa, either tri-color or plain, cooked according to package. I advise having this done ahead of time.
  • 4 cups of kale, deveined and chopped up into small shreds
  • 1 cup of grated romano cheese
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons or so of diced sundried tomatoes, if using oil packed, rinse and pat dry
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, drizzle bottom with olive oil and saute onions and garlic until soft then add in the shredded kale and cook until wilted on a medium low flame, stirring and being careful not to burn edges of kale, let it cool down.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the quinoa, romano cheese, basil, sundried tomatoes and the three beaten eggs.
  3. Add the cooled down kale mixture to the bowl and combine everything well.
  4. Heat another skillet, I would use a non stick surface because of the cheese, drizzle that with olive oil.
  5. Form patties and place into hot pan, medium flame, don't move them until a crust forms on the bottom! (very important) then flip them over and cook the other side until crust forms, watch them so they don't burn, lower heat if necessary.
  6. The crust that forms will keep them together, so don't move turn them before that happens or else they will fall apart.
  7. remove patties, place on a paper towel and serve..

 

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Roasted Winter Citrus with Shrimp

roasted citrus with shrimp In my last blog post I roasted grapes for the very first time and now I’m doing it with winter citrus. As I stated before, when roasting vegetables and fruit a nice caramelization starts to occur and then all the flavors deeply intensify, it’s a wonderful thing!

sliced citrus Right now I can find beautiful citrus everywhere so on my recent shopping trip I picked up some Navel, Cara Cara, Minneolas and beautiful Blood Oranges. When roasting citrus it’s best if you can keep them all the same thickness when slicing, so I recommend using a mandoline.

roasting citrus Toss your slices in a little bit of olive oil then place them single layer on a baking sheet that’s lined with parchment.

roasted citrus The citrus goes into a hot oven around 425, turning them over once. You might have to remove some slices before others as they can over-caramelize and start to burn, if it happens just discard them like I did.

roasted citrus They taste best when the slices are still pliable and not stiff, and if they’re cut thinly they’re completely eatable and delicious!

roasted citrus with shrimp My shrimp was also roasted and I made a dressing of olive oil and some of the juice of all four oranges.

citrus dressingroasted citrus with shrimp I suggest roasting some extra citrus, the slices store well in the fridge and you can use them on both sweet and savory dishes, it’s my new favorite thing and the colors will perk you up!

This was the perfect meal to brighten a dreary winter day.

Roasted Winter Citrus with Shrimp
 
Ingredients
  • a few different variety of oranges that vary in inner color, at least 2 each
  • 1 lb. of shrimp, peeled, de-veined and tail removed
  • 1 bag of fresh baby spinach
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • parsley and thyme
  • DRESSING
  • ¾ cup of citrus juice
  • ¾ cup olive oil, whisked together
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. TO ROAST THE CITRUS
  2. Heat oven to 425
  3. Slice each orange nice and thin with a mandoline, toss with olive oil and place on a baking sheet, single layer lined with parchment, sprinkle slices with a tiny bit of salt.
  4. Roast until still pliable turning once, be careful not to burn them as they start to caramelize, 10 or so minutes. Set aside to cool.
  5. ROAST SHRIMP
  6. Line a baking sheet with foil and keep oven at 425
  7. Make sure your shrimp is dry and moisture free by dabbing well with paper towels.
  8. Toss cleaned and dry shrimp into a bowl with enough olive oil to coat, add the minced garlic and a generous amount of fresh chopped herbs.
  9. Place onto foil lined baking sheet and roast until shrimp turns pink and tender, maybe 10-12 minutes, times vary according to size of shrimp.
  10. On a platter layer the spinach, citrus slices and warm shrimp, then drizzle all over with the citrus dressing.

 

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Winter Salad with Roasted Grapes and Farro

roasted grape salad with farro Here’s a hearty winter salad that doesn’t include any pale wimpy tomatoes, it’s filled with delicious and nutty tasting farro, butternut squash, fresh spinach, honey goat cheese, pecans for crunch and my new favorite ingredient, roasted grapes!

roasted grapes Yes you heard me, roasted grapes, have you tried them yet? I have to admit this was the first time for me and I can’t believe what took me so long. My friend Stacey makes them all the time and has always said just how wonderful they are.

roasted grapes Just like when you roast vegetables the flavor gets much more enhanced, same here with the grapes, they take on a different taste and the flavor is elevated. The skin gets softer in the process and the insides are just bursting with sweet juice.

ingredients for roasted grape salad For this recipe I just roasted a whole container of seedless red grapes, a whole medium butternut squash and a whole package of farro, you’re going to have leftovers, but that’s a good thing. I like to freeze my leftover cooked farro for easy access to use in other recipes.

roasted grape salad with farro A simple, bright lemon and olive oil dressing brings all the flavors together nicely.

roasted grape chicken salad Another use for those leftover luscious roasted gems, toss them into a chicken salad like I did. I added spicy arugula, gorgonzola and toasted almonds drizzled with some of that lemon and olive oil dressing. Delish!

roasted grape crostini with ricotta Stacey suggested I try my roasted grapes on a crostini smeared with a little ricotta, and boy was she right. A drizzle of honey, crunchy toasted walnuts and fresh thyme took it over the edge!

roasted grape crostini with ricotta Go get a container of grapes right now and start roasting!

Winter Salad with Roasted Grapes and Farro
 
Ingredients
  • 1 container of seedless red grapes, rinsed and dried completely
  • 1 small or medium butternut squash, peeled, cut and diced small
  • 1 cup of cooked farro, or just make the whole package like I did and freeze leftovers. Cook according to package directions, then cool.
  • a good handful of fresh spinach
  • ½ log of honey goat cheese or regular, crumbled
  • a good handful of whole pecans or any nuts of your choice
  • fresh lemon juice
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 finely grated garlic clove
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425, for the grapes spread them on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil and a little sea salt. I wanted my grapes to retain their shape so I only roasted them for about 15 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan just until I saw them start to slightly burst. If you want them to completely burst with the juice oozing out I would place them on parchment and cook them longer. Set aside to cool.
  2. Roast the diced butternut squash, on a separate baking sheet, same temp until golden. Let cool.
  3. Cook farro according to package and cool down.
  4. Assemble your salad on a platter with all the with all the ingredients including the spinach and crumbled goat cheese and nuts.
  5. Spoon the lemon and olive oil dressing all around.
  6. LEMON DRESSING
  7. 1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice to 2 parts olive oil
  8. add 1 grated garlic clove, salt and pepper and whisk

 

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My Top Ten Most Popular Recipes of 2014

top ten recipes of 2014 on Proud Italian Cook As 2014 comes to a close I want to thank you my dear readers for all your support throughout the year. All your comments, emails, Instagram and Facebook “likes”, pins, photos you sent me of recipes you made were so much appreciated!

Wishing you all good health, happiness, and success in the coming year, and more good food.  Happy New Year!

And now a walk down memory lane with some of my most popular posts of 2014.

chicken cacciatore 1. Chicken Cacciatore

Hearty, rustic, family style comfort food, a classic Italian dish. When it’s cold outside I crave this and so do many of you!

colored cauliflower frittata 2. Colored Cauliflower Frittata with Red Peppers, Onions and Brie

The combination of flavors here work together so well, and in my opinion, the Brie takes it over the top!

paella, Italian style 3. Paella, with an Italian Twist

A fun twist on traditional paella adding Italian sausage, broccolini and roasted red pepper puree.

cedar planked shrimp 4. Cedar Planked Shrimp with Parsley Pesto Sauce

Everything tastes better on a plank, it’s an aromatic infusion of flavor!

zucchini noodles with tomato cream sauce 5. Zucchini Noodles with Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Cream

Zucchini noodles are all the rage and I’m hooked on my Spiralizer. If you haven’t tried this recipe yet, I encourage you to do so, one of my favorites.

tomato tart with brown rice crust 6. Tomato Tart with Brown Rice Crust

This recipe has been so popular and it’s because of the brown rice crust, it’s crispy, chewy and holds the filling together just like pastry, but it’s totally gluten free!

butternut squash noodles with sausage and kale 7. Butternut Squash Noodles with Sausage, Mushrooms and Kale

Many of you wrote me and said you didn’t miss the pasta at all, honestly, neither did I.

 

pot roast, Italian style 8. Slow Braised Beef Pot Roast, Italian Style

There’s something about a slow braise in the oven on a cold and frigid day, and apparently I’m not alone.

butternut squash lasagna roll ups 9. Butternut Squash lasagna Roll Ups

Easy entertaining, individual portions, creamy and delicious!

big and bold meatball 10. Big and Bold Meatball

It’s a big meatball with a dollop of ricotta on top and some crusty bread to soak up the sauce, I’m so glad you liked it!

See you in 2015!

 

 

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From My Home to Yours…

crab stuffed shrimp with champagne cream sauce

 

 

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The Inaugural Italian Gals Cookie Exchange

Italian cookies This cookie platter is the result of four Italian gals chatting on Facebook about some of the cookies we were baking, Adri, Linda, Domenica and myself.

Over the years we have formed friendships through the world of blogging, and have expressed several times how fun it would be if we could cook and bake together.

Almost immediately Linda  suggested we do a cookie exchange through the mail, we all loved the idea and within minutes Linda took charge and sent us all an email with instructions for the first, Inaugural Italian Gals Christmas Cookie Exchange!

Each person was to bake and mail two dozen cookies to three people. The cookies should be the type that ships well, something like pizzelle would be too fragile. Then place them into a tin of some sort and send them either Fedex or U.S. Mail, she even listed the rates for us.

We baked them just a couple of days before we sent them out for optimum freshness and not too long after boxes started arriving at my front door!

cookies by mail Beautiful boxes wrapped in ribbons with cards.

Italian cookie exchange

This tin was from Adri, the cookies are called, Three Nut Fingers, a recipe she adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book called, Rose’s Christmas Cookies, they are filled with almonds, hazelnuts and pecans and she even added in a little Frangelico, they were heavenly! Here’s Adri’s version.
Italian cookie exchange The next day I received this tin of crunchy Cranberry-Hazelnut Biscotti, a recipe Domenica adapted from her new and forthcoming book called Ciao Biscotti, which will be released this March, ( you can pre-order now) how lucky were we to be able to taste a recipe from her new book. Wonderful with morning coffee or tea!

Italian cookie exchange And last but not least Linda’s, Italian Christmas “Brownies” glazed with Lemon Icing. A cookie filled with chocolate and pungent spices, a perfect after dinner treat, it even includes a surprise ingredient that makes the flavor even more intense and delicious.

fig filling for cucidati My contribution to the cookie exchange was Cucidati, a traditional Italian cookie originating from Sicily that I make every year with family, it’s filled with figs, nuts, dates, orange, raisins and spices along with a little rum or whiskey to top it off.

making Italian fig cookies They’re a labor of love and can be time consuming to make, so when we do it we do it big, at least 400 or more so that everyone will have a good amount to take home and share. It’s become an annual event at my house where we spend the whole day baking Cucidati from early morning until late afternoon. We start out drinking coffee but end up sipping Dumante ( a pistachio liqueur) before the day is over. It’s a fun day and we look forward to it every year!

 

Italian fig cookies My tables and counters quickly get filled up with these figgy little gems!

boxing up Italian fig cookies I actually whipped up a fresh batch of cucidati for my Italian Gals cookie exchange two days before I mailed them. I layered them in a box with lots of waxed paper in between and they all arrived safely!

Italian cookies So you see, you don’t have to live near each other to have a cookie exchange, you can do it through the mail like we did, though you might want to limit the amount of people involved due to shipping costs.

Italian cookies This was so much fun, and it was the next best thing to us all being in one of our kitchens and baking together!

Italian cookie platter

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Pandoro Christmas Tree Cake with Amaretto and Mascarpone Whipped Cream

pandoro Christmas tree I’m excited to share this festive cake with you and you don’t even have to do any baking, it has a beautiful presentation because it resembles a snowy Christmas tree, it comes together in no time and it will certainly impress your guests!

Do you want to know what it is?

pandoro at Eataly Chicago It’s called Pandoro, or golden cake and it’s something you buy, it’s sold almost everywhere during the holidays. You can find it along with Panettone at most supermarkets, pastry shops and Italian markets, I’ve even seen it in T.J. Maxx and Marshals this time of year. I went to Eataly Chicago last weekend and they were displayed everywhere.

Pandoro is a traditional sweet bread from Verona, golden in color because of the large amount of egg yolks used, there are no nuts or dried fruit like in Panettone and it’s baked in a star shaped mold. Trust me, it’s heaven in a pretty box!

pandoro You can buy  the large size as well as the smaller, more individual ones, pretty much the same way they sell Panettone.

I have to be honest, I’ve never made this Christmas tree cake before so I opted for the smaller version just to see how it would turn out, I’ve seen it done on different blogs and websites in the past and always loved the look of it, such a festive dessert and the taste is decadent!

I’m here to say this is a wonderful addition to your holiday table, I know now by making the smaller version, that the larger one will be on my table.

sliced pandoro  Horizontally cut the Pandoro gives you beautiful star shaped slices that you can now layer with whipped cream, mascarpone or a custard, you can also flavor it with Amaretto, Limoncello, Rum,  chocolate, whatever you so desire.

sliced pandoro I used Amaretto to brush on my slices and to flavor my cream mixture, it was divine! You can embellish it anyway you want even using fresh fruits and nuts.

pandoro christmas tree The layers build upon each other to form the look of a Christmas tree, the perfect addition to your sweet table this holiday season!

Pandoro Christmas Tree Cake with Amaretto and Mascarpone Whipped Cream
 
Ingredients
  • This recipe is for a 3.5 oz. Pandoro, you can double everything for the larger size.
  • 1 cup, heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup of mascarpone, room temp
  • 1 heaping tablespoon, powdered sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 2 teaspoons of Amaretto to flavor the cream mixture,plis additional for brushing layers
  • toasted sliced almonds for garnish and between layers,
  • white sprinkles, optional
Instructions
  1. Cream Mixture
  2. In a mixing bowl add the mascarpone and the heaping powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
  3. Add in the heavy cream and the 2 teaspoons of Amaretto and beat mixture into stiff peaks.
  4. Slice the Pandoro horizontally, being careful not to break the points of the star shape. Place the largest slice on a serving dish then brush with Amaretto, then spread cream mixture on top with some toasted almonds.
  5. Place the next largest slice on top placing it on an angle so the points of the stars are staggered alternate layers.
  6. Repeat with the Amaretto and cream mixture on every slice and continuing to stagger the layers until you reach the top.
  7. Place cream mixture on the very top, sprinkle with almonds and other garnishments.
  8. Dust all over with powdered sugar.
  9. This can be made a few hours ahead of time and kept in a cool place.

 

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Cappuccino Biscotti

cappuccino biscotti Tis the season to start your Christmas baking! Each year you can count on me to make my two favorite biscotti,  Fig and Pistachio and traditional Anise flavored. Biscotti are wonderful crunchy treats to have on hand when friends and family stop by and you need a little something to go with your coffee.

cappuccino biscotti This year I wanted to add another one to my list especially since I have a deep love for all things coffee, so I decided to make Cappuccino Biscotti.  How could I resist, these crunchy little gems have two of my favorite ingredients, espresso and Kahlua liqueur, plus pecans and mini chocolate chips!

cappuccino biscotti dough The dough comes together quick, one bowl with no mixer, which really appeals to me.  Form your logs, place on parchment, bake, then let them cool down before slicing.

cutting biscotti Have I told you how awesome it is to slice your biscotti with an electric knife? This was a tip my sister-in- law gave me a few years ago and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Don’t get me wrong you can still use a serrated knife, but you have to go nice and easy and you might get more crumbles if you have a lot of fruit and nuts inside,  but if you have an electric knife in your pantry somewhere, dust it off and give it a try, I promise you will use it every time, it makes a beautiful sharp clean cut and the slicing process goes really fast!

twice baked cappuccino biscottikahlua and biscotti Since I had the kahlua out I mixed myself up a vintage Kahlua and cream like I use to drink in the old days. Wow, I forgot how good it was, and the biscotti was  the perfect compliment!

cappuccino biscotti and espresso But I still think the absolute best way to enjoy these is when they’re sitting alongside a nice cup of hot coffee or espresso.

Happy Baking!

Cappuccino Biscotti
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp instant espresso
  • ¼ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup of mini chocolate chips, semi sweet
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tblsp kahlua liqueur
  • ½ cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. In a large bowl combine sugars, flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and instant espresso, use a pastry cutter to blend in the cold butter until the mixture is fine and crumbly.
  3. Stir in chocolate chips, pecans, eggs and Kahlua until dough gets nice and moistened, knead on a floured surface until dough is soft and slightly sticky.
  4. Divide dough into quarters and with floured hands shape each quarter into a 9" long roll. Place 2 rolls 4" apart on each baking sheet. Gently flatten each log into a 2' wide slab.
  5. Bake in oven for 15 to 30 minutes, mine took 15 but check to make sure the tops of the slabs are firm and dry and watch bottoms so they don't burn.
  6. Remove and reduce oven to 325F, set the slabs on a rack to cool down for about 10 minutes.
  7. Cut slabs crosswise into ½ " thick slices. Place slices cut side down on baking sheet, bake for 10 minutes, turn them over to the other side and bake another 10 minutes.
  8. Transfer to rack to cool down completely. Store in cookie tins.
  9. RECIPE ADAPTED FROM CRUMB; A FOOD BLOG

 

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Brussels Sprout, Kale and Corn Pie

brussel sprout, kale corn pie With Thanksgiving less than a week away I’m sure all of your menus are pretty much planned and now the cooking and prepping begins!

I don’t know about you, but until then I’m not cooking anything very elaborate, in fact all these ingredients for this luscious pie were just sitting in my fridge, and I bet most of them are in your fridge right about now.

I went easy on myself, I had a store-bought pie crust handy, some brussels sprouts that I bought way too much of, and kale, I always have kale, but spinach or swiss chard would work equally as well. Oh, and frozen corn, we all have some of that don’t we?

brussel sprout kale, corn pie I added a small leek, but an onion would do, and one clove of garlic. Then you whisk up a custard of eggs and cream and add some wonderful melt-y cheese and the end result is a wonderful, savory pie/ quiche/tart, call it whatever you want, I call it delicioso!

brussel sprout leaves I prefer pulling the looser outer leaves off of my brussels sprouts then slicing what’s left, I think it looks prettier, but it is time consuming so you don’t have to do that, you can just shred or slice them up or even use leftover cooked sprouts.

pre cooking pie crust Roll out your dough, then pre-cook it for 7 minutes until set using pie weights.

ingredients for brussel sprout pie Saute the brussels sprouts and kale until they start to wilt, adding them in raw is not good, then crisp up your leeks or onion.

ingredients for brussel sprout pieThen a mixture of  grated parmesan or romano and a shredded cheese of your choice, maybe a fontina or chedder, something that melts nice, I had a package of Gruyere that I wanted to use up.

After the piecrust is precooked add all the sauteed veggies, top with the cheese and pour on the eggy custard.

brussel sprout kale, corn pie I like to reserve some of the veggies to place on top after you add the custard and cheese because it tends to cover everything up.

brussel sprout kale, corn pie

 

You can add a salad to this if you’d like, or just cut a nice wedge and pour a glass of wine like I did, it’s a quick eat when you’re busy, like prepping for the holidays, and you’ll be very happy to have leftovers for the next day!

I probably won’t be posting much until after Thanksgiving, but if you want to see what I’m up to, pretty much on a daily basis, follow me  here on Instagram!

Brussels Sprout, Kale and Corn Pie
 
Ingredients
  • 1 9" piecrust, homemade or store-bought
  • 3 cups of slightly cooked and wilted brussels sprouts
  • 3 leaves of kale cut chiffonade style sauteed, slightly cooked and wilted down
  • ½ cup, frozen corn,
  • 1 small leek, or onion, sauteed and caramelized
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 branches of fresh thyme
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese, Gruyere, fontina or chedder
  • ⅓ cup grated parmesan or romano
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1¼ cup of heavy cream or half and half
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees, roll out piecrust and place into a 9" pie plate that has been brushed with olive oil.
  2. Add a piece of parchment on top and some pie weights, or dry beans. Place on a baking sheet and cook for 7 minutes, then remove and cool and reduce oven to 375.
  3. Saute the brussels sprouts, kale just until it starts to wilt, you could add the frozen corn also, then let it cool down.
  4. Saute the leek, garlic and thyme in a drizzle of olive oil until nicely golden, let cool, then mix all the veggies together.
  5. Whisk up the eggs, the grated cheese and the heavy cream together.
  6. Arrange all the veggies on the precooked and cooled piecrust, reserve some for top after egg mixture is poured.
  7. Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top.
  8. Pour the egg custard all around.
  9. Place some of the reserved veggies on top.
  10. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, let it cool down, then cut.

 

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Stuffed Cabbage Cake

stuffed cabbage cake I have to say right off the bat that this post was solely inspired by a photo I saw in the beautiful new cookbook by Mimi Thorisson, A Kitchen In France. In fact she posted the recipe recently on her blog, the name she calls it is, Chou Farci.

Instead of individual rolls of stuffed cabbage like most of us are use to seeing, her recipe was made and molded into a cake-like form by building layers of meat and vegetable filling and then wrapping it all into a beautiful little package of lacy savoy cabbage leaves.

After reading her recipe, which I’m sure is  quite delicious, I thought it would be fun to make my Italian style version, just the way I make my own stuffed cabbage.

unmolding stuffed cabbage cake You’ll need a round, deep souffle or casserole dish because you’re going to layer the bottom and sides with the cabbage leaves as well as each layer of filling and the top. After it’s baked together you let it rest a bit, then invert it onto a serving plate.

unmolded stuffed cabbage cake All the filling stays neatly contained inside the wrapped cabbage leaves. It looks like there’s a cute little tree on top doesn’t it?

stuffed cabbage cake But I just couldn’t keep it unadorned, so I decided to embellish it with warm marinara and freshly grated parmesan cheese, just like frosting on a cake!

stuffed cabbage cake This way of presenting stuffed cabbage takes a simple meal and elevates it to something very special. You can try Mimi’s version, or use a filling that your own family would like, the sky’s the limit!  Just follow the directions for the cabbage layout and you’re good to go.

Here’s my Italian style version.

Stuffed Cabbage Cake
 
Ingredients
  • 1 head of savoy cabbage, it has pretty lacy leaves
  • 1½ pound of good quality ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 small red pepper, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup of grated romano or parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup of marinara sauce plus extra for topping mold and plating
  • 1 cup of cooked rice
  • 1 egg
  • olive oil
  • fresh chopped basil and parsley, a small bunch of each
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Core and separate the leaves from the savoy cabbage, then cook them in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain, pat dry and set aside.
  2. Grease the bottom and sides of a deep souffle type dish and then arrange the prettiest and largest leaf on the bottom. Place another leaf on top of that and up the sides of the dish all around.
  3. In a large saute pan cook your meat until you see no pink, if it needs to be drained of added grease do so and set aside.
  4. Add olive oil to the pan and cook the onions, carrots, garlic and diced red pepper until soft, then toss it all together with the cooked meat.
  5. Add the grated cheese, marinara and fresh herbs, toss til well coated, let it cool then toss in the egg.
  6. Put your first layer down, about ½ inch then layer a cabbage leaf on top. Repeat until you reach the top or run out of filling.
  7. Finish with cabbage on top making sure to tuck it in the dish all around.
  8. Drizzle the top with olive oil, salt and pepper and a sprinkling of romano cheese all over.
  9. Bake at 350 for around 40 minutes.
  10. Let it rest then invert a serving plate over the souffle dish, then flip it over.
  11. Cut into slices and serve with additional warmed marinara and more grated cheese.

 

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Big and Bold Meatball

giant meatballs Here’s a fun way to eat your favorite meatball, make it giant sized, nestle it in a pool of homemade marinara, top it with fresh ricotta, basil and olive oil, then just make sure you have some crispy, crunchy bread to soak up all that sauce. It’s a meal in itself and it’s so good!

I got this idea from the very popular meatball that’s on the menu at Siena Tavern in Chicago, I went there recently with a friend, we shared the jumbo sized meatball and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since.

They make theirs with wagyu beef but honestly as we were eating it we both agreed you don’t need to use pricey wagyu beef at all because it’s the combination of all the different flavors that get melded together that makes it so amazing.

meatball ingredients So for my version I just picked up some good quality ground beef from my reputable butcher, it was 85% lean and 15% fat.  You could do a mixture of meats if you like but I wanted to stick strictly with beef to stay close to the flavor profile that we had in the restaurant.

The rest of the ingredients are exactly how I make my own meatballs, I always use grated romano cheese, dry and wet bread breadcrumbs, sauteed onion and garlic, fresh parsley, eggs, salt and pepper.

making giant meatballs For one pound of meat I made three meatballs, I feel anything bigger than that is overkill, this was perfect for individual servings.

You’ll want to form your meatballs then bake them on parchment until they set as shown in the picture on the right, about 20 minutes or so.

making giant meatballs Then drench them in some good homemade marinara sauce topped with romano, then back into the oven until cooked through and internal temperature reaches 160.

giant meatball When taken out of the oven drench them with more warmed sauce, don’t be shy, add a healthy dollop of fresh ricotta, right on top, a drizzle of olive oil, fresh basil and  more romano, then immediately dig in!

giant meatball

 

But don’t forget that warmed crunchy bread it’s a MUST!

I used sliced ciabattta that I drizzled with olive oil and stuck under the broiler until  nice and golden, a match made in meatball heaven!

Big and Bold Meatball
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb, quality ground beef,85% lean 15% fat
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 hunk of day old Italian bread moistened with water or milk and squeezed out
  • ⅓ cup or so of dry plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¾ cup of grated pecorino romano
  • salt and pepper
  • homemade marinara sauce
  • fresh ricotta
  • fresh basil for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a small pan add olive oil and saute onions and garlic until soft, let it cool
  2. Place all the ingredients into a bow, the meat, eggs, cheese, bread, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, pepper, onions and garlic.
  3. Mix well and form 3 meatballs, they'll look about the size of a tennis ball.
  4. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and cook them until set at 375 for around 20 minutes or so.
  5. Remove and place meatballs into their own individual baking dish.
  6. Drench with sauce and top with romano cheese and finish baking in the oven at 375 until internal temp reaches 160.
  7. Add a generous amount of additional warmed sauce, a dollop of fresh ricotta on top, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of romano and some fresh chopped basil.
  8. I highly recommend sliced ciabatta bread, drizzled with olive oil and placed under the broiler or in a 400 degree oven until nice and golden to accompany your meatball.
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It’s Paella Time Again….My Way

vegetable paella This is not the first time I’ve made and posted a vegetable paella here, I think it’s been about a year and a half since I made my  first one, but I just love making them because you can be as creative as you want with all sorts of vegetables, especially what is currently in season right now.

The rice is your blank canvas, so everything you place on top of it just makes the whole dish come alive!

vegetable paella ingredients This was not a planned recipe what so ever, these were the actual veggies that I had in my fridge the other day, so before they went bad I decided to roast them all, which I do quite often.

Roasting vegetables dramatically enhance their flavor, It’s a simple method where the vegetables are tossed in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper then placed in a 425 degree oven and roasted until nicely golden and tender.

I usually have a few rimmed baking sheets going at the same time because I like to roast the vegetables individually according to their kind instead of mixing them all together. As you can see I had quite a variety!

I used red pepper, broccolini, yellow squash, zucchini, leeks, butternut squash, baby thin carrots, fennel, yellow and white cauliflower and those cute little enoki mushrooms. I also added roasted cherry tomatoes and a sprinkling of frozen peas.

The point is you can make it your own with whatever vegetables you have on hand, don’t be afraid, anything will work. The more color the better, just play around with it and have fun, and besides, eating more color brings many health benefits to us, and that’s a good thing!

vegetable paella  The instructions for paella and starting the rice can be found here in my previous post, just change out the veggies and make it your own, of course mine is not so traditional but made with an Italian flare.

It’s a one pan meal you can pull together during the week,( especially if you roast your vegetables ahead of time) or special enough to serve to your guests at a dinner  party. Any leftovers you might have taste equally as good the next day!

roasted vegetable soup with chicken and beans I guarantee you’ll have extra roasted veggies left over so why not make a hearty minestrone with them like I did.  I mixed homemade broth with a good boxed broth, simmered it for a while with a few parmesan rinds ( or grated cheese) that I always keep in my freezer plus a can of cannellini beans, some kale, leftover chicken if you have it and cooked pasta if you like.  When the broth is nice and cheesy  place some of those leftover veggies into a bowl and ladle the broth right on top. So good, and so good for you!

 

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Autumn Kale Salad

autumn kale salad Here’s a nice autumn salad that features some of the fruits of the fall season along with our beloved kale. It’s pretty and festive and it could be a nice side to balance out a heavy meal, plus it requires very little work to bring it together!

autumn kale salad ingredients You can put your own twist on it by changing up the type of fruit and nuts that you and your family like. For mine and for presentation, I added chopped apple and thinly sliced pear, I liked the contrast between the two cuts, I also added dried cherries, toasted walnuts and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

dressing for autumn kale saladThe dressing really pulls this salad all together, it’s a mixture of apple cider vinegar and white balsamic blended together, which is a must. The oil you can change up to your liking, but I highly recommend roasted walnut oil for a little treat. Also, If you want to sweeten your dressing up a bit you can, but I never ended up doing it, it was perfect without.

autumn kale salad Whatever nuts you use be sure to lightly toast them beforehand, it intensifies their flavor and also gives them more crunch.

autumn kale salad It’s colorful, healthy, fresh and good for you, so dig in!

fall colors Speaking of colorful, every tree and bush I see is worthy of a snapshot. Chicagoland is exceptionally vibrant and beautiful this season!

Autumn Kale Salad
 
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch of curly kale
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 1 pear, thinly sliced
  • dried cherries or cranberries
  • toasted walnuts
  • pomegranate seeds, optional
  • DRESSING INGREDIENTS
  • ½ cup toasted walnut oil, (or oil of your choice)
  • ¼ cup of vinegar total, using half apple cider vinegar and half white balsamic
  • 1 teaspoon, Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove grated on a microplane
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Remove the stems from the kale, chop,wash and spin dry, place into a large bowl or platter. Curly kale holds on to water so spinning it dry is an important step.
  2. Chop 1 apple and slice 1 pear then squeeze a tiny bit of fresh lemon on top and set aside.
  3. Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing then pour onto the kale and toss until well coated,a little goes a long way, but feel free to make more if you have a huge amount of kale.
  4. Arrange the apples and pear on top and sprinkle with dried fruit and toasted nuts, any amount you desire.
  5. Serve immediately!

 

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Butternut Squash Lasagna Roll Ups

butternut squash lasagna roll ups I’m sorry,  but I’m at it again with butternut squash. I can’t help it, it’s so creamy, delicious and nutritious and it just screams fall to me! Not only that, it’s versatile and can be used in various dishes, just check out my archives for several different ways that I’ve used it in the past.

Sure, I’ve made your typical type lasagna using butternut squash but recently I realized that I never used it in a lasagna roll up.

I’m seriously considering this as my pasta side for Thanksgiving dinner this year, it’s that good!

butternut squash sauce Now lets talk sauce, which is based on a recipe from Chef frank De Carlo, well it just elevates the dish and funny thing is, you don’t really need alot. If you look at my top photo you’ll see I just put a little on the bottom of my baking dish and then I spooned some on top of each roll up, it’s not heavy at all, it’s dreamy!

Infuse some sage into melted butter and shallots, deglaze with broth, whisk in a small amount of pureed squash, add a little bit of cream and some parmesan. This is definitely party worthy!

butternut squash filling Roasted and mashed butternut squash, chopped spinach, a mixture of  ricotta, parmesan and asiago with a slight hint of garlic and lemon zest fills the pasta noodles.

butternut squash lasagna roll upsbutternut squash lasagna roll ups The day I made this my whole family stopped over for one reason or another, I made a big salad to go along with it, and it was devoured in seconds!

butternut squash lasagna roll ups

Great as a stand alone meal right now, but certainly worthy for the upcoming holiday season. I see Thanksgiving side written all over this!
winter squash

Lucky me, I was the recipient of all these beautiful squashes, so no doubt you will be seeing more squash recipes here in the future.

They were sent to me by a wonderful local company called Door to Door Organics, where you can have fresh organic and local produce, plus grocery items delivered right to your home. It’s funny because I had used them myself way before they ever even contacted me.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you know how I love my veggies so this offer for me to try was a win win for me! I remember in the dead of winter last year how happy I was to see my order sitting outside my front door. What I love about the company is that there’s is no commitment, you could stop and start whenever you want.

So for all my readers who live in the Chicagoland area and want to give Door to Door Organics a try, here’s a ten dollar off coupon for you on your first order.

Now on to the recipe!

Butternut Squash Lasagna Roll Ups
 
Ingredients
  • 1 good sized butternut squash
  • 2½ cups of cooked butternut squash for the entire recipe, 2 cups will be for filling mixture, ½ cup will be reserved for the sauce
  • 1 cup, ricotta
  • ¼ cup of frozen, chopped spinach, measured after it is drained well
  • ½ cup of grated parmesan
  • ⅓ cup of grated asiago
  • 1 egg
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 small garlic clove grated on a microplane
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 or 9 cooked lasagna noodles
  • FOR THE SAUCE
  • ½ cup of reserved squash pulp, pureed smoother than the pulp for the filling
  • 2 shallots, or ½ of a white onion, finely diced
  • ½ stick, unsalted butter
  • 1 small bunch of sage leaves
  • ¾ cup of stock, I used chicken
  • ¾ cup of cream
  • ½ cup of grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Prepare your squash ahead of time. Cut lengthwise, with skin still on, remove seeds and roast the squash, cut side down at 350 degrees until tender and a knife goes through with ease, close to an hour. Let it cool, then scoop out pulp.
  2. FILLING MIXTURE
  3. Mash 2 cups of the squash pulp into small chunks, making it easy for spreading.
  4. Add in ricotta, egg, cheeses,grated garlic, zest, salt and pepper, mix together well, then fold in spinach until incorporated.
  5. SAUCE
  6. Make your sauce by sauteing shallots in the butter with the sage leaves until slightly golden, then deglaze with the broth and whisk in the ½ cup of the well pureed squash that was reserved until nice and smooth on low heat.
  7. Whisk in the cream and add the grated parmesan cheese
  8. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  9. INSTRUCTIONS
  10. Spread about 3 tablespoons of filling on each cooked lasagna noodle, then roll up and place them seam side down on a shallow baking dish that has some of the sauce spooned onto the bottom. Spoon sauce on top of each lasagna roll up, plus grate a little parmesan cheese on top of each.
  11. Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, sauce will be set and top will be slightly golden. There should be extra sauce for serving.
  12. This whole recipe can easily be doubled.
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Slow Braised Beef Pot Roast, Italian Style

Italian style beef pot roast Tender braised beef soaked in red wine and cooked slow and low on a cold weather day is comfort in a pot! The process of braising is not one to be rushed, this is not a thirty minute meal what so ever. You’ll want to make this several hours ahead of time or better yet, the day before.

The slow method of braising results in deep deep flavors and fork tender meat that melts in your mouth, it’s out of this world!

pot roast ingredients For my Italian style pot roast I like to add Muffuletta, which is a store bought bottled olive salad, it has great flavor, it couldn’t be easier and it enhances the meat and juices perfectly. Red wine, some broth, canned tomatoes, added veggies, lots of garlic, rosemary and thyme complete the flavor profile.

seared beef roast Braising is very economical, you don’t have to use an expensive cut of meat, in fact, I used a chuck roast for this recipe, one that I got on sale at Whole Foods and it was just under three pounds.

I like to stud my meat with slices of garlic all over on the top and bottom, salt and pepper both sides then sear the meat until a nice crust forms, this is a key step in braising.

braised beef pot roast

I can’t tell you how good my house smelled while this was simmering in the oven so you’re going to have to try it yourself. I’m sure you could do this in a crock pot but I rarely use one, I’m more of an oven kind of girl myself. All you need is a nice heavy bottomed pot with a tight lid.

braised beef pot roast As the meat breaks down some fat will accumulate but that’s easy to skim off once it cools down or like I said in the beginning you can make this the day before and then the fat will solidify in the fridge overnight which makes it even easier to remove, that is if you have the will power to wait for the next day to eat it!

braised beef pot roast The juices that become the sauce goes perfectly on top of egg noodles, mashed potatoes, or the favorite in my house, polenta. I like to roast my carrots and eat them as a side dish, a little al’dente, but if you prefer you can certainly cook them along with the other vegetables.

braised pot roast with polenta No matter how bad the weather is outside I guarantee this dish will make you feel all warm and cozy inside.

Slow Braised Beef Pot Roast, Italian Style
 
Ingredients
  • 1 chuck roast, 2½ - 3lb
  • 1 onion, chopped medium
  • 1 14 oz. can of cherry tomatoes, ( or chopped) including juice
  • 1 container of whole crimini mushrooms
  • 1 small roasted red pepper strips
  • 8 garlic cloves, 6 smashed and 2 sliced for studding meat
  • ¾ of a bottle of Muffaletta olive salad, drained of excess oil
  • ½ cup red wine
  • ¾ cup of broth, I used chicken because that's what I had, of course beef broth would work too.
  • rosemary, thyme
  • parsley for garnish
Instructions
  1. Make slits with a small knife all around the meat then push slices of garlic inside.
  2. Salt and pepper both sides of the meat.
  3. Heat a heavy bottomed pan like cast iron that has a tight lid.
  4. Drizzle some olive oil in the bottom and when almost smoking place meat in and sear it until crust forms on both sides.
  5. Remove meat then set aside.
  6. Add the chopped onion, roasted red pepper strips,6 smashed garlic cloves, a branch of thyme and rosemary and cook until onions caramelize.
  7. Add wine, broth and tomatoes and Muffaletta olive salad.
  8. Nestle your meat right in the center of the liquid, add more rosemary and thyme.
  9. Cover the pot with a tight lid then cook it low and slow at 275 degrees for 3½ to 4 hours, meat must be fork tender.
  10. When I took it out of the oven I placed the mushrooms inside then put the lid back on, they got tender and cooked in a few minutes from all the heat still inside the pot.
  11. Skim off excess fat.
  12. Garnish with parsley and serve over mashed potatoes, egg noodles or polenta.

 

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Scenes From Chicago Gourmet 2014

Chicago Gourmet 2014 This past Saturday I attended Chicago Gourmet at beautiful Millennium Park, Chicago’s celebration of food and wine.

Chicago Gourmet is a gorge feast of food, wine and spirits, celebrity chefs, live demos, seminars and much much more.

Lucky for us the weather was absolutely gorgeous that day!

opening ceremony Chicago Gourmet Opening ceremonies started out with a champagne toast thanking the presenters, sponsors, chefs and those that worked tirelessly on this event.

Chicago Gourmet 2014 And look who showed up to give the toast, our own Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanual! ( Morimoto and Carla Hall too)

opening ceremony Chicago Gourmet 2014

He was proud to acknowledge how Chicago has excelled in the culinary world with national and international restaurants and chefs, and how honored he is that Chicago will be hosting the 2015 James Beard Awards. Cheers to that!

Chef Bayless I always enjoy the chef demos because the venue is so intimate,it’s like you’re hanging out in their kitchen. In this demo Chicago’s very own, Chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill/ Topolobampo/ XOCO made a quick and easy, dynamic green mole sauce and served it over roasted vegetables.

Speaking of vegetables, they’re apparantly trending more and more in restaurants with an emphasis on healthier eating.

Carlos Gaytan Along with Chef Bayless was Chef Carlos Gaytan of Mexique, he created a beautiful seafood tamale.

Stephanie Izard Chef Stephanie Izard, Girl & The Goat/ Little Goat,  is so laid back in the way she cooks and so at ease in the kitchen, she’s known for her different and unique flavor combinations and she doesn’t really measure as she cooks, she likes to wing it and develop flavors as shes goes, my kind of girl.  No wonder she became a Top Chef winner!

Jamie Bissonnette This dish, a vegetable paella was demoed by Chef Jamie Bissonnette/Coppa, he emphasized using every part of the vegetable, sort of like the nose to tail concept but only for veggies, nothing was wasted and the paella looked colorful and stunning when finished.

Justin Aprahamian James Beard Award winners Chef Justin Aprahamian/Sanford Restaurant ( Best Chef Midwest) and Chef Jimmy Bannos Jr./The Purple Pig, (Rising Star Chef) had a lively demo together featuring caraway crusted sea scallops and roasted garlic and herb salt encrusted pork tenderloin.

Jimmy Bannos Jr.Jeff Mauro Jeff Mauro AKA “Sandwich King” so down to earth, stayed and talked with everyone, still lives in Elmwood Park and actually films his show from there, fame hasn’t changed him one bit and of course he made a delicious foccaccia sandwich.

Chicago Gourmet 2014 There were tastings after tastings of over 190 of Chicago’s finest restaurants and chefs, you couldn’t possibly try everything, you’d explode!

Chicago Gourmet 2014

Chunky crab dip, jumbo shrimp cocktail, chicken and waffles and an oyster shooter was featured at this Chef tasting pavilion.
Chicago Gourmet 2014 Lobster rolls, bacon wrapped scallops, flank steak with chimichurri, cerviche, bbq, wild boar meatballs, burgers, dim sum, house made salumi.

I could go on and on and on…

Chicago Gourmet 2014Chicago Gourmet 2014Chicago Gourmet 2014 Elite wines, craft beers and other artisan spirits were featured all over, you definitely had to pace yourself, if you know what I mean!

Stans donuts, Chicago gourmet Desserts? They had it covered. Chocolates, candies, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, panna cotta, ice cream and fried dough, just to name a few.

How about a little donut with cheese popcorn pastry cream, a little caramel frosting and a cheese-caramel popcorn for garnish, sound weird to you? Trust me, they were to die for!

Chicago Gourmet 2014 Look at these beauties, except all I could manage was a tiny bit of each. My favorite was that gorgeous looking, rectangled pistacchio cake with cherries and hazelnuts set in a butter cookie crust, I’m still dreaming about it!

Chicago Gourmet 2014 Chicago Gourmet keeps getting better and better each year!

Until next time, Ciao

 

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Butternut Squash Noodles with Sausage, Mushrooms and Kale

butternut squash "noodles" with mushrooms, sausage and kale Here I go again with my Spiralizer, but this time it’s all about butternut squash “noodles”! As soon as fall arrives you’ll always see a butternut squash or two sitting on my counter, it’s my favorite squash, it’s so versatile and easy to incorporate into so many meals.

If you did a search on my blog you would see how often I cook with it. I’ve made ravioli, polenta, lasagna, tarts, salads, pizza, I could go on and on and one of my most popular recipes, butternut squash gnocchi, I always get requests for it.

spiralizer and butternut squash I like using a Spiralizer because you really get spaghetti like strands, in the past I’ve used a julienne peeler and while that works pretty good you don’t get that curly continuous look of real spaghetti. A good tip to remember when making spiralized butternut squash is to pick a squash on the smaller size that has a long neck on it, because basically you’ll just be using the neck of the squash, just dice and roast up the bulb part for something else.

butternut squash "noodles" See how long and curly the strands are? It’s a wonderful thing!

butternut squash "noodles" You’ll have to slightly roast the squash beforehand by placing the “noodles” on a baking sheet, tossed and drizzled with olive oil, a little salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for a mere five minutes or so. I personally like to check them as they’re roasting by taking my tongs and tossing them just to make sure they don’t over cook, you want them slightly limp with no signs of burning, they’re delicate. You’re not looking for mushy and overdone, you want al’dente like pasta.

butternut squash "noodles" with sausage, mushroom and kale I added crumbles of spicy Italian sausage that I pre-cooked, roasted mushrooms and kale that was sauteed in olive oil, minced garlic and red pepper flakes.

butternut squash "noodles" with sausage, mushroom and kale Gently toss everything together and add a ton of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and another pass of your best olive oil.

butternut squash "noodles" with sausage, mushroom and kale This is heaven in on a plate!

 

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Gnocchi with Swiss Chard and Ricotta

swiss chard and ricotta gnocchi As soon as there’s a chill in the air I have the urge to make gnocchi, I don’t know why, but I  just do. So on a cool, dark, dreary Sunday I whipped up a batch.

I’m partial to ricotta based gnocchi instead of the potato ones, they’re light as a cloud and melt in your mouth plus you can get a batch together in no time at all.

making Swiss chard gnocchi This time I wanted to add some Swiss chard to mine, I still have a ton growing in my garden and since I’ve done kale gnocchi before I’d thought I’d try it with chard.

You don’t need a bunch of chard because a little goes along way. Rinse it really good then blanch it for a few minutes, the key thing to remember is make sure you squeeze out all that excess water because you don’t want super wet greens added into your dough.  I use my potato ricer for squeezing, it works wonders!

making gnocchi Making gnocchi isn’t difficult, it’s all about how that dough feels, you don’t want a sticky dough, it can be slightly tacky but that’s about it. Make sure to drain your ricotta, some deli ricotta can be very wet so you’ll want to make sure to drain it really good, otherwise you’ll be adding too much flour and your gnocchi will tastes like lead!

Add your flour a little at a time, you might need more or less than the recipe calls for, you’ll know by the feel of it.

swiss chard gnocchi A simple marinara always goes well with gnocchi but this time I added a little roasted red pepper puree into mine, ( roast a couple of red peppers then puree them with a little olive oil in a food processor) and we loved it even more, it was a match made in pillowy cloud heaven!

swiss chard gnocchi I also tossed some into a warm garlic butter sauce using just two tablespoons of butter, one small chopped garlic clove and the juice and zest of one lemon, I added diced and roasted zucchini along with freshly grated parmesan cheese, delish!

The main thing to remember is that the sauce is just a compliment, the gnocchi is always the star of the show!

My Ricotta Gnocchi recipe can be found HERE, just replace the kale with Swiss chard.

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Kaleslaw with Kale-onaise

kaleslaw Our garden is still overflowing with kale so I’m always looking for different ways to use it up. Kale thrives in cool weather so I know I’ll have plenty for upcoming soups and stews this fall, at least until the first frost hits us, but for now I’m still on a salad kick.

Recently I bought a cook book called, Fifty Shades of Kale, catchy title don’t you think? Anyway, it got my attention plus the fact that it had 50 unique and different recipes for kale. One that I wanted to try right away was this colorful dish of Kaleslaw. It’s a little twist on traditional coleslaw where the cabbage is replaced with sturdy leaves of shredded kale.

It’s the perfect side dish sitting next to any kind of meat you might be serving, we had it with pork chops and chicken but it’s even great all by itself for a nice hardy lunch.

kale-onaise The book also had a recipe for kale-onaise which they suggested you use with the kaleslaw, it’s mayo based with lots of chopped kale added in along with lemon, lemon zest and garlic, not only did I use it for the kaleslaw, I started scooping it into my deviled eggs and chicken salads, it’s so good and it’s  even better as it sits in the fridge for a day or two.

kaleslaw I adapted the original recipe and added more veggies that was called for, along with toasted sliced almonds for added crunch, it was a hit!

kaleslaw All you kale lovers out there, make this for yourself, make this for your family or serve it up at your next party, you’re going to love it!

Kaleslaw with Kale-onaise
 
Ingredients
  • 1 large bunch of kale, stemmed and chopped in shreds
  • 1 large handful of coarsely shredded carrots
  • 1 whole red pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • ½ yellow pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • ½ orange pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • ½ red onion sliced into thin strips
  • 1 handful of shredded purple cabbage
  • ¼ cup of toasted sliced almonds
  • Kale-onaise to coat your kale and veggie mix , the amount is up to you.
  • KALE-ONAISE INGREDIENTS
  • 2 cups of packed and chopped kale
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of organic mayonnaise
  • pinch of salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. For the KALESLAW, place kale and all veggies into a large bowl, add kale-onaise and toss well.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before serving.
  3. For the KALE-ONAISE, in a food processor, combine the kale, salt, pepper and garlic. Process until finely chopped.
  4. Add the mayonnaise, lemon zest and juice, process until nice and smooth.
  5. Store in the fridge like regular mayonnaise.
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Purple Plum Torte

plum torteI finally got my hands on some beautiful Italian plums, sometimes called Italian prune plums. I look forward to them each year, but when they become available I know that summer is over, so it’s kind of  bitter sweet. Speaking of sweet, I think it’s about time for a dessert showcasing these beauties!

Italian plums Italian plums are half the size of regular plums and oval shaped. If you were to bite into them you would say they weren’t very juicy but something magical happens when you bake with them, they transform into a sweet/tart jam like consistency, perfect for all your baked goods.

ingredients for plum torte This is an easy to do recipe it has just a few ingredients but the results are fantastic, there’s a reason The New York Times posted it twelve years in a row!  You’ll even be amazed how easy it is to prep those little plums, once you slice into them the pit practically falls out by itself, so everything comes together quickly. Don’t worry if you can’t find the smaller Italian plums that I used, the larger ones would work as well.

purple plum torte In no time you’ll have this not too sweet, moist and buttery cake that has the perfect crumb packed with jammy plum flavored goodness to enjoy.

plum torte Get that coffee going ASAP!

Recipe adapted from Marian Burros, Elegant but Easy, The Essential NY Times cookbook and Smitten Kitchen

Purple Plum Torte
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • ¾ to 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 Italian plums, pitted and cut in half ( adjust the amount if using larger plums)
  • sugar and cinnamon for topping
Instructions
  1. In small bowl, sift first three ingredients.
  2. In larger bowl, cream sugar and butter, until fluffy then add eggs one at a time.
  3. Add flour mixture and beat well.
  4. Spoon the batter into a buttered 9 inch spring form pan.Smooth out the top.
  5. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter.
  6. Sprinkle top lightly with sugar and cinnamon, about 1 teaspoon of each.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until knife comes out clean.
  8. Cool before cutting.
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End of Summer Veggie Stacks

veggie stacks As the end of summer is nearing and our gardens are dying down here’s a fun way to enjoy the last of our summer veggies. You can grill them like I did or roast them in the oven, it doesn’t matter, but for a nice little twist stack them between layers of creamy ricotta flavored with romano cheese, basil and fresh corn kernels.

This could be a colorful appetizer, a light lunch or the perfect side dish next to grilled meats. It doesn’t need to be heated, the veggies are cooked already and besides it’s best served at room temperature anyway.

end of summer veggies I was gifted these beauties from my niece’s garden over the weekend and I had some fresh corn on the cob that I wanted to use up, so I grilled everything and started stacking!

veggie stacks I used the sturdy zucchini planks as the base then just layered everything else from that point on, saving the corn planks and kernels for the top. The ricotta mixture will act as the “glue” that will keep everything together and in place.

veggie stacks A good dowse of olive oil and a swipe of rich balsamic glaze adds wonderful flavor and completes the presentation. A fun and a little different way to showcase what’s left of our summer’s bounties!

End of Summer Veggie Stacks
 
Ingredients
  • Stick with vegetables that will lay flat, like peppers, eggplant and zucchini. I would not use small mushrooms or something like asparagus.
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, grilled and kernals and planks set aside.
  • 2 cups of ricotta, drained well
  • ¾ cup of grated romano or to taste
  • a handful of fresh chopped basil
  • a handful of the fresh kernels, ( reserve most of the planks for the top)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • balsamic glaze
  • basil for garnish
Instructions
  1. Grill all your vegetables or roast them if you choose.
  2. Remove kernels and planks from corn.
  3. Stir together in a bowl the ricotta, romano, and basil, then fold in some of those corn kernels. Taste for desired amount of cheese and herbs.
  4. Start with your grilled zucchini planks, then spread the cheese mixture on top, then next layer and repeat.
  5. Use the corn planks for the top along with remaining kernels, everything will stick easily to the ricotta.
  6. Depending on how many veggies you cook or how high you stack them you might need to make more ricotta mixture, this is just an estimate.

 

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Baked Eggs in Pepper Cups with Mushrooms, Leeks and Kale and The Winner of my Giveaway

baked eggs in pepper cups  Good Morning! First off I want to express a huge Thank You to each and everyone of you that left comments on my 7th Blogiversary post, I was so touched by all your comments and I loved reading every single one of them. Thanks again for all your support, I honestly believe I have the best readers!

I wish I could give you all a gift card to Eataly but unfortunately I have only one.

The winner of my 7th Blogiversary Giveaway was picked randomly and that persons name is…. ANTOINETTE SPARANO!

Congratulations Antoinette, please contact me via email at [email protected] and I’ll get that gift card out to you. Have fun shopping!

In case you’re hungry this morning I wanted to leave you with a little something for breakfast. Something easy to make especially if you just cleaned out your fridge like I did. I was left with one leek, a small bunch of kale, a handful of roasted tomatoes and mushrooms and a few colored peppers. So I decided to make baked eggs in pepper cups, and so can you.

Ingredients for baked eggs in pepper cups Grab some leftover veggies, whatever you have, you won’t need a lot, they can be sauteed, roasted or grilled it doesn’t matter, they’re all good. The main thing you will need is some good sized bell peppers, big enough to pour an egg into along with your veggies, any color pepper will do.

Cut your peppers in half, clean out the membranes so you have lots of room in there and scrape the seeds, then drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.

baked eggs in pepper cups Place your cleaned out pepper halves into a baking dish drizzled with olive oil then add some cheese on the bottom of each, whatever melts good, I used fontina.

Now take your veggies and place them into the pepper cup, on top of the cheese, leaving room enough to plop an egg in the middle. TIP: crack your egg into a small bowl first, like a ramekin, then gently pour the cracked egg into the pepper cup, the egg white will run so wait a second and let it settle into everything.   Bake at 375 degrees F. until peppers are tender and egg sets.

baked eggs in pepper cups Garnish with extra veggies on top and all around your baking dish, this is great for breakfast or brunch!

 

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It’s my Seventh Year Blogiversary and a Giveaway!

7th blogiversary Today is my 7th Blogiversary! I can’t believe it’s been seven years since I published my first post way back on August 15, 2007. Time sure flies when you’re having fun and I have to admit, I’m still having fun so I’m going to stick around for a while!

I want to thank all my fellow bloggers for all their support as well as all my loyal readers and subscribers, I appreciate each and every one of your comments and personal emails.

Thank you for those who “like” Proud Italian Cook on Facebook, I’m very close to 11,000 which is mind blowing to me.  Thank you to all those who have “pinned” any of my recipes on Pinterest, many of them have been pinned over and over again, and speaking of Pinterest, I just found out the other day that Ivanka Trump pinned my grilled artichokes on her entertainment board, it always amazes me because you just never know who’s looking at your photos!

I recently got on Instagram  after my daughters urging and I’m so glad I did because I’m really loving it even though I’m still learning how to do hashtags and everything else, so please feel free to follow me if you want to see what I’m up to on a daily basis.

Thank you to my family and close friends for all your support and especially my husband Tony, my number one fan!

AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!

As a small token of my gratitude I’m giving away one E-Gift Card redeemable at Eataly.com (online only) The value is 75.00

If you’re not familiar with Eataly, I would describe it as a Mega Italian Super Store, a Sensory Overload of Italian Imported Products, A Foodie paradise. You’ll have so much fun shopping!

To enter this giveaway leave only one comment per person, anything you want to say to me about Proud Italian Cook, a recipe you’ve tried, what you’d like to see more of, whatever.

No anonymous comments will be accepted as I will need an email address to contact the winner. Comments will not be accepted after 11:59 pm central time, Monday August 18th, 2014. Winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Tuesday August 19th, 2014

If you are reading this via Facebook you must enter on this blog to win the giveaway, NOT Facebook.

Good luck!

 

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Pesto Stuffed Scallops

pesto stuffed scallops I can honestly say I went a bit overboard in planting basil this year so I’ve been very busy making lots of pesto, but to me nothing tastes better than fresh homemade pesto! Every time I’ve bought pesto from a store I was so disappointed, it’s either way too garlicky or has a weird fake taste, so I prefer to make my own. Homemade pesto is so easy to make yourself and you can whip up a huge batch because it freezes perfectly. Just think how nice it would be to pull out a container of your pesto in the dead of winter and plop a dollop in a nice bowl of hot soup.

I also use it on my eggs, frittatas, grilled veggies, fresh tomatoes, meats, crostini, pastas and I especially love it with fish of all kinds. Have you ever tried smearing pesto on top of a beautiful piece of salmon and then baking it? It’s so flavorful, moist and delicious! I also love it on grilled shrimp and scallops. Here’s my pesto recipe.

I never thought of actually stuffing a scallop with pesto until I came across an article that Mark Bittman wrote which gave me the inspiration to make my own and another good excuse to use my homemade pesto.

pesto stuffed scallops It’s ridiculously simple to do, but you must use the large sea scallops and not the small bay ones. Just take a sharp knife and make a horizontal slit in the middle being very careful not to cut all the way through, you want your scallop butterflied, then put a small teaspoon of pesto inside. Salt and pepper your scallops then place them into a saute pan ( not a non stick)  that’s been heated on medium heat with a little olive oil. Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side being careful when your turning them over. That’s it!

pesto stuffed scallops I placed mine into a pool of warm roasted red pepper sauce, but you could also use a light marinara sauce just as well. The flavor combination is dynamic!

pesto stuffed scallops

I served this as a main course with fresh green beans and summer corn but it would also be wonderful as an appetizer to start off your meal.

It’s simple, healthy, quick to make and the summery basil pesto takes it right over the top! Now pour a glsss of cold Sauvignon Blanc and you’re good to go!

 

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Summer Eats to Beat the Heat

easy summer eating This right here is heaven on a plate to me! Creamy, dreamy Burrata cheese, grilled artichokes, garden fresh tomatoes loaded with fresh basil, a little prosciutto and some grilled crusty bread. This is good eating!

When it’s hot outside this is what we like to eat. The artichokes are the only thing I cooked here, I make them all summer long, they’re so addicting. If you’re an artichoke fan like we are and you prefer a lighter summer version, then this one is for you.

They’re stuffed with romano cheese, parsley, garlic and lemon zest and then placed on the grill until the cheese melts and gets nice and crusty. My Grilled Artichokes is one of my most pinned recipes and it’s so simple to make! You can find it here.

home grown tomatoes Since we have a ton of tomatoes coming in daily from our garden almost every meal includes them, so that’s what this post is about, some of the ways I use them.

juicy garden tomatoeseasy summer eating This was our dinner the other night, roasted peppers, grilled zucchini, asiago cheese, prosciutto, salami, castelvetrano olives and some totally crunchy frezzelle which is the perfect base for our juicy garden tomatoes. I added some apple slices and a glass of wine and we were happy campers!

My husband would take this over a steak any day, we love to eat like this, especially in the hot summer months.

summer panzanella Here’s a salad that’s a meal in itself, garden tomatoes, fresh basil, olives, onions, grilled zucchini  and chunks of crispy bread doused with olive oil and grilled, sort of like a panzanella, although a true panzanella  requires you to wet the bread, I prefer mine crispier.

summer panzanella The dressing is made with a simple olive oil and red wine vinegar but the magic happens when everything gets tossed together and all the flavors meld into one. The tomatoes can either make or break this dish so be sure to take advantage of all that summer offers.

No recipes today just visuals of some of my favorite summer eating!

 

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Tomato Tart with Brown Rice Crust

tomato tart with brown rice crust Nothing beats the taste of freshly picked, right off the vine garden tomatoes, the flavor, the texture, everything is so different, I’m sure going to miss them when there gone, but for now I’m going to enjoy them any which way I can!

Almost every meal I make, including breakfast, you’ll see a side of sliced tomatoes drizzled with good olive oil and sea salt sitting on my table, it’s a staple here in the summer.

garden tomatoes But after hauling in these beauties the other day I decided I’d make a tomato tart for dinner!

brown rice crust for tart I also remembered I had a big bag of leftover cooked brown rice sitting in my fridge, and since I hate to waste anything I thought, why not change it up a bit and make the rice be the crust for the tart instead of pastry dough.  I’m excited to say we loved it, it was so good!

tomato tart with brown rice crust I used a deeper, fluted tart pan but you could also use a deep dish pie pan, I say deep because you want plenty of room for your  rice crust, filling and topping of tomatoes.  Notice the crust edge, it came out perfectly from the pan, it had a nice crunch and chewy texture to it.

tomato tart with brown rice crust It went ridiculously good with the savory, cheesy ricotta filling!

tomato tart with brown rice crust And oh, those tomatoes, what can I say? They were bursting with flavor and took the whole tart over the top!

tomato tart with brown rice crust Would you like me to cut you a wedge?

Tomato Tart with Brown Rice Crust
 
Ingredients
  • 9 inch deep fluted tart pan with removable bottom or a deep dish pie pan
  • FOR CRUST
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 small onion diced and 1 garlic clove, sauteed
  • ⅓ cup of grated romano cheese
  • ¼ cup of loosely packed and shredded fontina or any other melting cheese
  • basil and parsley, fresh chopped, 2 tablespoons each
  • FILLING
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 clove garlic, grated on a microplane
  • ⅓ cup of grated romano cheese
  • ½ cup of shredded fontina or any other melting cheese
  • basil and parsley, fresh chopped, 2 tablespoons each
  • TOPPING
  • vine ripened tomatoes, any kind, either quartered or cut in half depending on size, enough to cover the top of tart
Instructions
  1. In a bowl, combine the rice, beaten eggs, sauteed garlic and onion, cheeses and herbs, mix well.
  2. Pat rice mixture into an olive oil sprayed tart or pie pan.
  3. Place filled tart pan on a baking sheet then into a 350 degree F. oven for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove rice crust and let it cool down.
  5. Turn up oven temp to 400 degrees.F.
  6. Mix ricotta, cheeses, herbs, eggs and garlic for the filling then spread evenly onto the cooled rice crust.
  7. Place your tomatoes all over,slightly sinking them into the ricotta mixture.
  8. Drizzle olive oil on top of the tomatoes and tart then bake for 30 minutes or until ricotta is set.
  9. To finish it, I like to place mine under the broiler to get it a nice golden color on top, but if you do that, keep checking and don't walk away from the stove!
  10. Let it cool a little before slicing.
  11. Garnish with chopped fresh basil.

 

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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
  • ½ 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.

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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
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¾ 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 1½ 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.

 

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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
  • ½ 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!

 

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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
  • ⅓ cup toasted almonds or walnuts
  • ⅓ 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.

 

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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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