Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Entrée: Spaghetti with Pancetta, Broccoli, Tomatoes, and Romano Cheese

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time 20 min

Serves (2)

Don't be afraid to go a little rustic every now and then. Diverting from the Mediterranean olive oil hoopla, this spaghetti embraces bacon and uses the flavor to infuse the dish. Add sautéed vegetables and fresh Romano, and tip your hat to old world charm.

Ingredients: 1/4 lb spaghetti, 5 pieces pancetta or thick sliced, high quality bacon, 3 cloves garlic, 2 plum tomatoes, 1 cup broccoli (or cauliflower), Romano cheese, Italian seasonings, black pepper

Bring water to boil for spaghetti. Cook until al dente. Drain. While spaghetti water is heating, cut broccoli into small trees. Using a different pot, place broccoli in water, bring to boil, and heat until half-way cooked (about 5 min). Drain broccoli once finished.

Chop pancetta into small pieces. Place pancetta in pan over medium heat. While pancetta is cooking, slice tomatoes in half lengthwise, then each half lengthwise again. Rough chop tomato slices. Mince garlic cloves. Once pancetta is cooked, drain grease, leaving about 1/4 cup of oil still in the pan. Maintain medium heat, and add minced garlic, chopped tomatoes, and drained broccoli to pancetta. Sprinkle vegetables very generously with Italian seasonings and black pepper to taste. Cook until broccoli is done.

Place spaghetti in pan with pancetta and vegetables and lightly toss. Drizzle with olive oil. Plate spaghetti mixture and top with fresh grated Romano cheese.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Entrée: Mixed Greens and Blueberries with Peppered Italian Flank Steak

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 10 min

Marinade Time: 20 min

Cook Time: 15 min

Serves (3-4)

This classic summer salad pops with homemade croutons, garden fresh veggies, and fresh berries. Don't be shy on the veggies or the fruit. Measure in handfuls and use as little or as much as you'd like. Don't have blueberries? Try strawberries or raspberries instead. Mix and match and enjoy!

Ingredients: Croutons: 3 cups cubed French bread, 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tsp Italian seasonings, 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder, salt, pepper Steak/Salad: 1 lb. flank steak, mixed greens, cucumber, tomato, carrots, black olives, blueberries, Italian dressing, cracked black pepper (Amount of salad ingredients will vary based on the size of the salad desired.)

Place flank steak in appropriate sized pan--large enough for steak to lay flat. Crack black pepper over steak. Generously drizzle both sides of steak with Italian Dressing and allow to marinate at room temperature for 20 min.

Preheat oven to 350. Cut French bread into cubes. Place in medium bowl. Toss with olive oil, Italian seasonings, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Arrange croutons on ungreased baking sheet and place in oven for 15 min. Croutons should be almost golden.

While croutons are baking, slice cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots for salad. Set aside. Feel free to use additional vegetables or substitutes. There are no set rules here.

Remove flank steak from pan and cut diagonally into thin strips against the grain. Place steak strips in pan over medium heat. Cook each side for 2 min (max). Steak will be medium rare. Place mixed greens on plate, top with vegetables, olives, blueberries, croutons, and place steak on top. Drizzle with a little Italian dressing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Entrée: Italian Baked Chicken

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time 30-45 min

Serves (4)

I love baked chicken. Asian chicken is always a treat, and any Latin infusion is great. But some nights, you're just in the mood for classic Americana. A simple dry rub is all you need, and you'll be on your way to a meal worthy of Thanksgiving. Add mashed potatoes or herb stuffing, and you may as well call grandma and break out the fine china.

Ingredients: 4 chicken thighs*, 1 heaping tsp flour, 1/3 cup water
Rub: 2 tbsp Italian seasoning, 3 tsp onion powder, 1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/3 tsp salt, paprika

*Cooking time and rub amount is based off coating and covering 4 thighs. A whole chicken will require more rub and cooking time up to 1.5 hrs depending on weight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter bottom of 8x8 pan. Combine seasonings (minus paprika) in small bowl. Coat chicken with seasoning and place in pan. Sprinkle with paprika and a little olive oil.

Bake until chicken is done (no pink) 170 degrees for thighs, 180 degrees for whole chicken.

Remove chicken from pan. Place pan on burner. Mix heaping tsp flour with water and add to chicken gravy in pan. Heat over high heat stirring frequently until gravy thickens.

Alternatives: This seasoning also makes an excellent rub for turkey or fish.

Side: Herb Stuffing

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 15 min

Serves (2)

I have a confession. I'm typically a fan of stuffing that comes from a bag. I know, combining gourmet meals with store bought stuffing is a borderline travesty. No more! With a delicate balance of herbs and oil, this stuffing is so easy to prepare you'll never go back to a bag again. I'm pretty sure I'm committed to preparing this recipe for every Thanksgiving to come.

Ingredients: 2 cups cubed french bread*, ½ cup chopped celery, ½ cup chopped onion, ¼ cup water, ¼ olive oil, 1-2 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp Italian seasoning, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp pepper, ¼ tsp salt

*You'll want a fresh french baguette for this recipe. Italian, sourdough, or multigrain loaves have a tendency to be too moist.

Place cubed bread in food processor and pulse just until cubes break apart. The smallest bread pieces should only be pea sized. If you don't have a food processor, rough chop breadcrumbs with a chef's knife. Set aside.

Mince onion and celery and place in saucepan with butter, oil, water and seasonings. Allow onion and celery to cook over medium heat for about 15 min. onions and celery should be soft.

Remove seasoned butter sauce from heat, add to breadcrumbs in medium bowl and lightly toss with fork. (If more moisture is needed, add extra water sparingly.)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dessert: Tiramisu

Difficulty: Medium

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time 20 min

Serves (6)

A simple pleasure. An iconic treat. A decadent indulgence. Tiramisu is almost legendary. But don't be intimidated by all the fanfare. With just a little time and finesse, you can easily master this classic dessert.

Ingredients: 36 small savoiardi (lady fingers), 2 cups mascarpone cheese, 1/3 cup Italian brandy, 4 egg yolks, 4 egg whites, 3 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp instant coffee (dissolved in 1/2 cup water), 3-4 oz dark chocolate (candy bar type chocolate will work fine)

Mix instant coffee mixture and brandy and set aside.

With chef's knife or food processor, finely chop all savoiardi. Rough chop chocolate. Set both aside. Beat egg yolks and sugar over a double-boiler until mixture is pale in color and forms ribbons in the saucepan when moving your whisk through the mixture. Cooking times will vary (usually 10 min). You don't want custard! Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 min.

While egg yolks are cooling, beat egg whites in medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Room temperature eggs work best here. If you have farm fresh eggs, even better.

Fold mascarpone into egg yolk mixture one third at a time. Fold mascarpone mixture into egg whites.

Take half of the savoiardi, place in bottom of 8x8 pan, and lightly pat down. Using a pastry brush, coat the savoiardi with the brandy coffee mixture. Spoon half of the mascarpone mixture over the savoiardi. Sprinkle half of chopped chocolate over the mascarpone. Repeating this process, add another layer with the remaining ingredients.

Refrigerate at least 30 min. before serving.

Serving note: Unless you are taking the tiramisu to a party, it is not necessary to use the 8x8 pan. For a more personalized approach, follow the same process above, but divide all ingredients between wine goblets or small bowls. Top each goblet/bowl with a sprig of mint.

Breakfast: Fluffy Banana Pancakes

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 10-15 min

Serves (2)

As a kid, Saturday morning breakfasts were a tradition second only to going to church. These pancakes slow the clock, and help bring back a feeling of home. Put away the box mixes and flabby flapjacks, and take a few minutes to make a memorable breakfast. Your day will thank you--and so will your family.

Ingredients: 1 egg, 1 banana, 3/4 cup flour, 2/3 cup milk, 4 tbsp oil or melted butter, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp salt

Heat buttered skillet or fry pan over low to medium heat. A lower temperature helps ensure even cooking and gives the pancakes a smooth golden color.

While pan is heating, mash peeled banana in medium mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients to bowl and stir until all ingredients are mixed. Do not over beat the batter.

Pour batter onto preheated pan about 1/2 cup at a time--depending on how large you'd like your pancakes. Since this is a fluffy recipe with a fair amount of baking powder, as soon as the batter is in the pan, I give the pan a quick circular shake (almost as if swirling crepes) to evenly spread the batter. Otherwise, you run the risk of having mounded pancakes--the batter rising in the center but having thinner edges. Once edges begin to brown and bubbles form in the center of the pancake, turn over. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.

Remove from pan and top with your favorite syrup!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Entrée: Italian Sausage and Fried Potatoes with Basil Cream Sauce

Difficulty: Medium

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time 35 min*

Serves (2)

Think potatoes au gratin with an Italian twist. A creamy basil sauce adds a hint of sweetness to salty potatoes, while Italian sausage spices up your palate. Fresh basil is the key to this dish, helping to bring a punch of brightness. (Dried basil will work, but we're looking for a punch, not a slap.) Try to resist licking the plate when you're done.

Ingredients: 2 good sized Italian chicken (or pork) sausage links, 3 medium red potatoes, 1/2 onion, salt, pepper, oil for frying Sauce: 1/2 cup milk, 2 tbsp butter, 5-6 leaves fresh basil, 2 heaping tsp flour, 1/4 tsp garlic, 1/8 tsp salt

*Time given is for (2) servings. Cooking time will increase for more servings.

Quick note: Do not discard pans after use while cooking. The pan that is used to cook sausage will also be used for the sauce, and the pan that is used for the onions will be used to fry potatoes.

Wash potatoes (removing any eyes or large blemishes). Slice potatoes into 1/8 -1/4 inch rounds. Be careful not to slice potatoes too thinly. Though we are frying the potatoes, we do not want thin potato chips. Set aside. Rough chop basil leaves. Set aside.

Cut onion into slices. Sauté onions in large oiled pan over medium heat until almost caramelized. While onions are cooking, cut end of casing on sausages, remove sausage from casing and place in medium-sized fry pan. (If you have not removed sausage from the casing before, brace yourself for the awkwardness. This is sure to be an experience!) If using chicken sausage, a little butter or oil will be needed for the pan. Pork sausage will cook fine without this addition. Cook sausage until done. Place cooked sausage and onions in small bowl and set aside.

Add layer of oil to the large pan that was used to cook the onions. Place potato slices in pan and fry (about 5 min each side). Crack salt and black pepper over one side of potatoes. Fry all potatoes and place on paper towel as they finish.

While potatoes are frying, add 1/2 cup milk and 2 tbsp butter to the pan that was used to cook the sausage. Mix 2 heaping tsp flour in a little water to evenly dissolve. Add flour mixture to milk and butter. Stirring constantly, bring to boil over medium-high heat. Once mixture boils, reduce heat to a simmer. Stir in 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp salt, and chopped basil. (Reserve some basil for garnish.) Continue to simmer for 3-5 min, stirring occasionally. (Stirring helps prevent the sauce from scalding on the bottom of the pan.) Add sausage and onions to basil cream sauce and mix thoroughly.

Divide potatoes into two batches (reserving a few for garnish) and plate however you'd like--rows of semi circles, an X pattern--get creative! Spoon sausage and basil cream sauce over potatoes. Garnish with a few of your crunchiest potatoes and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Serving suggestion: This dish is full of spices. Choose an understated side like snap peas or spinach.

Side: Coleslaw for a Crowd

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time/
Cook Time: 5 min

Chill at least 30 min
before serving

Serves (12)

A staple at every picnic, coleslaw should only be made one way--delicious! All too often, slaws are neglected as a mundane side item--purchased from a grocery deli last minute on the way to a group outing. The perfect combination of sweet and tangy, this coleslaw is a snap to make and is always a crowd pleaser.

Ingredients: 2 (16) oz packages coleslaw mix, 2 cups mayo, 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tsp onion powder, black pepper/salt to taste

Ready for easy? Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. That's it! Never buy coleslaw from the deli again!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Entrée: Black Bean Taco Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 15-20 min

Serves (3-4)

This taco salad ignores distractions and sticks to the basics. With onions, beef, fresh tomatoes, and Hungarian peppers, the flavors are simple and uncomplicated. Add in black beans, and this dish moves from "salad" to cowboy hearty--minus the campfire smell. Your fingers will get messy, so bring the napkins.

Ingredients: 1 bag tortilla chips, 1 lb ground chuck, 1 medium onion, 1 Hungarian pepper, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1 can (15.25 oz.) black beans, 1/4 cup water, 1-2 tbsp chili powder, 1-2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 3/4 tsp salt, black pepper to taste

Open can of black beans, pour into small pan, and heat over low heat.

Peel onion, cut into quarters, then slice. Cut open Hungarian pepper, discard seeds, and dice. Add onion and pepper to oiled pan over medium heat. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper. Allow onions to caramelize. Once onions are caramelized, move onions and peppers to sides of pan, and place ground chuck in middle of pan.

Continue to cook over medium heat, and work onions and peppers into the meat. Once meat begins to brown, add chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. (Add more or less chili powder to taste.) Reduce heat, and simmer until thoroughly cooked. Add 1/4 cup water.

While meat is simmering, quarter cherry tomatoes. Remove black beans from heat, drain, and and add beans and cherry tomatoes to pan. Mix well. Allow tomatoes to plump and warm (about 1-2 min).

Place handful of tortilla chips on plate and top with meat.