All posts by A_Boleyn

About A_Boleyn

Having come late to the kitchen, other than in an eating capacity, each new recipe I try is an exciting opportunity to enjoy the original and then make it my own.

Sauteed Kale and Cheese Omelette

A bundle of fresh kale is quite versatile … use it to make a pot of Zuppa Toscana soup, a topping for a meatless pizza AND as a filling for this delicious three egg omelette.

Kale and Cheese Omelette

Kale and Cheese Omelette – serves 2

5-6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup onion, finely minced
2 cups kale, cleaned, sliced into 1/2 inch strips
pinch of salt and black pepper
4-6 tbsp grated or crumbled cheese of choice (ie. old cheddar, feta)

Garnish – 1 ripe avocado, cubed, hot sauce or salsa

Add the oil to a 9 inch non-stick pan, over medium heat, and saute the onion, just until lightly golden. Add the kale, tossing gently to coat the kale with the oil and mix with the sauteed onion. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the top. Cover with a lid and let steam for 3-4 minutes until the kale is wilted. Transfer kale and the onions into a small bowl and set aside

Return the pan to the heat and add half the beaten egg egg mixture. When almost set, scatter half the sauteed kale and cheese over the top of the omelette.

Fold over and continue cooking until the egg is set.

Repeat with the remaining half of the egg mixture.

Serve with the garnish of your choice. In this case, I topped each omelette with half the diced avocado and a couple of tablespoons of spicy salsa.

Zuppa Toscana Soup

Kale Pizza …. with or without hot Italian sausage – saute two cups of sliced kale, a pinch or two of salt and a pinch of black pepper and a quarter cup of finely diced onion in a tablespoon of olive oil. Let cool and top pizza.

Bake for 15-18 min at 425 deg F in a preheated oven.

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Homemade Savoury Boursin … Spread and Pasta Sauce

I recently found a recipe for boursin, a soft and creamy cheese, posted on “The Frugal Hausfrau” website and knew that I had to give it a try. It makes an amazing spread but it also works as part of a creamy pasta sauce. I made a change to the original recipe … I substituted purchased crispy fried onions for the dried chives since I didn’t have any.

Roasted chicken and creamy boursin and mushroom fettuccine

Creamy Boursin and Mushroom Pasta – serves 2 or 3

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter or margarine
1 1/2 – 2 cups (~227 gm) mushrooms, halved and sliced (white and cremini)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup boursin cheese spread (purchased or home made*)
salt and pepper, to taste
200-210 dry pasta, cooked according to package directions, reserve about half a cup of the pasta cooking water to add to the sauce in case it tightens up before serving.
2-3 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

* See recipe below

In a large saute pan over high heat, add the oil and butter. When hot, add the mushrooms and saute until lightly browned. Turn the heat down to medium/medium-high and add the whipping cream and cream cheese. Stir gently until the cream cheese melts into the sauce and the cream starts to bubble a bit. Add the cooked pasta and stir through. Serve with some chopped parsley on top, for garnish.

Savoury Boursin Cheese

Savoury Boursin Cheese – makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp crispy fried onion

In a medium sized bowl, cream together the cream cheese, butter, salt, white pepper and garlic powder with a hand mixer. Stir in the parsley and fried onions by hand.

Transfer to a small bowl or ramekin, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate so that the flavours will marry. Remove from the fridge 1 or 2 hrs before serving so that the boursin will be soft enough to spread.

It’s Baaaaaaack … Sourdough Starter

I had a recent conversation with a work colleague and the topic of sourdough came up. (See, it’s not MY fault.) Anyway, I offered him a sample of my dried starter so he could try to bake some. When I got home, I had a moment, or three, of insecurity, and decided to rehydrate a sample, to make sure that it was still viable after twenty-two months spent at room temperature in my pantry. The house is relatively cold (70 deg F) and it took three days to get a nice bubbly starter. And then, I had to figure out something to do with that starter.

As a consequence of the romaine lettuce recall, I’ve switched to raw vegetables and coleslaw as veggie sides. Coleslaw is relatively perishable so I planned on making my usual coleslaw staple … okonomiyaki. However, I decided to substitute the flour and water (and baking powder) in the recipe with sourdough starter. I did two, poorly planned trials, as I started by using active starter (plus half the baking powder from the original recipe). The resulting pancake was a bit loose to start with but did firm up. In the second trial, I used discard starter, cut back on the water (and NO baking powder) and was much happier with the results so that’s the recipe I’m including below, along with the accompaniments.

Sourdough Starter Okonomiyaki – savoury cabbage pancake served with smoked cheese sausage

Sourdough Starter Okonomiyaki – makes 1 pancake

Pancake base

60 gm sourdough starter, active or discard
1 whole egg
1/8 tsp salt

Fillings

3/4 cup cabbage, shredded (or bagged coleslaw mix)
2 tbsp sliced green onion tops

Optional Vegetable Add-ins – use a couple of your favourites

grated seasonal vegetables such as carrots, daikon radish, sweet potatoes and squash
grated firm fruits such as pears and apples

Optional Protein Stir-ins/Add-ins – pick one

2-3 slices cooked bacon
1/4 cup diced surimi (fake crab legs)
2-3 chopped poached large shrimp
1/4 cup diced Chinese bbq pork
a few slices of leftover pork roast, julienned

Okonomiyaki Toppings

1 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise (or western mayonnaise diluted with 1 tbsp milk to make it easier to pipe)
A few pinches of aonori (ground dried green seaweed) or a couple of tbsp of shredded nori
Dried bonito shavings or flakes (to taste)

Making the pancake

In a small bowl, stir together the starter, egg and the salt. Add the shredded cabbage and green onion and mix together thoroughly. If adding other vegetables, fruits and proteins, do so at this point.

Heat the griddle (or frying pan) over medium heat and with a paper towel, dipped in a bit of vegetable oil, season the pan. Spoon the okonomiyaki mixture onto the griddle and spread it into a round shape about 1/2-3/4 an inch (1.2 – 2 cm) thick.

When the edges of the pancake lose their shine (look dry, about 2-3 minutes), lay the cooked bacon pieces on top, turn the pancake over with a spatula and fry while pressing down on the pancake slightly until the middle is cooked through and set (a couple of minutes should be enough).

This pancake was topped with crispy bacon and diced avocado

Home-made Okonomiyaki Sauce – mix the following together

3 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp soy sauce

NOTE: Tonkatsu Sauce may be used instead of the Okonomiyaki sauce

Transfer the pancake to a serving dish, bacon side up. Spread the okonomiyaki sauce over the top, drizzle the top with mayonnaise in an attractive pattern. Sprinkle the seaweed over the top and the dried bonito flakes.

Dig in.

Cross-section of the pancakes

Carole’s No Knead Sourdough Loaf – cottage cheese (1/3 cup), crispy fried onion (1 tbsp), dill seed (1/2 tbsp) and dill weed (1/2 tbsp)

The shaped sourdough loaf was allowed to proof in a towel lined, rice flour coated, colander. To turn out into the preheated dutch oven, a parchment paper lined baking sheet was placed over the dough, FLIPPED over, and the towel removed. The loaf was scored and transferred, using the parchment paper as a sling, into the dutch oven before being baked.

Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki

I was reminded of this elaborate variation of okonomiyaki today while playing with a sourdough adaptation of the basic recipe and decided to share the LJ post from four years ago.  It’s a lot more work than I normally have the energy for these days so I’m unlikely to cook it again in the near future.

Warning: Picture heavy post under recipe cuts.

It’s been a while since I made this tasty Japanese pancake so I decided to take it to the next level with a Hiroshima style okonomiyaki.

It’s a bit labour intensive because you have to do a lot of prepping of the ingredients, but the actual execution is a breeze. So, once you have everything in its own bowl, you can crank out 1 or 2, or 4 okonomiyaki in a row and everyone can have their own flavour combinations.

Overview of the Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki

1 portion of yakisoba noodles
1 egg, fried sunny side up and yolk still runny
1 okonomiyaki with desired garnishes

Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki

1. Make the Yakisoba noodles

Yakisoba Noodles – you can divide this batch of noodles in half to serve as the base of 2 portions if you wish.

1 bundle of Y&Y brand 3 minute chow mein noodles (from a 1 pound package)
1 recipe of yakisoba sauce
1-2 tsp vegetable oil

In a medium saucepan boil 4-5 cups of water. Add the bundle of chow mein noodles and gently tease apart. Cook for 3 minutes. Drain well. If using immediately, heat a large non stick frying pan to medium and add vegetable oil. Add noodles and fry for a few minutes until the noodles start getting some colour. Pour the yakisoba sauce over the noodles and stir through.

If making ahead, drain the noodles and rinse them with cold water. Drain again and store in a plastic wrap covered bowl so they don’t dry out. When frying make sure the noodles warm through before adding the yakisoba sauce.

Yakisoba Sauce

2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sake/mirin/water
1-2 tsp soy sauce
1/4-1/2 tsp wasabi paste (add more if you like it hotter)

Stir together in a small bowl and pour over the noodles as required.

2. Fry the egg

3. Make the Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki – makes one pancake

2-3 strips bacon, cooked, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup shredded cabbage (or bagged coleslaw mix)
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp (1/4 cup) all purpose flour
pinch or two of salt
3 tbsp water or dashi soup
1 egg
1/4 cup chopped green onion (optional)

Other meat choices
– a few cooked shrimp, shredded surimi, 3-4 pieces thinly sliced pork

Okonomiyaki Sauce – mix the following together

3 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon Soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Okonomiyaki Toppings

2 tablespoons mayonnaise (diluted with 1 tbsp milk to make it easier to pipe)
Aonori (ground dried green seaweed) or shredded nori and dried bonito shavings (to taste)

Mise en place – From left to right. Top row: yakisoba sauce, cooked yakisoba noodles, shredded coleslaw/carrot mix, 2nd row: shaved bonito flakes, egg, 2 stalks of sliced green onion, okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise in squeeze bottle, bottom row: sliced surimi, fried bacon cut into 1 inch pieces

Making the Okonomiyaki batter

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Gently mix in the water and egg. A whisk will assist with this. Next, add all the remaining ingredients and mix them together thoroughly with a large spoon.

Okonomiyaki batter and surimi

Heat the griddle (or frying pan) to medium or medium-high and lightly oil. Spoon the okonomiyaki mixture onto the griddle and spread it into a round shape about 1/2 an inch (1.2 to 1.5 cm) thick.

When air bubbles start to rise in the middle of the okonomiyaki, lay the cooked bacon pieces on top, turn the pancake over with a spatula and fry while pressing down on the pancake slightly until done.

Bacon and Okonomiyaki – before turning over to cook the top of okonomiyaki

Underside of okonomiyaki

Transfer to a serving dish, bacon side up.

Yakisoba noodles and fried egg – waiting for their okonomiyaki top

Okonomiyaki (top side up) on top of noodles and egg and ready to be garnished

Spread the okonomiyaki sauce over the pancake, top with mayonnaise in a pretty pattern.

Sprinkle on the aonori and dried bonito flakes, if using, as well as any other garnishes. The okonomiyaki is now ready to eat.

ETA: Version #2 with avocado garnish and green onion mixed into batter. Bean sprouts are good inside the batter as well.

Playing with the toppings … and what is inside the pancake as well

Closeup with oozing egg – I’m still working on cooking the yolk less.

Cauliflower Tots

Tater tots, mini bites of grated and deep fried potatoes, are a convenience food that make a tasty and fast side dish. A healthier version may be made with “cauli-rice” …  cauliflower florettes briefly pulsed in a food processor. The recipe below is a simplified adaptation of the various techniques and ingredients found on line. Though I DID add a ‘variation’ that seemed more extravagant. I haven’t tried it yet. Mainly because I didn’t have either the bacon or the peppers on hand. However, I have two packages of raw cauli-rice in the freezer. Maybe I’ll make them for Christmas. Or New Years.

Baked Cauliflower Tots

Baked Cauliflower Tots – makes 10-12 ‘tots’, 4-6 per serving

2 cups/250 gm ‘riced’ cauliflower florettes*
1 large egg
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 cup raw onion, finely minced or 2 tbsp crispy fried onions
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fine breadcrumbs, plain or Italian seasoned
salt and pepper to taste
cooking spray or vegetable oil

*Break down a whole head of cauliflower into florettes. In a food processor, 1/4 of a head at a time, briefly pulse the florettes until they’ve broken down into roughly rice kernel sized.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the riced cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl, with lid, and cook 1-2 minutes on high. Let cool enough to handle. Place the cooled cauli-rice into a fine weave tea towel and squeeze out the excess water. (NOTE: I managed to extract about 3 tbsp of liquid out of this batch.)

Spray a nonstick cookie sheet with cooking spray or brush lightly with vegetable oil. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine all of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon about 2 tbsp of the mixture in your hands and roll into small oval shaped tots.

Place on the cookie sheet 1/2 inch apart and bake for about 20 minutes. Turn and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Both sides should be nicely browned and firm but still retain some bounce.

Remove and serve as a side dish. Or, as an appetizer, serve with ketchup, pesto, hummus or your preferred dipping sauce.

For an even more decadent appetizer, stir in the items below.

Twice Baked Potato Variation: 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup finely minced bell pepper and 1/4 cup finely chopped crispy bacon

Thai Green Pork Curry

I recently ran across an ice cream tub with the label “odds and ends” on it and popped it open to find the carefully wrapped remainder of a can of Masri brand green curry paste. I was debating which protein to pair it with and settled on some sliced boneless pork chops. The finished dish … Thai green pork curry served over basmati rice. I would have preferred jasmine rice but, unfortunately, didn’t have any.

Thai Green Pork Curry – serves 3

1 tbsp oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
350-400 gm boneless pork chops, thinly sliced
200 gm broccoli florettes (or diced eggplant, green beans, tops removed, asparagus, sliced into 2 inch pieces)
1 large or 2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2-3 tbsp Thai green curry paste
200 ml coconut milk (or a combination of the coconut milk and plain Balkan yogurt)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp white sugar, if needed

extra yogurt, for serving

Heat oil in a saute-pan to medium-high and saute the sliced onion and pork for 2-3 minutes or until the onion is golden and the pork has started to brown.

Add the vegetables, coconut milk (and yogurt, if used), brown sugar, soy and fish sauces. Cook for  12-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. If using broccoli, you might want to add the florettes for the last 7-10 minutes so they don’t overcook. (Like mine did.)

Taste and if the curry is too ‘hot’, add a tsp of white sugar to reduce that a bit. Serve over steamed jasmine or basmati rice.

Top with an extra dollop of yogurt, if desired.

Bread in an Hour (Cinnamon Rolls Too)

Sometimes you just need a loaf of bread in a hurry. So, a recipe that uses double the normal amount of yeast and is only proofed once, for bread in an hour, can come in handy. Especially when you can make both a plain sandwich loaf, or a batch of decadent cinnamon rolls with a cream cheese frosting, with the same recipe. And the crumb of both is nice and fluffy.

Slice of Sandwich Bread

Inside a Cinnamon Roll

Fast and Easy White Bread – ~900 gm/2 lb, makes 1 loaf, baked in a loaf pan (8 x 4 or 9 x 5 or 13″ Pullman) or 2 free form loaves, or 15 buns in a 9×13 inch baking dish

5 tsp active dry yeast
3 tbsp/42 gm sugar
1 1/4 cup/296 gm warm water
1 – 1 1/2 tsp salt*
1/4 cup oil or cooled melted butter
3 – 3 1/2 cup (360 – 420 gm) all purpose unbleached flour

* Used 1 1/4 tsp

In a medium sized bowl, add the warm water and sugar. Stir to dissolve. Add the yeast, stir to moisten the yeast and let sit for about 3-5 min until foamy.

Add the oil (or melted butter), 1 cup of flour and the salt. Stir well until you have a smooth batter.

Add the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well. Continue adding the flour until you have a soft dough and you can’t stir in any more of the flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured working surface and knead, adding more flour as needed, for about 5 minutes until you have a smooth, supple (and NOT sticky) dough.

Form your dough into a ball, cover with the bowl that you stirred the dough in, and let rest for 5 minutes. This allows the gluten to relax so that you can stretch it out.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Oil or grease your bread loaf pan.

Roll out your dough or gently pat it down with your hands until you’ve formed a rectangle about 10 inches x 14 inches. Roll up the dough, pinch the seam closed and place, seam down, into your prepared loaf pan. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place, for 20 minutes or until double in size.

Brush the top of the loaf with an egg glaze (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp of water) or some milk or cream, cut a slit in the top of the bread.

The dough below was only proofed for 20 minutes before being baked

Bake for approximately 20 – 30 minutes until done. (If you have an instant read thermometer check for a reading of 195 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Cool before cutting.

Cinnamon Roll Adaptation

I decided to make a dozen cinnamon rolls so I used the dough above, patted/rolled it into a roughly 10 x 14 inch rectangle, spread it with the cinnamon roll filling below and then rolled it up with the seam pinched closed. Since I wanted big fat rolls, I cut the rolls one inch wide and crowded nine of the rolls into an 8×8 inch baking dish lined with parchment paper. The remaining three rolls were placed into a 6 muffin pan lined with large muffin papers. After proofing for 30 minutes, instead of 20, since I wasn’t in a hurry and wanted nice fluffy buns, I baked the risen rolls at 375 deg F in a preheated oven for 25 minutes until they were golden brown on top. When cooled the rolls were frosted with the cream cheese frosting below.

Cinnamon Roll Filling – enough filling for a 10×14 inch rectangle of dough

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar, unpacked

Cream together the softened butter and cinnamon. Spread evenly over the dough for the cinnamon rolls. Leave a 1/2-1 inch uncovered at the long end. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the cinnamon butter. Roll up the dough, starting at the long end. Pinch the seam closed and turn the roll, seam side down. Cut about an inch wide and place into a buttered baking dish, or a muffin pan that has been buttered or lined with large muffin cups, and allow to proof until doubled.

Thick Cream Cheese Frosting – enough to frost a 9×13 inch pan of 15 cinnamon rolls

4 oz/115 gm cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 cups icing/confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract, optional
1/4 cup milk

In a medium sized bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer until smooth and softened. Beat in the icing sugar 1/4 or 1/3 of a cup at a time. Beat in the vanilla extract, if using and then the milk, a tablespoon at a time, until it’s of spreading consistency. Use to frost the cinnamon rolls.

NOTE: A half recipe will frost a dozen cinnamon rolls if you’re trying to cut back on the decadence.

Winner, Winner Chicken … Dinner to Start

A sale on whole, fresh chicken is almost as good as one on whole fresh turkeys. And it happens a lot more often. On this occasion, I came home with two whole chickens, about four pounds each for about sixteen dollars. I knew that I wanted to spatch-cock and roast one, but the other … that was decided by fate.

Roasted Spatch-Cocked Chicken – Yes, there ARE four wings in that picture.

Dinner – roasted chicken leg, mashed potatoes with drippings gravy and carrot coins

I cut up and poached the thighs and two half breasts from the second chicken along with half an onion, a carrot, a stick of celery and some aromatics and made chicken stock for the soup below.

Chicken Chile Verde Soup

(Take 2) Chicken Chile Verde Soup – serves 6

1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced (substitute with 1/8 tsp garlic powder)
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup water
1/4 -1/2 cup masa harina
1 1/2 cup green enchilada sauce
1 can (540 ml/2 cups) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can frozen or fresh corn kernels
1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced or 1 4 oz can diced green chiles (omitted)
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
1/8 – 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (2 thighs and 2 half breasts)
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or old Cheddar cheese
4 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature (optional)

Garnish: Additional grated cheese and crushed tortilla chips for topping, if desired

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the chile powder and ground cumin and saute for a couple of minutes.

Add in the chicken broth.

Combine the water with the masa harina, whisking until smooth. Pour into the pot along with the  enchilada sauce, black beans, corn and jalapeno or green chiles. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until thickened.

Stir in the grated cheese and cream cheese. Cook until the cheese has melted, whisking if needed, 5-10 minutes. Stir in the chicken and cook until heated through.

Note: This soup will get thicker upon standing. If you like a thinner soup, use the lesser amount of masa harina. I omitted the cream cheese because I needed it for something else but it gives the soup a very creamy, rich flavour.

There’s still a container of stock left so I made a batch of matzoh balls with the fat skimmed from the stock, after refrigerating it. I poached the matzoh balls in salted water and froze them away when they had cooled, making it easy to throw together the soup when I’m short of time … and hungry.

Pasta alla Caruso

I was going to do a giant post featuring the two chickens I bought a couple of weeks ago but I postponed it, again, for this Italian pasta dish featuring an item many people may not associate with Italy … chicken livers.

I love chicken livers and have had a craving for a while so I picked up two pounds on Saturday and set aside half a pound for use in this delicious dish that I ran across while net surfing a while ago.

Pasta alla Caruso is a chicken liver dish named in honour of the Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso, who was said to love it, and a speciality of his home town of Naples. The Italian name, “Pasta Con Fegatini Di Pollo, Cipolle E Funghi” refers to the ingredients … chicken livers, San Marzano tomatoes, onions and mushrooms.

Pasta alla Caruso – serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb (225 gm) fresh chicken livers *
1/4 cup finely diced onion (or 2 tbsp sauted)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 lb (225 gm) sliced mushrooms (half button and half cremini)
1 tsp dried herb mixture (equal parts dried parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dry red wine (Italian preferred ie Sangiovese)
a dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 – 1 /2 cups canned, peeled plum tomatoes (San Marzano preferred)
salt and ground black pepper, as needed

* If you don’t like chicken livers, slice a zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds, coat them with flour and deep-fry. Drain on paper towels and then use them in place of the fried chicken livers.

Garnish – grated Pecorino Roman (or Parmigiano Reggiano, if that’s all you have)

200 gm thick pasta cooked according to package directions ie fettuccine or linguine or even bucatini

Puree the plum tomatoes and set aside until needed.

Rinse and trim the chicken livers. Drain well and cut into 1/2 in (12-13 mm) wide strips.  Sprinkle about 1/8-1/4 tsp salt over the liver. Heat up the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the livers and fry over medium/medium-high heat until firm. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside until needed.

Wipe out the saute pan, add the unsalted butter and saute the diced onion over medium heat until it’s started to pick up some colour.

Add the sliced mushrooms to the saute pan, sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of salt over the top, and saute them until they start getting golden brown but are still a bit firm. Add the dried herbs and stir through.

Add the tomato paste and fry for a few minutes until you’ve coated the onions/mushrooms and the mixture is fairly dry. Add the wine and scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce and the pureed tomatoes and liquid. Cook, uncovered, for 7-10 minutes until the sauce has thickened and infused into the vegetables.

Add the cooked chicken livers and any juices that may have come out of them and stir through. Cook just until the chickens are warmed through. You don’t want them to get tough.

Taste the mixture and add whatever else you might need – some more salt, some ground pepper, or even a bit of lemon if the sauce seems a bit flat.

Divide the freshly cooked pasta between two plates, ladle half the sauce over each portion and grate the cheese over the top.

Serve with a glass of the red wine.

Enjoy!

The rest of the chicken livers were sauteed in vegetable oil with a sprinkle of salt, Hungarian paprika and a medium sized onion. Just like my mother used to make for me. There’s nothing like chicken livers over mashed potatoes or mamaliga (the Romanian version of polenta). At least, I think so.

Tutti a Tavola…

“Tutti a tavola a mangiare” or ‘everyone to the table to eat’ is Lidia Bastianich‘s closing on her Italian cooking show.

I thought it was an appropriate title for this Italian themed menu.

Strozzapreti (priest-strangler) pasta made with flour, a pinch of salt and hot water. Kneaded for five or six minutes until smooth and supple, this simple pasta is rolled out about 1/8th of an inch thick with a rolling pin and then cut into one inch strips with a pizza cutter.

The strips of pasta are then stretched a bit before being rolled between the palms of your hands to form little ‘snakes’ of pasta. Tear the pasta into 3-3 1/2 inch pieces and let dry for half an hour before cooking. Depending on how thick your pasta is, it will take five or six minutes to cook to al dente.

Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce of your choice.

Individual beef and mushroom braciole

Beef and Mushroom Braciole – serves 4

1 pound/454 gm eye of round, cut into four 1/2 inch slices**
1/2 cup finely diced mushrooms
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 slices bacon, finely diced
1/8 tsp dried parsley flakes
3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
bundle of fresh basil leaves (6-8)
2 1/2-3 cups spaghetti sauce
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp ground black pepper, divided

Hot cooked pasta or polenta

** Eye of round cut into 1/2 inch thick slices, pounded to 1/4 inch thick with a meat tenderizer. Set aside.

Add the mushrooms, onion, cheese, bacon, parsley flakes, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp ground black pepper to a food processor. Pulse a few times until you have a homogenous mixture which still has some texture to it. Remove the mixture to a small bowl and divide by eye into four even portions.

Season the beef cutlets on both sides with some of the remaining salt and pepper. Spoon the mushroom mixture onto each cutlet, spread out leaving about 1/2 inch free on all sides. Starting on the longer side, roll up the beef cutlet to enclose the mushroom mixture. Tie up each roll with butcher’s twine. (Or use toothpicks to seal.)

Preheat the oven to 325 deg F.

Place a dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the oil and when hot, sear off each beef roll until browned on all sides. Transfer the rolls to a plate.

Drain off any remaining oil from the dutch oven and add the spaghetti sauce and the basil leaves. Add the seared beef rolls and any juices that have drained off. The sauce level should be almost to the top of the rolls. If needed, add some water to the sauce. Bring the spaghetti sauce to a simmer. Put the lid on and transfer into the preheated oven.

Bake for 1 1/2-2 hrs, turning over about half way through the cooking time, until the beef is tender.

Remove the string from the braciole, slice into 3/4-1 inch slices and serve over the polenta with some of the spaghetti sauce spooned over the top. Alternatively, toss freshly cooked pasta with some of the spaghetti sauce and serve the sliced braciole on top.

Dessert was a quick and easy affogato or ice cream ‘drowned’ in a shot of espresso.

And, a couple of ham, bacon, mushroom and mozzarella cheese pizzas for work lunches.