Tag Archives: italian

Happy Easter!! (2019)

No, you’re not having a flashback to four months ago.

I just realized that I never posted the meal for this past Easter.

Which was a shame, because I made a delicious Tuscan bread and vegetable soup called “ribollita” for starters …

… baked lamb chops seasoned with rosemary and garlic, risotto and asparagus for the main and vanilla “cake for one” filled and frosted with a vanilla buttercream and decorated with Easter jimmies for dessert. A simple lemonade spiked with raspberries and blackberries to wash it down.

Easter cake

It’s been so long since I made the soup that I can’t remember which adaptation I used of the four recipes I have saved in my Italian folder. Based on the pictures of the ingredients in the photo folder for the soup, I’m guessing this one. Though I didn’t use canned beans but cooked cannellini beans from dry.

Home made croutons were used both in the soup itself as a thickener and, seasoned, as a garnish that was stirred in just before serving. If you like your croutons crunchy, serve a bowl of the croutons on the table and let each diner add their own.

 

 

It was a great meal … even in retrospect.

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Italian Sausage, Peppers and Onions on a Hoagie

One of my favourite ways of using freshly made hot dog buns/hoagies is as a transport vehicle for grilled or bbq’d hot (or sweet) Italian sausages, sauteed onions and sweet pepper strips. If you like some tang in your sandwich, you can add a few jarred pepperoncini, along with some of the juice, to the filling.

Italian Sausage, Peppers and Onions Hoagie – serves 2

2 6-inch hoagies, sliced like a hot dog bun*
2 6-inch sweet or hot Italian sausages, grilled or bbq’d

Hoagie Filling

1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large sweet pepper (or an assortment of red, yellow and orange), cored and sliced into thin strips
1 clove garlic, peeled, smashed lightly
1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tbsp jarred marinara sauce
1-2 pepperonicini (sweet pickled peppers), thinly sliced with some juice, optional

* I used home made hoagie buns made according to this King Arthur flour beautiful burger bun recipe.

In a large pre-heated saute pan, over medium-high heat, add the oil, the sliced onions and the clove of garlic. Let sit until the onions just start to brown a bit then stir and continue sauteing the onions and garlic for a few more minutes. Remove and discard the clove of garlic as it’s seasoned the oil. Add the pepper strips and pepperoncini, if using. Saute for a few more minutes until the peppers start to pick up some colour as well. Add the jarred marinara sauce and some of the pepperoncini juice, to taste.

Add the sausages and warm briefly in the sauce.

Place some of the peppers and onions in each of the buns. Add the sausage and top with the remaining filling ingredients.

Serve with your favourite sides.

Making the Buns – The dough was divided into eight equal portions with half being shaped into hamburger buns and the other half into 6-inch hoagie buns

The hamburger buns were delicious, just slightly sweet and fluffy, though at 105 gms, a bit large for the hamburger patties I had cooked. Next time, I’d divide the dough into NINE portions.

Creamy Chicken Piccata for Two

Meal planning strategy: I haven’t cooked anything Italian in some time, there was a jar of capers languishing in the fridge and a couple of boneless, skinless, chicken breasts in the freezer, so I looked for a recipe for Chicken Piccata that used ingredients that I already had. The breasts weighed a bit over a pound so I split them horizontally into four, more or less equal sized portions, and made some adjustments to the recipe I found here since I wanted to toss the pasta in the sauce.

Chicken Piccata – serves 2, generously

200 gm fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, ~1 pound/454 gm
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter, divided

For flouring chicken cutlets
1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
pinch ground black pepper
1 1/2-2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

For lemon sauce
3/4 cup chicken stock, or a dry white wine
1/4 cup whipping cream (optional)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp brined capers, drained
1 clove garlic, finely minced or 1/8 tsp garlic powder (optional)

1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley or 1-2 tsp dried parsley, for garnish
3-4 thin slices of lemon, for garnish

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, stop the cooking by transferring the noodle to cold water and then, if needed to wait for the sauce, transfer the noodles to warm water.

To make chicken cutlets, cut each chicken breast horizontally into two equal sized pieces or butterfly and cut in half. If the thickness of the cutlets is uneven, put them between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound them with a meat hammer to 1/4 inch thickness.

In a shallow pan or pie tin, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan. Rinse the chicken pieces quickly in water, drain well and dredge them in the flour mixture, until well coated.

Heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium/medium-high heat and when heated, add the chicken cutlets. Do not crowd the pan to ensure even cooking. Cook in half batches. Brown well on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and transfer to a plate with a rim to retain any juices that may be released by the breasts. Cook the other breasts in the same manner. Cover to keep warm.

Add the chicken stock or white wine, lemon juice, and capers to the pan. Use a spatula to scrape up any browned bits. Reduce the sauce by half. (NOTE: For additional lemon flavour, add the sliced lemons at this point so the lemon oil from the zest can infuse into the sauce. If your sauce volume seems low or you want a creamy sauce, whisk in the whipping cream and let reduce for a few minutes.)

Whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter (cut into 2-3 pieces), a piece at a time until each piece just melts. This may not be necessary if you’re using the whipping cream as that will thicken the sauce.

Drain the pasta well. Add the pasta to the saute pan so it can warm in the sauce, if it’s cooled down. Divide the pasta between two plates.

Plate the chicken over the pasta and serve with the sauce poured over the top. Sprinkle with parsley before serving and add a slice or two of the lemon for garnish.

I didn’t notice that I hadn’t sprinkled the parsley over the top until after I’d plated the dish. Oh well…

I set aside two of the cutlets for use in other dishes as there was too much chicken for two servings.

Italian Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta E Fagioli)

This delicious Italian soup is filling and usually inexpensive to cook up. The name says it all … “pasta and beans”. I used a copycat Olive Garden recipe that I found on line many years ago, and adjusted the recipe for ingredients and amounts that I liked and had available. I’ve re-posted the recipe below.

I was being stingy with the amount of cannellini (aka white kidney) beans I used in this soup, since they’re pretty pricey at my local Italian grocery store, but you can’t beat the delicious, creamy texture of the beans once cooked. I added about a third of a pound of light red kidney beans, that I already had in my pantry, to make up the difference. Unfortunately, they took longer to cook than the cannellini so the latter were pretty much falling apart at that point.

Oh well.

And then there’s the pasta. I used just a very small amount of tubetti which I cooked separately, just until they were “al dente” or with a bit of texture left, and then added them to the soup for the last five minutes or so to finish cooking.

You can add meat or leave it out. I had about two thirds of a pound of ground beef which, added to two/two and a half cups of cooked beans, was plenty.

Olive Garden’s Pasta e Fagioli – makes ~4 quarts/16 cups, quantities of ingredients don’t need to be exact

1/2-1 tbsp vegetable oil, depending on how fatty your beef is
454 gm/ 1 lb lean ground beef
6 oz/ 1 cup onion, small dice
7 oz/ 1 cup celery, small dice
7 oz/ 1 cup carrots, small dice
24 oz/3 cups canned tomatoes, diced
1 cup cooked red kidney beans*
1 cup cooked white kidney beans*
5 cups beef stock (or chicken or vegetable stock or water)
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
salt as needed, start with 1/2 tsp
2 1/2 tsp chopped parsley (or 1 tsp dried parsley)
3/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
24 oz/ 3 cups spaghetti sauce
4 oz/ 1/2 cup/113 gm small shell macaroni (or any other small pasta)

*  Or use 2 cups of whatever type of cooked beans you like

Saute ground beef in oil over medium/medium-high heat, in a large 5 qt pot until the beef starts to brown. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and saute for 5-7 minutes just until the onions get translucent and start to pick up some colour.

Drain and rinse the beans, if using canned, and add to the pot. Also add beef stock, oregano, pepper, Tabasco, spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes and pasta. Taste and add salt as desired.

Add the chopped parsley and simmer until the celery and carrots are tender, about 25-30 minutes.

NOTE: Make sure to stir all the way to the bottom at least every 7-10 minutes as the ingredients, especially the beef, settle and may stick and burn. I threw in some frozen corn for the last 5 minutes for added colour. If the soup seems too thick before serving, add a bit of water. You may garnish the soup with some grated Parmesan cheese.

Other vegetable add-ins you can include: cubed zucchini, fresh, torn spinach, and frozen green peas.

For One Pasta Duo

The website where I found the ‘for one’ cake recipes also has savoury dishes. Especially pasta dishes.

Like this Ham and Pea Alfredo for One … I made it with linguine

I improvised this Turkey Cutlet Parmigiana with a quick and easy marinara sauce and one of the cutlets from my freezer.

Turkey Cutlet Parmigiana for One

Turkey Cutlet Parmigiana for One

1 turkey cutlet
1/4 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
100 gm dry pasta, cooked according to package directions

Quick Marinara Sauce for One – enough to dress about 100 gm dried pasta

1 cup canned, diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4-1/2 cup water, as needed
1/8 tsp minced onion
1/8 tsp dried oregano
pinch of garlic powder
salt to taste
fresh oregano (sprig) and 2-3 fresh basil leaves, torn (optional)
sugar, as needed

In a large saute pan, combine the tomatoes, butter, 1/4 cup water, onion, oregano and garlic. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer, cover the pan, and simmer for 10 minutes. Puree the tomato sauce.

Add the fresh herbs and a pinch or two of salt. Add more water if needed. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. taste and add sugar and salt, as needed.

Add the cooked pasta and toss in the sauce.

Push the pasta to one side of the pan. Add the turkey cutlet, sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top and put the lid on the pan. When the cutlet has warmed through and the cheese has melted, transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with fresh herbs.

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.

Pork Tenderloin Four Ways

If you have a chance to buy pork tenderloin fresh, it’s quite a versatile protein for a singleton, and you can take your time making various dishes.

Unfortunately, I bought mine frozen, so when I thawed it, I had to prepare (trim off fat and remove the silver skin) and use it in as soon as possible.

Pork tenderloin souvlaki – marinated (Kraft Zesty Italian dressing), threaded onto skewers with chunks of onion and sweet pepper (red, yellow and orange), and then broiled on the bbq or in the oven under the grill. Serve with starch of your choice. In this case, I had leftover Mexican rice in the freezer so that’s what I used.

 

Korean pork tenderloin roast – marinated in a Korean paste and served over plain rice. I boiled and served the marinade over the slightly charred pork.

 

Korean (Gochujang) Pork Tenderloin Marinade – serves 3-4

1 large piece of pork tenderloin (1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs)

1/2 cup gochujang
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey or brown sugar*
1-6 cloves of garlic, minced*
2 tbsp fish sauce (optional)
pinch of salt

* I used honey and only 1 clove of garlic

Pesto pork tenderloin roast – marinated in home made pesto and served with pesto fettuccine

 

Honey mustard pork tenderloin – Pan fried pork cutlet served with honey mustard dressing … it turned out I hadn’t taken a picture of the honey mustard over the pork itself, just over the raw broccoli so you’ll have to imagine. The protein was served with skin on, smashed potatoes.

KA Italian Bread 101 – Take 2

This post is being made as a visual record for some minor hydration adjustments of the earlier Italian bread post. The dough is shaped into the traditional loaf rather than the braid.

Trial 2: 8/27/18 … 680 gm dough. I used the liquid measuring cup for water on Trial 1 and, in retrospect, based on the ‘stickiness’ of the dough, even after incorporating ALL of the flour, wondered if my fast ‘eyeballing’ the water level, especially for the 2nd amount, may have resulted in using too much water. So, on this 2nd try, I used my dry measuring cups for the water. I held back about 2 tbsp of the flour at the end and still felt that my dough was too dry. I did a wet hand knead several times but the dough was still very firm. Bulk proofing 45 min, deflated and let rest for about 30 minutes. Shaped and let final proof for 40 minutes.

The dough was not glazed with beaten egg white nor did it have any sesame seeds sprinkled on top. (I had run out.) Instead, I sprayed the loaf with water, slashed and placed the loaf on an overturned baking sheet which had pre-heated in the oven. A metal pie tin with water was placed in the bottom of the oven onto a lower shelf. The loaf was rotated about half way through the baking and baked for 35 minutes.

Crumb compact but relatively soft

Delicious sandwich bread

I intend to make this again using the weights version of the recipe.

Sesame Semolina Bread and Soup (Two versions)

NOTE: The potato gnocchi soup below is a tomato based adaptation of the kale and sausage soup posted here.

After an indulgent last dim sum outing with my nephew, on Friday, I used the afternoon to make another bread that I had added to my ‘to do’ list, while I was flourless.

The recipe came from the King Arthur Flour web site and is called a “Sesame Semolina Lunetta”. I have NO idea where the term lunetta comes from … lunetta means ‘little moon’ in Italian but this S-shaped bread doesn’t fit. In French, lunette refers to ‘eyeglasses’ … I guess you can vaguely picture two circles of glass in the S-shape. Sometimes, names have no clear explanation.

The dough turned out very wet but I suspect that my measuring cup didn’t allow me to be precise enough. (Next time, I’d try using the weight option for ingredients. ) Since it was too wet to hand knead, and I didn’t want to dig out my stand mixer, I decided to use a ‘stretch and fold’ process (every 15 minutes for an hour, for a total of 5 S&F’s) letting it rest for a further 30 minutes. I shaped the dough into an 18 inch rope and then coiled it into the S-shape and let it proof until it got very puffy, about 50 minutes.

Since it was still such a wet dough, I increased the baking temp to 400 deg F, rather than the 350 deg F in the recipe and baked the loaf until it got golden brown, 35-40 min (NOTE: 37 1/2 min).

The crust was crispy and the crumb was relatively open. The taste was good and there was a faint scent of sesame from the toasted sesame seed oil used in place of olive oil.

To accompany the bread, I made a pot of kale, hot Italian sausage and potato gnocchi soup. For a change of pace, I divided half the soup and added whipping cream to one portion.

Creamy version served with sliced and toasted sesame semolina bread, spread with pesto and grilled long enough to melt the Parmesan cheese in the pesto.