Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ring out the old..Happy New Year!

Throughout the world, at the stroke of midnight on January 1st, bells will toll, loved ones kiss, champagne flows, Auld Lang Syne is sung, and another year is laid to rest as the New Year is embraced.

So, ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow. Wishing you all a happy & healthy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Roasted Butternut & Sage Orrichette

Years ago I snipped a recipe out of Cooking Light magazine and came across it again just recently. I’ve adapted it a bit to our taste. It’s very simple to prepare and even if you’re one of those non-squash eaters out there, this just may change your mind! I prefer to use butternut, but acorn squash or pumpkin works equally as well. The addition of roasted tomatoes to the sage roasted squash just rounds out this dish beautifully. If you missed the post on how I roast my summer tomatoes, you can find it here.
Any pasta will work with this, ditilani, cavatelli, or small shells, if it’s kept to similar size of your squash cuts. We simply enjoy orrichette.

Sage Roasted Squash

1/4 tsp sea salt, divided
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary
few sprigs of fresh thyme, diced
4 sage leaves, chopped
olive oil
1 medium sized butternut squash, halved & seeded
3 cups (1-inch) cubes pre-roasted and peeled butternut squash
2 fennel & cheese sausages, casings removed *opt or try some diced prosciutto
1 cup shallots, diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
½ cup roasted plum tomatoes ( that you hopefully have in your freezer from the summer garden)
10 oz orrichette or pasta of choice
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup provolone cheese, grated
1/3 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 425°.

Roasting Squash

Combine sea salt, rosemary, thyme and pepper. Drizzle olive oil over inner side of butternut squash. Sprinkle with salt/herb mixture. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes or until just tender and lightly browned. Once cool enough to work with, cut squash into bite sized pieces & set aside.

Cook the sausage filling in a large skillet over medium heat until lightly browned.. Remove sausage from pan, reserving 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Increase heat to medium-high. Add shallots and garlic to pan; sauté until tender. Combine squash mixture, sausage mixture, roasted plum tomatoes, shallots & garlic and set aside.
Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt.. Drain well.
In a large skillet combine 1 tsp olive oil, flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt over medium-high heat Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a gentle boil. Cook until slightly thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add provolone, stirring until cheese melts.

Add pasta, sausage, shallots, garlic, roasted tomatoes and top with cubed squash to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lobster Fra Diavolo

Another day of shoveling, last minute shopping and more shoveling. Who ordered all this white stuff anyway? Come in from shoveling and bitter cold and warm your souls with some Lobster Fra Diavlo…. Fresh lobster, jumbo shrimp and scallops sautéed with shallots and garlic in a spicy and very flavorful marinara sauce. Served over linguine, and shared with good friends, it’s fabulous!

One of my favorite seasonal dishes served very hot or to your taste. I’ll guarantee you’ll thaw out in no time. Serve with a nice dry red, and be merry.

2 fresh (1 ½ #) lobsters
3 oz olive oil
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 medium shallots, minced
2lb cooked shrimp
½ lb fresh scallops, diced
1 TBL fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 TBL Italian parsley, chopped
¼ tsp white pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes – start with ½ tsp if the heat is too much for you :)
2 tsp tobasco sauce
4 cups marinara sauce
½ cup dry red wine
1 lb linguine

·Boil lobsters, cool & pick all the lobster meat from tail, body and claws. Set aside
·In a skillet, heat olive oil, garlic & shallots briefly
·Add lobster meat, diced scallops, herbs and spices. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat.
·Add marinara sauce, red wine & cooked shrimp. Bring to just a boil, then lower heat and let simmer 5-8 minutes.

·Serve over warm linguine & toss well. Enjoy!

When I came in from scurrying around in the snow doing last minute shopping, I found a delicious surprise waiting for me under the Christmas tree. Yes Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus! What great friends we have. Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

For the Chocoholics in all of us

You can begin your diet next year. Here’s a favorite family chocolate delight that’s sure to be a hit on any dessert table.
These are not like any brownie you’ve ever eaten. They are rich, calorie packed masterpieces and nothing can take their place. They are best served directly out of the refrigerator. I wrap these separately in candy foils. Be sure to grab a few and hide them away just for when that chocolate craving strikes your fancy! Happy holidays.

3 1/2 TBLS cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
10 TBLS butter
3 TBLS corn oil
5 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups ++plus 2 TBLS light brown sugar
3 eggs ++plus 1 egg yolk
6 TBLS (3 fluid oz) B & B Cognac Liqueur


9 oz semisweet chocolate
6 fluid oz corn oil
1/2 oz ( 1 TBLS) B & B Cognac Liqueur

Butter and flour well 9 inch pan. Sift together cocoa, flour, salt and cinnamon. Melt butter, corn oil and chocolate over a double boiler. Place melted chocolate mixture in a mixing bowl. Aloow to cool 5 minutes. Add brown sugar and beat well. Add eggs in slowly. Add B & B Liqueur. Slowly add dry ingredients, mixing well until incorporated.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes. Do not overcook.


Melt chocolate, corn oil and B & B Liqueur over a double boiler.
Allow brownies to cool thoroughly and cut into shapes, or 1 inch squares. Place brownies on cake racks over a sheet pan to catch drippings. Pour warm glaze to coat each brownie. Chill until glaze sets. Save all the excess drippings if desired.. (great over vanilla bean ice cream!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Seven Fishes Feast - Baked Zucchini and Shrimp

Twas the night before..

As you probably can imagine, living in New England has it’s plus’s as well as pitfalls (such as most recent ice storm) but there is no denying we have the greatest selection of seafood in the country. With the holidays quickly approaching, deciding on the Christmas Eve ‘feast’ is no easy task.
Lobster, clams, shrimp, mussels, salted cod, along with abundant fish selections.
Christmas Eve is mostly a communal affair with my family—with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, godmothers friends and more family gathering in the kitchen, resulting in very large quantities of assorted seafood dishes all lovingly prepared along with the cooks’ comparing ingredient notes of their respective specialties.

I suppose it will sound a bit odd coming from a New Englander.. but my favorite seafood of all isn’t the lobster. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy lobster, but if I have to be truthful, clearly it’s shrimp for me. Baked, fried, stuffed, scampi, you name it, I’ll be the first to order it! The Christmas Eve menu in our family will include many shellfish dishes and I’d be hard pressed to skip any of them, they are all so good! My sister’s baked stuffed shrimp is always a favorite, as is my Uncle Pete’s shrimp bake. From me, they always expect to see me appear with my lobster pie. But this year in addition to my lobster dish I will be preparing a baked shrimp dish that we just love. I really enjoy the simplicity of this dish and ease of preparation that I make typically in trays, as it disappears pretty fast off the serving table, but for this post I made it in individual ramekins as I’ll be making 3 trays of this in ten short days. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does and don’t feel you need to wait until Christmas Eve to make this one.. it’s yummy any time of the year :o)

This dish was a favorite of my Dads’ and why I will be submitting my Baked Zucchini and Shrimp to my friends, Maryann of Finding La Dolce Vita and Joe of Italyville who are jointly hosting a virtual Seven Fishes Feast, the traditional Christmas Eve feast celebrated by many Italian families. They’ll be giving away a fabulous basket full of goodies too! For the details of this fun event, CLICK here. Thanks for hosting this wonderful event Maryann & Joe. I just can’t wait! Buon natale!

3-4 small zucchini
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup crumbled stale crusty bread
3 TBLS grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, thyme, rosemary, summer savory and mint diced together
½ tsp tobasco sauce
pinch of hot pepper flakes
thoroughly cleaned shrimp ( for two individual ramekins I used 8 jumbo shrimp, divided. Use a lot more when making this by the tray)
Sea salt & ground pepper
lemon wedges

·Preheat oven to 425 degrees

·With a mandolin or sharp knife, thinly slice the zucchini lengthwise. Finely
chop the herbs if you haven’t already and mix together with the crushed
breadcrumbs. Add Parmesan cheese, tobasco and pepper flakes tothe bread crumb

·Brush ramekins or other individual ovenproof dishes with some of the olive oil.
Place a layer of the sliced zucchini on the bottom and sprinkle with bread crumb
mixture. Arrange 4 shrimp on top of each, sprinkle a bit more of the bread crumb
mix over them. Add only a bit of sea salt & ground pepper and lightly drizzle
olive oil over the crumbs. Cover with next layer of zucchini slices and remaining
bread crumbs. Drizzle again lightly with olive oil and a bit of salt. Cover
ramekins with foil. Pop into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. Cooking time
will vary with ovens and whether or not you use fresh shrimp or precooked/frozen
/thawed shrimp. Just lightly brown crumb topping. Either are equally good. Serve
hot along with a bowl of sliced lemon wedges. Happy holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chicken Fennel & Rice Soup for the soul

My name is Jady and I am a recipe addict! Or I should say.. was.

A few months ago, after a recent move I made the decision that it was time to sell a rather large cookbook collection I've had for over 25 years. Why was I saving recipes from twenty five years ago? Cooking styles have surely changed over these years that more than half of the bookmarked recipes were for things I would never make any more. I was thrilled to find a wonderful cookbook dealer who assured me, my library of 900 treasured books would all go to good homes.. Of course before I made my decision I had to go through them all one more time because there was one favorite recipe that I couldn’t be without. Enough already! Admittedly, this is how a recipe addict thinks, but in addition to my favorite recipes I got into the habit years ago, of sticking family recipes into my books as well, along with family pictures that were very special to me. They just brought an instant smile or warm remembrance of a special event that called for a certain recipe, whenever I reached for my books.

My daughter came to visit in the midst of all this madness and suggested that I put my favorite recipes on to the computer, but I couldn't even begin to fathom the length of time that would take, and what if I forgot to do backups? Well it ended up taking me 3 weeks to go through each & every book, sort the keepers and separate the ones I would part with.

Yes, I still have a very nice collection, but now actually manageable, and space in my new kitchen. I've been slowly putting some of them into computer files.. but it's just not the same for me. I actually prefer having a book with my hand scribbled marginal notes from years ago in it.. There definitely are memories connected with them and as I gazed at my faded writing and that smudge of cinnamon and butter encrusted on the pages, I’m transported back to that time years ago when I baked my first apple pie for my own daughters during the holidays. And yes, what about all those hand written recipe cards with recipes from my mom’s collection, my Nonna's recipes brought from Naples? Uncle Pete's famous lobster pie recipe? Auntie Ella's arancine or baccala salad. I’ll always hang on to those. Whenever I make Ma's delicious apple pie I get out that recipe card, even though I know it like the back of my hand. My newest cookbook, a birthday gift from my daughter, Top Chef-The Cookbook, with an inscription.. ‘this will just be a start to your new collection of cookbooks :) Bon Appetit’. So whether old or new, collecting cookbooks and recipes will always remain in this addicts life!
A fabulous read you may find here by Marcella Hazen I read on fellow bloggers site,Andy's Diner clearly hits home.. I too am my familys cook, and darn proud of it!

I started this post with the intention of sharing a favorite soup recipe ”Chicken, Fennel & Rice' but obviously my thoughts went off in a different direction. Let’s just blame it on the flu I have been fighting for the past week! Because of this, very little cooking has been done here, but it’s given me the chance to thumb through my recipe boxes and to make one of my favorite soups when feeling a bit under the weather. This is a soup that won’t just let you stop with one bowl. A rich flavorful broth, with a hint of anise from the fennel.. and rice for body.

¾ cup chopped fresh fennel
½ cup diced onions
¼ cup celery, diced
½ cup washed & sliced leeks
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ diced red or orange bell pepper
½ diced green pepper
½ cup dry white wine
2 TBLS Sambucca
8 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
½ tsp ground anise seed
fresh thyme leaves
a splash of tobasco sauce
sea salt & lots of ground pepper
a cup of chicken, cooked and diced or fennel & garlic sausage (casings removed)
1 cup rice

Saute fresh fennel, onion, celery and leeks (and chicken sausage if using) in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add garlic, red and green peppers, wine and Sambucca. Simmer for 5 minutes.. then add chicken stock, ground anise seed, sea salt & ground pepper. Bring it all to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the rice, cooked chicken and simmer another 20 minutes. Serve very warm with lots of crusty bread. Just what the doctor ordered! Enjoy.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Celebrating the Season- Chocolate Pizzelles

I thought it might be nice to share how we celebrate a part of this season..

Part of our holiday season will begin this weekend.. our town has a 'Tree Lighting' ceremony. Though we haven't had any snow yet, but a few flurries.. thank gawd!! :o) It's very hometown.. everyone comes out for it... Santa will arrive...carols will be sung.. candles will be lit that everyone will carry..& of course the tree lighting will take place... and in our church, the sound of the lovely bellringers perform their magic.. and later a potluck dinner & Xmas cookies for all! Here's a shot of of last years tree in our village. How do you celebrate this season?

I've been busy baking cookies.. 20 or so of us bake assorted Xmas cookies and make up trays upon trays that we will deliver to over 200 elders, & shut-ins this year. It's a very special project for me.

I'll try and get a few of these recipes up in the coming days. But one cookie that will always be made each holiday for us are pizzelles. So in addition to my regular vanilla, anise, almond or lemon pizzelles, I wanted to try chocolate too this year. If you enjoy pizzelles as much as we do, you might like to try this one too. I think it's become my favorite flavored pizzelle yet. I didn't want it to be just another chocolate cookie, and I think the addition of cinnamon, nutmeg and orange added just that special touch. I'd be hard pressed to describe this wonderful flavored cookie but have to say my house smelled so good while baking them! And taste? Delicioso! Enjoy!

Chocolate Cinnamon Pizzelles

6 eggs
1 1/4 c sugar
1 c vegetable oil
zest of one orange
2 1/4 c flour
3 TBL Ghiradelli unsweetened cocoa
3 tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp orange extract
XXX Confectioners' sugar as desired

Sift flour, baking powder, salt unsweetened cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder into a bowl and set aside.

Blend together eggs, oil and sugar until sugar dissolves into a creamy batter. Add orange zest and orange extract. Once mixed, slowly add the seasoned flour mixture and blend well. Drop by teaspoon onto hot griddle. Close the cover and cook 30-45 seconds..depending on your pizzelle maker. Lift each baked pizzelle gently with a light spatula onto a toweled cookie sheet. Allow to cool flat (or roll over cannoli tins to fill with ricotta cream later). Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!

For a super pictoral on how to make pizzelles, pop on over to my good friend Maryann's blog Finding La Dolce Vita. Thanks for the tips on using my new pizzelle maker too Maryann :o)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Leftover Turkey Tetrazzini

So are you still stumped on how to use up all the holiday turkey you have on hand? You really don’t need to eat 10 turkey sandwiches (though I really enjoy them!) in the days following Thanksgiving. In addition to turkey pot pies or a hearty soup pot I often will make a casserole of tetrazzini. Surprisingly an un-Italian dish, despite it’s name and usually made with spaghetti, but we prefer linguine. But it’s an easy dish to prepare, and a great way to use up turkey leftovers.

· 10 ounces mushrooms, slice thin (about 3 cups)
· 2 small shallots, diced fine
· 4 TBLS unsalted butter
· 1/4 cup flour
· 1 3/4 cups milk
· 2 cups chicken broth
· 1/4 cup Pinot Grigio
· 1# linguine or spaghetti
· 3 cups coarsely chopped cooked turkey
· 1 cup cooked peas ( I use frozen)
· 2/3 cup grated parmesan
· few shakes of tobasco or red pepper flakes
· sea salt, ground pepper, thyme to taste
· a sprinkling of paprika
· 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs

In a large heavy saucepan, cook the mushrooms and shallots in the butter over moderate heat for 5 minutes

Stir in the flour and cook the mixture over low heat, stirring for 3 minutes.

Add in a stream the milk, the chicken broth and the wine, stirring, bringing the mixture to a boil, stir and lower heat to simmer the sauce for 5 minutes. Add the cubed turkey, peas, tobasco and thyme.

In a kettle of boiling salted water cook the linguine until it is al dente and drain.

In a large bowl combine the linguine, the mushroom sauce, sea salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in the 1/2 cup of parmesan, and transfer the mixture to a buttered 3-quart casserole.

In a small bowl combine well the remaining 1/3 cup parmesan, and the panko crumbs.

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the Tetrazzini, and drizzle over the top a bit of olive oil.

Bake the Tetrazzini in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until it is bubbling and the top is golden. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Wishes

Thanksgiving is upon us. In and of itself is about being thankful, giving thanks for all the goodness in our lives. I feel extremely fortunate to be celebrating the holiday this year with my loved ones. But as much as Thanksgiving is about thanks--it is also as much about food! Have you all started your menu's? Begun your baking? Thought about leftover menu's yet?? I have to admit, the Thanksgiving meal is pretty traditional in our worked for my Mom for over seventy years.. why change a good thing!

To all my newfound blogging friends and readers alike.. we wish you all safe travel, and a very fruitful and special Thanksgiving Day. Buon appetito!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Veal Stew with kale

Now that the chillier days have arrived, soups and stews are regular fare on my menu, and veal stew is right up there as one of our favorites. An easy dish to prepare and when slow cooked the veal just melts in your mouth. You can add whatever vegetables you prefer. Sometimes I add more.. sometimes less. It all depends on how many I want to feed :o)

2 onions, chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
3 carrots, sliced
3-4 large potatoes, peeled & cubed
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp.thyme
sea salt
ground black pepper
2 lbs. boneless lean veal shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into bite sized pieces
2 tbsp. olive oil
a bit of fresh rosemary
1/2 cup pinot grigio
1 (28 oz) can peeled whole Italian plum tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
greens of choice: I add approx 1 cup fresh spinach or kale, torn
2 cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup ditilani pasta -*opt
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley

In a large sauce pan, brown veal cubes, onion and celery in olive oil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add Italian parsley, rosemary, garlic, sea salt & pepper. Saute until garlic is tender, but not browned., about 5 minutes. Pour in white wine. Add diced carrots and plum tomatoes. Simmer for 20 minutes. While simmering, peel and dice potatoes and add to the pot along with 2 cans low sodium chicken broth. Add fresh spinach or kale Allow stew to simmer covered, for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Serve warm with lots of garlic bread. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Goblin's Pumpkin Chip Cookies

It's that time of year again, when all the goblins, witches, tricksters and treaters come out to celebrate Halloween spirits, and Pumpkin Festivals abound. Once October rolls around I'm always enamoured with anything pumpkin.. pies, squares, fudge, whoopie pies and pumpkin chip cookies. I figured now would be the perfect time to share these yummy cookies! If you make them, you'll see how they got their name, because you too will be gobblin' them up! Happy Halloween everyone! Enjoy!

2 cup flour
1 cup quick cooking oats or old-fashioned oats
1 tsp baking soada
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup semi-sweet morsel chips ( I usually add in a bit more)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts *opt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients. Set aside. Cream butter, gradually adding in both sugars, egg, vanilla extract and cream until light and fluffy. Add canned pumpkin, mixing it in well. Alternate blending of dry ingredients and pumpkin mixture, stirring well after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.
Drop the batter by heaping tablespoon onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet, an inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned and golden. Don't overbake them. Remove from baking sheet & cool on wire racks. Yield: approx 36- 2 inch cookies.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta

1 pound fresh tomatoes
3 TBLS olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/3 cup basil leaves, torn
sea salt & ground pepper to taste
1 cup light cream
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 pound pasta
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 oz gorgonzola cheese

·Cook your pasta of choice… while it cooks..

·Cut tomatoes into large chunks and toss with olive oil, garlic, basil and a bit
of salt & ground pepper.
·Warm the cream in a large skillet. Reducing to about half cup. Lower the heat
and add tomato mixture and cook together for 20 minutes … gently
·Toss in parmesan and crumbled gorgonzola & nutmeg and continue warming until it
just begins to melt.. stir well.

·Drain cooked pasta and pour over your creamy tomato basil sauce and toss well.

Serve steaming hot with some extra gorgonzola crumbles on top, grated cheese and a nice crusty bread. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Little Italy found

Ever since we moved to Maine I've been hunting for a good Italian grocer. You know.. the kind of old fashioned neighborhood market you went into as a child, the ones with creaky floorboards and row after row of imported goodies? Well I finally found one!
I recently sold an enormous cookbook collection to a dealer in Portland. When they came to pick them up we began talking about the area, our mutual love of cooking and their background. She.. a retired pastry arts chef couldn't have been more than please to recommend local international grocers & eateries that I might find interesting to visit. On my newly found long list of grocers was 'Micucci's Market'.
So one early summer morning we headed up to Portland to the farmer's market in the park and spend some time exploring. After getting lost twice we finally turned down the right street. On one side of the street sits an old meat market, closed up years ago with grass growing so high behind the locked gate that it covered the entrance. On the other side a stately brick building with weathered sign that read: Micucci's Grocery Co.,Est 1949. At first glance I had to wonder if this was remnant of days gone by. But spotting a small faintly lit sign and the marvelous yeasty aroma that was filling the air around us.. I knew this wasn't a figment of my imagination.
Inside was like a throwback in time, and I felt like I had been transformed back to our old neighborhood grocer. Rows and rows of specialty items, along with an old fashioned deli counter, all imported from Italy - dried Rustichella d'Abruzzo pasta, Frantonia extra virgin olive oil, so many cheeses, fresh baked breads, white anchioves, sardines, olives, peppers, and many other essentials of the Italian table. I was in seventh heaven :o)

But then that aroma grabbed me again and I was drawn up to the back of the shop..

after walking through an extensive selection of wines.. and up a few steps, and just around the corner I found a small brick lined spot serving piping hot slabs of Sicilian pizza, warm luna bread and sfogliatelles! No wonder I was drawn in! They had so many patrons lined up for the next hot slices to be served, we happily got in line.

A family run business for over 50 years.. very friendly atmosphere along with a very fine selection imported goods. A market that I will be frequenting often!

Here's a few of my purchases :) Mangia!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Leeky Onion Soup

Sadly, this week my two farmers markets came to a close and I'll be missing all of my vendor buddies, fresh produce and even though it is a lot of work I really enjoy each week at them both. I've been busy these weeks doing our Autumn festivals.. Chili Festival, Pumpkin Fiddle Festival, Harvest Moon Festival, Apple Festival and this long holiday weekend yet another one. But that's it! Well, at least until Xmas :o)
So here was my chance to pick up some of my favorite Fall veggies.. carrots, kales, parsnips, spuds, winter squash and some leeks. They just looked too tempting to pass on by. I bought 8 of them and they sat in the fridge until last night. We're seeing some chillier nights here lately, so I decided to make a pot of my Leeky onion soup. It's a pretty simple concoction, but oh so yummy. Use whatever veggies you have on hand.. the more that's added, the better the pot.
What I like about leeks is that there is very little waste and they are just so tasty from tip to tail. For this soup I use almost the whole leek and save the darker tips to add to another dish.

6-8 mid size leeks, cleaned thoroughly & chopped
2 large onions, sliced
2 shallots, diced fine
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 zucchini, cubed
1/2 bunch Italian kale, chopped
3 carrots, cleand & cut
4 scallions, diced
1 summer squash, cubed
7-8 potatoes, peeled & cubed ( I used red & white New potatoes and Yukons)
1/4 stick unsalted butter
2 cans low salt chicken or vegetable stock
low fat milk or light cream
sea saltm ground pepper to taste

Saute cut leeks, onions, shallots, & garlic in butter about 5-6 minutes. Rinse and cut up all your vegetables. Add to the pot with 2 cans chicken stock. Cover, and bring to a low boil and cook until vegetables are just tender. Remove cover and cool for 10 minutes. Pour vegetable mixture into Cuisinart or blender & give it a whirl until just smooth. Return it to your pot & add low fat milk (not much) or if you must.. light cream! Season to taste. Serve with Syrian bread triangles, or nice crusty bread, Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Seasonal Endings, My Favorite Piccalilli

Every Fall about this time I scramble about trying to clear out the veggie garden and put it to bed. Shorter days and cool nights here tell me my gardening season is coming to an end. This can be a good thing, a quieter time.. but before I pull up all
the tomato plants, and head for the composter, I'll pick every last green tomato I can lay my hands on, knowing full well there isn't a chance left that they will turn luscious red. And that's okay. this season has been a plentiful one. So plentiful in fact, I needed to head over to our local farm and pick 25 extra pounds!

You might ask, what will she do with all these green tomatoes? Well, an annual event around our house is to make my summer's ending piccalilli. I can't take credit for this recipe. It is my grandmothers, dating back to the late 1800's. You know what they say? If it works, don't fix it! It's probably the only family recipe I haven't adapted adding a bit of this or that of my own. It's absolutely perfect, just as it is! Serve it in the cooler months with pork, poultry, tomato sausage or fish dishes. Me, I could eat it right out of the jar! :)

Grandma’s Green Tomato Piccalilli

Be very accurate in weighing tomatoes and onions.. making sure the measurement you use is AFTER slicing. The recipe will yield quite a few jars of piccalilli, but can easily halved or quartered. I put mine up in many sized canning jars, but for practical purpose, jelly jars are a good portioned size to use. Make extra jars, as it makes a great xmas gift!

Vegetables Prepared

8 lbs green tomatoes-sliced
3 lbs onions-sliced
4 cups cider vinegar
5 cups white sugar
16 whole cloves
½ cup salt
2 cinnamon sticks – broken up into very tiny pieces

· Use a large kettle and alternately layer the tomatoes and onions and sprinkle
with salt between each layer. Cover the pot and let stand overnight.

Layered tomatoes & onions.. salted

· Next morning, drain the vegetables—DO NOT WASH them. Put the cider vinegar in
your kettle, add sugar, spices and heat until the sugar has dissolved well. Add
tomatoes and onions into this pot now. Cook slowly until the vegetables are just
tender. Cover and set overnight.

· This next morning bring the piccalilli to a rapid boil, stirring well, and then
bottle at once. Do not cook anymore. Your kitchen will smell divine!
No need to water bath or process this recipe. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

First Coarse.. Applesauce

Well I guess it's official.. it's Apple Harvest time here in New England. Does anything taste better than a crisp snappy apple when you've been out hiking in the cool autumn air? This was a perfect weekend to go apple picking and so we did! Still balmy temps here, so you didn't need to worry about crowds.. a great selection to choose from, and a lovely spot high in the hills with a wonderful view made this picking weekend a very special one for us.

I've been craving roast pork, with roast potatoes and homemade applesauce. I can always tell when the long hot sizzling days of August have just about come to an end.. and this urge just comes over me to make a nice autumn dinner. Pie & turnover recipes just hankering to be made, and the thought of apple butter, just warms me.

We had the orchards nearly to ourselves, and as we went about the task I couldn't help but think of what has happened over the years. The US agritourism seems surreal to me: around the country, migrant workers pick our food for low wages under bad conditions, but the well-to-do suburban families pile into minivans and RV's, drive long distances, and pay money to have their kids pick produce.

Picking apples or any fresh produce at 'Pick Your Own' farms, stands for me at least, a longing for a simpler time, when you could walk into an apple orchard and pick.. simply because they were there. Looking around at row after row of apple trees in the orchard, I had to wonder to myself what Johnny Appleseed would make of all this when he planted these first seeds with wide sprung hands so very long ago, but continued on with my picking, dreaming of what I would prepare with all these tasty jewels.

I knew the first thing I wanted to make was applesauce. I'm a little fussy when it comes to applesauce. I don't care for smooth texture and do enjoy the addition of cinnamon, so after trial and error came up with an applesauce I'm really pleased with. Flavored just right for us, with a consistency that's neither chunky nor smooth. More like coarse... first coarse, if you've never tried your hand at making applesauce before. So head to your local orchard, and start picking or Farmer's Market and then try this easy to prepare recipe. Enjoy!

50 apples - I used 30 Paula reds & 20 McIntosh
Water - enough to almost cover the apples
2 TBLS lemon juice
1/2 - 1 cup sugar (white or light brown)
3 TBLS cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
12 jelly jars- kept warmed

Wash, peel, core and slice apples. Put the apples into a large pan and almost cover with water and lemon juice. Cover. Bring to a light boil, but WATCH the pan, as apples swell, allowing your cover to fly off! Cook covered until apples become tender & start to fall apart with occasional stirring.. about 25 minutes.
When the apples are tender, transfer to collander and drain off excess water. Put all apple pulp back into your pan & mash with a slotted spoon. Add sugar(s) slowly, 1/2 cup at a time until dissolved, cinnamon and nutmeg, and continue to cook until sugar is dissolved and flavored to your taste. I used 2/3 cup light brown sugar with 1/3 cup white sugar.
Have your warmed jelly jars ready and spoon hot applesauce mixture into the jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Clean rims of jars, and apply seals and lids. Process jars in water bath canner 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool before storing.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Potato Croquettes

I was feeling very lazy today and not really wanting a big dinner, but did want to clear out the frig of leftovers. Checking all the Tupperware containers, I spot some leftover mashed potatoes and half a roast chicken.. hmmm?? What can I toss together with little effort?? Why not potato croquettes? I hadn't made them in eons.. and this is a good excuse to cheat on my diet :)

Actually, croquettes are exceedingly easy to prepare and even more delightful to consume. My Mom use to make these often, and no matter how many she had cooling on the counter, some always managed to disappear off the platter before we sat down for dinner. I can't imagine where they went to?! She always made just plain potato croquettes, but I like to add ground chicken to mine, along with some grated carrots, maybe a bit of prosciutto and herbs.
Whichever way you choose to make them, they usually are a big hit, great served warm or at room temperature, and make a nice lunch bite for those always on the run! So don't forget to make a few extras.

1 lb potatoes -washed, peeled and boiled til tender
1 TBL butter
4 TBL milk
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups of pre-cooked or leftover chicken pieces, ground in food processor
2 TBL fresh parsley, rosemary & thyme diced fine
sea salt & ground pepper to taste
2 grated carrots
1/2 cup fontina cheese(or mozzarella cheese)
4 slices prosciutto, chopped (opt)
3 eggs
1 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs
1 cup flour
Vegetable oil for frying

After your potatoes have cooked, and have drained and cooled, toss them into a mixing bowl. Add the butter, milk and mash them well. Add the cheeses, ground chicken, parsley, rosemary & thyme. Break 1 egg and mix thoroughly into the potato mixture. Add salt & pepper.

In a separate bowl break the remaining two eggs and beat lightly. Place seasoned bread crumbs in another dish, and the flour in yet another dish.

Form each croquette with 2 heaping spoonfuls of the potato mixture: with your hands, roll a croquette.. about 1 1/2 inch in diameter and 2-3 inches long. Roll croquettes in the flour, then into the beaten egg, and finally roll in bread crumbs. Place finished croquettes on a plate, cover with waxed paper and refrigerate 1 hour. When you are ready to fry, heat oil in skillet and fry croquettes until browned on all sides, aproximately 3-4 minutes.
Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve warm or cooled and enjoy!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Colombian Connection- Sancocho

Wow! It's Labor Day weekend already! Did this summer ever just fly by! We've been on vacation these past two weeks, just kicking back and enjoying family, children and South American visitors.. cooking up a storm and sampling foods we've never had the chance to try before. One might say it was a unique gastronomical experience, and one we will remember for a very long time. Much laughter and even more chatter in these weeks, with very little English spoken..
but with the help of our adoptive Colombian daughter/translator, a wonderful connection was made.. a Colombian connection. Remarkably enough, much conversation transpired, observations were made, questions raised.. oh, the many questions! :o) Traditions were compared, and recipes were shared and prepared.. and hopefully this will become an annual family gathering every summer from now on!

Our adoptive daughter brought her real parents to the states for a two month visit.. they came bearing gifts, warm hugs, smiles, food, Colombian condiments, spices, coffee, real cocoa, and liqueurs that I'm not still quite sure how they managed to clear US customs with.. but then again, I don't think I really want to know! LOL Before they made the trip up here to Maine her Mami took 3 days to prepare this dish. Have you ever seen these before.. or even moreso.. had the chance to taste these delicious morsels?

These are Colombian Tamals.. a labor intensive traditional fare. Plantano (banana leaves) wrapped bundles that were filled with chicken, pork, rice, carrots, potatoes, yams, onions blended with a delicious 'hoago' relish/sauce, and then slowly steamed for a day. These were served for breakfast, Colombians' largest meal of the day, with breads, along with real hot cocoa that a soft stringy cheese had been added to. This was just so good, but a bit heavy for this tummy, so early in the day. Fortunately.. they thought ahead (though it shocked freezing food simply isn't a part of Colombian cookery) our daughters froze a few up for us.
We then slowly steamed them and had for dinner the other night and simply savored ever bite!
Here's a shortened recap of photos the kids took while preparing these Tamals.. so much time, improvising and effort went into this process than Mami was accustomed to preparing in her own kitchen. I had to smile when they told me she somehow managed to bring 34 fresh banana leaves into the US, just to make us Tamals. Wow!

Mami's finished Colombian Tamals

Some of the other foods prepared for us was roasted plantains & corn and roasted blue fish that we caught on a grand fishing day. Pappi brought us some Aguardiente, a liqueur that I could only compare to our anisette, though what we drank clearly had a definitely stronger kick to it! We had planned to have Mami show us how to make arepas, but ran out of time, so I will definitely look forward to learning this next summer when they visit again. And speaking of fish.. our visitors were fascinated with the types of fish we enjoy here, they were particuliarly interested in swordfish and bluefish.. both new to them. They also just loved our lobsters, mussels and steamed clams, also new to them. Some observations made.. they couldn't get over how much food is wasted here in the US, as well as the high price we pay for fresh fruits and vegetables..they were awed by our rising and falling tides, and our highways, not to mention EZPass! LOL Isn't it remarkable the things people take note of when they visit our country. I thought Mami was going to throw the Captain of the boat we chartered overboard, as he cleaned and fileted all the fish caught for us and tossed the bodies overboard for the gulls!! She insisted we save one whole 9 pounder for her to prepare for us all in it's entirety, which he gladly did! LOL

Mariella & Marcos.. have a very safe journey back to Colombia! See you next year!

Now I know this is primarily an Italian family recipe blog, and just like most Italian homes, every family has their own version of lasagne right? -- Well, so do the Colombians when it comes to making Sancocho, their traditional flavorful soup broth, served with large pieces of fresh assorted vegetables and meat. I had never tasted this soup, but decided to surprise our guests by preparing some.

In Colombia, Sancocho is beleived to be so powerful that it can bring the dead back to life, so it is often served after every party or whenever mucho imbibing has taken place, or after a night of celebration. Well, we did much celebrating, so I thought this easy soup to prepare would be most fitting.

I'm not sure who was more surprised, myself, for the way it turned out or our company that I made it for them.. but I have to say I received one of the nicest compliments when Pappi said " I cannot believe that I traveled so far to be served wonderful Sancocho made by a 'gringo'! LOL It simply made my day! Not knowing what to expect, nor what I was shooting for flavorwise, I have to say, the end result was one of the most tasty soups I've ever eaten. This recipe will be a regular winter soup on my menu for certain.

· 4 carrots, chopped
· 6 garlic cloves
· 3 peppers – sweet green, red, orange – seeded & chopped
· 1 medium red onion
· 1 jalapeno pepper
· 2 cups fresh cilantro

Put all of the above ingredients into a food processor and blend well, forming a paste. Add a bit of water if it won’t pulverize easily

In a large pot, combine the paste mixture with 5 qt water, 4 low sodium chicken bouillon, 2 TBLS ground cumin, ground pepper & just sprinkle of salt. Bring to a rapid boil and add:

· 1 medium yucca, peeled & cut into pieces
· 3 plantains – pelled & cut into 2 inch pieces
· Assorted chicken pieces - I added 8 whole legs, 6 boneless thighs, 4 boneless
chicken breasts- cut into 2 inch pieces

Simmer for 30 minutes and add:

· 6 ears of fresh ears of corn – cut into thirds
· 8 potatoes – peeled and halved

Simmer this an additional 30 minutes. When the potatoes are tender, remove from heat. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes and serve with chopped cilantro garnish. Enjoy!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Roasted Plum Tomatoes

Roasted Plum Tomatoes are a real favorite of ours. With all the rains we have been having, tomatoes are pretty abundant in our garden. So I thought this would be a good weekend project. My sister makes these weekly in season using her dehydrator, but I much prefer the oven method. This weekend I used my Roma tomatoes.. a favorite for roasting, making two trays and I made one tray of cherry tomatoes up for my neighbor. You can use any tomato that is growing in your garden, or stop by your local farmers market to pick up a nice selection there. I made two trays, one with with ground anise seed added to my blend. The herbal choices are endless, so give it a try & experiment with flavoring. Spread your roasted tomatoes over baked eggplant, or topping for bruschetta, over other grilled veggies- zucchini & squash, add a few to your risotto ( yum!) or in your pasta dishes. But don’t forget to sample a few right off the cookie sheet.. warm from your oven!

· 2 lb fresh picked Roma tomatoes
· 2-4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
· 6 garlic cloves, mashed and diced
· dried herbs: basil, oregano, summer savory, thyme
· ground anise seed (opt)
· sea salt, white pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Wash tomatoes and slice in half. Spread them in a single layer on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with half the olive oil. Sprinkle with chopped garlic and dried herbs or your own preferred herbal blend. Pop into the oven and bake for 5 hours, or until the texture is right. I don’t care for overly crisp dried tomatoes, so this is the cooking time that works best for me. When they are done baking, I simply flip each tomato over and slide the peels right off. I like to leave a few peels on for variety. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and let cool. Pack your roasted tomatoes into zip lock bags and refrigerate if you are planning to use them up soon.. they freeze beautifully, and there’s nothing nicer than having your own home grown roasted tomatoes for your winter dishes, if you can wait that long :o) Enjoy!