Friday, February 29, 2008

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Years ago, I emailed my good friend Marina, a 1st generation Italian to ask if she would help me learn to make risotto properly. She is from the northern region of Italy, and told me that she grew up on risotto and that her Mama cooked as I do.. never measuring, but that Mama could make even the simplest of risotto dishes exquisitely and would 'fill your belly'. :) After 4 emails and two phone calls, I finally got it right! To this day I do not know why I thought making risotto would be so difficult to prepare. I now make risotto routinely here.. all kinds of risotto and my family never tires of my varieties. Me..? I could eat it daily! So, thanks again so very much bella Marina for sharing your method with me.

Risotto is a creamy, moist rice dish that is relatively easy to make and such a far cry from a typical steamed long-grain rice.. even though they are made from the very same basic ingredients. But it is important to know, the rice used for risotto is a particuliar variety.. clearly the 'something special' used in all great risotto's.

A short-grained rice, rich in starch, which is slowly and carefully cooked in such a way that the rice releases it's starch resulting in a creamy consistency while the grains of rice remain whole.

Since risotto is such a simple dish, always use the best ingredients you can find. I think much of the quality and goodness of risotto lies heavily on a high-quality arborio rice, the freshest of vegetables, good wine, flavorful stock, real butter... and twenty minutes!

Try not to rush the cooking process... you'll be so pleased with the results! Keep in mind though, that making risotto does require attention to achieve that deliciously creamy consistency--from coating the rice with oil or butter, to adding in the stock just a ladleful at a time, to allow the rice absorbtion of liquids gradually. Remember to gently stir the risotto frequently after each addition of your stock and you will soon be rewarded with a creamy in texture, tender, but still firm to the bite and wonderfully moist and delicious risotto every time.

Here is my Wild Mushroom Risotto. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do.

6 TBLS of unsalted butter
1 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 shallots, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 tsp low-salt soy sauce
1 oz dried porchini mushrooms (pre-soaked in water) (reserve the liquid)
1 oz dried **black & white fungi strips -optional- (found in Asian grocer)
1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 TBL fresh lemon juice
Ground black pepper

Heat 6 cups of chicken stock. Keep it warm.
Melt 2 TBLS butter over medium heat. Add cremeni mushrooms and minced onion and cook until the mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and keep warm.

Now add remaining butter to your empty mushroom pan and garlic.. sauteeing the garlic for 30 seconds or so on medium heat. Pour in the rice and cook until the edges become transluscent, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. DO NOT brown your rice. Now add your wine and cook until the rice has almost completely absorbed it, about 2 more minutes. Ladle in 2 cup of warmed chicken stock, slowly, add soy sauce and pre-soaked porcini and ** black & white fungi strips if used, scraping up any rice that sticks. Give it a good stir. Cover your pan and continue simmering on low heat until nearly all your liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes.

Uncover pan now, stir rice well and add your remaining warm stock by ladleful.. making sure all liquid has been absorbed before adding in your next ladleful... cooking over medium heat and stirring often, until the rice grains are mostly tender, about 2-3 minutes.

Now replace your pan lid and let the risotto sit off the heat until it has nicely thickened, and the grains completely tender. Before serving, stir in the sauteed cremini mushrooms and shallots, Parmesan cheese,lemon juice and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Minestra... Easter Soup

Neapolitans serve special traditional dishes for different holidays. On Easter Sunday, when I was a child, this Minestra di Pasqua was always present on my Nunie's Easter Sunday dinner.This was the beginning of our Easter meal served before the pasta dish.

I have the fondest of memories of this day as my Nunie and Aunty Ella prepared so many traditional delights for all to savor. Some of the important parts of the meal included Crescia or Easter bread, Minestra di Pasqua.. Easter soup and Pastiera di Ricotta.. Easter pie. I can easily recall the large stock pot in the long pantry and stacks of soup bowls readied for ladeling, the sauce pot simmering away while the women busily prepared the antipasto trays. Sometimes they would even let the children grate the fresh cheese to be served. The aroma that permeated through her home was absolutely wonderful and oddly enough the essence of Easter lilies mingled in around everything else.

These time treasured traditions are held close to the hearts of so many Italian families.. signifying the renewal of faith and spirit to all.

Minestra Soup

In years gone by, the minestra was always made with a prosciutto bone. Today, prosciutto bones are hard to come by as this Italian ham is now processed with the bone removed.

Chicken stock - make a day ahead
* 5 lb whole chicken
*1 celery stalk-chopped, 2 carrots-chopped 1 med onion-chopped } add to stock
8 cups water - enough to cover your chicken

5 lb escarole, chopped
1 large cabbage head, chopped
1 lb prosciutto
3 pigs feet ( have your butcher crack them in half)
3 ham hocks
2 qt water
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
4 cups pre-made chicken stock
1/2 cup tiny pasta soup mac
1/2 lb salt pork, minced
2 clove garlic, crushed
1 TBLS fresh parsley, chopped
sea salt, ground pepper to taste
*optional - very small meatballs may be added to the soup

Make a chicken stock in a large pot adding celery, onion and a few diced carrots. Slow cook the chicken until it begins to pull away from the bones. Once done, remove the chicken from bones and set aside. Allow your stock to cool overnight.

Prepare Minestra

Place the salt pork in a large stock pot with the garlic and parsley. Brown lightly and add 2 quarts of water and 4 cups of chicken stock. Add the pigs feet, prosciutto and ham hocks, bringing it to a boil. Place a loose lid on the pot and simmer until meats are tender.

Remove the tough outer leaves of the cabbage and escarole, separating all the leaves and rinsing thoroughly and chop all. Parboil the greens in 4 qts of water for 5 minutes and drain. Add the parboiled greens to the stockpot containing the meats, along with the cooked chicken and seasonings & pasta. I sometimes like to add very small meatballs to my minestra. Simmer for an hour and serve with plenty of grated parmesan cheese and a nice bottle of red wine. Enjoy!

A good friend sent me this video clip about what it was like growing up Italian in America. It brought back floods of memories & warm remembrances of days gone by.

Balsamico Chicken & Chokes

2 lbs chicken cutlets, cut in 2 inch pieces
3 TBLS olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup onions chopped
6 oz marinated artichoke hearts
8 sundried tomatoes
handful of baby bella mushrooms
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
black olives, pitted (opt)
1/4 c Pinot Grigio wine
4 oz low-salt chicken broth
2 oz milk (room temperature)
1 TBL total thyme, parsley & rosemary
sea salt, ground black pepper
1 # linguini pasta

* I had some leftover herbed chicken sausage that I sliced and added to my chicken mixture.

Saute garlic, onion and mushrooms for a few minutes until onion is nearly clear. Add chicken pieces and brown evenly on both sides for about 5 minutes. Add wine and simmer 2 minutes more. Now add artichokes, roasted tomatoes, olives, Balsamic vinegar, chicken stock, and seasonings. Allow this to simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or so until chicken is very tender. Once done, turn off stove & let rest. Prepare your linguini aldente and drain. Just before serving balsamic chicken, rewarm pan and add in two oz of room temperature milk. Give everything a good mix. Pour over warm linguini and serve with crusty bread. Enjoy!

To Market ..To Market

I just loved exploring the marketplaces while in Italy, and bartering with the vendors. I found many! Everything was so fresh and fruits that were enormous! Here are a few of my favorite.

Nunie's Easter Rice Pie

This was my grandmother's recipe for Easter Pie. It's very light and yummy!

2 cup long grain rice, cooked
6 eggs beaten, until light in color
1 lb ricotta cheese
2 cups sugar
juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
lemon zest of one lemon

Mix all of the above ingredients together... adding vanilla last. Pour into a 10 inch pie crust. Bake in a 350 degree oven for one hour, or until a knife comes out clean when testing. Dust top with confectioner's sugar and serve. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bunny's Marinated Mushrooms

Whenever our family gets together you could always count on one of us making these wonderful mushrooms. My sister Bunny introduced them to the family, and they have been a hit ever since. Why does everyone gobble them up? Because they are just scrumptious!

This recipe will make quite a bit, but can easily be reduced to half.. If you find you have any leftover.. toss them into a nice garden salad. They make a wonderful addition.

Bunny's Marinated Mushrooms

3 lbs mushrooms - cut into bite size pieces
2 oz salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
1 TBLS chopped (small) red onion
1 pint red wine vinegar
1/2 pint soybean vegetable oil
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 oz sugar
4 garlic cloves, crushed & diced

Wash the mushrooms thoroughly & pat dry. Cut into bite sized pieces and put them in a large bowl. Add all of the seasons, oil, vinegar. Mix very well.. cover, and refrigerate for three days. Each day stir the mushrooms. Serve these marinated mushrooms at room temperature.

I like to add these to antipasto or relish tray during the holidays. They make a nice gift as well. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

First 'Class' Stuffed Manicotti

Believe it or not, I've never had the opportunity to make my own homemade manicotti.. until last night. Oh, I've made manicotti many times.. but using store bought manicotti shells.. and I have to say, that will never happen again!! :o)

I was lucky enough to have come across Maryann from Finding La Dolce Vita's excellent step-by-step tutoral on how to make your own manicotti crepes. Following her wonderful tutoral you too will be able to prepare your own homemade manicotti right in your own kitchens!

I made a spinach ricotta filling for mine and my very simple marinara sauce. Maryann's crepe recipe yields 5 crepes, so I ended up making a second batch of crepe batter.. because I now could! LOL My first crepe turned out misshapen.. so once it had cooled I just dusted it with powdered sugar and had it with my tea. But the rest turned out super!

Homemade Stuffed Manicotti with Marinara sauce

First you need to begin with a nice Marinara Sauce

1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, smashed & chopped
2 - 32 oz cans whole plum Italian tomatoes - crush them up with your hands
1 small can of crushed Italian tomatoes
1 TBLS each- fresh parsley & fresh basil
white pepper and a bit of ground sea salt
2 oz Pinot Grigio white wine
1 tsp sugar

Saute your garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, add your herbs next.. sauteeing for only a minute or two. Add your hand crushed whole plum tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and wine next and stir pot well once.. bring it all to a gently boil, and then reduce heat to the lowest simmer. Continue simmering for an hour or so, until your sauce has thicken up and reduced. Try not to stir often.. you will want this sauce to be thick and chunky.

While your sauce is cooking.. make your ricotta filling.

30 oz Ricotta (whole milk) cheese
6 oz mozzarella cheese
2 oz asiago shredded cheese
handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup fresh spinach leaves, torn

Now.. you are ready to make your crepes!!

But I'll let you pop on over to Maryann's blog to really get a birdseye view of how these delicious manicotti crepes are made first hand. :)

We really enjoyed the lightness of this manicotti and ease of preparation. Thanks for sharing your recipe Maryann!

Making my first homemade Manicotti Crepes
Marinara cooking..

Ricotta cheese mixture

My first crepe!

The crepes are done

Filling manicotti

Manicotti stuffed

And now all ready to pop into the oven¤t=6fbfebd7.pbw

Chicken Piccata

Chicken piccata is a dish made of chicken breast scaloppine (cutlets), capers, lemon, and wine. The term piccata is also used for an Italian dish traditionally made with veal. I'm torn as to which is my favorite, as I enjoy anything lemony.

A chicken breast used to prepare chicken piccata is usually butterflied, or sliced along its width, and then flattened. It's then seasoned and dredged in flour before being browned on both sides in olive oil. The sauce is made using the pan drippings. Wine, typically white is added to the pan and reduced. Shallots or garlic can be added with the capers and slices of lemon. When reduced, butter is stirred in to finish the sauce. It is usually served with polenta, but sometimes with pasta. I like to serve risotto as a side. It's a quick and very easy to prepare meal.

Lemon Chicken Piccata

3 Boneless chicken breasts - each slice on the long side as thin as you can
2 oz olive oil
4 oz flour
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp white pepper
2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 whole lemon sliced
2 TBLS fresh chopped parsley
3 TBLS salt free butter
4 oz Pinor Grigio white wine
3 oz chicken stock
1 oz brined capers...drained

In a large skillet add olive oil and heat to medium high heat.

Mix salt & pepper with flour in a brown paper lunch bag. Take your chicken cutlets and toss them in the seasoned flour bag and give it a good shake or two.
Shake off the excess flour and add each floured cutlet to the warmed oil.... Saute for two minutes and turn each over.. then add the capers, chicken stock, butter, lemon slices, juice, white wine and fresh parsley. Allow this to simmer another 5-8 minutes on medium heat.. keeping a constant stir without flipping or tearing the chicken.
Once cooked, plate the chicken cutlets and cover with lemon slices, capers and sauce and serve.
Serve this with risotto or angelhair pasta and a nice garden salad. Enjoy!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Marinara Sauce

Cucina Panzano's House Marinara Sauce

1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, smashed & chopped
2 - 32 oz cans whole plum Italian tomatoes - crush them up with your hands
1 small can of crushed Italian tomatoes
1 TBLS each- fresh parsley & fresh basil
white pepper and a bit of ground sea salt
2 oz Pinot Grigio white wine
1 tsp sugar

Saute your garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, add your herbs next.. sauteeing for only a minute or two. Add your hand crushed whole plum tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and wine next and stir pot well once.. bring it all to a gently boil, and then reduce heat to the lowest simmer. Continue simmering for an hour or so, until your sauce has thicken up and reduced. Try not to stir often.. you will want this sauce to be thick and chunky.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thawing out with Minestrone

It's a raw, snowy dismal day today in Maine. Snow, ice & rain. When I came in from shoveling, I was reminded of warmer days and a delicious soup.
While vacationing in Sorrento we spent a week at the Albergho Lorelei Hotel located off the main Piazza, overlooking the Bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius. Within it's vine covered patio overlooking this breathtaking view, they serve their summer guests and visitors scrumptious meals..made to order.

One cooler afternoon after shopping all over Sorrento.. we returned back to the Lorelei exhausted, but not too hungry, as we had been sampling all the vendors we came across tempting treats. Not wanting a full course meal, I asked if they could make me some minestrone soup. They were more than obliging... a half an hour later I was served my soup. It was the best minestrone I've ever tasted.

I asked if the chef would share his recipe with me.. Marco agreed, though it took another hour for me to translate all that he was explaining to me. I make this soup often, sometimes as I recorded it.. and sometimes with my own twist.. either way, it's one of my favorite meals. So here's my recipe for Marco's Minestrone

Marco's Minestrone

3 TBLS Good olive oil
4 Garlic cloves, minced
1 Onion, chopped
1 Can of kidney beans or 1 cup dried beans
1 Small can black olives, chopped
1 Can peeled and crushed tomatoes, or 4 large tomatoes, diced
5 Cups beef stock
1 Cup water
2 Oz dry white wine
1 TBLS chopped parsley, thyme, basil or your herb of choice
4 Carrots diced
2 Small zucchini, chopped
1/2 Cup chopped swiss chard
1/2 Cup chopped cabbage or fresh kale
1/4 Cup fresh spinach, torn
1/2 cup fresh green beans sliced
1 1/2 Cup diced celery
3 Boiled potatoes, diced
1 Cup ditilani pasta or small pasta shells

Soak the kidney beans overnight. Drain and cover with water and cook in a covered pot for about an hour or until the beans are tender. Drain beans. ( If using canned beans.. rinse well under warm water & reserve) Likewise, cook in salted water the pasta of choice al dente and then your potatoes. Once cooked, put the beans, potatoes and pasta aside in a warm place until needed.

When you are ready to proceed, put into a large skillet 3 TBLS olive oil & to this gently sautee the onions, minced garlic, cabbage,green beans, celery, swiss chard, herbs, and carrots. Cover the skillet and let the vegetables bubble quietly in the oil for 5 minutes or until carrots become slightly tender. Add 2 oz dry white wine, olives, spinach, fresh kale and continue to cook 5 minutes more.

Now into a large stockpot, add your beef stock, water, crushed tomatoes, the cooked vegetables and bring to a slow simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes. Now add in your reserved cooked beans, diced potatoes and pasta of choice. and simmer another 30 minutes or so, until all vegetables are tender. Season to taste with sea salt & ground pepper... serve very hot with sprinkled Pecorina or parmesean cheese and crusty garlic bread. Mangia & enjoy!

* Sometimes I additionally add some cubed cooked chicken to my sauteeing vegetables. While waiting for this wonderful soup to cook.. pour yourself a nice cold birra and dream of blue blue seas, the warmth of the sun, lounging under a bougainvilla vined pergola

Down East Lobstah Pie

There are some foods that should not be altered in their presentation-- juicy, ripe, off the vine summer tomatoes, sweet summer corn fresh from the fields...and fresh lobsters right out of our cold Maine ocean. I usually serve my lobsters (pronounced lob-stahs) steamed with drawn butter, corn on the cob, seaweed steamed clams and a nice garden salad. We just love our lobsters here!
It's pretty hard to improve on this casual New England fare but my recipe for Down East Lobster Pie celebrates the perfect flavor of New England lobsters and best of all, it can be prepared ahead of time and travels well. It's easy to prepare, (especially if canned lobster meat is used), but fresh live lobsters, slightly undercooked can't be beat in this recipe.

Down East Lobster Pie

4 Lobsters, Boiled or Steamed 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pound size
(Have the market steam them for you...Saves a lot of
work and most lobster pounds steam or cook them for FREE!)

Cracker Stuffing

1/2 Cup crushed (Kellogg's brand only) corn flakes
1 Cup crushed Ritz crackers
1/2 Cup melted butter (do not use margarine) reserving 2 TBLS
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 Cup minced shallots
Lemon juice, or serve casserole with lemon wedges (to your taste)

Saute shallots in butter, until tender. Add the remaining ingredients of stuffing and mix well. Once warmed.. set aside.

Shell the lobsters and put the lobster meat into 4 individual size baking dishes. Or,you can put it all in an average size square casserole baking dish. Drizzle some fresh lemon juice over the lobster. Now blend the cracker stuffing on and about the lobster meat and dot with two TBLS butter.
Drizzle with a bit of lemon juice. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes till lightly browned on top. Garnish with lemon wedge and fresh parsley!

Although I will always feel Maine lobster is best enjoyed steamed and served on a picnic table with steamers and corn, with everyone shelling their own... Down East Lobster Pie makes a more formal entrance, suitable for special occasions, but maintains it's Down East flavor for all to enjoy! A nice red wine I'd serve too!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is an easy and great way of making any leftover breads into an easy and so tasty dessert. You can add any kind of stale bread you have on hand, but I'd pass on any of the ryes.

Lately I have been on a pumpkin raisin bread and seven grain bread kick we get from our wonderful local bakery, Borealis Breads lately.. so I decided to try it in a bread pudding. It came out just yummy! A perfect dessert for a chilly winter's nite, fragranced with warming spices. Here's my version of Pumpkin Bread Pudding. Enjoy!

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup light cream
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
5 cups cubed day old stale or crusty bread
1/2 stick unsalted melted butter
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp each ginger, allspice & a pinch of cloves
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup raisins if you can't find a good pumpkin/raisin bread

Cut your bread into cubed sized pieces & place in a good sized bowl. Drizzled the melted butter over the bread cubes and toss all gently and set aside.

Whisk together your eggs.. when frothy, add in whole milk and cream, pumpkin, sugar and spices in a bowl. Gently whisk a bit more after each addition. Put your buttered bread cubes in a greased loaf pan or low casserole dish. Now give your egg mixture one last mix and pour evenly over the bread cubes. Place into pre-heated 325 degree oven and bake for 45 minutes or until set and golden on top.

Serve with whipped cream & enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Stocking Up - Making your own soup stocks

A foundation of a good stock gives soups and stews a strong life and helps mellow whatever other ingredients you may be adding into a wonderfully flavorful dish.
Sure, I know it's easier to grab a can off the shelf.. but I really prefer making my own to canned. I like having control over the salt content and know just what's going into my pot.

Typically, in my stock pot will be yellow onions or shallots, carrots and celery & fresh herbs.. a nice foundation for a good vegetable stock. Mushrooms may also be added as well.. depending on what recipe I will use my stock in.

Whether I am making vegetable, chicken or beef stock, I usually set the time aside when I will be in the kitchen for a few hours. I like to prepare my stocks early in the day and let it simmer while I work on other kitchen projects. Before dinner, I then strain my stock and let it cool down for a few hours. Then, before bed I just pop it into the fridge.

1) To begin your stock
In a large stockpot add your veggies and cover all with 3 inches of water.
If I am making chicken or beef stock I toss a whole chicken into my pot, or at least half a pot of soup bones or beef shanks along with my vegetables & add water.
Heat your stock on a medium setting until it just begins to boil. As it reaches it's first boil, skim off any foam that has risen to the top of your stock. Lower the heat to a barely simmering point (don't allow it to boil) for at least 4 - 5 hours.

2) Cooling the stock
Pour your hot stock through a fine mesh strainer. If I am making chicken or beef stock, I remove chicken or beef bones firstly.. & strain the stock separately.
If it's chicken stock.. I then separate the meat onto a platter to be added back into my stock pot once it is also strained.
Now allow your finished stock to cool to room temperature.. at least 3 hours, before refrigerating.

3) Storing your stock
I seldom freeze my stocks, but you easily can. It's best to freeze it into small to medium containers in the amounts you are likely to use... or try freezing your stock in ice cube trays & then store in freezer bags for later use.

4) Other additions...
I add very little salt to my stocks, but do add freshly ground peppercorns, my herbs of choice - oftentimes mushrooms, garlic, leeks, wine, potatoes, parsley, bay leaf and fresh thyme.

Use your stocks to make homemade soups, stews, rizotto's. Enjoy!

Giorgio's Chicken Spiedini

Meet 'Gert'.. our oldest hen

Our good friends at Giorgio's Restaurante in Milford, NH shared this recipe with me many years ago.. Maria and I barter a lot LOL.. I supply the restaurant with a variety of hot peppers we grown on our farm and free range eggs and they in turn supply me with their wonderful family recipes. It works for me! This is one of my favorites and so easy to prepare. It was a relatively warm day here in Maine today, so we decided it was going to be a speidini dinner nite.. so fire up your grills and enjoy this yummy meal soon!

"Gert", our oldest... and friendliest hen, would surely go into a clucking frenzy if she knew we were serving this dish up!! ** None of our "girls" were harmed in the preparation of our poultry recipes. They are soley pets.. and very spoiled ones at that! :o)

I usually serve this dish with roasted mixed vegetables, rice pilaf and a nice arugula salad. Thanks for your wonderful recipe George!

Chicken Spiedini

4 boneless chicken breasts or 2# boneless chicken thighs, cut in 1" pieces

For the marinade:
5 TBLS olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots or scallions
4 cloves garlic, diced
1/8 cup wildflower honey
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup total of chopped rosemary, thyme, parsley
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup good Balsamic vinegar
1 fresh lemon, halved
salt, pepper to taste

Cut chicken portions into 1 inch pieces. Prepare the marinade & squeeze half lemon into mix and add chicken. Blend together well and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Overnight even better. An hour before grilling, remove from refrigerator and skewer chicken pieces at room temperature. Grill on moderate-high heat rotating skewers to cook evenly.. baste often with marinade sauce while grilling. Just before removing cooked chicken from the grill.. squeeze that remaining half lemon over chicken.

Serve with roasted vegetables,rice pilaf & salad. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Yummy Fritatta's... miniatures

Mini Chicken Fritatta's

Miniature versions of big things are often much cuter than their cousins and these little fritattas are no exception. Though the recipe from Eating Well calls them mini quiches, I think that fritatta is a little more accurate, since there is no crust. Whatever you choose to call them, these little bites are perfect for snacking or served as an appetizer at a party or as side for brunch.

I used a chipotle chicken sausage and really liked the extra spice, so look for a spiced sausage to start with. Chipotle added a nice bit of heat. They are best warm, but are also excellent at room temperature, so once you put out a tray of them, you don't need to rush back to the kitchen to heat them up repeatedly.
The fritattas are quite easy to make. Simply remove the sausage from its casing and brown in a skillet with some shallots, diced garlic, or even Vidalia spring onions, mix in a few extras.. fresh asparagus, spinach, pre-cooked & sliced new potatoes, fresh diced kale, roasted tomatoes etc.. and once done, add to a "batter" of eggs and milk. Keep your egg "batter" in a measuring cup with a spout, so it is easy to pour into the greased muffin tins. I found that I needed to make sure that my pan was very well greased between each use to prevent the fritattas from sticking. They can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to three days.. but don't worry, they won't last that long! :+)

For a recent brunch we went to, I made these for some vegetarian friends, substituting (omitting) sausage for meatless, and soy milk for whole cow's milk.

Mini Chicken Sausage Fritattas
8 ounces spicy chicken sausage, casings removed
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup herbal marinated mozzarella or cheddar cheese
6 large eggs
1 cup milk
freshly grated parmesean or asiago cheese
house blend of dried herbs
salt and pepper to taste & splash of paprika

Preheat oven to 325F.
Thoroughly grease a muffin tin.
In a skillet with a bit of oil, cook sausage over medium heat, breaking it up slightly and cooking until browned along with any additional veggies you choose to use. Place into a medium bowl and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Stir in green onions and cheese selection.
In a large bowl, beat eggs and milk until smooth.,, and pour over sausage/veggie mixture & blend together well. Transfer to large measuring cup with spout.
Pour egg mixture into each muffin cup, filling about 1/2 full..
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or so, until set & golden on top.
Remove & cool before storing.

** A nice additionional side dish to serve at brunch are Roasted Red Potatoes & Rosemary along with a nice fruit bowl of assorted fresh fruits.

Fabulous Flats - Bruschetta

The world is becoming flat-- and getting even flatter!!

While cruising the aisles of Wholefoods Market this week, I came across a promotional item made by no other than Fabulous Flats. I decided to try the Garlic Naan made with stoneground whole-grain flour. It's egg free & contains no hydrogenated oils or trans fats, nor preservatives. Even better.. only 150 calories!:)

When I got home, I couldn't decide what to do with it and not being very hungry.. a light supper sounded good to me, and I was being very lazy! LOL So I decided to put together a Bruschetta. After unwrapping the flats (2 per pckg) I took one and brushed it with herbed olive oil, then sprinkled it with some sliced plum tomatoes, chopped bunching onions, a handful of fresh baby spinach, a sprinkling of freshly grated pecorino cheese and topped it off with some fresh mozzarella & just a little drizzle more of olive oil over all before popping it into a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes on a pizza pan. Yum! I served it with a garden salad & cantelope pieces.
I'm really liking Fabulous Flats a lot!

Bruschetta is toasted bread seasoned with garlic and olive oil, commonly served warm as an appetizer, snack, or side dish. The name comes from the Italian word bruscare, which means "to roast over coals." Many variations of bruschetta exist; adding tomatoes, other vegetables or beans is common.

The simplest form of bruschetta starts with Tuscan bread, toasted either over coals or in a toaster. Rub the toasted slices with a cut clove of garlic, and then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Salt and pepper the prepared bruschetta if desired. As a tradition, bruschetta serves to test the new harvest of olive oil each year.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Fish Stew - Ciopino

Ciopino - Fish Stew This fish stew usually contains at least five varieties of fish, including squid & shellfish. Use whatever is available to give it a good mix. Though it stems from Italy, we Maineiacs make it often using our plentiful seafood selections.:)

This is quick, easy, and can be prepared mostly ahead of time. In fact it tastes better to make the soup portion the day before. Heat it up, throw in the seafood, ladle in bowls. Serve with crusty garlic bread, salad.....and they'll think you did something special. There are fancier versions..but I like ease of this recipe.

Jady's Ciopino

1 1/2 lb cod, haddock, flounder
2 c. sliced onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 lb mixed fresh veggies - zucchini, green beans
1 28 oz can tomatoes (chopped)
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 c. white wine (dry)
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1 t. salt
1 t. basil
1/2 t. oregano
1/4 t. pepper
1 bay leaf
1 dozen fresh mussels
1 dozen clams in shell
1 c. cooked shrimp or lobster meat
Dash Cayenne pepper
1/2 t. thyme

Cut fish into bite size chunks and set aside. In large skillet saute onion and garlic in oil till tender. Add tomatoes, veggies, tomato sauce, wine and all seasonings except parsley. Cover and simmer gently 20 minutes. ( At this point I put it in the fridge for the next day if made ahead) Add clams & mussels and cook 15 minutes. Add fish chunks and cover, Simmer for 10 minutes more. (I just cook until they are opaque) Add parsley, shrimp and lobster. (If shrimp are raw add them a little after the fish was added. Heat just until boiling. Do not over cook the seafood!!

One more thing... Do whatever you want to with the seafood. Sometimes I will make it for Rob and I with just fish alone. It doesn't have to be cod either. Crab, scallops, lobster, anything!! Shell or no shell!! Enjoy

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Beans-Pasta Fagoli-Ribollita

A timeless & typical Tuscan staple.. the bean. So many varieties, the oldest being black-eyed peas, grown back in Roman times... and then came along the cannelini or white bean which were highly suitable for the rich Tuscan soil & warm climate. Beans are low-cost, high in protein & energy providing staple whose mild flavor & textures go so well with the flavorful, yet simple Tuscan dishes. Two of our favorites, Ribollita.. bean & cabbage soup. Ribollita is certainly one of the most known dishes in the Tuscan food tradition. It is a very humble meal, whose origins are to be found in the poor peasants' households, where the vegetable leftovers were re-cooked with stale bread, adding some olive oil after cooking, to make them more tasty.... and Pasta Fagioli..a traditional Italian dish of beans and pasta thats so easy to make and so flavorful! Both, so healthy and if I must say, delicious! And perfect for those cold wintry days.

Aunty Ella's Pasta Fagioli

2 can Tomato paste
2 can Cannelini beans, rinsed well
1# Ditilini pasta
2 TBL Olive oil
1 Onion, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, chopped
salt, pepper to taste

Saute the onions & garlic in olive oil. Once onions are soft and clear.. add the tomato paste, followed with equal (2 cans)*pasta water or tap water. Add a pinch of sugar to kill the acid from tomatoes. Bring this 'sauce' to a boil on low heat -- then, toss in your rinsed beans. I like to mash a few of my beans to thicken the pot. Let simmer 15 minutes or so. While simmering, cook the ditalini pasta al dente (not too soft). Strain pasta.. *reserving some of the water and add it to your simmering sauce along with the cooked pasta. Mix well. Cook for 5 minutes longer. Serve immediately with grated parmesean cheese...... and plenty of crusty Italian bread & a nice garden salad.

Pasta Fagioli is an Italian combination of beans and pasta in broth, which varies in consistency from a soup to a thick stew.

Pasta e Fagioli means "Pasta and Beans"
Pasta e Fagioli is pronounced "PAH-stah eh faj-YOH-lee"
Can be made with or without tomatoes
Made famous in Dean Martin's "That's Amore"
Tastes better the second day

Nunie's Ribollita Soup

1/4 cup Olive oil
2 stalks Celery, chopped
2 medium Carrots, chopped
1 medium Red onion, chopped
3 garlic Cloves, minced
3 tbsp. Chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp. Chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. Chopped fresh sage
a pinch of sugar

2 cups Canned Italian tomatoes, peeled and chopped (with juice)
2 tbsp. Tomato paste
3 cups Cooked cannellini beans, drained & rinsed(canned or dried & pre-cooked)
4 cups Chicken or vegetable broth
2 Zucchini, chopped
2 Potatoes, peeled and diced
1# Chopped cabbage,kale or red chard
Salt, pepper to taste
6-8 slices day- old Italian or French bread

Pour olive oil into a large pot, add celery, carrots, onions, seasonings, garlic and herbs. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender and golden(not browned), about 20 minutes. Add canned tomatoes with their juice and cook another 5 minutes or so.

Take 1 cup of the rinsed cannellini beans and puree in a food processor or food mill.

Add tomato paste, pureed cannellini beans and remaining 2cups whole beans, vegetable or chicken broth, remaining chopped vegetables and salt and pepper & that pinch of sugar.

Cover and cook all very slowly over low heat for approximately 2 hours. If the mixture becomes too thick, add more broth or water.

This soup is best made 12 hours to a full day ahead, allowing all flavors to mingle. The soup will be very thick.

To serve, place broken/torn slices of day-old, Italian country bread at the bottom of a large soup tureen or other large pot. Reheat soup, then pour hot soup over all and let sit for a minimum of 15-20 minutes.Alternatively, place a slice of bread in individual soup bowls, then pour soup over each. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm, with freshly grated cheese & a nice glass of wine.