Saturday, January 30, 2010

Shrimp Fregola

One of the cooking magazines I subscribe to is the magazine of La Cucina Italiana. It's become one of my favorites over the years and all the recipes I've made from it have been consistently good.

Recently, a friend gifted me with a basket of various kitchen gadgets and food goods. Included in the basket were two bags of fregola, a typical Sardinian pasta. Somewhere I had read and heard about fregola, but had never tried it. As I flipped through my cookbooks I found little in the way of recipes, other than an additive to soups. One book indicated fregola is a pasta made from semolina flour, and appears to look like a somewhat larger version of couscous--but the dough is hand rolled into balls and then lightly toasted, giving it a nutty flavor. I'm just sorry that I never tasted it sooner because it was wonderful. Move over couscous, you've been replaced!

I began this dish much like how I make risotto, and pretty much the way I cook--seldom measuring much, and began with a soffrito of sauteed minced onion, carrot, celery and anchiove paste in some olive oil. To this I added half cup white wine, 14 oz of chicken stock along with approximately 8 oz of fregola and gave it a few stirs. This I let simmer covered until the fregola cooked until just about aldente. As this simmered, in another pan I sauteed in olive oil three cloves minced garlic, with 1 1/2 lbs fresh shrimp until just pink and because I had extra on hand I added some fresh zucchini pieces along with roasted tomatoes along with a bit of chopped kale. A bit of ground pepper, and a few chopped sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary and basil. I find that the anchiove plus shrimp is salt enough, so omitted it from my recipe.

Once the shrimp were done, I combined it to the fregola pot, stirred and added in some freshly grated pecorino cheese. I purposely left a bit of the stock in my pot and not all abosorbed by the fregola, and yet I didn't want to end up with a bowl of soup either, but do enjoy the addition of a crusty bread to a meal like this to sop up those wonderful flavors of the broth. It turned out just right to my there was very little if any leftovers.

A few days later, I was clearing out some older magazine additions. One issue dating back to 2003 had three recipes using fregola.. one with seared scallops, one with clams, and a delicious sounding cannelini bean and fregola soup that I'm now anxious to try, especially on days like today when our temps dipped to -10 and we woke to find our kitchen pipes had frozen overnight :( Not a happy camper here today. So I am on the hunt now for any recipes that include this very tasty pasta. If anyone has one, could you send it my way please? Thanks! Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Not Mom's Meatloaf

I really love my Mom's meatloaf but we seldom eat beef much these days, but I wanted a meatloaf we could enjoy. I was thinking chicken, but then changed my mind to turkey. After trying a few recipes from the internet with disappointing results I decided to make my own. They just seemed so tasteless, so how far off could I get? The results turned out pretty tasty, served along with a delicata squash casserole and garden salad, but even better next day in a pumpkin raisin sandwich. I will definitely make this loaf again, but will try it with chicken as well.

Country Turkey Meatloaf

2 TBLS unsalted butter
3/4 cup onion, minced
2 apples, unpeeled & diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp summer savory
1/4 tsp dried tarragon
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, cubed small
2 eggs, beaten lightly
2 TBL lemon zest
2 scallions, chopped
sea salt & white pepper
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce- I used my own
2 TBLS dry bread crumbs, unseasoned
1 TBLS light brown sugar

Melt butter in a large skillet and cook onion, apples and garlic, stirrring until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add tarragon and savory and mix. Allow to cool 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the apple mixture, fresh breadcrumbs,lemon zest, seasonings and eggs. Once all mixed, lightly pack into a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Spread top of loaf with applesauce. Combine dry bread crumbs with sugar and sprinkle over top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 hour. Then turn up the oven to 425 degrees and cook 5 minutes more, until it had a nice golden brown crust.
Allow the cooked loaf to rest 10 minutes or so before slicing. Decide on your side dishes and enjoy!

My turkey sandwich was made on pumpkin raisin bread, greens and a honey mustard dressing. Yumma!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Potato gnocchi with walnut pesto

Sunday, Old Man Winter dumped another ten inches of the white stuff on us and with the high wind factor, going outdoors was just something I didn’t even want to consider. So instead we made gnocchi. Four trays of them actually that I tucked away in the freezer, until the menu is decided upon.
Our children and grandkids are arriving this week and along with all the gear they will be towing, they bring along big appetites as well. These hearty little potato dumplings are a favorite dish around our house when we all gather together. A big bowl of meatballs and sausage, a platter of sliced brasciole, loaves of crusty bread and plenty of extra sauce and so much chatter and catching up will be brought to our table this weekend and we can’t wait for their arrival! I still haven’t decided on dessert just yet as I’m still getting over a touch of the flu.. my tummy still feels like the re-enactment of the Battle of Bunker Hill :( but I think it will be a tiramisu that’s easily put together and I know they will all enjoy.
As we bagged up the frozen gnocchi, I decided to grab a few just for us and made a simple walnut parsley pesto sauce instead of my regular basil pesto as I was out of basil. This, along with some chicken soup was just what the doctor ordered.. it was just so good. Enjoy!


1 1/2 oz fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tsp capers, rinsed
2 garlic cloves, smashed
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup walnut halves
2 oz Romano cheese, grated
sea salt & white pepper to taste

Chop the parsley, capers and garlic, then put in a mortar (or food processor)with olive oil, walnuts and salt and pepper. Pound with pestle to create a coarse paste. Add the romano cheese and stir well. If using a food processor, just a few pulses should do the trick. Spoon the pesto over warm gnocchi and enjoy!
You can get already prepared gnocchi in your local market, but we enjoy making our own. This is how I make mine.

Potato gnocchi

2 lbs russet potatoes (approx. 3 large)
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups flour, plus an extra 1/2 cup for mixing dough
2 oz parmesan cheese, grated
salt, pepper

Boil the potatoes in their skins in a large pan of water for 35-40 minutes until just tender. Drain and allow to cool slightly. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel skins and press through a potato ricer. While still warm season with salt and pepper and add the Parmesan cheese. Make a well in the riced potatoes and drop in the egg mixing it into the potato with a fork. Once it's well combined sift in the flour slowly while continuing to mix gently. Lightly flour your work surface and knead lightly until the mixture becomes a smooth dough. If it is too sticky add just a little more flour. I like to shape mine into a breadloaf appearing dough and then I quarter it, depending on how many gnocchi I plan to make. The rest of my dough gets wrapped tight and into the freezer for future use. For this gang though, we ended up using all the fresh dough up. Take each section you've cut and roll it out with your hands to make a long rope about 3/4 inch thick. Then cut into 1 inch pieces and roll over a well floured gnocchi board to give them the traditional ridged effect. Transfer the made gnocchi to a floured or parchment paper lined pastry sheet and cover with a clean towel while you make the remaining gnocchi.
Fresh gnocchi doesn't keep long, so either use it soon or freeze, as it keeps beautifully frozen until ready to use.

When you are ready to prepare, bring a large pan of water to boil, then add the gnocchi, in small batches and cook for two minutes or so.When they float to the top of the pan they are done. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a warming plate until you cook the remaining gnocchi. This weekend, I will be using my marina sauce as it's my grandchildren's favorite, but this meal was just yummy with the walnut pesto as well. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Almost white pizza

Almost white pizza? I hate to call this a pizza, because to me pizza has sauce, mozzarella, basil for sure and I guess if you really wanted to get into it... various embelishments.. sausage, peppers, mushrooms etc. It all started with me wanting to make a white pizza and I suppose, if you discount the tomatoes, it could have been just that. I had a lot of ingredients in the frig that I wanted to clear out and was a good idea at the time. I just couldn't leave well enough alone. Either way, it was simply scrumptious!

In the morning, I made my pizza dough. and kept it covered until I was ready ready to assemble everything. The only thing I needed cook was some roasted eggplant and carmelized onions. I had plenty of fresh spinach, artichoke hearts and was determined to get this refrigerator cleared out. Once everything was ready I began assembling my 'pie'. I worked the dough into a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. My kitchen is cool, so my dough kept fighting me (shrinking back when I stretched it), so I just let it rest 10 minutes and with the eggplant roasting in the oven the kitchen warmed up in no time.

I usually have on hand a fresh jar of olive oil infused with fresh herbs-basil, rosemary,chives,& minced garlic that I brushed over the dough. Next I nearly covered the dough with shredded mozzarella, and because we love spinach I used the whole bag--spread on top of the cheese. The roasted eggplant had cooled, so this was the next layered ingredient I used. I had roasted two medium eggplants, sprinkled with olive oil and herbs and ended up using every piece on my pizza. We're equally as fond of eggplant as spinach here :) Next--break up some artichoke hearts and spread onto the pizza along with a good drizzling of carmelized onions.

It looked pretty good. I, of course had been nibbling along as I assembled.. who can resist roasted eggplant? But then I opened the refrigerator to grab some parmesan and five tomatoes were just staring at me as if to say..'did you think you were going to forget us?' I hemmed and hawed...shall I or not? Well, as you can see those tomatoes just got the best of me, but now in retrospect..I'm happy they did!

So if you try your hand at my 'white' pizza, bring to the table a bowl of grated parmesan cheese to top your pizza, a large antipasto, a great bottle of wine--good friends and enjoy! Have a great weekend.

International Day of Italian Cuisine

The International Day of Italian Cuisines will return on Sunday January 17, 2010. As in the past editions, it will be a worldwide celebration of authentic and quality Italian Cuisine, to defend it from bogus and counterfeiting. Hundreds of chefs and restaurateurs all around the world will cook simultaneously on that day Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese, according to an authentic recipe. As in the past the backbone of the global ola of Tagliatelle will be the GVCI associates in over 40 countries. But any Italian Food lover or any lover of just good food can join in . The 2010 IDIC will be launched in New York City for two days (13 and 14 January) of great events, hosted by Cesare Casella, Dean of the Italian Culinary Academy. Talented chefs from all over the world – including 3 Michelin starred Chicco Cerea and Mario Batali - will gather in the Big Apple for a Media and Industry Preview of the worldwide Sunday January 17 celebration.

When describing this recipe says Mario Caramella, president del GVIC and executive chef, “If there’s a dish that represents the worst worldwide forgery of Italian cooking, it has to be the so-called bolognaise,“It’s prepared out of the most bizarre ingredients, often with overcooked spaghetti, sold in a can; stuff that has nothing to do with genuine original tagliatelle al ragù,” adds Caramella. Here you may find more about authentic tagliatelle al ragù, its history, curiosities and recipes.

Anyone can join in the celebration on January 17th being hosted by the chefs of the GVCI (Virtual Group of Italian Cooks), a network of over a thousand professionals in Italian gastronomy who work all over the world, by just registering, or by simply preparing this delicious meal. Here is a traditional recipe for Ragu alla Bolognese from chef Mario Caramella for you to try out at home if you want to take part in the celebration. I know I'll be making this wonderful dish.. and hope my readers will too!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Veal Stew

What a way to ring in the new year, our first nor'easter. But after all the shoveling is done, there's nothing like coming into a warm kitchen, with dinner nearly done. I am pretty partial to veal, so if I had to choose between beef, pork and veal, I would always choose the latter. As we are snowed in today, it was a good day to make some herbed focaccia rolls and a pot of veal stew.

Veal Stew

2 TBLS olive oil
2 TBLS butter
1 1/2 lbs veal stew meat, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots. sliced
3 potatoes, cut
1/2 cup fresh green beans, diced
3/4 cup white wine
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1 cup crushed tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 tsp thyme
1 couple of bay leaves
sea salt & ground pepper

Heat the olive oil and butter and saute the garlic, and onions until just tender. Add the cut veal pieces and brown lightly. With a slotted spoon, remove all from pan and set aside. To the pan drippings, add wine and bring to a simmer. Add the tomatoes, potatoes,green beans and simmer ten to fifteen minutes. Add in the vegetable broth, thyme, sea salt & lots of ground pepper and return the veal mixture to the pot. Half cover the pan and slowly simmer for 20-30 minutes more.

Warm Focaccia Rolls

This stew may be served over rice, but we like it served over polenta along with some crusty bread. Keep warm & enjoy!