Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cacciatore Risotto

We really enjoy chicken cacciatore, almost as much as risotto so I decided to combine these two favorites into one really hearty dish. I’m also kind of addicted to one pot meals and as we had guests over this week I wanted to be able to spend as much time with them and not be in the kitchen. I think it turned out great and from the look of their empty plates, would definitely make it again. I’d like to make it with boneless chicken thighs, as I think they are more flavorful. For dessert-- my Nonna's chocolate and almond cream pasticiotti’s that I only make during the Easter holiday.

Chicken Cacciatore Risotto

sea salt
white pepper
1/2 lemon
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
flour to dredge chicken breasts
2 shallots, minced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 green pepper, seeded & chopped
4 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 pound plum tomatoes, chopped
1 ½ cups arborio rice
1/2 cup red wine
4 cups simmering chicken stock
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Preparing the Chicken:

Rub the chicken with the lemon and season chicken on both sides with sea salt and white pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet.
Dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess. sauté chicken until well browned and cooked through. Drain on paper towels and cool. When cool enough to handle, cut into slices and set aside.

Preparing the Risotto:

In the chicken saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over med-high heat. Add onion, garlic, celery, carrot, green pepper, mushrooms and tomatoes. Cook until mushrooms just begin to brown.
Add rice, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes more, just enough to coat the rice well—don’t brown it.
Add wine, stirring constantly, and let totally absorb. When wine is evaporated, begin adding warmed stock 1/2 cup at a time, letting each addition evaporate before adding the next cupful. After most of stock is added--taste the rice. It should be full, just a bit chewy--al dente, but not mushy! Add chicken pieces after the last addition of chicken stock is added.
Once the last addition of stock is absorbed, remove from heat, and stir in butter, grated romano cheese, fresh basil and parsley. Serve with some nice crusty bread, a garden salad and dig in. Enjoy!

Almond & Chocolate Easter Pasticiotti's

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cranberry Almond Couscous

When I am on the run I’ll often stop into a local deli and pick up one of their fresh salads and one of my favorites—couscous. I have a minor fixation with Israeli couscous, the larger pearled type of couscous. It just feels lighter than pasta and yet more substantial than traditional couscous, plus it makes a perfect base for many one dish meals. I think my fondness for this pearled variety is why I am so keen on fregola a Sardinian pasta that I posted a few weeks back. To me they are very similar in appearance and flavor and both so simple to incorporate into a multitude of dishes.
I made this dish last night and served it with some cranberry orange glazed tilapia. It seems I make couscous as often as I make risotto these days, as side dishes or on its own. It’s light, filling and so adaptable—you can add tons of colorful veggies or just keep it simple. This recipe comes together very easily and it’s just great served either warm or cold.

Cranberry Almond Couscous

1 1/2 cups pearled couscous
2 TBLS. olive oil
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
½ cup dried cranberries, diced
1/2 cup slivered almonds
¼ cup grated carrots
½ tsp tumeric
2 TBLS fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
pinch of curry powder
2 tsp wildflower honey
juice of one orange
zest of one orange
2 tsp canola oil
white pepper, & pinch of sea salt to taste
drizzle of sesame seed oil *optional

Heat olive oil and add couscous, cooking on medium heat until slightly browned, 3-5 minutes. Add vegetable broth or water, orange zest,grated carrots and bring light boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes until all liquid has been absorbed. Transfer the couscous to another large skillet or baking sheet to cool. As it’s cooling whisk together canola oil, orange juice, fresh parsley, honey, tumeric, curry powder, white pepper & salt. Pour this over cooled couscous pearls and toss to coat all. Add cranberries. Cover, and chill. Just before serving I toss in the almonds and a drizzle of sesame oil and toss once again. We enjoy this dish either served warm or as a cold salad, both equally great! Enjoy!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friday night Spinach Pie

Many Friday nights my Dad would meet up with his brothers and eat at my Nonna's house with his brothers and just visit. Like most Italian Mama's this was a highlight in her week to have her sons just to herself and feeding them food she knew they all enjoyed. Her menu always changed, but the bottles of homemade vino were the first thing put on the table with a half dozen jelly glasses. Not much was fancy in my grandmothers kitchen, but the food always plentiful, comforting and just perfect. Sometimes Nonna would make them spinach pies, calzones or stromboli and some extra for him to bring home to us. And were times Mom and I never got any because Dad had finished them off while driving home. Yes, they were that good and Dad simply loved them.

This weekend marks the passing of my Dad, so in his memory I decided to make a tray of spinach pie that I knew he enjoyed so much. Typically I make individual pies, just like my Nonna's but this time I made one sheet of them to cut into squares to serve. Making them this way saves me a bit of time and though I really enjoy the individual pockets of spinach pies this is a close second in my book. Squared or pocket I know Dad would enjoy coming home to this dish. We miss you Dad, xox.

Spinach Pie
print recipe

fresh pizza dough
2 lbs fresh spring spinach, washed
10 mushrooms, chopped
3 garlic cloves, mashed
1/2 bunch scallions chopped
2 TBLS pine nuts
fresh oregano, basil & thyme to taste
grated pecorino cheese
1 can black olives, each cut in half
extra virgin olive oil
splash of white wine
sea salt & ground pepper

Sautee in olive oil the garlic, scallions,pine nuts, herbs and mushrooms for just a few minutes. Toss in washed fresh spinach leaves and a few oz of white wine. Cover & cook for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and add the olives, salt, & ground pepper. Give it another couple of stirs and allow to cool uncovered. Transfer the spinach mixture to a colander and allow to drain excess liquid.

Roll out pizza dough adding just enough flour so that it won't stick to rolling pin. Divide the dough in half and press evenly into baking dish with one section of dough to fill the dish and up half the side of dish. Add spinach filling and spread evenly over the dough. Top with second sheet of dough wrapping edges under to seal crust. Brush top with a bit of olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden. Remove from oven--allow to cool and slice. Enjoy!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lamb shanks & beans

This is a favorite dish around our house, though my children think.. 'they look a little barbaric Ma, with the shank hanging out of the bowl'. Yes, I guess they sort of do, but they make one fabulous meal.

What's with this awful weather? Uprooted trees, downed power lines and flooding. Once our power was restored, I knew just what dinner would be. So, no Sunday sauce on this dismally raw and rainy weekend--but instead lamb shanks! It'll warm you right down to the bone.

Lamb Shanks with Cannellini Beans

6 TBLS olive oil
4 lamb shanks
Flour for dredging
Sea salt and white pepper
1 large white onion, diced
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups San Marzano plum tomatoes, crushed
2 sprigs chopped fresh oregano
3 sprigs chopped fresh thyme
3 sprigs chopped fresh rosemary
2 sprigs chopped fresh savory
6 cups vegetable stock
2 cans cannellini beans or northern white beans, drained & rinsed
fresh parsley

To prepare:

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan.
Dredge the shanks in flour, shake off the excess, and then salt and pepper them. Brown the lamb over medium heat. Once a shank has browned evenly, place it in the roasting pan.
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Add about 4 more tablespoons oil to a saute pan, and over medium heat add the onions and garlic. Cook until soft. Then add the tomatoes, oregano, thyme, rosemary, savory and the vegetable broth and let simmer for a few minutes. Taste for seasoning and add sea salt and pepper if necessary.
Pour the sauce over the lamb shanks, cover with aluminum foil, and put in the oven for about 3 hours. The meat will begin to fall off the bones. Turn the oven down to lowest setting to keep warm until ready to serve.
Remove 1 1/2 cups of sauce and add it to some cannellini or northern white beans with ground pepper and some fresh minced parsley.

Tobey's weigh in--five minutes old

It's lambing season on many farms this time of year and on a weekend much like this past one, this little guy came into the world on our farm. Winds howling through the barn, no power and he decided to deliver breech. So by kerosene lantern and a little assistance from me he was born healthy along with his two sisters.. triplets! We were going to name him 'blizzard',for obvious reasons :-) but instead decided on Tobias.. Tobey. So, I'm wishing all shepherds a much calmer upcoming weather week and smooth birthings.

Proud Mama Lidia and young Tobias