Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ribollita - Stale Bread Soup

Dawn with the AWESOME garden - I am green with envy. Get it.....GREEN

Ribollita - Stale Bread Soup

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 thick slices pancetta or bacon chopped (Skip if vegetarian)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry red wine - I've used white too and it'd fine
One 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
6 cups beef stock (Chicken or vegetable for the vegetarians/vegans)
4 cups torn stale bread
Two 15-ounce cans small white beans
4 cups chopped kale or chard
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
10 leaves fresh basil, torn

  1. Heat stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the oil

  2. Add the pancetta and cook for 4 minutes

  3. Add the garlic, three-quarters of the chopped onion, the carrots and zucchini and season with salt and pepper.

  4. Cook the veggies 8 to 10 minutes

  5. Add the wine to deglaze the pot

  6. Stir in the tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil

  7. Reduce to simmer

  8. Stir in bread and beans.

  9. Add greens into the pot and wilt them into the soup

  10. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes, stirring until it thickens

  11. Check seasoning adding salt and pepper to taste

  12. Pour into soup bowl and top with Parmigiano cheese, a touch of raw onion and some basil.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cucumber Salad

It's Summer - Produce Abounds!
It's mid July and the farmer's market is packed every Saturday morning. I am lucky enough to live in a suburb where we have farmers bring their goods twice a week and I seldom need to schlep all the way downtown; quite a relief since I already do it five days a week. I usually bike to the local market early on Saturdays with my son. He enjoys the ride and looking at all the beautiful flowers the vendors sell, he seldom even looks at the produce for fear he might be asked to try something! In addition, each Tuesday I get my CSA box which is always filled with a few unknowns and a few staples. This week I found myself with an abundance of cucumbers so I decided to make an old fashion cucumber salad.

Cucumber Salad

2 Cucumbers - Peeled, seeded and sliced
3/4 Cup Grape Tomatoes halved
1/4 Cup Red Onion finely sliced
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
2 t. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 t. Sugar
1 t. fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Mix sour cream, vinegar, sugar, and dill

  2. Add Cucumber, tomatoes and onion, mix

  3. Add salt and pepper to taste

I like to let it sit overnight - goes with anything summer!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Once Each Spring

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I never used rhubarb until 10 years ago or so. For some reason I never thought I would like it and I certainly didn't know what to do with it.
Anyway, I found myself in a new home that had two plants in the backyard and upon removing them to build a much needed play set for the kids, I met my first neighbor. She oooohed and aaaahed over the plants, going on and on about how great the rhubarb was, she couldn't just come right out and ask me for the plants, instead she just went on and on about how throwing them away was a waste....blah, blah, blah. I hate it when people pussy-foot around. Just ask for the damn plant! After a good 5 minutes or so I simple told the woman to take one of them and be on her way. As it turns out I've only spoken to her a handful of times since I've been here. It turns out she is the neighborhood gossip and I have no time for that either. Anyway.......I found myself left with a plant and asked the nice next door lady, Mrs. Johnson if she would like the remaining plant and she did. Before we could plant it in her yard we cut it down and I took the rhubarb home. Not knowing what to do with it I asked around at work and sure enough the recipes poured in. I tried this recipe not because it sounded the best or because I like pie, but because the woman who gave it to me I like best, her name was Juel and she was my mentor at work. To date this is the only of all those recipes I have ever tried, it is so delicious there was no need to expand my rhubarb repertoire. Of course now I don't have any rhubarb plants, so each year I take enough rhubarb from Mrs. Johnson's plant to make one pie. We have it for dessert on a Sunday evening and I always bring two slices over to the Johnson's; it is a tradition we never speak of but all look forward to each year.
Use your favorite single crust recipe. I hate baking so I buy the Pet Ritz deep dish frozen crust and it is great.
3 Eggs
1 1/2 Cups sugar
1/4 Cup flour
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
4 Cups Rhubarb & Strawberry combination (I like 3 C Rhubarb to 1 C Strawberry but usually use 2 of each - that seems to be the family preference)
Beat Eggs. Mix in sugar and spices. Mix in flour and salt. Beat until smooth. Add fruit and mix
Pour into pie shell and use your favorite crumb topping. Bake at 400 for 50-55 minutes.
I like this pie served warm, not hot with some really good vanilla bean ice cream.
Welcome Spring!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

One of my favorites - Oatmeal Craisin Cookie With White Chocolate and Pecans

This recipe is really the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie from The Silver Palate Cookbook with a few adjustments. I've made it many times with different ingredients and the public has determined this is the best combination; I'd have to agree.

12 T Sweet Butter

1 Cup Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup White Sugar

1 Egg

2T Water

1.5 t Vanilla

2/3 Cup Flour

1 t Cinnamon

1/2 t Salt

1/2 t Baking Soda

3 Cups Oats - Quick Cooking

1 Cup Craisins

1 Cup White chocolate chips

1 Cup Pecans, chopped

  1. Cream Butter and Sugar

  2. Add egg, mix

  3. Add water and vanilla, mix

  4. Mix Flour, Cinnamon, salt and baking soda well in a separate bowl

  5. Add flour mix to butter and mix well

  6. Add Oats, chocolate chips and craisins, nuts and mix by hand

  7. Bake at 350 for 11 minutes on parchment or buttered cookie sheet

  8. Wait a few minutes before moving off sheet to cool

Friday, February 12, 2010

Starve a Cold and Feed a Fever, But What About an Ankle Replacement?

Chicken Cacciatore

A good friend's dad had an ankle replacement, so of course I was compelled to cook. I don't know why I am the way I am but if someone is sick, has surgery or dies I feel a tug telling me to cook. Perhaps it is etiquette, maybe my mom instilled this behavior in me growing up or maybe its all I know to do. My friend has said on numerous occasions, "Food is Love" and I believe there is some truth to that. As a mother, when your child eats you feel good inside, when you entertain and people enjoy what you served it is selfishly rewarding. Perhaps I do it a means to an end. HHHmmmm, I'll have to ponder that one.

Anyhow..........this morning the thermometer read -4, chilly; so I'm thinking comfort food would be good. I've decided that Chicken Cacciatore with rice instead of pasta would be a comforting dish and I'll make it a little spicy to warm him up on the inside.

3 Large Peppers (I like to use assorted colors)

1 Whole Chicken or 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Flour, Garlic Powder, Salt, Pepper, Oregano

1 Egg


6 Garlic Cloves

1 good size onion

42 oz Whole Tomatoes

1/2 Lemon sliced paper thin

3 anchovy fillets

1 T capers

1 t red pepper flakes (use less if you do not like spicy)

1/2 bunch fresh basil

1 Cup white white (Dry)

  1. Take Chicken, (Whole cut up or breasts butterflied) and dredge in flour, egg wash and flour again. For this recipe I measured 2 Cups flour, lots of salt and Pepper, 2T garlic powder and 1 T dried oregano. Egg wash was 1 egg and 1.5 Cups milk mixed together. Set aside.
  2. Take 3 peppers and prepare by charring on gas stove top or broiling. Once charred let sit in paper bag a while, once cooled peel and chop into 1" pieces.
  3. In large saute pan, pour 2 T or so of olive oil and add 1 whole onion sliced thin, 6 garlic cloves quartered and saute for approx 5 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes, (I use who tomatoes and chop them) red pepper flakes, lemon slices, basil, Capers and Anchovies (I know you want to skip these but don't, they melt and you will never know they are there. Trust me, I hate them and it isn't the same without them)
  5. Add Wine
  6. Saute for 20-30 minutes.
  7. Brown the chicken pieces on both sides, do this in batches so pan isn't crowded.
  8. Add pieces as they are browned
  9. Turn to low and saute for 20-30 minutes.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I need Spring! (Chimichurri and Spanish Rice)

It feels like I've been cold for months, the kind of cold where your bones hurt and no matter how many layers you wear just doesn't seem to be enough. It's been a very cold and snowy winter here in Minnesota......I'm not complaining, just stating the facts. I actually like winter, snow, sledding, all the holidays and Sunday dinners with my family, but right now I am craving Springtime, the flowers popping up, the sounds of birds chirping, and an occasional rainbow. Parsley make me think of Spring so I decided to make steak with chimichurri sauce for dinner. So easy, so good, so Springtime.

Chimichurri is an Argentinean condiment used in South America, it varies region to region, household to household but seems to have some common denominators; Oil, acid in the form of vinegar or lemon juice, parsley, oregano and a pinch of chili peppers. I use it both as a marinade and a sauce. In the south they use it for chicken and fish too but I've never tried it - seems a little strong for the more delicate meats. You can play with the quantities to meet your personal taste. G prefers it a little less acidic than I do, so when I'm feeling like a good partner I cut back on the vinegar a little.


1 Cup Parsley - Chopped
3-4 Garlic Cloves - Chopped
2 T Fresh Oregano - Chopped, or 2t dried
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
2-3 T Vinegar (Red, white or champagne)
1t Salt
1/4 Black Pepper
1/4 Red Pepper Flakes

After all ingredients are chopped, mix together well. Use right away or refrigerator until needed. This should be served at room temperature. I use 1/2 of the mixture to marinade 1 pound of flank steak and the rest as a condiment on top.

Marinaded Flank Steak (Left)

Sliced Flank Steak with

Chimichurri (Right)

Spanish Rice

1 Cup Rice (I like Brown)
1/2 Cup Onion Chopped
2 Garlic Cloves
1/4 Chopped Pepper
1 T Olive Oil
1 14oz can diced tomatoes with liquid
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Peas
Saute onion, pepper and garlic until soft. Add Rice to pan and turn until coated with the oil. Add can of tomato with juices, water, stock bringing to a boil and them simmering covered until cooked - time will vary based on type of rice so read the package. Once cooked add peas along with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies with Pecans

I am still working on cleaning out the pantry after the holidays, I found myself with 1/2 bag pecans, some dark chocolate chunks and a canister of oatmeal. I initially was going to make some bar cookies, but per the request of my youngest child we determined cookies were were the better choice. Since I mentioned bar cookies, I thought I'd add a little commentary regarding them. I've always been under the impression bar cookies were for the lazy baker who didn't want to take time to rotate their dough every 8-10 minutes, I now am older and wiser and realize bar cookies often take longer to make and can be every bit as delicious. I make a wonderful chocolate raspberry crumb bar and it was my intent to make them today, but I was missing 2 ingredients. I'll share that recipe at a later date. Anyhow....back to the treat of the day. (Quantity of pecans and chocolate were based on leftovers, modify to suit your taste)

2 Cups flour
1/2 t salt
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t Cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 T, yes a T of vanilla
3 T water
3 cups oatmeal
8 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup chopped pecans

  1. Mix Flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and set aside

  2. Combine butter and sugars and then add vanilla, water and eggs (1 at a time)

  3. Add ingredients from step #1

  4. By hand mix in oats, chocolate and pecans

  5. refrigerate for 2+ hours

  6. Shape into 11.5 inch balls

  7. Bake on parchment paper for 12-14 minutes

This recipe makes a lot of dough so I am going to freeze and bake more at a later date

Friday, January 29, 2010

Matzo Balls and Meatballs - Is the debate the same?

In the Jewish community there is great debate over matzo balls.

Perspective #1 - small, dense and golf ball like - my dad, aunt, brother and cousin B are in this camp.
Perspective #2 - Light, fluffy and baseball size - my mom, G and I camp here.

While making spaghetti and meatballs last week, per request of my daughter's friend, I started to wonder if Italian families had the same conversations/debates over meatballs. Does the same amount of sarcasm and venom rear its head on holidays in Italian homes? I am an American of Lithuanian decent and and my husband of German so we weren't able to answer the question in-house. I plan pursue this - are soft meatballs superior to hard??

Anyhow, I usually make meatballs with basil and sun dried tomatoes but felt like trying something new, something simple, something light and fluffy. Not knowing where to go I turned to Ina, after all, she cooks, clean, simple food. Sure enough.... I found a recipe that seemed too simple but what the hell, I decided to give it a try. I loved them and the funniest part of all is they were light and fluffy, not hard like my usual ones. Go figure! Everyone really enjoyed the meatballs with my red sauce, I will definitely make these again! And....there was plenty left to freeze, so a few weeks from now we can enjoy them again without the hassle of making them.
Ina's Meatballs

(I used all beef because no matter how many times I try ground pork I can't stand it!)
1/2 LB Ground Pork
1/2 LB Ground Beef
1 Cup fresh white bread crumbs
1/4 Cup dry bread crumbs
2 T chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 t kosher salt (I thought this was a little much)
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t nutmeg
1 egg
Vegetable Oil
Olive Oil
Add all ingredients in a bowl with 3/4 Cup warm water. GENTLY mix with fork and shape into 2" balls. Add equal parts vegetable oil and olive oil and brown on all sides. Don't over crowd.
Once browned, I add to the sauce and finish cooking in the sauce.

I usually make marinara sauce but per the request of our guest I made meat sauce, yes, even though I was having meatballs they wanted meat sauce, Gotta love carnivores! I simply added 1/2 LB ground beef and 1/2 LB hot Italian sausage.

In the fall I buy a few bushels of Roma tomatoes. I bring them home, wash them and then slow roast them with onions, garlic, olive oil and kosher salt until they collapse. I freeze quart size bags of them, some whole, some pureed, and use all winter when I make sauce, chili etc....

Spaghetti Sauce
1 good size sweet onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t hot pepper flakes
1 qt. tomatoes (You can use a combination of crushed and sauce)
1 t sugar
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese
handful basil

Saute onion in olive oil adding garlic and pepper flakes after a few minutes. Add tomato, sugar and Parmesan cooking 15 minutes on low. Add basil at the last minute and serve. Tastes like summer all winter long!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Basic Risotto

Creamy, warm, and delicious as either a side dish or as a main course. I prefer to add mushrooms and other delicious ingredients but tonight both kids are here and we are having a very flavorful protein so this more simple version is perfect. Quality ingredients are key to a good risotto so don't skimp on the cheese, stock or wine! I love to add left over shrimp or chicken to the remaining risotto, it carries to goodness through to another day.

4 cups chicken stock
2 T butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 T parsley, chopped

  1. Warm stock in pot, cover and keep on low.
  2. Melt 1.5 T butter and saute onion adding garlic after a few minutes. Cook until tender.
  3. Add rice, stir to coat.
  4. Add wine until evaporated.
  5. Add 1/2 cup stock and stir until absorbed.
  6. Continuously stirring add 1/2 cup broth at a time until absorbed then another 1/2 cup etc.. until all stock is used.
  7. Remove from heat.
  8. Stir in peas, parsley, remaining butter, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup cheese.
  9. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of remaining cheese on top

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Spicy Shrimp

This is one of my all time favorites. G and I have been making it for well over a decade, not sure how it evolved but I do know this is the single most requested recipe I have. It is saved in email and on multiple scraps of paper, I am put into panic mode more than once a year when I can't find it believing our email purge process has got the better of me. The paper I am copying from has been well loved, covered with stains, scribbles and a phone number in the 513 area code. Goodbye my friend - off you go into Cyber space.

1 Pound Shrimp -I like 16-24 ct.
2 scallions
2 T Peanut Oil
1 T Ketchup
1 T Tabasco
1 T Soy
2 t fresh ginger, minced
1 t sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground cayenne

  1. Chop the white part of the scallion and mix with all ingredients.
  2. Add shrimp and marinade 2-3 hours
  3. Skewer
  4. GRILL, not an indoor grill, not broil or bake. Charcoal preferred!
  5. Sprinkle remaining scallion (Chopped) over de-skewered shrimp

Leftovers are great in salad but there are seldom any left. Great for parties!

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

I made a resolution to waste less food. My strategy was to plan before I shopped and to get creative before perishables expired.

Week 1 of the year and I found myself with 4 bananas needing a home. I have no idea what to do with over-ripe bananas except bake banana bread. I'm not a baker but I know this isn't complicated. After looking through at least 4 or 5 cookbooks and 15-20 recipes on the Internet I decided to try the pieces I liked from a few different recipes, after all there was a common denominator in all of them; flour, sugar etc.....
While perusing the recipes I liked the idea of adding butter milk, cinnamon and a few miniature chocolate chips (Which I had left over from holiday baking). I really liked this recipe, it was moist and banana-ee and will make it again; even G liked it and he is hard to please. The bread did fall a little more than previous attempts, I may try to bake is at a lower temperature for a longer period of time, any bakers out there have a better idea, please share if you do!

Here is what I used.

1 1/2 Cups flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1 t vanilla
4 ripe bananas
1/3 Cup butter milk
1 stick butter
1 Cup white sugar
2 T Vegetable Oil
1 egg
1/2 Cup miniature chocolate chips

Preheat to 350 and butter/spray 9" loaf pan
  1. Mix dry ingredients
  2. Beat butter (room temp) and sugar until fluffy, add oil and egg mixing thoroughly
  3. Mix buttermilk, vanilla and 2 mashed bananas
  4. Slowly add flour mixture alternating with the butter mixture until incorporated
  5. Small dice remaining bananas and add to mixture
  6. Fold in chocolate chips
  7. Bake approx 50 minutes
  8. Cool on rack before unmolding