Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Risotto and An Award

Despite the fact that both my maternal and paternal roots are in southern Italy, I have long been a fan of risotto. I'll stand at the stove stirring for the requisite 20 minutes with nary a complaint for the pure pleasure of eating this incredible dish. I'll confess that I often use the microwave recipe I've perfected over the years for a quick and easy weeknight dish.

When I found this recipe in the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook, I decided to make it the "long" way to fully appreciate the recipe. Now that it has been given a "10," the highest score I bestow on a dish, I'll make it using the microwave next time.

Broccoli rabe is an acquired taste. It wasn't until a few years ago that I began using it in pasta dishes and soups, then finally as a stand-alone vegetable. If prepared correctly, you can almost rid it of any bitterness. Almost...but not quite, and that's what makes it such a delicious vegetable.

This sausage and broccoli rabe risotto is supposed to serve 6; I'm sure if you begin with a soup or salad, that would be the case. It served 2 of us for 2 hearty meals. A one-sixth serving is 6 points (291 calories for 1 cup). That is, if you make it "as written." I've put my one change in red. I increased the sausage from 1/2 pound to 1 pound.

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped, fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1/2 lb Italian turkey sausage, hot or sweet, casing removed and sausage crumbled (I used 1 lb SWEET Italian turkey sausage)
1/2 bunch broccoli rabe, rinsed and chopped

To make the risotto, bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan, then lower the heat to keep the broth at a simmer.

Heat the oil in a large, nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the rice and cook until the outer shell is lightly toasted, 2-3 minutes.

Add the wine, pepper, and 1/2 cup of the broth and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until it is absorbed before adding more. The cooking time from the first addition of broth should be 20-24 minutes. If you need to, heat and add more broth. Stir in the parsley.

As the broth is being added, spray a nonstick skillet with nonstick spray and set over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until lightly browned. Break up with a wooden fork. Add the broccoli rabe. Cover and cook until wilted, about 7 minutes.

Stir the sausage and broccoli rabe into the risotto and serve.

Remember that timing and temperature are key to a successful risotto. The broth has to be kept at a simmer; the broth has to be added in 1/2 cup increments and stirred constantly; the heat under the cooking rice has to be kept turned to medium so it, too, maintains a gentle simmer and doesn't stick.

This dish tasted even better reheated the next day. It is filling and delicious and worth the bit of extra trouble.

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I love to blog hop and often do this by visiting some of my foodie friends' blogs and clicking on their favorites. Over time I've found many like-minded cyber friends and acquaintances.

Recently, one of my foodie friends and fellow book lovers, Rachel (http://wheat-free-meat-free.blogspot.com/) graciously passed on to me this "Adorable Blog" award which she received from another great food blogger, Ivy (http://kopiaste.org/), one of the founders of BloggerAid (http://bloggeraid.ning.com/. Please check out BloggerAid if you haven't done so already; it's a wonderful initiative.

Rachel owns Old Saratoga Books, a used and rare bookstore, and lives in an area that I fell in love with 15 years ago. While we haven't met face to face, yet, I can see why Ivy finds the Crispy Cook adorable. Thank you, Rachel, for your kind words and for the wonderful recipes and glimpses of your life that you share with us.

Here are the rules for this award:

1) Include the award logo in your blog or post.

2) Nominate as many blogs which show adorability, cuteness and charm.

3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.

4) Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

5) Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

It took a bit of rumination to match award with blogger. I follow so many wonderful food blogs, each special in its own way. Some of the bloggers are all about the food; others share a bit of their lives with us. Some are business-like in their postings; others write in a more stream-of-consciousness way, as though their blogs are personal journals. I finally narrowed down my choices to the following food bloggers, whom I believe endear themselves to their readers by showing who they are both inside and outside their passion for cooking.

A Stove with a House Around It - http://stoveria.blogspot.com/

As soon as I read Dianne's bio and learned that the deciding factor in her buying her house was the stove, I knew she was a kindred spirit. Cooking in Akron, Ohio, Dianne loves complex recipes, the kind that take 3 days to get through. She's recently begun baking her own bread; has a nifty new cupboard thanks to her handy dad; and, has a blog filled with great photos and stories. Her blog is, indeed, adorable.

Finding La Dolce Vita - http://findingladolcevita.blogspot.com/

MaryAnn is a fellow New Yorker who more often than not has an incredible recipe for traditional Italian food on her blog. She has a flair for writing and has dedicated her blog to her dear Grandmother and Grandfather, the former responsible for her love of cooking. MaryAnn recently held the very successful 2nd Annual Festa Italiana (along with my next award winner). Having lost my Mother this past year, I was ecstatic to find MaryAnn's recipe for Italian Easter cookies. Please visit her wonderful blog.

Proud Italian Cook - http://prouditaliancook.blogspot.com/

PIC is another fabulous foodie, writing and cooking out of Chicago, Illinois. Just reading her list of recipes starts my mouth to watering. She and MaryAnn did a wonderful job with their annual Festa Italiana a few weeks back. PIC has incredible photos to go along with her prose. I look forward eagerly to each of her posts.

Well, there you have it. Just three of the many, many food bloggers who take time from their busy lives to share their love of all things culinary.

an amazing initiative that you should check out, if you haven't already.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Bathing suit season is just around the corner. If you want to have arms that are the envy of all your friends, then this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge is for you. While I may disagree with pasta making falling under the duties of a baker, there will be no disagreement that this is an ethereal pasta dish, well worth the time it takes to prepare.
The March 2009 challenge was hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They chose Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.
I opted to make the ragu the day before and it benefited from its time in the fridge, the flavors deepening and melding perfectly. I mixed the pasta dough early Sunday morning. A word about the dough--it was quite dry at first (wish I had taken a picture of it as I was incorporating the flour, eggs, and spinach but I didn't want my camera smeared in goo). Finally, it came together. Others have written that they added more egg or added water, but I didn't want to tamper with the recipe the first time out. I kneaded the dough for 13 minutes, working up such a sweat I needed to mop my brow constantly!
I would have liked the dough to be even thinner, but it was starting to tear. I will definitely try this pasta again using a machine to roll it out. There was no mention in the recipe of how long it needed to dry. It seemed to take a few hours for it to feel somewhat dry.
The bechamel recipe is no different from the one I use for macaroni and cheese and came together quickly. My only problem when making bechamel is I have a ceramic top stove and most of my pans spin around, making the gradual addition of liquid a nightmare. Rather than make myself dizzy or have to ask DSO for a hand--the word gradual has many shades of meaning between a man and a woman--I used my heavy, LeCreuset Dutch oven. Problem solved.
I had enough ingredients for 3 layers since I opted to use a 9 X 13 inch pan. I'd have liked a taller lasagna; DSO pronounced 3 layers the ideal. Here's the first layer as it came together.
I followed the baking directions exactly and must emphasize that it is critical that you allow the lasagna to rest for 10 minutes. It set up perfectly in this time. Even the first piece came out of the pan with no muss or fuss.
I will confess that though I don't love ricotta cheese, I was afraid this bare bones filling would not be a hit with DSO or with me. I couldn't have been more mistaken. Our first bites confirmed that this lasagna was in a special category. I gobbled up one piece and quickly cut myself another half slice. It was that good!
I do have a suggestion if you are not serving this lasagna to a crowd. While still tasty, the leftovers become dry. The noodles absorb most of the bechamel and even extra ragu doesn't make up for that. If you'll be serving leftovers, make another batch of bechamel. Other than that, this was an incredible pasta and one I'll be making again.

Here is the recipe for this toothsome treat. It looks way more complicated than it really is. If you don't make the homemade pasta, by all means make the ragu. It would enhance any pasta dish. I'd even encourage you to make the lasagna with store-bought fresh pasta if you don't want to make your own.

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)

Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water

1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)

1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)

1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)

1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method Working Ahead:The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne: Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)
Preparation: 45 minutes
Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)

10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:
A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.
A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.
A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.
A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.
Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

Kneading:With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.
Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.
Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

#2 Bechamel
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred

2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)
Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours
Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)

2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped

1 medium onion, minced

1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced

1 small carrot, minced

4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round

4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)

8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)

1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma

2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine

1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)

2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk

3 canned plum tomatoes, drained (I used 6 tomatoes from the can; 3 wasn't enough)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.
Browning the Ragu Base:Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.
Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.
Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.
Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I've always been a cookie monster. When I was growing up, it would have been unthinkable to go to bed without a big glass of milk and some cookies. Sadly, the metabolism isn't able to handle the rekindling of that cherished memory on a daily basis, but I do sneak in the occasional glass of milk or cup of tea and a cookie or two whenever I have a few calories to spare.

There are almost no boxed cookies that I care to eat these days. I remember those wonderful brown-edged, thin butter cookies; I think they were made by Nabisco. I haven't seen them in a store in decades. Fig Newtons don't taste the same, nor do Chips Ahoy, Oreos, or Social Teas. About the only cookie from my youth that still tastes the same are Mallomars and they are a "red light" food for me. I can tell you that there are 18 cookies in the entire box and that's a whole lot of calories.

When I'm baking cookies, I love oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip, Linzer cookies, Neopolitans, and any kind of shortbread. I was looking to try a new recipe today. Instead of reaching for one of my many cookie cookbooks, I went online and eventually found this very simple, 3 ingredient recipe on All Recipes.

I mixed the dough in my KitchenAid, began rolling, but ended up patting out the dough, and used a pizza cutter to cut the cookies. In the future, I WILL use a ruler and I will make the cookies smaller. Most of them were too large for a shortbread. I like them the size of Walker's shortbread.
The end product is delicious and has a wonderful texture. I did read in one or two of the reviews that they are even better when you replace some of the all purpose flour with rice flour. I may try that next time.

Servings - 24 to 36 cookies
2 cups unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare your cookie sheets. I recently bought several silicone mats. My only regret is that I didn't do this years ago. What a pleasure!

Cream the butter and sugar. Add 3 3/4 cups of the flour and mix well.

Sprinkle a surface with the remaining flour (I love my silicone mat!). Roll or pat into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle.

Cut 3 X 1 inch strips. Prick with a fork.

Bake 22-25 minutes. Cool on a rack. Package tightly.
That's all that's standing between you and being a hero: 3 ingredients and about 45 minutes!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Although I have a pasta machine, it hasn't been used in quite a while. It is just too much trouble to lug it out of the closet, then clean it and lug it back. It weighs a ton and it is a killer to clean. But I love pasta and I love fresh pasta best of all. So, I was very happy to see Michael Chiarello's tutorial for fresh pappardelle (my favorite noodle!!!) in the Feb/Mar 2009 issue of Food Network Magazine. If you haven't perused this magazine, I recommend that you do so. While I am trying to limit the number of magazines I subscribe to, I couldn't pass up the introductory offer. I was impressed by this first issue, though I made a dessert that I tossed after one bite (hint: don't make the tequila lime squares).

Chiarello's recipe has to be the easiest pasta I've ever made, by hand or by machine. It was mixed, kneaded, and ready to rest in under 20 minutes. I let it rest for just 30 minutes since we had errands to run, then rolled it out, cut it, and left it in the fridge until dinner.

Yield: about 20 oz (you can make half and freeze the other half)
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 cup semlina flour (plus more for dusting)
6 large eggs, at room temperature
4 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

Sift both flours together on a large work surface (I recently bought a Food Network silicone mat which I use for everything). Make a well in the center and place th eggs, olive oil, and a pinch of salt into the well using a fork to break up the eggs. Gradually mix the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until just combined.

Gather the dough into 2 equal-sized balls and flour your surface. Knead one piece at a time. To knead, you push the dough away from you with the heel of your hand, fold the dough over itself and turn it counterclockwise. Continue pushing, folding, and turning until the dough is smooth and elastic, 4-5 minutes. Repeat with the second ball of dough.

Pat each piece into a ball and flatten slightly. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes to overnight. You can freeze a ball of dough OR roll it out, cut it, and freeze the pasta.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and dust with flour. Starting in the middle, push away from you with a rolling pin, easing up on the pressure as you approach the edge. Continue rolling the dough into a sheet, turning occasionally, until you can see your fingers through the bottom. Allow to dry about 10 minutes.
Dust the top of the sheet of dough with flour and loosely roll it into a cylinder. Using a sharp knife, cut into 3/4 inch wide slices. Unwrap the noodles and dust with semolina. To do this, I placed a few noodles at a time into a plastic ziploc bag with semolina flour in it and shook lightly. Place on a sheet pan and cover with a tea towel until ready to cook.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Gently drop in the noodles and cook for 3-5 minutes, until al dente.

I served the pappardelle with a simple ragu. It was incredibly delicious. I plan to use this recipe to make manicotti and lasagna in the future. It was a snap! Thank you, Michael.

Monday, March 16, 2009


You may have noticed my spiffy new award, the Sisterhood Award, given to me by my friend and fellow blogger, Gloria, of Foods and Flavors of San Antonio. Gloria has a party going on this month at her blog, which I encourage you to visit.

Thank you, Gloria, for this award. Since you're on record as saying that "rules are meant to be broken," I'm going to bend them just a bit and give this award to anyone who:

1.. has a food blog

3. who visits my friend Gloria's blog (http://foodsandflavorsofsanantonio.blogspot.com/)

How easy is that? So, thanks again, Gloria, and to my readers, please accept this Sisterhood Award in the spirit of friendship and good food.

Friday, March 13, 2009


For those of you who've never read a copy of Good Housekeeping, my title is a riff on one of their long-standing, time honored columns--Can This Marriage Be Saved? She gets to tell her side of the story, then he gets to tell his; the experts swoop down and offer some counseling, and a few month's later they report back as to the state of the "union."

HER SIDE: She spends long hours in the kitchen and out, planning menus to entice, shopping for ingredients, prepping, cooking, and cleaning up the not-too-inconsiderable messes when one messes about in the kitchen. Most of the time the results are good to excellent, as "he" is quick to point out. They eat reasonably well for less than restaurant meals would cost and usually the meals are prepared with healthy eating in mind.

HIS SIDE: He is an unfussy eater, quick to compliment the chef. He likes trying new dishes, gets his pasta fix on a somewhat regular basis, and loves his condiments. If the salad dressing is good, why waste what's on the bottom of the bowl? Why NOT pour it over the pasta or chicken? Sauces are good; more sauciness is better. What's wrong with a few shakes of Heinz 57 or hot sauce or worcestershire on the lemon chicken? Where is it written that only red pepper flakes can add a kick to pasta dishes?

There you have it, foodie friends. Is the cook over-reacting to this tableside dousing with condiments? Or, does the diner have the final say on what to add to the dish in question? I leave it to YOU to decide.

In the meantime, from my latest cookbook acquisition, I recommend this lovely Chicken with Lemon Butter. It is not for the faint of heart, calling for 9 tablespoons of butter. I've already tried it with just 6 and will reduce it further next time. It goes together quickly, has an abundance of smooth, silky sauce, and would probably taste wonderful over pasta. I served it with my microwave risotto. For those of you who've never tried this, of course it doesn't taste the same as the one you spend 30 minutes standing over to stir. However, it is a good weeknight staple.

Serves 2-3
1 cup flour (way more than needed)
salt and pepper to taste
6 - 2 oz chicken cutlets
1/4 cup olive oil
9 tbs unsalted butter (reduce as your conscience dictates)
1 tbs finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup dry, white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp chopped parsley
juice of 2 lemons, or more to taste

Spread the flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper.
Season the cutlets, both sides, with salt and pepper. Coat them with flour, shaking off any excess.
In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully add the chicken. Brown for 2 minutes each side. Set aside on a plate to collect any juices.
Remove any oil from the pan. Reduce heat to low and add 1 tbs of butter. When it is melted, add the shallots and cook 2-3 minutes.
Add the wine and increase the heat to high. Cook for about 30 seconds or until the liquid is reduced to 1 tbs. Add the chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Cook 2-3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to a low simmer and stir in the parsley. Whisk in the remaining butter, one tablespoon at a time, being sure to incorporate each tablespoon before adding the next. Adjust the heat to maintain the simmer.

Add the chicken with accumulated juices back into the pan. Add the lemon juice and adjust seasonings.

Garnish with more lemon and parsley, if desired. DO NOT ADD HEINZ 57!

Microwave Risotto
1 tbs olive oil
1 1/2 tbs butter
1 tbs chopped shallot
1 cup arborio rice
3 1/2 cups stock (chicken or beef)
1/2 cup grated cheese

In a microwave safe dish, add the oil and butter and cook on high for 3 minutes.

Stir in the rice and shallots and cook on high for another 3 minutes.

Carefully stir in the stock and cook on high, uncovered, for 9 minutes.

Stir, then cook on high, uncovered, for another 6-9 minutes, until rice is done to taste.

Stir in cheese and serve.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I've been collecting cookbooks since the 70's and though I've been disappointed a few times, for the most part, I have had good luck selecting cookbooks that I'll not only enjoy reading again and again, but will actually use. Of course it's easier when you're browsing in a bookstore or have gotten a recommendation from a trusted foodie friend, but if you do your homework, you can even make a good decision when you're ordering online.

One of the considerations is, of course, the cuisine. With apologies to my vegan buddies, you won't find many vegetarian cookbooks in my collection. My old Moosewood volume might be it actually. Also, if there aren't pictures, it isn't sitting on my shelf (okay, I do have Marcella Hazan and Julia Child, but they've earned their places). Size DOES matter, at least where cookbooks are concerned. While I've given up those huge coffee table cookbooks, I want something that I can actually see to read. I'm partial to cookbooks from renowned chefs and restaurants. I like a good table of contents and index. Finally, except in rare cases, I don't want to have to take out a loan to pay for my cookbooks. In fact, I've been doing lots of ordering of used cookbooks on Amazon lately. My latest acquisition, however, was brand-spanking new.

Despite living in the hinterlands--also known as upstate New York--I used to spend 3 out of 4 weekends a month in Manhattan. Not so much anymore. I have eaten at Carmine's, so knew the kind of food they served. Let me begin by saying that the recipes in the cookbook taste even better than the food served in the restaurant. I'm guessing they really taste-tested everything and firmed things up. Having a few of my mother's old recipes, some of them passed down to her from her grandmother, I can tell you that measuring was imprecise, at best in these family recipes. That's what good cooking is all about, individualizing a dish to your own liking. It isn't the easiest way to cook a weeknight meal, though.

I would give Carmine's Family-style Cookbook a big thumbs up. The photography is well done; I enjoyed reading the introduction which described how Carmine's came into being; each chapter is devoted to a course in the meal; and, there's a good index at the end. Recipes give a brief overview of the dish, a straightforward list of ingredients, and concise step-by-step instructions.

My habit is to bookmark dishes that I want to try, but the book had so many post-its marking pages even after my first read that it was difficult to know where to begin. Since I've been on a pasta kick and adore rigatoni, I decided to begin with Country-style Rigatoni. Those of you who've happened upon the Festa Italiana know that Proud Italian Cook (http://prouditaliancook.blogspot.com/) already featured this dish on her blog.

Larry pronounced this "a signature dish" and I would have to concur. The sauce is rich, just thick enough, and plentiful. The tastes meld beautifully. Don't think that the sausage and prosciutto is"overkill." They work together to raise this simple dish to company status. I know I'll have to rework this recipe further to make it healthier, but for now, it was heaven!!!!

Serves 2 - 4
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs coarsely chopped garlic
1/4 cup thinly sliced onions
8 oz fennel sausage, casings removed
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tbs chopped parsley
1 - 18 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup unsalted butter (I reduced this to 3 tbs and will reduce to 2 in the future)
1 1/4 cups grated cheese (I used Asiago, my fave)
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto (I increased this from the 2 tbs called for)
12 oz dried rigatoni
8 - 10 spears broccoli, cut into 3 inch pieces (I had asparagus, so made do)

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat; add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Do not burn!!! Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes.

Add the sausage, basil, and parsley. Break up the sausage using a wooden spoon. Cook the mixture about 3 minutes, until the sausage is browned.
Add the beans, chicken stock, and butter. Raise the heat to high and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer briskly for 5-8 minutes, until it starts to thicken. Stir in 1/4 cup of the grated cheese and cook another 3 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the prosciutto and another 1/2 cup of the cheese. Let the mixture simmer about 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. In the last 5 minutes, add the broccoli.

Drain the pasta and broccoli well. Bring the sauce to a boil; add the pasta and broccoli. Mix well, stirring in another 1/4 cup cheese.

Serve the pasta with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese passed at the table.

I dare you not to moan with pleasure while you're eating this!!!!!

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Although I no longer "count points" a la Weight Watchers, I continue to prepare meals from my large collection of WW cookbooks. I've learned a great deal about how to prepare food in a more healthful manner from these cookbooks and from my subscription to Cooking Light.

Since we eat a great deal of chicken and turkey, my copy of Everyone Loves Chicken is one of my go-to volumes. Despite using a jar of marinara sauce, the meat sauce is incredibly flavorful (I had to add some onion and garlic to the original recipe). I also used part skim ricotta (the recipe called for fat free, but I just can't eat that). I readily admit to being a real snob about Italian food, but I would recommend this recipe to any of my foodie friends. We enjoyed this for dinner twice and Larry happily ate the rest for lunch. You get 10 generous servings and it reheats very well.

Serves 10

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb ground lean turkey

1/2 lb sliced white button mushrooms

1 (26 oz) jar of marinara sauce

1 (16 oz) container part skim ricotta cheese

2 cups (8 oz) shredded, part skim mozzarella cheese

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

1 (9 oz) package no-boil lasagna noodles

1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce** (or additional marinara sauce)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a large, nonstick skillet with cooking spray and set over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute 3-4 minutes, until translucent. Add the turkey and cook until lightly browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.

Add the mushrooms and cook until they give off their liquid and it reduces by half .

Stir in the marinara sauce and bring the mixture to a simmer. Season to taste.

Combine the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, egg whites, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

Spread the tomato sauce evenly across the bottom of a 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Place 5 of the lasagna sheets over the sauce to cover the bottom. Top with one-third of the turkey mixture, then spread half the cheese mixture over this. Repeat layering one more time, then top with the remaining 5 lasagna sheets, then top with the remaining one-third turkey mixture. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake the lasagna 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbling and lightly browned on top, about 10 minutes longer. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Marie of Proud Italian Cook (http://www.prouditaliancook.blogspot.com/) and Maryann of Finding La Dolce Vita (http://www.findingladolcevita.blogspot.com/) sure know how to give a party. I was excited to learn about their second Festa Italiana and have enjoyed reading about all the wonderful dishes that my fellow foodies have contributed.

I've been on a pasta kick lately, a healthy pasta kick, and decided to contribute last night's dinner--Shrimp and White Beans with Garlic Spinach over Fettuccine. Yes, this IS healthy eating. I played around with a recipe I found in Weight Watchers' Dining for Two. I increased the amount of beans and garlic, added the garlic spinach, and, okay, shoot me, increased the amount of pasta. Really 2 ounces of pasta for 2 people is a little much...or, a little little.

The dish went together quickly and was quite filling. Because it already contained spinach, it didn't even require a salad. A crisp white Pinot Grigio would not be unwelcome, however.

Serves 2
4 oz fettuccine
1 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1/4 cup dry, white wine
1 - 15 oz can small white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 lb peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 pkg cleaned baby spinach

Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain and keep warm.
Heat the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, 3-5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Cook until the wine is reduced by half.

Stir in the beans, shrimp, broth, and basil. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until shrimp are opaque, about 3-4 minutes.

Transfer the pasta to serving bowls and top with the shrimp mixture. Toss to mix and serve at once.
Now, back to that party....be sure to check out Marie and Maryann's sites for other great festa dishes.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I've been giving short shrift to my newest Ina Garten cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Family Style, so I set out to remedy that by preparing her parmesan chicken. I've prepared chicken like this before, but Ina's recipe called for sauteeing the chicken in a combination of butter and olive oil. I'm generally too focused on reducing fat to do this, but I made an exception this time and I believe that improved the taste greatly.

With this simple chicken, I made stuffed artichokes using my own recipe this time. The recipe on the side of the can, while tasty, produced a dryer stuffing. Mine was more like the stuffing I make for Thanksgiving.

Serves 6
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 extra large eggs
1 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
unsalted butter
olive oil

Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4 inch thick. I place them between sheets of waxed paper and use a meat mallet.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on one plate. Beat the eggs with 1 tbs water in a shallow bowl. Combine the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese on another plate.

Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides in the egg mixture, and then dredge both sides in the bread crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tbs butter and 1 tbs olive oil in a large saute pan and cook the chicken breasts, 2 or 3 at a time, on medium low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add more butter and olive oil for the second batch.

Plan to serve these almost immediately since they will become dry if you hold them in a warming oven.

I will be happy to share my artichoke recipe, but only if you leave a comment. (What a cheap trick to get comments, lol).