Tuesday, June 28, 2011


A soffrito is a combination of onions, carrots, and celery, mixed with herbs and sauteed in olive oil. In addition to serving as the base for a meatless tomato sauce, it can also be a base for other Italian dishes. I've been using a soffrito as a base for my quick sauce since I bought my copy of Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cookbook over 25 years ago. As my regular readers know, I'm in the throes of infatuation with another Italian cookbook, New Jersey housewife Teresa Giudice's Fabulicious. When I saw Teresa's recipe for tomato soffrito, I decided to give it a try to see how it stacked up against my tried and true recipe. While I did tinker a bit with her recipe--I added a carton of crushed tomatoes to my 8 plum tomatoes--I loved her combination of herbs and was pleased to put my thriving herb garden to use. I would normally use just basil and parsley, but Teresa's addition of rosemary and sage to those two stand-by's was wonderful and I won't leave them out in the future. While the sauce cooks in just 15 minutes, I have always preferred a more robust sauce and simmered mine over a very low heat for about an hour and a half.

Makes enough to sauce 1 lb pasta; serves 4-6
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib with leaves, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 (26 oz) carton Pomi crushed tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tbs chopped fresh basil
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup water
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb pasta
1/4 cup freshly chopped Italian parsley
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, rosemary sprigs, chopped basil, sage, and water. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked into a thick, chunky sauce. Season with salt and pepper and discard the rosemary sprigs. (as I mentioned, I don't like "raw" sauces; I simmer my sauce for 1-2 hours over very low heat).

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add salt and pasta and cook according to pasta directions for al dente. Drain well.

Return the pasta to the pot and add the sauce and parsley and mix well. Serve hot and pass the cheese.
We loved, loved, loved this simple, meatless sauce. Clearly there are many similarities between Teresa's family's style of cooking and my family's. Since Naples and Salerno are relatively close to one another, I guess that isn't surprising. What is surprising is how much I am enjoying cooking my way through her two books. Too many celebrity cookbooks are vanity affairs and it becomes obvious that the "author" has no cooking chops. This is not the case with Teresa and I have to admit I am becoming a bit of a "groupie." Stay tuned because there are many more wonderful recipes I've tried and will be sharing.

Friday, June 24, 2011


While I eat breakfast every day, it's not my favorite meal of the day. Winter mornings I like a bowl of Irish oatmeal with blueberries. The rest of the year I switch between cold cereal, an egg, or the occasional toast with Nutella. Browsing through this month's Self magazine with its spread of spas around the country and some of the food featured at these spas, I came upon the Red Mountain Resort's healthful version of a classic breakfast dish. Though this is a far heartier breakfast than I usually eat, I decided to give it a try with just a few small changes.

Serves 2
1 cup Special K cinnamon pecan cereal, lightly crushed
1 tbs toasted sliced almonds
1/2 cup egg whites, or egg substitute
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 slices cinnamon raisin bread
1 mashed banana
optional:  blueberries or strawberries

Spray a griddle or nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium high heat. Combine cereal crumb and almonds in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl combine egg whites, vanilla, and cinnamon. Dip 1 slice bread in in egg batter, then dip in cereal mixture, gently patting to help crumbs adhere. Repeat with remaining bread slices. Spread 1/2 mashed banana on each of 2 slices, top with remaining 2 slices to make 2 sandwiches. Cook sandwiches about 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Cut in half and serve with fresh berries or powdered sugar.

N.I.: 321 calories per sandwich, 5g fat, 54g carb, 4g fiber, 14g protein
This sweet, crunchy treat could make a breakfast lover of me for sure! If you love cinnamon, this is a perfect dish for you. The original recipe called for cornflake crumbs, but I love the Special K with cinnamon and pecans. Topped with blueberries this breakfast was so satisfying. It's a perfect brunch dish (or half a sandwich would be a great dessert or snack). While I think it's too much breakfast to have on a regular basis, I will definitely make it again for a Sunday special. Definitely yummy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Do you know how it is when you get something in your head and can't get it out? It can be a song (I haven't stopped singing/humming Born This Way since the CD came out) or a craving for a food. When Kim of Stirring the Pot mentioned garlic-crumbed broccoli the other day, I kept thinking of dishes that might benefit from that tasty combination. Then I remembered a recipe I'd clipped from Food Network Magazine for a lighter version of fettuccine alfredo and my search ended.

While I followed the recipe exactly, the directions got my English teacher up. I rewrote them based on what I learned from making the sauce and will make the dish again my way. If you wish to top your pasta with the bread-crumbed broccoli, I've added that recipe at the end. It would make a great side dish on its own.

Serves 2 - 4
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1 cup 2% milk
Kosher salt
2 tbs Neufchatel cheese (or low fat cream cheese)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbs chopped parsley
12 oz fresh fettuccine
freshly ground pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Make the sauce:  melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and lemon zest and cook about 1 minute. Add in the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk, 3/4 tsp salt, and cook, whisking constantly, until just thickened, about 3 minutes. Add the Neufchatel and Parmesan cheese and whisk until just melted, about 1 minute. Set aside while you add the fresh pasta. Cook the pasta 2-3 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and return to the pot.

Set the sauce over low heat while you add the reserved water, a little at a time, stirring constantly. When it reaches the desired consistency, add to the drained pasta, sprinkle with parsley, and toss gently to combine. Serve at once.

N.I.:  490 cal, 15g fat, 48mg cholesterol, 734mg sodium, 66g carb, 3g protein, 20g protein

Garlic-crumbed Broccoli
1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
2 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced

Steam the broccoli. While broccoli steams, heat oil in a non-stick skillet until hot (ripple stage). Add the garlic and cook 2-3 minutes, making sure not to brown it. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes more, until just browned.
This is not the first lightened fettuccine alfredo I've posted on The Food of Love, but this sauce is, by far, the most abundant and the creamiest. The recipe as written called for adding the pasta water AFTER you put the sauce on the pasta, but this made it extremely difficult to thin the sauce without demolishing the pasta. I will caution that you must eat this as soon as it's made as the sauce tends to "seize" or harden up rather quickly. That said, for a lightened version the sauce is unctuous and plentiful. I think the addition of the garlic-crumbed broccoli made this special.

Friday, June 17, 2011


What's the best thing about June? If you ask me, it's fresh strawberries. The farmers' markets are filled with them in our corner of the world and they are ripe and delicious. Such bounty cries out for buttery shortcakes and freshly whipped cream. This is a recipe I've used forever and one that is simple, but yields wonderful results.

Serves 6-9
1 quart of freshly picked strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced (reserve 2 strawberries)
2 tbs sugar

2 cups all purpose flour
1Tbs baking powder
2 Tbs sugar
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)chilled and cut into cubes
1 egg
1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mash 1-2 of the strawberries in a large bowl. Add the sliced strawberries and sprinkle with the sugar. Mix gently, then set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sift the flour, baking powder, and sugar into a large bowl. Cut in the butter until the flour looks like coarse crumbs. Beat the egg and add it to the heavy cream, then pour it over the top of the flour mixture. Stir until it comes together, then turn onto a floured board and knead 6-10 times. Roll or pat out the dough and cut 6-9 three-inch shortcakes (depending on the thickness of the dough, you'll get more or fewer shortcakes). Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 12-15 minutes. Cool, then split.

Whip the heavy cream, adding the sugar and vanilla.

To serve:  heap strawberries and cream on the split shortcakes.
The first true taste of summer!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Look at that crunch!

Fabulicious is quickly becoming my latest favorite cookbooks. I've been making oven-fried chicken for years as I'm sure many of you have, but I'm willing to wager that you've never had a version as lip-smacking delicious as this one. Our cats even went crazy for the smell; they were trying to climb up on our laps as we were eating. I felt so guilty not being able to offer them a taste. Using the skinless drumsticks is genius since they are kid-friendly and could double as party food. Not having to pull out a frying pan to get crispy chicken is the icing on the cake.

Makes 12 drumsticks
1 cup plain yogurt (I used lowfat Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 - 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 1/4 cups plain Panko breadcrumbs
1 cup (4 oz) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp crumbled dried rosemary
12 skinless chicken drumsticks
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil (I used just 2 tbs)

Position a rack in the top third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Spray a large, rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.

In a shallow bowl, mix the yogurt, milk, garlic, salt, red pepper. In another bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, grated cheese, oregano, and rosemary.

Dip each drumstick in the yogurt mixture, letting the excess drip back into the bowl, then add to the panko mixture and turn to coat. Place on the baking sheet. Drizzle the drumsticks with oil and bake for 20 minutes. Slip a metal spatula under each drumstick to keep the crust intact, and turn over. Bake another 25-30 minutes depending on the size of the drumsticks. Transfer to a platter and serve hot.
Nothing beats on the bone drumsticks except on the bone, bread-crumbed, crispy and spicy drumsticks. These were so good I ate 3 of them! The yogurt and milk coating mixture lends a buttermilk tanginess to the meat and the small amount of red pepper adds just the right kick. Served with a pesto pasta salad at room temperature, this was an indoor picnic. I guarantee that I'll be getting lots of requests for repeat performances. Teresa has scored again with something simple, but delicious. I even think my photo rivals the one in her book and I'm not a food stylist by any means.

Friday, June 10, 2011


I have a confession to make. I am addicted to the "Real Housewives of New Jersey." Since I've retired, I find myself watching far more television than I ever did in the past and--worse--I can assure you it's not PBS. If this is to be a good act of contrition, I have to add that I love, love, love Teresa Giudice. It isn't just because my mom's maiden name was Guidice (I'm sure the spelling differences happened at Ellis Island). I may not be a Jersey girl geographically, but the "Italian-ness" of the show sometimes resonates. When I learned that Teresa had not one, but two cookbooks, I had to have them. I had assumed they'd be filled with very pedestrian dishes and some of them are, but there are also a few gems and long-forgotten dishes that I knew I'd want to try. This one comes from her first book Fabulicious. I can't say that mom ever made this dish. It's Calabrian and mom's family hails from Naples. Dad's mom died when they'd been married just a few years, so she never learned to make her mother-in-law's cuisine. If she had, I think this might have been a favorite dish. Both my parents loved pork and I do as well. Since the dish calls for boneless pork loin chops and olive oil and potatoes in reasonable amounts, I agree with Teresa that it's a healthy dish. You can subsitute pickled cherry peppers, as I did, and turn up the heat by using hot cherry peppers instead of sweet.

This is my adaptation of Teresa's dish:

Serves 4
5-6 tbs olive oil, divided
2 tbs red wine vinegar
2 tsp finely chopped fresh basil
1 tsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 (6 oz) boneless pork loin chops, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 lbs new red potatoes, sliced in half
6 sweet pickled cherry peppers, tops removed, seeded, and quarted
1 large roasted red pepper, cut into large dice

In a glass or ceramic mixing bowl, whisk 3 tbs olive oil with the vinegar, basil, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper. Let stand for 10-15 minutes, then add the pork, coating it completely, and let sit for another 10-15 minutes.

Heat 2 tbs oil in a large skilled over high heat. Remove the pork from the marinade, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. In batches, add the pork to the skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until the pork browns, about 4 minutes. Do not overcook! Transfer the browned pork to a plate and leave any remaining fat in the skillet.

Add 1-2 more tbs olive oil to the skillet, reducing the heat to medium high. Add the potatoes and the peppers, stirring well. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water to the skillet and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the water evaporates and the potatoes are almost tender and lightly browned, abaout 15 minutes. Return the pork to the skillet, stir, and cover. Let cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Heaven on a plate! If I were not watching calories, I'd have added a loaf of crusty bread and a bottle of my best red. The flavors come together perfectly in the dish and the potatoes are creamy inside with just a bit of carmelization. I could easily have eaten another portion (but didn't) and plan to make this again soon. The book was worth the price if only for this new favorite.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Black beans are a favorite of mine; in fact, I prefer black beans to refried beans with my Mexican food. I haven't met too many cheeses that I don't like, but goat cheese is a particular favorite. So, when I saw this recipe in an America's Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers magazine, I knew it was something I'd have to try. I've been using the lower sodium black beans and can discern no difference in taste. I've always got whole wheat tortillas in the fridge, so that was what I used for the wrapper.

Serves 4
1 (16 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (4 oz) log goat cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
4 (12 inch) whole wheat tortillas

Combine the beans, goat cheese, Monterey Jack, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Divide cheese mixture evenly over one half of each tortilla, leaving 1/2 inch border around edge. Fold tortillas over filling and press down firmly.

Add 2 quesadillas to large nonstick skillet and cook over medium high heat until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Using spatula, flip the quesadillas and cook until the other side is golden brown and the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to cutting board and repeat with remaining quesadillas. Cut into wedges and serve with your choice of condiments (we prefer sour cream and salsa, but guacamole would be delicious as well).
I like that all the ingredients were combined before assembling the quesadillas because it ensured that each bite contained a little bit of everything. This is a tasty, meatless meal which I rounded out with a chopped salad. I didn't feel it warranted a starch, but you could serve it with yellow rice if you're so inclined. It would make a great snack or appetizer as well and the ease of preparation can't be beat.

Friday, June 3, 2011


We've reached the point where we'd rather enjoy an exceptional steak dinner at home than a mediocre one in an overpriced, albeit fancy, restaurant. Last night we enjoyed an incredible ribeye with oven-baked fries and corn on the cob (not local, but sweet and delicious). We both prefer very thick steak, so we buy one and split it. There was a good-sized piece of meat leftover and I had made 3 potatoes instead of 2, so there was plenty left over there, too. We went to bed smiling, thinking of the hash and egg breakfast that awaited us.

Steak Hash for 2 (maybe 3)
olive oil
4-5 oz leftover steak, small dice
1 large potato (parboil it, then dice; I diced my rosemary/olive oil leftover oven fries)
1 small onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2-3 oz of your favorite cheese, shredded or sliced
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat, then drizzle in 1-2 tbs olive oil, swirling to coat. Lower the heat to medium high and add the onion and pepper. Saute until just beginning to brown. Add the steak, potatoes, and salt and pepper and saute, stirring occasionally, until the meat and potatoes are heated through and just starting to brown. Top with cheese and place in the oven so the cheese melts.

While the cheese is melting, prepare your favorite fried eggs--we prefer over easy. To serve, place a portion of hash on a plate and top with the eggs.
This was Nirvana. The starch in the potatoes gave the hash an incredible creaminess. The red pepper added just the right amount of sweetness. The rosemary I had added to the steak and potatoes made the hash sing. Happily, there is one portion of steak hash leftover. Oh, and did I mention that DSO is going fishing early tomorrow morning? Before breakfast!