Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite Dinners of 2013

I have heard people say that 2013 was not a good year. Well this year has ended with me being sick with a virus that is "going around."  I do not usually take part in group activities and this is one activity I wish I had been left out of. But other than getting a lot of sleep the past few days and getting sucked into Candy Crush and Pet Rescue I had time to pick out some of my favorite dinners from the past year. I am sure all of these would also be on my husband's list, but I do not think he would actually make a list.

So with out further ado may I present my favorite meals of 2013.

January 27-  Sausage, Escarole and Beans and...

February 5 - Leftover Spaghetti Con Capicola E Pangrattato

March 4 - Minestra Maritata

 April 23 - Eggplant Balls and Pappardelle

May 28 - Bread and Vegetable Lasagna

May 25 (If Chris had a list this would be his choice for May) - Pasta Pie

July 21 - Cold Antipasto

August 12 - Italy vs Australia

October 29 (Looks similar to Sept. selection) - Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

November 19 - Cinghiale in Umido

November 25 - A Most Amazing Soup

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder

Now when I say slow roasted I mean slow roasted. The pork went in to the oven around 1:30 at 250˚. Dinner was on the table at 8:15pm. But the wait was so worth it. The flavor of the herbs was not overpowering. And the meat was so moist!

Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder, from La Cucina

Ingredients -
20 fresh sage leaves
3 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves only
3 fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves only
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2  tablespoons wild fennel pollen (see note)
1 1/2  teaspoons medium-coarse sea salt
1 1/2  teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 (3 3/4- to 4-pound) boneless pork shoulder (with skin, not tied)*
2  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white or red wine

Method -
Heat oven to 250º.

Finely chop sage, thyme, rosemary and garlic together (you can do this by pulsing in a food processor or by hand). Place mixture in a small bowl, add fennel pollen, salt and pepper, and stir together well.

With a sharp knife, score pork skin in a crosshatch diamond pattern, making 1/8-inch deep cuts 1 inch apart. With a paring knife, make about 10 incisions (about 1/2 inch deep) all over the pork and stuff with about 1/3 of the herb mixture. Brush oil over skin and rub all over with remaining herb mixture.

Set pork skin side up in a roasting pan. Roast for 2 hours.

Pour wine over pork and baste with wine and accumulated juices. Continue roasting, basting once every half hour, until skin is well browned and the meat is spoon-tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours more. (Ours was in for 4 1/2 hours)

Remove from oven and let meat rest 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

* I used a Picnic Style Pork Shoulder with the bone in. That is probably why mine took extra time.

Side dishes were Arborio Rice and Roasted Acorn Squash.

Today was the year anniversary of my Dad's passing. I was fortunate to have him as a father and I miss him every day.  I just want to live my life following his example. Work hard, spend my free time learning something new and have at least one glass of wine with dinner.


I try not to stray from the subject of food on this blog. After all food is comfort and food is love. What better way to show someone that you love them then putting a warm healthy meal on the table. Today being the one year anniversary of my Dad's passing. I need to write more. 

His passing was actually harder on me than my Mom's. My mom had Alzheimer's for so long. But my Dad was so vibrant up until the last couple of days.

He was my superman. He never rested. He was always reading or learning how to do something new. He had a tree trunk in the yard that he use to chop away at with the ax just to keep active. Lunch on Saturdays were always filled with him catching me up with the latest financial articles or the hot news story in Inc and Fortune. I picked him up little post-it notes so he could mark the pages he wanted me to read.
I still have not been able to watch a western on television. I bought figs this summer but could not eat them. I have not made pasta fagioli all year. 

Today we had a mass said for him at his church. But there was a whole lot of snow that got in our way.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs

Today the weather outside was frightful... well it was if you drive a car like mine. So I worked from home. And dinner was already made. I made this on Sunday so I just needed to pop it in the oven to heat up. We had rice as a side dish. With the recipe that follows I was able to get 2 meals. I froze the other dish.

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs, from Bon Appetit.

Ingredients -
3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2" pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
1 celery stalks, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
4 cups dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)
5 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
4 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs oregano
1 sprigs rosemary
1 dried bay leaves
2 cups low-salt beef stock

Method -
Preheat oven to 350°. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 Tbsp. drippings from pot.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add all herbs. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, 

Cook until short ribs are tender, 2–2 1/2 hours. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls over rice with sauce spooned over.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Steak Pizzaiola And An Amazing Bread

I was not planning on doing a lot of cooking today. But yesterday, along with the cookies, I made a large pot of chicken stock. I ended up with 14 cups of stock. And I had the meat from the bird so today I made 2 regular size Chicken Pot Pies and one small one. And I made a Chicken and Pastine Casserole. Oh and we are having Short Ribs later this week so I prepared them, that way all Chris has to do is heat them up. 

And making the pot pies meant I had a little left over crust. So I made little cat pie crust crackers!
Then there was the bread. I found this recipe at Jam Hands, love the name of the blog. The bread was Artisan No Knead Pizza Bread. You all know I love the No Knead recipe. Well this adds a whole new dimension. Gosh is was so good. It was so good that we are having Grilled Cheese tomorrow night on this bread. Oops sorry to ruin the surprise.

And then there is dinner. Steak Pizzaiola. A simple meal. Two nice cuts of meat. Some tomatoes, oregano, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and olive oil. In a 400˚ oven for 20 minutes. That's all there is to it.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Breaded Pork Chops

Yeah that is a paper plate you see in the photo. On a Saturday night! Well I did a little baking today. I can't believe I even made dinner! But a very good dinner was served. Breaded Pork Chops. The chops were breaded with a mixture of Panko and plain bread crumbs, rosemary, sage, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. I browned the pork chops in some olive oil on each side along with some sliced onions and added a little white wine to the pan. After the wine reduced I popped the pan in the oven for about 15 minutes. Perfectly cooked. I had some stuffed acorn squash in the freezer from last week. Kept it easy. And why keep it easy? Well like I said I did a little baking...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bacon and Onion Calzones

Something about this crust, Jim Lahey's recipe. Perfect. Thin and crisp. The bacon and sauteed onion, always a winning combination. And a light marinara sauce. The perfect end to a busy day.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Acorn Squash Soup with Kale

Do you may remember last week when I purchased a lot of acorn squash. Tonight I  used one of the bags of puree to make this soup. Easy to prepare, having the puree already made, and perfect for a chilly December night.

Acorn Squash Soup with Kale, from Martha Stewart

Ingredients -
4 strips bacon, 4 ounces, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 pound kale, thick stems removed, leaves finely chopped (about 8 cups)
4 cups Acorn Squash Puree, or 2 packages (12 ounces each) frozen winter squash puree, thawed
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Method -
Cook bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate; set aside.

Add onion to fat in pan, and cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add kale; cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add squash puree and 3 cups water (or more if necessary to achieve desired consistency); bring just to a boil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Serve, garnished with reserved bacon.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Baked Pork Ribs and a Movie

Hey where have I been? It has been a very busy food week and I had no posts. Let's just say I was in a food induced coma. Way too much wonderful food in too short a time span. Looking forward to a few "normal meals", at least until Christmas Eve....

Before we get to dinner I do have sneak peak of one of my favorite meals. I went to my sister's house to learn how to make Cappelletti. A lot of work but so worth every moment...

Dinner was one our of favorites. Baked Pork Ribs with Hoisin Barbecue Sauce. The recipe is from Epicurious.com. Succulent!

Baked Pork Ribs with Hoisin Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients -
4 pounds baby back pork ribs
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup bottled chili sauce
1/4 cup Sherry
1 tablespoon oriental sesame oil

Method -
Place ribs in large roasting pan. Pierce meat with fork. Sprinkle with Chinese five-spice powder and onion powder; rub mixture into meat.
Whisk remaining ingredients in small bowl to blend. Pour sauce over ribs, turning to coat. Turn ribs meat side down; cover pan with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake ribs, covered, until just tender, about 30 minutes. Uncover and turn ribs meat side up; bake until ribs are cooked through, basting occasionally, about 35 minutes. Cut meat between bones to separate ribs and serve.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Most Amazing Soup

Escarole, Chorizo, Chicken and Cannellini Bean Soup. When I finished making this soup I smiled. It looked good and it tasted even better then it looked. I love making meals like this.
I sauteed chopped onion, carrot and celery in a pan with olive oil. When the vegetables were soft I added the washed and chopped escarole. I let the escarole wilt a bit and then added chicken broth, chorizo and chicken (the chicken was from the broth I made in September and had in the freezer). Next I added the rinsed beans and seasoned the pan with salt, pepper and thyme. I let it all simmer and then I squeezed 1/2 a lemon into the pan. It was light and had a fresh taste to it. Perfect for a very cold November night.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Osso Bucco and the Day of the Acorn Squash

It was so darn cold out today. And the winds made it a perfect day for a braised beef dish for dinner.
The recipe for Osso Bucco is from Twice Baked Twins. It was so delicious I ate my whole piece including the marrow.

Osso Bucco, from Twice Baked Twins 

Ingredients -
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 dry bay leaf
2 whole cloves
3 shanks , veal or beef
sea salt & pepper
all purpose flour, for dredging
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock

Method -
Tie together the rosemary, thyme & bay leaf with twine, set aside. This will be the herb bouquet. For the shanks, pat dry with paper towels, they will brown better if they are dry. Season each piece with salt & pepper and dredge into the flour and shake off the excess. In a large pot, heat the oil and butter until very hot and brown the shanks on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove shanks & set aside. In this same pot, add the onion, carrot and celery. Season with salt. Saute until soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomato paste and mix well. Return the shanks to the pot and add the wine and reduce the liquid by about half, about 5 minutes. add the bouquet and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover pan. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until meat falls off the bone. Keep checking and turning shanks every 15 minutes or so. You can add a little more stock if needed. The cooking liquid should always be 3/4 of the way on the shank. When done remove the bouquet and remove shanks. At this point you can blend the sauce and vegetable with a hand blender. Taste and re-season.

Now about that Acorn Squash. I stopped at Whole Foods the other night to pick up some things and to get the Acorn Squash for the dish I am bringing to my sister's house on Thanksgiving. The squash were a little larger than I was looking for but I picked 8 of them anyway. On the way home the same night I stopped at Bishop's Orchard for some escarole, the escarole at Whole Foods was just awful, and of course they had the size Acorn Squash that I was looking for. Now I have a few too many squash.
I roasted the ones I was not going to bring to my sister's house and ended up with four 2 cup bags of puree, 2 halves of a squash filled with Pearl Barley, Dried Cherries and Pecans, and a small dish of Acorn Squash Lasagna.
All of these went in the freezer.

And being a Sunday some of us took a cat nap...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Chorizo & Spinach with Pappardelle

Tonight's dinner came together really fast. I cut Chorizo sausage into 1/4 cubes. Sauteed the cubes in a little olive oil until the edges just started to crisp up. I added fresh spinach,  a knob of butter (that's about 2 tablespoons) and some white wine.  How much... I think it was about a 1/2 cup. I let the wine simmer for about 5 minutes. And I added some sliced grape tomatoes to the pan.

Meanwhile the Pappardelle were cooking in a pan of boiling salted water. When they were just about done I added them to the saute pan along with about a 1/4 cup of pasta water. All the ingredients were stirred together and the pasta finish cooking.

This dinner was very good. The Chorizo had just enough spice and the noodles were a perfect match for the sauce. A glass of red wine and some bread were all that was needed.

Today would have been my Dad's birthday, 97th birthday.
 I am sure they have vanilla ice cream in heaven... just not sure about Coco Puffs.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cinghiale in Umido

Happy Birthday Chris! For this birthday dinner I pulled out all the stops. I ordered a Boar Roast from the Meat Shop. I got a 1 3/4 pound roast. Price - $35. Other than the Christmas roast this was the most I spent on meat for one meal. But just put the cost out of your mind because it was so amazingly delicious. Chris has requested this to be on our weekly menu, I hope he was kidding...

The recipe, Cinghiale in Umido (Braised Wild Boar) was supplied by my brother-in-law, Ralph, who also gave us a bottle of wine to go with dinner. The recipe is by Lidia Bastianich. Her recipe serves 8 so I cut it in half, I should have made the whole thing!

Ingredients -
3 1/2 pound boneless boar roast
salt and pepper to taste, plus 1/2 tsp of each
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 olive oil
6 oz pancetta cut into 1-inch cubes (1 1/4 cups)
1 large yellow onion, diced, (1 1/2 cups)
2 large carrots, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
4 stalks celery, diced (1 1/2 cups)
6 whole garlic cloves (I did use the garlic!!!)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1 bottle Chianti or other hearty red wine (this is not what we drank with dinner)
1 28 oz can peeled Italian whole plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
2 cups chicken stock

Method -
Preheat oven to 350˚.

To prepare the roast, dry the meat and season well with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a large shallow plate and turn the meat in the flour to coat lightly, shaking off the excess.

In a large, heavy bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil (enough to fully cover the base of the pot) over medium high flame until the oil is shimmering but not yet smoking. Add the meat and brown deeply on all sides, allowing the pieces to sit on each side long enough to develop a thick brown crust. There will be considerable splattering of oil during this process, so use caution. The total browning time should about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the other 1/4 cup of olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet or saute pan over medium-low flame. Add the diced pancetta and saute about 7 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic cloves, rosemary and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper to the pot, increasing the heat to medium high and saute about 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the other vegetables are soft and almost mushy. Remove the mixture from the pot and set it aside.
When the meat is finished browning, begin to add the wine one cup at a time. It will splatter and hiss, which is good – you want the alcohol to burn off. Bring the wine to a full boil around the browning meat. Boil for 5 minutes, then add the sauteed vegetables and the reserved pancetta. Pour in the can of tomatoes, the 2 cups of stock and 2 cups of water.

Remove the stock pot from the stove top, cover it with aluminum foil, and place it on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Simmer for 3 hours, until the liquid had reduced and the meat is literally falling off the bone. The mixture should be thick and gelatinous.

Remove from the oven and carefully remove the meat, using two large spoons or spatulas.
Take the remaining liquids and solids in the pot and press them through a fine sieve using the back of a wooden spoon, collecting the liquid in a large bowl. Skim the fat from the surface of the strained liquid. At this point you may either slice the meat and serve it topped the liquid or shred the meat with a knife or by hand and combine it with the liquid to create a thick pasta sauce.
We opted for the pasta sauce. 

The noodles were homemade pappardelle noodles, recipe from Tide and Thyme.

This meal is going to be on this year's top ten list.

And I baked a cake. I made my Mom's Two Egg Cake. I added Chocolate Shots to the batter. The batter is enough for a 9 inch square pan, perfect size for 2 people (and some people at work!).

Mom's Two Egg Cake with Chocolate Shots

Ingredients -
2 eggs
1 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup Chocolate Shots

Method -
Blend shortening and sugar. Add eggs, beating well after adding each egg. Add flour to egg mixture and blend well on low speed. Add 1/2 cup chocolate shots. Mix. Pour into a well greased and floured pan. Bake 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Bake until tester comes out clean. Cool on rack.

The wine we had with dinner was Castelgreve Chianti Classico Riserva 2009. Perfect match to tonight's dinner.