The Book Club, Nora Webster

Why do I go to a book club meeting where the food served is based on the book that we read and I do not take photos? Fill in your own answer because I can not find a good one. I had the camera/phone in my pocket. But then you start talking and enjoying the company and you leave and realize, "Damn I did not take any photos!"

Now that we are done with that...

This month's book was Nora Webster by Colm Toibin. It story was set in Ireland so we had an Irish dinner. Gretchen was the host and she put out an amazing spread. There were 2 or was it 3 different Irish Soda Breads. I think hers was the best. An Irish Bacon and Cabbage Soup that I will be making for Chris. Just delicious and who doesn't like bacon! Gretchen said that she added more salt and pepper and probably a few teaspoons of thyme and at least 4 cups of chicken broth. The broth was perfect for the freezing cold weather we have been dealing with.

There was some Cheese, which was from Ireland and Crackers and I know I am missing something else. Here is where a photo would have come been helpful.

Desserts looked delicious. (I gave up sweets for Lent) There was a Frangipane tart from Marjolaine Bakery. There was fresh fruit (that's what I had!). And I made my first batch of Gluten Free cookies. Flourless Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. I used Sunflower Butter instead of the Almond Butter and my cookies looked like Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies. Not sure why but everyone said the tasted fine! Yeah no photos....

Thank you Gretchen for a wonderfully delicious book club meeting!

A Different Chicken Pot Pie

This was suppose to be a Creamy Veggie Pot Pie with Rosemary but as I was preparing it I thought why not add cooked chicken meat. Well I did and while it was good it was not as good as our usual pot pie. I liked the idea of using the cannellini bean and vegetable broth for the gravy. It tasted good and Chris did not even realize what it was until I told him. But it was the crust. We both prefer my Pate Brisee to puff pastry.

The original recipe was from Foodista.

My version of Creamy Veggie Pot Pie With Chicken And Rosemary

Ingredients-
1 can (15 ounce) white beans, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup vegetable stock + extra

1/4 yellow onion, roughly chopped

1 medium carrot, washed, trimmed, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 celery stalk, washed, trimmed, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 medium white potato, washed, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cup string beans, washed, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1/2 red pepper, washed, cored, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1/2 broccoli floret, chopped into bite-sized pieces
 
1 zucchini, sliced
2 cups cooked chicken, from rotisserie or from preparing chicken broth, cubed
1 pastry sheet, room temperature and brushed lightly with butter
sea
salt and pepper




Method-
Preheat oven to 425F degrees.

Place white beans and rosemary into a food processor with vegetable stock. Purée until smooth and creamy. Add additional vegetable stock to thin, if desired. This white bean purée will be your “gravy”. Set aside.

Heat butter in a large saucepan. Cook onion, carrot and celery in butter for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add potato, beans, bell pepper,broccoli and zucchini. Sauté until vegetables are just slightly cooked and the edges are slightly brown. Add the cooked chicken. Season with salt and pepper.

Put the roasted vegetables and chicken in a baking dish. Pour white bean and rosemary gravy over the bowl.

Take the pastry sheet and lay half of the sheet across each of the top of the baking dish. Seal and tuck the edges. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the crust is brown.

Salsicce con Finocchio e Olive

 
Tonight's recipe for dinner was from this week's featured cookbook, Lidia's Favorite Recipes. I had purchased a fennel bulb a while back that I did not use all of it. I did not want to waste it so I froze it following these instructions (click here). That cut down on the cooking time.

This dish is delicious. The saltiness of the olives and the flavor of the fennel a perfect together.

Salsicce con Finocchio e Olive, Sausage with Fennel and Olives, from Lidia's Favorite Recipes.

Ingredients -
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 sweet Italian sausages (about 2 pounds)
1 cup dry white wine
6 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup large green olives, squashed and pitted
3 large fennel bulbs (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt

Method -
Pour half of the olive oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausages; cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes or more. Carefully add wine and bring to a boil; cook until reduced by half. Transfer sausages to a platter; pour over cooking liquid.

Add remaining olive oil to skillet over medium heat. Add garlic cook about 1 minute. Clear a hot spot and cook the crushed red pepper in it for a couple of seconds. Add olives; toss and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add fennel chunks and stir to combine. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, cover skillet, and cook over medium high heat for 20 minutes, stirring now and then, until the fennel softens, and begins to color. Add a little water to the pan if fennel remains hard; you want it to be wilted but not mushy.

When the fennel is cooked through, return sausages and wine to skillet. Toss together with fennel and cook, uncovered for about 5 minutes. Adjust the season to taste.

Bollito di Carne

I remember eating this soup as a child. When I saw the recipe on the Cooking with Nonna site I was very excited. Another soup I knew Chris would love. I made the soup on Saturday while I was up to my elbows in flour and butter. It could not be easier. Put everything in a pot and let it simmer.
Bollito di Carne, Meat Soup from Cooking With Nonna

Ingredients-
2 Lbs Beef short ribs
2 Whole large potatoes
4 Carrots
1 Large onion
5 Plum Tomatoes
3 Stalks of Celery
EV olive oil
Salt

Method-
Put in a pot 3 quarts of water and the meat.
Before the water comes to a boil, remove from the top all the brown particles floating on the water (This is very important as it removes some of the fat and leaves the soup clear!)
Add to the water, the potatoes, the celery, the onion and the tomatoes cut in small pieces.
Add 3 Tbs of EV olive oil.
Let the meat and all the vegetables cook for about 90 minutes. Check on the meat as you want it to come easily off the bones. I let it simmer for about 2 1/2 hours as I was busy with cookie dough and honestly forgot about it!

The Cooking with Nonna site recommends serving the soup with some spaghetti. We opted for Italian bread. Chris loved dinner. And it made enough for 2 nights!

Pizza For Me and Pizza For You

 The Bacon and Onion Pie with Ricotta and Olives.

 The Swiss Chard, Broccoli and Olive with Ricotta.

Tonight is a big TV night. No not the Oscars. On the Food Network on Cutthroat Kitchen one of the contestants is the son a couple I worked with at Fitzwilly's Restaurant back in the 80's. Their son is a chef. Very excited to see the outcome. And of course Downton Abbey is on first!


Chicken Cacciatore and a New Mixer

So image that you have to make a lot of cookies for a fund raiser. You finish mixing your first batch and you have the second batch ready to be mixed. Then your 24 year old Kitchen Aid mixer dies. There was a sound of something snapping and I could not lift the handle. It just fell. I was shocked. And sad. The mixer had been a bridal shower gift from my Mom. I really could not complain as it had lasted 24 years. But today it dies? I was mixing 5 different cookies! I was screwed. First reaction was of course tears. Next Chris said I should see if I could borrow my sister's until I figured out what to do. I called but she was out. Next suggestion was to buy a new one. Oh I did not want to go out today. I had so many cookies to make! We are 3 exits from a William Sonoma outlet store. I called and they had the 6 quart machine. Off I go. I put the 6 quart mixer in the shopping cart and then I think to myself that the 5 quart would probably be fine. What the hell was I thinking! Idiot. I buy it and I go home and I try to make a double batch of a recipe and the machine is struggling. It has no heart, no soul. I realize I made a huge mi$take in making thi$ purcha$e. My sister calls at that exact moment. I tell her my story and she tells me to return that mixer and get the 6 quart. I am so lucky I have a sister like Lenore. So I called the store and explained that I just purchased the mixer and tried it and it is not large enough for me. They told me I could return it. Oh, it it has started snowing by now. I clean the mixer up and repack it and return it. I purchase my 6 quart mixer and come home and make a triple batch of a cookie with no problem. All is good. I went to put the mixer in the cabinet where the previous mixer lived and it it too wide. This is when I poured my first glass of wine!
Lucy enjoying the 5 quart mixer box.


Now on to dinner. Dinner was an amazing recipe from Lidia's Favorite Recipes. Oh yes I forgot to mention my latest idea. You see I have a lot of cookbooks.
These are not all of them.

So I have decided that each week* I will feature one cookbook. (*And already a disclaimer - Next week, February 29 - March 6, will not be included in this as I will be baking many cookies on Saturday and Sunday and we will be eating from the freezer for that week!)

This week is Lidia's Favorite Recipes and tonight we had Chicken Cacciatore.  Delicious. I added zucchini in place of the mushrooms and added black olives too.

My version of Chicken Cacciatore.

Ingredients-
1 chicken cut up
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
All-purpose flour for dredging
4 tbsp cup vegetable oil
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup dry white wine
One 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. or 1 yellow bell pepper, cored and seeded, cut into 1/2-inch strips (about 1 cups total)
1/2 pitted black olives

Method-
Season the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper. Dredge the pieces in flour, coating them lightly and tapping off excess flour. Heat the vegetable oil in a wide braising pan with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until a piece of chicken dipped in the oil gives off a very lively sizzle. Add as many pieces of chicken to the pan as will fit without touching (do not crowd the chicken; you can always brown it in batches). Remove the chicken pieces from the skillet as they brown, adding some of the remaining pieces of chicken to take their place. After browning all the chicken and removing it from the skillet, add the onion to the fat remaining in the pan and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.

Pour the wine into the pan, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and oregano, season lightly with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Tuck the chicken into the sauce, adjust the heat to a gentle boil, and cover the pan. Cook, stirring a few times, for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini and peppers, and toss until the peppers are wilted but still quite crunchy, about 8 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt.

Add the peppers and zucchini to the chicken pan.  Add the olives.

Cook, covered, until the chicken and vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. (Check the level of the liquid as it cooks; there should be enough liquid to barely cover the chicken. If necessary, add small amounts of water to maintain the level of liquid as the chicken cooks.) Serve the chicken pieces nestled between the vegetables on a platter.

Lasagna alla Norma

The today was the first Friday of Lent. Lasagna alla Norma was our first meatless meal.
I started saving recipes that I wanted to try during Lent on my pinterest page, Recipes For Lent. Tonight's recipe is from The Italian Dish blog. I did make a couple of changes to the original recipe. I used regular lasagna noodles. I used Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce and I added some roasted zucchini and homemade ricotta.


My version of Lasagna alla Norma

For the roasted eggplant and zucchini:

1 large eggplants, cut into barely one inch cubes
1 zucchini sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoons sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with Pam (cooking spray).  Place the eggplant ingredients in a large bowl and toss everything together well. Place the eggplant on the baking pan. Roast the eggplant for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from oven and set aside. Repeat this with the sliced zucchini, roasting for only 20 minutes, turning the zucchini over half way through the cooking time.

For the sauce:
2 cups canned imported Italian tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
5 tablespoons butter
Salt to taste

Put the tomatoes in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until it is thickened to your liking and the fat floats free from the tomato. Stir from time to time, mashing up any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and correct for salt. Puree the sauce with an immersion blender.

For the lasagna:
1 boxes of lasagna noodles cooked according to the package
1/2 cup Homemade Ricotta
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon oregano

In a baking pan, place about ¾ cup of the sauce in the bottom of the pan and spread it out to cover the entire bottom. Place noodles in one layer, covering the whole pan. Add sauce and spread on the noodles, making sure they all are covered. Place a fourth of the eggplant on the tomato sauce, a fourth of the ricotta for one layer. Repeat three times more. For the last layer, place noodles on top and cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and oregano and Parmesan. Cover tightly with nonstick foil or use regular foil, spraying the underside with cooking spray. 

Bake for about 45 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for about 15 minutes before slicing to serve.

Hope everyone has a relaxing weekend!


Chicken Parmesan

On Monday, I was off from work so I made my Mom's Chicken Cutlet recipe. Tonight we had Chicken Parmesan with some of those cutlets. I had some tomato sauce in the fridge and some home made ricotta cheese. Yum, yum, yum! I put the dish together before I left for work and Chris just had to pop it in the oven. Oh this was really good. The chicken was moist. The sauce was delicious and the ricotta, well forget about it. The all the ingredients made for a perfect balance of flavors.

Vegetable Frittatta Sandwich

Today is Ash Wednesday. No meat for dinner. Honestly it was not even missed. This was one awesome frittatta. Onion, zucchini, red and yellow pepper. We certainly did not need any meat. The frittatta was fluffy and light. I put it on the panni press to toast the bread. And put some spreadable Parmesan and a little American Cheese on the sandwiches.
 See even today could be Valentine's Day! Or does it look more like a chicken?


Meatball Soup


I saw a recipe for Meatball Soup online not too long ago and I knew Chris would love it. I decided to use my own recipe and I can not tell you just how good this was. It was 10 degrees out tonight so everything about this soup was comforting.

The meatballs were made from a pound of beef, a pound of pork, a cup of chopped up Italian bread, an egg, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. The ingredients were mixed and formed into meatballs, about an inch in diameter. They were just browned in a little olive oil. They would be cooked through in the soup.

For the soup I sauteed chopped onions, carrots and celery in olive oil until tender. Chicken broth and the browned meatballs were added to the pan. The broth simmered for about 1 and 1/2 hours uncovered so the liquid thickened a bit. I added chopped escarole and simmered that for 20 minutes. Then I added cooked pasta. To finish the soup I seasoned with the pot with salt and pepper to taste.

We had enough for tonight and we will have this again tomorrow night. And yes I did cut the carrots into the shape of hearts.  Why can't every day can be Valentine's Day!



Belated Valentine's Day

Yes we are celebrating Valentine's Day a day late. Yesterday we went out with Lenore and Ralph and had a late lunch at Malone's. Neither Chris nor I were hungry for a dinner last night. So tonight we had our Valentines Day dinner. And what a dinner it was...
I started the 18 Hour Bread yesterday and baked it today.


For dinner I made Braciole in Marinara Sauce. Still trying to master the art of tying the Braciole with twine.

Ingredients-
3 cups of tomato sauce ( I had 3 cups in the freezer!)
1 tbsp. oregano
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1 cup chopped Italian Parsley
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 3/4 pound Braciole
Salt and Pepper
flour for dusting
1/4 olive oil
1/2 dry red wine
 


Method-
In a medium saucepan, combine the tomato sauce oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer while you assemble the braciole.

In mixing bowl, mix cheese and parsley. Lay pieces of steak on a board and season with salt and pepper. Divide the cheese mixture evenly over the meat. Roll up each piece like a jelly roll and tie with butcher's twine. Season with salt and pepper and roll in flour to coat.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil. Place steak pieces in skillet and brown evenly. Transfer to plate and repeat with remaining rolls. Pour off the cooking oil. Add the red wine and stir the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits. Add the simmering tomato sauce and bring to a boil Add the beef rolls and simmer uncovered 10 to 15 minutes, until the meat is cooked through.

 
The side dish was Broccoli Rabe, which was steamed and then sauteed in olive oil and seasoned with salt and crushed red pepper. I toasted some of that 18 hour bread and topped that with the Broccoli Rabe. Some Burrata cheese on top with a drizzle of olive oil. The stuff that dreams are made of, well my dreams!

Winter Minestrone

We certainly had the perfect weather for this dinner tonight. I found this recipe on The Italian Next Door blog. The recipe for Winter Minestrone is one of those recipes you will probably make quite often. Follow the recipe, especially when it is mentioned to get all your ingredients together first! The soup is flavorful and nutritious. CLICK HERE for the recipe.

So You Say It's Your Birthday

Yeah it's my birthday too! I made something that was similar to a dish my Mom use to make. I have no idea what the name of the dish was. She would put potatoes and carrots and celery and chicken and ribs and hot dogs in a pan and roast it all together and it was amazing. I tried recreating the dish with a bit of a twist. I made a Jamie Oliver recipe a while back and it was similar but it added croutons to the pan.
So I added croutons and olives to the potatoes, carrots and chicken. Seasoned everything with salt, pepper, oregano and olive oil. Bake for about 45 minutes and eat! One pan = Easy Clean Up. What more could you ask for on your birthday????

Happy Birthday memories...

Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash, Cheese and Turkey Kielbasa

This was a perfect meal for a snowy February night.
Found the recipe on Completely Delicious blog.
Followed it the recipe but added some Turkey Kielbasa.
This was really amazing. The cheese sauce made the dish. 
It was not a heavy meal. Just a new comfort food!

Cheesy Frankfurters, Potatoes and Peppers

When I little and I would spend the night at my Aunt Marie's house she would make fried potatoes and onions as a side dish. I loved them. The other day I was checking out some of my favorite blogs and I stopped in my tracks. Cheesy Frankfurters, Potatoes and Peppers on What's Cooking Italian Style Cuisine. It looked just like my Aunt's dish but it was baked! I knew Chris would like this. So easy you have to love it.

Grease a 13x 9 baking pan. I used 2 potatoes, 4 hot dogs, and 1 red pepper. Cube the potatoes, cut up the hot dogs, chop the bell pepper and add salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. I added some chopped onion. Arrange all ingredients in your greased baking pan. Drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle with chili powder. Bake at 400˚ until the potatoes are browned on top and hot dogs begin to brown, stirring once or twice. The time will depend on the size of you potato cubes. You want the potatoes to get a little crisp. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top and return to the oven until it melts, about 10 minutes. I had this in the oven for almost an hour. The result was perfectly crisp potatoes. The crispy bits on the bottom of the pan were the best. As Chris said, it was delicious!

Steak Pizzaiola, My Way


What a dinner! I would like to thank the butcher at Whole Foods in Milford for giving me the idea for dinner tonight. Last night I met up with some grammar school friends, more on that later, so I had some time to kill between the meet-up and work. I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up something for tonight's dinner. I wanted to make something special since I had not been home the past two nights for dinner, more on that later.

I asked the butcher for a cut of meat for Steak Pizzaiola. He suggested boneless beef chuck roast and went on to give me his grandmother's recipe. Score!!!! Salt the meat generously. Sear the meat. The butcher gave me some of the fat from the meat he cut to use instead of oil to sear the meat. Then add the meat to tomato sauce and finish cooking the meat. I decided to make Marcella Hazen's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter. Wow, wow, wow!

I had homemade pasta in the freezer and I sauteed some zucchini for the side dishes. A perfect dinner.


Last night I went to meet up with some grammar school friends at Zuppardi's Pizza. I had not seen some of these people since June 1972! It was a nice evening with old friends. It was as if we had not been apart for that long.

Thursday night I went to Toad's Place for a book signing by Marky Ramone
For me it was like meeting a Beatle.
 Next week I will be in for dinner all week. See you then!

It's All About The Crust


Yes I love pie crust. The flaky layers of flour and butter and shortening. And I added some dried thyme. Put a pie crust on anything and you have bought dinner up a notch. It has to be homemade. Really is it too easy not to make it. You can make the dough when you have a few free minutes and then pop it in the fridge when it is time to bake you pot pie. Chicken Pot Pie. Beef Pot Pie. Short Rib Pot Pie. Vegetable Pot Pie. And did you see the recipe for Chock-A-Leekie Pie in this month's magazine! We had our usual Chicken Pot Pie. Click here for my favorite Chicken Pot Pie Recipe.

Don't you want to make this crust?

Pate Brisee

 Ingredients -
1-1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt
1 pinch granulated sugar

5-1/2 Tbsp (2/3 stick) sweet butter, chilled

3 Tbsp vegetable shortening, chilled
1/4 cup ice water


Method -
Sift the flour, salt and sugar together into a bowl; add butter and shortening and cut them into dry ingredients with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture is like coarse meal.
Sprinkle on and blend in enough of the ice water to make a workable dough, mixing water in lightly with a fork.
Turn dough out onto you work surface and, using the heel of your hand, smear the dough away from you, about 1/4 cup at a time. Scrape up the smeared dough into a ball, wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Super Bowl 2015


I am a Saints fan. Chris is a Giants fan. That is all I have to say about today's match-up. But we did watch the game and the food was delicious. We started with an Antipasto. These were leftovers from Friday night.

For dinner we had our usual Super Bowl dinner. Baked Pork Ribs. Delicious but I think I might want to try something new next year. Side dishes were sauteed Swiss Chard and roasted potatoes. Oh I love those potatoes.

Baked Pork Ribs with Hoisin Barbecue Sauce, Epicurious.com

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
4 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

Instructions
1. Place ribs in large roasting pan. Pierce meat with fork. Sprinkle with Chinese five-spice powder and onion powder; rub mixture into meat.
2. 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.
3. 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.