Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pici alla Salsiccia e Porcini

There is a common pici dish served in Tuscany that has a sauce consisting primarily of sausauge (salsiccia) and porcini mushrooms.  This isn't that recipe - at least not exactly.  In her studies at the local culinary school, Becky has on multiple occasions told me about this amazing pici with a sausage and porcini sauce.  I figured this was as good a time as any to try to duplicate it now that fresh porcini are in season and are readily available at the grocery store and fruttivendoli (fruit and vegetable vendors).  So here it is, my non-traditional-but-still-good recipe inspired by rumors of awesomeness.

  • 4 links fresh Italian sausage
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 - 5 medium porcini mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 1 lb. fresh pici pasta (linguine will work too)
  1. Crumble and brown the sausage in a large sauté pan.
  2. Add the garlic and porcini, sauté for a few minutes.
  3. Add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon (deglazing).
  4. Salt and pepper to taste.  Note that since this flavors for "sauce" come primarily from the delicate balance of salty sausage and savory porcini, I didn't feel it necessary to add additional salt.  The sausage supplements the porcini just fine on its own.
  5. Reduce heat to healthy simmer for a few minutes until the porcini are cooked and the wine has reduced about halfway.
  6. Mix cooked-to-al-dente pici pasta into the sauce and serve immediately.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Buffalo Wings and Gorgonzola Dip

Apparently a big sporting event season has begun in the Midwest (as I have been informed by so many Facebookers).  I do miss this time of year, not so much for the grand foosball shenanigans and goings ons so much, but for the food that is always floating around at such events.  One of my favorite junky appetizers is Buffalo wings.  It has been so long since I have been able to walk over to B-dubs to order a plate full of wings and drummies deep fried in goodness and slathered with Blazin' hot sauce (I don't miss the bathroom trips that inevitably followed, though...oh, the pain...).  So not to be left out, I made up this quick recipe to hold me over until I can gorge myself in the discomfort of a sports bar.  Best thing about this recipe: no need to know the difference between a midsider and a shortbacker!  Yay sports terminology!

  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 t. red pepper powder
  • 12 chicken wings and drummies
  • 1/4 c. beer
  • Tobasco
  • 8 oz. Gorgonzola cheese (although bleu cheese is preferable)
  • 4 oz. plain Greek-style yogurt
  1. Combine the flour and red pepper in a mixing bowl, salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Dredge the chicken pieces through the flour mixture and set aside.
  3. After all chicken pieces are coated, add the beer and a good amount of Tobasco (I use ~1/3 of a bottle), mixing thoroughly.
  4. Dredge the chicken through the batter and transfer immediately to an oiled frying pan.
  5. When the chicken has browned on all sides, reduce the heat and cover for an additional 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  6. While the chicken is cooking, melt the cheese in a small pan on low heat and mix in the yogurt.
  7. Transfer the cooked chicken to a paper towel-covered plate and dab off the excess oil.
  8. Give the chicken another healthy dousing of Tobasco and serve immediately with the Gorgonzola dip.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Broccoli Soup

It's still far too hot here to be making soup, but it sounded really good so I made it anyway.

  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 head broccoli, trimmed and chopped (stalk included)
  • 1/4 lb. Asiago cheese (although Cheddar is preferable)
  • 1 c. Greek-style yogurt (or cream)
  • 1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
  1. Put the carrots and onion in a pot on medium-high heat with some extra virgin olive oil.
  2. After a few minutes, add the broccoli and enough water to cover the veggies by an inch or two.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover the pot.
  5. When the broccoli is very tender, remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender.
  6. Break up the cheese and mix into the soup.
  7. Return pot to heat and simmer for a while (maybe half hour or so), stirring occasionally.
  8. Remove from heat and mix in the yogurt and parsley.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Beef Stroganoff

This recipe is lacking the standard sour cream flavors, but it tastes just fine without it.  If you have sour cream, you can add it in with the cream.

  • Beef scraps (bones, fat, odd chunks of meat)
  • 2 red onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 T whole black peppercorns
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 lb. beef, cut into thin strips
  • 10 large Champignon mushrooms
  • 1 c. cream
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. noodles
  • Brown the beef in a pot on medium-low heat with extra virgin olive oil, one onion (quartered), garlic and peppercorns.
  • The onion and garlic should be tender by the time the beef is browned.  The juices will also start to supplement the olive oil in the pan.  At this point, add the tomato paste and mix thoroughly.  Cook until the paste browns.
  • Add some parsley stems and a few cups of water to the pot, heat to soft boil, then reduce to a simmer for a couple hours (or more if you have time).
  • Remove the stock from heat and strain.
  • Dredge the beef strips through flour (shaking off excess), then brown them in some extra virgin olive oil.
  • Remove from the pan when browned and set aside.
  • In the same pan, sauté the other onion (minced).
  • Add the mushrooms (sliced) and parsley (chopped) and simmer until they are nice and glazed over.
  • Optionally, add a splash of brandy (if it's handy).
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the stock to the pan and simmer for a while, letting the stock reduce.
  • Make a roux out of butter and flour and add it to the sauce (a little at a time) to thicken it up.
  • Add the beef strips to the sauce.
  • Mix in the cream and more roux, if necessary.
  • Serve over noodles.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs

If you ask someone for an example of authentic Italian food you are likely to receive a list of items similar to the following:
  • Pizza
  • Fettucini alfredo
  • Bread sticks
  • Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Anything else off the Olive Garden and Fazoli's menus
Well I am sorry to say that none of these (well, OK pizza is pretty prominent around these parts) are what Italians would consider authentic dishes.  Sure they may be based (however loosely) around Italian cuisine but if you come here and ask for fettucini alfredo with a side of cheesy bread sticks you'll probably just end up with a basket of bread, a bottle of olive oil and an exasperated cameriere.  The best advice I can offer to anyone who will ever travel to foreign countries (and not just to Italy) is to not let the stereotypes drive your vacation (especially when it comes to the food).  You're in a new place, try new things!


That said, if you still like the items in the list above (and who doesn't long for Fazoli's fettucini alfredo and unlimited bread sticks?!), you're in luck.  The recipe below is for simple meatballs and an even simpler spaghetti sauce.  All you need is a little time and a bottle of red.

  • 3/4 lb. ground beef
  • 3/4 lb. ground pork
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 handful fresh parsely, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. Chianti
  • 12 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 8 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small handful basil, chopped
  1. Mix well the meats, onion, garlic, parsley and red pepper flakes in a large bowl (salt and pepper to taste).  I would recommend using a fork or spatula during the mixing stages because the colder the meat stays, the better it will roll.
  2. Break the eggs directly into the bowl and mix thoroughly.
  3. Add the breadcrumbs a little bit at a time, mixing between additions until you have a workable product.
  4. Pinch off small chunks of the meat mixture and roll into 1/2" balls.
  5. Lightly dredge each meatball through flour.
  6. Heat a large sauté pan with a good amount of extra virgin olive oil.
  7. Carefully add the floured meatballs to the pan and brown on all sides.
  8. A few minutes after you have browned the last meatballs, add the Chianti and gently move the wine around the pan coating the meatballs evenly.
  9. At this time, drop in the tomatoes and basil, mix gently and reduce the heat to a simmer.  You may want to add a cup of water (or so) to the pan to allow the sauce to permeate the meatballs.
  10. Once the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency, remove it from heat and serve immediately over spaghetti or any other noodle you deem appropriate.

Chili Pepper Pork with Seasonal Vegetables

Round up a few seasonal veggies and toss them together in a quick stir fry to make this dish complete.

  • 1/2 lb. pork loin, cubed
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 small can diced tomatoes in sauce (or fresh if available, with added tomato sauce)
  • Small handful asparagus, cleaned and quartered
  • 1 round zucchini, cut into large pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into large pieces
  1. Dredge the cubed pork through the flour and pepper to taste.
  2. Sauté the pork in a pan with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and cook through.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the pork and reduce heat to simmer.
  4. In a wok or another pan, toss the vegetables with a bit of oil and a smattering of black pepper and red pepper flakes, salting to taste.
  5. Remove the veggies from the pan when they reach their desired tenderness (I prefer mine to have some crunch to them so I sauté them for five minutes or so).
  6. Remove the pork and veggies from their respective pans and serve over rice.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Spätzle with Caramelized Onions, Basil and Mozzarella

We spent some time in Germany a couple weeks back visiting some friends and had some amazing German meals.  One of my favorite dishes from Germany is spätzle, which is a type of egg pasta.  What is special about spätzle is that it doesn't really have a strictly defined shape, but rather its own shaping style.  This is hard to see if you buy the dried, mass-produced spätzle from the store, but if you watch a professional (e.g. a German grandmother - unfortunately I did not get to witness this, but Becky did), it will all make sense.  Spätzle isn't a "dry" dough pasta like that of many Italian styles, but rather more of a thick batter style.  If you have a spätzle making utility, you can use that to shape the noodles.  Otherwise I would suggest the German grandmother way of using a potato ricer.

  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten well
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • Butter
  • 1 small bunch basil, finely chopped
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella, chopped
  1. Start by caramelizing the onions in a small pan.  These will take a while so you can proceed with the spätzle-making in the meantime.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, eggs and milk together.  This should form a thick batter.
  3. Heat a large pot of water to boiling.
  4. Place a portion of the dough/batter into the potato ricer squeeze it into the pot of boiling water.  The spätzle will probably stick together, but you can break it apart in the pot after it has cooked for a couple minutes or so.
  5. The spätzle will rise to the top of the pot when it is fully cooked.  Transfer the cooked spätzle to a colander to drain the excess water, then to a large bowl with a bit of butter to prevent the pasta from sticking together.  Do this until all of the dough/batter has been spätzle-ized.
  6. When the onions are nice and caramelized, toss the spätzle into a pot on medium-low heat with the basil and mozzarella.
  7. Mix gently until the cheese is melted and fully incorporated.
  8. To serve, layer the onions on top of a generous helping of cheesy spätzle.  Sprinkle some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top with a few small basil leaves.
  9. Guten Appetit!

Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Porcini and Seasonal Vegetables

Porcini mushrooms are in season!  I've never personally cooked anything with them, but figured I'd give it a shot by starting simple.  Porcini have a lot of flavor when left alone, so I simply sautéed them in local extra virgin olive oil and enjoyed the fungus in its natural savoriness.  I cooked the chicken and veggies in the same pan for this dish - partly because we only have two pans (one huge, one tiny) and partly because it helps the flavors meld together.  If you like to separate the meats from the veggies, by all means use separate pans.

  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes
  • 2 - 3 chicken breast fillets, pounded flat
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Small handful asparagus, cleaned and quartered
  • 1 small round zucchini, cut in large pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in large pieces
  • 1 fresh porcini mushroom, sliced
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • 1/2 t. butter
  1. Mix together the Parmesan, flour, red pepper flakes and some freshly ground black pepper on a large plate.
  2. Dredge the chicken through the cheese mix, then through the egg, then through the cheese mix again.
  3. Carefully place the dredged chicken into a large sauté pan with extra virgin olive oil on medium high heat.
  4. If your chicken is thin, it will cook very quickly so keep an eye on it.  When the first side browns, flip it right away.
  5. Transfer the cooked chicken pieces to a paper towel lined plate to drain the excess oil.
  6. Toss the veggies into the still-hot pan and sauté to the desired crunchiness.
  7. While the veggies are cooking, heat a small sauté pan with some extra virgin olive oil and toss in the sliced porcini.
  8. A couple minutes before you remove the veggies from the pan, squeeze some fresh lemon juice onto them and give them a good toss or two.
  9. Once the veggies have been transferred out of the pan, add the wine and butter and lower the heat to medium-low.
  10. Scrape the good stuff from the bottom of the pan and add the chicken.
  11. The porcini shouldn't take too long to cook so they may be ready for transfer at this point.  What I did was transferred them to the chicken pan so they could soak up a bit of the wine sauce before transferring them to the serving plate.
  12. Once the chicken, porcini and veggies are plated, give the plate a quick zesting with the lemon.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mozzarella Fritta

I was revisiting my eggplant parmesan recipe last night so I had the flour/egg/breadcrumbs assembly line all laid out on the table when Becky had an ingenious idea - let's make some mozzarella sticks!  So we did and they turned out pretty good.  We used fresh mozzarella in brine for ours so that is what I would definitely recommend (fresh mozzarella is always better than the dried, shrink-wrapped variety anyway).  However, if you only have the non-fresh kind available, it should still work.

  • 1 mozzarella ball, in 1/4" slices
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 egg, beaten well
  • 1/2 c. breadcrumbs
  1. Dredge the mozzarella pieces through each of the coatings starting with flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.
  2. Heat a pan with a generous amount of frying oil until the oil is hot.
  3. Carefully drop the breaded mozzarella pieces into the pan, flipping them after a minute or two.
  4. When fully cooked through, move the mozzarella pieces to a paper towel-covered plate to drain the excess oil.
  5. Season to taste and serve with marinara arrabiata or your dipping sauce of choice.

Marinara Arrabiata

There are probably just as many marinara recipes out there as there are people in the world who have ever made the sauce.  This is a very versatile (spicy) tomato sauce that goes well with pastas, chicken and seafood.  Alternatively, use it as a dipping sauce with appetizers such as mozzarella fritta (homemade mozzarella sticks).

  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 c. red wine
  • Handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 T red pepper powder, or to taste
  • 1 t. rosemary
  • 1 jar crushed tomatoes
  • 1 jar tomato puree
  1. In a stock pot, add a generous amount of good extra virgin olive oil and bring to medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and garlic to the pot and sautee until tender.
  3. Add the wine and sautee until the onions have sweetened.
  4. At this point, you may add the remaining ingredients and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Let the pot simmer for half an hour or so.
  7. Using a food processor or stick blender, puree the sauce and return it to the heat for a few more minutes.
  8. This sauce will keep well in the fridge for a week or so.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Penne al Pesto di Carciofi con Pollo (Pasta with Artichoke Pesto and Chicken)

It's artichoke harvesting season here in Tuscany.  The markets and groceries stores are pushing the thistle-cousin like crazy.  I've been meaning to get into some of the action but have thus far abstained.  That is, until tonight.  Came back from the store earlier this afternoon with a few of these good-sized, purple, prickly-leafed vegetables and only a basic idea as to how I wanted to cut and serve them up.  Sometimes that's the best way going into creating a new dish - only having a rough outline or fuzzy vision of what you want the end plate to look like.  However, because of this, it usually takes me an inordinate amount of time to work myself through the cooking process since everything is being done off-the-cuff.  The goal is that if I decide to make the dish a second, third or Nth time, I will actually know what I'm doing and the process will be smoother.

A couple weeks ago, Becky's family was in town and we all took a road trip to Rome.  On the way, we stopped in a small hill town called Orvieto.  We found a small family-owned restaurant next door to the main church and had ourselves a nice little Italian lunch.  As a gesture of kindness to us out-of-towners, the owner's mother gave us a plate of pasta with home-made artichoke pesto.  It was one of the most amazing pasta dishes I've ever had.  The artichokes were prominent, but there was also something else in there that I couldn't quite place.  Becky suggested there may have been anchovies, which is very likely.  The Italians like their salted minnows.  Regardless, this recipe is my vain attempt at recreating that dish.  I may never achieve Italian grandmother-ness in regards to my cooking abilities, but for what it's worth, this version isn't too shabby either!  Of course I am a bit biased.

For this recipe, I do some "fancy" things with the walnuts that may or may not have a profound effect on the dish as a whole.  I'm just going to lay it out exactly as I prepared it, but if you feel like leaving out the walnut-toasting and basil-steaming steps, it probably won't change the end product a whole lot.  Also, a note when cooking the artichokes: you don't want to brown them a lot (they will brown as the natural oxidation and cooking processes occur) so make sure that the heat is low enough during the steaming steps that you aren't actually searing them any more.

 I won't get into the specifics of cleaning artichokes so if you are unfamiliar with it, go ahead and Google it.  There are plenty of tutorials and guides out there.  I'm sure you could even find something on YouTube if you want to see it done "live".  One very important thing to keep in mind, however, is that seconds after you expose the vulnerable inner-artichoke to the harsh, oxygen-infested air of your kitchen, it will start to brown as part of the oxidation process.  To prevent this, immediately transfer the cleaned pieces to a large bowl with water and lemon juice.  For the artichoke stems, just make sure you peel the outside layer off with a vegetable peeler and you'll be good to go.

  • Handful of walnuts, crushed
  • 1 c. fresh basil leaves, separated
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 full-sized artichokes, cleaned with 4" - 6" stems intact
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 t. honey
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine
  • Penne (or similar) pasta
  1. In a small sauté pan on medium-low heat, gently toast the crushed walnuts ensuring that you do not burn them (this should take 5 - 7 minutes or so), tossing every 30 seconds or so
  2. Immediately transfer the walnuts to a small container with an air-tight lid, adding a couple basil leaves and a few strands of lemon zest before sealing them up
  3. Quarter the artichoke hearts and roughly chop the artichoke stems
  4. Bring a large sauté pan to medium-high heat with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and carefully add the artichoke pieces to it
  5. Toss the artichokes every so often until they become tender (5 - 6 minutes)
  6. Add the garlic to the pan, toss, add a bit of water and reduce heat to medium-low and cover with a large lid
  7. While the artichokes are steaming their way to ultimate tenderness, chiffonade the basil and put into a mixing bowl
  8. The artichokes and garlic should be very tender after 10 - 15 minutes of steaming in the pan so transfer them into the mixing bowl with the basil
  9. Also add the walnut mixture and Parmesan cheese to the mixing bowl
  10. If you have a food processor, transfer the mixing bowl ingredients to it and process with enough extra virgin olive oil to form a good paste.  If you do not have a food processor, a stick blender or standard blender will suffice
  11. Start cooking the pasta now
  12. Slice the chicken breasts into 1/4" slices and dredge through a mixture of flour, salt and pepper
  13. Sauté the chicken pieces in the large sauté pan with a bit of extra virgin olive oil until cooked through
  14. Add the honey and white wine to the chicken pan and reduce the heat to medium-low to create the reduction
  15. By the time the wine has reduced, the pasta should be done
  16. Strain the pasta and toss with the artichoke pesto (you can also add the chicken at this step if you would like)
  17. Transfer the pasta and chicken to serving plates and top with a fresh grating of Parmesan cheese
  18. Serve with lemon-steamed spinach or a side of your choice

Lemon-Steamed Spinach with Shallots

This recipe is pretty much exactly what the title makes it out to be so the ingredients should come as no surprise.

  • 4 - 5 shallots, peeled and halved
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 pot full spinach
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  1. In a small sauté pan, cook the shallots in extra virgin olive oil until tender
  2. Add the lemon juice and a little bit (maybe 1/4 cup) of water to the bottom of a pot and bring to a soft boil
  3. Add the spinach and lemon zest to the pot and cover, reducing heat to a simmer
  4. When the spinach wilts, add the shallots and cover again for a minute or two
  5. Serve immediately with the entrée

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Lately, it has felt like my creative juices have been fermenting, stagnating.  I've been wanting to make something new, but the ideas just haven't been there.  This weekend, I made it a point to set aside some time to search for this ever-elusive inspiration.  There is one specific source I turn to whenever I need new ideas and that is the Flavor Bible. I've probably mentioned it once or twice in previous posts now, but it deserves repeating.  This book is, by far, better than any cook book you will ever find - even though it isn't technically a cook book, but rather a book full of cooking ideas.  More specifically, it describes different ingredients and flavors and how they work together.  Our local market has had Gorgonzola cheese on sale this week, so Becky suggested I try something with that.  So, I looked up Gorgonzola, checked it against a few flavors that sounded interesting and ended up with this recipe.

This chicken dish goes well with the fennel potatoes and pancetta green bean side dishes mentioned below.

  • ~5 oz. Gorgonzola cheese
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 1/4 pint cream
  • 2 T grated Parmesan cheese
  • Chicken breasts, pounded thin
  • 1 piece of prosciutto for each chicken breast
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 t. rosemary
  • 1/8 c. brandy
  • 1/8 c. walnuts, crushed
  1. Chop up the Gorgonzola and butter and put in a pot on low heat, stirring frequently
  2. Add the cream, Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper to the sauce and let simmer while you prepare the chicken - do not let the sauce boil or burn on the bottom of the pot (a few bubbles are fine)!
  3. Wrap a single piece of prosciutto around each of the chicken pieces
  4. Mix together the flour, rosemary and ground black pepper and spread out onto a plate
  5. Dredge the chicken through the flour mix, evenly covering both sides
  6. Heat a sauté pan to medium-high and add some extra virgin olive oil
  7. When the oil is hot, carefully add the floured chicken pieces to the pan, flipping after a couple minutes
  8. When the chicken is thoroughly cooked, temporarily remove them from the pan
  9. Add the brandy to the pan, scraping off any stuck pieces of chicken from the bottom
  10. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and add the chicken back to the pan for a few minutes
  11. At this point, the Gorgonzola sauce should be nice and creamy so transfer the chicken from their pan onto the serving plates, covering each piece with a generous spoon-full of sauce
  12. Sprinkle some crushed walnuts over the sauce and serve immediately

Fennel Potatoes

The first time I cooked with fennel, I made a fennel soup and it was disastrous.  The second time I cooked with fennel I made these potatoes and they were delicious.  I'm hoping for more of the latter with future endeavors.  The fennel adds a slightly sweet and subtle anise (similar to licorice) flavor to the potatoes that pairs nicely with smaller tuber varieties, which are sweeter and more flavorful than their over-sized cousins from Idaho.

  • 1/2 lb. small yellow potatoes
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon zest
  1. Quarter the potatoes and throw them into a sauté pan with some extra virgin olive oil on medium-high heat
  2. Chop off the stems sprouting from the top of the fennel bulb along with the root connector on the bottom and peel off the outer layer
  3. Quarter the bulb then cut the quarters into 1/8" slices (you can also dice them if you prefer)
  4. Toss the fennel into the pan with some rosemary
  5. Salt and pepper to taste
  6. When potatoes are tender, toss with lemon zest and serve immediately

Green Beans and Pancetta

This is a common side dish Becky and I use for our weekend meals, which are typically larger, real-er meals than the ones we throw together during the week.  It is so simple, most of the ingredients are in the title.  Becky claims this is her recipe.  I guess it probably is.  Either way, you will enjoy this best with some sort of chicken main dish.

  • Pancetta, cubed
  • Fresh green beans
  • Lemon juice
  1. Dump the pancetta into a sauté pan on medium-high heat
  2. After a minute or so, add the green beans and cover
  3. A couple minutes before the beans are tender, squeeze some fresh lemon juice into the pan
  4. Serve with entrée immediately

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tacos and Nachos

Italy: while a great place for Italian food (duh), it's not so great a place if you want food diversity.  I think I mentioned this in one of my earlier posts; it is very difficult to find non-Italian ingredients around here!  I have been craving Mexican food for a while so when I saw ground beef on sale and cumin in the spice racks at Pam (grocery store in Siena), I jumped on it.

The first time around, I bought some tortilla chips (apparently there's only one brand of tortilla chips in Siena: generic) and made nachos.  Second time around, I bought more chips and made more nachos.  Third and fourth times around (OK, so I made it a lot this week...) I made my own tortillas using flour (1 cup), butter (2 tablespoons) and a little warm water (just enough to make the dough stick together but not stick to your fingers).  Roll them thin and dry fry in a sauté pan for a minute each side and you're done!  The tortillas are really easy to make and I would recommend them over the tortilla chips if you are in a time crunch (or are just too lazy to go buy some).  The tortillas can also be cut up and baked or fried to make your own chips.  They keep well at room temperature and will maintain their flexibility if covered in an airtight container (only for a day or two max).

  • 1/2 c. dry beans
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/3 t. cumin
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes or powder
  • Fresh mozzarella, chopped
  • Lettuce, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • Tortillas or tortilla chips
  1. Soak the beans overnight in 2 cups water
  2. Dump the beans into a small pot and cook with a gentle boil until tender (1 - 1 1/5 hours)
  3. Sauté the onion and garlic in a bit of extra virgin olive oil on medium heat until tender
  4. Add the ground beef, cumin and red pepper
  5. Salt and pepper to taste
  6. The beef should cook pretty quickly so keep stirring it around until cooked through
  7. Add the beans (with remaining water) to the pan and reduce heat to simmer until desired saucification is achieved
  8. Enjoy with a Corona and lime or Birra Moretti, depending on which side of the Mexican-Italian divide you are favoring at the moment

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

One of the grocery stores near our apartment sells tiny rotisserie chickens.  Actually, I don't think they are chickens at all, they are so small.  Cornish game hens, perhaps, but a large pigeon could put one of these tiny bundles of bird-like anatomy to shame.  Regardless of their size, they pack some tremendous flavor and are the basis of a delicious dinner (often paired with mashed potatoes and green beans with pancetta).  Soon enough, the breast meat, drummies and near-laughable wings are devoured and we're left with an adorable little pile of bones.  Now, what to do with this stockpile?  Let's make some stock!

This recipe relies heavily on using home-made chicken stock.  If you choose to buy stock instead, you will be missing out!  If you are unable to find a rotisserie chicken this small (ours are 2 lbs. max, before consumption), you can use leftovers from a larger bird as well - or just make a larger batch of stock.  In order to get a couple meals out of the rotisserie chicken, the chicken breasts can be from another source.  We usually eat the rotisserie chicken (with the sides mentioned above) for dinner then throw the stock together that night.  The next day we make the soup using fresh chicken breasts.

I prefer to use farfalline (tiny butterflies) pasta as opposed to the traditional noodles, but this is completely up to you.  I have also had some great chicken soup with thick, home-made egg noodles so go noodle crazy.  I usually don't add the pasta until I'm ready to have a bowl of soup.  To do this, I take out a portion of the soup from our reserves in the fridge, put it in a small pot, bring to a boil then add the pasta.  Farfalline cook in about five minutes so wait time is minimal.  However, if you are going to eat all of the soup immediately after cooking it, you can cook the pasta/noodles of choice toward the end of the simmer time.

  • 1 small chicken carcass (bones, skin, extra meat)
  • 1 1/2 yellow onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 or 2 carrots
  • 1/2 t. black peppercorns
  • 2 chicken breasts (not necessarily from the carcass)
  • Small noodles or pasta
  1. Add the carcass, 1 onion (quartered), 3 cloves garlic (smashed, but not peeled), 1 carrot (quartered) and peppercorns to a stock pot and fill with water
  2. Heat the stock with a low flame - 2 or 3 (out of 10) on an electric stove - for 3 to 4 hours, checking back periodically to make sure aren't losing too much water.  If this happens, just add some more and reduce the heat
  3. Place a colander in a large bowl and gently pour the finished stock into it, discarding the solid parts
  4. If you plan on making soup the following day, refrigerate the stock after it cools
  5. To make the soup, finely dice the remaining 1/2 onion, mince the garlic clove and thinly slice the carrot
  6. Add the veggies to a stock pot with some extra virgin olive oil on medium heat and sauté until tender
  7. Chop up the chicken breasts into small chunks and toss in with the veggies, cooking thoroughly.  You may have to add some more olive oil if it is too sticky
  8. Salt and pepper to taste
  9. Dump in the stock and bring to a boil
  10. Stir the soup and reduce heat to a good simmer for a half hour or so

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tomato Chicken Sandwich

Didn't know what to call this one.  It could just as accurately be named "Cheesy Chicken Sandwich with Slightly Spicy Tomato Stuff", but I opted for the shorter option.  My secret with this one is to cook everything in the same pan using the lightly infused olive oil starting from the first step.  The similar flavoring will bind the cooked ingredients together, flavor-wise.  If you don't have pecorino, feel free to use any other cheese you have on hand.  Pecorino just happened to be the most appropriate choice we had in stock.  Another modification that could make this a bit more savory would be to lightly butter the bread and pan fry it to crisp it up a bit.

This recipe yields two sandwiches.


  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 t. black pepper
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes, divided
  • 1/8 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/8 c. Flour
  • 2 chicken breasts, flattened to 1/4"
  • 1/4 c. red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 c. tomato sauce
  • 1 T ketchup
  • 2 oz. pecorino cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1 small tomato, sliced
  • Small handful mixed greens
  • 4 slices bread
  1. Combine the olive oil with half of both the black pepper and red pepper flakes in a small sauté pan on low to medium-low heat.  The key is to gently infuse the pepper flavors with the oil, not to heat the oil to smoking point.
  2. On a plate, mix together the bread crumbs, flour and the remaining black pepper and red pepper flakes
  3. Dredge the chicken pieces through the dry mix so they are well coated
  4. Bring the sauté pan up to medium
  5. Place the chicken breasts in the pan.  You may have to do these one at a time, depending on the size of the pan.
  6. The chicken will only need a couple minutes on both sides.  Remove from the pan and place on a plate covered in paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
  7. Add the onions to the remaining oil and sauté until tender
  8. Carefully strain some of the excess oil from the pan (leave some for the sauce)
  9. Add the tomato sauce and ketchup to the onions and reduce heat to a simmer
  10. Remove the sauce from heat when the desired consistency is achieved (feel free to season to taste during the reduction process)
  11. Layer the sandwiches with the chicken, cheese, sauce, tomatoes and mixed greens

Friday, January 1, 2010

Curry Pork and Green Beans

We are now four months into our Italian adventure and I think it's about time for a little change of pace.  I really enjoy Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines and usually base a lot of my recipes around their diverse spice palate.  However, most of the ingredients for these dishes don't quite fit in with the typical Senese diet and are hard to come by so we've had to make some substitutions in the meantime.  My usual mix of assorted spices has been replaced with a simple curry powder for this dish.  That said, it's still a tasty dish that will hold me over until we return state-side.

  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. pork, cut into 1/2 cubes
  • 8 oz. stewed tomatoes (canned), finely chopped
  • Handful of greenbeans, chopped
  1. Sauté the carrot, onion and garlic with extra virgin olive oil in a large sauce pan on medium-high heat
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, curry powder and red pepper flakes
  3. Toss the pork pieces into the flour mixture until well coated
  4. Add the pork to the sauce pan and cook through, adding more oil if needed
  5. After the pork has cooked through, add the tomatoes and let reduce a bit
  6. Finally, toss in the green beans and sauté until desired crunchiness or softness is achieved
  7. Serve over basmati rice