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