Squash and Cannelloni Beans

 

 

 

Although this recipe feels more like a fall/winter thingy; it’s fantastic to eat on a rainy summer night while watching your Petunias get soaked in your backyard.

Okay, so the prunes, sweet vermouth along with the sea salt make this bean dish a perfect combination with roasted pork, or Cod, or a grilled steak.   -And if you like, eat a bog bowl of it all by itself, I do.

 

Pretty simple to make:

Cubed Yellow Butternut Squash (any squash you like will do)

White Cannelloni Beans

4 Prunes (sliced)

Sea Salt

½ cup Sweet Vermouth (or sherry, marsala, port)

Cup or two of veggie stock, (depends on how wet you like it)

One clove of chopped garlic

Fresh Thyme

Lite Olive Oil

Saute the Squash in the olive oil until cooked, and slightly browned. Next be generous with the sea salt, add the beans, garlic and sliced prunes move it all around. Throw in a bit of fresh thyme. Add the veggie stock, and heat to a simmer, reduce.  Add vermouth and cook that off, and add more veggie stock if you want it wetter.  There it is…

 

 

 

 

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Tapenade Tuna (Tonno)

 

Tuna (Tonno) Tapenade is a delicious summer party food. It’s simple to make, served chilled.  -Smear it on crusty bread, or hearty crackers, and you can also toss it into a bowl of freshly cooked pasta. There are many ways to make this, and so like everything else in cooking base it on what you like. Some recipes for Tuna Tapenade call for anchovies, lemon juice, capers, olives. I like to make my Tapenade with minced carrots, onion, garlic, capers, a spot of tomato puree (or paste), and lots of olive oil is a must.

Tapenade means savory spread or dip. It’s usually made with olives, anchovies, and capers, but its ingredients are not limited.

I make my Tuna Tapenade minus the anchovies and olives, but I suppose those items would be excellent to add to my recipe. I also cook my Tapenade, and chill it overnight in one of my fancy mason jars that I bought in Great Barrington, MA.   -I think I was a bit tipsy when I bought it, cost me big bucks, but it’s lid came with clips, how could I say no? Anyway, you don’t have to cook Tapenade, but my recipe calls for it. I think cooking it enhances the flavors.  -Clearly, you would not cook an Olive Tapenade.

Tonno means Italian for Tuna. For this recipe I use imported Italian Tonno pack in olive oil. It’s a little more expensive, but worth it.  All Italian markets have it, buy the one packed in a jar with olive oil.

 

So this is how you do.

 

A jar or two of that expensive Tonno packed in Olive Oil.

A tablespoon of Canola oil

1/4 Extra virgin Olive Oil (or more)

One large carrot

Half of medium size onion

One good size garlic clove

About a cup or less of tomato puree or two tablespoons tomato paste

A tablespoon or more of small capers.

A pinch of red hot peppers flakes

A pink of sea salt

A pinch of sugar

One bay leaf

Extra virgin Olive oil to add at the end

 

 

Put the garlic, carrot, and onion in your Cuisinart until minced fine, then add it all to a sauté pan that has heated canola oil inside (medium heat is fine). Cook for a few minutes stirring constantly. Add the bay leaf, and the Tonno (olive oil it’s packed in too). Next add red pepper flakes, salt and sugar. Mix everything together over medium low heat, start to mash the tuna with the back of a wood spoon or fork until its very fine. Remove from it heat and let cool for a bit. Next add olive oil, and capers, mix that all in, and let it cool some more. Now pack it into a jar, or a mason jar. Let it chill in the refrigerator overnight. You can serve this right from the jar with crusty bread or crackers, or even sliced cucumber, and celery. The oil will come to the top, mix it in before you serve it. Don’t drain the oil off, it’s the best part, and when my guest leave I savagely dip bread into,  you should do the same. Oh, keep the bay leaf inside, don’t discard it…

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Lemon Ricotta Pie face

I was never a big fan of ricotta pie, but when I lived in Italy for 6 months, I unexpectedly feel in love with Ricotta, how could I not, it was all around me. When I came back to Boston, I started buying it, I’d put it on toast with jam, or if I was having a dinner party I’d put globs of it on toasted French bread rounds and sprinkle pistachios on top-  –   speaking of pistachios, while in Rome, I ate this pasta dish that I will never forget.   -First, you should know, this is kind of a shameful story; pure gluttony!    -After eating this divine braised beef with fresh peas in the Jewish Ghetto, I decided to take the long walk home to my apartment in Marconi, probably because I more than likely ate six gelatos throughout the day.  Anyway, while I passed through Trastevere, a neighbor on the west bank of the Tiber, I strolled by a café. I saw a woman eating a pasta dish, it looked mar-vel-ous!!!  I stopped and ogled, walked-on, paced, then returned and sat my ass down at the café where the woman sat. I told the waiter to bring me what the woman was having. Okay, ready for this? It was buttered fettuccine, with a small mound of Ricotta in its center, topped with a smattering of chop pistachios, simple, delicious, sort of delicate… I still dream of it.

Anyway, back to the Ricotta pie, so I kind of made this recipe up and it comes out great each time I make it. Once I put both orange and lemon zest inside, and it was fantastic. Good luck.

This is how you do it.

15 Oz Ricotta Cheese

4 eggs

1 cup of sugar

1/3 cup flour

Two lemons, their juice and zest

Tablespoon Vanilla

Enough Pie crust to line a spring form pan.  (one package of store brand will do it, two rolls inside.)

First, line a sprig form pan with the pie crust, bottom and sides. You can make the pie crust, or buy it. To be honest I buy it. I know, I know, I know, homemade is better, but I’ve been totally lazy these days. It’s just fine. I’ll make it again, soon.

So in your kitchen-aid or hand mixer, blend all the ingredients, I do it until it becomes kind of fluffy. Pour it in to the pastry dough lined spring form pan and place it on a sheet pan. Bake it low at 300 for an hour — hour in a half…. (or a tad longer) take it out when it has, “set”   -Now listen, it’s going to puff up when it bakes, worry not. When it’s on your counter-top cooling, it will sink, don’t worry about it.  After it’s room temp, put it in the frig, when it’s cold, take it out of the pan, it might be uneven and the crust may be a little chipped here and there, so big deal, cover it with powdered sugar, and toss some berries on it.  Trust me, it will look rustic and inviting and everyone will love it.

 

(The photos are from two different parties when I served it)

 

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Meatballs for the old Chums

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The other night a few friends from High School came over, and I wanted to make something simple, fun, and casual, and so I thought it was a good opportunity to try out a new meatball recipe I came across (maybe NY Times?) -To go along with the meatballs, I made a simple salad: mixed greens, cucumbers, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, a drizzle of clover honey and  pink Himalayan salt and pepper.

I served the meatballs in my famous red Le Creuset Braiser; I am totally frigging bragging, that pan is my pride and joy. I’d marry if I could, it’s perfect; stove top to table. Everything cooks evenly inside of it, never a failed meal in that pot. -God I love it!

I served the meatballs with a side of crispy Italian bread and freshly grated Romano. After I placed the pan of meatballs on the table, I lit my super cool candle holders I found for three bucks in a thrift store in Waterville, Maine, truly the fine of the century. I’m bragging again. (My idea of heaven are streets lined with thrift shops, and all kinds of delicious food, and Le Creuset pans.)

Okay, back to the meatballs. This is how you make them:

Equal parts ground beef, veal,  and pork. Two eggs, cubed bread soaked in a spot of milk, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, chopped basil, tons of chopped flat Italian parsley and garlic, grated Romano, a few dashes of Olive oil, a pinch of hot pepper flakes, and about a cup or so of Ricotta cheese. Toss it all together, form into balls, roast on parchment paper (400f) and when done, place in your stewing tomato sauce.

I make my sauce many different ways, but for this sauce I whized carrots, celery, and onion in a Cuisinart until very fine and almost mushy. I placed all that in my lovely pan and cooked it in olive oil, when just starting to brown I added a few cans of crushed Cento tomatoes (I think they’re the best brand), to that I added some water, a cup of red wine, a pinch of sugar, salt, whole basil leaves and garlic. (I don’t cook the garlic first with the veggies, I throw it in raw and let it cook in the sauce.) I stewed the sauce for a few hours, added water if needed, but made sure the sauce was pretty thick before I served it.  Success! I was told I made the best meatballs in the world. You have to love your High School friends.FullSizeRender

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Roasted

 

My love affair with roasted cherry tomatoes started in Italy. I was renting a room in an apartment in Rome back in 2012, and had a perfect view of a fantastic Mom & Pop pizza place across the street. Every morning I’d wake to the most beautiful aroma pushing its way into my room; robust and sweet, warm and homey, I’d lay in my bed, inhale, and smile so wide my jaw throbbed. By mid-morning I was dashing across the street to buy a slice of pizza (more like 4). The woman who owed the pizza joint wasn’t the friendliest person in the world, and at first I thought she hated me. Perhaps, I guessed, it was because I was too lazy to learn basic Italian, let’s face it, people tend to get upset when you point to their food and than to your mouth and make moaning sounds. The first time I entered that pizza joint I pointed to what I wanted, licked my lips and fanned out my Euros.   Soon I was indulging in some of the best pizza I had eaten in Italy.  -Bread dough stretched out in a flat pan, covered from edge to edge with roasted cherry tomatoes, no cheese. It was a work of art, vibrantly red, just beautiful.  -The funny thing was this, before Italy, I was not a fan of  cherry tomatoes, but I learned, when roasted they’re extraordinarily flavorful. Now I don’t do without. 

As the weeks passed the constant scowl on the woman’s face became charming to me, and by the time I left Rome, she actually smiled at me. In my mind, we had become the very best of friends because after all, who wouldn’t want an elderly lady who makes the best pizza in the world to be their best friend? Plus I made her rich, I ate there almost everyday, no joke. The pizza was that good… 

Since my glory days in Rome, I make that pizza all the time, and I roast cherry tomatoes weekly in my humble abode in Boston. I smear those roasted babies on bread, on pizza dough, I use them in omelets, eat them with cheese, toss them with pasta, place them over steamed veggies…

This is how you do it: Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, toss the cherry tomatoes in olive oil, sea salt and roast in a hot oven 400 until brown, black, and deeply red. When they are cool, place in a jar with garlic and black pepper, and cover with olive oil. Thank me.

 

 

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Porcehetta – I Told You So

I promise you this is one of the best things you will ever eat. Period.

If I had my way I would eat Porchetta every day for the rest of my life. However, since it’s a pork loin rolled in pork belly, it may not be the brightest thing to do, but it certainly would be the most luxurious, and indulgent thing you could do, and perhaps worth the early grave you’d be heading if you ate it more than four times a year. But what the hell do I know? When I was in Italy I ate it all the time, and I’m still here to oink about it.

In Frascati it was all over the place, street venders and butchers stood proudly behind their mammoth Porcehttas that were as big as pigs, four to five feet long, slices big as dinner plates- –crispy on the outside, moist, amazing in the middle…sublime…

In Orvieto, I found one in a butcher shop, it was the star attraction, and I’m a stargazer, so I went back three times, and walked through the street like some untamed beast chopping away, people pointed and laughed at me- -herby, soft in the middle, outrageously delicious… -Yes, to die for, hand me the sword.

In Rome I found it in market across from where I lived, they kept it in a glass case. I’d spend my afternoons ogling at it- -seasoned with orange peel and fennel seeds, tangy and scrumptious… I ate it more than I should have…whatever.

It’s easy to make, the only annoying thing is that you have to dry the skin out for a few days in the refrigerator, but I’ll get to that, stay calm it’s worth the wait.

So buy a pork belly, skin-on, and a pork loin. Most butchers at your market will butterfly the loin for you. And while you’re at it, ask them for some twine.

Lay the pork loin on top of the pork belly.  Now chop up fresh rosemary, sage, parsley, and garlic, rub it inside the pork loin, then get some fennel seeds, some orange zest (optional) hot peppers flakes and sprinkle it on top of the herbs, press that stuff in. Now tightly roll that baby up, tie it with butcher’s twine, each tie should be about an inch apart.

Put it on a rack and under a plate or pan, let it sit in the frig overnight, ideally though, it should sit for 3 days, the dryer the skin, the better. As moisture extracts from the skin, dry it off with a paper towel  You definitely want to get the skin dry so it will puff and crisp. You can also rub baking soda on the skin, this will help speed up the process. -Warning! Don’t use too much baking soda, it will make the outside taste a tad funky.

Heat your oven to 500. Put the Porchetta on a rack, salt it heavily, but don’t go crazy (I use sea salt). Roast it until the skins puffs and get crispy, about 20 to 30 minutes. Lower the heat to about 325. Depending on the size, it might take about 2 hours or longer to reach the internal temperature of 145. Make sure you tent it with foil if the skin starts to burn.  When done, take it out, let it sit for a half hour, then dig in…  –And yup, I told you so…

 

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Chicken ala Phase

 

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I hope you enjoy my garlic, hot pepper, and  olives phase. Kind of like Picasso’s blue period between 1901 and 1904.  -I want it noted that I’m having my cooking with olives, garlic and hot pepper period in 2016 and hope to continue it into 2017.

This is just easy. I heated some olive oil in my cherished Le Creuset pan (any sort of Dutch oven thingy will do). I salted and peppered the thighs, floured and browned them quickly. When done I took them out of the pan. I then tossed diced potatoes into the pot, and put the browned thighs on top. Next I added chopped fresh sage, dried cured olives, a handful of whole garlic, and then drizzled some balsamic vinegar  over all of it (a friend from Modena brought it to me, it’s amazing!) I covered the pot,  put it in the oven, this allows everything in the pot to get to know one another, and to make good. After 30 minutes, I ate it all.  -God, I love this phase.

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