Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts Risotto

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1/2 pound Brussels Sprouts
1 cup Arborio rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 ounces pancetta, chopped
16 ounces chicken broth
1/4 white wine

Romano cheese grated

1. Remove the outer leaves and stems of the Brussels sprouts, rinse with water and cut in half (If very large Brussels sprouts, cut into quarters), set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, bring chicken broth to a boil. Gently put the Brussels sprouts into the boiling chicken broth. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. With a small strainer, remove the
Brussels sprouts to a bowl and set aside. Keep the chicken broth to use when preparing the risotto.
3. In a large frying pan, add the olive oil and onion, saute until tender. Add the pancetta and cook a few minutes more, until golden. Add the Arborio rice to the pan and cook until
lightly toasted, continuously stirring while cooking. Add the white wine and continue cooking until the wine is absorbed.
4. With a ladle, spoon the chicken broth in the pan one ladle at a time until the liquid is absorbed before adding another ladle of chicken broth. Continue Until you have the last ladle of
chicken broth to add, then put the Brussels sprouts in the pan at the same time as the last ladle of chicken broth. Cook until rice is al dente, 10 to 15 minutes.
5. At this time taste the risotto, if a bit too hard, cook a few more minutes until more tender.
6. Serve immediately, garnishing with grated Romano cheese on top.
7. ENJOY! – “Risotto” is the new rice!

This recipe is one that originally came to me from an email newsletter I subscribe to called Sunday Pasta, which sends different recipes for Sunday dinner.
The website is garrubbo.com.

The combination of Brussels sprouts and pancetta in risotto piqued my interest enough to attempt to prepare this recipe. But the recipe was for twice the amount then I wanted to make, so I took the liberty of adjusting the ingredient amounts to half. My preference was to use chicken broth and Romano cheese in my version of the recipe and I eliminated the pepper.

The traditional Sunday dinner is disappearing from my own family’s dinners. Sunday dinner was sacred at one time. Dinner time was late afternoon, no one played with their cell phones and the meal would last for 3 hours. Whether dinner was at home or at an Italian restaurant it was never rushed. Just a few weeks ago, I tried to plan for my kids and grandkids to come to a Sunday dinner at our house in the upcoming weeks. Well, Sunday will not work out because of prior commitments, but Saturday will work. At this point, I am thrilled to have the family for dinner no matter what day of the week it is. Times are different but the value of sitting down to a meal together with generations of family remains the same. Of course, Sunday Pasta will be served!

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Christmas Traditions

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Christmas traditions are what make the holidays memorable. Whether it’s the seven fishes dinner on Christmas Eve with family, opening presents Christmas morning together, attending church the same time every year or making handmade Christmas ornaments for the tree, all of these traditions make for some wonderful memories to cherish.

Ever since I became a gramma, I wanted to cook and bake with my grandchildren. My granddaughter, Mackenzie, really enjoys baking. ChiChi (her nickname) and I started the tradition of baking Christmas cookies together when she was about four years old and we continued to do it every year. Mackenzie, now eleven years old, gets to pick which cookie she wants us to bake together. Her choice this year was Aunt Ellia’s butter cookies (you can find the recipe on Somebody’s Mom) and peanut butter cookies.

ChiChi, I hope you want to bake cookies with me every year, no matter how old you get. May you carry on the tradition of Christmas cookie baking with your family one day and remember fondly our time together spent in the kitchen.

This Christmas tradition is one that warms my heart as much as the oven warms the kitchen.

ZUCCHINI TOTS

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Olive oil

4 zucchini, grated

Salt

1/ 4 cup Mozzarella, shredded

3 eggs, beaten

1/ 2 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/ 4 cup Romano and or Parmesan cheese

1/ 2 teaspoon basil

1/ 2 teaspoon oregano

1/ 4 onion, minced

1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced

salt and pepper

  1. Oven 400 degrees
  2. Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil and then brush foil with olive oil.
  3. Place grated zucchini in a colander (place in the sink) and add a few sprinkles of salt. Toss the zucchini and salt a few times and then let it sit. After 5 minutes or more, place tossed zucchini on paper towels to drain excess water.
  4. Place the drained zucchini to a large bowl. Add beaten eggs, mozzarella and grated cheeses, Panko crumbs, onion, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well.
  5. With your hands, form zucchini into 1-inch approximately sized tots. Place tots onto oiled cookie sheet leaving a bit of space between tots.
  6. Bake 20 to 30 minutes depending on your oven. Turn tots two times during baking, to get a golden brown color on both sides. Serve warm or hot.
  7. Optional – After completely cooled, you can place in a Ziploc bag and freeze for future use.
  8. 6.   ENJOY – It’s not Potato Tots it’s Zucchnini Tots!

 

If you work in Manhattan or Westchester or anywhere, buying lunch every day can be very expensive.   My daughter, Mia, who works in Manhattan and I, who works in Westchester, bring our lunches to work as often as possible. 

Our lunches don’t necessarily fit the norm all the time for regular packed lunches. Today for example, Mia took some baked ziti with a side container of marinating home grown tomato slices and some corn cheddar muffins.  She loves to take my homemade chicken soup, potato patties, eggplant or spinach balls, etc.   You get the picture; you never know what is going to be in that brown paper lunch bag.  Mia tends to eat small portions.  So, she will either split her lunch into two days or she will share it with her co-workers.  That is where these zucchini tots come into play.  I made so many zucchini tots last week; I gave her quite a few to take to work.  Being Mia, she shared them with her two co-workers, Jessica and Kendyl.  Mia would definitely tell me if she liked or disliked something I made.  Well, there was no reason to worry if she liked the zucchini tots because they were such a big hit that her co-workers asked for the recipe. Happily, she not only liked the zucchini tots but asked if there were any zucchini tots left over to bring to work for lunch again.  That is all I needed to know to make these zucchini tots a part of my personal recipe collection. 

 “Sharing is Caring” really means, “Do you have any extra zucchini tots?”

QUICHE LORRAINE

 

2 9-inch deep dish piecrusts

3/ 4 cup Durkee French Fried onions

1 lb. package bacon, cooked crispy

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup half and half

9 eggs

2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

1 tablespoon margarine, softened

 

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  1. Oven 425 degrees
  2. Cook bacon until crispy. Drain well on dish lined with paper towels. When bacon is completely cooled, cut into small pieces. Place bacon pieces in a bowl.
  3. Pierce piecrusts with a fork sporadically around sides and bottom of crust. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and cool.
  4. Spread softened margarine in the bottom and sides of the cooled piecrusts with a pastry brush.
  5. In the bacon bowl, add the French fried onions and 1 cup of Swiss cheese. Toss and mix together. Split the mixture between the two piecrusts evenly.
  6. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with half and half and 1/ 2 cup of the heavy cream. Pour egg mixture over bacon/onion/Swiss cheese mixture in piecrusts. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of Swiss cheese over the top of each quiche.
  7. Pour the other 1/ 2 cup of heavy cream over the cheese on both quiches.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn oven to 325 degrees and continue cooking for 35-45 minutes longer.
  9. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing. Serve immediately.
  10. ENJOY – Bacon, Onions and Swiss Cheese together, Oh my!

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby, “Nick tells Gatsby, “You can’t repeat the past,” and Gatsby replies, “Why of course you can.”

No truer words were spoken that reflected a recent trip down memory lane with my closest friends, Linda and Julianne from high school.

Linda, Julianne and I reconnected here in New York this summer. It was a planned “girls” long weekend.   The girls would be staying at my home for a few nights.  We would be very busy during the daytime, so, I decided to prepare dishes ahead of time to serve.  This Quiche Lorraine was served for breakfast but it goes great as a lunch dish served with salad on the side.  Either way, your friends will love it as much as mine did!

Julianne lives in New Mexico, Linda in Connecticut and I in New York. We decided to be tourists in New York City by going on a tour bus and boat ride around Manhattan. As luck would have it, or should I say unluckily, all our pre-made plans got changed.   The tour bus and boat ride fell through. Here we were stranded just a few blocks from the Staten Island Ferry. The Staten Island Ferry is FREE. One of the best attractions New York City has to offer. Turns out that this is the second time Linda, Julianne and I went on the Staten Island Ferry together. The first time was our high school senior prom. Tradition in those days for prom night was to end the evening, early morning with a ride on the Staten Island Ferry and then home, which we did.

When I was preparing for Linda and Julianne to stay at my home, I went searching for pictures from high school of the three of us together. Lo and behold I found one of those old photo booth pictures that came on a strip of four, of the three of us on during our senior day trip to Rye Playland.  The night before Julianne was to leave to return to New Mexico, we decided to go back to Rye Playland. We were determined to recreate our photo booth memory. Sure enough, Playland still had a photo booth, which we squeezed into to recreate our moment in time.

Can you repeat the past? Yes, you can with a lot of laughs and good friends that are up for anything. The way I see it, it was fun in the first place, and repeating those moments again can only be better and even more memorable the second time around!

Julianne and Linda, thanks for the memories, then and now,

 

Then and Now

Crock Pot Beef Shanks

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Beef Shanks

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

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3 or 4 beef shanks (about 2 ½ pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
1 small onion quartered
2 stalks celery, cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, quartered
¾ cup of homemade meat sauce (use jar sauce if you have to)
¾ cup red wine
1 cup beef broth, homemade or canned
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4 fresh oregano leaves, cleaned
4 fresh basil leaves, cleaned
Salt and pepper

Cavatelli pasta, cooked and drained

Parmesan cheese, grated

1. Step one – Rinse the beef shanks and pat dry with a paper towel.
On a pie plate, place flour and add salt and pepper, mix well.
In a large frying pan, add olive oil, heat on medium high. Dredge the beef shanks
in the flour, tapping off the excess. Place shanks in frying pan, browning quickly,
about 5 minutes on each side, searing the meat.
Transfer meat to a crock pot. Put crock pot on low.
2. Step two – Into the frying pan, add onion, carrots, celery and garlic. If needed add another tablespoon of olive oil on a medium flame. Stir vegetables while cooking for about 10 minutes and get tender. Add meat sauce and blend well for a few minutes. Continue cooking, add wine and using a wooden spoon scrape up and beef bits from the bottom of the pan. When everything is scrapped up and mixed well, transfer vegetables to crock pot.
3. Add beef broth, vinegar, basil and oregano, salt and pepper. Cook on low until meat and vegetables tender to the touch, 6 to 8 hours.
4. Serve hot over Cavatelli or other pasta. Option: Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese for garnish.
5. ENJOY- Slowly goes it, but quickly it’s gone!

©  This recipe courtesy of Somebodys-Mom.com

 

One of the gifts I received at my wedding shower was a crock pot. It still works perfectly after all these years, and it is just the right size for me.  Crock pot cooking has made life easier to some degree for us working moms and dads.  You still need to take some time  for prepping vegetables, meat, etc. for a recipe you plan on cooking in the crock pot.  The fact that it is done in advance and cooks slowly for three to ten hours, depending on your crock pot, all together in one pot makes it a great accessory for the kitchen, and for cooks everywhere.

When entertaining the crock pot is great to keep food warm. Many a party, I used my crock pot to hold meatballs in sauce on the buffet table to keep them warm throughout the day.  The crock pot is a versatile tool for all cooks!  So, run don’t walk to get your CROCK POT today, if you don’t have one already.

Sharing is caring – What’s your favorite crock pot recipe?

Somebody Else’s Dad – Charlie’s Artichokes

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This original recipe Charlie got from his son Aaron

3 or 4 pkgs of Frozen Artichoke hearts (I used Birds Eye)

Burrata cheese (I like the imported Italian. He didn’t specify)

Green & Purple Basil (Purple is hard to find)

  1.  Deep fry artichokes in oil (I used olive oil) until kind of crispy on the edges (You don’t have to thaw them first). Dry artichokes on paper towels and then salt them.
  2. Top the burrata with the artichokes and rough chopped fresh basil
  3. Drizzle basil oil on top of all. (I used high quality EVOO).  (To make the basil oil – blanch a good amount of basil for 15 seconds. Ice flash it. Let it dry and then blend with olive oil in a food processor.)
  4. Garnish with crunchy sea salt on top.

 

Charlie’s recipe

3 cans whole large artichokes drained & dried very well on paper towels. (water & oil don’t mix!)

(I used canned whole artichokes in water. DO NOT use the marinated artichokes that come in a jar.

They won’t work in this recipe.)

2 pkgs imported burrata.

(Belgioso makes a good domestic one that comes in a larger size so 1 of them is good)

Fresh basil – chiffonade cut

Olive oil for frying

Good Olive oil for drizzling

Fleur de sel or sea salt or kosher salt. Not regular table salt.

Fresh ground pepper

 

  1. Fill a cast iron skillet with approximately 1/2″ of olive oil. Heat olive oil until smoke point. (I didthis on my outdoor grill. It keeps the splattering out of the kitchen)
  2. Add the artichokes to the hot oil in a single layer. Deep fry until crispy on the edges. I used 2skillets so you will need to fry in batches if you only have one. Drain well on paper towels.
  3. Arrange artichokes on a platter. Top with hunks of burrata. Add the chiffonade cut basil.  Drizzle with your best extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle sea salt to taste. Fresh ground pepper to taste.
  4. That’s it. Enjoy.
  5. Note: Aaron called for the artichokes on top of the burrata.  I put the burrata on top of the artichokes. It looks better IMHO.
  6. Note 2: You could easily add a drizzle of balsamic too but I did not.

 

Good friends  like Charlie and Laurie are hard to come by, so we consider ourselves twice blessed to have them as neighbors too!

Our friendship began in 1983 when we purchased our homes whose back yards are diagonally across from one another.  We are only separated by a small path that I hope will never be closed as long as we both shall live.  As our new mortgages began, so did living on tight budgets.  My two children did not have a swing/play set in our yard but Laurie and Charlie’s yard, had one of those huge wooden play gyms.  With persistent persuasion I convinced my son to go down to Laurie and Charlie’s yard and meet their children and possibly be invited to use their play set.  It worked and my children enjoyed their play gym for years.  With a house that is situated on a cul-de-sac street, Laurie and Charlie’s street was perfect for our mutual children’s sports and games, unlike my busy street.  All of their children are grown and so have ours, and the play set is gone from their yard, but Laurie, Charlie, Tom and I still get together as often as we can, whether with a group of friends or just the four of us.

During our marriages Tom and Charlie cooked on occasion, also did most of the grilling.  Laurie and I basically prepared the weekly meals and all the holiday dinners while raising our families.  Somewhere along the line, our roles switched.  As our children got older and more independent, the moms moved away from the kitchen and the husbands moved in.  My husband now usually prepares dinner every week night and I cook more on the weekends.  Along the way, Charlie got very into wines.  He built a wine cellar in his house and start exploring the pairing of foods with certain wines.  He gradually progressed into cooking at a more advance level.  Now there is no stopping him!  I bought my husband one year an espresso 2 tier old fashion coffee pot for use on the stove.  Charlie got himself a commercial equivalent huge espresso machine.  I remember one occasion when I was at their home for a meal and was generously pouring balsamic vinegar over my salad, only to hear that it was very good aged Italian balsamic vinegar that cost around $40.00 a bottle.  My balsamic vinegar comes in a 2 pack from Costco and is very economical.  Tom and I get to enjoy being treated to delicious meals at their home all the time.

The first time Charlie prepared this artichoke dish was for a group of us at his home on New Year’s Eve.  Everyone loved it.  Charlie used his son, Aaron’s, recipe that evening.  Charlie again made it was for me when he and Laurie came to our house for an intimate dinner with just the four of us.  Charlie made it a bit different, but I didn’t’ notice since it was still amazing.  When I asked for the recipe and if I could put it on “Somebody’s Mom”, Charlie was very enthusiastic.  As I was reading his recipe, I came across the cooking term chiffonade cut. While I assumed it had to do with cutting the basil leaves, I still had to look it up. Charlie you are definitely above and beyond me with culinary skills and I want you to know how much I appreciate and respect it.

Charlie your are a neighbor, friend and chef all rolled it to one! We support you in all your cooking adventures and are literally right behind you reaping all the benefits!

LENTIL SOUP

DSC050011 16-ounce bag of Lentils

4 smoked ham hocks

8 to 10 cups Chicken stock

Olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 carrots, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

Celery leaves, chopped

3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced

1 15-ounce can of petite cut tomatoes

Basil, Oregano, Parsley

Salt and pepper

 

  1. In a flat dish, sort lentils a handful at a time. Remove anything that is hard or a different color. After sorting lentils, place them in a bowl and add water. Rinse and repeat. Set the drain lentils on the side for later. (Option – I soaked my lentils for an hour in water, then drained them.)
  2. In a deep pot, add olive oil to cover the bottom, about 2 tablespoons. On a medium flame, add chopped onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Saute until tender. Add salt and pepper along with basil, oregano and parsley. Cook a few more minutes.
  3. Add ham hocks and chicken stock. Bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer and cook 1 hour, until ham hocks become tender.  Stir a few times.
  4. Add lentils and canned tomatoes, continue to cook for another hour.  Serve immediately with bread on the side if desired.  Serves – 8.  Option – garnish with grated parmesan or romano cheese.
  5. ENJOY –  Hearty and Healthy with Lentils a plenty.

 

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Lentil Soup was never a favorite of mine growing up.  Unfortunately for me, my mom loved it and made it all the time.  I have a vivid memory of me sitting with a bowl of lentil soup in front of me at the dinner table after everyone else had finished dinner and left the table.  My unfinished bowl of soup remained in front of me for a very long time, before I was allowed to leave the table.  

Years later, when I was teaching American cooking, the talk of lentil soup came up.  One of the lady’s husband’s had requested her to learn how to make lentil soup for him.  Mom gave me her recipe and I taught the cooking class how to make Lentil soup.  Recently, I asked my husband if he liked Lentil Soup and he said he did.  In honor of the New Year, I decided to make it for him.  Searching high and low through all my recipes, my mother’s lentil soup recipe was nowhere to be found.   I was saddened by the fact that I couldn’t just pick up the phone and call my mom for the recipe.  

My memory is pretty good and I knew the main ingredients, lentils, ham hocks, chicken broth and some vegetables.  For sure, I remembered sorting through the lentils first.  When I first did this many years ago, I would find a few tiny pebbles mixed in with the lentils.  Recently, sorting through the lentils I only came across a few, about 12, discolored lentils that I removed.  It is written right on the back of the bag of lentils – “Sort and clean lentils.”  With another statement boldly printed also – “Lentils are a natural agricultural product. Despite use of modern cleaning equipment, it is not always possible to remove all foreign material.  Sort and rinse lentils before cooking.”  Sorting the lentils for me seems very relaxing and in a way a little bit therapeutic. 

After writing up a rough draft of a lentil recipe, I called my sister-in-law, Susan, who is a great cook, for her opinion and advice.  She whole heartily agreed with me on my lentil soup recipe.  With Susan’s approval I felt confident and ready to cook lentil soup.

 Tom, my husband, enjoyed his 2016 New Year Lentil soup.  Lentils for the New Year symbolize money, prosperity and good luck.  All good things!  Another good thing, I ate two small bowls of Lentil soup, and really enjoyed it.   

I miss my mom every day.  Not finding her recipe made me realize how much I want to talk to her and how frustrated I get because I can’t.  Don’t take your mom for granted.  Give her a call, listen closely to her voice and most of all get her recipes, write them down and keep them in safe.  There is no sound more soothing and comforting as a mother’s voice. 

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