Archive for category Italian
Well, it seems that I am still a completely unreliable blogger. Some things may never change. Since my last apology for not posting often enough, my wonderful boyfriend and my almost as wonderful best friend and cooking partner have gotten an apartment together. Which leads to the introduction of a new series here at Engineer Food, Dinner for Three, in which me and Larry and sometimes Will prepare a recipe (often from Bon Apetite or the NY Times) and tell you what we think. This being the first installment, however, I feel no need to stick to an established pattern. I’m funny like that.
This time I am going to tell you about a fantastic birthday present that Larry gave me:
That’s right folks, a very fancy, Williams-Sonoma cheese making kit. I meant to take pictures the whole way, but I was completely occupied with the whole making mozzarella thing. Sue me. While I was separating my curds and whey and slowly cooking in the microwave. Larry sliced up some tomatoes and bread and retrieved basil from the fridge.
Anyway, about 50 minutes after that horrific picture of me was taken, one gallon of whole pasteurized (but not ultra-pasteurized) milk was turned (with the careful addition of citric acid, rennet and some cheese salt) into one pound of mozzarella cheese.
For Caprese Salad:
- 2 Ripe Jersey Tomatoes, sliced
- 1 Loaf of Bread, sliced
- 1 Sprig of Basil
- 1 lb Mozzarella Cheese (Making it at home optional)
- Kosher Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
Difficulty Level-Extraordinarily Easy
Before eating, generously salt and pepper the tomato slices.
Cut each slice of bread in half, if they are significantly bigger than the tomatoes. On each half, place several small pieces of mozzarella, a tomato slice, some basil and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Eat with a fork and knife or be a savage and just dig right on in. Enjoy with a light white whine (chilled Chardonnay pictured above).
I have some very exciting news for those of you who have been silently bemoaning how completely shitty my photography is. I (finally) got a Cannon DSLR! So now I can take pictures like this:
Anyway…for the past few months, I have been searching high and low for the perfect pesto recipe. Last night, I found it. If you haven’t made Ina Garten’s (aka The Barefoot Contessa) Pesto, you need to. It is a religious experience. Words simply can not describe.
All you do, is take some basil, salt and pepper, nuts, cheese and garlic
And process them for a few mintes in ye-olde food processor.
After I made this wonderous dish, I thought to myself: “Self,” I thought, “you should throw some of that deliciousness down on some chicken.”
And then I remembered something that everyone on the internet knows. Bacon is awesome, so I wrapped it all up in bacon and threw it in the oven.
Chicken with Pesto and Bacon:
- 1 1/2 cups Basil, packed
- 1tbs Walnuts
- 1tbs Pine Nuts
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil
- 3 Cloves Garlic, chopped
- 1/3 cup Grated Parmesean Cheese
- 1 pinch each Salt and Pepper
- 3 Chicken Breasts, halved
- 1lb Bacon
For the Pesto:
Combine nuts in the food processor and process for 15 seconds. Add Garlic, Basil and Salt and Pepper. While processing, slowly add the Olive Oil and blend until the basil pieces get as small as they are going to. Add the Cheese and blend until combined. Makes 1 Cup.
For the Chicken:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Spread about 1tbs of Pesto over each piece of Chicken. Wrap in two to three strips of Bacon, and bake until bacon is browned and chicken is cooked (~45 minutes).
Everyone has a list of things that they simply will not pay for. If roasted red peppers aren’t on your list then they should be. You can pay up to $10 for a bottle of them OR you can make them yourself for the cost of red peppers (~$1/lb around me). Your call.
For Roasted Red Peppers:
- 2-6 Red Bell Peppers
- 2 Cloves of Garlic
- 3 tbs Olive Oil
Preheat the oven to 450F. Place rinsed and dried peppers a hot, dry pan on high heat and cover. Turn every 5 minutes or so until peppers are evenly blackened (about 20 minutes). Place the peppers on an aluminum lined cookie sheet in the oven for one hour.
Do Laundry or some other productive thing (I watched Myth Busters).
Remove the peppers from the oven and place in a brown paper bag until they are cool enough to handle. This allows them to steam a little bit (yay residual heat). Once they have cooled, remove the skin by gently rolling the pepper between your hands and peeling it off (similar to a hard boiled egg). Pull the pepper apart into strips and carefully remove any seeds. Put finished strips in a bowl with olive oil and garlic. Refrigerate until ready to eat. Will keep, refrigerated, indefinitely (I don’t actually know how long they keep because I usually eat them all right away).
- For the sauce:
- Several cans of different brands of diced and pureed tomatoes. You will need about two large cans for every three people you are planning on feeding. It is important to have multiple brands because each company treats their tomatoes slightly differently, so you will get a greater variety of flavor combinations.
- 1/2 a medium onion finely diced.
- One clove of garlic, sliced very thin. (People who have followed my recipes know that I generally try to vampire-proof my recipes, garlic wise. Don’t worry, we’ll get there)
- Salt, Pepper, Basil, Oregano and any other spices that suit your fancy
- For the meats:
- Equal parts ground veal, pork and beef. The Shoprite near me has a “meatloaf mix” where you can buy all three in one package
- One pound chuck steak
- Six to Eight Sweet Italian Sausages
- Any other meats that strike your fancy. I got some spare pork ribs, but they didn’t fit in my pot. Try to plan so that about a third to a half of the total volume of your gravy is meat.
- A head of garlic (less one clove)
- Two eggs and about two cups of bread crumbs for every pound of ground meat
- The same spices as above
- If you have an immersion blender, go ahead and plunge it into the cans of chopped tomato to puree it a bit. If you don’t have one, get one because immersion blenders are awesome, but in the mean time blend it in a blender.
- Take the biggest sauce/stock pot you have. Yes, that one that belonged to your great-grandmother and has been sitting in the back of your cabinet for months after that one time you used it to make sangria. Put it on the stove and turn the heat on to high.
- Into the dry pot, drop the sliced garlic and the diced onion, and stir it around until you begin to get little caramelized marks at the bottom of the pot. Add in a bit of salt, a lot of pepper, some basil and a touch of oregano. When you can just smell the spices start to singe, add in all of your tomatoes and re-add each of the herbs and such you added before.
- Bring it to a boil and then lower the heat and let it simmer. Get started on the meatballs.
- Let it simmer for as many hours as you can. Stir it often to keep it from burning or sticking to the pot
- Preheat the oven to 375F
- Get yourself a large mixing bowl and a foil pan
- Put your ground meats, your eggs and breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt, a bunch of pepper a lot of basil and some oregano. (As a side note, and in no way related to my last batch of mildly disappointing meatballs, dried basil and dried oregano look very similar. Check the labels.)
- Wash your hands
- Get your hands dirty in that bowl and mix everything together until you have one gross, homogeneous ball of meat
- Shape the meatballs by hand. I make about 2″ balls, but you can make them smaller if you find that intimidatingly large. Place them directly in the tin pan. You don’t have to keep them from touching, but also don’t pack them super tight (I was able to get a dozen in a large pan).
- Wash your hands
- Put the rest of your meats in foil pans. If for some reason you actually like the environment more than your convenience, you can use cookie sheets or keep the pans and wash them.
- Take the head of garlic and remove cloves but leave them unpeeled. Scatter three to five pieces in each pan of meat and meatballs.
- Put all of that in the oven for about two hours, or until all of the meat is cooked.
- Take out the meat and put it in the tomato sauce (which has, by now, been simmering for about 2-1/2 hours)
- Let that simmer for at least another three hours if not longer
Here are the rules:
- Every day for one week, I must have at least one ramen based meal.
- I refuse to use flavor packs
- The meal must be healthy
- It must cost under $5.00 per serving
- 1/2 Package of Spinach (The other half to be used for a salad for dinner): $1.25
- 4 Chicken Tenders (From a package of 22 purchased for $7.26): $0.70
- 1 Can of Chopped Tomatoes: $1.25
- 2 Packages of Ramen: $0.36
First thing’s first. Put a pot on to boil for your ramen packets.
While you are waiting for that, steam your spinach by putting a large amount of it in a pan over medium heat and cover it tightly until the spinach is thoroughly wilted.
|Actually yay. I love spinach.|
Once that is achieved, put in to the pan a healthy dollop of olive oil and the can of tomatoes and season with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powders, a touch of lemon juice and, if you are a fan of spicy, some red pepper flakes and sriracha (rooster) sauce.
|Easy? Yes. Delicious? Abso-freaking-lutely.|
Bring that to a boil and then bring it down to a simmer until the rest of the meal is complete. While that is happening and you are waiting for the ramen to cook, pull out another pan and throw in some chicken with olive oil. Once that and ramen are finished, throw everything in a bow and enjoy!
|Pretty colors, shitty presentation.|
Tomorrow: Ramen and Steak Stir Fry
|Not visible: the pile of sand at the bottom of that pot.|
Next (or while your boyfriend is cleaning the mussels), begin preparing an arrabiata sauce.
Combine in a pot one small can of tomato paste, two small cans of chunked tomatoes, one small (tomato paste sized) can of water, a small. diced onion, salt, pepper, garlic, red pepper and a couple splashes of tobasco sauce (I would have used sriracha, but I couldn’t find any at my supermarket), and bring it to a boil for twenty minutes, then lower it to a simmer.
|Warning, this is spicy|
|Savory and spicy|
|How could you not love this?|
|Sausages even look good raw.|
While your sausages are cooking, cut a green pepper into centimeter wide strips and chop up an onion into chunks. Once the sausages are singed on the outside, remove them from the pan and cut them into quarters. Throw them back into the pan along with the vegetables, some olive oil, salt, pepper and a huge amount of garlic powder (or, if you are a vampire, no garlic). Cover it and let it cook on medium high, stirring occationally, until the onions are translucent, the peppers are soft and the sausage is cooked through.
|As a non-vampire, I can never have too much garlic.|
Take a small sub roll (or a hoagie roll if you are a heathen) and cut it open and in half and rip out the delicious doughy insides. If you can resist eating that now, you can dry it for some great bread crumbs. Place the mixture into the roll and eat it now or wrap in tinfoil and take it to go, Italian style.
|I’m salivating with the memory|
Hey all! Long time no see! Before the complaints begin rolling in, I am aware that I have completely failed in my daily posting. Sadly the summer is over, which means I no longer have vast swaths of free time to shop, cook, take pictures and blog every single day. So, I will do my best to post something new and exciting once a week for your culinary pleasure.
Anyway, updates! Since my last post, I finished my thirty meals in thirty days. If you want the recipes for my stab a chili, toppings-in burgers, hearty veggie sandwiches, pizza rolls, chicken cacciatorre or cold orzo salad, please let me know and I would be happy to oblige.
In other news, I finally made the hajj to Mario Batali’s Eatily. Let me just say, I am very lucky that I went with my boyfriend because I would have spent all of my money on gourmet cheese and pasta. As it was, I managed to pick up the most beautiful cremini mushrooms and the best looking onion I have been able to find in weeks. (One of the most heart wrenching trade-offs about the end of summer is that I lose my tomatoes but gain squashes and zucchini.)
With these gorgeous vegetables, I planned out a beef sauce.
|Warning: This may be the best thing I have ever made|
I supplemented my findings with two pounds of chuck meat, a small jar of tomato puree and some fettuccine from Shop Rite.
I decided that I was going to make this sauce while actually using the proper cooking methods for each individual step. Which, in this particular case, means lots and lots of butter.
|Like, seriously, a lot.|
I hate the idea of using butter in cooking, but you can’t argue with the results. While a touch more finicky than oil, (it has a tendency to burn) the lower boiling point of butter means that foods cook more evenly.
I caramelized the onions and browned the mushrooms at the same time in two different pans.
To caramelize onions: This is a time consuming process but simple enough to do. In a pot, melt about three tablespoons of butter (on medium heat, it will burn!). Mix in salt, pepper, a crushed clove of garlic and a touch of basil. Pour into the pot a largish onion sliced in quarters and then across the grain so that you have strips of onion about 10 cm in length by 1 cm width. Keep it on medium or low heat, stirring occasionally. You want them to turn clear, and then wilt, and then turn a light brown.
To brown mushrooms: Slice the onions into 1 mm pieces and place in one sparse layer in a dry pan. Turn on the pan to medium low heat and let the mushrooms “sweat” out their moisture. Stir occasionally but try to keep them in one layer. A common mistake when preparing mushrooms in this style is to “crowd” the mushrooms in the pan. The trick is to give them plenty of room between each mushroom, due to the minuscule size of my pan, I ended up doing them in three batches. After the final batch was completed, I put all of them back in the pan with a small pat of butter on high heat to sear in the flavor. When they are finished, throw them in the pan with the onions.
When you are finished, your onion pot should look something like this:
|I’ll give you a second to roll your tongue back into your mouth|
|It’s pasta AND eggs?|
The trick to this meal is how fast it has to be cooked. So you need to have everything ready when you start.
Begin by taking some eggs (half a dozen is enough for a pound of pasta, or, as I learned, four is not quite enough) and separating them.
|Three balls of sunshine and one massive disappointment|
Next take your ham product and cut or tear it into small strips.
Fry them. Fry them all!
The next few steps must happen in quick succession and require both hands so I have no pictures for them.
In rapid succession, while stirring and in this order add:
- Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder
- Egg Whites
Serve right away because this will tend to congeal after a few minutes.
|Well worth the effort.|
Put a pot on for the ziti (ie boil water). I’ll wait until your finished.
Now it’s time to make the sauce. I have discovered that the trick to decent marinara sauce is to put a can of puree into a pot, add salt, pepper, basil, garlic and onion powder and just let it simmer for a while. Don’t touch it, no matter how hard that seems.
|Pictured: Sauce cooking without being harassed.|
While you are pretending that you don’t want to play with the sauce, you can distract yourself by cooking the beef. Because of the high fat content of the level of ground beef I use (read: cheap) there was enough fat just in there that I didn’t even need to use oil or butter.
|Kinda gross when you think about it|
Cook it until it looks done.
|Brown and yummy|
Add the meat to the sauce and mix it in. I did everything in my power to avoid getting the fat that got cooked out into the sauce, however it will be more flavorful if you don’t
Dump in the container of ricotta and mix it in thoroughly
|It should be the color of baby food when you’re done|
Go ahead and let that simmer until the pasta is cooked. When you are ready to add it, take a glass pan (or if you are smart and don’t care about the environment, a tin foil pan that can be thrown out when you are done) and coat the bottom with sauce and then dump your pasta on top.
Pour the rest of your sauce over the remaining pasta and mix in so that all of the pasta is coated in cheesy, meaty goodness.
|Above: Cheesy meaty goodness|
Cover with a thick coating of shredded mozzarella and bake on 450 until the cheese is browned
Serve piping hot.