Archive for March, 2011

Slow-Cooker Ribollita

March 27, 2011

This recipe is what I have in my crock pot today, a post reviewing it will follow later    — This was not my cup of tea. It sort of reminded me of St. Patty’s day with an Italian twist, with the Pancetta with Cabbage and Carrots. But the Cabbage smell in my house sort of killed the mojo for me. Also the bread in it made it really mushy and not a cool texture. So I just wanted to follow up that it did not turn out so good, I guess not all my recipes can be 5 stars!

Awesome Buco

March 25, 2011

I am a big fan of this dish. Osso Buco is Italian for bone with a hole, and that is the key to this dish. You buy a veal shank or beef shank and it has the round bone in the center with the hole in it. The bone adds tons of flavor to the liquid it cooks in. I think of it as a more fancy Italian Pot roast. It can really have a pretty presentation and it tastes amazing. The best part is that it only takes about 90 minutes in the oven so you don’t need to spend the whole day cooking it. I have never used veal shanks because I have not sought them out but I am sure you could get them at a local butcher. Beef Shanks are pretty cheap and at most grocery stores but they also are pretty fatty so if I make it again I will probably use the veal.

The recipe I use is this one from Giada, she is my go to girl for any Italian recipe. I do not use the cloves or the lemon zest in my version. I usually serve it with some of the sauce over Orzo – small rice shaped pasta, but last night I made pappardelle, which is a very wide pasta, and it was delicious. Pappardelle is Italian for “gobble it up” and you will with these giant noodles. They can be a compliment to any great pasta recipe as they soak up the sauce just right. I actually bought pasta sheets (never saw these before, imagine all I can make, and they were cheap!) at the grocery store and cut the pappardelle myself, just by slicing the pasta sheets into long strips. I saw this on Chopped so I was feeling all professional as I did it :). So it looked fancy but it was not labor intensive. The sauce is simple, just carrots, celery, onion, wine and tomato paste with some herbs, and that is all it needs. If you are looking to try a great Italian recipe to impress some guests or just your tummy, check this out!

what Tara’s cookin now

March 23, 2011

look for a post tomorrow for my killer Osso Bucco and homemade Pappardelle (cheated and bought pasta sheets) and of course one of my delicious food pics…

An Italian girl makes Japanese food?

March 21, 2011

Yes I know you must be confused because I always post my baking recipes or my Italian themed recipes and here I am writing about great Japanese yum yums. Besides Italian and Mexican, Japanese and Chinese are two of my other favorite cuisines. I had bought some udon noodles at my favorite store, Fresh and Easy (yes that is a real store name, get your mind out of the gutter) and I have been searching for what to make with it. I found this recipe on foodnetwork and I thought why not. I have had udon noodle bowls before and I have always enjoyed them. Think Ramen, but better, in a giant bowl full of deliciousness.

Actually the best udon bowl was at Gilroy Bowl when Campy  I went there a few years ago. Who woulda guessed that a bowling alley would have great Japanese food, but they did. In this bowl they had nice tender pork that was sliced and served on top of the  noodles. So in my recipe I nixed the tofu and used pork tenderloin that I seared and sliced up instead. I actually don’t dislike tofu, thanks to my friends who introduced me to it in the killer Pad Thai at Salvation Cafe, but I was feeling like I wanted something more filling. The udon noodle flavors in this recipe and the broth were simple and perfect and the exact replica of the dish I was trying to re-create. I used Bok-Choy for the “Asian Greens” the recipe called for and I cut back on the red pepper flakes so my girls could eat it. Both kids cleaned their bowls! I also was able to find the roasted peanut oil at my commissary, wow this commissary is winning major Tara points lately! Nothing warms your tummy up like a nice hot bowl of savory broth filled with all sorts of treats. Venture out of Italy for a night and try this out!

That cake is whack!

March 18, 2011

Ever since I was little my mom has been making me “Tara’s Wacky Cake.” Well now it has been passed along to my lovely daughter and it is Gianna’s Wacky Cake. What is wacky cake you ask? Well it is a super easy and delicious chocolate cake recipe. It is the recipe my mom turned into the cupcakes that I have been enjoying this week on my endless cupcake “diet.” It is a great cake to make with your kids because you mix it right in the baking pan and it is really fun. My mom always tops it with a simple frosting of confectioners sugar, butter, vanilla and milk, along with your favorite color food coloring – which my mom usually mixes up a pretty color for her grand-babies. (see the frosting recipe at the end) Here we go:

Gianna’s (Tara’s) Wacky Cake

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix in an 8×8 pan: 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1 tsp baking soda, 3Tablespoons Hershey cocoa (lately I have been using the Hershey’s special dark chocolate cocoa)

Sift all together with a fork. Make 2 small holes and one large hole in dry ingredients. Put 1/2 cup oil in larger hole, 1 Tablespoon cider vinegar in small hole and 1 teaspoon of vanilla in last small hole. Pour 1 cup of water over all of above and mix with fork until combined and smooth. Bake 35-45 minutes. You can also use a cupcake pan, which will shorten the baking time. I hate overcooked cake so I always check it earlier, so it is about 12-15 minutes for cupcakes, and I check at about 28 minutes for the cake.

Wacky cake is so delicious, it has this unique spongey chocolatey flavor. I think it would also be good with cream cheese frosting. Usually I whip up my mom’s easy frosting for my wacky cake. It has 2 1/2 cups confectionery sugar, 1 tablespoon of butter, 1/2 tsp vanilla and a touch of milk, enough to stir and whip it into a nice frosting texture. These measurements are approximate, I just eyeball it because I have made it so much. Enjoy!

Brownie Husband

March 16, 2011

Double dose of Brownies today, one for a friend who was looking for a good brownie recipe and one that I promised to post. First is Maida Heatter’s brownies. If you are not familiar with Maida, she is the goddess of dessert, with several decadent dessert cookbooks. My mom has been making these as long as I can remember. They are fudgey and gooey and delicious. I rebelled against her and made box brownies when I moved out on my own (yes this is as rebellious as I got, lame I know), but these are truly delicious.

Heatter’s Brownies

1 stick of butter

2 Sq. unsweetened chocolate

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup nuts (optional, I am not a fan of nuts in my brownies)

pinch of salt

Melt butter and chocolate over low heat and cool 3 mins. Add sugar, vanilla, eggs (one at a time) and mix to blend. Add flour, salt and nuts, just stir to blend. Line an 8X8 pan with foil and butter the foil. Bake 350 degrees, 20-25 mins.

Ok now for the Amaretto ones, can you say OMG! the frosting is like amaretto fudge. If you are not familiar with Amaretto, it is an almond flavored liquor from Italy. There are several imitations but the good stuff is the DiSaronno (yes please send me some free for the plug, DiSaronno makers). I have even bought a nip of it for the recipe since the big bottle is pricey, and a nip will easily cover the 4T you need for the recipe. These brownies are to die for, easy to make, and will impress any sweet tooth.

Amaretto Brownies

1 cup butter, 4 ounces (4 squares) of unsweetened chocolate, 2 cups of sugar, 4 eggs – beaten, 2Tablespoons of Amaretto, 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp of salt. Recipe for Amaretto frosting to follow.

Combine butter and chocolate over low heat until melted, stirring constantly. Add sugar and stir till combined. Remove from heat and cool. Stir in beaten eggs and Amaretto. Combine flour and salt, add to mixture, stirring well. Pour batter into greased 13X9 pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes, don’t overcook. Cool, frost and sprinkle with almonds.

Amaretto frosting

1/4 cup butter, 1 oz unsweetened chocolate, 2Tablespoons half and half, 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, dash of salt, 2Tablespoons of Amaretto.

Combine butter and chocolate over low heat until melted, add half and half. Add sugar, salt and Amaretto, stirring until smooth. Frost brownies once cool.

Oh and for an added bonus, watch this SNL clip, Brownie Husband, for a great laugh. This is the only husband I have right now!

Stracoto with Porcini Mushrooms

March 14, 2011

Stracoto with Porcini Mushrooms is my all time favorite pot roast recipe that I love making for company to knock their socks off.  Stracoto actually means “overcooked” in Italian but that is because you let the meat cook slowly till it falls apart. This recipe also works in the crock pot too, on the low setting, but I prefer to sear it in my Le Cruset dutch oven pan and bake it in the oven for the 3 hours, as listed in the recipe.

The secret here is the Porcini mushrooms, which you can find dried in most any store, and also some great Italian red wine. The wine and the porcini really give the pot roast tenderness and smoky flavor. If you can’t find porcini, don’t make it (I will mail you some if need be!), as that is the key ingredient, you really cannot substitute any regular or other mushrooms here. I think my cousin even got me a big thing of porcini mushrooms at Costco or Sam’s once, so they are out there. You only need .05 ounces, so a small 1 oz pack (what I bought) will make two batches. I also used an immersion blender (no I am not all fancy and stuff, my hubby had one for his yummy protein shakes) to blend up the juice and mushrooms and onions into a nice thick gravy to put over the roast. Sometimes I skip this step and just spoon the juices and veggies over the meat.

I made it with my usual pot roast side, egg noodles (my dad’s favorite) and also with Grilled Ratatouille. Honestly I made the ratatouille because I love saying that word and it is my girls favorite movie. I have to say that it was one of the prettiest and tastiest dishes I have made as a side.  So if you need a new spin on your ancient pot roast recipe, check this one out, and serve it with potatoes or risotto in winter and some nice grilled ratatouille in the warmer weather.

Stracoto Con Porcini

1 (4-pound) boneless beef chuck roast
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, sliced
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 cup dry red wine
1 3/4 cups canned beef broth
1/2-ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 large sprig fresh rosemary, plus extra for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the beef generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy 6-quart roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until brown on all sides, about 15 minutes total cooking time. Transfer the beef to a bowl. Add remaining tablespoon oil to the pan, add the onions and saute until tender, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the wine and boil 1 minute. Stir in the broth and mushrooms. Return the beef to the pan. Bring the liquids to a boil. Cover and transfer to the oven. Braise until the beef is fork-tender, turning the beef over halfway through cooking, about 3 hours.

Transfer the beef to a cutting board. Tent the beef with foil and let stand 15 minutes. Meanwhile, spoon any excess fat off the top of the pan juices. Transfer the pan juices and vegetables to a blender and puree until smooth. Combine the sauce and rosemary sprig in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Cut the beef across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange the sliced beef on a platter and garnish with rosemary. Spoon the sauce over and serve, passing the remaining sauce in a sauce boat.

Grilled Ratatouille

2 zucchini, cut into quarters lengthwise

2 yellow squash, cut into quarters lengthwise

2 Japanese eggplant, halved lengthwise

2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered

2 yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered

2 red onions, quartered

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons

Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves

1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Place all cut vegetables and the tomatoes in a large shallow baking dish, add the 1/2 cup of olive oil, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place the vegetables on the grill and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time. Remove the tomatoes, cover grill, and cook the remaining vegetables for 2 minutes, or until almost cooked through. Transfer vegetables to a cutting board and coarsely chop (leave tomatoes whole). Place the chopped vegetables and tomatoes in a large bowl, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic, oregano and parsley and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve at room temperature.


What Tara’s cookin right now…

March 13, 2011

Tomorrow night I will post both my mom’s Amaretto Brownie recipe and my Stracoto (pot roast) with Porcini mushrooms recipe, so keep an eye out…

If you like Chicken Piccata and getting caught in the rain…

March 9, 2011

Just a quick post before bed and before I forget, two kids later and I am lucky I can even spell or type! I hope I did not get that annoying Buffett song stuck in your head, I couldn’t help it, I love melding song titles and recipes. I promised on an earlier post that I would put up my favorite Piccata recipe, here it is. The key to this recipe is pounding the chicken flat with a meat mallet (just picture an ex or a terrible boss), or a can of something heavy, to tenderize the chicken which helps it absorb the sauce. I do not use the fresh parsley listed in the recipe at all, I don’t think it goes well and I am not a fan of it in piccata. This recipe is simple and does not need the garnish.

The fresh lemon juice and the capers really give this recipe its awesome tangy bite. As I mentioned previously, if you don’t like capers, use them in the sauce and remove them, to add the necessary flavor for Piccata. My friendly neighborhood commissary actually had capers, I was in shock! They also had pancetta (great carbonara recipe coming soon), so pretty much I can’t complain about the commissary on base. As usual, I digress. If you are a fan of piccata or have never tried it, try this easy recipe by a chef who is also easy on the eyes, Giada, and you won’t be disappointed. Manga!

Diet Donuts (yeah right!)

March 5, 2011

Ok so sometimes I get all crazy and I make homemade donuts. Hey being unemployed gives me lots of free time. I know you think, she IS crazy, who has the time or energy to cook donuts from scratch? But in actuality this buttermilk donut recipe is quite easy. You won’t believe how delicious donuts fresh from the fryer are. You can use the glaze listed in the recipe or you can even put nutella on for frosting, whatever floats your boat. Even simple cinnamon and sugar works. If you are having company or just feel like being naughty, try this recipe. I like it because it does not require yeast and the dough is easy to work with. I usually half the recipe because it makes a ridiculous amount of donuts, even at half. Screw Dunks or $2 starbucks donuts and make your own for a sweet treat. Oh and if you make them at home from fresh ingredients and from scratch that makes them natural and healthy right?