Tag Archives: Italian

Buccantini alla finnochiona, a mouthful that tastes great!

17 Jan

A quick recipe… no real back story here. I was just in the mood for pasta and came up with this. Enjoy…

Buccantini alla finnochiona

Serves 2

8 oz buccantini pasta
1/4 pound finnochiona (fennel spiked salami)
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and julienned
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup water
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deviened
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté fennel in 1 tablespoon oil until caramelized. Deglaze pan with orange juice and add in sugar. Cook until the juice is reduced. Add in the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water. Reduce by half and puree. While the pasta is cooking, add the remaining oil into the same pan that the fennel was sautéed in and then add in the finnochiona. Let the fat render for about 2 minutes and then add the shrimp to the pan. Cook the shrimp until all the pieces are pink and almost opaque. Add the puree back in to the pan and then add the remaining water. You can add more water if you need to; you are looking for a consistency of warm maple syrup. When the pasta is cooked, toss with the sauce and meat. Garnish with a fennel frond.

Always thinking of the next meal


I will tira-miss-u

5 Jan

I’m watching what I’m eating. I feel depressed just thinking about that phrase. Let’s face it, I love all things butter, cream and chocolate. I like salt and sugar and egg yolks. God, help me. Life is short and I want to enjoy every mouth full!

With that being said, I’m a realist. Life is short, but I don’t want it to be any shorter. I’m trying to switch up my usual cooking to be more healthy, without losing any flavor. And really, if I can, I want to add more flavor.

Tiramisu is one of my all time favorite desserts. What isn’t to love about espresso and rum soaked cakes layered between creamy, whipped mascarpone cheese and cocoa? So, how do you make this dish lighter and tastier? Start with portion size. Small portions are all the rage in restaurants. Desserts served in shot glasses make you feel less guilty but still leave you satisfied. I “plated” these little beauties in mini trifle dishes, but a tall shot glass would be a perfect substitute.

My first upgrade to this classic Italian dish was to use low fat dark chocolate biscotti instead of lady fingers. I used Martha’s recipe for the biscotti, but I substituted non fat greek yogurt for the oil. I then crumbled 4 biscotti and put 1 at the bottom of each dish. I mixed 1 tablespoon of instant espresso with a 1/2 cup of hot water and 1 tablespoon spiced rum. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoon of the espresso mixture over the cookies.

For the cheese layer, instead of mascarpone, I combined 3/4 cup non fat greek yogurt, 1/4 cup light, whipped cream cheese, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/3 cup powdered sugar. Layer this on top of the cookies and then continue to layer until you’ve run out of ingredients. To garnish, sprinkle with any remaining biscotti crumbs and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

I know these changes don’t make this dish fat free, or super low calorie, but it is dessert and it is better than the usual. Remember the key is portion size. The double dark chocolate biscotti with take care of your chocolate craving and the creamy yogurt layer tastes like a cross between cheesecake and cannoli filling.

Give this recipe a try. It’s definitely a treat and a good way to keep on track

Always thinking of the next meal


Yes, I do love sausage

10 Nov

IMG_0935One of my favorite all time meals is sausage and peppers. It’s rustic and beautiful. The sweetness of the peppers and the onions make the spices in the sausage sing. A match made in heaven.

When I make my version I use plenty of mild Italian sausage with lots of fennel and black pepper. I made this last batch when I was up visiting my brother. On his recommendation, I went to this little Italian market called Lino’s. If you are in the neighborhood, it’s a must. They make 3 different kinds of sausage in house. I bought the mild and was delighted to find huge pieces of peppercorns, garlic and fennel seed inside. They also used natural casings so when the sausage cooks, it makes the sausage crisp up on the outside. It was also very moderately priced at 2.29 per pound.

Back to the recipe. I like to make lots of extra onions and peppers to go with the sausage. Maybe it’s the idea that if I eat more vegetables I won’t feel as guilty eating the sausage. When making the dish for more than 2, adjust the ratios as necessary. Here’s what I do:

Sausage and Peppers

1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 large red bell pepper, julienne
1 large green bell pepper, julienne
1 large yellow onion, julienne
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the sausage into 2-3 inch pieces and sear in a hot pan. Let the sausages cook for 10- 15 minutes and then remove from the pan. Add the peppers are onions into the pan to sauté. Let cook until soft and season with salt and pepper. Add the sausage back into the pan and heat through.

Now, how do you complete the meal? Well I serve mine with my mom’s recipe for garlic roasted red potatoes. But you could certainly serve it over pasta, or rice. It is also fantastic served on a hoagie roll with a little brown mustard. Like I said this a rustic dish that should be treated that way. No need for fancy sauces or plating. Just serve it. The flavors are warm and hearty. Great for the cooler nights of late fall and early winter.

Always thinking of the next meal


The Zen of Risotto

7 Oct

IMG_0860I love risotto. It’s one of those dishes that requires love and patience. You have to stir and wait, and add liquid and stir, and wait some more (that’s why I call it the zen). It’s a labor of love that rewards you every time. But with that said, if you rush it you will be seriously disappointed.

The picture of the risotto to the right is a butternut squash risotto. You can really make a gorgeous risotto with almost any flavor, but I really like the butternut squash because it contributes a nice balance of sweet and savory. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

When making risotto you need three main ingredients, arborio rice, fat, and liquid. In most cases the liquid is stock and the fat is oil, but you can certainly use butter, duck fat, or bacon fat. I would stay away from grapeseed and soy oil simply because they don’t contribute much flavor to the end result. As far as the rice goes, risotto really isn’t risotto if you don’t use arborio rice. Arborio rice is a short starchy from Italy. If you use another type of rice the out come will be different. Here’s my recipe:

Butternut Squash Risotto

1/3 cup arborio rice
1 medium shallot, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine (I used pinot grisio)
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup puréed roasted butternut squash
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

So why am I not including the directions with the ingredients? Well like most of my other posts risotto is a technique. Here’s how you do it.

1. Heat up a sauce pan and add the fat

2. Add shallots or onions if you’re using them and sweat for 3-5 minutes

3. Add in the rice and stir to coat each grain

4. Add in the wine and stir

5. Continue to stir until the wine is almost completely absorbed

6. Add in the stock 2-4 ounces at a time allowing the rice to absorb each addition of liquid before adding the next

7. Once all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, add in the butternut squash and cheeses

8. Season and serve

Other great flavorings for risotto are shrimp, asparagus, and ham with gruyere. You can also switch out cheeses and try blue cheese and smoked goudas. Also try swirling in pesto or sun-dried tomatoes.

Always thinking of the next meal


Magic Food

6 Sep

I believe that food can be magic. When you were little and not feeling well, your mom made you chicken noodle soup. Maybe it was a holiday meal that made you feel so comfortable and at home that you never wanted to leave the table. Maybe it is just the smell of freshly baked brownies that make you warm up and feel like there’s no other place in the world that you need to be.

The Italian Chicken Soup that my mom used to make when we were sick, is what does it for me. The smell of the golden broth, and the Italian herbs simmering all day just made you feel better just thinking about it. In fact we’ve even given it the nickname, Feel Better Soup.

I think I read somewhere that chicken soup is full of all kinds of good vitamins and minerals that make you feel better. Something about boosting your serotonin blah blah blah. The fact of the matter is that chicken soup makes you feel better because someone that loves you did something just for you. Personally I think it’s the love that goes into the food that helps to make you feel better.

Here’s the recipe:

Feel Better SoupIMG_0792

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound carrots, small dice
1 pound celery, small dice
1 1/2 cups yellow onions, small dice
2 cans diced tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic
2 large chicken breasts
48 oz chicken stock
2 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup pasta, cook separately
2 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
grated parmesan for garnish

Sauté the vegetables and garlic in the oil. When the vegetables are soft add in the tomatoes and chicken stock. Add in the chicken breast whole and bring to a simmer. Allow the chicken to poach for 20 10-15 minutes. When the chicken is cooked through, remove and dice. Add back to the soup. Allow soup to simmer for 30-45 minutes. 10 minutes before service, cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Add 1/4 cup of the cooked pasta to an empty bowl and ladle the hot soup on top. Grate parmesan on top to garnish.

When Ryan was growing up his mom would make chicken soup too. She served them with crunchy peanut butter sandwiches. At first, I thought this was a little weird. Peanut butter and chicken? Well, it works in Thai food doesn’t it? I’m telling you it’s actually really good. So the traditions have been combined. My mom’s Italian chicken soup and Ryan’s Mom’s crunchy peanut butter sandwiches.

Since we are both feeling under the weather, I can’t wait for dinner. The house smells so good and I’m about to go make the sandwiches. Not the best way to spend Labor Day weekend, but I never mind having Feel Better Soup.

Always thinking of the next meal


The wonderful cut, london broil

26 Aug

So I don’t know about you, but my local grocery store has london broil on sale about every other week. The deal is usually a BOGO (buy one get one free.) I love london broil, but marinating and grilling or marinating and broiling does get a bit dull. For argument sake london broil is similar to a flank steak. Although the london broil is NOT flank steak, it just looks like one. There is no specific area that this cut comes from per say, but it is usually cut from the top round. Not sure what that is? It’s OK. Top round is typically used for roasts and slow cooking. So why is this cut mostly thrown on the grill as if it was a quick cooking cut? As with a lot of culinary questions, no one seems to know the whole story.

While a good grilled london broil can feed an army, it has to be thinly sliced to not taste like meat flavored bubble gum. It also tends to be dry since it is a very lean meat and the muscle fibers are thick and long. My solution to this culinary mystery? Cook the london broil the way you would cook any top round roast… low and slow.

I’m making an Italian pot roast with my london broil. Because it is typically trimmed within an inch of it’s life at the store, we have to compensate the lack of fat with BIG flavor. IMG_0772I used a whole head of garlic, thyme, rosemary, oregano, carrots, onion, and celery to give the sauce the big flavor. I also used 2 cups of cabernet sauvignon. The wine reduces and gives the whole dish depth and body.

There really is no recipe to post for this one. Again this comes down to technique. The slow cooker, although not a traditional culinary tool, is quite a help for this. It takes less energy to heat the slow cooker or crockpot than it would to heat the oven for the same amount of time. So the technique…

The technique used here is braising. First thing to do is sear the meat in a little fat. Make sure you get a nice brown crust on both sides. Put the meat in the slow cooker. In the same pan that you brown the meat in, add the vegetables. You might need a little more fat which is OK. Sauté the vegetables until they are just soft. Add the wine to the pan to deglaze. Put the wine and vegetables into the slow cooker with the meat and turn it on to high. At this point you can add any herbs and spices that you like. I also like adding a large can of whole tomatoes and garlic, but you can add beef stock or even water if you don’t want to use the tomatoes.

You’ll know the meat is ready when you can shred it easily with tongs or 2 forks. Typically I make this dish in the fall as a wonderful warm up, but what can I say, I was just in the mood tonight.

On a final note. You can use this technique of braising on just about anything. The only real difference is the cooking time. If you are braising chicken it will probably only need 2-3 hours before it’s ready. You can braise vegetables too. Turnips, carrots, bok choy, and leeks all take to this cooking technique. Just make sure to monitor your time so you don’t over cook or you’ll wind up with a mushy mess.

Always thinking of the next meal