Category Archives: recipes

Risotto with Chives

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As I’m trying to watch my carb intake, I don’t eat much rice…but every once in a while, a good creamy risotto is such comfort food!

Ingredients:

1 cup Arborio rice

1 cup diced yellow onion

1/2 c. white wine

3 to 4 cups chicken broth, warmed

1 c. grated parmesan cheese

2 T. butter

Truffle oil or truffle salt

I package chives, minced

2 T. parsley, minced

Directions:

Heat some olive oil in a pot. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the rice and sauté a few minutes. Pour in the wine and stir constantly until the wine evaporates. Add the broth, one scoop at a time, and cook until the broth is incorporated. Continue in this manner until the rice is tender.

Add in the parsley, chives, butter, and parmesan cheese. Stir for a while and add some pepper and either the truffle salt or the truffle oil. Stir and serve.

Top with some more Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Skinny Eggplant Parmigiana!

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I know, you’re probably thinking that just because Eggplant Parmigiana is a vegetarian dish that it would be low-cal! Actually, that’s not the case when it’s made in the traditional way. Usually, the eggplant slices are breaded and then fried in oil to crisp them up before layering them with the tomato sauce and cheese. But in this recipe, that frying step is eliminated…thus cutting out lots of fat!

Baked Eggplant Parmigiana
Serves 6
About 200 calories per serving

2 large eggs, whisked with about 2 T of water
1 1/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan type cheese (I used Trader Joe’s Asiago), plus 2 T.
Some dried spices like Oregano and Basil
Some salt and pepper to taste
2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ rounds
1 1/2 cups shredded lite mozzarella cheese  
About 3 to 4 cups marinara sauce (I used the one I made here)

1.  Sprinkle some salt on both sides of the eggplant slices and let them sit for awhile until they release some of their water.  Dab off the water.

2.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

3.  Mix together the breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup of the parmesan cheese, and spices in a bowl.

4.  Dip each eggplant round into the egg mixture and then coat it with the breadcrumb mixture and place them on a cookie sheet that has been coated with cooking spray.

5.  Place the eggplant slices in the oven for about 25 minutes (or until the eggplants are slightly tender).

6.  Turn the broiler on and brown the eggplant slices on both sides, being careful not to burn them.  You want them to be a little crispy.

7.  When the eggplant slices are browned, remove them from the oven.  Turn the heat to 400 degrees.

8.  Coat the bottom of a baking dish with some marinara sauce.

9.  Place half the eggplant rounds in a single layer on top of the sauce.

10.  Sprinkle half the mozzarella cheese over the eggplant.

11.  Repeat with more sauce, eggplant and finish with the cheese.  Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese on the top.

12.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.  Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Prosciutto & Melon – A Perfect Combination

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Last night, after having eaten a big lunch for Father’s Day, we decided to have a light but tasty meal. I had a cantaloupe melon that was at that perfectly ripe stage, right before going bad! Ha! Ha! It was deliciously sweet! So I decided to pair it with some prosciutto! That combination of sweet and salty was the perfect light meal.

Prosciutto and melon is a classic summertime appetizer in Italy and has been so for centuries! Evidently, melon was considered a “dangerous” fruit back in Medieval times. It’s properties of being cold and juicy were not a good thing (maybe that’s why my Nonna used to forbid me to have ice cold water in the dead of summer because it would give me indigestion!). Anyway, to counterbalance the danger of the cold and juicy melon, it had to be combined with something warm and dry – like prosciutto! Hence, the delightful combination was born – thankfully something good came out of those dark ages!

Pasta Cacio e Pepe

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This was the most simple pasta sauce to prepare…and it was absolutely delicious! Traditionally it is made with long thin noodles, but my orrechiette (little ears) was delicious as well (even though some will think I committed a sacrilegious act by using the incorrect pasta shape!!) This dish is a typical Roman dish and the important thing is to reserve some of the pasta water in order to make the sauce! The starch in the water helps the sauce bind to the pasta.

Ingredients:

1 lb. pasta – I used orrechiette (little ears), but I think anything would work well

200 g. pecorino romano – freshly grated (Trader Joe’s has a great one!)

Pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook the pasta as directed.

While the pasta is cooking, grate the cheese into a large bowl.

Add some of the pasta water, a little at a time, to the grated cheese. Mix it up until it melts into a nice consistency. Do not make it runny!

Add the cooked pasta and lots of pepper. Mix well and serve

Italy Meets Asia…Like Marco Polo!

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We all know that Marco Polo brought pasta back to Italy from his travels to the Orient….so, why not combine the two cultures to make some exquisite pasta delicacies?  That is exactly what I did last weekend.  My mom, the native Italian, actually came up with the idea.  We live in California in an area with a very heavy Asian presence, therefore Asian specialty markets abound!  Asian staples are easily found in the local supermarkets.  We decided to make agnolotti, a sort of ravioli, with Sue Gow wrappers – a kind of very thin wonton wrapper.

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This is fresh and the pasta sheets are round and very thin! Just perfect to wrap around some great Italian filling!

Realizing I didn’t have the real filling meats (veal, beef, sausage), but having the desire to make the agnolotti RIGHT now (do you ever get those “want to make something right now” moments? – if so you’ll understand!), I decided to raid the freezer and refrigerator to see what I had readily available. I found some ground turkey and frozen spinach, along with pancetta and parmesan cheese and a couple of eggs to hold it all together…and voila!!! A delicious filling was created, I’ll have to say! I took a round wrapper, filled it with the filling, used a little water around the edges, and crimped the edges together. The finished product was a little half moon of heaven!

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I cooked them up in a brown butter-sage sauce and they were a big hit!

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So the next time you want to make some “homemade” stuffed pasta, look no further than the Asian section of the supermarket!

 

 

Everyday Italian Cooking…Easy!

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My mom was watching me prepare dinner the other day and she blurted out, “You spend too much time prepping for your meals! Why don’t you make simple things instead of chopping, chopping, chopping!” Ha! Ha! Coming from an Italian Nonna, these words stung a little – I thought I was cooking something special and tasty, and in order to get all those good flavors, I had to spend lots of time prepping. But then, I thought back to my mom’s cooking – it’s always delicious and healthy…and a lightbulb went off that I don’t need to always spend so much time – healthy, tasty meals can be achieved with the simplest ingredients in the simplest manner possible. So I asked her how she cooked her chicken legs and thighs on the stovetop. This is her recipe – so delicious and, I have to admit, REALLY easy! You just need a little time to cook this slowly, but other than that, there really isn’t much to it!  I’m not going to add amounts for the ingredients because everything will be to taste!

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Ingredients:

Chicken pieces, such as drumsticks and thighs – skin removed but bone in

Desired spices – I use a combination of Italian seasonings, with pepper and a little salt

Butter

Olive oil

White wine

Directions:

Wash the chicken but don’t dry it.

In a skillet large enough to hold the chicken but not too large that the flavors can’t coat the chicken, place everything except the white wine in the pan.

Turn the heat to low and cover the pan. Let it cook slowly for about half an hour.

Look at it and see if the water has evaporated. If not and the chicken hasn’t developed any color yet, increase the heat just a tad. Cover and cook a few more minutes.

Check the chicken frequently and turn the pieces to evenly brown them. When all the water has evaporated and the chicken pieces have browned well, add a splash of white wine. Turn the chicken and evaporate down most of the wine.

A Reminder of My Childhood – Vitello Tonnato

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When I was a young child, we used to visit Italy about every 3 years – mostly to see my grandparents, cousins, and aunts.  During those visits, I spent a lot of time with my Nonna Luigia.  Nonna was an excellent cook (in fact, she had owned a restaurant while my dad was growing up).  Every night we would be invited to Nonna’s house for dinner.  I was always amazed how she could cook up some great meals – all without having an oven.  She only had a small cooktop, but she’d whip up some delicious dinners.  One of those delicasies was Vitello Tonnato!  This is the perfect dish to enjoy on a warm summer evening.  Last night, on another warm summer evening, I decided to try my luck with this recipe.  As soon as I took my first taste, I was transported back to my Nonna’s little apartment many years ago!

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Vitello Tonnato

The first part involves preparing the roast.  This should be done in advance so it has time to cool.

900 gram Veal roast, tied up (ask the butcher to do this for you)

2 carrots, cut in half

1 onion, cut into pieces

2 celery stalks, cut into pieces

Small bunch of parsley

1/4 liter white wine

Salted water

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the meat, wine and vegetables to the pot.  Cover and poach gently for approximately 1 hour.  Take the pan off the heat and allow the veal to cool down in the broth.  Reserve some of the broth for the sauce.  Wrap the roast in foil and place it in the refrigerator until it is completely cold. 

For the sauce:

200 g of tuna fillets packed in oil

3 – 4 salted anchovies

2 hard boiled egg yolks

2 T. capers

4 T. olive oil

Juice of l large lemon

4-5 T. of veal broth

Salt & pepper to taste

Blend together the tuna, anchovies, egg yolks and capers in a Cuisinart.  Pour in the lemon juice and olive oil and blend until smooth.

Add the broth bit by bit until you have a nice spreading consistency.  Season with salt and pepper.

To serve:

Cut up the veal into thin slices and arrange them on a large serving dish.  Coat with the sauce and sprinkle some capers on the top.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for a few hours for the flavors to blend.  Bring to room temperature before serving.