Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spicy Asian Noodle Salad

This noodle salad is always a big hit at potlucks, picnics, and gatherings.  It is quite spicy, which is what I personally love about it.  The salad is best made ahead of time, preferably the day before. This gives the flavors time to blend. Also, it is intended to be served chilled, so it needs at least a few hours in the refrigerator after preparation.
For the dressing:
I know it is cheating, but I absolutely love Trader Joe's Asian Style Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette. I use the whole bottle (12 oz.) for one recipe of noodle salad. It is sold with refrigerated salad dressings at Trader Joe's. If you are unable to get this dressing, the next best thing is the same amount of ready made thai peanut sauce.  As you can see from the recipe, if convenience is the priority, Trader Joe's is a one stop shop to make this delicious side dish.
For the noodle salad:
1 lb linguine
8 oz. cooked chicken, diced into small pieces
4 green onions (scallions) thinly sliced
3 peppers, yellow, orange or red, cut into very thin strips (or use about 6 oz. Trader Joe's frozen pepper strips, let thaw before before using.)
2-3 carrots, grated (or about 4 oz. Trader Joe's prepackaged shredded carrots)
3-4 tablespoons sesame seeds
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the linguine according to package directions. When pasta is al dente strain and set aside. In the pasta pot, put the dressing/peanut sauce, and combine all of the other ingredients. Pour the pasta back into the pot, and stir thoroughly until all of the ingredients are mixed together consistently. That is it! What could be simpler? Now all you need to do is put the pasta salad in a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate at least a few hours before serving. It is even tastier if you let it sit overnight. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rosemary Focaccia

Focaccia is a flat oven baked bread. It is often brushed with olive oil, then topped with an herb such as rosemary. Many attribute its origins to Genova. Focaccia is a popular snack, but also a delicious paired with a rich seafood stew to complete a meal. Many of the tastiest breads need a starter dough or require a really long time to rise.  What is really nice about this focaccia is that it needs only a couple of hours to rise, and the dough can be made in a snap. This recipe is simply delicious topped with rosemary, but you can be creative.  Olives, or onions can also make tasty toppings. Keep it simple, and it is sure to satisfy. Once you make the focaccia, the smell of the baking bread alone will keep coming back for more and more.
1/4 oz. (1 package) dry active yeast
1 2/3 cups warm water
pinch flour
pinch of sugar
5 cups flour
1/4 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons of salt
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
3-4  tbsp olive oil to brush focaccia
coarse sea salt
To start with, combine 1 2/3 cups warm water with the yeast and pinch of sugar and salt.  Stir well, and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, until bubbly.
In a stand mixer combine the 5 cups flour, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 3 teaspoons of salt. When the yeast mixture is ready, add that to the mixing bowl. Use the  paddle attachment and  beat the mixture on medium speed until the dough starts to come together.
Once the dough is formed, switch attachments, and put the dough hook. Put the mixer to medium speed for about 2 minutes, until the dough is soft and elastic. Knead the dough by hand for a few minutes, then form it into a nice ball.
In the bottom of your mixing bowl, put a few table spoons of olive oil. Roll the dough around in the bowl until it is evenly coated. Then put the bowl in  a draft free location, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rest for 1 1/2-2 hours, longer if time allows.
When dough has risen significantly, get your 9 by 13 inch baking sheet ready. Give it a nice coating of olive oil, then pour your dough onto it. Spread the dough so that it evenly covers the baking sheet. You can do this with your hands, or use a rolling pin to help you. At this point, cover the dough again with a kitchen towel, and let it rest for at least an hour longer.
When you are about ready to make the focaccia, heat the over to 425 degrees. With your fingertip, make indentations all over the dough. In a small bowl, put the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, then brush it across the top of your focaccia dough generously, so the the oil goes inside the holes. Then, take your finely chopped fresh rosemary, and generously sprinkle it all over the  surface of the dough. Next, use a course sea salt, and give the whole focaccia a nice sprinkling.
When the oven is heated, place the focaccia on the middle oven  rack. Let it bake for bake for about 20-25 minutes, until it is nice and golden brown all over.
Remove focaccia from oven, let it cool a few minutes before serving if your company can resist. I usually cut it into squares. If there is any leftover, it does freeze well. You thaw frozen focaccia and heat it in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Otherwise, leftovers will last about a day before starting to taste dried out. This has never been a problem in my household. ENJOY!!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Classic Ragu Bolognese

Anyone who cares about what they eat knows that Ragu is not the sauce that comes out of a jar. This is the classic Italian meat sauce. It can be served with fresh tagliatelle egg pasta, or spaghetti. This is also the same sauce that is used to make a traditional meat lasagne. There are many variations, but I consider this to be the authentic preparation. A delicious meat sauce is the ultimate comfort food, and it never disappoints.
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 carrot diced
1 celery stick chopped
1 clove garlic minced
4 strips bacon
1 1/2 pound ground beef (or mixture with ground veal or pork)
2/3 cup red wine
1/2 cup milk
grated nutmeg
14 oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp fresh oregano, less if dried
salt to taste
1 lb pasta of choice, tagliatelle or spaghetti
grated parmesan cheese to taste
If you have a chopper, for me this is the easiest way to get started. In your chopper, put the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and bacon. Cut the ingredients into uniform size pieces before putting in chopper. Then pulse the chopper until everything is pretty finely chopped. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, and when it is really hot, and the vegetable mixture. Saute over medium high heat until everything becomes nice and golden. Next add the ground meat, and stir occasionally until the meat is nicely browned.
Add the red wine to the meat mixture. Bring to a boil, and stir regularly until most of the wine has been absorbed by the meat mixture. Add salt to taste. Now add the milk, and a little bit of nutmeg. Continue cooking until most of the milk been absorbed. Next add the chopped tomatoes, sugar and oregano. Stir all the ingredients together, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 1-2 hours if you can. The sauce should take on a brick red color. Sauce should be quite thick, but if is too thick, you can add a little bit of canned tomato sauce (puree) until you get your desired consistency. If the sauce will be used for lasagne, you need it to be thicker. Your sauce is ready!
For the pasta, bring water to a strong boil in a large pot. Once the water is boiling, add about a handful of rock salt. Now you are ready to cook the pasta until it is al dente. Once pasta is to desired doneness, strain it, and put it back in the pot with about a cup of sauce. Stir together over medium heat. Then put your pasta onto your serving dish, and top with an additional desired amount of sauce, and a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Buon Appetito!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chimichurri sauce, choripan

Chimichurri is the quintessential Argentinean condiment and/or marinade. It can be used as a marinade for a succulent steak, or more simply in the form of churripan. Churripan is everything street food is supposed to be- fast, delicious, and genuine. With barbecue season upon us, why not give your gathering a South American flair?
For best results, make your chimichurri a few hours ahead of time, to give your flavors some time to come together.

For the chimichurri:
3 bunches Italian flatleaf parsley
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tbsp fresh oregano
1 tbsp crushes red pepper flakes
4 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor combine all of the above ingredients except the olive oil. Blend the mixture until it is finely chopped, and has the consistency of  a pesto. Then pour the contents into a container with a tight sealing lid. Add enough olive oil to cover the mixture, probably about a half cup. Stir well. The marinade should not be too thick, It should have enough oil to make it easily spreadable. Allow the marinade to rest at room temperature until you are ready to use it. Now it is to get the grill fired up!

To make churripan:
sausage (I suggest a German bratwurst. You don't need a spicy sausage, since the chimichurri has plenty of flavor on its own)
desired amount of chimichurri (above recipe)
fresh bread such as hoagie roll, baguette, or other sandwich roll.

Get your grill nice and really hot. Put the sausages on the grill, and let them get nice and browned on the outside. Once sausage appears done from the outside, remove them from the grill and butterfly them. Put them back on the fire, with the inside part down. Turn your sausage as needed until it reaches the desired doneness on all sides. When sausage is good to go, open up your bread of choice and put it on the grill with the inside part facing down. When it is nice and golden brown, remove from the grill. Promptly brush the bread generously with your chimichurri sauce. Put the sausage on top, and add a little more chimichurri if you so desire. Close the bread, and enjoy the amazing goodness that awaits you. Everyone will be coming back for more, so be prepared and enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Veal Stew Spezzatino di Vitello

Veal is a delicious and flavorful meat when prepared well. Stew meat tends to be a little less expensive than other cuts of veal, so this is a great way to take advantage of savings without sacrificing any taste. Veal from mainstream supermarkets tends to be way overpriced, and not as fresh since it may not move as fast. I can not overemphasize how it is worth the effort to seek out ethnic markets, or smaller independent markets that do their own butchering. The product will be fresher, less expensive, and unprocessed. I do this veal stew using a pressure cooker, and the result is really satisfying. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can follow the same recipe. Just allow yourself about 2-2 1/2 hours for the veal to simmer over a low heat until tender. This is a recipe that is ideal for the pressure cooker.

2-2 1/2 pounds veal stew meat, cut in approx. 1 inch cubes
1 onion chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
1 lb. roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sugar
salt to taste

In your pressure cooker (without the lid on) heat the olive oil, then brown the onion, rosemary and veal over high heat, about 5-7 minutes. Salt lightly. When veal begins to brown, add the chopped tomatoes, cup of white wine, and a cup of water, and sugar to the mixture. Stir well. Next secure the lid on your pressure cooker. Once the valve begins to rock gently, put the heat to medium high, and allow the meat to cook for about 15 minutes. Once the meat has had time to cook, reduce the pressure in your pressure cooker according to directions, with mine I place it in cold water. Once you are able to remove the lid, check veal for doneness and tenderness. There will be a lot of liquid remaining. Remove the veal from the pot and set aside. Turn the heat to high, and stir the cooking liquid regularly until it reduces to a nice sauce consistency. It will probably take about 15 minutes to fully reduce. You do not want the sauce to be watery at all, as it is quite unappealing on your plate. When the cooking liquid becomes to your desired consistency, put the meat back in the pot. Stir well, and bring the meat up to a nice desired serving temperature. Taste and adjust salt level as needed. Once the meat is hot and the sauce is thick, dinner is served. I think potatoes are a really nice side dish with the veal, along with a glass of your favorite red wine. Enjoy your delicious meal.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chicken Marsala

Chicken is so versatile. We eat it all the time, in many different ways. One of my favorite chicken preparations is chicken marsala. The chicken can be made with just the marsala sauce, but in my opinion what really compliments the chicken are some earthy mushrooms as an accompaniment. This is a comfort food, that can be prepared in a short time, so it's a great week-night meal.

1-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut thinly, about 1 cm thick
1/2 cup flour
1 lb. sliced mushrooms (I like the brown crimini)
2-3 green onions sliced (scallion type)
6 tbsp butter
1/2 cup marsala wine
salt to taste

Heat 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. When it in nice and hot, add all of the mushrooms and the chopped green onions. Saute over medium high heat until they are nicely cooked and caramelized. Then remove mushrooms and onion from skillet and set aside. Salt the chicken breasts on both sides, then dredge them in the flour. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet until melted. Cook the chicken for about 2 minutes on each side, depending on thickness, until it is nice and golden. Now put the mushrooms and onion back in the skillet, turn the heat to high, and add the marsala. Cook uncovered until the marsala reduces and forms a nice sauce. Add salt to taste. Stir occasionally until the sauce reaches your desired consistency. Serve the chicken with a nice portion of mushrooms on top, and enjoy.

Monday, April 12, 2010

rosemary thyme marinade

It's getting to be grilling season. What could be tastier than a nicely marinated piece of meat? The enormous shelf full of ready made marinades at the grocery store is stocked with expensive, overprocessed products. Making your own marinade takes almost no time, is delicious, and more importantly, you know what you are eating. The quantity for this recipe is for about 1-2 pounds of meat. It goes particularly well with pork chops and chicken.

1/3 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup olive oil
2-3 springs of rosemary, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic minced
2-3 tbsp fresh thyme (use much less if dried)
salt and pepper to taste

To make the marinade, I combine all the ingredients in a bowl or container with a tight fitting lid. Shake the bowl vigorously until all the marinade looks homogeneous. That's it! What could be simpler? I usually put the meat into a gallon size ziploc bag, pour in the marinade, then let it sit for however much time I have, at least 30 minutes. As I said, thin bone-in porkchops and thin boneless chicken breasts are my faves for this recipe. Get your BBQ nice and hot, and they cook in a flash. Healthy and delicious!