Pasta with Red Kidney Beans

I’m posting this recipe for my son. It is one of his favorite pasta dishes and very comforting for dinner on a cold winter evening. The recipe is adapted from one my great Aunt Rosa made.

Pasta with Red Kidney Beans
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups tomato purée
2 cups water
8 fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1-2 teaspoons sugar
1 (15 oz.) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
3/4 cup pasta cooking water
3/4 lb. elbow macaroni

Heat oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add onion and cook 7-10 minutes until soft and turning golden. Add garlic. Cook 1 minute. Add carrot and celery. Add a bit salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes. Add tomato purée, 2 cups water, basil, oregano and sugar. Cover and cook 10-15 minutes to soften vegetables and evaporate some of the liquid. Add kidney beans and parsley to the tomato sauce. Cook 5 minutes to heat through. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Before draining the pasta, set aside 3/4 cup pasta cooking water for the sauce. Then add cooked pasta and reserved pasta water to the tomato sauce with beans. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Let cook 3-5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Pour into a serving bowl. Serves 4-6.

Posted in Pasta, Sauces, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream

This ice cream is always a hit with family and friends. It is rich and creamy and simple to put together. It would be a nice Valentine’s Day dinner dessert. The recipe came from my friend Marie.

Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream
1 large egg
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3-1/2 cup Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups heavy cream

In a blender combine egg and salt, then blend until frothy, about 1 minute. Add sugar and pulse to mix. Add Nutella and vanilla, then blend until smooth. Scrape down the blender bowl and add cream. Blend again, then scrape down bowl. Blend until smooth but not so much that you whip the cream. Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Makes 1 quart.

Note: If you are concerned about using a raw egg, place all ingredients in a saucepan and, stirring often, bring the mixture to 160 degrees, then let it cool before pouring into an ice cream maker.

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Thai Chicken Coconut Soup

This fragrant and delicious soup is one of my favorites. The recipe is adapted from one I learned to make at a Sur La Table cooking class about ten years ago. I am fortunate to have an Asian market in town that stocks fresh lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, and frozen thinly sliced galangal. My husband has a green thumb so he also grows a small kaffir lime tree to use for Thai cooking. You can use dumplings in place of chicken or try adding a bit of both meat and dumplings. If you need some heat, add a Thai chili.

Thai Chicken Coconut Soup
4-1/2 cups coconut milk
10 thin slices galangal (I use frozen)
5 stalks lemongrass, use bottom 1/3rd of the stalk and cut  into 1-inch lengths then crush it to release flavor
8 fresh kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
1 cup chicken stock
1-3/4 lbs. boneless chicken thighs, sliced into thin strips to equal 3-1/2 cups sliced chicken (you can also use chicken breasts)
5 tablespoons fish sauce (I like Three Crabs brand)
3 tablespoons sugar
juice of 1 medium lime

In a 4-quart saucepan combine 2-1/2 cups of the coconut milk with galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and chicken stock. On low heat slowly bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. This should take 20 minutes or so, allowing the flavors to develop. Let the mixture come to a boil then add chicken, fish sauce, and sugar. Keep the heat on a lower setting and cover. Let simmer for about 7-10 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Add remaining coconut milk and heat just to boiling. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Serves 6-8.

Posted in Chicken, Meat Dishes, Soups | 2 Comments

Gyoza (Asian Dumplings)

On the coldest of winter days, when I don’t have to go outside, I enjoy being at home in the kitchen with a project that may take a bit more time than the usual dinner preparation. One of the dishes I like to make on days when I have extra time is Japanese gyoza or dumplings. I learned how to make them when we lived in Japan years ago but have modified the recipe over time. I like to form the gyoza using a dumpling press, which speeds up the process and they look beautiful. You can boil the gyoza or pan fry and steam them. I prefer to pan fry because I like the bit of crunch the pan frying method adds. Gyoza are served with a dipping sauce. I also like to add them to soups such as Thai chicken coconut soup.

Gyoza (Asian Dumplings)
1/2 head Napa Cabbage or a small bunch of fresh bok choy or spinach
3/4 lb. ground pork
1/4 lb. ground chicken (I will sometimes do 1/2 ground pork and 1/2 ground chicken)
1 large egg, beaten
3 stalks green onion, finely minced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2-3 teaspoons sesame oil

2 pkgs. round potsticker wrappers (48 per pack)
bowl of warm water

Dipping Sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce
1-2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or to taste
1-2 drops sesame oil
a few drops chili oil

Blanch cabbage in salted boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain it well. Squeeze out excess liquid from the cabbage, then finely chop. You want about 3/4 cup of blanched cabbage. Set aside. In a bowl combine both ground meats and egg. Mix well, then add cabbage, onions, garlic, and ginger. Mix well to evenly distribute. Next add salt, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Let filling sit for a few minutes so the flavors can develop. Take one potsticker wrapper and place in the palm of your hand. Dip your finger in the bowl of warm water and run it around the outside edge of the wrapper. Place moistened wrapper in a dumpling press and add 1-1/2 teaspoons filling into the center, then seal shut with the press. Don’t overfill or the gyoza skins will split. (You can also do this by hand without a press by forming the dumpling into a half moon, pleating the edge as you go.) Place filled gyoza on a parchment-lined baking sheet. You can boil the gyoza as you would ravioli in salted boiling water for 5-10 minutes or until they float to the top. You can also fry the gyoza flat side down in a little oil and, once the bottoms are crunchy, add 1/4-1/3 cup of water and cover with a lid to steam for 1-3 minutes. Makes about 75 dumplings.
To Serve: Whisk together dipping sauce ingredients. Place sauce in individual bowls and serve alongside cooked gyoza.

Posted in Appetizers, Chicken, Meat Dishes, Pork, Sauces | 2 Comments

 Creamy Polenta (Slow Cooker Method)

I have made polenta various ways over the years and have found that my favorite method for achieving creamy polenta is to start it on the stove and then transfer it to a slow cooker to simmer. Prepared this way, it is consistently soft and creamy, perfect for a cold winter day. Serve it alongside braised meats or stew. I also like it for a gluten-free breakfast. Be sure to use stone-ground cornmeal for the best flavor and texture. The recipe is adapted from Melissa d’Arabian.

Creamy Polenta (Slow Cooker Method)
4 cups milk
3 cups half and half
2 cups water
1-1/2 cups medium grind stone-ground cornmeal
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-1/2-2 teaspoons kosher salt

Grease or spray the ceramic insert of a 4-quart slow cooker (to keep polenta from sticking) or line with a plastic slow cooker bag. In a 4-quart stockpot whisk together milk, half and half, water, cornmeal, butter, and salt. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a boil, whisking often. Lower heat slightly and and whisking constantly, simmer for 2-3 minutes. Spoon mixture into the prepared slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours until soft and creamy. Stir 3 or 4 times during the cooking process. You can add in some Parmesan cheese at the end of cooking or leave it plain. Serves 6-8.

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Yellow Split Pea Dhal

It’s been a cold and snowy month and I’ve been craving food that is warming but not too rich. Soups and curries are particularly comforting at this time of year and one of my favorites is this recipe for yellow split pea Dhal. I learned to make it from my friend and Indian cooking teacher Farida. Her Dhal is the best I’ve tasted, enriched with black mustard seeds, curry leaves and cilantro. I like a very thin Dhal but if you prefer it thick just cook it a little longer.  It tastes best if made the day before you plan to serve it as the flavor improves with age. The Dhal also freezes beautifully.

Yellow Split Pea Dhal
2 cups yellow split peas, rinsed
8 cups water
1 tablespoon fine salt
2-1/4 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped garlic or garlic paste
1 tablespoon ground coriander or more to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded & chopped or 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 large Anaheim pepper, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1-1/2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
12 fresh curry leaves, rinsed and dried
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed, stemmed and chopped

In a 5-quart stockpot combine rinsed split peas, water and salt. Stir then cover and bring to a boil on medium high heat. Once the water has boiled, lower heat to medium low, keep partially cover and cook about 1 hour and 20 minutes until peas are tender and falling apart and the cooking water is cloudy. It should look like weak, watery soup. Purée with an immersion or hand blender. In a bowl combine crushed tomatoes with garlic, coriander, cumin, and turmeric. Pour tomato mixture into the puréed peas and purée again. Taste and adjust salt. Bring to a boil and add peppers. Cook 5-10 minutes. It should still be thin. If it seems too thick add 1/2 cup very hot water or more to desired consistency. In a small frying pan with a lid, heat vegetable oil on medium heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, add mustard seeds. They will start to sizzle and pop then add curry leaves. Cover and shake. Add oil and spices immediately to the split pea mixture. Stir in the cilantro. Let cook for just a minute. The Dhal should be the consistency of a very light gravy. Serve over basmati rice. Serves 6.

Posted in Dairy-free, Grains, Soups, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Pasta with Red Crab Sauce

This is an easy and delicious pasta dish for an Italian Christmas Eve fish dinner. You can make the sauce in advance then just reheat it and add the crab. Merry Christmas!

Pasta with Red Crab Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28 oz.) cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
sugar to taste
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
2 snow crab clusters, scrubbed
1 lb. thin spaghetti

In a 5-quart pot heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and cook 7-10 minutes until soft. Add garlic to the onions and cook 2 minutes. Purée canned tomatoes in a blender then them to the onions and garlic. Stir to mix. Add water, salt, pepper, sugar and herbs to taste. Cover and turn heat to medium low and cook 30 minutes. Break crab clusters into individual legs and add to the sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes. While crab is cooking in the sauce, boil the pasta. Drain pasta then pour into a serving bowl and toss with the red crab sauce. Serves 6.

Posted in Christmas, Fish and Seafood, Pasta, Sauces | 2 Comments

Roasted Mushroom and Shallot Lasagna

This is my new favorite lasagna recipe. I love the roasted mushrooms in place of meat. If you can’t find mushroom bouillon cubes, then use a spoonful of vegetable ‘Better than Bouillon’ soup base. I usually make the sauce a couple of days in advance and then I roast the mushrooms and shallots the day before assembling the lasagna.

Roasted Mushroom and Shallot Lasagna
Tomato Sauce
1/3 cup olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 (24 oz.) bottles Mutti brand tomato passata (or tomato purée)
1-1/2 cubes Star brand porcini mushroom bouillon
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkling of onion powder
sprinkling of garlic powder
sugar to taste
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1-2 teaspoons dried oregano or to taste
1-2 teaspoons dried marjoram or to taste

In a 6-quart pot heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions are soft and golden. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. Add tomato purée. Pour 1/4 cup water into each empty bottle of passata and shake it to loosen any leftover purée and pour that tomato water into the pot. Bring to a boil, then add bouillon cubes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, sugar, and herbs. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. If it seems too thick, add a bit more water and cook 5 more minutes.

2 (24 oz.) pkgs. Cremini mushrooms, cleaned and cut into 6ths
4 large shallots
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
sprinkling of onion powder
sprinkling of garlic powder
3 (1 lb.) boxes Barilla brand no-boil lasagna noodles
4 lbs. whole milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (do not buy pre-shredded cheese)
1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
dried Greek oregano to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl combine mushrooms and  shallots. Drizzle with olive oil. Mix well. (You may need a little more oil to moisten.) Sprinkle with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Toss to mix. Distribute mushrooms evenly between two baking sheets. Roast, stirring occasionally for 25 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are tender.

Assembly: preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour several ladlesful of hot sauce into the bottom of a 11×14 lasagna pan. Spread sauce evenly to the edges. Place a layer of no-bake noodles on top of sauce. Spoon a bit of sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle 2-3 cups shredded mozzarella over the noodles. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of Parmesan over mozzarella. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of oregano. Place half of the roasted mushrooms over the cheese. Repeat with another layer of noodles, a bit of sauce, cheeses, seasonings, and remaining mushrooms. Top with another layer of noodles, sauce, cheeses, and seasonings. Place some sauce over the cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake 1 hour until noodles are cooked and the cheese is melted and hot in the middle. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving. Serves 15-18.

Posted in Christmas, Easter, Pasta, Sauces, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments

Beef Tenderloin

This beef tenderloin recipe is a lovely special occasion dish. When I purchase the meat I look for a good quality beef cut labeled PSMO (Peeled, Silver Skin, Side Muscle On), when I can find it because, although it involves some trimming (plenty of YouTube videos show how), it is more economical. As in several other meat recipes on my blog I like to roll the beef in an olive oil herb bath as soon as it comes out of the oven and let those herbal flavors infuse into the meat. I roast the meat the day before I intend to serve it, wrapping it in plastic wrap and foil to chill. The next day, slice it while cold, then let it come to room temperature.

Beef Tenderloin
Olive Oil Herb Bath
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
zest of half a medium lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano

6-7 lb. beef Tenderloin
olive oil
salt and pepper
sprinkling of garlic powder
sprinkling of onion powder

Begin by mixing together the olive oil and herb bath. Set it aside. Take tenderloin out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for one hour. Remove the silver lining strip on the meat. Tuck the small ends under the meat. Tie it with bakers string to keep it together. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the roast on a half sheet baking pan. Drizzle meat with olive oil and rub it all over the roast. Season with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Roast for 30-38 minutes until the thickest part of the roast is 125 degrees. Remove from oven and immediately roll the meat in the olive oil herb bath. Let sit in the oil for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove the meat from the herb bath liquid. Save the herb bath and refrigerate it to drizzle over the meat before serving.  Wrap the beef in plastic wrap, then in foil. Chill meat overnight. The next day, slice beef tenderloin while cold into 1/2-inch slices. Place on a serving platter and let come to room temperature. Drizzle the reserved olive oil herb bath over the meat and serve. Serves 10-15.

Posted in Beef, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments

Hungarian Poppy Seed Cake

This is another delicious holiday recipe which came to me from my cousin Connie. It is called a cake, but it really is a sweet bread. The recipe makes 6 loaves that freeze beautifully, wrapped in plastic wrap then foil. The loaves make a nice neighbor or hostess gift. We will be having them for Christmas breakfast.

My mom has an old community cookbook from Kendall Park, New Jersey. When I was growing up quite a few Hungarian immigrants were living there and I found almost an identical recipe to this one in that book, but it was called a strudel. The dough is soft and easy to work with. In addition to poppy seed filling, it can be made with a walnut or almond filling or a thick canned fruit spread or homemade filling, my favorite being sour cherry (in which case add a touch of vanilla and drain a good portion of the liquid). This cake is eaten all over Eastern Europe in various forms at Christmas and Easter. It takes time to make so break it down into steps. I would make the filling one day (don’t add the beaten egg whites until ready to spread on the bread dough) and prepare the dough the next day.

I live at high altitude where it is drier. If you live in humidity at sea level you may need more flour for the dough. You want a soft consistency, but just slightly sticky.

The poppy seed filling requires very fresh poppy seeds to be ground into granules. This is done with a poppy seed grinder. My husband brought one back for me from Austria earlier this year and it works well, but you need a strong arm to grind them completely. Well worth the effort, however.

Hungarian Poppy Seed Cake
Poppy Seed Filling
1 lb. fresh poppy seeds, ground in a grinder
2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup white raisins
3 heaping tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large eggs, separated

In a 4-quart pot combine ground poppy seeds, milk, sugar, applesauce, raisins, honey, and butter. Stir to mix well. Turn heat to medium low and, stirring often, cook for 15 minutes until thickened. At this point refrigerate until ready to use. Then beat egg whites until stiff and fold into filling just before spreading on dough to bake. Set aside the egg yolks mixed with 1 teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt for an egg wash to brush on the bread just before baking.

Bread Dough
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 whole eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
5-1/4 to 5-1/2 cups flour

In a mixing bowl combine yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar, and warm water. Let sit 5 minutes to foam. While the yeast is proofing combine butter and milk in a small saucepan and heat until butter is melted, but do not boil the mixture. It should be warm but not hot or it will kill the yeast. Add melted butter and milk mixture to the yeast, along with 1/2 cup sugar. Mix well. Add eggs, sour cream, and salt. Mix well. Add flour 1 cup at a time, scraping down the bowl with each addition. You should have a soft, smooth dough. Place in a large buttered bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise 1-1/2 hours until doubled. Divide dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a circle on a lightly floured surface. Spread 2/3 to 3/4 cup poppy seed filling on the circle. Roll up like a jelly roll cake. Gently pinch the ends and tuck up onto the seam. Place the roll seam side down onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Place three loaves per sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover each sheet with a tea towel and let rise 30 minutes. Brush each loaf with egg yolk wash. Bake at 360 degrees for 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. The loaves should be golden and puffed. Remove from oven and let loaves rest on the baking sheet on a rack for two minutes, then remove loaves from baking sheet to cool directly on the rack. Makes 6 loaves.

Posted in Breads, Breakfast, Christmas, Desserts, Easter, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment