Archive for November, 2010

Arancini

Let me see. Take some risotto, stuff a chunk of mozzarella cheese in it, bread it and then fry it. Does that sound like a little bit of heaven to you? Well, it is.

This is not something I can say I enjoyed making. I am not one for getting my hands all gooed up.  And all gooed up, they will get. I’m the type of person who goes through a pack of napkins when eating wings or ribs or something messy like that. So, plan on rinsing, a lot. Unless, of course, that doesn’t bother you. 

In either case, this is what you will need:

  • One batch cooked risotto, cooled
  • Flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Panko or Italian bread crumbs
  • Oil for frying

First, you’ll need to make Basic Risotto. You can use my recipe or your own. Either is just fine.

Next, you’ll need to set up a breading station consisting of:

Flour. Beaten eggs, seasoned with salt and pepper and bread crumbs. I used Panko.

Once you have that set up, next thing you’ll need to do is cut some fresh mozzarella into small chunks. 

Take about a soup spoon-sized portion of risotto in damp hands and form it into a ball, tossing it back and forth between both hands. 

Next, get a piece of the cheese and stuff it into the middle. Reform into a ball. You may need to add an extra bit of risotto, so it’s completely covered.

Now get ready to get down and dirty with the balls.  

Start by rolling them, one at a time, in the flour first, then the egg and, finally, the bread crumbs. You may have to reform them into ball-form at this point.


After you have them rolled, prepare your pan for frying. Heat about a half-inch of oil, I used canola, in a skillet.

Begin frying each ball, until golden brown on all sides. 

Transfer to a wire rack, with paper towels underneath to drain oil. Sprinkle a little bit of salt on while hot.

Let cool for a few minutes and eat when ready.

Enjoy!

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Basic Risotto

Risotto is fabulous. This is a basic recipe for a base risotto. What you add to it is up to you. Or even what you do with it. I made this today and plan on using it tomorrow for Arancini. Stay tuned. But first, the basic risotto recipe.

  • One medium onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 16 oz. box of risotto or arborio rice
  • about 4 cups of chicken stock or 3 cups plus one cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons grated pecorino-romano cheese
  • freshly-ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute the chopped onion until soft.

Heat chicken broth to boiling in another pan. Reduce heat and keep at a simmer.

Add rice to the pan with the onion and stir well to cover in oil.

Add enough broth to cover rice, and stir continuously until absorbed. If using wine, start with all of the wine and cook until all the wine is absorbed and then add the broth in batches. Continue this process until all, or most, of the broth is gone, and rice is al dente, stirring the whole time. This should take about 20 minutes. I use a ladle and add about two ladlefuls each time.

When all the broth is absorbed, add the cheese and pepper and stir well. Serve immediately.


Spaghetti Carbonara

I know this is not exactly health food, but, it is good food! I had it in Italy and wanted to try it ever since we returned home.  I found some techniques here and there and came up with this way of making it. Enjoy it and all its lovely fat it provides. After all, winter is coming. And, do not fear the raw eggs! It’s okay.

About 4 servings

  • 4 ounces of pancetta (cured Italian bacon), diced
  • 1 lb of spaghetti
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 4 egg yolks, plus 1 whole egg, beaten
  • black pepper

Heat a large pot to boiling. Add a small amount of salt and begin to cook your spaghetti.

In a large saute pan heat olive oil. Enough to just coat the pan. When hot, add diced pancetta and cook until crisp. Not too crisp though. Just enough to have a little crunchy exterior and soft interior. About 15 minutes over medium-high heat.

Once it is done, drain off the fat. I did this because I thought there was enough fat already. Let’s save a few grams, shall we? I must’ve drained off a quarter cup. But this step is entirely up to you. Let it cool down for a few minutes.

While that is cooking, beat the four yolks and whole egg together in a bowl until well blended. 

Mix in cheese and stir together very well, until completely incorporated. Season with freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Add the egg and cheese mixture to the pan with the pancetta and mix well. I added a couple spoonfuls of the cooking water to loosen it up.

At this point, the pasta should be finished cooking. When draining, do not drain it super dry. Leave some water so the sauce loosens a bit to coat the pasta. I actually pulled most of it out with my tongs. You may also want to keep some of the pasta water in case the sauce is too thick.  You would add this a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

Once the pasta is drained, pour it into the pan with the sauce, mix well. Sprinkle some extra cheese on top if desired.

Serve immediately.


Pico de Gallo

There’s nothing as delicious as freshly-made pico de gallo. Plump, juicy tomatoes mixed with fragrant cilantro, spicy jalapenos, garlic and red onions. Finished off with a fresh burst of lime juice. Can you almost taste it?  This is another one of those things, that, through trial and error, I finally came up with something that’s a keeper. Enjoy.

  • 1 large, ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeno, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 quarter red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 tsp. of kosher salt, or more to taste
  • few grindings of black pepper

Prepare all of the ingredients as mentioned above, place in a serving bowl, chill and serve. Goes lovely with fajitas, over fish or just munching with chips and a nice cold beer or margarita.


Fajitas

Mexican is one of my favorite cuisines. I’ve been making fajitas for years and through trial and error, I’ve finally came up with something we really love, and this is it.

  • 2 lb sirloin steak, boneless or boneless chicken breasts (you can either keep them in one piece or slice them and do a stir-fry type of cooking)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 half packet of Sazon Goya Picante seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced in thin strips
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced into thin strips
  • canola oil
  • lime juice
  • 12 fajita-size flour tortillas

Place steak or chicken in a glass baking dish.

Combine oil, lime juice, Sazon, cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper  in a bowl, stir well, and pour over steak or chicken.

Cover and marinate for about two hours, flipping meat once.

Meanwhile, slice the peppers and onions and place in a bowl with a little oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

A great way to slice peppers nicely is to cut off segments, leaving the ribs and seeds behind. Then, all you have to do is cut each segment into lovely julienned pieces.

As I mentioned earlier, you can either prepare your meat one of two ways. Today, I am going to leave it whole and grill it. Sometimes, especially in winter, I prefer to pre-slice the meat and cook it like I’d do a stir-fry. This is the easier way because it is already sliced when it’s done cooking and you don’t have to worry about slicing up hot meat.

When you are ready to get cooking, prepare your grill or whatever cooking vessel you prefer. Remove meat from marinade and cook until desired doneness. I like my steak for this medium rare and of course I like my chicken cooked well done, as I’m sure everyone does.

Whilst that is cooking, heat a pan to cook the veggies. You can use a skillet, grill pan, whatever you have. Just pour the veggies into the hot pan and cook until tender-crisp. I usually squirt a little lime juice on at the end for a little sizzle and extra burst of flavor. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

When the meat is done, let it sit for about five minutes and then slice it into thin strips. If using steak, slice it across the grain.

Transfer your veggies to a serving dish, and place the sliced meat on top.

Heat the tortillas in the mircowave in either a tortilla server or on a plate covered with a damp paper towel, about one minute for ten tortillas. Or, you can do it the old-fashioned way and heat them in a pan or on the grill. It’s entirely up to you. I’m using the microwave because it’s just easier and they come out nice and soft and pliable. And also because I have this nifty, little, tortilla-warmer-upper-thingy.

Assemble your fajitas and top off with guacamole, pico de gallo and sour cream, if desired.


Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

It’s fall, near Thanksgiving, so I feel the need to make pumpkin cupcakes. I found this recipe on another blog, Smitten Kitchen, and thought they sounded good, but more than that, they looked gorgeous. That’s what caught my eye first. I omitted the cloves and forgot the vanilla, oops, but they are still delicious.

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.

Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth.

Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners — you’re looking to get them 3/4 full. Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles.

Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.

For the frosting:

  • 8 ouce block of Philly Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup

Combine all ingredients in mixer bowl and beat until creamy, about 3 minutes. That’s it. Frost those little babies and enjoy!


Spaghetti with White Clam Sauce (Spaghetti con Vongole)

This is one of my daughter’s favorite meals. “Mom. Are we having clams and spaghetti tonight?” I hear it all the time. She really does love it and ate A LOT of it in Italy. And man, was it good there. Something about their incredible olive oil. Totally changes the taste of the entire dish. So, always buy the best olive oil you can afford. It is worth it.

You can take this up a notch and use fresh clams of course. I do prefer the minced clams though. I’m not a big fan of large clams, and it’s just so much easier. Again, buy a good quality canned clam and juice.

  • 1 pound of spaghetti or linguine
  • 2 jars of Cento clam juice
  • 1 can of Cento minced clams, with their juice
  • 1/4 cup of white wine (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced fine
  • 1 teaspoon, or to taste, of hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of minced, dried parsley
  • pinch of salt plus more to salt the water for cooking the pasta
  • a few grindings of black pepper

Fill a large pot with water. Turn heat to high. When reaches boiling point, salt liberally and add pasta. Cook to al dente.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil and pasta to cook, get a small saucepan and heat the olive oil and butter.

Add the garlic, red pepper and parsley. Cook to light golden. Do not burn the garlic. I cannot stress that enough. It will ruin the dish.

Lower the heat, add the clams with their juice, the clam juice, and wine. Turn heat up a bit to bring to a constant simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Once pasta is done, drain and place in a serving bowl. Pour clam sauce over top and serve immediately.