Braised Lamb Shanks

Lamb Shank 3In a previous post, I’ve mentioned that when I was a boy, a young goat was the meat of choice for our Easter dinner. Goat, however, was to be replaced by Spring lamb but even its reign was cut short, since my siblings weren’t at all enamored of it. As a result, Mom switched to serving some sort of roast for our holiday meal, reserving lamb for other, not so special, nights. (Sorry that I cannot be more specific but, as I’ve also mentioned before, my attention during holiday meals was always fixated on the platter of ravioli.) For those non-holiday dinners, she would serve lamb for the 3 of us and some other dish for my siblings. Lamb shanks were most often served for no other reason, I thought, than they were so easy to prepare. Remember, she had another dinner to cook for my siblings.

Although I don’t have Mom’s recipe in written form, I know it well. We spoke of it often and she was delighted to hear that I would be serving lamb shanks for dinner. It turned out that, as much as Dad and I enjoyed lamb, Mom was crazy about it. She’d rather make 2 meals than go without her lamb.

Today’s recipe is pretty much all Mom. I did make a couple of adjustments, though. Namely, Mom used red wine and I use white with a little sherry vinegar. Then, too, for today’s recipe, I used a slow cooker and Mom’s was nowhere near large enough for lamb shanks. If that’s you or you don’t like slow cookers, this dish can just as easily be made in the oven or on the stove top. Instructions to do so follow the recipe below.

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Whether you’re celebrating Passover or getting ready for Easter, the Bartolini Clan and I wish you a very Happy Holiday.

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Lamb Shank 2*     *     *

Braised Lamb Shanks Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 lamb shanks (See Notes)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • leaves and stalks from the top of a celery heart, about 1 cup
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, smashed, separated
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup white wine (Mom used red wine)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup sherry vinegar (Mom didn’t use any vinegar)
  • vegetable stock (See Notes) (Mom used her chicken stock)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • lemon zest for garnish, optional (See Notes)

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Lamb Shank Braise*     *     *

Directions

  1. In a large fry pan, heat the olive oil over med-high heat.
  2. Add 2 smashed garlic cloves and sauté until golden. Remove the garlic and discard. (See Notes).
  3. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper and place them into the pan, browning them on all sides. This could take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Remove and reserve the lamb shanks.
  5. Place all the vegetables into the pan, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until some color is achieved.
  6. Add the tomato paste and cook until fragrant and its color deepens, 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Remove the mixture from the pan and place into the slow cooker, along with the garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, and sherry vinegar.
  8. Use the white wine to deglaze the pan and then add it to the slow cooker. Season with salt & pepper.
  9. Place the lamb shanks into the pot and add enough vegetable stock so that half of the shanks are submerged. Cover the slow cooker. (See Notes)
  10. Cook on low for 8 hours, turning over the shanks about every 90 minutes. (See Notes)
  11. Remove meat and cover while the liquids are strained and the sauce prepared. (See Notes)
  12. Serve, garnished with lemon zest, and with the sauce on the side.

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For those without a slow cooker

Instead of using a fry pan, brown the shanks and sauté the vegetables in a Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot with a lid. Follow the recipe and place everything into the pot. Add enough vegetable stock to submerge 2/3 of the shanks. Bring to a boil over med-high heat and cover. At this point, you can:

  • Leave the pot on the stove, reduce the heat to a soft simmer, and cook for 90 to 120 minutes. Meat should be nearly falling off of the bone. Turn over the shanks occasionally.
  • Place the pot into a pre-heated 250˚ F (120˚ C) oven and cook for 3 hours. Turn over the shanks occasionally.

Serve as indicated in the recipe above.

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Lamb Shank 4*     *     *

Notes

Be sure to remove any excess fat and as much gray skin as you can. Rather than show you how I did it, you can see a pro do it HERE. It’s not the most thorough set of photos but they will give you a better idea than mine would have. (Work for food? Applications are now being accepted for a photographic assistant.)

If at all possible, make you own vegetable stock and use the flavors that you will use to braise the lamb shanks. One or two days before you cook the shanks, place one onion (quartered), 2 celery stalks (roughly chopped), 2 carrots (roughly chopped), 2 cloves of garlic (smashed), 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, a few sprigs of fresh parsley, 1 bay leaf, and 6 or 7 cups of water into a medium sauce pan. Over med-high heat, bring the contents to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. I let mine simmer for 2 hours and got a full quart of vegetable stock. I did not use any salt nor pepper in this stock so that I could better control both seasonings during the braising process.

Because less liquid evaporates from a slow cooker, less braising liquid is needed than when a Dutch oven is used to braise on the stove top or in the oven.

Using smashed garlic cloves to flavor the cooking oil is something Mom did all the time. It’s especially useful when sautéing vegetables, giving them garlic flavor without having pieces of garlic in the dish.

If you haven’t got 8 hours to wait for dinner, you can reduce the cooking time by setting the slow cooker’s setting to “High”. As a general rule, one hour of cooking on “High” is worth 2 hours on “Low”.

A few months ago, Chef Michael Symon mentioned that he uses citrus zest as a garnish when he serves braised meats. I decided to give it a try and, since then, I’ve used orange zest on beef cheeks and lemon zest on harissa chicken and today’s lamb shanks. In all cases, the zest added a bit of freshness to the dish that I liked very much.

Once you’ve strained the liquids and removed the fat, you can:

  • serve the sauce as-is;
  • reduce it and serve; or,
  • if needed, use a thickening agent —I used arrowroot — to make gravy.

No matter how you finish the sauce, be sure to taste and adjust its seasoning as needed.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

CresciaSince I’ve shared a lamb shanks recipe for Easter dinner, why not share a bread recipe, as well? Today’s blast from the past will take you to my post for the Easter bread of Le Marche, the ancestral home of the Bartolini side of my family. Braided and loaded with cheese, this bread will fill your kitchen with an irresistible aroma while it bakes. Be forewarned. Don’t bake this bread too far in advance of Easter, for it has a tendency to disappear. You can learn all about this crescia by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Harissa Roasted Vegetables PreviewRoasted Vegetables Salad with Harissa

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Try This One For Thighs

Coscie di Pollo con Harissa

Harissa Thighs 1Little did I know when I used harissa to braise goat last October that I would become obsessed with the spicy sauce. Initially, I bought harissa from a Middle Eastern bakery that prepares the sauce on-site and provides it to a number of restaurants here in Chicago. Celia, though, suggested I make my own. Now, if you’ve been to her amazing blog, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, you know that Celia makes just about everything and does so with a deft hand. Still, I was hesitant.

The truth is that many recipes say to use red or green chiles. Well, being a chile neophyte, I never know which ones to use and it’s not like there’s a big selection here. Then I came upon Mimi’s harissa recipe. (Take some time to get to know her blog, the Chef Mimi Blog, too, for some incredibly delicious recipes.) Her recipe took a different tack and I decided to give it a try.

Well, as luck would have it, when I went shopping for ingredients, there they were, a large display of red Fresno peppers. I bought a dozen, deciding I would take inspiration from both of their recipes, and since that afternoon, I’ve made several batches of harissa.

Over time, I’ve adjusted the spice mix to get to a flavor profile I prefer and now I’m working on the heat level. Right now, this sauce has a nice even heat when raw — there’s a roasted vegetable salad post in the works — but it dissipates a bit when cooked. Those with a higher tolerance for chiles may wish to include the peppers’ ribs and seeds, or, add another Habanero to the recipe below.

Like my harissa sauce, today’s chicken recipe is a work in progress, although I have prepared it in much the same manner 4 or 5 times now. In some ways, it reminds me of a cacciatore with a North African twist. I think you’ll find the recipe easy enough to follow without experiencing any problems.

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Chicken Thighs with Harissa

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs with skin and bones
  • 3 tbsp harissa sauce – recipe follows
  • 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper/capsicum, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • about 12 oz (340 g) olive salad (See Notes)
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • lemon zest
  • mint leaves for garnish – optional

Directions

  1. Combine harissa, cinnamon, and chicken stock in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan with a cover over med-high heat.
  3. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to frying pan, skin-side down. Sauté until brown, 6 to 8 minutes, before turning over and browning the other side. Remove thighs from the pan.
  4. Remove all but 2 tbsp of fat from the pan. Add onions and peppers to the pan and sauté until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic for the final minute.
  5. Add olive salad and harissa sauce mix, stir, and heat through.
  6. Add thighs back to the pan, skin-side down, before adding the cherry tomatoes and preserved lemon. Cover the pan and reduce heat to medium.
  7. After 15 minutes, turn over the thighs so that they’re skin-side up. Do not cover the pan, giving the sauce a chance to thicken while the chicken finishes cooking.
  8. After the thighs have cooked for a total of 30 minutes, insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the largest thigh. When the temperature reaches 165˚ F (75˚ C) the thighs are done.
  9. Remove to serving platter, sprinkle with lemon zest, and garnish with torn mint leaves, if desired.
  10. Serve immediately.

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Harissa Thighs 7

Someone forgot the mint leaves.

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Notes

I prefer to use a variety of olives here. Most of the groceries in this area offer olive salads, some even have more than 1 type. When they’re available, I’ll use the Mediterranean or Spanish olive salad. In today’s recipe, I combined both. Use whatever combination of olives you prefer and that are available. Use as little or as much as you like.

The chicken was served over tri-color “pearl” couscous that had been tossed with chopped scallions (spring onions) and sun-dried tomatoes.

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Homemade Harissa*     *     *

Harissa Recipe

yield: 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 12 Fresno peppers, seeds removed
  • 3 whole roasted red peppers — well-drained if store-bought
  • 1 Habanero chile, seeds removed
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tbsp whole cumin seed
  • 1 tbsp whole coriander seed
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 10 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 30 mint leaves, more or less to taste
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • water

Directions

  1. Place cumin seeds in a small frying pan over med-high heat. Keep the pan moving and toast the seeds until uniformly brown and fragrant — no more than 2 minutes. Immediately remove from pan and reserve.  Repeat with coriander seeds and then the caraway. Once all are cool, place in spice mill or mortar and grind. (See Notes)
  2. Place the ground spices. Habanero and Fresno chiles, paprika, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and run until a thick paste has formed.
  3. Add the mint leaves and pulse the contents until mixed.
  4. Add the oil and process. If you prefer your harissa sauce to be thinner, add water until it reaches the consistency you like.
  5. Harissa is ready to use as-is, though it will be better after a few days, once the flavors have a chance to blend a bit.

Refrigerate in an airtight container. Celia recommends adding a thin coat of olive oil before storing. Harissa should be used within a couple of weeks.

With special thanks to Celia, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, and Mimi, Chef Mimi Blog

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Notes

It is best to toast seeds of varying sizes separately. When toasted together, the smallest seeds will likely burn while you wait for the larger ones to toast.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Swordfish 1Today’s blast from the past, swordfish served with salsa verde, carries with it a message. See those grill marks, Old Man Winter? We want to start grilling but can’t so long as you stick around. Take the hint, vacate the North, and head to the Southern Hemisphere, where they eagerly await your cooler temps and much-needed rain. The rest of you can click HERE to learn how to prepare this dish.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Pasta e Fagioli 2Pasta and Beans

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This Pork Tenderloin is Plum Tasty

Pork Tenderloin - Plums  5Long-time subscribers to this blog know that I didn’t exactly jump at the chance to start canning. The word “reluctant” comes to mind, though “stubborn” might be more appropriate. Well, in August, 2011, I did start preserving foods, with most of my attention focused upon jams and jellies. It wasn’t long before I was awash in jams and jellies of every kind, as were many of my tasters, located both near and far alike.

At the time, I didn’t realize that there’s much more to jelly besides toast or peanut butter. The day I used fig preserves to stuff a pork loin changed the way I viewed my jams. So, when I made Damson plum jam last year, I was already thinking of pork roasts. I knew I was on the right track when my friend, Betsy, author of the wonderful Bits and Breadcrumbs blog, mentioned the very same thing in that post’s comments. Betsy, it took me a while to get here but I finally made it!

There is nothing complicated about this recipe. I’d guess that the toughest part of it will be finding plum jam, depending upon where you live. You could aways make some yourself but, if you live in the Chicago area, you’re likely to have a harder time finding Damson plums this Summer. You see, I plan on buying as many as I can find, all the while dreaming of future pork roasts. Speaking of which, there’s a pork roast with cherries in the works, as well.

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Some have noticed and mentioned that I’ve not been around the blogosphere as much as I once was. The fact is that I now have over 1100 followers, far more than I ever dreamt possible, yet I’ve continued to administer the blog as I did when you numbered only 100. As you can well imagine, this cannot continue and I’m imposing a limit on the amount of time I commit to blogging every day. I certainly hope that no one takes offense if I miss a post or fail to reply to a comment, for that’s the very last thing intended. I simply need to devote time to other matters. Thank you for your understanding. I’m very grateful for your ongoing support and encouragement.

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Pork Tenderloin - Plums 2

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Pork Tenderloin with Plum Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lb. (680 g) pork tenderloin
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz (120 ml) white wine — I used a Riesling
  • 1 tsp grated ginger — a little less than 1/2 inch piece
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 oz (115 g) plum jam  — Damson plum jam recipe
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper, to taste

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Pork Tenderloin - Plums 4*     *     *

Directions

  1. Heat butter and olive oil in a large frying pan, with cover, over med-high heat.
  2. Season pork tenderloin with salt and pepper before browning it on all sides in the pan — about 8 minutes. Remove the tenderloin from the pan.
  3. Use the white wine to deglaze the pan.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium before adding the ginger, balsamic vinegar, and plum jam, stirring until the jam melts and all are well-combined.
  5. Add the rosemary and return the tenderloin to the pan. Use a spoon to coat the pork with the plum sauce. Cover the pan.
  6. Continue to cook the pork, periodically basting it with the sauce, until it reaches your preferred temperature. Remove from pan and tent with foil while it rests for at least 10 minutes. (I removed mine from the heat when it reached 150˚ F (65˚ C).)
  7. Remove the rosemary sprigs and reserve the sauce. (See Notes.)
  8. Slice the roast and serve with the reserved plum sauce.

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Pork Tenderloin - Plums X*     *     *

Sides

This tenderloin is really so quick and easy to prepare that I didn’t want to spend time with complicated side dishes.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta:Shredded Brussels Sprouts

  • This inspired recipe combines shredded Brussels sprouts, pancetta, garlic, stock, and white balsamic to create a truly special dish. To see the full recipe, be sure to check out my friend Eva’s sumptuous blog, Kitchen Inspirations.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Rosemary and Pecorino Romano Cheese:

  • Roasted FingerlingsPre-heat oven and baking sheet to 425˚ F (220˚ C). Wash then cut fingerling potatoes to equal size. Season with crushed dried rosemary, salt, pepper, and coat with olive oil. Carefully oil baking sheet, add potatoes in a single layer, and roast until potatoes can be pierced easily, 20 to 30 minutes depending on size and quantity. Remove to serving platter, garnish with grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and serve immediately.

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Leftovers?

Pork and Plum Sammich

No problem

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Notes

I used plum jam, not jelly. As a result, the sauce may not be as smooth as some may prefer. If that’s you, while the tenderloin rests, I would suggest deglazing the pan with a bit of stock, wine, or water before straining the sauce through a fine mesh sieve. Once strained, place the sauce in a small pan and reduce it over med-high heat until it reaches the desired thickness. Taste for seasoning before serving.

Not all fingerling potatoes are created equal and they’re likely to require varying times to roast. Cut the potatoes into even-sized pieces and all should cook evenly without any problems.

If plums are in season, you could add a few plum halves to the pan and sauté them for as long, or short, as you like. Serve them alongside the roast.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Pappardelle 5Hard to believe that it was two years ago when I was in the middle of my series on making cheese at home. When I demonstrated how easy it was to make mascarpone, I promised that I’d publish some recipes that would use your freshly made cheese. Today’s blast from the past is one of those recipes, combining pappardelle, spinach, Pecorino Romano, and, of course, mascarpone. It’s a delicious recipe and one you won’t want to miss. You can learn all about it by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Sicilian Strata 3A Sicilian Strata

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Torte

Flourless Chocolate Torte 3I’ve made no secret of my inability to bake. I have burned sheet after sheet of misshapen cookies and pulled countless cakes from the oven that failed to rise. A few years ago, after yet another bundt cake that had somehow been Super Glued to the pan, I threw both pan and cake into the trash — a very liberating experience.

Then there was the Fall that I was going to teach myself to bake my favorite cake, the Black Forest Cake. Yum, right? The first attempt quite literally made me sick. I couldn’t get that thing to the trash quick enough. The next week brought another attempt. That “cake” was better — it wasn’t life-threatening — but was certainly nothing to be proud of. The third cake proved I was on the right track, though it was in no way good enough to share with anyone. I hit pay-dirt with my 4th and, what would prove to be, my last attempt. That cake was a delight. Good thing, too, because that was 6 years ago and it was the last Black Forest Cake that I’ve tasted. Oh, I’ve been tempted to have a piece but, when I am, there’s a rumble down under that convinces me that now is not the time.

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Perhaps it was my success with this torte that gave me the mistaken opinion that I could bake, leading me to the Black Forest Cake debacle. I first saw Jamie Oliver prepare the torte when he was known as The Naked Chef, so, this recipe has been around for some time. I’ve made it a number of times since without any problems whatsoever — not counting a misguided attempt to make it as a bundt cake with that accursed pan. Never mind that. Believe me. If I can bake this torte anyone can.

Now, a word about the recipe before proceeding. If you go searching for it on the web, you’ll find it titled a number of ways. Jamie Oliver’s: “Chocolate Torte”; “Flour-less Chocolate Torte”; and, “Two Nut Chocolate Torte”, are the most popular. Bear in mind that this recipe was demonstrated in an episode that aired in 2000, some time before most of us were aware of gluten-related issues. In fact, I’ve even see the recipe called “Flour-less” yet you’re instructed to grease and flour the pan before filling it with cake batter. Not to worry. This torte is gluten-free, hence the name change, and I coat the pan with powdered cocoa, not flour.

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Chocolate Torte X

As Jamie intended

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Torte Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 oz (155 g) shelled and peeled almonds
  • 5 1/2 oz (155 g) shelled walnuts, finely ground
  • 11 oz (310 g) semi-sweet chocolate (separated – 2/3 & 1/3)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 9 oz (255 g) butter
  • 3 1/2 oz (100 g) sugar
  • 6 large free-range eggs, separated
  • butter
  • cocoa powder
  • salt
  • powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375˚ F (190˚ C). Use butter to grease the bottom of an 8 to 10 inch spring-form pan before lining the bottom with a piece of parchment paper. Butter the paper and sides of the pan. Use cocoa powder to coat the greased pan.
  2. Place the almonds into a food processor and grind them until finely ground.
  3. Add the walnuts and continue processing until all are finely ground. (See Notes)
  4. Add a pinch of salt and 2/3 of the chocolate and process for 30 seconds. Remove the nut-chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the butter and sugar to the food processor and run until the mixture is a pale yellow and fluffy.
  6. Add the egg yolks, one by one, and process until well-blended.
  7. Add the egg mixture to the bowl with the chocolate mixture and stir until well-combined.
  8. Add the egg whites to a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt.  Using a whisk, hand mixer, or stand mixer, beat the eggs until stiff peaks form. (See Notes)
  9. Take 1/3 of the beaten egg whites and fold them into the bowl with the eggs and chocolate. Once blended, add the remaining 2/3 of the egg whites and fold into the batter. Do not over mix. (See Notes)
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  11. Place the remaining chocolate chunks into the top of the torte’s batter. Press them slightly into the batter, though no need to cover them with batter.
  12. Bake on the center rack of a pre-heated oven for about an hour. After 55 minutes, use a knife to check to see if the torte is finished. Place the knife into the center, wait a few seconds, and remove. The blade should be relatively clean.
  13. Once cooled, remove from pan, invert to remove the paper, and place on a cake platter. Dust with powdered sugar.
  14. Serve as-is or with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraîche.

This is a recipe from Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef

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Oven Ready

Ready for the oven

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Notes

Be sure to keep an eye on your nuts when using the food processor or you may end up with almond-walnut butter.

To remove the almond skins: Add raw, shelled almonds to a small sauce pan filled with boiling water. Remove from the water after 3 minutes, placing the blanched nuts into an ice water bath. Strain and wipe dry. Squeeze each almond between your thumb and index finger to easily remove the skin.

This is how I beat egg whites:

  • Bring eggs to room temperature before separating. Be sure no yolk remains in the whites.
  • Place the whites in a mixing bowl. Whether whisking by hand or using a mixer, begin slowly at first. After about 30 seconds, continue beating at medium speed.
  • Once the eggs begin to color, beat at a higher rate until beaten to the recipe’s needs.

The beaten egg whites provide lift for this torte. If they aren’t folded into the batter correctly, the torte will not rise. Here’s a quick video demonstrating the proper technique for folding egg whites into batter.

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For the chocoholics among us

Make a simple ganache.

  1. Place 8 oz (225 g) of chocolate pieces in a heat-resistant bowl – use whatever type of chocolate you prefer
  2. Heat 10 oz (300 ml) of heavy cream to the point of boiling.
  3. Pour the heated cream over the chocolate and let sit for a couple of minutes before stirring until smooth. As it cools, the ganache will thicken.
  4. If you prefer your ganache to be flavored, once the ganache is fully mixed, add 2 or more tbsp of:
      * Framboise for raspberry flavoring;
      * Grand Marnier or Cointreau for orange;
      * Amaretto for almond; or
      * Kahlúa for coffee.
  5. Either pour the ganache over the entire cake or each piece as it is served.

I usually make half the amount listed here and store the remainder in a sealed container in the fridge. I’ve no idea how long it will last because kitchen elves snack on it until it’s gone, usually within 48 hours — within 72 hours when Girl Scout cookies are atop the counter.

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Chocolate Chocolate Torte

As John wanted

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Carnivale ends today in Italy, as it does round the World. In the days leading up to Ash Fiocchetti 1Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, celebrations of all kinds take place, each with its own particular sweets and confections. In New Orleans, it’s King Cake. In Chicago, it’s fried donuts called Paczkis. In the Bartolini kitchens, it was fiocchetti, which we called angel wings. These fried dough crisps, in one form or another, are made throughout Italy this time of year and go by a number of names. You can learn how to make them just by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Pork Tenderloin - Plums 1

Pork Tenderloin with Plum Sauce

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Gettin’ Cheeky with Beef – And in a Slow Cooker, No Less

Guance di Manzo Brasato

Let me say from the onset that this is not a Bartolini family recipe. In fact, I can say with some certainty — feel free to back me up, Zia — that beef cheeks never graced a Bartolini dinner table. This all changed the last weekend of last October. That was the weekend the vendor with certified organic meats returned to the farmers market.

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Beef Cheeks 1*     *     *

You may recall that I had been waiting for him to return because he sold goat and, even though I’d found some at a nearby market, I prefer to buy organic when its available. As it is, I buy chickens from him all Summer long. It had been weeks since he last set up his stall and I was, frankly, surprised to see him. The following weekend was to be the market’s last for the year and I thought him gone until 2014.

His stall, for lack of a better word, is a set of folding tables arranged in a “U” shape. On them he’s places about 6 ice chests in which he keeps the week’s frozen inventory. That week there wasn’t any goat meat but I was surprised to find a package labeled “beef cheeks.” I bought it, along with a chicken, and placed both in the freezer when I returned home.

Well, as this Winter unfolded, I exhausted my repertoire of comfort foods. Last week’s tuna noodle casserole was proof that I’d run out of options. It was about that time that I remembered that there were beef cheeks in the freezer, though they had somehow managed to work their way to a back corner. Another Sunday braise was suddenly in the offing.

Although still below freezing, that Sunday turned out to be the warmest day of the month to date. Since there was no real need to heat the kitchen, I switched gears a bit and opted for using the slow cooker rather than the Dutch oven. Best of all, with a fridge well-stocked with braising vegetables, there would be no last-minute trip to the grocery that morning — until I realized that I’d need side dishes. Curses!

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This braise is like most, with one minor exception. I started by making a form of battuto, an Italian soffrito. In our part of Italy, a battuto consists of finely diced onion, parsley, garlic, and salt pork. Battuto is the first thing into the pan, after the olive oil is heated, and will flavor the dish as its aroma fills your kitchen. Here, I made my battuto with guanciale, parsley, and garlic. (Yes, this recipe mixes the cheeks of both pork and beef. Shocking!) The onions were added with the other braising vegetables, once the battuto was cooked. The rest of the recipe is easy enough to follow and you should have no problems.

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Beef Cheeks Braising*     *     *

Braised Beef Cheeks Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 beef cheeks, approximately 1.2 lbs (540 g)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz guanciale, chopped – pancetta or bacon may be substituted
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 c parsley, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, leaves included, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3/4 c red wine
  • 3/4 c Madeira
  • 1.5 c beef stock
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon zest

*     *     *

Battuto*     *     *

Directions

  1. Combine chopped guanciale, parsley, and garlic on your cutting board and chop them together until uniform. This is the battuto.
  2. Warm oil in a sauté pan over med-high heat. Add the battuto and sauté until the guanciale’s fat is rendered, about 5 – 7 minutes. Do not allow to burn.
  3. Add onion, carrots, and celery to the pan and sauté until the onion is translucent.
  4. Add the rosemary and thyme to the pan. Continue sautéing until both begin to wilt.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pan’s contents and place all into the slow cooker. Do not drain the oil.
  6. Season beef cheeks with salt and pepper before placing into the hot pan. Turn when brown, about 5 minutes. Remove when both sides have been browned. Place into the slow cooker atop the other ingredients.
  7. Add the tomato paste to the pan and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  8. Use wine to deglaze the pan.
  9. Add the Madeira and beef stock and bring to a boil to burn off the alcohol.
  10. Add the liquid to the slow cooker. (See Notes)
  11. Cook on high for one hour before reducing to low for another 6 hours. Turn over the meat occasionally, about once every 90 minutes, or so. (See Notes)
  12. Remove meat and cover while the liquids are strained and the sauce prepared. (See Notes)
  13. Just before serving, garnish with a bit of lemon zest.

*     *     *

Beef Cheeks 2*     *     *

Sides

As pictured, there were 2 sides served, neither of which is complicated nor difficult to prepare.

  • Mashed Potatoes and Parsnips with Roasted Garlic:Parsnip-Potato Mash
      Prepare mashed potatoes as you would normally, substituting 1/3 of the potatoes with peeled, chopped parsnips. Once boiled and drained, mash before adding warmed heavy cream into which butter and roasted garlic cloves have been added. Serve.
  • Sautéed Broccoli Rab (Rapini) with Pancetta and Garlic:Rapini with Pancetta
      Sauté chopped pancetta in a bit of olive oil to render its fat and until it’s not quite fully cooked. Add garlic and, after about a minute, add the broccoli rab, season with salt & pepper, and sauté until cooked to your satisfaction. Serve.

*     *     *

Notes

The braising liquid should not be so deep that the meat is totally submerged like you would do for a stew or soup. When using a slow cooker. the liquid should come about half-way up the side of the beef cheeks. When using a Dutch oven, I use enough liquid so that it comes up 2/3 of the side of the protein to allow for evaporation. Use more or less liquid to arrive at the recommended level. Just maintain the same ratio of the braising liquid’s ingredients: 2 parts beef stock to 1 part each of Madeira and red wine.

A slow cooker works by applying a low, even temperature over a long period of time. Do not uncover the cooker unless necessary or you’ll run the risk of extending the cooking time.

Parsnips are a bit more firm than potatoes. When preparing them, chop the parsnips in pieces that are slightly smaller than the potatoes to insure that all will finish cooking at the same time.

Once you’ve strained the liquids and removed the fat, you can:

  • serve the sauce as-is;
  • reduce it and serve; or,
  • use a thickening agent — flour, corn starch, or arrowroot — to make gravy.

No matter how you finish the sauce, be sure to taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

*     *     *

When blogs collide

On the very day that I was cooking my beef cheeks, Phil, of “Food, Frankly“, posted his recipes for preparing an ox cheeks dinner. Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to check out the delicious meal that he prepared.

*     *     *

And finally

In the Comments for last week’s post, my Cousin mentioned that there’s a recall of beef that was processed by a California company and sold across the US. Though the beef I purchased was locally grown and processed, that is hardly the case everywhere. You can read about the recall and the reasons behind it in this USDA News Release, dated February 18th, 2014.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Tricolor Risotto 4It won’t be long now before we are once again celebrating St. Joseph’s Feast Day. Today’s look back will show you how to prepare a risotto of 3 colors, each of which, not so coincidentally, corresponds to one of the colors of the Italian flag. You needn’t be Italian to make this expression of Italian pride and you can learn how to do it by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Chocolate Torte Preview 2 Gluten-Free Chocolate Torte

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Roasted Mackerel with Potatoes and Tomatoes

Scombro Arrostito con Patate e Pomodori

Mackerel ServedI’m back and the Kitchens are open! Thank you all for the birthday and well-wishes. I had a wonderful birthday and, though there’s more to come, I’ll leave that reveal for a later date. As for my much neglected projects, though not all are done, I’ve made good progress and am very pleased.

Some of you may be interested to learn that I’ve added a “Translation” page to the blog. You can find it listed above, between the “Home” and “Welcome” pages, or, if you’re on my blog’s homepage, there’s a translate button on the right. Click on either link and you’ll go to a page that will offer you a translation of my blog in your choice of 52 languages. Note that less than perfect results my be returned, especially when colloquialisms and slang are encountered, as is the case with most universal-type translators. Considering that I am barely fluent in English, I’ve no way of knowing whether an individual translator is working properly. Should you find that a particular language isn’t translated clearly, please let me know and, if need be, I’ll remove that translator from the list.

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Today’s recipe is another that resulted from a walk around the Italian market. My walk started at the fish counter, as it always does, where the monger pointed out his “very fresh” mackerel. That’s code for “buy it” and I did without a second thought. While he cleaned my fish, I walked over to the produce area and bought some potatoes and tomatoes. A few minutes later, having grabbed some olive salad and herbs, my dinner for that night was all set. Unfortunately, I still had a full shopping list to buy but a fresh mackerel is one impulse buy that I don’t mind purchasing.

This dish couldn’t be easier to prepare. Stick some potatoes on a baking sheet, roast them for a spell, add some vegetables, put the fish on top, and bake until done. In the meantime, prepare a salad, slice some bread, and open a bottle of wine — if you haven’t already. Not many dinners are easier to prepare than this one.

*     *     *

Raw Mackerel*     *     *

Roasted Mackerel with Potatoes and Tomatoes Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs (680 g) mackerel, cleaned and scaled
  • 1.5 lbs (680 g) new potatoes, halved or quartered for uniform size
  • olive oil
  • 1 red onion, cut into eighths
  • 1 lb (455 g) cherry tomatoes
  • 6 oz (170 g) olive salad (misc olives, carrots, celery, peperoncini), roughly chopped
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 2 to 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • salt & pepper, to taste

*     *     *

M - Veggies 2*     *     *

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450˚ F (230˚ C).
  2. Place potatoes and onions in a large bowl, sprinkle with olive oil, and gently mix till evenly coated.
  3. Place on baking sheet, season with salt & pepper, and roast on center rack in pre-heated oven for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile place tomatoes and olive salad into same bowl used for potatoes and onions. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and season with salt & pepper.
  5. Place rosemary and thyme into the fish’s cavity.
  6. After 20 minutes, reduce oven to 375˚ F (190˚ C). Remove potatoes from oven, stir, and add tomatoes & olive salad to the tray. Place mackerel on top of vegetables, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt & pepper, and place in oven.
  7. Roast until fish is cooked, 20 to 30 minutes depending upon the thickness of the fish. When done, fish flesh should flake and be opaque when cut.

*     *     *

Baked Mackerel *     *     *

Notes

I had originally intended to use lain olives in this recipe but that marinated olive salad looked too good to pass up. You may prefer to use just the olives or, for that matter, neither option.

I like my tomatoes to be a little firm when served. If you like them cooked more fully, add them to the roasting pan earlier.

I’ve prepared this dish using one, two, or three dressed mackerel. Although the preparation is the same, cooking times may vary and will usually be a few minutes less for the smaller fish.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Nonna2

Mine wasn’t the only birthday celebrated at the end of last month. My Cousin shared her birthday, the 26th, with our dear Nonna. Although we all have wonderful memories of her, one of my most favorite involves her in the kitchen — imagine that! — preparing me something very special. The dish was tripe, trippa, and you can learn how to prepare and serve it, as well as a little bit about this dear woman, by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Quail PreviewStewed Quail

Two Cellos and a Cherry to Toast the New Year

Arancello, Liquore della Ciliegia, e Limoncello

Arancello, Liquore della Ciliegia, e Limoncello

Almost everyone lucky enough to visit Italy will, at some point, sample Limoncello. This lemon-flavored liqueur is often served after dinner as an aid to digestion, un digestivo, and, when properly made, Limoncello will have a strong lemony flavor without being bitter or sour like freshly squeezed lemon juice. Though many believe that the lemons that grow in and around Sorrento produce the best Limoncello, these lemons are not available here in the States. So, with no other options available, I’ve aways used “regular” organic lemons to make my Limoncello. This all changed, however, last year.

For the first time ever, Meyer lemons were available in virtually every grocery store I entered. I’d never seen so many. Having read that Meyers were as close to the famed Sorrento lemons as one can get here, I decided to use them to make my Limoncello. Remarkably, at the very same time that I was collecting the Meyer lemons, the grocer was putting out blood oranges. Suddenly, I was buying blood oranges, too, having decided that very moment to make orange-flavored liqueur, Arancello, as well. With an eye towards this Christmas, I thought I’d,also, make lime-flavored liqueur and give all three as gifts. Since I only had 2 jumbo jars and both were already filled with zest and grain alcohol, I put off buying the limes until I’d emptied one of them.

Once I got home, I checked my recipe for Limoncello, calculated how much Everclear (grain alcohol) I’d need for all 3 “celli”, and headed to my neighborhood liquor store. Want to have some fun? Go into a liquor store and buy about 1.5 gallons (5.25L) of grain alcohol. No need to answer when the clerk asks, “Will there be anything else?” A look will suffice.

My “celli” recipes are similar to those that are available on the internet. One thing that I do differently from most is that I use a micro-plane to remove the zest from the citrus. Though most recipes say to use a peeler to remove the peel, being careful not to collect any pith (the white stuff), I find it quite difficult to do. The problem is that the more pith you collect, the more bitter the liqueur. By using a micro-plane, I keep the amount of pith — and bitterness — to a minimum and I’m done in half the time it would take me to “peel” the zest. Once you get passed the zest collection step, you’ll find the rest of the recipes to be straight-forward and you should have no trouble following them.

*     *     *

On behalf of Zia and the rest of the Bartolini Clan, I’d like to wish you all a New Year filled with Peace and Joy.

Happy New Year!

*     *     *

Due Limoncelli

Due Limoncelli

*     *     *

“Celli” Liqueur Recipes

Limoncello IngredientsLimoncello Start

  • zest of 25 Meyer lemons, scrubbed clean
  • 1800 ml Everclear (See Notes)
  • 7 c (1660 ml) spring water
  • 5.5 c sugar

*     *     *

Arancello IngredientsArancello Start

  • zest of 14 blood oranges, scrubbed clean
  • 5.5 c (1300 ml) Everclear (See Notes)
  • 5 c (950 ml) spring water
  • 4 c sugar

*     *     *

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients in a large jar, cover tightly, and place in a cool, dark place. Shake contents occasionally — i.e., once per week.
  2. After 45 days, pour contents through a sieve to remove the zest. Cover tightly and return to a cool, dark place.
  3. After 2 weeks, filter the liqueur one more time through cheesecloth, or, for a very clear liqueur, through a hand strainer containing 2 coffee filters.
  4. Liqueur may be stored in a serving container, gift bottles, or back in the same jar, once rinsed. (See Notes)

*     *     *

With 2 jugs of citrus zest flavoring the Everclear, I was looking forward to making lime-cello in the near future — and then I saw Siobhan’s post describing how to make cherry liqueur on her wonderful blog Garden Correspondent. (Do pay her a visit for a charming look at family life and gardening in Turkey.) Not long after, while returning from a visit with Zia, I stopped at a cherry orchard to buy tart cherries, some of which were destined for this liqueur. Lime-cello would have to wait.

*     *     *

Cherry Liqueur Served

Liquore della Ciliegia

*     *     *

Tart Cherry Liqueur Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1670 g (59 oz) tart cherries
  • 835 g (29 oz) sugar
  • 417 ml (14 oz) Everclear (See Notes)
  • 18 whole cloves
  • 7 cinnamon sticks

Directions

  1. In a large jug with a lid, begin with a layer of sugar and then cherries, repeating both layers until the cherries are used up. Top off the jug’s contents with the remaining sugar.
  2. Seal the container and leave in a sunny location for 1 month.
  3. After one month, give the cherry mixture a good stir and add the spices wrapped and tied in cheese cloth. Re-seal the container and set it aside for another month.
  4. After a month, strain and reserve both liquid and cherries. Use a spoon to press as much liquid out of cherries as possible. Save cherries for another use. (See Notes)
  5. Add the liquor to the reserved cherry juice. Set aside in cool, dark place for 2 weeks.
  6. After 2 weeks, strain the liquid through cheese cloth or, for a very clear liqueur, through a hand strainer containing 2 coffee filters.
  7. Like Limoncello, your tart cherry liqueur will continue to mellow as it sits.

With thanks to Siobhan, Garden Correspondent, for the recipe.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Variations

Although I used blood oranges and Meyer lemons to create my “celli”, you can use regular oranges and lemons just as easily. Do try to use organic fruit when available.

As was mentioned, I had intended to make a 3rd “cello”, lime-flavored, but decided to make the cherry liqueur instead. Now that the gifts have been given and the large jars emptied, I may yet give lime-cello a try. Besides, I have to do something with that half-bottle of Everclear.

So, you’ve made a batch of Arancello and are wondering what else can be done with it other than drinking it straight from the bottle. Coincidentally, earlier today a cocktail recipe using Arancello was posted on a fantastic blog, Feeding My 3 Sons. Not only does this blog feature great recipes, each is reviewed by 3 of the toughest critics in all of WordPress.

*     *     *

2 Cellos and a Cherry

Arancello, Liquore della Ciliegia, e Limoncello

*     *     *

Notes

Most of our citrus fruit is “protected” after picking with a light coat of wax. Be sure to use a brush under running water to remove this coating before attempting to zest the fruit.

Everclear is grain alcohol and is very potent. (75.5% alcohol, 151 proof) It is dangerous to drink it “straight” out of the bottle. In the recipes above, it is diluted using spring water, bringing the alcoholic content into more acceptable levels. If you feel it is still too strong, simply add more water.

If you cannot find Everclear or do not wish to use it, vodka can easily be substituted. When you do, there’s no need to add any spring water at all, though you can if you wish to dilute the liqueur.

It is advisable that the liqueurs be filtered a second time before being chilled for serving. This will remove the tiniest of particles thus ensuring your liqueurs will be clear when served.

You will find that all 3 liqueurs will mellow as time passes. For best results, they should, also, be stored in your freezer for at least 1 week before being served. Patience is a virtue and you’ll be well-rewarded the longer you wait.

Though you should discard the citrus zest once it is strained out of the liqueurs, you may wish to save the cherries. Though not suited for children, you may think of a few desserts in which to use them. Personally, I place them in jars that I then fill with vodka and store in the fridge. A couple of weeks later I enjoy them as-is or as a garnish in vodka martinis. Just be sure to warn your guests if there are pits in the cherries. Of course, after a few of them, no one will care.

*     *     *

An announcement

In January, I am going to celebrate a milestone birthday, the big SIX OH! Though I’ve nothing special planned as yet, there are a couple of projects, here at home, that I have neglected, using this blog as an excuse for procrastinating. Well, I’ve no intention of starting the next decade with these tasks still waiting to be completed and, as a result, the Kitchens will be closed for the month of January, reopening on February 5th. Thank you all for your ongoing support and encouragement. See you in February!

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

To complete my review of Bartolini holiday dishes, today’s look back will feature our cappelletti Cappelletti in Brodorecipe. Served for lunch on New Year’s Day, these stuffed pasta are traditionally shaped like the brimmed hats once worn by priests. Unable to produce enough hat-shaped pasta to serve our family, Mom’s cappelletti were shaped like small ravioli, raviolini. No matter their shape, cappelletti are usually served in broth, brodo, and are a delicious dish to serve on the First Day of the Year. You can check out my family’s recipe for cappelletti simply by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Turkey Risotto

Risotto con Tacchino

This is not a true holiday dish but it does grace my dinner table at least once over the holidays. Guaranteed. You see, I have a “thing” for turkey sandwiches and you might be surprised at the lengths I’ll go to make sure that I have turkey sandwiches every Thanksgiving.

*     *     *Turkey Risotto

*     *     *

As an adult, the highlight of my Thanksgiving Day Feast has always been the midnight turkey sandwich. Built with slices of turkey (white & dark meat, of course), a healthy portion of stuffing, and cemented together with cranberry sauce, this is the “sammich” of which my dreams are made. No matter what I’m eating throughout that day, I never lose sight of that night’s prize.

Now, when I host the dinner, having enough turkey to make a sammich is no problem. In fact, I buy a bird twice as large as needed so that every guest goes home with a platter of leftovers. Each then can either relive the dinner — sans my buoyant personality, of course — or make at least 2 healthy sammiches. And I will have at least enough turkey for a few sammiches, as well as a good-sized portion destined for the freezer for sammiches to be built at a later date. That’s if I host the dinner. Things can go quite differently, however, if I’m enjoying Thanksgiving dinner away from home.

Over the years, I’ve been invited to some lovely Thanksgiving feasts where the company was warm, the dinner fantastic, and the wine flowed freely.  I could say the very same thing about those occasions where friends and I gathered at a restaurant for dinner. Both situations allow me to relax and enjoy my friends and the meal without the stress of having to juggle 6 side dishes on a 5 burner stove top; remember that there are bruschette under the broiler; and keep an eye on Max who’s been keeping his eyes on the tented bird on the counter. Both options  sound wonderful except for one little detail. There are no leftovers and without them there can be no sammich. Oh, the pain!

After going sammich-less for a couple of years, I’d had enough. (Well, actually, I’d had nothing.) I decided to roast my own turkey, no matter what, sometime during Thanksgiving week. Granted, when the bird is meant for me alone, I look for the smallest, fresh turkey available, usually 9 to 10 lbs. That’s less than half the size of the behemoth that I prepare when I’m hosting. Even so, I get all the sammiches I want, half of the bird gets wrapped and frozen for another time, and I still have the carcass to play with.

Ah, the carcass! When I remove the meat from its bones, I make sure to leave some behind. Then, when it’s time to prepare the stock, I find and retrieve those bits. As you’ll soon see, they, along with the stock, will be used in my risotto. It really is a nice arrangement. I have a turkey dinner — maybe two! — I enjoy plenty of sammiches, and I have turkey stock to make my “holiday” risotto.

When you read today’s recipe, it may be that I prepare risotto differently than you do — and that’s ok. If you’ve a proven method for making risotto, don’t change for this recipe. The important thing about this risotto is not how it’s made but what is used to make it. In this recipe, turkey stock is used in place of chicken, and, chopped turkey is used instead of any other type of protein or even mushrooms. I don’t want anything to mask the flavors of roast turkey and, if the bird was stuffed, the hint of stuffing.

*     *     *

Risotto Cooking

*     *     *

Turkey Risotto Recipe

Ingredients

  • 6 cups turkey stock, recipe to follow
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 7 oz (200 g) roast turkey, chopped
  • 1 3/4 c Arborio rice
  • 4 oz (60 ml) dry white wine
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Directions

  1. Keep the turkey stock hot, though not boiling. (See Notes)
  2. Add butter to a large pan over med-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent.
  3. Add turkey to the pan and continue to sauté until heated through.
  4. Lower the heat to medium, add the rice to the pan, and toast the grains, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the wine and stir. Continue to cook until the wine is all but evaporated.
  6. Ladle by ladle, add the turkey stock, stirring with each addition and allowing the stock to be fully absorbed before adding another ladle of stock.
  7. Taste the rice for doneness after about 20 minutes. It should be nearing completion.
  8. When the rice is al dente and just shy of being done, add another ladle of stock, cover, and turn off the heat.
  9. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before adding 2 handfuls of Pecorino Romano cheese.
  10. If rice is too dry, add a bit more stock before serving. (See Notes)
  11. Garnish with more Pecorino Romano cheese and serve.

*     *     *

To make the turkey stock

In a large stock pot over med-high heat, add the roast turkey carcass, a large onion (quartered), 2 celery stalks with leaves (roughly chopped), 2 carrots (roughly chopped), a few parsley sprigs, and enough water to cover – about 5 or 6 quarts. Bring to a boil before reducing the heat to maintain a soft simmer. I let the stock simmer for at least 3 hours, adding water if too much evaporates. The object is to have at least 2 quarts (2 L) of stock when all is said and done. When finished, strain stock through a fine strainer. Refrigerate stock overnight and then remove any fat that may have risen to the surface. Stock is now ready to use in your favorite recipe or to drink, warm, by the cupful.

*     *     *

Turkey Risotto 2

*     *     *

Notes

When making risotto, I use a ratio of 3:1. That’s 3 parts stock to every 1 part of rice. I usually have an extra cup of stock ready but, if I run out, I’ll add some hot water. Bear in mind, that I’m only using a little water, certainly not even a cupful.

You may think it odd that I used 1 3/4 cups of rice but that’s because it was the end of the package’s contents. I didn’t see the point of reserving a quarter cup of rice. So, use as much rice as you like but keep the above ratio in mind.

Do keep the stock hot, but not boiling, when adding it to the pan of cooking rice. Boiling stock will hit the hot pan and evaporate before it can be absorbed by the rice. On the other hand, if it is too cool, it will delay the cooking process.

We prefer our risotto to be on the moist side. You’ll find that the rice will continue to absorb the stock even as it sits in the serving platter.

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Just as surely as you’d find a platter of ravioli on our Christmas dinner table, you could count on there being a platter of biscotti on that very same table, served after dessert while Biscotti with Pecansthe castagne, chestnuts, were being roasted. Both recipes that I shared came to my family about 50 years ago. Mom’s Biscotti with Pecans, was a family recipe of a friend who was 90 years young at the time. We know that recipe is at least 100 years old. Zia found her recipe for Anisette Biscotti in a local newspaper. Both are simple recipes and are as traditional to our holidays as is that Christmas tree in the corner waiting for the Feast of the Epiphany (Little Christmas). You can find both recipes by clicking HERE.

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Coming Christmas Eve to a monitor near you …

Linquine ai Frutti di Mare al Cartocci - Preview

Linguine with Seafood in Parchment

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See Quince? Make Jam First Then Jelly

OK. I’ll admit it. I didn’t know a thing about quince. I certainly didn’t hear about them while growing up, let alone see any of them. When I finally did see one, not all that long ago, I thought it to be a very odd-looking apple — and expensive, at that.

Things began to change, however, once I started blogging. Every Fall, quince jelly recipes began to circulate. Then, last August, my friend Celia posted her recipe for making quince jelly on her wonderful blog Fig Jam And Lime Cordial. (If you’re not familiar with her posts, this is your chance. Celia’s blog is one that has a little something for everyone and all of it good.) At the time, I told her that I wanted to make some and would let her know when I did. So, “Hey, Celia! I made quince jam & jelly!”

*     *     *

Quince 1

*     *     *

Once I purchased the quince, I searched for a recipe. Since quince has a high level of pectin within it, I decided to go without adding any more. This, unfortunately, ruled out Celia’s recipe. (Sorry, Celia.) I soon learned that the web is full of quince recipes, all pretty much the same. Quince, sugar, lemon juice, and water combine to eventually produce jelly. Well, I like jelly but I prefer jam. Looking a little further, I came upon a recipe that suited my needs. I settled on a Greek recipe for quince jam called Marmalatha Kythoni. Unlike all others, this one had 2 things going for it.

In the first place, the recipe gave a ratio of quince to sugar (2:1). This is so much more convenient than stating that 1 quart of quince is required. Just how many quince does it take to make a quart? With this ratio, you just buy the quince, peel, core, chop, and then weigh them. Whatever the weight, you’ll need half that amount in sugar. (You’ll note that in the recipe, I stated the quince amount in ounces (grams) to make the math easier.)

Secondly, water used to boil the quince in this recipe may be used to make quince jelly. Granted, you won’t be making a lot but you will get a little over a cup for your efforts. The same ratio (2:1) applies when making jelly, too. The difference being in this case, you use measures and not weight. So, I had 4 cups of quince liquid and used 2 cups of sugar to make a pint of jelly. It could not be easier.

The amount of lemon juice to be used is up to you. I like things a little tart, so, I added both lemon juice and zest when making the jam. For the jelly, I used lemon juice only. It’s my “control” and I’ll taste the jelly to determine whether I overdid the lemon when making the jam.

*     *     *

Quince Jam 3

*     *     *

Quince Jam Recipe

Ingredients

  • 52 oz (1474 g) quince, peeled, cored, and chopped (see Notes)
  • 26 oz (737 g) sugar
  • 1.25 cups (300 ml) water, divided
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

*     *     *

Quince Jam 2

*     *     *

Directions

  1. Place chopped quince in a large pot with a lid and add enough water to cover (see Notes). Place the lid on the pot and bring to a hard boil over high heat. Reduce to medium heat and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Keep covered, shut off the heat, and let sit for another 30 minutes.
  2. Strain, reserving the liquid for the Quince Jelly Recipe, and place the chunks in a food processor, along with 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water.  Process until the quince is the consistency you prefer.
  3. Place the now-processed quince in a thick bottomed sauce pan along with the sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil over med-high heat before reducing to medium and simmer, stirring almost constantly to prevent scorching.
  4. Continue to simmer and stir until the jam is the consistency you prefer, from 30 to 60 minutes, maybe longer.
  5. Place jam in still hot, sterilized jars, place lids and seal — though not quite as tight as you can.
  6. Place jars on a rack in a boiling water bath deep enough so that there’s at least 1 inch of water over the top of the tallest jar. When the boil returns, process for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove jars from the pot and place on a baking sheet or counter, out of drafts. Be sure to cover the surface with a cloth to prevent the hot jars from shattering when they touch a cold surface. Do not move for at least 12 hours, though 24 is best, to give the jars a chance to seal and the jam to fully set.
  8. Preserved quince jam will keep for one year, though some degradation of taste and color may begin to occur after 6 months.  Best to enjoy your jam before that. (Source: Pick Your Own)

*     *     *

Quince Jelly 3

*     *     *

Quince Jelly Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (1000 ml) quince water reserved when making quince jam, recipe above.
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

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Quince Jelly 1

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Directions

  1. Place the reserved liquid, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over high heat.
  2. Stir constantly until the liquid reduces by about 2/3, developing a syrupy consistency. (it took mine about 40 minutes.)
  3. Use a large spoon to quickly remove any foam before filling the still-hot, sterile jars to 1/4 inch from the top. Follow canning instructions listed in the Quince Jam Recipe above, processing this jelly for 5 minutes in the hot water bath.
  4. Store jelly on a cool, dark shelf.

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Quince & Queso Manchego

Crostini with Quince Jam & Queso Manchego

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Notes

It took 8 quince that, after peeling, coring, and chopping, rendered the 26 oz used in the Jam recipe.

It is best to use ripe quince for this recipe. To check for ripeness, sniff either end of the fruit. Ripe quince will have a floral scent.

When cut, quince will brown. To prevent this, place the pieces in a large bowl of water. When ready to start cooking the quince, I used this water to cover the pieces in the pot, as indicated in step 1 of the Jam recipe.

If you plan to make jelly using the cooking liquid, you will need to strain it through a few layers of cheesecloth or, if none is available, muslin or coffee filters will work, too.

As you can see in the pictures, my jam is lighter than most. Granted, it darkened a bit as it cooked but never reached the deep color that I associate with quince jam. I was a bit concerned until I compared mine to the photos accompanying the original recipe. In that light, mine is quite similar to the original. Whew! My guess is that this jam recipe doesn’t cook the quince as long as the others, and that deep pink color needs a long cooking time to develop. As it was, my jam was thick enough that I had no choice but to pull it off the heat.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Baccalà

With Christmas approaching fast, for the next few weeks I’ll devote this section to some of our favorite holiday recipes. To kick things off, I thought we’d take a look back to our traditional Christmas Eve dish, Baccalà alla Marchigianna. In this preparation baccalà, once rinsed and rehydrated, is cooked in a tomato sauce with potatoes. Serve it with a chunk of bread and you’ll forget all about Santa’s coming in a few hours — well, at least until you’ve cleaned your plate. You can learn how to make this flavorful dish just by clicking  HERE

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Uova da Raviolo - Preview

Uova da Raviolo

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Green Tomato Relish

Thanks to all who sent their condolences during the past week. My family reads this blog and I know that they were as touched by your thoughtfulness as was I.

*     *     *Green Tomato Relish 2

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This has been quite a month and I hope you’ll understand if I’ve not been as frequent a visitor or commenter on your blogs as I have been in the past.

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This was the first year that I tried my hand at making green tomato relish. The sad fact is that, for the last few years, my tomato harvest has been anything but bountiful. From blight, to cracked containers, to damaging winds, it seemed The Fates had conspired against me. Add the daily, early morning raid by my nemesis, Squirrel, and I was lucky to get one pot of sauce in all of August, though I did manage to prepare a few BLTs. Things got so bad last year that I tossed both plants and containers into the trash in mid-August. (Take that, Squirrel!)

Determined to return to the good old days, when I was rewarded with quarts of tomato sauce, last Winter I bought new planters. When, in the Spring, my seedlings looked pathetic, I bought heirloom plants from the farmers market, some of which were the same as my under-achieving seedlings. And then I waited patiently. Lo and behold, I was richly rewarded. My Brandywine supplied me the “T” for all Summer’s BLTs. My cherry tomato, Mexican Midget, insured my salads never went tomato-less and still yielded enough for me to make tomato jam. Finally, my plum tomatoes, San Marzano, kept me awash in tomato sauce. Grandpa would have been proud.

As October drew to a close, I went out and picked the San Marzano plants clean of green tomatoes. The other vines had all but given out at that point. Setting aside some to ripen on a window sill, I chopped the rest, rendering about 1 of the 2 quarts needed for the relish. I then bought 4 large green tomatoes at the farmers market. 3 were needed for the relish and the 4th, destined for BLTs, joined the others on the window sill.

Searching the web for a recipe wasn’t as easy as I had thought. Most that I ran across required a number of large tomatoes without giving an associated weight or volume. As you can see in the photo, my tomatoes were varied in size and I had no idea how many would equal, say, “24 large green tomatoes”.  The recipe I finally chose gave the ingredients in quarts required —  equivalent metric units were, also, provided — and could be adjusted to suit the volume of tomatoes on-hand. It wasn’t long before my relish was underway.

Not having much experience with green tomato relish, I cannot say how this compares with other recipes. I do know that the night following “relish day”, my kitchen smelled like a condiment station at Wrigley Field. Needless to say, this relish is the perfect accompaniment for a hot dog or even the “best of your wurst.”  

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Today, Wednesday, the Jewish Faith celebrates the start of Hanukkah, while tomorrow we in the States celebrate Thanksgiving. Whether you celebrate the holidays, I hope your day is a good one. Have a Wonderful Hanukkah & Happy Thanksgiving!

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Green Tomatoes 1

Relish, we are your father.

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Green Tomato Relish Recipe

yield: 5 to 6 pints

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts chopped green tomatoes (see Notes)
  • 2 large onions, chopped (next time I’ll use one)
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped (I used red for color; green may be substituted)
  • 2 jalapeños, chopped
  • 4 tbsp canning/pickling salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp prepared mustard (yellow mustard seed may be substituted)
  • 2 tsp celery seed (if celery salt is used, do not add additional kosher salt)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 whole cloves wrapped in cheesecloth
  • 2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)

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Green Tomato Relish 1

NOOOOOOOOO!

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Directions

  1. Place tomatoes, onions, peppers, and jalapeños a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Stir to mix and set aside for 1 hour. After the hour has passed, drain the liquid before placing the mixture into a large, heavy-bottomed pot.
  2. Add the sugar, mustard, celery seed, cloves, and vinegar to the pot and stir to combine. Heat the mixture over med-high heat until it boils. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Place relish into sterile jars and fill to 1/4 inch of top and cover. Cover and relish is ready as-is. Once cool, store in the fridge where it will keep for 2 weeks.
  4. For canning instructions, see Notes.

Inspired by a recipe on Food.com

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Relish & Dog

A destiny fulfilled.

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Notes

It took about 6 large tomatoes to make 2 quarts chopped. Sizes vary and you may need more or less tomato to fill 2 quarts.

Even though you can store this relish in the fridge, 5 or 6 pints is an awful lot of relish to use within 2 weeks. I prefer to can the relish, giving me a supply that will keep for up to one year. To can:

  1. This should be done while relish and jars are still hot.
  2. Bring a large kettle of water to the boil over high heat. Place a rack or towel in the bottom of the pot so that no jar will come in contact with the bottom of the pot.
  3. Seal each jar a little less than fully tightened.
  4. Place jars in the boiling water. Do not allow them to touch each other and the water should cover the tallest jar by at least 1 inch (2.5 cm).
  5. When the water returns to the boil, process the jars for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the jars to a cloth-covered counter or baking sheet, away from any drafts. (The cloth will prevent the jars from shattering should they come in contact with a cold surface.) Do not move for at least 12 hours, though 24 hours is best.
  7. Relish stored in a cool, dark place should keep for about a year.

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Forget Moose. Must get Squirrel!

One day last Summer, after listening to me yet again bemoan Squirrel’s daily raids on my tomato plants, my friend Cynthia mentioned that she’d heard that squirrels steal tomatoes for the moisture they provide. The squirrels will take a bite and a drink from each one that they pilfer. If you want to reduce the thievery, the theory goes, leave a dish of water for them to drink. I didn’t experiment with this because I had stumbled upon my own way of dealing with Squirrel — and a shot-gun wasn’t even involved. Every day or so, I walk around my plants’ containers, picking up tomatoes that have fallen due to the wind, Squirrel, or a passing Max. (He has a yard to patrol yet insists on circling each container.) One afternoon, while on my way out, I gathered up the tomatoes on the ground, placing them on a table on the deck — and promptly forgot all about them. The next morning, much to my surprise, a couple of the tabled tomatoes were stolen by Squirrel but those on the vine were left alone. From that day on, like my Roman ancestors of long ago, I paid a tribute of fallen tomatoes to my enemy, a four-legged barbarian, and my wealth, my tomato harvest, was spared. Only time will tell whether this arrangement will work next season.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Fall is typically when a Bartolini’s thoughts turn to sausage making. The cooler temperatures make it far less likely to run into the spoilage problems that you might Bartolini Sausageencounter in Summer’s heat. Not only that but years ago my family hung the freshly made sausage in their screened, back porches to dry/cure in the chilled air. Once cured, the sausages were sliced and eaten like salami. Well, despite all that — and the photo, for that matter — I no longer make sausages, preferring to make patties instead. No matter your preference, you can learn how to make sausage like a Bartolini by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Quince Preview 2

Quince: The end of the year’s canning

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