My Cousin Marinella’s Meatballs

Palle di Marinella

This recipe has been a long time coming. In fact, this is actually the 4th rewrite. Each of the prior versions included time-sensitive references that no longer apply. (Let that be a lesson for us all.) Even this post is time-dependent, making me all the more determined to publish it post-haste — but more about that later.

My wonderful cousin, Marinella, graciously shared her meatball recipe with me the last time I was in San Marino — two years ago! While sitting around Zia Pina’s kitchen table one evening, I recorded a number of recipes in a small notebook and stored it safely away — never to be seen again. Well, I did find a meatball ingredient list on a piece of paper in my luggage but nothing more. Why did I write this list and how did it, alone, get into a pocket of my luggage are 2 questions that will probably never be answered.

“Wait a minute. ‘Luggage”? What was he doing with his luggage?” you might be asking.

Well, I’ll be heading back to Italy in but a few days and San Marino will be among the places we’ll visit. There’s no way I’d go to Italy without paying my Zia and cousins a visit. This time my niece, “G”, will be joining me for her first trip abroad, as will her brother, “M”, who accompanied me 2 years ago. We’ve planned our stops so that they can spend their days touring while I relax on a terrace and watch the watery horizon, if I so choose. A good time is sure to be had by all.

So, with our trip pending, I contacted Marinella and she guided me through this recipe. Perhaps its posting will soften the blow of my being so incredibly absent-minded. I can only hope …

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You may have looked upon the opening photo and wondered, “Where’s the spaghetti?” The fact is that the quintessential dish, spaghetti with meatballs, is not Italian in origin. The dish was actually created here in the States by Italian immigrants some time around 1900. Needless to say, the dish “caught on” and has become a staple of Italian restaurants — on this side of the Atlantic. Oh, sure, you may see “polpette” (Italian for meatballs) on menus in Italy but they will not be served with spaghetti. In fact, if you do see “spaghetti e polpette” on a menu, you’re probably in a place that is trying to attract American tourists.

Another difference you may notice is their size. In Italy, polpette are about golf ball-sized. Here, meatballs can be over twice that size or, when served as appetizers, quite small  No matter what size you choose to prepare, an ice cream scoop makes the process much easier.

That being said, let’s get to the recipe …

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Finding that ingredient list resulted in the first of many contacts with my cousin, all of which were necessary. You see, left to my own devices, I ended up with a number of tasty meat sauces with nary a meatball between them. In each case, the meatballs disintegrated in the sauce. Once I learned the correct amounts for the ingredients, our discussions turned to her method of preparation. Below, I’ve detailed her methods, as well as my recipes for meatball appetizers and meatballs simmered in marinara sauce.

The meatball recipe is actually quite simple. Grind/mince equal parts beef, veal, and mortadella (an Italian bologna-like product). Add a few tablespoons of chopped parsley, and season with salt & pepper to taste. Now add the ricotta. When I made today’s meatballs, I used 450 g (16 oz) of each meat. I used 150 g (5 oz) of freshly made and drained ricotta. (See Notes) To the mixture, add a splash of red wine and a slightly beaten egg. (See Notes.) Be careful when combining ingredients. Do not overwork the meat or the meatballs will be too dense. Pan fry a little of the meat mixture and taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for a short while to allow the meat to set-up before proceeding. See Notes for tips on storage.

Once rested, form the balls in whatever size you prefer. To prepare, Marinella will sauté onion in a little olive oil until translucent. Add the meatballs and continue to sauté, moving the balls across the pan to ensure even browning. After 5 to 10 minutes, depending upon the balls’ size, add some chopped parsley and several plum tomatoes that have been peeled, seeded, and chopped. (See Notes) Continue to simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes. If you like, add a handful of peas — fresh or frozen — and continue cooking until peas are cooked to your preference. Serve. (See Notes)

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Mini-meatballs, “polpettini“, in red wine reduction, garnished with crumbled fried sage leaves.

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These meatballs are not heavily spiced, relying upon mortadella to deliver fantastic flavors. As such, care should be taken lest their flavor be lost in the preparation. This is especially true if serving them as appetizers with a wine reduction. After some experimentation, I found it best to bake the meatballs separately — (350˚ F, 175˚ C, for 20 minutes) — before adding them to the sauce just prior to serving. That will ensure that you taste both the meatballs and the sauce, with neither hogging the spotlight.

The wine reduction is easy, too. Sauté some shallots in a little olive oil until transparent. Add equal amounts of beef stock and red wine. (I used 1/2 cup of each, the wine being Pinot Noir.) Continue to simmer until the sauce is reduced by half. Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer and return to the pan. Whisk while adding a teaspoon of butter. Add the sauce to the bottom of a serving plate. Place the meatballs on to the sauce in the dish and serve. (Optional: garnish with crumbled fried sage.)

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A delight on both sides of the Atlantic

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Whether you call it a meatball sammich or uno panino con le polpette, something magical happens when meatballs meet marinara sauce and bread. If you ask me this sammich is the main reason for making meatballs but, as you know, I’ve a soft spot for sammiches.

First, start by creating a marinara sauce, Here I make a sauce that’s even less complicated than the one I shared HERE. Chop an onion and sauté in olive oil, over medium heat, until soft. Add sliced mushrooms, if using. Once the mushrooms have softened, add 2 cloves of minced or grated garlic. When you can smell the garlic (about 90 seconds), add 2 tbsp tomato paste. Cook for about 3 minute before adding about 4 ounces of red wine or 3 ounces of balsamic vinegar. Your choice. Continue to simmer until most of the liquid — and all the alcohol — has evaporated. Add 2 large (28 oz) cans of diced tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and marjoram, to taste. Stir thoroughly. Bring to a boil before lowering to a soft simmer.

After 30 minutes, give the sauce a good stir before carefully adding the meatballs. Do not stir the pot again for at least 20 minutes more. Stirring before the meatballs have a chance to set-up a bit may cause them to break apart. Continue simmering the sauce, carefully stirring occasionally, for another 45 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as required.

Now, turn your attention to the bread. I prefer a roll with a not-too-hard crust but the choice is all yours. Slice each roll lengthwise and remove some of the bread from both top and bottom. This will help keep the meatballs from falling and rolling “off of the table and on to the floor …” Spoon a bit of sauce into the trough you’ve just created and, with a slotted spoon, add as many meatballs to the bun as will comfortably fit. Place a slice or two of cheese — provolone, mozzarella, asiago, etc., — atop the meatballs before adding a garnish of fresh basil leaves. Buon appetito!

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You really didn’t think I could look upon a pot of sauce with meatballs in my fridge and not whip up a dish of spaghetti with meatballs, did you? In fact, I found the sight so moving that I pulled out the pasta machine and made the spaghetti, too.

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Notes

I prepare my own ricotta for use in this recipe. You can see how easy it is to prepare HERE.

Use caution when using smaller amounts of meat for the meatballs. I learned, the hard way, that too much liquid will cause the meatballs to crumble during cooking. A delicious tomato sauce resulted but that’s not quite what I had in mind.

You can use white or red wine for your wine reduction sauce. You can also add whatever herbs you prefer. If added early on you’ll derive more flavor from them, especially given that the sauce is being reduced. It’s for that reason, I prefer to add them at the end, to be briefly simmered before the sauce is strained.

The meatballs can be refrigerated, covered, for a short period, although it’s never safe to keep ground/minced meat in the fridge for long. Frozen, they will keep for weeks. Whether I cook them before freezing depends upon how I intend to use them. If making appetizers, I’ll bake the meatballs before freezing. If using them in tomato sauce, I’ll freeze the meatballs raw, to be thawed before being placed into the sauce. Both the sauce and meatballs will benefit being simmered together.

How you serve the meatballs will determine how much tomato will be needed. Less will be needed for sandwiches, for example, than is required for to create a marinara sauce.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

As of this rewrite, we are coming out of what is hopefully winter’s last stand. So, before saying farewell to comfort food for the season, let’s take a look at the short rib recipe I posted way back in March, 2012.  The recipe was very well-received and it remains a personal favorite. I’m currently looking into modifying the recipe to utilize a pressure cooker. If all goes well, I’ll either write a new post or update the old. In the meantime, you can check out the original recipe HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

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Arrivederci! A presto …

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Quick — and Easy — Beef Pho

As you can see, there’s been a change in programing. I had planned to share my cousin’s meatball recipe but the return of winter sent me back to Comfort Food Land. While I was preparing today’s dish for my dinner, I realized that I could just as easily share its recipe. So, I pulled out the camera, snapped a few photos, and wrote the post. (Then I spent the next 4 days editing but never mind that.) Perhaps some of you may find the recipe useful in the weeks ahead, while others in the winter yet to come.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that judging by the photo trail, I’ve grown quite fond of pho, ramen, and hot-pots. Throughout much of fall and all of this past winter, when out-and-about on a chilly/frigid day, I was likely to stop for lunch at any one of a number of nearby restaurants specializing in these delicious bowls of comfort. It wasn’t long before I began to wonder whether I could prepare any of them here at home. Discovering an Asian super-mart only fueled my curiosity. One afternoon, while searching Vietnamese cookbook summaries, I came upon “The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam’s Favorite Soup and Noodles.” Written by Andrea Nguyen, it has become my go-to reference book whenever I need information about my newfound loves.

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Cooked noodles first

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Ms. Nguyen offers a wealth of information to go along with her great recipes. Believe me. This neophyte Asian cook can use all the help that I can get. Virtually every aspect of the cooking process and ingredient list is explained. Not only will you learn the secrets to pho preparation but she also shares methods for preparing a number of the sauces common to Asian cooking. Not to worry. She also gives suggestions for the commercially produced versions. If you’ve ever stood before an Asian market’s soy or fish sauce-filled shelves, you’ll realize the value of these suggestions.

Aside from the wealth of information presented, Ms. Nguyen offers more than 1 method for preparing some dishes, If you’ve time, follow the standard method. In a rush? Pull out the pressure cooker. Still too long? She offers quick recipes for beef, chicken, and vegetarian pho that you can easily prepare in well under an hour. Today’s recipe is one of these. In future posts, I’ll share her recipes for chicken and beef broths. We’re talking “quick” here, however, and those broths will have to wait their turn.

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Add the beef

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No matter the country of origin, the heart of any bowl of soup is its broth and pho is certainly no exception. In fact, when I first saw that this recipe was labelled “quick”, I was skeptical — and I was proved wrong. This pho is both aromatic and deeply flavored. Easy to prepare, the recipe can be doubled or tripled with little problem. (See Notes)

One other point to make concerns the beef. Ms. Nguyen suggests using cooked roast beef or steak, very thinly sliced. If you like, in this recipe you can substitute thinly sliced roast beef that can be purchased at any deli counter. There’s even a third option. If like me, you live near a Korean market or well-stocked Asian market, you might find thinly sliced cuts of beef and pork. For today’s recipe, I used sliced rib eye steak, although I have used sliced beef brisket, as well.

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Now’s the time for garnishes

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Quick  Beef Pho Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3/4 inch (2cm) ginger, peeled and cut into slices.
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 cups (1/2 liter) low-sodium beef broth (see Notes)
  • 2 cups 1/2 liter)) low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 cups (1/2 liter) water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 oz ( 150 g) flat rice noodles (see Notes)
  • 4 to 5 oz (115 – to 150 g) cooked roast beef or steak, or, raw beef, all sliced very thin (see Notes)
  • 2 to 3 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar – optional (1 tsp maple syrup may be substituted)
  • 2 tsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • for garnish (optional)
    • Hoisin sauce, chili sauce, saté sauce (see Notes)

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Cover with steaming broth and serve

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Directions

  1. Bring the sliced beef to room temperature.
  2. Use the broad side of a knife to pound flat the sliced ginger.
  3. Trim off the green of the spring onions. Roughly chop the white portions and smash using the broadside of a knife. Thinly slice the green part and reserve for use as a garnish.
  4. In a medium-sized sauce pan, toast the star anise, cinnamon, and cloves over medium heat until fragrant — about a minute or so.
  5. Add the ginger and onion to the pot and stir until fragrant — about 30 seconds. Remove pot from heat.
  6. Briefly cool before adding the beef & chicken stocks, the water, and salt, Stir well and bring to a boil over med-high neat.
  7. Lower the heat and softly simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, prepare the noodles. Make sure that they are ready when the broth has finished simmering. (See Notes)
  9. Once finished simmering, pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. For especially clear broth, use a piece of muslin to cover the strainer. You should have about 2 quarts (2 liters) of broth in the bowl. Discard the strained solids.
  10. Add the fish sauce and taste the broth. Add the sugar/maple syrup, to taste.
  11. Season with salt & pepper, to taste.
  12. Reheat the broth, place the noodle-filled strainer (see Notes) into the hot broth, and leave until heated through — no more than 1 minute.
  13. Split the noodles between the 2 bowls.
  14. Add the sliced meat to each bowl in a single layer. To ensure even cooking, avoid “stacking” the pieces. .
  15. Garnish with the reserved sliced onion greens, chopped cilantro, and black pepper.
  16. Ladle the now-steaming broth into each bowl and serve.
 
Recipe may be found in “The Pho Cookbook” by Andrea Nguyen
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Notes

This is not the time to economize when buying the stocks. Be sure to choose your favorite stocks upon which to build the pho.

If doubling or tripling the stock recipe, freeze the excess for later use. Once thawed, you can prepare a bowl of beef pho in about the time it takes to prepare the noodles. This is why I always have a quart of this stock on-hand.

Follow the package directions for preparing the rice noodles but pour them into a strainer just shy of being done. When ready to assemble the dish, place the strainer into the hot broth to briefly re-heat the noodles before adding them to the bowls. (Truth in blogging: the noodles used in the dish pictured were not rice noodles. Due to my oversight — make that “lack of sight” — ramen egg noodles were bought instead of flat rice noodles.)

If you’re using thinly sliced, raw beef and you prefer your meat cooked well-done, you will probably want to pound the slices even thinner. This will ensure that the steaming broth cooks the meat to your liking. No matter whether you choose to pound the slices, trim off the fat and slice them into bite-sized piece before adding to each bowl. Not only will the beef be more appetizing but it will be far easier to use chopsticks when dining.

The garnishes listed are those indicated by Ms. Nguyen, although she encourages one to add whatever one prefers. I’ve grown accustomed to adding cilantro leaves, Thai basil, culantro, sliced jalapeño, bean sprouts, and a squeeze of  fresh lime.

Some chefs are insulted when a patron adds sauce(s) to their pho. Placing the sauces in a small bowl allows one to dip the cooked meat(s) into the sauces, leaving the pho/ramen just as the chef intended, Here I’ve combined Hoisin and Sriracha sauces.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Agnolotti Served

Hard to believe that it was 3 years ago when I shared an agnolotti recipe, the filling for which was prepared following the family recipe of a sous chef at a restaurant in Bologna. There’s a reason why my mind has drifted back to Italy but more about that in a later post. For now, if you want to see how these agnolotti were prepared, just click HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Marinella’s Meatballs (You aren’t the only ones kept waiting)

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Slow-Cooker Pork Belly Ramen

Urban Belly would be jealous

OK. By now you may have noticed that this blog has taken a turn into decidedly comfort food territory. I could give a number of reasons for this change of course but one rises above all others. Baby, it’s cold outside!!! Even worse, we’ve just endured a 9 day period where it snowed each and every one of those day! Is there any wonder why there’s Pork Belly Ramen slowly simmering in my slow cooker as this post is being written?

I was first served this wonderful ramen on my way home after a visit to the Garfield Park Conservatory late last winter. I stopped at a restaurant, Urban Belly, and ordered the Pork Belly Ramen based upon recommendations of previous diners. Bless them!

Once home, I immediately googled “pork belly ramen” and started comparing recipes. Off the top, I wanted to use my slow-cooker, rejecting the recipes that didn’t. Hopefully, slow-cooking  would not only result in tender pork but the broth should benefit, as well. With luck, the finished dish would include a soft-boiled egg. No matter. That egg was such a nice addition to the Urban Belly ramen that I was going to add it to whatever recipe I eventually chose.  Within minutes, I found the recipe that’s shared here. Of course, being the conscientious blogger that I am, I would never post a recipe without rigorous testing. So, I prepared the recipe again and again… and again … and again … and, well, you get the idea. Needless to say, the recipe not only passed the tests but has become a regular guest at my winter-time dinner table. I buy the pork belly, divvy it up into 1 pound pieces, use one for that night’s dinner, and freeze the rest. In fact, right now I’ve 2 pieces of pork belly resting comfortably in the freezer. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Aside from adding a couple garnishes, the only change I made to the recipe is in the handling of the pork belly.The recipe indicated that the belly should be cooked with the skin attached, to be removed just prior to slicing. The meat isn’t seared. When I tried it that way, I had a devil of a time removing the skin without (badly) butchering the belly. I even tried slicing the belly first before removing the skin. And the fat? Without any type of sear, it was a bit of a disappointment. For me, one of the most appealing things about well-cooked pork belly is the crispy fat. Believe me, it’s well worth the time (5 minutes) time and effort (minimal) to place that belly into a hot frypan and sear its fat side. Just be sure the pan is hot. You want to sear the fat quickly without further cooking the meat. Once sliced, place the slices on top of the ramen, keeping the seared side above the broth to maintain its crispness.

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Note: Because this recipe endured such thorough testing, the link was never saved (to be later lost) but printed instead to allow easy access. So, unlike recent posts, it gives me great pleasure to give credit where due. This recipe can be found on the Australian Good Food website.

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This just about says it all

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Pork Belly Ramen Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb  (approx 500 g) boneless, skinless pork belly (see Notes)
  • 1 quart (1 liter) chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 2 tbsp sake  (don’t forget to toast the chef)
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 garlic gloves, chopped
  • 3½ oz (100 g) white (Shiro) miso paste
  • 1½ inches (4 cm) grated fresh ginger
  • 1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • i piece kombu (see Notes)
  • 1 lb  (approx 500 g) cooked ramen noodles (see Notes)
  • One 3 to 5 minute egg per serving, peeled & sliced in half
  • for garnish (optional)
    • sliced scallions, nori sheet, cilantro leaves, sesame seeds, a splash of ponzu, a sprinkle of sesame oil (see Notes)

Directions

  1. Add the chicken stock, tamari, sake, mirin, sugar, and miso to the slow-cooler and stir thoroughly.
  2. To the pot, add the leek, ginger, garlic, and carrot. Stir.
  3. Place the kombu into the pot before adding the pork belly.
  4. Cover and set the cooker to “LOW” and the timer to 7 hours.
  5. When finished, remove the pork belly. (If using a belly with skin, remove the skin before proceeding.)  Place fat-side down on to a hot frypan over med-high heat. The object here is to crisp the fat without burning or over-cooking the meat. Reserve, slice, and keep warm. (see Notes)
  6. Cook the noodles per package directions.
  7. Meanwhile, pour the broth through a fine-mesh strainer. Return to the slow cooker and keep warm.
  8. To serve:
    • Divide the cooked noodles evenly among the serving bowls.
    • Add equal amounts of the strained broth to each bowl.
    • Slice the egg, if using, and add to each bowl.
    • Place the sliced pork belly into each bowl. To maintain its crispness, try to keep the seared edge above the broth.
    • The remaining garnish may be added now or brought to the table to be added by your dinner mates.
  9. Serve immediately.

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Not quite crispy enough.

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Notes

Don’t be overly concerned when chopping the vegetables. Once the pork is cooked, the broth will be strained and the vegetables discarded.

I’ve a smaller-sized slow cooker and, therefore, use a small piece of pork belly. This recipe results in 4 bowls of ramen, each with 2 slices of pork belly.

Kombu is dried kelp and can be found in the Japanese section of many Asian markets. It is purchased in sheets and should be lightly wiped with a damp cloth before use. Store in an airtight container.

Similarly, nori — used here as a garnish — is dried seaweed also purchased in sheets. It’s very often used to wrap sushi rolls, maki. You, or your guests, may wish to place a small sheet into each bowl to add some texture and crunch to your ramen.

Although “ramen” noodles can be purchased at many groceries, feel free to use whatever noodle — rice, bean, egg — you prefer. Just keep an eye on the clock to insure that they are ready when you’re filling the bowls. Badly cooked noodles will spoil any dish, no matter the country of origin.

You needn’t sear the pork belly, if that’s your preference. Whether you do, be sure to slice the meat so that it can be evenly divided among the serving bowls. Remember: always slice the meat against the grain.

You may have noticed the small bowl to the right of the ramen in the opening photo. It contains sriracha and hoisin sauces. I got the idea of combining both by observing patrons at a number of pho restaurants. Additionally, one of this area’s food critics — more about him in a future pho post —  mentioned that some chefs are insulted when a patron adds sauce(s) to their pho. Placing the sauces in a small bowl allows one to dip the cooked meat(s) into the sauces, leaving the pho/ramen just as the chef intended, thereby averting an International incident.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Stormy Lentils 3

Here we stand, feet firmly planted in comfort food country, and here we shall stay. Today’s look back was — and still is — a great recipe for these wintry days. Easy to prepare and oh, so very hearty, you won’t care what’s happening outside your door with a bowl of this lentil soup before you. The recipe for this lentil dish can be found HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Marinella’s Meatballs

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Slow-Cooker Mole Pork

Pork Mole over Rice - 1

Pork Mole over Rice

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Written almost 1 year ago, this is another “source-less” recipe, for I’ve long since lost those links. I do recall that the original protein was chicken but, to my way of thinking, things go better with pork. (See Notes)

Much like last week’s goat, this dish is all about comfort from the first whiff of its aroma, and perfect for these dreadfully cold winter days. Cooked long and slow, the pork grows more tender with each passing hour. When time to serve, you can serve it as-is over rice, or shred it. If you choose the latter, tacos or tasty sandwiches result. Versatility is its best feature and I take full advantage of all 3 options before the pot is empty.

I have prepared this dish several times with no 2 meals alike. I’ve little experience preparing mole, so, I’ve played with the amounts of Mexican chocolate, peanut butter, and chili pepper. This recipe represents my last — and best, for me — attempt. Feel free to adjust them to suit your own tastes. In fact, please come back and share your changes. With so little experience with Mexican cuisine beyond tacos and chili, I am open to any suggestions.

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Pork Mole Taco 2

Pork Mole Taco

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Slow-Cooker Mole Pork Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 to 5 lb (1800 to 2300 g) pork shoulder (see Notes)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic gloves, smashed
  • 1 c chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1½ tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Arbol chile powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ⅓ c light brown sugar
  • 1 small can (7 oz, 196 g) chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • ¼ tablet (23 g) Mexican chocolate
  • ¼ c peanut butter
  • ½ c raisins

Directions

  1. Coat the slow-cooker container with cooking spray.
  2. Place the onions and garlic in an even layer on the bottom of the slow-cooker,
  3. Cut the pork into large chunks (see Notes) before placing in slow-cooker.
  4. In a bowl, combine the chicken stock, spices, light brown sugar, chipotle peppers, chocolate, peanut butter and raisins. Stir before emptying bowl into the slow-cooker, fully covering the pork.
  5. Set slow-cooker to LOW and timer to 8 hours (see Notes).
  6. When finished, remove pork and reserve.
  7. Using a stick blender, food processor, or blender, purée the sauce until as smooth as you prefer.
  8. Serving options:
    1. Return pork to slow-cooker before serving over rice, garnished with sour cream and cilantro leaves.
    2. Shred the pork before returning to the slow-cooker.
      • Prepare tacos with shredded lettuce/cabbage, onion, sour cream, cilantro, and/or whatever toppings you prefer.
      • Use to make pulled pork sandwiches with lettuce, onion, and whatever condiments you prefer

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Mole Pulled Pork Sammich - 1

Pulled Pork Mole Sammich

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Notes

This will produce a fair amount of sauce, particularly if you use a pork shoulder roast smaller than 4 lbs. (Been there.)  In fact, too much sauce may be produced for tacos or sandwiches. Then again. some may love a good, messy taco or sandwich. If so, have extra napkins on-hand and go for it!

While cutting the pork roast, remove any bone(s) and trim away as much fat as possible. Reserve the bone(s) for use in your next pot of tomato sauce.

If you prefer to use chicken, substitute 4 to 5 lbs of skinless, boneless chicken thighs for the pork. (This is not a recipe for chicken breasts.) Cut the thigh meat into chunks, flour, and lightly sear before proceeding with the recipe.

If you haven’t 8 hours to wait for your dinner, you can set the slow-cooker to HIGH and cook for 4 hours. In short, 1 hour on HIGH equals 2 hours on LOW.

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Mex Choc

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About that Mexican Chocolate (ETA)

When writing this, I didn’t consider that not everyone has access to Mexican chocolate. I hope the following helps.

I use the brand pictured above principally because it is the most readily available. There is another popular brand, Ibarra, that I have yet to find in the groceries that I frequent. If all else fails, you can make your own, the recipe being found on The Balance website. In it, use semi-sweet or milk chocolate equal in amount to the Mexican chocolate indicated in the recipe. To that, add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a drop of almond extract (optional). If nothing else, it makes a great cup of hot chocolate!

 

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

I’ve made no secret of my love for tart cherries, buying bags of them every summer. In fact, for a number of years, I drove 100 miles to a Michigan farm to get the little red beauties directly from the farmer.  Although I’ve plenty of uses for them, I always save some for this time fo year. A cherry muffin in February tastes almost as good as a piece of cherry pie in January. Both serve to remind me that the falling snowflakes will soon give way to cherry blossom petals.

My recipe for cherry pie can be found HERE and the cherry muffin recipe HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Pork Belly Ramen

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Goat Slow-Cooked with Harissa & Borlotti Beans

harissa-braised-goat-4

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Hello there! When last we spoke, it was Christmas Eve and I announced my return to the wonderful world of Word Press. Well, that was the plan anyway. Shortly after posting, I met dear friends for dinner, during which I mentioned a “scratchy throat.” (Cue ominous music.)

Christmas morning I awoke with what would become the Mother of all Chest Colds. (It couldn’t possibly have been flu because I had received a flu vaccination last fall.) With Max playing nursemaid, I was sofa-bound for much of the next month. Even now, I’ve a mild case of the sniffles. Worse, this “thing” is making the rounds and a number of friends are similarly affected. Happy New Year!

But enough about me. Today’s recipe, like many to come, was written during my ever-so-lengthy “brief” hiatus last year. If and when I came upon a great recipe, I’d prepare it, record the recipe, and post its URL in a special file so that I could credit the author when the time came. What could possibly go wrong?

Earlier this week, I pulled up this recipe and looked for my file of recipe links. As you may have already guessed, the file was nowhere to be found, and my attempts to recover it from back-ups have, thus far, been unsuccessful. As such, we’ve little choice but to soldier on and I promise to come back and give credit for the original recipes when and if I find them.

I truly enjoy this dish and it has become part of my winter rotation of suppers. It is pure comfort food and just what’s needed when a Polar Vortex threatens. Truth be told, it’s for dinner tonight, although lamb is the protein but more about that later.

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harissa-braised-goat-1

Brown the goat

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Harissa-Braised Goat with Borlotti Beans Recipe

Ingredients

  • at least 4 tbsp Olio Santo, divided (see Notes)
  • 2 – 3 lbs (900 – 1300 g) goat cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces (See Notes, & Variations)
  • approx. 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground (see Notes)
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground  (see Notes)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 small can (14.5 oz, 400 g) diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp harissa sauce — more or less to taste
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon — 1/2 preserved lemon, sliced, may be substituted (recipe follows)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 lb (450 g) fresh Borlotti/cranberry/Roman beans (see Notes)
  • salt and pepper

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for the Gremolata  (see Notes)

  • 2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped — anchovy paste may be substituted
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • zest of 1 lemon

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harissa-braised-goat-2

Start of Braise

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Directions

  1. Heat 2 tbsp Olio Santo in a large frypan over med-high heat.
  2. Season the goat with salt and pepper.
  3. Use the flour to coat the goat pieces.
  4. Brown the goat pieces on all sides. Work in batches and it will take about 5 to 7 minutes per batch. Add more Olio Santo as needed. Remove and reserve the browned meat.
  5. Heat 2 more tbsp Olio Santo in the same pan and add the onions. Sauté until soft, about 8 minutes.
  6. Add the ginger and garlic, continue to sauté until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, harissa, honey, lemon juice & zest, rosemary, and bay leaf to the slow cooker. Stir to combine.
  8. Add the cooked onion mixture to the slow cooker when fully sautéed. Stir.
  9. Use the wine to deglaze the frypan. Add the liquid to the slow cooker when the pan is fully deglazed.
  10. Add the meat to the slow cooker and stir.
  11. Set slow cooker to LOW and cook for 4 hours.
  12. After 4 hours, add the beans and stir.
  13. Continue to cook on LOW for 4 more hours.
  14. Make the gremolata towards the end of the cooking process:
    • In a small bowl, combine the anchovies, garlic, parsley, and zest. Stir until fully combined.
  15. Serve immediately, garnished with the gremolata. A chunk of bread wouldn’t hurt.

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harissa-braised-goat-3

End of Braise

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Notes …

Olive oil may be substituted for Olio Santo. If preferred, add red pepper flakes to the pan when the onions are added.

Use 2 lbs of meat when boneless, and closer to 3 lbs when bone-in.

This recipe requires 8 hours on LOW to prepare. You can reduce the cooking time by setting your cooker to HIGH for all or part of the time. Just remember that 1 hour on HIGH equals 2 hours on LOW.

When using whole herb seeds, it’s best to toast them prior to grinding. I use a small frypan on the stove top, while others prefer to spread the seeds on a baking sheet before placing in the oven. Either way, if you intend to use the same utensil, place the larger seeds on the heat source before the smaller to prevent the small seeds from scorching. Here, I toasted the coriander seeds for a minute or so before adding the cumin. Once cooled, I ground them together and added the mixture to the recipe.

Although I used fresh beans, you can use canned or rehydrated beans. If using canned, be sure to rinse them before adding to the slow-cooker 2 hours before the dish is fully cooked. If using dried beans that you’ve pre-soaked, treat them as fresh, adding them to the pot 4 hours before completion..

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Variations …

Good quality goat is not available in all areas. Not to worry. You can substitute lamb and still enjoy a fantastic meal.

The gremolata recipe is one that I found in one of Mom’s recipe notepads. I prefer it because, unlike most others, it includes anchovies. If you prefer, you can omit the little fishies, or the gremolata altogether. if you do choose to leave out the gremolata, a bit of citrus zest — lime, orange, or lemon — makes a great garnish, as does a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt. The latter being particularly useful when you’ve added a bit too much harissa.

Although it is meant to be served as-is, I’ve found that a scoop of plain rice is a welcome addition, resulting in a very flavorful beans and rice dish.

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Preserved Lemons Recipe

Preserved lemons are believed to have originated in Pakistan and India, before making their way to the Middle East. Today they are an integral part of many Moroccan recipes. The lemons add a distinct citrus-y flavor to a dish, and some say that the flavor intensifies the longer it cooks in the pot. Although there are a variety of recipes, each using a number of spices, all are based upon the same 3 ingredients: salt, lemons, and lemon juice. I use the simplest of recipes so that I can better control the flavor of the final dish.

Here in the States, Meyer’s lemons are in season. It is said that these lemons are closest to those found in Morocco. Of course, if you cannot find Meyer lemons, any old lemon will work.

To begin, take 4, 5, or 6 (Meyer) lemons, depending upon the jar size, and scrub well. Place 1 tbsp of kosher salt into a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid. Remove no more than the tip from each end of the lemon. Beginning at one end, slice the lemon at least halfway down but no more than 3/4. Do not separate the halves. Turn the lemon and repeat the process, slicing it into quarters. Place a tbsp of kosher salt between the sections, covering the cut surfaces, before placing the lemon into the jar. Repeat the process with more lemons, stuffing the jar as best you can. When finished, add another tbsp of kosher salt on top. If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the lemons, add the juice of a fresh lemon to “top off” the jar. Cover the jar and place in a warm room, shaking daily, for one month. Use as the recipe requires.

Your preserved lemons will last indefinitely. The liquid can be replenished using fresh lemon juice, as required. The liquid can even be used in recipes, or, to help start your next batch of preserved lemons,

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

You may recall that in recent years, I’ve prepared honey mustard and ketchup at Christmas time, giving friends jars of the condiments as gifts, This year was no exception. Both are easy to make and so much better than anything that might be found on a grocer’s shelves. You can find the Honey Mustard recipe HERE, and the Ketchup recipe HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Slow-Cooker Mole Pork

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Meat Loaf – Finalmente!

Meatloaf sliced

Here it is, the very much delayed meatloaf recipe. Taa-daa!

My love affair with meatloaf goes back more decades than I care to say. I was a boy and didn’t think much about this dish, wondering why we weren’t having hamburgers instead. Then I tasted Zia’s meatloaf. She and Mom were great cooks but Zia’s meatloaf was heaven-sent. I was perennially trying to steal away from our dinner table so that I could have a taste of her meatloaf when she was serving it. Mom caught on quickly enough but rather than get annoyed, she tried to make a better meatloaf. Although hers did, in fact, improve, Zia’s remained the best in my book.

Now move ahead many years. Zia and I have decided to create this blog and we’re making a preliminary list of recipes to include for our family. Well, very early in the process, I added her meatloaf to the list. You can imagine my horror when she confessed that she no longer had the recipe nor could she remember it. All she knew was that she added oats (see above) and nothing else. At that point, I resigned myself to eating mediocre meatloaf for the rest of my days. And let me tell you. I was responsible for many a mediocre meatloaf in those days. (It also drove home the point that these recipes needed to be put to paper and preserved.)

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meatloaf-4

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About 2 years later, I came upon a post by my now good blogging friend, Tanya. (You may know her as Chica Andaluza. If you don’t, get over to her site for some tasty dishes and to learn of life on her beautiful Mountain in Spain.) She’d shared a recipe for ketchup, and, once I made it, I was instantly converted. I no longer buy ketchup and use this homemade version exclusively. It’s also a permanent member of my Christmas gift baskets, the recipients of which — friends and family —  cannot get enough.

At some point — I don’t remember exactly when — I was preparing what would become another mediocre meatloaf when I experienced a true epiphany. Why not use the homemade ketchup? It was a life changing moment … well, meatloaf changing. My meatloaf reached a new level of excellence and, best of all, consistency. No need to worry about which and how much spice to use. The ketchup had everything I would have added. Best of all, during her last visit here, I prepared a meatloaf dinner for Zia and she declared that mine reminded her of her long forgotten recipe. She could not have pleased me more. That’s the day I decided to share the recipe — it’s also the last time I served sliced meatloaf for dinner.

You see, I’m a mid-western boy and we love our meat and gravy sandwiches. It was a special treat on a cold winter’s evening when Mom placed before me a plate containing a meat sandwich and mashed potatoes smothered in gravy. Oh, boy! Over the years, even when serving a mediocre loaf, I dreamt of the next day’s smothered sandwich. Once that craving was satisfied, there would be meatloaf sammiches. These would be gravy-free but would instead contain lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a bit of horseradish sauce. I mentioned it to Zia and learnt that she, too, loved both sandwich and sammich. I’ve not served sliced meatloaf since. Make note of this post’s opening photo. It is the last of its kind in my home.

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This is a very easy recipe to follow but it does result in plenty of meatloaf. I usually fill 2 small foil loaf pans first, and then use the rest of the meat mixture to create a larger loaf. I rarely place this loaf in a pan, preferring to create a free-form loaf by hand. The smaller loaves will eventually find a home in the freezer and, I must say, I get a certain amount of satisfaction knowing that I’ve got a meatloaf in the freezer. I feel the same about its neighbor in there, the tray of lasagna. This brings up another issue …and an invite. If ever you hear of a major power outage lasting for days/weeks in Chicago, rent a car, catch a train, hop a bus, take a flight, pirate a ship, or do whatever you need to get here. My guests and I will be eating mighty fine for the duration — or at least until everything melts.

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meatloaf-duo

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Meatloaf Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 lb (680 g) ground beef (See Notes)
  • 1.5 lb (680 g) ground pork
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk, leaves included
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 cup oats (I use good old Quaker Oats for “Nothing is better for thee…”)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup homemade ketchup, divided (See déjà vu)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350˚ F (175˚ C)
  2. Chop the carrot, celery, and onion to equal size.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over med-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables and cook until soft – about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic midway through.
  4. Set aside to cool until safe to handle.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, add the meats, eggs, oats, sautéed vegetables, and 2/3 of the ketchup. Mix to combine but do not over-mix.  (See Notes)
  6. Use part of the meat mixture to fill 1 or 2 small loaf pan(s). The rest will be used to fill a large loaf pan or to create a free-form loaf on a foil-covered baking pan.
  7. Use the remaining 1/3 of the ketchup to lightly coat the tops of the loaves.
  8. Place the loaves in the pre-heated oven.
  9. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes. Each loaf is cooked when its internal temperature reaches 160˚ F (70˚ C).
  10. Once cooked:
    • For the larger loaf:
      • If using a loaf pan, allow to rest 10 minutes, drain the liquids from the pan, removing the meatloaf and placing on a serving platter.
      • If not using a loaf pan, allow to rest 10 minutes and place on a serving platter.
      • Serve immediately.
    • For the smaller loaves:
      • Set aside to fully cool. Completely cover with plastic wrap before tightly wrapping in aluminum foil. It can now be frozen for up to 6 months. When ready to serve, unwrap the plastic wrap, replace the foil, and thaw in the fridge overnight. Once thawed, place in a pre-heated 300˚ F (150˚ C) and cook until heated through. (See Notes)
  11. If you’re like me, forego the platter and use the liquids to prepare a gravy with cornstarch, a cup of beef stock or low sodium bouillon, and a little milk  (optional). Meanwhile, create a sandwich using 2 slices of bread  and a generous slice of meatloaf. On the same dish, serve some mashed potatoes with a well in the center. Use the hot gravy to smother the sandwich and fill the mashed potato well. Buon appetito!

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meatloaf-3

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Notes

At one time, I used equal amounts of ground veal, beef, and pork to make meatloaf. I prefer not to use veal these days unless I can be sure it’s been humanely raised.

If you do not have — or do not want to use — oats, an equal amount of bread crumbs may be substituted.

Overworking the meat mixture will result in a meatloaf that’s too dense. Mix until al of the ingredients are combined but no more than that.

You needn’t thaw the meatloaf before re-heating but I find the results much more reliable. I never seem to get the timing right and dinner is just about always delayed when I stick a frozen meatloaf into the oven. Remember: it’s already been fully cooked so there’s no worry of serving raw meat — just really cold.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

ketchup-throwback-photo

As I mentioned, the secret to this meatloaf is the ketchup, although the recipe I shared is about as close to the ketchup we all knew as kids as is salsa. Thanks to a recipe derived from one posted by the Kitchens’ good friend, Tanya, the one and only Chica Andaluza, the flavor of my meatloaf has improved greatly. The fact is that I always have a few jars in reserve and am lost without it. (Sorry, Heinz.) You can see my recipe HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Soft Shell Crab Curry Preview

Curried Soft Shell Crab

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Eggplant Lasagna

eggplant-lasagna-5

This post was actually written and the lasagna prepared last summer, when I was at the height of the Great Eggplant Glut of 2017. At the time, I promised that I’d post the recipe. Well. my birthday is coming next week and I was in need of something to prepare in celebration. Unfortunately, despite recent attempts to stretch the parameters, I’m still rather restricted to soft foods. Just as I’ve done, i could make a soup, or pasta, or soup with pasta but I wanted something a bit more special. Enter eggplant lasagna. Lucky for me, there’s a tray waiting for me in the freezer. Oh, boy!

Now, to be clear, this dish contains my homemade pasta and, therefore, is not gluten-free (GF). If the noodles are to be omitted, I’d rather make eggplant parmesan, this lasagna’s GF cousin. Well, it is my birthday and sometimes I just want a nice plate of good old-fashioned gluten. Sue me but at least send a birthday card before you do.

The recipe is easy enough. You can use any kind of lasagna noodle that you wish. Follow the directions on the package for store-bought noodles. If using “no-bake” noodles, I give them a quick rinse in hot tap water before placing in the tray. That helps to ensure that each noodle gets enough moisture to cook properly. If at all possible, use freshly made pasta noodles, They only require about a two-minute blanch in boiling water before use but the difference in taste is remarkable. Do it once and you’ll be sold.

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ETA: For a slightly different take, one more true to the dish’s Sicilian roots, take a look at Bea’s recipe on her delicious Viaggiando con Bea, Travels with Bea. One can never have too many lasagna recipes.

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eggplant-lasagna-preview

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Eggplant Lasagna Recipe

Ingredients

  • medium-sized eggplants (see Notes)
  • cooking spray
  • about 1 quart tomato sauce (Vegetarians use meatless)
  • butter to grease the baking dish
  • pasta sheets to create 3 layers
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 4 oz  Asiago cheese, grated
  • 4 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • fresh mozzarella, cut into rounds
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, grated, for serving

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Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450˚ F (230˚ C). Liberally butter baking dish/pan.
  2. Prepare the eggplant(s):
    • Trim off ends of eggplants and slice into 1/2 inch rounds. (See Notes)
    • Place rounds in a single layer on a rack resting upon a baking sheet.
    • Lightly spray each side and sprinkle with salt.
    • Bake for 15 minutes,
    • Remove from oven and reserve.
  3. Reduce oven to 350˚ F (175˚ C).
  4. Meanwhile, cook lasagna noodles per package instructions,
  5. If using fresh noodles, par-boil for about 2 minutes before rinsing is cold water.
  6. Assemble the lasagna:
    • Lightly coat the bottom of the baking dish/pan with tomato sauce.
    • Place enough pasta sheets to create a single layer.
    • Add a single layer of eggplant rounds.
    • Cover with a layer of sauce.
    • Sprinkle half of the grated cheese mixture.
    • Sprinkle with 1/3 of the grated Pecorino Romano.
    • Add another layer of noodles, eggplant rounds, sauce, and cheeses.
    • Add the final layer of noodles and enough tomato sauce to cover.
    • Evenly distribute the mozzarella rings and sprinkle the rest of the Pecorino Romano cheese on top.
    • Cover with aluminum foil. (See Notes)
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, uncover, raise the oven temperature to 450˚F (230˚ C), and bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes more.
  8. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Be sure to have grated Pecorino Romano available at the table. (See Notes)

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eggplant-lasagna-10*     *     *

Notes

You will need enough eggplant rings to create 2 layers in whatever size baking dish/pan you’re going to use.

When preparing eggplant parmesan, I do not peel the eggplant, the peel adding structure to the dish. In lasagna, the noodles add some structure, so, strips of the eggplant’s peel are removed.

Lightly coating the inside of the aluminum foil with cooking spray will help prevent it sticking to the mozzarella should the 2 come in contact while baking.

Once baking is complete, be sure to give the lasagna ample time to rest and set. It will be easier to serve and will retain its shape far better than if sliced immediately upon removal from the oven.

This past summer, I made a couple extra trays of lasagna and froze them. Once fully cooked and cooled, wrap the trays in plastic wrap before wrapping with aluminum foil. The night before you intend to serve the lasagna, place the tray in the fridge for defrosting. The next day, unwrap and remove the plastic wrap, and place the tray, recovered with foil, into a preheated 350˚ F (175˚ C) oven. Serve when heated through.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

cherry-pie

It’s that time of year again. Every January, I go to the freezer in my basement and retrieve a bag of frozen tart cherries. The current January Thaw notwithstanding, a mid-winter cherry pie reminds me of the previous summer when the cherries were bought and put away, out of sight. Now, while I prepare, bake, and enjoy a cherry pie, I cannot help but dream of the summer to come. Old Man Winter may still claim the outdoors but here, in my kitchen, summer rules once again. And if this doesn’t work? No problem. There’s another bag in that freezer, though it’s contents will be used to prepare cherry muffins. One way or another, summer is coming. (Take that, Jon Snow!)  You can see the cherry pie recipe HERE and the cherry muffin recipe HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

meatloaf-preview

Meatloaf

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Fish Tacos with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Yes, you read the post’s title correctly. Today I’m sharing a recipe for fish tacos. As I’ve said on several of your blogs, I rarely make tacos. I don’t think it worth the effort just to make 2 or 3 tacos for my dinner. I still feel that way but at the time this post was written, my chile plants were producing at a rate that rivaled my eggplant crop.. If only my tomato plants had been so competitive.

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Fried Fish Tacos - 1

This Fish is Fried

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Well, it was far too humid to try to dry the peppers and without a dehydrator, I was loath to turn on the oven, no matter how low the temperature would be set.. So, I cooked some, pickled others, and added a few to the cherry bomb peppers that I was preserving. But the chiles kept coming and Lucy can only eat so many. Thanks to a couple blogging friends, I decided to make tomatillo salsa. (That recipe follows this one.)

Well, the salsa did make a dent — albeit a small one — in the chile inventory but what to do with it? I was stumbling around the grocery, trying to figure out what to prepare when I saw that there was a sale on pollock. That’s all I needed to make up my mind. Fish tacos would be on the night’s menu.

Since my tomatillo salsa was rather smooth, I felt that the taco needed something more crispy than shredded lettuce. That’s why the shredded cabbage was included but you should use whichever you prefer. The same is true for the tortillas. As much as I like corn tortillas, I bought flour because I felt that corn tortillas would just about disintegrate by the time I was done snapping photos. Oh, to be a better — read faster — photographer. And, by the way, hats off to those who would make their own tortillas for a dinner for one.

To prepare the fish for breading, the fillets were cut into strips about 3 inches (8 cm) long. Seasoned corn starch was used to coat the strips, just as was done when soft shell crabs were prepared several weeks ago. Once coated, the strips were dipped in a mixture of eggs, milk, and Sriracha. From there, they were coated in Panko bread crumbs and reserved. Easy peasy.

A note about the ingredients. Few amounts are listed because they will depend upon the number of tacos to be prepared and your own taste preferences. More cornstarch and breadcrumbs will be needed if you’re feeding 4, for example, than if you are preparing tacos for 1.

Lastly, for those avoiding fried foods, I’ve included instructions for baking the fish, as well as for frying.

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Fish Tacos - Baked 1

Tacos with Baked Fish

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Fish Taco Recipe

Ingredients

  • Fish fillets cut into strips (see Notes)
  • corn starch seasoned with paprika, ground chipotle, cumin, salt, and pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha sauce, more or less to taste
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • tortillas
  • roasted tomatillo salsa – recipe follows
  • shredded cabbage
  • diced tomato (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)
  • diced red onion (optional)
  • limes, quartered

Directions

  1. Set up a breading station:
    • In the first dish, place corn starch seasoned with paprika, ground chipotle, cumin, salt & pepper to taste.
    • In the second, combine and beat the eggs, milk, and Sriracha.
    • In the 3rd dish, add enough Panko breadcrumbs to coat the pieces of fish.
  2. To fry:
    • Add enough oil to the pan for a depth of 1/2 inch (1.5 cm).
    • Heat over med-high heat to 360˚ (180˚C).
    • Place breaded strips into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.
    • Remove from oil, place on paper towels, season with salt immediately.
  3. To bake:
    • Pre-heat oven to 400˚ F (200˚ C)
    • Place breaded strips on to a rack placed atop a baking sheet.
    • Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes, turning them over midway through the bake.
    • Remove to a platter and season with salt.
  4. To assemble the tacos:
    • Over med-high heat, warm the tortillas on a grill pan, cast iron fry pan, skillet, or barbecue grill until heated through.
    • Create a taco using a tortilla, pieces of fish, a couple tbsp of salsa, some shredded cabbage, and a squeeze of lime.
      • Sour cream, onions, and tomatoes may be added, according to personal tastes.
  5. Garnish with lime quarters and serve.

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Fried Fish Tacos - 2

More Fried Fish Tacos

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Notes

Although I used pollock here, feel free to use any white fish. Cod, hake, or tilapia come to mind, although mahi mahi, halibut, or even tuna would be very good, too. You may want to adjust the seasoning depending upon the fish you’ve selected.

Roast Chicken Tacos 2Fish not your thing? Tacos are a great way to re-purpose leftover roast chicken. Use a fork to pull apart the chicken meat and warm it quickly in a frypan with a little butter. Once heated, use it to build your taco with a bit of tomatillo salsa and whatever other fixins you like: shredded cabbage/lettuce, sour cream, diced onion, diced tomato, fresh cilantro, and/or a bit of shredded cheese would work just fine.

Roast Chicken with Tomatillo SalsaDid I say roast chicken leftovers? Well, first you have to roast that bird. Do it however you wish. Mine was spatchcocked and seasoned with plenty of herbs, lemon juice, and olive oil before roasting. Be sure to have the salsa nearby so that you can generously spoon some atop the chicken once served.

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Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Recipe

I have 2 blogging buddies to thank for this post, Kathryn of Another Foodie Blogger and MJ of MJ’s Kitchen. Had it not been for Kathryn, I never would have bought tomatillos, and MJ is the Queen of Chiles. Now, this salsa and serving suggestions may not be exact duplicates of their recipes — shower them with all the praise and I’ll shoulder any blame — but I was certainly inspired by them. If you’re looking for some inspiration, by all means check out these 2 wonderful blogs.

Ingredients

  • 6 tomatillos, husked and washed (see Notes)
  • 4 cayenne chilies, tops trimmed (see Notes)
  • 1 chile de agua, top trimmed
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic
  • small sweet onion or half of a large, cut in half
  • olive oil
  • cilantro, to taste
  • lime juice, to taste
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400˚F (205˚C).
  2. Place tomatillos, all the chilies, garlic, and onion into a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and spread on a baking sheet in an even layer. Roast for 30 minutes.
  3. Once cooled, place all the roasted ingredients into a food processor, along with cilantro and the juice of 1 lime.
  4. Pulse the ingredients several times until the salsa is the consistency you prefer. Midway through, taste and season with salt and pepper. Add more cilantro or lime juice, if needed.
  5. Refrigerate until needed.

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fried-fish-tacos-3

One More Fried

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Notes

After removing their paper coverings, be sure to rinse the tomatillos very well to remove their somewhat sticky coating.

Until this point, I hadn’t tasted any of my home-grown chiles, all having been pickled and preserved. Now that I’ve tasted this salsa, I will only add 2 cayenne peppers in the future. For my tastes,  4 of these cayenne are a bit much. (Please pass the milk.)

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Crostini Look Back

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s never too early to start working on the menu for the holiday feast(s). It wouldn’t be much of a celebratory meal if there aren’t any appetizers, and crostini/bruschette are tasty ones to whip up. You can see a couple of suggestions by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Sweet Potatoes au Gratin Preview

Sweet Potatoes au Gratin

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The Incredible Edible Eggplant

Eggplant Blossom

Such Promise

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It all started innocently enough, with a blossom identical to the one pictured above. I had learned my lesson well, or so I thought. See, last year’s 2 eggplants were just about smothered by my tomato plants. The tomatoes quite literally took over my then-new raised garden bed as if the soil had been smuggled out of Chernobyl. I picked only 1 eggplant and it was a Japanese variety, not at all what I had expected. This type of thing has happened enough times to convince me that there are people who delight in swapping name tags between differing varieties of the same vegetable. This spring’s cuckoo was a jalapeño masquerading as a cayenne pepper.

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Growing Up Eggplant

Growing Up Eggplant

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This year, I planted 3 eggplants with the conviction that I would keep my eye — and pruning shears — on the neighboring tomato plants. I won’t bore you with the details but I was partly successful, with two plants growing nicely. The 3rd, well, is now engulfed. All facts considered, I really cannot complain. The 2 remaining plants have managed to produce more of the bulb-shaped vegetables than I thought botanically possible. (I really must get that soil tested.) As a result, I’ve pulled out every eggplant recipe at my disposal in trying to stay ahead of these 2 overly productive plants.

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The Day's Eggplant Harvest

The 1st Eggplant Harvest 

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Here are the dishes that I’ve prepared thus far. I’ve supplied the recipe for the first dish and links for the rest, the exceptions being the eggplant lasagna and a pickled eggplant. Both of those recipes are in the works.

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Grilled Eggplant & Tomato

Grilled Eggplant & Tomato

Pre-heat the barbecue or grill pan. Slice the eggplant into approximately 3/4 inch (2 cm) rings. Cut the plum tomatoes in half, removing the seeds if you like. Use a pastry brush to sparingly coat the eggplant with olive oil. Lightly drizzle the tomato halves with olive oil and then season everything with salt and pepper. Giving the eggplant slices a head start, grill both vegetables until cooked to your satisfaction. Remove to a platter. Garnish the vegetables with a mixture of chopped fresh rosemary, thyme, basil, and parsley. Season with salt & pepper before adding a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or Olio Santo (See Coming soon … ).

This vegetarian dish may be served hot, warm, or at room temperature, and will make a great light lunch or tasty side for any meal.

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Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

A favorite of Sicily, this eggplant & tomato sauce was created in honor of the Bellini opera of the same name. You needn’t travel to Sicily nor the nearest opera house to enjoy this dish, however. Just take this LINK to see the recipe that I posted.

The recipe calls for a garnish of ricotta salata. If you cannot find this cheese, crumbled feta is a great substitute and more readily available.

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Caponata

Eggplant Caponata

Also originating in Sicily, caponata is another dish that celebrates the eggplant. Today, it is found throughout Italy with ingredients that often vary from region to region. I’ve shared Mom’s recipe, which you can find HERE.

Don’t forget to make more than needed. Add a few beaten eggs to the leftovers to make a tasty frittata the next day.

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Stuffed Eggplant

Stuffed Eggplant

Grandma served this dish to her girls, Mom & Zia, when they were young. You can well-imagine my surprise when my Zia in San Marino also served stuffed eggplant during my recent visit. The recipe for this tasty contorno — and popular in both sides of my family —  can be found HERE.

Any of the stuffed vegetables in the linked recipe can be used to make a great tasting sandwich for your lunch the following day.

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Eggplant Lasagna

Eggplant Lasagna

A layered dish, eggplant lasagna features pasta sheets, baked eggplant slices, and a tomato sauce, with or without meat. Oh! I almost forgot the cheeses. Asiago, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano combine to make this one flavorful main course.

True confession time: I had thought that I’d already published this recipe and was surprised to learn that I had yet to share it. Not to worry. That oversight will be corrected in the weeks to come.

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Jamie Oliver’s Pickled & Marinated Eggplant

Marinated Eggplant

Jamie has done it again. In his recipe, eggplant is chopped, bathed in a pickling liquid, and then marinated in herbed olive oil. Best of all, this same technique may be used with mushrooms, onions, small peppers, zucchini, and fennel, with each vegetable having its own suggested herb to include. You can check them all out by taking this LINK.

I did make one substitution to his recipe. In place of oregano, I used marjoram. For those unfamiliar, marjoram is related to oregano but is a bit more mild and is favored in Le Marche, the ancestral home of the Bartolini.

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Indian-Style Pickled Eggplant

Indian Pickled Eggplant - Preview

Looking for something with a bit more heat? Well, with my cayenne pepper plants competing with my eggplants for top honors, I went web surfing for recipes. With many to choose from, the final recipe is an amalgam, using ingredients that I had on-hand or that could be easily sourced. The result was a spicy dish that I really enjoy. Best of all, it’s reduced my eggplant AND cayenne pepper inventories. A bit too involved to be shared here — this post is long enough already — I’ll publish the final recipe in the weeks ahead.

This eggplant dish supplies the heat that Jamie’s pickle was missing.

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Baba Ganouj

Baba Ganouj 1

Can you detect which has been garnished with a drizzle of Olio Santo?

Although I’ve enjoyed baba ganouj far too many times to count, I’ve never actually prepared it, relying instead on one that I purchase from my favorite Middle Eastern grocery. Well, with a glut of eggplant filling my vegetable crisper, baba ganouj seemed like yet another great use of the melanzane and I sought help from the blog of our resident Middle Eastern food expert Sawsan, The Chef in Disguise. Her blog is brimming with delicious recipes and you can view her baba ganouj recipe HERE.

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And there you have it. This is my way of handling 2 incredibly productive eggplants. If you think I’ve eaten plenty of eggplant lately, well, you’d be correct — and you haven’t even seen the inside of my freezers. I’ll be enjoying(?) eggplant dishes for months to come.

If I’ve missed an eggplant dish that you’re particularly fond of, or, you prepare a tasty variation of one of the recipes that I’ve just highlighted, don’t be shy. Please share the recipe or link in the Comments section below. These plants just won’t quit!

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You may have noticed …

… My recent absence from the blogging world. This is Honey Time in Michigan’s Thumb and my Cousin and his Wife graciously offered to open Zia’s home so that I could get honey for my friends and neighbors. That’s the official explanation. In reality, my Cousin – aka “The Max Whisperer” – hadn’t seen Max in about a year and missed their “nature hikes”. In the photo above, the 2 BFFs are returning from their last hike of the visit. Also above is a photo of 2 of the 3 cases of the honey that I brought back. All told, our little group of honeycombers purchased about 6 cases of honey that day.

As luck would have it, my Cousin found a baseball-sized puffball growing in the yard. When picked 3 days later, it had grown to the size of a cantaloupe. As of this writing, I’ve yet to prepare it — but I will!

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant parmesan is the one dish in my repertoire that I’ve yet to prepare using the current harvest. Having made 2 trays of eggplant lasagna – one of which is still in my freezer – I took a pass on eggplant parmesan. Who knows? If we don’t have a killing frost soon, I just may turn to eggplant parmesan to help me deal with this surplus. Worse things could happen. You can see the recipe that I’ll be following simply by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Olio Santo - Preview

Olio Santo

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Slow Cooker General Tso’s Chicken

Subscribers and frequent visitors to this site don’t come here for my take on Asian cuisine, No, as much as I love food from that part of the world, I must confess that up until recently, I very rarely prepared it, much to the joy of the local Thai, Japanese, Korean, and Indian restaurants. Now, however, there are four dishes that I prepare at home and enjoy very much. One, a chicken dish, is today’s recipe, General Tso’s Chicken.  The others can be found on blogs that I follow. The first of these, a delicious lamb dish called Karma Khorma, is from my blogging friend David’s decidedly delectable blog, Cocoa and Lavender. The second, a Korean pork dish, one of the first Asian dishes that I made with any frequency, is from Cam’s wonderful blog, Geukima, and is called Crispy Stir-Fried Pork Ribs With Caramelized Fish Sauce. The third is a very tasty Indian dish, Chicken Biryani, and can be found on The Insatiable Gourmet blog. You cannot go wrong preparing any of these and a visit to any of the 3 blogs is very rewarding. (Unfortunately, as of this writing, Geukima and The Insatiable Gourmet seem to be on hiatus. Cocoa and Lavender, thankfully, is still going strong.)  Not very long ago, the only Asian dishes I enjoyed were set before me at nearby restaurants. These days, hardly a week goes by that I do not prepare one of these four dishes. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

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General Tso 1

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Now before going any further, it’s probably best to mention the origins of today’s dish. In my last post’s Comments section, I had mistakenly stated that the dish was created by Chinese immigrants in California. A comment from Eha got me googling its origins. Although I could not find the source stating its California origins (I should know better than to rely upon my memory for anything), I did find much to confirm Eha’s account. It is widely accepted that this dish was a creation of the Hunan chef, Peng Chang-kuei, in Taipei, Taiwan, after he had fled the Chinese mainland. Created in the ’50s, he once served it to Chiang Kai-shek. Chef Peng brought his recipe to America and introduced it in New York City in 1972 following Nixon’s trip to China. Since then, the dish has continued to evolve, in ways not necessarily pleasing to its creator. That is the simple version of the tale. You can find more information on Wikipedia or NPR or, for those who’d rather look at pictures, you can watch the movie, “The Search for General Tso“.

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The Favorite Family Recipes website is the source for today’s recipe. I was attracted to it because I love both General Tso’s Chicken and my slow cooker. I can already sense some of you thinking how much easier it would be to stir-fry this dish. Well, I haven’t a wok and I am certifiably stir-fry challenged. For me, the slow cooker is the way to go. Even so, I did make a few changes. most notably replacing the original’s pineapple juice with orange juice and its cayenne pepper with ground chipotle. In both cases, I used what I had in supply. While searching for the cayenne pepper, I came upon a seldom used container of arrowroot and used it as a thickening agent instead of cornstarch,

I did make a couple of additions, as well. When I order General Tso’s Chicken from my neighborhood Chinese restaurant, broccoli is always included. Even though the original recipe makes no mention of it, I always include some form of the vegetable in my dish. Here, there was a package of broccolini in the vegetable crisper and it ended up being sautéed in garlic-flavored oil before being mixed with the cooked rice. About the same time the broccolini was grabbed, a few mushrooms were found. They had matured into the “use ’em or lose ’em” stage of crisper life and became the most unconventional addition to the dish.

Now that’s all settled, let’s take a look at the recipe.

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General Tso 2

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General Tso’s Chicken Recipe

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup lite soy sauce
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup white distilled vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • ½ tsp ground chipotle pepper
  • approx. 4 oz sliced “baby bella” mushrooms (forgive me, Chef Peng)
  • 2 tbsp arrowroot, mixed with 2 tbsp water – flour or cornstarch may be substituted
  • 4 scallions/green onions, sliced

original recipe from Favorite Family Recipes

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General Tso Rice 2

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for the rice and broccolini

  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 8 oz (225 g) broccolini, roughly chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place the flour, salt, and pepper into a sealable plastic bag. Working in batches, add the chicken pieces to the bag, shake to coat, and place the now-coated chicken on a plate. Continue until all the chicken is coated with the seasoned flour.
  2. Add 2 tbsp of oil to a hot, large frying pan over med-high heat.
  3. When oil is hot begin adding the chicken pieces. Do not overcrowd. It should take you 2 batches, at least. You may need to add a bit more oil between batches. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Chicken needn’t be cooked through, only browned.
  4. When the chicken is browned on all sides, remove to a plate and begin the next batch.
  5. Meanwhile, into the slow cooker, add the sugar, soy sauce, orange juice, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and cayenne pepper. Stir to completely combine.
  6. Add the mushrooms and stir.
  7. When all the chicken has been browned, add to the slow cooker and set it to low. Cook for 3 to 4 hours or until chicken is cooked thoroughly.
  8. About 30 minutes before completion, check to see if the sauce has thickened. If not, combine the arrowroot and water to make a slurry. Add to the pot and gently stir. Cover.
  9. Bring 2 cups of water to the boil in a medium sauce pan with a lid.
  10. Add salt and butter, stir, and then add the rice.
  11. When the water returns to the boil, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.
  12. After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the heat. Rice will be ready in 5 more minutes.
  13. While the rice cooks, add 2 tbsp olive oil to a large frying pan and heat over med-high heat.
  14. Add the smashed garlic and cook until brown.
  15. Remove the garlic, add the broccolini, and reduce the heat to medium.
  16. Continue to sauté the broccolini in the garlic flavored oil until cooked to your satisfaction.
  17. Add the cooked rice to the frying pan and stir until fully combined. (See Notes)
  18. Serve the cooked chicken atop a bed of rice with broccolini. Garnish the dish with the chopped scallions/green onions.

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General Tso 3

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Notes

Although broccolini was used here, I have used broccoli and broccoli raab in the recipe. In all cases, I added the cooked rice to the pan in which the vegetable was sautéed so that the rice could absorb as much flavor from the pan as possible. Of course, you could steam the broccoli and add it to the dish however you wish.

The amount of arrowroot slurry needed will vary depending upon how much liquid is in the pot. No matter whether you use flour, cornstarch, or my oft-forgotten arrowroot, mix an equal amount of water with the thickening agent.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Green Tomato Relish Look Back

Very soon we’ll be coming to an end of our tomato growing season. Each of us probably has a favorite method for dealing with the green tomatoes left on the vine with no hope of ripening. My Grandpa placed them in the drawer of an old dresser on the patio where they slowly ripened. Others wrap them in newspaper, while some place the green orbs in paper bags. That’s great if you want to ripen them but what if you don’t want to invest the time, paper, or drawer space? Today’s look back will give you a totally different option Take this LINK to learn how to make green tomato relish. Your hot dogs will thank you.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

The Kitchens Salute Awburr-what? … Melanzane!

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