Saturday, October 30, 2010

More Italian Comfort Food

Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and what did he find? Lots of wonderful new varieties of food that he brought home to the best cooks in the universe. Yummy pineapples, sweet potatoes and corn in the West Indies, and he brought sugar cane to Puerto Rico from which rum is distilled, from the Caribbean islands he brought sweet peppers to Europe. That's when the fun started.

From one generation of Italian cooks to the next, sweet peppers have been a mainstay ever since. I think you'll enjoy my slow cooker version of sweet peppers and veal stew – a mild cousin to the sweet peppers and sausages my grandmother used to make. A perfect way to use up the end of season pepper crop from the garden.

1 1/2 pound veal for stew, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 whole allspice (or 2 whole cloves)
1 bay leaf
5 whole black peppercorns
1 can ( size) tomato paste
1 cup ready-to-serve chicken broth
1 each green, yellow, orange, red sweet bell pepper, cut into thin strips
Hot cooked rice or wide noodles
Grated Parmesan

Combine flour, salt and paprika. Lightly coat veal with flour mixture; discard remaining flour. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat until hot. Brown veal, 1/2 at a time; remove from pan and set aside.

Add tomato paste to fry pan and stir over medium high heat until lightly caramelized. Deglaze fry pan with 1 cup broth, stirring until brown bits are loosened and sauce has a creamy consistency. Add tomato sauce, veal, bay leaf, peppercorns, allspice and sliced multi-color peppers to a crock pot; set on low for 6-8 hours, or until veal is fork-tender. Serve over rice or noodles. Sprinkle with cheese.

Add salt and pepper to taste, serves 4.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Brussels Sprouts Really Taste Good ... Honest!

Our garden is still producing fresh veggies. We made golumpki with a gorgeous cabbage over the weekend, began a batch of home infused vodka with Concord grapes and tonight, supper was a yummy pasta with fresh picked brussels sprouts and chicken in a tasty olive oil and butter sauce. This recipe is an adaptation from Food and Wine magazine. Recommended wine pairing: a crisp, cool chardonnay from Cakebread Cellars.

Backyard fresh is as local as it gets, folks. I love our garden!

2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound chicken tenders
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red onion, minced
1 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fresh brussels sprouts, cut into halves from top to stem end (frozen can be substituted)
1 cup chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound medium pasta shells or ziti noodles

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Season the chicken with the salt and pepper. Cook the tenders until just done, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut into small chunks. Begin cooking pasta.

In the same pan, on medium low heat, add the red onion and garlic, stirring occasionally until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in Brussels sprouts, broth, and red-pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until sprouts are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the chicken, lemon juice, parsley, Parmesan. Toss with hot cooked pasta and serve. Makes 4 servings, 478 calories each.

Monday, October 4, 2010

It's soup season!

Campbell's started canning tomato, cream of mushroom and chicken noodle soup in 1897 and America fell in love with soup convenience. More than 3 billion bowls of condensed soup are consumed annually in the U.S. - who doesn't have a can or two tucked in their cabinets? But there's no doubt homemade is better and the smells and subtle flavors of homecooked soup are worth the effort.

Crock pots offer up the opportunity to combine easy and slow. Once the rage, crock pot cooking rises and dips in popularity. There are pros and cons to using slow cookers: Some foods lose trace nutrients when cooked for too long. On the other hand, cheaper meats make better slow cooked meals and are great budget stretchers. For soups, the longer the better remains the rule and that's where having a crock comes in handy.

For lots of great sandwich ideas, check out pages 324-327 of The Silver Palate Cookbook. I like to make a grown-up version of grilled cheese made with French "pain de mie" - in English, Pullman bread, sliced Asiago or Gruyere with ham or tomato (or both). Ta-da ... lunch or dinner is served!

3 cups fresh grated tomatoes (or a 28 ounce can diced tomatoes)
2 cups chicken stock (or equivalent in canned chicken broth)
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced carrot
1/4 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves (1 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh winter savory (1/4 teaspoon dried - substitute oregano or thyme)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup evaporated milk or half and half (if creamy soup is desired)

Throw everything, except the milk, in the crock pot. Simmer on medium for 6-8 hours. Spoon out the tomato and other veggie chunks into food processor. Puree until smooth. Return the veggie puree to the pot and let warm through again (about another 1/2 hour). Reduce heat to warm then add milk, if desired. Once the milk is added, the soup must be held at the lowest temperature to avoid curdling.