Saturday, January 26, 2013

Winter Amogglio

Amogglio sauce is a wonderful Italian condiment best enjoyed in the summer when the tomatoes are at their ripest and fresh basil is plentiful.  But in the winter you may long for summer's an alternative.  Make this sauce with less garlic if you like and serve it on toasted baguette slices, with fried calamari, on fish or chicken....or on the breaded Sicilian sirloin we're having for dinner tonight!

Makes about 2  1/2 cups

28 ounce can good quality tomatoes
1/3 cup juice from that can of tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1 Tbl dried basil
3 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbl balsamic vinegar

Dice the tomatoes  and place them in a mixing bowl along with the 1/3 cup of the juice.  Grate the garlic into the mixture and then stir in the salt, basil, olive oil and vinegar.  Refrigerate to marry the flavors.
NOTE:  This is really garlicky...use less if you like!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Almond Persimmon Cream Cheese Tart

I think the first dessert I ever made that didn't come out of a box was an apple tart  with cream cheese  I believe it comes from The Joy of Baking.  I decided to put a new spin on it with persimmons, almond flavor throughout and a super simple easy crust.

Makes one 9 inch tart

For the tart crust:

8 Tbl (one stick ) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pure almond extract
1  1/4 cups AP flour

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, salt and almond extract. Add the flour and stir until all is well combined.
With your clean fingers, press the dough into the bottom and up the sides a little, into a 9 inch spring form pan. Cover and chill the pan for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F and remove the pan from the fridge.  Prick the crust with the tines of a fork and then bake for 20 minutes.  Set aside while you make the filling.

For the tart:

8 ounces softened cream cheese
1/3 plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 extra large egg
2 tsp pure almond extract, divided
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 medium Fuyu persimmons
2 heaping tablespoons sliced almonds

 With an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar, vanilla extract and one teaspoon almond extract until creamy.
Peel one persimmon and puree it in a mini food processor or blender.  Stir the puree into the cream cheese mixture.
Peel the remaining 3 persimmons and slice them as you would for apple pie.
Mix the 1/4 cup sugar with the remaining teaspoon of almond extract and then toss the sliced persimmons, sugar mixture and sliced almonds together.
Pour the cream cheese mixture into the tart shell and top with the sugared persimmon slices.
Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until the cream cheese mixture is set.  Cool and serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Braised Pork, Sausage, Cabbage and Potatoes

It was a day to go through the freezer and use up some small packages of meat.  I found a 2 pound package of bone in country (Western) ribs and 2 fresh (as opposed to smoked) Polish sausages.  Half a head of cabbage in the fridge and a few potatoes made for a great braised one pot meal!

Makes about 4 servings

2 Tbl olive oil
2 pounds bone in pork country ribs, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 fresh Polish sausages
1 Tbl butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of thinly sliced garlic
1/2 head medium cabbage, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbl sweet Hungarian paprika
1 cup water, divided
3 to 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
Salt and pepper

In a large shallow oven proof pan with a lid, heat the oil and brown the pork rib pieces.  Remove to a plate.  Add the sausages and brown them well and remove to the same plate as the ribs.
Add the tablespoon of butter to the pan and add the onions and garlic.  Saute until the onion softens a bit.
Add the cabbage, salt, pepper and paprika and give everything a stir.
Add 1/2 cup of the water, cover the pan and cook over medium heat to soften the cabbage just a bit, probably about 5 minutes.
Return the meat into the pan and nestles the potatoes in.  Add that last 1/2 cup water and re season with salt and pepper.
Cover the pan and bake in a 350F oven for about 1  1/2 hours or until the ribs are almost fall off the bone tender.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Here's a nice alternative to cream of potato soup using roasted cauliflower which has become one of my favorite vegetables. Roasted garlic and some cheese really boost the flavor of this one.

Makes about 6 servings

1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
1/4 cup olive oil plus 2 more tablespoons
Salt and pepper for seasoning
6 cloves whole garlic, skins left on
1 medium leek, cleaned and diced
2 Tbl butter
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup half and half
2 cups shredded cheese (I used 1  1/2 cups Kasseri and 1/2 cup Parmesan - but use whatever you like...Fontina, Jack, cheddar etc)

Spread the cauliflower on a large rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle the oil over, add a generous amount of salt and pepper and toss.  Place the garlic cloves in a corner of the sheet and pour the 2 Tbl oil over.
Roast the cauliflower and garlic in a 425F oven for 30 to 35 minutes until it lightly browns around the edges. You may want to turn the florets at about the 15 minutes. Remove from the oven.
In a Dutch oven or soup pot, gently saute the leek in the butter until it softens.  Add the cauliflower and squeeze the garlic out of its skin into the pot.
Add the chicken broth, bring up to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
Cool the soup to almost room temperature and then, in batches, puree the soup in a blender and return to the pot.
Bring the pureed soup just up to a simmer, stir in the half and half completely and then slowly stir in the cheese a little at a time until it melts. Soup's on!!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sauteed Bok Choy

My New Years resolution is to eat lower carb (not necessarily Atkins lower carb) and to do this I have to take sugar, bread, potatoes , pasta and rice almost completely out of the diet, although I do plan to treat myself now and then.  A couple of nights ago we picked up a rotisserie chicken from Costco, I made Tom a small serving of mashed potatoes and our vegetable was sauteed baby bok choy.  I know that you mainly see this vegetable in Asian cooking but I like to put an Italian spin on it.  It's quick and easy and I feel I'm doing "good" for myself when I have this!

Makes 2 healthy servings

5 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves minced garlic
8 baby bok choy heads or shanghai bok choy heads, chopped
A little water
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Heat the oil in a large saute pan and add the garlic.  Saute for about 30 seconds and add the chopped bok choy. Stir fry until it starts to wilt adding a little water to the pan so as not to burn the garlic. Once the water is added, you may want to put a cover on the pan to facilitate the wilting.  Once wilted, season generously with salt and pepper and squeeze the lemon juice in.  Stir and serve!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Balkan Lamb and Leek Pie

Call it pita, banitsa or zelnik, the people of the Balkans love their filled phyllo pies.  Cheese, leeks, spinach, cabbage, pumpkin, apple or meat fill these.  My mom used to make one filled with ground beef, onion and a lot of black pepper(I mean a lot of black pepper!).  I decided to use ground lamb and leek and coil the little rolls into a round baking dish.  This makes a small 10 inch pie but you can certainly double the ingredients to fill a 14 or 15 inch deep dish pizza pan.

Makes on 10 inch pie

1  1/4 pounds ground lamb
3 medium leeks, cleaned, cut lengthwise and then crosswise in 1/4 inch half moons (you should have about 4 cups) Use the white and pale green part only.
8 Tbl butter, divided (3/5)
1 Tbl coarse black pepper
2 tsp salt
1/2 package phyllo dough (thawed overnight in the fridge if frozen)

In a large saute pan, brown the ground lamb, breaking the clumps of meat up with a wooden spoon as you go.  Once browned, drain the meat thoroughly and place in a medium mixing bowl to cool.
Wipe out the same saute pan and melt 3 Tbl of the butter in it.  Add the leeks and saute gently until very soft.  Add the leeks to the meat.
Stir in the salt and pepper.  I know this seems like a lots of pepper, but that's the beauty of this pie.  let the mixture cool thoroughly.
Now... time to get rolling.  Pre heat the oven to 350F and then melt the remaining 5 Tbl butter.  With a pastry brush, coat the bottom and sides of a 10 inch round baking dish with some of the melted butter.
Unwrap the phyllo dough on a work surface and keep any unused phyllo covered with a very damp tea towel.  Take two sheets of phyllo and sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the meat mixture along the bottom edge of the longer side.  Roll the meat mixture to form a small log and then place this along the edge of the baking dish.  Continue making logs and place the in a coiled fashion in the baking dish until the dish is filled.
Generously butter the top of the pie with most of the remaining melted butter and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is golden.  Serve warm or at room temperature.
NOTE:  This can be made ahead.  Just brush a little more butter over the top and place in a 300F oven for about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Mediterranean Zucchini

Ready to go into the oven

Dinner tonight will be Greek seasoned sauteed pork chops and this sauteed and then baked zucchini side.  I heated 3 Tbl olive oil in a medium oven proof saute pan and then added a diced small onion, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 diced green bell pepper and 2 small zucchini, sliced.  Saute for a few minutes and add a little salt, pepper and dried oregano.  Stir it around and add a can of tomatoes crushed up with your fingers.  Add the juice too and then simmer for about three minutes. Dot the top with a few kalamata olives.
Place the pan in a 400F oven and when everything starts to bubble, sprinkle a little grated parmesan and panko crumbs on top.
Turn the broiler on and broil for just a few minutes.
Serve right out of the pan!

Use your imagination for other veggies and seasonings!