Saturday, December 14, 2013

Oven Braised Italian Style Pot Roast Over Creamy Polenta

It was a snowy day in Connecticut today so I thought a little comfort food would take the winter chill off. I decided on an Italian flavored pot roast in light of the fact that hubbs hates potatoes, who hates potatoes??? As I winged it, just made it up as I went along, this was to my surprise super easy and not messy at all to put together. So let's get to the recipe, I used:

1 3/12-4 lb bottom round beef rump roast (my favorite cut for a roast)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 carrots sliced into coins
3 ribs of celery sliced
1 medium onion diced 
4 cloves of garlic smashed
1 10 oz package of white mushrooms quartered
1/4 cup red wine 
2 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 14 1/2 oz can of beef broth
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
Add the olive oil to a large dutch oven over high heat, season the meat with salt and pepper and shear on all sides. Next add the carrots, celery, mushrooms and onions to the pot, cook for about 5 minutes, deglaze the pot with the wine. Now add the tomatoes, beef broth, garlic and bay leaf to the pot. Cover and put into a preheated 325 degree oven for 3-4 hours or until fork tender but not quite falling apart.

When the roast is tender remove it from the pot and reduce the gravy on the stove top to your desired consistency,  I thickened mine up with a slurry because I like my gravies really thick.

 Next make the polenta:

It's a 3 to one ratio of liquid to corn meal, I used:
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock 
1 1/2 cups of cream
1 cup of corn meal
2 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
Bring the liquid to a boil and add the corn meal and whisk like crazy, this cooks very quickly, in a minute or 3 so make sure everything else is ready to go. 
*you might have to add more liquid to the polenta as I did to achieve the desired consistency, it's different every time
**always taste and re season as you go
***this would also be good over mashed potatoes, egg noodles or any pasta of your choice 
****a nice glass of red wine would top this meal off, I hope you try it and enjoy

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Arancini AKA Rice Balls

    Last nights bacon and asparagus risotto turn into tonight's arancini, translated from Italian it means little oranges. Whenever I make risotto or rice I always make extra so I can enjoy these little crunchy and creamy treats. There is no "recipe" per say but a technique. All you have to do is add an egg, some bread crumbs to bind up the rice so you can roll it into slightly firm balls. If you have plain rice you can add anything you like as long as its not too moist, cheese and pepperoni is really good stuffed into the center like a little surprise, I always add some fresh parsley for brightness. You can even make these with boxed rice or left over rice from your Chinese take out, again the possibilities are endless.... Tonight I added some grated mozzarella to my risotto because it was what I had on hand in the fridge, once your rice mixture is the right consistency roll into small balls about the size of a ping pong ball, roll the balls into breadcrumbs and shallow fry on all sides until golden brown. They are a perfect little snack anytime of the day at room temperature. I love to make these and I make them often!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mushroom, Spinach and Goat Cheese Raviolo

    Tonight I was feeling a little creative so I opened the fridge and started pulling out ingredients I needed to use, this is what I came up with. I love using gyoza wrappers for a quick ravioli, it took me less than an hour to put these together, the filling possibilities are endless.
For the raviolo I used:
1 pkg gyoza wrappers (makes 24 raviolo)
1lb shitake mushrooms
1 bag baby spinach
1 3oz log of goat cheese (I used garlic and herb flavored)
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
a splash of prosecco
salt and pepper to taste
Finely chopped the shitake mushrooms saute in the oil and butter mixture until all the liquid is evaporated and are slightly browned, season with salt and pepper and add the prosecco. Cook down again until all the liquid is evaporate, set aside and let cool. Now cook the spinach in the same method, squeeze dry and chop. Add the cooled mushrooms and spinach to a mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, mix well. Add a 1/2 teaspoon the the mixture to the bottom half of the gyoza, wet the edges of the top half of the gyoza, press together to form the raviolo. When all are complete decide what kind of sauce you want, it can be as simple as a brown butter or a light alfredo sauce is what I used tonight. I also garnished it with a little bacon and parsley.

*this is a really impressive dinner to cook for friends with minimal effort, they can also be made ahead and frozen for a later use
**boil quickly about a minute or two is all you need so make sure the sauce is waiting for the raviolo
***like I said the filling possibilities are endless, let your imagination run wild and happy cooking!!!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Habanero Pepper Jelly

    Hubb's friend sent me these beautiful habanero peppers from his garden, but I was a little afraid to eat them straight up. I was thinking hot sauce but finally decided on a pepper jelly. I turned out way better than I expected and not blow you away hot at all to my surprise. I think this is such a versatile condiment, any where from over cream cheese or brie, on corn bread, even chicken, chicken wings, pork, fish, the possibilities are endless. This is the recipe I came up with, it is very easy to put together.

8 orange habanero peppers seeded 
1 yellow bell pepper seeded 
1 small poblano pepper seeded
4 cups of sugar
1 1/2 cups of cider vinegar
4.7 oz can of powdered pectin
a pinch of salt and pepper
orange food color (optional)
I pulsed the peppers in a food processor to a fine dice, and just added them to the pot with all the rest of the ingredients, brought it to  a boil and cooked it until thickened, about 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally. I let it cool a bit and put it in a large mason jar. I covered it and kept inverting it upside down and up right so that all the pepper would be evenly dispersed as it cooled. Simple as that!!
*I didn't care for the the color it was turning so I added the orange food coloring because you eat with your eyes first, but you can leave it out if you wish

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Home Grow Tomato Sauce

    Hubbs came home from work with a bag full of home grown native tomatoes from his friends garden, they were beauties!! After admiring them on my window sill for a few days I decided their fate would be a fresh tomato sauce. I had 10 large perfect specimens to work with and here is what I did.

10 tomatoes finely diced
1 lb of italian sausage
1/2 cup finely diced white onion
3-6 cloves of garlic peeled and smashed
8 large basil leaves torn, and a few more fro garnish
4 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper
1 bag of frozen ricotta cavatelli

Add 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over med heat and brown the sausages on all sides. Next add the onion and cook until soft about 5 minutes. Now add the diced tomatoes, garlic, basil, the rest of the oil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 2 hours or until it reduces by half. Toss with the cavatelli and garnish with some basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Top with grated cheese I always use a combination of equal parts parmesane and romano.
*a nice bottle of red wine and a crusty loaf of garlic bread would be the perfect accompaniments.
**beg your friends with gardens for some tomatoes and make this dish, it's simple and easy, invite them over for dinner and you will be a kitchen star!!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Italian Style Stuffed Peppers

    This is a recipe passed down from my Italian Nonni, although I always called her Grandma, to my Mother and lastly to me. I was told that it's Italian peasant food because they used day old stale bread and no meat. They always used red bell peppers but I found some local farm grown cubanelle's for 99 cents a pound and decided to keep the peasant theme and used them instead.

For the stuffing I used:
diced up Italian bread (for the 4 peppers pictured here I use 1/2 a loaf)
20 black olives sliced
2 tablespoons of capers chopped
5 anchovies minced
2 large cloves of garlic minced
2 tablespoon of parsley minced
enough extra virgin olive oil to moisten 
salt and pepper to taste
mix well, the best way to do this is with you hand a little messy but the only way to blend all the ingredients well.
    Next seed the peppers and stuff them with the bread mixture.

    Fry in oil over medium heat until they are lightly golden brown, not too long or they will fall apart. This makes a lovely vegetarian meal with a nice side of pasta, rice or a simple salad. Give this recipe a try you will not be sorry!!!
*Be careful when frying them they spit and splatter a lot
**My Grandma added raisins and pignoli (pine nuts) but I leave them out because I don't care for them in this dish, add them if you like

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Fried Squash Blossoms

    One of the best parts of summer is when the squash blossoms bloom. My Italian father always grew squash for the sole purpose of frying up the flowers, we looked forward to them all year. I am lucky enough to find them at my local farmers market and I always make them this way. I make a light batter and shallow fry them. For the batter I used:

1-2 cups of flour (depending on how many flowers you have)
seltzer water
1 tsp baking powder
salt and pepper
whisk together and add as much seltzer water to make a thin batter much thinner than pancake batter. Now set a pan with a shallow amount of oil and fry until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towel and enjoy!!

   You can also stuffed them with seasoned ricotta before you dip in batter and fry them. Some people take the pistol out they think its bitter but I like it's up to you. Just make sure you check inside the blossoms for little critters they like to hide there!! 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pork Saltimbocca

   I love pork so today I decided to make a classic Italian dish saltimbocca which translates into "jump in your mouth". If you order this in a restaurant it would cost you at least $15-20 dollars depending on where you live, it cost me about $10 dollars to make 3 servings and that's kind of on the high side of estimating. Also, it takes no time to make about 30 minutes start to finish depending on what your serving with it.

6 thin sliced pork cutlet pounded out 
6 sliced of prosciutto
6 fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup of cognac 
1/4 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup of chicken stock
3 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of olive oil
seasoned flour 
salt and pepper to taste

Season the cutlets with salt and pepper on one side and place a slice of prosciutto and a sage leave on top of each cutlet, roll up and secure with a toothpick. Next dredge in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Now set a skillet on medium high flame and add the butter and oil. Brown the pork on all sides, remove from the pan and set aside. Meanwhile make the sauce, deglaze the pan with the cognac and reduce to a syrupy consistency. Now add the cream and chicken stock, bring to a boil return the pork and it's resting juices and simmer about 2-5 minutes depending on how thick the rolls are (do not over cook or the pork will be tough). Taste the sauce and re season if needed, plate the pork and top with the sauce. I served it with rice pilaf and a side salad.

* I added the leftover 2 slices of prosciutto I had that I chopped and a couple of sage leaves the the sauce as it was simmering
** If you make the pork rolls ahead and let them sit in the fridge a while the flavors really permeate the meat
*** A very quick and easy dinner party meal with a couple of great sides and a yummy dessert

Friday, May 10, 2013

Pasta, Spinach, Eggs and Caciocavallo

    I love to turn leftovers into something fantastic!! At the farmers market this week I found some amazingly fresh spinach and a cheese that I haven't had in a long time.  Caciocavallo is an Italian cheese similar to mild provolone. I cooked up the spinach for a week night side veggie and cut up the cheese for a pick for drinks with a friend on another evening. So I decided to combined them with some pasta and eggs. No precise measurements for this dish, I just kind of threw it together. I whisked 3 eggs with a little heavy cream then added the left over spinach and cheese, I chopped them up a bit and seasoned it with salt and pepper. Then I cooked up a left over 1/2 of a lb of pasta from my cupboard. I drained the pasta reserving some of the water, returned it to the pot and added the egg mixture. Set the flame to low and cook slowly until the egg is set and the cheese is melted. This turned into a yummy gooey adult version of mac n' cheese!! When I go into the kitchen and just ad-lib is when I make the most special dishes, don't be afraid!!!
*add some pasta water if it's too dry
**I also saw a lemon out of the corner of my eye and added some zest at the last minute and I am so glad I did!!
***garnish with some grated parmesan for extra cheesiness!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kale And Pasta Italiano...Pizza Too!!

    I love, love, love kale.....too bad it took me 48 years to figure this out. I have been trying to eat more healthy lately and I read that kale is what they call a super food. I spotted a bunch at a trip to my local farmers market and put it in my cart on a whim. It sat in my fridge for 4 day's until I got the courage to take it out and play with it, oh I am so glad I did. I cooked it up Italian style and the first night I put it on a pizza, the second night I tossed it with pasta. Here is what I did.
1 bunch of curly kale stems removed and torn into bite size pieces (estimating about 10 cups)
6-10 cloves of garlic to taste
1 cup sliced black olives
3 tablespoons of capers
3 tablespoons of pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup of water
salt, pepper and hot red pepper flakes to taste
pasta of your choice
Toss everything together in a large pot, cover and steam until tender to your liking, I cooked mine about 15 minutes. Boil Pasta and toss altogether. Yes it's that simple and oh so good!!! Here is what the pizza looked like the night before.
*I topped the pasta dish with a little fresh lemon zest, brightened the dish up beyond belief 
*the pizza is topped with the kale, brie and prosciutto

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shrimp And Pancetta Over Spinach Pappardella

  I love spinach pasta, I found some pappardelle at my favorite farmers market over the weekend so this is what I came up with on this pretty spring night in April.

1 lb of shrimp peeled and deveined 
1/4 lb of pancetta diced
3 handfuls of baby spinach
1/2 lb spinach pasta of your choice
1 tablespoon of butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup of white wine, chicken stock or water
olive oil
salt, pepper and adobo

First crisp up the diced pancetta and remove from the pan to drain on a paper towel. Next season the shrimp with salt, pepper and adobo add a little oil to the pan, add the shrimp and sear on both sides, remove and set aside. Now add the butter to the pan melt it and deglaze the pan with wine, chicken stock or water, add the cream and simmer on low. Meanwhile cook the pasta and add to the sauce with the shrimp, heat through and now add the spinach until wilted. Heat through and top with the pancetta. 
*Tonight I served this with a spinach and tomato salad with burrata
**garlic bread is a must!!
***a nice glass of wine too!!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Stuffed Artichokes

     I went to my local farmers market and found this amazingly large lion artichoke for $3, I just had to take him home. I decided to prepare it like my grandfather Girolamo (Jerry) from Caserta always prepared bella carciofo. I made a simple stuffing of bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. Specific amounts depends on your taste, set this mixture aside. Now prepare the artichoke for stuffing by cutting about 1/4 inch off the top and spreading the leaves open and season inside with salt and pepper. Next remove the center leaves and the choke, I just pull the thin leave out with my hands and scrape the choke thistle out with a spoon. Next grab the stuffing in you hand, messy but the only way, and pack it in tight into every nook and cranny and a big handful in the center. I placed it into  a heavy stock pot, added water until it comes about 1/4 of the way up on the artichoke and drizzled more olive oil on top. Cover and steam until an outside leave pulls out freely. This one took over an hour because it was so large but if you have several small ones it will cook faster. You can place it under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up the top if you like. You can also add thing to the water like wine, olives, capers ect... I hope you try artichokes this way!!
*make sure you have a nice loaf of crusty bread to soak up the juices

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bacon and Tomato Hash with Eggs

    Tonight's dinner was spontaneous, and those are the one's that are most memorable. I was craving eggs, paired with a simple hash and a little spice, total perfection!!

1 yukon gold potato peeled and finely diced
3 strips of bacon chopped and fried crisp
2 tablespoons of red onion diced finely
1 jalapeno diced finely (seeded optional)
1 tomato seeded and diced
1 green onion sliced
1 tablespoon parsley minced
eggs (I used 3 but 4 or 5 is fine)
seasoning for the potato hash, adobo, sazon, tajin, smoked paprika, salt and pepper all to taste
   First I fried the bacon until crisp removed from the skillet and drained on a paper towel. Next add the potatoes to the bacon grease and season to taste. When the potatoes are crispy add the red onion and jalapenos, cook another 3-5 minutes until veggies are soft. Add the diced tomatoes and cook another 3-5 minutes until the tomatoes are heated through. Now crack the eggs on top, cover and cook until your desire of done, I like mine really runny barely cooked, just until the whites are set. Garnish with reserved bacon, green onion and parsley.
*you can serve this with toast, rolls or  tortillas
**adobo, sazon and tajin are all hispanic seasonings you can google them

Monday, March 11, 2013

Carla's Kitchen Capers: Pasta With Broccoli, Garlic And Lemon

Carla's Kitchen Capers: Pasta With Broccoli, Garlic And Lemon: This is my take on pasta with broccoli and garlic. With the additions of a few of my favorite things I transformed this ordinary dish into...

Pasta With Broccoli, Garlic And Lemon

This is my take on pasta with broccoli and garlic. With the additions of a few of my favorite things I transformed this ordinary dish into something a little off the beaten path. If you haven't guessed from my blogs title I love capers and try to sneak them into recipes where ever I can. 
for the sauce:
2 small crowns of fresh broccoli (about 4 cups chopped)
5 cloves of garlic chopped
1 cup sliced olives
2-3 tablespoons of capers
1/4 cup olive oil
add all to a skillet and cook until the broccoli is the tenderness you desire, then add
2 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup of heavy cream 
1 tablesspoon lemon juice
and season with salt and pepper

Keep warm meanwhile boil any pasta of your choice, the possibilities are endless anything will work. I also made my favorite topping for pasta dishes made with olive oil based sauces, give or take a few ingredients.
for the topping:
1 cup of panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tablespoon grated romano cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
toss together and set aside
when the pasta is done toss it in the skillet with the sauce and add some of the pasta water if it's too dry. Plate, top with the panko mixture and enjoy.
*serve with a nice salad and garlic bread
**add a nice dessert and it's a perfect dinner party!!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Carla's Kitchen Capers: Shrimp and Yellow Cherry Tomatoes over Barley Riso...

Carla's Kitchen Capers: Shrimp and Yellow Cherry Tomatoes over Barley Riso...: Tonight's Tuesday night's dinner can easily be a Saturday night dinner party dinner. It came together so easy and tastes like a fa...

Shrimp and Yellow Cherry Tomatoes over Barley Risotto

Tonight's Tuesday night's dinner can easily be a Saturday night dinner party dinner. It came together so easy and tastes like a fancy night out. 
For the shrimp:
1 lb of shrimp
equal amount per count of shrimp of yellow (or red) cherry tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic sliced
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley 
1/4 cup white wine
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoon butter diced
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
Place shrimp in a baking dish add tomatoes and layer the rest of the ingredients.
For the topping:
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs mixed with
1 tsp lemon zest 
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
bake shrimp mixture about 20 min, top with panko bake another 10 min or until hot and bubbly.
For barley risotto:
1/2 cup barley
1 shallot diced
1/4 cup white wine
2 14 oz cans of chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons parmesan 
salt and pepper to taste
follow basic risotto recipe.
* add saffron to risotto to make it extra special

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Carla's Kitchen Capers: Shrimp and Grits My Way

Carla's Kitchen Capers: Shrimp and Grits My Way: I have been wanting to make shrimp and grits like forever but didn't think hubbs would like it. Well today I did and he loved it!!! After ...

Shrimp and Grits My Way

I have been wanting to make shrimp and grits like forever but didn't think hubbs would like it. Well today I did and he loved it!!! After researching recipes all day this is my version based on the heat he could take and the flavors he loves.
For the shrimp stock:
add the shells to a pot with a bay leaf, a slice of lemon and salt and pepper, simmer 10-12 minutes.
For the shrimp:
1 lb shrimp shells reserved
1 roma tomato seeded and diced
1 rib of celery peeled and diced
1 large shallot diced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup shrimp stock
1 cup water
cayenne, smoked paprika, adobo, salt and pepper to taste
Toss the shrimp with 2 tablespoons of the oil add the remaining oil to a skillet and brown the shrimp nicely on both sides remove from the pan and set aside. Next add the butter, celery and shallot and cook about 5 minutes, deglaze with the wine and lemon juice, add the flour to make a roux, cook over low heat about 3 minutes and then add the shrimp stock and the water simmer on low.

For the grits:
1 cup of slow cooking grits
2 cups shrimp stock
2 cups water
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon of butter to finish
salt and pepper
Add the liquid to a pot with the salt and pepper (to taste as always), bring to a boil whisk in the grits and turn the heat to low, simmer about 15-20 minutes until it's the thickness you like, finish with the butter.

To put it all together, add the shrimp back to the sauce and heat through, add grits to a plate top with the shrimp.
* I garnished with green onion and cilantro 
** You can add cheese to the grits if you like
*** Very comforting....