Monthly Archives: December 2020

Apps, Nolacco style…

Two of our favorite Sunday appetizers are fried cubed eggplant and zucchini flowers (I’ve mentioned in the past how hard the flowers are to find).  The eggplant is the brainchild of my hubby.  It’s simply cubed eggplant, dipped in scrambled egg, breaded in breadcrumbs, fried and salted. It’s so good, I forgot how much I liked eggplant until he started making this on Sundays.  The zucchini flowers are prepared similarly, dipped in egg then in flour (no breadcrumbs) and fried and salted.  Much to my horror after buying these at a farmer’s market once I found that several of the flowers had bees in them – so do check before frying them.  There are several recipes (and I’ve tried a few) that stuff the flowers with either ricotta or mozzarella.  I find that stuffing the flowers really overpowers the delicacy and earthiness of the flower, but to each her own.

Grabbing the bull by the horns…

A beloved, stick to the ribs comfort food in our house is simply prepared oxtails and/or short ribs.  Want to look like a genius cook without the degree from CIA?  Check this out: 

  • Purchase fresh beef oxtail and/or short ribs – salt & pepper generously
  • Slice up a sweet onion and place in bottom of slow cooker
  • Place oxtail/short ribs on top of sliced onion
  • Top with one jar each of Goya Sofrito and Recaito
  • Cover and cook on either 6 hours high or 8 hours low

Serve over either rice, yucca, spaghetti squash, polenta, whatever!  I (almost) feel guilty that this is both so easy and delish!

Getting stoned…

There’s a short season for stone crabs in Clearwater that begins in mid-October. Local legend is that stone crabs can only be found here – I don’t know if that’s true, but what I can tell you is that they’re delicious, pricey and gorgeous.  These little buggers have a much harder shell than blue crab, or even lobster for that matter.  They’re served boiled, cracked, either cold or hot with drawn butter or an aioli.  Ranging from about $35-65 per pound depending on size (medium, select, or large) they’re not cheap.  I researched the prices per pound and saw that there is also a jumbo size ($105 for a pound and a half, which is about four claws) – but I’ve never seen jumbo on a menu near us.  I have never made these at home, I prefer to leave the mystery of perfectly boiled stone crabs to the professionals.  If you ever have the chance to try these, I highly recommend that you do.

Limoncello when you can’t get to Rome…

I’ve been cooking, a lot. My husband encourages this by opening the wine or mixing a cocktail for me while we concoct our dishes. Recently though, he’s taken on a little mixologist hobby – Limoncello!! We have a great affection for this sweet, syrupy, flavorful liqueur since being given a generous bottle the night we got engaged in Italy at a restaurant called Le Grotte in Rome, near the Spanish Steps about a decade ago. Our waiter was so excited about the event that he let us sit there with our Limoncello well after the restaurant closed – how we got back to our hotel is still a bit of a mystery.

The making of the Limoncello is not a stealth process. First the procurement of ten organic (a must) lemons. Then to find olive leaves (we found these on Amazon – shocking, I know). Then the pure alcohol (see picture below) in Florida we could only find 75% alcohol but in NYC we were able to find 95%. Note that the proof is half the alcohol content.

First to peel the lemons. We have a super sharp peeler that we bought in Germany, it grabs just the top yellow rind and not the bitter white pith which you want to avoid. The peel and olive leaves (about 10) now marinate in the fridge in 25 ounces of the alcohol for 30 days. We do this in a 132 ounce Mason jar. After 30 days we add a cooled simple syrup (2lbs of sugar and 1.5 quarts of water-now you know why we use such a large mason jar). It again rests for another 30 days before being strained via a sieve into whatever bottles you choose (see our cool bottles below).

Limoncello makes for a great gift when visiting friends or for a finishing touch after a great dinner or just because it’s 2020!

We’ve recently tried the same recipe with oranges and tangerines (and we added fresh vanilla beans to make an adult creamsicle…) it was de-lish!

10 Discos

No, we’re not going dancing…but this:

What to do with ten discos?

Let’s make empanadas! A fun appetizer with many variations. Here’s how I made this batch.

Ingredients:
1 package of Goya empanada discs
A few tablespoons of EVOO
1 diced onion
1 diced clove of garlic
1 small package of chopped meat
1 large diced boiled potato (should be soft in center)
1 cup of frozen peas
Salt & pepper
1 cup canola oil
Salt, pepper

Heat EVOO to saute pan. Add onion and garlic – saute for about 3 minutes (do not allow garlic to brown – if it does toss it and start again) add chopped meat to pan and brown. Season with salt & pepper when meat has browned mix in potatoes and peas. Pour mixture into a strainer and let sit for about 5 minutes (you want to strain out fats and juices so they don’t seep through the empanada discs). Place one of the discs on cutting board then put about 2 tablespoons of mixture on one half of disc then fold over other half. Using a fork press down open sides to seal – voila! You now have an empanada. Repeat with remaining discs (extra filling can be frozen for future use). Now heat canola oil in large frying pan. When oil is hot slide empanadas into pan turning when browned. Don’t overcrowd the frying pan, they can be cooked in batches. Remove from pan and onto paper towel lined plate and salt immediately (Kosher salt!) You can definitely either deep fry or air fry these if you prefer.

Stuffing

I’m the first to admit that the harder something is to find, the more I must have it. Case in point is the Martin’s cubed potato bread I need to make my Thanksgiving stuffing. It’s either abundantly available or scarce.

The stuffing is always a hit on Thanksgiving (I only make it once a year so everyone’s dying for it by November LOL). Here’s all you need to know to make this yummy side dish:

Ingredients:
2 sticks salted butter
1/4 cup EVOO
1 stalk of chopped celery (leaves included)
1 large sweet onion chopped
2 large carrots chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley
2 bags of Martin’s potato bread
2 cups of chicken broth
2 eggs
1 cup of milk
2 cups of chopped roasted chestnuts
1 cup of dried craisins
1 cup sauteed mushrooms
Salt, pepper
Coarsely chopped thyme, sage (fresh if you can get it)

How to:
In a large pot heat EVOO add 1/2 stick of butter cut in chunks. When butter has melted add celery, onion, carrots (AKA the “trilogy”) parsley and saute until softened. Add additional 1/2 stick of butter (this is not low cal!) when melted, add potato bread and mix to incorporate. Turn heat off and add chicken broth, eggs and milk (add additional milk if mixture is too dry). Add chestnuts, craisins and mushrooms (you can totally skip these if you like) and season with salt, pepper, thyme and sage. Your mixture should have a loose consistency. Turn mixture into deep baking pan and top with small pats of remaining butter and bake for about 40 minutes at 350 (when top is golden brown your stuffing is ready!)

Pro-tip: I throw whatever I have on hand in the stuffing. This year I had extra butternut squash-which I cubed and sauteed with the rest of the veggies. You can totally customize this to what you and your family like.

Before and after baking the stuffing. The end product should be savory and creamy.