Sometimes you just don’t need a big meal. Tapas, mezze, antipasto, appetizers, whatever you call it, it’s fun to make and to share.
Last night we plated up some mortadella, prosciutto, gouda, homemade pickles, pepperoncini and fresh bruschetta.
Add a nice crusty baguette or warmed pita bread and you’re all set!
(And the wine, don’t forget the wine!)
Pro-tip: The bruschetta is super easy to pull together. I dice up some really ripe plum or san marzano tomatoes (if I can find them), add minced garlic and diced red onion to taste and season with kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper and a little dried oregano. Let it marry for about an hour in the fridge. Meanwhile, cut the baguette into 1/2 inch slices and brush one side with a little EVOO. Then to toast – I toast only one one side, leaving the other side softer. I do this so the crouton doesn’t break into a million pieces when you take a bite of it. When cooled top (the toasted side) with about 1 teaspoon of tomato mixture, plate and serve!
I made a healthy version of real comfort food the other night. Turkey meatloaf with spinach and feta in the mix! Super tasty, not at all dry and tons of flavor. I just mixed a package of fresh ground turkey meat with about 1/4 cup of fresh crumbled feta cheese, chopped up sauted spinach and seasonings (I used fresh basil and mint since they’re growing on my patio). Mix well, put in small baking dish, and pop in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes, Voila! Serve with a side salad, cannot get easier than this!
Pro-tip: you can use any cheese you like that melts well, also you can switch up the veggie too, maybe broccoli rabe or kale? Corn?
I know I have written about this recipe before but this time it was exceptionally delicious. I prepare veal shanks almost the same way as oxtails. In this instance instead of using sofrito I used diced red tomatoes, garlic and white wine. I think browning the lightly floured and seasoned meat prior to slow cooking in this dish is especially important, as is deglazing the pan with a little wine and/or broth and adding to crockpot. I also made a very simple marinara sauce that, when the shanks were cooked (six hours on high in the crock pot), I infused with about a cup of the sauce from the crockpot. I served this dish over cappellini, which really complimented the complexity and richness of the main dish. See my previous post for details: https://anniesday.com/2020/12/07/grabbing-the-bull-by-the-horns/
The fun part of making a frittata is that it’s a great way to get rid of leftovers. In this case we had some potatoes, broccoli rabe and a few kalamata olives from apps the night before. I employ my cast iron skillet for this meal. Since I learned how to take care of this persnickety, heavy pan it has become my favorite.
To make any frittata, start by sauteing your veggies in a little EVOO. When veggies are warmed up (remember I used leftovers so they’ve already been cooked) add a tablespoon of butter and spread veggies out evenly on bottom of pan. Pour in your well scrambled eggs (I use my Kitchen Aid so that the eggs are nice and airy). Lower heat and cook on stovetop for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. You can test doneness by inserting a toothpick, if it comes out clean you’re done!
A few weeks ago I found spring roll wrappers at the grocery. I haven’t made spring rolls in a long time. It got me thinking about many, many years ago when I took an Asian cooking class at Hofstra. The class was was taught by a petite Jewish woman who, after getting divorced, explored China for some time. After she returned to the states from her Chinese escapades she taught these night classes with an enthusiasm that was infectious. Anyway, I pulled these together partially from memory and partially just using what I had available at home. Spring rolls and a side of fried rice everyone loved this simple, fun dinner.
For the spring rolls, I used what I had available, which in this case was scallions, green cabbage, sausage meat, garlic, bean sprouts and seasonings. It’s so easy! Thinly slice cabbage and scallions and mince garlic. Add a few tablespoons of EVOO to pan, add sausage meat to pan and cook until no longer pink. Add cabbage, scallions and sprouts to meat. Season generously with fresh black pepper. Add about a tablespoon of fish sauce if you have it and a little soy sauce to taste. Cook until veggies are soft. Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to a strainer and let excess liquids drain off (do this so that the spring rolls don’t get soggy). When mixture is cool enough to handle it’s time to make the spring rolls. I put a spring roll wrapper on a cutting board so that it’s oriented like a diamond. Then place about a tablespoon and a half of mixture in the middle of the wrapper. I then fold up the bottom corner, then both the left & right corners then roll the wrapper away from you making roll somewhat tight so that the stuffing stays inside. You can use either a little water or egg to seal the top corner. Repeat with the rest of the spring rolls, your technique will get better the more you do. You can either deep fry or pan fry the rolls, removing when they are brown.
Along with the spring rolls was a fried rice recipe that my mom used to make. I used Uncle Ben’s brown rice (about 2 cups, cooked) – which must be made the day before and cold when you prepare the fried rice. Like all my recipes, I used what I had available. In this case it was a few leftover pork chops which I diced up, scallions, a sweet onion roughly chopped, fresh carrots & celery also chopped up and a 1/2 cup of peas for pretty color. Start by cooking what needs to be cooked the longest – the pork and the carrots. Start by adding a little sesame oil (or EVOO) in your wok and let that heat up. Add pork and carrots and cook until the pork is no longer pink and the carrots are soft. Add the rest of the vegetables, stirring until cooked. You can add more oil if you need to. Then make some room in the center of your pan and stir in a scrambled egg . When egg is cooked add the rice a little at a time, folding in vegetables. Add soy sauce to taste (remember it’s super salty so don’t go nuts) and a ton of fresh cracked pepper. Voila! Homemade fried rice.
Pro-tip: You can make this recipe with so many variations (shrimp, chicken, beef, vegetarian) and any vegetables that you have on hand. I like color in the dish so the carrots and peas really added that element.
I made a great lightly creamy seafood pasta the other day that was, according to my hubby, “the best meal ever”. Wow. Considering how easy it was, I was very happy that it was so delicious. For the seafood I used little neck clams, shrimp and a lobster tail but you can use whatever looks good a the fish monger. I bet mussels and crab would be great in this dish too.
To start I sauteed the shrimp and lobster in a little EVOO, a dash of truffle oil and butter until just about cooked. Then I added 2 cups of chicken broth and let that heat up. When broth is hot (almost boiling) I tossed in the clams and steamed until they opened up. I added 1/2 cup of frozen peas just for color too. Next, I reduced heat to low and added 1 cup of heavy cream and a ton of fresh cracked pepper and parsley. You can thicken up the sauce with a tablespoon of mascarpone if you like.
Cooked linguine (al dente of course) was then transferred into the pan with this yummy sauce, mixed around so every piece of pasta was covered, then plated with a shaving of … wait for it … fresh truffle! (On sale at Eataly this week by the way.)
There is no meal in life for me that is more of a competition in both creativity and stamina than Christmas eve and the seven fishes. This year, because of stupid COVID, it was only my hubby, daughter and me. Seven fishes, cooked in various ways is A LOT for three people. I won’t lie, the whole snapper (who premiered this year) didn’t make it to the table last night. It will be a great Christmas day lunch though.
Where do I even start here? We had my hubby’s famous stuffed artichokes (my daughter’s favorite!) stuffed clams, Alaskan king crab legs, stuffed calamari, fried baccala (cod), whole lobsters, dungeness crabs, shrimp, broccoli rabe, mushrooms. rainbow cookies, butter cookies, chestnuts.
This is no small amount of prep. The entire house is consumed by Christmas eve. Our place in NY has a very small kitchen (I refer to it as a one person kitchen) so we have to plan out who’s doing what and in what order. This is essential for harmony…
I really missed having a houseful this year and while it was great, it just wasn’t the same without my parents and our close friends. Hoping that 2021 bring better things.
If you’re interested in any of the recipes, inbox me and I’ll share. The batter for the baccala is particularly good and surprisingly easy to make and can be used for onion rings or fried zucchini.
Merry Christmas to you all and here’s to a (MUCH) better 2021.
Dedicated to my sweet mother-in-law who we lost this year. Miss your crazy laugh!
What can I say? I’m a sucker when either my daughter or hubby have a craving for a dish that I can make. I fuss and make like I’m too busy but truth is I love it (don’t tell them!) Yesterday, the princess was craving a pasta salad…so I starting prepping and this is what happened:
I had some good fresh stuff waiting to be used in the fridge. No two of my pasta salads are ever the same. For this particular salad I tossed in: feta cheese, chopped mixed bell peppers (mostly for color), chopped red onion, chopped soppressata, chopped olives, chopped marinated artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, and fresh parsley.
It’s so easy to pull together: boil you choice of pasta till al dente (about 8 minutes), drain and rise under cold water. Toss in a few drops of EVOO and stir around. In a large bowl add all freshly chopped ingredients and cooled pasta. Add salt, pepper, oregano and a bit more EVOO and toss well. Voila!
Note: Any fresh veggies work in this. Basil and mint are great adds too if you have them. Mozzarella or goat cheese or pana grano could replace the feta. Also, in place of adding your own seasoning you could add in an envelope of dried salad dressing mix (italian, ranch, whatever) with the EVOO and a little white vinegar if you like.
This is a great side dish or even a quick main dish.
Chicken Piccata aka Lemon chicken – Just love this dish. It’s got a fresh, satisfying taste, fills you up and isn’t terribly complicated to prepare. The chicken can be served over rice, polenta, zucchini spirals, you name it. I prepared mine in our large electric skillet (this allowed me to cook all the cutlets at once versus a few batches in a saute pan). Preparation for this dish is everything.
Juice three lemons and slice one lemon. Chop up one leek (white part only), strain about 1/4 cup of capers, soften 2 tablespoons of butter and chop some fresh parsley. Salt & pepper both sides of boneless chicken breasts that are of similar thickness (this recipe is best with thinner pieces). Dredge chicken lightly in seasoned flour and place on wire rack. Next, heat EVOO in skillet or saute pan and saute chicken until cooked (cook time will vary on thickness). As pieces are cooked remove chicken and place on a warm plate. (This is where the magic happens.) Deglaze pan with about 2 cups of chicken broth and freshly squeezed lemon juice. After warmed through add butter, capers, chopped leeks and if you like some minced garlic. Cook an additional 5 minutes. I served this dish over rice. To plate it, add rice to center of plate, center a chicken breast on top of rice, spoon the lemon sauce over chicken and garnish with a slice of lemon and a dash of fresh parsley.
Sometimes a pot of soup cures you. It makes the house warm, smells great and soothes weary bones. Being 2020, we were expecting a major storm yesterday. Only six inches and 3 loaves of bread later, all we have is this great soup. My basic chicken soup starts with the trilogy (diced carrots, celery, onion) sauteed in EVOO and seasoned with a ton of fresh dill, thyme, salt and pepper. After trilogy is sweated (about 5 minutes) toss in the whole chicken, fill pot with water and cook for about 90 minutes. Turn flame off, let cool enough to handle and then carefully remove the chicken from pot (some folks like to wrap the chicken in cheese cloth to easily remove without the chicken falling apart). I use a large spider strainer and just scoop that birdie up (see pic below of this strainer). Let chicken cool then remove bones & skin from meat and toss bones & skin. Put meat back in pot and return to heat. I add more seasoning (dill, salt, pepper, thyme) and let it cook for about another 20 minutes. Serve with crusty buttered bread.
For this dinner we had some leftover appetizers from a dinner a few days ago. Some prosciutto, mortadella, fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers and kalamata olives made for a perfect starter.