Monthly Archives: September 2010

Sausage & Lentil Ciambotta

(Sorry this picture is blurry… it was taken with my iphone.)
I just got back from a work conference in Columbus, OH.  It was my company’s conference, so I was working the entire time.  It was a crazy 4 days, but now I’m back home and back to the grind.   Before I left for the conference, I decided to make a hearty, Italian stew called Ciambotta (chom-bow-tah).  Ciambotta is the name of an Italian stew that is made up of a medley of vegetables and/or meat or seafood.  When I was growing up, my mom used to make this dish all the time.  Sometimes she would make little meatballs and add those to the ciambotta instead of the sausages.  Italian Americans like to use the term to refer to anything that is a mish-mash or jumbled together.  This recipe is easy to make and gives you the freedom to add whatever vegetables and/or protein you desire.  This dish is also great because it makes enough leftovers for lunch!
Ingredients:
  • 4 Italian sausage links (mild or hot)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 lb green beans, cleaned and halved
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz.)
  • 1 can cannellini beans (14 oz.)
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1 cup chicken stock (or water)
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • salt & pepper to season
Directions:
  1. In a saute pan over medium heat, cook sausages until browned in middle and set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onions, carrots, and sweet potato. Cook until soft, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the string beans, diced tomatoes, cannellini beans,*cooked lentils, chicken stock, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and pepper and simmer on low until the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  4. Cut the sausages into small bites and add to the stew. Simmer on low for another 5 minutes.
  5. Serve stew warm with fresh bread.
* Lentil Directions:
  1. Soak dried lentils according to package directions.
  2. Drain lentils, place in a sauce pan, and cover with water.
  3. Bring water to a boil for 2 minutes.
  4. Lower heat and simmer until lentils are tender.
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Filed under Main Course, Soup & Salad

Corn Chowder

(I realize this photo stinks b/c you can’t see any corn, but I swear it’s in there somewhere!)

As the weather gets cooler, I naturally begin to crave soups and stews.  At my husband’s urging, I decided to make some corn chowder.  It came out tasting delicious with a hint of heat due to leaving the seeds in the jalapenos.  This chowder had a bit more liquid than I would’ve liked — I was really looking forward to a thick, chunky chowder.  While the taste was spot on, the next time I make this, I’ll use less chicken stock (at least 1 cup less).  This is such an easy recipe to make because you can add whatever vegetables you like and tweak the liquid based on the consistency you want.  We ate this chowder with fresh olive bread that soaked up the broth nicely.  Also, I used frozen corn since fresh corn is at the end of its peak.  If you don’t use fresh corn, be sure to use frozen rather than canned.  Canned vegetables and fruits should be your last option after fresh and frozen (respectively).  They have less nutrients and more added preservatives and sodium.  Feel free to make this chowder in your slow cooker as well, just be sure to sauté your vegetables beforehand so they soften up a bit.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 jalapenos, diced (seed removed for less heat)
  • 1 lb small potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (3 1/2 – 4 cups for thicker chowder)
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 3 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a heavy stock pot and add onion, carrots, and jalapenos and cook for about 8 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes, broth, and thyme and simmer, covered, until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add corn and cream and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.
  4. Add sea salt and pepper.
  5. Serve with a thick, crusty bread.

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Filed under Main Course, Soup & Salad

Panna Cotta with Concord Grape Gelée

For one of my anniversary desserts at restaurant 2941, we had an Italian panna cotta with a concord grape gelee (jelly). It was smooth and creamy and the flavors were so unique that I decided I would have to try to make this recipe. Panna cotta means cooked cream in Italian and when eaten alone, it reminds me of custard or flan. The restaurant served this dish with a biscotti which was perfect because it added some texture and crunch to the smoothness of the jelly and custard. The recipe I found has been adapted from Gourmet magazine and it turned out extremely tasty and quite similar to the panna cotta I had at the restaurant.
This panna cotta recipe called for 2 tbsp of Grappa. Grappa is an Italian alcohol that is distilled from grape skins and seeds that are leftover after the juice has been removed for wine. It sounds delicious right? Wrong! Grappa is one of the worst and most potent things I’ve ever tasted; the only reason I have a bottle of it is because I brought one back from Italy when I studied abroad back in 2004. It tastes the same way it did 6 years ago…awful. Grappa is a digestivo or digestive and many Italians sip on this after dinner because it aids in digestion. I was quite surprised that this recipe called for it, but I’ve never used it to cook before, so I decided to give it a try. To my surprise, the grappa ended up giving the panna cotta a very pleasant and unique flavor! You definitely do not need to go out and buy a bottle of grappa, but if you happen to have one stowed away in the back of your liquor cabinet, then definitely bring it out for this recipe. You can also use vanilla extract, almond extract, Sambucca (anise flavor) or Frangelico (hazelnut flavor). I sprinkled crushed almonds on top of my panna cotta to add some crunch; biscotti or even crumbled amaretti cookies would be delicious as well. Hope you enjoy this recipe!

Gelée Ingredients:
  • 1 tsp unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-oz envelope)
  • 1 cup Concord grape juice
  • 1/2 cup Concord grapes
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Vegetable oil or spray for greasing ramekins

Panna cotta Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp unflavored gelatin (from another 1/4-oz envelope)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups low-fat plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp Grappa (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Crushed almonds, biscotti, or crumbled amaretti cookies for sprinkling

Gelée Directions:

  1. Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup grape juice in a 1-quart heavy saucepan and let stand 1 minute to soften.
  2. Bring to a simmer, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 3/4 cup grape juice with lemon juice, grapes, and grappa.
  4. Lightly oil or spray ramekins and put in a shallow baking pan. Divide grape mixture among ramekins and chill in freezer until just set, about 30 minutes.

Panna cotta Directions (Make while gelée sets):

  1. Stir together gelatin and 1/4 cup cream in cleaned 1-quart heavy saucepan and let stand 1 minute to soften.
  2. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
  3. Add remaining 3/4 cup cream with brown sugar and return to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
  4. Whisk together yogurt, grappa, and salt until smooth in a large measuring cup, then pour in cream mixture and whisk until combined well.
  5. Pour mixture into ramekins (over set gelée) and chill in refrigerator, covered, until firm, at least 8 hours.
  6. To unmold, run a thin sharp knife along edge of each ramekin to loosen, then dip in a small bowl of very warm water 6 seconds. Invert a plate over each ramekin and then invert panna cotta with gelée onto plates, gently lifting off ramekins.
  7. Top panna cotta with almonds for added crunch. Biscotti or amaretti cookies are also good served with this as well.

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Filed under Desserts

Ribeye Steak with Balsamic, Fig & Rosemary Reduction


This past Sunday, September 19th was my 1-year anniversary! It’s hard to believe it’s already been 1 year; time definitely flies. We decided to celebrate our anniversary on Saturday evening by going to the Washingtonian’s #6 best restaurant, 2941. We decided to do the 6-course tasting menu along with a wine pairing. This dinner was absolutely exquisite. I wanted to take pictures of all the food, but it just wasn’t the place to do so, not to mention I was completely preoccupied for 2 hours eating everything off my plate. The food was amazing and the wine pairings were superb. We had some delicious food including the following:
Corn Velouté
lump crab, jalapeño

Chestnut Ravioli
Robiola cheese, summer truffle, argan oil

Squab Breast
chestnut custard, butternut squash, huckleberry jus

Concord grape mousse glacé
fromage blanc panna cotta scented with rosemary

This was only 4 of the dishes that we had (we actually had more like 8 dishes because the concord grape mousse was a pre-dessert (whatever that means?), and we were also given a third surprise dessert for our anniversary. Overall, 2941 is a unique, French-inspired restaurant that uses local and seasonal ingredients. Not only did the food taste divine, the presentation was pristine. This was our first tasting menu experience, and it was definitely worth every penny. This may become our new anniversary tradition! Because our official anniversary was yesterday, we decided to get some nice steaks for dinner. I made these ribeye steaks with a balsamic reduction that I added fresh rosemary and dried figs too. The reduction pairs nicely with the peppery flavor of the steaks. I served the steak with some broccoli rabe that had been sauteed in olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes and then topped with parmesan cheese. This is the perfect dish for a special occasion!
Ingredients:
  • 2 boneless rib-eye steaks (1 pound each)
  • ground peppercorns
  • sea salt
  • 3 dried figs finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Heat grill pan over medium heat until pan is sizzling
  2. Pat steaks dry and coat both sides with crushed peppercorns and salt, pressing to adhere.
  3. Cook each steak 6 minutes per side for medium and 4 minutes each side for medium-rare.
  4. Transfer steaks to a plate.
  5. Meanwhile, heat a saute pan over medium-high heat and add vinegar, figs, and rosemary and bring to a boil. Once sauce is boiling, lower heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until figs are soft and vinegar has reduced by half.
  6. Remove from heat and drizzle reduction over steaks.

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Filed under Main Course

Warm Apple Crisp

It has been a busy, long work week, so I decided to make something comforting — warm apple crisp.  This is my mother’s recipe, and it’s simple, but so delicious and satisfying.  It’s not exactly healthy, but sometimes when you’re having a tiring week, you need some food loving.  This is the perfect dish just for that occasion; it doesn’t require a lot of ingredients, and it’s easy to whip up on a moment’s notice.  Also, if you have apples that are starting to go soft, this is a perfect way to use them up.  You can eat this cold, but I love to eat it warm, right out of the oven.  A dollop of yogurt, whip cream, or vanilla ice cream makes it even better.  Enjoy!

What are some of your favorite comfort foods?

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
  • 6 cups peeled and sliced apples, like McIntosh
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp maple sugar (optional)
  • 3 tbsp water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix oats, flour, and sugar in a large bowl.
  3. With a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into oat mix until crumbly.
  4. In another bowl, peel and roughly slice the apples.
  5. Add sugar, cinnamon, maple sugar, and water and mix.
  6. Coat a 13 x 9 inch pan with cooking spray.
  7. Distribute apples on the bottom of the pan.
  8. Sprinkle crumb topping generously over.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. Serve warm with yogurt or vanilla ice cream

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Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Schiacciata con L’uva (Focaccia with Grapes)

Concord grapes are currently in season and are not only delicious to eat alone, but to bake with as well. I decided to make Schiacciata con L’uva, or Focaccia with grapes, using a recipe I found from Gourmet magazine . Schiacciata (ski-a-cha-ta) means “flattened down,” and in Tuscany, the term generally refers to flatbread or focaccia. During the grape harvest season, Tuscans make this not-too-sweet dessert that is said to be of Etruscan origin. When baked, the flavor of the Concord grapes is enhanced and gives that wonderful Welch’s grape juice flavor that is reminiscent of childhood. This bread is moist, soft, and has a distinctive grape flavor that will make you want to grab a jar of peanut butter out of your cupboard. Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have!
Have you ever baked with Concord grapes?  If so, share your recipe.
Ingredients:
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3 tbsp Chianti or other dry red wine
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 3/4 cup warm water (110–115°F)
  • 2 1/2-3 cups half all-purpose flour and half cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3 1/2 cups Concord*
  • 1/2 cup sugar

*Do not pit the grapes—it’s difficult to do and too much liquid will exude from them into the dough.

Directions:

  1. Stir together yeast, wine, honey, and warm water in a large bowl until yeast is dissolved. Let stand until bubbly, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in 1 cup flour (mixture will be lumpy). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 40 to 50 minutes.
  3. Add oil, 1 1/2 cups flour, and sea salt and stir until a sticky dough forms.
  4. Knead dough in stand mixer or on a floured work surface, gradually adding up to 1/2 cup more flour if necessary to keep dough from sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic but still soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer dough to an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  6. Turn out dough onto work surface and knead several times to release air.
  7. Cut dough in half. Roll out 1 piece of dough, keeping remaining piece covered, with a lightly floured rolling pin into a rough 12- by 10-inch rectangle. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan and gently stretch to cover as much as possible of bottom (dough may not fit exactly).
  8. Scatter half of grapes over dough, then sprinkle grapes with 1/4 cup sugar.
  9. Roll out remaining piece of dough in same manner and put on top of grapes, gently stretching dough to cover grapes.
  10. Scatter remaining grapes and 1/4 cup sugar on top and gently press into dough. Cover pan with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  11. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  12. Bake schiacciata in middle of oven until well browned and firm in middle, 30-40 minutes.
  13. Loosen sides and bottom of schiacciata with a spatula and slide onto a rack to cool. Serve at room temperature.

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Filed under Baked Goods, Bread

Beet Risotto

I went to my farmer’s market this past weekend and bought some beautiful beets that my husband and I decided to cook for our Sunday dinner. I found this wonderful Beet risotto recipe on Epicurious that is easy to make and uses very few ingredients. Normally, I use chicken stock for my risotto, but the beets are so flavorful that I used water and a 1/2 cup red wine. The risotto came out creamy and rich; the color was a beautiful, deep red. This dish was perfect with a glass of Italian red wine and a slice of fresh bread.

Have you ever used beets in risotto before? What other unique ingredients have you used in risotto?

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 pound red beets with greens (about 3 medium)
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine like Chianti
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon bottled horseradish

Directions:

  1. Dice the onion, trim and cut the beet greens into rough slices, and dice the beet stems. Peel beets and cut into fine dice. In a small saucepan, bring water to a simmer and keep at a constant simmer.
  2. In a large saucepan, cook onion in butter over moderate heat until softened about 5 minutes.
  3. Add beets and stems and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.
  5. Stir in 1 cup simmering water and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a strong simmer, until absorbed.
  6. Continue cooking at a strong simmer and adding water, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next.
  7. After 10 minutes, stir in greens and continue cooking and adding water and the wine, about 1/2 cup at a time until rice is tender and creamy-looking, about 8 minutes more (You might not use up all the water).
  8. Remove pan from heat and stir in Parmesan.

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Filed under Main Course