Monday, December 15, 2008

Raffetto's Pumpkin Ravioli with Homemade Tomato Sauce

I don't know about you, but I am tired of Manhattan being overrun by chains. How many many banks, drug stores and frozen yogurt places does one borough need?

That is why I love Raffetto's on West Houston Street. In business since 1906, Raffetto's makes fresh pasta and ravioli right on the premises. While pasta and ravioli are their specialty, Raffetto's also sells homemade tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and other Italian products. Given the neighborhood, and the fact that it is Manhattan, you would think fresh pasta and ravioli would be expensive. But its not. Raffetto's is completely reasonable.

The other day I stopped by and picked up some of their pumpkin ravioli. The combination of pumpkin with a hint of nutmeg and other spices, topped with made-myself tomato sauce was delicious.

Homemade tomato sauce

Olive oil, one turn of the pan
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic
2 28 oz cans of whole, plum tomatoes
Italian seasoning, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Open cans of tomatoes and separate tomatoes from the juice. Reserve the juice. Crush each tomato by gently squeezing them with your hand, breaking them into pieces. If you like a chunkier sauce, then keep the tomato pieces bigger. Put the tomatoes to the side.

Heat oil over medium high heat in a large saucepan. Add garlic and onion. Cook until onions are soft. Add tomato juice and cook for two minutes. Then add the tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper. Simmer for half-an-hour, and then serve. Freeze any left over sauce in the freezer for future use.

144 W Houston St
New York, NY 10012-2546
(212) 777-1261

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cranberries, oh my

I know I am little late with the cranberries, as Thanksgiving as come and gone. But bear with me, because it has been crazy at work, and by the time I get home at night, all I want to do is fall into bed.

This Thanksgiving was the first Thanksgiving at my apartment, and while I didn't make the turkey (a broken oven, which has now been replaced by a brand spanking new one), I did make some sides. And the one I absolutely insisted on making was cranberry sauce. Let me tell you why.

I HATE canned jellied cranberry sauce. Each Thanksgiving, its slid out of its metal container, placed in a bowl and then sliced up like a roll of Pillsbury cookie dough. It just looks so manufactured. And who wants to eat essentially cranberry jello on their turkey? Not me. So this year I made real cranberry sauce, and the canned kind was banned from setting its little jelly foot in my apartment.

And it is was ridiculously easy. Embarrassingly easy. And I made it the night before. So the question remains: why do people eat canned cranberry sauce then?

Basic Cranberry Sauce
(from Everyday Food)
Yield: 2 cups

In a medium saucepan, combine 1 bag (12 oz.) cranberries, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp. grated lemon zest and 1 cup water. Bring mixture to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer, and cook until the cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer the cranberries to a bowl and let them cool to room temperature. To store, refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's All Greek (Yogurt) To Me

On any given day at my supermarket there just might be some kind of sale on Greek yogurt. And on any given day, you will find people going crazy over that sale - stocking up on Greek yogurt like they plan on being stuck in a bunker underground for who knows how long because the end is near, the end is near.

So, I had to see what all the fuss was about.

Until recently, I had never had Greek yogurt. Oh sure, I had heard about how good it was for you, and saw it in the supermarket and in the little convenience store in the building where I work, but I never purchased it because, well, I didn't think any kind of yogurt was worth that much.

But lo and behold. It was any given day and I was in luck - Fage brand Greek yogurt was on sale at my local supermarket. Fage (pronounced "fa-yeh") is Greece's largest dairy company. Their yogurt comes in different milk fats - classic, 0%, 2%, and 5%. Unbeknownst to me, I picked up the 5%, when if I had been paying attention, I would have chosen the 0%. I also chose the honey kind (they also make cherry, peach and strawberry) because I have been on a honey kick lately, eating it in my plain American yogurt and on my English muffins with peanut butter.

I decided to test out the yogurt at the end of a long work day. The yogurt was VERY thick. And it had a very strong taste. When coupled with the honey, which was also thick as a result of being stored in the refrigerator, the yogurt reminded me of cream cheese - cream cheese with a side of honey. Needless to say, by the time I was done, I was slightly nauseous.

Disappointed, I told me co-worker "I just don't understand what all the fuss is about Greek yogurt." Her response? "Try the Chobani brand - its not as thick and its fat free." Determined to understand the public's obsession with Greek yogurt, I picked up Chobani's peach non-fat yogurt.

The verdict? Chobani tastes better. So much better that I purchased the strawberry non-fat yogurt the next time it was on sale and yes, yes, I can understand why people really like this yogurt. Thick, but not too thick, fat free, and not overly sweet like other brands.

Now, I know it wasn't a far comparison because I didn't try Chobani's honey non-fat yogurt. But the consistency of Chobani, in my opinion, is just that much better. Plus, Chobani's honey is already mixed in (unlike Fage's which is served separately on the side) and I heard that it is not as good. So I guess each brand has its plus and minuses.

Now for the rest test: will I continue to purchase Greek yogurt now that I have had a taste?

Only if it is on sale.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dinosaur Bar B Que

I had to travel to Rochester for work and before I left, one of my co-workers suggested I try Dinosaur Bar B Que. Never one to pass up bbq, I Google mapped it to see how far it was from my hotel - less than a quarter of a mile - and like the anal person I am, started planning what sides I would order with my meal.

After I checked into my hotel around 7 p.m., I did the quick walk over to Court Street using my Google Map. Its always so strange to me when I travel to other cities just how desolate they are at night. I am used to Manhattan where it is more crowded on the streets at 1 a.m., then at 6 p.m., and the real desolation doesn't begin until 4 in the morning.

Dinosaur Bar B Que opened in 1998 in Rochester (there are also Syracuse and Harlem locations) and sits in the former LeHigh Valley Train Station overlooking the Genesee River. I went on a Thursday and there was a wait - for only one person! I couldn't believe how crowded it was for a Thursday night. I guess I now know why the streets were empty - everyone in Rochester was at Dinosaur Bar B Que!

Luckily, I didn't have to wait long, because I saw other co-workers there (or I should say they saw me) and sat down with them for dinner. I started with the fried green tomatoes, which were fried, sprinkled with Pecorino Romano cheese and served with a cayenne buttermilk ranch dressing. The fried green tomatoes were, well, alright. While I can't say for sure, they appeared to have been made in a factory and then frozen, which disappointed me. It was then on to Pork Bar-B-Que Platter with macaroni salad and bar-b-que beans. The pulled pork was served on a bun and while it claims to come piled high, it wasn't even close. I also found the pork to be very dry. Then there was the macaroni salad. The macaroni salad reminded me of the macaroni salad they used to serve in my college cafeteria in upstate New York. Needless to say, I didn't eat very much of it. Finally, there was the bar-b-que beans. The beans were better, but not earth shattering "Oh my God" good. The platter also came with their house-cured garlic-dill pickles. I was expecting to one or two pickle spears, but instead got two tiny pickle chips. Blink and you will miss them.

Overall, I found Dinosaur Bar B Que to be disappointing, especially since it claims that its supporters "swear by the authenticity of the place." I can't tell you whether it is authentic, but I can tell you what tastes good. I think there are lots of better bbq places out there, and even though it is a chain, Dallas BBQ still ranks at the top for me in NYC.

Dinosaur Bar B Que
99 Court Street
Rochester, N.Y. 14604

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Skillet Matzo Brei with Cinnamon, Apple, and Raisins

This is another recipe from Martha Stewart Living - the April 2008 issue - and comes from Gita Edelsburg, the mother-in-law of Monita Buchwald, recipe tester at Martha Stewart Living. Made with Matzo, a cracker-like flatbread made from white plain flour and water that is typically eaten as a substitute for bread during the Jewish holiday of Passover, this recipe is different than your typical pancakes and french toast.

After soaking the matzo in water for five minutes, you combine eggs, salt, sugar, apples (I used Macintosh instead of Granny Smith), raisins (I used golden raisins), cinnamon, and oil. The mixture is gently stirred together and then evenly spread over a heated skillet. Each side is cooked for about five minutes or until brown and then it is ready to serve. I drizzled honey and then maple syrup over the top for a sweet - but not too sweet - start to my morning.

Skillet Matzo Brei with Cinnamon, Apple, and Raisins
Yield: 4 servings

5 matzos, broken into 2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsps. vegetable oil
Fruit preserves, creme fraiche, honey, or maple syrup, for serving (optional)

1. Place matzos in a bowl, and cover with water. Place a plate on the surface to keep the matzos submerged. Let matzos and water stand for 5 minutes, and then drain the water. Return the matzos to the bowl.

2. Whisk eggs and salt together in a bowl. Add the egg and salt mixture to the matzo. Then add the sugar, apple, raisins, cinnamon, and 1/2 cup oil. Gently stir the mixture until combined.

3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spread the matzo mixture evenly in the skillet, making sure to press the mixture firmly into the skillet. Cook, undisturbed, for 5 minutes. Carefully flip the mixture with a spatula, 1 piece at a time. (The mixture will break into 3 or 4 pieces.) Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Spoon the matzo brei onto serving plates. Serve hot or warm with toppings if desired.

Friday, November 14, 2008

German Sausages with Apples, Sauerkraut, and Onion

Although Oktoberfest and the month of October has come and gone, I found myself coming back to this recipe I found in the October issue of Martha Stewart Living. German sausages on top of sauerkraut mixed with apples and caramelized onions is just perfect for a cold November day. Plus, this recipe can be made in relatively little time with plenty of left overs. Just cook up some German sausages (I used bratwurst), put them to the side, then cook up the apples and onions in the same pan until soft, add the sauerkraut to the apples and onions and cook until heated through. It's as simple as that. A perfect cold weather dish sure to wake you from those cold-weather blahs.

German Sausages With Apples, Sauerkraut, and Onion
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 to 2 tbsps. vegetable oil
12 links assorted fully cooked German sausages (such as bratwurst or smoked knockwurst)
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
2 crisp red apples, such as Gala or Braeburn, cored and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/4 cup apple cider
1 lb. sauerkraut
3 large sour pickles, quartered, for serving
1 Kirby cucumber, peeled and sliced lengthwise into eighths, for serving
Assorted mustards, for serving

1. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, and add 1 tablespoon oil. Halve sausages lengthwise if desired. Cook until browned and heated through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, and cover to keep warm.

2. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to skillet if necessary. Add onion, and cook for 3 minutes. Add apples, stir, and cook until softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in cider, and cook for 1 minute. Add sauerkraut, and heat until warmed through, about 2 minutes.

3. Transfer sauerkraut to a warm serving platter, and top with the sausages. Serve with pickles, cucumber, and mustards. (Sausages and sauerkraut can be kept warm, covered, in a 250 degree oven for up to 1 hour.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Last Friday my friends and I had tickets to see Death of a Salesman at a little community theater in Brooklyn. Since the show did not start until 8:00 p.m., we decided dinner nearby would be the best idea. My friend, an avid foodie, picked Lunetta ("little moon" in Italian) in Brooklyn because she loves their food. I must admit - when she first showed me the menu, I was a little skeptical. There didn't appear to be many choices, but I was willing to give it a try.

Since we went after work, we were one of the first groups in there. While we were placed near a window in a cozy corner, Lunetta does have a bar that one can sit at and watch the food being made. We started off with the ricotta (they make their own) with honey and lemon bruschetta, and it simply stated, it was amazing. The Italian bread was slathered with fresh ricotta and then drizzled with honey and lemon. My friends also had the escarole and radicchio salad with garlic, anchovy and lemon, and loved how fresh and light the salad tasted.

For the main course I ordered the orecchiette, rapini (broccoli raab) and housemade fennel sausage. Simple ingredients yet the dish was so flavorful and tasty. Plus the portion size was just perfect - not so small that I was starving later, nor was it so large that there was no way that I could finish the dish. Rather, the portion size is best described as the portion I would serve myself if I was at home cooking the dish. For their main courses, my friends sampled the papperdelle with Berkshire pork ragu, and one of the specials, the squid ink pasta with Shrimp. They also ordered a side of smashed pumpkin with brown butter and honey. All three, in my friends opinions, were simply amazing.

Whenever possible, Lunetta uses sustainable, local and organic produce, fish and meats, and you can certainly tell when sampling their menu.

Overall, I absolutely love this restaurant - it is my new favorite, and I don't think I can adequately express in words how good the dishes are. The menu is simple, but the dishes themselves are so fresh and pack so much flavor. This is truly food at its best.

116 Smith Street (between Pacific and Dean)
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11217

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sanclodio 2005

I think I am in love. And it is not with a man. (Or a woman for that matter.) Rather, I am in love with a bottle of wine. Sanclodio 2005 to be exact. Let me tell you how we met.

It was a Friday night in October. I was attending the opening night of "Tributes," a flamenco show at the Joyce SoHo. We were promised food and drink, but I wasn't expecting much, as you know how these opening nights go. The lady behind the table was offering red and white. I chose the white, my friend chose the red. We wandered over to some other people we knew, and I took a sip. Love at first taste. I don't profess to be a wine connessiuer, but I know what I like. And I like Sanclodio 2005. Not too sweet, not to dry. Just perfect, and easy to drink.

Sanclodio 2005 is an unoaked white wine produced in the Ribeiro region of Spain. The Ribeiro wine region of Spain is located in the province of Orense and covers 3,000 hectares. This region has 112 vineyards (or bodegas as they are otherwise called), which produce 12.8 millon liters of wine per year.

This wine is not easy to find. I have been in a few wine stores in the city, and while I have found a few red wines from this region, I have not found my beloved Sanclodio 2005. In fact, the only place that I know has it is Marble Hill Cellars, which provided the wine at the flamenco show. Located in Brooklyn on Bay Ridge Avenue, Marble Hill Cellars primarily represents small, artisan, signature wineries that are owned by families, individual winemakers or small groups of friends who are committed to producing wines that are authentic expressions of Spanish native grape varieties. They not only offer Sanclodio 2005, but a host of other wines from the Navarra, Limari Valley, Rioja and Bierzo regions as well.

If you want to meet my new love, you can contact Marble Hill Cellars at 917-972-2540 or sales[AT]marblehillcellars[DOT]com.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Dzien Dobry, Pierogies

Mmm pierogies. The food of my childhood. These little dumplings filled with a mixture of potato, onion, cheese, meat or sauerkraut and mushroom were always around. Growing up, it was a tradition that every Christmas Eve, we ate a Polish dinner with my Polish and Russian grandparents. The dinner always started with my grandmother coming around with the honey-dipped wafer blessed by the priest. Then the adults would start on the first course of gifilte fish (noticed that I said adults - my sister and I would never touch the grey looking lump of fish covered in viscous material), followed by the main course: the pierogies and potato pancakes.

Until she passed away, my grandmother always brought me pierogies whenever she visited. All of her Polish and Ukrainian friends knew I loved pierogies, so they would make stacks and stacks of them, freeze them and then pass them along to my grandmother for me.

Today, I still love pierogies. With my grandmother and her friends gone, it is difficult to find real pierogies, unless you go to Polish deli. And forget about those supermarket pierogies you find in your freezer section in a blue box - they are absolutely dreadful. Pale, watery, insipid, they are nothing like real pierogies.

So I decided that I would carry on the tradition and attempt to make them myself.

I used a recipe one of the secretary's at work found in the free local newspaper. These are "Raymund's Place" pierogies, a restaurant on Bedford Avenue in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn (where nearly half of the residents are Polish).

The filling and the dough are very easy to make. For the filling, you basically make mashed potatoes, and then add a large egg, salt and pepper, fried onions and farmers cheese. I don't like cheese in my pierogies so I omitted it. I also found the filling to be a little dry, so next time, I will add some milk and butter to the mashed potatoes like I normally would.

The dough is very easy to make as well, as it is only flour, margarine, an egg, water and salt. Putting the two together, however, can be tricky. While the recipe calls for a heaping teaspoon of filling, I had trouble sealing the pierogis with that much filling inside (although that may be due to my lack of pierogi making skills), so I only put in half that much. Making sure the pierogies were sealed was also tricky, as the dough was very sticky. But adding flour to my hands, and sometimes to the pierogi itself, helped.

While this recipe states that it makes about fifty pierogies, I found that it only made about twenty-five to thirty. Since I clearly could not eat this many pierogies in one sitting, I placed the pierogies on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper as I made them, and then put them in the freezer. Once they were frozen, I stored them in freezer bags. (Freezing before storing ensures that the pierogies do not stick together.)

After I finished making the piergoies, and finished cleaning up the flour that I had gotten EVERYWHERE, I dropped a few into boiling water for my dinner, praying that I had sealed them properly. And success! They stayed sealed! Disaster averted!

I served the pierogies with butter and sour cream, and they were delicious. Just like my grandma('s friends) used to make.

Raymund's Place Pierogies


4 1/2 cups flour
6 tbsps. margarine
1 egg
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp. salt

Potato and Cheese Filling:
2 lbs. Idaho potatoes
1 lb. farmer's cheese
1 large onion
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter or margarine for frying

1 8 oz. container sour cream
1/2 lb. bacon


The Dough:
Sift the flour into a large bowl and stir in softened margarine, egg, water and salt. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead mixture until dough is sticky. If necessary, sprinkle on additional flour or a few drops of water. Let dough sit for 30 minutes.

The Filling:
Peel potatoes and cut into small pieces. Put the potatoes in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook 20 minutes or until soft.

While potatoes are boiling, finely chop the onion and fry in butter until golden brown. Set aside about 1/5 of an onion for garnish.

Fry bacon. Drain on paper towels. When cool, crumble into bits and reserve for garnish.

Once potatoes have cooked, mash them until soft. Add fried onions, farmer's cheese, egg, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

Putting the Filling and Dough Together:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Sprinkle counter surface and rolling pin liberally with flour to prevent dough from sticking. Take a portion of the dough (amount will depend on how big your working surface is) and roll until it is about 1/8 inch thick.

Cut circles in the dough, using the top of a standard-size drinking glass.

Place a heaping teaspoon of filling on each circle. Fold each circle around the filling and pinch in the center. Then pinch around each side to close, creating a half-moon shape. Make sure to throughly seal each pierogi.

Once all the pierogies are made, drop in boiling water, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. (Depending on the size of your pot, you can cook 20-25 at one time.) The pierogies are done when they float to the top, about 8-10 minutes.

Serve with sour cream, fried onions and fried bacon bits.

Raymund's Place
124 Bedford Avenue (between 10th and 11th Streets)
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11211

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ode to a California Pomegranate

It's that time of year again. And no, I don't mean Monday night football or Christmas shopping, but rather pomegranate time. I see them everywhere I go - at the corner bodegas or resting next to the apples on the sidewalk fruit carts. I will gladly spend half an hour picking out the rich red arils and popping them into my mouth, leaving behind nothing more than pith and rind.

A native of the region stretching from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India, the pomegranate tree was first introduced in California by Spanish settlers in 1769. Today, pomegranates grown in the United States mainly originate from California and Arizona, and are only available from September until January.

Pomegranates and their juice are most famous for their nutritional value. High in vitamin C and potassium, pomegranate juice has a high level of three different types of polyphenols: tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid. These polyphenols are a potent form of antioxidants that are believed to prevent cancer and heart disease. And at only 80 calories per half cup of arils, are a low fat snack.

I recently learned the best way of cutting open a pomegranate and digging out the arils. In the past I had cut the pomegranate any old which way, and proceeded to break it apart in the same manner. Not only did this make a mess, but it wasn't the easiest way to dig the arils out. However, the other day, I decided that there HAD to be a better way of removing the arils, so I did a little research, and this is what I found.

First, remove the crown by cutting around the top like you would with a pumpkin. You will notice that the pomegranate has five sections. Cut the skin down the side from the stem to the crown end at each of the five section divisions. Then, gently break the sections apart. Once the sections are broken apart, pull back the skin and scoop out the arils. After breaking the sections apart, you can also place the pomegranate into a bowl of water to make the separating the arils from the pith and rind a little easier.

Photo by digiyesica at flickr.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Good Enough to Eat

Today I ventured to the upper west side to have brunch with one of my friends at Good Enough to Eat. I initially caught wind of this restaurant in last week's Page Six Magazine, which did an article on the "100 Best Brunch Spots in New York." Good Enough to Eat was one of them.

The plan was to meet my friend outside the restaurant at 10:30 a.m. A block away, I could see that there was a LONG line outside, and I have to say: I hate waiting on lines. Briefly I thought about going somewhere else, but decided to wait it out. Luckily, the line moved fast.

Good Enough to Eat is a tiny restaurant with a farmhouse theme and cow paraphernalia placed throughout. Diners sit close to each other, which is not unusual in New York City, but claustrophobes beware. There are lots of great choices on the menu - the apple pancake (one large pancake filled with apple slices, topped with apple-raisin compote, a dollop of sour cream and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar) and the deep south eggs (three scrambled eggs with biscuits and sausage gravy) caught my eye, but I ultimately decided upon the pumpkin french toast (homemade pumpkin bread topped with a pear/cranberry compote), while my friend decided upon one of the specials: Aaron's quesadillas.

Given how crowded the restaurant was, the service was fast, so we didn't have to wait long for our food. However, I was ultimately disappointed with my choice. I tasted the french toast before I put maple syrup on top, and it tasted faintly of pumpkin. However, once I poured the maple syrup on, the french toast tasted well, like regular french toast. Also, the fruit compote was apportioned sparingly - a few pear pieces, and all of three cranberries.

My friend's quesadillas, however were fantastic. Served with a side salad of mixed greens and a mild salsa sauce, the quesadillas consisted of scrambled eggs, cheese, green bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, and chorizo. A taste of the quesadillas had me wishing I had ordered those instead.

So ultimately, the pumpkin french toast wasn't for me, but Good Enough to Eat has lots of great items on the menu and you can be sure that I will be back to sample them.

Good Enough to Eat
483 Amsterdam Avenue
(Between 83rd and 84th Streets)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pasta e Fagioli

Last weekend, when debating what I should make for my lunch during the week, I decided upon Pasta e Fagioli, which means "Pasta and Beans" in Italian. I used Rachel Ray's recipe, which was extremely easy to make.

However, there was one problem with the recipe....

Rachel's recipe instructs you to cook the pasta in the soup. Bad idea. I knew knew knew it was going to be a bad idea, yet against my better judgment I blindly followed Rachel's instructions only to be disappointed. I blame hunger.

While cooking the pasta in the soup works if you eat the soup right away, it does not work if you plan on having leftovers (which you will unless you are Jon and Kate Plus 8). The result? Ten minutes after taking it off the stove, the pasta soaked up all the liquid like a sponge. Alas, soup no more.

My suggestion is to shun Rachel's instructions this one time, and cook the pasta on the side. Then you can add it directly to the soup when you ready to eat it, thereby avoiding soup-less leftovers.

What you will need:

2 tbsp. (or 2 turns around the pan) extra virgin olive oil
1/8 lb. (about 3 slices) of pancetta, chopped (I used turkey bacon for a healthier alternative)
2 (4-6 inch ) sprigs of rosemary
1 (4-6 inch) sprig of thyme
1 large fresh bay leaf or 2 dry bay leaves (I used Italian seasoning in place of the rosemary, thyme and bay leaf)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped (I only used 2 cloves)
Salt and Pepper
2 (15 oz.) cans of Cannellini beans
1 cup canned tomato sauce or canned crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
1 quart (or 32 oz.) chicken stock
1 1/2 cups ditalini pasta
Grated Parmigiano or Romano, for the table
Crusty bread, for dipping

How to put it all together:

Heat the oil in a deep pot over medium high heat. Add the pancetta and brown lightly. Then add the herb stems, bay leaf, chopped vegetables and garlic. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.

Add the beans, tomato sauce, water and chicken stock and raise heat to high. Bring soup to a rapid boil and add pasta. (**This part I do not recommend.**) Reduce heat to medium and cook soup, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes or until the pasta is cooked al dente. Rosemary and thyme leaves will separate from stems as soup cooks.

Remove herb stems and bay leaf from soup and place pot on the table on a trivet. Let the soup rest and begin to cool for a few minutes. Then ladle the soup into bowls and top with lots of grated cheese. Pass the crusty bread for bowl mopping.

Makes 6 big servings.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Peppers for Cold Meats

I found this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, The Wednesday Chef. She, in turn, found this recipe (by Auguste Escoffier) in the L.A. Times. When I saw it on her blog, I thought it looked simple enough to make. So, when I was told we would be having roast chicken on Sunday, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try this recipe.

What you will need:

4 tbsps. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 lb. sweet red peppers, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. mixed spices (nutmeg, allspice)
1 lb. ripe tomatoes peeled and chopped, or 3/4 of a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of raisins
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup red wine vinegar.

How to put it all together:

Start by heating the oil in a big pot, and then add the onions. Fry the onions over low heat until softened. Then add the peppers, ginger and mixed spices. Cook for ten minutes. After ten minutes, add the tomatoes, garlic, raisins, sugar and vinegar. Cook over very low heat, covered, for an hour and fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. After an hour and fifteen minutes, uncover the pot and cook for an additional five to ten minutes. Store in the refrigerator overnight for enhanced flavor.

I ended up modifying this recipe a little by using golden raisins instead of regular, and using 1/2 a tsp. of nutmeg alone, since I did not have any allspice. I also used the entire diced can of tomatoes with the liquid, and did not find the peppers to be watery as a result. I also left the pot to cook uncovered for an additional seven minutes.

This recipe makes a lot of peppers, so if it is just one or two of you, then I would suggest halving the recipe. Also, while this recipe is delicious with meats, a little goes a long way. Think of the peppers as a condiment that you would use like mayo or mustard. I never got a chance to try the peppers out with cold meat - I ended up leaving the left overs with my family - but we did eat it with the hot roast chicken, and it was a hit. Since I don't particularly like eating hot meat with cold condiments, I took the peppers out of the fridge before serving so they could warm up to room temperature.

The result: