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Archive for August, 2007

Lee Bailey is the author of several cookbooks that I have read. Every recipe of his that I have tried, we have enjoyed very much. I furnished one of his recently, Honey Custard with Gingersnap Crumbs. Here is a tasty entree that would go well with that dessert. I would probably serve some type of potato casserole and broccoli with this.

This is a quick-fix dish, probably only takes fifteen to twenty minutes, if you practice “mis en place”, and have everything pre-cut and measured before actually starting to cook.

Pan-Fried Pork Medallions with Rosemary Scallion Sauce

Serves 6

1/2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper, white or black

2 lb. boneless pork loin, sliced in 1/4″ slices, and pounded slightly
2 T. olive oil, maybe a little more
1 1/4 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. white wine
1 T. white wine vinegar
2-3 med. scallions, thinly sliced
1 T. each, minced fresh parsley and rosemary
2 T. butter
1/2 t. pepper

1. Heat oil in large skillet. Mix the flour, salt and 1/4 t. pepper together in a shallow plate. Dredge the pork in the flour mixture. Fry meat in batches, 3 minutes per side, until the bottom edges begin to brown. Don’t overcrowd the skillet. Add oil by the teaspoon if necessary. Transfer pork to a platter.

2. Deglaze the pan with wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Add the broth and vinegar. Add scallions and herbs. Boil to reduce the sauce and thicken it slightly, about 5 minutes. Return the pork to the skillet to rewarm, about 3-5 minutes on medium heat.

3. Swirl the 2 T. butter into the sauce and stir in the remaining pepper.

4. Serve the pork with the sauce.

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Of all the canned goods I buy, I’ll wager that I buy more cans of chicken broth than any other. I sometimes make my own broth, if I am cooking lots of chicken parts for chicken salad, or another recipe calling for cooked chicken pieces. If I roast a chicken, which I do more in the winter than the summer, I will boil the carcass for broth. When I do, I usually make something that uses it all within the next day or two and rarely have any left to freeze. Therefore, I seldom have good homemade broth on hand when a recipe calls for a half-cup or more.

I usually buy Swansons, low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth, both in the 14 oz. can and the quart box. I have found, however, a brand called Pacific Natural Foods that makes a 4-pack of one cup packages, just right for those “add one cup broth” recipes. Although not particularly low in sodium, I can usually adjust for that by reducing the amount of salt called for in the rest of the ingredients. It is much better than using as 14-oz can and wasting the leftovers, usually by forgetting the remainder hiding in the back of the refrigerator. Somehow, I seldom remember to freeze that little bit of broth, or, if I do freeze it, it gets lost in the depths of the freezer, only to be confused later with that little baggie of lemon or lime juice I wanted to save. If I was a wise cook, and I never thought I was, I would roast an inexpensive chicken, once a week, get two meals from it right away, then make good broth with the remains, freeze or use it during the week in other recipes. sounds like a New Year’s resolution to me.

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There is something exquisitely comforting about custard, in all its forms. Puddings, flans, cream pies, creme brulees. Whether warm or cold, the creamy softness feels as good as it tastes. Creme brulee, with its crispy top as a foil for the smooth filling, is an especially pleasant dessert.

Here is another custard dessert with a surprise topping. Unlike creme brulee, that is cooked in two steps, this one requires only one. In fact, it is baked upside down, the topping revealed when the dish is inverted on a dessert plate. By the way, this is an excellent dessert to serve to guests because it must be prepared at least 5 hours in advance.

Here’s the recipe: (from an old Food and Wine magazine or cookbook, the recipe by Lee Bailey.)

Serves 6
1-2 T. butter
1/4 c. plus 2 T. honey
12 gingersnaps (broken into fine crumbs)*
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla
4 eggs
1/4 c. sugar, plus 2 T.
2 1/2 c. milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter (6) half-cup custard cups. Spoon 1 T. honey in the bottom of each. Sprinkle the gingersnap crumbs evenly over the honey. Place in 9 x 13 baking pan.

2. Whisk eggs. Whisk in sugar, salt and vanilla. Stir in milk to blend thoroughly and dissolve most of the sugar. Strain into cups. Fill almost to the brims. (The gingernsap crumbs will rise to the surface.) Pour hot water into the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the custard cups.

3. Bake 30-45 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center of the custards comes out clean. Let cool in the pan with water. Then refrigerate at least 4 hours.

4. Run a knife around the edge of the custards and invert onto a dessert plates, coating the custards with the liquid in the bottom of each cup.

* I put the broken gingersnaps into a plastic freezer bag and roll the bag with my rolling pin to make the crumbs. You could use a processor if you want.

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You can find recipes anyplace, even when you’re not looking. That’s one reason my collection of recipes keeps growing. I estimate that I need to live to the age of 327 just to prepare all the chicken recipes that I have collected.

Here’s one I found, not too surprisingly, on a package of boneless chicken breasts in a grocery in upstate New York a number of years ago. We were vacationing with my sister and brother-in-law at their wonderful house in the Adirondack Mountains near Keene and Keene Valley. It was my turn to cook dinner and this dish was the entree. I don’t remember the rest of the meal, but I made sure to keep this recipe, for years still on the plastic wrapper of the chicken taped to another piece of paper. Now it is safely committed to the ether as well as one of my cookbooks. I hope you enjoy it.

(Note: If you don’t have chili paste, use hot sauce instead. But don’t substitute ground ginger for fresh.)

SERENDIPITOUS GRILLED CHICKEN

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. oil
2 T. minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 t. minced fresh garlic
1 t. chili paste (or hot sauce, to taste)
1/4 t. sugar
1/4 t. salt
black pepper to taste

Mix the marinade ingredients in a small bowl.

Put the chicken and the marinade in a plastic food storage bag or other covered container and mix well.

Let sit in the refrigerator for an hour or so.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.

Grill or broil until done.

(NOTE: Boneless breasts may be pounded to an even thickness. This prevents the thinner end from becoming too dry after cooking. It also shortens the cooking time a little. Always cut into the thickest part of the breast to make sure the juices run clear instead of pink.)

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There is nothing like boneless chicken breasts for convenience. Someone else dispatches the poor bird, plucks it and guts it – all those unpleasant chores required by us carnivores. Then, Chicken Little is dismembered and its breasts are de-skinned and de-boned for our convenience. All that for a price, I might remind you.

Gone are the days when most people had a little coop in the backyard, with a few hens and a rooster to keep the families intact, the chopping block and hatchet at the ready. This was the source of the expressions I heard as a child from my mother and grandmother from their days on the farm. “He’s running around like a chicken without its head!” “Quit that or I’ll wring your neck!” We knew that there was no way our necks were in danger but the message got across very well.

Today, we go to the grocery, pick up a plastic pack of nicely skinned and boned breasts for five or six dollars and head home to prepare a quick meal without all the struggles previously mentioned. Properly prepared, the breasts can be cooked in 6 minutes, bathed in a sauce made in another 3 minutes and devoured in five. You can’t beat that for efficiency.

With that in mind, I looked yesterday for a recipe for the three boneless breasts I had in the refrigerator. I wanted a relatively simple dish, but one with a tangy flavor to go with the succotash that I was planning to fix as a vegetable side dish. When I think of “tangy flavor” I usually think of lemons or mustard. In this case I decided to go with the mustard.

I rinsed and dried the chicken pieces and set them aside on a plate. I mixed 1/3 cup Dijon mustard and 1/3 cup mayonnaise in a small bowl with a little salt and black pepper. I picked a small sprig of rosemary, stripped the leaves and chopped them to get about 1/2 teaspoon and added that to the bowl. I slathered that on both sides of the chicken, covered them with plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator until I was ready to cook them a few hours later. (It isn’t necessary to let them rest for a while. They can be cooked right away.)

I started cooking the succotash, a recipe that I will give you below, and preheated the broiler. (I could have cooked the chicken outside on the grill, but it was just too darn hot!) I transferred the breasts to a broiler pan and broiled them about 4 inches from the heat for 3 minutes per side, then I turned the broiler to low (you could move the rack down one level if you only have one broiler setting) flipped the chicken back to the first side again and sprinkled them with Parmesan cheese. I continued cooking them for another three minutes until the cheese was starting to turn golden brown. They were ready to eat.

(Note: These breasts were pretty evenly thick, but when putting then on the broiler pan, I did make sure to fold the thinner edge under to even them out a little more. I didn’t have to pound them to an even thickness which is advisable if one end is thicker than the other. Pounding them not only prevents one end from being too dry it also shortens the time necessary for cooking. Always cut into the thickest part to make sure that any juices released are clear and not pink. If pink, return to the heat for another minute and recheck.)

I’ve been making this dish, or variations of it, for years. Some recipes call for bread crumbs and garlic; some for yogurt instead of mayonnaise; some for Worcestershire sauce, for a deeper flavor, or cayenne pepper for some heat. The one I used today is just about the simplest. Don’t have any rosemary? Don’t let that stop you. The chicken will be delicious without it.

We had a few slices of fresh no-knead bread and succotash for the rest of the meal. The succotash is a recipe from the Fine Cooking website. It is a little different from the frozen box of corn and lima beans that I personally hated as a child. It has a lot more vegetables in it and would go a long way to furnishing the variety of vegetables that we are urged to eat daily. It is quick to prepare, despite the relatively long list of ingredients, but benefits from advance preparation, cutting up the vegetables and lining them up on the counter in the order to be added to the pot. It takes about fifteen minutes of cooking, and about fifteen minutes of chopping the vegetables. I used custard cups to hold the individual vegetables and had everything ready about an hour before I wanted to cook. They just sat there on the kitchen counter, the fragrant onion and garlic making my mouth water in anticipation. Here’s the recipe, again, thanks to Fine Cooking.

SUMMER SUCCOTASH

2 T., plus 1/2 t. olive oil
1 small red onion, in 1/4″ dice
1/8 t. dried red chile flakes
Kosher salt
1 red bell pepper, cut in 1/4″ dice (note: I did 1/2″)
1/4 lb. fresh green beans, 1/4″ pieces (note: I did 1/2″)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped (I used a garlic press)
1 medium zucchini, cut in 1/4″ dice (I did 1/2″)
Kernels from 2 large ears corn (about 1 1/2 c.) (I used thawed frozen corn)
1/4 lb. thawed frozen baby lima beans (I used fordhook)
1 small ripe tomato, seeded and cut into 1/4″
1 T. unsalted butter
1 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsely
2-3 T. chopped fresh basil

Heat 2 T. oil in a deep 10″ saute pan of a large shallow pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, chile flakes, and a generoud pinch of salt and cook until the onion is soft and has started to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the bell pepper and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the green beans; cook for 2 minutes.

Push some of the ingredients aside to make room to saute the garlic. Heat the remaining 1/2 t. oil in this spot, add the garlic, cook until you smell it, and then stir it into the vegetables.

Add the zucchini and a pinch of salt to draw out some moisture and cook for 2 minutes. Add the corn; cook for 2 minutes. Add the lima beans and tomato and cook until all the vegetables are perfectly tender, about 2 minutes more. Stir in the butter, parseley, and basil and season with more salt, if necessary.

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This is a very colorful group of vegetables and tasted great with the tangy chicken. Give it a try. And lets hear it for the chicken neck wringers, plucker, de-boners and grocers!

Morgana

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I made Chicken Divan last night for dinner. I had two chicken breasts halves to cook and plenty of broccoli plus the other items that I needed to throw together. It’s a tasty dish and full of that great vegetable, broccoli.

There are lots of recipes for Chicken Divan, from simple to complicated. The easiest one would be basically, cooked chicken cubes, a can of mushroom soup, frozen broccoli (cooked) and cheese, mixed and baked for 30 minutes. From there, you can get as complicated as you wish.

My recipe falls somewhere in between the two extremes. I can get everything assembled and ready to bake in under 30 minutes. With another 30 minutes in the oven, that qualifies as relatively quick meal. The time in the oven can be spent preparing a salad, another vegetable, or just relaxing with a nice glass of wine. Sounds like a plan to me.

CHICKEN DIVAN

SERVES 4

2 whole or 4 half chicken breasts, boneless for quicker preparation, bone-in for economy and free broth (you want at least 2 cups cooked cubed chicken)
1 T. olive oil and 1 T. butter
1/4 c. chopped onion, one small or half medium onion
1/2 t. salt or to taste
1/4 t. pepper
2 T. flour
1/2 c. chicken broth, either canned or fresh
2/3 c. milk
2 T. dry sherry (optional)
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 lb. broccoli, washed and chopped, or 1 box frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained
1 c. grated cheese Parmesan, or cheddar, or any type, divided
1/4 c. mayonnaise
2 t. dijon mustard
1-2 T. heavy cream, optional, if needed to thin the sauce

1. Cook the chicken until tender, remove from bones and cube into small bite-sized pieces; set aside. Preheat oven to 35o degrees. While the chicken is cooking, steam the fresh broccoli for 4-5 minutes, rinse with cold water and drain.

2. In a heavy-bottom medium saucepan, heat the oil and butter. Add the onion and saute until tender but not browned. Add the flour and stir constantly to remove the raw flour taste. Stir in the chicken broth and milk. Stir often being careful to not let it burn on the bottom.

3. Add the sherry, if using, salt and pepper, and nutmeg. Keep stirring until thick and bubbly. Add more milk or heavy cream if the sauce is too thick.

4. Remove from heat and stir in the mayonnaise and mustard. Add half of the cheese and stir to melt.

5. In an ovenproof casserole or gratin dish, layer the broccoli and chicken. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the sauce.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes covered and 10 minutes uncovered.

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photo credit: Taunton Press

I am going to a picnic this afternoon for the staff where I work. It is billed as the “first annual picnic”. I have worked there for 10 years and don’t remember a picnic before this one. I hope it continues. It’s always nice to be with one’s workmates in a more casual atmosphere. We work with the public and are always “on call” when someone needs assistance. This will be a chance to finish a conversation with a coworker without having to run off the help someone – not that we mind that. The public is our raison d’etre, so to speak.

We have been having extremely hot weather as has much of the country for the past few weeks. Yesterday and today are much more temperate, thank goodness, but I had to prepare food to share at the picnic that could withstand heat. I decided to fix bruschetta.

We have been blessed with generous neighbors and a bounteous farmers’ market, both of which have provided more than ample supply of tomatoes. My basil is still plentiful, and with garlic and olive oil on hand, all I needed from the store was a baguette.

I could have used my no-knead bread, but it tends to have those large holes in each slice and the tomato mixture would fall right through. The baguette’s texture is better for that reason, although the taste of grocery store baguettes leaves something to be desired. No matter; the heady garlic in the pomodoro sauce will give more than enough taste. I started by dropping a few cloves of garlic in the food processor to chop it up. Then I cored and quartered as many tomatoes as I thought I would need.  I used a variety of tomatoes, some large, some small (almost cherry tomato size) and some plum tomatoes. I probably used 10 to 12 altogether. I let the tomatoes drain for a while in a colander to remove some of the juice, but not all. Then I processed them in two batches by pulsing the machine a few times until they reached the consistency I wanted, still chunky but small enough to spoon out onto the slices of bread easily. I combined the two batches and added a few tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon and a half of kosher salt and several good grinds of black pepper. I tasted it and then added a little more salt and 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar. 

I sliced the bread about 3/4 inch thick and at a slight angle to give it a bit more surface area. I broiled the slices for a few minutes until they started to turn golden brown. I turned them and broiled the other side. Then I rubbed both sides with the cut side of a garlic clove and brushed one side with olive oil, lightly. I will place them on a platter in a circle with the bowl of tomatoes in the center. Delicioso! I hope everyone likes it. I didn’t use as much garlic as I would have for my family. (Our motto is “There is no such thing as too much garlic.”) I doubt if everyone at work feels the same.I hope you have the opportunity in the waning days of summer to attend more picnics with family and friends. Too soon we will be wishing for a little warmth on the chilly evenings of autumn.Until then, happy dining!

Morgana

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I love french toast. My father liked it and, if she had enough time, my mother would occasionally prepare it in the morning for him before he went to work, even though she didn’t and still doesn’t like it.

We never put maple syrup on french toast; we only used jelly. It was years and years before I ever saw anyone put syrup on it. To me that seemed just plain plain wrong, not to mention too sweet. To this day, I prefer spreading just the tiniest bit of jelly on top of the bread.

If we have overnight guests, I like to serve french toast for their breakfast, with sausage links and fruit, maybe broiled grapefruit** for the sweet-tart flavor. I found a good recipe that calls for partial preparation the night before, always a good idea when one is busy with guests and trying not to appear too frazzled.

This recipe is quite easy to prepare and has a few variations for your consideration. Feel free to use syrup, if you insist!

OVERNIGHT FRENCH TOAST

1 loaf french bread, sliced in 3/4 inch slices
1/4 t. salt
2 eggs*
2 egg whites
1/3 c. of sugar (or less)
zest of 1 lemon
2 c. milk
2 T. rum, or brandy, or 1 t. lemon juice (optional)
nutmeg

*I always use an egg or two more, because I like it “eggy”

1. Mix the eggs, egg whites, lemon zest, milk, and rum in a bowl. Beat with a whisk or electric mixer for a minute or two.

2. Dip the bread slices into the egg mixture and put in a 9 X 13 baking dish. Pour remaining liquid over the bread. Cover with foil or plastic and chill in the refrigerator overnight.

3. The next morning, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in a skillet or griddle over medium to medium-high heat. Remove as many slices of bread as will easily fit in the pan without crowding, and brown them on each side. Transfer to a cookie sheet and repeat with the rest of the bread. Dust the tops with a little nutmeg.Bake 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Serve with syrup, jelly, jam or preserves.

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**We have this recipe on Christmas morning with the french toast.

BROILED GRAPEFRUIT

SERVES 4

2 grapefruit, halved, seeded and sections loosened with knife
1/2 c. wheat flake cereal, crushed
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. coconut
2 T. melted butter
dash cinnamon

1. Prepare the grapefruit and preheat broiler.

2. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a small bowl.

3. Sprinkle mixture over the top of the grapefruit and broil about 5 inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Watch closely; they can go from browned to burned very quickly.

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Have a nice breakfast sometime; prepare these two dishes with either sausage, ham, or bacon.

Morgana

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I know I described the way I usually fix Johnny Marzetti in the last post. Today I used a different recipe and it is extremely good. A few years ago, I was really interested in Italian cookbooks and read many from the library and bought quite a few, too many, probably. I began to notice recipes for a pasta sauce or casserole that called for blue cheese, or gorgonzola. I thought that sounded rather strange (remember, this was two decades ago, and I was really just getting involved in cooking at a level more than basic). After I had seen a number of them, I decided to give it a try.

Man, oh man! What a revelation! If I don’t convince you to try anything else in this blog, I will be happy if I get you to try adding crumbled blue cheese to a more or less standard pasta casserole recipe. Let me tell you how I did it today.

I started with leftover spaghetti sauce from a few days ago. It was just regular spaghetti sauce, ground beef, tomato sauce, some onions, garlic, herbs. Nothing out of the ordinary. I had about 2 cups leftover and decided to make Johnny Marzetti.  I began by sauteeing a chopped carrot, celery stalk, small onion, and half of a zucchini, chopped. When those were tender, I added the leftover sauce and heated it. Then, while I was boiling about a half pound of campanelle pasta (shaped like little horns or bells – but I could have used penne, or anything), I poured into the sauce about a half cup of heavy cream. Then I put in about a half cup of crumbled blue cheese and stirred all that to combine the cream and incorporate the melting cheese.

After draining the pasta, I put both the pasta and the sauce in a casserole and mixed them. I sprinkled some parmesan over the top and put it in a 325 oven for about 15 minutes to melt the cheese on top. During that time I tossed a salad and sliced some fresh bread.

The blue cheese adds a tangy taste that makes the dish rather different from most pasta casseroles. I have made it before with Italian sausage instead of ground beef. It is actually quite a bit better with sausage. The two tastes are complementary somehow. Give it a try, even if you don’t like blue cheese.

Here’s the recipe, as best as I can quantify the ingredients. Remember – I used leftover homemade spaghetti sauce. You can use whatever kind you like, with meat or without.

 

JOHNNY MARZETTI – 2nd VERSION


2  to 2 1/2 c. spaghetti sauce

1 T. olive oil

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 celery stalk, halved lengthwise and chopped

1/2 c. onion, chopped

1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and chopped

1/2 lb. pasta (penne, macaroni, campanelle, whatever), prepared according to directions on package

1/2 c. heavy cream, or whipping cream

1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese

1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated or shredded


1. Preheat oven to 325. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the chopped vegetables and saute until tender.

2. Add the leftover spaghetti sauce and heat medium heat. Add the cream, lower heat to medium low and stir to combine.

3. Add the blue cheese and stir to incorporate the melting cheese.

4. Put the cooked pasta and the warm sauce into a casserole and mix together. Sprinkle some parmesan on top and bake in the oven until bubbly, about 20 minutes.

5. Serve with more parmesan if desired. 

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Ever since I was a little girl I have eaten a casserole known as “Johnny Marzetti”. If you are from the Midwest, you know what I mean. It is a casserole made with three main ingredients – ground beef, pasta, and tomatoes of some kind. From here it can go anywhere with each cook adding his or her favorite ingredients. When I was a child, my mother made it with ground beef, onions, noodles, and tomato soup. That was it – no herbs, no exotic vegetables, no mushrooms – and we loved it.

When I started cooking for my own family, I was always (and still am) looking for new recipes, new ways to make old favorites. I found a recipe somewhere for Johnny Marzetti that called for mushrooms mixed in with the beef and noodles and it was topped with cheddar cheese. That was the first time I strayed from my family’s “original” Johnny M. It wasn’t the last.

From there, I started experimenting, adding herbs, sausage, different vegetables with the onion. Some of the variations were great, others, not so great. I finally came up with a “go-to” Johnny M. recipe that is probably the one I make most often, although there are no specific amounts and every ingredient is just eyeballed. It is a great recipe for feeding a crowd as well as a good one for preparing ahead of time. If I have made spaghetti, I use the leftover sauce to make Johnny M. although most of the time I need to add more tomato sauce. If I have made a good spaghetti sauce with carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms and green pepper, the only vegetable that I add would be a couple of big handsful of chopped fresh spinach, or about a cup of cooked, drained and squeezed frozen spinach. Sometimes if I am making creamed spinach, I will make extra and use that in the Marzetti.

For the pasta, I use penne, or rigatoni, or even macaroni, if that’s all I have on hand. I cook that, mix the drained pasta with the sauce ingredients and mix in a little cheese, cheddar to make it authentic, or mozzarella and parmesan if that’s what I’m in the mood for. More cheese goes on top, then it’s into the oven for a half hour at 350, covered, and uncovered for 5-10 minutes to brown the cheese.

A quick Google search gave me the following info from Wikipedia about the origins of Johnny Marzetti. I had forgotten the Marzetti restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, whose owner conceived the Johnny Marzetti idea and named it after her little brother. Marzetti’s is also known for it’s salad dressings which are available in groceries. I never knew the casserole migrated to Panama where it became a great hit among the American emigres living there during the canal management era. There are several recipes available online for the Panamanian versions. One calls for “arturo sauce” of which I was ignorant. Another google search gave me a recipe* for it and it is available online for purchase in jars or cans.

“Johnny Marzetti is a baked pasta dish, or casserole, consisting of noodles, tomato sauce, ground beef, and cheese. Other ingredients and seasonings may be added to adjust the taste. The dish originated in Columbus, Ohio at the Marzetti restaurant, and spread to other parts of the United States as variations of the recipe were published in magazines and cookbooks during the mid-20th century. The dish is still served in Ohio, especially at social gatherings and in school lunchrooms.

Johnny Marzetti also gained a great deal of popularity in the Panama Canal Zone, where it was served at social occasions and on holidays since at least the early WWII era. The Canal Zone version of the dish typically includes celery and green olives, and is almost always spelled “Johnny Mazetti” by Zonians. The importance of Johnny Mazetti to the culture of the Canal Zone was such that most Zonians are unaware of the origin of the dish and are surprised to learn that it did not originate there.”

Here is a recipe from Wikipedia for the Panamanian Johnny Mazetti (no “r”). I am definitely going to try this. Note the suggestion on which wine to use on which day.

JOHNNY MAZETTI

1 lb ground beef
1 green pepper, cut fine
1 onion chopped
1 stalk celery chopped
1 large can mushrooms
1 clove garlic
salt & pepper
2 cans tomato soup
1 can tomato sauce
Dash of hot sauce
1 tsp chopped capers
1 can Arturo sauce (recipe below*)
1 bottle chopped stuffed olives
1 pkgs. boiled noodles
1/2 lb grated american cheese
1/4 lb grated swiss cheese
1/4 lb grated mozarella
3 strips bacon fried and crumbled fine
1/4 cup red or white wine (use white wine on odd days red on even)

Cook ground beef; add remaining ingredients except cheese. Simmer slowly until green pepper, onion, celery are tender. Place all ingredients with 1/2 of cheese in casserole or baking dish; sprinkle the top with remaining cheese and crumbled bacon. Bake in 350 oven for 1 hour. Yields 6 – 8 servings. (Johnny Mazetti is better when cooked and then frozen and then reheated so always put some away for rainy day).

*Arturo Sauce
Source: Unknown
Yield: approximately 1 cup
1/4 cups finely chopped mushrooms
1/4 cups water
1/4 cups tomato sauce
1/4 cups soy sauce
1/4 cups cider vinegar
1 tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large clove garlic
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Pinch of ginger, nutmeg

Mix all ingredients together.

Compare that with this one from The Chicago Sun-Times.August 19, 1998

Johnny Marzetti
Makes 10 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 pound mild or hot Italian sausage
1 (10-ounce) can condensed tomato soup, undiluted
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (7-ounce) can mushrooms, drained
1/2 pound macaroni, cooked and drained
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add celery, onion and green peppers, saute until vegetables are tender and onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

Remove vegetables from pan. Cook beef and sausage in pan until browned, about 10 minutes, stirring and breaking them up with the back of a spoon. Pour off fat and discard.

Return vegetables to pan. Pour soup, tomato paste, tomato sauce and 1 cup of water over meat-mixture. Add salt, pepper and simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

Add mushrooms and macaroni, mix well. Spoon mixture into a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Cover with cheese. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes.

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Perhaps each one of you has your own favorite barbecue sauce, either one you make from scratch or one you buy off the grocer’s shelf. I can’t say that I have a favorite. It may be the one that I am eating at any particular moment. I have tried scores of bottled BBQ sauce, and have made many recipes at home. There are many of both kinds that I like, but no “stand-out favorite” comes to mind.

I try to tailor the sauce for the type of meat, and the rest of the meal, as well as for the preferences of the diners, if I am aware of them. I use a spicy dry rub on ribs and hate to mask that with a heavy sauce. I’m not fond of overly smoky sauces, so I usually pass those by at the market.

I did, however, find a recipe last week for a sauce for pork chops that uses liquid smoke. It looked interesting and I tried it. It is from the September-October, 2007, issue of Cook’s Illustrated, the second recipe from that issue that I have written about. It has a teaspoon of liquid smoke in it but it wasn’t too much for my taste. These chops also had a spice rub, applied after a brining session for the chops. This is one place I part company with Cook’s Illustrated and other cooking sources. I do not brine meat or poultry. I don’t need the extra salt and even after rinsing the brined meat I still taste too much salt. I usually fix the recipes skipping the brining steps or ignore the entire recipe.

This time, I started with Step 2 and once again ignoring the brining instructions. The pork chops turned out great and the sauce was good and easy to prepare. Here’s the recipe:

Skillet-Barbecue Pork Chops

Pork Chops (brining)
1/2 c. table salt
4 bone-in pork rib chops, 3/4 to 1 inch thick (8 to 10 ounces each), trimmed of excess fat, and sides slit at 2 inch intervals
4 t. vegetable oil

Spice Rub
1 T. paprika
1 T. brown sugar
2 t. ground coriander
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground black pepper
(1/2 t. salt if not bringing chops)

Sauce
1/2 c. ketchup
3 T. light or mild molasses
2 T. grated onion (I just minced the onion)
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. cider vinegar
1 T. brown sugar
1 t. liquid smoke

1. FOR THE PORK CHOPS: dissolve salt in 2 quarts of water in a large bowl or container. Submerge chops in the brine, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. FOR THE SPICE RUB: Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Measure 2 teaspoons mixture into medium bowl and set aside for sauce. Transfer remaining spice rub to pie plate or large plate.

3. FOR THE SAUCE: Whisk ingredients in bowl with reserved spice mixture; set aside.

4. TO COOK THE CHOPS: Remove chops from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Coat both sides of chops with spice rub, pressing gently so rub adheres. Pat chops to remove excess rub; discard excess rub.

5. Heat 1 T. oil in 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until just smoking. Place chops in skillet in pinwheel formation (nesting chops with tips of ribs pointing toward the edge of the pan. Cook until charred in spots, 5-8 minutes. Flip chops and continue to cook until second side is browned and charred and center of chop registers 130 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 4-8 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and transfer chops to clean plate or baking sheet. Lightly brush top side of each chop with 2 teaspoons sauce.

6. Wipe out pan with paper towels and return to medium heat. Add remaining teaspoon oil and heat until just smoking. Add chops to pan, sauce-side down, and cook without moving until sauce has caramelized and charred in spots, about 1 minute. While cooking, lightly brush top side of each chop with 2 teaspoons sauce. Turn chops and cook until second side is charred and caramelized and center of chops registers 140 dgrees. Meanwhile, add remaining sauce to pan and cook, scraping pan bottom, until thickened to ketchup-like consistency and reduced to 2/3 cup, about 3 minutes. Brush each chop with 1 T. reduced sauce and serve immediately, passing remaining sauce at table.

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I hope you try this and, if you do, I hope you enjoy it.

Morgana

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I awoke this morning ready to bake the loaf of bread dough that I had prepared yesterday morning, the one that had been sitting on the counter all day. All it needed was to be formed into a rough ball, and left alone to rise another two hours. Houston, we had a problem. It was a “no go”. It had never risen, not even an inch. It was still a gloppy mess, nowhere near the size of bubbly dough that I was used to seeing after an 18-20 hour no-knead rising. I was buffaloed at first. I figured finally that I must have left out the yeast. Duh. So we had no bread today.What a disappointment. I offered to go buy a loaf of the dreaded grocery bread and my husband said “Yuck. Never mind.”I have another batch of dough, complete with yeast this time, ready to go into the oven tomorrow morning. So help me God, I will never be breadless again.This was the first batch that didn’t work at all. I have made some that we liked more than others. I use a selection of different flours, different additives, etc. Some loaves were slightly under or over-cooked, but each of the “bad” ones was infinitely better than the best grocery store bread. Cheaper, too. Like my daughter said, “It’s not like it’s grocery bread at all. It’s another food group entirely.”You must find a recipe for no-knead bread and try it. (Enter the term “no knead bread” in the search window on the upper right. I have a couple posts about it and one or two contain the recipe. You can also Google it and find way more than you ever needed, or should I say “kneaded”, to know about it.)Believe me, I was a bread baking novice just a few months ago. I have made probably 50-60 loaves since May (that’s about 12 weeks ago). My sister didn’t believe that it was that good but she had plenty of it last week during her visit and loved it. I sent a loaf home with her for her husband to try. He liked it also. It’s easy, very forgiving, unless you forget the yeast, and delicious. I know I keep harping on how good it is, but that’s only to encourage one and all to give it a try. 50 cent. That’s all it costs – that and the cost to heat up your oven to “blazing hot” for over an hour. Just do it (my apologies to Nike).

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Mac and I love scalloped or au gratin potatoes – almost any potato casserole, actually. I have several different recipes that I make now and then, some with ham and other vegetables, and most with just potatoes, onions and cheese. I found a new one not long ago and decided to prepare it the day before yesterday. It called for celery root (celeriac) and parsnips, not ingredients that I usually have on hand. After a trip to a large grocery that I was sure would carry them, we came home ready to experiment.

Parsnips

i-parsnips.jpgThe two other root vegetables add a subtle taste to the more bland potatoes. While parsnips, especially old ones, can be bitter, they add a slightly nutty taste to the casserole.
Celery root has a slight celery taste, but it is hard to describe adequately. It can be eaten raw, or cooked.

Celery Root
Celery Root

This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated magazine’s website and, I believe, is a variation of a recipe for scalloped potatoes printed in an earlier issue. While the authors recommend using a food processor to quickly and evenly slice the vegetables to 1/8″, I had no difficulty using a santoku knife for all the slicing. It would have taken more time to get my processor, set it up, and then clean it. I rarely use it for slicing ingredients for ordinary recipes. If I were to make enough for a large group, I would probably use the processor.

SCALLOPED POTATOES WITH ROOT VEGETABLES

2 T. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, minced (about 1 cup)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed (about 2 teaspoons)
1 T. chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 1/4 t. table salt
1/4 t. ground black pepper
8 ounces celery root (about 1/2 medium), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
8 ounces parsnips (about 2 medium), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 c. heavy cream
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (about 2 large), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
4 ounces grated cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Melt butter in large Dutch oven over medium-heat until foaming subsides. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionaly, until soft and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add celery root, parsnips, chicken broth, cream, and bay leaves and bring to simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add potatoes, bring mixture back to simmer, cover, and cook until potatoes are almost tender (paring knife can be slipped into and out of potato slice with some resistance), about 10 minutes. Discard bay leaves.

3. Transfer mixture to 8-inch square baking dish (or other 1 1/2-quart gratin dish) and press into an even layer; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake until cream is bubbling around edges and top is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

4. To make ahead: Once the scalloped vegetables have been transferred to the baking dish and pressed into an even layer in step 3, they can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, add the cheese, cover with foil, and bake in a 400-degree oven until the mixture is hot and bubbling, about 45 minutes. Remove the foil and cook until the cheddar begins to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

(Parmesan cheese can be used instead of cheddar. As a matter of fact, other cheeses, gruyere for example, are also possibilities.)

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images.jpgThe current (September, 2007) issus of Food & Wine magazine features Italian cuisine. I have dog-eared more pages than I will be able to fix in the next year, but I will give it a try.

I had guests for lunch today and, although we only had carry-in sandwiches for lunch, I wanted to fix something new for dessert. I remembered seeing a rather simple “mousse” recipe in Food & Wine and I decided, two hours before my guests were to arrive, to see if I had the necessary ingredients. I did, with one exception – creme fraiche.

My small local grocery doesn’t carry such things, and I didn’t have time to drive to a larger store. I remembered reading somewhere, sometime that one could make a reasonable substitute for creme fraiche. Google came to the rescue, as it often does. A quick substitute is 1 part sour cream and 1 part heavy cream, both of which I had. Problem solved. It took about 5 minutes to put the mousse together and it was in the frig for nearly two hours.

It was a big hit. In fact, my two guests copied the recipe at the table in order to be able to make it at home. It is one of those rich, satisfying desserts that belies its simplicity.

So, here is your gift for the day, compliments of Food & Wine. Be warned, however. The recipe makes a pitifully small amount, supposedly for four servings. We had three servings. I suppose four would have been possible and would have made a sufficient dessert after a large meal. We only had sandwiches, so it seemed rather scimpy. I would double the recipe to make adequate servings for 6. I served small cookies for the crunch factor that is missing in mousses.

Gianduja Mousse

1/2 cup chocolate-hazelnut paste, (Nutella)
1/4 cup creme fraiche (1/8 cup sour cream mixed with 1/8 cup heavy, whipping cream)
1 1/2 t. brandy or hazelnut liqueur
1/2 c. heavy cream
Cookies (optional)

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the chocolate-hazelnut paste with the creme fraiche and brandy at low speed until smooth. In another bowl (smaller) beat the heavy cream until firm peaks form (about one minute). Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the chocolate-hazelnut mixture until no streaks remain. Spoon the mousse into small bowls and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Serve with cookies if desired.

(The author, Grace Parisi, suggests spooning the mousse between chocolate wafers and freezing overnight to make ice cream sandwiches.)

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After a busy weekend, a day trip on Saturday and errands on Sunday, a simple supper for Sunday night seemed just right. In the afternoon, on the way home from the grocery, I read a newsletter from Dorothy Lane Market (DLM) outlining upcoming cooking classes. One is to feature Italian recipes. The instructor, Loretta Paganini, is a professional chef, having studied at a number of cooking schools, including Le Cordon bleu in Paris. She also founded and directs the Paganini School of Cooking. Among her other culinary activities, she has found time to author a cookbook and articles for magazines and newpapsers. She furnished a recipe in the DLM newsletter for a frittata with herbs. That sounded like it would be perfect for dinner. I had a loaf of no-knead bread ready to bake, some cherry tomatoes, and lots of herbs in the garden. Houston, we have a plan.

The recipe is straightforward, with some chopping of vegetables, but they are just rough chopped, nothing fancy or too tiny. It calls for a dozen eggs, which is a lot for supper for the two of us, but I know I can warm up the leftovers for breakfast or lunch. We should have about half of it leftover. A dozen eggs is a lot to whisk up. It would have been easier to use the mixer, but I didn’t want to dig it out of storage. I rarely use it.

I sauteed the tomatoes in olive oil with some sliced garlic chips, salt and pepper – simple and good. With thick slices of fresh bread, lightly buttered, and our frittata, we were in hog heaven.

Here is the recipe, thanks to Dorothy Lane Market and Loretta Paganini.

Frittata di Erbette

2-4 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 clove garic, peeled and minced
2 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped
2 sweet red peppers, coarsely chopped
12 large organic eggs*
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese*
1 T. organic whole milk*
1/2 t. fresh thyme
1 t. fresh basil chiffonade
1 t. minced fresh Italian parsley
1 t. sea salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in a heavy 10-12 inch ovenproof nonstick skillet. Add the onion, garlic, zucchini, and peppers. Cook until the onion becomes golden in color over medium heat.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs with half the cheese (1/4 cup) and the milk, herbs, salt and pepper.

Add the egg mixture to the sauteed vegetables and cook over low heat until the bottom is set and very tiny bubbles form on the top, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the skillet from the cooktop.

Place the skillet in the oven to finish baking, about 10 minutes or until the top is set. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and allow to cool before serving. Makes 6-8 servings.

*I used regular large eggs, not organic, I used some already-grated parmesan, and I used 2% milk, not organic. We let the eggs sit for about 10 minutes because we couldn’t wait any longer to try it. It can be served at room temperature or warm.

Be careful handling the full skillet when moving it to the oven. The top of the eggs will still be very liquid and the skillet heavy.

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The current issue, August 2007, of Bon Appetit magazine has an article about 13 summer recipes that one would make over and over again. They all look promising and last night I prepared one that was not only promising, but also delivered.

It was a sirloin with a fresh herb rub, grilled and served with a red/orange bell pepper saute seasoned with vinegar and capers and a touch of the same herbs used for the steak. It was easy, and tasted fantastic. I had two guests, my daughter and my sister, as well as my husband, acting as critics for tonight’s meal and they unanimously agreed that it was a great recipe. I humbly agree that it was a great recipe and it was prepared wonderfully as well. Ahem. No modesty here.

We had fresh corn on the cob, potato salad, cucumber and onion salad, and sliced tomatoes. Something green would have been good, but we were not thinking about color tonight. We were busy playing with the new puppy we brought home two days ago. He is a cockapoo named Knuckles. He is almost all black; he has a white mustache and white goatee and a little white patch on his chest and a touch of white on one back paw. His hair is wavy, not curly like a poodle’s, but it is so shiny and soft like a cocker’s. So far he is getting on relatively well with our four year old Maltese. She is a little wary, but he is trying to get her to play with him. She went from giving him a wide berth on Sunday, to letting him come near her today. She is used to playing with another Maltese and I think she and Knuckles will be friends before too long.

Back to cooking. This dish can be prepared ahead of time, if desired, all except grilling the steak. This makes it a valuable entree for a special dinner for guests, or one for a busy day. I plan to keep it well notated in my special recipe book. “This is a keeper! Four stars.”

Of course it helps that my meat market had such great sirloins. It helped even more that they were on sale this week. If you don’t have a sirloin, this would be good for any other steak suitable for grilling or broiling. I used sirloins about 1 inch thick and cooked them 4 minutes per side.

So, thanks to Bon Appetit for this great recipe!

HERB-RUBBED TOP SIRLOIN STEAK WITH PEPERONATA

6-8 servings

PEPERONATA:
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 small red onions (about 12 ounces total), halved, sliced crosswise
2 pounds mixed red and yellow bell peppers (about 4 large), cut lengthwise into 1/2″ strips
1/4 t. dried crushed red pepper
Coarse kosher salt
3 T. red wine vinegar
2 T. salt-packed capers, rinsed, drained, or 2 T. capers in brine, drained
1 T. chopped fresh oregano
1 T. chopped fresh thyme

STEAK:
1 T. chopped fresh oregano
1 T. chopped fresh thyme
1 T. freshly cracked black pepper (I used just ground black pepper, not cracked)
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 3 to 3 1/4 pound top sirloin steak, 2 to 2 1/2 inches thick

Extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling)

(Start the herb rub at least 4 hours ahead)

For Peperonata: Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions; saute until almost tender, about 6 minutes. Mix in bell peppers and crushed red pepper; sprinkle lightly with coarse kosher salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until peppers are tender and silky, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes. Stir in red wine vinegar, capers, oregano, and thyme. Increase heat to medium; stir uncovered 3 minutes. Season peperonata to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Transfer peperonata to bowl and cool to room temperature.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

(If you can’t find one big sirloin steak buy two smaller ones that are at least 1 1/2 inches thick. Cook them for about 8 minutes per side for medium-rare.)

FOR STEAK: Mix oregano, thyme, pepper and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over both sides of steak. Place on large plate; cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 6 hours. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before grilling.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Drizzle both sides of steak lightly with oilive oil. Grill steak to desired doneness, about 15 minutes per side (if using 2 inch thick steak) for medium-rare, or 17 minutes per side for medium. Transfer steak to cutting board; let rests 5 minutes. Cut steak crosswise into 1/4 to 1/3 inch-thick-slices.

Arrange steak slices on platter; surround with peperonata and serve.

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