Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Perfect Boiled Eggs

I have a fail-proof method for perfect boiled eggs. Fill a small pot with enough water to cover the eggs. Bring to a boil and add the eggs. Cover with a lid and turn off the heat. Let stand for 10 minutes. Remove from the water; peel the shell and enjoy. No more eggs with "Saturn's rings" around the yolk, under cooked or "hard-as-a-rock" boiled eggs but perfectly cooked every time.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010



Rapini, also known as brocoletti di rape and broccoli rape, happens to be one of my all time favorite vegetables. It is also becoming more well known on "this side of the pond". Growing up in an Italian home, this vegetable was a staple, even when not in season. My parents would blanche large batches; and then would freeze them for later use as a side dish, mixed with fagioli (roman beans) , or tossed into pasta. Another use for this basic recipe is to add it as a topping for a gourmet pizza. Today, it is available all year round even though it's peak season is fall to spring. When buying rapini, chose bunches with firm green flower buds and avoid those with yellow flowering ones. Blanching the rapini will take away most of the bitter taste. To retain it's vibrant green color simply shock the rapini in ice cold water after blanching.

Mom' Basic Rapini and Garlic Recipe
1 bunch rapini
4 tablespoons extra virgin oil
3-4 cloves garlic peeled and sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes or more for extra heat
salt to taste

Begin by washing the rapini and cutting about an 1 inch off the stem. To allow for more even cooking with a knife, split about 1-2 inches down the center of the lower part of the rapini stem. This allows for more even cooking. Wash the rapini under cold water and drain. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. I add salt to the boiling water as you would do, when cooking pasta. Drop the rapini in the salted boiling water and cook for about 1 minutes until "a la dente".
Strain the rapini and place it immediately in a large bowl filled with ice water. Strain and remove the excess water by wringing the rapini with your hands or paper towel. Cut into 3 pieces and set aside. In a frying pan heat the oil and add the garlic slices and red chili flakes. Saute the garlic until a golden colour. Add the rapini as shown in the photo, away from the sizzling oil as it tends to splatter, and continue cooking on medium heat to infuse the flavours, for about 1 to 2 minutes. Do not over cook. Season with salt. Serve as a side dish or toss into a hot pasta and tomato sauce dish. So from my family to yours, buon appetito!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Middle Eastern Vegetarian Casserole

Don't know what to serve your vegetarian guest? This recipe is a real life saver and an all in one pot dish. It combines veggies and the needed proteins to replace meat....chick peas. Olivia loved this dish and I will attempt to recreate the recipe for her in print, so she can attempt it on her own. Again another "recipe with no recipe", so here goes with the ingredients and estimated quantities. Olivia, this one is for you. So be creative and feel free to tweak it.

Middle Eastern Vegetarian Casserole

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium sized onions
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 medium eggplant
4 Lebanese zucchini ( shorter and lighter in color)
1 large red pepper
2 stalks celery
4 Roma tomatoes
1 can chick peas
1 tablespoon coriander
1/2 tablespoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup water

Chop the vegetables in large (about 1 inch) pieces. In a large pot, heat the oil and saute the onions. Add the eggplant. Cook on medium heat until golden. Toss in the garlic, zucchini, red pepper, celery, spices. Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Add the chick peas, tomatoes (and water to prevent sticking). Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes to let the vegetables cook and allow the flavors to infuse.

Roasted" Smoked Paprika" Potatoes

You must try this roast potato recipe with your favorite meat dish. This was a last minute idea when receiving friends and they loved this side dish. So upon their request, I promised I would attempt to remember the quantities used and post it. The secret ingredient is of course the current favorite, smoked paprika from Spain. It can be found in specialty shops. The second secret I credit to my mom, who used unpeeled garlic in her roast potatoes. This gives a delicate and delicious caramelized flavor to the garlic.

Roasted" Smoked Paprika" Potatoes

6 to 8 Yukon Gold potatoes cut into 1" pieces
1 large onion chopped into large pieces
3 to 4 whole garlic (unpeeled)
juice of !/2 lemon
3 sprigs of fresh thyme (chopped)
3 sprigs of fresh oregano or 1 tablespoon of dry oregano
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

In a large bowl add the potatoes, onions,garlic and lemon juice. Add the thyme, oregano, smoked paprika and the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Place in a roast pan (I like to line the pan with parchment paper for easy cleanup) and bake in a 375degree F oven for about 45 minutes.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Banana Cake with Chantilly Frosting

This banana cake recipe is bound to get you rave reviews. I brought this cake to my friend Josee's home and it was a big hit with the family. She insists that it be my next post on my blog. So, I am about to share it with you. The icing is to die for; the 35% whipping cream and coconut garnish are the sinful secret to its success. Or simply use your favorite cream cheese frosting.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (soft)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup ripe bananas (mashed)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup shredded coconut (to sprinkle over the frosting)
In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the bananas, sugar, butter and the buttermilk (adding about a teaspoon of white vinegar to milk is a good substitute). Beat the mixture on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, vanilla and the remainder of the buttermilk and beat for 1 minute. Pour into a greased 9 inch pan ( I also line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper). Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 40 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick or knife is inserted in the middle, and comes out clean. Cool cake before icing and sprinkle shredded coconut on top of the frosting.
Chantilly Frosting
In a large bowl add, 2 cups of icing sugar, 1/4 cup soft butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and approximately 1/2 cup 35% cream. Beat with an electric mixer, adding more cream if necessary.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ginger Snap Cookies

If you are searching for a healthy alternative to butter based cookies, I have the ideal recipe for you. This one comes from The Yellowstone Country B&B in Montana. You can munch on these guilt free, as they contain no butter but still remain ever so rich in flavor.

Ginger Snap Cookies
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
3/4 cup oil (not olive oil)
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
turbinado sugar or granulated sugar (for coating)

In a mixing bowl whisk together your egg, oil, molasses and brown sugar. Mix the dry ingredients (in a separate bowl) then gradually blend in the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Do not overwork the dough. Form dough into 1 inch balls, flatten slightly, then roll into the sugar. I use turbinado sugar, for extra crunch and it looks pretty. Place (well spaced) on a cookie tray & bake in a preheated 375 degree F. oven for 10-12 minutes.
Yields approx. 2 dozen large cookies

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Let's give a twist to cauliflower soup with this yummy recipe. Turmeric,cumin, coriander and a touch of lime give this soup extra zing. Extra portions can also be frozen; just leave out the cream and add it later when you are ready to serve it.

So here goes, start assembling those ingredients:

8 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons butter
1teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 leek, white part only, chopped
2 stalks celery; diced
1 large shallot chopped or onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 potato diced1/2 cauliflower, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons flour
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon each cumin and coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup 15% cooking cream
juice of 1/2 lime (zest is optional to be used as a garnish)
cilantro or parsley for garnish

Heat the butter in a large pot and saute the onions until golden brown. Add the garlic, leek, celery, carrots, spices and continue cooking on medium heat for about five minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the broth. Add the potatoes, cauliflower and bay leaf. season with salt and pepper to taste Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Blend with an electric hand blender until desired consistency. Add the cream and lime juice and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro or parsley (lime zest optional).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Home Made Pasta (step by step)

Time to invest in a pasta machine for this next recipe. An inexpensive one will do just fine. I have one of the cheapest machines possible and touch wood, success each time! However, if you are feeling adventurous, the original tools (hands and a rolling pin) will do just fine. So here we go with this simple step by step pasta dough recipe:

4 Cups of all purpose flour
6 large eggs

Place the flour on a clean surface (a counter or large wooden board). Make a well in the center of the flour. Break the eggs into the well and lightly beat with a fork. Start incorporating the flour a little at a time. Continue blending in the flour with your fingertips. The amount of flour used will depend on the size of eggs and humidity. You may not need all the flour.
Remove excess flour from the work surface and start kneading your dough on this lightly floured area. Knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let stand for at least 30 minutes or more.

Roll out the dough into a 9 inch disk and cut into 6 pieces. I start my machine at #6 and roll each piece. I then lower it to #4 and roll the dough pieces once again. Continue this process until #1, which will give you a thin dough. Proceed to the fettuccine roller and roll each piece through one at a time.

Voila homemade pasta!