Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Chicken or Veal Marsala

This recipe is not only delicious and quick to prepare, it is also healthy as it uses only a minimal amount of oil. Imported porcini mushrooms can be found in many grocery stores, and certainly at Italian specialty stores. To complete this meal, serve it with an herb-flavored rice, garlic mashed potatoes, or over Linguini. A tasty sautéed green such as spinach or broccoli rabe would round out the meal nicely.

1 oz. Dried Porcini Mushrooms
8 oz. Fresh White Mushrooms
4 Boneless/skinless Chicken Breast Halves
Flour For Dredging(*)
Salt & Pepper
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2/3 Cup Sweet Marsala Wine
1/4 Cup Fresh Chopped Italian Parsley

Re-hydrate the porcini mushrooms in 1 cup warm water for about 30 minutes. Remove from the water, pat dry with paper towels, and chop coarsely. Strain the porcini water, and set aside for later use.

Slice the fresh mushrooms thinly. Dredge the chicken breasts in flour seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, and then brown in a skillet with the oil over medium heat. (*) If you are using veal, DO NOT dredge in flour. Fast fry the cutlets in olive oil so they are medium rare.)
Once the chicken is well browned, remove the chicken and set aside.

Cook the sliced mushrooms in the same pan until tender and golden brown. If the pan becomes too dry, use a little of the porcini liquid to moisten it. Return the chicken pieces to the pan with the mushrooms, and add the porcini, the Marsala wine and 1/4 cup of the porcini liquid. Taste, and season with salt and pepper if needed.

Cook on medium low heat, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes. If the juices begin to evaporate too much while cooking, add a few tablespoons of the porcini water and a small amount of Marsala wine. When completed, the sauce should be thick and creamy. To serve, place chicken/veal pieces over Linguini on a platter, spoon over the juices, and sprinkle with the fresh parsley.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Provolone Cheese Sauce

This is a great cheese sauce for Asparagus, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Celery, or Fennugreek.


Medium white sauce:

1/8 cup butter
1/8 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

Provolone cheese sauce

Medium white sauce
3/4 cups (3 ounces) shredded Provolone cheese
1 can (2 ounces) mushrooms, drained and chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated onion
1/3 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1 TBS Romano/Parmesan Cheese
Dash of nutmeg

Medium white sauce:

Melt butter in a saucepan; remove from heat. Whisk in flour and salt until smooth. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the milk, stirring until blended. Return to heat and stir constantly until mixture begins to thicken. Add remaining milk. Heat just to boiling and cook 1 to 2 minutes.

Provolone cheese sauce.

Gradually add cheese to hot white sauce. Stir in mushrooms, onion, Worcestershire, nutmeg and paprika. Heat, stirring constantly, until cheese melts. Spoon over veggie of your choice.

For an extra added touch, add 2-finely chopped slices of prosciutto ham.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Northern Italian Meatballs

Since 1957 when I reluctantlly decided to join the military, I went on a worldwide quest to find good Italian - no - EDIBLE - Italian restaurant food no matter where my travels brought me. I got spoiled early on in life from my mothers cooking. I've eaten Italian food in nearly every state in the union, and found only one restaurant that was worthy of my repeat business. Of all places, it was in Cour d' Alene, Idaho in 1974! Surprise!!! The ambiance of this restaurant was indescribable. We were met by a congenial hostess who spoke little English, but somehow knew we were famished. After asking her for a secluded table for 2, she handed us a wine goblet and led us through an arbor into the dining room. On the other side of the arbor, were four 55-gallon casks of imported Italian wines. Our first duty was to fill the free glass of wine. From there it was a feast beyond anything we ever expected. We had a delightful shrimp scampi for an appetizer, then on to the main meal which was a traditional pasta and meatballs - which turned out to be not so traditional. I talked nicely to the chef; he eventually gave in and gave me his recipe for the Northern Italian Meatballs, which follows.

Northern Italian Meatballs

½ Lb Ground round
½ Lb. Ground pork
¼ Cup finely diced onion
¼ Cup Finely Crushed walnuts - Pine nuts are best
½ Cup Golden raisins (Pre soaked)
½ Cup Italian flavored breadcrumbs
1 Egg
1 tsp Italian herb
½ tsp brown sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper

Thoroughly mix all the above. Form into 1 ½ - 2 inch meatballs. Place in large baking
Dish, and place in oven at 300F. until done. (About 45 minutes)



Sunday, December 05, 2004

Canelonni Extravaganza for a Crowd

Believe me, this is a major project. The first time I made this was in Connecticut years ago. When I was teaching at Texas State Technical college, the faculty got to talking about having a Christmas party so I volunteered to make some Italian food. (I was the token Italian in TX at the time.) Somehow word got around, and the newspaper called me and wanted to do a Foods Editorial feature on local cooks. They were at our house for an entire day photographing the process of this food construction project that follows - I had to make it again!! From now on, Terrò la mia bocca grande ha chiuso!

Beef Canelloni/Mannicotti Filling

1 2-3Lb Chuck Roast
2 TBS Cracked fennel seed (Based on 2 ½ lbs of meat)
1 tsp Anise Seed
1 TBS Salt
1 TBS Course ground pepper
2 Crushed (flattened) Garlic cloves
1 8oz. Container of Ricotta Cheese
1 Cup water or red sauce

Place beef roast in cold water with the spices and garlic.
Bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn heat down, and
simmer for 2 – 3 hours or until meat flakes
easily. (Can also crock pot overnight on low.) L
Let cool and remove all fat. Break into 1-inch chunks,
and put in food processor and chop.

Add another teaspoon of fennel, and ½ tsp of anise
to beef in food processor. Chop finely. Save in bowl
and refrigerate until ready to stuff shells.

Chicken Canelloni/Mannicotti Filling

3-4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 ½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp Ground Nutmeg
½ tsp salt
2 Oz Sliced almonds
1 2 ½ ounce can drained, sliced mushrooms
8 Drops of Angostura® Bitters
½ cup shredded Prosciutto
1 8oz. Container of Ricotta Cheese

Place chicken in just enough cold water to cover it,
and add the 1 ½ tsp Nutmeg and salt. Bring to
boil over medium heat. Turn heat down, and simmer
until done (30-minutes). DO NOT over cook.
Cool chicken, then break into 1-inch pieces
and place in food processor with 1 tsp nutmeg,
almonds and mushrooms. Chop to a course
mixture. Place in bowl and refrigerate until
ready to fill shells.

Red Sauce

2 Chopped garlic buds
3 tsp. Spice Island Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning
3 TBS Olive oil
2 tsp. Spice Island Italian Herb
1 Finely chopped onion
½ Cup Marsala wine
1 Finely diced green pepper
6-10 Fresh basil leaves (Optional)
1 Quart whole tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 tsp Sugar
½ tsp salt

Sauté garlic, onion, pepper in the olive oil. Add
remaining ingredients and simmer until thick
(2-3 hours.) Let cool, then puree in a blender.

Béchamel (White) Sauce

4 TBS Butter 4 TBS Flour
1 Cup Milk
1 CUP Whipping or heavy cream
½ tsp Salt
1/8 tsp White Pepper
1/8 tsp Nutmeg

Melt butter over medium heat. When butter is
melted, remove from heat and whisk in flour
until well blended, then pour in the milk and
cream all at once. Bring to boil while whisking
constantly. When thick enough to heavily coat
whisk, remove from heat. Add salt, pepper,
and nutmeg

1 or 2 boxes of Manicotti shells (One box contains 14-shells)

The above fillings make enough to stuff at least
28 shells, so cut the recipe in half for 14-shells.
Boil shells according to directions.


Blend in one – 8oz (or less) container of Ricotta
cheese and shredded Prosciutto with the chicken
mixture. Stuff tubes, keeping them on separate
plates. Blend in one – 8oz (or less) container of
Ricotta cheese with the beef mixture and
1 cup water or 1-cup red sauce. Lightly oil
a baking dish or pan large with olive oil -
large enough to hold 14 – 16 stuffed tubes.
Stuff beef –filled shells, and keep separate on
another plate.

Arrange tubes, chicken-filled in one row, beef
filled in a second row. Pour white sauce over
chicken-filled tubes, and red sauce over beef-filled
tubes – alternating so that you have a red and
white filled baking dish.

You'll have your guests coming back for more!!


Saturday, December 04, 2004

HOT - as in HOT Peppers.

It's 7:45 AM as I sit here at the PC typing my latest BLOG recipe, and eating a burrito stuffed with Joseph's and my favorite Green Chili with pork, smothered with guacomole, chopped tomatoes, onion, and a little 'hot' sauce. I'm a glutton for punishment, but I love food. I'll pay for it the next day. They say ice cream curbs the "day after." Only thing I never figured out is whether to eat the ice cream, or apply it to pertinent body parts!!

'Hotness' in peppers is measured in Scoville units which was developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912 - the higher the number, the hotter the pepper. A few examples: Green Bell Pepper = 0 units; Jalapeno ranges from 2,500 - 10,000 units; Habanero/Scotch Bonnet = 80,000-300,000 units; and the Thai Hot Pepper = 500,000 units and up. One has to be cautious when handling these devilish vegetables; rubber or latex gloves are recommended. AND, there are other peppers that range from 0 - up to 650,000 units and everything in between.

A few things to remember when cooking with hot peppers:

* If cooking in a crock pot, the intensity nearly doubles
* Frozen foods that contain hot peppers will also double in intensity
* Simple, refrigerated leftovers will also increase in hotness.

You have to be very cautious how many of the hot peppers you use in food, as it may surprise you in the end result.

Habanero peppers are delicious, have a great flavor, and are easy to grow; they are very prolific. We had four plants this past summer and they yeilded at least 60 peppers per plant. Needless to say, we have jars and jars of them. Even sold a bunch to the local Amish Farmer's Market.

Here's a recipe for Habanero Relish for those of you who like grilled 'burgers. This relish loses its hotness when put on a grilled 'burger, but adds an incredible flavor. Don't ask me why, because I don't know. It is, however, a gourmet addition to a burger.

Habanero Pepper Relish

12 habanero peppers, stems and seeds removed, finely chopped
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup distilled vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice

Saute the onion and garlic in a little oil until soft; add the carrots with a small amount of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until carrots are soft. Place the mixture and raw chiles into a blender and coarsely chop. Don't cook the peppers, since cooking reduces flavor of the Habaneros. Combine the peppers with vinegar and lime juice, then simmer for 5 minutes and seal in sterilized bottles.Heat index : 9 on a scale of 1-10. Yields about 2 cups

Finding The Right Spice

Finding the Right Spice

Anyone who cooks or bakes, most likely skips over recipes that you would like to try, but cannot find - or have never heard of - a spice or seasoning that the recipe calls for. I know one of many recipes that I wanted to try calls for powdered oregano; not to be found! We have a 12 Sq. Ft. cabinet of mixed and various spices, and it's still too small. You can never have enough spices or seasonings.

There are hundreds of spice sites out there for what you need. I would recommend finding a spice distributor that handles FRESH spices and spice mixtures, and avoiding companies that offer seeds such as kalonji or charnushka that are old and tasteless.

Take a gander at on-line catalogues; you will find what you need and be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, December 03, 2004

REAL Garlic Bread

I don't know about you, but I absolutely abhor what restaurants call Garlic (YUCK) Bread!! The "stuff" they call garlic bread is normally soaked, saturated and dripping with butter or margerine, and infused with an overbearing garlic salt, garlic powder, or some other super-
saturated garlic concoction that is guaranteed to give you not only bad breath, but the neatest case of heartburn you ever had.

The Sicilians, way back when, devised the ONLY true garlic bread that should be allowed on this planet. A delicate garlic bread goes with most any soup, salad, pasta, seafood or meat meal.

1 Loaf of Italian or French bread
2-4 Large freshly peeled garlic cloves, sliced in half lengthwise
Olive oil

Cut the bread in one inch thick slices. Toast to a golden brown under the broiler. Remove from broiler, rub each piece of bread with the halved garlic cloves, then spritz lighty with the best grade olive oil you can find.

You can also cut the bread in half lengthwise, then follow the same directions and slice in one inch thick pieces. A little sprinkle (very little) of oregano or dried basil can also be used. Try it! Taste the difference.


The Winter BBQ

Just when you thought BBQ season was over. AND, I bet your BBQer is all stashed away for the winter. Well, break it out!! When we lived in Colorado, we sure had some snow. I remember on Christmas Eve of 1983, my mom had come out to visit. It was her first time on a plane, and it took her a few days to calm down. Well, when we got up on Christmas Day that year, we had 36" of snow, and it was still snowing. Mom was 73 at the time, and she was outside shoveling snow from our front sidewalk and driveway. We BBQd a few days after Christmas during another storm. The neighbors thought they were hallucinating because they thought '...WHO in their right mind would be BBQing in this semi blizzard...." (My side of the family- I never claimed to be all there!) The delicate smoke wafted through the snowfall into all the homes in the area. Winter is a great time to BBQ. Everytime it snows here in Missouri, we both think the same thing... fire up the grill!!

DELUXE Chicken Sandwich

1 Boneless/skinless Chicken Breast pounded out, and cut in half widthwise
2 Slices Bacon divided in half
1 TBS Chopped scallions - white and green parts
2 Slices of Gouda cheese (The smoked version is great)
2 Whole Wheat Kaiser, Hard Rolls, or Buns
BBQ Sauce

Split and toast roll. Grill chicken. Place slices of cheese on grilled chicken during the last few seconds until the cheese melts.(Be sure the grill lid is down) .Once the cheese has melted, remove from grill and place on bun, then place cooked bacon strips over chicken. Add BBQ Sauce, and sprinkle chopped chives/scallion over BBQ sauce.
Serves 2 - BUT, read on…………………………………………………

Serve with cole slaw, baked beans, potato salad, potato chips, or whatever turns you on. A beer (Sam Adams) goes well with this. As a matter of fact, you may want to have several bottles chilling. A nice chilled Charnonnay works well here too. For added ambiance, a fire in the fireplace - that is if you have a fireplace. You may want to double the recipe, because I’ll bet that once you take your first bite, in all probability, both sandwiches will be gone and your spouse or significant other may bar you from her/his existence.


This makes a delicious appetizer when served with lightly toasted Italian bread. Great for Christmas or New Years Eve - anytime, actually.

1 medium eggplant
3/4 cup olive oil

2 TBS olive oil
2 cups onions, chopped
1 cup celery, finely chopped
1 cup tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup pitted, halved green olives
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
1 TBS pine nuts
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 TBS sugar
Freshly ground pepper

Peel and cube the eggplant. Place the cubes in a colander and salt thoroughly. Let drain for one hour. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Heat half the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Saute half the eggplant until golden brown (5-8 minutes). Remove to a strainer and drain.

Add the remaining oil, saute the rest of the eggplant, and drain. Wipe the pan clean, add the additional 2 TBS oil and saute the onions and celery just until tender. Add the tomatoes, cover the pan and cook 4-5 minutes. Uncover the pan and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add the sauteed eggplant, olives, capers and pine nuts. Combine the vinegar and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into the eggplant mixture and simmer, covered 5-10 minutes. Season to taste and cool. Makes 7-8 cups.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Carribean Banana Bread

Here's a banana bread recipe that takes a little more effort than the traditional BBread, but is well worth it. It makes a delicious treat for dessert, breakfast or a social gathering.

Trinidad Banana Bread

2 TBS softened butter
2 TBS softened cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 lg egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup mashed ripe banana
1/2 c milk
2 tbsp dark rum or 1/4 tsp rum extract (Malibu Coconut Rum is great here)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut
1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tsp. butter
2 tsp lime juice
2 tsp dark rum or 1/8 tsp rum extract
2 tbsp chopped toasted pecans
2 tbsp flaked sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 375. Coat an 8x4-inch loaf pan with cooking spray; set aside. Beat 2 tbsp butter
and cream cheese at medium speed of a mixer; add 1 cup sugar, beating well. Add egg; beat well. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir well. Combine banana and next 5 ingredients (banana through vanilla); stir well. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with banana mixture; mix after each addition. Stir in 1/4 c pecans and 1/4 c coconut. Pour batter into prepared pan; bake at 375 for 60 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes; remove from pan. Let cool slightly on a wire rack.

Combine brown sugar and 2 tsp each butter, lime juice and rum in saucepan; bring to a simmer. Cook 1 minute; stir constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 tbsp each pecans and coconut; spoon over loaf. Serve alone, or for added decadence, serve with whipped cream or ice cream

Using Spices

Using the right - and the right amount of - spice can make the difference between an OK meal, or a fantastic meal. Chicken is one of the most versatile meats on the market today. It's a staple in places like Trinidad, India, China, Lebanon, Yemen and many other eastern nations. Chicken is inexpensive and tasty - depending on what you do with it.

Here's a spice that takes a few minutes to combine, but once you blend it and try it, you'll see that chicken is NOT simply chicken.

HAWAISH (Spice Mix)

It is hawaish, the spice mix, that gives Yemen cooking its identity. All the spices are mixed proportionately and stored, to be easily measured out for recipes.

2 Tbs ground cumin
1 Tbs pepper
1/2 tsp coriander, ground
1 tsp turmeric, ground
4 whole cloves, broken up
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg, grated
2 bay leaves

Mix all of the ingredients together. Store in a glass jar with a tight cover. Keep the 2 bay leaves in the mixture to keep the spices dry and clean. Do not include the bay leaves when using the mixture.

Hawaish Chicken

2 Chicken Breasts - Bone in
Hawaish Spice

Oil the bottom of a pie tin. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with the Hawaish spice, and place in oiled pie tin. Place the tin in your BBQ'er. If you have a propane grill, use the flame from only one side. Place the pie tin over the side with no flame, with the flame from the other burner on high. Close the lid. Chicken should be done in about 25-30 minutes. Serve with your favorite rice recipe, or whatever suits your taste.

Bells Poultry Seasoning

Mix 1 teaspoon of each.
dried rosemary
dried crumbled sage
dried marjoram
dried thyme
celery salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 well crumbled bay leaf

Crush together with a mortar and pestle, or grind together in a coffee bean grinder, or in a mini food processor