Archive for category Italian
Several years ago, we used to spend one Tuesday a month at a local restaurant at an event called Drinking Liberally. If you know the organization, then Cheers! If not, it’s ok. Anyway, the local place had the best Pasta Carbonara and I looked forward to that meal, great conversation, and a little happy hour every month. Tonight, I tried to recreate my favorite Tuesday dinner.
It’s entertaining to watch me entertain. This past weekend, we had some of our best friends visit. We met in college and they loved me in spite of my disasters in the kitchen back then. You know, when I couldn’t make boxed brownies or even brown chicken into something edible. So, when they come to visit, a part of me feels this inexplicable need to show off a little and prove I can cook. What? Everyone wins in the end! They get entertained with my kitchen drama and everyone gets to eat palatable food that survives the drama!
I made almond chocolate truffles based on this recipe I found at SimplyRecipes. (Side note, I used the cool tool called ZipList that lets you save the recipe to your own account and makes a shopping list for you. Pretty nice!!) I made the truffles with 1/2 tsp of almond extract and 1/2 tsp vanilla and I planned on chilling them in the shape I wanted rather than roll them into balls. However, I knew they would stick in the mini muffin tins I was using, so I searched three stores looking for silicon muffin liners. No such luck. I cut out a small round parchment paper liner for the bottom of each muffin holder, put a thin layer of slivered almonds on the liner and then used my small ice cream scooper to fill the muffin tin with the chocolate truffle mixture before chilling. When it came time to remove the truffles, I ended up chipping into them before they finally got them to pop out only slightly damaged. Good thing I made 24 truffles! Go on, laugh. It was amusing.
Cornbread is such a versatile side. It can be spicy, sweet, or very savory depending on what you want to do with it. I found a wonderful recipe on allrecipes.com called Camp Cornbread. It had rave reviews and promised to be devoured quickly. Score! I had all of it mixed up before I realized that I didn’t have an 8 oz can of creamed corn, I had an 8 oz can of kernel corn. Awesome. What to do? I settled for replacing the creamed corn with my frozen Green Giant’s Niblet’s in Butter Sauce, cooked half way through. It added the butter flavor and a little texture. I’m sure the creamed corn would have been better, but I got points for resourcefulness!
I had to make my staple: braised pearl onions from Julia Child. She says the easiest way to peel the skins is to drop them in boiling water for 5-10 seconds to let the skins loosen. Then, cut the root ball off and squeeze, they pop out! Well, yes, they pop out a little too easily. Picture the scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts looses control of the escargot. “Slippery little suckers!”
Funniest part of the night? Making sea salted caramel to plate the truffles. First mistake, didn’t look up a recipe. I thought, I’ve made caramel before, I can wing it. Probably some of the wine contributed to this thought. So, I melted sugar until it was amber. I added heavy cream, forgetting to remove it from the heat and go gentle. I’m lucky it didn’t foam out all over my hand. Didn’t add butter. Did add salt. I spooned some on the plates. Instantly, it hardened into an unbreakable crust on the plates. Now picture me and my friends chipping away at it with our spoons because when you did get some, it was very good. My poor spoons never worked so hard. You’ll be happy to know, I made it again the next night, and it was perfect.
We had a wonderful time. Most of the food was great and the company was better. Life should be one big dinner party.
Stuffed Fried Zucchini
(Based off the idea of fried zucchini blossoms, which I don’t have. Messy & greasy, but good!)
Slice 2 medium zucchinis to 1/4″
Mix 1 cup ricotta, 1 tsp lemon zest, and 2 tsps freshly chopped mint
Spread onto zucchini slice and place another slice on top to make a “zucchini sandwich”. Repeat until all is done.
Whisk 1 1/4 cups of flour & 1 tsp salt with 12 oz brown ale for batter.
Dip zucchini sandwiches into battter and fry in canola oil set at 350 F for about 10 minutes each, until golden brown.
Sprinkle with salt and serve hot.
The older I get, it seems, the harder life gets. I used to think life worked in circles, you go up…life is good. Things are easy. The life gets hard for a while, you go down. Different challenges, different successes, but it was “The Circle of Life” as Disney reminded us in their multi-million dollar empire. Now, it seems like it’s a tear drop, you go up for a bit, but you hang down around the bottom for a lot longer. That is why I try to find happiness is places like the kitchen. I visit it almost daily because it holds the possibility for a little satisfaction and pleasure, even if my day is likely to something else.
After putting the kids to bed, I pulled out some refrigerated spinach tortillini. I fired up some salted water and then I got out the good stuff: lots of cheese, butter, cream, fresh garlic, and some white pepper. I halved this Alfedo Sauce recipe for Alfredo sauce from food.com. It was pretty easy to make and I really enjoyed using my garlic press on the fresh garlic!
After draining the pasta, I added it to a ramekin, finished off the sauce and the covered it in more Parmesan cheese. I put it under the broiler for about 5 minutes and pulled out my delicious dinner for one!
12 adults. 4 kids. It’s the last day of a combined family vacation and there are tons of leftovers in the mountain cabin refrigerator. I had dinner duty. How do you use up the leftovers, make something even the kids will eat, and feed so many people? Pizza of course!