Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stuffed Artichokes


This past weekend we hosted a nice family dinner for my mom's birthday. I decided to serve a special dish that my mom always enjoyed, stuffed artichokes. My grandmother would make them and send them over to my house a few times a year when I was younger. It has to be at least 25 years since we've had them last, so I knew that they would make for a special birthday dish. I searched out a bunch of recipes and found a great one on italianchef.com. The recipe was simple enough to follow, and contained the perfect combination of flavors. What made this dish even more special was that it was almost the exact same recipe that my great grandmother (my mom's grandmother) would use. It was the perfect birthday treat.

There are many more great, authentic recipes at italianchef.com, I highly recommend you check it out! I also placed a link under the Recommendation section. Special thanks to Chef Paolo Torre for allowing me to share his recipe.

STUFFED ARTICHOKES
(click here for link to original post)

Serves 4

1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup grated Pecorino-Romano Cheese
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 artichokes
2 cloves of garlic, sliced

1. Combine bread crumbs, Pecorino-Romano Cheese, parsley, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium bowl. Mix together well.

2. Cut stems off artichokes, flush with bottom. Cut pointy leaves off the top of the artichokes. Spread leaves of each artichoke out and push stuffing in between them. (I also scooped out and discarded the hard, purple leaves in the center of the artichoke prior to stuffing).

3. In a pot just large enough to fit the artichokes, add the sliced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the artichokes. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the top of the artichokes.

4. Turn heat on to medium and cook until sizzling about 1-2 minutes.  Add water to reach half way up the sides of the artichokes.

5. Cover and cook until the artichokes are tender and a leaf is easily pulled out, about 45 minutes.  If liquid is evaporating too quickly add a little more water.

6. Transfer to a serving platter, drizzle a little of the liquid from the pot over the artichokes and serve.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cupid, Roll Out Your Dough....




Valentine's Day has always been a special day for me. It was the day that my wife and I started dating, it was the day that we got engaged, and it was the day that our nephew, Evan, was born. With all of the chaos and commotion now in our house, going out to dinner on the busiest restaurant night of the year doesn't seem so appealing. Nowadays the quiet, romantic dinners have been set aside for another day so we can celebrate with our daughters.

This year, I stepped up to my New Year's resolution early and bought myself a pasta maker. I got my new kitchen toy just a few days ago - perfect timing to put to use for a nice Valentine's dinner. What made it extra special was the enthusiasm and excitement that our daughter, Julianna, showed when I asked her to help roll the first batch of pasta. She's been showing a real interest in helping out in the kitchen, making her own lunch and helping with dinner, so asking her to assist me with a Play-Do like project was a no brainer. She was all into the preparation and rolling of the dough, and mastered the crank machine in no time. And I have to say that the pasta that we made – wheat fettucini – turned out to be absolutely awesome. I used the noodles in a Giada De Laurentis recipe, Whole-Wheat Pasta with Lemon, Basil, and Salmon. It was the perfect Valentine's dinner.

Being the proud Italian father that I am, it is always gratifying to see our kids enjoy themselves while learning something new and creating new memories. It's a goal that my wife and I strive for every day. Every picture tells a story, and these pictures will forever be a reminder of our first time making pasta together and making yet another great Valentine's Day memory.

Love, hugs and kisses to my wife Daria and our daughters Julianna and Ava.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sausage and Escarole Bites


This recipe was inspired by an episode that I recently watched of The Essence of Emeril. The original recipe, Swiss Chard Boules Stuffed with Lemon Barley Risotto, was made of a pancetta, barley and risotto filling, wrapped with swiss chard leaves (click here for the original recipe). I was intrigued by the recipe and started to think how I could put my own spin on it. Being snowed in for a two day weekend left me the perfect opportunity to experiment. I decided on ground sausage stuffed with provolone cheese for the filling. I went with escarole leaves for the outer wrapping. I blanched the leaves in chicken broth for a few minutes, enough time to make the leaves soft and pliable enough to wrap around the cooked sausage stuffing. I placed the wrapped sausage in a baking dish, added a little bit of the broth to the dish for extra flavor, then baked them for about 20 minutes. Gotta say, I was very happy with the end result! As expected, the sausage and provolone were perfect together. The fresh, crisp taste of the escarole was a nice compliment and the additional chicken broth added great flavor. I definitely plan to use this recipe again and suggest it as a party appetizer.

SAUSAGE AND ESCAROLE BITES

1/2lb sausage (hot or sweet), removed from casing
chunk of sharp provolone cheese, broken up into 12 small, sugar-cube size pieces
1 bunch of escarole (you'll need 12 nice size leaves), thoroughly washed
1 chicken bouillon cube

Remove sausage from casing. Grab a small bunch at a time, enough to roll to the size of a meatball. Place a piece of provolone cheese onto the sausage, then roll into a small ball. You should end up with 12 sausage balls filled with cheese. Fry the sausage balls in vegetable oil in a frying pan, turning often so that all sides are done and inside is thoroughly cooked. Remove sausage from pan, set aside to let cool.

Fill a large pot with water, add a chicken bouillon cube; bring to boil. Add 12 escarole leaves, blanching for about 3-4 minutes until just soft and pliable. Remove leaves from broth. One by one, place the sausage onto the bottom edge of 1 of the escarole leaves and roll the ball in the leaf, tucking edges in and rotating the ball so that the sausage is evenly covered and the edges of the leaf are smooth. Place them in a baking dish, add 1/4 cup of broth to the dish and cover with foil. Place baking dish in the oven at 350┬║ for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, place on a dish and serve.

Makes 12 pieces.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New Recommendation - Penzeys Rosemary Powder

I'm not a big fan of rosemary. I'm well aware that this is a bit of a hurdle for me, being that rosemary is practically a staple seasoning in many Italian dishes. Not sure when my dislike for the herb came to be...I may have had a dish flavored with rosemary that "didn't agree with me" (I've had the same effect with J├Ągermeister). It's not even the taste that bothers me, but rather the woody, needle-like texture. "Just chop it up!" is what one of my aunts recently told me. I tried. No dice.

Just when I was about to give up hope, along comes my friend John with a miracle in a jar...Rosemary Powder! He picked up a jar for me at Penzeys, a spice and seasoning superstore (located in Chestnut Hill, among other locations and on the Web). It's similar to your regular powdered seasonings (garlic, onion, celery, etc.), grounded very fine. It was the perfect compliment to some homemade chicken soup that I recently made. It has a terrific aroma, and the taste is very fresh, yet slightly subtle and not overpowering. And there is no crunch...my prayers have been answered!

Next time you're in the Chestnut Hill area, be sure to check out Penzeys. If you're not in the area, hit up their website. Tons of great kitchen accents and gift ideas!