Friday, November 26, 2010

NEW - Itali-Asian Fusion: Sausage, Pepper and Broccoli Rabe Dumplings

This week I'm throwing my hat into the trendy Asian-Fusion kitchen, with a bit of Italian flare. I'm calling it Itali-Asian Fusion. What I'm doing is taking sausage filling that you would use in a ravioli or a stromboli (aka sausage bread), and I'm using it to fill wonton wrappers. I came up with the idea when planning to make sausage and peppers stromboli for a family birthday party. The combination of the sausage, peppers and broccoli rabe mixed with some parmesan cheese was a natural, go-to favorite Italian taste, and the wonton wrappers made for easy single servings along with puréed red peppers for dipping. The wonton wrappers can be prepared in a number of ways when stuffed (fried, steamed in steamer baskets, or baked - I chose to bake mine for quick and easy serving time).

The easiest method that I use to prepare sausage and peppers as a meat filling is to combine the raw ground sausage with chopped peppers in a baking dish and to bake it until the meat is browned and slightly crispy (a mixture of sweet and hot sausage is my preference). This eliminates the extra oils from frying and frees up some time as well. While you let the cooked sausage and peppers cool, you can prepare your broccoli rabe. When the broccoli rabe is done cooking, combine it with the sausage and peppers and either chop it with a knife or with a few quick pulses in a food processor. This helps mix the filling and allows for easy assembly, regardless of what your using the filling for.

As I mentioned above, you can prepare the stuffed wontons a number of ways. Frying is the traditional way, which will give you the crispy texture. Baking will also give you a slightly crisp coating, if sprayed with a cooking spray. And steaming will give you a soft, ravioli-like texture.

Makes 40-48 Dumplings

1lb ground sausage (hot, sweet or a mixture of both)
Two 7-oz jars roasted red peppers (one for mixture, one for dipping sauce)*
1 bunch broccoli rabe (bitter broccoli)
2 tblspn olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
One 12-oz package wonton wrappers (found in the produce section of your grocery store)
*you can use one bell pepper, red pepper or any other pepper of choice in place of the roasted red pepper for the mixure

Mix the ground sausage (remove casing if needed) with one jar of chopped roasted red peppers. Place in a baking dish and bake at 350º for 40-45 minutes, or until sausage is browned, up to slightly crisp. Remove from oven, set aside to let cool.

In a large pot, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe and let cook for 5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Remove from pot and drain excess water. In a large pan, heat 2 tblspn olive oil, add garlic. Add broccoli rabe to pot, mix with garlic for and saute for 10-15 minutes until desired doneness. Remove from pan, season with salt and pepper, let cool slightly, mix with sausage and peppers.

Using either a knife and fork or a food processor, mix and chop the sausage mixture, broccoli rabe and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese just a bit to make for easy filling.

Taking one wonton wrapper at a time, place a full teaspoon of the sausage mixture in the middle of the wrapper. Using either your finger or a brush, wet all 4 of the edges of the wonton, fold in half diagonally, press and set aside. When all 48 wontons are stuffed, you can either fry, steam or bake the stuffed wontons.

To fry: Heat a wok or nonstick skillet on medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. Add 10 – 12 dumplings, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the bottom is browned. Add 1/3 cup water, cover, and steam the dumplings until the liquid is absorbed (about 5 minutes). Remove and cook the remainder of the dumplings.

To steam: Using a steaming apparatus of your choice, bring 1/4 to 1/2-inch of water to a simmer over medium heat. Spray the steamer's surface lightly with the non-stick vegetable spray to prevent sticking. Place as many dumplings as will fit into a steamer, without touching each other. Cover and steam for 10 to 12 minutes over medium heat. Remove the dumplings from the steamer to a heatproof platter and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat until all dumplings are cooked.

To bake: Place dumplings on a sprayed baking sheet without touching each other. Bake at 350º until crisp.

Place the second 7-0z jar of roasted red peppers in a blender, purée, heat and serve as a dipping sauce.

If you're looking to serve these to a crowd of family and friends, and knowing that some may not like sausage, or may be watching their calorie/cholesterol intake, you can substitute the sausage with Gimme Lean (rhymes with Jimmy Dean....get it?!), the vegetarian sausage substitute that is found in the produce section of your grocery store. Now, let me say this up front - I am not a real big fan of this sausage substitute product on it's own. I've tried it a few times. It looks like sausage and smells like sausage...but believe me, it ain't sausage! I'm a firm believer of moderation and calling food what it is. If a cow climbed into a tree, you wouldn't call it a bird, right? However, if you flavor Gimme Lean with extra sausage seasonings (garlic powder, fennel seeds and rosemary to taste), mix it with the peppers and bake it all together, the flavors actually do come together to make for a decent sausage filling...once you also add the broccoli rabe and parmesan cheese. Again, I personally prefer using real sausage for the best taste. But if you are looking for a healthier alternative to keep everyone happy, or if you enjoy using vegetarian substitutes, this little trick will work well for a dish like this...and I can almost guarantee you that nobody will know the difference!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NEW - Thanksgiving Desserts: Pumpkin Layer Cake & Gluten-Free Pumpkin, Sweet Potato & Coconut Pie

It's that special time of year again, when we gather with family and friends to give thanks, prepare for the upcoming holiday season and celebrate with an amazing meal. Over the past two years, I have shared a few suggestions for Thanksgiving side dishes, desserts and drinks (you can visit my previous posts by clicking here and here). Because my mom is the one in charge of our holiday feast, my suggested recipes are slim and unfortunately I have offered all that I can (for now!). Luckily, my friend Emma has once again offered to share with us a few of her favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Thank you, Emma, for sharing. And thanks to all of you for for continuing to check out Cucina Domenico. May you and yours have a blessed, happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

by Emma Caperelli Loerky
Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I have decided bring you two recipes that would be a nice addition to your Thanksgiving table. Both are a dessert and both feature pumpkin. This time I am going to offer you one that is gluten-free as well as one that is not. Both are equally delicious and I hope you enjoy them.


Adapted from Fine Cooking

There are two things that set this cake apart from other cakes I've made in the past - the brown butter both in the batter and in the frosting, and the sweet yet salty nut topping. Let me just say that browning the butter takes this cake from good to excellent, and I don't think I'll ever make buttercream icing again without browning the butter first. It was amazing! That being said, I followed the recipe exactly except for using canned pumpkin purée instead of making my own, doubling both the frosting and the topping and I also weighed the flour instead of using a measuring cup. Based on the reviews I read, I thought that doing so would ensure that the cake wouldn't be too dense. I had fantastic results and I definitely think you should do the same. While I didn't use all of the frosting or the topping, I used much more than 1 batch would've provided. Believe me, you will find something to use the leftover frosting on if you don't eat it all as is (like we did). Next time I make this, I may make cupcakes out of it to make sharing easier.


For the cake
1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée
9 oz. (or 2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
3/4 cup unsalted butter; more for pans
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk

For the topping (I am writing this as the recipe stated but I doubled it)
1 1/2 tbs unsalted butter
2/3 cup pecans
1/2 cup unsalted, raw, hulled pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
2 tbs firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp table salt
1 1/2 tbs chopped crystallized ginger

For the frosting (I am writing this as the recipe stated but I doubled it)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar


Make the cake
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the over to 350 degrees F.

Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans).

Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves. In a large bowl, whisk 1-1/2 cups of the pumpkin purée with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.

Make the topping
Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Stir in the ginger. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.

Make the frosting
Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemble the cake
Put one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting on the layer. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the nut mixture over the frosting and top with the second layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Arrange the remaining topping in a ring 1-1/2 inches in from the edge of the cake and serve.


When I first saw this recipe I thought it looked like a lot of flavors going on at one time, too many in fact. But when I read the recipe and noticed that the coconut came in the form of coconut milk, and that it didn't call for any other form of milk, I knew I had to try this. Since my husband can't have milk products, I have struggled to find a decent pumpkin pie recipe for him. They always seem to lack something either in the consistency or the flavor. This pie was perfect. It has a nice texture and the flavors work well together. It tastes like a pumpkin pie with a nice subtle hint of coconut. My son, who says he dislikes coconut and can eat gluten, asked for seconds. And my husband loved it as well.

As far as the crust goes, I like to make my own using King Arthur Flour's Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour blend. I've had the best results with this product but you can use any brand you like. And when rolling out the dough, I have found it easier to roll it out between two pieces of plastic wrap. That way I don't have to use any additional flour which helps in keeping it from getting too dry. This technique has worked the best for me when making a gluten-free pie crust. Also, in order to create the leafy trim around the crust, I made two separate batches of pie crust and I used a pie crust leaf shaped cutter.

Three things about this recipe that I'd like to point out. First, I used a ricer for the potatoes. I actually had to force them through several times and I was concerned that there wasn't going to be enough filling because of all of the potatoes that were left behind. In the end, there was plenty of filling. And second, because of the long cooking time, you will definitely have to cover the crust with foil or a pie shield about an hour into cooking. And third, it is very important to refrigerate the crust before baking, so please don't skip that part!

Gluten-Free Pie Crust
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 1/4 cups King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbs cold butter
1 large egg
2 tsp lemon juice or vinegar

Lightly grease a pie pan

Whisk together the flour, sugar, xanthan gum, and salt.

Cut the cold butter into pats, then work the pats into the flour mixture until it's crumbly, with some larger, pea-sized chunks of butter remaining.

Whisk the egg and vinegar or lemon juice together until very foamy. Mix into the dry ingredients. Stir until the mixture holds together, adding 1 to 3 additional tablespoons of cold water if necessary.

Shape into a ball and chill for an hour, or up to overnight.

Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling.

Roll the dough out between two pieces of plastic wrap and invert into the prepared pie pan.

Wrap loosely with plastic wrap and place the unbaked pie crust in the refrigerator for at least a half hour before baking.

Adapted for Fine Cooking

1-1/4 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
3 whole cloves
1 small star anise, crumbled
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
15-oz. can pure solid-pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbs. multi-purpose gluten-free flour
3/4 tsp. table salt
1/2 cup well-stirred canned coconut milk (not coconut cream)
3/4 cup cold whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks with 1-1/2 Tbs. granulated sugar

In a medium saucepan, combine the sweet potatoes, cinnamon stick pieces, cloves, star anise, and ginger slices with enough water to just cover the contents. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the sweet potatoes are very tender when pierced with a fork or skewer, about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes, reserving the boiling liquid. Return the potatoes to the pot over low heat and toss to dry them a bit. Discard the cinnamon, cloves, and star anise. Force the warm potatoes through a ricer, a food mill, or a sieve. Boil the liquid if needed, until reduced to 1/4 cup. Let the sweet potato mash and the liquid cool.

Position an oven rack in the lower half of the oven; heat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and sweet potato purée. Whisk in the egg, egg yolk, melted butter, and reserved spiced liquid. In a separate bowl, stir together the granulated and brown sugars with a wire whisk until any large lumps of brown sugar are gone. Sift the gluten-free flour and salt over the sugars; stir to blend. Add the sugar-flour mixture to the pumpkin and stir well until no pockets of sugar are visible. Blend in the coconut milk.

Scrape the filling into the chilled pie shell; smooth the top. Brush the pie crust with an egg beaten with 1 tbs water and sprinkle with turbinado sugar (optional) and bake for 1-3/4 to 2 hours, turning the pie several times so it bakes evenly. The point of a thin-bladed knife should come out clean when inserted into the center of the filling, and the edges of the surface will be unevenly cracked. If the edges of the pastry darken too much before the filling is cooked, cover them with a pie shield or strips of aluminum foil. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

Today marks the two year anniversary that I started the Cucina Domenico blog. I would just like to take this time to thank all of you for having the time and interest in checking out my posts! I have plenty of great ideas to share with you in many upcoming posts, along with lots of other surprises from my co-bloggers and friends, Lorraine Ranalli, Una Mamma Italiana and Emma Caperelli Loerky.

Grazie mille!

Monday, November 8, 2010

New - Family Recipes: Braciole and Chicken Cacciatore

Whether they're passed along from your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins, family recipes are what help keep tradition alive and well. Just a simple smell of a Sunday Gravy or a taste of an antipasto is enough to bring you back to your childhood in an instant. And what better way to help keep these fantastic traditions alive than to share them with our readers! That's why Una Mamma Italiana and myself have agreed to share some of our favorite family recipes in our new feature segment called....drum roll, please.....

Family Recipes!
We will be featuring this special segment now and again, as we look forward to not only sharing the recipes with you, but also reliving some of our favorite memories as we once again get to enjoy the heavenly tastes of our favorite meals! We hope you enjoy as well!

From The Cucina:
Marie's Chicken Cacciatore

This family recipe has an interesting background, as it was actually first passed up in the family, then back down again. My Aunt Marie (Marie, or Re-Re to those who are her age in the family) was the first person to make it, and she served it once to my grandparents. My Grandmother (also Marie, and Aunt Marie to her nieces and nephews), loved it so much, that she asked to have the recipe, which my Aunt passed up to her. Fast forward a few years to when my Grandmother submitted this recipe to our local newspaper as Recipe of the Week, which was featured as a family favorite dish simply called Marie's Chicken Cacciatore (everyone in our family named Marie gets to share in the glory!). And whether or not you have a Mom or a Grandmom named Marie, an Aunt Marie or a Cousin Re-Re, you will be sure to enjoy this fantastic traditional Italian dish!

Marie's Chicken Cacciatore

4-6 chicken thighs (skin removed)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tspn rosemary
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 green bell pepper, cut into small pieces
1 cup water
2 tblspn vegetable oil
pinch sugar
salt & pepper to taste

In a large frying pan, brown chicken and garlic in oil until chicken is golden brown. Add vinegar and 1/2 cup water. Simmer until liquid evaporates, then drain excess fat. Add rosemary, tomato sauce, remaining water, sugar, salt and pepper. Add peppers, stir ogether, cover slightly, let cook for 30 minutes.

Serve over a bed of rice or over mini pasta shells.

*Note - you can either serve the chicken thighs whole or shred the meat and discard the bone.

From the Mamma:
Dad's Braciole

Braciole is one of those classic Italian comfort foods. Slow cooked meat in a hearty gravy with a taste that no beef stew, stroganoff, or wellington could even compare with! It's one of those dishes you make in the downstairs kitchen and you nurture for a good few hours until it reaches perfection. The smell alone makes my dad's braciole recipe one of my greatest family memories. My father got his passion for cooking from the big Italian famiglia, and his technique from the Culinary Institute of America. Needless to say, his recipe is top of the line! See for yourself....

Dad's Braciole

2 - 3 lb. cut of top round or flank steak, pounded relatively thin
2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2-4 slices good quality ham or prosciutto cotto
2-4 slices domestic provolone
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 lg onion, minced
12 cloves garlic, minced
2 28 oz. cans San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 28 oz can of water

Mix the seasoned bread crumbs with parsley, grated cheese, 3 cloves of minced garlic. Combine with extra virgin olive oil until moistened (like the consistency of wet beach sand).

Lay out the pounded meat and top with bread crumb mixture, sliced provolone, and sliced ham. Roll against the direction of the grain of the meat (so that when you slice the cooked braciole, it is cut against the grain. Roll up the meat. Secure with butcher's twine. Season the outside of the meat with salt and pepper. Sear on each side in a few tbsp of olive oil. Remove from pan, set aside.

Add a few more tbsp of olive oil to the pan. (enough to coat the veggies). Saute the onions for a couple minutes, add the garlic. saute until all are soft and lightly golden. Add in the red wine, deglaze the pan. Cook off the alcohol (about 5 minutes). Add the tomatoes and water. Return the meat to the pan.

Simmer on medium heat for about 2 1/2 hours, depending on the size of your meat. Stir frequently. When cooked, slice the meat and serve the extra sauce over pasta. MANGIA!

*TIP* - whenever you are slow cooking a gravy like this, or even a soup, throw in the rind from the block of cheese you are using. (In this case, parmiggiano) It gives the sauce an incredible flavor. Always save those rinds in the freezer, you never know when you'll need 'em!