Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pignoli Cookies

Ready to go in the oven...

Old Italian Wives' Tale: If pregnant woman craves something and asks you to make it and you don’t, the baby will be born with a birthmark resembling the food she craved. Yikes! So when my daughter Danielle, who is pregnant with my third grandchild, asked me to make pignoli cookies, I had no choice but to make a big batch. The recipe comes from my friend Doreen.  I tell everyone that it’s such a process but really it’s not; I just want them to put me on a pedestal when I show up with the cookies.  They’re always a big hit. And now I can rest easy knowing my grandchild won't have a birthmark that looks like a pine nut!Lisa

This recipe makes 3 dozen cookies. I always double it.

You'll need:
12 oz almond paste
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
4 egg whites
1 ½ cups pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with foil and coat lightly with Pam cooking spray.

In a food processor, mix the granulated sugar and almond paste until smooth. Add the confectioners' sugar and 2 egg whites. Process until smooth.

In bowl, whisk the remaining 2 egg whites. Place the pine nuts in a shallow dish.  Flour your hands lightly and roll the dough into one-inch balls. Coat the balls in the egg whites, shaking off the excess, and roll in the pine nuts. Put the balls on the cookie sheets and flatten them slightly to about 1 ½ inches.

Bake for about 18 minutes or until they are lightly browned. Let cool and transfer to a wire rack.  Sprinkle the cooled cookies with some additional confectioners' sugar. 

When your all done baking, sprinkle some flour on  your face to make it look like you’ve been slaving in the kitchen all day, then serve.

Buon Natale!

The finished product! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hilary's Tzatziki Sauce

You'll need:
1 container (8 ounces) plain Greek yogurt. The brand Fage is recommended.
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 large seedless cucumber, peeled and diced 
1 tsp chopped dill
Juice from ¼ of a lemon

Combine the cucumber, yogurt, garlic, EVOO, dill and lemon juice in food processor. Add a pinch of salt and pepper for taste and blend.

Remove from processor refrigerate to chill. Makes 4 servings.

Hilary's Tzatziki sauce is perfect in chicken wraps!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chicken Cacciatore

There is something about chicken cacciatore that screams comfort food.  This hearty, savory dish is perfect for the cold weather. So put on your favorite cozy sweats, snuggle next to a fire and enjoy!Jennifer

You’ll need:
2 chicken breasts, bone in and split into two
4 chicken drumsticks with skin
½ cup flour
3 tbsp garlic powder
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 tbsp capers (plus brine)
¾ cup red wine (I used a Shiraz by mistake and it was delicious)
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 packages sliced mushrooms, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
Dried oregano
Kosher salt
Red pepper flakes (optional)

Mix flour and garlic powder to dredge chicken in.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper before putting them into the flour mixture.

Coat bottom of a large (really large) sauté pan with olive oil and heat over medium flame.

Dredge chicken and place the chicken parts in the pan.

Cook chicken on each side until light brown (3 minutes one each side for legs, about 5 minutes on each side for breasts depending on thickness)

Remove chicken when done and add to the same sauté pan the chopped onions, mushrooms and garlic.

Sauté until onion is soft to the touch. Add wine and let it cook down (about 2-3 minutes).

Add chicken broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, a pinch of oregano and the capers.

Bring to a simmer. If you like your sauce to have some kick/heat, add a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Add the chicken and let cook/simmer for 30-40 minutes on medium heat.

Top with chopped fresh basil and Parmigiano cheese. Serve over pasta, rice or with crusty bread.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Jill's Cucumber Bruschetta

The weather here in Florida is obviously warmer this time of year than it is back in Tennessee. On weekends we can walk just two blocks from our new home in the Sunshine State to the Saturday Morning Market where there's music, coffee, food, home-grown fruits and veggies and oh, did I mention food?!

I made this cucumber bruschetta after a recent market trip to go with a crisp Chardonnay that I had just purchased. It was so delicious that I had my mother come over to try some and she loved it too! It was so popular that we are making it for our holiday company this week. 

This is definitely one of the easiest appetizers you will ever make. If you are looking for something light before a heavy meal or something fresh for a tapas party or a pot luck, this is a great practically no-cook starter that is just as delicious to eat as it is easy to make. The best part is that it can be made so many different ways, so get creative! —Jill

You'll need:
Fresh Italian baguette bread, sliced thin 
2 cucumbers, diced
1/2 cup fresh dill
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus a pinch
2 tsp cracked black pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
1 lemon, juiced
1 small container plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
Olive oil
Fresh basil, torn
Drizzle the baguette slices with olive oil, place on a cookie sheet and toast for 10 minutes in the oven preheated to 375 degree. 

Put cucumbers in bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the dill, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, the zest of one lemon, and the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Stir and set aside. 

Put 1 cup of the yogurt in a separate bowl. Add in the remainder of the dill, a pinch of sea salt, the other teaspoon of pepper, and juice the other 1/2 of the lemon. Stir together and set aside.

Spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of the yogurt mixture onto each of the baguette slices.  Top with a scoop of the cucumber mixture. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh torn basil. 

Feel free to change this up by adding shredded rotisserie chicken,  fresh mint or even some cilantro for a completely different flavor.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Homemade sauce and Italian charcuterie

Cousins fan Carol Roberts told us about her first time making tomato sauce, and her friend Robert Calandra gave us the inside scoop on making homemade meats. OK, you when are the Cousins coming over for dinner?

This is the first time I did this. I got a bushel of plum tomatoes and spread them out on my dining room table until they turned red, which took about three days. I boiled them in two huge pots until the skins started to fall off. I had to do that twice—what a pain! I let them cool, removed the skin and drained them. Then put them through a hand crank machine that removes the seeds. (It’s a very cool piece of equipment I got at Corrado’s Market.) I put all the tomatoes back in a pot and let them simmer for about an hour.

Before jarring, I ran the mason jars through the dishwasher without soap and soaked the tops in hot water. I let the sauce cool down, which took forever. I put three pieces of fresh basil in each jar and put the lids on.

Now this is where it didn't work for me. I should have put all the jars in boiling water so they would seal, but the store told me to just turn them over and leave them overnight and they would pop. That didn't happen so the next night we put them in the boiling water to seal them.

When you are ready to use the sauce, add your seasonings and meats.

We've been engaged in the process of Italian charcuterie for 30 years making capocollo, supressata, cotechino, dried and fresh sausage, pacetta, bresaola, and prosciutto. These are all from pig with the exception of bresaola, which is made from beef loin.

We start the process in December when the cold temperatures arrive. We make our capocollo from the lion of the pig. Others use the shoulder, often referred to as the butt. The shoulder has fat strewn throughout the meat whereas the loin is leaner and has fat around the outside only.  

The meat is placed in a large pan and coated with a measured amount of curing salts and, in some cases, spices.  It is stored in a cold spot or refrigerator for 24 hours. This allows the salts to be infused with the meat and displaces some of the water content. The residual salts are then washed off with red wine and the meat is coated with course ground black peppercorns.  

The meat is then put into the large intestine of the pig (casing). The casing is perforated all over and tied with twine for hanging in a cool airy space.  It will need about three months to mature with constant monitoring for the right amount of firmness.  Once ready, the meat must be vacuumed packed or submerged in oil to keep out air so it doesn't harden further. The meat is sliced paper thin for serving.

In Italy there are other methods of curing, which differ slightly from region to region. For example capocollo made in Umbria, Basilicata, Puglia and Calabria are soaked in brine prior to the drying process, have other spices added, such as garlic, or are lightly smoked with oak wood. Other variations are called coppa or speck.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Five cases of bottled water—check. Generator gassed up and ready to go—check. Furniture from basement moved upstairs—check. There was nothing left to do except bake. While I still had power before the storm hit I decided to whip up a batch of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies...a little comfort food to make me feel better while I wait for my uninvited guest, Hurricane Sandy.  Luckily I had all the ingredients, and the only thing left to do was decide what kind of wine goes with cookies...white or red? —Lisa

You'll need:
1 cup butter, softened but not melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat over to 325 degrees.

In a mixer (Betty to the rescue!) beat together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla.  Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl and add to the creamed mixture until blended. Mix in the oats and chocolate chips.  Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 12 minutes and allow to cool on a rack.