Baking is science and I don't like formulas, but cooking is art and anything goes...and the simpler the better. It's all about less time at the stove and more time at the table. With a forty year passion for food I'm excited to share what I do in the kitchen nearly every day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sausage, Ricotta and Basil Orecchiette

I've been making this recipe for years and it never fails, so simple and a bit different than most pasta dishes.  I start by sautéing two quartered and sliced Vidalia onions and two garlic cloves in a large pan with extra virgin olive oil.  At this point I drop my orecchiette pasta into boiling water although any smaller shaped pasta would be great, farfalle, ziti, or campanelle for example.  Then, with a sharp knife I slice through six Italian sausages making sure to split the casing from end to end so that it can be easily removed.  I crumble the sausage meat into my pan with the onions and garlic and as they cook try to break up as many of the larger pieces of meat as I can with a metal spoon.  In less than ten minutes when my sausage meat is cooked through I test the mixture and add kosher salt and pepper to taste.  After draining my pasta I drop it into a large bowl, top it with the onion and sausage mixture, a few splashes of extra virgin olive oil, a 16 oz. container of the best ricotta you can find (I used Mablebrook Farm), and a generous handful of chopped basil.  I mix until the ricotta evenly coats the noodles and serve topped with some grated parmesan.  It's that easy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wasabi Chicken Salad

Just discovered a great new condiment while visiting Maine last week, Gold’s Wasabi Sauce.  That’s right, the horseradish people.  Had served it with our leftover lobster and loved it so much I bought a bottle at our local market as soon as I got back to Vermont.  For lunch today I added a few squirts to some mayonnaise and it did wonderful things to my otherwise simple chicken salad;  last night’s cubed chicken thighs, celery, scallion, and tomato.  Give it a try, another versatile condiment to keep on the door of the fridge.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Veri Veri Soy Steak Tips

Home cooking is all about the condiments as few of us have the time to spend the better part of a day preparing a meal.  As I see it nearly anything that easily enhances a dish is a condiment, extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, soy sauce, olive paste, hot sauce, chicken stock, spices, curry paste, chopped ginger, it’s endless.  My house is full of them, and what’s great is that most last for months in the pantry or in the fridge.  One of my favorites is Soy Vay’s Veri Veri Teriyaki, an amazing marinade for barbequed meats.  It's in a blue and white bottle and widely available.  You can use it on chicken, fish, or any cut of meat, but I especially love it with steak tips.  As it’s such a thick sauce I usually pour a puddle into a glass bowl then add a few dashes of soy sauce to thin it slightly.  You could also jazz it up with some fresh garlic, hot sauce, or sesame oil depending on your mood.  With my hands I toss and coat my steak tips in the marinade and let them sit for at least an hour before grilling.  So good, just the right amount of salt, sweet and spice and most importantly, really easy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

White Beans with Garlic and Basil

White cannellini beans are something I always have a couple of cans of in the pantry as there’s so much you can do with them in a pinch.  Last night I served them warm with garlic and fresh basil.  In my Cuisinart I minced two garlic cloves with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a few pinches of kosher salt.  I drained the beans of all but a small amount of their liquid and added them to the mix with a few grinds of white pepper.  If I were going to serve them cold as a spread I would have blended them until smooth while drizzling the olive oil in through the top of the Cuisinart, but for this one I just hit the pulse button quickly a couple of times and transferred them to a small pot over low heat.  I prepared the rest of my dinner and just before serving I stirred fresh chopped basil into the beans, tested to see if they needed more kosher salt, then transferred them to a serving bowl.  The clincher is to drizzle your best extra virgin olive oil over the top.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pepper, Olive, and Ricotta Pizza

I’ll go for months without thinking about that frozen pizza dough ball I keep in the freezer, and regret that it’s been so long every time I use it.  The great thing about pizza is that anything goes as far as toppings; whatever leftovers, half eaten vegetables, or canned delicacies you can scrounge out of your fridge or cupboards will work…you don’t even need cheese if you don’t have it.  The hard part is remembering to take the dough out of the freezer in time for it to defrost.  I start by turning my oven up to the maximum so the pizza stone that’s always hanging out on the bottom rack has time to get really hot.  With a little bit of flour on the counter I cut the dough ball in two with a bread knife and with my rolling pin flatten one half.  I stretch the dough out as much as I can with my hands and work it some more with the rolling pin, especially along the edges where it tends to be thicker.  It ends up being about the same size as my pizza peel.  After placing it on the dusted peel I spread a half a dozen spoonfuls of Rao’s marinara evenly over the dough.  Last night I sautéed an onion and some red and yellow pepper slices for five minutes and added those to my pizza with some sliced Kalamata olives and several dollops of our local Maplebrook ricotta…and a light sprinkling of kosher salt.  I’ve really got to remember to make pizza more often.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Spaghetti with Sausage Marinara

It was so beautiful here in Vermont yesterday I opted to go for a kayak rather than go to the market after work and didn’t get home until after eight.  It’s for times like these that I make sure I always have a couple of jars of Rao’s Marinara, fresh parmesan, and a variety of pasta on hand.  I dug around and found a package of hot Italian sausage in the freezer and some mushrooms in the fridge…perfect.  I put the frozen sausages on the bbq over low heat with the cover closed until they began to soften up at which point I turned up the heat and grilled them evenly on all sides.  Before pouring the Marinara into my pot I added some extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of red chili flakes, and after a minute to give enough time for the chili flakes to impart their flavor I threw in my mushrooms which I had cut into thick slices.  It took about five minutes for the mushrooms to soften and I then added the jar of sauce.  With the sausages nearly cooked I pulled them off the grill and put them right into the sauce where they simmered for about five minutes at which time my thick spaghetti was cooked and drained.  The possibilities for this are endless, bacon, canned garbanzo or white beans, frozen peas or edamame, sliced olives, capers, anchovies, pesto, ingredients I always like to have around.  But the key is to always have the Rao’s and pasta in the pantry.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Roast Potatoes with Garlic Scapes

I made these potatoes with garlic scapes as they are so abundant and affordable this time of year but I could have easily used scallions, leeks, or sliced onions.  They are pretty awesome on their own as well.  I tossed the scapes in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and some fine salt and put them directly on the barbeque on low heat and closed the lid.  I flipped them every few minutes to avoid burning and removed once they were brown and soft all the way through.  For the potatoes I cut in half and again tossed in olive oil and some fine salt and place directly on the grill with the lid closed.  Once they were browned on both sides I turned off the back burners, slid the potatoes to the back away from the direct heat, and let them roast with the cover closed until soft, about twenty to thirty minutes.  Along with the scapes I cut them into large chunks and tossed with olive oil and kosher salt.  It's summer, no reason to turn on the oven to make potatoes.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Patty Melt

I had forgotten how good a Patty Melt could be but made one last night that made me sorry I had gone without one for so long.   What could be bad about a hamburger on grilled cheese with caramelized onions?  I quartered and thinly sliced two onions and sautéed them on medium heat with some salt and a little bit of sugar.  In the mean time I got the grill going, formed my burger patties and threw them on.  In a separate fry pan I melted a mix of butter and olive oil and when it was hot enough I laid down my slices of bread.  Someone once told me that the secret to a perfect grilled cheese was to grill the bread on both sides, and they were right.  I flipped the bread and laid down my slices of Cheddar Cheese on both my tops and bottoms.  By this time my onions were browning up and my burger was ready to go.  I set the burgers on the bread with cheese then topped them with a pile of caramelized onions, a squirt of ketchup, and the other slice of cheesy bread.  After letting them ooze together for a minute or two on each side I served them up with a salad.  Incredible!  Would be so easy to change them up too, add some flaked chili peppers or mushrooms to the onions, fresh arugula, or olive bread.  But this may be one of those things that is best left unaltered.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Steamed Mussels

These mussels make for a great appetizer or meal, they’re so easy to do I brought the ingredients along and made them at a friend’s house the other night.  Start with a couple splashes of extra virgin olive oil and a large pot, heat, and sauté two finely chopped shallots.  After a few minutes add several cloves of chopped garlic and sauté for another five minutes.  At this point add enough dry white wine to barely cover the onions and garlic, doesn’t take much, and keep on medium heat until the liquid reduces by half.  If you don’t have any wine it isn’t critical, just skip to the clam broth.  I prefer, Better Than Bullion, but Snow’s bottled clam broth will work.  Add two cups of the broth and bring to a boil, turn the heat down slightly and leave at a light boil for a few minutes so the liquid reduces some allowing the flavor to intensify.  Taste and add salt, pepper, or a squeeze of lemon accordingly.   Put the mussels in the pot and cover, I figure a half pound per person for an appetizer and a pound for a main course.  A pasta pot can handle around five pounds at a time.  When the mussels have opened and feel nearly firm, about ten minutes, turn down the heat to low and add a half of stick of butter and a handful of chopped parsley.  The butter is optional but it really makes all the difference, but at this point you could also substitute a little curry paste and coconut milk, or Dijon mustard with a little bit of heavy cream.  Cover, let the butter melt for a few minutes, then empty everything into a large bowl and serve with a crunchy baguette so none of the broth goes to waste.  You could even serve them over some angel hair pasta.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Barbequed Corn on the Cob

It’s grilling season, why bother turning on the stove when you can just throw everything on the grill…including your corn on the cob.  Couldn’t be any easier, simply shuck the corn and put it on the grill.  Adjust the heat of your bbq so that the kernels brown slowly and turn the corn every few minutes for ten to fifteen minutes total.  You want to go for a consistent look on all sides without burning, a little is okay.  They’re delicious as is, smothered in butter, or covered in lime juice with chili powder; anything goes, I love them smeared with mayonnaise and a heavy coating of parmesan.  Salt is always good.  Last night I rolled them in a basil pesto.