Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Coffeepot Lasagna: Oxymoron or Good Eating?

June 23, 2012

Rolled Lasagna: Coffeepot Style

When my parents started getting older, it seemed that all they wanted to talk about was the weather and their grandchildren. Now the first topic is boring and there is not much I can do about it, but I must admit that I spend a lot of time talking to my children about their wonderful and sometimes not quite so wonderful children. I also spend a significant amount of time talking to my children about business, exercise (their’s and mine) and cooking.

My daughter discovered a recipe for rolled lasagna in early April and was concerned that it was not quite perfect. We talked about it and it sounded like something that could be done in my coffeepot but I didn’t get around to it until just before Memorial Day and have been too busy since then with my anti-inflammatory diet to worry about publishing new recipes.

However, I get two of my three Granddaughters for the first three weeks in August and this is another one of those fun meals that shouldn’t be possible to make. Even the name Coffeepot Lasagna sounds like an oxymoron. One of the most important things I learned with his meal is that you can cook the whole box of lasagna noodles and the ones that you don’t use can be frozen between layers of wax-paper and are perfectly fine for another day.

Naturally, my daughter and I never cook anything exactly the same way. She tends to be aware and adapt to the contemporary interpretations of old recipes and I tend to do it the old-fashioned way. It’s all good. When I cook, she loves it. When she cooks, I love it. The biggest difference in this recipe is that she included crumbled cooked sausage in her cheese mix for the filling, I sliced cooked meatballs and made it a layer on top of the filling. If I were including sausage, which I have in the past, I slice it and include it with the meatball slices or in a separate layer. Oh well, to each their own.

Rolled Lasagna

Ingredients:

1 cup Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan
1 egg
4 oz shredded Mozzarella
handful fresh parsley minced

3 Lasagna noodles cooked as per box directions.

Method:

1. Cook all the noodles and freeze the ones you don’t use between sheets of wax paper.

2. Microwave one portion of frozen meatballs for the appropriate amount of time.

3. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.

Spread the Cheese Mix on the Lasagna Noodles

4. Spread the cheese mix on the noodles.

5. Place the sliced cooked meatballs on top of the noodles and dab a little sauce on top of everything.

6. Roll and spike with toothpick to hold.

7. Put a little sauce in bottom of coffeepot so nothing sticks.

Cooked Rolled Lasagna

8. Place meatballs inside and cook for two to four hours.

9. Enjoy

I haven’t made this in the three years since Dolores died but I am definite I will make it when my granddaughters are here. Truth be told, I forgot to dab the sauce on top of the cheese and meatball layer before rolling because it’s been too long, but that is the traditional way to do it.

Ah, I remember it well!

Everything from Soup to Nuts – Spicy Foods in the Old World and Asia

June 22, 2012

Italian Pumpkin Soup

When I used to visit Aunt Adel, she used to prepare a six course Italian meal described by her as “Everything from Soup to Nuts.” Now any one of the courses could have been a meal unto itself but if you were really Italian, which I was not, you learned to pace yourself, which I did not. 

I never much thought about the purpose of each course and why some foods were alleged to go together until I first started thinking about the Inflammation Factor and healthy anti-inflammatory spices. Now as I mentioned before on the post on pumpkin soup, the addition of a chicken breast and some carrots makes this a hearty meal and since pumpkin is still on sale, I decided to check it out and find out how healthy it was.

I went to the Nutritionaldata site to check for the calories, protein, carbohydrates and Inflammation Factor for each ingredient including a chicken breast and carrots. I added up the totals for everything in the pot and was amazed at how healthy this soup really is and how high the anti -inflammatory qualities are. The results have been divided in two to reflect that the pot holds enough food for two people or two meals.

Calories 319
Protein 46
Carbohydrates 30
Inflammation Factor 709

Now this is a very impressive balanced low calorie anti-inflammatory meal, just the type I wanted to experiment with on my detox. Since I never do anything half way, I added fresh grated ginger, hot pepper and celery and more than doubled the anti-inflammatory properties without altering the other values by much.

I begin to see the concept of “Soup to Nuts” when I checked the anti-inflammatory properties of Almonds which Aunt Adel traditionally served at the end of the meal and found out they also had a positive influence. The concept would appear to be that if the meal started with and ended with foods high in anti-inflammatory properties, you could indulge in whatever you liked in the middle courses.

Pinto bean Curry

This new knowledge got me to thinking about other old world foods so I checked on some Indian Recipes while searching for a vegan recipe. The pinto bean recipe was also an original Indian recipe and unmodified by me as I don’t know enough about Indian Foods to alter the spice blends, but “I know what I like.” Once again I was utterly amazed at how high the anti-inflammatory properties are.

Calories 586
Protein 19
Carbohydrates 82
Inflammation Factor 1141

I guess in the old days, the people of the world did not have the luxury of picking and choosing what they were going to eat and just ate whatever was available to survive. To compensate for what might be the ill effects of refined flour and white rice, they just added spices and balance to the meals and got on with their lives. In many of these cultures, people live longer than Americans despite drinking too much wine and eating refined grains and starches so, I guess spices could be important.

In my mind, the jury on anti-inflammatory foods is still out but I intend to monitor what I naturally eat for the next year and make my decision after I go through a winter where my level of aches and pains traditionally increases.

Fish is Brain Food – Fact or Fiction??

May 19, 2012


Salt Fish Marinara (Baccala alla Marinara)

My mother always said fish was brain food and ate a lot of fish. She snacked on sardines and tuna and loved any fish we caught and cooked it for herself if no one else wanted fish. She died at the age of 93 with her brain still functioning and her wit and wisdom intact. I eat a lot of Fish because I like it.

When I first started my lifestyle change, I went to a nutritionist who also supported the consumption of large amounts of fish and the use of a fish oil supplement for improved cardiovascular health and this was definitely not a problem for me. Now that I have been living my new life style for two and a half years I am satisfied with my weight and excercise program so I have started to focus on what I eat. Unfortunately, fish has a tendency to concentrate the highly toxic environmental pollutant methyl mercury. Methyl Mercury is so toxic that a few drops on the outside of a scientist’s protective rubber glove which was cleaned and disposed of instantly still caused death within five days by skin adsorption.

Around 2000, the FDA and EPA put out a joint advisory that women who wanted to get pregnant, were pregnant or lactating should stop eating fish. Many did and the results proved my mom knew what she was talking about. Seems that scientist found a benifit for children of women who ignored the warning and continued to consume ocean fish. Their children had advanced cognitive and motor skill development compared to the children of women who skipped fish in the diet. Moreover, resent research reports from the University of California at Berkley document that eating fish can play a positive role in mental health. Some interesting preliminary studies suggest that fish oil, usually in the form of supplements because they are easy to use in research, may be of some help in treating bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) and schizophrenia.

I never stopped eating fish as the probability of me being pregnant or lactating is remote and at least two (anchovies and tilapia) of the four fish that I regularly eat are low in mercury. I am not too worried about the high mercury level in ahi tuna as I can’t afford to eat it very often. The other fish I love has been worshiped in a bawdy calypso song by the Mighty Sparrow.

Saltfish,
Nothing in the world sweeter than
Saltfish
English, colloquial, Bajans
Saltfish,
It’s sweeter than meat
When you want to eat
All saltfish sweet

If you look up the health benefits of saltfish, people who are not familiar with cooking or eating this fish condemn it for it’s high salt content. If you check Mediterranean or Caribbean Recipes, you find the salt is extracted from the meat over 24 hours with multiple water washes and you sometimes have to add flavor to the pot because all the salt has been removed.

The meal pictured above was actually closer to my Perfect Puttanesca because after washing the saltfish, it had very little flavor. You don’t lose the protein or oil by soaking the fish just the salt. Since I was just starting the meal, I used the following ingredients to build more flavor.

Ingredients:

Tablespoon extra virgin Olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic minced
1 large yellow onion -diced
Thin slice scotch bonnet hot pepper or crushed red pepper to taste
3-4 thin pieces of anchovies the size you get on pizza -diced
1 sprig basil with leaves
1 fresh bay leaf
T capers
Can of diced tomatoes.
4 to 6 ounces of well washed saltfish

Method:

1. The oil, garlic, onion, anchovies pepper, bay and basil are placed together in the coffee pot and and sautéed for about two hours
2. The capers are added to the pot along with the can of tomatoes. Stir and let cook 2-4 hours
3. About 1 hour before dinner, add the saltfish.
Serve with Pasta

A final thought is that all saltfish is not created equal. The three main variety of fish are Ling, Cod and Alaskan Pollock. Ling and Cod have high mercury levels so Alaskan Pollock is the preferred choice. Even at that, the recommended amount of Ling and Cod is no more than 12 ounces of fish per week I eat 4 to 6 ounces of saltfish about once a month so I guess it really wouldn’t matter which one I chose. Given that they are all available and all about the same price, I guess I’ll stick with Alaskan Pollock.

Grilled Pesto Stuffed Chicken Thighs

May 6, 2012

Grilled Pesto Stuffed Chicken ThighsIn St. Croix, the growing season is in the winter. It is cool for growing and there is usually ample rain. Not everything grows everywhere with all of the different soils and rain fall ranges on the islands. Still, you can get bumper crops of some vegetables. I have an abundance of Arugula, Bok Choy and Collard Greens. Like most gardeners, I have been giving excesses away, cooking new recipes for friends and just trying my best not to let anything go to waste.

On a calorie per calorie basis, arugula is not quite as healthy as spinach or even bok choy. However, it is a spicy green that adds a lot of flavor to a salad and is still fairly healthy for you with lots of vitamins and minerals. The biggest reason I cook it other than I like the taste, is with my combination of soil, water and sun it is growing like a weed in my yard. I was therefor fortunate to find a recipe for a small batch of arugula (also called rocket) pesto at Frugal Feeding

I have made and cooked with pesto before so I didn’t need a recipe. What I found useful was the suggestion to use arugula instead of basil and one of his commenters suggested almonds instead of pine nuts. Since arugula is abundant and I like almonds better than pine nuts, I jumped at the idea.

Arugula (Rocket) Pesto

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh arugula leaves, packed
1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2.6 ounce package of shredded almonds
1 T minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 T lemon juice
¼ tsp ground black pepper to taste
salt as desired

Method:

  1. Put everything except the oil and cheese into the blender or food processor and pulse it a few times.
  2. Slowly add the olive oil a little at a time while contuing to pulse the blender. When stopped, scrape down the walls and force the arugula into the blend.
  3. When uniform, add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended.
  4. Taste and add salt as needed.

This batch was quite good and I gave some to a friend who gave me some pine nuts that she had intended to use to make her own pesto. Since I also have an abundance of Basil, I will probably make a batch of that in the near future to see if I have a strong preference either way.

Grilled Stuffed Chicken Thighs

When I grill, I usually prepare a baked sweet or Irish potato so I don’t have a mess to clean in the kitchen. The chicken is prepared and in this case, I skinned, deboned and defatted the meat. Since I didn’t add any salt to the pesto I washed the chicken in lime an sprinkled it with Adobo which is a Puerto Rican Seasoned Salt. Sometimes when you stuff the thighs, they will cooked closed and sometimes they open up. They are all good and if I really cared, I would hold them in place with a toothpick.

Salt Fish and Pepperoncini Flat Bread Pizza

March 26, 2012

Salt Fish and Pasta

Of course I recognize that the featured picture is pasta with red sauce and in this case it’s Salt Fish Marinara or Baccala alla Marinara with a side salad of home grown arugula and tomatoes. I had an friend come by and this is a very easy meal to quickly prepare once the fish is washed. Washing the fish can be rushed if you change the water every half hour and swirl the fish around in the fresh water. Since I always cook too much for guests I used 12 ounces of salt fish and a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes as the base. Naturally, there was leftover sauce, but not much, as my friend had a couple of helpings of pasta and salt fish sauce.

Salt Fish and Pepperoncini Pizza

In the past I had experimented with flat bread pizzas and really enjoyed them for dinner. The eight inch shells pictured above only have about 150 calories for each tortilla, so this is really not a gut busting breach of portioned controlled eating and besides, I find I can stick to my program of weight control if I really indulge myself once in a while and feel a little guilty about the pleasure of food.

Recipe:

Once again there is not a real recipe. I toasted the shells in the oven for 10 minutes spread the leftover sauce on the browned shells, Sprinkled the shredded Mozzarella and Parmesan on top and then sprinkled the chopped up pepperoncini on top of the cheese. The pies were cooked for 1o more minutes and then cut up and eaten.

Why this particular combination. My friend John From the Palms loves an Anchovy and Jalapeno Pizza pie and the only other one that likes it is me. So, we started sharing a pie about once a week, and when he and his wife went on vacation, I decided to make my own but the only peppers I have around are the scotch bonnet which are extremely hot and the milder Greek peppers. This worked out as a pleasant combination.

Italian Pumpkin Soup – Coffeepot Style

February 12, 2012

Pumpkin Soup with Chicken

When I first wrote about Acorn Squash Soup, pumpkin and acorn were about the same price. I like the flavor of roasted acorn squash so I could buy a couple of small ones and make one into soup and the other eat roasted. Well in the past year, one market has dropped the price of pumpkin down as low as fifty cents a pound and started selling one pound pieces. So naturally I decided to try pumpkin soup using my Acorn Squash Soup recipe.

Actually, Italian Pumpkin Soup is richer and bolder than Acorn Squash Soup and just as versatile. I made a vegan version with coined carrots where you have to blanch the carrots until tender and add them back after the pumpkin soup is pureed. The version pictured above is with chicken and when I cooked it on the stove top, I included carrots, dumplings and chicken. When rereading the acorn squash recipe, I see that I no longer add Pasta to soup. If you choose to do this in your coffeepot, you have to cook the pasta for twice as long as called for and avoid leftovers as the pasta has a tendency to turn mushy. So in effect, this really is an entirely different soup and deserves it’s own recipe.

Italian Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients:

2 can vegetable broth or Chicken Broth

¾ to I pound pumpkin

3-4 cloves garlic minced

1 small onion diced

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Optional – Piece of chicken with or without the bone

Optional – Coined Carrots, precooked

Optional -Tablespoon grated Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Method:

  1. Peal and cube the pumpkin and get rid of the skin and seeds.
  2. Add cubed pumpkin and garlic to the pot and cook with broth for 2 hours
  3. Puree in blender or remove pumpkin from broth and mash by hand.
  4. Add onion and chicken or cooked carrots if desired. Cook additional 2 hours.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with Parmesan at the table

This is one of those soups that loves to be played with. Aside from pasta or dumplings as mentioned above, there are a few obvious spices I might try adding like ginger matchsticks, cumin and parsley. Come to think about it, I don’t believe either my daughter or I have ever made soup exactly the same or followed an exact recipe. It depends on what we feel like and what ingredients we have on hand.

Coffeepot Cooking – Easy and Delicious!

September 15, 2011

Pasta and Turkey Meatballs

Tonight was a typical night of coffeepot cooking . I was just a little too lazy to do anything else so I got some cheap sauce and the thing that most of these sauces lack are the spices because they are the most expensive ingredient.

No problem!

I went outside and picked a fresh bay leaf, fresh basil and fresh oregano. I put them in the pot and poured sauce on top. I microwaved 3 turkey meatballs (3 minutes) and added them to the pot and went and took a shower. The amount I cooked was too small for a crockpot and I still didn’t have to watch the stove.

I did have to boil a pot of water to make the pasta, because the only pasta that works well in the coffeepot is angle hair and I didn’t have any. For those of you trying to do this in a coffeepot who still want advice, here is the original post.

I plan on being creative mañana but we will see whether that means tomorrow or just some day in the future.

What do you do with Broccoli Stems?

January 8, 2011

Broccoli Stems Pealed and Cubed

Over a lifetime of enjoying Broccoli, I knew I had to be doing something wrong. After all who in their right mind would buy a head of Broccoli cut off the flowers and throw the rest away. Finally, after making a pot of Broccoli Soup from the Carla Capalbo’s “Encyclopedia of Italian Cooking”. I started to get the big picture but now had the opposite problem. I was taking perfectly good flowers and throwing them into a pot of soup just to puree the whole thing and cook a few more flowers in it for garnish. What a waste of perfectly good broccoli flowers which are a delight to eat either raw or gently steamed.

Pealed and Cubed Butternut Squash

Then I got an idea! After using the perfectly good flowers as a vegetable, why not use the leftover stems in a different pot of soup without any flowers. I pealed the stems and cubed them and combined it with an equal amount of butternut squash and followed the recipe for the my Vegan Acorn Squash Soup . Now just to let my sense of humor kick in I served it to my children and their friends who all hail from DC, New York and Princeton and are moderately affluent. After all why not make a soup for the well off out of what was formerly considered garbage.

Cooking the Soup

My daughter knows my sense off humor and loved the soup as did all who ate it. She now buys a butternut squash every time she purchases broccoli and makes the soup as a follow up dinner with a completely different character.

The recipe is recipe is similar to the Vegan Acorn Squash Soup with an equal amount of squash and broccoli stems and it makes enough for 4 people. Oops, because I forgot to take a picture and because I used Gimelli, the soup looks more like this.

Crucian Fusion Pasta Sauce – An Original Recipe

January 8, 2011

Crusion Frusion Sauce Served with Gimelli and Parmesan

As regular visitors are aware, our local cuisine in St. Croix is a fusion of American, Caribbean and Hispanic and yes, I am aware of Vodka Sauce which has good and bad taste elements in my mind so I have never tried it. I almost never use milk in cooking with the exception of thickened white sauces. However, my Uncle Allie by marriage always had a side dish of Ricotta Cheese at his red sauce meals and taught me to use it and blend it with the tomato sauce on your own plate. I don’t dislike red peppers but I like our local scotch bonnet peppers even more. Finally, I generally neither buy Vodka or have it in the house but there is always a bottle of Rum available even though I only drink red wine.

I made this for myself and some friends and then on another occasion served it to my daughter’s family and some of their friends. Everybody loved it and nobody cared it was made in my coffeepot as we all went to the beach and let the meal cook itself. Of course this recipe is perfect for a bottom heated newer crockpot.

Ingredients:

½ cup Cruzan Rum

1 thin slice Scotch Bonnet Pepper or ½ tsp crushed red pepper

1 T. Olive Oil

¼ pound prosciutto chopped up

2 Cloves of Garlic minced

1 T. chopped Parsley

1 T chopped Basil

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with juice

1 8 oz can of Tomato Sauce

½ cup of Ricotta

Directions:

  1. In a closed container put the half cup of rum and the hot pepper and let sit overnight
  2. Put oil, garlic, prosciutto, and parsley in pot and put on hot plate for one hour.

    Prosciuto and Parsley Ready to be Cooked.

  3. Add tomatoes, basil and tomato sauce and let cook covered for 2-4 hours or what ever is convenient.

    Ready for the Ricotta

  4. ½ hour before serving add the ricotta
  5. Serve with your choice of pasta (Gimelli) and Parmesan.

A very special meal from the Island of St. Croix. Take note, people from the island of St. Croix are Crucians, where as our best rum from the island is Cruzan.

Rotini Dolores

January 1, 2011

An Absolutely Delightful Vegi - Combo!!!

When it came to Italian food, Dolores did everything to make me a fan just as she did for other friends and family. From Calabrese in the toe of the Italian Boot to the Hills of Tuscany in the north, she loved it all. It simply didn’t matter that her family was from Naples as Italian was Italian.

Other than Italian Foods, Dolores loved streak. So when the Palms offered a streak in Gorgonzola sauce over fettuccine, I had to try it out of love and remembrance for Dolores. She loved the combination of Steak and Gorgonzola cheese which first appeared on local menu’s about 10 years ago and would order it every chance she got. While I would hardly ever order steak when out, I had eaten some of Dolores’ leftovers and have to agree it was a pretty good combination.

The Palm’s Gorgonzola and Sirloin Tips was excellent, the meat was cooked to perfection, very tender and moist, and the creamy white sauce had red onion pieces and mushrooms with a rich cheesy flavor. My date for the evening suggested that she would probably like it without the beef and the flavors were so delicious, I really could see that the beef was not necessary and his would make a fantastic Vegetarian meal.

Since the only white sauce I had cooked in the past year was the Penne with Cauliflower which was excellent, I decided to use that as a starting point and leave the meat out. The red onion and sirloin tips added some color to the original meal, but I wanted more. I decided to serve it over tri-colored rotini to make it prettier when served and also because the unique shape of rotini holds more sauce.

Ingredients:

2 cups low fat milk

1 bay leaf

2 T. butter

2 T. cup flower

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp black or white pepper freshly ground

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup crumbled Gorgonzola

1 small red onion rough cut and flaked

1 small can mushrooms

Method:

Obviously this will work well in one of the modern bottom heated crockpots with a low temperature setting about 170 Fahrenheit.

  1. Mix the flower and butter together with the back side of a fork until a smooth past is formed let sit at room temperature.

    Make the Cold Rue

  2. Put the milk in the coffee pot with the bay leaf and let come to temperature about 2 hours.

    Bay and Milk in Pot

  3. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the rue, the sauce will thicken right away. Be careful when stirring in the rue and the cheese. I used a fork to transfer the rue to the pot and a whisk to stir so as not to crack the glass pot.

    Mix in Rue with a Whisk

  4. Add the cheese and stir in the pot. When all is smooth, add the mushrooms and onions to the pot and gently stir until uniform. I use a plastic spoon.

    Stir in Mushrooms and Onions

Serve over pasta and don’t worry if you have to hold it a few hours, just dilute with a little more milk if it thickens too much. No burning, scalding or separating will occur even when you microwave the leftovers.

I smile as I write and cook this meal because I know that Dolores would love it and eat it as prepared the first time and after that she would add leftover steak or some pan seared tenderloin tips to her portion of this delightful vegetarian meal. And after 43 years of marriage why would I waste a second arguing. Meat or no meat, to each his/her own.