Tag Archives: Entree

{ Eggplant Parmesan }

 

You know those “learn-to-love it” foods? The strange vegetables and odd aquatic animals that you refuse to eat throughout your childhood but eventually develop a tolerance and than passion for as you get older. I think it is safe to say that eggplant is one of these foods–along with brussel sprouts, olives, shell fish, and stinky cheeses (just to name a few!). And the way most come to love this waxy, purple sponge of a vegetable is through eggplant parmesan–people will give almost anything a chance if it is breaded, fried, and/or covered in cheese. And most likely, they will enjoy it!

If you have tried eggplant parmesan before and the texture still bothers you, do not stop reading and dismiss this recipe. I too have had some bad eggplant parm experiences, but I promise this one might just convert you. Oftentimes, I find that restaurants don’t slice the eggplant thin enough because they want to minimize the preparation and frying time. This shortcut compromises the entire dish, still leaving you with that mysterious itching sensation on the roof of your mouth. But my recipe calls for a very thin slices, which mask the spongy texture under breaded, salty, cheesy goodness!

I fry up an eggplant or two in the beginning of the week, leaving the disks in the fridge for a light snack or as an ingredient for a more complex meal (i.e. eggplant parm lasagna or sandwiches). Of course, I also use them for this easy eggplant parmesan dish!! Enjoy the recipe and give eggplant a chance!

{ Ingredients for Fried Eggplant }

  • 1-2 large, ripened eggplants (sliced about 1/4″ thick)
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 cups of Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup of grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 3 large eggs, beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Kosher Salt

{ To Make Fried Eggplant } Set up three bowls; one with the flour, one with the beaten eggs, and one with the breadcrumbs combined with the parmigiano reggiano cheeses.

Run the sliced eggplant disks through a standard breading proceduredredge in the flour (shaking off the excess), then through the egg wash, and then through the breadcrumbs.
Pour the vegetable oil into a large skillet until it reaches a 3/4″ thickness. Heat the the oil over a medium high flame until it is good and hot (test by flicking in pieces of breadcrumbs–they should sizzle, but not burn!). Fry the eggplant in batches for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until it appears golden brown.

Remove the eggplant from the pan and sprinkle with kosher salt. Allow eggplant to cool on a bed of lettuce leaves or paper towels (although the lettuce absorbs the grease much better!).

{ Ingredients for Simple Sauce } 

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped

{ To Make Simple Sauce } Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium flame. Sautee the onion for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute or two (do not burn the garlic). Add the salt, pepper, parsley, and tomatoes.

NOTE: If you like your tomato sauce spicy, then add some crushed red pepper flakes at this time! Cook for 10 minutes.

{ To Assemble the Eggplant Parmesan } Preheat the over to 350 degrees.

Arrange the eggplant on a baking sheet, one layer thick. Spoon some of the simple tomato sauce onto the tops and then add a 1″ cube of fresh (or aged) mozzarella cheese on top of that.

Bake for 18-10 minutes, or until the cheese becomes bubbly and golden. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve!

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{ Chicken Milanesa }

Based on my observations here in Buenos Aires, there are five staple dishes in the Argentine diet: steak, pizza, pasta, empanadas, and milanesas (they will also consume dulce de leche in any, and every, form possible!). But milanesas are just about as popular in Argentina as hamburgers are in America. Likewise, they are decorated with many different toppings and condiments and served in numerous forms. Originally an Italian creation, Milanesa is a thin slice of meat—veal, chicken, or beef—that is breaded and fried to a golden perfection. Argentines, however, have taken their creative liberties with this simple dish and used it as a blank canvas to invent unfathomable and uncountable flavor combinations. There are even entire restaurants dedicated to the art of milanesas (i.e. Club de Milanesa). Toppings range from four cheeses, to sundried tomatoes and basil, to fried eggs and pancetta. Here is a look to get you inspired:

This is my simple recipe for chicken milanesa, although you can do it with any meat and top it with any ingredients that you like! I prefer mine simple like the Italians, with a little bit of fresh squeezed lemon juice and a nice side salad.

{ My Tips for Cooking the Milanesa }

  • Really pound out the chicken so that it is thin and tender.
  • Use panko breadcrumbs if you can, they seem to brown nicer.
  • Bread the chicken one-hour before frying it, allowing it to chill in the refrigerator in the meantime. I find that this helps the breading adhere to the meat, so it doesn’t fall apart when you are turning it.
  • Make sure the oil is hot enough before you start to fry. I test the temperature of my oil by throwing in bits of breadcrumbs, and checking that they sizzle upon submersion. Also, make sure that the oil is not too hot or the breading will burn and the meat won’t cook. You should heat the oil over a medium-high flame, not high.
  • When you remove the fried chicken from the oil, place it on a bed of lettuce leaves, which absorb the oil better than paper towels and brown paper bags!

 { Ingredients }

  • 1 cup all-pupose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten with a splash of milk
  • 1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • 1 ½ pounds chicken breast, pounded to ¼” thickness
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying (Extra Virgin Olive Oil, if it’s in your budget!)

 { To Make the Milanesa }

Set up three bowls; one with the flour, one with the beaten eggs, and one with the breadcrumbs combined with the parmigiano reggiano cheese. Season the chicken breasts with a little kosher salt and black pepper and then take each piece of chicken through a standard breading procedure: dredge in the flour (shaking off the excess), then through the egg wash, and then through the breadcrumbs.

Make sure that the chicken is well breaded!! Lay the breaded chicken on a baking sheet and allow to sit in the refrigerator for a hour or so.

Pour the oil into a large sautee pan until it reaches a thickness of about half an inch (remember, you want it to cover the chicken). Then heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Once the oil is hot, cook the chicken in batches for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crispy!

When the chicken is removed from the pan, lay it on a bed of lettuce leaves to absorb the oil and sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt.

Serve with fresh lemon wedges or go the Argentina route and top it with whatever your heart desires!

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{ Turkey Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce }

Being that I am half Italian, my idea of comfort food is classic spaghetti and meatballs. When I am sick I crave my mother’s chicken noodle soup, and when I am away from home for long periods of time I crave her homemade pasta dishes. Unfortunately, I won’t be putting my mother’s meatball recipe on my blog anytime soon (as that is my trump card to winning over a man’s heart…aka top secret stuff), but I do highly recommend these turkey meatballs by Giada De Laurentiis. Not only are they significantly healthier than the average meatball, but they are also very easy to make and taste quite delicious (most people don’t even suspect that they are turkey meat!). For those of you that have her cookbook or have seen this recipe online, you will notice that she pairs the meatballs with a quick tomato sauce containing peas (the sauce seen in my photographs below). I gave this sauce a shot, but could not find anything enjoyable about it. I tried adding extra garlic, extra salt, even mushrooms…but there was just no remedy. So I have offered my own simple tomato sauce recipe to serve with the meatballs, which I use as the base for several pasta dishes. If you are looking for a lower carb meal, then serve the meatballs in a bowl with fresh lemon wedges and a generous sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Whether atop pasta or served alone, these meatballs are fantastic.

NOTE: If you wish to freeze the remaining meatballs, place them into a one gallon ziplock bag with a few ladles of tomato sauce. I find that the sauce helps to keep them moist.

{ Ingredients for Meatballs }

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 ounces pancetta, finely diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground turkey (I used extra lean)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grate Romano cheese
  • 1/4 fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs (I use Panko)
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

{ To Make the Meatballs } Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium flame. Add the pancetta and cook for about 2 minutes, to render out some of the fat. Add the onion and continue to cook until pancetta is crisp and the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pancetta/onion mixture with the remaining meatball ingredients and mix with hands to combine.

Form the turkey mixture into balls, about 2 inches in diameter. Place onto a foil lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Now make the pasta and sauce.

{ Ingredients for Simple Sauce

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped

{ To Make Simple Sauce } Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium flame. Sautee the onion for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute or two (do not burn the garlic). Add the salt, pepper, parsley, and tomatoes. NOTE: If you like your tomato sauce spicy, then add some crushed red pepper flakes at this time! Cook for 10 minutes, then add meatballs to sauce and continue to heat until warm throughout.

{ To Serve } Laddle tomato sauce over cooked out pasta (I use linguine) and top with 2-3 meatballs. Sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley over the dish, and enjoy!

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{ Pasta Puttanesca }

Pasta Puttanesca with Grated Parmesan Cheese

After having dinner at La Stalla (read post below), I met up with my girlfriend Jennifer to go out and celebrate St. Patty’s Day in the typical fashion of chugging Irish Car Bombs and drinking pints of green beer! And since Jen and I are always looking for an excuse to dress up themed (cowboy hats to country concerts, Santa hats at Christmas time, ect…), we used St. Patty’s Day as an excuse to rob party city of everything green and sparkly. In major cities, where there are large celebrations for St. Patty’s Day, girls decked out in green apparel like this are the norm. However, we found out that in small rural towns (such as the one we live in), people are not as crazed about drinking holidays and don’t feel the need to get dressed up…at all. I didn’t even see people wearing green tee shirts! That being said, you can imagine just how much Jen and I stuck out in the crowd with our glitter green top hats! We got dirty looks from girls who wanted the attention, and free drinks from the boys giving us the attention. Long story short, our St. Patty’s Day shot glass necklaces were rarely hanging from our necks and certainly put to use, and we ended up requiring a ride home (top-of-the-morning to you dad!) after just two short hours at the bar.

Once we got home, I went scavenging for food and was bitterly disappointed that I had no leftover Puttanesca from dinner. Nothing other than more Puttanesca was going to satisfy drunk-food craving and so I set about to make my own from scratch (much to my mother’s dismay when she say the stove in the morning, with dried linguini caked onto the burners). I make this Puttanesca dish pretty frequently, because it is super easy and relatively inexpensive.

Puttanesca means “food of the whores” in Italian, because it was a staple dish among the poor made with cheap ingredients commonly stocked in the pantry. I choose to make my Puttanesca without anchovies, although they are commonly used in traditional Puttanesca dishes and can be added to my recipe. Tonight, I modified by recipe slightly by adding mushrooms and substituting arugala with baby spinach based on what I had available in my house. The dish turned out incredible, and certainly hit the spot.

If you want a little bit of protein, feel free to add some sliced chicken breast over top the dish! Otherwise, serve hot with Pecorino cheese and enjoy.

{ Ingredients }

  • 8 ounces linguini pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • ½ cup pitted Spanish kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (less if you don’t like spice)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • ¾ cup chopped fresh arugala (or baby spinach)
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

{ To Make the PastaBring a large pot of water to a boil, and add 2 tablespoons salt. Add pasta and cook according to directions on package.

While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium flame. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the parsley, olives, capers, oregano, and crushed red pepper flakes to skillet and sautee for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and juices and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in arugala (or baby spinach) and simmer for 1 minute more, until the greens wilt slightly.

When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the skillet, combining with sauce. Top with grated cheese and additional red pepper flakes for spice.

**Tip: Do not rinse the pasta after draining it because the sauce does not stick as well to the noodle. The starch is necessary and binding so do not rinse it off.

Tossing the Linguini in with the Puttanesca Sauce

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{ Beef and Black Bean Chili }

Beef and Black Bean Chili with Green Onion Garnish

Day one on any diet isn’t too bad. You’re excited about having started something new and you go to bed on that first night feeling satisfied that you spent the entire day eating healthy. Then day two rolls around and the reality sinks in—you’re not just eating healthy for one day, you’re eating healthy indefinitely. Suddenly, it doesn’t feel so good to be substituting your fries for a side salad. Instead, you feel left out as you watch the rest of the world guzzle Coca-Cola and munch on potato chips. Your water bottle and carrot sticks are downright depressing in comparison.

Today, I felt the first painful sting of the diet, and I highly doubt that it will be the last. I started off my morning with the 3-egg Garden Vegetable Omelet and then for lunch went to the Rathskeller (the on campus bar and restaurant) with a group of friends, only to finnd that there was not one thing on the menu that I could eat! Fried Ravioli, Mozzarella Sticks, Jalapeno Poppers, Buffalo Chicken Subs, and my personal favorite, the “No-Yes Fries” (fries smothered with cheddar cheese, bacon, and ranch) were all out of the question. Rather than be high maintenance and attempt to construct a meal that pulled various ingredients from all different menu items, I just decided that I would cook myself a delicious pot of chili at home later. So I jogged home from campus (as I have decided to start running to and from my classes…my apologies to those of you who sit directly to my left and right) and I started prepping up the vegetables for a pot of black bean and beef chili. I got the original recipe from Food Network online, however, I have made so many modifications that I think I can safely call it my own now! I like spicy chili so I make mine with a lot of cayenne pepper, but if you don’t want the heat, then feel free to leave it out. I also add Cholula Hot Sauce while the meat is cooking for some additional spice and flavor, but again, this is optional.

It is really important that you use the leanest ground beef that you can find. It is more expensive, but it makes a huge difference in the consistency of the recipe. I once tried to cut corners and save money by buying a fattier ground beef, and the meat let off so much oil and fat that the chili was almost inedible. This recipe also makes for a great taco meat recipe if you just don’t add all the beef broth, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Instead, add like ¼ cup beef broth and ½ (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes, leaving out the tomato sauce altogether. Let the meat simmer until the sauce reduced slightly and then serve. Since this makes a pretty large amount, I freeze mine in individual serving containers and they hold in the freezer for a very long time. When you are ready to eat, just put in fridge and let defrost for a few hours or use the microwave to defrost and reheat. It tastes just as good, if not even better, than when it was first made! When I’m not dieting, I like to serve this on a bed of white rice or use it to make nacho platters, which are always a late night hit. Again, you can also use it for taco meat if you use less of the liquid ingredients.

{ Ingredients }

  • 2 pounds of lean ground sirloin (90% lean)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup beef broth, like ½ of a 15 oz can
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 (8 ounce) can of tomato sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

{ To Make Beef and Black Bean Chili }

In a large skillet or stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high flame. Add the ground beef and season with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir meat with spatula and cook until crumbled and brown, about 7-10 min. Add the onions, peppers, garlic, jalapeno, and season with cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper (if desired). Allow meat to cook with veggies for about 5 min. Add the beef stock and scrape up drippings from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the beans, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 20-25 min, stirring occasionally. Garnish with cilantro or minced green onion and serve!

Nutritional Information

The total number of calories in this dish are 2569, which leads to about 321 calories per serving (if you get 8 total servings). The nutritional breakdown is as follows: 106 g of fat, 197 g of carbohydrates, 59 g of fiber, 252 g of protein. This information is for the pot overall, so to find the information per serving just divide figures by 8.

Cost of Ingredients

The total cost of making this meal is $20.52, with the assumption that you have the olive oil and spices. Since I have left over red pepper and garlic from my Mexican Black Bean Salad, my total cost was only 17.62. I got about 8 bowls of chili out of this recipe, which leads to a total cost of $2.20 per serving. A similar portion of soup from Whole Foods would cost you $4.99, so there is a cost savings.

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{ Lentil Soup }

Lentil Soup

When you think of your favorite vegetable, I highly doubt that lentils come to mind. Maybe we forget about them because they are so small, or because they so rarely appear in the American diet, or because they have very little flavor when cooked improperly (which they often are).  Lentils are kind of like lima beans; people find reasons to dislike them…and not just dislike them, but passionately dislike them—with a vengeance! You never really meet someone who is on the fence about lima beans or lentils—either they love them or loathe them. End of story.

Well I just so happen to love both, and have finally found a lentil soup recipe so delicious that it can convert almost any lentil hater. But before I even get to the recipe, let me first give you some other reasons to love lentils (or at least give them a shot). Lentils, despite their tiny size, derive about 26% of their calories from protein, so they are pretty much a super food. They have the third highest level of protein, by weight, of any plant-based food after soybeans and hemp and Health Magazine ranks lentils as one of the five healthiest foods you can eat. Lentils are a staple in India and the Middle East, and its time for Americans to start appreciating their nutritional value as well.

This lentil soup recipe, which is adapted by one from one by Ina Garten, is healthy, filling, cheap to make, and delicious! It doesn’t look very pretty in a bowl (more like a pile of brown mush) but the flavor is strong and incredible. My roommates were a little skeptical when they first saw me eating it (I was hoping they would stay skeptical so I wouldn’t have to share…no such luck), but they too loved it once they tried it. It’s hearty and warm, and really low in fat. Anytime I’m looking to loose a little belly fat, I replace two meals with this soup and it most certainly does the trick!

Also, this soup freezes great since there is no dairy in it. Since I’m only cooking for myself, I like to buy individual plastic containers that I can freeze single servings in. Take it out the night before and heat it up when you’re ready to eat. Most of the time it tastes even better because the flavors have fully developed.

My only cooking suggestion is to make sure that you only use the white part of the leek, because the green part will make the soup taste bitter. It is okay to use some of the lighter green color but if you use too much the bitterness will come through in the broth. Also, if you decide to use dried thyme leaves instead of fresh ones (I do not recommend this), remember that dried herbs are more pungent and therefore require less so I would only use ½ teaspoon of the dried thyme. And as far as salt goes, I don’t add a whole lot because I prefer to top off my bowl with a heaping of freshly grated parmesan cheese, which has a natural saltiness that comes through and flavors the dish, but feel free to add more salt if you find it too bland.

Ohh, and I almost forgot…it is very important that the garlic does not burn when making this soup so when I sauté my veggies in the stockpot (see directions), I add the garlic about 5 minutes after the rest of the veggies.

{ Ingredients }

  • 1/2 pound French green lentils
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white part only
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ cups celery, diced
  • 1 ½ cups carrots, diced
  • 1 ½ quarts chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese for serving

{ To Make Lentil Soup }

In a large glass bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to soak for about 20 minutes, or until lentils soften. Drain.

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat and sauté the onions, leeks, and garlic with the salt, pepper, thyme and cumin for 15 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the carrots and celery and allow to sauté for about 10 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer uncovered for 1 hour, until the lentils and carrots are cooked through. Check the seasonings. Remove from heat, add the red wine vinegar, stirring to incorporate. Serve hot and garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper.

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{ Roasted Butternut Squash Soup }

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Drizzle of Heavy Cream

The holidays are almost over, and it is time to start lightening up our diets. That means no more artichoke dips or mini hot dogs, or cookies in place of breakfast. No more substituting our required 8 glasses of water with egg nog and hot chocolate. And please, no more Costco frozen appetizers! It’s time to start eating lighter and healthier.

I know for a fact that almost everyone has made it their New Year’s resolution to loose weight, or at least start eating right (history tends to repeat itself)! But, we also all know that this is much easier said then done (again, history tends to repeat itself!). It is not surprising that so many people abandon their resolutions before the years end, considering just how challenging it is to find recipes that are healthy and yet still tasty. They do exist, but they are often tricky to find. Thankfully, this year you have my blog to help you locate them! This recipe for roasted butternut squash soup is hearty, full of flavor, and best of all, naturally low in calories!!  It will help you achieve your resolution without forcing you to sacrifice delicious food.

This soup tastes so hearty and feels so satisfying largely because of it’s creamy consistency. There isn’t a ton of milk or cream in it, but the pureed butternut squash is thick and gives the impression of a cream base. In fact, I oftentimes forgo even adding any milk or cream to the soup, and find that the texture is not compromised in the least bit (it also freezes better without the dairy). Flavor wise, the soup has a perfect balance of sweet and spicy with the heat coming from the ginger and cayenne pepper and the sweetness coming from the butternut squash. To add another dimension to the soup, I like to serve mine with croutons on top or a side of fontina cheese crostini; it adds some crunch and breaks up the monotony of the puree. Overall, this soup is fabulous, simple to make, and I highly recommend it!

{ Ingredients }

  • 2 butternut squash
  • 1 spanish onion
  • 2-4 leeks, depending on size (3 medium is ideal)
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, depending on size
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 (32 oz) containers of chicken stock (or veggie stock)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • (optional) 1/4 cup heavy cream for finishing

{ To Make Soup }

Preheat oven to 350. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and rub with oil. Roast in oven on lined baking sheet for about 40-45 minutes, or until fork goes through squash easily.

Once squash is cooked, heat butter and oil in a large stock pot over medium flame. Once hot, saute onion, leek, garlic, and ginger. Season with salt, pepper, and add cayenne pepper. Add chicken stock.

Scoop out seeds from butternut squash and add the pulp into broth. Simmer on low for another 20-30 minutes, covered. Then with immersion blender or regular blender, puree soup. Return to pot and add milk, stirring. Bring to a low simmer for a minute or two. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in warm bowls with drizzle of cream, if desired.

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Chicken Marsala *****

Chicken Marsala with Baby Button Mushrooms

At the age of 5, I became a pseudo-vegetarian. Not because I didn’t like meat, or because I was joining the campaign for animal rights at an early age. I temporarily stopped eating meat simply because I finally made the connection that the food served on my plate came from an actual animal. This concept had somehow eluded me until Thanksgiving of 1995, when my mom asked my grandmother, “where is the bird?”

Being the naive little girl that I was, I thought that I was getting a new pet parrot, or a cockatoo, perhaps (I was already in the process of picking out names—Polly, Birdie, Betty…). You can probably imagine my confusion and hysteric disappointment as my mom explained that “the bird” was not in reference to a new house pet but instead, the main course of our SUPPER! To say the very least, I did not take this news easily. I put on the waterworks and when dinnertime finally came around, I could not bring myself to eat the turkey—not that year or the 10 years following! I am not kidding, such a simple question had a spiral of effects that put me off to turkey until I was in high school. I had resumed eating other meats (I mean, how long could I possibly go without bacon?! Bacon seems to crack even the toughest of vegetarians), but I was traumatized by my turkey experience. The words, “the bird” haunted me.

I finally manned up at age 15, and began eating delicious gravy-soaked turkey again (till this day, consuming obscene amounts to make up for lost time!), but handling meat still bothered me. I didn’t want to be involved in the process of turning an animal into a plated meal…it just seemed wrong. But, men love meat and women that cook it, so when I finally fell in love sophomore summer of college, I decided it was time to conquer my fear. The very first meat dish that I ever prepared was this Chicken Marsala with baby button mushrooms. I cooked it for my boyfriend at the time and 3 of his friends (spoiled boy…right?). I never disclosed that it was my first attempt at meat, and no one detected that it was either. This flavorful meal is super easy for anyone to make, so I suggest it for any level of cooking experience. I like to pair it with Garlic Roasted Mashed Potatoes and a nice side salad such as Goat Fiesta with Shallot-Thyme Vinaigrette. This is a guaranteed hit among any crowd, and better than any chicken marsala that I have ever ordered out. It is very important that you use the proscuitto though because it gives the dish a hearty flavor and a nice dark brown color.

Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds) or cutlets
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging chicken
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces of prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces of baby button mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, minced
  • 1/2 cup sweet marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • (Optional) parsley for finishing

Directions:

Pound out chicken with flat meat mallet so that it is 1/4 inch thick (I put the chicken in a plastic baggie or between two pieces of plastic wrap to pound out). Cut into desirable sized pieces and then season with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium-high flame. Once the oil is nice and hot, dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess. Slip the cutlets into the pan and allow to cook for 5 minutes on each side until golden brown. (Cut into center to make sure cooked through). Do this in batches until all of the chicken is cooked, and if you need to add more oil to prevent sticking, do so. Place the cooked chicken on a large platter and cover to keep warm.

Lower the heat to medium and add the proscuitto to the same pan that the chicken was cooked in. Sauté the proscuitto for 1 minute in the drippings to render out some of the fat. Now, add the mushrooms and thyme and sauté until they are nicely browned and their moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Pour the marsala in the pan and allow the alcohol to boil down for a few minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for a minute to reduce the sauce slightly. Stir in the butter and return the chicken to the pan. Simmer gently to warm the chicken and then serve. Garnish with parsley if desired!

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{ Thin Crust Pizza Dough }

On my 15th birthday I remember looking over my cake and saying “just one more year till I start driving dad!!” Without flinching my dad responded, “Ohh yeah? In what car sweetie? You’re mother and I certainly aren’t buying you one!”

And that’s how I got my start in the restaurant business.

I needed a car and so I needed a job. Within the week I started working at a little gourmet pizza shop near my house called Jules Thin Crust. I was one of the first employees when it opened, and watched it grow into a local favorite hotspot over the four years that I worked there. Their pizza is truly delicious and very unique in topping and presentation. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any other pizza that even resembles the flavors of Jules Thin Crust and so out of necessity I decided to start making my own imitation pizza. I experimented with several different types of dough over the past year, and think that I have finally found the ultimate thin crust pizza dough recipe. It crisps up beautifully on the bottom (even on a plain baking sheet), yet stays soft on the side under the sauce. And best yet, it is super easy to make….just takes some pre-planning because it needs to proof over night!

As far as the toppings go, I like to get creative and make the pizza look pretty (I stole a lot of my presentation ideas from the pizza place I worked at!). But definitely use a variety of cheeses, the more the better. I like to combine fresh mozzarella, aged mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan. The Two pizzas that I have photographed are my Margarita Pizza (fresh mozzarella and provolone white base with sliced tomato, minced garlic, and basil garnish) and Eggplant Pizza (homemade tomato sauce, aged mozzarella, thin sliced eggplant, cubes of fresh mozzarella, and arugala). I also love to make a Honey Garlic Pizza, which is a thin layer of honey for the base, topped with minced garlic and then a generous layer of fresh mozzarella cheese. This pizza may seem strange, but it is so surprisingly good. The sweetness of the honey balances out with the saltiness of the cheese in a great way. It is just a little messy on your baking pans if you use too much honey because it will overflow when it heats up, so don’t put too much on!

{ Ingredients }

  • 4 ½ cups unbleached high-gluten, or all-purpose flour, chilled
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast (rapid rise)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 ¾ cup ice cold water
  • Semolina flour or cornmeal

{ To Make Pizza Dough }

Put the flour into the bowl of an electric mixer and allow to chill in fridge for 10-15 min. Then stir in the salt and instant yeast. With the mixer on low speed (fitted with paddle attachment) stir in the olive oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed. Then switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. It is very important that the dough not stick to the sides of the bowl, but stick to the bottom. In order to create this consistency, you make need to add more ice water (tablespoon or two) to make the dough tackier or add more flour to make it firmer. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky.

Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer dough to counter. Using a metal dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces, dipping the scraper into water between cuts to keep the dough from sticking. Sprinkle flour over the dough and then list each piece and round into a ball (make sure that your hands are dry and flour them). Transfer the dough balls to a plate or baking sheet that has been sprayed with oil. Then mist the dough balls with oil and cover with plastic wrap.

Put the pan into the refrigerator overnight to rest the dough (you must do this), or keep for up to three days.

On the day you plan to make the pizza, remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on well-floured counter surface. Dust your hands with flour and gently press (or roll) the dough into a flattened disk about ¼-½ inch think. Then put pizza dough onto a baking sheet that has been generously dusted with cornmeal or semolina flour and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour before cooking.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven as hot as possible (mine only goes to 400 and that worked just fine), and put your topped pizza into the oven, cooking for about 8-10 minutes. Since the cook time depends on the amount of toppings that you have chosen and the temperature that your oven will reach, check on it very frequently to see when it appears done.

When cooked to your satisfaction, remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow to sit for 3-5 minutes. You want the cheese to rest before you cut the pizza, or it will just slide off.

**Remember when topping your pizza that basil turns black in the oven, so put the basil on after the pizza has cooked and cooled slightly**

Margarita Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella, Sliced Tomatoes, Minced Garlic, and Basil

Eggplant Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella, Organic Tomato Sauce, Parmesan, and Basil

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{ Roman-Style Chicken Fettuccine }

Roman-Style Chicken Fettuccine with Parmesan and Basil

(Adapted from Giada De Laurentis)

All week my mother has been pestering me to cook dinner for the family. She knows how often I cook for my boyfriend in Miami, and she gets jealous that I don’t cook as often here at home. Whatshe doesn’t seem to realize is that she is the reason I don’t cook at home. Why should I have any motivation to make a meal when she makes some of the most incredible food that I have ever tasted? If she was serving up Kraft Mac&Cheese every night, I might be more inclined to offer up my culinary services. But when her idea of a Greek dinner includes Kafta, tabouli, hummus, tahini sauce, cucumber salad, tzatziki, and fresh pita all made from scratch…well, I just step aside and play taste tester. However, tonight I was in the mood to cook and so I decided to make one of my favorite pasta dishes, which is Roman-Style Chicken Fettuccini. I got the original recipe from Giada De Laurentis, but I made many of my own modifications to simplify the recipe without compromising the flavor (the recipe below is my version). This dish is incredible and tastes even better on the second day, so if you are making it for company then I would make it the night before. It is very similar in flavor to a chicken cacciatore, but without all the time and work. I don’t like working with chicken on the bone so I used chicken breasts in my version, but for extra flavor you could use a couple of chicken thighs, as the original recipe calls for. If you are eating this the same day that you make it, one of my favorite aspects of this meal is that it is so quick yet tastes like it has been cooking for hours. Everyone can’t help but love this dish, so definitely try it….it’s one of my all time favorites.

Ingredients }

  • 1 ¼ pound chicken (I use chicken breasts)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped oregano
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons capers

{ To Make the PastaSeason the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is ot, cook the chicken until golden on both sides; about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the prosciutto and the peppers and cook until the prosciutto is crisp and the peppers browned (about 5 minutes). Then add the garlic and continue to cook for an additional minute, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the wine, and herbs, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Shred the chicken using two forks, and return the shredded chicken to the pan. Then add the chicken stock and capers and bring mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Serve over fettuccini pasta and sprinkle with fresh basil and parmesan cheese.

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