Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cellentani a Zucchine e Salsicce Calabrese al Salsa Pomodoro con Basilico

     Fresh sausage is most often used to make Italian pastas like today's recipe.  Instead of roasted fresh sausage, I chose to use a local artisan crafted Salsicce Calabrese.  Salsicce Calabrese is a dry cure pork sausage that is similar to American Pepperoni Sausage.  Calabrese Sausage is usually used to flavor Italian ragu recipes.
     Cellentani Pasta is a ribbed spiral shaped tube pasta.  Cellentani is like a fancy version of Elbow Macaroni.  The shape of Cellentani is perfect for picking up Tomato Basil Sauce.
     Salsa di Pomodoro con Basilico Recipe (Tomato Basil Sauce):
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
     • Salsa di Pomodoro con Basilico Recipe (Tomato Basil Sauce)
     Cellentani a Salsicce Calabrese e Zucchine al Salsa Pomodoro con Basilico:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     The goal is to only make just enough sauce to coat the pasta with flavor.  The pasta should not be swimming in sauce!
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of Cellentani Pasta in boiling water till it is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Set the pasta aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 cloves of thin sliced garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic is a golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 cup of small chopped zucchini.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Sauté till the zucchini is cooked al dente.
     Step 4:  Add 2 1/2 ounces of very thin sliced Calabrese Sausage.
     Sauté and toss for 30 seconds.
     Step 5:  Add 3 ounces of Dry Vermouth.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
     Simmer and reduce till the vermouth is almost evaporated.
     Step 6:  Add 1 cup of the Tomato Basil Sauce.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of fine grated Parmigiana Cheese while stirring.
     Add the reserved portion of Cellentani Pasta to the sauce.
     Toss the ingredients together occasionally as the pasta reheats.
     Step 8:  Mound the pasta on a plate.  Spoon any excess sauce over the pasta.  Try to expose some of the sausage and zucchini on the surface of the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1 or 2 pinches of chopped Italian Parsley over the pasta.
     Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     As can be seen in the photos, it does not take much sauce to flavor this pasta.  The little bit of Parmigiana Cheese in the sauce enriches the flavor.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Linguettine con salsiccia e spinaci olio d'oliva

     A Traditional Italian Olive Oil Sauce Pasta! 
    "Olio d'oliva" translates to olive oil and when written as a menu item description these words usually refer to a simple olive oil sauce.  Olive oil sauces for pasta are popular in Italy, especially during warm summer months.  Authentic Italian restaurants in America offer traditional olive oil sauce pastas on their menus.
     Sausage, garlic and spinach are the featured ingredients in today's pasta.  A key to cooking simple flavor combinations in Italian cuisine is aim for getting peak flavors from the fewest ingredients possible.  In Italian cooking, it is not how many extra ingredients are added that makes the entrée great.  It is the quality of the basic ingredients and the quality of the cooking techniques that makes the food great!    
    I chose an Italian fresh spicy sausage for today's recipe.  Sweet Italian sausage can be used if that is what you prefer.  There is a fairly high amount of olive oil in this recipe, so this pasta is somewhat healthy to eat, even though the sausage contains saturated pork fat.  Olive oil has a way of relieving saturated fat and hard cholesterol from the body.
     When cooking an olive oil sauce, it is important to keep the temperature of the pan under the temperature range where olive oil starts to smoke.  Olive oil becomes bitter tasting when it reaches the smoking point.  Olive oil has a low smoking point temperature.  Medium/medium low temperatures are about as hot as olive oil can withstand.
     There are several kinds of olive oil to choose from.  Blended olive oil is used for higher temperature cooking, especially for pan frying.  Pomace olive oil stands up to moderate sauté temperatures.  Virgin olive oil has a very low smoking point.  Virgin olive oil is usually added late in a recipe just for flavor.
     Sausage Preparation: 
     Place a 5 to 6 ounce fresh Italian sausage on a roasting pan.
     Roast in a 300ºF oven till the sausage is fully cooked and lightly browned.
     Cool the sausage to room temperature.
     Cut the sausage into thin slices.
     Set the sliced sausage aside.
     Linguettine con salsiccia e spinaci olio d'oliva:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     The sauce for today's pasta can be cooked in the same amount of time that it takes to cook the linguettine pasta.  The goal is for the sauce and pasta to finish cooking at the same time, so peak flavors and al dente pasta texture can be achieved.  
     Linguettine is not always easy to find.  Linguettine is a thin linguine pasta.   
     Step 1:  Start cooking 1 portion of linguettine pasta in boiling water over high heat.  
     Stir the pasta occasionally.
     *Start making the sauce and it should finish when the pasta is al dente!  (About 9 to 10 minutes.)
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  
     Add 3 minced garlic cloves.
     Briefly sauté till the garlic starts to turn a golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of very thin sliced onion.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.  
     Step 4:  Add the sliced roasted Italian sausage.
     Sauté till light brown highlights appear on the sausage and onion.
     Step 5:  Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 2 1/2 cups of baby spinach leaves.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Toss the ingredients till the spinach wilts.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of water or chicken broth.
     *The small amount of liquid stops the pan frying saute process, so excessive browning does not occur.  Most of the liquid will evaporate by the time the pasta is added.
     Step 7:  Check the pasta.  If it is al dente, then it is ready.  
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Step 8:  Add the pasta to the sauce in the pan.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 9:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Use a long straight tine carving fork to twist the pasta while placing it on a plate.  (Spin the carving fork to coil and twist the pasta, so it forms a high peak on the middle of the plate.) 
     Spoon the remaining sausage, spinach and olive oil sauce over the pasta.
     Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     No garnish is necessary!  
     A simple, light and delicious Italian pasta! 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Garbanzo Bean and Ham Soup

     Spanish Style Garbanzo Bean Soup!   
     Garbanzo beans and ham go well together.  Needless to say, the better the ham, the better a garbanzo bean soup will taste.  In Spain there are many great varieties of ham that are perfect for flavoring a garbanzo soup.  In America it is difficult to get ham from Spain, but artisan crafted Spanish style ham is available in some regions of this country.  If no Spanish ham is available, then a cured aged Virginia ham is a good option.  
     There are no tricky cooking techniques involved with today's recipe.  This is just an old fashioned Spanish style soup that is simmered in one pot, just like a potage.
     Cooked dried garbanzo beans are best for this recipe, but canned garbanzo beans are a nice convenience.  Patience is a virtue when simmering garbanzo beans till they are very tender.  A pressure cooker can speed up the process.    
     Garbanzo Bean and Ham Soup: 
     This recipe yields 2 large bowls of soup.  (About 4 1/2 cups)   
     Step 1:  Place 2 cups of rinsed cooked garbanzo beans or rinsed canned garbanzo beans in a mixing bowl.
     Mash half of the garbanzo beans in the bowl.
     Step 2:  Place the prepared garbanzo beans in a large sauce pot.
     Add 3 1/2 cups of vegetable broth.
     Step 3:  Add 6 ounces of ham that is torn into large bite size pieces by hand.  (Ham that is torn by hand adds more character!)
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of diced celery.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced onion.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced green bell pepper.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Step 5:  Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground anatto.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 6:  Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Gently simmer till the garbanzo beans and vegetables are very tender.  (Be sure to stir the soup occasionally as it simmers.)
     Step 8:  Remove the lid from the pot.
     Simmer and reduce till the soup is a medium thin consistency.  The finished volume should be about 4 1/2 cups.    
     Step 9:  Remove the bay leaf before serving.
     Ladle the soup into a bowl and try to expose a few pieces of ham on the surface of the soup.
     The spices give this soup a nice flavor!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Beer Cheese Soup

     A Great Soup For A Chilly Evening! 
     Beer Cheese Soup was popular in the 1980's and 1990's.  Just like what happens to so many great recipes in America, low quality restaurants and get their hands on a good recipe and burn it out forever.  I have seen poorly made Beer Cheese Soup served in restaurants that was separated beyond recognition.  Burnt Beer Cheese Soup that has a rancid flavor also seems to find its way to a customer's table in low quality restaurants too.
     Basically, quality issues are the main reason that Beer Cheese Soup declined in popularity.  The health cuisine food trend also caused this fine soup to wane in popularity to a lesser extent, because those who liked Beer Cheese Soup tended to only go to restaurants to indulge.  
     To make a great Beer Cheese Soup, the roux has to be perfectly made or the soup will easily separate.  Beer Cheese Soup cannot be overheated or the oils and fats will separate from the cheese.  Once the oils separate, the milk curdles and the soup turns a rancid brown color.
     Beer Cheese Soup has to be made gently over a low temperature.  Beer Cheese Soup can only be kept warm for a few hours in a soup warmer, but it usually only takes a couple hours to sell 2 1/2 gallons on a good day.
     Beer Cheese Soup is not simply beer and cheese that is gently cooked together like a fondue.  This is a light cream soup that is flavored with beer instead of stock or broth.  Just enough cheddar cheese is added to give the soup a nice flavor.
     Beer cheese soup can be made with anatto oil flavored cheddar (Colby) or white English Cheddar.  The orange colored anatto seasoned cheddar is what most people expect to see when they order this soup in America.  I do not recommend highly processed bulk cheddar or bulk Wisconsin Cheddar.  Both of those cheaper kinds of cheddar are over processed to the point of being Cheese Whiz.  Highly processed Wisconsin bulk cheddar has a poor texture and flavor that tastes more like American Cheese than cheddar.
     Small production artisan sharp cheddar or local farm cheddar is a superior choice for making Beer Cheese Soup and they both have an authentic English cheddar flavor.  Basically the rule of thumb is, "The better the cheddar, the better the flavor!"
     Beer Cheese Soup:
     This recipe yields about 2 1/3 cups.  (1 large portion of soup)
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring to create a roux.  (The roux should be thick and shiny, not caky looking.)
     Constantly stir the roux till it turns a light golden color and it just starts to emit a light hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 cups of light lager beer (or pilsner) while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir till the roux thickens the beer.
     Step 3:  Add 1 1/2 cups of milk.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.    
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced ham.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced green bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 of a minced green onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Stir occasionally till the soups comes to a very gentle simmer.  The soup will be a very thin sauce consistency.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the soup till the vegetables are cooked tender and the soup is a thin sauce consistency that can barely glaze a spoon.  Be sure to stir the soup occasionally.
     Step 5:  Add 3/4 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir till the cheese blends with the soup.
     Step 6:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground anatto.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 7:  Simmer and reduce till the soup is medium thin sauce consistency that can easily coat a spoon.
     *If the soup becomes too thick, add a little bit of milk.  This soup should not be so thick that it resembles a nacho cheese sauce!
     Step 8:  Ladle the soup into a large soup bowl.
     Garnish with a parsley leaf.
     Deliciously rich, warm and friendly!        

Friday, April 8, 2016

Spaghetti e Calamari con Salsa di Pomodoro

     Spaghetti and Squid with Italian Tomato Sauce!
     I was making some tomato sauce for an eggplant recipe blog at a later date.  The sauce was simmering for 4 hours.  The aroma was going straight to my hunger senses.  I couldn't resist making a quick pasta entrée, so I could sample the sauce!
     The mistake most chefs make when cooking a tomato sauce is to not use enough olive oil.  Too little of an amount of olive oil will cause the tomatoes to stew and the sauce will not cling to the pasta.  Italian tomato sauce also has to be stirred often or the oil will separate and the tomatoes will just stew.
     The better the quality of the imported canned Italian tomatoes, the better the sauce will be!  With good tomatoes, no carrot, sugar or baking soda is needed to neutralize the acidity.  Good imported Italian canned tomatoes are "slightly sweet" and not acidic.  Italian canneries wait till the tomatoes are ripe and sweet, before canning the tomatoes.  
     Italian Roma Plum Tomatoes and San Marzano Tomatoes are best for making tomato sauces.  San Marzano Tomatoes are usually mixed with crushed Roma Plum Tomato when making Salsa di Pomodoro.  San Marzano Tomatoes are usually featured alone in a Marinara sauce, because the San Marzano breed of tomato is the very best!
     To make today's pasta, the sauce has to be prepared ahead of time.  Salsa di Pomodoro takes nearly 4 hours to cook.  The spaghetti pasta only takes 8 to 10 minutes to be cooked al dente.  The squid takes only about a minute to cook.  What this all means is that a home cook must have a good sense of timing.  The garlic bread can be before the pasta is started.  The pasta can be started boiling and after waiting a few minutes, the Calamari en Tomato Sauce can quickly be made.  The goal is to finish the squid en tomato sauce at the same time that the pasta is al dente.            
     Salsa di Pomodoro:  
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
     • Salsa di Pomodoro
     If the sauce is prepared ahead of time, warm about 1 1/2 cups of Salsa di Pomodoro in a sauce pot over very low heat.    

     Garlic Bread:
     This recipe yields 1 portion of garlic bread.  (2 slices)
     Step 1:  Place 3 cloves of minced garlic in a cup.
     Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Cut 2 slices of Italian bread that are about 3/4" thick.  
     Brush the bread slices with the garlic oil mixture.  
     Step 3:  Heat a cast iron griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Grill the garlic bread till it is toasted golden brown on both sides.
     Keep the garlic bread warm on a stove top.
     Spaghetti e Calamari con Salsa di Pomodoro:  
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     Squid cook quickly!  Do not overcook the squid, or it will become tough as rubber.
     Step 1:  Start cooking 1 portion of spaghetti in boiling water over high heat.
     *Wait about 3 minutes before starting to cook the squid!
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 6 ounces of cleaned squid that is cut into 3/8" wide rings.  (Add the tentacles too!)    
     Briefly sauté the squid for about 20 seconds, till it is almost fully cooked.  
     Step 3:  Add about 1 1/2 cups of the warm Salsa di Pomodoro.  
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Step 5:  Check the pasta.  When it is al dente it is ready.  
     Drain the water off of the pasta.  (Be sure that the water is completely drained off of the pasta or the sauce will bleed!) 
     Step 6:  Mound the portion of al dente cooked spaghetti on a plate.  
     Pour the sauce and squid over the pasta.
     Place the garlic bread on the plate.  
     Serve the pasta with finely grated imported Italian Parmigiana Cheese on the side.  
     For great Italian food it is the quality of the basic ingredients and good cooking techniques that counts! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Khoresh-e Karafs

     Persian Beef and Celery Stew!
     This is not an average western world stew!  The flavors are very rich, yet light on the tummy.  The seasonings are not what you may expect them to be.  Khoresh-e Karafs will please those who seek a healthy stew recipe that has a classic Middle Eastern flavor.
     No beef stock or broth is used to make Khoresh-e Karafs.  The onions are caramelized to a brown color, before adding the beef.  Then the beef and onions are caramelized together, before stewing.  All I can say is that this method of making the stewing sauce yields a bold rich French onion soup flavor that is very satisfying.
     Persian and Arabic cooks are masters of the art of flavoring food with herbs and spices.  Knowing when to add certain spices when preparing a recipe is the key to making great Persian cuisine.  The herbs are added late in a Khoresh-e Karafs recipe, so a crisp bright flavor enhances the extra rich tasting caramelized onion and beef.

     I had a good Persian and Arabic cuisine education as a child.  My step grandfather was a great chef from Lebanon and Syria.  He sure was adept at teaching the art of creating specific food flavors.
     Some of the oldest ancient cook books in the world are from Persia.  Persia has been known for fine gourmet food since long before the ancient days of Rome.  In many ancient literary works, sailors and venturers on trades ships in the Mediterranean Ocean often mentioned how good the food was in Persia.
     The reputation for good food is probably why ancient Persian cookbooks have stood the test of time and are still referenced to this day.  Many modern cooks in the western world have taken interest in Middle Eastern cuisines, because this style of food offers many healthy options and there is no shortage of flavor.              
     Khoresh-e Karafs:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion!
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan or braising pan (sauteusse) over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1 cup of thin sliced onion.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Sauté the onions till they start to caramelize.  (Be sure to stir the onions often).
     Step 2:  Add about 8 ounces of beef chuck roast (beef shoulder) that is cut into bite size pieces that are about 1/4" thick.
     Sauté and stir the beef and onions, till they are caramelized with rich brown color.
     Step 3:  Add enough water to cover the beef  About 2 1/2 cups.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat
     Slowly simmer the beef and onions for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  (Add water as necessary to barely keep the beef covered with liquid.)
     Step 5:  Add 1 1/2 cups of celery stalks that are cut 1" long.
     Continue simmering the stew.  Allow the level of liquid to reduce to just below the level of beef and celery.  
     Step 6:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 3 tablespoons of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 3 tablespoons of minced fresh mint leaves.
     Gently sauté till the herbs become aromatic, but not browned.
     Step 7:  Add the oil, parsley and mint mixture to the stew.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Add 1 tablespoon of lime juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of raw sugar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Step 8:  Raise the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer the stew till the celery is tender and the broth reduces to a manageable amount (about 1 1/3 cups).  There should be a thin layer of herb flavored olive oil on the surface of the broth.
     Keep the stew warm over very low heat.
     Step 1:  Use a slotted spoon to mound the celery and beef in a shallow single portion casserole dish.
     Spoon a generous amount of the broth and herb oil into the casserole dish.
     Place the casserole dish on a doily lined serving platter.
     Step 2:  Place some triangle shaped slices of warm pita bread (khubz arabi) on the platter.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs.
     Serve with a bowl of Basmati Rice on the side.
     The flavor of this Persian beef and celery stew is so delicious, that it is difficult to describe!