Saturday, April 4, 2015

Shrimp and Spaghetti Squash Fra Diavolo



I’ve always loved Shrimp Fra Diavolo but I have been trying to reduce the amount of carbohydrates I eat. I’ve reinvented Shrimp fra Diavolo as a gluten free dish by substituting spaghetti squash for pasta – and it’s just as good! Just imagine sweet shrimp bathed in a spicy marinara, wrapped in spaghetti squash. It’s an easy dish that even the carb lovers in your house will enjoy.

Makes 4 servings with a salad


Ingredients
1 Lg Spaghetti Squash
1 Lb 31-40 ct Shrimp (peeled & deveined)
1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic (minced)
¼ tsp Table Salt
1 Qt Marinara Sauce
¼ -½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
¼ C Grated Parmesan

Directions
 
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Pike several holes in the top of the spaghetti squash, place it on a microwave safe plate and microwave on high for 20-30 minutes. You will know when it is done when a knife is easily inserted into the squash. Let cool on the counter for 10 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, place the peeled and deveined shrimp, olive oil, minced garlic, and table salt in a small bowl and mix to coat. Place on a cookie sheet in a single layer and place into the preheated oven for 2 ½ minutes. Flip all of the shrimp and cook for an additional 2 ½ minutes. Remove the cooked shrimp immediately to a small bowl.

When the squash is cooked and has had time to cool cut it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Take a fork and scrape the flesh. It will form spaghetti like strands.

In a large frying pan, heat the marinara, then add the grated parmesan, crushed red pepper, cooked shrimp and cooked spaghetti squash. Bring to a simmer and mix thoroughly, heating until everything has warmed.


To print a copy of this recipe go to Shrimp & Spaghetti Squash Fra Diavolo.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Prosciutto & Romano Popcorn

As many of my frends know, I’m addicted to ground locatelli romano cheese. It is similar in taste to parmesan but with a stronger flavor. I put it in my frittatas, pasta and now on my popcorn. Combine the salty cheese with the savory proscuitto and the crunch of the popcorn and you are in movie heaven - you will not be able to stop eating it.

Makes 3-4 Servings

Ingredients
1 + 2 TBS Canola Oil (divided)
2 oz Prosciutto (diced small) *
1/3 C Popping Corn Kernels
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Brown Sugar
1 TBS Melted Butter
½ C Grated Romano Cheese *

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of Canola oil over medium heat in a large nonstick frying pan. Add the diced prosciutto and fry until crisp. Drain on a paper towel.

In a mini processor blend the kosher salt and brown sugar until it becomes a fine powder. If you do not have a mini processor, substitute 1 teaspoon of popcorn salt (it’s already ground fine) and just mix it with the brown sugar.

In a large heavy pot with a tight fitting lid, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil with three kernels of popcorn until the kernels pop. Add the remaining popcorn and shake the pot to coat the kernels until they start to pop. Stop shaking and cook until the popping stops, about 5 minutes.

Pour the popcorn into a large bowl and add the melted butter, salt and sugar mixture, cooked prosciutto, and the grated cheese. Mix thoroughly and serve immediately.

* Pronto Substitutes
Proscuitto – Use bacon or pancetta but eliminate the oil for frying
Romano – Substitute Po Popcorn.armesan Cheese

To print a copy of this recipe go to Proscuitto & Roman

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sweet Apple & Stone Cut Oatmeal Bake

After a lifetime of eating cereal for breakfast I’ve been looking for breakfast ideas that I would not have to prepare every morning. I tried the packets of instant oatmeal but they are full of artificial ingredients and are over processed. I had heard about how good stone-cut oatmeal was but I did not want to spend 45 minutes preparing my breakfast. This recipe enables me to make 6 servings of sweet stone-cut oatmeal bake over the weekend and just warm it in the microwave it in the morning. It’s sweet, crunchy, and has the wonderful taste and texture of stone cut oatmeal. I’m hoping it will also help lower my cholesterol.

Makes 12 Servings

Ingredients
1 C Steel-Cut Oats
½ C Almonds (chopped small)*
½ tsp Kosher Salt
1 Lg Egg
2 C Milk
½ C Firmly-Packed Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
¼ C Olive Oil
1 Diced Apple (~1C) *
2 oz. Pancetta (diced and fried crisp) Optional*

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, and salt. In a separate medium bowl beat the eggs then stir in the milk, brown sugar and olive oil. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold in the diced apples and pancetta.

Pour the oatmeal mixture into a 8” x 8” baking dish. Cover with aluminum and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Serve hot or cool completely and place it in the refrigerator. Cut into 6 pieces and enjoy all week. Just heat in the microwave for 30 seconds and enjoy.

Pronto Substitutes
*Almonds – You can substitute any nut
*Apples – Substitute other firm fruit like pears
*Pancetta – Substitute bacon


To print a copy of this recipe go to Sweet Apple & Stone-Cut Oatmeal Bake.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Nicola’s Pecan Crusted Fish

This recipe is easy and since it is baked it’s healthy. The crunch of the pecans and the tender white fish are accented by the saltiness of the grated parmesan and the tang of the lemon. Pair this with a glass of Chardonnay and a salad or vegetable and you have a great meal.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
1 lb. Tilapia filets
½ C Grated Parmesan or Locatelli Romano
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp freshly grated Black Pepper
1 tsp Garlic Powder
2 Eggs
1 TBS Olive Oil
1 C Pecans chopped
Cooking Spray
Lemon or Lime Wedges (Optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, mix the cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  In a second bowl, beat together the eggs and the oil. 

Chop the pecans in a food processor until they are the size of large crumbs but not powdery.  I find that they chop better if they are frozen.  Place the chopped pecans in a third bowl.

Place the filets in the parmesan mixture making sure that they are completely coated. 

Dip the coated filet in the egg mixture then place it on the chopped pecans until completely coated. 

Place the fish in a baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray.  Spay the fish with the cooking spray as well.  This will help it form a crispy crust.

Bake the fish in the oven for 15 minutes or until the fish is flaky.

Squeeze some lemon on top when served.

Chef’s Note: Buy only fresh fish.  If it smells fishy—don't buy it.  I recommend purchasing it the day you are going to use it.  If you must buy it the day before put the fish in a bowl of milk.   The milk will help it stay fresher.

* Pronto Substitute
Tilapia – use any other mild white fish.


To print a copy of this recipe go to Nicola's Pecan Crusted Fish.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Artichoke Gemelli

My wife and I are constantly striving to eat healthier so I've been experimenting with healthy meals that are low in points. What I came up with is a wonderful combination of artichoke hearts and gemelli pasta. The sweetness of the artichokes contrasts with the savory parmesan cheese to bring this pasta dish to new heights, even if you are not on a diet.

Makes 2 servings (6 Weight Watchers points / serving)

Ingredients
5 oz Gemelli Pasta *
2 TBS + ¼ tsp Kosher salt
1 TBS olive oil
1 Medium Yellow Onion (sliced paper thin)
14oz Can Artichoke Hearts (drained and quartered)
3 Cloves Garlic (sliced thin)
½ C Chicken Broth
1 tsp Dried Parsley
2 C Pasta Water
1 TBS Grated Parmesan Cheese.
½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes (optional) *

Cook the pasta according to package directions making sure to add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to the water.

While the pasta is cooking, slice the onion into paper thin slices. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sautee the onions until they are light brown in color, stirring frequently.  When the onions are cooked add the garlic and cook for an additional 60 seconds. Add the quartered artichoke hearts and cook until the pan is almost dry. Add the chicken broth and teaspoon of dried parsley and continue cooking until the pan is almost dry. Add 2 cups of water from the cooking pasta, turn the heat to high and cook down until only a little liquid is left.

Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the artichokes. Cook for an additional 60 seconds while stirring. Serve immediately, topping with the grated parmesan and optional red pepper flakes.

* Pronto Substitutes
Gemelli – Gemelli are small twisted pasta but you can use any smaller sized pasta.

Red Pepper Flakes – If you are serving this to children you may want to skip the red pepper flakes.


To print a copy of this recipe go to Artichoke Gemelli.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Easy Linguine with Clam Sauce

This is an easy weeknight dinner that twirls together the salty taste of the sea with savory garlic and linguine. It’s fast and tastes like it came from your favorite Italian restaurant. Serve with some garlic bread and a Pinot Noir and you have a feast.

Makes 4 main course servings

Ingredients
6 Tablespoons Olive Oil for frying
1 Lg Onion (diced)
¼ tsp Kosher Salt
2 Cloves garlic (minced)
¼ C Dry White Wine (i.e. Pinot Noir or Chardonnay)
1 6.5 oz Can Chopped Clams with Juice
1 6.5 oz Can Chopped Clams drained
1 TBS Fresh Lemon Juice
1 tsp Anchovy Paste
1 lb Dried Linguine
3 TBS Fresh Italian Parsley (chopped)
1 TBS Drained Capers (optional)
1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ C Grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese

Directions
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Heat 6 tablespoons in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and kosher salt and cook on low until soft and translucent (7-10 minutes), stirring often. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Add the wine and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the linguine to the boiling water and cook until aldente, about 12 minutes for most linguines, then drain.

While the pasta is cooking add the canned clams, lemon juice and anchovy paste to the onion mixture for one minute. Add the parsley and capers. Add the linguine to the sauce and mix. Pour into a large bowl, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and mix in the grated cheese. Serve with extra cheese on the side.

Cook’s Note: Do not skip the anchovy paste. You will not taste the anchovy but it will add umami, a savory taste, that brings out all of the other flavors in the dish. Anchovy paste comes in a tube in the canned vegetable aisle.


To print a copy of this recipe go to Linguine with Clam Sauce.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Fried Eggs and Polenta

The next time you want to enjoy a special weekend brunch or just make an easy dinner, serve fried eggs over creamy polenta with grated parmesan. The creamy yolk from the fried eggs lends richness to the cheesy polenta resulting in a happy marriage of flavors.

Ingredients
1 C Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1/3 C Instant Polenta *
½ tsp Dried Parsley
1 TBS Grated Locatelli Romano or Parmesan
2 Lg Eggs
1 TBS Unsalted Butter
Salt & Pepper to taste

To make the polenta, bring the chicken broth to a simmer on a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the polenta in a thin stream while stirring. Add the parsley and cheese and continue cooking for two minutes or until the polenta thickens. Remove from the heat.

Heat the butter in a frying pan over medium high heat until the butter starts to turn a pale brown. Add the two eggs and cook until the whites are set and the yolk is still runny. I usually cook them over easy. Place the polenta in a dish and top with the two eggs. Break the yolks and enjoy.

* Pronto Substitutes
Instant Polenta – You can substitute Instant Grits but it will not be as smooth as the polenta.


To print a copy of this recipe go to Fried Eggs and Polenta.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Peppermint Patty Cake


This chocolate cake is decadent, rich, and moist with soft gooey bits of melted peppermint patties in every bite. It’s guaranteed to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth and get ooohs and ahhs from your guests and family. This cake lasts for days in the refrigerator and can be made a day ahead.

Cake Ingredients

1 Box Devil's Food Cake Mix (I use Duncan Hines®)
1 3.9 oz Box of Chocolate Instant Pudding
4 Large Eggs (at room temperature)
1 ¼ C Water
½ C Vegetable Oil
Cooking Spray
Flour for coating pan
1 C chopped peppermint patties + extra for decorating
Parchment paper
9 inch Springform Pan

Filling Ingredients
1 C Heavy Cream
8 oz Cream Cheese (room temperature)
½ C Confectioners’ Sugar
1 tsp Peppermint Extract

Ganache Ingredients
8oz. Semisweet Chocolate (chopped fine)
1 Cup Heavy cream

Cake
Freeze the peppermint patties for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350º.  Line the bottom of the Springform pan with parchment paper.  Spray the paper and the sides of the pan with cooking spray or melted butter and coat with flour.  You could also use Bakers joy and forget the flour.  Do not try to make this in a regular cake pan or you will never get it out of the pan in one piece. 

In a large bowl, mix the devil’s food cake mix, instant pudding, eggs, water and vegetable oil.  Beat with a whisk or electric mixer for two minutes or until smooth – make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

With a heavy knife cut the peppermint patties into small pieces and mix them into the cake batter, separating the pieces as you add them.  Pour into the prepared springform pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Carefully go around the outside of the cake with a knife and the remove the sides of the Springform pan.  Release the edge of the parchment paper with a knife and slide onto a plate.  Let the cake cook completely before icing.  You can even freeze the cake two weeks ahead at this point. Let the cake cool to room temperature before filling.

Filling
Place the whipped cream into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and beat until it forms stiff peaks. Remove the whipped cream to another bowl. Place the cream cheese and peppermint extract into the electric mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Fold the beaten cream cheese into the whipped cream until incorporated.

Using a long serrated knife, cut the cake into three even layers. Place half of the filling on the bottom layer, repeat with the second layer. Place the top layer of cake on top of the second layer of filling.

Ganache (Frosting)
Place 1 cup of heavy cream and the chopped chocolate into a double boiler or in a bowl on top of a pan with boiling water to melt the chocolate.  Stir until the chocolate has completely melted and you have a thick dark ganache.  Pour this over the top and sides of the cooled cake.  You can decorate it with extra peppermint patties.  This cake should be kept refrigerated.

Take this cake out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.


To print a copy of this recipe go to Peppermint Patty Cake.

Goat Cheese Profiteroles

I recently attended a wine tasting where the host asked for a cheese dip. I wanted to take it up a notch so I stuffed a profiterole (cream puff) with a goat cheese dip. The result was a crispy profiterole puff stuffed with a savory dip that complimented the wine we tasted perfectly. I was able to make the shells and dip ahead of time and filled them just before the party.

Makes 24-30 Profiteroles

Ingredients
 
Choux Pastry Ingredients
1 C Water
1 stick Unsalted Butter
1 Dash Salt
½ tsp Sugar
1 C All-Purpose Flour (sifted)
4 Lg Eggs

Stuffing Ingredients
10 oz Goat Cheese (room temperature)
8 oz Cream Cheese (room temperature)
¼ C Grated Locatelli Romano or Parmesan Cheese
1 ½ tsp Fresh Thyme (minced fine)
Fresh Grated Black Pepper (to taste)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Mix together the water, butter, salt, and sugar in a 2 or 3 Qt. saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a boil.  Be careful as it will easily boil over onto your stove.  Watch it carefully.  When it has started to boil, remove the pan from the heat and add the flour.  Return it to a medium-low flame and stir continuously until it forms a ball.  Continue to cook continuously for an additional 2-3 minutes.  It is critical that the flour has time to cook.

Place the dough ball in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat it until the steam stops rising.  It is important to cool it or the eggs will become scrambled when you add them.  Add the eggs one at a time until completely mixed.  After all of the eggs have been added beat on high for an additional five minutes.  The mixture will be very sticky.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place 1.5 tsp mounds of the Choux Pastry on the baking sheet keeping them at least 2 inches apart.  The cream puffs will more than triple in size.  Cook for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.  Do not open the oven during the cooking process or you may end up with pancakes.  Remove the choux pastry to a cooling rack to cool.

Place all of the stuffing ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Filling Profiteroles
There are two methods of filling profiteroles, cutting or piping
Cutting – Cut the top of the profiteroles and fill with the goat cheese stuffing.
Piping – You can inject the stuffing into the profiteroles using a piping bag or a cookie press fitted with an injection tip.

NOTE: You can bake the cream puffs ahead of time and freeze them in a Ziploc bag.  However, only fill the profiteroles the day you are going to serve them, or they will get soggy.

Wine Pairing: The goat cheese profiteroles pair well with an Italian Pino & Toi from Veneto. It’s pale lemon-green in color and is intensely perfumed with floral and fruit-forward aromas. Dry & zesty on the palate, this wine has well-rounded structure and a flavorful, long finish.


To print a copy of this recipe go to Goat Cheese Profiteroles.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Updated Chicken Parmesan

For years I would make chicken Parmesan the way my mother taught me – and I loved it. However tastes change and I wanted to make it healthier, no frying, where the crust stays crispy. What I did was bake the chicken using a mixture of Italian cheese and panko breadcrumbs with a minimum amount of sauce. The chicken stays moist and no more soggy chicken parm.

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients
3 C Plain Panko Breadcrumbs
1/3 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Kosher Salt
2 lbs Boneless Chicken Breasts (split)
1 ½ C Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/3 All-Purpose Flour
4 Large Eggs
2 C Marinara Sauce
12 oz Shredded Mozzarella

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Mix the panko breadcrumbs with the olive oil and kosher salt. Spread out on a large rimmed cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes or until deep golden brown, Toss every 5 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Split each chicken breast into 2 thin cutlets. Place plastic wrap on top of the cutlets and pound until the cutlet has an even thickness. Mix the toasted panko with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano and toss to mix well. In a separate bowl beat the eggs until thoroughly mixed.

Reduce the oven to 350°F.

Dip each cutlet into the flour, shaking off any excess, and then dip it into the egg. Finally dip it into the panko mixture.

MAKE AHEAD NOTE: At this point you can freeze the cutlets between layers of wax paper (see photo) and freeze them in a zipper top bag until needed. If you want to bake them frozen place them on a wire rack on a cookie sheet in a 450°F oven until cooked through, 12-15 minutes. An instant read thermometer should read 160°F at the thickest part of the chicken.

Place the breaded cutlets on a wire rack on a cookie sheet and bake them for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through. An instant read thermometer should read 160°F at the thickest part of the cutlet.

Raise the oven temperature to High Broil. Top each cutlet with marinara sauce, then some grated mozzarella. Broil for 3-4 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is bubbling.

* Pronto Substitutes
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano – You can substitute a good quality Locatelli Romano or Parmesan.
Mozzarella – for additional flavor use Fontina in place of the mozzarella


To print a copy of this recipe go to Updated Chicken Parmesan.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Italian Sausage Gravy & Biscuits

This sausage gravy recipe is an Italian version of the southern classic, redeye gravy. It has the unique flavor combination of spicy Italian sausage and the kick of espresso. Make it with a waffled biscuit and you will have a breakfast where the guests will lick the pot – that actually happened when I served this to my nephew.

Makes 8 single biscuit servings

Ingredients
2 tsp Olive Oil
8 oz Italian Sausage (casings removed, hot or sweet)
1 Clove Garlic (minced)
1/8 tsp Allspice
1 tsp Espresso Powder *
¼ tsp Table Salt
¼ tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 TBS All-Purpose Flour
1 C Whole Milk
½ C Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
8 Rounds Large Store-Bought Biscuits (I used Grands®) *
2 TBS Fresh Parsley (chopped)

Optional – Waffle Iron

Directions
Heat the olive oil over a medium high heat in a large skillet. Remove the casings from the Italian sausage (I used a mixture of hot and sweet) and add them to the hot oil. Break up the sausage using the back of a wooden spoon or if you are lucky, you have a Mix N Mash from Pampered Chef, which does a great job breaking up the sausage. Cook until the meat is browned and fully cooked. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

Add the allspice, espresso powder, salt and pepper – stir for 30 seconds. Add the tablespoon of flour and stir until the flour is totally cooked, about 1 minute. Add the milk and chicken broth and stir until thickened, about 4-5 minutes. Cover and keep over very low heat.

Biscuit Preparation
You have two choices when preparing the biscuits. You can bake them according to the package directions or you can cook them in a waffle iron like I did. If you choose to make them in a waffle iron, heat the iron as per manufacturer’s directions, spray with non-stick spray and place 1 biscuit in each square of the waffle iron. Cook until they are a golden brown.

Pour the Italian sausage gravy over the cooked biscuits and top with some chopped parsley.

* Pronto Substitutes
Espresso Powder – use instant coffee.
Biscuits – Use your favorite homemade biscuit or frozen biscuits.

To print a copy of this recipe go to Italian Sausage Gravy with Biscuits

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Homemade Ricotta Salata


Ricotta, one of the most popular cheeses in America, is a moist fresh cheese that is used in many Italian dishes like lasagna, and cheesecake. Ricotta Salata is a variation of ricotta that has been pressed, salted and dried. Ricotta Salata is hard and white and has a mildly salty, nutty and milky flavor. It can be shaved or grated over salads, pastas and vegetable dishes or served on crackers or crostini.

Makes 1 block of cheese
 
Ingredients
2 Quarts Whole Milk
2 C Buttermilk
¼ + Table Salt
Cheesecloth
Kitchen Twine
2 Plastic Containers from Grape Tomatoes

Optional
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
1 Loaf Italian Bread (sliced & lightly toasted)

Directions

Line a large colander with two layers of cheesecloth and place it in the sink.
 
Pour the two quarts of whole milk, 2 cups of buttermilk and ¼ teaspoon of table salt into a large pot over medium high heat. Stir frequently to prevent the milk from scorching.  As the milk heats curds will slowly start to rise to the top. When the milk starts to steam and the mixture has reached 185°F, turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. The whey will look like cloudy water under the curds. This can take 20-30 minutes.

Carefully ladle the curds into the cheesecloth lined colander – do not pour it over. Taste the curds to see if they are salty enough. Ricotta Salata has a slightly salty taste but you can adjust the salt level to your own taste by adding extra salt. If adding the second round of salt, remove curds from muslin, add salt, mix and return to the cheesecloth. Gently press the top of the curds down. When the ricotta has stopped dripping, pull up the sides of the cheese cloth and tie the top. Holding the ball of cheese in one hand, and the top of the cheese cloth in the other, squeeze out as much whey as you can – then hang it in the sink for 30 minutes to continue to drain (see photo).

Cut off the top of a plastic container from grape tomatoes and line it with a 10” x 12” piece of cheesecloth and place it in a larger container to collect the whey that will drip out. Place the drained ricotta into the container and fold over the cheesecloth to cover the cheese (see photo). Place the second grape tomato container on top of the cheese and place a 14oz. can of vegetables on top to weigh down the cheese (see photo). Place in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours to dry out.

Optional Way to Serve
Remove the cheesecloth and place the Ricotta Salata on a plate. Pour good quality extra virgin olive oil on top them sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper. Serve with crackers or lightly toasted slices of Italian bread.


To print a copy of this recipe go to Ricotta Salata.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Asian Sausage & Spinach Soup


I’ve recently acquired a taste for Vietnamese cuisine, especially “Pho”. The broth of this soup is incredible but it takes hours to make. I incorporated some of the spices used in “Pho” to enhance the flavors in this healthy weeknight soup to give it an incredibly rich and fragrant taste. This gluten-free soup is full of rich tastes, from the savory broth, to the spicy sausage, the bite of the barley and the creamy cannellini beans.  

Makes 4 main servings or 8 first course servings


Ingredients
1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Medium Yellow Onion (diced)
1 lb Chicken Sausage (sliced thinly) *
64 oz Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
½ C Pearl Barley
16 oz Fresh Spinach (cleaned)
1 14 oz can Cannellini Beans (drained) *

Bouquet-Garni *
8" Square Cheese Cloth Doubled
Kitchen String
1 Star Anise Pod
1 Stick Cinnamon
3 Whole Cloves
8 Black Peppercorns

Directions
Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Add the diced onion to the heated oil and sauté for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the sliced sausage and continue to sauté for 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring up to a rolling boil.

While the broth is heating prepare the bouquet-garni. Place the star anise, cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns in the middle of a double layer of cheese cloth. Close it into a sachet and tie with a string (see photo). Place it in the heating chicken broth.

Once the broth has reached a rolling boil add the barley and reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and cook for 40 minutes.

Remove the bouquet-garni and add the spinach and cannellini beans. Raise heat to medium high and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Taste to make sure the barley is cooked. Adjust the salt and pepper as needed.

* Pronto Substitutes
Chicken Sausage – use can use any variety of chicken sausage in this soup. I used an Asiago chicken sausage or you can use chicken or turkey Italian sausage. The choice is yours.
Bouquet-Garni - a group of herbs tied together in a cheese-cloth bag for the purpose of cooking them with an item to season which makes it easy to remove them when they are done.
Cannellini Beans - you can substitute navy or white kidney beans.


To print a copy of this recipe go to Asian Sausage & Spinach Soup.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Savory Balsamic Glaze and Onions


Savory Balsamic Glaze over Parmesan Baked Eggplant
This glaze and onion recipe was inspired by a segment of Lidia’s Kitchen. I created my own  
spin and used the onions that were cooked with the balsamic vinegar and gave them a second life as an  incredible spread for crositini. The glaze has the sweet flavor of caramelized onions, the savory notes of spices mixed with the acidity of the balsamic. The onion spread is sweet and tangy with a hint of spice.

Makes 1.5 Cups of Glaze

Ingredients
Savory Balsamic Onions Pureed and Spread on Crostini
2 C Balsamic Vinegar
2 Large Yellow Onions (sliced)
3 Cloves Garlic (peeled)
2 Bay Leaves
2 Whole Cloves
5-6 Whole Fresh Sage Leaves
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Sprig Rosemary
1 C Dry White Wine
1.5 tsp Kosher Salt

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower to a low boil and cook for 30-45 minutes or until reduced by half. Strain and reserve the onions.
- Pour over meat and vegetables.
- Mix with equal part of extra virgin olive oil as a dip for bread.
- Use with vinaigrettes, in place of plain balsamic, for a savory note.

Remove the cloves, basil, sage leaves and rosemary from the cooked onions. The onions have a deep caramelized flavor mixed with the acidity of the balsamic vinegar and the savory notes of the spices. You can serve the onion whole or pureed.

Whole - Serve the onions whole on top of  a toasted crostini or place them on sliced Italian bread, topped with shredded mozzarella and placed under a broiler until the cheese is bubbling and turning brown.

Pureed - Place the cooked onions in a food processor or blender with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and process until smooth. Spread on toasted crostini or spread on a sandwich.


To print a copy of this recipe go to Savory Balsamic Glaze and Onions.