Italian Wedding Soup

January 23, 2009

I’m secretly grateful that Red and I agree that a big cup of hearty soup with maybe a few pieces of warm crusty French bread with a few slices of good stinky cheese is an ideal winter meal. I am always in the lookout for a new soup recipe that we both can enjoy on a regular basis. I prefer soups that are not too heavy (so any cream-based soups would be out for me) & this recipe fits perfectly to what I envision as an ideal soup.

It uses ground chicken and Italian sausage, pastas, and veggies… Aaah… did I mention those meatballs are heaven-sent? We don’t normally eat meatballs, but we do now. We have made this several times now since we first found it a few months ago. I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

Note: we couldn’t find any ground chicken in our grocery store, so we used turkey sausages instead.

Ingredients:
For the meatballs:
3/4 lb. ground chicken
1/2 lb. Italian sausage
2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 tsp. minced garlic
3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp. milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and black pepper

For the soup:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup 1/4-inch diced carrots
3/4 cup 1/4-inch diced celery
10 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup small pasta
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
12 oz. baby spinach, washed and trimmed

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, Italian sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Romano cheese, Parmesan cheese, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl. Mix gently with a fork until well combined. Form the mixture into 1- to 1 1/4-inch meatballs and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5-6 minutes. Add the chicken broth and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6-8 minutes or until al dente. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 additional minute. Taste for seasoning, and adjust salt and pepper as necessary. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Source: adapted from Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics by Ina Garten

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Banana Foster

January 22, 2009

I first discovered this delicious way of cooking banana as dessert probably over 12 years ago in one of the cooking magazines. I don’t really remember anymore the actual recipe, because I have since then memorized the recipe, tweaked it here and there and adapted it to suite my taste. I usually skip the liqueur, but use it when I want to be a little bit more fancy. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 ripe banana, peeled, sliced lengthwise and halved
  • 1 tbsp banana liqueur, or and 1 tbsp dark rum – optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 scoop vanilla ice cream

Directions

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar completely dissolves, about 2 minutes. Lay the bananas in the pan and cook on both sides until they become slightly soft and begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the banana liqueur and then the rum and cinnamon. Tip the pan slightly and carefully ignite the alcohol with a long kitchen match or kitchen lighter to flambe. Put the pan back on the heat and shake it back and forth basting the bananas, until the flame dies out.

Divide the ice cream among dessert bowls. Gently lift the bananas from the pan and place pieces on the ice cream. Spoon the sauce over the ice cream and serve immediately.

Serve 1

Bananas Foster on Foodista


Lemon Yogurt Cake

January 22, 2009

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Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

I have been wanting to make this cake when I first saw it Barefoot Contessa at Home. It uses yogurt instead of butter, which was intended to have lower calories. I was surprised at how moist and fluffy this cake considering the omission of butter. The lemon zest added another depth of flavor and the glaze was a must as well! We absolutely enjoyed it!

For the cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.


Coconut Macaroons

January 16, 2009



I tend to crave crunchy and salty snacks instead of sweets. I do, however, have weakness for some certain types of desserts, like ice-cream, which I am now convinced that I inherited it from my mom. If I could have only one dessert in the world for the rest of my life, it would be Haagen Dasz’s Light Caramel Cone.

My mom, on the other hand, really loves macaroons, so when I saw this recipe, another Barefoot’s Contessa collection, I thought that I should give them a try sometimes, especially since I had some leftover shredded coconuts. She lives about 10 hrs away from me, so unfortunately she didn’t get to try these. But definitely, I am keeping this as a keeper in my file.

This past weekend, Red and I were invited to a casual dinner at a friend’s house, so I decided to surprise them with a platter of desserts. And this was one of the three desserts that we included a surprise. They absolutely raved about these little delights. So I guess the vote is two thumbs up!

Ingredients

  • 14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or 2 teaspoons. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve.


Cornmeal-Fried Onion Rings

January 12, 2009

We made these delightful rings to go with our Filet Mignon steakhouses. After this fantastic dinner -our house will never be the same. P.S. And my dad will be so proud of me… Yum! Yum! Yum!

Ingredients

  • 2 large Spanish onions (or 3 yellow onions)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (medium) yellow cornmeal
  • 1 quart vegetable oil

Directions

Peel the onions, slice them 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick, and separate them into rings. Combine the buttermilk, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add the onion rings, toss well, and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes. (The onion rings can sit in the buttermilk for a few hours.) In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

When you’re ready to fry the onion rings, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.

Heat the oil to 350 degrees F in a large pot or Dutch oven. (A candy thermometer attached to the side of the pot will help you maintain the proper temperature.) Working in batches, lift some onions out of the buttermilk and dredge them in the flour mixture. Drop into the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes, until golden brown, turning them once with tongs. Don’t crowd them! Place the finished onion rings on the baking sheet, sprinkle liberally with salt, and keep them warm in the oven while you fry the next batch. Continue frying the onion rings and placing them in the warm oven until all the onions are fried. They will remain crisp in the oven for up to 30 minutes.

Serve hot.


Steakhouse Steaks

January 12, 2009

Nobody, I mean nobody, has ever convinced me to cook steak at home. I can count with one hand how many times I have ordered, cooked, or eaten steaks. (Now it looks like it would be up to two hands!) My dad is a meat and potato kind of guy, but I have always relied on chicken, fish, and maybe pork to provide me with my protein requirement. And maybe tofu, because I love tofu. And if I have access to tempeh, I would have them every day as well, with tofu (they are like Jack ‘n Jill, always together, in my opinion)….

BUT after I watched Barefoot Contessa’s show where she made this gorgeous meat, I actually stopped at the meat counter during our grocery run, and asked for two filet mignon. Red’s eyes were wide open, jaws dropped, but quickly recovered – maybe because he didn’t want me to change my mind.

The reviews on Food Network basically said that this dish was pretty salty, and we agreed. But take a look at what she used instead of the regular Kosher Salt, Ina used Fleur del Sel, which I believe has slightly more subtle flavor. So in the future, if we ever make this again, we’ll lighten up on the salt. (I apologize for the quality of the pic, I was in hurry to dig my fork into this handsome steak!).

Ingredients

  • 2 (10-ounce) filet mignon
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon fleur de sel
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, optional
  • Roquefort Chive Sauce, recipe follows

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat a large, well-seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and brush them lightly with vegetable oil. Combine the fleur de sel and cracked pepper on a plate and roll the steaks in the mixture, pressing lightly to evenly coat all sides.

When the skillet is ready, add the steaks and sear them evenly on all sides for about 2 minutes per side, for a total of 10 minutes.

Top each steak with a tablespoon of butter, if using, and place the skillet in the oven. Cook the steaks until they reach 120 degrees F for rare or 125 degrees F for medium-rare on an instant-read thermometer. (To test the steaks, insert the thermometer sideways to be sure you’re actually testing the middle of the steak.)

Remove the steaks to a serving platter, cover tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.


Chicken Stir Fry

January 12, 2009


My sister is a wonderful cook. She cuts up a couple of pieces of meats, throws in this and that, with a little pinch of seasoning or what not, and voila! She’d have some of the most satisfying dinners served on the table. One of my fondest memories with her was sharing a meal in her kitchen, when the dishes are simple, not pretentious, but never fails to hit just the right spots in my tummy!

This one is a recipe which I have adapted from her during our college years. It’s a basic stir-fry recipe using Indonesian’s Soy Sauce. This recipe is truly forgiving, you can modify the meat based on whatever you have on hand, it can either be pork, shrimp, beef or scallops. I personally prefer chicken. And whichever meat you choose, just make sure that you slice them uniformly to allow them to cook evenly. And the veggies are the same way. I usually have frozen stir fry in hand, and throws in whatever leftover veggies that I try to use up from the fridge.

I hope you can take this recipe and modify it to fit your family!

Ingredients
2 Chicken Breast
5 Cups of Mixed Vegetables (Carrots, broccoli, baby carrots, sweet peas, mushroom)
1 tbsp of peanut oil
1 Small onion, sliced thinly
4 Cloves of Garlic, minced
3 Tbsp of your fave Soy Sauce (in this one, I used Indonesian Soy Sauce)
2 Cups of Water
1 Tbsp of Chili Sauce (you can find this in Oriental Market, I used Sambal Oelek)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions
Saute the garlic and onion in peanut oil, until slightly browned.
Add chili sauce. Mix together.
Add sliced chicken. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, turn occasionally to make sure the chicken is cooked thoroughly. Cover pan if required to expedite cooking.
Add vegetables, 2 cups of water, salt, pepper, and soy sauce. Cover.
Cook for about 10 minutes.
Serve with hot rice.
Enjoy.