Butter Balsamic Green Beans and Mushrooms

This works as a great side for almost any main course and my favorite part is, no blanching needed! Just make sure to buy small and skinny green beans so that they are cooked thoroughly.

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Ingredients:

  • Haricots verts (green string beans), washed with ends trimmed. I used half a pounds worth for dinner for two.
  • One pack of mushrooms, rinsed and dried well. Slice them.
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar, 1/8 cup
  • Chopped garlic (the kind in the jar). One to two tablespoons.
  • Unsalted butter, two tablespoons

Method:

Melt the unsalted butter in a skillet over low-medium heat.

Toss in only the green beans. Saute these and stir them for awhile. You’ll see them gradually shrinking. Sprinkle salt and pepper. After tending to these for approximately ten minutes, toss in the mushrooms.

Add more salt and pepper, add your chopped garlic. Cook all these together for another ten minutes. You should notice the beans becoming darker and smaller and the mushrooms beginning to release liquid as the cooking process moves along. You may want to turn the heat down if it is cooking too quickly.

Now, while the veggies are reaching the home stretch is when you add in the balsamic.

Stir it well and let it cook for about ten more minutes. The balsamic should reduce quite a bit and that signals that the dish is done. Taste the dish and add more salt or pepper as needed.

Serve it along with a main dish of your choosing or just eat it alone as a snack. Here it is paired with balsamic fried chicken. The recipe for the chicken is posted previous to this one. Enjoy! xx

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Fried Balsamic Chicken

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Recipes don’t get much simpler than this, but don’t be fooled, the end result delivers a punch of flavor and is quite moist. Despite its simplicity, I had quite a battle with hot vegetable oil popping and burning my skin-I’m not much of a fryer-so beware of that.

Ingredients:

  • One pack of chicken thighs and drumsticks (I recommend thighs only but either one works), brought to room temp
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Balsamic Vinegar 1/4 cup
  • Vegetable oil 1/2 cup, split into 2
  • Meat thermometer to ensure chicken has reached 165 on the inside

Method:

Generously salt and pepper all the chicken pieces and lay to rest on a plate or cookie sheet. Drizzle balsamic vinegar atop all pieces. Let this sit for about an hour, turning the pieces and making sure each piece gets a good coating of salt, pepper and balsamic.

Heat half the vegetable oil in a deep pot, I used my Le Creuset.

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When it is ready to fry, drop half the chicken pieces in. Don’t move them around especially on the first fry, let the bottom brown up nicely. You shouldn’t have to force the chicken when it is ready it will be easily movable. Flip it over and follow the same directions.

Make sure you have a plate lined with paper towels to the side to drain the chicken after it is removed from the pot.

Now the chicken may be turned at your discretion until a meat thermometer reads 165 at the thickest part of the chicken, not touching the bone. I was frying chicken for approximately 20 minutes, but don’t go by times, go by temperature and you’ll be safe.

Do it in batches to ensure the oil stays fresh and hot. For the second batch, pour the other half of the oil in and repeat with the rest of the chicken pieces.

Lay the chicken pieces to rest on the lined plate. Sprinkle with salt. Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes.

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Enjoy with a side of your choice, I sauteed green beans and mushrooms on the side. The recipe for that follows this one.

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Enjoy! xx

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Beef Bolognese Sauce

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It’s finally cold here on the east coast this winter, which calls for more cozy nights in with comfort food. A hearty bolognese sauce simmering on the stove for several hours definitely satisfies that need. With the sauce’s flavor only improving as it sits in the refrigerator, it’s best to make a big portion that will last you several meals as it is also a great thing to have on hand to whip up a quick dinner when you are too tired to cook. I used my Le Creuset to make this sauce, but any big pot should do. I experienced some technical difficulties with my camera but will post more pictures soon.

Ingredients:

  • Three 28 ounce cans on whole peeled tomatoes, broken up with your hands in a big bowl. Pick out and throw away the tough pieces that don’t break down. (I like Luigi Vitelli San Marzano)
  • Four cloves of garlic, minced
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1/8 cup)
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • One sweet onion (chopped)
  • Adobo-gets sprinkled throughout!
  • A dash of balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Not really an ingredient but I like to use a potato masher to break up my sauces! Read more about this below..

Method:

  • Add your minced garlic to a generous pour of olive oil in your pot. Turn the heat to medium but watch your garlic carefully as you don’t want it to burn. It helps to have your onions already chopped so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
  • Once the garlic is simmering and beginning to turn yellow, toss in your chopped onions. Cook these together until the onions are very soft and aromatic, I say around 5 minutes. Sprinkle some Adobo.
  • Add the ground beef as break it up as you’re cooking it. Cook it until there’s none or very little pink. I like to leave it with some pink since it will cook while it’s simmering later in the tomatoes. Sprinkle more Adobo to taste, along with salt and pepper.
  • Drain the fat that is accumulating in the pot.
  • Add your tomatoes and turn the heat to medium high. Bring it to a boil while stirring well.
  • Once it boils, bring the heat down to low. Let the sauce simmer and reduce for several hours, mashing it with the potato masher a few times an hour. I find potato mashers help break up all tomato sauces uniformly and smoothly with a texture between smooth and chunky.
  • As your sauce simmers and reduces, add Adobo, salt and pepper to taste. Add your dash of balsamic if you feel the sauce needs to be sweetened a bit.

Let the sauce simmer slowly, I find 3 to 4 hours is sufficient for good flavor and consistency, but basically the sauce just needs to become less watery. Reducing the sauce properly adds to the flavor and texture so be patient. Leaving it uncovered will help it reduce faster. A neat trick is covering the pot with aluminum foil. It prevents splashing as the sauce bubbles but still allows plenty of air to escape which helps it reduce faster.

Add the pasta of your choice to boiling salted water,  top with sauce, fresh grated cheese and enjoy! Make enough for leftovers because it only tastes better the next day.16 - 1 (2)

Tripe in Orange Gravy

Hi, y’all. I’ve been away awhile, summer laziness I suppose. Who wants to cook in this heat?!

This next recipe is not a popular one. Tripe is definitely an acquired taste, one usually acquired in childhood by way of deception. The first time I saw this jiggly, textured meat my natural reaction was skepticism. So my parents fixed that by telling me what I was about to put into my mouth was “chicken!” And people wonder why I have trust issues. =).
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All kidding aside, I am now grateful in my later years to have been exposed to “weird” foods, which aren’t weird at all, just un-American.

So here’s my homage to my daddy’s tripe.

Ingredients:

–Tripe (2-3 lbs, cut into narrow 1.5 inch strips-see pictures)* BEST PURCHASED FRESH AT AN ASIAN OR GOURMET SUPERMARKET, OR A BUTCHER, WHERE TRIPE IS MORE COMMONLY SOLD. THE RUN OF THE MILL FROZEN TRIPE SOLD IN YOUR KEY FOODS OR WALDBAUMS ARE POOR QUALITY; THEY WILL HAVE A RUBBERY TEXTURE WHEN COOKED AND MOST OF THE TRIPE’S VOLUME DECREASE VIA WATER LOSS FROM BEING FROZEN. AVOID IT.
–1/4 cup white onion, diced
–1/4 cup celery, diced
–1/4 cup carrots, diced
–1/4 cup bell peppers, diced (optional)
–1/2 cup chicken broth (have extra on hand in case dish loses too much liquid during cooking)
**(SUB TIP: THE WATER THAT YOU RINSE THE TRIPE IN CAN BE RESERVED AND
USED IN PLACE OF CHICKEN BROTH IF LIQUID IS NEEDED DURING COOKING)**
–1 tsp olive oil
–1/2 cup tomato sauce
–1 tbsp tomato paste
–Two medium russet or red skin potatoes, cubed (don’t chop too small because you don’t want them to cook before the tripe is cooked, rendering them texture-less)
–One cup of peas (frozen or fresh is fine, just keep cooking times in mind; fresh takes less time)
–1 or 2 Bay leaf
–Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

–Give your sliced tripe a good rinse, and set aside. (SUBSTITUTION TIP: THE WATER THAT YOU RINSE THE TRIPE IN CAN BE RESERVED AND USED IN PLACE OF CHICKEN BROTH IF LIQUID IS NEEDED DURING COOKING). That would be the gross looking second picture.
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–Peel and cube your potatoes and set aside.

–In your pot, add your olive oil. It is very important not to add more oil than you need to saute your chopped vegetables because the tripe is very fatty and releases quite a bit of liquid on its own. It is better to start with less liquid and add more as you need it.
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–Bring the oil to medium heat, and toss in your diced onions, celery, carrots and peppers if you opted to add them. Toss in your bay leaves and add some salt and pepper. Saute this base until it is fragrant and soft (approximately 2-3 minutes). It will cook later so no need to over cook now.
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–Add in your tomato paste, tomato sauce, and half (1/4 cup) of your chicken broth or cooking liquid. It is better to start with less liquid and add more later, but use your discretion. Stir this mixture well over medium heat, bring to a bubble.
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–Toss in the potatoes, give it a good stir, simmer for 2-3 minutes, then toss in the tripe. You generally want to start the potatoes just a bit sooner than the tripe. Tripe is oftentimes parboiled and therefore will cook at the same rate, if not faster than the potatoes. Check the texture of the tripe and use your judgment.
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–Bring mixture to a simmer and cover. Bring heat to medium low.
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–Check on the dish in about 2 minutes, you should see the tripe has decreased in volume while the liquid has increased in volume. Stir it and keep a close eye. With tripe, there is a balance that needs to be achieved. The goal of that balance is not to overcook the tripe to the point where it essentially “melts” due to its high fat content. You also don’t want to undercook it to the point where it will be hard to chew. Practice is the key with this dish.
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–Continue to reduce the dish which thickens the sauce, add cooking liquid or chicken broth if your dish is not cooked to the right texture and your liquid gets too low. All the while, keep adding salt to taste.

–When the dish it finished, toss in the peas last. If they are frozen, run some warm water over them so that they release less liquid into the dish. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then get ready to chow down!
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The end result should be stew like, with the tripe having shrunk to about half its volume, and the sauce a deep, reddish orange. The starches from the potatoes should have given the gravy a thick, rich and velvety texture. It is lovely to eat on its own, but pairs well with rice and pinot noir! Enjoy xx

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Looks a bit like chicken tikka, right? Haha.

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Apple Strudel

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Ingredients:
*3-5 Granny Smith Apples
*6-8 sheets of Philo dough
*One to two sticks of butter (unsalted preferable, but salted is fine)
*Granulated sugar, for sprinkling and caramelizing, one cup divided
*Ground cinnamon (pinch)
*Cornstarch (tsp) mixed with 4 tsp. cold water
*One egg, beaten

Optional: Peach Jelly**

**You can use peach jelly as a thickening agent if you don’t have cornstarch around. The pectin in the jelly will thicken the apples as well. You can use the peach jelly instead of or in addition to the cornstarch. If you choose to use both, adjust the measurements by using less of each accordingly. Remember, the point is for the mixture to be thick and not watery.

The first thing that must be stressed is the delicacy of the Philo dough sheets. The same fragility that gives the strudel its flaky melt in your mouth quality is the same delicacy that can destroy the dish. The instructions to thaw the dough to room temperature for 5 hours are very precise; any longer and the dough will dry out, rendering it useless as it will break when you try to work with it. So prepare accordingly and be mindful in the kitchen.
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Start with 3-5 medium Granny Smith apples chopped and peeled. The picture below demonstrates what 3 apples look like after the initial stovetop cook.
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Melt half a stick of butter over medium heat, throw in chopped apples and half a cup of granulated sugar and cook apples until they soften just a little bit (5-6 minutes). The apples are going to be cooked again in the oven and if overcooked, can turn to applesauce so it is safer to undercook the apples in this step than overcook them.strud5

When your apples are nearing the finish line, toss in 1/2 – 1 tsp of ground cinnamon and mix well.

Then mix a tbsp of cornstarch with your 4tsps cold water in a small bowl and add it to the apple mixture. The heat of the stovetop apples and the coolness of the cornstarch mix will cause the apple mixture to thicken nicely. The goal is to have a thick mixture with very little water. Your mixture should not be watery at all.

As soon as your apples reach a thickened consistency, turn off the heat and remove the apples. Let the apples cool to at least room temperature.

Preheat your oven to 350.

This is when you need to work fast. Once your apples have cooled and the oven is preheating, melt 1/2 stick of butter in the microwave. Get out your pastry brush. And have the remainder of your granulated sugar ready.
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At this point you have probably tasted some of your cooked apples. Based on the quality and sweetness of the apples, you may need more or less sugar as you begin rolling your strudel. Err on the side of more sugar if you can’t decide, and especially if it still has the sour bite Granny Smiths tend to have.

On a large, flat surface (countertop works well) lay out one Philo dough sheet. Drizzle and lightly brush the melted butter across the entire sheet, working from the outside in because the edges start drying. Sprinkle sugar across the entire sheet. Repeat this 5-7 times until you have 6-8 layers of Philo.
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Spread the apples out on the dough, lengthwise like a log, at the side of the dough closer to you. Sprinkle generously with sugar. See below.
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Get ready to roll. Wrap the Philo in front of the mixture over onto it, then, as you tuck the apples in, like you’re rolling a burrito, roll it again. You don’t want more than two to two and a half rolls of Philo layers.
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Slice off any excess Philo dough from the top and from the sides as well. Squeeze and twist the ends lightly to make it easier to cut off the dough.

Brush 1 tbsp of vegetable oil on a cookie sheet and place rolled strudel on it.
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Brush egg wash under the seam of the dough where the two edges meet to “seal it.”

Then brush the egg wash all over the top of the strudel, and use a knife to puncture the strudel several times so the heat can escape. Twist the knife so it’s actually holes and not just slits.
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Give it one last sprinkle of sugar and place it in the oven.

Bake until golden brown or for 1/2 an hour. It shouldn’t bake for more than half an hour, lest the apples turn into applesauce. The apples should still have texture when the dish is finished.

Once the strudel is done, let it cool to room temperature, and enjoy!! Here’s the shot of a slice again:
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I recommend eating it with two scoops of french vanilla ice cream, but it’s delicious on it’s own too. Make sure you have a broom handy, those crispy flakes tend to get everywhere🙂

xxoo

Carbless Eggplant Parmesan

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It’s a sad thing for foodies when our metabolisms slow down to a place where we have to think about how much of a certain thing we put into our bodies. That being said, when I can find a recipe that works and tastes well without bread, I’m overjoyed with hope that I can still enjoy delicious meals, sans guilt. One of my favorite Italian restaurants in Queens called Tuscan Hills, has a great breadless eggplant parmesan dish that comes in a ceramic boat fresh out of the broiler with browned, bubbling cheese on top. It is an absolute delight and I believe the key to the flavor is in the sauce and oil the eggplant is fried in. One of my favorite things to do is recreate dishes I love on my restaurant outings. Here is my attempt to do so in my kitchen.

Ingredients for Carbless Eggplant Parmesan:

Two small eggplants or one large eggplant
Vegetable,Canola or Olive oil for frying eggplant
Kosher salt
Mozzarella cheese sliced
Grated pecorino or parmesan cheese for top layer
1-2 cups of prepared tomato sauce

Baking dish Method: Slice your eggplant(s) into thin rounds, 1/4 inch. Sprinkle them lightly with salt and let them sit out for at least half an hour, until you see a brownish juice emanating from the slices. The salt is drawing out any bitterness the eggplant may contain. Pat each slice dry and set aside.
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In a skillet, heat up two tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Keep the bottle next to you as you may need to add more oil as the eggplant cooks. Once the oil is hot, begin frying your eggplant. When you see the tops of eggplants begin to become translucent, that is a good time to flip it and cook the other side. You will need to flip them a few times before they are cooked through with a nice brown crust so pay attention. Once you’re done frying all the pieces, they should be draining on a plate lined with paper towels.
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You can now start layering in your baking dish. First, cover the bottom of the dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce, 1/4 inch should suffice.
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Then add one layer of the cooked eggplant. It’s okay if they overlap a little.
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Then cover with another thin layer of tomato sauce and top with sliced mozzarella. Continue the eggplant/sauce/mozzarella layers until you reach the top or run out of ingredients.
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I like to leave the mozzarella off the top layer and sprinkle the top generously with pecorino or parmesan cheese.
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Then drizzle olive oil over the top and bake the dish at 350 for approximately 15 minutes, or until the cheese layers below are melted. For the finishing touch, put the oven on high broil and watch for the top layer of cheese to bubble and turn brown, but take care not to burn it. ALWAYS watch the dish when it’s on broil.
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And there you have it, low-carb, guilt free, eggplant parmesan. As a disclaimer, I need to stress the importance of a good sauce in this dish, because a lot of flavor is sacrificed by forgoing the usual breading and deep frying of more traditional eggplant parms. So take good care of your sauce.

As a P.S., if you have leftover ingredients, I like to assemble mini eggplant parms in ramekins. i.e. below. So cute and handy when you need a small snack or dinner for one =)

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Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta With Fresh Berry Topping

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Panna cotta is one of my favorite desserts to eat as well as make. I find it’s charm lies in not only the lightness of the dessert, but in the versatility of its presentation. The panna cotta itself- panna cotta means cooked cream in Italian- can be altered to taste like vanilla, chocolate, caramel, etc. The possiblity of toppings are even more endless. For this recipe, I’m making a basic vanilla bean panna cotta topped with a simple warm berry mash.

SERVES 4 (8 ounce ramekins) or 6 (smaller portions) using a jumbo muffin pan.

SHOPPING LIST:

HEAVY CREAM
WHOLE MILK
MADAGASCAR VANILLA BEAN
UNFLAVORED GELATIN PACKETS (make sure you have at least 2)
SUGAR
WHISK, SAUCEPAN AND RAMEKINS OR JUMBO MUFFIN TRAY (OR ANY CUPS YOU HAVE).

MEASUREMENTS:

4 TEASPOONS UNFLAVORED GELATIN
1.5 CUPS WHOLE MILK
1.5 CUPS HEAVY CREAM
HALF CUP SUGAR
ONE VANILLA BEAN

DIRECTIONS:

-In a saucepan, add a half cup of milk and sprinkle the 4 teaspoons gelatin over it.
-Let that soak for 3-5 minutes. The gelatin powder should be saturated.
-While it’s soaking you can slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and use your knife to scrape out the seeds.
-Turn the heat on to medium, add in the rest of the milk, sugar, the empty vanilla beans pod as well as the seeds you just scraped out of it.
-Stir it frequently, do not let it boil, and do it until everything is dissolved. I stood over it for ten minutes which was probably overkill. Just make sure it’s all dissolved (just like Jell-O).
-You can now pour the warm mixture into the containers of your choosing. The only thing to keep in mind here is having to pop them out of molds later which can be done with a knife but can be tedious. Or you can just serve them in their own individual cups or ramekins. I’ve done both and I prefer popping them out of a jumbo muffin tin upside down onto a plate and then topping off. It’s much more aesthetically pleasing to my eye.

Chill the panna cottas for at least 6 hours and serve with fresh berry topping. Recipe below:
Warm fresh raspberry sauce, enough for lightly topping each panna cotta.

*15 RASPBERRIES AND 1/2 TSP SUGAR IN A SKILLET OVER MEDIUM HEAT (you can use any berry you like or have on hand though!)
*WATCH FOR THE RASPBERRIES TO START SWEATING.
*BEGIN MASHING THEM UP AS THEY GET WARMER, UNTIL YOU ESSENTIALLY HAVE A LOOSE, WARM JAM IN THE PAN.
*TOP GENEROUSLY OVER THE CHILLED PANNA COTTA.

enjoy xx