The recipes on this blog are a combination of things I've learned over the years and meals inherited through generations of adoration for good food. They are a cherished property, so please be good to them.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007


My husband loves lasagna more than any other Italian dish. He asked for it a few weeks ago, and I caved and made some for him this past weekend. This is more of a northern style lasagna as it uses bechamel instead of ricotta cheese and only a sprinkle of cheese on top.

1 package lasagna noodles
(I admit, I've made them quite often, but I wasn't that interested in going the extra mile in 90*F weather)
3 cups bechamel sauce
3 cups marinara sauce
1/2 lb Italian sausage
good handful fresh oregano and basil, chopped
1/2 c mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 c Parmesan cheese

Cook lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling water for about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside, covering with a damp cloth to keep the noodles from drying out.

Remove sausage from casings and cook over med-high heat, breaking it up into small pieces. Continue to cook the sausage until done, about 6-8 minutes. Drain the pan of any oil or fat and add the 3 cups of basil marinara. Simmer on low for about 3 minutes to let flavors meld.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 * F.

Spread some bechamel on the bottom of a baking pan. Top with a layer of pasta sheets. Spread a thin layer of meat sauce on top of the pasta, top with a layer of bechamel, evenly sprinkle on some grated Parmesan cheese and top with another single layer of pasta. Do this layering process until all of the ingredients have been used and making sure that the final and top layer is bechamel sauce with Parmesan and mozzarella sprinkled on. When the baking dish is completely filled the lasagna is ready to be baked. Place into the oven and bake for 50 minutes until the top has begun to brown and the edges are crispy.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bechamel Sauce

There are five basic sauces or "mother sauces" when cooking, and Bechamel is one of the oldest. I love using this sauce in baked pasta dishes like lasagna or baked rigatoni.

1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, warmed over low heat
Pinch fresh nutmeg
Sea salt and white pepper

In large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 3 minutes. (**Cooks note: It is important to cook the flour mixture so you don't have a raw flour taste to your sauce.**) Continually stirring, slowly add the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Taste the sauce and add additional spices to your taste.

Use within 48 hours. To store in refrigerator, apply a piece of wax paper to the top of the sauce to prevent a film from forming.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Birthday Weekend

Today is my birthday and so I won't be cooking much this weekend! Hopefully I can post before Sunday.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Beef Picadillo

I've always loved recipes that incorporate sweet and savory in a perfect blend and this picadillo completely satisfies that balance.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion
1 lb ground beef (90% lean)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/34 c beef broth
28 oz canned diced tomato's with juice
1/4 red wine vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 c raisins
2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp allspice
3/4 tsp cinnamon
Heat oil over medium high heat in a large pan. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook down, breaking up clumps until the meat is brown. Stir in garlic and chili, allspice and cinnamon and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and juice, broth, vinegar and paste. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the raisins. Raise heat to bring entire pot to a simmer and then reduce to medium and cook, uncovered for about 25 minutes or so until the picadillo is thickened.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tarragon Mustard Sauce

This sauce can be used for either/both marinade and basting sauce. I marinated some thick cut, boneless pork chops in this sauce (for about 4 hours). I cooked the chops over the grill and used a reserve batch to brush on while cooking.

3 tbsp coarse ground mustard
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp tarragon vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped

Combine all ingredients together and whisk until well blended. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to let flavors meld.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tuna and White Bean Salad

This recipe is quick and easy and incredibly tasty. You must use the tuna canned in olive oil for the salad to have the right texture and flavor. I served it with some pita bread halves, lightly crisped in the oven. (This goes great with a white wine spritzer too.)

1 can cannellini beans
1 can tuna in olive oil
handful of fresh parsley
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
few thin slices of red onion, chopped roughly

Empty and drain thoroughly the can of beans. In a bowl combine the tuna (and its oil), and the rest of the ingredients. Mix together, crumbling the tuna with a form. Add in beans and toss lightly.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Chicken with Sweet Onion Marmelatta

This mixture is so divine and so flavored. I love using citrus with savory flavors and the onions and fresh herbs work so wonderfully with the orange marmalade.

The mixture takes some time to cook, but it only requires a few stirs and very little watching over.
For the marmelatta:
1/4 c olive oil
4 large onions, thinly sliced
1-2 c orange marmalade
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp sugar

Place a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the onions. Stir to combine and cook until starting to cook down, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. The onions should be a soft, marmalade-like consistency and have a deep color.

For the chicken:
4 large chicken breasts, pounded thin
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Arrange flattened chicken breast on plate. Place about 1/4 cup of the marmelatta in the center of the chicken breast. Gently roll the chicken breast keeping all of the stuffing inside. Secure the chicken roll up with kitchen twine or toothpicks.

I decided to grill these chicken breasts over charcoal, using direct heat. They caramelized really nicely on the outside and were juicy on the inside.
Next time I might make a glaze to baste the chicken breasts while grilling. They were perfect as is, but prepared on the grill, an orange (and bourbon or brown sugar perhaps? )glaze might be a nice option for this dish.

(**Cooks note: You could also bake these in a 350* oven for about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. )

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella salad is a popular bread salad that enhances and celebrates the summer's produce. It's made best with day old bread because you want a really crispy texture to soak up the tangy vinaigrette.

Ingredients and variations for this salad are vast and you really can be creative. This recipe is more traditional.

1 cup each:
roma tomato's, large dice
seedless cucumber
1/4 c fresh mozzarella, large dice
good handful of fresh basil, ripped
1 clove garlic, thin sliced
salt and pepper (to taste)
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients into a bowl and let sit in refrigerator for about 30 minutes to let the flavors meld.

For the bread:
2 cups day old bread, large diced
3 tbsp butter
Heat butter over medium heat and add bread cubes. Lightly fry until crisp and brown, stirring often.

Combine the bread cubes with the vegetable mixture and toss making sure the vinaigrette is well mixed. Serve immediately, making sure the bread cubes don't lose their crisp.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Herb Pasta with Shrimp

This pasta is quite possibly the easiest and freshest way to enjoy pasta on a summer night.
Sicilian cuisine (a gift from my ancestors) is made from simple ingredients like the fresh catch of the sea, and pick of the garden.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
10 extra large shrimp
4 cloves garlic minced finely
fresh basil and parsley, a good handful of each, chopped roughly
1 lemon, juice and zest
coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb spaghetti (or any long pasta)

Heat water for pasta with good amount of salt. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Subtract 2 minutes from package cooking time. Reserve 1/4 c of cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan. Add minced garlic and saute about 2 minutes, making sure not to burn the garlic. Add shrimp and add a pinch of salt and pepper to season the shrimp.

Cook for about 3 minutes and then turn over. Add lemon juice and continue to cook until shrimp is almost done. Add prepared pasta and reserved pasta water to saute pan. Add lemon zest and fresh herbs. Toss immediately and cook over low heat for about 1 minute. Serve immediately. Indulge in fresh Parmesan at your own discretion.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Basic Pizza Dough

Pizza is one of the easiest and tastiest foods to make on a whim or when you only have a few ingredients on hand. It's perfect with just a few toppings and I couldn't resist making myself one over the weekend.

For the pizza dough:
1 c warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 1/2 to 3 c all-purpose flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Combine the water, yeast, and 1 1/2 cups of the flour in a large bowl. Mix well. Add the oil, salt, and remaining flour. With large wooden spoon or your hands mix the ingredients together until the dough holds its shape. You may need a bit less flour, so add the last half gradually.Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. If the dough becomes sticky, sprinkle a bit more flour over it.Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled 2-quart bowl. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. Divide the dough into 4 parts and keep other parts covered until ready for use.
Preheat oven to 400*F. Spread dough out on pizza pan or on a pizza stone and pre-bake for about 8 minutes. (**Cooks note: This is my preferred method to ensure a super crispy crust. You don't have to do this and you can easily top the dough and stick it in the oven from this point!)
For the sauce, I simply diced Roma tomato's and garlic and onion. I sauteed these together for a few minutes on the stove and topped my pizza with the sauce. Fresh basil from the garden and some thin slices of fresh mozzarella and a pizza is born!

Bake on 400*F for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Dinosaur Kale with Garlic and Tomato

I found this type of kale at the farmer's market and couldn't wait to try it. I love greens of any sort, but kale is my favorite.

2 good bunches Dinosaur Kale, rough chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 oz canned diced tomato's, drained

Preheat 3 tbsp olive oil over med-high heat in a large pan. Add all of the kale and cook for about 3 minutes, moving the greens around in the pan to encourage wilting. Apply a liberal amount of salt and to the kale and toss the garlic into the pan. Continue cooking kale about 5 minutes or until greens are wilted but still firm and crunchy (**Cooks note: You can cook this to your preferred doneness. I like my kale al dente with a bit of a bite) Add tomato's and stir to combine ingredients. Cook one more minute to heat tomato's and meld flavors.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Risotto Cakes

I had leftover risotto and wanted to make use of it instead of picking at it every time I open the refrigerator over the next few days, per my usual routine.

These are simple and I ate them with a poached egg on top for Sunday breakfast. I also love putting a risotto cake on top of a great green salad with some tomato's and goat cheese.
For the cakes:
1 cup leftover risotto
2 tbsp butter
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
(Cooks note: you could also stick a bit of buffalo mozzarella inside each cake for a cheesy surprise)

Combine egg, salt and pepper and risotto together until mixed well.
Meanwhile, heat butter over medium heat in a frying pan.
Form risotto into cakes and fry for about 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crisp. Serve immediately.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Basil Risotto

The smell of basil reminds me of my mother's garden, which is by far the prettiest city garden in Baltimore. This risotto was great served under grilled fish.

1 c Arborio rice
2 tbsp pure olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
1/2 c dry white wine
3 c chicken stock
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp heavy cream
good size handful fresh basil chiffonade ( cut into long thin strips)

Using a large skillet with a heavy bottom, heat the olive oil over low heat and saute until translucent. Add the Arborio rice, stir to coat with the olive oil, and saute with the onions to toast each grain of rice, about 7 minutes.
Once the rice is lightly toasted, add the white wine slowly, stirring. (If you don't use wine, just proceed forward)After the rice has absorbed the white wine and the skillet is nearly dry, add 1 cup stock, stirring occasionally, and cook over very low heat until the stock is absorbed.
Continue adding the stock, 1 cup at a time, until all the stock has been absorbed. Once the rice has been added to the pan, the entire cooking process will take about 20 minutes. After all of the liquid has been added and the rice is chewy yet fully cooked, with a creamy texture, add the butter, Parmesan, basil and heavy cream. Stir to combine all the ingredients and serve immediately.