Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Side Dishes - Make a Meal Out of them

Here are few sides that I prepared

Cilantro Cremini

Almond Beet Salad 

Sproutsm Beets and Puffy Cranberries

Lost and Found - Goodiness Rediscovered

A few plates that we lost, now found amongst the hidden archives . What a treat

Catalan Inspired Cod Salad and Filling 

Tofu and Peppers
Turnip Fritters

Sword Fish with Turnip Fritters , Turnip Hotcakes Over Bed of Sweet Yellow Squash
Pepper Salmon

Friday, August 8, 2014

Culinary Creations Part 1

Here's a small sampling of the dishes that have come out of my kitchen over the past few months. Does this read like a resturant menu ?  Would be great to know, my hungry friends.

Warm Garlic Pimenton Pimentos (Red Peppers) Brushcetta
Radish with Spicy Anchovy and Caper Sauce
Pimentos y Pimenton
Red Beets with Blood Orange Reduction
Long Stemmed Artichoke Hearts
Smoked  Maple Salmon , Pimentos Tapas

Minestre (Soups)
Cicerciehie (Wild Chickpeas) , Pomodori e Patate in umido
White Northern Beans with Baby Arugula and Shaved  Percorino Romano Cheese
Lentils with Grape Tomatoes and Smoked Provolone
Santorini Lentils with Goat Feta, Kalamata Olives , and Smoked Sturgeon
Spinach and Asparagus with Goat Ricotta
Green Lentil and Almonds
Udon with Lotus Root Miso Broth

Paste e Riso 
Fusilli Corti , Pomodori , Zucchine with Goat Cheese
Arborio Riso e Patate in Rosso
Cous Cous with Mexican Inspired Black Beans
Cous Cous with Sauteed Eggplant
Coud Cous with Artichoke Hearts
Red Quinoa  and Millet  with shallot , carrots, tomato
Whole Wheat Papardelle , Chick Peas and Red Pepper with Sharp Pecorino

Farfalle with Beans and Pimenton
Ziti with Spicy Flageolet Beans and handmade Pesto
Wild Rice and Japanese Eggplant
Spaghetti alla Chitarra  al Pomodoro and  Goat Ricotta
Bucatini with Fresh Garlic  Scapes

Pork Chops with Spicy Lentils
Catalan poached cod in Vietnamese Rice wraps
(Pic here)
Cod Fish and Scallops infused with key lime
Halibut over bed of Kale and Sweet Potato Garlic Saute'
Cod Fish wtih Pesto Primavera
Halibut with Lemon and Aleppo Pepper Sauce
Shrimp , Potato and Pimenton Crema
Red Snapper Filet with Escarole, Kalamata Olives , Red Peppers and Pine Nuts (pinoli)
Monk Fish , Asparagus and Lotus Root

Pistachio Encrusted Halibut with Blood Orange Reduction

Contorni (Side Dishes) 
Asparagus with Orange Vinaigrette
Spicy Escarole with  Celery
Sauteed White Mushrooms with Cilantro, Lemon and Red Jalapeno
Sweet Potato with Savory Lentils
Sauteed Portobello Mushrooms with Shasito Peppers
Mediterranean Potato with Green Beans
Turtle Peas and EVOO

Insalate (Salads)
Long Italian Eggplant, with  Beets and Baby Arugula
Baby Frisee' with Lyon Mustard , Kumquat Vinaigrette
Pickled White Anise Salad
Cactus Pears in Light Syrup

Stay Hungry My Friends

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tale of Two Michaels

It was an exciting Sunday . After more than 6 months planning , I finally got my friend Slava and his entire clan to come over for a pasta making lesson . I love events like this where I can teach aspiring chefs, to cook up some good food.

Meet Little Michael. He was my apprentice for the day and passed with flying colors.

Litttle Michael In Action

Today's Menu 

Terra BlueChip
Assorted Focaccia (Tarry Market)
Fried Red Pepper Medley with Iberian Pimenton 
EVOO Marinated Roasted Jalapeno Peppers
Umbrian Pecorino Cheese
Sharp Auricchio Provolone
Prosecco Mionetto

Tagliatelle al Pomodoro

Braised Brazilian Carne Seca (Oregano and Garlic Sauce)
Sauted Artichokes Hearts
Roasted Lemon Potato Wedges

Tomato Cucumber Mozzarella Salad

Espresso Coffee
Italian Torrone

A few details about today's pasta. These tagliatelle were extra light and I did this by almost omitting any use of egg. Most recipes you will find include lots of eggs when making the dough . But,. as you know my dear Fans,  I am adverse to eggs. So I barely used 3 eggs for more than 3 1/2 pounds of flour.

For this pasta I use about 75% "00" (Doppio Zero" Italian flour with another 25% semolina flour.  That provided the extra gluten content to make a good.

We ran this batch of tagliatelle through the rollers with a setting that was ab bit t thinner than usual. This made them delicate , very fast to cook and lighter to the palette.

Finally , the tomato sauce  was also very simple, a mixture of crushed (Pomi'  brand) and fresh grape and  tomatoes that ripen in my kitchen over periods of 2-3 weeks.. The sauce was flavored with just 1 clove of garlic (not crushed) , and some fresh basil.

Tagliatelle  Spread (uncooked)

Little Michael; welcome to my island !

Tarry Market
Auricchio Provolone
Antico Mulino Caputo Farina 
Mionetto Prosecco 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tales from the Antipodes

What better way to start the year than with a resolution  to put an end the drought of my blogging. And to top it, what better way than to kickstart things by writing about my good friend Frank, a man who has ventured out to the antipodes in search of  adventure, food and reality of a different kind.

Let me tell you about Frank a bit. German by origin, Frank has lived in at least three continents. That makes him interesting, and a perfect interlocutor, especially in the company of  good cognac or robust wine. He has taken several trips to the tip of Argentina,  to "La Tierra del Fuego" to visit a set of  remote bird sanctuaries that host populations of small penguins. Frank loves these remote places so much that he will not disclose their exact geographic location. Don't even think of using Google Maps.they won't be able to get streets view in those places, You can only get there by foot, sleeping bag and ship

Now back to cooking .

For a few years now, Frank has provided me with pictures and stories of his cooking exploits. So this year, I thought that I would honor our friendship by featuring his culinary creation. Christmas goose has been a holiday tradition  for him, and I think he has become a master at it.  This year's in particular just looks wonderful.

Christmas Goose

Rather than try to explain and paraphrase, a little excerpt in Frank's own words can color this picture much more than I can .

"... roasted goose is the traditional German Christmas dish  ( and I grew up with the distinctive smell and taste. Most female members (the males did not cook when I was a kid) of my family hated cooking it and I understand now very well, why. It is not that easy to do, it occupies and messes up the whole kitchen plus, when it goes wrong, it usually goes REALLY wrong. 

Every German has that horror story of the burnt, undercooked, overcooked, tough, too fat, stringy goose that almost set the kitchen on fire and ruined Christmas for the whole family that year. I cooked around 10 geese in my lifetime (I started late ...) and managed to screw up two of them, rendering them virtually inedible and putting me in a bad mood for weeks. 
I have absolutely no idea, how my grandmothers managed to produce delicious, perfectly cooked geese using their tiny inadequate ovens with kids (=my parents, aunts and uncles) running around their feet ... I have a lot of respect for that and think about it every time I ignite my turkey proof Viking stove that goes to exactly 500 degrees Fahrenheit within 8 minutes so I can shove in the goose comfortably resting on my Williams and Sonoma non sticking roasting pan. The funny thing is, despite all the technology and tools, I will still be nervous for the following couple of hours, anxiously basting the bird and getting the dripping fat out (which by the way I will use for cooking until the end of spring, healthy and unbelievably tasty) until it's time to cut and taste. And then, only if the universe is well spirited and the goose was a good, though expensive, organic one and I did everything right and the stars all line up in exactly the right order ... THEN it's finally Christmas!
The goose was perfect, cooked for 40 minutes with 500 degrees to get most of the fat out and then roasted for 3 more hours with 400 degrees. The taste is so strong that you do not need any special seasoning - just salt, a little pepper and mugwort (German or Asian stores have it). I fill it with apples, Granny Smith this time. A good sauce is essential, I use all the parts of the goose we do not eat, the wing tips, some of the fat and the meat juice mixed with wine that drips of the goose while it roasts. Then we ate it the German traditional way, with red cabbage and potato balls. A nice Bordeaux goes very well with it. "
Frank, my friend, the stars were definitely lined up for you this Christmas. And here is the finished product.. 

The Spread

Cheers all my friends, those of you in the Northern Hemisphere and Southern alike

Penguine from La Tierra del Fuego  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Menu 2013 -

Christmas Menu  2013

Antipasto:  Auricchio Provolone
Peppadew  and Roasted Red Jalapenos
Caprese Salad

Ricotta Lasagna

Roast Turkey Stuffed with Pear and Sweet Italian Sausages and homemade
Roasted Rosemary Potato
Cilantro Lemon Mushroom
Mick's Fancy Cranberries
Beet Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

Dark Chocolate Sorbet
Chocolate Coffee Sicilian Torrone
Espresso and Teas

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ever Wonder ?

Here he goes again . No posts since April, no new recipes, no photos, not even a tweet. Friends and fan club have noticed this second blogging sabbatical. and what many have labeled as a creative drought on my end. So before, I cause an episode of mass hysteria, I  thought I would respond with an explanation.

Well, folks, no I have not shut down my kitchen, and sent off  my island below surface to see good old King Neptune. Nope, the kitchen has been open, indeed at times with equal passion as you have seen in the past months.

My camera can prove it, but my writing can't . But for those with faith, today. for example, lunch  included a fast, but very exquisite meal, perfect for one of those Dog Day Afternoons;  here in New York Metro.

Starter:  Goat cheese , Summer Tomato , Rose' Wine, Egg White omelet
Main Course: Pan seared trout fillets in lemon caper butter
Salad:  Boston Lettuce with grilled zucchini, and white wine vinaigrette

A crisp, well chilled, Côtes de Provence Rose', wrapped things up..

So folk, nope I have not hung up my aprons (rarely wear them actually ).  I have just been busy cooking up a different kind of dish , one made of 0's and 1's as they say in my day job.

Hungry ? Well then check out my foodie previews on PicasaWeb I tend to post things  here before I get to write about them .

Stay tuned my friends.  It will be worth it.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

It's Good to be Queen

Earlier today I felt like making something different, something that would bring together more than one culture. You know that kind of dish that brings together a few ingredients off the beaten track. So I decided to take a stroll to the nearby pan-Hispanic supermarket, La Placita. I have mentioned them before. They tend to carry things from every country in South and Central America. Whether you are looking for looking for uncommon herbal teas that border on the illicit, or greens that can challenge even those acquired tastes as a walk in the park, they've got it.

After a short drive, and a pit stop at Tarry Market for a quick latte, I made my way to the market. It was a good shopping excursion. Plantains , fresh Mexican chilies were the first items that made it into my basket. The big discovery came when, strolling through the fresh vegetable and salad areas, I spotted a sign indicating Verdolaga. Verdo-what ?  That's what I said to myself. I pulled out my iPhone, a quick Google and bingo , Wikipedia to the rescue. Those beautiful looking greens, slightly reminiscent of water cress, had a  Wikipedia page that told me all about this plant and its culinary uses.

Verdolaga or Purslane, is found on most continents, comes in many varieties, and can be cooked or eaten raw. Hey, it looked good, it tasted good - I snuck in a little nibble - and sounded like a perfect ingredient for a citrusy salad. The came da' bomb. According to the article, Verdolaga  also contains Dopamine and "Dopamine plays a major role in the brain system that is responsible for reward-driven learning" A feel-good salad! Two bunch made their way into my basket !

Steam Poached & Fried Salmon Filet Agro-Dolce Plantains

So here's what the Queen and entourage got to eat for lunch.

Saturday Lunch Menu

Plantains Agro-Dolce
Steamed , then Lightly Fried Salmon Fillets
Verdolaga Salad in Lemon vinaigrette

Preparation Notes:
 Clean and trim the Verdolaga, selecting the most tender stems. Make a lemon based vinaigrette using white vinagre. Toss with some avocado and baby cucumbers slices.

Clean the plantains. Make sure to select some that are ripe and some that less ripe, but not green ones. Saute a small red onion in some EVOO, Toss in some small,yellow and orange peppers, and, yellow some heat from Mexican chili peppers  Cook until the onions become translucent  Add the plantains, salt ,pepper, a dash of white,wine. Cover and let cook over low heat until the plantains become soft. Raise the heat, add a few tablespoons (3-4) of white vinegar and black pepper. Cook a few minutes longer so that some degree of caramelization takes place. 

Prepare the salmon fillets by steaming them for no more than two minutes in your microwave oven, wrapped in freezer paper and placed in a plastic bag. Then after steaming, flash pan fry in some very hot grape,seed oil. Remove from the pan, season with salt and set aside.

Plate the salmon fillets over a bed of plantains and next to a side of the Verdolaga salad.

It's Really good to be Queen.

Verdolaga - Wikipedia Article 
La Placita SuperMarket - Yelp Reviews 
Tarry Market

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

From Pan to Plate in less than 40 minutes

Today was another one of those days. Back to work from a "stay-cation" , time off that I used to fight off a sinus ailment, it was one of those days when you work nonstop but not on the things you really planned on getting done.  Remedy ? Cook a nice meal for the Queen .

So here is an great dish , fast enough to make, yet complex in flavors .

Braised Salmon Shashito Oil 
Braised Salmon Shashito Oil and Heart of Palm

Preparation Notes: 
Fry your Shashito Peppers in EVOO, remove from pan , reserve the oil.  Use the oil to lightly sautee some thick heart of palm slices and yellow bell peppers along with a some herbs, and a splash of white wine.

Whit this kind of speed I am feel that an audition on Chopped is in order. Won't happen though. They only accept professionals, not dilettants like me.

Salute !

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Menu 2013

Easter Sunday Menu 

Cheesy Grits Squares with Parmigiano Dusting
Marinated Caperberries
Marinated Peppadew Peppers
Italian Speck
Dried Hot, Italian Sausages (Molise Region)
Caprese Salad with Mozzarella and Smoked Mozzarella

Pappardelle al Pomodoro topped with dallop of fresh ricotta

Braised Goatwith Cuban Inspired Sauce
Stuffed Meat loaf (thanks to mom)

Roast Potatoes
Aspargus Tips

Uova di Pasqua
Homemade Cardamom  Ice Cream
Turkish Coffee

Reflections on Love, Divine Mercy  and Forgiveness

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter 2013: The Four Francis'

Michele Francesco Maria, that is my name full Italian name. Sounds  nice, doesn't it ? Gentle, maybe even kind.  And did you notice something that I have in common with our new Pope? Yes, we are both named Francis. But the similarity ends here. Or does it ?

I was given the name of Francis  because of my birthday falls on the day that commemorates St Franics of Paola's.  I will  honor the Saint from Paola, a town 25 km from where I grew up, with different feast, aon a different occasion.  Today there is another Francis that I wanted to talk about.

Cardinal Bergogli, our new Pope,  named himself,  Franciscum in Latin, Francis for us Anglophones. I can't help but share with you the Vatican's recent words, the full magnificent text that the Catholic world awaits once  every so often.
Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum;
habemus Papam:
Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum,
Dominum Georgium Marium
Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Bergoglio
qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum
Pope Francis, names himself after St. Francis of Assisi, a figure of utmost humility, conversion and reform. Pope Francis, a Jesuit by formation and training. He looks to the the saint and to his life as an example of humility and human respect, an example to be followed, taught and emulated by simple examples. Pope Francis has indicated that in his first few weeks as leader of the Catholic flock.

Pope Francis - March 2013- source: wikicommons

So , tomorrow's feast celebrates a joyous day, and does so on many levels.  It is first a celebration of Christ's eschatological promise and significance to mankind. Second,  the feast represents my personal welcoming celebration for Pope Francis. Third, it's a  celebration of family, as we will be a full house and I love to serve them, regardless of the work involved. And finally, on the more  mundane side, a celebration of my own birthday, a few days in advance.

St Francis of Assisi: Wikipedia article
St Francis of Paola: Wikipedia article  
Pope Francis : Wikipedia article
Easter Menu 2013

Tapas y Pinchos
   -Pumpernickle Squares with Cooked Giardiniera, Herbed Parma Cotto and Smoked Auricchio
   - Spicy Potato and Savory Ricotta Pita Triangles
Marinated Peppadews
Lemon Marinated Anchovies
Olive Oil Marinated French Goat Feta Cheese

"Un Bis di Pasta"
    -  Lasagne Tradizionali (mom's contribution)
    -  Asiago Spinach Ravioli Pecan Sage Cream Sauce

Marsala Braised Lamb Roast

Creamy Celeric & Kabocha Zucca  Mash
Baked Green Bean Oreganata

Procini Buttermilk Biscuits
Olive Fougasse
Crusty Country Rustic Italian Loaf

On this Easter Eve and last day of Lent,. it is  fitting that I  part with some simple, yet powerful words that the Saint sang for us in old  Umbrian dialect many years ago so that tomorrow does not become just another gastronomic and gluttonous experience, but instead becomes a spiritual force and meaning that drives our actions outside of the kitchen, away from my island, away from the festive table.

The Canticle of the Sun
St. Francis of Assissi, 1224
Laudate et benedicete mi signore,
et rengraiate et serviateli cun grande humilitate.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks
And serve him with great humility.
Buona Pasqua , My Friends

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lenten Culinary Journey Continues

Today, dinner had to come quick and follow Lenten rules.  Cous Cous, a super fast "pasta" product came to the rescue. The fan club was pretty happy, considering that dish took less than 1/2 hour from fridge to plate.

Asparagus Cous-Cous
Asparagus Cous-Cous

A white Boardeaux wine , crisp and slightly acidic,  brought out the flavors of each of the vegetables.

Oh,  and did you hear about the stewed cabbage with sauteed peppers ?  Next time you go for corned beef and cabbage,   reconsider.  Cabbage does not have to be bland, and tasteless.  I will be making my alternative  to this Irish classic, next time I forage through  the cabbage patch.

Who says dinner can not be fast ?

Salute !

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lenten Culinaria: Feelin' All warmed up in my kitchen

There are days that I jut love to cook, for myself, for my family , and for friends. And seafood dishes bring out the best in me.

In less than 40 minutes, this seafood dish, worked for everyone. The subtle South American touch, added a nice variation to my otherwise Mediterranean culinary tendencies.

Braised Swordfish Filet with Hearts of Palm and Yellow Squash
Swordfish Filet with Hearts of Palm.

One trick to consider, remove the fish filets so that you can complete the sauce without overcooking the fish.

Served with warm brioche bread.

Salute !

Monday, March 25, 2013

Soul Food: Lent's Rewards

There are some dishes that just work so well . The addition of a few smoked Auricchio Provolone cubes, blew this dish off the charts. Perfect for  winter evenings,  or cooler days ,when your soul craves some downtime, tranquil reflection.

Stewed Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and Smoked Auricchio Provolone 

Sweet Potato Lentil Stew with Smoked Provolone
Preparation Notes 
I blanched the sweet potatoes  then pan fried then with some thyme, EVOO and a bit of butter.  Then mixed with lentils, and provolone. Drizzle with raw EVOO to finish the dish . Served with whole wheat frese.

Thanks to my friends at Cosmo Alex,  Most of the ingredients were purchased at the their store in Mamaroneck, NY.

Cosmo Alex Mamaroneck 
Friselle  - Learn about the tradition
Freselle - Site in Italian 
Auricchio Provolone 


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tales From The Pizza Nazi

My kitchen was on fire today. Not the kind of fire that requires a call to 911. The cooking action started around 9:30 AM before heading to church on this Palm Sunday.

 Before anyone was up, I started preparing my kitchen. My island became pizza dough central . 5 lb bread flour - check . Extra large mixing bowl - check . Yeast Packets - check.  measuring cups - check. Rolling ping and board - check.. I was ready for church .

After church, around 10:30 AM I immediately sprung into action.. I knew that I would need several hours to make the dough, and give it enough time to rise, first in a mixing bowl , and second in my pizza trays. If the dough rises in peace, the pizza crust comes out perfectly, golden on top and bottom, crunchy and full of flavor.  I am always afraid of yeast quantities when making fresh dough. But I believe that I have now gotten  the proportions down to where I like them: 1 package of dry yeast to every 5 cups of flour, plus one. Easy to remember, just make sure that your yeast if frozen , needs to come back to room temperature, and remember not to kill it by adding it to very hot and salty water.

After starting my dough , I immediately leap into my mise en place exercises, laying out all that was required to make toppings..  My lenten compatible, pizza topping ingredients included: assorted bell peppers, cremini mushrooms, 1/2 lb of baby spinach , a medium sized red onion, and large shallot, fresh mozzarella and low hydration mozzarella ,  and plenty of herbs, fresh and dry thyme, fresh marjoram , oregano, rosemary   Ingredients

We had a full house today.. Mom, sisters, friends with baby, and cousin Silvia from Italy, yours truly and of course the Queen.  It was a very fun filled day , with fan club and guest behaving . I was on one side of my island, directing kitchen traffic, and they were seated , orderly on the other side or at my large rustic table. At times though, I did have to become strict when they insisted on wanting to slices of some of the pizzas just as they came out of the oven . I forcefully prohibited them from touching or getting near the pies, before I was ready to cut them. Indeed as soon as I sense their conspiratorial moves, I interdicted there maneuvers, and send them right back to their seats.  You see, pizza, like a good piece of roast meat, needs to rest.  I got nicknamed the Pizza Nazi. I liked that. and I will keep the name for the next time too.

The secret to great pizza making lies in creating great toppings and excellent sauce. Or is the secret to great pizza the dough, a dough made from scratch, King Arthur bread flour, yeast, salt and water, nothing else? Well in my kitchen nailing great pizza requires both. Nail them both , I did indeed on this special Sunday. Take at my repertoire

Sunday Pizza Party Menu

Roasted Eggplant Caponata in a  Lambrusco Fine Mint Vinaigrette
Spicy Boquerones en Vinagre

Mick's Assorted Pizze
The Ab Initio: Rosemary Tomato Focaccia
The Half and Half: Sauteed Mushroom, Sauteed Peppers
Da Bomb: Sauteed Baby Spinach, Goat Cheese Medallions, Sauteed Red Marjoram Onions and Shallots
The Classic : Margherita,  Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce
The Campana : Marinara, Tomato Sauce, Extra Oregano
The Close Out; Tomato Sauce, Sauteed Red Onion, Shallot

Fruits and Salad
Brown Carrot Mixed Salad: Lemon
Pineapple Blueberry Fruit Salad

White Roasted Eggplant Caponata Lambruso Mint Vinaigrette

Rosemary Tomato Focaccia

Half and Half: Sauteed Peppes, Sauteed Cremini

Da Bomb: Sauteed Spinach, Sauteed Red Onion an Shallots, Goat Cheese

Marinara Pizza

Sauteed Red Onion and Shallot Pizzetta

The pizzas were all a great hit. I baked then in order of flavor intensity, in an arrangement that sort of reminded me of a pyramid pattern. The most complex  Da Bomb . was at the apex. It was, as expected also the  day's greatest hit. Folks here's what I learned when making pizza, play with flavors that complement each other, build on them , and you will be able to make small masterpieces for your families and friends.

Brown Carrots - Salad Preparation

Pineapple Blueberry Fruit Salad

It was a good party indeed. full of fun and family joy. I keep thinking about Palm Sunday, and its significance for Christian believers  and non-believers alike. Sunday's during enrich tend to enrich my spiritual life, more and more.

May peace be with you all.