Tag Archives: Italian

Chicken Piccata

My sister sent me this recipe for chicken piccata almost two years ago and  Greg and I been loving it ever since. It ‘s certainly a basic version, but it’s  a nice easy to follow recipe and tastes great. I’ve served it with different sides in the past, including pasta, rice and veggies. Rice is probably the best as it soaks up the delicious lemony sauce. For this go round however I served the chicken with some steamed broccoli (another good sauce absorber),  squash and zucchini.

The ingredients include olive oil, chicken (of course), chicken stock, lemon juice, butter, capers and flour ( not pictured). I actually experimented a bit and substituted almond flour for traditional all-purpose flour. Almond flour/meal has more fiber and less carbohydrates than regular flour and worked pretty well in this dish.

I purchased chicken breasts that were already sliced thin. If you are using regular chicken breasts you can slice them in half and pound them out. This is a bit easier if the chicken is still semi-frozen or if you buy it fresh, you can put it in the freezer for a few minutes to make it easier to slice.

The next step is to coat each chicken piece with flour.

Then get your butter and olive oil going in a pan and begin to cook the chicken. Since the pieces are pretty thin they do not need much time, maybe 2-3 minutes per side.

As each piece of chicken finishes cooking just set them aside. Once all of the chicken is cooked and removed from the pan, add the chicken broth and lemon juice to make your sauce. Let the sauce get up to a boil, then turn it down to simmer and reduce. Once the sauce is nearly finished you can add capers (this was not part of the original recipe) if you’d like. Then dip each piece of chicken into the sauce, coating it completely. Plate the chicken and pour sauce over top or serve in a gravy boat.

Some pre-sauce shots:

and after the saucing… (I covered the veggies in the sauce too!)

I hope your enjoy this one!

Recipe for Chicken Piccata (courtesy of my sister)

Eggplant “lasagna”

This one’s for you Jeremy! I decided to make a pasta-less lasagna to please one of our biggest supporters, who had requested a lasagna recipe. Just for the record, this recipe could easily be duplicated with actual lasagna noodles in place of the eggplant. Though, I have to say this is a nice alternative if you like eggplant like me. In the past I have sometimes struggled to make tasty eggplant dishes at home, as sometimes the eggplant can be bitter, the skin off-putting, and the seeds crunchy and irritating. Since I like eggplant so much though, I have continued to try to make it and feel that this dish was a success.

I began by slicing the eggplant as thin as I could. I worked with a sharp knife and took my time. A mandolin probably would have worked a lot better in terms of getting consistency in thickness, but I don’t have one of those so I did the best I could.

I placed the eggplant slices on racks (two from my toaster oven) and the remaining pieces on a paper towel. I generously covered them in kosher salt and let them sit for about an hour.

The salt pulls out the bitter juices (remember what salt does to cells? wahoo, high school chemistry!), which I rinsed off along with the salt.

Next, I wanted to cook the eggplant a little bit so it wouldn’t make the dish too soupy. I used a grill pan, which I coated generously with olive oil so the slices wouldn’t stick. I seasoned about 1/2 of the slices with salt and pepper as they cooked. They only needed about 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness. This left some beautiful grill marks!

I also grilled up some baby bellas for some extra filler and added veggie-ness.

As the grilling went on, I also made my ricotta filling. I LOVE ricotta and always use it when making lasagna. Some people have told me about using cottage cheese, but I’ve never tried it. I usually buy part-skim ricotta and it’s delicious. To the ricotta, I added an egg, some fresh garlic and parsley, salt and pepper and some chili flakes for a little kick.

Alright. Now it’s time to assemble the lasagna. If you want to go the traditional route using lasagna noodles, cook the noodles according to the directions on the box. In this recipe when you see eggplant slices, substitute that for the lasagna noodles. Easy as pie.

Step 1: Layer the bottom of the pan with tomato sauce. I used the leftover marinara that I made several weeks ago, but store bought is fine too.

Step 2: On top of the sauce, create a layer of eggplant slices.

Step 3: Ricotta layer. Spread ricotta mixture all over eggplant slices, creating a thick layer.

Step 4: I threw the mushrooms on at this point. If you wanted to add meat or other veggies, you could add them here.

Step 5: Add another layer of eggplant slices.

Step 6: Add another layer of sauce.

Step 7: And then a layer of cheese.

That’s about it for the assembly of it

After it bakes it’s all cheesy/melty/gooey so let it sit before cutting it.

I couldn’t wait that long, so it was a little goopey, but still delicious!

Recipe for eggplant “lasagna”

Recipe for our basic marinara

Homemade Marinara w/Meatballs and Alfredo sauce

For two people who really enjoy eating tomato sauce, I knew it was only a matter of time before we began to make our own. Coupled with a new-found desire to eat natural foods and stay away from unknown ingredients/chemicals and the fact that homemade things just tastes better than store bought, we ventured down the path of creating our own marinara. We created a very basic marinara, which leaves a lot of room for creativity going forward. For now though, it was a few simple ingredients simmering in low heat for all of a Sunday afternoon that stole the show.

I started the sauce off with some chopped onions and carrots (which, in retrospect I probably should have grated the carrots) and of course, a good amount of garlic. I sauteed all of these ingredients (carrots and onions first, then garlic) in extra virgin olive oil in the dutch oven.

While the onion/carrot/garlic mixture sauteed I also added some spices: salt, pepper, Italian seasoning blend, and red pepper flakes.

I then added some canned tomatoes.  3 big cans (32-oz.) to be exact, 2 cans of crushed tomatoes and 1 can of chopped to be even more exact 🙂

I put the lid on and put the pot into a 300 degree oven for about two hours.

During that time, I also made my spaghetti squash and the meatballs.  Two things I love very dearly at this point!

After the two hours had passed (stirring about every 1/2 hour or so) I turned the heat down to 200 degrees and let the sauce continue to simmer.

When it was nearly done and I was ready to add my mostly cooked meatballs, I added some freshly torn basil.

In went the meatballs and the sauce returned to the oven for another 1/2 hour.

You can see how the addition of the meatballs dilutes the sauce a bit, but in a good way!

Greg also wanted to make an alfredo sauce for this meal. He used our previous recipe for this sauce, but added some fresh parsley and used only one type of cheese, parmesan, I believe.

This sauce is so amazing, but can be very heavy. I opted out of having the alfredo this time around (after several spoonfuls to make sure it was ok during the cooking process though 😉 )

With or without the alfredo this meal was awesome and it was nice to make my own Sunday gravy.

It’s nice to have options too and a little of the alfredo sauce can go a long way. Greg likened the combo to a rose sauce.

The cool thing about making our own sauce was that there was a good amount leftover. I threw it in a tupperware and into the freezer for another meal at a later time. If you have the time, this is the way to go!

Recipe for Basic Marinara Sauce

Recipe for Alfredo Sauce

Recipe for Meatballs

Stuffed Peppers

The other night we made stuffed peppers for dinner and again, this is really one of those meals that you can make unique to your tastes. We used green peppers, but if you prefer sweeter red peppers or even yellow, orange or purple peppers, by all means. We also used ground veal in our peppers, but most people would probably opt for beef (bison, chicken or turkey meat would be even lower in fat) for example. I’m not sure what inspired the use of veal, but sometimes you just want something different.

I have to give Greg all the credit here on this dish- he created it and made it while I was still at work. I love coming home to a dinner cooking in the oven 🙂

Like I said, he used ground veal. He browned it and set it aside. Later, adding some freshly grated parmesan.

To add some sustenance he also added some freshly sauteed onions and spinach and a little tomato sauce. Many recipes call for other fillers, such as rice or breadcrumbs, but he omitted that and honestly, it was not missed!

Then it was time to stuff the peppers, which he cored out nicely.

He baked them for about 40 minutes.

Though the skins were nice and wrinkly, the peppers were still quite firm. I would recommend a little longer in the oven, maybe 50-60 minutes if you prefer them more tender.

All in all, it was a good wholesome dinner!

Recipe for Stuffed Peppers

Spaghetti (Squash) and meatballs!

I have heard a lot about spaghetti squash throughout the winter on the many food blogs I read and I finally tried it a few weeks ago. I REALLY liked it and I found it to be a great alternative to pasta or rice, or really any starch you need to soak up some sauce. It’s almost like tofu in the sense that it has very little flavor of it’s own and conforms to whatever you want it to be. It is relatively easy to make and did I mention there are like 50 calories in the entire squash and very few carbs!

I decided to pair it with on of my favorite things to make and eat, meatballs!

First the making of the “spaghetti”.

Conveniently, the directions for how to cook the squash are on the sticker. I microwaved it for about 12 minutes and then baked it for an hour in the oven.

Now doesn’t this look scrumptous! Yeah, it’s pretty gross looking but forge ahead and it will be worth it!

Scrape out all the parts that remind you of a pumpkin, ie: the seeds and orange clumps. After that you basically just use a fork to pull out the strands.

Looks like pasta right?

It produces quite a bit of  “spaghetti”. I would say at least six servings, if not more.

On to the meatballs!

It’s all pretty self explanatory from here on out.

Yeah, enough meatballs to feed a small army. Leftovers!

Recipe for Meatballs

Pesto Shrimp Bake

Recently, we hosted a dinner party in which we featured one of our best talents: cooking shrimp perfectly- of course!  Last summer, or fall actually, when the garden was reaching some of it’s last days, Greg whipped up some pesto and we froze several jars of it for occasions such as this. We did not want to be busy cooking when our guests arrived, so it was the perfect thing to use since it was already made.

First, check out the table scape complete with real dining room chairs! wahoo, we’re adults now!

For an appetizer we used our new cheese board to display four cheeses: parmesano reggiano, pecorino romano, some really sharp cheddar, and parano (my recent fave).

We also served a salad that if anything was Greek-esque: romaine, cucumber, tomato, feta and pine nuts.

Now on to the main event. Like I said we used some pre-made homemade pesto. When making pesto ahead of time, it is suggested that you add the cheese when you are ready to use it, versus adding the cheese before you freeze it.

The pesto as it dethawed:

and with a generous heap of cheese:

This thickens it up quite a bit and adds a ton of flavor.

The raw shrimp were peeled and placed in a casserole baking dish. The pesto went over top of the shrimp…

…and was thoroughly mixed in

Next, a layer of freshly grated cheese atop the scrimps.

Pine nuts! Whenever we make the trip to Pittsburgh, we always stock up on pine nuts. They are worth the price, but especially at the price Penn Mac sells them for! YUM.

This went into the oven and baked while we sampled the cheese and ate salad.

We topped it with fresh tomato once it was done baking and the shrimp were cooked through.

We had the romantic mood lighting going- sorry for the flashy picture!

We served it along side of some pasta… along side, not on top!

This was a key point Greg wanted me to stress. The dish is meant to stand alone and is not intended to be a pasta sauce per se, although it went quite well with the pasta.

This is the best picture I have of it– extreme closeup, ahh!

With the scent of basil in the air, this dish made me even more ready for summer! It was a crowd pleaser too, which is always good.

Recipe for Pesto Shrimp Bake

Recipe for our Simple Basil Pesto

Tiramisu- Take 2

So my last venture into the world of dessert making was rather unsuccessful 😦 However, I remained determined and think I might have nailed down a great tiramisu recipe! Although I followed a similar recipe to last time, it just looked better at each step. I also added homemade whipped cream which helped a lot in terms of getting that “fluffy” filling that I have come to expect in my tiramisu!

I started off by beating the egg yolks for several minutes until they were lemony yellow and thick. I then continued to beat them over a double boiler for almost ten minutes.  After that, I let them cool for a few minutes and then added the marscapone… already looking much thicker than last time!

I then whipped heavy cream (1st time doing this!)

Then combined the two.

I got my station all set up here.

I used a smaller, but taller dish this time.

The first layer of dipped lady fingers.

topped with half of the cheese/whipped cream mixture

the view from the top

I then just repeated with another layer of dipped lady fingers and the remaining cheese/cream mixture.

It’s a face!

After several hours in the fridge and a chocolate dusting it was ready to eat!

It was still a little soupy when it was time for serving, but we weren’t too interested in waiting any longer 🙂

After a couple of days in the fridge it held together much nicer…I would suggest refrigerating it overnight before serving to guests. If the way it looks is not important to you, then no need to wait!

Overall, I was much more happy with the way it turned out this time than last. I still learned some more things this time around (like I probably could have whipped the cream a little more) and that will make the next one even better.  I still have more lady fingers, so attempt #3 should be pretty soon…

Recipe for tiramisu

Tiramisu: attempt # 1

I rarely make desserts, but I wanted to give tiramisu a try. As I began the research process I was already a bit overwhelmed because there are literally hundreds of variations and recipes out there. I looked through A LOT of recipes and decided to go with two recipes that were fairly similar. One was from Giada De Laurentiis and the other one I found somewhere else on the internet (?). I integrated the second recipe because it was very similar to Giada’s (which I already had all the ingredients for and there was 30 inches of snow on the ground) and because it directed me to cook the egg yolks, which Giada did not. I was bringing this tiramisu to a Superbowl party and I did not want to make anyone sick, so I decided to combine the recipes to make sure I cooked the eggs properly.

It all started off ok…

I first separated the egg yolks from the whites.

Next I added the sugar.

Then it was time to beat. According to Giada I could have just mixed this for five minutes and then integrated the marscapone. As I mentioned though, I had some reservations about serving uncooked eggs to the masses so I mixed for five minutes and then continued to beat the mixture over a double boiler (as suggested in many recipes I read).

Since this process heated (cooked?) the egg/sugar mixture, I placed it in the fridge to cool before I beat in the marscapone cheese. I took this time to set up the other ingredients. In all of my recipe digging, I learned that it was very important to use authentic ingredients, including savoiardi lady fingers, marscapone, and Italian espresso.I never used marscapone before and it’s American equivalent is supposedly cream cheese. I found the texture to be way more gooey than cream cheese, but many recipes say you can substitute for it.

Once the eggs were cooled, I mixed in the marscapone cheese.

This mixture was not only the filling, but also the topping. It tasted really good, but as you can see the texture is not right. It’s not fluffy enough. Many other recipes integrated whipped cream at this point and now I know why. I didn’t have any whipping cream so I just went with what I had (and what the recipes I had told me to do). I poured it over a layer of espresso/rum soaked lady fingers with hopes that maybe the cheese filling would fluff up in the fridge.

Repeat.

I refrigerated it for a couple of hours, but it didn’t fluff up at all 😦 I was pretty dismayed because it doesn’t look like tiramisu, or at least what I am used to seeing. I went ahead and added the chocolate powder (and later added shavings) anyway and continued to refrigerate it, hoping, hoping, hoping, but to no avail. This is what it ended up looking like.

It ended up tasting ok, but the texture was off and obviously it didn’t look right either. I learned a lot from this initial effort though and next time I make it I will definitely work off of a recipe that includes whipped cream or egg whites, or something to fluff it up!  I bought too many lady fingers, so the next attempt may be sooner than later. I will keep you posted!

Mussels Marinara

Ever since dining at Granville Moore’s in DC we have been hooked on mussels. They’re actually quite easy to make and you can make them in many different styles. Usually we try to emulate GM’s Moules formage bleu because it is delicious and we have gotten pretty good at making it, but tonight we decided to try our hand at mussels marinara. I had the idea in my head for this dish for the past few days and wanted to try to make a spicy tomato broth. Overall, I am pleased with how they turned out, but our mussels to broth ratio was not exactly what I had in mind. I wanted it to be more brothy and less chunky and the ratio of sauce to mussels was off but it was still a good dinner.

First, the mussels. We bought way too much as always- 2 2lb. bags of live mussels.

The mussels need a good rinse so they can release any sand they have inside.

…and now for the broth. We started off by sauteing some minced garlic in olive oil and adding white wine and seasonings, including red pepper which is optional if you don’t want any heat. We added a large can of crushed tomatoes and made sure to get the temperature really hot.

We have learned from experiece to get the broth very hot (up to a boil) so the mussels can cook quickly. Somehow that soothes the guilt we feel for killing them, but let’s not focus on that! The next step is to add the mussels and stir and stir and stir until they open up. You can also put the lid on to get it nice and hot in there.

(You can see the other bag in the background awaiting a similar fate)

Once they have opened up you can serve them.  Just remember that you are not supposed to eat the closed ones!

We served our mussels with some fresh Italian bread so we could soak up the remaining broth.

I seasoned the sliced bread with olive oil (via the misto), italian herbs, garlic powder, and salt and pepper and baked them in the toaster for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

Another alternative to the bread, or in addition to it, would be pasta or rice.  Or you can just eat them by themselves, which we have done many times before. We ate this meal as a main course, but it makes a great appetizer as well. Next time we make mussels we will probably return to the formage bleu so you will get to see that as well, hopefully soon!

Recipe for Mussels Marinara

Turkey Parmesan Lite

For Monday night’s dinner Greg was inspired to do a “lite” version of chicken parm. Typically chicken parmesan is made by breading and frying chicken cutlets, adding tomato sauce and cheese, and serving over pasta. For our “healthy” version, Greg used boneless, skinless turkey breasts from Shadybrook Farms. He “breaded” each one with Italian seasoning and oven-baked them. He also substituted pasta for spinach, which he  sauteed  in olive oil with onions and garlic.  All in all, a great, healthy meal.

"breaded" turkey

After baking for about 8 minutes

sauced up

ready for the broiler!

The base of the dish was sauteed spinach, which provided a lot of flavor.

onions and roasted garlic

plated spinach awaiting turkey

garnish with fresh basil and enjoy!

This dish was good because not only did it taste good, but it was very light.  I don’t mind sacrificing some flavor for not feeling heavy after a big meal, but I really did not feel that I had to sacrifice with this one. I would recommend some tomato sauce on the side for dipping because the turkey itself can be rather plain. Make sure to season it well and you should be alright.

Recipe for Turkey Parmesan Lite