Category Archives: EGGS

ITALIAN STUFFED CABBAGE…FOR THE COOLER MONTHS…INVOLTINI DI VERZA

0001When you hear STUFFED CABBAGE you think of cuisines like various Middle Eastern, Polish, Ukranian,Hungarian, Turkish, Romanian, Czech, Greek but never Italian.  Many people thing cabbage is not vegetable used in Italy.  Oh there are many cabbage dishes up and down the boot.  Savoy Cabbage is a milder and thinner leaved type of cabbage.  There’s less of that “cabbagey” sulphuric stench to it.  I don’t mind the strong smell, I love cabbage, any way, any cuisine, from Germany to Korea it’s a vegetable that’s help keep the world from starvation and yes even from disease. Cabbage is loaded in Vitamin C.  Have I made you a convert yet?  What if you were to stuff a Savoy Cabbage leaf with a southern Italian meatball flavored filling adding rice to the mix and then baking them all in your usual Marinara?  Are we good now?  Good.  I grew up in a Polish section of Staten Island NYC and Stuffed Cabbage was verrrrry popular. Delicious.  Even as a kid I loved it.  My Mom turned that Polish Golumbki into an ItalianAmerican pan of deliciousness.  The filling was ground beef and pork, rice, and then the usual meatball suspects, garlic, breadcrumbs, lots of pecorino, black pepper, salt, parsley and an egg.  As I began to cook more often I started taking Mom’s recipes as a base, some by memory alone, and the adding or subtracting to them.  Over the years I’ve played with this, with different meats, cheeses, herbs, sauces and i finally came back to only slightly changing Mom’s.  The cheese I use in this is Provolone..It’s bold taste really works well with the meat and cabbage.  Whenever I make some adaptations to what Mom made I will always stay within her flavor profiles.  She knew how to cook.  So let’s make some INVOLTINI DI VERZA…stuffed Italian Cabbage Rolls.  Tis the season, cabbage tastes best in the cool/cold weather months.

SERVINGS: 4                                   TIME:  2 1/2 HOURS

1 LARGE HEAD OF SAVOY CABBAGE, bottom core taken out

1 1/4 lb mixed ground Chuck and ground Pork

1 cup cooked long grain rice, cooled

1/2 cup plain Italian Breadcrumbs moistened with 2 tbs heavy cream or water or milk

1/2 cup fine dice PROVOLONE

3 finely minced CLOVES OF GARLIC

3 TBS FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1/2 TSP OREGANO

1/2 TEASPOON KOSHER OR SEA SALT

1 TBS FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2 EGGS, BEATEN

2 TBS WHITE ITALIAN WINE

2 1/2 CUPS MARINARA SAUCE

3 TBS PARMIGIANO REGGIANO GRATED

OLIVE OIL

Preheat your oven to 380 degrees F.  Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. salt the water.  Gently place the cabbage head into the water and cook for 15 minutes.  Drain.  Rinse with cold water.  Remove 14-16 leaves from the cabbage head and lay them out on paper or kitchen towels.  While they are cooling make the filling.  In a large mixing bowl add the eggs then all the ingredients  except the meat and the sauce.  Blend well then add the meat and blend with your hands until it’s the consistency of a meatloaf or meatball mixture. Now get your baking pan ready.  Drizzle the bottom of the pan with some olive oil, then a layer of the marinara, maybe 1/2 inch. READY TO ROLL!!! Using about a handfull of the meat place it at the bottom of one of the leaves. Fold the side in and then roll it up placing it SEAM SIDE DOWN into the sauced pan. You may need more meat or less, don’t over or understuff. And here’s something that many recipes never tell you.  I’m not giving you an EXACT measurement for the meat filling ? Why?  No, not because I’m’ being a jerk.  LOL…Because that head of cabbage yields different sized leaves. The magic of Nature!! You may need more, you may need less.  Get a feel for what you are cooking organically and not just using exact measurements.  You’ll be alot less stressed too!!  Once you’ve filled the pan with the rolls cover with a layer of sauce and a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper.  Tightly cover with foil and into the oven they go for 50 minutes.  Uncover, test for tenderness….if not ready, cover and bake an additional 10 minutes but you should be good to go at this point.  So uncover and sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.  Bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes.  DONE!!  Oh this is another dish that is much better tomorrow than it is today.  If you can wait,  serve this the day after you make it.  It’s MUCH tastier.

Making these dishes for me is like cooking with Mom in her kitchen.  When I’m done I look up at her picture and smile.  Thanks Mom, you taught me well!!

 

 

 

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FRIED BROCCOLI, BROCCOLI FRITTI

broccolifritti004 There’s a certain aroma and taste to our comfort foods that makes us feel safe.  Loved.  Part of something. Makes us feel OK.  We all have our own comfort foods that give us these needs and they help us when we are happy or sad.  Food has that astonishing quality for us.  When I think of comfort foods i think of many but the foods of my youth are the ones that work best.  ItalianAmericanism means you will have a fair share of things fried in breadcrumbs regardless of what part of Italy your family originally came from.  I’m postitive that my DNA craves fried or toasted breadcrumbs on a regular basis.  Certainly we can’t eat fried foods all the time but as a party food, a starter, a side the dish we will discuss in this post is one of the best in show.  BROCCOLI.  Specifically Breaded Fried Broccoli ItalianAmerican style.  Plenty of ways to fry up delicious cooked broccoli.  The way it was most served up was dipped in flour, then into eggs beaten with Locatelli Pecorino Romano, then into Italian Seasoned  breadcrumbs (Mom used the 4C Brand, and once in a while Colonna or Progresso.  Store sales dictated the purchases.) and then fried till golden on all sides.  Simple.  But they are a 5 star dish with all that flavor and you finish them with a squeeze of Lemon and maybe a sprinkle of peperoncino and more Pecorino.  Can you use Parmigiano-Reggiano? of course.  It’s just a more subtle taste.  I only think they can substitute for each other because they are both Italian Grating cheeses.  I don’t think they  taste even closely similar and I use them in different applications. But that’s just me and my foodcentric OCD at work.  When Mom made this it generally was a “next day” dish using Leftover broccoli.  I’d advise that as well.  Steam the Broccoli on Monday.  Make the Fritti on Tuesday.  Or let them fully cool after steaming and then use but they seem to turn out just right when the broccoli is leftover.

For Broccoli Fritti for 4

  • about 2 lbs of cooked, steamed, cooled or leftover Broccoli Florets
  • 3 eggs beated with 1/2 cup Grated Pecorino Romano
  •  Salt
  •  Black pepper
  • 1 cup  seasoned and sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs to which you add 1/4 cup of grated pecorino
  •  Olive Oil or Corn Oil for frying
  • 2 lemons, quartered, for serving   
  •   broccolifritti 001          Let’s start cooking the broccoli!!!  Simply dust/dredge the cooked broccoli in the flour, dip into the beated eggs, then coat completely with the breadcrumb mixture.  When this is done place in the fridge for 1/2 hr- 45 minutes.  Get a large cast iron or heavy frying pan, filled 1/4 inch with the oil. When a small cube of bread sizzles and browns in it, your oil is ready.  Remove the Broccoli from the fridge.  and without crowding add the broccoli to the pan (GENTLY GENTLY ) or as they say in Italian.. Piano Piano!! and since the broccoli is already cooked, once one side is nicely browned, turn and do the same.  Don’t overcook….burnt breadcrumbs will ruin and dish and foul the oil.  Remove to paper towels on trays to drain.  Add more oil if necessary and remember to always LET IT COME BACK TO FRYING TEMPERATURE before you add the next batch… Cook these in batches.  When complete sprinkle the broccoli fritti with a little salt, pecorino and lemon juice and wedges.     Great for parties too because you can cook them ahead of time and either serve at room temperature or gently reheating in the oven.  Thanks for letting me into your kitchens as it’s my honor to share my recipes with you.  HAPPY COOKING!!!           

SAN MARZANO COCKTAIL MEATBALLS…

007Time to discuss one of my favorite food subjects…the MEATBALL.  Let’s start out with this tidbit, there’s no such thing as the “ITALIAN MEATBALL”. Why you ask?  Because I said so.  And here’s why…there are meatballs of all shapes and sizes and ingredients made all over Italy.  Most likely you’re assuming the meatball in the big pot of sauce is the “Italian Meatball”.  Well that’s certainly one of many. Meatballs as a cocktail party or party food are fantastic since they are small.  They work well at a party and are generally a one bite affair.  For parties one of the meatball recipes I’ve developed is the SAN MARZANO COCKTAIL MEATBALL.  What is that all about? Scenario, you’re at a party…you’re dressed up..nice suit, shirt, dress, whatever.  You pick up the meatball out of the pan or platter and it’s dripping with sauce.  YIKES! Big sauce stain on your tie…or your chest and the shirt.  Down your blouse or onto the front of your dress or skirt.  Now you’ve done it!!  But you really want that delicious sauce flavor with the meatballs right?  Let’s mix this up a bit…for a cocktail party…or any party..add the sauce TO the meatball mix, then make the meatballs and simply serve on a tray, platter or bowl with toothpicks.  This recipe is made in two parts. first the sauce, then the meatballs.  To start:

THE SAUCE (which becomes one of the ingredients in the meatballs)

1 28oz Can SAN MARZANO DOP Tomatoes, or any good variety of Imported Italian Plums or Domestic Plum Tomatoes

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1 SMALL FINE DICED ONION

SEA SALT

PEPERONCINO

3 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

In a sauce pan heat the olive oil and then add the onion, season with salt and peperoncino.  Let this cook until the onions are translucent and soft.  TIP: if you get impatient the onions will never really soften in the tomato sauce and you’ll have crunchy onions in the mix.  Be patient.  Take your time.  No rush.  Once your onions are soft add the tomatoes which you will crush with your hands first in a bowl, then add them to the pot.  Add one basil leaf and bring this to a boil, stir, then to a simmer and let this reduce for 1 hour, stirring frequently, until it’s reduced by about 1/2.  Add the remaining 2 basil leaves, taste for seasoning and let it sit off the flame to cool completely.  Should take about 2 hours.

MEATBALLS  (makes about 30 ish)

3/4 lb GROUND CHUCK

1/4 lb GROUND VEAL

1/4 lb LOOSE SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE MEAT

1 JUMBO EGG, beaten

handful of chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup dry italian breadcrumbs

1/4 cup of the Sauce you made (that recipe above ^^^^)

3/4 cup freshly grated PECORINO ROMANO

2 FINELY (stressing the FINELY) MINCED GARLIC CLOVES

2 TBS OLIVE OIL

1/2 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, eggs, cheese, parsley, S & P, Sauce, Garlic together.  Let this sit for 20 minutes. Why? we want the sauce to hydrate those breadcrumbs.  Your Panada (write it down, it’s the Italian word for a breadcrumb/bread mix moistened with eggs, herbs, oil,liquids like milk or water, etc. which forms the binding for the meatballs.  See, we are learning…I love teaching and sharing my food with you!!)  Since there’s a significant amount of liquid in the sauce (which is why we reduced it) you want those breadcrumbs to suck up all that moisture which in turn doesn’t steal moisture from the meats and balances the end product…dry crumbs on their own suck moisture from the meat and other sources.

Blend all the meats together.  Then add to the Panada after it’s sat for a while.  If it’s still too loose, add more breadcrumbs, but only a little at a time. Mix gently with lightly moistened hands (lightly, or you’re adding more water to the balls).  When fully mixed let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.  NOW start rolling walnut sized meatballs and line them on a parchment or waxed paper lined tray.  Chill for 10 minutes.  In a heavy skillet add 2 tbs. olive oil and heat.  Fry the meatballs for at least 5 minutes on each side without overcrowding.  Fry in batches.. Add more Olive oil as needed letting the oil get hot before adding more balls in the pan.  (why? the balls will soak in the oil..frying actually prevents that from happening).  When finished frying all the meatballs, deglaze the pan with the White Wine and gently add the meatballs back and simmer until the wine has evaporated.  Done.  Now serve with toothpicks to hungry guests OR let them cool…wrap them in pans and you can reheat them on trays in the oven for serving at your event/ party/dinner.  Meatballs and sauce all together  No drip. No stains.  No mess.    It was great cooking with you…hope to come into your kitchens again real soon!!!

 

 

 

 

TOASTED SPINACH GNUDI WITH A SAGE AND PUMPKIN SAUCE..GNUDI CON SALVIA E ZUCCA

002GNUDI!!!  pronounce it  NYUU-DEE, an Italian food from Tuscany is as it’s name implies, sort of a Nude Ravioli.  It’s a dumpling made with ricotta, eggs, spinach, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and just enough flour to bind it so it’s not quite a gnocchi but close.  Italian cooking is wonderfully full of dishes that closely resemble each other but nuances in ingredient amount or region make them separate and unique.  Fantastic!!  Let me give a foodie PSA here while I have your attention.  You know that TUSCAN recipe or dish you are eating in a restaurant or making at home?  You know, that ULTIMATE TUSCAN soup, chicken, whatever?  It’s more than likely NOT TUSCAN.  Drives me crazy.  As someone who shares food ideas and knowledge calling something TUSCAN when it’s not drives me insane.  Imagine this for a minute…in Italy…at a restaurant or supermarket/store selling American foods…there’s an item called….NEW YORK CAJUN GUMBO….or KANSAS LOBSTER…or MIDWESTERN CLAM CHOWDER….clearly you get my drift.  Louisiana gets the gumbo…Maine gets the Lobster…New England or Manhattan get the Clam Chowder.   The term TUSCAN gets placed on any dish someone (usually a corporate boardroom) wants to for marketing purposes. People are attracted to that term thinking it’s bona fide Tuscan food, or the implication is that all Italian food is Tuscan, or that the American created dish is Tuscan.  Let me do my part to promote real Tuscan influenced food by giving you this recipe I came up with using a Tuscan dumpling and some of the more common Tuscan ingredients..spinach, pumpkin, sage.

Gnudi can be eaten out of the pot, or with butter, or pan toasted, or lightly sauced with butter based sauces, or tomato sauce. A recent batch of gnudi I made, after poaching them i let them “dry” for 2 hours then toasted them in butter till they took on a golden brown crust then simply sauced them with sauteed onions, pumpkin puree, butter, sage, parmigiano-reggiano or Grana Padano, black pepper, and Vin Santo (Spanish sherry makes a decent substitute if you can’t find the Vin Santo).

serves: 4                                          time: 3 hours (which includes the time to let the gnudi dry)

First, the GNUDI

1 CUP  WHOLE MILK RICOTTA, DRAINED

1 CUP CHOPPED FROZEN SPINACH, THAWED AND SQUEEZED VERY DRY (important!!)

1 CUP FRESH GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR GRANA PADANO

3 LARGE EGG YOLKS (ORGANIC WORK BEST) at ROOM TEMPERATURE

1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR OR TIPO 00 from ITALY

1/8  TSP EACH OF  FRESH GRATED NUTMEG, KOSHER SALT, FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS UNSALTED BUTTER

You can use a food processor or bowl for this.  Mix together the Ricotta, Spinach, Parmigiano, and yolks.  Pulse or mix till blended.  Add the nutmeg, salt and black pepper.  Mix.  Now gently add in the flour until fully incorporated. Let sit for 5 minutes.  NOW to form the GNUDI.  Some are made in the small oval shape like I do and some are made in the same size, just under 1 inch, in a ball. Keep the size and shape uniform for consistent cooking. As you make them, lay them onto a kitchen towel covered baking sheet.  Bring a large pot of water to the boil.   When you have finished the gnudi and they’ve rested, gently drop them into the boiling water. Let them cook  and as they are ready, they will float to the top of the pot.  Takes up to 5 minutes.  I use the 5 minute mark as my gauge.  Using a slotted spoon or kitchen spider transfer the drained gnudi to a parchment paper lined sheet pat.  Leave these to dry out now for no less than one hour.

SAUCE:

1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED FINE

6 TABLESPOONS UNSALTED BUTTER (EUROPEAN STYLE OR EUROPEAN WORKS BEST)

2 TBS OF VIN SANTO OR SPANISH SHERRY

1/2 CUP PURE PUMPKIN PUREE (PUMPKIN ONLY)

1/8 CUP RESERVED GNUDI COOKING WATER

2 SAGE LEAVES, WHOLE

FOR GARNISH:

4 CHOPPED FRESH SAGE LEAVES

FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR GRANA PADANO TO TASTE

SLIGHT GRATING OF FRESH NUTMEG AND /OR BLACK PEPPER

In a wide heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and then add the onions…bring to medium and let them slowly get soft. Takes about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the 2 sage leaves.  Now add the Vin Santo or Sherry.  Let cook for 2 mintues then stir in the pumpkin puree.  Add the reserved cooking water and bring pan to  boil then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 5 minutes.   Now back to the GNUDI.

In a skillet heat the 2 tbs of butter and gently toast the gnudi on both sides, taking care not to overload the pan.  You may need to do this in 2 batches.  TOO MUCH CROWDING IN A PAN CREATES STEAM AND YOU LOSE THE BROWNING AND EVERYTHING IS RUINED!!!!!! When you have a nice color on the GNUDI like this:156142_2992380330921_1304531591_32200242_158577316_nyou are now ready to sauce them.  Bring the pan of Pumpkin Onion Sage sauce up to medium heat and gently add the gnudi and make sure you coat all the gnudi with the sauce.  TAKE NOTE: I’m saucing it in the Italian manner…as Lidia tells us..”Sauce is merely a CONDIMENTO, the star is the pasta!”…You always want the pasta to shine through, however I understand that most Americans are used to much more sauce on their pasta then they would have in Italy.  Want more sauce on this? Simply double the recipe. Tutti i gusti son gusti!! (Everyone to their own tastes)…back to my recipe.  After you’ve coated all the gnudi and it’s heated thru for a good 3 minutes remove from the heat and garnish with the chopped sage, nutmeg and grated cheese to taste.  Serve.  I’m starving now as I type all this.  It’s such a tasty dish.  0041As always, thank you for letting me into your kitchens….enjoy this little bit of Tuscany, I actually think the region around Siena is noted for their gnudi.  BUONA CUCINA!!

 

 

 

 

 

VIENNESE VANILLA CRESCENTS…VANILLEKIPFERL

00vanillenkipferlWIENER VANILLEKIPFERL……a very popular Holiday cookie these are AUSTRIAN VANILLA CRESCENTS.  This type of cookie is made all over the world for the Christmas season and sometimes for special occasions thru the year.  Wedding Cookies, Greek Kourabiedes, American Almond Crescents, the list goes on but at their heart they are a butter cookie made with finely ground nuts in the dough.  The nuts can be almond or walnut.  The butter is always present and in the central European countries the Vanilla Sugar is an ingredient as well.  Simply put, it’s granulated or fine granulated sugar infused with vanilla beans and is very fragrant.  So why am I focusing in on this Viennese version?  Well last Summer I visited Vienna and bought a cookbook, in German, called WEIHNACHTS BACKEREI…translates to CHRISTMAS BAKING.ho15577518_10208099303022724_1310207240_nNice looking book, i had to buy it. Cost 6.75 Euros. One of the recipes is the Viennese crescent.  I made them last Christmas using European butter and they were fantastic, so now I share this with you.  The butter I suggest to really make them over the top delicious is butter from Europe.  A little more costly for sure than U.S. butter but they are after all European butter cookies.  A few European brands are LURPAK, from Denmark, FINLANDIA from Finland, KERRYGOLD, from Ireland.  There’s also the US made in the European style PLUGRA.  They are richer than the usual American butter. If you can’t find them the cookies will still be fantastic!

VIENNESE CRESCENTS                            TAKES: 3 hours                    YIELDS: 48-60

the rezipe
2 cups sifted unbleached flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 TBS. vanilla sugar
1 TBS pure Vanilla Extract
3 egg yolks or 2 extra large yolks
1 cup Ground Almonds (or ground walnuts)
1 CUP COLD EUROPEAN BUTTER (or good quality U.S. butter)
2 TBS vanilla sugar plus 2 TBS Confectioner’s Sugar for coating
Cream the butter and the sugar, then the eggs, then the almonds and flour.All ingredients are quickly mixed to a smooth dough in your mixer and let cool for approx. 1 hour. Cut the dough into a small roll of small, coarse pieces, shape them into crescents and place on a  well greased baking tray or baking sheet. I’d use a SILPAT mat if you have them, or lightly greased parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees F in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes till firm and golden. While still warm roll in the Vanilla sugar and confectioner’s sugar blend.
If you like the taste of Almonds in this, add 1 tsp. Almond Extract while you’re mixing the dough.
bakingnight121915-024
 Quantity: about  48-60 piecesbakingnight121915-025bakingnight121915-026
Let fully cool.  Store in air tight tins or in baking tins layered with waxed paper and well wrapped.fulleuropevaca-938Just to show you were I bought the cookbook, this is a roadside scene in the WIENERWALD, or the VIENNA WOODS which lie outside of the city of Vienna, Austria.  A magical land where Wiener Vanillekiperl fall out of the sky!!  Now that you have the recipe you don’t have to wait to take a trip to Austria.  Bring Austria to you own kitchen!!!
Glückliches Kochen!

OLD FASHIONED APPLESAUCE CAKE

applesauce cake 001

It’s almost sinful to call something OLD FASHIONED today but I’ll gladly use that term to describe this sinfully delicious APPLESAUCE CAKE I made.  What makes it so good?  Attention to sticking to a tried and true formula that will spark all your memories of applesauce cakes of your youth.  If you don’t have that shared history it’s time to make Applesauce cake memories of your own.   As always I reach into that memory box of mine and pull down from it’s shelf the aroma of my mother’s Applesauce cake.  This isn’t technically hers because I never knew how she made it.  Mom had lots of apple cake recipes.  Crisps, PanDowdies, Cobblers, Pies, Loaves, Cakes.  Some were a blend of All purpose flour and other pantry staples,  some were part of that BISQUICK family of cakes, others were simply using a commercial Spice Cake mix and adding apples.  Her Applesauce cake, unlike mine, was made in those Round Tube Pans.  Peppery, spicy, warm and aromatic, she sometimes added diced apples to applesauce batter and would glaze it.  There’s an idea,  a glazed one but I’d add diced crystallized ginger to the top.  Back to the style that I make..it’s baked in a rectangular pan and cut into squares.  It can be frosted, left plain, glazed, or a simple dusting of powdered sugar.   Out here in Monmouth County New Jersey where I live we have a few really nice “farm” and gourmet markets with in house bakeries.  One of them,  Delicious Orchards of Colts Neck N.J. makes a delicious apple spice cake with a white icing on it that is just about one of my favorites.  If you want to make homemade applesauce for this cake recipe I am giving you, this is the Delicious Orchards recipe:

Delicious Orchards Applesauce

 

Or you can simply use your own or a good brand.    My cake uses the spicy mix of my mom’s with the white icing of Delicious Orchards, but I do a basic Cream Cheese Icing.  It’s awesome.  I must tell you, I screwed up when making this.  The crushed walnuts and the raisins get folded in after you have finished the batter.  Well…even with the bag and box of the two ingredients RIGHT NEXT TO THE MIXER, I was so excited to get this cake made…um…they are still not in the cake.  Still delicious.  I wound up just sprinkling some of the crushed walnuts over the frosted cake.  It’s a win-win regardless of including the fruit and nuts or not.  Successful recipe anyway.  I base my recipe off of the Land O’Lakes Applesauce cake recipe with a few changes.  Ready to bake?  Let’s go…preheat that oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 13 X 9 ” pan well, then lightly flour it.

Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar, I used Vanilla Sugar  (see note on bottom)
1 1/2 cups applesauce
1/2 cup Butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Paste or Extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup  raisins dusted with some flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
ICING
1 stick butter (1/4 lb)
8 oz REAL Cream Cheese Not a spread, the bar type
3 cups Confectioner’s Sugar
2 tbs. Vanilla Paste (or 1 1/2 tsp. extract)  PLEASE USE THE REAL STUFF, NOT IMITATION
1/8 Tsp. salt
Add all the ingredients into the Mixer bowl for the cake EXCEPT the raisins and nuts.  Mix on low till all is well blended scraping down on the sides.  Then beat on High Speed stopping to again scrape down the sides until the batter is smooth.  Now fold in the nuts and the raisins.  The flour you shook the raisins up with helps to suspend the raisins in the batter and keep them from sinking to the bottom.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. The sides should have pulled away a bit from the pan and the center will be springy when done.  Let this cool COMPLETELY on a rack for 3 hours.  I hurried the process by sticking it out the window and right into the 30 inches of snow that came up to the sills of the kitchen windows.  Chilled that cake RIGHT down.  LOL…but one doesn’t always have a quick chill handy like that, so wait the 3 hours.  applesauce cake 005  Can you smell that?? It’s spice heaven.  NOW, onto the icing.  While your cake is cooling or while you were baking it, add the butter and creamcheese to the mixing bowl and slowly cream the two.  When they are blended start to slowly increase the beating to medium and slowly add in the sugar and the salt.  Add the vanilla and beat on high until it’s completely blended and it of nice firm consistency.  Place in a cool spot, covered until your cake is ready to frost.
Simply frost the top till it’s all covered.  Crumble toasted walnuts over the top if you like.
applesauce cake 004
applesauce cake 003  I used the paste and you can see the Vanilla Beans in the frosting.  Delicious. CHILL THE CAKE FOR 1 hour before serving.  Then slice into squares and serve.  It’s amazing.
So, here’s the note about Vanilla Sugar..I was in Central Europe this Summer and of course was picking up ideas and recipes.  Almost all of their sweet baked items use Vanilla Sugar which is simply made by slipping a whole Vanilla bean into a canister of regular sugar.  Let it sit for 5 days before you use it.  Keeps for a long time and the vanilla essence is really great.
Now time for a glass of milk or a nice Black Coffee (only black for me thank you) and a square of my Applesauce Cake.  Happy Cooking!!
applesauce cake 002

 

SWEET N SOUR RETRO MEATBALLS…MEMORIES FROM MOM

newyears16 001  The hardest blogpost to compose is the first one of the year.  So many are  profound, dripping with sweet sentiments, hopes for the year ahead…so, after a day of getting stressed for absolutely nothing the idea came to me.  It’s New Year’s but blog a recipe that is “non-holiday specific” but works well for New Year’s Eve.  How do I know that?  I know that because my Mom used to make this, a close version to the one I make every New Year’s that we were home.  She also made it for all of her and Dad’s cocktail parties  before their VFW dinner-dances and affairs back in the 60’s and 70’s.  This whole recipe is RIGHT out of a MadMen script.  I’ve A FOOD OBSESSIONED it up a bit, leaving some of Mom’s RETRO ingredients right where they should be.  They cannot be changed.  They are the underlying taste of this recipe.  I’ve made this with fresh pineapple and mandarins. Omitted the Maraschino Cherries. What made the dish so….MOM…and wonderful was gone.  So I went back to the original canned Pineapples, in their own juice…Maraschino Cherries with that almondy cherry taste…and the unique taste of the canned mandarin.  I did change the size of the red peppers in the sauce…Mom’s were a chop..too much pepper.  I fine dice so they basically add flavor without getting in the way.  I am thinking like the amateur food historian I think I am (I said I THINK I AM, lol) and i’m going to say the genesis of this type of meatball recipe comes from that late 50’s early 60’s fascination with the American notion of POLYNESIAN culture..  Trader Vic’s, Hawaii Kai…these were trend setting restaurants from San Francisco to New York City.  “Exotic” ingredients like soy sauce, sesame oil, curries were being mixed into typical American bar foods, like meatballs and chicken on sticks, Beef on sticks.  Truth be told nothing in the Polynesian food culture ever was this sweet or sour at the same time.  Add a Pineapple to your cooking, you were soooo Polynesian.  Stick some palm trees and the hanging monkeys on your drinks with some umbrellas, that was 60’s retro “Oriental-Polynesian” food and drink to us on the mainland unless you were of Polynesian or other Asian extraction.  Then you knew better but fed Americans these sweet and sour concoctions at the eateries, but maintained your real food culture at home.  Today we live in a much better time to be eating…we know the difference and we appreciate both versions when done right.  Sweet and Sour meatballs to many mean Ketchup and Grape Jelly in the crockpot with a simple seasoned meatball.  Let me take you to BALI HAI…to BORA BORA…to RARITONGA….thru the eyes of the 60’s…vv6 Some memorabilia from those days..from the Trader Vic website.  The American-Polynesian cuisine was full of fruity syrups and tastes.  Trader Vic sold a sweet and sour style meatball in their restaurants.  I was fortunate to have been to a few before they changed or closed.  Mai Tai anyone??   Let’s travel from a Trader Vic or Hawaii Kai into my kitchen with my Mom watching us recreate one of her “specialities”!  Trader Vic’s may have called them PUPU meatballs…PUPU signifying an appetizer.  You can make these as a PUPU or as a main dish. over fluffy steamed Jasmine rice with a bit of chopped cilantro in the rice.

 

MAKES: 36 or so MEATBALLS                    time: 1 1/2 hours

 

MEATBALLS:
    • 1 1/2 lbs  ground beef and  ground pork blended together
    • 2 large eggs, beaten
    • ½ cup PANKO breadcrumbs
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tsp. Sri Lankan or Madras Curry
    • 1 tsp Sesame Oil
    • 3 diced strips of  bacon and 1 medium onion, diced, sauteed till the bacon is cooked and the onion is soft
    • 1 ½ teaspoon Soy Sauce
    • 1 finely minced garlic clove
    • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
    • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
    • 1/2 tsp. sambal olek or ground chile garlic paste
    • 1/2 can drained crushed pineapple
    • flour for dusting
Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 (14 0z) cans of crushed pineapple (less 1/2 cup of the drained for the meatballs above)
  • 1 can Mandarin Oranges
  • 2 tsp. finely minced red peppers
  • 1/8 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup ketchup
  • 1 (14 oz) can pineapple tidbits
  • 1/8 small bottle of maraschino cherry juice plus 10 cherries
  • pinch of cloves, nutmeg, ginger

First let’s dice that bacon and onion.  In a large skillet cook them down until the onions are soft and the bacon is cooked and add the sesame oil. Now add the breadcrumbs and let them soak those bacon drippings and get a little toasty. Add the garlic. remove from heat. Let this cool.  Now add the dry spices and blend well.  In a large bowl add the eggs. Then the breadcrumb mixture and the pineapple.  Mix.  Then add the meat and work until it’s a homogeneous mixture.  Form into about 36 walnut sized balls, you may get more. Then roll in flour.  Fry them in a lightly oiled non stick pan till browned on all sides.12459533_10205459127099976_1330698243_n  Cook the meatballs in batches as you need room between them all so they don’t STEAM. STEAMING is not an optimum cooking method for meatballs.  Keep the meatballs on a platter, lightly covered with foil while you are cooking the balance of them.  Done?  Good.  Time to make the aromatic sauce.  In a saucepan, gently heat all the ingredients except the cornstarch.  Bring this to a boil, REDUCE to a simmer.  In a bowl whisk together about 1 ladle of the simmering sauce and while whisking slowly add the cornstarch until it’s smooth.. Then while stirring the sauce with a whisk slowly pour in the cornstarch and lightly whisk till blended.  Bring to a slow boil and then stir and lower to a simmer.  Keep stirring until the sauce is thickened.  Now Add the meatballs to the sauce, or place them in a baking dish and pour the sauce over them.  Let this cool down and then tightly wrap and refrigerate when totally cooled down overnight.  You can reheat them in the oven, at 350 Degrees F covered for 25 minutes.  Or into a crockpot to keep warm.   Or on the stove pot, just stir them gently.  Your finished product will look like this: 001 How good does that look?? Like 1965?? I think this will change your mind from the frozen bags of meatballs heated thru in a ketchup and grape jelly sauce.  I’m not knocking that..but I think this recipe will make you happy.