Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tuna Tartare a Total Star

Tis the season to get the Feast of the Seven Fishes onnnnnnnn.

My planning for the festivities has begun, and I thought I would share with all of you the sleeper hit from  my 2017 spread: Tuna Tartare.

I've had the privilege and honor to be the Feast of the Seven Fishes hostess with the mostess in my family for the second year now. Previously, I schlepped a bunch of food to my sister's house.

I love the tradition of this holiday so much. Basically, some Southern Italian peeps decided to eat at least seven fishes on Christmas Eve until you can't eat no more. There are a lot of contradictions as to why this practice takes place but it has to do with the number 7 and the Bible and the Sacraments and holy numbers and really, no one really knows.

So Tuna Tartare. This was not a traditional dish in my family's Feast of the Seven Fishes menu. But after last year's debut, it totally is now!

If you skeeve fish in the raw form, you may want to move it along. But if you love the freshness and the lightness and the amazingness that is uncooked tuna, this jam is for you. Be sure to get it from your must trustworthy fishmonger.

I followed this recipe to the T, except, I used just basil and zero mint. Mint is always so freakin' hard to find in Jersey and it was beyond skeevy last year up in my markets. But if you get your hands on the gorgeous mint, go for it. I used the olive oil. The recipe says it's optional, but I say no way, Jose.

My Tuna Tartare comes from the "Extra Virgin" cookbook by Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar (you know, Madonna's home girl from back in the day). Fab cookbook. I strongly recommend!

I like doing this one for the huge holiday that is Christmas Eve because it is not only delish but so easy to put together. Sometimes you need a few recipes in your repertoire that take just a handful of minutes when you are preparing many other time-consuming dishes. And this one is a total knockout!

Tuna Tartare
Serves 6 to 8
From "Extra Virgin"
By Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar

2 tuna steaks (3/4 pound each), 1 1/4 inches thick, finely diced
2 lemons, 1 zested and 1 cut into wedges for squeezing
10 fresh mint leaves, finely sliced (chiffonade-style), plus sprigs for garnish
6 fresh basil leaves, finely sliced (chiffonade-style), plus sprigs for garnish
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Flatbread crackers, broken into bite-size pieces

In a large bowl, combine the tuna, lemon zest, mint and basil. Stir gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If using olive oil, add it now.

Spoon generous portions of the tartare onto the cracker pieces.

Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon, and garnish with the mint and basil sprigs.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Roast Turkey Breast Barefoot Contessa Style

Roast turkey is a wonderful thing whether it is the fourth Thursday of November or any ole' day of the year.  Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast by Ina Garten is the perfect dish when you want home-cooked turkey deliciousness for a small crowd. Take a look:

You know you want a piece of that, right?!

I make this for my family of three throughout the year, but you could certainly rock it out for a party of up to six to eight for Thanksgiving. This is also a good first venture in turkey cooking for any newbies up in here as there is no trimming and tying and brining and sticking your hand into slimy holes of animals. TMI, but I'm just keeping it real. So, the turkey breast - you got this!

I follow the recipe exactly but I often use dried sage since it is a rare occasion that I find fresh sage in my markets. And this go-around the thyme in the store was a bust, so my dried spice to the rescue!

I like to whip up a gravy rather than just using the pan juices as Garten recommends. I mean, if you are having turkey in any form it needs gravy, in my humble opinion.

To make the turkey gravy, I place the roasting pan over a burner on medium heat. I add one .87 ounce packet of McCormick turkey gravy mix and 1 to 2 Tbsp. flour to the pan drippings. Whisk into the drippings. Add three to four cups of turkey or chicken broth. Whisk and bring to a simmer. Cook for about five minutes or so. Strain into a second pot for a smooth gravy. And that's it! If you need to adjust the seasonings, go for it.

Here is a pic of my gravy while it's cooking away. I forgot to grab a pick of it all strained and gorg.

 And here is how the turkey looks looks all plated up with mashed potatoes and some garlicky broccoli rabe and some silky smooth gravy, baby:

I also served a little romaine salad, too. Because you can never have enough veg!

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
Serves 6 to 8
From "Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That?"
By Ina Garten

1 whole bone-in turkey breast (6 1/2 to 7 pounds)
2 Tbsp. good olive oil
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. dry mustard
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the turkey breast on a rack in a roasting pan, skin side up.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, rosemary, sage, thyme, salt and pepper.

Rub the mixture evenly all over the skin of the turkey breast (You can also loosen the skin and smear half of the paste underneath, directly onto the meat.) Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.

Roast the turkey for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read meat thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest and meatiest area of the breast. Check the breast after an hour or so; if the skin is overbrowning, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.

When the turkey is done, remove from the oven, cover the pan with aluminum foil, and allow the turkey to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Slice and serve warm with the pan juices.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Crockpot Chicken Cheesesteaks

So I know the whole InstaPot thing is the hotness, but the only plug-in cooking vessel I use is a crockpot. And even that thing only sees the light of day maybe six times per year.

I look at my crockpot as a bit of a means of cheating to cook. I also say to myself when lugging it up from the confines of my basement kitchen gadget auxiliary, "Wow, is this what it has come to?" But alas, sometimes even the most Nigella Lawson/Lidia Bastianich/Ina Garten obsessed gals need to take a shortcut now again. Truth, the crockpot is very useful when you are having a frantic day/night/week and you just need to chop up a few things, open a can, place ingredients on top of each other and call it a day.

Such is the case with this recipe for Crockpot Chicken Cheesesteak Sandwiches from Life in the Lofthouse. I discovered it on Pinterest. I have made the dish three times, so I would declare it a success. I would also declare quite firmly that the final product is NOTHING like a for reals Philly chicken cheesesteak, but the dish does make for a great dinner. I served it on hoagie rolls with provolone cheese. Voila!

This is a good one to make if your family is coming and going and needs to eat in between activities.

Crockpot Chicken Cheesesteak Sandwiches
From Life in the Lofthouse
Yields 4 to 6 sandwiches

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 medium yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1/2 cup chicken broth (Please note: The Jersey Girl used an entire can of chicken broth)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 Tablespoons steak sauce (I used Heinz 57)
6 hoagie buns

Spray inside of crock pot with non-stick spray. 

Lay the onion and bell pepper slices in the bottom of crock pot. Pour chicken broth over the veggies. Lay chicken breasts over the top of vegetables. 

Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic powder and steak sauce over the chicken.

Cover with lid and cook on low heat for 6 to 7 hours OR on high heat for 3 to 4 hours (or until chicken is tender and cooked through)

Carefully remove chicken from crock pot and shred with two forks. 

Return to crock pot and stir to combine the shredded chicken and veggies. (There will be liquid in the crock pot but I leave it in to keep the chicken moist)

Using a slotted spoon scoop up chicken mixture and place inside hoagie buns. Top with desired sliced cheese, such as provolone.

Monday, October 22, 2018

A Package Deal

Any recipe that calls for assembly line prep, make-ahead possibilities, and easy cleanup gets me every time.

Salmon Baked in Foil has all of those attributes. I've made this on a few occasions and it is always a hit with my family of three. I love how dinner is cooked all nice and neat in a packet of foil. Order in a world of chaos is always a fab thing, no?

I prefer fresh tomatoes but the option of canned is awesome if you are in a pinch. Both times I made this dish recently I have used a regular ole onion as opposed to the fancier pancier shallot. And it worked out totally fab. Just sayin', as they say. Here's a peek at the topping:

Don't the herbs look scrumptious?

I've made salmon 100 different ways throughout the years, and this recipe is definitely in my top three for preparing the super food. They say salmon has lots of nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids (whatever that means) so eat more of it, dear readers!

I served this dish with basmati rice and a salad on the side. But I feel like string beans or asparagus would be a nice veg to go with the fish.

Here ya go:

Salmon Baked in Foil
From "Everyday Italian"
By Giada DeLaurentiis
4 main course servings

3 tomatoes, chopped, or 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice drained
2 shallots, chopped
2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano or 3/4 tsp. dried
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme or 3/4 tsp. dried
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 salmon fillets (about 5 ounces each)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium bowl, stir the tomatoes, shallots, 2 Tbsp. of oil, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.

In the center of each of four large sheets of aluminum foil, spoon 1/2 tsp. of oil.

Place 1 salmon fillet atop each sheet of foil and turn to coat with the oil. Sprinkle the salmon fillets with the remaining 1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper.

Spoon the tomato mixture over the salmon.

Fold the sides of the toil over the fish and tomato mixture, covering completely, and seal the packets closed.

Place the foil packets on a large, heavy baking sheet. (The salmon packets can be prepared up this point 6 hours ahead. Refrigerate until ready to bake.)

Bake until salmon is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Using a large metal spatula, transfer the foil packets to plates and serve. (You may want to unwrap and plate the fish in the kitchen before serving.)

Please note: The Jersey girl used one medium yellow onion instead of shallots.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Rigatoni All'Amatriciana

You can never have too many pasta recipes. Do you feel me?

Rigatoni All'Amatriciana was a hit in my house. Pancetta sizzles up in a pan, followed by onions, red pepper and garlic. Add tomatoes and simmer for about 20 minutes and dinner is basically done.

Sometimes a big bowl of pasta is just right. In my opinion, that's all the time!

Traditionally, amatriciana sauce is served with bucatini - thick spaghetti with a hole in the middle. But my little man requested rigatoni - one of his fave pasta shapes - and the sauce worked really well with it.

I finished my dish with grated cheese, which is traditional for amatriciana. But, I also added a handful of fresh chopped parsley for some brightness. This add is non-traditional, but I thought it was a fab touch.

You could totally double this recipe and freeze a batch for use at a later time.

If you are unfamiliar with pancetta, it is an Italian bacon.

It is less fatty than American bacon. I always keep some sliced on hand in my freezer and just pull it out when I need to use some and pop the remaining slices back in the freezer for use later on.

Rigatoni All'Amatriciana
(4 servings)

3/4 pound rigatoni

4 slices of pancetta, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp. grated parmigiano cheese, plus more to serve
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes, I like Cento

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook rigatoni as per the instructions on the box.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan heat olive oil over medium heat. Brown pancetta, about 5 to 8 minutes. Pancetta should be crispy and fragrant.

Add onion and cook for five minutes longer. Onion should be soft and glistening in the oil.

Add red pepper flakes and garlic. Cook for another minute or two.

Add crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer.

Partially cover the pan and cook for about 20 minutes over low heat. You want a calm bubble. Stir occasionally.

Add three tablespoons of parmigiano cheese. Stir.

In a serving bowl, add two ladles of sauce. Using a spider strainer, add the pasta directly from the cooking water into the serving bowl. Ladle in about two to three more cups of sauce. Ladle in a cup or so of pasta cooking water. Toss to coat the pasta. Top with fresh parsley and serve with extra sauce and grated cheese.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Classic Sour Cream Pound Cake

Baking is so therapeutic. At least that's how I see it. While bingewatching a trashy show or drowning my sorrows in booze or compulsively orders shoes online sounds enticing, I find making something to share with others is the best way to go.

Sour Cream Pound Cake can be made all year long. It's perfect with whipped cream and berries or ice cream or cut up for a fab fondue party. Of course you can buy it in a store, but homemade is always so much better.

Even the most amateur of bakers can get this one out.

I use the recipe from Better Homes and Garden. Tried and true. We usually like to eat our pound cake with some strawberries and fresh whipped cream. My recipe for whipped cream is also below. It's so easy. Just be sure to stick your bowl and beaters in the freezer ahead of time - like an hour ahead - and you are good to go.

Sour Cream Pound Cake
From “The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook”

½ cup butter (1 stick)
3 eggs
½ cup dairy sour cream
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sugar
½ tsp. vanilla

Allow butter, eggs and sour cream to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, grease and lightly flour an 8x4x2-inch or 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, beating about 10 minutes or until very light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition and scraping bowl frequently. Alternately add flour mixture and sour cream to butter mixture, beating on low to medium speed after each addition just until combined.

Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in a 325-degree oven for 60 to 75 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

 Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool.

Serve with sliced fruit or berries. And whipped cream! Recipe below:

Whipped Cream
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)

1 cup heavy whipping cream, super cold

1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Place a glass bowl and the beaters from a hand mixer in the freezer. Do this at least 2 hours before you make whipped cream.

Remove bowl from freezer. Place cream and sugar in bowl. Beat on high with your hand mixer for about 2-3 minutes until soft peaks form. Serve.

It’s not hard, see?!

Be sure to not overbeat your whipped cream, because then it turns into butta. Just, taste it after a minute or so. If it looks like whipped cream and smells like whipped cream and tastes like whipped cream, then it’s whipped cream.

Keeping your bowl and beaters and cream super cold is key to the success of whipped cream!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Holding onto Summer

Fall is my jam.

Tis the season of my fav colors, celebrations, fashion and food.

But this dish - this one is for all y'all who just can't get enough of summer.

For reals - Chicken Caprese  is summer on a plate: Paper thin chicken, fresh grape tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, shreds of basil and a drizzle of balsamic. Not only is it all fresh and pretty but it is mad quick. So, while perfect for lazy summer nights it is also a winner on overscheduled school nights when you think there is zero time for homemade din dins.

Truth is I made this back in July. But as long as you can get your hands on some fresh basil, you can make it any time. Grape tomatoes are always up in the hood at my grocery store.

Serve with a salad and some fresh bread and you are good to go in less than 30.

Chicken Caprese
(Makes 4 servings)

8 thin-cut chicken cutlets, probably about a 1.5 lbs
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh pepper
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, torn into bite size pieces
12 basil leaves, chiffonade (thinly sliced)
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. really good balsamic vinegar

In a small bowl, combine garlic powder with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. fresh pepper. Stir with a spoon.

On a baking tray, line up chicken cutlets. Season both sides with the garlic powder mixture.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Cook the chicken cutlets on both sides. About 4 minutes per side. Cook in batches. I usually can fit 3 to 4 cutlets in my pan at one time. If they are really big, you may need to do 2 at a time. Add another Tbsp. olive oil before cooking the second batch if you need it. And repeat a third time if you need to.

Remove chicken from heat onto serving platter or onto dinner plates, 2 per plate. You may cover with aluminum to keep warm.

When ready to serve, remove foil. Top cutlets evenly with grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil chiffonade, salt and pepper to taste and a drizzle of really good balsamic vinegar.