Thursday, May 29, 2014

Healing from the Soup Pot

My summer break from my awesome gig as piano teacher extraordinaire is under way. We often embark on our home-improvement shenanigans during this time since the lady boss of the house, aka moi, can focus on things. Kind of.

This year is MEGA, in the words of my mom: The basement is getting finished. Holla!

As I explained to The Husband, this - THIS - this is going to change our WHOLE entire life.

But alas, in my effort to be the mac-daddy-planner that takes over my entire being when tackling a task, God, or I guess germs, decided to throw a twist and turn in my itinerary: The kid gets a cold.

In the grand scheme of things, a cold is not a huge ordeal, but as you mommas know, a sick toddler usually wants a whole lotta love and snuggles and kisses and huggies no matter how many boxes and hefty bags of old stuff need to be hauled out of the confines of the cellar into the empty corners of our house. Or onto the curb. Or to the Goodwill pile.

So, to help my baby feel more like his rockin' healthy self, I whipped up some Stracciatella Soup, which is code for Italian egg drop soup. The soup takes no more than 10 minutes. I also cooked some teeny tiny ditalina in a small pot on the side, drained them and added them to the soup at the end. I used Anna brand #63. They are more substantial than straight up baby pastina but smaller than regular ditalini. Any tiny pasta will do. My boy grooves on pasta stars, too. Really, he hasn't met a pasta he doesn't like. That's the Eye-tal-iano in him.

I made Giada's recipe from"Giada's Family Dinners." Make sure you use the fresh herbs in your egg mixture. They make all the difference!

This is a great soup to have on hand in the summer, because really, who wants to make a cauldron of hot stuff in the summer. But sometimes, you gots to do what you gots to do.

Stracciatella Soup
4 to 6 servings
From "Giada's Family Dinners"
By Giada De Laurentiis

6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 cup lightly packed spinach leaves, cut in thin strips
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring the broth to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, cheese, parsley and basil to blend. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir the broth in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin strands of egg, about 1 minute. Stir in the spinach, then season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

Please note: To add pasta to your soup, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add 1/2 cup of your favorite pastina. Cook according to package instructions. Drain and stir into pot of soup.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I'll Take the Caviar

Since my life is one of glamour, intrigue, mystery and drama, my 12 blog readers should know that the Jersey Girl loves me some caviar. And what better way to devour some then with the Barefoot Contessa's potato pancakes.

If you have a food processor and the patience to make some clarified butter, this recipe is really not all that high-falutin.

Now, getting your hands on some affordable caviar. Well, that's a different story. Fortunately in this age of the internets, it wasn't as challenging as you think. The word "caviar" always gives me flashbacks of Frasier and Niles having secret meetings with a Russian syndicate on an underground boat in the wee hours of the night so that they could score the most expensive, snootiest and tastiest fish eggs found that side of Seattle for a steal.

The Jersey Girl just logged on to Amazon and ordered this. It arrived two days later at my door step in perfect order.

Now in case you're all like, "Dang, girl. I ain't rollin' in dough."  I assure you, neither is The Jersey Girl. But special times call for special celebrations, and I hooked up The Husband with the gift of caviar for Valentine's Day 2014. My purchase included five types of caviar, and was about $60. Shipping was pricey, but my Main Man is worth it. I also picked up a tub of creme fraiche, which is French sour cream. Amazon also sells the cute caviar spoons. I did not buy these.

So, right. Valentine's Day. Yeah, this post has been collecting some dust. But it's here now!

If you have a food processor with a shredding attachment, prepping the potatoes really ain't no big thang. You need to drain the bejesus out of them in a colander with a kitchen towel. It's not pretty, but you have to get the moisture out of the potatoes so that your pancakes are crispy delicious.

To get your clarified butter on, you melt a stick of butter slowly in a small saucepan. Let it chill out for a bit. The milk solids congeal at the top. You scrape that off and the golden stuff left behind is your clarified butter. A stick makes waaaaay too much for this recipe cut in half, which is what I cooked for The Husband and moi. So, like a good responsible homemaker I stored the leftovers in the fridge, where they went to die a slow and moldy death. Rest in peace, left-over clarified butter.

I must give a shout-out to my sister Michele who rocks these out during the holidays when the crowd is small. You have to make the pancakes right before you serve, so it could be a pain-in-the-bootie for the non-hostess with mostess or if your party is bumping with lots of revelers. They are fab for the New Year. My sis makes them super fly.

Anywho, ain't no shame in getting your fancy on no matter what the occasion:

Potato Pancakes with Caviar
Serves 6 to 8
From "Barefoot Contessa Parties!"
By Ina Garten

4 large baking potatoes
2 extra large eggs, whisked
6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbsp. clarified butter
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
About 3 1/4 ounces (100 grams) good caviar or salmon roe

Peel the potatoes and grate them lengthwise. Place them in a colander or kitchen towel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Combine the potatoes in a bowl with the eggs, flour, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Melt 2 Tbsp. of the clarified butter in a skillet over medium heat. Drop a tablespoon of the potato mixture into the sizzling butter. Flatten with a spatula and cook for 2 minutes. Turn, flatten again, and cook for another 2 minutes or until crisp on the outside and golden brown. Serve the pancakes hot from the skillet with a dollop of creme fraiche and a teaspoon of caviar.

Clarified butter instructions: To make 6 Tbsp., clarified butter, slowly melt 8 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan. Set it aside until the milk solids settle. Spoon off any solids that rise, then carefully pour of the golden liquid, discarding the milk part in the bottom of the pan.