2 lbs sweet potatoes peeled and cut into even chunks
1 stick butter
½ cup honey
About 6 cups water (just enough to cover the potatoes)
1 teaspoon salt
Sachet of a few sprigs of fresh thyme, 3 tablespoons whole peppercorn, 1 tablespoon coriander seed
½ pound kale stem removed
¼ onion diced
1 clove garlic minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
A few splashes of tabasco
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup water
1. Boil sweet potatoes with honey butter and sachet. ProTip: They’re done when you stick a knife in them and it goes through without effort and the sweet potato doesn’t stick onto the knife. Remove sweet potatoes when done and reserve liquid for later.
2. Cook onions in olive oil, stirring frequently, over medium heat until they just start to caramelize then add garlic and stir for a minute.
3. Add kale and water and cover for 5 minutes. Then add the rest of the ingredients cover and cook on low until kale is tender.
4. Cook onions, cumin seed, and coriander seed in olive oil, stirring frequently, until onions just start to brown then add garlic and stir for a minute.
5. Add the tomato paste and stir for another minute.
6. Add in tomato, ground cumin, paprika, add sugar and cook for 5 minutes.
7. Add in braised kale, ¼ cup of the sweet potato liquid, and chickpeas and stir. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste
8. Serve chickpea-tomato stew with sweet potatoes on top and the chiffonaded mint.
At the young age of 18 my grandmother left home. She was unable to cook despite living in an Italian household. She realized that she didn’t have her mother to make her delicious Italian meals so she decided to teach herself how to cook. Now 60 years later she is one of the best cooks I know. She learned all of the basics of Northern Italian cooking form by Marcella Hazan and Giuliano Bugiali as well as her mother. One of her signature dishes is risotto and whenever I eat this classic Italian rice dish it reminds me of her and what real Italian cuisine is. This authentic risotto recipe comes from Marcella Hazan. Risotto is an Italian rice dish where liquid is slowly added to the rice allowing it to release starch to create a creamy consistency. Risotto is the epitome of Italian comfort food; it has that decadent stick to your ribs flavor and consistency. It’s also one of those “kitchen sink” recipes , because you can put anything in it. I’ve made mushroom, sausage, and seafood risotto, but my favorite is this beef risotto. This risotto gets its flavor from pancetta (italian bacon), rosemary, sage, and good italian red wine.
People often think of risotto as something that is very difficult and only available at high end restaurants. It’s interesting how in it’s transition from Italy to America, risotto went from a homey comfort food to a glamorous dish served for $30 a plate. The truth is that risotto is very easy to make, it just requires good ingredients and a lot of babysitting of the dish. The risotto basics you need to know to make a good risotto are that it starts with caramelized onions and garlic then the rice is coated in oil and small amounts of liquid are added at a time while constantly stirring the rice. The constant stirring and slowly adding in liquid are where most people take mistakes, because they aren’t being patient. Risotto is a dish where lots of love needs to be added. Making risotto is definitely an arm workout, but the reward of a good risotto is well worth the 30 minutes of constantly watching over the risotto.
A risotto dinner is always something to look forward too, but I’ve found the next day is even more exciting. I always save about ⅓ to ¼ of the risotto and stick it in the fridge overnight. The next day for dinner, I like to make arancini. Arancini are fried balls of risotto with a gooey cheese center. Arancini have a crispy outside with a creamy risotto filling and gooey cheese at the center, what could be better?
7 cups water mixed with 2 tbsp “Better than Beef Bouillon”
2 cups Italian Arborio rice
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup chopped pancetta (plus more for garnish)
1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
¼ cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped sage (plus more for garnish)
½ pound ground beef chuck
1 cup Barolo wine
Bring broth to slow steady simmer
In a large wide pot heat 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, pancetta, and onions over medium heat.
When pancetta starts to brown and get crispy and onions are starting to caramelize add in garlic and herbs and cook for another minute.
Add in ground meat and brown.
When meat is browned add in wine and cook down until it is reduced to a thin film on the bottom of the pan.
Add in rice and stir coating the rice evenly.
Add in ½ cup of broth and stir. When the broth has evaporated add in 2/3 of a ladle of broth and continue stirring.
When the ladle of broth has evaporated add in a generous 1/2 ladle of broth and keep stirring. ProTip: Risotto requires constant stirring and babysitting.
Continue cooking slowly adding in ladles of broth as they evaporate and stirring constantly. ProTip: Drag your spoon across the bottom of the pan and if the risotto doesn’t fall back into place to fill the pan it is time to add more broth.
Cook until the rice is done but still firm, and the starches have slowly released creating a creamy risotto, about 25 minutes. Add in a final ladle of broth along with 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste and serve with fried sliced pancetta, fried sage leaves and olive oil.
To make arancini, heat a deep fryer to 375. Scoop and roll chilled risotto into golf ball sized balls with a small piece of cheese in the middle. ProTip: Use a cheese that melts like fontina. Set up a fry station with a bowl of egg-wash and a bowl of panko breadcrumbs. Roll balls through egg wash first then coat with panko and deep fry until golden brown. Salt as soon a the arancini are out of the oil and enjoy.
Porchetta is the ultimate dinner party showstopper. It fills your house with the earthy smells of Italy and pulling out a big glistening piece of meat from the oven will make your guests salivate. Traditionally porchetta it is an Italian pork leg spit roasted in a fire pit. However, for my recipe I use a shoulder since it is more flavorful and tender and since most people don’t have access to a fire pit my porchetta is cooked in the oven. Like most Italian food, porchetta is very simple yet sinfully delicious. The fat cap of the shoulder melts into the meat making it fall off the bone. The moist interior of the shoulder is contrasted by crispy bark on the exterior. The pork shoulder is truly the star of the show here so I like to special order a mangalitsa pork shoulder. Mangalitsa pigs are small fatty pigs that have fur. Most pork in America is bland and flavorless, so with a recipe like porchetta it is worth the extra money to splurge on a high quality pork shoulder. Mangalitsa pigs are especially perfect for porchetta because they are fattier than normal pork which means more fat is going to melt into the meat itself making it succulent and flavorful.
1 Pork Shoulder 6-8 lbs ProTip: I like to use Mangalitsa pig ordered special from a butcher (don’t ask them to trim it or take it off bone) since it has much more flavor
15 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons rosemary
1 teaspoon fennel seed
¼ cup olive oil
Trim a little bit of unnecessary fat off from around the shoulder (leave the fat cap intact).
Using a morter and pestle crush all ingredients into a paste.
Puncture the fat cap and meat all over and using chopsticks push in the paste the shoulder. Spread remaining paste all over the meat and fat cap. Let sit an hour.
Preheat oven to 300.
Make incisions in the fat cap in a checkerboard pattern about an inch apart and almost all the way through the cap.
Roast the shoulder in a snug roasting pan for 3 hours. Drain the drippings and set aside then roast shoulder until it is falling off the bone, about another 3 hours.
When porchetta is done, deglaze pan with some water and the reserved pan drippings then serve warm with the porchetta.