Chickpea Stew


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Ingredients

  • For Chickpea Stew
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 1 box San Marzano crushed tomatoes (about 28 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seed
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fresh mint chiffonaded (for garnish)
  • For Sweet Potatoes
  • 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
  • For Kale
  • 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

Instructions

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.

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Roasted Chicken With Orange Juice

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This is one of the simplest chickens I do and one of the best.  It comes from the Cookbook  ” The Scent of Orange Blossoms” authored by Kitty Morse and Danielle Mamane.

I first made this recipe when I was 13 years old for a project comparing Sephardic and Ashkenazy cooking.  I have used it so often since then that the book opens up right to the recipe.

For Chicken

  • 4 lb roasting Chicken
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 1 orange
  • Salt and Pepper

 Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit

2.  Clean the chicken and pat dry then place in a roasting pan.

3.  Salt and pepper the cavity of the chicken.

4.  Mix the orange juice with the bouillon.

5.  Spoon half of the juice mixture over the chicken and into the cavity and put the orange in the cavity.

6.  Roast for 2 hours, basting with remaining juice and pan juices frequently, or until the legs move loosely and freely and the skin is browned.

7.  Take the pan juices from the chicken and reduce them for about 10 minutes. Serve the chicken with a large spoonful of pan juices.

 

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Veal and Ricotta Meatballs

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The first time I had this dish was with my son Daniel.  We were on a week long eating and walking tour of NYC.  Daniel and I had both researched restaurants and pastry shops but one of the best meals we had, which was not on our list,  was at Vinateria in Harlem.  I ordered an amazing whole grilled Branzino and the young daughter of our friends had meatballs on a bed of Polenta.  She gave me a bite and I dreamt about them for the next two days: tender little meatballs the size of a walnut on a creamy, cheesey bed of polenta with a bright tomatoe sauce.  We went back the night before we left and when I returned home I vowed to recreate them as best I could.

So, here is my version and I think it’s pretty close, but it will never replace the meal I had at this neighborhood bistro with my son, my childhood friend, her lovely husband and charming daughter.

Many of these components can be made ahead of time.  The sauce can be made in advance and frozen.  I make a lot of this sauce in August when the tomatoes are at their peak and I can use locally grown Roma tomatoes.  You will not get the same result with supermarket tomatoes.  The meatballs can be mixed and shaped a day ahead of time and then rolled in flour and fried the day you want to serve.  The meatballs can also be mixed, shaped fried and placed in the tomato sauce a day or two ahead.  I think they actually improve with a 24 hour rest in the sauce.  I have also frozen the meatnalls cooked and in sauce.  They defrost quite well. So, here’s what you need:

Make The Tomato Sauce:  (variation from Marcella Hazan)

  • 2.5 pounds of fresh Roma tomatoes
  • 5 Tablespoons of european style or cultured butter.  I like Kerry gold but President, and Organic Valley Cultured butter are also good.  You can use Land O Lakes or a store brand butter but the result will not be as good.
  • 1/2 of a large sweet yellow onion

Wash tomatoes and cut them in half.  Remove skin from onion but leave the onion half whole and still attached to the stem.  Melt the butter in a wide shallow pan, like a sautee pan.  Add the tomatoes and onion and cook, uncovered until the butter floats to the top and the tomatoes are soft and falling apart, about 1 hour.  Remove the onions and peel,the skin off the tomatoes. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill, using the disc with the largest wholes.

Make the Meatballs

  • 2/3 pound Veal, ground 3X
  • 1/3 pound fresh whole milk hand dipped Ricotta cheese ( absolutely not the stuff that comes in a plastic tub. It’s grainy even if you force it through a sieve. If you can’t find hand dipped either make your own or make something else.)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup Freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • flour
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • Extra Virgin olive oil
  • canola oil
    Remove Ricotta from it’s tin and spread it out to be about 2″ thick on a paper towel.  Place another paper towel on top and gently pat it on the ricotta.  When there paper towels become wet, change the paper towels.  This removes some moisture from the cheese. Do this a few more times until you’re not getting a lot of moisture.  You can also place the cheese in a sieve, place it over a bowl and let it sit overnight in your fridge.  Make sure you cover the cheese with Sara wrap so it doesn’t pick up odors from the refrigerator.

For a more delicate meat ball mix together ricotta, egg, veal, parmesan, minced parsley, salt and pepper and mix with your hands until completely homogenized.  For a sturdier meatball you can throw the ingredients in a kitchen aid and let it mix on low for about 5 minutes, with the flat beater.  Test the seasoning by making a tiny patty and frying it in olive oil.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.  You can add up to a teaspoon more salt, and a few more tablespoons of cheese, although be aware that there is Parmesan cheese in the polenta. Take an ice cream scoop that holds approximately 2 tablespoons, scoop out a level scoop, roll it between the palms of your hand until it’s round and put it on a tray.  Do this with the rest of the meat.  Let chill 1 hour.

Roll each meatball in flour and fry in 1.5″  of oil until all the sides are brown.  Don’t crowd the pan.  Do the browning in several batches, changing the oil if it gets too floury or dark.  I like to use 50/50 canola oil and olive oil because canola oil has a higher smoking point and keeps the olive oil from burning.  When the meatballs are done put them in the sauce and let them hang out until you are ready to use them.

Make the Polenta

  • 1 2/3 cups polenta (not instant!)
  • 7 cups water
  • 2 tsp salt

Bring water and salt to a boil.  Slowly pour polenta in with one hand while wisking with the other.  Many suggest making a fist around a handful of the polenta and letting it fall through your fingers.  I find that awkward.  I just put some in a beakered measuring cup and pour slowly.  You should be pouring so slowly you can see individual grains.  Stir for two minutes.  Now, at this point you can stand over the pot and stir for forth minutes or you can follow an alternative technique as follows. Adjust the heat so it is at a simmer and cover the pot.  Cook 10 minutes then uncover the pot and stir for one minute.  Continue this sequence of cooking covered for 10 minutes and stirring for one minute until 40 minutes have elapsed.  It should be a soft creamy mass.  If it’s not, let it cook for a few more minutes covered.  Add two tablespoons of unsalted butter butter and a bit of grated Parmesan cheese to the polenta.  Use immediately.

Some feel that you get the best texture from constant,y stirring but I use the alternative method and am very happy with it.

Plating

Place a ladlefull of polenta into a shallow rimmed soup bowl or a flat plate. Add some tomatoe sauce and a few Meatballs.  Garnish with basil.  Once you’ve plated everything pour the rest of the polenta onto clean cutting board and let cool.  The next day you can make polenta fingers by cutting the polenta, rolling them in cornmeal and frying them in 50/50 canola and olive oil.  Sprinkle them with Parmesan cheese.

Alba Style Beef Risotto with Rosemary and Sage

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?

Ingredients

  • 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
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  1. Bring broth to slow steady simmer
  1. In a large wide pot heat 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, pancetta, and onions over medium heat.IMG_0310
  1. When pancetta starts to brown and get crispy and onions are starting to caramelize add in garlic and herbs and cook for another minute.
  1. Add in ground meat and brown.
  1. When meat is browned add in wine and cook down until it is reduced to a thin film on the bottom of the pan.
  1. Add in rice and stir coating the rice evenly.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

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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.

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Porchetta

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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.

Ingredients:

  • 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
  • Salt Pepper

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  1. Trim a little bit of unnecessary fat off from around the shoulder (leave the fat cap intact).
  1. Using a morter and pestle crush all ingredients into a paste.
  1. 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.
  1. Preheat oven to 300.
  1. Make incisions in the fat cap in a checkerboard pattern about an inch apart and almost all the way through the cap.
  1. 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.
  1. When porchetta is done, deglaze pan with some water and the reserved pan drippings then serve warm with the porchetta.

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