Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Chop Keeper Giveaway

Have you heard of the Chop Keeper? They are flexible plastic trays with raised sides; making them perfect for containing liquids. Imagine no more messy counters to clean.  Hearing this you can imagine how excited I was to have a chance to review these trays for myself.

I’ve been using my Chop Keepers for about a month now and would highly recommend them. While you can certainly use these trays for chopping; I reserve the Chop Keeper for things like meat preparation or transporting. They are great for carrying meat to/from the BBQ. Another plus is the trays are easily bendable allowing you to funnel the contents exactly where you need them. Again, avoiding a messy situation. You really can’t go wrong with these trays.

One lucky reader will have a chance to experience the Chop Keeper for themselves....

Three chances to win:
1. Leave a comment on this post. Let me know what you think of The Chop Keeper
2. Follow me on facebook…and leave a message here telling me you did
3. Follow me on twitter…leave a message here to let me know

Do all or one of the above but make sure to leave a comment for each option.  Contest runs through midnight EST. June 30, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Birthday Meatloaf & Chocolate Almond Layer Cake with Ricotta Filling

Today is my birthday!  Our family tradition is that the birthday girl/boy gets to choose their dinner and cake.   Let me just tell you...I'm not good with choices. I pondered for weeks over which chocolate cake recipe to make.  As for the filling; that was another laboring decision. I finally decided to do a chocolate almond cake with a ricotta cheese filling and chocolate butter cream frosting.

So when it came to dinner I thought I'd just let my husband pick that one. We have very similar tastes in food so I didn't think it was a big deal.  Then he told me we were going to have meatloaf.  Don't get me wrong...I love meatloaf; but for my birthday dinner....really??? 

Well this might be my go to birthday dinner for years to come.  The meatloaf was just that good. I know it sounds weird for me to be describing a meatloaf like this.  But this was no ordinary dry, lifeless lump of meat. It was moist a moist gooey mixture of two different kinds of meat and 3 different cheeses.  All topped with tomato sauce.

I would suggest giving this recipe a try; even if you normally don't eat meatloaf.  I'm not sure how anyone could not like this one.  We served the meatloaf with sauteed broccolini and gnocchi with melted mozzarella and tomato sauce.

Italian Meatloaf
(adapted from Lidia Bastianch)

1 cup milk
3 cups day-old bread, cubed, from a loaf of country bread
3 pounds ground beef
3 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1 pound fresh ricotta
½ cup Grano Padano, grated
¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ pound fresh mozzarella, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 cups of home made tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour the milk over the bread cubes in a bowl, and let soak for a few minutes, until the bread is saturated. Squeeze the soft bread a handful at a time, pressing out as much milk as you can (discard milk), then tear bread into small shreds and toss back into the bowl. Crumble the ground beef into the bowl, and add the eggs, ricotta, grated cheese, parsley, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Fold and toss everything together, and squeeze the mixture a few times between your fingers to distribute all the ingredients evenly. Scatter the mozzarella cubes on top, and fold and mush them throughout the loaf mix.

Brush a roasting pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Gather the meat mixture in the bowl, turn it into the pan, and shape it into a fat oval loaf. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover the pan with foil and bake 45 minutes.

Remove the foil, and continue to bake until the meatloaf is browned all over and completely cooked through, another 1 hour and 30 minutes or so. Remove the roast from the oven, and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

Heat the tomato sauce to a simmer in a saucepan as the meat rests.  Cut the loaf in slices as thick as you like. Serve on warm dinner plates, topped with a spoonful or two of sauce, and pass more sauce at the table

Chocolate Almond Layer Cake

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, almond and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).

Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.

Cannoli Filling

3/4 lb ricotta cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Whip together until smooth; adding more sugar is filling is too thin.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Another Glorious Pasta; Green Olive-Almond Pesto

Another delicious pasta from "The Glorious Pasta of Italy," by Domenica Marchetti. This is not your traditional Pesto at all. It's a vibrant combination of green olives, almonds, parsley and Asiago cheese. All of which mesh wonderfully; making a light and refreshing sauce.  

Not only does this sauce taste great it's also really easy to make.  Everything goes into the food processor and you are ready eat in no time. Perfect for a weeknight meal or as a prelude to a meat course. You really can't go wrong with this one. 

Green Olive-Almond Pesto with Asiago Cheese
(adapted from: Glorious Pasta of Italy)
  • 1 pound uncooked pasta
  • 2 cups pitted green olives
  • 1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • freshly ground black pepper & salt to taste
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup grated Asiago cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserving 1 cup of cooking water.
Place olives, sliced almonds, flat-leaf parsley leaves, black pepper, salt and garlic in a food processor; pulse 3 until coarsely chopped. With processor on, add olive oil and vinegar continue processing until mixture is a course paste.  Scoop the pesto into a large serving bowl. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper.

Stir enough of the cooking water into the pesto in the bowl to create a sauce. Transfer the pasta tot he bowl and gently toss the pasta and sauce to combine. Add a spalsh or two of cooking water as necessary to loosen the sauce.

Sprinkle half the Asiago into the pass and toss again.  Serve immediately with remaining cheese.

**Submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights being held over at Pictures of All My Princesses**

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Glorious Pasta of Italy; Ragu Alla Bolognese

There’s a new pasta cookbook that’s got everyone buzzing. Domenica Marchetti’s, The Glorious Pasta of Italy, has been the talk of the food scene since being published in May.

What’s special about this book?

How about over 100 classic and modern pasta recipes. Or over 30 delectable photos. Or maybe it’s the step by step instructions on how to make fresh pasta. Or the tutorial of pasta shapes. Whatever the reason you’ll want to get your hands on a copy of this book.

My husband absolutely loves Bolognese sauce so of course that is the first recipe I tried from the Glorious Pasta book. Different from any other I’ve made before; this recipe includes Domenica’s mother’s secret ingredient Mortadella.  Along with the addition of both milk and cream this rich sauce is a treat for your taste buds. The entire family agreed it was probably one of the best Bolognese sauces we’ve had.

Here’s what you’ll need to make this delightful sauce:

Ragu Alla Bolognese
(adapted from Glorious Pasta of Italy)

3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large carrots, peeled & finely chopped
2 large ribs celery, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp minced parsley
1 Lb ground beef
1 Lb ground pork
1 Lb ground veal
1 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup whole milk
1 can tomato paste
2 cups beef broth
1 cup heavy cream
4 oz thinly sliced mortadella, cut into julienne

Warm the olive oil and butter in a large Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. When the butter is melted and begins to sizzle, stir in the garlic, carrots, celery, onion and parsley. Reduce the heat to medium and sauté the vegetables for about 10 minutes, or until they are softened and golden. Add the beef, pork and veal and mix well, using a wooden spoon to break up the meats. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the meat turns a deep brown and is crumbly but still tender and not at all hard. This will take about an hour or slightly longer.

When the meat is ready, raise the heat to medium, stir in the sine, and mix for a few minutes, until the wine evaporates. Season with salt and pepper. Add the nutmeg and stir in the milk. Cook, stirring for 3 to 4 minutes, or until most of the milk has been absorbed. In a small bowl, dilute the tomato paste with a splash of the beef broth and add to the sauce. Mix well and add the remaining broth. Cover partially, reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer slowly for 2 hours or more, or until it is very thick and all of the vegetables have more or less melted into the sauce. Stir in the cream and the mortadella and cook at a gentle simmer until heated through.

**Recipe makes a large amount of sauce and can easily be cut in half  to dress one pound of pasta. **

I am very excited to share this delicious bolognese with Presto Pasta Nights which is being hosted this week by Kirsten of From Kirsten's Kitchen to Yours. Join us there on Friday for the round-up.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chef Gabe @ Cycle Restaurant Phoenix

A new restaurant has “popped up” this year in the Lexington Hotel in downtown Phoenix.  Cycle  a  concept restaurant that opened in April and is expected to close in the fall provides a venue for local talent to create a unique dining experience for a limited amount of guests for one weekend only.

I personally love the idea behind Cycle and have had it on my must try list for some time now; waiting patiently for just the right chef/menu/price.  So when I heard that Chef Gabriele Bertaccini of Il Tocco and Culinary Mischief was preparing a secret menu for this past weekend I knew the time had come.  Bertaccini grew up in Italy and attended culinary school in Florence before coming to Phoenix where he caters private boutique parties and hosts an underground food event called Culinary Mischief.

Fast forward to this past Saturday night:  We arrived slightly early for our 7:30 seating at Cycle and were able to secure a comfy booth in the limited seating restaurant.  Our server explained that Chef Gabe had prepared two menus for the evening and it was recommended we each pick a different one and share.  Which is exactly what we did.  Good thing too since it was all so yummy.

Appetizers included a spinach and ricotta cheese crespelle that reminded me of the ones my mom used to make.  And miniature meatballs served Sicilian style with pine nuts, feta and San Marzano tomatoes finished with a hint of lemon olive oil. 

The next course featured thinly sliced eggplant prepared Parmigiana style

 and Bucatini Cacio E Pepe; which means cheese and black pepper.  Chef Gabe used a mix of Parmigianino and Pecorino to make a deliciously creamy sauce for the bucatini pasta; which my husband just fell in love with.

Our entrée’s included beef short ribs braised in Barolo wine that just melted in your mouth. 

Also, a suckling pork loin seasoned with fennel, garlic, sage and pancetta. The pork was served over a very tasty white bean ragu.  This was probably my favorite dish of the evening.

We ended this incredible meal with warm apple cake topped with a cinnamon and date gelato

and a mascarpone cheesecake topped with berries.

The evening was over…the meal was perfect!  Thank you Chef Gabe and Cycle restaurant for an incredible dinner.