• Thai Quinoa Salad

Panzanella at Chef Marco’s

Panzanella at Chef Marco’s

Juicy heirloom tomatoes, creamy mozzarella and homemade golden croutons packed with garlic, purple onions, cucumbers and lots of fresh herbs make up this perfectly scrumptious summertime salad called Panzanella! Basil, parsley, oregano, thyme and a special dijon sauce really give this refreshing salad a delicious flavor and brightness.

I was recently able to coordinate schedules with my foodie friend Chef Marco so he could share his Panzanella recipe with you. Marco and his wife Sheryl, another big foodie, had this amazing dish at their house last summer and it still leaves a fresh impression on my mind. Probably because of all the fresh ingredients that come together with bursting flavor on your first bite.

Even though you can make this Panzanella all year long you couldn’t have a more perfect dish to make with the fresh summertime produce the local vendors offer at the farmers markets! Enjoy and make sure to check out Salsa 101, Salmon B.L.T. Slider’s, Lobster Mac N’ Cheese or Death by Chocolate Meringue Pie for your next get together!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients for the Panzanella Salad (NOTE: it always a good idea to toast croutons the day before if possible):

  • 1 loaf sour dough bread or ciabatta loaf
  • 2 lbs assorted tomatoes, reds, yellow, tiger, heirlooms, etc. cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced European cucumber, sliced in 1/2 and seeded…run a small spoon down the center of the cucumber to remove inner seeds
  • 1/2 cup thinly slice purple onion
  • 2 tsp garlic puree -put thru garlic press (1 tsp is for the special dressing below, 1 tsp for Panzanella)
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
  • fresh herbs: 1/2 cup chopped basil, 1 tsp chopped oregano, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/4 cup parsley…all finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 special sauce recipe below

Directions for the Salad:

  1. Pre-heat Covection oven to 400º
  2. Make special sauce recipe below and set aside
  3. Cut up sour dough or ciabatta loaf into 1″ cube and place on cookie tray lined with foil
  4. Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil all over the cubed up bread pieces and sprinkle with s & p
  5. Bake the bread until deep golden , about 12 minutes …keep an eye on it not to burn
  6. Let croutons cool completely
  7. Cut up tomatoes and fresh mozzarella into approx. 1 ” cubed pieces
  8. Cut cucumber in 1/2 length wise
  9. Peel and seed cucumber running a small spoon down the center to remove seeds then thinly slice cucumber half moons
  10. Cut 1 purple onion in 1/2 and thinly slice
  11. Put garlic thru garlic press
  12. Add tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic puree, herbs and mozzarella to a large bowl
  13. Then add in the croutons, drizzle 1/3 cup of special sauce over salad
  14. Toss and serve immediately…MMM!
  15. NOTE: Add in everything but the croutons and special sauce until right before you are ready to enjoy the Panzanella salad! ENJOY!

Ingredients for ther Special Dressing:

  • 1 heaping tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic puree
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup exta-virgin olive oil

Directions for dressing:

  1. Add first 4 ingrdients to a small bowl and slowly drizzle in while continuously whisking 1/4 cup olive oil (the dijon will help to emusify dressing)

Easy Pulled Pork Sliders on CT Style!

Easy Pulled Pork Sliders on CT Style!

Showing you how to make summer sauces, a Bourbon BBQ & a Green Goddess Sauce, to go with Easy Pulled Pork Sliders topped with broccoli slaw is what I was doing today on CT Style! Teresa has that baby glow going on and Ryan always with the funny one liners, doing the cooking segment on CT Style is one of my favorite things about being The Traveling Epicurean.

The Easy Pulled Pork Sliders are made with tenderloins instead of a giant pork shoulder. The reason I love to do this is it’s so darn EASY! The tenderloins are cut in 1/2 then coated with a mixture of light brown sugar, Colemans Dry Mustard, onion & garlic granules, s & P. Placed into a large baking dish with a small 7.5 oz. can of cola poured into the dish. The Coca-Cola helps to keep it moist and gives it a little caramel flavor. It’s baked for 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 hours, cooled and shredded apart. At that time the Bourbon BBQ Sauce has finished simmering and just waiting to be poured of all the pulled pork and warmed thru…YUM! This recipe can easily be duplicated in your crock-pot as well!

I featured my homemade BBQ sauce on CT Style today because I really wanted to emphasis how easy it is to make your own BBQ sauce at anytime and not have to worry about making a trip back to the store when you can whip it up yourself! Add in some Bourbon and wow, how great does that taste. It’s definitely an adult taste so if you need to you can easily divide up the sauce for the kids adding in bourbon to the adult sauce only.

Now the green goddess sauce goes with out saying and once you taste it you’ll understand. This sauce will jazz up just about any dish you are making, grilled swordfish, salmon, chicken, beef, lamb, pork or veggies. It’s made all in a blender and when it sits in the frig for a few hours the flavors only get better.

The best way the make the broccoli slaw, in my opinion, is to buy the pre-packaged broccoli at the store and then just add mayo, cider vinegar (I also throw in some “seasoned” rice wine vinegar) and sugar and violá!

You’ll see how amazing these 4 recipes go together once to taste them in a slider…oh boy! Not to mention how gosh darn easy they are to make. You be the BBQ Slider King of the summer! Don’t forget to check out my oh so chocolatey homemade Hershey chocolate cake for dessert either…Enjoy!

 

 

New England Clam Chowder – My Secret Ingredients!

New England Clam Chowder – My Secret Ingredients!

This Creamy New England Clam Chowder bursting with clam broth flavor, tender clams, melt in your mouth potatoes and a hint of smokey from the bacon I can make 12 months of the year! My secret ingredients in this homemade New England Clam Chowder push it right over the top! My mother was whipping up creamy New England clam chowder when I was little so making homemade soups just comes naturally to me. This clam chowder recipe kind of reminds me of my no-nonsense crab cake recipe, no extra fillers! Topped with a little dollop of butter, a few dashes of tabasco and some oyster crackers brings me to chowda heaven!

My first secret ingredient in this New England Clam Chowder is dry cream sherry. De-glazing and simmering with dry sherry brings it to a whole new level. It really gives the chowder that extra something special everyone will be trying to figure out! If you have the time you really ought to pick up the Spnanish dry sherry called Amontilado for only $11 a bottle. It will last a while in your cupboard and help you to create amazing dishes.  I would never not think of putting a big splash of dry sherry into my chowder! You will understand why once you try it this way …you’ll never go back to sherry-less chowder!

My second secret ingredient is Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour, it’s a godsend. You don’t have to bother with a roux and worrying about lumps in your soup, sauce or gravy ever. It will change the way you cook! You can add the Wondra at any time during the creation of your dish and it magically dissolves. Now granted, sometimes we need a roux, like for making a gumbo and you need to devlop a nutty flavor from the roux working it into deep, dark golden color but we don’t want that here in the New England Clam Chowder so why add the extra work!

Sure it’s nice if it’s the right time of the year and you’ve set aside time to find and buy fresh whole clams to cook up for your chowder but my recipe can be made at the snap of your fingers, 12 months of the year and taste like restaurant quality chowder! It’s easy to do. I always stock my cabinets with snows clams and broth for chowder or linguine and clam sauce!

This New England Clam Chowder is especially great for parties like Memorial Day, which is right around the corner! Another great party dish you may want to add is Buffalo Chicken DipBEST Guacamole Ever, Salsa 101, Homemade Sweet & Tangy BBQ Sauce, or a gorgeous and most delicious Pavlova for dessert!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients (NOTE- Quantities can easily be halfed OR quartered …it’s still delicious!):

  • 6 cans “Snows” clams – 5 “chopped” clams & 1 “minced”
  • 5 Bottles “Snows Clam Broth = 6 cups broth (5 cups bottle + 1 cup comes from the cans after you drain the clams)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup good dry cream sherry -(the pink one) Spanish Dry Sherry “Amontillado” is one of my favorites (1/4 cup to de-glaze onion/celery and 1/2 cup to simmer with broth base)
  • 2 slices minced bacon (smokey flavor ONLY not maple)
  • 2 extra lg potatoes or 4 small diced to 1/2″ size
  • 1 celery stalk grated or finely diced
  • 1 whole sweet onion grated or finely diced
  • 1 bunch rosemary tied with string … just a flavor bundle – to be removed
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp finely ground pepper
  • 3 sprinkles of “Wondra-Quick Dissolving Flour”

Directions:

  1. Slice lg onion in 1/2, peel outer layer and grate OR finely chop whole onion
  2. Grate OR finely chop or 2 celery stalks, if grating….just grate the underside of stalk ending with ourter stringy rib section to discard
  3. Slice 3 slice of smoked bacon, then dice that
  4. Add diced bacon to large pot and begin to sauté on low, just want the bacon to become slightly golden…not dark
  5. Add in grated onion and celery and saute until lightly golden
  6. De-glaze with 1/4 cup dry cream sherry
  7. In 1 minute add in diced Yukon potatoes and all the clam broth from cans and bottles and 2 bay leaves and 1 tsp salt
  8. Bring to a simmer and cook for 12-15 minutes until the potatoes are tender but FIRM because the potatoes will continue to cook even after you take them off the heat
  9. Tie off a bundle of fresh rosemary with cotton string
  10. At the 5 minute mark of simmering the potatoes ADD in the rosemary bundle and 1/2 cup of dry cream sherry and bring back to a low simmer
  11. At the last 2 minutes of simmering the potaotes ADD in 3 cups of heavy cream, 1/4 tsp finely ground blk pepper and possibly 1 tsp more of salt (you need to taste here to see if your chowder needs this addition of salt) and bring back to a low simmer
  12. Take the New England Clam Chowder base off the heat and gently stir in all the clams
  13. Remove the the rosemary bundle and the bay leaves and serve with Tabasco and oyster crackers
  14. If this is for the following day cool chowder completely at room temp allowing space with the cover for the soup to evaporate, place in frig
  15. When re-heat the soup watch carefully not to bring to a boil …just heat thru…mmm! Enjoy!

 

 

 

Manicotti in The Bender Kitchen with Teresa & Ryan

Manicotti in The Bender Kitchen with Teresa & Ryan

With Easter right around the corner I was excited to be back on CT Style in The Bender Kitchen with Ryan and Teresa so I could share with you my family’s secret recipe for homemade manicotti. These delicate pasta crepes are the lightest manicotti you’ll ever have. They are oozing with mozzarella, covered in tomato-basil sauce and topped with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and are sure to turn heads at the dinner table!

Italian tradition always includes a yummy side dish to go along with the ham, leg of lamb, turkey, salmon or tenderlion like manicotti, lasagna, eggplant rollatini or parmesan. Comfort food bringing it all together, an Italian side dish makes such a nice compliment to what ever meat or fish you choose.

This homemade manicotti recipe is a poured crepe-like batter and in my opinion it’s a whole lot easier then making a tradition rolled out pasta. Making the pasta crepe is like making pancakes or French crepes. On my manicotti recipe page I show you detailed pictures of how to make them. The YouTube “Manicotti Show” that’s embeded there also includes very detailed instruction on how to make these walking you thru each step making it very easy for you to follow and learn.

I love cooking for everyone on the CT Style set who seemed to love the manicotti because there weren’t any left over…makes the chef very happy! The lettuce wedges with Roasted Blue Cheese & Buttermilk Dressing (stay tuned for an up and coming show on that one) and crumbled bacon were a big hit too and lets not forget those Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies! 

Once you introduce these delectable homemade manicotti into your family’s holiday dinner you’ll find it becoming part of your tradition too! Other wonderful side dishes you could add into your dinner, my Creamed Onions, Steak House Creamed Spinach or zucchini torta! Don’t forget about Ricotta Pie or Greek Baklava both crowd pleasers at parties! Enjoy and Happy Holidays! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Torta de Pollo with Chef Mark

Torta de Pollo with Chef Mark

Torta de Pollo is a delicious and innovative way to change up the ole chicken pot pie not to mention it’s a down right fun thing to do! That’s what Chef Mark has done here layering tortilla’s with chicken and vegetables instead using a traditional pie crust. A Spanish Dry Sherry, called Amontillado, certainly takes this chicken pot pie version to a new level. Using these tortilla’s will save you time from making and fussing with a pie crust and who doesn’t love that.

Chef Mark has some wonderful flavor building steps going on here in his Torta de Pollo as he graces us with his truffle salt and Himalayan salt rock.  Let’s not forget his de-glazing of the veggies with this Spanish Dry Sherry called Amontillado by Savory and James that every kitchen should carry for a mere $13 a bottle. It would be silly not to have this in your cubbard!

Using the tortilla’s instead of the pie crust gives this Torta de Pollo an almost creamy texture. Changing up a chicken pot pie recipe like this, swapping out the tortilla’s for the pie crust, is such a creative and easy thing to do. It reminds me of a couple other of my favorites like chicken enchiladas or chicken cordon blue because of the swiss cheese in with the layers.

No baking time is another wonderful feature of this recipe. Once you sauté the veggies and make the “special sauce” consisting of chicken stock, rosemary, heavy cream and Spanish sherry you then cover the torta with this delectable sauce and flash broil it for 3-5 minutes…voilà! You certainly won’t be disappointed with this one! Enjoy and have fun using your favorite vegetables!

My BEST Crab Cakes with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing would make a great appetizer addition to the Torta de Pollo, and, or my Baked Aparagus Wrapped in Prosciuto. Don’t forget to have a yummy salad on the side like a Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons or Fennel and Citrus Salad with a Tangering Dressing! You’ll definitely need a sweet in your back pocket so go for the Death by Chocolate Meringue Pie and that should do the trick!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients for Torta de Pollo:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 1 pkg 8″ flour tortilla’s
  • 3/4 cups Emmetaler Swiss cheese – NOTE: 1/4 cup is for “the special sauce”
  • 3/4 cups Comté cheese – NotE: 1/4 cup is for “the special sauce”
  • 1/2 cup each chopped broccoli and cauliflower
  • 1/4 each, julienne parsnips, chopped peppers & celery
  • 1/2 lb portabella mushrooms thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb small assorted colored potatoes, purple & yellow THINLY sliced
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • 1 lg garlic clove thru press
  • 1 shallots sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt (truffle salt if you have it)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 9 x 13 baking dish (will be wider then the tortilla’s
  • fresh rosemary for “Special Sauce” – recipe below
  • 1 cup heavy cream for “Special Sauce” – recipe below

Directions for Torta de Pollo:

  1. Remove all the meat from the rotisserie chicken
  2. Slice up the chicken to bite size pieces and set aside
  3. Add remaining rotisserie chicken, the bones & the skin to a medium size pot and add 1 celery stalk, onion skin, and 1 carrot cover with water and bring to a simmer for 1/2-1 hr
  4. Warm sliced de-boned chicken in a medium pan with 1 cup chicken stock on low heat
  5. Put sliced mushrooms in a hot sauté pan and cook for 5 minutes, stir after a minute…don’t worry if they seem to stick it’s ok
  6. Now add 1/4 tsp salt to mushrooms
  7. Move sautéed mushrooms to the side and add in 2 tbsp olive oil with the slice potaotes
  8. Sauté potatoes for 3 minutes
  9. Then add parnips, peppers, celery, garlic, shallots and lemon zest
  10.  Add in broccoli, cauliflower, cook 1 minute
  11. Deglaze with 1/3 cup dry sherry
  12. Add in frozen peas, add 1 cup chicken stock, bring to a simmer
  13. Stir in 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp Berbere spice
  14. Let veggie reduce 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated
  15. Put wrapped 10-12 flour tortilla’s in foil in a warm oven
  16. Begin to layer Torta de Pollo
  17. Add 3 tbsp chicken chicken stock to bottom of baking dish
  18. Begin with tortilla, then 1/2 cup chicken & 1/4 cup swiss, then a tortilla, 1/2 cup veggies (without any excess juice), tortilla, and repeat until 10 layers – 4 or 5 chicken layers & 4 or 5 veggie layers. Note: push down slightly as you are layering to keep shape flatter
  19. Make “Special Sauce” -see below
  20. Pour all the sauce over the Torta de Pollo and place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, til slightly bubbly
  21. Slice and serve with a drizzle of extra sauce over the top…mmm!

Ingredients & Directions for “Special Sauce”:

  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded Comte swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Emmentaler swiss cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
  1. Using same veggie sauté pan add in first 3 ingredients, and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes
  2. Reduce slightly and then stir in cheeses, rosemary, s & p
  3. Pour over Torta de Pollo to place under broiler

 

Smoothie Demo at Funktion Fitness!

Smoothie Demo at Funktion Fitness!

Giving my favorite “Mango-Kale Smoothie” demo for the staff and members at Funktion Fitness this past Thursday morning was tons of fun! The best part was seeing all their smiling faces after taking the first sip of my Mango-Kale Smoothie. They really loved how refreshing and fruity the smoothie was. Like I always say, if it wasn’t green you wouldn’t even know there was kale in it!

In my opinion, finding a balance is the key to everything in life. Getting my dose of endorphins thru spin class at my gym, Funktion Fitness, is just as important to me as having a healthy go to energy drink. And not just any old healthy energy drink but one that’s as delicious as my Mango-Kale Smoothie! The best thing is attaining these things and enjoying yourself to the point where it just doesn’t seem like work at all!

Having an awesome motivator, like my spin instructor Heather Theriault at Funktion Fitness, is half the battle. She has so much enthusiam for life and that work ethic of hers making your workout super tough but so gosh darn fun it goes by in a flash…can’t ask for anything better then that!

So it’s up to you to find some kind of exercise outlet that makes you happy, and gets you your weekly dose of mood boosters, endorphins. As for the healthy energy drinks, I’ve got you covered with my scrumptious smoothies to give you those weekly boosts helping you to keep powering thru your day with a smile…enjoy!

CLICK HERE TO FIND THE RECIPE, INGREDIENTS AND DIRECTIONS TO MY MANGO-KALE SMOOTHIE ! You can get really creative with your smoothies and I show you how in one of my other smoothie shows “My Energy Smoothies 101. You’ll want to take a jump over to my Mango Salsa Recipe page as well and don’t forget to make my Best Guacamole Ever Recipe … never any left over where ever I take it!

Energy Smoothies 101

 

 

 

 

Mango-Kale Smoothie!

 

 

 

Best Guacamole Ever and Crostini with Skirt Steak & Guac!

 

 

 

Mango Salsa with Pulled Beef Tacos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes at Ellen’s

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes at Ellen’s

Guinness chocolate cupcakes are moist and full of flavor with a whole bottle of guinness in this delectable batter! Topping these cupcakes with a rich Viennese Chocolate frosting brings it to another level of gourmet chocolate indulgence.

Just recently, I had a wonderful day meeting and baking with Ellen McMahanon, a true recipe afficionado, where she turned me on to her amazing Guinness chocolate cupcakes. Ellen has been collecting her precious recipes most of her life making very detailed notes of dates, with whom and where she was when acquiring a new favorite one. With hundreds of favorite recipes at her fingertips she still remembers the details like she was there yesterday!

You are definitely going to want to try these Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with the Viennese Chocolate Frosting and the timing couldn’t be more perfect with St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner. Looks like you may need a super awesome appetizer that will make use of that left over corned beef too like my Arancini Reuben Balls with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing … always has everyone raving!

You could stay on the road to gourmet with my Chicken Piccata for the main event before serving these Guinness Chocolate cupcakes with Viennese Chocolate Frosting! Or go for the Lobster Mac & Cheese if you’re looking for fish. Now that we’re talking fish you can really turn some heads with my Swordfish and mango-black bean salsa ! One of my other favorites are the Salmon B.L.T. Sliders with homemade aioli.  Which ever one you choose it will be great with these rich Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup dutch cocoa
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup butter) melted and cooled
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 bottle Guinness -12 oz.
  • 3 lg eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 recipe (below) Viennese Chocolate Frosting cooled

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make 1 recipe Viennese Chocolate Frosting – cooled
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350º
  3. Line muffin tins with paper liners
  4. In medium bowl whisk together dry ingredients:  cocoa, sugar, flour, baking soda and salt
  5. In another large bowl combine wet ingredients: whisk melted butter and vanilla
  6. Stream in 1 bottle of Guinness beer into butter and vanilla
  7. Begin whisking side to side adding in 1 egg at a time to the Guinness
  8. After whisking in all the eggs, add in the sour cream and whisk to combine til smooth
  9. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 stages, stirring to just combine after each addition
  10. using a scoop fill the cupcake liners to 3/4’s full
  11. Bake for 15 minutes
  12. Wait 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes to cookie rack to finish cooling
  13. Frost with Viennese Chocolate Frosting

VINNESE CHOCOLATE FROSTING:

  • 6 oz – 1/2 bag Ghiradelli chocolate chips
  • 1 stick of salted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 egg yolks – slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp SIFTED confectioners sugar

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add chocolate chips, butter and water to a heat proof glass bowl
  2. Microwave 20 seconds, stop & stir, then microwave 10 seconds more til melted & creamy.
  3. Let cool to rm temp then stir in egg yolks and vanilla
  4. Whisk in SIFTED confectioners sugar
  5. Chill this mixture in the frig for 1-2 hours til thickened
  6. Using a mixer for 30 seconds bring this thickened frosting to a creamy consisitency
  7. Top each cupcake with a small scoop of this Viennese Chocolate Frosting, then smooth with a knife…,,,!

 

 

Eggplant Timbale at Adele’s

Eggplant Timbale at Adele’s

When Adele first told me about her lovely dish I was very excited to get this on camera for you. Actually seeing this eggplant timbale being unmolded when you release the sping form pan its baked in is a whole other story! It really is one of the prettiest dishes I have ever seen not to mention it’s absolutely delicious. The pasta filling is exactly like my “Lazy Mans Lasagna” and then you have the outer wrapping of the fried eggpant slices that bring the flavors to another dimension. 

I love this dish beacuse it’s fairly easy to make if you can plan ahead. Now if you have not been frying eggplant your whole life as Adele and I have there certainly would be no shame whatsoever in going to your local Italian deli around the corner and buying already fried eggplant slices! While you are there you can pick up the meatballs too. Then all you will need to do is assemble this magnificent dish. Taking advantage of this convenience allows for last minute planning here which can be a godsend! Trust me you will have as much fun as Adele and I did putting it together. When you present this eggplant timbale at your next holiday dinner the ooh’s and aah’s alone will have you sold!

When you make this eggplant timbale for your next holiday dinner you’ll need some easy holiday appetizers like Baked Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto, Crostini w/Gorganzola, Tomato & Basil, and Goat Cheese, Fig Jam, Fresh Pear & Mint in Pre-Baked “Fillo” Cups! My Gourmet Caesar Salad is a must, and some Zucchini Torta would be a nice surprise for your guests also! This Chocolate Pecan Pie is to die for and don’t forget my chewy chocolate chip cookies for the kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INGREDIENTS for Eggplant Timbale:

  • 1 lb. rigatoni
  • 8 meatballs broken up into 3/4″ pieces
  • 9 prepared/cooked eggplant parmesan slices (w/o sauce)
  • NOTE: If you are making your own eggplant you can switch out the bread crumbs to flour-either way will be delish….she dips her eggplant slices in flour first, then egg and then she fries the eggplant same as in my eggplant parm recipe except she doesn’t use bread crumbs
  • 2 cups shredded part skim or whole milk mozzarella, plus 2/3 – 1 cup for topping (use the packaged mozz. here not fresh)
  • 2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan
  • 3 extra lg eggs whisked
  • 8 cups tomato-basil pasta sauce (4 cups to mix in with pasta, 2 cups to top timbale and 2 cups to serve on the side for extra)
  • (1)- 9″ spring form pan

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450º
  2. Cook 1 lb. rigatoni pasta until ADENTE, a little firm because you will continue to cook the pasta when you bake it in the oven
  3. Drain the aldente pasta BUT do not rinse!
  4. Add cooked pasta to a large bowl
  5. Add in whisked eggs, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and mix to combine
  6. Now pour sauce in and mix gently to combine again
  7. Add in broken up meatballs and gently mix
  8. Spray spring form pan with Pam
  9. Lay prepared eggplant slices all around pan meeting in the center like a flower with edges folding back out of pan
  10. Add pasta mixture into the center of the eggplant drapped spring form pan
  11. Fold over the eggplant slices covering the pasta filling
  12. Add the last 9th piece of eggplant to cover the opening in the middle where the eggplant doesn’t reach
  13. Pour 2 cups sauce over the top of the eggplant timbale, sprinkle with parm & then 2/3 – 1 cup sliced mozzarella
  14. Put timbale into pre-heated 450º oven and bake 5 minutes
  15. Turn oven down to 400º and bake 20 minutes more until bubbly
  16. Take out and let sit 15 minutes…very important to do this
  17. After 15 minutes release spring-form pan from eggplant
  18. Carefully slice timbale and serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan and a side gravy boat for extra sauce

Tortellini at The Gulla’s

Tortellini at The Gulla’s

You know this labor of love is so worth the effort when you taste how tender and flavorful these homemade tortellini are! The delicate, circular shaped pasta are stuffed with a purée of sundried tomato, mozzarella, and Reggiano Parmesan and served in one of my all time favorites, a tomato-cream sauce.  I introduced Steve to another easy and scrumptious sauce, Gorganzola Dolce-Cream Sauce that’s garnished with fresh thyme and a drizzle of truffle oil! 

This past weekend I was at The Gulla’s house with Steve and his son Maximo making their homemade tortellini. Steve dedicates a few hours every Christmas Eve making these little gourmet bites for his family’s Christmas dinner. Making these tortellini is definitely a labor of love because you are creating each little amazing folded bundle of pasta by hand.

Having a Smart pasta machine like Steve’s really cuts down on the labor of making tortellini as the pasta comes out of the machine in long ready-made sheets in mere minutes. It’s a very cool process putting out smooth sheets of pasta in 3 minutes flat but you can also learn to make Steve’s tortellini using homemade pasta too if you don’t own an Smart pasta machine. I have a homemade pasta recipe below for all of us without a pasta machine who don’t want to miss out on learning how to make these incredible tortellini.

As Italian legend goes on how the shape of the tortellini came about dates back to the days when Venus, the Goddess of Love, was traveling to a small town in Italy between Modena and Bologna. She was staying at a tavern where the Innkeeper was so taken by her beauty he peeked thru the key to her room one night and got a glimse of her navel. He rushed to the kitchen and created a pasta in the likeness of her belly button. And that’s how the shape of the tortellini came about, the belly button pasta! Who Knew?

While you are working hard forming these wonderful tortellini you may need a little sip of something to get you through like a Metaxa Mojito! And for easy nibbles you can pick on some Mango Salsa, Sweet Potato Fries and Green Goddess Dip II,  Best Guacamole Ever or some delicious Mediterranean Layered Dip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INGRDIENTS for making PASTA in The Smart Pasta Machine:

  • 3 parts flour
  • 1 part semolina
  • 180 ml OR 3/4 cup of water for 2 lbs flour in pasta machine
  • 1 egg and 1 tsp water whisked in a small bowl – set aside until ready to form tortellini

INGREDIENTS for Sun-dried Tomato FILLING:                                                                                         NOTE: THIS FILLING IS UNBELIEVEABLY DELICIOUS!…try it on crostini OR on crusty bread!

  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella – whole milk or part skim
  • 1/4 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil

Purée these ingredients with an immersion blender or add to food processor and pulse. Start with 2 tbsp of olive oil and add a little extra if needed to purée til smooth texture

DIRECTIONS FOR FORMING THE TORTELLINI WITH SHEETS OF PASTA MADE FROM THE PASTA MACHINE:

  1. Begin to cut 2″ circles with your cookie cutter out of the machine made sheets of pasta
  2. Brush top 1/2 of the circle edge with a whisked egg
  3. Place 1/4 tsp of sun dried tomato filling in the middle of the circle pasta
  4. Fold the circle in 1/2
  5. Press to SEAL the 1/2 circle of pasta…VERY IMPORTANT to SEAL this edge!
  6. Take 1/2 circle and wrap around your pinky having each end meet
  7. Press these two ends together to seal and form one continous circular shape
  8. Fold down top of circular pasta to form tortellini
  9. Place in a bowl as you finish each one until you gone thru all the pasta sheets
  10. Bring large pan of salted water to a boil and add fresh pasta
  11. Cook pasta for 8 minutes, test pieces of pasta for proper doneness
  12. Serve with tomato-cream sauce or Gorganzola Dolce-cream sauce, garnish with thyme and truffle oil … mmm!

INGREDIENTS FOR TOMATO-CREAM SAUCE:

  • 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 1/4 cup POMI “strained tomaotes” – 1 med box – 26 oz.
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Sauté finely chopped garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil for 3 minutes, add in POMI strained tomatoes, salt & oregano and simmer for 15 minutes. Add in 2 cups of heavy cream to tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer for 15 miutes more. Serve with cooked tortellini, garnish with fresh thyme (and truffle oil.

INGREDIENTS FOR GORGANZOLA DOLCE-CREAM SAUCE:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup Gorganzola Dolce cheese
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • fresh thyme leaves
  • truffle oil

Add heavy cream, Gorganzola, and vermouth to a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. When it comes to a simmer whisk the melted cheese into the cream and simmer 10 minutes. Serve with tortellini, garnish with a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves and a drizzle of truffle oil.

INGREDIENTS for Easy Homemade-Handmade Pasta- (Recipe from “Pasta at Vin’s“)

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 1/2  – 5 lg eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Put the kneading attachment on your food processor and add the flour
  2. Add the salt and olive oil
  3. Turn on the food processor to slow
  4. Add in 1 tbsp of water
  5. Begin adding in 1 egg at a time with the processor still on slow
  6. Add in the rest of the eggs
  7. Keep the food processor going on medium speed to begin kneading the dough
  8. Let knead for about 8 minutes until the texture turns into a smooth consistency
  9. Remove the pasta dough and place onto the counter
  10. Knead briefly with your hands and let sit for 1/2 hr.
  11. NOTE: Vin does not cover his pasta dough while it sits for the 1/2 so it can begin to dry out  a little bit
  12. Sprinkle some flour onto the counter or work surface and cut pasta dough into 8 pieces
  13. Begin to roll out each piece of dough to your desired thickness, into long lasagna-like sheets
  14. Sprinkle more flour on top of each thinly rolled out pasta piece and begin to cut out 2″ circles with your cookie cutter
  15. Brush top 1/2 of the circle edge with a whisked egg
  16. Place 1/4 tsp of sun dried tomato filling in the middle of the circle pasta
  17. Fold the circle in 1/2
  18. Press to SEAL the 1/2 circle of pasta…VERY IMPORTANT to SEAL this edge!
  19. Take 1/2 circle and wrap around your pinky having each end meet
  20. Press these two ends together to seal and form one continous circular shape
  21. Fold down top of circular pasta to form tortellini
  22. Place in a bowl as you finish each one until you gone thru all the pasta sheets
  23. Bring large pan of salted water to a boil and add fresh pasta
  24. Cook pasta for 8 minutes, test pieces of pasta for proper doneness
  25. Serve with tomato-cream sauce or Gorganzola Dolce-cream sauce, garnish with thyme and truffle oil … mmm!

 

 

#1 Meatball at Kevin & Jori’s

#1 Meatball at Kevin & Jori’s

It was definitely worth the wait to find out how to make Kevin and Jori Smith’s oh so sucullent and flavorful meatballs! It took a little patience to sync our schedules thru this busy holiday season but we were finally able to tape these #1 Meatball winners from the recent competition,  “Lisa & Vin’s 2016 Meatball Throw Down”! It’s a team effort between Kevin and Jori that produces one of the best meatball’s I have ever tasted. Watch out Dan Holzman from “The Meatball Shop” in NYC for these amazing meatballs will turn heads!

Come to find out Kevin and Jori won Lisa & Vin’s Meatball Competition the year before as well! Once you have your first bite into these melt-in-your-mouth meatballs you will know exactly why.

Not only were we eating Kevin and Jori’s amazing meatballs while taping the #1 Meatball show but Vin made is homemade pasta we call “The Trucals” from the show “Homemade Pasta at Vin’s”. Vin makes his pasta with a special roller called the trucal iron hence the name “The Trucals”.  This trucal iron that belonged to his grandfather cuts thick strands of pasta as you roll over it making for a hardy, chewy, yet tender strand of pasta.

If it couldn’t get any better then that Kevin added in an incredible garlic-basil bread and Jori her luscious tomato-basil salad with fresh Burrata cheese! Talk about the perfect meal…OMG! I am truly excited that I am able to bring you Kevin and Jori’s winning meatball reicpe. I know you will love them as much as I do!

You will need to have some amazing desserts up your sleeve to live up to these meatball standards like my Drunk Blondie Bars with a Caramel Bourbon Sauce, Chocolate Crackle Cookies, OR my Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe! Then there’s Death by Chocolate Meringue Pie or a Chocolate Pecan Pie where you’ll always need just one more little fork full! LOL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Bottom photos courtesy of Gianni Esposito)

Ingredients for #1 Meatball Makes Approx 55 Meatballs:                                                                -Note: this is a large recipe… you can 1/2 the reicpe for a lesser amount of course and remember meatballs FREEZE really  well, raw or cooked!

  • 6 lbs meat: 2 lb. ground beef 80/20, 2 lb. ground veal, 2lb. ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 whole heads roasted garlic (Keep garlic heads in foil the whole time for this meatball recipe)
  • 3 cups grated pecorino romano grated cheese
  • 2 3/4 cups homemade ciabatta bread crumbs – 2 loaves of ciabatta – the bottom 1/2’s
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Prociutto di Parma
  • 4 lg basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7 eggs (Kevin likes 1 1/2 egg per lb of meat)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400º
  2. Drizzle 2 heads of garlic with a tbsp of olive oil wrap in foil, place into oven for 35-40 minutes
  3. Slice loaves of ciabatta in 1/2, save tops for garlic bread – recipe for spread below
  4. Cut up bottom havles in small cubes, place on a cookie tray and bake until golden approx. 12 minutes
  5. Cool bread cubes then pulse to a crumb in a food processor
  6. Add ground beef, veal, and pork to a large mixing bowl
  7. Add in chopped prosciutto, salt, Percorino cheese, and bread crumbs
  8. Mix with hands to start combining
  9. Add in 7 lg eggs to meat and again mix with hands to combine, folding meat over and over
  10. Squeeze roasted garlic bulbs out of their sleeves and put into food processor or little chopper with olive oil and 4 basil leaves and purée
  11. Add this mixture to the meatball mixture and again mix folding over and over to combine
  12. Roll into 2″ size meatballs
  13. Pour 1/2″ high olive oil into large sauté pan and heat on med/high – MUST BE OLIVE OIL!
  14. Add in 8-9 meatballs at a time, don’t over crowd pan
  15. Cook on all sides until golden approx 6 minutes
  16. Remove to plate and serve with pasta, you can find Vin’s homemade pasta, “The Trucals” which are sooooo worth the effort!
  17. Serve with garlic bread too…mangia mangia 🙂

Garlic Bread Spread:

  • Ciabatta tops
  • 3/4 stick softened butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pecorino grated cheese
  • 4 basil leaves chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped

Mix all ingredients above, smear onto ciabatta halves and bake for 12-15 minutes on 375º YUM!