May 162013
 

Spruce up your deck in a useful way!  Hardcore gardening is not my thing, but I do appreciate herbs around my deck in pretty planters for culinary use! 

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Fresh basil is great for a variety of salads, pasta dishes and herb topping or dressings. 

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Kumato brown tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil!  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and creme de balsamic.

 

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May 162013
 

Summer is around the corner and this was my first crack at crab cakes!  Wow, it’s so easy! 

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I broke the cardinal rule of preparing this recipe for the first time an hour before hosting dinner.  My inner voice cried with happiness when the crab cakes didn’t fall apart and my guests devoured them!

There are so many possibilities to serve crab cakes over a fancy green salad or with a trendy salsa. In this case, I wanted to use leftover lump crab and prepare an appetizer from ingredients on hand. 

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Ingredients:

  • 8 oz lump crab meat
  • 1 fresh lemon
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3-4 small slices of crusty bread
  • ¼ cup finely chopped celery
  • ¼ cup finely chopped bell pepper
  • ¼ cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • Kosher salt & cracked pepper
  • Fresh basil, optional
  • Panko Japanese Bread crumbs
  • 5-6 Tablespoons Vegetable oil for frying

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Method:

Finely chop and sauté celery, pepper, onion in olive oil for 5-6 minutes and set aside to cool. Toast slices of crusty bread about 3-4 minutes on 350 degree until slightly toasted, but not browned.

Squeeze a ½ lemon over lump crab in a mixing bowl. Cut toast into small cubes and add about ¾ cup of cubed toasted bread to crab. Mix sautéed translucent celery, pepper and onions.

Optional: I included 1 T freshly coarsely chopped basil leaves from my herb garden.  Add a dash of kosher salt & cracked pepper. Add one beaten egg and blend crab mixture altogether.

Form 2” crab cake patties and dredge in plain bread crumbs.  Cover breaded crab cakes with saran wrap on a plate and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or longer before frying. Allow the crab cakes to sit at room temperature for several minutes before placing them in hot oil.  This will help them cook more evenly rather than being too cold in the middle.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and carefully place crab cakes in hot oil. Fry until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully flip crab cakes and fry on other side until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Serve warm with preferred sauce. 

Dipping Sauce:  Mix olive oil mayonnaise, Dijon mustard & old bay seasoning to taste. Add drops of water to make a looser dressing. Garnish with dollops of dipping sauce, fresh basil or lemon wedges!

 

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May 132013
 

Arancini di riso, the rice croquettes (aka “little oranges”) Sicilians consume as snacks.  These fried rice balls snacks are said to have originated in Sicily around the 10th century.

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Risotto balls are usually filled with ragù (meat sauce), tomato sauce, mozzarella and/or peas.  My first taste of risotto balls was at Liuzzi Cheese shop in North Haven, CT.  They made ones the size of baseballs with prosciutto and mozzarella!  

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It has taken me years to master a recipe worth sharing.  After a few disasters, I have finally accomplished rice ball perfection. 

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Mozzarella Risotto Balls

  • Ingredients
  • ½ Small onions
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio Rice
  • 1 T parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Ounces Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
  • Favorite tomato or meat Sauce
  • Kosher Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • Plain bread crumbs
  • Vegetable oil

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Method

Sauté chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil and add Arborio Rice with salted boiled water according to directions in medium sauce pan. Pour cooked rice out onto a platter and blend 1 T of butter with 1T parmesan cheese into cooked rice.  Taste test and season rice with salt and pepper if desired.  Allow rice to cool 15 minutes. Add one scrambled egg to rice mixture and shape 2” balls.

Make a small hollow in each rice ball and spoon in a teaspoon of sauce with small cube of cheese.  Reshape balls enclosing the filling.  Lightly beat another egg in a dish and dip balls into egg and then into bread crumbs. Heat vegetable oil and fry risotto balls until golden brown.  After browning arancini balls, heat them through in the oven for 5-7 minutes on 350 degree Fahrenheit and serve them piping hot.

Risotto balls make great appetizers and can be prepared in advance. Prepare, fry, refrigerate and reheat on cookie tray later in 350 degree oven for 7-9 minutes. Allow refrigerated rice balls to come up to room temperature for 15 minutes before popping in them in the oven to reheat. 

Benvenuto!

 

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May 042013
 

Happy Cinco De Mayo!  Enjoy Crispy Chicken Tacos!

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Nothing like serving up a quick, hearty meal that everyone can enjoy.  It’s almost as easy as serving breakfast for dinner.  Marinated sliced chicken breasts, seasoned rice and black beans is all it takes. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 can of Goya Black Beans
  • 1 cup of Uncle Ben’s long grain rice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1-2 fresh limes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Shredded Mexican cheese
  • Sazon Goya Con Azafran Seasoning packets
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Kosher Salt
  • Taco shells

Method:

Slice chicken into ½ strips and marinade with olive oil, lime, garlic powder, chili powder and salt! I do this hours or even a day in advance.

Begin preparing a batch of long grain rice with a packet of Goya saffron infused (con azafran) seasoning for each cup of rice. 

Grill chicken for 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté crushed garlic in olive oil and add black beans with ¼ cup of water to heat up a healthy side dish.  Black beans are packed with fiber and protein!

Heat taco shells for 2 minutes on 350 degrees F before filling them with grilled chicken.  Top off tacos with cheese and melt in oven for another minute. My kids prefer simple tacos, but adults enjoy topping tacos with fresh tomato, guacamole, sour cream or salsa!

Chicken tacos, spiced rice and beans ready in 30 minutes!

 

 

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Apr 302013
 

Trinity Red Sauce means blending three fresh ingredients to whole peeled tomatoes!  

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Fresh carrot really balances acidity in red sauce nicely and fresh garlic and onion enhance flavor!  My favorite whole peeled tomatoes are from Cento, San Marzano Certified. You cannot go wrong with this vibrant, fresh sauce. 

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 whole peeled tomatoes cans

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Method:

Chop Carrot, Onion, garlic and sauté in 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil for 6-7 minute on low heat.  Add 2 cans (28 ounces each) of Cento whole peeled tomatoes.  Simmer 45 minutes stirring occasionally.  Use a hand held blender to create a smooth sauce.

Tips:  Add a whole celery stalk to simmering sauce to balance acidy further while cooking.  Add 2-3 bay leaves to simmering sauce for dimensional flavor.  Discard both before using hand blender.   

Optional: Add 2-4 fresh basil leaves after simmering just before using the hand blender to puree whole-peeled tomatoes for a fresh tomato basil sauce.

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Meatball Ingredients

  • 1lb lean ground beef (85% Lean)
  • 1/2 zucchini grated
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 large egg
  • 2-3 slices of toasted Italian bread
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • Dashes of course Salt & cracked pepper
  • Vegetable oil

Method:

Toast slices of Italian bread in oven for 7-9 minute until lightly brown & crispy.  Allow toasted bread to cool and cut into ¼ inch cubes and soak in milk in a separate bowl until soft, but not mushy. Drain any excess before adding to mixture.

In medium mixing bowl, scramble egg and use a hand held cheese grated to add minced zucchini.  Next add ground beef and blend in minced garlic, parmesan cheese and drained bread cubes, salt & pepper.  Shape into 1.5 inch meat balls and heat on med-low until ½ inch pool of vegetable oil become hot in cast iron pan. Gently drop meatballs into pan and brown all over for 7-8 minutes.

 

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