Showing posts with label Italian Cuisine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian Cuisine. Show all posts

Thursday, September 29, 2016

You’ve Entered the Calzone Zone

I’ve never been a huge fan of the calzone, and I assume most people that don’t eat their pizza crusts feel the same way. However, since this has been requested hundreds of times, I thought I’d put my personal feelings aside, and give the recipe a shot.

I call it a recipe, but it’s actually a technique, since the calzone's greatest feature is its ability to accept any combination of cheese, meat, and vegetables as a filling. Today, calzones are most commonly stuffed with the exact same toppings that go on a pizza, which, besides the crust issue, was one of my main problems with it. I mean, why not just fold a pizza in half, and call it a day?

So, I decided to do what I hear is a more traditional filling, featuring ricotta, fresh mozzarella, and ham. The result was as enjoyable, as it was surprising. It was almost, but not quite, lasagna-like. The extra crust didn’t bother me as much, and everything seemed to work together beautifully.

I decided to recommend our Wolfgang Puck dough recipe, because it's fast and easy, and features a nice lightly textured dough, but any prepared pizza dough will work nicely. 

Just be sure to bake this long enough. If you make these the same size, it’s going to take about 15 minutes at 500 F. Your calzone may look nicely browned at 10 minutes, and it will be tempting to take out, but the dough will still be raw. You really want to push this to the point of almost burning.

And what happens if you go too far, and it does burn? No problem. Just order a pizza and fold it in half. So, whether you’re already a calzone lover, or a reluctant skeptic like me, I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 Calzones:
1 batch of our Wolfgang Puck pizza dough (get the recipe here), divided into 4 dough balls
8 slices prosciutto
2 cups ricotta, drained if necessary
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thin, and drained on paper towel
1 1/2 cup finely diced smoked ham
freshly ground black pepper to taste
cayenne to taste
(note: before folding, I forgot to drizzle the top of the filling with a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, which I think would have been a nice touch.)
corn meal for the pan
2 cups marina sauce for dipping, optional
1 egg for egg wash
Parmesan cheese for dusting tops
- Bake at 500 F. for 15 minutes
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Monday, September 19, 2016

Tuscan Bean Soup – Cheer Up!

Our grandparents called them the winter blues, but nowadays we know this condition as Seasonal Affective Disorder; a melancholy scientifically proven to be caused by shorter, darker days. 

Since fall and winter are full of those, we’re going to need some coping strategies, and this hearty Tuscan bean soup is one of the more effective. There’s just something about that combo of smooth, silky soup, and crunchy, crispy croutons that makes everything seem okay. 

Speaking of shorter days, this recipe is also a fantastic base for creating even more substantial weeknight meals. Things like sausage, peppers, and/or maybe a handful of greens, always works in this.

I tried a new method prepping our veggies; pureeing them instead of dicing. I thought this might save time, possibly extract more flavor, and quicken the cooking. Hey, two out of three aren’t bad! It was faster than dicing, and the soup only had to simmer for 15 minutes, but I didn’t think the flavor was quite as good as the classic diced veggies method.

Either way, this soup is delicious, and guaranteed to fog up your kitchen windows. Smiley face sold separately. I really hope you give this Tuscan bean soup a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 servings:
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
3 cloves garlic
*As stated in the post, I prefer diced veggies to the ground ones I tried in the video, and if you do go for the traditional method and cut your vegetables in small cubes, you'll have to simmer you soup for about 30 minutes, or until they are sweet and very tender.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
cayenne to taste
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon picked thyme leaves
2 (15-oz) cans white kidney beans aka cannellini beans
4 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup crème fraiche or heavy cream
1/2 lemon, juiced
- Garnish with fresh bread cubes fried golden in olive oil, tossed with Parmigiano Reggiano, and fresh Italian parsley.
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Thursday, September 15, 2016

One-Pot Chicken & Sausage Orzo – Tastes Like You Used at Least 3 or 4 Pots

There’s something extra satisfying about a recipe like this one-pot chicken and sausage orzo, where you just basically dump the ingredients in a pot, and wait until it’s cooked. Sure, you have to stir it a few times, and it helps if you add stuff in the right order, but for how delicious this comes out, you’re doing very little actual work.

Having said that, there are a few variables involved, so you will have to really keep and eye on the pot for the entire 10-15 minutes, or however long it takes. The size of the orzo “grain” can really vary, so be sure to check for doneness early, and stop when it’s 95% tender, as it will continue to soften as you complete the final steps.

I like to keep a little extra broth on the side, in case my mixture gets too dry, and the pasta is not yet cooked. Just splash some in and keep on stirring. On the other hand, if your pasta is cooked and there is a little too much liquid, well, that’s life. You’ll just be enjoying an extra “saucy” dish that day.

Of course this will work with countless combos of sausage, veggies, and other small-sized pastas, so go forth and multiply. By the way, the nice thing about using a very flavorful sausage, like a spicy Italian, is that most of the seasoning is done for you. Or, go with fresh ground meat, and you can flavor it any way you want. No matter what you use, I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 portions:
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 (6 ounce) spicy Italian sausages, casing removed
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces, OR 2 chicken breasts, cut into bit sized pieces
3 cups chicken broth, plus more as needed
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons sliced fresh chives
4 tablespoons ricotta cheese to garnish
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Monday, September 12, 2016

Zabaglione – Tastes Like Romance

When you go over the things you really want in a Valentine’s dessert, this ultra-simple zabaglione checks all the boxes. Assuming that your sweetheart enjoys things like sweet, juicy fruit enveloped in a rich, but impossibly light custard, this should work out nicely.

I like to use a dry Marsala wine, but sweet Marsala is also a popular choice. If you use the sweet variety you’ll need to cut down or eliminate the sugar.  If you’re not into warm wine foams, you can literally use any other flavorful liquid, and the technique will work the same.

You may need to change the garnish, but things like coffee, fruit juices, and pretty much any other liquor, or liqueur, will work with this technique. Experiment, and see what happens. So, whether you make this for that certain someone this Valentine’s Day, or just for a random weeknight treat, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Makes 2 or 3 servings:
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup dry Marsala wine
1/2 cup diced strawberries tossed with a spoon of sugar
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Torrone (Italian Nut & Nougat Confection) – A Stirring Valentine’s Day Treat

The theme of this torrone post was originally about making this gorgeous candy for your Valentine, but then I realized what would be even better than making this for your sweetheart, would be making with your sweetheart.

While very easy, this procedure does take about one and a half hours to complete, and most of that time is spent standing at the stove, stirring, which is why tag-teaming this Italian confection makes the job much easier, and I’ll assume a lot more fun.

By the way, this is the real way to make torrone, and by “real,” I mean the really old way. Today, most candy makers use a much faster method, where a caramelized sugar syrup is simply added to the whipped egg whites. I’ve tried this both ways, and while the modern technique is way faster, I much prefer this method. It seems to have more soul, whatever that means.

Using this ancient technique, you don’t need to worry about precise timing, specific temperatures, or potentially painful burns. Besides, standing and stirring something on the stove for that long is surprisingly therapeutic. Watching the ingredients slowly, and magically change, as your home fills with the sweet aroma of warm honey, is almost as enjoyable as the amazing candy you end up with. Almost.

The visual clues, and times I give in the video should be enough, but don’t forget the cold water trick I showed you. That’s a great way to check you work, and sneak a taste. I hope you give this a try very soon. Enjoy!


Recipe adapted from this one by, Enzo Maragucci. 
Makes about 80 (1-inch) square pieces:
400 g honey (about 1 1/3 cups)
250 g white sugar (about 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons)
2 large egg whites
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 rounded tablespoon lemon zest
3 cups roasted almonds (I used Marcona almonds)
1 cup roasted pistachio
2 sheets “wafer” paper (*edible rice paper)
*Follow this link for info on the one I ordered. 
If you don't use the wafer paper, you can just spray plastic wrap with oil, and that also works. Some people use cornstarch, but I'm not a fan. Google for many other tricks.  

- I used an 8 x 11 baking dish to mold mine in.

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Friday, September 9, 2016

New & Improved Chicken Parmesan – This is No April Fools Joke!

On those rare occasions I find myself dining in one of America’s casual restaurant chains, chicken parm is one of my go-to meals. I love chicken parm, especially when it’s made with fresh mozzarella, which it almost never is. 

It usually features the same bland, rubbery stuff you find on cheap pizza, and even though I know this going in, I’ll order it anyway.That’s how much I love chicken parm. Of course, at home we can use the real stuff, which is much more flavorful, and significantly less rubbery, but it can be pricey, and not everyone has access, so I decided to try something new. Instead of mozzarella, I made a cheese spread using ricotta, fortified with sharp cheddar.

The creamy ricotta made a great base into which you could add any melting cheese. I really enjoyed the cheddar, but I’d like to try this with other options, such as provolone, fontina, or even gruyere. And of course, if you prefer the tender meat of baby cows, this technique will work just the same with veal.

So, if you love chicken parm as much as I do, but aren’t crazy about the typical bland-but-bouncy mozzeralla topping, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Also, this is my last video, as I’m retiring at the end of the day. Thanks for everything, and as always, enjoy!


For 2 portions New & Improved Chicken Parmesan:
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour
1 beaten egg
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
olive oil for frying

For the cheese spread:
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano for the top

- Serve with hot marinara sauce, and chopped Italian parsley.
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