March 22, 2015

Cajun Shrimp Pasta with Garlic Parmesan Alfredo





 Generally, I start off my blog posts with a small blurb about the dish I created, what inspired it, or how my day was, etc.  However, I was in the most beautiful wedding last night and my brain isn't functioning at high speeds right now, so I will simply leave you with the recipe.  Enjoy!



 The most beautiful bridal party!!

And, of course, the most beautiful bride!! :-)

Here's the recipe!
What You'll Need:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 small broccoli crowns, chopped
1/2 quart heavy cream
1/4 cup sherry wine
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup Cajun/spicy seasoning (I really like Chef Paul Pruhomme's Blackening Seasoning)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 medium tomato, diced
1 pound angel hair pasta

1.  In a large skillet or dutch oven, melt butter and add garlic to the pan.  Add broccoli crowns and stir to toss and coat.  Add heavy cream and wine and cover.  Simmer on medium-low to let broccoli soften and wine to incorporate, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper as desired.

2.  Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, toss shrimp with Cajun seasoning, making sure they are coated liberally and evenly.  Drop shrimp in cream sauce and stir.  Simmer for about 3-4 more minutes, until the shrimp is cooked through and pink in color (under all that good seasoning).  It doesn't take long for shrimp to cook.  Add Parmesan cheese and diced tomato and work into the sauce.

3.  Meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.  Use about 1/4 cup or less of that cooking water in your sauce, until desired sauce consistency.  Transfer drained pasta to the sauce and stir together.  Garnish your plate with fresh lemon zest and torn basil leaves, and enjoy!




February 24, 2015

"Finnochio" - Simple Fennel Salad


My Pop-Pop Gino used to make this salad for us at least once a week.  I'm not a huge licorice fan, but I will eat fennel this way... by the bowl-ful.  It's simple, it's easy, and the tangy red wine vinegar downplays the sweet anise flavor of the fennel perfectly.  We used to call it, "finnochio", pronounced "fin-oik" around our dinner table.  For what would have been Pop-Pop Gino's 86th birthday, here's a super easy recipe from my childhood that you can share with your family!  Enjoy!  

And Happy Birthday, Pop!

What You'll Need:
  • 4 bulbs fennel
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (break out the good stuff for this)
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

1.  To prepare the fennel, cut right above the fennel bulb to remove the stalks.  Reserve the "leaves" (which look like fresh dill) for garnish.  Slice the root end off the bulb, and slice in half lengthwise.  Remove the core like you would a head of iceberg lettuce or cabbage.  Cut-side down, slice the fennel into about 1/4-inch thick strips.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Toss the fennel to coat generously, and cover.  Let sit in the fridge for about 3 hours to marinate.

3.  Remove from liquid or let it stay, your choice!  Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the reserved "leaves" and extra fresh cracked pepper.  Enjoy with crusty, warm bread!


February 23, 2015

Broccoli-Pepper Jack Soup in Bread Bowls


Pop Quiz time!

Q:  What is the reason this soup was made with pepper jack cheese and not traditional cheddar?
A.  I was being creative and wanted to switch things up
B.  I didn't have cheddar cheese, but I had a whole block of pepper jack hanging out in the fridge

Well, I'm sure the answer is pretty clear.  You can use any cheese you have on hand for this recipe - but I suggest you use a block cut into cubes instead of already-shredded cheese.  For some reason, the cut block cheese melts a whole lot better than throwing shredded cheese in there.  Toast your bread bowls for about 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven to get them nice and crusty.  Cut off the top, scoop out some of the bread from the inside, and enjoy your soup while you watch the snow fall outside!  (That's what I did anyway.)

What You'll Need:
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup carrots, diced
  • 4 shallots, small, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 large broccoli crowns, roughly chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 8 ounces pepper jack cheese, cut into cubes

1.  Melt butter in a large stock pot and saute carrots, shallots, and garlic cloves until soft.  Add white wine and reduce by half.  Add 3/4 of the chopped broccoli and vegetable stock and lower heat.  Let everything simmer and let the broccoli soften, about 25 minutes.  Add cream.

2.  Transfer soup to a blender or use an immersion blender.  Blend soup until smooth.  Return to pot and add the rest of the chopped broccoli.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.

3.  In a separate mixing bowl, make a slurry by whisking water and cornstarch until cornstarch has dissolved.  Use this mix to thicken your soup to your liking.  Add the slurry to the pot in increments, stopping when your soup thickens to your desire.  (I used all my mixture.)

4.  Mix in cheese, in thirds, stirring continuously until melted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy in a crusty, warm bread bowl with extra cheese on top!




January 28, 2015

Arancini: Italian Rice Balls with Pork



I'm going to have to shout-out to my mom here.  A few weeks ago, I was home in Jersey for something or other, and right before I left, I decided I wanted to make arancini.  I've eaten them before and they are amazing, but I had never attempted to make them.  (I think I was watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, again... that's where I get motivated to make different things.)  My mom was headed to the store, and I asked her to pick me up some items so I could make the rice balls.  While she was at the store, my sister called her and asked her to bring something home for her as well.  30 minutes later, my mom comes in the door with Andrea's stuff, but forgot all about the arancini ingredients.  Don't know how long it'll take for her to live that one down.  Lucky for Mom, I finally gathered all the ingredients I needed, and they came out fabulous!  Make sure you serve them with warm marinara sauce, because the richness inside pairs well with the tangy tomato sauce.  Yum!

What You'll Need:
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground meat: pork, veal, beef, sausage - or a combo! (I used pork this time)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 yellow onion, small
  • 3 cups Arborio rice (risotto)
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 5 cups panko breadcrumb
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • 8 eggs, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

1.  Add pork to a hot skillet and begin to break up with a wooden spoon.  When the pork starts to brown, add white wine, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes and paprika.  Mix to incorporate, and let simmer until wine cooks out and pork is cooked through.  Set aside to cool.

2.  To a large pot, add 2 tablespoons of butter and onions, and saute until translucent and soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the rice, and toast for about five minutes, continuously stirring and folding, as not to let the rice burn. Add stock, one cup at a time, and allow rice to absorb the liquid completely before adding additional.  Continuously stir the rice as you add your liquid.  Keep adding stock until rice puffs, and becomes fluffy.  It should take about 6 cups, but it could take less.  This process should take 30-35 minutes, so be patient.  When rice is finished, remove from heat, add cream and remaining butter and let cool.

3.  In a large mixing bowl, mix pork, rice, 2 cups of breadcrumb, cheeses, parsley, and 4 eggs.  Season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.  Set up a dredging station using 2 cups of flour, the remainder of the eggs, and the remainder of the breadcrumb all in separate bowls.  Make round balls out of rice mixture: coat with flour, then egg, then breadcrumb.  Set on a sheet pan and repeat until rice is gone. This should make about 4 dozen rice balls.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

4.  In a large pot, bring vegetable oil to 350-degrees and drop in about 4 rice balls at a time, depending on how big your pot is.  (Make sure the oil is at temperature, or the balls will soak in all the oil and become saturated.)  Fry for a few minutes, until golden brown, and retreive with a slotted spoon.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.  Serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping!







January 15, 2015

Balsamic Roasted Onions with Gorgonzola


Sooooo, yes.  I am still in the process of posting recipes from the Elite Eight round of the Thanksgiving Side Dish Challenge.  Sometimes, maybe, quite possibly I am a bit ambitious when it comes to -- well, anything.  I put too much on my plate.  Literally and figuratively. ;-)  Without further ado, here is one of the last recipes from the challenge - super easy, but super fancy.

What You'll Need:
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 white onions
  • 6 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
  • Chopped fresh herbs, garnish (optional)

1.  Whisk first nine ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Slice onions into 3-4 thick-cut rings, leaving the outside layers intact, removing a small portion of the inside layers to leave a small hole in the middle.  Coat all rings in marinade and let sit for about 20 minutes.  Place on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes on 375 degrees.  Your onions should start to caramelize and brown.

2.  Remove onions from oven and fill holes with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.  Change oven to broil and cook for 4-5 minutes, until the cheese bubbles and begins to brown.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh herbs.  Enjoy with crusty Italian bread!