Sunday, September 18, 2011

Potato Soup

Certain weather just calls for certain foods.  Today was cool and rainy, and I thought, "Aha!  Potato soup day."  It had been some time since I had made my potato soup, and I needed something warm, substantial, and comforting.  This fits that description nicely!  It's a pretty easy soup as well, and there's more than enough to share or freeze, making it a good company soup or make-ahead meal.  There are basics: potatoes (go figure), onion, a bit of butter, a bit of olive oil, some milk or cream, and cheese.  Other than that, you can play with it to your heart's content.

Have fun!

Potato Soup a la Anne Lane
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- about 6 Yukon Gold potatoes, each about the size of your fist (or my fist, since it's not that big), diced-- you can use them peeled or unpeeled, but I like them unpeeled
- 1 carton good chicken or veggie stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1- 8 oz. block good cheddar cheese, as sharp as you like it, chopped into small pieces (I use Cabot's Seriously Sharp White Cheddar-- yum)
- about 2 tbsp milk or cream
- bacon bits and extra cheese to top, if desired

In a Dutch oven or good sized pan (I used a 4 qt pan), heat the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat until the butter has melted and everything's bubbling.  Add the diced onion, sautéing until translucent.

Add a bit of your stock and deglaze the pan, scraping the pan with a nylon or silicone spatula or spoon to get the browned bits up into the stock.  Add the rest of the stock, then add your potatoes.

Season with some salt and pepper.  Don't go overboard as the flavors will concentrate.  Give the pot a good stir, then set your timer for 30 minutes and let the potatoes, onion, and stock cook so that the potatoes get tender.

When the potatoes are good and tender, use either a potato masher (for a chunkier texture) or an immersion blender (for a velvety texture) to get them to the consistency you prefer.  Swirl in your milk or cream and your cheese.  Stir and adjust seasonings.  Let this simmer for a couple of minutes to make sure the cheese melts, then give it a good stir to blend.

Serve in bowls with your preferred toppings.  I like some bacon and extra cheese personally.  This makes about 6 decent servings.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fresh Tomato Sauce a la Scarpetta and Smitten Kitchen

I have been richly blessed this summer to get an abundance of lovely fresh produce, both from people's garden and from various farmer's markets.  This has necessitated new and different ways to utilize the goodies!  The other day, Smitten Kitchen posted a fresh tomato sauce inspired by Scarpetta's Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil, a much-beloved dish.  It sounded heavenly!  I set out to make the stuff...

SK's recipe calls for plum tomatoes, as does Scott Conant's (Scarpetta is his baby).  I decided that I have seen such exquisite tomatoes around that I would use what I could get fresh here in my town.  This ended up being about half heirloom tomatoes and half plum tomatoes, both of which looked perfect!  I can tell you from the outcome that this dish is a keeper.  I melded SK's version with the Scott Conant versions I found online, tweaking to my liking.

You can do much of this ahead of time, refrigerating the unfinished sauce until you're ready.  It seems to me that you could get it two-thirds of the way finished and then freeze, but I haven't tried that yet.  In any case, the recipe quantities say that this makes 4 smallish portions.  If you're serving it for company, I'd recommend either using this as a true pasta course, or supplementing with a lovely salad.

Fresh Tomato Sauce a la Scarpetta and Smitten Kitchen:

  • 3 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes (if using plum tomatoes, Conant says you'll have about 20)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (This is lighter than the recipes I saw, but Conant recommends going lights as the salt will concentrate as the tomatoes cook.)
  • 1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced, or a couple of smaller ones, thinly sliced
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flake
  • Small handful fresh basil leaves, with a couple of extras for garnish
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup or so grated good quality parmigiano (Reggiano if you've got it, but I used an artisanal one that was nice, and it was shredded.  It was a little different in texture than the grated would have been, but still quite good.)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (or 2, if you're feeling like a richer sauce)
  • freshly cracked black pepper to finish
  • enough pasta for 4 servings (I used whole wheat spaghetti-- Ronzoni Healthy Harvest)
Bring a large pot of water to boil.  While waiting on this, take each tomato and cut a small "x" in the bottom.  When the water has come to a boil, immerse each tomato for 10-30 seconds (you should see the skin begin to crack), then either immerse it in a bowl of ice water or run it under very cold tap.  Peel the tomatoes, discarding the skins.  If you're cooking the sauce and pasta all in one fell swoop, Smitten Kitchen recommends keeping your pot of water to use for cooking the pasta later, which is an excellent way to save water.

Cut each tomato in half lengthwise, then get the seeds out.  I use a combination of squeezing gently, then scooping.  Do this over a strainer set in a small bowl so that you'll have the juices for the sauce.

Put your tomatoes and salt into a good-sized saucepan (non-reactive, of course).  You can either add the pasta to this later, which means you'll need a larger one, or later use a large skillet.  In any case, put the heat on medium-high and start breaking the tomatoes down.  Conant does this with a potato masher, but you can use an immersion blender or whatever tool you like, getting it as chunky or smooth as you like.

Bring the sauce to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low, simmering for about 35-45 minutes.  If they need to be broken down more, now is the time.  Add some of your reserved tomato juices if the sauce starts to look too thick.  [If you're making the sauce ahead of time, I'd stop here after about 35 minutes of cooking.  Place your sauce into a container, then refrigerate until you're ready to finish.]

Add your garlic, most of the basil leaves,  and the red pepper flake (crushed in the palm of your hand to release more heat, and use more than a pinch if you want more heat) to the 1/4 cup of olive oil in a small saucepan.  Have your burner on the lowest possible setting so that the flavors slowly infuse into the olive oil as it comes to a simmer.  You should begin to smell everything a bit before it simmers.  Remove it from the heat as soon as it does.  Strain the oil into a vessel to use shortly.

[If you've prepared the sauce ahead of time, pull it out of the fridge now.] Boil water for your pasta, adding salt for flavor.  Once the water is boiling and the pasta has been added to the pot, I put the tomato sauce into a skillet on low heat, stirring occasionally.  Cook the pasta until it is al dente (or "very firm" as my package said), then drain it, reserving a half cup of cooking water.

When the sauce is your preferred thickness, add your flavored olive oil a bit at a time, checking for seasonings as you go.  Use as much or little of the olive oil as you prefer.  Add your pasta and 1/4 cup of the cooking water, tossing them together with tongs and cooking for 1-2 minutes.  Toss in the butter (if using), letting it completely incorporate into the sauce, then the cheese (if using).  Plate each portion, topping with some basil and some freshly cracked black pepper.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Taco Seasoning

I have long looked to tacos as a super-quick and comforting meal. Grab your chosen protein (beef, chicken, pork, turkey, or tofu), some taco shells, toppings, and a packet of taco seasoning. Done. Or so I thought.

Recently, my longtime friend Sarah told me how she and her family make their own taco seasoning. They control what goes into it, which means it is gluten-free and tweaked to their tastes. This intrigued me, but I had forgotten about it until I was wandering the aisles at the grocery store and found myself lingering in front of the taco fixins. I grabbed a pound of ground beef (93% lean and organic, as well as local), some Horizon organic Mexican cheese, and some soft taco shells, and I decided that I would make my own seasoning. I was salivating as I left the store!

I found a suitable recipe on AllRecipes.Com, and I read the comments for suggested tweaks. The original recipe is from Bill Echols. I tweaked it according to a couple of commentors' suggestions, and it was delicious!! Here is the recipe with my tweaks, as well as what I think I will do with it in the future.

Taco Seasoning:
  • -1 tablespoon chili powder
  • -1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • -1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • -1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I think that next time, I will use 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and 1/8 teaspoon of chipotle pepper powder)
  • -1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • -1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • -1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • -1 teaspoon sea salt (I think you could use about a 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon)
  • -1 teaspoon black pepper
  • -2 tablespoons cornstarch

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl (a small plastic container with a tight-fitting lid works well).

When you go to make your tacos, cook your protein, then add 3 tablespoons (approximately) of seasoning per pound along with a half cup of water, more if needed. Bring to a simmer and let everything reduce. Serve immediately. This should serve about 3 people, fewer if you're really hungry!

Play with this according to your liking, and please let me know what you come up with!

Monday, June 20, 2011


One of my very early memories is of drinking blackberry juice, purchased at Ukrops Supermarket in Richmond. It was absolutely delicious and one of the few healthy things I remember loving as a child, which is perhaps why my mom made sure we had it as often as we could. It disappeared from their shelves, but my taste for blackberries has remained, leading to such adventures as picking blackberries at summer camp-- to the dismay of the camp director, who worried that we would get bitten by snakes!

This week, I got some beautiful early blackberries from The Old Farm Truck Market and got to have some for dessert tonight. I had grand aspirations of cobbler but didn't have the patience to wait for them to bake. There would be those who would argue that the very fresh berries should be enjoyed in a purer state so that's what I did.

I washed the berries in a colander, placed them in a bowl, poured some heavy cream over them (not too much-- it should be a good marriage of cream and berries), and sprinkled a packet of turbinado sugar over them. Too good to be true! Get good berries and good cream (I used Organic Valley Heavy Whipping Cream), and you can't go wrong. Macerate the berries in a bit of dark rum if you're feeling adventurous, but they're great on their own. Yum!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Crispy Treats...with a Twist

(Confession time: this is not my photo, but it is a photo of the delectable treats as made by my friend and sorority sister Meg Hogan. Mine were all gone before I could get a picture!)

Since I was a child, I have had a deep and abiding love of marshmallow crispy treats. Do you remember the ad with the mom sitting in the kitchen, reading a romance novel as her family eagerly awaited their treats? She then provided them after sprinkling her face with flour and water to make it look as though she'd gone to gargantuan effort for this dessert. Needless to say, my school friends and I soon discovered that they were about the easiest thing to make and then made them all the time. It was then that I lost a desire to experiment with the recipe as I'd made them with too much marshmallow or too much butter or too much cereal, learning that there was a precious formula to be followed so that they would end up utterly perfect.

Fast forward to New Year's Eve of 2009. Thanks to one of my Facebook friends, I discovered the Smitten Kitchen blog and (most importantly) the recipe for browned butter crispy treats. After hearing that my friends mowed down on her stirring spoon like a bear gnawing on a leg, I knew I had to try them. They came with me to my New Year's party and went over amazingly well. I thought there should be no further tweaking of the crispy treat recipe after finding this delectable combination of salty and sweet, buttery and crispy.

Once again, fast forward, this time to this week in 2011. Meg posted the recipe for cake batter crispy treats from the How Sweet It Is blog, and once again, I was possessed to make them ASAP. Fortunately, Meg made them first and gave me her tips. I further tweaked it and now present you with the results. The ladies of my church raved, and I was thankful they ate most of them so I did not eat them until a) they were gone and b) I was sick to my stomach from all of the goodness.

Without further ado and with many thanks to Smitten Kitchen, How Sweet It Is, and Meg Hogan, I present to you salted brown butter-cake batter crispy treats. Make 'em for a gathering to share the love.

- 1 stick (6 tablespoons) butter (the SK recipe calls for unsalted, but I used to salted to add a bit more flavor, even though it really doesn't add that much)
- a pinch kosher salt
- 6 cups crisp rice cereal
- 1 10 ounce or 10.5 ounce bag mini-marshmallows (make sure they're fresh!)
- 1/3 cup cake mix (I went with Uncle Dunkie's yellow, largely because it was on sale)
- sprinkles

Begin by greasing a baking dish (I just use cooking spray). I use a rectangular Pyrex dish to get lots of thinner treats, but you can use a square one for thicker treats.

Place the butter and salt into a pot large enough to hold your marshmallow mixture and the 6 cups of cereal (probably at least 4 quarts to ensure stirring room). Let the butter melt on low. Keep stirring it as it browns, keeping an eye and a nose on it to tell when it's done. It will get brown and lovely and smell nutty. Yum.

SK tells you to turn your heat off at this point, but I like to keep my flame on low as I add the marshmallows since it helps them combine smoothly. Stir until it all looks smooth, then add the cake mix a little at a time, stirring to combine. Turn off the heat.

Add your cereal, making sure it all gets well-coated. Add half of your sprinkles, if you'd like sprinkles in your treats. If you add them while everything is too hot, they'll melt, but this can add fun color to the treats.

Spread the mixture into your greased dish, pressing down with either a greased spatula or greased hand to make sure they're even. Put sprinkles on top.

Mow down on what's left in the cooking pan as the ones in the dish cool. (Don't deny it!!) Share recipe as you wish.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Steamed veggies made even easier!

I was invited to a parish party tonight. Hating to show up empty-handed, I thought of what I had around the house so that I could contribute something yummy. I remembered the exquisite asparagus I had bought from The Old Farm Truck Market in Lively, VA and thought, aha! The rub in this plan was that I ran short on time between work and the party, plus I wanted to bring something cooling as it is, well, warmish (to put it mildly) here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Thanks be to Alton Brown, I have now learned how to steam asparagus and other veggies in the microwave! Genius, genius, genius. All the good of the veggies, plus the kitchen doesn't get overheated. It's a win, win.

As you can see from the picture, I chose to add something to my steamed asparagus, namely raspberry vinaigrette (while still warm) and crumbled goat cheese (after they had cooled a bit), which seems to figure into most everything for me right now. Needless to say, it was a huge hit, and I only got one piece of the dish. Oh well. I just need to get more and make it again!

Without further ado, here are your quick and easy instructions for steaming asparagus in the microwave. I've heard this works well for corn on the cob, too, and I can't wait to try that. I imagine it will take longer, but once I get the time, I will post it in the comments. Yum!!

Steamed Asparagus in the Microwave (per Alton Brown)
- 1 bunch asparagus, washed and trimmed
- 2 large paper towels, or 4 of the "select a size" ones, dampened with approximately a 1/4 cup of water or misted to be damp
- kosher salt

Spread the damp paper towels onto a flat surface. Lay your asparagus on top in a bunch and sprinkle with the kosher salt (not too much, but enough to mildly season it and bring out the green). Wrap the asparagus in the paper towels and place in your microwave, seam side down. Microwave on high for about two (2) minutes or until tender crisp. Season and serve as you will!

I can't wait to try this method with other veggies. Let me know which ones you do and which work best!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Salad Days

I go through phases with salads. Once upon a time, I was a vegetarian and grew tired of salad being the only non-meat option, which led to their being long-absent from my diet. Fortunately, I'm happy to eat them now! Sometimes, I will eat them for weeks on end without tiring of them; other times, I can go for months without eating them or wanting them. Sometimes, it takes a fantastically fresh and delicious salad to get me back on the kick. Now that the weather is warmer, it's an excellent time to get back on the salad kick.

At a recent brunch, I was served a fantastic salad of baby spinach, mandarin oranges, toasted almonds, and a simple vinaigrette. Yum. The other day, a friend gave me some lettuce from his garden. I washed it, spun it in my salad spinner (yes, they make a difference), tore it, and tossed it with some yummy toppings-- dried cranberries, walnuts, goat cheese, and raspberry vinaigrette. It was so good!

When I do salads, I like to combine the greens, a fruit of some sort, cheese (more often than not), a nut or something crunchy (like noodles), and a light yet flavorful dressing. Look for what's in season and what looks good. Experiment! Throw on some grilled steak, chicken, or shrimp if you want-- I recommend marinating it first, or at a minimum, seasoning it well. There are so many possibilities.

Tell me: how do you most enjoy your salads?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Roasted Asparagus

As a child, I could not stand asparagus. Fortunately for me, especially in this season, I have grown to love the stuff. It is easy to prepare and quite lovely. This bunch came from an asparagus farm near Fredericksburg, Virginia. If you can get fresh local asparagus, you will be nicely rewarded! It has a beautiful flavor that blows the all-season stuff away.

Asparagus can be done in a variety of ways-- grilled, sauteed, or roasted as I have done here. There are other ways as well, but these are quick and require a minimum of effort. You can add additional flavors according to your preferences so have fun with it! Here, I have added chopped shallots, scattered over the asparagus for the last five minutes of roasting. I also added some unsalted butter, which gave a depth of flavor. Enjoy!

You'll need:
- fresh asparagus, enough to put in a single layer on a baking tray
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
- 1 roughly chopped shallot (optional)

To begin, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Make sure there is a shelf approximately in the middle so you don't get the asparagus too close to the heat.

Wash your asparagus, dry it, and snap off the stringy ends. To do this, gently flex the stalk towards the lower end and determine where it will break. Snap the end off. You can either use this as a measure to cut the remaining ends off with a knife, or you can snap each stalk, which I enjoy (and is an excellent job for a sous chef of any age).

Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. The non-stick foil is wonderful for this. Arrange your asparagus in a single layer.

Drizzle the asparagus with a bit of olive oil (not so much as to have a puddle-- about a tablespoon or two), then add the butter, if using, in small pieces arranged evenly in the layer of asparagus. Season with salt and pepper, then place in the oven for ten (10) minutes.

If using the shallot, roughly chop it. When the asparagus has been roasting for ten minutes, add the shallot, scattered evenly around the layer of asparagus. Let it roast for five (5) more minutes.

Serve with tongs, scooping up your shallots.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lamb Stew

St. Patrick's Day just came and went again for another year, and I repeated a successful lamb stew from last year. I found a basic recipe on Closet Cooking (well-suited for my NYC kitchen as that was microscopic) and tweaked it. The basics? Begin with good looking lamb (yes, this is a bit of a beauty contest) and select your veggies. Make sure to have good-quality beef stock on hand if you don't make your own. You'll want a good sized pot for this as well.

This recipe calls for Guinness or another stout beer, but you can use more beef stock if you do not want to use the beer. The original recipe called for adding the potatoes and carrots later in the cooking so they're not as cooked, but I like to add them earlier on. It's a preference thing so go with whatever you want. As for the lamb, I was fortunate enough to have gone to a store with a real butcher so I asked for lamb stew meat and got some of the best looking lamb I'd ever seen. The meat will flavor the whole stew so you want it to be good.

After making it once, you might see some tweaks you'd like to make. Go for it! Here's the recipe so you can get started:

Lamb Stew (modified by Anne Lane)
1 tablespoon oil
1.5 pounds lamb, give or take (cut into bite sized pieces)
2 onions (roughly chopped)
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons flour
1 Guinness (or other dark stout)
* beef stock
1 tablespoon rosemary (chopped)
1 tablespoon thyme (chopped-- pull it off of the woody stem first!)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
4 white potatoes (cut into bite sized pieces)
8 carrots (cut into bite sized pieces)
1 handful parsley (chopped) garnish-- optional

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the lamb and brown on each side. I remove the browned pieces from the pan and place them on a plate so as to avoid crowding.

Add the onions and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes. It will take less time for this if you're using a cast iron pot. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Sprinkle in the flour and stir. Add the Guinness and enough beef stock to cover.

Add the rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper, plus the potatoes and carrots if you want them more done. Add more beef stock if you add the veggies now.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the lamb is fork tender, about 1-2 hours. Check it every so often for seasoning.

If you haven't already, add the potatoes and carrots and some more beef stock to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until they are tender, about 20-60 minutes depending on cut.

Serve in bowls with parsley (if using) and Irish soda bread on the side or some other good bread. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Brunswick Stew

Growing up, Brunswick Stew was always a favorite. My godmother, Mary Virginia, always had a fantastic recipe. Recently, she shared it with my mom, who shared it with me. The best part? It's still as wonderful and comforting and yet, it's not a difficult recipe! I'm posting her original recipe, along with my tweaks, which someone said make it Brunswitt Stew. From the reviews I got at the church supper, I'll take it. And without further ado, Brunswick Stew!

Brunswick Stew a la Mary Virginia
- 1 package (4 halves) chicken breasts, with skin and bones-- add more water if you find a value pack with 5 halves!
- 1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
- 4 medium potatoes, diced (I used red most recently, and they were lovely. Yukon Golds would be delicious as well.)
- 1 average sized onion, chopped
- 2 cans butterbeans (I used one bag of frozen butterbeans, aka baby limas, and it was perfect.)
- 2 cans whole-grain white corn (I used 2 of the cans of white shoepeg corn, which are small but have a lot of corn in them!)
- 1 stick margarine (I switched to butter, just the regular salted variety.)
- salt and pepper to taste
- small amount of sugar (which I didn't add because I didn't think it was needed, plus I like my stew more savory.)

ALW additions:
- chicken stock if you need a little extra liquid later in cooking (I used unsalted.)
- tomato paste (the kind in the tube, which you should always have on hand, unless you cannot eat tomatoes!)

Salt and pepper each chicken breast, then cover with water in a large pot. You only want water to cover, but add more liquid later if you feel you need it or want a more brothy soup.

Add some more salt and pepper to the water as the chicken cooks as this is making your chicken stock. You want it flavorful!

When cooked, remove the chicken breasts and set aside to cool. Skim the stock of surface fat (schmaltz!). Save the schmaltz if you'll make authentic matzo ball later; otherwise, let it cool and trash it.

Add the tomatoes, potatoes, butterbeans, and onions to the stock. Let simmer.

While this is cooking, take the cooled chicken and peel off the skin. You can either chop the chicken or simply pull it off of the bone into small pieces. You can guess which one I did.

Add the chicken back to the pot and bring to a boil. Let cook until the potatoes are tender.

Add the corn, being careful to stir the pot frequently as the corn will stick to the pan otherwise.

Check for seasonings (here's where you would add the chicken stock and/or tomato paste, should you feel you need it.) and then ladle into bowls to serve. It's delicious with ham biscuits or cornbread on the side.

This reheats very well, often tasting even better the next day, and also freezes beautifully.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup

I have always loved lentils. Among my early memories, I remember my mother serving us lentil soup, which I devoured. In the years that have followed, I have learned that there are different types of lentils, with different qualities. While living in New York City, I came upon red lentils and decided I needed to cook with them. They were too pretty to leave in the store!

With some help from the Google, I came upon a recipe on the blog Dove's Eye View, which came from Claudia Roden, an Egyptian Jewish food writer now residing in Britain. I have tweaked it slightly, something to which this recipe lends itself very easily. Play with it. I have in the past used chicken stock at some times and veggie at others, with bouillion cubes at others. If you're not concerned with making this vegan, the addition of some rinds of parmigiano reggiano is quite tasty. Make it your own!

And without further ado, here is my basic recipe:
- 1 large onion, chopped as finely as you can get it (I generally can't get it too fine, thanks to the tears!)
- 1 3/4 cups red lentils
- 7 1/2 cups meat or chicken or veggie stock or water (if you use the water, add a couple of bouillion cubes for flavor as you will need it)-- I've used the Kitchen Basics line of unsalted stocks, and their veggie stock gives this a lovely, deep color.
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp cumin
- juice of 1 lemon
- about 2 tablespoons of olive oil (more if you'd like to drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top)-- you can also do half olive oil, half butter

Using a minimum 2 1/2 quart pot, add the olive oil or olive oil/butter to the heated pot. Add the chopped onion and saute until it is translucent.

Add the liquid, lentils, and salt and pepper. Bring up to a simmer, then cover and let simmer on low for 30 minutes, or until the lentils have mostly fallen apart.

Check for seasoning, then add the cumin and lemon juice. Serve!

Makes 6 servings.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sugo alla Bolognese (Bolognese Sauce)

While I'm a huge fan of meals that can be quickly and easily prepared while still tasty, there are some culinary delights that cannot be rushed. A good Bolognese is one of them. I made this for the first time on a snowy Manhattan day and have been playing with the recipe ever since. It's comforting, warming, and delicious. Have this one in your repertoire, and you'll make a lot of friends.

This recipe requires some up front work as well as some babysitting along the way. You can multiply it very easily, freezing what you don't eat right away. As with all the recipes on this blog, play with it and make it yours. I changed the original recipe to use ground beef and ground pork, adding lots of flavor.

This is adapted from a recipe by Kyle Phillips, which I found on About.Com. Since I've moved from an area in which I had access to butchers, I recognize that the ground beef and pork will most likely have to be bought in one pound minimum packages. If you don't want to double the recipe, take half a pound of each and place them together into a freezer bag, leaving you with just the right amount of ground beef and pork for the next time you make the sugo!

And now, without further ado:

Sugo alla Bolognese
- 6 ounces (half a pound) ground beef-- not too lean!
- 6 ounces (half a pound) ground pork (if you can't find ground pork, then go for a full pound of ground beef)
- 6 ounces (half a pound) pancetta, minced-- look for the pancetta cubetti, which is already minced for you and is not too fatty; if you can't find pancetta at all, then increase the ground meat
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil (eyeball this as you might not need this much, depending on how fatty your pancetta is)
- half a medium onion, minced
- one carrot, minced
- one large (about 10 inch) stalk of celery, minced
- 1/2 cup dry red wine-- I use Chianti
- 3/4 cup crushed tomatoes
- 1 carton beef stock or broth (Kitchen Basics makes a really good one, which you can also get unsalted and have no loss of flavor)
- A pinch of kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- A pound of pasta (penne rigate or farfalle work very well)
- Grated parmigiano

If your pancetta is not already minced, mince it and the veggies. Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a Dutch oven, then add the veggies and pancetta. Saute until the onion is translucent.

Add the ground meat and brown. Add the wine, scraping to deglaze the pan. Simmer everything until the wine has reduced.

Add the tomatoes and about a cup of the beef stock. Add the pinch of salt and some black pepper. Reduce the heat to low (as low a flame or setting as you can get and still be cooking) and cover.

I check it roughly every 30 minutes, stirring and adding more stock (or water if you use your full carton of stock) if the sugo starts looking as if it's drying out.

It needs to cook for at least 2 hours. It will have thickened significantly when it's done, and its color will have gone from bright red (from the tomatoes) to a brownish red. You can taste when it's done. Don't worry about letting it cook for more than 2 hours as it will get richer and tastier. I let my last batch cook for 4 1/2 hours.

As a main course, this will serve about 4; as a first course, it will serve about 6.


***This sauce is also perfect for making lasagna.***

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a ladies' brunch. I thought, "What can I bring? Ah! Strata!" This is from a recipe given to me by my friend Stevie Toepke when I was providing Easter breakfast food for the parish choir. I am trying really hard to resist calling it something like Erik Egg-Strata (which obviously worked so well that I was able to resist putting it into the blog post...or not). Whatever you call it, it's easy and delicious and adaptable to healthier eating, too. Add veggies or another type of breakfast meat. You can use egg substitute, etc., to tweak for healthier eating. You can also go whole hog (pardon the pun). Whatever you do, make it yours and make it often. You'll thank me.

Without further ado...


-5 – 6 slices of bread (cubed)—I used a Tuscan style boule

-1 pkg ground sausage (I used Gunnoe’s Mild, but use one that tastes good to you!)

-2 c. grated cheddar cheese (I used Cabot’s Seriously Sharp White Cheddar, put in the freezer for a couple of hours, then cut into chunks and pulsed in the food processor)

-11 eggs (egg substitute works fine!)

-2 ½ c. milk (I used skim)

-1 ½ t. dry mustard

-1 t salt (and I added freshly ground pepper, so feel free to add some spices of your choice)

Cook sausage, drain and crumble.

Grease 9x13 inch pan and line pan with the bread cubes.

Layer w/ sausage and cheese.

Beat eggs with salt, milk, and mustard until foamy and pour over sausage/cheese/bread. (I sprinkled some shredded parmigiano reggiano on top.)

Refrigerate overnight. Remove 30 minutes before cooking and bake uncovered for 45 – 60 minutes at 350 degrees. It will be bubbly and beautiful.