Off to the side

Sometimes the sides are more ¬†important than the entr√©e. Sometimes the sides are the star. Sometimes the sides shouldn’t be pushed off to the side. Sometimes you should just eat the sides.

IMHO, this is one of those sides. It should take center stage and be bowed to. It’s delicious, it’s different, and most importantly, it is easy to make. The first time my mom made it, she told me it was Greek Fried Rice. Lindsay wants to know why, but I don’t know why she calls it that. I don’t know if it’s her original recipe. I just know I make it as she taught me and I enjoy it just as much every time.

 

Greek Fried Rice
Ingredients
2 cps white rice, cooked
1 cp fettuccine or linguine, cooked & broken into 2-in pieces
2 eggs, boiled and chopped
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cp Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

How to: Preheat a medium-sized saucepan over medium high heat and melt butter with olive oil. Add garlic and onions, cook them until translucent, then the parsley.

Add the rice and stir until it is all mixed in. If you happened to use leftover rice, keep stirring until heated through. Now mix in the pasta. The eggs are stirred in last. Turn off the heat and serve immediately. I mean, why would you want to wait?

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

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Childhood Faves

What’s your favorite one? My mom did a.lot.of.cooking. And baking. And entertaining. She made us fun stuff, like PBJs, pancakes and doughnuts! She also made us eat the serious stuff like pumpkin, spinach and carrots. She wasn’t able to get okra passed me, though. I hope she’s not too hard on herself for that. To this day I can’t deal with that slimy veg. I best stop thinking about it before I make myself sick.

Yumness on a plate!

This is one of my fun foods. I remember pleading for this, then covering it with ketchup. I don’t do the ketchup part anymore, I honestly can’t tell you what possessed me to do that in the first place. I’m guessing I had a red infatuation, who knows. I’ve taken my mom’s standard and jazzed up a bit. It’s really yum!

Mom’s Spaghetti Omelette
If you have some leftover pasta, that’s perfect or you can cook some up for this (I do it all the time).
2 cps spaghetti or other noodle pasta, cooked
2 eggs
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp coarse black pepper
1/2 tsp Herbs d’Provence
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter

In a medium size bowl, whisk the eggs, salt, pepper and HdProvence. Add the pasta and mix it in.

Preheat a 12-inch frying pan over medium high heat, add the oil and butter until it melts. Dump the pasta in and spread it out evenly to cover the bottom. Allow it to brown, it will take about 5 minutes per side. Flip the omelette and brown the opposite side.

Slice it in quarters and top with parmesan cheese, if desired. Can you stand it?

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If only there was taste-a-blog code...

Lasagna for Tia Doria

Tia (Aunt) Doria is one of my mom’s youngest sisters. About 22 years ago, I went to stay with¬†her in Oklahoma after a bad fall that left her leg in a cast. To this day Doria claims I made her a lasagna with like 17 different cheeses. I keep telling her that’s not possible. I know this, because I don’t think I knew 17 types of cheeses back then. But, in her honor and at her request, here’s my version of my Mami’s¬†Lasagna. It has 4 different cheeses: Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan and Ricotta, and homemade meat and bechamel sauces.

Now, I feel I should mention a few things about making lasagna. I don’t believe this is a difficult dish to make. It IS, however, labor intensive and step abundant. I make my own meat¬†sauce, just getting it on the stove took me about 2 hours. That’s from beginning–roasting peppers and tomatoes¬†and chopping ingredients–to end, once all the ingredients are in the pot and about to simmer. I think it was another hour to assemble the trays.

I like making the sauce a day ahead to allow all the flavors to come together. Then assemble the trays and put them in the fridge for a few hours to allow it settle in. This time I assembled the trays just a few hours after I finished simmering the meat sauce and it had come to room temperature. I didn’t bake the tray until the next day. So it hung out in the fridge for about 18-24 hours. Mind you, this step isn’t mandatory. I just picked that tip up when I worked in a kitchen.

All this said, it is a DELICIOUS recipe, well worth the effort. I hope you will try it. One last thing, yield. This recipe made enough for 1 full 9×13 tray, which gave us 12 healthy servings, and 1 more tray that only filled about 3/4 of the way. The servings from that will probably be closer to 9 or so. We’ve frozen the 2nd tray for future enjoyment. Now, without further ado, Doria, this one’s for you!

Meat Sauce Ingredients
2 lbs ground chuck
1/2 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cps onions, chopped (about 2 medium)
1 tbsp sea salt
1 cp carrots, finely diced (about 2 medium)
1 cp celery, finely diced (about 3 stalks)
2 cps button mushrooms, diced
1 cp red bell pepper (about 2 medium)
5 Roma tomatoes
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed (about 2 tsp garlic puree)
1 tsp black pepper
1-1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1-1/2 tsp dried basil
2 tsps sugar
3 bay leaves
1/2 cp parsley, chopped
2 cps red wine or beer
1 cp water
3 tbsp tomato paste

Process:
Roast the reds (optional) – You can roast the bell peppers and tomatoes over a stove burner. Get the skins scorched all the way around, then dunk in a bowl with cool water and peel. Remove the seeds from both, the tomatoes and peppers before dicing.

Heat up a large saucepan and add the ground beef, sausage and salt. Stir the salt in and make sure you break the meats apart, you want it to resemble coarse meal.  The moisture in the beef will come out, so initially it will cook in its own liquid. Once the liquid evaporates, you will be able to begin browning the meats.

As the meat browns over medium high heat, add the onions, carrots and celery, cook it until the onions begin to look translucent. Then add the mushrooms, garlic, black pepper, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes, basil and bay leaves. Mix all the herbs in before adding all the tomatoes, bell peppers and parsley. Stir it all very well, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any drippings that may be stuck. Now you can add the wine, water, sugar and paste; stir everything well and allow it to come to a boil.

Once this comes to a boil, bring temperature to low and cover it with a lid. Allow it to simmer stirring it occasionally. It will need to simmer for about an hour. Remove from the heat and let it cool.

Bechamel Sauce
Ingredients and Process
5 tbsp unsalted butter
5 tbsp flour
4 cps milk
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Heat up the milk in the microwave until it is very hot, you’ll be able to see vapors rising up. Keep it hot. In the meantime, in a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium heat until there is foam on the top. Add the flour at once, and stir quickly with a wire whisk. This will make a roux, however, you want to keep the mixture light in color–bechamel sauce is a white sauce. You need to allow the flour to cook, otherwise the raw flavor will come through in the sauce. The process of making the roux, will take about 6 minutes and will be lightly golden.

Add the milk as quickly as you can, while still whisking it in to avoid lumps. Once you have incorporated all the milk, season the sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens, it will take about 15 minutes to achieve the consistency of soft yogurt. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Ricotta filling: Combine 2 cps of ricotta cheese with 2 eggs, 1/4 cp chopped parsley, 1/2 cp Parmesan cheese. Mix and set aside.

 

Lasagna Ingredients and Process:
1 lb lasagna noodles
1/2 lb Provolone cheese, sliced
2/3 lb Mozarella cheese, sliced
1 cp Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 lb Salami, sliced

Layering the Lasagna
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tbsp sea salt, 1 tbsp oil before adding the noodles. The oil will help prevent them from sticking to each other, but you should still stir them around a bit. Make sure you keep the water at a soft boil and cook noodles for about 8 to 10 minutes. You want the noodles to be pliable but still too firm to eat. Drain noodles and dump them into a bowl of cold water.

You need to make sure the noodles are completely dry before layering. I usually take them out of the cool water and lay them across a kitchen towel before setting them aside.

It’s assembly time! In a 9×13 baking dish, spread about a cup of meat sauce in the bottom. Arrange¬†3-4 noodles lengthwise over the sauce. Depending on the length of your noodles and dish, you may need to trim the end of the noodle to fit. Spread with enough bechamel sauce to cover the noodles, then top the bechamel with chopped salami. Now add another layer of noodles to cover. Top the second layer of noodles with the ricotta cheese mixture. ¬†Now top the ricotta with more meat sauce, be more generous this time.

Top the meat sauce with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, then layer with provolone and mozzarella. And begin again with a layer of noodles with bechamel and salami between the 2 layers of noodles, then ricotta. The final layer will be meat sauce covered with cheeses. This is likely your last layer, so you can go a bit crazy with the cheeses.

I would recommend allowing the tray to settle for at least 3 hours in the fridge, longer if you have the time. Cover with a short layer of plastic wrap then foil.

Baking the lasagna
Preheat oven to 375. Remove the plastic wrap and cover loosely with the¬† foil, otherwise you’ll end up with all the cheese stuck to it. Bake for 25 minutes with foil, then remove foil and bake for 25 minutes more. Allow the tray to cool for about 15 minutes before cutting into it.

Italian Meat Sauce

This is my basic meat sauce. It is a wonderful base to lasagna, goes superbly over any kind of pasta. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Meat Sauce Ingredients
2 lbs ground chuck
1/2 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cps onions, chopped (about 2 medium)
1 tbsp sea salt
1 cp carrots, finely diced (about 2 medium)
1 cp celery, finely diced (about 3 stalks)
2 cps button mushrooms, diced
1 cp red bell pepper (about 2 medium)
5 Roma tomatoes
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed (about 2 tsp puree)
1 tsp black pepper
1-1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1-1/2 tsp dried basil
2 tsps sugar
3 bay leaves
1/2 cp parsley, chopped
2 cps red wine or beer
1 cp water
3 tbsp tomato paste

Process:
Roast the reds (optional) ‚Äď You can roast the bell peppers and tomatoes over a stove burner. Get the skins scorched all the way around, then dunk in a bowl with cool water and peel. Remove the seeds from both, the tomatoes and peppers before dicing.

Heat up a large saucepan and add the ground beef, sausage and salt. Stir the salt in and make sure you break the meats apart, you want it to resemble coarse meal.  The moisture in the beef will come out, so initially it will cook in its own liquid. Once the liquid evaporates, you will be able to begin browning the meats.

As the meat browns over medium high heat, add the onions, carrots and celery, cook it until the onions begin to look translucent. Then add the mushrooms, garlic, black pepper, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes, basil and bay leaves. Mix all the herbs in before adding all the tomatoes, bell peppers and parsley. Stir it all very well, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any drippings that may be stuck. Now you can add the wine, water, sugar and paste; stir everything well and allow it to come to a boil.

Once this comes to a boil, bring temperature to low and cover it with a lid. Allow it to simmer stirring it occasionally. It will need to simmer for about an hour. Remove from the heat and let it cool.

Saveur!

Do you ever watch the cooking contests on Food Network and the likes? The ones conducted at fairs or at the bequest of a brand or product? I do and have always wondered what it’s like to participate in one. How many entries are against yours, is your idea unique or interesting enough. Do you have a legitimate chance, will anyone other than family and close friends enjoy or appreciate the recipe? I imagine these are but a few of the questions swimming around someone’s mind when participating in such a contest. I say that because those are the questions swimming around my mind today.

I’ve decided to enter a recipe contest! Saveur magazine has a contest for family recipes and so I’ve picked one and entered it. I don’t know what will be of it, if anything, but it is a good recipe. Family and friends have said so. I’m not sure it is unique, but I do know it is different. I’ve sent it on its cosmic way to see what impressions it causes on those not related to me.

This contest was weird in that they’re not tasting my cooking. I guess they’ll read the recipe and and determine whether or not it sounds appealing enough to recreate. If it does, it’ll be one of the finalists they will taste test. In any case, I’m sharing it here with you. Try it and let me know your thoughts. My mom would whip this up for us. Except for boiling the pasta, this¬†is a one-pot dish. It is like chicken & rice, but using pasta instead of rice. The Caribbean flavor comes from coconut milk and curry powder.

Pasta con Pollo Caribe (Caribbean Chicken and Pasta)

 

Ingredients
4 lbs chicken thighs (10-12 on the bone with skin)
2 cloves garlic, crushed (1 tsp garlic puree)
1 tsp habanero paste or your choice of hot sauce
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbs Italian seasoning
2 tbs Worcestershire
Combine these ingredients and allow the chicken to marinate for 30 minutes or longer if possible. In the meantime, prepare the rest of the ingredients:

2 onions, coarsely chopped
1 tsp crushed garlic or 2 cloves finely chopped
32 oz stewed tomatoes, chopped-liquid included
16 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 tsp curry powder
2 bay leaves, dry
4 tbs Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cp water
1-2 tbsp butter
Sea salt
1 lb linguini pasta (or your favorite type of pasta)

Preparation
In a heavy-bottom saute pan, brown the thighs on both sides and set them aside. Because the chicken still has skin, I like to drop just a dab of vegetable oil onto the pan and spread it around with a napkin before putting the chicken in.¬† As the chicken browns, you’ll begin to develop drippings at the bottom of the pan. Do your best to scrape these and save them; they will add lots of flavor as the chicken stews.

When you have browned all the chicken, check the fat that was rendered. You need about 2 tbsp left on the pan, remove any excess. Now add the onions and cook until they begin to get translucent. Add the garlic, 3 tbs of parsley and tomatoes and loosen the drippings. Add the coconut milk, curry powder, bay leaves, water and stir. Adjust the salt as necessary.

Make sure there aren’t any drippings stuck at the bottom, bring it to a boil before putting the chicken back in. Turn the chicken pieces to coat them with the sauce. Lower the temperature to a slow simmer and continue to cook the chicken for 40 minutes.

Once the meat separates from the bones, turn off the heat and allow the chicken pieces to cool down in the sauce. The flavors in the sauce will intensify overnight. If you have the time to begin this¬†recipe the day before serving, I recommend preparing it up to this point, though it isn’t necessary.

Begin boiling the water to cook the pasta. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and put it back into the sauce. Keep the sauce and chicken warm, add the butter and stir until melted and well incorporated.  You will have about 5 cps of sauce and chicken. Cook and drain the linguini, which should be cooked al dente. Add the pasta and remaining tablespoon of parsley to the sauce and mix well, and allowing them to cook a bit longer in the sauce, about 5 minutes. Serve!

Makes 8-10 servings