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Chilled Cucumber Soup

Here’s another one of those no-cook recipes when the summer heat has you fleeing your stove. It also is timely for those of you gardeners who have more an abundance of cucumbers. I’m not growing any in my small plot, but my niece Keri gave me a couple from her garden, and I think I put them to good use in this recipe, from Melissa Clark of The New York Times.

You’ll note there are anchovies in the recipe and they are listed as optional. But DON’T leave them out, even if you hate anchovies (are you listening, Marie?) You absolutely cannot taste them in this recipe, but I guarantee you, the soup won’t be as flavorful without them. Cucumbers are so mild that this soup needs the jalapeño, the herbs, the garlic, the vinegar and yes, the anchovies, to give it the umph it needs, lest it turn out as a bland bowl of puréed cucumbers. Trust me on this one, please. And don’t leave out the corn garnish. The extra texture and taste really lends it a nice finishing touch.

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Chilled Cucumber Soup
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 pound cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 cups buttermilk (I USED 1½ cups plain yogurt plus ¼ cup water)
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 2 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 2 small whole scallions, trimmed
  • ½ jalapeño, seeded, deveined and chopped
  • ½ cup packed mixed fresh herbs (like mint, parsley, dill, tarragon, basil and cilantro - I USED DILL AND PARSLEY)
  • ½ teaspoon sherry or white wine vinegar, more to taste
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 ear of corn, shucked, kernels sliced off
  • Fresh dill, for serving
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a blender or food processor, combine cucumber, buttermilk, garlic, anchovy, scallions, jalapeño, fresh herbs, sherry vinegar and salt.
  2. Blend until smooth and adjust seasoning as needed.
  3. Let the soup sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours to blend all the flavors.
  4. Distribute soup between 4 bowls and garnish with raw corn kernels and a drizzle of olive oil.
 

Shrimp and Corn Salad

Corn is at its peak right now where I live so it was a perfect time to make this delicious salad, using shrimp caught wild in the U.S.  I tried duplicating this dish at home that I ate last week at a new restaurant in town and I think I got pretty close. The weather’s been a scorcher too, so something cold for dinner just felt right. The corn is scraped off the cobs and eaten raw, and I didn’t even have to cook the shrimp since my fish market sold it already cooked. Just toss everything together in a bowl with mayonnaise, lemon juice, some herbs and seasonings.

The recipe makes enough for four people with normal appetites (or two ravenous adults) so I had enough for myself and to take to a friend who’s been diagnosed with a serious health problem, and her partner.

If you’re in the Princeton, N.J., please do stop by the restaurant for either breakfast or lunch – The Blue Bears. Not only did I love my meal, but the restaurant’s mission also captured my heart – “to sell diverse, freshly made meals everyday and to provide sustainable and meaningful jobs for adults with intellectual and development disabilities.”

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Shrimp and Corn Salad
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ½ pound boiled shrimp, chilled
  • 2 ears of corn, raw and stripped of the kernels
  • 2 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 2 Tablespoons minced red onion
  • 2 stalks of celery, minced
  • grated rind of ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup minced parsley
  • salt, pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Slice the shrimp in half lengthwise.
  2. Place all ingredients, including shrimp in a large bowl and mix thoroughly until everything is combined.
  3. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour to help blend flavors.
  4. Serve over lettuce.
 

Stuffed Fried Sage Leaves and Zucchini Blossoms

 

Who would have thought you could stuff and fry sage leaves? Not I, until a few months ago, when I ate them at a restaurant in London. Since then, I’ve been counting the days until the leaves on our sage plants were large enough to pick. With the plants now at their peak, the timing was perfect. They’re so easy to make, it’s not really much of a recipe, but I’ll take you through the steps.

First, smush some anchovies over  one leaf.  Please don’t tell me you don’t like anchovies – this is so darn delicious and addictive it will make you a convert.

Then cover with another leaf of the same size and press down hard.

Hold the sage leaf “sandwich” by the stem and swipe each side of the leaf in a batter. The batter is made with only flour and sparkling water (San Pellegrino is my water of choice). There’s no need for baking powder or eggs. Just mix the flour and water until you have a consistency like thick pancake batter.

Have some vegetable oil heating in a skillet while you prepare the leaves, then when it’s good and hot, place the leaves carefully into the hot oil. Fry on one side until golden, then flip and do the same with the other side of the leaf.

While I was at it, I also stuffed and fried some zucchini blossoms I got from my son and daughter-in-law’s garden. I posted the “recipe” online way back in the early months of this blog, more than a decade ago. But why not repeat it now since you may have access to some of these lovely, edible flowers. It’s best to pick them first thing in the morning, when the blossoms are wide open and you can pull out the stamen (and any critters that may be inside).

Cut a piece of mozzarella cheese and push it down into the center of the flower, along with a small piece of anchovy. Press the flower shut and twist it a little near the end of the flower. It won’t be completely sealed, but don’t worry because after you dip it into the batter (the same one you use for the sage leaves), the batter will form a seal and keep the stuffing from oozing out.

Fry in some hot, deep vegetable oil, turning once, until they’re golden all around.

Dig In. These are so crunchy and delicious, it’s a good thing we didn’t pick more sage leaves or blossoms, or we’d have eaten ourselves sick!

For other ideas on what to do with zucchini blossoms, click here.

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Stuffed Fried Sage Leaves and Zucchini Blossoms
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • sage leaves
  • anchovies (salted, in oil)
  • zucchini blossoms
  • mozzarella cheese
  • flour
  • sparkling water
  • a pinch of salt
  • vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. BATTER:
  2. Just mix enough flour and enough sparkling water until you get a mixture that’s the consistency of pancake batter. It’s best to let it sit at least 15 minutes to help make it smoother.
  3. FOR THE ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS:
  4. Pull the stamen from the inside of the zucchini blossoms.
  5. Cut a piece of mozzarella into a small strip and place it inside the zucchini blossom, along with a salted anchovy.
  6. Dip the flowers into the batter, and deep fry in hot oil.
  7. FOR THE SAGE LEAVES:
  8. Smush some anchovies onto one side of a sage leaf.
  9. Cover with a sage leaf of a similar size and press down.
  10. Holding the leaves by the stem, swish it in the batter, covering both sides of the leaves.
  11. Fry in hot, deep oil.
 

Swordfish alla Bagnarese

My kitchen shelves are bursting with cookbooks, many of which seldom get used after the initial purchase. Are you like me, in falling back on dishes you’ve made over and over again, rather than trying some of those recipes in those forgotten cookbooks? I have a new resolve to open those cookbooks more often, since there is such a wealth of good recipes still to be explored. I have loved Rosetta Costantino’s “My Calabria” since it first came out several years ago, especially since my father’s family is from Calabria. I’ve probably made only about three or four of the recipes from this book, but there are dozens I still want to try. I recently made this swordfish recipe from Rosetta’s book for the first time, and I know it’s going to be one of those that I’ll make over and over again. It’s easy, it’s quick to cook, it’s healthy and it’s delicious.

The hardest part is finding a heatproof shallow bowl that’s just big enough for your swordfish piece and a lidded pot that can hold the bowl. My swordfish weighed a little less than one pound, enough for the two of us. For larger amounts, it might be tricky to find appropriate size container, but I’ve got another solution below. Season with salt and pepper, then add the shaved garlic, a little olive oil, capers, parsley and lemon juice. Cover it tightly with aluminum foil, then place it the bowl inside a larger saucepan with water that comes up halfway on the outside of the bowl. Place a lid on the saucepan and turn the heat up fairly high. It will need to cook anywhere from 8 minutes to 14 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

Remove the foil and check to see if the fish is cooked through. If too much water has gathered in the bowl, drain some off and add another drizzle of olive oil and some fresh parsley. I like extra lemon squirted over it too.

OK, if you’re still with me and want to make more than two portions, make this recipe using parchment paper and your oven. I placed the swordfish on a piece of parchment paper resting on a cookie tin, then added all the rest of the ingredients (actually I had fresh garlic scapes so I used those instead of garlic slivers.) I also added a couple of slices of fresh lemon in addition to the lemon juice.

Close the parchment package, crimping all along the edges. I should state that the parchment paper should be cut to a kind of heart shape that’s a lot bigger than the fish. You’ll place the fish on one half of the heart shape.

I wasn’t sure how long to roast it (my fish was about 3/4 inch thick), but I cooked it for 15 minutes at 400 degrees in the oven. It was perfect. I suspect that 12 minutes might work for thinner cuts, and because of the liquids surrounding the fish, it stayed beautifully moist.

Sprinkle with more fresh herbs before serving to give it a “greener” look.

Serve with rice or potatoes to scoop up those delicious liquids from the fish, and a green vegetable of your choice for a low-cal, but delicious meal.

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swordfish
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 skinless fresh swordfish steaks, about ⅜ inch thick and 5 to 6 ounces each
  • (I made it with one swordfish steak that was about ¾ inch thick and weighed slightly less than a pound.)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 large garlic cove, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, preferably salt-packed, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (I used more)
Instructions
  1. Season the swordfish on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Using the 1 tablespoon olive oil, coat a baking dish just large enough to hold the swordfish.
  3. Put the swordfish in the baking dish and scatter the garlic around it.
  4. Sprinkle the surface of the fish with capers and parsley.
  5. Spoon the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon water over the fish.
  6. Cover the baking dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.
  7. Choose a large roasting pan or other deep pan that can take stovetop heat and accommodate the baking dish.
  8. Set the pan on a burner and put the baking dish in it.
  9. In a separate pan or teakettle bring several cups of water to a boil for pouring into the roasting pan.
  10. Turn the heat to high under the roasting pan and add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
  11. After the water returns to a boil, cook the fish for 8 minutes (It took closer to 14 minutes to cook my fish, but it was thicker than Rosetta's.)
  12. Uncover and check for doneness; the fish should be cooked through but still moist and surrounded with flavorful juices.
  13. Taste the juices and add more salt if necessary.
  14. Serve the swordfish in shallow bowls, spooning the garlicky broth over the fish.
  15. Drizzle each portion with additional olive oil.
 

 

Chocolate-Filled Paris Brest

Have you eaten a Paris Brest? It’s a delectable cream puff pastry commemorating a bicycle race that took place in 1891 between Paris and Brest, a city in Northwest France (hence the circular shape.) I ate individual ones recently at a great bakery not in Paris, but in Prague, Czech Republic. (shout out to Pekárna Nostress Bakery on Vezenská 8, Prague – a place that became a daily obsession.) One was made with a vanilla pastry cream and berries, the other with the traditional praline filling. Both were sensational.

I knew I had to make this dessert for my book group, who met this week for a French dinner and discussion of “Babette’s Feast” (actually a short story) by Isak Dineson. I wanted to make it filled with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, but since I seem to have missed strawberry season in New Jersey, I decided on this chocolate and whipped cream version by well-known French chef Jacques Pepin. Like all his recipes, this one did not disappoint, although it is a bit tricky to make if you’re a novice in the kitchen. I’ll take you through the various steps.

First you have to make the pate a choux – or cream puff pastry. You cook the milk, flour and butter until it starts to pull away from the pan. It’s kind of hard to keep stirring because it really gets dry and lumpy. But that’s ok. It will smooth out later in the food processor.

Let it cool for 1/2 hour, then break it into bits and put it in the food processor and add the eggs one at a time. The recipe says to whir it for about 20 to 30 seconds, but that wasn’t long enough to attain a smooth dough. I’m sure I processed it for at least a couple of minutes.

Here’s what it looked like after the eggs were incorporated. It’s a very smooth, sticky dough.

Next you’ll want to pipe it, using a piping bag. I always fill the bag after placing it into a tall glass. It’s much easier than trying to hold it in one hand, while filling with the other.

I didn’t even use a piping tip. You don’t need one. Just cut a hole at the bottom of the bag that’s about 3/4 inch wide in circumference.

Pipe a circle onto the silicone mat about 8 inches in diameter, as shown below. You can use parchment paper if you don’t have a silicone mat. Then pipe another circle inside the first one, and a third circle on the top of the first two (sorry I forgot to take a photo of all three circles).

Before you pipe the second circle and the third circle, press the filling in the bag toward the tip so it doesn’t squirt out the top. The recipe makes EXACTLY the right amount of dough with no extra, so if you lose some out the top, you’ll come up short when piping the circles.

Brush the circles with beaten egg, then sprinkle slivered almonds over everything. Brush off the excess almonds.

While the dough is baking, make the chocolate filling. No need to buy expensive chocolate. Hershey’s Special Dark works great, and came out number one in a blind taste-testing on America’s Test Kitchen several years ago. It’s what I always use in baking. Whip the cream and keep it in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Here’s what the ring looks like right out of the oven. It rose a bit, but isn’t as huge as you’d expect. But that’s ok because the filling increases the height at least double!

Slice it in half and separate the two halves.

Here’s a great tip from Jacques Pepin to avoid a mess when you serve it. Take the top part and slice it into 8 to 10 pieces. Keep them in order for when you assemble, and they will give you a good guide when slicing through with a knife, without crushing your beautiful concoction.

Spread the chocolate filling evenly over the ring.

Then pipe the whipped cream over the chocolate (or just spread it with a spoon but the piping does give it a more polished look).

Place the sliced top pieces over the whipped cream and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

All that’s left to do is to serve it and eat it. Best served within two or three hours of making it, but be prepared for no leftovers.

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Paris Brest
 
Author:
Serves: 8-10 people
Ingredients
  • DOUGH
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • CHOCOLATE CREAM
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into 1-inch pieces
  • GARNISH
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1½ tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. FOR THE DOUGH: Combine the milk, butter, salt, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Remove from the heat, add the flour in one stroke, and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  4. Then place back over the heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 15 to 20 seconds, until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan.
  5. Transfer the dough to a food processor and let cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and mix them well with a fork.
  7. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg for use as a glaze.
  8. Pour the remaining eggs into the processor bowl and process for 20 to 30 seconds, until the eggs are well incorporated and the dough is smooth.
  9. Line a cookie sheet with a nonstick baking mat, or use a nonstick cookie sheet.
  10. Spoon the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a ¾-inch plain tip.
  11. Pipe a ring with an outside circumference of 8 to 8½ inches on the cookie sheet.
  12. Pipe another circle of dough inside and another on top of the rings until you have used all the dough and have a circle that is 1½ to 1¾ inches high with a hole in the center that measures about 5 inches across.
  13. Do not start and end the dough circles in the same spot, since this can cause the pastry to open at the seam during baking.
  14. Brush the dough with the reserved tablespoon of egg.
  15. Using a fork, mark the surface and sides of the dough, running the tines of the fork gently around the circle to create a crosshatch effect.
  16. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds. Bake for 20 minutes.
  17. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 35 minutes, or until browned. (If the pastry begins to brown excessively, cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.)
  18. Turn the oven off and let the pastry remain in the oven for 30 minutes with the door partially open to evaporate some of the moisture.
  19. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before removing from the cookie
  20. sheet.
  21. FOR THE CHOCOLATE CREAM: Bring the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  22. Meanwhile, combine the yolks and sugar in a bowl, mixing them with a whisk for about 30 seconds. Add the 1½ tablespoons flour and mix it in with the whisk.
  23. Pour the boiling milk in on top of the egg yolk mixture and mix it in well with a whisk.
  24. Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil, mixing constantly with the whisk.
  25. Boil for about 10 seconds, then remove from the heat and add the chocolate.
  26. Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted and is incorporated into the pastry cream.
  27. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and let cool, then refrigerate until chilled.
  28. FOR THE GARNISH: Whip the cream, rum, and sugar in a bowl until stiff. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  29. TO FINISH THE CAKE: Use a sharp knife to remove a ½-inch-thick horizontal slice, or “lid,” from the top; set it aside.
  30. Using a spoon, spread the chocolate cream in the bottom of the pastry round, pushing it gently into the cavities of the pastry.
  31. Transfer the whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch star tip, and pipe the cream on top of the chocolate cream. It should come at least 1 inch above the rim of the cake.
  32. Cut the pastry lid into 8 to 10 equal pieces, and reassemble them in order on top of the pastry to make it easy to cut into portions.
  33. Sprinkle with the confectioners’ sugar.
  34. (The pastry can be assembled a few hours ahead and refrigerated.)
  35. At serving time, using the separations on the lid as guides, cut through the bottom half of the pastry, and arrange on individual dessert plates.
 

Eggplant and Potato Crostata

My friend Lilli made this beautiful concoction recently, when the Italian chit-chat group convened at my house a few weeks ago. We generally serve both savory and sweet things at our weekly gatherings, and Lilli helped me by preparing this delicious eggplant and potato crostata. Lilli, who hails from Salerno, is one of my dearest friends, and a sensational cook. This recipe however, is from Giallo Zafferano, an Italian site that features so many wonderful recipes, but they’re all in Italian. I’ve translated the amounts from metric, for those of you in the U.S.  It would make a great appetizer if you’re having company, or even a main course, with a salad on the side. I hope you try it.

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Eggplant and Potato Crostata
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • one pastry shell, ready made or homemade
  • 1½ cups (400 grams)potatoes
  • 1¾ cups (350 grams) eggplant
  • 1 cup (100 grams) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups (200 grams) Parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper,
  • one egg yolk (for brushing on top)
Instructions
  1. Slice the eggplants (not too thinly), and sprinkle with salt.
  2. Let them rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Rinse and dry the eggplants with paper towels, then cut in half.
  4. Fry the eggplant in oil, draining well on paper towels.
  5. Wash the potatoes well, and boil them for about 20 minutes, with their skins on.
  6. Test for doneness, and when they can be easily pierced with a fork, remove from the water and let them cool, then peel them.
  7. Chop the potatoes roughly.
  8. Cut the mozzarella into small pieces.
  9. Mix the eggs in a bowl with the salt, pepper and parmesan cheese.
  10. To the eggs add the potatoes, the mozzarella and the eggplant.
  11. Line a tart pan with the pastry, letting some hang over the edge.
  12. Fill the tart pan evenly with the eggplant and potato filling.
  13. Fold the edges of the pastry over the filling and brush with beaten egg yolk.
  14. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.
  15. Serve hot or at room temperature.
 

Ricotta and Nutella Tart

If you’re a chocolate and hazelnut fan, this recipe is for you. It’s got a bottom layer of Nutella, covered with a ricotta mixture and drizzled with more Nutella on top. The first time I made the recipe, I used a ready made crust and it crisped up nicely, browning perfectly on the bottom. I loved the flavor combination but thought it could benefit from a doubling of the ricotta layer.

So the next time I made it, I doubled the recipe for the ricotta layer.

The filling tasted great, but the problem was that the crust was undercooked on the bottom, even though I left it in the oven a little longer than the recipe called for. It could be because in addition to doubling the amount of ricotta, I also baked two tarts in the oven at the same time, which may have caused the pastry to bake unevenly. Or was it because I forgot to prick the pastry before smearing on the Nutella? In any event, it’s worth making this tart, but be warned – bake only one tart in the oven at a time for best results.

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Ricotta and Nutella Tart
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup 2% milk
  • ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup plus ¼ cup chocolate-hazelnut spread, divided
  • your favorite tart or pie crust dough, chilled
Instructions
  1. In a blender, combine the ricotta cheese, milk and sugar, and blend until completely combined.
  2. Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then lightly grease and flour a 9-inch tart or pie tin.
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge.
  5. On a floured work surface, roll the dough into a ⅛ inch thick circle.
  6. Place it in the prepared tin, trim any overhanging dough with a sharp knife and crimp the edges.
  7. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork.
  8. Spread the bottom of the crust with 7 ounces of the chocolate-hazelnut spread.
  9. If the spread is too thick, soften it in the microwave or place it in a heatproof bowl on top of a pot of boiling water.
  10. Remove the ricotta filling from the fridge and pour it over the chocolate-hazelnut spread.
  11. Bake the pie for 25 to 30 minutes or until the crust is golden.
  12. Let the pie cool completely then drizzle with the remaining ¼ cup chocolate-hazelnut spread.
  13. Refrigerate the pie for 2 hours before serving.
 

 

Rice, Salami and Cheese Casserole

Hide your bathroom scales if you decide to make this one – it’s loaded with cheese, salami and eggs, but it’s oh so worth it. Just make sure to invite a lot of people over. Even after serving it to my Italian chit-chat group (and there were 16 of us at the table that day), I still had enough left over to share with two different neighbors, and for my own dinner. The recipe comes from my friend Milena, who hails from La Spezia, and who is part of that Italian chit-chat group. You can make it without the meat if you choose, but the salami gives it a nice, spicy accent. I used a mixture of a basic Genoa-type salami, and one that was coated with black pepper. You could skip the salami and use cubed ham instead if you prefer.

Here is the pile of cheeses that went into it – mozzarella, pecorino and parmesan. Milena’s original recipe also called for cheddar cheese, but I don’t think it needs it, so I left it out.

You mix the rice, cheeses and salami with some beaten eggs and milk and press it into a casserole.

Then poke holes all around the casserole and pour in more of the eggs and milk mixture.

Sprinkle some bread crumbs and paprika on top and bake for about 45 minutes.

It’s hard not to keep eating it, but with bathing suit season right around the corner, I had to control myself.

But not for long. Guess what was mid-morning snack the next day?

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Rice, Salami and Cheese Casserole
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 12-16 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 cups rice (I used arborio but long grain white rice is fine.)
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ lb. diced Genoa salami
  • ½ lb. cubed or shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated cheese (I used a mixture of parmesan and pecorino)
  • 2 cups milk
Instructions
  1. Cook rice in water and salt.
  2. Add the butter and mix well.
  3. Add the cheeses and salami and mix well.
  4. Beat the eggs and milk, and add half to the cooked rice mixture.
  5. Put the rice mixture into a greased, ovenproof casserole. (mine was 9½ inches by 12 inches)
  6. With a fork, poke holes on the top and pour the rest of the milk-egg mixture over the rice.
  7. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and paprika.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees, covered for 45 minutes.
  9. Let it rest for five minutes before serving.

Sausage and Cabbage Cake

Rachel Roddy, a Rome-based cookbook author and columnist for the British newspaper The Guardian, has been inspiring me for years, especially after the publication of her book  –  “A Kitchen In Rome.” I’ve worked my way through many of the recipes, but haven’t made this one – for sausage and cabbage cake – until now. I don’t what took me so long, since it’s pretty quick to put together and elevates pedestrian cabbage rolls to company-worthy fare. It all starts with this beautiful Savoy cabbage, a vegetable that, aside from being highly edible, deserves to be in a still life painting.

Remove seven of the largest and unblemished leaves and blanch them for a couple of minutes, patting them dry after you’ve rinsed them in cold water.

You need to quarter the remaining cabbage, and blanch them for five minutes too.

In a buttered 8″ cake tin, place the largest and prettiest leaf. 

Layer in the other six leaves on top of the bottom leaf.

Push the sausage meat firmly inside the cake tin, using your hands to help conform to the shape of the pan.

Fill in with the rest of the cabbage, then fold in the overlapping leaves and press firmly. Dot with butter and place in a 350 degree oven for an hour.

I placed the pan inside another pan in case some juices spilled out during baking. as you can see, the top layer gets a little browned. Not to worry – that’s going to be the bottom when you serve it.

See, when you flip it out, it gets all show-offy, pretending to be a miniature oak tree.  (Be sure to flip it onto a plate over the sink because a lot of hot, watery juices will spill out).

I served it with a plain marinara sauce, but a cheese sauce, or a béchamel sauce would be right at home here too. Wine optional. No, revise that. Serve with a good glass of dry red or white wine – and some crusty bread.

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Sausage and Cabbage Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 large Savoy cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds (I used fennel pollen)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ tablespoons butter
  • about 1 pour very lean, well-seasoned sausage (without casings)
Instructions
  1. Remove 7 of the largest, handsomest outer leaves (discard any that are discolored or damaged) and wash them carefully.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the chosen leaves.
  3. Wait for the water to come back to a boil, then blanch the leaves for 2 minutes.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to remove the leaves and drain in a colander in the sink, rinsing with very cold water to fix the color.
  5. Drain them well and spread them out flat to dry thoroughly on paper towels.
  6. Set them aside.
  7. Cut the rest of the cabbage into quarters and bring the same water back to a boil.
  8. Cook the cabbage quarters in the boiling water for 5 minutes, by which time the leave should be tender but the stems still firm.
  9. Drain the cabbage, rinse with cold water, drain again, and squeeze out any excess water.
  10. Cut away the hard central stem and separate the leaves into a bowl.
  11. Dress them with olive oil and fennel seeds and season with salt and pepper.
  12. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and grease an 8-inch round shallow ovenproof dish with half the butter.
  13. Choose the largest and best-looking leaf from the 7 you have set aside and place it in the bottom of the dish.
  14. It should cover the base and come up the sides. (Mine didn't)
  15. Arrange the other 6 leaves so that they cover the sides of the dish, fanned out, overlapping a lot and hanging over the edges.
  16. Using a third of the seasoned cabbage, make a layer at the bottom of the dish and cover with half the sausage, pressing it down so it molds into the dish.
  17. Repeat the process, ending with a third layer of cabbage leaves.
  18. Press everything into the dish. Fold and bring in the overlapping leaves to cover the top and make a neat packet.
  19. Dot with the remaining butter and bake for 1 hour.
  20. (Readers please note, Ciao Chow Linda used half of the cabbage and all the sausage here, and finished with the other half of the cabbage, ending with folding the overlapping leaves. )
  21. Remove and allow the cake to stand for 5 minutes before inverting a serving plate on top of the baking dish and turning out the cake.
  22. Be careful, and do this over the sink, as there will be hot juices.
 

 

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

When you want a cake that’s not fussy and sure to be a crowdpleaser with adults and kids (alright so some of you who are from another planet may not like chocolate), this is the cake to turn to. Made with mini chocolate chips, that are less likely to fall to the bottom the way regular-sized chips do, this cake has a nice crumb and a delicious flavor, even without the chocolate glaze. So if you’re inclined to serve it without the glaze, at least give it a dusting of powdered sugar to elevate its plain Jane looks.

BUT, I highly recommend the chocolate glaze. I mean, come on, don’t you just want to stick your fingers onto that plate and lick those drizzles cascading down the cake? By the way, for baking, I almost always use Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate bars. You can buy them at the supermarket at a fraction of the cost of the more expensive brands, and years ago on a blind taste testing at America’s Test Kitchen tv show, Hershey’s Special Dark came out as the number one favorite. It’s delicious just for snacking straight from the wrapper too.

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Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons. vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used sour cream)
  • 1¼ cups mini semi sweet chocolate chips
  • FOR THE TOPPING:
  • four ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer of a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed until well combined and fluffy, about two minutes.
  3. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the eggs and vanilla, and continue to beat.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
  5. Add half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and beat on low until combined.
  6. Add the Greek yogurt (or sour cream) and beat to combine.
  7. Add the remaining half of dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
  8. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  9. Do not overmix.
  10. Spray a small, 10 cup bundt pan with a baking spray with flour or use a light spray of baking spray and dust the inside of the pan with flour. (I smeared butter inside, then sprayed with a cooking spray, then dusted with flour.)
  11. Spoon the batter evenly into the pan and smooth the top of the batter. It will be thick.
  12. Bake in a preheated oven for about 55-60 minutes or until the top of the cake is set, with no jiggling.
  13. Allow to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack or serving platter until completely cool.
  14. When ready to ice, add the chocolate to a small bowl and heat the cream until almost bubbling.
  15. Add the warmed cream to the chocolate, cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap, and allow to sit undisturbed for five minutes.
  16. Stir to combine and add in the corn syrup, if desired.
  17. Pour over the cake.