A few weeks ago, my friend Lilli dropped off a piece of this savory tart in a “quarantine package” that also contained some of her biscotti — a recipe I posted more than a decade ago in the early days of my blog. It’s my favorite biscotti recipe of all time. Lilli hails from Salerno and is one of the best home cooks I know. Anytime she makes something, it’s always a hit, including this delicious tart. I made it myself over the weekend and my husband and I loved it. I can’t wait to make it for my Italian chit-chat group, when we can once again meet face-to-face for a “chiacchierata.”
The tart is easy to make, especially if you use a packaged pastry as I did. I chose to use puff pastry, but a regular pie pastry would also work just fine. Start by boiling a couple of large potatoes. Peel them, mash them with a fork and add some parmesan cheese and a beaten egg.
Remove the skin from some Italian sausage and fry, then drain of any residual oil.
Crumble the sausage into the unbaked shell. You could choose a round tin, or pie plate if you prefer.
Cover with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Then take the potato mixture and using two teaspoons, place dollops on top of the mozzarella cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, on the bottom rack of your oven, then turn on the broiler for a couple of minutes until the top is nicely browned.
Slice and serve with a salad for a complete meal. Or cut into smaller slices and serve as an appetizer.
Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)
Whether it’s a good French baguette or hefty Italian bastone, I love a good loaf of bread, and don’t need any extra incentives to eat more. But this one is irresistible and can weaken my resolve to consume fewer carbs. It’s an easy-to-make stuffed bread treat that’s a kissin’ cousin to pizza. Your family and friends will love it (unless they’re gluten intolerant). With a glass of wine and a side salad, it was dinner for me and my husband last night. We could have eaten the whole thing by ourselves, but we stopped before we became truly gluttinous. You don’t have to make it in a Christmas tree shape, but that certainly does make it festive for the holidays. You could simply make it in a circle or wreath shape, or in a square format. I started out with frozen pizza dough – about a one pound package. Of course, you can make your own dough, if you’ve got the time and inclination. But there’s enough going on at this time of year, that I take short cuts when I can find them.
Start out by rolling or stretching the dough to a rectangle that’s about 6 inches by 16 inches. Have cooked sausage (1 large piece of Italian sausage, with the casings removed — crumbled and cooked in olive oil.) and some shredded mozzarella cheese nearby. Cut the dough into 16 pieces. You’ll need 15 for the actual tree, and one for the stump.
Press the piece of dough into a square shape and into the center of each piece of dough, place a small bit of the sausage and some of the cheese. Pinch the ends together firmly to seal. Make sure none of the filling is visible or it will leak onto the baking sheet.
Arrange the balls into a Christmas tree shape, pinched ends underneath, with the stump (which you have also filled with cheese and sausage) at the bottom.
Brush with beaten egg and bake in the oven. As soon as it comes out of the oven, brush with the garlic-infused olive oil, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, parsley and bits of tomato to decorate. Serve immediately.
Bet you can’t eat just one!
Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)
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.
Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)
Maybe you’re “turkeyed-out” after the Thanksgiving holiday, but not me. I didn’t have the traditional bird on the big day. Instead, I was tempted by too many other offerings at Commander’s Palace, a landmark restaurant in New Orleans. My husband and I spent a few days in New Orleans during the holiday week, visiting relatives and expanding our waistlines. (Those of you who follow me on Instagram saw photos of lots of the food we ate, plus the wacky hats and costumes people wore at the racetrack on turkey day). We ate so many delicious meals at so many wonderful restaurants each day, recommended by my husband’s son and wife, who moved there from New York a couple of years ago.
As much as I love dining out, I also missed the smells and tastes of a good old-fashioned turkey dinner. So after returning home, I restocked at the grocery store yesterday and made a scaled-down version of a Thanksgiving meal for the two of us last night. Instead of a full turkey, I bought a boneless turkey breast and stuffed it with a sausage/dried cherry/pecan stuffing. It was a lot easier to prepare than you’d think (and way easier than cooking a whole turkey) and would make a great meal for company around the Christmas holiday too.
Start out by preparing the stuffing. I used a mixture of bread cubes, cooked and crumbled Italian sausage, dried cherries soaked in rum, toasted pecans, eggs, plus some fresh herbs and spices. If you don’t like dried cherries, use whatever dried fruit you like – cranberries, apricots, or figs for instance.) Don’t like pecans? Then use walnuts, pine nuts or hazelnuts instead.
This is the turkey breast I bought. It was about 1 1/2 pounds and when stuffed, could easily serve four people (maybe five, depending on appetites). Make sure you buy a breast with the skin still attached.
Here’s what it looks like when you flip it around. Obviously, it’s too thick to stuff this, so you have to do a little prep work. It’ll take you only five minutes to complete.
Slice the breast parallel to the counter surface, so that the meat opens like a book. It’s still too thick at this point, so use a mallet (first cover the meat with plastic wrap) and pound it flatter.
This is how mine looked after pounding, and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Be mindful that the skin that was on the meat before you started pounding it, will now be on only a small part of the meat after you’ve pounded it. Here you can see it sticking out at the bottom of the meat. So when you start rolling it up, start from the side that doesn’t have the skin.
Spread the filling around the surface and dot with a little bit of butter.
Roll it up, starting with the length of meat that doesn’t have any skin attached to it. You’ll want the skin to end up on the outside, so if you started with rolling up where the skin is, you’ll have the skin inside the meat, which you don’t want. I hope that’s not too confusing.
See, the skin is right where it should be when you flip it over.
Tie it up well with butcher’s string so that it stays together when roasting.
Then season with with salt, pepper, paprika, some thyme and rosemary (the fresh herbs actually burned midway through the roasting, so I’m not sure I’d do that again). Scatter some onions all around, then pour in some white wine (I would have added some chicken broth too, but I didn’t have any). Drizzle some olive oil over the onions and the meat and roast at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 150 degrees. Actually, when the thermometer reads 140-145 degrees, take it out, since it needs to rest about ten minutes and the temperature will continue to rise a bit when it’s resting.
Remove the twine and slice.
Enjoy! Happy Belated Thanksgiving. Hope you had a wonderful time with family and friends.
Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).
Is there anyone out there who hasn’t eaten kale? Who is still a kale hater? Let me help convert you.
In the last few years, kale seems to have become the poster child for healthy eating.
The benefits of eating kale include not only its high fiber content, but it’s also rich in nutrients and low in calories. Check out more of the health benefits on this website here.
I admit I was late jumping on the kale bandwagon, and the only kale I grow in my garden is the lacinato or Tuscan kale (sometimes called dinosaur kale), which is called cavolo nero in Italian and is typically used in the Tuscan soup ribollita (recipe here).
This dish of beans, sausage and kale is something I normally make with swiss chard or escarole, but I decided to try it with kale instead. While I still think Swiss chard has a sweeter taste, kale is perfect for this recipe since it stands up well to the longer cooking time required for the beans and it reheats without any loss of flavor. In fact, reheating only improves the taste.
I used these beans I bought from Gustiamo.com – fagioli del purgatorio – and loved them. These didn’t need presoaking and maintained their shape even after reheating. They’re native to Gradoli, a town in Lazio. The name “purgatory beans” dates back to the end of the 1600s, when they were boiled and dressed with olive oil and salt, and eaten as part of a meatless meal for Ash Wednesday, called “pranzo del purgatorio.”
Even though it’s summer here, I’ve made this dish a couple of times because of all the kale growing in my garden. It freezes beautifully too, though, so make some for one of those cold winter nights when you don’t want to cook.
I’ve used my kale in a couple of other ways this summer too.
Maybe I’m the last person on this planet to try kale chips. I was inclined to dislike them, but everyone I served these too (and me too), thought they were delicious. They’re really easy to make and they’re a healthy snack alternative. I used a recipe from Ina Garten, aka, The Barefoot Contessa.
Pull out the center rib from the kale, then spritz with some good olive oil, a shake of salt and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes.
They’re crinkly and taste kind of like parmesan cheese. Without the cheese, I’m not sure I’d be sold on kale chips. But this platter disappeared quickly.
The other kale dish that was a hit was this kale salad. You don’t need a bonafide recipe. Just chop some raw kale, add some corn shaved off the kernels (I cooked the cob for about three minutes first ), then I chopped some carrots and parboiled the bits for a few minutes. I added some red onion, toasted hazelnuts and chopped shishito peppers from my garden, but you could use red peppers or any vegetable you like. Parmesan cheese shavings were tossed in too, then the whole thing was mixed with an easy-to-make dressing of mayonnaise thinned with lemon juice – an idea I got from my buddy Marie, of Proud Italian Cook.
It made a refreshing lunch and I didn’t have to feel guilty about that piece of cake I ate following the salad.
1 bunch of lacinato kale chopped (I used approximately eight cups, but you don’t have to be exact)
1/2 pound Italian sausage
1 cup dry fagioli del purgatorio beans (or another small, white bean, but you’ll probably have to soak them ahead of time, unlike the fagioli del purgatorio beans)
2 cups water
1 parmesan cheese rind
herbs of your choosing – I used fresh parsley, thyme and oregano
salt, pepper to taste
hot red pepper flakes
roasted red pepper or bits of chopped tomato (optional)
Remove the casings from the sausage and place in a saucepan, covered with water. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then remove the sausage and slice, but retain the water for later use. In another pan, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Add the kale to the pot and the water leftover from cooking the sausage. Let the kale cook down for about five minutes (with the lid on), then add the beans, the sausage, the water and the parmesan rind to the pot. Don’t add the salt yet, or the beans will toughen, but DO add the pepper, the herbs and the red pepper flakes. I sometimes add a small amount of chopped tomato and/or roasted red peppers. Let everything simmer with the lid on for about one hour, or until the beans are tender. Keep checking and add more water if necessary. When everything is cooked, add the salt. If it’s not “soupy” enough to your liking, add more water.
It’s great served with grilled bread that’s been rubbed with raw garlic and olive oil.
By this time of year, if your garden is like mine, you’ve already ripped out the last vestiges of any edible plants. Before putting the garden to rest for the winter however, I harvested the remaining kale and put it to good use in this soup, especially welcome now that cold weather is upon us. It’s got everything you need for supper in one bowl – protein (sausage and white beans); vegetables (kale and tomatoes) and carbohydrates (potatoes). I cooked it all in this brand new Le Creuset pot (more about that at the end.)
The kale I grow is lacinato kale, sometimes called dinosaur kale or cavolo nero in Italian, where it’s commonly used in ribollita. But you can use any kind of kale you’ve got, or use Swiss chard or spinach, for that matter. It all depends on your taste and what’s available to you.
It’s ready to eat after about 45 minutes of cooking on the stove. Add a couple of slices of bread and sit down to a satisfying, filling and nutritious meal.
Now about that Le Creuset pot. Mine was discolored and more than 40 years old. After reading on Adri Barr Crocetti’s blog about how the company replaced her old, stained pot with a new one, I thought I’d contact them too. I did, and they replaced mine with the beauty you see above. (Merry Christmas!) They aren’t kidding when they say their product has a “lifetime limited warranty.” If you’ve got a discolored, but otherwise non-chipped or damaged Le Creuset pot and want to contact them, call the company’s toll-free number at 1-877-418-5547 or email them at Consumer-Services@LeCreuset.com.
1 cup sliced small potatoes (like fingerling potatoes)
1 15 oz. can small white beans, rinsed (about 2 cups)
1 bunch of lacinato kale (about four cups chopped)
1 cup diced tomatoes
red pepper flakes, to taste
3 or 4 sprigs fresh oregano (or 1 t. dried oregano)
optional – another cup of water
Sauté the sausage links in a pan smeared with a small bit of olive oil and cook through. Remove the sausage from the pot, add the 2 T. olive oil, the onion, celery and garlic and cook until softened. Slice the sausage and put it back in the pot, adding the wine. Bring to a boil and add the chicken broth and the rest of the ingredients. Let everything come to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes. Add another cup of water if the soup is too dense for you, or if you want to stretch it a bit. Remove the parmesan rind before serving.
The headline is a misnomer. I should have called it Butternut Squash, Mushroom, Sausage and Kale Bread Pudding. But that was a mouthful – granted, it’s a good mouthful, but too long for a title of this recipe. Anyway, it’s that time of year when butternut squash is abundant — a vegetable that just screams “fall.” I love it in soups, simply baked with olive oil and salt, or gussied up in lasagna or casseroles like this one. I served this as a main course, with a salad alongside, but you could leave out the sausage and serve it as a side dish. Thanksgiving will be here before you know it and it would be perfect on the table alongside Tom turkey.
There are a number of steps, but it’s easy to make ahead of time if you want. Keep the bread and the squash cubes in sizable chunks when you cut them – not too teensy so they don’t disintegrate into unrecognizable pieces after baking.
After all the ingredients are sautéed, sliced, etc. place them in a bowl.
Add the eggs and cheeses and mix everything together with a spoon.
This is what you end up with – a large casserole that feeds lots of people – at least a dozen if it’s a side dish or six if it’s a main course.
Or bake it in a lot of smaller dishes if you want individual portions.
Either way, it’s delicious, so get busy. And dig in.
In the photos, I used 1 cup kale, but I’d use more next time I make it. You can add or subtract any of the vegetables, and even leave out the sausage to make it completely vegetarian.
3 cups butternut squash, cut into cubes
2 T. olive oil
ground sage or seasoned sage salt* or herbs de provence
4 cups sturdy Italian or French bread (preferably a day old)
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
3/4 cup minced shallots
3 garlic cloves
1/2 pound Italian sausage
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cup kale, chopped
1 cup half and half
2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella or fontina cheese, shredded
*I make seasoned salt at the end of the summer, by harvesting a lot of herbs and blending them with kosher salt. Use any combination you have – rosemary, thyme, sage, lemon balm, etc. I went heavy on the sage last year and it makes a great seasoning for the Thanksgiving turkey as well as recipes like this. Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet and let it air dry for a day or two. When the herbs are completely dried, place the mixture into the blender or food processor and blend finely before placing into jars.
For the bread pudding:
Cut the squash into cubes – not wimpy ones, but about 1 inch cubes. Oil a cookie sheet and toss the squash cubes in the oil. Season with salt, pepper and the dried sage or sage salt or herbs de provence. Go easy on the salt if using the sage salt. Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 – 45 minutes.
Cut the bread into large cubes and put it in the oven for about five minutes while the squash is cooking. Remove to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, saute the minced shallot in the olive oil and butter until wilted. Add the minced garlic and saute briefly until soft, then add the mushrooms and cook them through. When the mushrooms are browned and nearly done cooking, add the chopped kale and saute for a few minutes. If necessary, add a little more oil. Season all with salt and pepper, then remove from the pan and place all the cooked vegetables in the bowl with the bread.
Use the same pan to cook the sausage. Remove the casing from the sausage and break up the meat in the pan, cooking it through. Add a little more olive oil if there’s not enough in the pan to keep the meat from sticking. Add the cooked sausage to the bowl with the vegetables, along with the squash when it is cooked through.
Whisk the eggs, then add the half and half and milk and stir in the cheeses. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the bread, the sausage and the vegetables and mix it all together with a wooden spoon. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes for the bread to absorb some of the liquid. You can even make everything to this stage and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. Pour it into a greased casserole dish – mine was oval but it measures roughly 9 x 13 inches. Bake it at 375 for about 35 to 40 minutes. I also turned on the broiler near the end to achieve a little more browning. This also reheats very well as leftovers.
Want to get your new year off to a good start? No, I’m not talking about the umpteenth resolution to lose weight. I’m talking about lentils. They are traditionally eaten by many Italians on January 1 to augur a year of prosperity and good luck.
I would have gotten this to you earlier so you’d have more time to cook this today, but my computer was non compos mentis until a half hour ago, when it finally came to its senses and started working again. (Personally, I think it just wanted to watch the Philadelphia Mummer’s Parade in its entirety just once.)
You can enjoy this soup any time of the year, although it’s particularly welcome on a cold winter day, joined by a hunk of freshly baked bread straight out of the oven. You did read yesterday’s post and run right out to get some yeast, right? Right.
I use Italian sausage in this recipe – the kind you get when you order a sausage and pepper sandwich at any Italian street festival. In Italy, lentils are served on New Year’s Day with a type of sausage called cotechino, or with zampone, a stuffed pig’s trotter. Neither is easy to find where I live, but truth be told, I don’t like either of them.
If you prefer, leave the sausage out entirely and make it a vegetarian soup. It will still be good, but not as rich in flavor. This makes a LOT of soup. It would be perfect to invite a gang of friends for an informal meal and serve this with a salad and some cheese and crackers. Otherwise, it stores well in the freezer.
Lentil Sausage Soup
3 links, or about 10 ounces Italian sausage
1 lb. dry lentils
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, or 2 small carrots, sliced
4 cups Tuscan, or lacinato kale, chopped (or regular kale if you can’t find the other kind)
12 cups water
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsps. dried basil
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Take the casing off the sausages and fry in a skillet, breaking up the links into bite-size pieces. Drain.
Rinse the lentils in a colander. In a separate large pot, saute the onion, celery and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the lentils and the rest of the ingredients, including the drained sausage. Cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. You may need to add more water if the soup gets too thick. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.