The Kid Demanded Gnocchi

It’s been a while since I posted here; two kids under the age of four really can suck your free time. (Publishers note, I post just about every day on Instagram).

Anyway, for the past couple of days, the original rugrat has been demanding gnocchi for dinner; we figured tonight was a good time to oblige him.  I spent most of the day trying to figure out just what to do with the (gasp) store-bought gnocchi. On a slightly related front, a butternut squash had been on the counter for most of the week. Eventually, I realized the two could work together.

Here’s what I did.

I diced the squash very fine (so as the 11-month-old could eat it) and then roasted in the oven with a little EVOO, salt, pepper, red pepper flake and balsamic (400 degrees, 30ish minutes).

Then, sautee some pancetta for a minute or three. Add in some minced shallot (again for a few minutes), then toss the squash in for (again a few minutes). Season as you go (salt and pepper)

Next, the secret ingredient: Morels.  The insanely expensive mushrooms (almost always sold dried) add amazing flavor to any dish. (Semi) pro tip though: Don’t let the cost scare you off; buy quality over quantity.  You can fit 10 bucks of morels in the palm of your hand; you can 10 bucks baby bellas in a giant pot. The former is spectacular, the later is tasteless.

Ok, snobbish rant over. Toss in the morels, cook for 5ish minutes.  Add in a couple of cloves of garlic, and then toss in the cooked gnocchi along with a little pasta water and a dash of cream and some parsley for color.

Start to finish in about an hour,

Serve alongside red, and two screaming children for a lovely Saturday evening meal.

Ziti with Winter Squash

Every now and then, I get a culinary idea out of nowhere, that is equal parts “hey, this could be good” and “Well, we got this in the fridge.. so”.  More often than not, it turns out pretty decent.  Once in a great while, it’s spectacular. This one was one of the later instances.

It’s been cold here of late, so I thought of doing a butternut squash pasta (because what says winter like butternut squash?). However, in the wake of Thanksgiving, Teeter was out of them, so I switched to acorn.

OK-  so how to turn two acorn squash into what you see below —  easy.  First,  butcher the squash and roast it (375 for about 50 min) in the oven with some EVOO, balsamic, s&p and as much red pepper flake as you like.  When that’s just about done, render down some pancetta and carmelize some shallots, then toss in the squash to sautee in the bacon goodness for a minute or three.  Add some white wine (we happened to have a bottle of white in the fridge that I’d been cooking with for a month..) and let that fully reduce. Then, right before your pasta is ready (I used ziti, but any cut pasta will do) – add a bit of cream (which I had left over from Thanksgiving) and then toss in the pasta and a little pasta water to make the sauce. (Remember, always take your pasta out of the water 90 seconds before the box tells you to and let it finish in the sauce).

Top it off with mint, chives and parsley (all similarly left over from Thanksgiving) — and of course, some parm.

A quick and easy dinner – that a certain toddler just devoured.

Enjoy!

Welcome to Fall

Supposedly there are four seasons. However, here in DC, both fall and spring seem to last for a matter of hours. Yet, to me, few things say “fall food” like lentils.

So, armed with only that idea, it was off to the grocery store to see what I could come up with. While I know lentils are a staple of most vegetarians’ diets, I wanted to add a meat or protein (usually I do salmon with lentils, but if you follow me on Instagram you’ll remember we just had salmon on Thursday)– Lucky for me, pork tenderloin was on sale.

Here’s the result.

For starters, I rendered some bacon in a saucepan, reserved most of the bacon fat, and then tossed in some lentils and beef stock. While they were cooking, I chopped some red pepper and shallot and cooked them down in the (previously mentioned) bacon fat. Once ready to serve, I tossed in some diced granny smith apple (apple and pork, always a winning combo) and a dash of lime juice. To be completely truthful, I wanted lemon juice, but it was buried in the fridge, and I didn’t feel like making the effort.

For the pork, nothing special- dry rubbed with a combo of cumin, pakrika, garlic, dry mustard, and chipotle powder, then simply grilled.

If your fall lasts more than a few hours — give it a shot.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

99.9% of Americans will tell you this is the most Italian dish in the world; in reality, no actual Italian would eat pasta with their meatballs. No matter to us, this is the ultimate family dish. I have fond memories of gathering every Sunday at my grandmothers for Sunday supper, yet, oddly, my sauce is nothing like hers.   She made hers rather thin, mine is quite thick, almost like a bolognese.

There’s really no recipe here, I’ve made it so many times I can do it in my sleep, but here’s a rough guide so you can do it yourself.

Sauce:

  1. Roast some garlic in the oven (275 degrees for about an hour and a half)
  2. In a dutch oven, heat some olive oil and sautee some onions for about 5 min. throw in some hot Italian sausage, and let that caramelize for about 8 minutes.  Now toss in the roasted garlic and red pepper flake
  3. Optional, if you have some open red wine, throw it in here maybe a half a cup or so, and let that cook down
  4. Put in one can of diced tomatoes, one can of tomato sauce, one can of tomato paste, and then add two cans of water (from the diced tomato can)
  5. Add a heavy amount of basil, parsley and oregano.  Lower the heat to simmer, and let it cook for several hours
  6. After a few hours, blend the sauce with an emersion blender, add in the meatballs (below) let it cook for a few hours more, fresh parm and copious amounts of wine.

Meatballs:

Pretty easy recipe –Make sure everything is room temp

  1. 2/3 ground beef, 1/3 ground pork. (if you’re feeling really fancy, you can substitute 1/3 of the ground beef for veal).
  2. Add in a little salt, fistfulls of dried basil, parsley and oregano and some dried italian breadcrumbs
  3. Add in an egg or 2, then mix it all together with your hands
  4. Quickly sear/fry the meatballs in olive oil (60 seconds a side) — then place them into the sauce after step 6 above to let them fully cook

 

Quick and Tasty Veal Piccata

Growing up in a very Italian house, we, somewhat shockingly, never had many of the “Red Sauce Italian” dishes that you might find at your neighborhood Luigis.  In fact, when I was booking the restaurant for my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary, I had to research (this was before the days of Google kids) just what chicken piccata was. Its become one of my favorites, and it’s really easy to make.  (Side note, I’d kill for a good neighborhood “Red Sauce Italian restaurant around here, but DC has none)

I do the dish pretty much like every recipe you’ll find online, with one seemingly bizarre non-Italian tweak that I think makes all the difference in the world.

So here’s how you do it:

Take your meat, (in this case, I used veal), pound it paper-thin — then bread it by first dipping them dry into Italian bread crumbs, then it to an egg wash. Here’s where things get a little weird. Into the eggs, add some dry basil (normal) and paprika (bizarre). It gives the meat a nice warm flavor and helps with the color. Then dredge the wet meat in panko crumbs. If you don’t own a deep fryer, let the breading dry for at least an hour.

After an hour, heat up a pan with a few tablespoons of butter, then brown/cook the meat about 2 min a side.  If you’ve pounded everything thin enough, this should be all the cooking you need. Take them out, and top them with some lemon zest.  Then, in the same pan, add a few more tablespoons of butter, a half cup of chicken stock, the juice of 1-2 lemons, and a couple of teaspoons of capers. Let everything come together for a minute or two, then bring the scallopini back to the pan, just for a few seconds a side, long enough for the sauce to touch the breading, but not long enough to make it soggy.

Serve alongside a lighter wine — Pinot Noir, Sav Blanc, or maybe split the difference and go with a rose

Not counting the breading time, start to finish in 30 min or less.

Enjoy!

Wild Mushroom and Kale Fettuccine

It’s amazing how bringing home a new kid can really cut into one’s blogging time. I finally got back into the kitchen earlier this week, with a couple of quick and easy, dishes that I can make with my eyes closed, but Saturday I made my return to creative cooking with this wild mushroom and kale fettuccine.

I started by rendering some pancetta with shallots for about 5 min, then tossed in an assortment of mushrooms (porcini, baby bellas, & maitake) with some butter, thyme, red pepper and let that cook down for about 10 min. Threw in some garlic for a minute. After that, I tossed in about a shot of white wine (because for some reason, I kept a bottle of white wine in the fridge with only a shot glass full of liquid) — then finally tossed in some chopped up kale and let that cook down for about 5 minutes. Served over fettuccine with a splash of lemon juice and of course, some parm and this was pretty damn tasty.

The little guy agreed too. There were no leftovers.

Tuna Done Right

With kid #2 slated to arrive just about any day now, I’m making a conscious effort to run through all of the wife’s favorite dishes.  She’s yet to make me an official list, but if she ever did, I’m pretty sure this one would be near the top.  Tuna with a spicy mango avocado salsa.

Before the wife showed up in my life, tuna was something that came from a can, was buried in mayonnaise and make the house stink like hell for days. In short, something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But, over our first few dates, she helped expand my horizons and eventually I came up with this.

In short, it is pretty easy.  One mango, one red onion, one diced jalapeno (or whatever heat producing pepper you want), one avocado, some salt, a dash of chipotle powder, line juice and a handful of cilantro.  Toss it all together –and then wait for the tuna.

As for the fish –  season it with some salt and pepper, and again a dash of chipotle powder, then get the grill stupidly hot (700+ degrees) — and seer it about 30 seconds a side.  Remember, its almost impossible to uncook tuna, and incredibly easy to overcook it. This one was actually slightly overcooked, but still very tasty.

Wash it down with a tasty pinot noir  …. or if you’re 9+ months pregnant a tall yet refreshing glass of water.

Mothers Day Brunch

I’m not entirely sure where the tradition of mother’s day brunch came from, but with a 2.5-year-old in the house, who has a passion for destroying things at will, and a pregnant wife unable to self-medicate with alcohol, a morning at one of DC’s finer establishments wasn’t really in the cards.

So, we did it ourselves at home, with some breakfast tacos.  Pretty simple here, scramble some eggs, with a handful of cheese, add some bacon, salsa, sour cream and avocado — and you’ve got brunch, in 20 min or less.

Macaroni and Broccoli 

I’m told my great-grandmother was a hell of a cook.  She passed when I was rather young, and by the time I got to know her (or at least my earliest memories of her), she wasn’t cooking very much. This dish was one of her staples, but since she never taught me how she made it, I’m told my version of it is entirely different from hers. It’s also likely considerably less healthy —

That said, it’s pretty straightforward — Take a fair amount of olive oil, sautee as much garlic as you want for 30 seconds, then drop in the broccoli to fry for about 8-10 minutes until its soft. (I’m told my great-grandmother boiled the broccoli)

Season liberally as you go with dried basil, oregano and parsley, as well as a little salt to taste, and then serve it over any pasta you choose (I usually go with penne).  Add a little more olive oil for the “sauce” — (the pasta should be slippery) — and top it off with some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, the undisputed king of cheeses.

An old world classic, start to finish in 30 minutes of less.

Enjoy!