Brussel Sprout Slaw

Spring is coming! We have moved from 15 degree temperatures to 50 degrees within one weeks time and it feels oh so good.  Spring to me means fresh veggies and salads, or anything light and fresh.  Over the course of a few years, Brussel Sprouts have become HUGE!  They are one of the most popular items on restaurant menus and one of the easiest vegetables to pick up at the grocery store. I turned an American favorite, Coleslaw, into a unique slaw equipped with crunchy, shredded brussel sprouts, crisp granny smith apple and bright, green onion and celery seed.  Serve this one beside sandwiches at a luncheon or BBQ or with any dinner entree. Enjoy!


Ingredients-

  1. 1/3 cup mayo (you can use lite mayo or even creme fraiche)
  2. 2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
  3. 2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
  4. 2-3 cups Shredded Brussel Sprouts (I bought them pre shredded but if you cannot find them just cut the tough core off the bottom of the sprouts and then chiffonade the leaves (cut into thin slices)
  5. 1/2 Granny Smith Apple Peeled and Shredded (I use the julienne setting on my mandolin slicer or you can do it by hand or on the large hole of a cheese grater.
  6. 1/2 Teaspoon Celery Seed (a spice you can find in any spice isle!)
  7. 1 Tablespoon of Sugar
  8. 1/2 Cup of Chopped Scallions (green part only)
  9. Salt and pepper to taste
  10. 4 Tablespoons Chopped Flat Leaf Italian Parsley


Steps-

  1. Whisk together the mayo dijon, vinegar, sugar, celery seed and salt and pepper.
  2. In a separate bowl toss together the Brussel Sprouts, Apple, Scallions and Parsley.
  3. Pour the dressing over the sprout mixture little by little until it is dressed to your liking.  
  4. You can eat it right away but it is best to wrap it up and put in in the fridge for a few hours or overnight so the flavors really come together.

 

Three Bean Pasta Fagioli

Nothing is better than a hot bowl of Pasta "Fazool" on a cold winter day! Everyone knows February is award show month, and this is my "Award Show Meal."  I like to make a big pot of this and then cuddle up in sweats on the couch with my boyfriend and friends in front of the television. We sit and watch all of our favorite celebrities in awe, commenting on their wacky outfits and their butchered acceptance speeches...and the good ones too. 

Ingredients-

  1. 4 celery stalks diced small
  2. 1 cup carrot diced small
  3. 1 medium/large onion diced small (an onion about the size of a large orange)
  4. 4 pieces of bacon diced small
  5. 2 bay leaves
  6. 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  7. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  8. 2 Ounces Kale -Chiffonade
  9. 3 small garlic cloves minced
  10. 2 Sprigs of fresh rosemary chopped up finely
  11. 2 cups canned diced tomatoes with some of the juice 
  12. 1/3 cup dried brown or green lentils
  13. 14 oz canned Cannellini white beans
  14. 15.5 oz can of Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)
  15. 14oz chickpeas 
  16. 6 cups Chicken stock/broth
  17. 1 cup white wine
  18. 1 Cup Small Pasta (I prefer Ditalini or small shells)
  19. Salt and Pepper to Taste
  20. Fresh Parmegiano Reggiano Cheese


Steps-

  1. Heat a large ceramic pot (like a Le Creuset if you have it) on medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat renders, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon and set aside (you will add it back in). Add the onion, carrot, celery, red pepper flakes and bay leaves and increase the heat to medium; cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.
  2. Add the wine and cook until it has reduced slightly. Add the bacon back to the pot along with the broth, beans, lentils, chickpeas, diced tomatoes and rosemary. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are just tender, 15-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
  3. Use a slotted spoon to transfer 1 cup of the bean mixture and a little liquid to a blender or food processor. Hold a kitchen towel over the opening to prevent splatters as the liquid is very hot. Purée until smooth and add back into the pot.  This will help to thicken the soup slightly.
  4. Add the dried pasta to the pot and stir to incorporate. Turn the heat up to a gentle boil and cook until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on the type of pasta you used. The soup will thicken a bit by the time the pasta is cooked. Discard the bay leaves.
  5. Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle each portion with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and grate a good amount of Parmegiano Reggiano on top.

I love to serve this with some homemade Focaccia bread. Check out Tyler Florence's recipe! I just use his bread recipe without his toppings and add lots of fresh rosemary and sea salt to mine  before baking and it compliments the soup perfectly. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/fabulous-focaccia-recipe.html

Dark Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

A massive blizzard named "Juno" was to hit New York City causing streets to be closed, subways to be suspended and millions of people trapped in their tiny apartments.  For me this is one of my guilty pleasures, mostly because my mother used to make Snow Days super special.  I have so many vivid memories of my sisters and I standing in the kitchen watching the snow pile up outside while we were elbow deep in dough.  Sometimes it was pizza dough, sometimes it was a sweet braided bread we called "Daisy Bread," and other times it was just chocolate chip cookies.  Even though the view out my window is now a brick wall and my mother is an hour away, I still keep these traditions alive.  While stuck inside with my lovely roommate Kristen watching bad reality television, we decided cookies were just what the weather man ordered.  I rummaged through my fridge and pantry to find 3 of my favorite ingredients: Chocolate, Coconut and Oats...and that is how these insanely delicious cookies were born.  They are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside and the unsweetened coconut gives them this wonderful flavor and interesting texture.  These are a must try! Oh and if you are wondering about the blizzard, we woke up to a measly 6 inches on the ground, so here I am with an excess of eggs, milk, water and cookies but its off to work I go.  Oh well!

 

Ingredients-

  1. 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  2. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  3. ½ teaspoon baking powder
  4. 3/4 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  6. 1 cup dark brown sugar
  7. 1 cup white granulated sugar
  8. 2 large eggs
  9. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  10. 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  11. 1½ cups Ghiardelli Bittersweet 60% Chocolate Chips (They are larger than normal chocolate chips. You can also use dark chocolate chunks or baking bars and chop into chunks)
  12. 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (I use Bob's Red Mill brand)

Steps-

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; adjust oven racks to middle positions. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl; set aside.

3. Cream together the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes using a stand mixer or hand beater. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then mix in the vanilla. 

4.  Slowly stir in the flour mixture, then stir in the oats, chocolate chips and shredded coconut. Do not overheat, just mix until everything is evenly distributed.

5. Using 1  1/2  to 2 heaping tablespoons per cookie, roll the dough into balls and place on the cookie sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart (I use a small ice cream scoop used for cookie dough). Bake until the cookie edges are golden brown, but the middles are still quite pale, about 15-20 minutes depending on your oven. Rotate the sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool for at least 30 minutes. With these cookies they are actually better after they have cooled for an hour or so! They are crisp yet chewy and so flavorful and delicious! You can even sprinkle some large granualted decorative sugar on top of the dough to give it a shimmery effect like below. :)

The Best Banana Bread

Ingredients

 

  1.         ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  2.         ¼ cup vegetable oil
  3.         1 cup white granulated sugar
  4.         ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
  5.         2 eggs
  6.         1½ cups mashed ripe bananas (I use 3 medium well-ripened bananas)
  7.         ½ cup sour cream
  8.         1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9.         2 cups flour
  10.         1 teaspoon baking soda
  11.         ½ teaspoon salt
  12.         1 heaping cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips 
  13.         Additional brown sugar for the top 

Steps-

  1.         Mix together butter, oil, sugars and eggs.
  2.         Add mashed bananas, sour cream and vanilla, stirring together well.
  3.         Mix together the flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl and then add it slowly to the banana mixture.
  4.         Pour into 1 greased large loaf pan or into greased muffin tins or muffin tins lined with paper liners
  5.         Sprinkle additional brown sugar generously over top of batter
  6.         Bake at 325 degrees: large loaf pan for about 1 hour, for muffins around 25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out of the center clean.
  7.         Allow bread to cool in pans for about 20 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges, tap the pan on the counter several times to release the bread from the bottom of the pan, then invert pan over a wire rack and let the bread fall onto the rack to finish cooling completely.

 

Butternut Squash- Two Meals 1 Ingredient

I am a woman with a very demanding full time job and a big appetite.  I love a good home cooked meal as much as the rest of you, but we all know that time is of the essence during the work week. Stressful business meetings, long commutes, squeezing in time at the gym and keeping up with emails seems to be the weekly routine for most of us living in Metropolitan cities, but I can show you how you can prep one simple ingredient at the beginning of the week, maybe Sunday evening, and have several completely different tasting meals all week long. 

1. Roasted Butternut Squash-

  1. 1 Large Butternut Squash (peeled, seeds scooped out and cut into 1 inch cubes) I like to but the pre-cut squash in the produce fridge to save some time!
  2. Olive Oil
  3. Fresh Sage (About 3-4 Leaves)- Chiffonade (finely chopped)
  4. 3 Small Shallots Chopped
  5. Salt & Pepper

Steps-

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. In a roasting pan toss together the squash, sage, salt and pepper to taste and the shallots.  
  3. Drizzle on Olive Oil just to coat each piece of squash with a thin layer of oil.
  4. Roast in the oven for roughly 25-35 minutes tossing them mid way through the cooking process for more even cooking.  They are done when they are slightly golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside.  You want to be able to prick them with a fork easily.
  5. I like to eat the squash in a kale salad with a simple vinaigrette, dried cranberries or cherries, and chopped almonds or walnuts. You can also eat it as a side with any protein you like!

2. Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients-

  1. Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage (see above)
  2. Chicken Stock
  3. Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt (or Creme Fraisce or Sour Cream)
  4. Salt and Pepper to taste

Steps-

  1. Blend the Roasted Squash in a blender until creamy.  Add a heaping dollop or two of the Greek Yogurt and some Chicken Stock until you reach your desired texture.  If you like you soup thick put less stock, if you like it a little thinner keep adding stock a little at a time. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Heat up in a pot or in the microwave and serve! Also good with toasted shelled pumpkin seeds as a garnish.  

 

 

 

 

French Toast Casserole

French toast makes me laugh because as a child I HATED it, but now I can't get enough of it!  I even won a special "Chopped" cooking competition on the Anderson Cooper Live show for my French Toast dish! For someone with an incredible sweet tooth, it was strange for me to dislike such a sweet, carb filled breakfast treat, but I think it was the way my mom made it for me.  My mom is an exceptional cook and I talk about it all the time in my blog posts and videos, but I was never fond of her french toast method.  She used to make it with plain white bread that was soaked in egg, milk and sugar and then browned in a pan.  Since she only used thin, plain white bread it ended up having this unfavorable texture and  the flavor was often metallic..maybe it was the pan she used, but I just did not like it.  Once I moved to NYC I started going on brunch adventures with friends and working in top NYC restaurants, so I discovered how absolutely incredible French Toast can be!  The 3 key things to remember when making french toast are:

-Use good bread!  The best breads to use are thick, eggy breads like Challah bread (my favorite), French Pullman bread, Brioche, or breads that have yummy flavors like cinnamon swirl bread, or those new sliced white breads that have flavors like Pumpkin Spice and French Vanilla.

-Make sure your egg/custard mixture is flavorful! Make sure you add some sugar, some vanilla extract, or vanilla bean (or almond or orange extract can be nice too!) and a pinch of salt.  This will ensure that you have a flavorful french toast inside and out!

-Soak it for several hours or overnight! My french toast casserole especially and all other thick pieces of bread that are used for French Toast should be soaked in your egg and milk/cream mixture overnight to ensure that the inside gets all the yummy flavors and texture as well.  When you cook it the outside will be nice and crisp and brown and the inside will almost be custard like..rich and heavenly!

The recipe below is a recipe for French Toast Casserole which is fantastic for big groups and families because you can assemble it the night before, set it in the fridge to soak up all the good flavors and then bake it in the morning all at once!  You don't have to hover over the stove for hours flipping each individual piece of French Toast until each person is fed.  This casserole can be stuffed with any fruits, chocolate, nutella, peanut butter, cream cheese your heart desires!  Here are my favorite combos-

-Nutella & Banana

-Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips and Bananas, Strawberries or Raspberries (or all three)

-White Chocolate Chips and Blueberries

-Add Pumpkin Pie Spice, Cinnamon and Nutmeg to the egg mixture to make a nice fall casserole.  You can even whisk some pumpkin puree into the egg batter.

-Cream Cheese and Strawberry or Raspberry Jam

-Or just some Cinnamon and Nutmeg in the batter and on top..a little Dark Brown Sugar is good too! Simple and traditional

 

French Toast Casserole

Ingredients-

  1. 1 Large Loaf of Bread cut into 1 inch thick slices or large 2in x 2in cubes (Challah Bread is preferred or a mixture of breads.  I sometimes will do 3/4 Challah Bread and then 1/4 Pumpkin Spice Bread (you can find it at the grocery store in the bread isle in the Fall)
  2. 8 Eggs Beaten Lightly
  3. 3 Cups Half and Half
  4. 2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar plus a little more for the top
  5. 1  1/2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  6. 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  7. 1/8 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  8. 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon plus more for the top
  9. Any Fruits or Topping you may like (see my suggestions above)
  10. 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter

Steps-

  1. Butter a 13inch x 9inch Pyrex dish or any Casserole oven-safe dish you have. Arrange bread nicely in the baking dish.  If you want to put fruit or any filling do it now!  Layer your bananas, jam, chocolate chips or whatever you'd like in between the layers of the bread.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, half and half, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  3. Pour mixture over the bread in the baking dish.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 7-8 hours.  
  4. Remove from the fridge 25-30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350F. 
  5. Dot the top of the French Toast with small pieces of the butter.  Sprinkle the top with a little Cinnamon if you'd like and then sprinkle some granulated sugar evenly over the top.  Not too much but just enough to get a nice crystal like appearance when you bake it.
  6. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the French Toast puffs up and the center comes out clean.  Let it stand for 5 minutes to cool slightly.  Serve with maple syrup!

This should feed about 10 people but if you have extra just put it in the fridge and eat it all week! Just heat it in the microwave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spaghetti Squash Fritters- Vegetarian "Crab Cakes"

I HATED leftovers as a child!  I always felt like they never tasted fresh, and being the foodie that I am, I didn't want to have the same dish multiple times in one week.  Once I started managing restaurants and cooking in professional kitchens, I realized how important it is to take the scraps and leftovers of your vegetables, meats, cheeses etc. and use them to create more dishes!  Ultimately, if you throw good, useable leftovers in the garbage, you are throwing money in the garbage!  This week I had a substantial amount of Spaghetti Squash leftover, so I got a little creative and created a delicious appetizer to bring to my friend's apartment for dinner. These fritters are crispy on the outside and soft and flavorful on the inside.  The pleasantly stringy texture of the spaghetti squash and the flavors of the capers, sun dried tomatoes and breadcrumbs oddly make these little patties taste just like crab cakes! My friends kept insisting that I was lying to them and that they were crab cakes and not vegetable fritters!  So if you are a vegetarian or have vegetarian guests, this is the perfect dish to serve!  You can even make a "crab cake" sandwich by making a larger spaghetti squash patty, put it on a nice brioche bun with a cajun style aioli and top it with some mixed greens..now how delicious does that sound!


Ingredients-

1 Medium Spaghetti Squash

Canola Oil

5 Sun Dried Tomatoes chopped fine (you can use more if you'd like)

2 Small Cloves of Garlic Minced

Seasoned Breadcrumbs (about 1 cup sometimes you need a little more)

1/3 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

1  1/2- 2 Tablespoons Capers

2 Eggs beaten

Flour (you just need a few Teaspoons for the mixture to hold together)

About 4-5 Large Fresh Basil Leaves Chiffonade (sliced into thin ribbons)

Salt & Pepper


Steps-

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Cut the spaghetti squash in half vertically using a big chefs knife.  Scoop out and discard the seeds from the middle of the squash and then drizzle the flesh with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place the cut side down onto a foil or parchment line sheet pan and roast in the oven about 35-45 minutes or until a fork can easily poke through the outer skin of the spaghetti squash.  

When the squash is cooked, using a fork scrape the squash flesh into a bowl.  It should fall into the bowl like spaghetti! Let it cool and set aside.

Once the spaghetti squash is cooled place in some paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and try to squeeze out any excess water that the squash naturally has.

Place the squash in a bowl and add the minced garlic, chopped sun dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese an capers.  Add the 2 beaten eggs and a dash of salt and black pepper.  Stir together until combined.

Add the seasoned breadcrumbs, about 1 Cup and stir together.  Add about 2 Tablespoons of Flour and stir together.  This will help to bind the mixture.  If you try to fry them and they are not crisping up and are just falling apart, add a little more breadcrumbs and flour.

Coat the bottom of a skillet with Canola Oil and heat on medium heat.  Test the temperature of the oil by placing a dot of the batter into the oil and if the oil sizzles around the batter, your mixture is ready.  Scoop about 1  1/2 Tablespoons of the mixture into you hands, make a ball, and flatten it out into a pancake shape.  You want them about 1/3 inch thick.  Place them in the pan with the hot oil and fry until golden brown and crusty on the bottom and then flip and brown the other side. Only fry a few at a time so they brown evenly and the oil temperature doesn't drop.

When they are cooked place them on paper towels to drain the excess oil. Serve with a dollop of the Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Crema! See below!


Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Crema-

Ingredients-

Plain Greek Yogurt

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto (you can also use regular pesto)

2 Large Basil Leaves Chiffonade

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Steps-

1. Mix together some Sun Dried Tomato Pesto with the Greek Yogurt, a drizzle of Olive Oil and the chopped Basil. Add a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper, and give it a taste!  If you feel the flavor or color is too bland add more of the pesto! That is all there is too it!




Sweet Arancini- Fried Rice Pudding Balls


One year ago I was on the beautiful island of Sicily with my big, loud, Italian family.  There are many dishes that are specific to the Sicilian culture that I grew up eating, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the “real thing.”  Canolis, Eggplant Caponata, Cassata Cake, Fig Cookies and of course Arancini.  Arancini are a popular street food in Sicily, so common that you can even purchase them at a gas station convenience store. Arancini are these dense, creamy, cheesy, fried rice balls that are often stuffed with things like ham, peas, ground beef and tomato sauce.  The Sicilians make these so well, that even when you purchase them from a sketchy “mini-mart” chances are they are still going to be down right delicioso.  I decided to reinvent Arancini and combine them with another classic rice dish, Rice Pudding.  My Sweet Arancini are crunchy, creamy bundles of gooey, rice pudding, coated in a blanket of delicious graham cracker crumbs and fried to perfection.  These bella balls are not complete without their silky, tangy Apricot and Peach dipping sauce.  Make these for your next soiree and I promise you everyone will not be able to take their hands off your rice balls.

 

 Ingredients-

  1. 2 cups water
  2. 1 cup  Arborio rice
  3. 2 1/2 cups whole milk (you can use any milk but whole works the best)
  4. 1/4 cup sugar
  5. 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  6. 1 egg
  7. Dash of Cinnamon
  8. Pinch of Nutmeg
  9. 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  10. 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  11. 2-3 eggs beaten
  12. 1 1/2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs- you may use a little less or more (you can buy the crumbs in a box in the baking isle or by the breadcrumbs or just crush plain graham crackers in a food processor)
  13. Canola Oil or Peanut Oil for frying
  14. Confectioners sugar for dusting

 Apricot Peach Dipping sauce-

Ingredients-

  1.  1 Cup Peach Preserves (jam)
  2. 3 Fresh Ripe Apricots (you can use any fruit you like!)
  3. 1 Tablespoon Butter

 Steps-

  1. First make the dipping sauce. Remove the pits from the apricots and chop the flesh into small chunks.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the chopped fruit. Cook down on low heat until some of the juices release from the fruits.
  3. Add the peach preserves and melt down until it thins out and becomes a sauce consistency. You may need to add some water if it is too thick. Place in the fridge until you are ready to use.  If the sauce gets too thick just add a little water and heat it up in a pot or the microwave for a few seconds until it is warm and thins out.

 Rice Balls-

Steps-

  1. In a medium pot, bring the water and rice to a boil. Stir, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Simmer gently, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently until the rice is tender. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cornstarch. Add the egg and vanilla and combine with a whisk. Gradually pour this mixture into the rice pudding and cook for about 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly, or until the rice thickens and becomes very sticky like risotto.
  3. Spread the rice in a baking pan or loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 2 hours or until completely chilled.  This is a great thing to make the day before!  You want the texture to be very thick and gelatinous so you can form balls easily.
  4. Next, preheat the canola oil in the deep fryer on high temperature. Set a wire rack and paper towels aside.
  5. Place the flour, eggs, and graham cracker crumbs in three separate bowls. Set aside.
  6. With your hands, shape each ball of the rice pudding.  You want them to be a little bigger than ping-pong balls, but you can make them as big or as small as you like!  A small 1 1/2 inch ice cream/cookie scoop works well too! When doing them by hand flour your hands to prevent the rice from sticking to you. You can also stuff them with any sweet treat you would like if you wanted!
  7. Dredge the balls in flour and shake to remove any excess. Dip them in eggs and drain. Coat with the graham cracker crumbs.
  8. Fry the pudding balls, a few at a time until they are nicely browned and have a nice crunchy outside, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on the baking sheet and paper towels and continue with the remaining balls.
  9. Dust the rice balls with powdered sugar and serve slightly warm with the apricot peach dipping sauce!

 

Veal Rollatini- Veal cutlets stuffed with goat cheese, tomato & eggplant

Rollatini are a fantastic dish to make when you're having guests over for dinner or even on a day when you have limited time but still want a hearty delicious meal.  Rollatini looks very impressive and fancy, but it is very easy to make!  If you don't like veal, you can use thinly pounded chicken cutlets instead!  I often will make Rollatini with fish like flounder too but will stuff it with grilled zucchini, caramelized onion and tomato with no cheese for a lighter meal.  I serve my Veal Rollatini with tomato sauce for some moisture but you can eat it with Basil Pesto instead, a Marsala wine sauce or a Balamic reduction.

Ingredients-

  1. 1 Medium Eggplant  Peeled and Sliced into very thin rounds
  2. 3 ounces Goat Cheese (You can also use shredded mozzarella)
  3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  4. Lemon Juice
  5. 1 Medium Tomato Sliced very Thin
  6. 2 Large Veal Cutlets Pounded Very Thin
  7. Balsamic Vinegar
  8. 1 Egg
  9. Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  10. Fresh Basil Leaves
  11. Salt and Pepper
  12. Canola/Vegetable Oil
  13. Tomato Sauce or Basil Pesto to top the Rollatini

Steps-

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Toss the sliced eggplant with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  On a barbeque grill, grill pan or george forman style grill or panini press, grill the eggplant on both sides until it has nice grill marks and is very soft and tender. Set aside
  3. Next assemble the Rollatini by spreading about 1-1.5 ounces of goat cheese on one side of each veal cutlet.  
  4. Next place slices of eggplant on top of the goat cheese (enough to cover most of the veal cutlet. Then drizzle the eggplant with some Balsamic Vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Next place about two very thin slices of tomato on top of the goat cheese. Squeeze a few drops of lemon on the tomatoes and sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper.  It is important to season each ingredient so you have flavor throughout.
  6. Place 2 basil leaves on top of the tomatoes. 
  7. Gently and tightly roll up the stuffed veal.  Use some of the goat cheese to glue the seam closed or secure with a tooth pick.  Sprinkle the outside of the rollatini with salt and pepper.
  8. Beat the egg in a bowl and then carefully dip the rollatini in the egg and then the seasoned bread crumbs to coat it.  
  9. Pour enough vegetable oil in a frying pan to coat the bottom in a thin layer.  Heat the oil on medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, place the rollatini in the pan seam side down.  Once the rolaltini is golden brown, flip it onto the other side and brown it on the other side.
  10. Remove the rollatini from the pan with a spatula and place it on a baking sheet seam side down.  Place in the oven for a few minutes or until the meat is fully cooked and the rollatini is hot throughout.  While the rollatini is in the oven, heat the tomato sauce on the stove.
  11. Plate the rollatini and spoon some tomato sauce over the top and sprinkle with some chopped basil.  If you do not want tomato sauce, you can drizzle some basil pesto over the top instead!
  12. ENJOY!

 

Summertime Crostini

In the summertime we tend to have parties and celebrations to go to every weekend, whether they be graduation parties, summer BBQs, 4th of July bashes etc.  Here are three crostini recipes that are full of fresh, bright flavors, colors and textures.  If you bring any of these to your next get-together, your friends and family will think you paid a high-end caterer to make them..they look  and taste that impressive!  The best part is they are pretty darn easy! 

Fava Bean Ricotta Crostini-

Ingredients-

  1. Fresh Ricotta Cheese
  2. Baguette or 7 grain or Ciabatta (whatever you like!!)
  3. 1  1/4 Cups Shelled Fava Beans
  4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  5. 7-8 Fresh Mint Leaves (washed thoroughly)
  6. The Juice of Half a Large Lemon
  7. 2 Small Garlic Cloves (or 1 Large Garlic Clove)
  8. Salt & Pepper
  9. Sugar Snap Peas for Garnish
  10. Parmesan Cheese or Manchego Cheese (Using a vegetable peeler make little shavings of the cheese)

Steps-

  1. Remove and discard the stem and natural "string" from each Sugar Snap Pea Pod. Set aside. 
  2. Fill a large bowl of water with ice and water and set aside. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and then drop the Sugar Snap Peas in the water.  Boil them in the water for 2 minutes only and then using a slotted spoon remove them from the water and place them in the bowl of ice water to shock them.  This helps them retain their color and crunch and cooks them ever so slightly.  Once they are cooled in the ice water remove them and dry them off on paper towels (set aside in fridge for garnish).
  3. Do the same thing with the shucked Fava Beans but for about 3-4 minutes or until tender. Drain and shock in the ice water then remove the outer skin gently.  Try not to break up the beans you want them to hold their beautiful shape.
  4. In a food processor, blend together the Fava Beans, Mint Leaves, Lemon Juice, Garlic, about 2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a dash of Salt and Pepper.  You want everything to combine and become a soft, creamy, thick spread.  If it is too thick add more OIive Oil and a drop more Lemon Juice.
  5. Put in a small bowl or tupperware and squeeze a little lemon juice over the top, cover tightly and place in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  Tip: If you are gluten free or don't want the carbs you can each this like a dip with sliced raw veggies!
  6. Slice your baguette thin on a bias, drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and place them on a cookie sheet.  Place them in the oven on 400F and toast them up until they are golden.  You want them to get crunchy but not so hard that they turn to stone.
  7. When you are ready to serve your guests, assemble your crostini by spreading about a teaspoon of ricotta on each slice of bread, then spread a little Fava Bean spread, then a few shavings of parmesan cheese (or manchego) and then top it with the Sugar Snap Pea.  Finish them with a tiny drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a sprinkle of sea salt (or regular salt if you have no sea salt).

 

Tomato Mozzarella Crostini 

Ingredients- 

  1. Fresh Salted Mozzarella
  2. Heirloom Tomatoes Diced Small (I use a mixture of red, orange and yellow but if they are out of season the red will be just fine)
  3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  4. Fresh Tarragon ( f you don't like Tarragon just use Basil but Tarragon has a unique flavor that I find is refreshing and delicious!)
  5. Minced Garlic
  6. Salt and Pepper
  7. Baguette (or any bread you like)
  8. Balsamic Vinegar (optional)

Steps-

  1. Mix the diced tomatoes, some chopped tarragon and a little minced garlic in a bowl.  Drizzle some extra virgin olive soil over the top along with some salt and pepper.  I didn't put amount here because it depends on how much you are making and it depends on taste!  Jus taste and season accordingly.  If you like a lot of garlic then put more, if not then just put a drop.
  2. Let the tomatoes marinate covered in the fridge for at least a half an hour or overnight if you are prepping ahead.
  3. Slice your baguette thin on a bias, drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and place them on a cookie sheet.  Place them in the oven on 400F and toast them up until they are golden.  You want them to get crunchy but not so hard that they turn to stone.
  4. When you are almost ready to serve, slice the fresh mozzarella into thin slices that fit perfectly onto each slice of toasted bread.  
  5. Place one slice of mozzarella on each piece of bread and then top with a heaping spoonful of the marinated tomatoes. Finish with a drizzle of balsamic or balsamic reduction if you would like (I like to use the fig balsamic that is discussed in the next recipe below).

Balsamic Fig & Havarti Crostini

Ingredients-

  1. Fresh, Ripe Black Mission Figs
  2. Balsamic Vinegar (good quality)
  3. Havarti Cheese
  4. Fresh Sage (chiffonade- chopped in very fine slices)
  5. Salt & Pepper
  6. Baguette (or whatever bread you like)

Steps-

  1. Slice the figs into 1/4 inch slices starting at the top by the stem.  Place the figs in a small bowl and pour the balsamic vinegar over the top so that they are soaking in the vinegar.
  2. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight.  I even like to do this step 2 or 3 days in advance because the figs really marinate in the vinegar and also end up infusing the vinegar which is great for drizzling over your crostini or on your salad.
  3. Slice your baguette thin on a bias, drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and place them on a cookie sheet.  Place them in the oven on 400F and toast them up until they are golden.  You want them to get crunchy but not so hard that they turn to stone. Leave the oven on.
  4. When you are almost ready to serve, slice the Havarti cheese into thin slices that fit perfectly onto each slice of toasted bread.  Place a slice of cheese onto each piece of bread and then put them on a sheet pan and place them back in the oven just until the cheese melts.
  5. Take them out of the oven and sprinkle each one with a little of the fresh chopped sage.
  6. Place one slice of marinated fig onto each crostini and drizzle each one with a little more of the fig infused balsamic.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and you are ready to serve!

Summer Lovin Salad- Fava Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, Watercress, Mint Vinaigrette & Manchego Cheese

 

We are in the final days of Spring and sailing right into summertime which to me means sunshine, the beach, relaxing in the park and...the BEST fruits and vegetables are in season!  This salad is the perfect addition to your summer BBQ or dinner party menu.  It is light, refreshing, crisp and very unique in flavor and appearance.  It is unique in that it doesn't have your typical ingredients like Romaine, Arugula or Iceberg.  It uses three things that are in season right now and they are Fava Beans, Watercress and Sugar Snap Peas.  Fava beans are not a common ingredient for most households but they should be! They are beautiful to look at and have a creamy, but crisp texture and almost a cheesy, earthy flavor that goes perfect with my mint vinaigrette and the Manchego cheese. 

Ingredients-

1  1/2 Cups Shucked Fava Beans

3/4 Lb Sugar Snap Peas Washed Throughly

1/2 Cup Watercress Leaves (remove the large tough stems)

1/3 Cup Pearl Onions (frozen and thawed)- You can use fresh as well but make sure you cook them through.

White Sugar (just a dash or two)

Manchego Cheese (Using a potato peeler or mandolin shave long thin strips of cheese and set aside)

Dressing-

1/4-1/3 Cup Fresh Mint Leaves

Juice of half a Lemon

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Canola Oil

1/2 Teaspoon Honey (you can always add more if the dressing is too bitter)

1 Heaping Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard

1 Small Clove of Garlic

Salt and Pepper to taste

Steps-

First prepare the dressing by blending the Mint, Dijon, Lemon Juice, Garlic, Honey, a dash of salt and pepper and a drizzle of both olive oil and canola oil (using a blend of oils prevents the dressing from being too bitter) in a food processor or blender.   Add more oil a little at a time until it reaches the consistency of a vinaigrette or lite dressing  Add more salt and pepper if needed. Seal in a container and set aside in the fridge to let the flavors meld together.

The Salad-

Remove and discard the stem and natural "string" from each Sugar Snap Pea Pod. Set aside. 

Fill a large bowl of water with ice and water and set aside. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and then drop the Sugar Snap Peas in the water.  Boil them in the water for 2 minutes only and then using a slotted spoon remove them from the water and place them in the bowl of ice water to shock them.  This helps them retain their color and crunch and cooks them ever so slightly.  Once they are cooled in the ice water remove them and dry them off on paper towels (set aside).

Do the same thing with the shucked Fava Beans but for about 3-4 minutes or until tender. Drain and shock in the ice water then remove the outer skin gently.  Try not to break up the beans you want them to hold their beautiful shape.

In a small frying pan, place the peeled pearl onions and sprinkle them with a little white sugar.  Cook on medium heat rolling them around and coating them with the sugar until the onions caramelize/brown and they are cooked and heated through.  Set aside.  

Toss the Fava Beans together in a large bowl with the Snap Peas, pearl onions and the cleaned Watercress.

Dress the Salad with a little vinaigrette at a time, making sure you coat each pea and bean evenly but do not over dress.  

Spoon the salad onto a serving dish and then take a few shavings of the Manchego Cheese and lay it on top as shown in my photo.  You can also just shave the cheese and toss it with the salad!  

Enjoy!



"Gagoots & Eggs"- Zucchini & Eggs

Italian Americans have quite a Rolodex of slang terms especially when it comes to foods. Whether it be mootsadell (mozzarella), proschoot (prosciutto), manigot (manicotti) we've got a name for everything! One of my grandmother's famous dishes also happens to have one of the funniest names, and it is called "Gagoots and Eggs" or (Zucchini and Eggs).  "Gagoots" comes from the word "cucuzza" which is a word for squash in the Italian language. This recipes has just a few simple ingredients and is the perfect lunch/dinner time sandwich, or side dish with meat or fish, or just a great afternoon snack. You can ask my grandma, this simple dish is such a crowd pleasure that all 10 of her grandchildren have her hovering over the stove frying up pounds and pounds of zucchini so they can all get a taste. My gagoots brings the kids to the yard and they're like it's betta than yours... 
 

Feeds 2-3 people

Ingredients- 

  1. 4 medium to large zucchini (leave the skin on just cut the ends off)
  2. 4 eggs beaten and set aside
  3. Canola/vegetable oil
  4. Extra virgin olive oil
  5. Salt and pepper
  6. Bread of your choice (I like a baguette or any Italian bread)


Steps-

  1. Using a mandolin or sharp knife, slice the zucchini in very thin rounds. The mandolin is a great tool because it takes about 1 minute to slice the whole zucchini,  and it slices it paper thin, which is what you want. 
  2. Next, pour equal parts of canola oil and extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan until the oil completely coats the bottom of the pan. You want about 1/8 inch-1/4 inch of oil in the pan. 
  3. Heat the oil on medium heat until it gets hot enough where it sizzles and little when you put in a piece of zucchini. The key to this is you want the zucchini to brown and cook evenly. Once the oil is hot. Place a single layer of zucchini flat around the pan in the oil. Let it cook until it gets golden brown and then flip each piece with tongs or a fork and cook on the other side until it browns. Once It's brown and cooked on both sides, using a slotted spoon or tongs take the zucchini out and place it onto paper towels to drain some oil out. Sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper while they are hot so it sticks. 
  4. Repeat the frying process until all the zucchini is cooked. In between each batch add more oil if you need to or it will burn.
  5. Once all the zucchini is fried wipe out the excess oil and grease felt the pan. Add a little more clean olive oil to the pan just about a tablespoon or so just to cost the pan and place it on medium heat.
  6. Pour all the browned zucchini back into the pan And spread it out evenly. Pour the beaten eggs over the top of the zucchini and let it sit a few seconds. When you see the eggs are starting to cook use a wooden spoon and stir the mixture all around as if you were making scrambled eggs and let the eggs cook and meld with the zucchini.
  7. Once the eggs are cooked and everything is blended together, pour the zucchini and eggs into a bowls and add a little more salt and pepper to taste.
  8. You can now eat it as is or put it on some nice warm, toasty Italian bread. 





Fishy Chow: Peanut Butter & Chocolate Coated Pretzel Goldfish

It has been a while since I posted a scrumptious sweet treat!  Now that summer is almost here, you are going to need some good portable snacks to bring with you to the beach or on long car rides!  Ive said this before, but one of my all time favorite flavor combinations is peanut butter and chocolate..I mean unless you are allergic to peanuts, everyone pretty much loves that combo.  When I was at school at Penn State University, tailgating season was a huge production.  Picture 100,000 people flooding the parking lots surrounding the stadium enjoying some cold brewskis and lots and lots of delicious foods.  A popular tailgating snack was “Puppy Chow” or “Muddy Buddies” which is chocolate and peanut butter coated Chex cereal.  It is so yummy and so addicting, I can eat it by the pounds.  I decided to give Puppy Chow a salty sweet twist and replace the Chex with Goldfish Pretzels.  Goldfish pretzels are just fish shaped pretzels that are the perfect size for snacking! Now take a salty crunch pretzel shaped fish and coat it with peanut butter and chocolate..come on now its the bomb.

Ingredients-

  1. 1 & 1/3 Bags of Goldfish Pretzels
  2. 1/2 Cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
  3. 1/4 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  4. 3 Tablespoons Butter
  5. 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  6. 1 to 1 1/4 cups Confectioners Sugar

Steps-

  1. Pour the Pretzel Goldfish into a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Place the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter in a microwavable bowl and microwave for a minute.  Stir and microwave again in 15 second increments until the mixture is completely smooth and the butter and chips are melted. Remove from microwave and stir in the vanilla extract.
  3. Pour the chocolate peanut butter mixture over the Pretzel Goldfish.
  4. Using a rubber spatula carefully mix everything together and get all the Goldfish coated in the chocolate mixture. Be careful not to break up the Pretzels.
  5. Pour the coated Goldfish into a large Ziploc bag and pour in the confectioners sugar.  
  6. Zip the bag closed and shake it until everything is well coated and the Goldfish separate from each other.  If they are all too stuck together add a little more confectioners sugar and shake more.  Note: Some with be stuck together..don’t worry that just means you can eat more at one time :)
  7. Spread the fish onto a sheet pan covered with foil or wax paper and let it dry out for about an hour.  You can eat it right away, but I prefer to let it cool a little.
  8. Seal in a container or a plastic bag and you are good to go!!

Chicken and the Egg Soup

I know it's almost summer and the temperature is rising, but no matter what time of year, who doesn't love a nice bowl of homemade chicken soup! When I am sick, stressed or just in need of some TLC, chicken soup always delivers!  It just nurtures the body and soul from the inside out! Growing up my mom made homemade chicken soup pretty often, but she always put her own spin on.  The base of the soup is traditional, but we add some spinach leaves and beaten egg into the soup to give it an amazing egg drop soup consistency to it as well. I add some leeks to the mirepoix because they have such a rich, wonderful flavor to them that is less harsh then a traditional onion.  This is one of those one pot meals that you can throw together, set on the stove, get some chores done and then sit down to enjoy it..no fuss!

  1.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  2. 32 oz Low Sodium Chicken Stock
  3. 1  1/2  Cups Chopped Carrots (peeled) 
  4. 1  1/2 Cups Chopped Celery
  5. 1 leek finely chopped  (clean it thoroughly and cut of the top dark green part of the leaves)
  6. 1/2 large Vidalia onion chopped
  7. 2 Bay Leaves
  8. 2 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  9. 1/3 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
  10. 1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley Chopped
  11. 2 Large Garlic Cloves Minced
  12. 1 Whole Raw Chicken (cleaned, gizzards removed)

  13. Salt and Pepper

  14. 1 packet (or cube) chicken bouillon powder

  15. About 4 Cups water

  16. 2 Cups of Spinach Leaves coarsely chopped (you can use baby spinach but I prefer the large spinach leaves.  Make sure you remove the thick stems)
  17. 2 Eggs beaten

Parmesan Cheese (optional)

  

Cooked Egg Noodles, Orzo, Ditallini Pasta, Elbow Pasta, Small Pasta Shells (whatever you like!) (optional)

 Steps-

  1. Drizzle 1-2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil into a large pot and heat on medium low.
  2. Drop in the chopped leek, Vidalia (or white) onion, bay leaves and Red Pepper Flakes and sweat for about 5 minutes to release the flavors.
  3. Add the chopped Carrots, Celery and minced Garlic and stir to combine.  Cook on medium low heat about 5-7 minutes or until the flavors come together.
  4. Add a dash of Salt and Pepper and the whole sprigs of thyme.
  5. Place the whole chicken in the pot and pour in the chicken stock.
  6. Sprinkle the chicken bouillon into the 4 cups of hot water and stir to dissolve.
  7. Pour the water/bouillon mixture into the pot with the chicken and vegetables.
  8. Bring the mixture to a boil and then cover and simmer on medium low heat for an hour and a half.
  9. After roughly 90 minutes, remove the chicken from the pot and shred I using tongs or your fingers.  Be careful it will be hot!!
  10. Place all the shredded chicken meat back into the pot with the soup and discard the bones. Remove the Thyme sprigs and Bay leaves from the soup and discard.
  11. Add the spinach leaves and parsley to the soup and stir until the leaves wilt. 
  12. Take the two beaten eggs and while whisking or making a beating motion with a fork in the soup, carefully pour in the raw beaten eggs into the soup.  You want the soup to have a slight fogginess but not have huge chunks of scrambled egg, that is why it is important for the liquid to be moving (by the motion of a whisk or fork) while pouring in the egg.
  13. Let the soup simmer for about 5 more minutes then serve!  If you want to have noodles or pasta in the soup, keep them separate and scoop a little pasta into each persons bowl.  Keeping the pasta separate is important because if you put it in the soup it will absorb all the liquid.
  14. Scoop some pasta into each persons bowl, pour in some soup, grate some fresh Parmesan cheese over top and enjoy!

"Angeled Eggs"

AKA Beet and Pomegranate Deviled Eggs

Theyre just too pretty and too healthy to be called Deviled Eggs!

People ask me all the time how I come up with my recipes and my honest answer is I dream about them! Sometimes I have food daydreams that are so detailed and so vivid that I am starting to feel like I am a food psychic, if that even makes sense. This recipe came to me in one of those daydreams.  In my dream I started picturing these beautiful red deviled eggs, which got me wondering how they got red in the first place.  I wanted the eggs to become red in a natural way so I thought of two of my favorite ingredients, beets and pomegranates.  Both have the natural ability to dye foods a vibrant color (and also your hands so watch out), and are also full of nutrients.  The beets give the egg yolk mixture a wonderful earthly flavor as well as some moisture which makes it creamy with no fattening mayo added.  The juicy pomegranate seeds burst in your mouth when you bite into the eggs, cutting through the richness and giving the eggs a fresh finish. These are the perfect edition to your Memorial Day or summer time BBQ!

 

Recipe Feeds about 4-6 people (I estimate everyone at a party will have at least 2 halves or one whole egg)

Ingredients-

  1. 6 Whole Hard-boiled Eggs
  2. 1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  3. 1/3 of a Small Shallot
  4. 1 Teaspoon Honey
  5. ½ Cup Canned Red Beets Chopped (reserve the liquid the beets come in a set aside)
  6. 1/2 Teaspoon White Wine Vinegar ( You can put more if you like more of a vinegar taste)
  7. Dash of Salt & Pepper
  8. 1 Pomegranate (you will only need the seeds so cut the pomegranate in half and gently pop out the seeds)
  9. Fresh Parsley finely chopped (you can also use mint)

Steps-

  1. Using a sharp knife, slice the eggs in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the yolks gently so you don’t break apart the whites of the egg, and place the hard-boiled yolks into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Set the egg whites aside on a plate.
  2. Blend together the egg yolks, Dijon, shallot, honey, beets, vinegar and salt and pepper until creamy.  If the mixture is too thick add a few drops of the reserved beet juice until you reach the desired consistency and texture.  You want it thick, but still very creamy.
  3. Evenly scoop heaping teaspoons of the egg/beet mixture into the egg white halves.
  4. Garnish with some parsley and about 3-4 pomegranate seeds per egg half.
  5. Serve and enjoy! 

Sicilian Ricotta Cheesecake

I was born and raised a New Yorker so naturally I love me some cheesecake! Cheesecake is rich, creamy, dense, tangy, mildly sweet and just so comforting to consume.  As much as I love NY style Cheesecake, it can be a super heavy dessert to eat after a big meal.  After growing up in a Sicilian household and traveling all over Sicily last summer, I discovered the beauty of using ricotta cheese in desserts.  Sicilians use ricotta based fillings and custards in tons of desserts like layer cakes, cream puffs, casadelle (fried “calzone” shaped pieces of dough stuffed with a delicious sweet ricotta filling and chocolate) and many more! This Easter I came up with my own Sicilian style cheesecake recipe that was such a hit, even my Dad’s cousin Sal who was visiting from the motherland gave it a “molto bene!”  This cheesecake is light and buttery and has a wonderful citrus flavor that is perfect for any spring/summer get together.  This recipe is pretty simple to execute and is always a hit with my guests! Remember tweet me or Instagram me pics of your Got Room For More creations @gotroomformore.

 

Ingredients-

  1. 1-2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter Melted
  2. ½ Cup finely crushed Almond Biscotti Cookies (You can also use graham crackers, chocolate biscotti, Amaretti cookies or whatever you like!)
  3. 2  Pounds Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
  4. 1 Pound Mascarpone Cheese
  5. 1 ½ Cups Granulated White Sugar
  6. 6 Large Eggs
  7. 2 Egg Yolks
  8. 2 Tablespoons Fresh Orange Zest
  9. 1/4 cup Heavy Cream
  10. 2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  11. 1 ½ Tablespoons Fresh Orange Juice (squeeze the orange you zested)
  12. Powdered sugar, for dusting

Steps-

  1.  Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  2. If there is a lot of excess water in your ricotta (which may happen if you use fresh/homemade), drain the ricotta in a colander or in some cheesecloth set over a bowl for about 30 minutes to an hour. 
  3. In a small bowl stir together the biscotti crumbs and melted butter. Cover the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with aluminum foil.  Make sure it is covered well so the water bath doesn’t get into the pan and make the crust soggy. Make sure the foil is not bulky so the pan can lay flat. 
  4. Pour the buttery cookie crumbs into the springform pan and press them into the bottom of the pan and up the sides of the pan a little. Make sure there is a thin, flat, even layer throughout.
  5. Place the pan in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until slightly dry and starting to brown. 
  6. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  7. Using an electric mixer, beat the ricotta, mascarpone and sugar together until smooth.  With the mixer Add the eggs one at a time, orange zest, cream, vanilla and orange juice and mix until completely smooth and combined. 
  8. Pour batter into the prepared springform pan and set the pan inside a larger pan (roasting pan, jelly roll pan, glass Pyrex dish etc.) Fill the outer pan with boiling water until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan.
  9. Bake for 1½ to 2 hours or until the cheesecake is mostly set in the center. Turn off the oven and let the cake rest inside for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove cake from the oven and let cool to room temperature on a wire rack.  Run a sharp knife around the perimeter of the cake to loosen it and unmold. 
  11.  Chill the cheesecake in the fridge for several hours or overnight.
  12. Make the whipped cream topping (see below) and spread it over the top of the chilled cheesecake.
  13. Top with fresh raspberries or just some powdered sugar and some orange or lemon slices as I did.

 

 Topping-

  1. ½ Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  2. 1-2 Tablespoons Confectioners’ Sugar (depending on how sweet you like your whipped cream)
  3. ½ Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

Beat together in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer or whisk until the cream has stiff peaks and turns into whipped cream.

Lamb Burgers with Bacon Tomato Jam, Fennel Mint Slaw and Chevre Goat Cheese

Spring: In like a lion and out like a lamb burger?

April is here which means warmer weather, rain showers, budding trees, my favorite Cadbury chocolate eggs and of course Easter! Many families like to celebrate Easter with a big ol’ honey baked ham or a delicious leg of lamb.  To celebrate the start of Spring I created a lamb burger that has such dynamic flavors and textures that you might even make these babies the Easter dinner headliner.  Don’t like lamb?  No problem! Make this recipe using good old fashioned beef chuck burgers!  But...wow…the grassy flavor of the lamb combined with the tangy, creamy goat cheese, the crisp, lemony fennel and mint slaw, and the smoky and sweet bacon tomato jam are culinary chemistry:  flavors that interact with each other perfectly in your mouth.  This recipe is BAAAHHHDDD AS$...ok that was cheesy.  Tip: Make extra bacon jam and use it on gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, make little crostini hors d’oeuvres with the jam and gouda or Havarti cheese, put it on turkey club sandwiches or even savory scones! The fennel salad is even great as just a side dish or as a substitute for boring old coleslaw that is full of fattening mayo!  

Bacon Tomato Jam

Ingredients-

  1. 1/3 of a Pound of raw Bacon diced into small pieces
  2. 2 ½ Cups Ripe Tomatoes-Diced Small ( About 5 Medium Tomatoes)
  3. ½ a Large Viladlia Onion- Diced Small
  4. ¾ Cup Dark Brown Sugar
  5. 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  6. ½ Teaspoon Salt (or more..taste it)
  7. 1/8 Teaspoon Black Pepper

Steps-

  1. Cook the bacon in a deep skillet or medium saucepan until it is crispy and brown.  Using a slotted spoon remove the bacon, drain it on paper towels and set it aside.  Reserve about 1 ½ Tablespoons of the bacon fat in the pan.
  2. Put the pan with the bacon fat on low-medium heat on the stove.  Add the onion, tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil stirring often.
  3. Add the bacon back to the pan with the tomato mixture.
  4. Simmer stirring with a wooden spoon pretty frequently (making sure it doesn’t burn) until it starts to thicken and the onions get soft and caramelized.  You will cook it for about 30- 40 minutes or until most of the water evaporates and you are left with a thick jammy texture.
  5. Put in mason jars or a bowl and refrigerate.


Fennel Mint Slaw-

Ingredients-

  1. 1 Large Fennel Bulb
  2. 2-3 Tablespoons Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  3. 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  4. 1 Teaspoon Honey
  5. 1 Teaspoon Whole Grain Mustard
  6. ½ Teaspoon Salt
  7. 1 ½ to 2 Tablespoons Fresh Mint Chopped Fine
  8. 2 Teaspoons Shallot Minced (or Red or White Onion)

Steps-

  1. Using a knife or a mandolin, shave or thinly slice the fennel into 1/8 inch slices starting from the bottom of the bulb.  Do not use the green, “hair” or “fronds”at the top of the fennel bulb. Fennel has this great anise flavor and its texture is like celery meets an onion.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, whole grain mustard, salt, pepper and shallot.
  3. Toss the fresh mint with the fennel in a big bowl.
  4. Toss the fennel with the dressing and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight so the fennel can really marinate in the flavors.

Lamb Burgers- Makes 4 Burgers

Ingredients-

  1. 1 ½ Pounds Ground Lamb ( sometimes I mix 1 lb lamb and ½  pound of ground chuck for extra flavor)
  2. ½ Teaspoon Minced Garlic
  3. 1/3 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  4. Salt and Pepper
  5. 4 Burger Buns- Preferably Ciabatta Rolls (scooped out so there isn’t too much bread)
  6. Butter
  7. Bacon Tomato Jam (recipe above)
  8. Fennel Mint Slaw (recipe above)
  9. 4 oz Creamy Chevre Goat Cheese

Steps-

  1. Preheat your outdoor barbeque, indoor grill pan or George Forman Grill.
  2. Using your hands, mix together the ground meat with the garlic and oregano.  Make 4 equal sized burger patties that are about ¾ to 1 inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Grill the burgers for above 5-6 minutes on each side or until they are just slightly pink inside (or however you like them!) While the burgers are grilling, spread a little butter on the inside of the burger buns and place them on the grill as well.  Get the buns nice and toasty on all sides.
  4. Spread about 1 Tablespoon (or more ;) ) of the Bacon Tomato Jam on the inside of each bun half.
  5. When the burgers are cooked, place the burgers on the jam coated buns and top each one with about 1 ounce of goat cheese.  Top the goat cheese with a nice little mound of the Fennel Mint Slaw and place the top of the bun on top.

Serve and salivate!