Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chicken Cacciatore ~ Lidia Bastianich's

Chicken Cacciatore (Pollo alla Cacciatore)
from "Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen" by Lidia Bastianich.

"The caccia in cacciatore means "hunt," so this is chicken hunter's-style. Somewhere along the line, probably on its trip from Italy to America, the hunter's pheasant or guinea hen in this dish was replaced by chicken.

If you don't want to cut up a whole chicken, you can buy pieces. Get all legs and thighs, if that's what you like; they are very good in this dish.

It can be made using only chicken breasts if that's your preference, but to keep the chicken from drying out, you should cut the cooking time in half and reduce the wine to 1/4 cup and the tomatoes to 3 cups."


2 broiler chickens (about 2 1/2 pounds each, preferably free-range)
Freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup dry white wine
One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with liquid, crushed

1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably the Sicilian or Greek type) dried on the branch, crumbled
2 cups sliced white or shiitake mushrooms, about 8 ounces
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch strips (about 2 cups total)

To prepare:

Cut each chicken into 12 pieces. With a sturdy knife or kitchen shears, remove the backbone by cutting along both sides. Remove the wingtips. Reserve the backbone, wingtips, and giblets -- except for the liver -- to make chicken stock. Or, if you like, cut the backbone in half crosswise and add it to this dish.Place the chicken, breast side down, on a cutting board and cut the chicken into halves by cutting through the breastbone lengthwise. Cut off the wing at the joint that connects it to the breast, then cut each wing in half at the joint. Separate the leg from the breast. Cut the leg in half at the joint. Cut the breast in half crosswise, giving the knife a good whack when you get to the bone in separate the breast cleanly into halves. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Season the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper. Dredge the pieces in flour, coating them lightly and tapping off excess flour. In a wide (at least 12-inch) 5-quart braising pan, heat the vegetable oil with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until a piece of chicken dipped in the oil gives off a very lively sizzle.

Add as many pieces of chicken to the pan as will fit without touching. Do not crowd chicken; if the skillet is not wide enough to fit all of the chicken, brown it in batches. Remove chicken pieces from the skillet as they brown, adding some of the remaining pieces of chicken to take their place. Remove all chicken from the skillet.

Add the onion to the fat remaining in the pan, and cook, stirring 5 minutes.Pour the wine into the pan, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and oregano, season lightly with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Tuck the chicken into the sauce, adjust the heat to a gentle boil, and cover the pan.

Cook, stirring a few times, 20 minutes.In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and peppers, and toss until the peppers are wilted but still quite crunchy, about 8 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt.

Stir the peppers and mushrooms into the chicken pan. Cook covered until the chicken and vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Check the level of the liquid as the chicken cooks.

There should be enough liquid barely to cover the chicken. If necessary, add small amounts of water to maintain the level of liquid as the chicken cooks.

Makes 6 servings.

"Note: When you cut up chicken, or anything for that matter, your knife should glide along. If you're struggling, stop for a second and take a look at what you're cutting; you should be cutting between the bones at the joints, not actually cutting through the bones. If you're off target, just wiggle the blade of the knife to get a feel for where the joint is, then make another cut. With practice, you'll get a sense for where the joints lie."

With thanks to my friend Linda, for sharing the recipe.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oyster Sauce - Slivered Beef with Vegetables

Oyster Sauce Beef
(Ho Yow Gnow Yuke)
4 servings

1 pound flank steak, or other beef steak

Meat Marinade:
1 tablespoon cornstrch
1 teaspoon sugar (I use less)
1 teaspoon Dry or Cocktail Sherry (not sweet, and not cooking sherry)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce (or dilute regular soy sauce with a little bit of water to dilute the saltiness.)

1 medium yellow or white onion cut into wedges
1 medium green or red pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chicken stock or brth
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 "coin-slices" of fresh ginger (about the size of a quarter), slivered (optional)
4 tablespoons commercial oyster sauce (I prefer Lee Kum Kee brand)
3 tablespoons oil

Cut beef across the gran nto 1/8-inch slices ~ I cut into slivers. Mix with meat marinade for 15 mnutes.

Heat wok or large, heavy skillet. Pour 1 tablespoon oil an heat unil almost smoking. Sti fry onion, green or red pepper, and any other vegetables you are using, for 1 minute. Add salt and stock; stir fry until liquid has evaporated. Remove from wok and set aside.

Pour 2 tablespoons oil into wok and brown garlic for 45 seconds. Discard garlic and add beef (and ginger if using.) Stir fry until almost cooked, about 1 minute and
add oyster sauce. Mix well. Add vegetables, stir for a few seconds and serve.*

* I usually don't add the vegetables back with the beef, instead serve them separately ~ the choice is yours.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lahmahjoon (Armenian-style Pizza)

These savory "pizzas" are spread with a tomato and lamb topping, then cut into wedges to serve.

They can be served hot or cold, cut into wedges as an appetizer, or put some tender greens, (and other salad makings if you like), in the middle and fold over like a taco for a delicious meal. You can sustitute ground beef instead of ground lamb, if you prefer.

There are several versions/variations of Lahmahjoon. The first time I made it I followed a different recipe, I made my own flatbread but the raw-meat topping was spread on very thinly and allowed to bake to cook throughly right on the bread. But this time I used store bought, fresh naan (Indian flatbread), cooked the topping separately then spread it on thickly and baked the breads on an oiled baking sheet in a hot (450-degree F) oven until hot and slightly crisp.

I like to add some plain yogurt and a few toasted pinenuts when I serve them. Thick Greek yogurt works best. If you have regular yogurt, drain in a paper towel (or cheese cloth) lined sieve/strainer, allow to drain over a bowl for at least 30 minutes or longer, some of the whey will drain out and as it does the yogurt will thicken.

(Armenian-style Pizza)

4 Servings

1 pound lean ground lamb (or beef)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 (14.5 ounce) can peeled and diced tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves (authentic, but in winter my garden mint is not of good quality so I omit.)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

several shakes of dry Za'tar *
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or a couple of shakes of Tabasc0 (optional, but I always add)
4 authentic Armenian flatbreads, pita breads, fresh naan, or fluffy tortillas


Place ground lamb in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and break into small pieces until mostly browned. Drain any excess grease. Add the onion, green pepper, and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent. Stir in diced tomatoes and tomato paste, then season with parsley, basil, mint, cumin, and if using, cayenne. Simmer for about 5 minutes, mixture should be thick and nearly smooth. Remove from heat, cover, and refrigerate overnight to blend the flavors. (When I'm in a hurry, I skip the chilling step.)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

Distribute the lamb mixture evenly over the tortillas, and spread out to the edges. Place the tortillas onto a baking sheet.
Bake for about 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from the oven and place the lahmahjoons onto a large piece of aluminum foil so that two of them are meat side to meat side, then stack the pairs together, and bring the foil up over the top to keep warm. These can be served hot or cold. Cut into small wedges.

*Za'tar seasoning:

For this recipe I simply use Penzey's dry shake, right from the jar. However, you can make your own:

(Recipe from In Mama's Kitchen website)

"Most za’tar is consumed as a condiment, made by grinding hyssop leaves to a coarse, aromatic, brownish green powder then mixing the pwder with olive oil, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, chickpeas, and wheat. If you can't get hyssop, substitute thyme."

1/2 cup dried hyssop (or thyme)
1/4 cup sumac
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Put the sesame seeds on a small sheet pan or pie plate and toast for 6 minutes. Combine hyssop or thyme, sumac, salt, parsely, and sesame seeds and grind into a fine powder in a spice mill. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 to 4 months.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

New York-Style Crumb Cake or Cakelets

New York- Style Crumb Cake
Adapted from “The Foster’s Market Cookbook”

This is rich, and delicious with a cup of coffee or tea. At Foster’s Market it is baked in large jelly-roll pans, then cut into squares to serve.

This recipe makes a large Crumb Cake; for the mini-cakes I cut the recipe in half, and it made nearly two NorPro mini-cheesecake pans (the straight-sided ones with removable bottoms). Fill each well just 1/3 to ½ full; this cake is intended to have plenty of crumb topping in ratio to the amount of cake.

This time I added a few fresh blueberries to half of the cakelet batter before adding the crumble topping.

Make the topping first.

5 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 pound (4 sticks) butter, melted

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and blend well. Stir in the melted butter until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Set aside.


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 ¼ cup milk
¼ cup canola or safflower oil
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar to garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 325-degrees (F)

Grease and lightly flour a 12 by 17 by 1-inch jelly roll pan.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Combine eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in a separate large bowl and whisk until well blended.

Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture just until the dry ingredients are moist. Do not overmix.

Spread the cake batter evenly in the bottom of the jelly roll pan. Set aside. (Don’t worry if the batter barely covers the bottom of the pan, it is intended to be sparse.)

Sprinkle ALL of the crumb topping evenly over the batter and press-in lightly.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes until cake rises and topping bakes into the batter.

Remove from oven and cool slightly in the pan. You may trim edges if you like, then cut into 2 ½ by 3- inch pieces.

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Easy Blueberry-Almond Sticky Buns

Easy Blueberry-Almond Sticky Buns
Makes 12, (The recipe is easily halved)

12 tablespoons (1 & 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds (or pecans, chopped in very large pieces)
1 package (17.3 ounces/ 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup dried blueberries (or raisins)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the nuts evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.

Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right.

Brush the whole sheet with half of the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, 1½ teaspoons of the cinnamon, and ½ cup of the blueberries (or raisins). Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down.

Trim the ends of the roll about ½ inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1½ inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (help the filling and nuts out onto the buns with a small silicone spatula, or a spoon) and cool completely.

Recipe adapted from "The Barefoot Contessa"

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Spinach Meatball Minestrone with Tortellini

This soup is most delicious if made the day ahead (if you happen to plan ahead), but it's perfectly good as soon as it's made.

It's best not to add the uncooked tortellini until you reheat it, otherwise they become flabby and mushy. You may need to add a little more stock when reheating as the tortellini tend to absorb the liquid.

Spinach Meatball Minestrone With Three-Cheese Tortellini

Note: I always use Barilla's dried tortellini for this soup, they are just the right size and not too big for the soup spoon. "Three Cheese" (8.9 oz pkg.). The amount to use is up to you; I usually use 1/2 of the package for 1 recipe of soup. You can use the the entire package, but that will likely require more stock.

The meatballs can be made ahead and frozen until you're ready to prepare the soup. I always double the recipe, and freeze half, so I have some on hand, that way the soup can go together in moments. They are also good little appetizer, heated up, and served with warmed marinara sauce!

For the Meatballs:
1 pound ground beef (can also use half ground beef/half sweet Italian sausage)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped onion
About 1/4 cup bread crumbs (fresh or dried)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, slightly beaten 1 10-oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients; lightly mix well with your hands until evenly combined.

Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in large soup pot. Make one bite-size patty and brown in olive oil till done. Taste for seasoning and correct rest of meatballl mixture, if necessary.

Form remaining mixture into bite-size (about 3/4 to 1-inch size) balls. Saute in soup pot until brown and done. Remove from pot; reserve pot.

For the Soup:
2 large carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 celery stalks, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 medium onion, chopped
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and chopped
1 (14- or 15-ounce) can diced tomatoes and juice
1 (15-ounce) can kidney (or cannellini) beans and juice
6-8 cups beef or chicken stock (depending on amount of tortellini used)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 to 1 whole package. (8.9 oz. size) Barilla's dried Three Cheese Tortellini (preferable) OR refrigerated cheese tortellini (such as Buitoni)

For serving:
Freshly grated Parmesan and/or pesto.

Method: Add carrots, celery, onion and zucchini to soup pot, adding more olive oil, if necessary. Saute until tender, scraping up any residual bits left after browning the meatballs.

Add tomatoes, beans, 6 cups stock, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and meatballs. Stir and bring to low boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Taste for seasoning. Stir in tortellini; you may need to add more stock at this point.

Bring to gentle boil and cook just until tortellini is done (al dente).

Serve sprinkled with fresh Parmesan and/or dollop of pesto.

My additional notes: I often add other vegetables to the soup, depending upon what I have on hand; fresh baby spinach leaves, bite size slices of string beans, garbanzo beans, etc.

Recipe is courtesy of chefbeck, a wonderful cook from California who has generously shared numerous delicious recipes.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Glazed Sesame Almonds

This recipe is from my friend Monique who says the recipe is courtesy of Canadian Living Holiday Baking.

They are soo good! I love to make up batches package in pretty jars or covered candy dishes as little gifts. If your family and friends like almonds, I think you will love these as much as we do.

With great thanks to Monique for sharing the recipe.

Glazed Sesame Almonds

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
3 cups whole unblanched almonds
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon each cayenne pepper and ground ginger


Line rimmed baking sheet with foil; grease and set aside.

In saucepan, bring sugar and water to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir in almonds; let stand, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in bowl, stir together sesame seeds, salt, cayenne pepper and ginger.

Using slotted spoon, spoon almonds into bowl; toss to coat. Discard sugar mixture. Spread nut mixture on prepared pan; roast in 350°F oven, stirring once, until caramel color, about 20 minutes.

Let cool in pan on rack.

If made ahead: Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 1 month.)