Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, everyone!

Here are some resolutions for you for the new year. Make them because I told you to.

1. I will not serve frozen chicken nuggets without prior approval from June.

2. I will try at least one new recipe a week.

3. I will not attempt to bake anything in my microwave, because it is stupid. And also because it heats unevenly, denatures proteins, and turns baked goods into sponges.

4. I will serve dinner made from simple, fresh foods at least three times a week.

5. I will listen to all cooking advice June dispenses and not argue with her, because I wouldn't want to risk pissing her off. Or being uninvited to any of her dinner parties.

My family is going to a New Year's Eve party tonight like many of you are as well. I made this simple salmon spread earlier today. It will be fabulous by tonight and everyone will think I am a genius. Really, I'm not. I just know how to search out good recipes. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bracciole and Mannicotti

My daughter Meagan needs more recipes for Christmas, so again, you get to benefit. These are recipes passed down from at least her Great Grandmotheron her father's side, possibly older than that. (Caveat: I am not Italian at all. I married into it.) Her Great Grandmother was born in Sicily and emigrated to America. So they must be authentic, right? Well, maybe. What we have noticed is that theItalian family recipes seem to have morphed a bit to fit the poverty in which the family found itself in America as well as the lack of real Italian ingredients. Most of the recipes include lots of eggs even where seemingly unnecessary, probably to get the protein content of the food up and make use of a cheap source of protein. Breadcrumbs make lots of appearances, too. The surprising thing to me is that most of the family recipes are very bland considering that they supposedly originate from Sicily. These recipes were traditionally served on Christmas, but I can't abide Italian on Christmas, I am strictly a big-hunk-of-juicy-prime-rib sort of girl. We instead sometimes make them on Christmas Eve, which is what Meg is going to do and we're going to her house for Christmas Eve. Yay!!! Now I only have to cook two big meals for Christmas instead of three!!!


Butterflied top sirloin
Parmesan Cheese
thinly sliced, sauteed onions
sauteed meatball mixture
sauteed diced mushrooms
hard boiled eggs, sliced thin
roll and tie and saute the bracciole in olive oil until brown, add to red sauce and cook for two or three hours.


Beat 8 eggs well and add 2 cups of water and 2 cups of flour and 2 tsp salt. Cook on an ungreased griddle over low heat. Pour like small pancakes and cook on one side until rubbery.


1 1/2 lbs ricotta (Get the good kind from the deli section.)
2 egg yolks
1/4 c parmesan
salt and pepper
minced parsley, dash of sugar and cinnamon

Put 1 T filling in the center and spread it over the crepe. Roll seam side down aand layer in a baking pan with sauce. Bake 25 minutes at 350.

Traditional Italian Manicotti are crepes, not those huge pasta tubes you get at the grocery. They are very delicate and subtle, but super yummy! Although one Christmas eve when my son Ben was four (and a VERY picky eater) we made him try these and he immediately threw them right back up. We never forced him to try anything ever again. Although, that is my prefered method for raising un-picky eaters. Which the rest of my kids are not. Because I am (nearly) perfect.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Recipe for My Daughter

I know the rest of you probably won't try this recipe because it requires time and yeast. And candied fruit. But this is my daughter's favorite Christmas recipe and she needs it, so I am sharing it with the world. It is from the 1980 edition of Joy of Cooking. The Joy is the best cookbook ever written. My mother had an older edition than I do and I bought Meagan the updated version of Joy of Cooking when she had her first apartment. So we have three generations of good cooks (I mean great cooks) relying on the Joy of Cooking for basic recipes with fanstastic results. This morning I used it to make homemade English muffins and Hollandaise for Eggs Benedict. It will tell you how to make ANYTHING. The newer revised edition is not as good, though. It left out directions for skinning and cooking a squirrel and they changed the Stollen recipe. She tried the updated Stollen recipe last year and it was a disaster. Here is the 1980 version:


Have ready: 6 to 8 cups of all purpose flour

Combine and let stand for 3- 5 minutes:
1 1/2 cups 105 to 115 degree water or milk
2 packages active dry yeast
Add 1 cup of the flour. Cover this sponge and let it rest in a warm place until light and foamy, about 1 hour. Sprinkle a little of the sifted flur over:
1/2 Lb raisins (Note from June: I hate raisins so I leave them out and add more candied fruit)
1/2 lb chopped blanched almonds
1/2 cup chopped candied fruit

Beat until soft:
1 1/2 cup butter
Add gradually and blend until light and creamy
3/4 cup sifted sugar
Beat in one at a time:
3 eggs
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp grated lemon rind
Add the sponge and enough flour to knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Toss the dough onto a floured board. Knead in the fruit and nuts. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Roll each into an 8 x 15 inch oval. Fold in half lengthwise and place loaves on greased baking sheets. Brush the top with melted butter. Let the loaves rise, covered until they almost double in bulk, about 45 minutes. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven 30 to 40 minutes or until done.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pancakes with Hannah

Last Sunday Hannah and I decided to make pancakes for breakfast. Now this is not a rare occurrence; we make pancakes fairly frequently for Sunday breakfast. I had bought some blueberries the day before just for this purpose. I did forget to get buttermilk, though. However, this day, Hannah decided she wanted to make them because we had eggnog in the fridge and she wanted to make eggnog pancakes, and so I said she could and I would go behind her and clean and make the bacon. She started gathering her ingredients while I started the bacon. As she pulled out the baking powder, she asked me what the difference between double-acting baking powder and regular baking powder was. "Oh god", I thought to myself, "I can't quite remember why they call it double-acting, I know I used to know, and I, the goddess of food, can't let my offspring know that I don't know everything!" Or something like that. Actually that's really not true, I am fine with admitting that I don't know everything to my kids, and a few others, but I will NEVER admit that to my hubbie. Or to you. I am the final authority on all things culinary! I am the goddess of food! Don't forget it. So I mumbled something about people how in the olden days people had to make their own baking powder which consisted of a few ingridients mixed to gether in a certain proportion and when commercial baking powder became available 'double acting' connoted that it contained two active ingredients, only one of which I could remember at the time.

Hannah and I really are starting to enjoy cooking together. She is becoming enthusiastic about learning about cooking and willing to try new things. And really, isn't that about all it takes? Oh, and learning that people who like food and care about it do not serve cheese in a can. Or a jar. (have you ever eaten that stuff? Disgusting!) So I find the times when Hannah wants to cook to be times when she will let her teenagerish attitude down and just be a nice girl again. She respects my abilities in the kitchen and sincerely wants to hear what I have to say about cooking. And so I may slip in a word or two about values, or things I care about, what I want her to know about life. Cooking together gives her a way to let down her defenses. I treasure that time together.

So, as we talk and cook, and drink coffee, (yes, I am a terrible mother. I let my fourteen year old drink coffee. Sue me.) we start to cook the pancakes on the cast iron griddle. I had a banana on the counter that was too ripe to eat, but perfect to cook, so we sliced that and added it to some of the pancakes as we laid them on the griddle. We made some with blueberries, some with banana and some with both. Oh, and don't forget the eggnog. I wasn't sure how the combinations would be, but hey, I am always up for experimenting. As we started eating them, with some really great maple syrup from Vermont provided by my friend Gi-gi, we started noticing that the texture was a little waxy, and flat. Maybe it was the eggnog? No, that wouldn't have done it. Why were these so different? And then I realized: Hannah had forgotten to put in the baking powder. After our long discussions on the origins of baking powder. The pancakes had the consistncy of crepes or clafouti, and they were still quite delicious. We ate them all. We decided to call them pancrepes. It was fun.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Another Quick Pasta Recipe

Well, maybe two more quick ones, we'll see how I feel by the end of the first one. The first one is for Carbonara. Carbonara is what I make when I REALLY have nothing in the fridge for dinner. Since everyone has eggs, bacon keeps in the freezer very nicely, pasta is a can't-live-without-it staple, and, really, if don't keep some parmegianno-reggiano or other grated Italian cheese around you shouldn't be reading my blog (Deb I'll give you a pass, due to your difficulties resolving your cheese dilemmas with your hubbie) but the rest of you, PLEASE DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT WHINING TO ME THAT YOU LIKE CHEESE IN A CAN, or that you don't always have some around. Get it. Keep it. I have NEVER seen parmesan go moldy. I think it has a half life of about ten years. Anyway, you see my point: almost everyone has or should have the ingredients for a quick Carbonara right on hand.


1 Lb spaghetti (this is best pasta for this dish, but other long types work as well, just don't use anything tubular. You need the egg to be able to cling to the strands)
6 slices bacon, use more if your kids really like bacon, like mine do
2-3 eggs
2 T cream (optional, but it does make it nice and well, creamy.
1/2 cup Parmesan (see above note about what type of cheese I will allow you to use without ridiculing you.)

Now remember, what is the first thing you ALWAYS do when cooking pasta? That's right, put your water on to boil. While waiting for the water to boil, fry the bacon. Crumble.

In the serving bowl, crack the eggs and beat them fairly thoroughly. Add the cream and cheese and beat again.

Cook and drain the pasta. IMMEDIATELY toss it into the bowl and begin lifting and turning the pasta so that it is coated with egg. The egg will cook from the heat of the pasta. If you didn't use any cream, add 1 T of the bacon grease and toss again. Sprinkle with bacon and pass parmesan cheese. Serve Lipitor for dessert.

Well, that's it for today. I don't feel like posting another pasta recipe. Maybe tomorrow. Now, I think I'll go try to whip up one of Martha Stewart's Christmas cookie recipes. Oh joy. That usually ends with me cursing Martha and wishing she would be damned for all eternity. But it also ends msot of the time with some awesome cookies.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Impressing People with Your food

My daughter is a very good cook. She should be, I taught her. So what did she learn from me? To always go with the tried and true? Nope. I rarely do that. To experiment on your guests? Yup. She does it all the time. We had a great Roasted Portobello and Prosciutto Lasagna at her house the day after Thanksgiving. She of course had never made it before, but pulled it off with ease and panache. We had a great time.

The new house she and her fiancee bought is in one of those neighborhoods that has a lot of neighborhood parties. They attended their first one last night. Lots of people in their forties and fifties were there. She decided to bring some gougeres, but she has never made puff paste and may have slightly messed up the execution. Okay, she really messed it up, but the result was still not bad. Being my daughter, she was not willing to settle for a so-so showing. So, in typical making-her-mama proud fashion, she whipped up this Red Velvet Cake two hours before they had to be at the party. I'm so proud I could almost cry. Or toast her with some bubbly. Or both. Yeah, let's go with the bubbly. She tells me it was the hit of the party and all the old folks, (her words) gobbled it up and chatted them up the whole night. I have just one caveat for her: now they will expect great things from you. You now have a reputation to live up to. Could it be the birth of the Gates Foodie? Perhaps. But she's still too nice. Chalk it up to youth.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Nonna's stuffing

As mentioned in my last post, which was all of two minutes ago, I have four kids, only two of whom are still at home. (Well, my son still technically lives here, but he is in the military and so he is here only about two weeks at a time. I'll get to see him at Christmas for two and a half weeks and then send him to Iraq. Oh, boy, won't that be fun.) Anyway, my daughter recently bought a house with her fiancee and is now busy becoming domesticated. She calls me all the time for recipes. And in a panic, "I don't have olive oil, what should I do?" Well, go buy some olive oil. She is going to be making a turkey this weekend and although she is planning on following all of my turkey tips, she needs her Nonna's stuffing recipe. Now, Nonna wrote this recipe down for her in a memoir, but can my daughter locate the book her grandmother spent about two years writing? Not at the moment. Besides, it is easier to get it from Mom. I realize this is too late for Thanksgiving, but I thought if I had to write it down anyway, I might as well share it with the world. Or at least my seven followers.

Nonna's stuffing

1/2 bag cornbread stuffing mix
1/2 bag seasoned stuffing mix
1 T brown sugar
20 or so chestnuts, roasted, peeled, and chopped
3 roasted Italian sausages, cut into pieces
1 onion
1 c celery
1 apple, peeled and diced
Chicken stock
1 stick of butter

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onion, celery, and apple and saute until soft. Add wine and simmer for a minute. Put stuffing mixes in a large bowl. Add chestnuts, sausage, and herbs. Mix in onion mixture and toss to combine. Add enough chicken stock to moisten. Add two beaten eggs and freshly ground pepper. Stuff inside your turkey.

What I Cook When I have no time

We all have those hellish days when we can't think of what to make for dinner, have no time to make anything for dinner, or can't don't have the energy to put into making something for dinner. So what does the Mendon Foodie do on those occasions? Well, I'll tell you what I DON'T do: I do not make anything from a box. Have I made food from a box in the past? Yes, I have. And was it absolutely horrible? YES!!!! When I was pregnant with my first child (I have four, which may explain my bad attitude) I had a day when I couldn't face cooking or eating. yet I still had to feed my new hubbie. We were on a tight budget, so what did I do? I fixed a box of Hamburger Helper for my husband. Mind you, I have still to this day never eaten Hamburger Helper. My mother did not make packaged food, either. Well, maybe the occasional side dish, but if you ask me to name anything specifically, I wouldn't be able to. Maybe my sisters could. Anyway, so my husband comes home and looks at the splendid feast I have managed to prepare while only throwing up once and says, "What's this?" And I reply, "Hamburger Helper!" And he replies, "It looks like shit." Then he tastes it, looks at me and says, "Never fix this for me again." I really can't say that I blame him. There has got to be something fast and easy to make that still tastes like real food.

Well there is! And I don't mean any of those annoying Rachel Ray recipes where she runs around her kitchen frenetically trying to make food in 30 minutes just to show you she can. Most people would probably rather slow down and cook at a more leisurely pace so they don't die of an aneurysm. So what do I cook when I don't feel like cooking, don't have time to cook, blah, blah, blah? Pasta!

My family (everyone except me, that is) is Italian. They like to eat pasta. A lot. If I cooked it as often as they want it, I would get so sick of it I would have to throw up. But, in the winter, I probably make it twice a week. Okay, three times. But do I open a jar of red sauce and throw it on? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? NO OF COURSE I DON'T! There are many ways to dress pasta that require little effort, little time, and yet you would still want to actually consume them.There is one trick to getting a pasta dinner on the table fast: the first thing you do is start the water heating for the pasta. Make the sauce while the water comes to a boil. If you clean lettuce when you buy it and keep it wrapped in a towel inside a plastic bag in fridge you can have salad, too. Here is one of my families favorite pasta dishes, adapted from Marcella Hazan.

Bean pasta

Dice an onion and saute with four ounces of pancetta and two cloves of minced garlic until the onion is translucent and the pancetta is a little crispy. Drain one can of cannellini beans reserving liquid. Add that can plus one UNDRAINED can to the frying pan. Add some chopped fresh sage and rosemary. (Dried is okay, too.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. If it is too thick, add some more of the bean liquid.

Cook pasta while making the sauce and toss pasta with sauce and top with Parmesan.

The nice thing about this recipe is that you can keep the ingredients on hand and for when you are pressed for time. Pancetta freezes well. It is a nice thing to keep around. This recipe will make enough for about a pound and a half of pasta. You can make it with only one can of beans if you need a smaller amount. I devised this recipe when I still had four kids at home. I'm down to two, so now I make only one pound of pasta.

There are so many other quick pasta recipes that don't involve jarred sauce. I'll try to post some more soon, although I make no promises. It all depends on my mood.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Leave some comments, dammit

I know there are some people reading this blog besides Laura. She can't be logging on here as many times a day as it is being accessed. She may be one of my biggest fans, and the ultimate goddess of blogging, but she does have a life. Just one that doesn't involve cooking.

So, get to the point, you say? Leave a comment. I don't want to hear your whining about not knowing how. It is not that hard. I want to hear if you disagree with me, agree with me, think I'm a nutjob, whatever! Tell me what you're cooking and I'll tell you if you're doing it right. I may be opening a big can of worms, but I am curious. Do you know me, or just want to know me? Do you think I'm a bitch? Okay, maybe I am. Sometimes. Let me know.

Osso Buco

Apparently people think I have cooked everything there is to cook under the sun. Not really true. I will attempt to cook just about anything that interests me, even if it is hard. But then again, there are plenty of things that come to mind that I wouldn't be caught dead cooking: Fish with eyes, frog's legs, anything slimy to name just a few. Oh yeah, and venison. Don't get me wrong, I think if people want to go out and shoot Bambi and eat him, that is just fine with me. As long as I don't have to eat it. I'm sure it is delicious, I think it's great that people save money by shooting their own meat, but really, I just don't want to be confronted with the bloody carcass of the food I'm planning on serving. I don't want to debate any ethical points, I am NOT a vegetarian, I have no problem with people hunting their food, I just DON'T want to be involved. I think it goes back to when my mom and step-dad were dating and he brought her a huge yellow-tail tuna from a fishing expedition he had been on. They butchered it in our kitchen sink. I couldn't look. Nor could I eat it after having seen the whole thing laying on our counter. It was a traumatic childhood incident, to which I am undoubtedly giving much more importance than it deserves. I'll bet Mom doesn't even remember that before her new boyfriend brought her a giant tuna she didn't even LIKE fish, but hey, he was very good-looking and he brought her presents, even if they were slimy, disgusting fish. Also, for the record, I do like fish and would eat and even cook one that someone caught, IF they brought it to me cleaned, gutted, and without a head.

Now, I've really gotten off track here. Another friend of mine apparently has a new boyfriend who likes to hunt and now she is hunting for recipes for venison osso buco. Yuck-o! So of course, what does she do? She asks me. You know, that everyone-thinks-I-can-cook-anything thing. I have made veal osso buco once. It was okay. Didn't thrill me. I don't think it is worth the expense and the hours of simmering. But anyway, she was looking for a tomato-based osso buco recipe, so I dug up this recipe for her, because I promised I would. And even if I am going to make fun of you, if I promise you I will do something, I will do it. Most of the time.