Stuffed Veal Rolls (Braciolette Ripieni)

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The French and Italians became adept at making elegant and delicious meals using cheaper cuts of meat as well as using smaller amounts of meat than we tend to do in the United States. One way to achieve this is by pounding meat or poultry very thin and stuffing and rolling it with all kinds of wonderful fillings that add flavor as well as satisfying heft to the dish. They have the added benefit of also making beautiful pinwheels of color, texture and taste when sliced that would make you proud to serve to any guest. The following recipe comes from a book called Italian Cooking by Mary Reynolds that I have used for over 30 years. Follow the directions exactly and you will have a wonderful result, but also feel free to use it as a jumping off point and source of inspiration, varying the fillings to suit your tastes. Just try to keep in mind flavor balance, textures and the property of the ingredients when they are cooked. So, if for instance, you want to add chopped spinach, you should blanch it first and squeeze out all of the liquid. And remember that a little goes a long way if you start out with flavorful ingredients.

When I was in my teens I read about the way calves were treated in order to produce tender veal. While it didn’t make me into a vegetarian, I swore off veal for over 25 years. With the rise of organic farming also came awareness about the more humane treatment of animals. I still rarely eat veal but when I do, it is sourced from veal calves in non-tethered, humane environments, where the calves are ethically raised on family farms. If you still won’t eat veal – either because of the cost or for ethical reasons – I have successfully made this dish using pounded chicken breasts. Make it for your family and turn any night into a special night. They don’t have to know how easy it was. You can accompany this with polenta or rice or make it even quicker and use a good commercial pasta. I used a butternut squash ravioli and roasted asparagus. With a small salad, my husband and I ate like royalty and I only used less than 4 ounces of veal/person.

Stuffed Veal Rolls (Braciolette Ripieni)

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Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

8 scallops of veal, each weighing about 2 ounces

8 thin slices of prosciutto or jamon

2 slices of bread with crusts removed (I used a multi-grain bread because that was what I had on hand. Almost any bread would do; however, I wouldn’t use sour dough or corn bread here.)

3 Tablespoons seedless raisins (preferably Sultana or “white” raisins)

1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered blanched almonds

1/4 grated Parmesan, Asiago or Pecorino Romano cheese

2 Tablespoons chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2/3 cup of dry(ish) white wine (Use what you plan on drinking)

Directions

  1. Lay the scallops of veal (or chicken breasts) between 2 pieces of parchment paper and beat until thin but unbroken. If you don’t own a flat meat tenderizer (DO NOT use the kind with spikes!) you can use a small but heavy frying pan. Remove the paper and lay a piece of prosciutto or jamon over each flattened scallop.
  2. Soak the bread in tap water for about a minute. Then drain and squeeze it to remove all excess moisture. Mix the wet, softened bread with the raisins, cheese, nuts, parsley, slat and pepper. Divide the stuffing among the veal scallops.
  3. Roll up each scallop from the shorter end and secure your packages with two toothpicks/roll. Don’t worry if you lose a little filling. I just throw it into the sauce so nothing is wasted here.
  4. Heat the EVOO in a pan with a tight-fitting lid that is large enough to hold the rolls in a single layer. Brown the rolls fairly quickly on medium high heat, turning as necessary. Tongs make this very easy.
  5. Pour the wine over the rolls and cover tightly. Simmer the rolls on a low heat, turning once, for about 20 minutes. This can also be done in a 350 degree F oven but why heat up your whole kitchen if you don’t have to?
  6. Transfer the rolls to a serving dish and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Boil the pan juices until reduced by about half. Remove the toothpicks and cut each roll in half on the diagonal, with the cut side facing up. Pour the pan juices over the top and serve.  IMG_3531

 

Spiced Lamb with Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Spiced Lamb with Cauliflower tabbouleh

If you have been following my blog at all, you know by now that I love lamb in almost any form, but particularly in Mediterranean and South Asian recipes. You also know that one of my favorite food blogs is Food52, so when I saw this recipe, I immediately sent it to Frances and printed it out for myself. She and I both made it this past weekend and it was a big hit in New York and Chicago. The cauliflower tabbouleh is wonderful on its own and would make a terrific side instead of a starch for any grilled or roasted meat or fish. (SEE NOTE BELOW) This recipe will definitely enter my regular food rotation. I would encourage you to make your own baharat or hawaij spice, especially if you have a spice or coffee grinder, but if you don’t feel so inclined, these spice mixes are available at Middle Eastern grocery stores and online. And if you don’t eat lamb (why, why don’t you eat lamb!?) I’m confident that this would be equally delicious with ground turkey or beef. 

Spiced Lamb with Cauliflower Tabbouleh by Posie Harwood of Food 52, inspired by a Sunbasket recipe and tweaked by me.

Yield:   3-4 servings

Ingredients

3.5 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

cloves garlic, minced
1 head cauliflower, cored and chopped finely (it should resemble couscous)
1.5 pounds ground lamb
2-3 tablespoons baharat or hawaij spice blend (see a recipe for hawaij in my Yemenite Soup recipe) If you make your own spice mixture, it likely will be stronger so I would suggest using the smaller amount. Commercial mixes tend to be milder.
small Persian cucumbers, diced
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

1 large bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, optional for garnishing

 

For the sauce
1/2 cup warm water (plus more if needed)

1/2 
cup tahini1/2 teaspoon garlic powderJuice of one lemon Salt, to tasteDirections

  1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown, about 8 minutes. (Note: If you want to make your prep easier, chop the cauliflower by tossing it in the food processor and pulsing a few times.)
  3. Season with salt and pepper (I used Aleppo pepper, but you could use fresh-cracked black pepper) and add a drizzle of olive oil to the cooked cauliflower.IMG_3355
  4. Transfer the cooked cauliflower to a large bowl. Don’t wipe out the pan.
  5. To the bowl of cauliflower, add the cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon zest, lemon juice, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper (Aleppo pepper, if you have it) and toss to combine. Set aside.
  6. In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1.5 Tablespoons of olive oil. Add the ground lamb and spices. Season with salt and pepper (Aleppo), and cook over medium-high heat until the lamb browns, breaking it up with a spatula as it cooks. Don’t worry if there is any fat in the pan at the end. The dish can use it and if you allow the lamb to sit for a minute after cooking, most of the juices/fat will be re-absorbed.
  7. To make the dressing: Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. It should be pourable; if it’s too thick, add more warm water. It should be easy to drizzle but not super thin.
  8. When ready to serve, place a good helping of the cauliflower mixture into a large bowl, and divide the lamb on top. Top with a liberal drizzle of the tahini dressing. Garnish with a handful of fresh cilantro. I served some whole wheat pita and spiced yogurt on the side. You could also serve with hummus.

NOTE: I recently made the cauliflower tabbouleh as a side with something else and found that by adding fresh torn mint leaves and chopped cilantro I kicked it up the notch it needed to be served without the spiced lamb on top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Walnut and Raisin Coffee Cake

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My husband really loves raisins in his sweets – so much so that we have had a running joke for over 30 years that whenever I ask him how he likes a dessert I have just made, he says the only thing that could make it better would be if I added some raisins. So, I thought I would finally surprise him with a cake where raisins are the star, instead of a grace note to the apples that they are generally paired with. I looked through many recipes but none seemed quite right, and then I came across this unpretentious cake by the noted cookbook author and journalist, Carol Field. It’s simple and delicious with raisins spiked with rum or Marsala and toasted walnuts. Try some with your morning or afternoon coffee or after dinner, accompanied by a glass of dessert wine. And a bonus is that this makes the house smell AMAZING!

Italian Walnut and Raisin Coffee Cake by Carol Field, Italy in Small Bites, Harper Collins, 2004 

Yield: One 10-inch tube cake

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup raisins

6 tablespoons Marsala or rum

10 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

4 large eggs, separated

1/3 cup milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon walnuts or blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado or demerara sugar

DIRECTIONS

1. Soak the raisins in the Marsala or rum for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

2. Cream the butter and sugar together well. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, incorporating each one well before adding the next. (I used a standing mixer, but you could do this by hand if you prefer.)

2a. Mix together the milk, reserved Marsala or rum, and vanilla.

3. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. If using a standing mixer, on low speed beat the milk mixture into the butter mixture in three additions alternating with the dry ingredients. If doing by hand, use a rubber spatula to accomplish the same thing.

4. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. With the rubber spatula, stir one quarter of them into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the nuts and raisins. Once these have been incorporated, fold in the remaining egg whites with the spatula just until there are no more white streaks.

5. Turn the batter into a buttered and lightly floured 10-inch, straight-sided tube pan, sprinkle the top with the turbinado or demerara sugar, and bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a tester comes out clean. (This is what I used.)

6. If you prefer to use a 9- X 5-inch loaf pan, bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack, and cool to room temperature. This is even better the next day after the flavors have a chance to really permeate the cake.

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VARIATION

Ciambella al Anice: Use 1 tablespoon anise seeds instead of the raisins and nuts. Substitute Sambuca for the Marsala or rum, or omit it altogether and increase the milk to 1/2 cup.

 

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel & Lemon

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Eleven days ago I had hand surgery on my dominant hand. I want to thank Frances for taking over and posting so many wonderful recipes while my hand has been healing – and there are more to come! Since she has a day job and an active social life, I’m always so grateful when she finds the time to post. But I had THE best surgeon and yesterday I was able to make this dish for our dinner without any help.

I have never understood people who say they don’t like fennel or eggplant because they can be eaten so many different ways. I don’t know if this dish will change your mind about fennel, but it is simple to make and is delicious with bright Mediterranean flavors. All I needed to complete the meal was some brown rice that I cooked in chicken broth and a nice glass of white wine. Had I been more ambitious I would have made salad, but 10 days after surgery, this was my limit. Please do not use chicken breasts for this and do NOT remove the skin. Normally I do remove the skin when I cook chicken, but this is roasted to the point of such lovely crispiness that just this once – indulge.

The recipe came from the kitchn in a series they ran on sheet pan dinners. I only made two small changes in my version and am anxious to try some of the other offerings from this blog.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel & Lemon

Yield: 4 servings 
Ingredients

2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4 to 6)
2 small fennel bulbs (1 to 1 1/4 pounds total)
5 large cloves garlic
1 large lemon
2 tablespoons EVOO
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Aleppo pepper or freshly ground black pepper (I used about 1 teaspoon)
Cooked rice or bread, for serving (optional)

Directions

  1. Place the chicken in a large bowl; set aside. When I am dealing with raw meat or fish, I always use either a glass or stainless steel bowl. I know when they get cleaned that they will have no bacteria or other nasty stuff left over.
  2. Trim the stalks and fronds off the fennel bulbs and set aside the fronds. Cut each bulb in quarters through the root. Cut each quarter into 2 to 3 thick slices. Add to the bowl with the chicken. Mince about 1 tablespoon of fennel fronds and add to the bowl.
  3. Mince the garlic and add to the bowl. Finely grate the zest of the lemon into the bowl. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the bowl. Add the EVOO, white wine, season with the salt and a generous amount of pepper, and toss to combine. I like Aleppo pepper which not only has a lovely red color, but it is a relatively mild pepper with a bright citrusy taste. (I also used it here because grinding pepper is still a bit challenging for me. It is wonderful in so many recipes that I encourage you to find it. I bought mine online through Amazon.)
  4. I allowed the mixture to marinate for about 30 minutes. I would imagine that this could even be marinated over night in the fridge in a heavy duty plastic bag, intensifying the flavors even more.
  5.  When you are ready to cook the chicken, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F. Transfer the chicken mixture onto a large baking sheet lined with heavy duty foil for easy clean up. Arrange the fennel around the outside and place the chicken pieces closely together in the center. Pour any remaining juices from the bowl over the chicken. chicken-and-fennel
  6. Roast until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of about 160°F and the fennel is tender and beginning to brown around the edges, about 35 minutes. (You can tell just by looking at it when the chicken is done. And thighs don’t dry out or get tough like chicken breasts so it is a bit more forgiving if you cook it a bit longer.) Take the pan out of the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Let it rest for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving with rice or bread if desired. Be sure to spoon some of the wonderful pan drippings over the chicken and rice when serving.img_2951

Herbed Lamb Burgers with Tahini Spread

img_2838Lamb patties are ubiquitous in Israel. Many are served grilled and some are fried. They are usually small and are plated with several for each serving. While I love eating them that way, at home, I wanted it simplified and since I hate frying foods and don’t own a grill, my version is made in the broiler. If you use a food processor to finely chop everything, this takes no time to make. This recipe is based off one by Janna Gur from her cookbook, Jewish Soul Food but with changes by me. They are Syrian and called Ijeh B’Lameh. I serve the burgers with Tahini Spread and my Eggplant Raita (see previous recipe.)

Herbed Lamb Burgers with Tahini Spread

Yield: 6-7 burgers

Ingredients

For Lamb Burgers

1.5 pounds ground lamb

2 large eggs

1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled

4 Tablespoons dry bread crumbs

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley

1 bunch fresh cilantro

2 bunch fresh mint

3-4 scallions (white and light green parts)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Kosher salt and either Aleppo pepper or cayenne pepper to taste

3-4 Tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to broil with the broiler pan in the oven. (Turn off your smoke detectors!)  Place the eggs, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, mint, bread crumbs and scallions in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped and well mixed.
  2. In a large bowl, place the lamb, pine nuts and salt and pepper and mix well. Add the herb mixture and using your hand (forget the yuck factor!) mix everything together.
  3. Form 6 or 7 patties.
  4. Carefully spray the hot broiler pan with a cooking spray (or lightly oil the pan) and add the patties. You should hear a sizzle when the patties go on. Cook for 13-15 minutes, depending on how rare you like our lamb. Do not turn the patties or they will break.
  5. Serve one patty per person with Tahini Spread on top and the Eggplant Raita and a green salad and pita on the side.

For Tahini Spread

Ingredients

1/2 cup tahini (find a good brand like Soom)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Using a whisk or fork, stir through the tahini until the oil and spread are thoroughly mixed and the tahini is malleable.
  2. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper.
  3. Start adding ice-cold water, 1 Tablespoon at a time, whisking well with each addition until the tahini is creamy and the consistency you like. It should be thicker for a spread and thinner if using as part of a salad dressing. The color of the tahini will change from dark beige to ivory. Any extra can be stored in the fridge for later use. Some people also add minced garlic and a dash of ground cumin, but if the quality of the initial tahini is good, you really don’t need anything else.

Focaccia

img_2648If you have been following my blog then you know that I broke my foot over Thanksgiving, so between that and the polar vortex we have been under, getting out has not been a priority. That doesn’t mean, however, that I am willing to compromise on food. I had made some eggplant Parmesan for dinner and knew that we would be having soup or pasta in the next couple of nights. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any good bread in the house to go with these dinners and as my readers also know, I LOVE  good bread. None of this no carbs nonsense for me. I would much rather go without meat than bread. Okay, I’ll get off of my soapbox now.

I decided on focaccia which is really quite simple to make. While I don’t have a brick oven, I do have bricks in my oven as well as a pizza steel. The bricks I picked up from a construction site… They stay in my oven all the time and have also come in handy when I need to press something down like my tofu. No buildings were harmed in the process.

I started with a recipe from The Italian Baker by Carol Field. I have made a few things from this cookbook and so far they have required some adjustments. I also like to improvise a bit so since this recipe makes three focaccia, I chose a different topping for each: sun-dried tomato, olives and just sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Once you learn the basics, you can fool around. Sometimes the results are amazing and sometimes not, but rarely is something such a failure as to be inedible. So loosen up and have fun. Try this with my White Bean Soup with Pesto and Chorizo. And as an extra bonus, these focacce also make great sandwich bread, split like you are dividing a cake for layer cake. Try it with homemade pesto, herbed turkey breast and arugula or radicchio.

Focaccia alla Genovese  

Yield: Three 9-inch round focacce or two 10.5 inch x 15-inch rectangular focacce

Ingredients

2.5 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet, although this is a very inefficient and expensive way to buy yeast)

1/4 cup warm tap water

2.25 cups plus 1 Tablespoon tap water, room temperature

2 Tablespoons EVOO plus more for the pans

About 5.5 cups of flour ( I used a mixture of 3 cups all-purpose and 2.5 cups of bread flour)

1 Tablespoon fine sea salt

Fresh or dried herbs (optional)

Directions

While this can be made in a machine, it is so easy to make by hand so I am only including instructions for that method. If you want to make it by machine, buy the book!

  1. Stir the yeast into the 1/4 cup of water in a large mixing bowl. (My house tends to be on the chilly side because I like it that way, so I always run hot water to rinse my bowl before adding yeast.) Allow to stand for about 10 minutes. You won’t see a whole lot happening but the yeast is blooming.
  2. Stir in remaining water and EVOO. Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt and stir until smooth. (If you like, you can add about 2 to 3 Tablespoons of fresh chopped herbs like rosemary or sage or 1.5 Tablespoons dried at this point.) Stir in 3 more cups of flour, one cup at a time, until the dough comes together. Knead on a lightly floured surface, adding flour as necessary for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the dough is velvety and soft but not sticky.
  3. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl, rolling the dough to cover it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rise until doubled, about 1.5 hours. Since my house is pretty cool, I warm my oven to 170 degrees F. while I am preparing the dough, then turn it off. I place my dough in the slightly warm oven to rise. You don’t have to do this, but if your house is on the cool side it may take a little longer for the first rise. If you are okay with this, it is not a problem for the dough.
  4. Punch down the risen dough and divide into 3 equal parts for the round focaccia. (You could weigh these out if you want to be exact or you could eyeball it like I do. I like to live on the edge!) Shape each third into a thick disk and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes. I spray a bit of PAM on each disk so the dough doesn’t dry out. You could also cover them lightly with plastic wrap. After about 10 minutes, the gluten should have relaxed enough that you can easily roll out each to a 9-inch circle. Place each round into a well-oiled 9-inch pie or cake plate. Cover the dough with a dish towel and allow them to rise for 30 minutes. I just leave them on my counter for this part.
  5. After the dough has risen a bit, use your fingers to aggressively “dimple” the dough, leaving indentations that are about 1/2 inch deep. Just poke the dough. Cover the pans with a damp towel. I just wring my towel(s) out in warm water until there is no dripping. Allow the dough to rest for 2 hours. By this time the dough should be just about to the top of the pans. After 1 hour, heat your oven to 400 degrees F. This is especially important if you are using a pizza stone or steel or bricks. You want the oven as hot as possible since a home oven cannot achieve the temperatures of a brick oven.
  6. Drizzle EVOO all across the top, making sure that all of the dimples have oil in them. Now it’s up to you. You can simple sprinkle sea salt or Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper on top or you can add some fresh herbs. You can add some chopped olives or sun-dried tomatoes pressed into the dimples. Drizzle a bit more EVOO and add salt to the tomatoes if using. img_2634
  7. Place your pans in the oven. If you are using stones, place them directly on the stones or steel. During the first 10 minutes, spray water above the pans and quickly close the oven door to trap the steam. If you don’t have a spray bottle, take throw a couple of Tablespoons of water onto the bottom of the oven being careful to not hit the glass on the door or the light bulb in the oven – either of which could crack. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pans and place the breads on a rack. As you can see from my photo, I have raised the rack using inverted custard cups to allow as much airflow underneath as possible. You don’t want soggy focacce. img_2642
  8. Enjoy the focacce warm from the oven or at room temperature.DO NOT refrigerate them. You can freeze focacce successfully and warm them in an oven when ready to eat.

 

Nana’s Gazpacho

 

IMG_2105My mother, who recently died, was a wonderful cook and baker in her day. When I was growing up you never entertained at a restaurant, but always at home. It was a great treat to be invited to our house which was always warm and welcoming, where you got to engage in lively conversations and where the food was terrific. At the height of summer when the beefsteak tomatoes were big and red and ripe, my mother always made this gazpacho. She was way ahead of the curve since cooking at home in the 1950s and 60s was generally not so sophisticated. She would make this gazpacho (origins unknown I’m afraid, but I had a very similar one in Cordoba, Spain served with grilled prawns) and a delicious paella with flan for dessert. There are many wonderful and inventive versions of gazpacho that I enjoy, but this is still my favorite. You can get as fancy as you like with the garnishes or just go with some finely chopped cucumber and pepper and a sprinkling of cilantro.

Nana’s Gazpacho

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

3 medium sweet bell peppers ( I used orange and yellow but my mother used red and green)

1 small cucumber, peeled and seeded

1 large Spanish onion, peeled and diced

6 large, very ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 scant Tablespoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cracked black or Aleppo pepper

2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika or 1 teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika and 1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika

1/3 cup EVOO

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

2 cups cold water

Directions

  1. To peel the tomatoes you can either plunge them into boiling water for 2 minutes and then into ice water OR you can cut out the core and using a sharp knife, grab the peel and start pulling/cutting it away from the tomato. It doesn’t have to look perfect since it will be pureed in any case.
  2. Coarsely chop the onion, cucumber, peppers and tomatoes and mince the garlic. Set aside.
  3. Mix your liquids with the salt, pepper and paprika.
  4. Working in batches, place about 1/3 of the ingredients in a blender and puree, leaving a little texture. In a large bowl, mix everything together so the mix is evenly distributed. Pour into containers and refrigerate.
  5. When ready to serve you can garnish it with finely diced cucumber, bell pepper and cilantro or use croutons.