Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Countdown to Turkey

I am so excited to go home for Thanksgiving but I'm not excited to pack our bags, then wake up at 2:30 am to get to the airport for our early morning flight. As I walked home from work I started making a mental list of all the packing we have to do, and all the things that we can't forget to bring, and by the time I unlocked my door, I had a headache. So I reached for my instant cure, a rich dark espresso and a fresh baked cookie.
As I sipped my coffee I realized that, wow, my holiday weekend has officially started! And the anxiety of packing and traveling melted away. Then came the excitement.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have no patience, so I expect the next 24 hours until Thanksgiving dinner will feel like years, but I just keep reminding myself that soon we will get to see my parents and brothers and best friends. And tomorrow night, we'll all be munching on the cookies that I baked last night.

So before packing anything else, I packed up the cookies. Nothing else really matters anyway.

Chocolate Sparkle Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart
The recipe calls for sanding sugar, but I used regular sugar, which is slightly finer and worked just as well.

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup ( 2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp.
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
sanding sugar for dusting

1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, coffee powder and salt into a bowl

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine. Reduce speed and gradually add flour mixture; beat to combine. Form dough into a flattened disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

3. preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. Roll each ball in sugar. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. bake until set, about 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Rum Raisin Shortbread
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Remember those butter cookie assortments that used to come in those tin cans. My favorites were always the round cookies with the little raisin bits in them. Last night, when I munched on one of these I realized that is exactly what these taste like. Only better.

1/2 cup dark rum
1 cup currants
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon course salt

1. Combine rum and currants in an airtight container; let sit at room temp overnight. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the rum.

2.Put butter, confectioners sugar and zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla and reserved rum. Beat well, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low. Add flour, coconut and salt. Beat for three minutes. Stir in currants by hand. Divide dough in half and form each half into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter; wrap in parchment, and refrigerate for 1 hour ( or up to 3 days).

3. Preheat oven to 325 degree F. Remove dough from parchment paper; slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Place on parchment lined baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Bake until pale golden, about 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temp for up to 1 week.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Just can't wait

I've never been known for patience. It is a virtue that I would love to possess, but, unfortunately, I don't have an ounce of it. And every year, right around this time, I start itching for Christmas.
I know that Thanksgiving has not even passed yet, and that the unofficial Christmas season has not begun, and the official Christmas season does not start until Sunday. I know all of this, but yet, I just can't wait. So tonight, I got a jump start on Christmas cookies and baked three batches that I'll bring to NJ when we go there on Thursday morning for Thanksgiving.
It was so exciting to have our apartment smell of warm baked cookies, and even more exciting to see them cooling on wire racks on the kitchen table. I almost turned on some Christmas tunes, but restrained myself ( until next week at least). Of course, the best part of baking cookies is taking that first bite, and obviously, I don't wait for them to cool.

Here's one recipe for now, you'll have to wait until tomorrow for the other two. A little patience will do you good ( or so I'm told).

Biscuit Sandwich Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread

1. Put flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and plus to combine. Add butter and pulse to form course crumbs. With the machine running, pour in 1/4 cup heavy cream and the vanilla and process until dough almost comes together.

2. Remove dough from food processor and bring together on a work surface. Roll dough between two floured sheets of parchment paper until 1/16 inch thick. Using 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut 36 circles, rerolling the scraps as necessary. Place rounds on parchment-lined baking sheets and transfer to freezer to chill until firm, about 15 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 325 degree F/ Combine egg yolk and remaining tablespoon of heavy cream in a small bowl. Brush the tops of cookies with yolk mixture and bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.

4. Spread 1 heaving teaspoon of chocolate-hazelnut spread on the undersides of half of the cookies. Sandwich the remaining cookies. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Easy Pear-Raisin Scones

It's almost Thanksgiving!! This year I have so much to be thankful for considering I got married, started this blog, have been given the opportunity to finish my book, the fact that my family is happy and healthy, and that we are all coming together for Thanksgiving and then again for Christmas. As the year winds down I'm reflecting on all of these big things, and feel a great sense of gratitude.
Its easy to see the big things we are thankful for, but, if we look at our daily lives there are many many occasions to give thanks. One simple thing I am thankful for is the fact that my husband and I eat breakfast together every morning.
I've always been a breakfast person, even when it consisted of grabbing a cereal bar and running out the door. But since I got married, I've become a huge fan of breakfast as it is a simple way that Gian Luca and I connect before we start our hectic days.

Consequently, I also love baking breakfast foods, and thankfully, my husband is Italian and is used to eating pastries in the morning. So tomorrow when the shiny beams of light flutter through our kitchen window, we'll be sipping our espresso and munching on Pear and Raisin scones.

Pear-Raisin Scones
3/4 cup of raisins
1 cup heavy cream
3 medium pears ( peeled and cut into cubes)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons butter ( cut in 1/2 squares)
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Soak the raisins in heavy cream for 1/2 hour, drain and set aside, reserving heavy cream. Toss pears with cinnamon and sugar, set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Add butter and, using your hands, crumble the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a course meal ( this can also be done in a food processor by pulsing the butter into the flour mixture).
Combine the egg and heavy cream and whisk together until incorporated. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing well. The dough will now be fairly wet and sticky. Add the pears and raisins and knead on a lightly floured surface until the dough just comes together. It should be a bit sticky.

Cut dough into 14 small wedges and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Veal Champagne

The biggest testament to a successful dinner party are the dishes. If everyone liked the food, you won't have to scrape the plates clean before washing them. And, on Saturday night I was pleased to stack the dirty dishes on my counter top, avoiding the cross-kitchen trip the the trash can, because our party was a success.
I told already told you my menu of lasagna, veal champagne, and chocolate cake, and I promised you the veal recipe. This will have everyone licking their plates clean. In fact, I don't even have a picture of the veal for you because it was dished out so fast that I forgot to photograph it.

Veal Champagne

4 veal cutlets ( pounded thin)
1/2 cup of flour ( for dredging the veal)
12 button mushrooms sliced
1 15 oz can of artichoke hearts
1/2 cup dry champagne
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of olive oil.
salt and pepper to taste

Dredge veal in flour and heat olive oil in the pan. Add 2 teaspoons of butter to the oil and sautee the veal until golden brown on both sides. ( this should take 1-2 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the veal). Remove the veal from the pan and add the rest of the butter to it. Add the sliced mushrooms and artichokes and sautee until mushrooms are golden brown. Place veal back in the pan with the mushrooms and artichokes. Add the champagne and allow it to simmer for a few minutes. Add the cream*, salt and pepper, and allow everything to simmer until the sauce has thickened. Serve and enjoy.

* if making this dish ahead of time, leave out the cream until you are ready to serve it. When you are ready to serve the veal reheat the pan and add a bit more champagne. Add the cream and allow to simmer until the sauce has thickened.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Chocolate Cake for Friends

So it has been 10 days since I last posted, even though I signed on for the National Blog Posting Month and was supposed to write 30 posts in 30 days. Don't worry, I'm not going to post 10 times today. I am just going to explain that, while I wanted to post every day, my life interceded: work got hectic, I devoted all of my writing time to working on my book, and honestly, I haven't cooked that much.
But today I'm back, and revved up for a fantastic day of cooking. We are hosting a dinner party for some friends tonight and the menu is stocked. I'm making my sausage lasagna, veal with artichokes and mushrooms in a champagne cream sauce ( I'll post the recipe tomorrow), a fresh tomato and cucumber salad, and finally, a dense delicious chocolate cake.
My mom taught me to always, always bake dessert first. Even when she teaches her cooking classes, she uses this method. So last night, after a ten hour shift at work, and late-night grocery shopping at the 24 hour store, I baked a cake for my friends.
Even though I was so tired, there is something reviving about baking a cake that you know people will enjoy. And although my day will be filled with cooking and cleaning, I know that at 7:30 when our friends arrive, it will all be worth it.

Dense Chocolate Cake:
Adopted from Molly Wizenberg
* I made one slight change by adding a tablespoon of instant coffee to the batter to intensify the chocolate flavor. Besides that, this is taken directly from her amazing book, A Homemade Life. If you haven't read it yet, get it ASAP!

7 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped 1 3/4 sticks of unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder 5 large eggs 1 tablespoon flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, and butter an 8 inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter that too.
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl. I used a double-boiler for this, but you can also melt it in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl. Just be careful not to burn the chocolate.
When the mixture is smooth add the sugar and coffee powder, stirring well to incorporate. Set batter aside to cool for 5 minutes. Then add the eggs, one by one, mixing well after each addition. Add the flour and stir to mix well. The batter should be dark and silky.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for about 25 minutes until the top of the cake is lightly cracked and the center looks set.
Remove the cake from the oven and set on cooling rack. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Carefully turn it out of the pan and then flip it onto a serving plate, so that the crackly side faces up. The cake is fairly delicate so this is a bit tricky, but Molly gives great advice on how to do this:
Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the pan, and place a large, flat plate, ( not the serving plate) on top of the foil, facing down. Hold the cake pan and plate firmly together and quickly, carefully, flip them. The pan should now be on top of the plate, with the foil between them. Remove the pan, revealing the cake, which is now upside down. Remove the parchment paper. Place the serving plate gently atop the cake. Wedging your index fingers between the plates to keep them from squishing the cake, flip them so that the cake is now right side up. Remove the foil.
Serve with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Double Header part 2

I promised two blog entries in one night so here goes. Tonight, Gian Luca cooked me dinner. It was so nice to have him in the kitchen, cooking Penne all' Amatriciana. It reminded me of the first time we made the dish together. Here's a story about it... Enjoy!

I like to think that I am a great cook, that I’ve inherited this innate talent from my mother, but the truth is, I need a lot of practice. This is problematic because when people learn of my upbringing they expect me to know how to cook Gnocchi alla Fiorentina, or Chicken alla Zingera. But the fact is that, even though my mother opened an Italian restaurant when I was seven, and I was literally raised in the kitchen, I spent most of my time sitting in the dry storage room playing with my Barbie dolls. Once I became old enough to learn how to cook, I decided that I’d rather waitress, so I left the kitchen for the adventures in the dining room. Though I’d collected many stories, I never really learned to cook.
I managed just fine in college. I knew the basic how-tos of cooking, and at the very least, I was able to make edible food. Most of my friends at the time were accustomed to living off of boxed macaroni and cheese and instant ramen noodles, so anything above those was a step in the right direction.
By the time I finished grad school I had mastered a few dishes. The kitchen in my New York apartment was barely the size of a closet, but I resisted take out and cooked myself dinner on a daily basis, and even managing to replicate my mother’s Pizza Rustica for Easter.
The year after, I found myself living back at my parents’ house in South Jersey. I gladly surrendered all cooking responsibilities to my mother and didn’t give it a second thought until I met Gian Luca.
I had recently become friends with a group of Italians who were all working at U Penn. There was Luca from Prato, Enea from Padova, Franscesa from Milan and Michelle who was raised in Singapore but spent summers on Lake Como. We met at Penn every Tuesday for dinner and discussion. Sometimes we would cook in someone’s small apartment, other times we frequented New Deck, a local bar for burgers and fries.
That particular Tuesday I was running late and had just parked my car at 7:30, our designated meet up time. I sprinted across campus, trying not to slip on the thin layer of snow that was quickly accumulating on the ground. I was breathless by the time I reached the second floor of the building. That was when I saw him first, standing in the doorway of the room, wearing an oversized coat, speaking quick fluid Italian with Luca. I was staring.
“Hi” he said looking at me and extending his hand. “I’m Gian Luca.”
“Piacere, sono Antonietta,” I said trying to speak Italian.
“Ah, you’re Italian?” He said in English.
“Well, I’m Italian- American,” I replied feeling paralyzed.
That night, for dinner we all went to New Deck and I managed to steal a seat across from him. I just couldn’t stop staring. I knew logically that we had never met, but I couldn’t rid myself of the feeling that I knew him from somewhere.
We ordered Burgers and Fries. Everything else at the bar was mediocre, but their burgers were thick and juicy and the fries were double fried, leaving them with a crunchy coating, perfect for dipping in ketchup.
I picked up the Heinz bottle and shook it violently, the loosened the cap and allowed the red river to flood a corner of my plate. This time he was staring at me.
“What?” I asked him smiling and hoping that no one else would interrupt.
“That is disgusting,” he replied and laughed.
My heart sank. “What is disgusting?” I said indignantly. I dipped my fry in ketchup and took a bite.
“That,” he pointed at my ketchup. “Try this.” He slid a cup of mayonnaise across the table. “It is so much better with your fries.”
I hated mayonnaise; the thought of it made me sick. “No, that is okay. I like ketchup better.”
“Trust me, you must try it,” he said inching the cup of white lard in front of me and smiling.
Reluctantly, I grabbed a fry and dipped the tip in the mayo. He watched as I took a bite. It was actually a lot better than ketchup.
By the time I got home I was smitten.
“Mom,” I squealed with the zeal of a star-struck teen. “I met the man I’m going to marry.”
“Well then you are going to have to learn how to cook.”
Of course, with every subject, there is a learning curve, and mine, however small, was still blaringly evident.
I considered myself more advanced than the average cook. Although I never cooked in the restaurant, I was sure that simply being around food so much had ingrained some recipes in my brain. This confidence was my hubris.
For our next dinner, I wanted to impress. Gian Luca had mentioned that he loved Chicken Picatta, so the entrée choice was obvious. But I chose to make profiteroles for dessert, thinking that the fluffy puffs of pastry would surely win him over.
Given my lack of experience, it was obvious that I needed help. My mom had recently developed a passion for desserts and made profiteroles on a daily basis for the restaurant. She was happy to assist.
Together, we melted equal parts butter and flour in a saucepan.
“Stir it until it is all combined,” she instructed. “Then flatten the sides against the pan until it sizzles.”
Once the flour and butter mixture looked like greasy dough, we removed it from the heat, let it cool, and slowly added eggs, one at a time.
“The trick to profiteroles is the oven,” my mom said. “You have to watch them very closely.”
She was right. After fifteen minutes at 400 degrees, we lowered the oven and watched them puff. When they were finished, each one was the size of a small fist, with a golden crust on top. As they cooled I made a chocolate sauce with condensed milk and bitter sweet chocolate.
An hour later I was driving across the Ben Franklin Bridge, confident that I would win Gian Luca’s heart.

“Did he like the profiteroles?” My mom asked as soon as she heard the door unlock.
“Not really,” I said removing my coat and sitting at the table. I had watched intently as he took small bites, eventually leaving half of the pastry on his plate, allowing the ice cream inside to melt into a thick white puddle. Earlier, I had burned myself while cooking an unsuccessful Chicken Piccatta. Michele had wowed everyone with creamy bowtie pasta with salmon and spinach, next to which my mediocre chicken did not shine. The profiteroles were going to be my saving grace, my wow factor. Instead, they ended up being devoured by everyone except the one person I wanted to impress.
Slowly, I was learning about his palate. This was a man who despised ketchup and dipped his fries in mayo; a man who came from the most famous wine village in Tuscany; a man who was not impressed by complex desserts, but loved Philly Cheese Steaks from street vendors. I was up for the challenge.
I began watching my mother each night, asking questions as she effortlessly created amazing meals. “Cooking is simple,” she’d say. “You just have to feel it.”
Dinners with my friends continued, and since I was the only one who did not live in Philadelphia, I always offered to bring different things that I could cook ahead of time. I was successful in preparing bruschetta in New Jersey and assembling it in a small city kitchen hours later. I made focaccia, frittata, brownies, bunt cake, flourishing in appetizers and desserts, things that could be prepared ahead of time and served at room temperature or even cold. I would arrive and act as if I had just whipped something up, while in reality I had spent hours planning and preparing dishes. My friends always enjoyed my creativity, and sometimes after eating, I would catch Gian Luca staring at me. My heart fluttered with hope.
Almost six months after the profiterole disaster, Gian Luca emailed me about a dinner party he wanted to throw. His research position was ending and he would be returning to Italy. This would be his one last dinner party before moving out of the city. He emailed me for help.
I promptly emailed back, offering my culinary expertise, which, at this time, he was clearly impressed by. Still, I was a little nervous. I had yet to execute an entire dinner menu from start to finish. I was good on the start, and also the finish, but the pesky in-between, the main course, was still a rough spot.
We decided on a simple crowd pleaser for the main course: Penne all’Amatriciana. A favorite in small taverns in Rome, this delicious mix of crispy pancetta, sweet caramelized onions and juicy plumb tomatoes would be the perfect dish for the final dinner in Gian Luca’s West Philadelphia home.
The apartment was tiny and the kitchen even more so. The studio was part of the university housing and was one step above the dorm room I had my freshman year of college in New York. The main difference between the two was that Gian Luca’s apartment had a tiny kitchenette nestled into one corner. The building housed around one hundred students, most of whom seemed to be home at around 6:30 when we began cooking.
Our friends were coming over at 7:30, leaving us just enough time to cook a non-fuss meal. I did not make menu cards or waste time with a fancy setting; we would be lucky if everyone had a chair to sit on. The water for the pasta was already on the stove and while we waited for it to boil, I started cutting radicchio for the bruschetta. Gian Luca sliced the bread and placed it on a baking sheet. Into the oven went our bread to crisp and we began slicing the ingredients for the Amatriciana sauce. Gian Luca took the pancetta while I worked on cutting the tomatoes and onions into long strips.
I was nervous. There were times that I though he was interested in me, other times when I was convinced we would never excel beyond friendship. I feared that he would go back to Italy and we would communicate a few times a year through mass emails.
By seven, the radicchio bruschetta was finished and we were prepped to make the Amatriciana sauce. Though I had never actually made the dish, I had seen my mother make it so many times that I was confident in the process. The first step is to cook the pancetta until it crisps. Since the meat is fatty, there is no need to put oil in the pan, you just dump the pancetta in and turn up the heat. That is exactly what we did.
We watched the meat stirring it occasionally. We waited. And waited. And waited. We couldn’t proceed with the sauce until the pancetta was crispy; soggy pancetta is fatty and tough, not what we wanted to serve our guests, so we had no choice but to allow it to cook.
An awkward silence passed between us. “Maybe we should cover the pan,” I suggested. He agreed.
As Gian Luca reached to grab a lid I reveled in my brilliance. I covered the pan and lowered the heat just a bit, sure that the pancetta would crisp quickly. We moved to set the table and spent a little too much time averting glances and pondering whether or not we were falling in love.
He smelled the smoke first. “Is something burning?” he asked.
“The pancetta!” I squealed, running towards the stove and turning it off. I lifted the lid and was met by a monstrous cloud of smoke. The pancetta was not just burned; it was welded to the bottom of pan.
Even though the heat was off, smoke continued to rise from the pan. We knew enough not to run water over it, but we were not sure what to do with the waste.
Gian Luca had an idea. “The toilet,” he said between coughs. He grabbed the handle of the pan and walked it over to the bathroom, his arm extended to its furthest reach to distance him self from the smoke. I heard a sizzle as the burnt meat met the water in the toilet bowl. Instantly, there was more smoke.
It was May and the small window in the apartment that was already open was doing nothing to assuage the smoke. After a few minutes, the smoke detector started to beep. I rushed to open the door, thinking that the cross wind would provide us some relief.
The alarm continued to sound.
I jumped on a chair and tried pushing buttons on the detector. When that did not work, I began fanning the smoke away from it with my hands. This only enhanced the alarm. Soon the main alarms in the building started blaring and the lights in the hallway blinked as if there really was an emergency.
We looked at each other nervously. We saw his neighbors beginning to evacuate and I had the urge to tell them all to stay in their rooms.
“There’s no emergency, I was just cooking!” I wanted to scream, but thought better of it when I saw the look of embarrassment on Gian Luca’s face. My heart sank.
“What should we do?” I asked.
“I guess we should leave,” he said. He walked over to the stove and turned off all of the burners.
Slowly, we left the building, walking with our heads down, lightly fanning ourselves in an attempt to get rid of the lingering smell of burning pork fat that nailed us as the culprits.
Outside, crowds of people were gathered on the sidewalk. Some were already in their pajamas; others were still carrying their backpacks.
It was seven-twenty five, our friends would arrive to find us in the middle of the crowd, and we’d have to explain ourselves.
The distant sound of fire engines grew stronger. Gian Luca and I both looked at each other. I could tell he was disappointed. I had ruined his dinner party. How could I have made such a horrible culinary mistake? I fought back the tears.
“Hey,” he said, placing his hand on my lower back. “Don’t be sad. This will just end up being one of our stories.”
I looked at him and smiled. The smoke had cleared.
He was right, it is.

A double header, part 1

I know, I know. I already sort of failed my National Blog Month challenge, sort of. See the challenge only said we had to write 30 posts in 30 days and technically, I still can. So tonight I have a double header for you, the first, cooked by me, and the second, in a few hours, by Gian Luca.
So here goes- Part 1.

My friend Jann is one of the many people who are allergic to gluten. Almost everyday at the restaurant a customer asks what items can be made without gluten and surprisingly there are lots. Yet, it is still difficult for people with gluten intolerance to have a warm comforting meal, and it is especially difficult to have pasta.
The other day Jann asked me for some gluten-free recipes and, being Italian, I thought I'd never come up with any. But as I scanned the isle of the supermarket on Sunday, I saw Spaghetti Squash and remembered the savory satisfying flavor. This would be perfect for Jann, since its consistency is very similar to spaghetti and can be topped with sauce and cheese. I opted to play up the spicy autumn flavors of the squash by pairing it with Andouille sausage. Even Gian Luca, who could eat pasta every night, loved the dish.

Spaghetti Squash with Andouille Sausage

1 Spaghetti Squash
1 medium andouille sausage ( or spanish chorizo)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chopped italian parsely
salt and pepper to taste
grated pecorino romano (optional)

Cut squash in half length-wise and remove the seeds. Place cut side down in a large pot in 2 inches of water. Cover and bring to boil, allowing the steam to cook the squash for 20 minutes. Drain and let cool.
Once cool, scrape the insides of the squash with a fork. The pulp with come off in spaghetti-like strands, hence the name.

Place pulp in a bowl and add butter, oil, salt and pepper. Toss until coated

Slice sausage in diagonally cut 1/2" pieces. Heat in non-stick skillet or grill pan.

Place spaghetti squash on dish and top with the sausage. Sprinkle with pecorino romano cheese and fresh parsley.

See you tonight for part 2!

Monday, November 2, 2009

When all else fails

It's only day two and I'm already realizing that this daily blogging is going to be a challenge.
One of the best things about writing a food blog is that I can choose to write only when I want, leaving out the culinary train-wrecks that happen every so often. But since I pledged to blog everyday, you're going to get to know the real me, disasters and all.

So here's the truth, I was supposed to make Chicken with Lemon and Capers for dinner. I planned everything this morning and even remembered to pull two chicken breasts out of the freezer to defrost them before I went to work. I placed the chicken in a bowl in the sink and left the house, forgetting that Mondays are my day to work late. It was only when I got home at 6:30 that I remembered that the chicken had been sitting in the sink for eight hours, and our apartment is no ice-box. Needless to say, we didn't have chicken for dinner.

Instead, I made a pasta dish that was probably worse than the rotten chicken. The only saving grace came at the end of the meal, when Gian Luca reached in the cabinet and pulled out the Nutella.
One taste of the creamy, chocolate hazelnut spread smeared over pieces of toast and we forgot all about the culinary mishaps of the day. I suggest you pick up a jar and keep it on hand, for when all else fails.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It All Starts There

I’m always up for a challenge. Inspired by Ashley of Not Without Salt, I’m undertaking my biggest blog challenge yet, the National Blog Writing Month. The mission: 30 entries in 30 days. That means that on top of working, revising my novel, and cooking, I’ll be posting everyday in November. I hope you’ll stick with me!

So first things first: I needed to stock up for a full week of cooking. And that required a trip to the supermarket because really, it all starts there.

Since I was a kid the supermarket has been one of my favorite places, probably because going for groceries was always an event. When my mom opened the restaurant, my dad took over as household shopper, and, of course, I was his assistant. Though our trips always took place on Saturdays, the real work started on Sunday, when we’d sit at the kitchen table, clipping coupons from the Sunday paper. We weren’t as organized as some people, with their coupon files and grocery lists, instead, our coupons went into a kitchen drawer and, come Saturday, half were forgotten at home. It didn’t matter though, because our essentials, the meats, cheeses and vegetables, always came from the restaurant. Our groceries consisted of the fun stuff, the juice boxes and cupcakes we would take to school; the sweet smelling shampoo; a different box of cereal for each kid, and various bottles of sodas. The trips would always start with the consumption of a chocolate and toffee candy bar, and we’d graze progressively, sampling grapes from the produce isle or thinly sliced prosciutto from the deli, laughing the entire time.

I still feel the magic when I walk through the automatic doors of a supermarket, but now I realize that the entrancement is not with the actual store, but with the endless possibilities lurking in each isle. Usually, I shop without a list and wander through the store, dreaming up different things make for Gian Luca, usually picking up a treat or two along the way, just like when I was a kid.
See you tomorrow!