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I love Food. Cooking it. Eating it. Experiencing it. As a result, that's what this blog has evolved into: A journal of my gastronomical journeys abroad, as well as my culinary creativity at home. I hope you enjoy what I have to say, and I'd love to hear your comments... Cheers!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

More Treats than Tricks

In preparation for the annual Hollenberg Halloween festivities, which has grown in attendance each year, here are 2 items I'll be offering up to our goulish guests...
The first was a bit more time-consuming than I originally anticipated ... babysitting the meatballs as they brown on all sides is a necessity... the second was a snap -- you gotta love no-bake pies! ... enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

Italian Meatballs (for subs)
  • Soak 2c panko breadcrumbs in 3/4c whole milk. Add 2 cloves chopped garlic, 4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.
  • Combine 3 lbs. ground beef (I used half beef, half pork -- much more flavor) in a large bowl. Add bread crumb mixture.
  • Mix in 1/2 medium chopped sweet onion. Mix. Add 3 large eggs. Mix. Add a helping of oregano, parsley, and 6 tbs. grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese. Mix.
  • Roll into balls on a large dish or platter, while you heat a large skillet/fry pan on medium heat. Mixture made 35 meatballs for me.
  • Brown on all sides, turning every few minutes (you'll have to use 2 pans or do it in batches).
  • Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, make a

Basic Tomato Sauce:

  • heat 3 tbs. EVOO, 1 medium sweet onion (approx 7 min.), 5 chopped garlic cloves (or equivalent). Sautee until golden brown.
  • Add 2 280z. cans good quality crushed tomatoes and juices (I also added a pinch of crushed red pepper for some heat).
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes. Add a pinch or two of sugar and/or salt to taste.

When meatballs are done, transfer to Dutch Oven or Crock Pot, cover with sauce, and simmer for 30 minutes. OR, refrigerate and heat up next day.

Turtle Pumpkin Pie

  • Pour 1/4c caramel topping into ready-made graham cracker pie crust. Top with 1/2c chopped pecans.
  • Mix 2 boxes (3.4 oz each) vanilla pudding mix, 8oz canned pumpkin, 1c cold milk, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg.
  • Once blended, add 1 1/2c Cool Whip. Spoon mixture into crust.
  • Refrigerate an hour or until ready to serve. Top with remaining Cool Whip (from an 8 oz tub), drizzle on caramel topping and more chopped pecans just before serving.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Homage to Franco's

The other night we had our friends over for dinner, and decided to do something I can't believe I hadn't yet done: recreate my all-time favorite dish from my family's bell weather Italian restaurant in New Jersey. It was Franco's (Montvale, NJ) every Friday (at least that's how my rose-tinted memory sees it from my youth), and we never needed to look at a menu. My mom and sis always has the Eggplant Rollatini (it was a special,; he even made it for them when it wasn't on the menu), my dad would usually get the special that night (he trusted Franco's taste), or the Veal Parmigiana, and my order was.... Veal Pillows. Just the sound of those 2 words together puts my salivary glands in a state of euphoria... The key to this entree is the layering of flavors and textures just so: breaded veal cutlets, prosciutto, ricotta, marinara, and mozzarella, in that order, from the bottom up.

For my rendition, I opted for chicken in place of veal, to appease the masses, but the results were still fairly exceptional. There's a lot going on in each bite: a little crunch from the bread crumbs (I use Panko), the tenderness of the white meat, the salty prosciutto, the creamy ricotta, the slightly sweet and acidic tomato sauce (I used Putannesca), and the melty mozzarella......... heaven, and on a Monday night no less!

I urge you to try this dish...maybe it becomes one of your favorites, too! Just make sure to give the credit to Franco!

Simmons: The Book of Basketball

Simmons: The Book of Basketball

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

To New Jersey...and back

First time back on the blog since my return from my roots... saw Bruce "close" Giants Stadium, and also got a good dose of Jersey life, eating at 2 of my favorite haunts from back in the day...
The first was a breakfast at the Ridge Diner in Park Ridge, NJ, just a stone's throw from my childhood home. What made this return even better was that I was there with one of my best friends from college, who has since migrated to my old hometown. We ate typical breakfast fare that morning -- eggs, pancakes, french toast... and it was good to be back in those familiar surroundings, especially with 2 generations...
Lunch that day was take-out from Casa Del Sol, and it still remains one of the best roast beef hoagies I'll ever devour. This time, my buddy Pete ordered for us: rare roast beef, thick slices of mozzarella, and roasted red peppers. Nothing like it.
And it's truly one of the things that makes me so passionate about food: the ability for a taste, a smell, a texture, to transport you back in time. There's something... pastoral about it for me. And yet it tastes as good today as it did when I was younger...
I am, and always will be, proud to be from the Garden State!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Headed to the Swamps of Jersey!

Before I make my pilgrimage to my home state for the Final Farewell to Giants Stadium courtesy of Bruce Springsteen, wanted to post a couple of dishes I made this week for the family that turned out really well...
This is a light and very healthy meal that has a lot of texture and different flavor profiles to it...

Fettuccine with Artichokes and Beans
  1. Cook pasta according to directions. Reserve 1/2 c of pasta water.
  2. Drain and rinse 1can cannellini beans and cut into quarters a can of artichoke hearts (I prefer the marinated ones). Saute for a few minutes with a bit of EVOO and garlic.
  3. Crumble one piece of white toast in a food processor/blender. Add oregano or Italian seasoning and pulse until combined. Drizzle in 2 tbsp. EVOO and pulse again until combined.
  4. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add in the bean mixture and half the bread mixture, plus the reserved pasta water.
  5. Top with remaining bread mixture and Parmesan cheese, and serve.

I made this as more of a side dish (the better to have more leftovers!), and served with breaded tilapia fillets topped with a Cabernet reduction sauce, with garlic, capers, and sun dried tomatoes.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Pasta with A-Plum...

Here's a savory, no-sauce pasta dish that's really light and fresh, too...

Fire Roasted Tomato Fettuccine
  1. Slice a dozen plum tomatoes length-wise and place in a foiled-lined, non-stick sprayed 15x10 baking dish.
  2. In a small bowl, mix 1/4c EVOO, S&P (I prefer sea salt), garlic, crushed red pepper, and Italian seasoning. (*NOTE: I don't give exact measurements here because I believe you can use as much or as little to your liking... but usually it's in the neighborhood of 1 tsp.)
  3. Spread mixture over tomatoes, and roast in a 400 degree oven for 45-60 minutes. Drizzle 2 tbsp. EVOO on top before roasting.
  4. Cook pasta as you normally would. Meanwhile, place 1/2 the roasted tomatoes in a large bowl and roughly mash them. Mix in the drained pasta and then top with the rest of the tomatoes.
  5. Either mix in or sprinkle on a helping of your favorite cheese (I'd go with Reggiano or Pecorino, but Asiago would work here, too.).

We had this last night with a spicy little Australian Shiraz that complimented the dish beautifully....