Tag Archives: Main Courses

I Don’t Know How She Does It: Ricotta Gnocchi

29 Jan

As I slowly awaken from the daze caused by moving halfway across the country, I am tasked with the behemoth job of… getting a job.  I’ve been working since I was 15 years old, and working in my present profession since two days after graduating from college.  So a brief break from the workaday world of 9 to 5 has been quite an adjustment.

While I’m eternally grateful that I’m able to slow down for a minute, I find that I’m not one of those people who enjoys just sitting around.  It’s been an interesting practice in patience, concerning myself with new ways to fill my day.  Many of which involve running mundane errands and taking the dog for long walks.  And cooking things I normally NEVER have the time to tackle.  Like homemade gnocchi.  For lunch.  In the middle of the day.

RICOTTA GNOCCHI (serves 6 to 8)
4C all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1lb. ricotta cheese
Pinch of salt
Flour
Grated Parmesan cheese

Combine flour with ricotta, salt and egg.  Mix until dough forms a ball.  Turn on a lightly-floured board and knead until smooth; about 5-8 minutes.  Cut dough into eight sections.  Roll each section into long finger-shaped rolls 1/2in. in diameter and cut into 1/2in. pieces.  With index finger, press each piece in the center, rolling slightly to form a shell-like shape. Sprinkle with flour and let stand 15 minutes.  Shake off excess flour and drop gently into boiling salted water.  Cook until tender, about 12-15 minutes.  Drain well.  Toss with your favorite sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Yum!

Yum!

These were SO FREAKING DELICIOUS.  I got so involved in the creation of them, though, that documenting the process with my camera fell by the wayside until they were halfway shoved down my face.

Here’s the thing: how on EARTH did T and my great grandmother, Grandma Rosie, have time to make things like this?  With multiple children running around the kitchen and demanding, hungry husbands?  It boggles the mind.  Maybe that’s why they look so grumpy in this shot.  Well, at least T looks fabulous and grumpy.

T and GR

Suddenly, returning to work seems like a welcome respite.  Mangia!

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Happy Halloween! Italian Hamburgers

31 Oct

Remember the days when costumes were homemade and you put your candy in a pillowcase?  And, your parents made you give them HALF your candy, to eat later (which mysteriously disappeared)?  Those were the days.  I rotated two different costumes for years.  A witch (a black mumu my mother hand-sewed) and a gypsy (a hot mess of hippie clothes from my mom’s 1960’s stash).  One year we got CRAZY and I got to be a nurse (another white mumu sewed by Mom), complete with nurse’s cap borrowed from my aunt.  Amazing.  My brother was usually a hobo or an Army man.

Man, I thought my makeup was the coolest

We loved trick or treating– in St. Louis, it’s a tradition that you don’t get any candy until you tell a joke.  I didn’t realize NO ONE else does this until I moved away.  And I got a lot of blank stares when I demanded this of children on my doorstep.

I also loved carving pumpkins, but am still scared to do it myself without my father’s knife skills handy.  True story.  I can cut a fish filet but I just can’t tackle the orange beast.

Now that I think about it, Halloween is a busy time, especially if you have little ones.  So it’s best to keep the meal short and sweet.  To service that, I present hamburgers for Halloween.  Italian hamburgers.

ITALIAN HAMBURGERS (serves 4-6)
1 1/2lb. ground chuck
1C Italian breadcrumbs
2 eggs
Salt and pepper

1 thinly sliced white onion
Italian round buns, sliced in half
Oil for frying

Mix ground chuck, bread crumbs, eggs, salt and pepper together until well-blended.  Divide meat into six patties.  Press one onion slice on top of each hamburger.  Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet and fry on both sides until done.  Place on heated buns and serve.

It’s not pretty in the pan, but it tastes good, trust me.

Trick or treat!  And if you decide to binge on candy, I’M certainly not going to judge.  Mangia!

Fall Flavors: T’s Favorite Chili

5 Oct

As the weather cools off in parts of the country that are NOT Los Angeles, a trickle of pumpkin patch pictures are starting to show up on my social media sites.  It’s the season to bust out your turtlenecks, roll in a pile of leaves and head for a hayride.

In celebration of that, here’s a super-simple, old-school, basic chili recipe that T titled in her book “My Favorite Chili.”  So hang out this weekend, throw this together in a pot and prepare to appreciate autumn.

Circa 1982. I’ve never really been “one with nature.”

MY FAVORITE CHILI (serves 4)
3T vegetable oil
1lb. lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 strips green pepper, chopped
1 16oz. can chili beans in chili gravy
1 16oz. can whole tomatoes, finely chopped
2t chili powder
A few drops Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1t sugar

In a heavy saucepan, heat oil on high heat.  Add meat, onion, garlic and green pepper and saute together until meat is no longer pink.  Add beans, tomatoes and seasonings; stir to blend.  Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes.

Like I said, this recipe is old-school.  It’s nothing fancy and it doesn’t have exotic ingredients, but sometimes, simplicity is best.  Like playing in a freaking pile of dead leaves when you’re seven.  AmIright?  Mangia!

Pasta Party: Fresh Tomato Sauce with Beef and Lamb

7 Sep

I recently went to visit my family and welcome my newborn niece Claire into the world.  In my estimation, all newborns can do is eat and sleep, so our activities were kept pretty close to the house.  Luckily, my two-year old niece Gia puts on quite the show; singing original songs, dancing on the back porch, etc.  She especially loves helping in the kitchen.

So my brother and I had a homemade pasta-making competition; he would probably disagree, but I was the clear winner.  But he did whip up a delicious meat sauce to cover the strands of fettucine, so he got major points for that.  While the photos I took are mostly of the homemade pasta, the sauce at the end is the money shot.

Prepping the pasta

Someone loves to knead

This recipe is pretty simple and fun to make when you’re just hanging out in the kitchen all day.  If you’re having an ethical dilemma or entertaining vegetarians, you can omit the veal or meat altogether.  But we like it this way.

TOMATO SAUCE WITH BEEF AND LAMB
4lbs. ripe fresh tomatoes
1/4C olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 sprigs fresh basil, chopped (or more to taste)
1t sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Mix of ground beef, veal and lamb, equaling 1lb.

Cut tomatoes into small pieces and cook in a large pot for 10 minutes over medium heat until tomatoes are soft.  Cool and put through food mill, or blend with immersion blender.  Saute garlic and onion in olive oil until onion is translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add tomatoes, basil, sugar, salt and pepper.  Cook in a covered pot over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If sauce is too thick, add a little water.  If it’s too thin, cook a little longer uncovered (or add a tablespoon of tomato paste if you have it).  Once sauce is cooked to your liking, saute meat in a pan until it is mostly cooked, then add to sauce.  Simmer for 45 minutes.

Working the machine

“I want pasta!!!”

As the sauce cooks, prepare the pasta (homemade or otherwise).  You can also do what my mother does, and sneakily dip a piece of bread into the sauce and snack all day long.  She thinks we don’t know about this habit.  But we do.  Mangia!

Ta da!

Good for the Grill: Shrimp With Garlic Butter

20 Jun

Last week was my brother’s birthday, and while I didn’t post on the actual day, I thought I’d give a little shout-out to the dude who loves to man the grill– Tony usually cooks his own birthday dinner, as a matter of fact.

Opening presents, 1975

Tony with lobster (a birthday gift from me), which he also cooked, 2004

SHRIMP WITH GARLIC BUTTER (serves 6)
2lbs. fresh medium-to-large shrimp, shelled, de-veined and skewered
8T butter
1/2C olive oil
1T lemon juice
1/4C finely chopped shallots
1t salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
4T finely chopped fresh parsley
Lemon quarters for squeezing

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.  In a shallow dish, large enough to hold shrimp in single layer, melt butter.  Stir in olive oil, lemon juice, shallots, garlic, salt and pepper.  Add shrimp and turn them in the butter and oil until well-coated.  Grill for about 5 minutes, brushing with extra sauce, then turn and grill on other side for 3-4 minutes, or until just pink, but not overcooked.  Transfer to serving platter, pour remaining sauce over the top, sprinkle with chopped parsley and garnish with lemon quarters.

Summer fun with Gia and Tony

This recipe is really fast and easy; perfect for the summer months when you just want to hang out and play all day.  Mangia!

Baby Boom: Chicken Breasts with Lemon and Parsley

25 May

It’s an exciting time here at For Antonina HQ, as the Roberts family awaits the arrival of Gia’s baby sister who will be here in August.  Having never been pregnant, I don’t know how these ladies do it.  I recently traveled with a dear friend (due in just a couple of days!) and she could not eat ANYTHING.  I cannot confirm if this is because she’s being cautious, or her doctor is a nutjob.  Seriously.  Certain cheeses, meats and fish were nixed and the poor woman was hungry all the time.  Luckily we consumed plenty of vodka to calm her down.  Ba da bing!  Kidding!

I did discover that lean chicken is a staple of the pregnant person’s diet, so in honor of Baby Girl Roberts, I give you a simple chicken recipe from page 158.  It doesn’t skimp on the butter, but, eh, if you can’t drink, you might as well have a smidge of fatty fun.

Rose pregnant with Tony, 1975

Tony’s wife Sara, yesterday (with Gia cameo)

CHICKEN BREASTS WITH LEMON AND PARSLEY (Serves 4 to 5)
1T vegetable oil
5T butter
3 whole chicken breasts, pounded and filleted
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
3T fresh parsley, chopped
1 lemon, thinly sliced

Heat oil and 3T butter in skillet over medium to high heat.  Saute chicken fillets on both sides very briefly; two minutes at the most.  Add lemon juice to skillet and turn heat to medium.  Loosen cooking bits from pan, adding 1-2T water if necessary.  Add parsley and remaining 2T butter.  Lower heat and add chicken, turning over in sauce to coat.  Transfer to serving platter with juice from skillet.  Garnish with sliced lemons.

We used to eat this all the time while I was growing up, usually with Rice-A-Roni (the San Francisco treat).  So I think rice would make an excellent side dish, even if you make it fresh and not from a box.  Add your favorite vegetable on the side and boom.  Baby boom.  Mangia!

Lazy Weekend: Rigatoni with Fontina Cheese

14 May

It’s been a crazy month here at For Antonina central, with out-of-town visitors, travel, work and activity-filled weekends.  So I was happy to slow down and plan just a few things over the past few days, one of those things being a dinner in with a gal pal.

Yep, it’s another variation on macaroni and cheese from T’s cookbook (there are several recipes for it, which is just fine by me, as a self-proclaimed mac and cheese expert).  This recipe is simple, portable, easy to re-heat, good hot or at room-temperature, and, for the more adventurous types, easy to modify to your tastes and preferences (that’s what I did).  So the next time you have the chance, sit back, relax, hang out with the ones you love and serve up something that’s always a culinary favorite.

Lazy weekend, T and me

RIGATONI WITH FONTINA CHEESE (Serves 6)
1lb rigatoni (or preferred tube-shaped pasta)
6T butter
1/2lb Fontina cheese, shredded
2 pinches freshly-ground nutmeg
1C grated Parmesan cheese
Generous cranks freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Cook pasta in salted boiling water until LESS THAN al dente (it should be really firm, about four minutes cooking time).  Drain and place in large bowl.  Add 4T of the butter, 1/2 of the grated Parmesan, the nutmeg and pepper; toss until all of the pasta is coated, then add almost all of the Fontina cheese, reserving a few handfuls.  Pour mixture into a buttered baking dish, sprinkle remaining cheese on top, dot with remaining butter and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbly (don’t panic if it takes longer– more time to hang out!).

I varied the recipe by doing a mix of equal parts Fontina, extra sharp Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses.  I also mixed in one head of cleaned, chopped, uncooked broccoli, just before I popped it into the oven.  Finally, I used pipette, since I couldn’t find rigatoni at the store.

It was so easy, and so perfect for a lazy Saturday night dinner, with a bunch of store-bought appetizers and bakery cupcakes for dessert.

And it turned out so delish, my friend’s first words after her first bite were simply, “Holy shit.”  Mangia!