Sunday, January 20, 2008

Be Your Own Italian Grandmother

I don’t have an Italian grandmother (although I wouldn't trade my grandmas for the world), but if I had a bonus grandma, I think these would be a great approximation of what she would make.
The meatballs are lightened up a bit, using turkey instead of beef or pork. Sure, I'm too lazy to peel tomatoes, so I use the canned kind, but the sauce still tastes ten times better than anything you buy in a jar. Both recipes are easy, but make for a great dinner!
And even better, both are freezable and perfect for pulling out of the oven on a busy weeknight.

Pasta Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 32 oz. can of whole tomatoes
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves
3 tablespoons fresh chopped fresh basil
1 32 oz. can of tomato sauce
½ tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
½ tablespoon dried thyme
½ tablespoon dried oregano
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 5 or 6 minutes until the onions are translucent.

In a food processor, combine the whole tomatoes (drained), Italian parsley, and basil, pulse several times until the tomatoes are broken up into very small pieces, but still have texture. Add to the pan with the onions and garlic, and then add the tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, fennel, thyme, oregano, and tomato paste. Bring to a bubble. Add the red wine and bring to a bubble again. Reduce heat to low and let simmer, stirring occasionally for two hours or as long as you can take it. The longer it cooks, the better it tastes, but honestly, it tastes pretty good as soon as you add the red wine.

Turkey Meatballs

1 small onion, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
3 oz (half a small can) of tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
1 teaspoon oregano
1 pound ground dark turkey meat (Don’t use the super-lean turkey or they will turn out very dry. I think if you used a mix of lean and dark it would probably turn out okay, though.)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Add the onion, garlic, egg, bread crumbs, tomato paste, parsley, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, oregano, salt and pepper to a large bowl and blend. Mix in the turkey. Shape the turkey mixture into 1 1/4-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet covered in foil and sprinkled with the olive oil. Roll the meatballs around in the olive oil. This keeps them from sticking to the foil and helps them brown in the oven. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Bake for 10 minutes, then pull them out and turn them over. Bake another ten minutes. Add to heated pasta sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes or so until they are completely cooked through. Serve over pasta.

Monday, January 7, 2008

C&S's Books of the Year 2007

Books for Any Appetite

My insatiable appetite for good food is matched by a similar craving for books. When the two converge I simmer up some tea, huddle under the covers and don't come out 'til I've read my fill. Months pass, friends forget what I look like ...such is the life of a foodie. Not to worry, though - I've emerged from this year's reading room bearing a trio of recommendations. These are not cookbooks (though they do contain recipes), but food-related books that will have you laughing, thinking and maybe even changing the way you eat.

Best Food Writing 2007
Edited by Holly Hughes

This compilation of the very best in food-related writing from 2007 includes pieces by Barbara Kingsolver, Anthony Bourdain, Frank Bruni and a host of other familiar names. Covering dozens of topics ("Porno Burrito" by Jonathan Gold; "The Japanese Paradigm" by John Kessler; "The Best Burger" by Raymond Sokolov) in easily-digestible 3-5 page tidbits, this book is perfect to tuck in your handbag for reading here and there at lunch or waiting in line at the bank. Or you could just devour it all in one afternoon like I did.

Eat, Drink and Be Gorgeous:
A Nutritionist's Guide to Living Well While Living it Up
By Esther Blum, MS, RD, CDN, CNS

All those letters after her name mean Esther Blum knows what she's talking about. Her book is smart, yet easy to understand. Best of all, it's funny and conversational - like a long chat with a friend about eating right and looking great. In addition to general information, Blum offers recipes for yummy *healthy* snacks and sweets, body treatments, hangover prevention/remedies, as well as supplement recommendations to aid conditions ranging from thinning hair to decreased sex drive. I dog-eared many pages in this book, and will keep it close at hand for reference.

The Omnivore's Dilemma
A Natural History of Four Meals
By Michael Pollan

Local. Grass-fed. Seasonal. Organic. Beyond Organic. These buzzwords are used over and over again in food-related journalism. To find out what they (and dozens of others) really mean, this is the book to read. In it, Michael Pollan performs a minute dissection of the American food chain and what he uncovers is fascinating, disturbing and ultimately, illuminating. The Omnivore's Dilemma was published in 2006, but it's taken me a long time to work my way through it. Eschewing scare-tactics and random, alarming factoids, Pollan instead relies on solid research and straight-up reporting to inform us about what we're piling on our plates. From the introduction: "...our eating turns nature into culture, transforming the body of the world into our bodies and minds." I found this book optimistic, in its own peculiar way - Pollan wants us to remember that knowledge is power.

Organic vs. Conventional

Ever felt reluctant to shell out $5.99/pound for some organic berries, when the conventional option looked just as mouthwatering for half the price? (Here's a hint: If you're in a cash crunch, go with the kiwis instead.) And what if you find yourself somewhere that doesn't offer any organics at all? This is handy info to have at your fingertips next time you're cruising through the produce department. From Eat, Drink and Be Gorgeous by Esther Blum, MS, RD, CDN, CNS. For more info on this subject visit

12 Most Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables

(Buy These Organic)

Bell Peppers
Imported Grapes
Red Raspberries

12 Least Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables

Corn (sweet)
Peas (sweet)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Winter Warmth

We love this meal for a small group on a chilly night. Post football game? Mel Brooks movie marathon? It requires only the most basic preparation, and both dishes fill the house with mouth-watering aromas as they bake. Prep in advance, if you wish, and pop the pie in the oven when your guests arrive. Do the same with the crisp when you sit down to dinner. Put out some crusty bread and soft butter on the table to round out the meal, or make individual portions of pie and curl up in front of the flat screen. Dessert continues the warming-trend, ending the evening on a sweet and comforting note.

Cottage Pie

Adapted by C&S from Irene Sax’s recipe
from The Age of Casseroles (Best Food Writing 2007)


14 tbsp. butter
2 ½ lbs. beef roast, trimmed and cut into ½” cubes
1 medium white onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup beef stock
1 cup dark beer
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tbsp. dried rosemary
½ tbsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
½ cup whole milk

1. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a large Dutch oven over med-high heat. Add one third of the beef and season lightly with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides, 4-5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer browned meat to a plate (do not line plate with paper towels), leaving fat in the pot. Repeat the process two more times, adding more butter as necessary to brown remaining meat. After last batch of meat is removed to the plate, add onion and carrots to the pot, reduce heat to medium, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook until just softened, scraping up any browned bits. Return beef and juices to pot along with flour and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Stir in stock and beer, Worcestershire, rosemary and thyme. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until beef is tender, about 45 minutes. Uncover pot and simmer, stirring often, until thickened, about 40 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and stir in peas. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, put potatoes into a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, 20-25 minutes. Drain and transfer potatoes to a bowl. Add 6 tbsp. butter, milk and salt and pepper to taste. Mash smooth with potato masher or electric mixer.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Transfer stew to a large casserole dish or 4 large (or 6 small) individual oven-safe bowls. Top evenly with mashed potatoes. Cut remaining butter into small cubes and scatter over potatoes. Bake until golden brown, 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of the serving dishes.

Serves 4-6

Apple and Pear Crisp

FoodiePrincess uses Ina Garten’s recipe, with the addition of ground ginger


4 ripe Bosc pears
6 firm, tart apples (such as Granny Smith)
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tbsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground nutmeg

For the topping:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (for serving)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Peel, core, and cut the pears and apples into large chunks. Place the fruit in a large bowl and add the zests, juices, sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Pour into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch oval baking dish.

3. Make the topping: Combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1 minute, until the mixture is in large crumbles. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit, covering the fruit completely.

4. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream.

Serves 6