Category: italian

A fairy tale of eggplant proportions.

Magical trees.

Funny thing, memories are. When I was a wee little tot, there was a tulip tree on my property that had a hole in the bottom. It was one of the original trees from when the house was built, so by the time I was a kid it was already not only over 30-something years old, but massive. Right where the trunk met the grass, the roots grew in such a way that made it look like there was a doorway leading into the tree. A little cave, or “fairy house.” It intrigued me so much, that little door. I used to imagine that little creatures lived in there, and had a whole little tree house with furniture made of twigs & carpets made of woven grass. Maybe fairies, maybe gnomes, maybe even mice or squirrels. Preferably the kind that wear little vests & glasses.

Sadly, I grew up… & the tree was removed because it got too big.

Keeping that in mind, think of what went through my mind when I saw this recipe for “Pickled fairy tale eggplant” over at Food in Jars. It immediately conjured up images of fairies & that little door in the tree. It brought back memories that had absolutely nothing to do with eggplant. So of course, I had to make it. However- I do not like eggplant. In the past, I’ve made things like melanzane sott’olio & passed ‘em along to my mother. So I figured why not do that again… who could turn down a pretty pinkish jar of something called fairy tale eggplant?

(I know, I’ve been stalking Food in Jars lately. I can’t help it)

Sicilian eggplant. Close enough to "fairy tale" eggplant for a jar of pickles, right?

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Hey melanzane, melanzane sott’olio.*

I first saw a recipe for this last summer on a blog, & I thought: wow, that’s interesting. Coming from a decidedly non-Italian family, I myself never ate eggplant in oil. I never had it in my house. However, I will say I never remember it being a staple in any homes I went to, either. Even the Italian ones. I had an Italian uncle by marriage, and I went to him & my aunt’s home for many dinners that he cooked: pasta fagioli, homemade pizzas, lasagne, etc. I also had many Italian friends with big old school Italian families & crazy huge Sunday dinners, and I never once saw a jar of eggplant in oil. I can’t say I really paid attention to something like that though, especially as a child. But apparently regardless of my total unobservance,  it is quite popular, as both a condiment and side dish.

I actually never ate eggplant as a child or young adult.

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I didn’t eat an eggplant myself until I was almost 27 years old.

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I know you’re probably thinking I’m insane. I’m not, I assure you. We can skip discussing my strange food phobias/quirks for now, okay? Let’s just stick to the topic at hand, which is eggplant in oil.

Let me give you the full background here: Last summer we were hit with Hurricane Irene (which thankfully was Category 1 as it got closer, but more like Tropical Storm Irene by the time it actually hit here) and she was a bitch. New York is never hit with hurricanes; by never I mean there have only been about 84 of them since the 17th century. And most of them- only if they hit directly and at their full power- have been, if not devastating, then massively destructive. Probably because it takes a monster of a storm to wind it’s way all the way up here keeping that strength the whole time. So Irene hits, & we were incredibly lucky to still have had a home, a car and power by the time she left, because many people here didn’t. But after that whatever veggies were on the vine before it hit pretty much weren’t anymore. I knew this would be the case ahead of time, so I just pulled all the vegetables that were growing (and were a decent/useable size) right off the plants. That meant that my eggplant wasn’t exactly large, it definitely wouldn’t have fed a family with an abundant eggplant parmigiana, which was my original plan. It was small and not very mature. After reading the aforementioned blog post about “melanzane sott’olio”, I sliced it up into thin slices just I like I saw on that blog and put it in a jar with some garlic, olive oil & oregano for my mother.

Not for me. Like I said above, it took me almost 30 years for me to even deign to try an eggplant. And I did, and I came to this realization: I am not a big eggplant fan. Unless it’s fried beyond recognition in seasoned bread crumbs & oil until crispy, and then slathered with melted mozzarella cheese & a delicious tomato sauce. And even then? I’d much rather have something else. Like the Local Kitchen said, it’s the slimy factor that gets me, I get the icks from slimy food (that explains why I don’t like oysters, either). The frying makes it crispy and kind of disguises the sliminess. Although at my friend Samantha’s wedding, I had a delish veggie casserole type-thing with a pastry topping & ricotta cheese, kinda like a veggie version of a pot pie, and it was loaded with eggplant. Not fried. But I still ate that shit like it was going out of style. That’s a rarity with me. However I know my mother loves eggplant, so I thought maybe she’d want some melanzane sott’olio for her sandwiches.

And whattaya know? It was a success! The tiny little 8 oz. jar I made for her didn’t last very long. I vowed to her I’d make another (larger) jar once I got my hands on fresh eggplant next summer (which would be this summer).

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But I didn’t grow any eggplant this summer. And time got away from me; I swear I don’t know where the summer went! I actually forgot ALL about the eggplants in oil until I saw that white eggplant at the market. It was sitting with a bunch of other white eggplants, and right next to it a bunch of equally lovely but skinnier lavender eggplants. All locally grown. All absolutely lovely. And I thought to myself, “I think it’s time for some melanzane sott’olio.” They were so pretty and plump, and for the most part unblemished. I figured I’d buy one of the bigger white ones and make a jar of pickled eggplants for my mother.

I’m such a good daughter.

Eggplant can be tricky for a lot of people. Most people complain it’s bitter, so they use the salting method to remove the bitterness. But the trouble is most of them either don’t let it “sweat” long enough or they don’t rinse all the salt off properly, so then it’s either still too bitter or it’s too salty. I’m quite sure that many an eggplant dish, all over the world, has been tossed in the garbage due to this mistake. But if you rinse it well, and then cook it in the vinegar mixture and squeeze it well, then you’ll be just fine. Also, if you’re using the white eggplant, it’s much less bitter than it’s darker counterparts, so this step is skip-able. I didn’t bother doing it, and everyone agreed there was no bitterness. Though if you’re a worry wart it won’t hurt you to do it. Just make sure you rinse all that salt off!

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It’s a very simple process. My directions that follow are for making ONE pint of this, using ONE eggplant. Adjust as necessary. Other than your eggplant, you’ll need:

  • salt
  • a container of olive oil (I used extra virgin, decent quality but not a very expensive one since it will just absorb the other flavors anyway)
  • oregano
  • hot pepper flakes
  • some red or white wine vinegar (depending on your taste), or even just plain old white vinegar if that’s all you’ve got.

If you want to add some thinly sliced garlic, basil leaves or other herbs that’s up to you. You’ll also need a pint jar. It’s fine to use one that isn’t a canning jar because there’s no canning involved, so make use of your old cleaned-out sauce jars or whatever.

Wash the eggplant and cut off the ends. If you prefer it peeled, then do that. I left the skin on mine, but you can’t tell since it’s white. There’s nothing wrong with the skin, it’s perfectly edible, so leave it on if it doesn’t bother you. If you use a purple eggplant it’ll add a nice color to the jar. Slice the eggplant fairly thin into about 1/4″ rounds, or if you prefer, slice it into strips. Using a colander over a large bowl, place a layer of eggplant in the colander then salt it. Repeat this process until all the eggplant is in the colander and salted. Place a plate on top of the eggplant and then weigh it down. I like to use a bag of sugar or flour if I have it around. Leave it like this for 8-12 hours. All the bitterness and moisture in the eggplant will leech out because of the salt. Now you can rinse it thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly. If you want to do it one more time, you can, but you don’t have to. And if you do, don’t leave it another 12 hours- I think 2 would suffice for a second round. Place the rinsed off eggplant on a plate covered with paper towels (or a clean, thin dish towel), making sure the paper towels hang over the sides of the plate. Raise the sides of the paper towels to form a “bag” holding the eggplant and gently squeeze the remaining moisture out. Now you’re ready to cook.

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In a medium saucepan, combine roughly 1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring it to a boil and add the eggplant. Cook the eggplant for about 2-3 minutes, making sure it’s all submerged by pressing down with a wooden spoon occasionally. If you’d prefer to cook the eggplant in small batches, then you only need 1/2 cup of each. Place the cooked eggplant on another plate covered with paper towels and let dry for 20 minutes, or pat and squeeze dry once it’s cool enough to touch. I like to keep the eggplant hot before I add it to the jar, so I squeeze it and pat it dry (or as dry as I can get it). Add the cooked pickled eggplant to a clean jar in layers: first adding a few slices of eggplant, then some oregano, a few more slices of eggplant, then some hot pepper flakes, and so on, covering each layer with olive oil. Do this until your jar is full. I used dried oregano from my garden last summer, but fresh is okay too. You can add some chopped or thinly sliced garlic, like I mentioned above, if you wish, or even some basil. Maybe even a sliced fresh Bell pepper, if you want to get really wild & crazy. Close the lid and once the jar is cooled (if you filled it with hot eggplant, that is), pop that bad boy in the fridge. The olive oil will congeal, but if you remove it from the fridge and place it in a warm spot in the kitchen for 15-20 minutes before eating, it’ll re-liquify.

Some say to let it sit for a week or so to let the flavors fuse. My mom eats hers as soon as I give it to her. Do as you like.

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Some ideas for eating it? Well, for one it’s good right out of the (room temperature) jar. Also, it’s excellent on sandwiches, pretty much any kind. My most recent utilization (when I’m cooking for other people, people who enjoy eggplant much far than I) is to add some of it to hot pasta, with or without sauce. Just sprinkle a little cheese on top to finish it off and you’re good to go.

I have heard/seen people who leave the jars out on the counter for weeks (some say months) at a time. They have never died of botulism, nor did their ancestors who did things this way for centuries. There are also people who process the jars of eggplant in oil using a waterbath canner to seal them for shelf-storage. I’ve done this with peppers, myself, although they never really lasted long enough to pose a health risk either way (and were refrigerated once opened). However, I can’t in good conscience tell you to do this, because… well.. this is where I have to do the USDA/FDA public service announcement:

Herbs and oils are both low-acid and together could support the growth of the disease-causing Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Oils may be flavored with herbs if they are made up for fresh use, stored in the refrigerator and used within 2 to 3 days. There are no canning recommendations. Fresh herbs must be washed well and dried completely before storing in the oil. The very best sanitation and personal hygiene practices must be used. Pesto is an uncooked seasoning mixture of herbs, usually including fresh basil, and some oil. It may be frozen for long term storage; there are no home canning recommendations.

Preserving in oil is currently not recommended. Oil may protect botulism organisms trapped in a water droplet. Furthermore, oil may have a deleterious effect on lid gaskets and the at least one manufacturer of home canning lids recommends against it.

-USDA National Center for Home Food Preservation

I have to be responsible and make you aware of any dangers that keeping this out unrefrigerated presents. That said, you’re all adults and you can make your own decisions. If you can make the decision to buy cigarettes, buy a 2-liter of Coke or get behind the wheel of your car after you’ve had a few beers, then you can decide for yourself whether or not this is a risk you want to take. I spoke briefly during my Canning for Dummies post about safely canning foods, and oils can’t be safely canned (even in a pressure canner). Therefore, it’s only recommended for use immediately or to store in the fridge. But again… you’re all adults. And you’re going to do what you want either way. I just don’t have to be responsible for it! I did say, “I told you so.”

And if you enjoy this idea, why not try some shrimp this way?

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*Sung to the tune of ‘Mambo Italiano,’ of course.

Ricotta me, ricotta you.

One of my favorite cheeses? Ricotta. I used to eat it plain, spread on a crusty piece of Italian bread when I was a kid. Or right out of the container. Yet in all my years of baking, I’d never made ricotta cake! I know, I know. So this week I changed that.

 

What’s that? Oh nothin’, just lemon ricotta cupcakes with powdered sugar.

 

Did you just fall off your chair? I know, ’cause I almost did myself. Ricotta is fuckin’ amazeballs. Pardon my French- er, Italian. But it seriously is. It can be sweet or savory, used as a condiment or a filling, mixed with sugar… never-ending possibilities.

Ricotta (Italian pronunciation: [riˈkɔtta]) is an Italian dairy product made from sheep (or cow, goat, buffalo) milk whey left over from the production of cheese. Although typically referred to as ricotta cheese, ricotta is not properly a cheese because it is not produced by coagulation of casein. Rather it is made by coagulating other milk proteins, notably albumin and globulin, left over in the whey that separates from the milk during the production of cheese. In fact, ricotta is safely eaten by individuals with casein intolerance.

Ricotta (literally meaning “recooked”) uses the whey, a limpid, low-fat, nutritious liquid that is a by-product of cheese production. Most of the milk protein (especially casein) is removed when cheese is made, but some protein remains in the whey, mostly albumin. This remaining protein can be harvested if the whey is first allowed to become more acidic by additional fermentation (by letting it sit for 12–24 hours at room temperature). Then the acidified whey is heated to near boiling. The combination of low pH and high temperature denatures the protein and causes it to precipitate out, forming a fine curd. Once cooled, the curd is separated by passing through a fine cloth.

Ricotta curds are creamy white in appearance, slightly sweet in taste, and contain around 13% fat. In this form, it is somewhat similar in texture to some cottage cheese variants, though considerably lighter. It is highly perishable. Ricotta comes in other forms as well.

RICOTTA CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • Zest of 1 (organic) lemon
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons good quality Extra Virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 400˚ and line a muffin tin with liners. Cream the butter and sugar in a standing mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. On the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time. Then add the olive oil & beat. Slowly add the flour, salt, ricotta, lemon zest, & baking powder.
  3. Scrape the batter into the prepared liners about halfway and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  4. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn cupcakes out and cool completely on the rack. Use a sifter to coat in powdered sugar.

I made the full recipe and got 12 cupcakes and one round 8″ cake. You can make two 8″ cakes & layer them with the cannoli filling (keep reading) or some fresh whipped cream & berries, or you make a full 2-dozen cupcakes, or you can fill a 9/10″ springform pan. I guess you could use a 10″ bundt pan too if you really wanted.

Now, if you really want to be daring… or if you just want to make it totally over the top, you can add a cannoli cream filling. I chose not to, mainly because I had limited fridge space and also because I was bringing these somewhere and didn’t want to risk the filling getting gross. But I am giving you the recipe, ’cause I’m cool like that. I’d recommend making the filling on the same day you’ll be using it, and also the same day you’re serving it.

CANNOLI CREAM FILLING
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Ingredients:
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese, drained as “dry” as possible
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • teaspoon lemon or orange zest, optional

Directions:

  1. Put the drained cheese in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Mix ingredients together with a hand mixer until smooth & thick. Chill for about 20 minutes.
  3. Fill cooled cupcakes. Finito!

You’ll definitely need to store these in the fridge. The frosting is not stable at all and has a high cheese content. Ricotta is very delicate and must be chilled or else all kinds of nasties can grow. If you need help figuring out how to drain the ricotta, this website explains it pretty well. It’s very similar to the “jelly bag” concept in canning. I should stress here that the fresher the ricotta, the better. Artisan ricotta is the best to use, especially for the filling. For the cupcake itself you can get away with using a good quality supermarket brand.

But they’re pretty freakin’ awesome just with some powdered sugar! The cake is light & fluffy, with a super delicate lemon flavor. Not overpowering or heavy. I ate two in a row without blinking. It would make a great base for a strawberry shortcake too, given that it’s so light. You can even serve the cupcakes with fresh berries on top, or maybe a spoonful of lemon curd & some whipped cream. Or, some candied lemon peel. It’s the best spring or summer cupcake ever.

Yeah, your family is gonna love me.

Why? ‘Cause of these. Nutella swirl muffins.

Yeah. You’re welcome.

You all know how much I love Nutella, right? Well, I saw this idea on Pinterest (where else??) & decided to do it my way, or at least the way I imagined it being done in my head. I just used my basic muffin recipe as a base, then just swirled in some Nutella before I baked ‘em. Probably one of the easiest muffins ever. Not that muffins are typically difficult. I always say I never understand using a muffin mix when they take literally minutes to make from scratch. No joke. But especially these. There’s practically no mixing required. Just a little stirring. And some swirling.

Seriously. Before you buy another muffin mix, make some from scratch. You’ll see.

NUTELLA SWIRL MUFFINS

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup light-brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • ½ cup butter — melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs – beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • jar of Nutella (don’t worry, you’re not using the whole jar)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. and grease up twelve muffin cups or put liners in them (I prefer liners because it’s less messy that way).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, stir together milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla until blended. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add milk mixture and stir just to combine. Don’t overmix!
  3. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling them almost to the top; top each muffin with 2 teaspoons Nutella. Using a sharp knife, swirl the Nutella into the batter. It doesn’t have to be perfect or go all the way to the bottom. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.
  4. Remove muffin tin to wire rack; cool 5 minutes and remove from tins to finish cooling.

So that’s it. It’s a short & sweet post today ’cause this couldn’t really get any easier. Oh- I used some unprocessed unbleached paper liners from The Layer Cake Shop for these, in case you’re wondering.

Spring in a jar.

It sounds cheesy & cliched, but to me, that’s what Giardiniere (or Giardiniera, or Jardinière) looks like. Not only does the name translate to “garden” for the most part, it’s a jar of pickled brightly-colored vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots, peppers & zucchini and it just looks like a jar full of spring. And spring is upon us now, so that means I can start opening my windows & getting fresh air as well as look forward to fresh veggies. And I got a big surprise when I took inventory of my pots & found that some of my herbs came back full force! And by full force I mean INSANELY HUGE for this time of year. Gee, thanks, super-crazy-abnormally-warm New York winter. I’ve got chives & two types of oregano in the game already and it’s only the second week in April.

So that all makes me excited, but I wanted to start pickling again. As you can see, my chives (above left) are starting to get little buds, so I might make some chive blossom vinegar this year. But that’s not what this post is about. So let’s get to the point. Giardiniera.

Italian giardiniera is also called “sotto aceti”, which means “under vinegar”, a common term for pickled foods. It is typically eaten as an antipasto or with salads.[2]

In the United States, giardiniera is commonly available in traditional or spicy varieties, and the latter is sometimes referred to as “Hot Mix.”

In the Midwest region of the U.S., giardiniera is used as a condiment, typically as a topping on Italian beef sandwiches.[3]

A milder variety of giardiniera is used for the olive salad in the Muffuletta sandwich.

The Italian version includes onions, celery, zucchini, carrots, and cauliflower. The pickled vegetables are in red- or white-wine vinegar.

American giardiniera is commonly made with serrano peppers along with a combination of assorted vegetables, including bell peppers, olives, celery, pimentos, carrots, and cauliflower, and sometimes crushed red pepper flakes, all marinated in vegetable oil, olive oil, soybean oil, or any combination of the three. It is also common to see it pickled in vinegar.

Jardinière is a French culinary term, meaning a dish that is cooked or served with a mixture of spring vegetables, such as peas, carrots, and green beans.

I know there are a million variations & recipes for this, but this one is just a basic one that I came up with by combining two recipes; one from the Better Homes & Gardens book, You Can Can & another from the Ball Complete Book of Preserving. This was really a canning request from my mother, who loves Giardiniera. She had requested it a while back but I was in such winter mode, I couldn’t even think of it until we got hit with a stretch of 70+ degree days back in March. Then all of a sudden, I was ready to start making springy foods & pickles again. I made some Bourbon pickles but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to jar up some more fresh veggies. And what better way to do that than this? IT’S LIKE A GARDEN… IN A JAR!

I adapted it a bit seeing as she’s not a fan of zucchini & that seems to be prevalent in a lot of recipes. But I’m including the zucchini in the recipe below. This looked so beautiful in the jar from start to finish I couldn’t believe it. I could hardly stop taking pictures of it!

The point is, basically you can add whatever you want or take away whatever you want. That’s the beauty of it. You can use all of it: zucchini, carrots, cauliflower and the three colors of peppers, or you can use a hot pepper instead, or you can omit the zucchini or omit the carrots (but really who doesn’t like carrots!?) or even add pimentos. Heck- add green beans if you want. It’s just that simple. Honestly. Have I ever lied to you?

It smelled insane while cooking. INSANE.

SMALL-BATCH GIARDINIERA

Makes about 3 pints

Ingredients:

  • One smallish head of cauliflower (preferably organic/pesticide free), cut into florets
  • One each of a large red/green & yellow Bell pepper (again, preferably organic/pesticide free), cut into strips
  • Three large whole carrots (yet again… preferably organic/pesticide free), peeled and cut into slices
  • One half of a large white onion, cut into rings and then each ring cut into quarters
  • 1 small celery (you know the drill), cut into ¼” thick slices
  • 1 small zucchini (ditto), cut into ¼” thick slices
  • 3 cups white vinegar (5%)
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon pickling or canning salt
  • 1 ¼ cups white sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced

Directions:

  1. Prep, wash & cut all your vegetables & keep them in separate bowls. Mince garlic. Prepare water bath canner, and sterilize jars and lids. Keep jars warm. Set aside.
  2. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar, pepper, garlic and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for 5 minutes, until the spices have infused the liquid.
  3. Add the cauliflower, onions, zucchini, celery and carrots and return to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in peppers.
  4. Pack vegetables into jars with a slotted spoon within to a generous ½” of the top of jar. Ladle the hot pickling liquid in to cover vegetables, leaving ½” headspace. remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary, by adding more liquid (you may not use all the liquid). Wipe rims, center lids and screw bands on until resistance is met. Then adjust to fingertip-tight.
  5. Place jars in canner, ensuring they’re covered by at least 1-2″ of water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid and wait 5 minutes. Then carefully remove jars, cool, and store. Enjoy!

I really think it’s the prettiest thing I ever canned up. Truly. Everything around here has been all pastel & pink & pretty lately, and then this was like a technicolor shock to the system. Seriously, have you seen prettier Giardiniera, ever? No. No you have not. Testimonial time:

If you’re thinking of making this, and you have no previous canning experience, please take a peek at this post and read my (very basic) summary of what you’ll need to start. Then move on to the USDA’s directions (much clearer & informative, I admit). It’s not difficult, but you have a lot of reading to do to make sure you’re doing it right/have the proper materials, etc. The last thing you need is to give someone botulism. So yeah, be responsible & do your homework first. Then you can go ahead & make Giardiniera all damn day long.

Anyway, that’s that. Put it in a salad, put it on a sandwich, mix it with cooked chilled pasta for a quick pasta salad, pop it on a pizza, or eat it right out of the jar. Whatever. The liquid can be used as salad dressing too, once the vegetables are gone. Just mix it with a little oil. And again, like I said… it’s SO EASY. Literally the longest part of the process is the cutting of the veggies. Once that’s done, it’s 1-2-3. Just don’t cheat & buy a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. That’s awful. And lazy. Use top notch fresh ingredients and you’ll see how amazing it really is. I prefer to buy organic for things like this, just because of the lack of pesticides and since I’m using the entire thing (as opposed to just the pulp of an orange, etc), it freaks me out not to. But really, any good, fresh vegetables will do. Far be it from me to tell you how much to spend or what to buy. Buy what you’re comfortable with & what you can afford. Most of all… enjoy it. Enjoy the shopping for ingredients, enjoy the cutting & chopping, enjoy the process, enjoy the eating. Shopping for fresh vegetables & fruit at this time of year is all the fun! But of course, I can’t discount the ingesting of ‘em either.

Happy Spring!

Eggy bread.

Well it’s officially Easter Sunday, and I’m sure that you’re all busy making your dinners and baking your goodies, but just in case you’re lookin’ for some more inspiration, I thought I’d pop back in and show off my dip-dyed Easter eggs… plus something special I made with them.

Easter bread! Sweet & delicious (& unique). I’ve been looking for the perfect recipe to make for years. This was a tradition around my house forever, we used to buy the one shaped like a bunny with the egg where the butt was, ha. But I kept forgetting to make it and then whenever I found a recipe I just wasn’t feeling it. And then I found this one! Big thanks to The Italian Dish for the perfect recipe. Here’s a couple of pre-baking photos, pardon my pans- usually I cover them in parchment to bake but I ran out & wasn’t aware until it was time to bake. And at 11 a.m. on Easter Sunday I was not about to run out and get any! By the way, I used the entire recipe but only made 6 breads.

Enjoy your Easter, everyone who celebrates it. Or should I say… Buona Pasqua! And for the rest of you, I hope you have a nice relaxing Sunday with your family or friends, & you eat something delicious. Because that’s what it’s about for me. Being with the people I care about and enjoying my time. Not religion, or fables, or anything. Not being perfect or having the perfect table settings or impressing anyone. Not worrying. But just taking a day off to experience the true joys of life: food, family, and freakin’ naps! Zzzzzzz…

Panettone Al Cioccolato.

Don’t you love espresso? I do. Well, I love coffee of all kinds. One of the best gifts Jay ever got me was my Keurig. Yes- I am aware that I have said that about both Lola, my laptop (a.k.a. “June Carter”) & most recently my iPhone (through all my Andy Rooney-like anti-iPhone “you are all sheeple” grumblings I’ve come to realize this thing is amazing), but it’s kinda sick how much I love this Keurig. He gives good gifts, what can I say? I definitely inherited my love of coffee from my parents, despite wondering as a child how people could drink so much of it in one day when they could just have a can of Coke. They weren’t the kind of people that had one cup at 8 a.m. & the coffee machine was cold until the next morning, they were the kind of people who had cup after cup after cup all day long. And I never understood that.

Until now. Things have changed. I love coffee, I love fancy coffee, I love frapps, I love cappuccino, I love it all. But sometimes I just enjoy a simple espresso. And sometimes… I like some frothy milk on top.

So yeah, I like coffee. I find it’s pretty much a perfect match for anything- cookies, cupcakes, cakes, pies, muffins, even ice cream. But for the purposes of this post, I had it with some panettone. Yes, panettone. What could go better with espresso than panettone?

Panettone (pronounced /pænəˈtoʊni/[1]) is a type of sweet bread loaf originally from Milan (in Milanese it is called panaton),[2] usually prepared and enjoyed for Christmas and New Year in Italy, Malta, Brazil, Germany and Switzerland, and is one of the symbols of the city of Milan. Maltese nationals are also traditionally associated with this sweet loaf. In Latin America, especially in Venezuela, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Peru, it is a Christmas dinner staple and in some places replaces roscón de reyes/bolo rei (King cake).

It has a cupola shape, which extends from a cylindrical base and is usually about 12-15 cm high for a panettone weighing 1 kg. Other bases may be used, such as an octagon, or a frustum with star section shape more common to pandoro. It is made during a long process that involves the curing of the dough, which is acidic, similar to sourdough. The proofing process alone takes several days, giving the cake its distinctive fluffy characteristics. It contains candied orange, citron, and lemon zest, as well as raisins, which are added dry and not soaked. Many other variations are available such as plain or with chocolate . It is served in slices, vertically cut, accompanied with sweet hot beverages or a sweet wine, such as Asti or Moscato d’Asti. In some regions of Italy, it is served with crema di mascarpone, a cream made from mascarpone, eggs, sometimes dried or candied fruits, and typically a sweet liqueur such as amaretto; if mascarpone cheese is unavailable, zabaione is sometimes used as a substitute.

Efforts are underway to obtain Protected Designation of Origin and Denominazione di origine controllata status for this product, but, as of late 2008, this had not occurred.[3] Italian Agriculture Minister Paolo De Castro was looking at ways to protect the real Italian cakes from growing competition in Latin America and whether they can take action at the World Trade Organization.

-Wikipedia

But no, this is not the stuff that comes in a box that you can find in every Italian family’s home at this time of year. This is homemade stuff, made with ingredients that make it practically irresistible to me; chocolate chips. I’m personally not big on the dried fruit or citron thing. But when I saw the recipe I knew I’d have to alter it to suit me. It’s made in a buttered brown bag… how the hell was I supposed to resist? So here’s my version of panettones… little ones that are easier to give (and eat!).

CHOCOLATE CHIP MINI-PANETTONE’S

Makes 7

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon warm water
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast (about 1 scant tablespoon)
  • 1 ¼ cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons warm milk
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • pinch salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • ¾ teaspoon heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Pour warm water into a bowl, and sprinkle with half of the yeast. Stir with a fork until yeast has dissolved, then let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in ⅛ cup flour, and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes.
  3. Pour warm milk into a bowl, and sprinkle with remaining yeast. Stir with a fork until yeast has dissolved, then let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together sugar, whole egg, 1 egg yolk, salt, and vanilla. Whisk in milk mixture.
  4. Beat butter and remaining flour with a mixer fitted with a dough hook on medium speed until mixture is crumbly. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add egg mixture. Raise speed to medium, and beat until smooth. Add yeast-and-flour mixture, and beat on high speed until dough is elastic and long strands form when it’s stretched, about 5 minutes (it will still be very sticky.) Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Transfer to a buttered bowl, and cover with buttered plastic wrap. Let dough stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. Preheat oven to 400° degrees, with rack in lower third. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and divide into 7 little portions of dough. Knead a few times, then shape into balls. Drop each ball into a buttered brown paper mold (see below for directions) and loosely cover with buttered plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until rises slightly to the top, about 30 to 45 minutes. Whisk remaining yolk with cream, and brush onto tops of balls. Cut an X in the top of each ball with kitchen shears (I didn’t do this).
  6. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° degrees, and bake until tops are golden brown and rise slightly above rims of molds, about 15 minutes. Tent baking sheet with foil if tops are beginning to get too brown. Transfer panettone to a wire rack to cool. Panettone can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Pre-baking, & pre-egg wash!

Recipe can be doubled, probably tripled too, FYI.

Okay so what I did was I cut up some brown paper lunch bags & used those as the “liners” or molds. It’s really easy, all you have to do is cut circle-squares (uneven circles or rounded squares) or tear them. Melt about 4-5 tablespoons butter and get a pastry brush ready. Then check & see if the paper fits in your muffin pan. If it doesn’t, trim it, if it does, butter it by brushing it on one side generously with butter & place it in a cavity, pressing down so it stays in place. Then plop a ball of dough on top of it. So simple. But you can also use these liners as well, if the whole DIY thing isn’t your bag (no pun intended). And if you’re a stickler, you can use real panettone paper molds. However I like to be very hands-on & creative, its a good outlet, & I’m always doing shit like this so for me it was a snap. If you do choose to DIY it, then use an old muffin tin. That’s what I did because I like my new ones to stay nice & clean & shiny. I keep an old one around for when I make pupcakes or popovers or stuff like this.

You can also substitute any dried fruits for the chocolate chips, and also add lemon or orange zest to the batter. But just so you know, the first batch of 7 that I made went all in one night.

Super easy, really. And delicious. Let’s face it, edible gifts are sometimes the best gifts. Like I said before- homemade jellies/jams/marmalades, breads, cookies & even homemade limoncello or vanilla extract can make a great gift. It doesn’t take much to personalize an edible gift. I happen to think homemade gifts are worth more than bought gifts, if there was time & effort obviously put into it. Someone once said the greatest gift a person can give you is their time, and if they made you a really beautiful homemade gift then that’s exactly what they did.

And I don’t mean a piece of construction paper with glitter on it, either. That’s only acceptable if you’re 10 or younger, sorry.

Jive turkey.

I have a confession to make, and it will probably seem weird. This is the first time I ever ate turkey in any other capacity than the sliced off pieces coming from the breast of a whole bird that was cooked on Christmas or Thanksgiving. *insert gasping sound here*

I have never eaten turkey bacon (it amounts to BLASPHEMY in my eyes), never eaten turkey sausage (I don’t like sausage anyway), never had a turkey burger (gross) and never had ground turkey. For serious. Yes, it’s better for you than ground beef. Yes, ground beef is the devil, red meat gives you high cholesterol and slowly kills you by hardening your once supple veins and filling them with a substance that looks like insulation foam. I get it. But really, I don’t like “substitutions.” As Rose Levy-Berenbaum says in her books- (I’m paraphrasing), use real ingredients, real good quality butter, just eat less of the finished product. Sure, her references are to baking, but the same can be applied to food. No one needs to eat an entire cake every day, just as no one needs to eat 2 hamburgers a day, or a steak every day, etc. Everything in moderation is key, and that’s what I live by. If I want a hamburger it’s not going to be a turkey burger or veggie burger. It’s going to be made of cow. Same thing with bacon; bacon is made from pigs, and that’s what makes it taste like bacon. I’ve said this before, but I hate substitutions and fake food. Yes, I drink Coke Zero & I won’t act as if that’s the best thing I could imbibe, however when it comes to my food I want the real thing. I don’t pretend cauliflower is potatoes nor would I use it in macaroni & cheese as a “thickener”, I don’t use margarine instead of sweet cream butter and I sure as hell don’t substitute poultry for meat. When I make chicken, it’s actually chicken and when I make beef it’s actual beef. I rarely eat meat myself, it’s practically a once every other month event, so I don’t see this as a problem.

However… Sometimes I see recipes and they intrigue me. Like this one. I saw it in the January/February issue of the Food Network magazine. It happened to be the cover recipe; spaghetti & turkey meatballs. It looked really good, and I dog-eared the page so I remembered to try it. Then in true form, forgot all about it. But I was recently rifling through my huge collection of old Gourmet‘s, Bon Appétits and Food Network magazines and I saw the cover of that issue and BAM- it dawned on me I never made it! I tore it out and decided I’d make a trip to the supermarket, get the turkey and make it that night.

Yeah, I’m not a food stylist, dude. It tasted good. I’m better with cupcakes.

This…

They weren’t bad at all. Okay, fine, they were delicious. I will say this: it’s much lighter tasting than regular meatballs. It’s good for this time of year when it’s warming up and you want to start eating lighter yet still substantial food. It was hearty, but not overwhelming, nor did it induce that “I’m so full I’m going to throw up” feeling. I thought they were very good, but again, if you’re looking for the taste of red meat use red meat. And if that is what you want, then lucky for you I have a recipe for that too. I’d make them again, yeah, but I prefer the red meat kind. And even then, I ain’t much of a meatball girl. I’m a chicken cutlet chick.

I like chunks of tomato and I don’t mind a thin sauce, so I didn’t crush ‘em that much. If you like a smoother, thicker sauce by all means, do you. You could also use canned sauce if you’re lazy. That picture kind of looks like the cover of a death metal CD, which is appropriate considering Jay just recently became the newest member & bassist of Internal Bleeding. Yes. My Jay. That Jay. He’ll be famous like I am *wink* Hey! Maybe they can use my turkey meatballs for an album cover, or a song, or something. Haha. Brutal Death Metal Turkeyballs, maybe that’s what they should be called.

Eh, might not be exactly what they’re looking for. Oh well. But that picture right there is proof positive that you can take a photo of almost any kind of meat & tomatoes and adjust the contrast, and when you put a font like that over it, you’ve got a DM album.

SPAGHETTI WITH TURKEY MEATBALLS

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic (4 smashed, 1 minced)
  • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 small piece parmesan rind, optional
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • ¾ pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 slice stale whole-wheat bread, crust trimmed, bread chopped
  • ¼ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 12 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juice, 2 cups water, ¼ cup basil, the parmesan rind (if using) and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about 8 minutes. Discard the parmesan rind, if used.
  2. Chop the remaining ¼ cup basil, then mix with the turkey, parsley, bread, ricotta, parmesan, egg white, minced garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl using your hands. Form into 4 large or 12 small meatballs; add to the sauce and simmer, turning, until cooked through, 6 minutes for small meatballs and 12 minutes for large.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Toss with some of the sauce, then divide among bowls. Top the spaghetti with the meatballs, remaining sauce and more parsley and parmesan.

Basically I used a pound of whole-wheat pasta and a little over a pound of turkey, then altered the ingredients to make the meatballs the consistency I needed. I didn’t see the need to reduce the meat and pasta by a few ounces, especially for big eaters like us. I also used regular bread crumbs for the meatballs, about a little over a cup. I used a mix of Italian flavored panko and regular bread crumbs. I used whole milk ricotta because that’s what I have in my house; I refuse to use fat free or low fat cheese. It doesn’t melt as well nor hold up as well to me as the regular kind. But again, do as you will.

It tasted a lot better than the above picture looks! This one is a better representation, for sure. Maybe it’s the parmesan?

It was such a beautiful day when I was making this, I had the window open and the sun was shining. Perfect early spring day, and I was so excited for planting my garden (getting some fresh tomatoes!) & seeing some flowers. The next day it promptly turned gray, cloudy, & poured rain. Gotta love spring in NY! However the good thing about rainy days is looking through all those old magazines. And soon I’ll have yet another- I recently subscribed to Everyday Food.

Anyone have any ideas for storing magazines?

A story of yeast, garlic, olive oil… & lust.

I can’t believe it’s the 16th of February. Time is flying by, seems just like yesterday it was Christmas. Of course I’m thankful for the fact that spring is coming, so I’m not complaining. I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day, and that you all remember that love is 365 days a year not just the 14th of February.

Speaking of love, I love garlic knots. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t, I just always remember having them with a pizza whenever it was delivered (and sometimes when just eating it by the slice). Back from the time I was a wee little one, I remember getting delivery Italian food from the place that used to be right near the supermarket we went to, we’d either get a pizza & knots or some dinners (I’d always get baked ziti) and… garlic knots! Those knots were not the best I’ve ever had, by far, but simply sentimentally good. On the other hand, there were a few places I went in High School that had hard-as-hockey-pucks, dry, teeny tiny, not-made-with-real-garlic “garlic” knots and those were just an epic fail. At times, that can be heart-breakingly sad for someone like me who loves & adores food so very much. The worst? Going someplace with divine pizza that has shitty garlic knots. Ugh. Then I got to college & discovered the vast variety of pizza joints in NYC & their varying levels of garlic knottery. Some places, from the very looks of them I didn’t bother trying any. Others, seemed promising but weren’t as flavorful as I’d hoped. Finally I forgot my search & settled on the deli/pizza place across the street from F.I.T. that was cheap & quick.

So yeah, like I said, eating garlic knots can be a wonderful experience, or a slightly horrifying waste of time. I’ve had ‘em all- and I mean ALL; good ones, bad ones, small ones, large ones, hard ones, soft ones, ones made with real garlic, ones made with garlic powder. I’ve been mildly disappointed to gravely disappointed, somewhat impressed to overly ecstatic. And the latter are the ones that prompted me to make some myself.

Jay & I go to this little local pizza place/restaurant all the time. It’s really got delicious food, surprisingly delicious… seriously, the best chicken parmigiana I ever ate. But the real reason I think we keep going back are the garlic knots. You get 4 of ‘em in the bread basket, but we always end up asking for more. They’re huge, garlicky, olive oily and have a dash of parmesan cheese & parsley, with the perfect amount of saltiness every time. So good. I literally lust for them. I crave them at random times. It was because of that, really, that I decided to try my hand at making my own. All I had to do was a Google search on recipes for garlic knots, and wound up at this beautifully written (& photographed) recipe at White On Rice Couple.

So mine aren’t perfect, let’s get that straight right now.  My “knots” aren’t the best. At the time I made these, I didn’t have my new oven thermometer, so they got a bit browner than I’d like (but now I do have one,  & I’ve learned that almost every time it’s on, my oven gives a different temperature reading, sometimes it’s right on 350, other times it’s too low… go figure, I have an oven poltergeist). I also didn’t chill my dough, I just used it fresh, which might have made a few minor differences. But they do look beautiful, and they tasted pretty good too.

GARLIC KNOTS (taken directly from White On Rice Couple)

Ingredients:

Dough
  • 1 ¾ cup warm water (@115°F)
  • ¼ cup olive oil*
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons active dry yeast
  • approx. 5 ½ cups all-purpose, unbleached flour*
Garlic Coating
  • ⅛ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely crushed
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • sea salt to taste
*plus extra olive oil and flour for making the knots

Directions:

  1. Combine water, ¼ cup olive oil, sea salt, sugar, and active dry yeast in a large resealable container or bowl. Mix to dissolve yeast.
  2. Add flour.  Mix to incorporate flour, cover, and set in a warm spot to proof until doubled in volume (usually 1-3 hrs depending on initial water temp and warmth of proofing area). (A sunny table outside on a warm summer day is perfect for proofing!)
  3. Chill the dough for a bit (will keep fine in fridge for several days if you want to make the dough ahead of time) to make it easier to handle (this can be skipped if you don’t have the time) then set up your knotting station.  Put out a large wooden cutting board and oil liberally.  Grab a rolling dowel or pin and oil.  Grab a pizza cutter or something similar to slice dough in strips. Put container of flour within easy reach. Line several sheet pans with parchment paper or silpats and place within easy reach.
  4. Oil your hands to help keep dough from sticking to them. Divide the dough in two parts to make it easier to handle.  Take the first half, slap it onto the oiled board several times to flatten.  Using the dowel, spread into an even rectangle approx. 5″x16″ and ½″ thick. Slice the rectangle into ½″x5″ strips.
  5. Rotate the board 90° and sprinkle dough strips and board with flour.  Taking the strip nearest to you, roll it back and forth to create an even rope. Tie into a knot (over, under, and through) and place on lined sheet pan. Place knots about an 1 ½″ apart.  At first it may seem awkward making the knots but with a little practice it will become easy.  Flour is your friend to help keep the dough from sticking to itself while forming the knots.
  6. Continue making the rest of the knots with the second half of the dough. After each sheet pan fills up, cover with a dry sack towel, and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise.
  7. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  8. After knots have doubled in size, take off dry sack towel and place sheet pans in the oven.  Bake for approx. 12-15 min. or until golden.
  9. While knots are baking, make garlic coating.  Gently warm olive oil, butter, and garlic in a small saucepan (if you like your garlic with less of a bite, cook it for a few minutes in oil/butter mix until soft & slightly golden).  Add chopped parsley and set aside.
  10. After removing knots from oven, while still warm, either brush with garlic coating, or place knots in a large bowl and toss with garlic coating. Season with sea salt to taste. Best served warm, but still good when at room temp.

This is not my last time making these, for sure. I’ll perfect them yet… just you wait & see.

I’ve got some balls. Meatballs, that is.

It is true. I’ve been told many times in my life that I “had quite a set on me” or “had some balls.” But this time I’m sorry to say it’s just in reference to meatballs, not me being a big-mouthed bitch. Maybe next time. A while back my friend Chichi from Bakeasaurus (Chichi is not her real name, it’s just what I call her… and yes, I did her blog logo) posted an evil picture on twitter. Evil. It was a picture of a homemade turkey meatball hero she made, all draped in cheesy deliciousness. Now, I don’t like turkey meatballs or turkey sausage, personally. I just don’t. So I decided since she gave me a hankering (yes, I said a hankering, problem?) that I’d make my own meatball hero’s using good ol’ ground beef meatballs.

I think I’ve said before that I don’t eat red meat much anymore, probably once every few months in the winter although in the summer it’s more often because of barbecues, but I still try and keep it no more than once or twice a month tops. Not only is it high in fat and cholesterol, but I try to go meatless as much as possible in general because of the environmental impact I’ve learned about from Meatless Monday. I’ve mainly just lost my taste for it altogether, I no longer crave steaks or burgers all the time. I do occasionally get a craving, and when I do I indulge it, because I believe when you crave something that you don’t eat often or ever, it’s your body’s way of telling you you need it (or something in it at any rate). So I can blame Chichi all I want for planting the seed, but in reality I was probably in need of some iron or something.

I had never ever made meatballs before, so I was a bit unsure of how this would come out. But it turns out, like anything else I’ve been intimidated to try, meatballs are stupid easy and cook really quick. So really, try them. They’re awesome. THEY’RE NOT JUST MEATBALLS… THEY’RE AMAZEBALLS! Since I’ve made these I’ve been wanting them almost constantly. Next time, I’m going to make chicken cutlet hero’s using  homemade fried chicken cutlets. I think the best part is that they don’t get soggy! You can load ‘em up with meatballs and sauce and cheese, and they won’t get mushy and fall apart. Using ciabatta is definitely a better bet than a regular ol’ sub roll (more about that at the bottom of the post).

MARILLA’S AMAZEBALLS HOMEMADE MEATBALL HERO’S

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 cup (maybe more) fine dry Italian-flavored bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • ¼ cup freshly grated pecorino romano
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch dried basil
  • Pinch dried oregano
  • Pinch dried parsley flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the hero’s themselves:

  • Ingredients for the homemade sauce, or 1 jar of sauce
  • fresh ciabatta rolls
  • fresh mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  1. For the meatballs: Mix meat, bread crumbs, cheeses, eggs, oregano, parsley, basil and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Gently shape mixture into 1 & ¾” meatballs, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside. Get together the materials for your sauce.
  2. In a skillet, pour about ½ cup olive oil. On medium heat, cook the meatballs until they’re browned on all sides.
  3. Make the sauce according to the recipe, and when it’s done simmering, combine the meatballs into the sauce pot. Cook for 45 minutes on low, as the sauce recipe says.  Or heat up the jar sauce and add the meatballs, then cook them for about 20 minutes. While they’re cooking, slice your rolls and mozzarella cheese so it’s all ready when you need it. Some of the meatballs might break off a bit into the sauce- that’s fine.
  4. Turn on your broiler and open your ciabatta rolls. Put about three to four meatballs and some sauce on each, then top with a few slices of mozzarella cheese. when your broiler is ready, put the hero in and let the cheese melt. Take it out, let it sit for a minute, slice in half if you like, then serve.

The most beautiful-est hero ever.


Since you’ll only need 3-4 meatballs per hero, you’ll have a bunch left over. My advice is to to this: cook only the amount you need according to this recipe. For the rest, cook them thoroughly in the skillet (making sure there’s no pink inside). Let them drain and cool on a paper towel covered plate, then put them in a tupperware and freeze them for another day.

If you like a thicker sauce, use crushed tomatoes instead of whole. That’s what I did this time. The sauce can also be doctored up to your liking: add garlic, meat, etc. If you don’t want to make your own sauce, jar sauce is okay too. Just make sure the meatballs are very browned before putting them in the sauce, and then cook them in the sauce for about 15-20 minutes. Also, as far as the meatballs go, you can make meatballs with any meat you like. If you wanna use half pork, half beef, go for it. You wanna throw some lamb in? Fine. Turkey meatballs? Fantastic. Even veggie meatballs or pretend meatballs using mushrooms? That’s fine too. Just be sure to alter your cooking time accordingly. Turkey, chicken & veg-based foods cook faster than beef and you don’t want your meatballs to be tough or rubbery. You can also season them however you like. If you like onion in them, put in some chopped onion. Do whatever you like. If you’re gonna eat it, you should like it. So make it how you want it!

Around here some people like their hero’s on garlic rolls, so an easy way to do that is to spread a little olive oil on the roll, then spread some minced garlic on it, and pop it under the broiler just long enough for it to get warm. Then take it out and make your hero and put it back under for the cheese to melt. Mmm. Garlic-y, tomato-y, cheesy goodness. And I seriously stress the importance of ciabatta rolls here. They’re hard on the outside with a really nice moist interior and will resist the soggy-ness that most hero’s end up being. If you must use regular sub rolls, toast them a bit before using them for this, so they’re a bit harder. But seriously, go get some ciabatta. You’ll thank me for it.

On a totally unrelated note, since this post is about as far from vegan as one can get… check out my girl Jeanine’s blog, Vegan Nourishment, which she recently got up and running. A really talented artist designed her logo too *ahem* So if you’re vegan or vegetarian or even gluten-free, definitely bookmark her blog because she’s going to be posting recipes that are all three. Wow that rhymed.