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Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

Germany is a funny place, food-wise.  It has some of the cheapest groceries in Europe and enthusiastically stocks shelves with gourmet delicacies from neighboring countries.  You can eat very well for very little.  Food shopping as an American in Berlin can be a little bewildering—it’s always an adventure. Need a can of rillettes? A brick of halloumi? Russian solyanka? Marcona almonds? Hungarian kabanos? How about some jicama or salsify? White asparagus? Venison shoulder? No problem.

But what if you just need a humble pound of ground chicken to make Smitten Kitchen’s chicken meatballs?

That’s a tall order. Certain American culinary trends haven’t caught on well here, and ground poultry is one of them.  When I asked the butcher if she had any ground chicken, I got a brusqueThat’s not something we carry.”  (My friend, Robby, tells a funny story about how his simple inquiry about ground lamb prompted an angry diatribe about the unreasonable number of separate grinders required.  But I digress.)

Anyway, I was not to be deterred.  I finally tracked down some ground turkey and decided it would have to do.  I needed those meatballs.

Like, yesterday.

And oh, the meatballs.  Delicious!  Just as Deb promised, they’re moist, flavorful, and—yep—vaguely cheesy (despite not containing a lick of cheese).  I think the pancetta and tomato paste give them that delectable hit of umami.  These are good.

Rumor has it they’re also delicious cold, straight from the fridge.  But what was it Reagan said?  “Trust but verify”?  Go on!

Because my grocer sells ground turkey in 3/4 lb. packages, I had to buy two. The following recipe has been scaled up and makes a lot of meatball mix. You can either halve it, or make a make a separate meatloaf for another meal, as I did. Two birds, one stone.

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

-5 slices Italian bread, crumbled into small pieces (I used stale homemade oatmeal white bread)
-1/2 c. milk
-3 oz. pancetta, or uncooked bacon or turkey bacon, diced
-1 sm. onion, finely chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey (lean is OK)
-1 egg, lightly beaten (two are pictured in photo)
-4 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
-1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped, optional
-good pinch red pepper flake
-3 Tbsp. tomato paste, divided
-1 Tbsp. olive oil
-salt and pepper, to taste

1. Put the bread pieces in a large mixing bowl and drizzle them with the milk. Let sit while you follow the next step. (more…)

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quinoa cake with mushroom ragout
The other night, while my husband made a delicious roast pork loin, I was in charge of cooking the side dish.  I followed the German instructions on my package of quinoa (which called for too much water and cooking time) and ended up with a soggy, risotto-like pot of mush. So much for stereotypes about exacting Germans, eh?  Anyway, we were left with about 3 cups of quinoa that I was determined not to waste.  Because its texture was so similar to risotto, I decided to try a riff on arancini (fried risotto balls) for lunch today.

We were both surprised by how delicious these quinoa cakes were.  Next time, I might even ruin my quinoa on purpose, just to have another excuse make this dish.  Give this recipe a try next time you’re craving something different with an Italian vibe.

quinoa cake batterhumble beginnings…

quinoa patty…a tasty end

Quinoa Cakes:

-2 1/2-3 cups cooked quinoa (preferably slightly overcooked in excess water, so the grains cling together)
-2 eggs
-1/2 c. grated parmesan
-2 1/2 Tbsp. flour
-pinch of red pepper flake
-1 tsp. fresh basil
-1/2 clove garlic, minced
-1/2 tsp. dried oregano

-1/2 tsp. ea. salt and pepper
-approx. 2.5 c. panko or regular bread crumbs
-vegetable oil, for frying

1.  In a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the salt, pepper, bread crumbs, and oil.

2.   Put the panko in a wide bowl and season with salt and pepper.

3.  Heat a large skillet with 3 Tbsp. oil until very hot.  Heat your oven on its lowest setting and line a cookie sheet or pan with paper towels.

4.  Take a heaping tablespoon of quinoa mixture in the palm of one hand and shape into a flat round approx. 3/4 in. thick (the size of a small crabcake).  Gently coat in the crumb mixture and place in the hot oil.

5.  Repeat.  Fry, gently turning so that each side is golden brown. Add more oil as needed.  Remove cooked cakes to the heated oven to keep warm while the others cook.

6.  Top with mushroom ragout and serve immediately.
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fried polenta

It’s official:  all this cold, dark weather has put me on a comfort food kick.  If the forecast is to be trusted, sunset hits Berlin at about 4:30pm. Honestly, I haven’t seen the sun make an appearance on any recent afternoon.  It’s just been gray, gray, gray.  Then pitch dark.

autumn leaves

As close to a sunny day as you get in Berlin.

So how does a SAD girl beat the blues?  With vitamin D supplements, the occasional jog, and frequent carby, cheesy, meaty homecooked meals.  If I make it through winter without having to buy new jeans (or more Spanx), it will be strictly by the graces of my under-30 metabolism.

I was very pleased with myself for inventing the following recipe until a friend pointed out that it’s quite close to the Midwestern classic, tamale pie.  Whether you see this as Tex-Mex-Italian fusion or classic comfort food, see that it makes it onto your dinner table—stat!

chili polenta

cooking chili

Chili con Carne:

-1/2 lb. ground beef
-2 Tbsp. chili powder (or to taste)
-1 small onion, finely chopped
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 Tbsp. tomato paste
-dash of sugar, preferably brown
-1/2 c. red wine (optional), beer, or water
-3/4 c. tomato juice
-1 tsp. beef bullion base (optional)
-1 regular can kidney beans, drained (14.5 oz.)
-1 regular can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz.)
-2 tsp. cumin
-1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa
-cayenne pepper, to taste
-salt and pepper to taste

1. Brown the ground beef on high heat in a medium pot, breaking up into small pieces and seasoning with half the chili powder, salt, and pepper.

2. Turn the heat down a bit and push the beef to the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Fry the chopped onions in the remaining oil, sprinkling with a little sugar to aid browning.

3. Mix together the beef and onions and stir in the garlic and tomato paste. Deglaze with red wine, scraping up the brown bits into the sauce. Let the wine cook off.

4. Reduce the heat and pour in the tomato juice, bullion (if using), beans, diced tomatoes, cumin, cocoa, and remaining chili powder.

5. Simmer uncovered for 1-1.5 hrs. Add water or more tomato juice if it begins to look dry. Taste for seasoning, adjusting chili powder, sugar, salt, and pepper to your preference. (more…)

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I’ll never forget the first (and last) time I made biscotti.  I was a budding young bakestress of 16, eager to whip up some of those exotic-looking cookies I’d seen at the new Starbucks in my town.  I slaved all afternoon, digging out the anise seeds from the pantry depths and laboriously stirring the thick dough, toasting almonds, baking, slicing, and baking again.

They were a disaster: dense, rock-hard, anise-heavy, floury, and altogether not very good.  At first, I thought it was me, but the store-bought variety were equally disappointing.  What exactly about this stuff was supposed to be appealing?

I’d given up on enjoying toasted treats with my tea until recently.  My colleague Elena brought in sukhariki, or “Russian Biscotti.”  I didn’t expect much, but hey, I’d skipped breakfast and couldn’t afford to be picky. 

Russian biscotti

What a revelation!  Light and crisp, the sukhariki were closer to super-toasted raisin bread than their doughy Italian cousins.  Elena explained that the name simply means “dried bread” in Russian, but these were something special.  Thin-sliced and toasted to an appealing dark amber, studded with raisins, and dusted with sugar, sukhariki were the perfect crunchy complement to breakfast tea. (more…)

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Pasta with Clam Sauce from Coastal Living

Credit: Jean Allsop

I’ve been trolling the internet for low-cholesterol recipes and recently discovered that clams are heart-healthy, especially if you’re not restricting your sodium.  The following is a quick recipe that hits the spot when you don’t have $20 to drop on a restaurant dish.  It could be improved with a splash of white wine and fresh clams, but is still delicious in this shortcut preparation.  Plus, it’s a refreshingly cheap break from the jarred red sauce routine.

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fennel sausage pasta

I’ll be the first to admit: this is not the most photogenic dish to ever appear on Culinspiration. But although it’s not much to look at, this sauce is so good it had me pestering my friends Rachel and Julius for the recipe for weeks. Weeks! I couldn’t get the perfect melding of flavors out of my head: the caramelized shallot and fennel, the tender sausage, the kiss of tomato. I—who thought I didn’t like fennel!—was obsessed. And my pleading, borderline harassing e-mails requesting the recipe weren’t getting much response. Sheesh…you’d think they have a life or something.

Frankly, I was getting a little desperate. For pasta sauce.

Finally, I invited myself over we all sat down for dinner again, and I grilled my friends. Triumph! I got the recipe and am happy to share it with you. This is a brilliant dish to serve company— just a few ingredients, minimally prepped, which can simmer away while you uncork a bottle of wine. Just be prepared for the plaintive recipe requests from admirers later. 😉

fresh sage

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Brussel sprouts

Credit: allotment.org.uk

My fellow blogger, Eric Hason (of I Am What I Eat) finally relented and gave me his über-simple recipe for brussel sprout salad, pictured here.

1.  Grate raw brussel sprouts
2.  Dress w/ olive oil, lemon juice, S&P,
3.  Grate in lots of Parmesan cheese

(more…)

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