Hometown Cookin’

July 31, 2010 at 7:44 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , )

If there’s one ingredient that needs to be in every recipe, in every dish, in every meal, it’s love.  You can ALWAYS tell, in anything, if love was not put into the effort.  This is absolutely, 100% true when it comes to cooking food.  I firmly believe that one of the reasons my dad’s food is so damn good is because he loves it.  That’s why some of the best cooking doesn’t have recipes.

While I was cooking my Albanian dish today and watching Top Chef and Food Network marathons, I had a couple other things going on just… well… because.  One thing my father did almost every Sunday was make tomato sauce.  Being my father’s daughter, I’ve always wanted to know how to make it.  The trick is…there is no right or wrong way to make it.  There’s no recipe for my dad’s tomato sauce, he just puts a ton of stuff in it until it tastes good!  Honestly!  So today, I made a meatless tomato sauce.  Because I’m trying to learn and hope you are too, I am willing to share what I put in the pot to make my delicious tomato sauce.  Don’t expect measurements though…making tomato sauce is all about taste.

In order to get there, here is what I did to make my own Fritalian Gravy.

Ingredients:

one onion

– mushrooms

– 2 cans tomato sauce

– 3/4 can tomato paste

– 3/4 can diced tomatoes

– red wine

– garlic

– garlic salt

– olive oil

– water

– LOTS of Italian spices

– love

Directions:

1. dice onions and mushrooms

2. Put about three counts of olive oil in the bottom of the pot and sweat the diced onions and mushrooms

3.  add the cans of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and about half a can of water

4. spice with italian seasoning, basil, oregano, garlic, etc to taste

5. bring to a boil then turn heat down and let simmer for a couple of hours, stirring occassionally

Letting the sauce stew for a couple hours really allows the spices to meld with the rest of the ingredients.

That’s really the  closest thing I can give you to a recipe for tomato sauce.  This is one of those things you really just have to feel and taste.  It sounds crazy, but I suggest you give it a try… there’s a little Italian in everybody 😉

**Tidbit for storage!!!  Freezing tomato sauce always works, but again, since I cook for one, one EXTREMELY helpful hint I learned was this:

Freezing sauce or pesto in ice cube trays is so helpful for single servings since you won’t have to thaw an entire jar or bag of tomato sauce just to refreeze it.

Now onto the other homemade dish I made today… homemade chicken salad.

This sounds a lot easier than it actually is to make.  When it comes to chicken salad, I prefer a pulled chicken rather than a diced.  So that’s exactly what I did!  Here’s a nice twist on a typical chicken salad recipe:

Ingredients:

one chicken breast

– mayo

– lemon juice

– Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce

– celery

– celery seed

– red onion

– almonds

Directions:

1. salt and pepper each side of the chicken, cook thoroughly, then let sit to cool

2.  while chicken is cooking, dice celery and red onion

3. pull the chicken (use a fork to hold the chicken, then use the back side of a spoon or a knife to pull along the grain of chicken to make it look shredded)

4. combine diced celery, red onion, shredded chicken, dash of celery seed

5. add a splash of lemon juice, this will enhance the colors and taste of everything in this chicken salad

6. add a dollop of sweet baby ray’s BBQ sauce

7. add mayo to taste and to bind everything together

8. fold a couple pinches of almonds into the chicken salad mix

9. store and let set and cool in fridge until ready to eat or the next day

This is another dish I understand there aren’t a lot of measurements, but it’s a dish made with love and one you have to make how you like it, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

Tomorrow I plan to roast some gutted red peppers and using that as the serving utensil for the chicken salad.  Sounds amazing right?!  I can’t wait to try it.  I’ll be sure to add a picture when it’s all complete.

Thanks for reading and as usual, until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

**Peas, Love and Ole Fashion Homecookin’**

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Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

May 24, 2010 at 8:41 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , )

So as I’ve mentioned before, I’m now living in Manchester, NH where, let’s face it, there’s not a restaurant with a notable chefs name to it in a 50 mile radius, yeap, Boston is the closest place you’ll find that.  While that makes Manch-Vegas sound totally glib, I really think its a good thing because it keeps me from eating out as often as I did… my bank account thanks me!  It also forces me to cook at home more which is actually really nice, I do enjoy it!  My problem is planning out what to make for dinner each night, so I always find myself mid-afternoon trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to make so I’m not stuck eating cereal for dinner… not that there’s anything wrong with that…

In order to sort of prevent a total loss for dinner, there’s a few things I ALWAYS keep in the freezer.  One of which is something everyone should always have in their freezer…chicken.  It’s too easy just to get some cutlets and put each into separate freezer bags.  Single serving chicken…done!  What’s also nice is when I come home for lunch, I can take one out of the freezer and have it thaw by the time I get home from work.

So last week, I ran into that problem… no ideas until I was about an hour from dinner time.  This was one of those just take what you have in the fridge and doo eeettt, and a pretty successful one if I may say so myself.   All you need is a bit of butter, basil, Parmesan, and garlic powder.  The best way to prepare this would be on a grill, but a frying pan also worked perfectly.

In a bowl, melt the butter and add freshly chopped basil, Parmesan and a pinch of garlic powder.  Mix it all together then brush the chicken on both sides with the mixture and place it on either the grill or in your pan.  Continue brushing the butter and basil on the chicken as it cooks and that’s it!  It’s really quite delicious.

With this dish, I made broccoli by sauteing it in some oil with red pepper flakes.  This added a nice kick to the dish and I love preparing broccoli in a pan to get some of the florets with a nice crunch on top.  For the starch I roasted some potatoes in olive oil and salt and pepper.  Quick and easy and most of the elements you have in your pantry/fridge already!  The white wine I had was very complimentary to the dish.  It was a 2006 Viognier which tends to be a little sweeter than my taste of white wine but still tasty.  As long as the white isn’t Riesling, I’m willing to try it with a nice meal.

So coming into this week, I really had a case of the Mondays and was all but depressed that Lost was done.  Luckily for me, this was the only season I watched live and I plan on watching every season from the beginning again…and again….and probably again.  Don’t get me started I could write an ENTIRE blog (not just a post, a full on BLOG) about that damn show.  So good… anyways.  Today, Monday in the afternoon, I had my usual epiphany…what…the hell… do I make…for dinner?!  Again, I ran for the freezer right before I finished my lunch and pulled out some chicken to thaw.  Now that I had my protein picked out, it was time to decide what to make.

Another thing I usually now keep in my fridge is pizza dough since we all know I’m trying to perfect the pizza.  Well tonight, well I think I’m getting the hang of it.  I have finally figured out my retro-oven…I have beaten it!!!  When it comes to pizza crust anyways…

**Important Tangent!!!: Here I am typing up this blog post after enjoying some delicious pizza I just made and the preview for The Karate Kid is on.  Now when I hear Karate Kid, I think Ralph Macchio, wax-on, wax-off, STRIKE FIRST, STRIKE HARD, NO MERCY SIR, bonnzzaaaiii! You get the picture… I don’t think of this:

Have any of you seen this preview yet?!?!?! Are they KIDDING?!  There’s remaking a movie, and there’s totally disrespecting and mucking up my childhood memories.  Thanks a lot Columbia Pictures. Tangent: fin.

So anyways, back to this thawed chicken and pizza dough now that I’ve gotten that off my chest.  Now there’s only one kind of pizza that chicken should show up on…okay only one outside of Matchbox’s chicken pesto AMAZINGNESS.  That one’s in a category all it’s own.  The other is a more common and loved pizza, the BBQ chicken pizza.  I had everything I needed to make this: chicken, pizza dough, BBQ sauce, red onion and cilantro.

I don’t need to spell out how to roll out the pizza dough, (though it has taken me a couple tries to finally figure out the quickest way to do that haha) so here’s a picture of the final product:

All it took was some BBQ sauce (and I like mine with a little kick to it), a nice mix of freshly shredded mozzarella and jalapeno pepper jack cheese, red onions and chicken.  The chicken I pan cooked in oil with just a seasoning of salt and pepper then shredded since I really don’t like cubed cut chicken (its a texture, consistency thing).  I added a drizzle of BBQ sauce on top of the pizza once everything was on right before putting it in the oven.

Now the one thing I would have changed is when I put the cilantro on the pizza.  Not thinking, I threw it on top before putting it in the oven, which cooked off some of the pungency and wilted it a bit, so if you don’t like a strong taste of cilantro this would work for you, but if you like a lot of cilantro, wait until after the pizza is done cooking and sprinkle it on right before you serve.

Well there’s 2 chicken dinners that are easy, cheap and quick…that’s what she said… yeahhh I went there.  Try them out, let me know what you think, what you’d change, add, make for a side dish.  I hope you enjoy them!  Until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

**Peas, Love, and Mr. Miyagi**

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