Well, I probably shouldn't do this, but I've started another Blog. Like I don't already spend too much time at the MacBook. As some of you might have guessed, I like to cook and I love to eat. So I thought I'd share my recipes, humble as they may be and an occasional dinner menu at our house. I am somewhat "reluctant" to share this project right now, but caution to the wind. The plan is to be discovered by the Food Network for my cooking show Cranky Franky's in the Kitchen.
Am I ready for critics? Probably not. I know my instructions are not always clear or precise. Let me know if something doesn't make sense. Anyhow, if you're interested, check out "Dinner's Ready"

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Vegetable From Hell

 Artichokes. Has a nice ring in Italian: carciofi. (car-chee-o-fee)

There will probably never be a post on this blog for an artichoke recipe. Having grown up in an Italian American family one would think that I would have encountered an artichoke or two at some point in my life (besides the little artichoke hearts in a jar - those don't count). 

I think that maybe my paternal grandmother might have made stuffed artichokes but I have no clear memories of ever seeing her make them. I vaguely remember someone taking a leaf off the cooked, stuffed artichoke and scraping it against his or her bottom front teeth to get the morsel of the edible part of the vegetable. 

It seemed considerably less rewarding than cracking open lobster parts to get at the meat.

More to the point I never saw artichokes being prepared except by TV cooks like Lydia Matticchio Bastianich and MaryAnn Esposito.

My confession:
Bless me father, I have tried preparing artichokes three times and all three times I have thrown out every bit of them without ever actually cooking them.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.

Today was the third time.

I found some nice big artichokes at Sprouts, 2 for $5. I was game for the challenge.

I came home with my artichokes and watched two videos of Lydia preparing artichokes and two other videos of other cooks preparing artichokes.

I decided on braised artichokes rather than stuffed.

I got a bowl of lemon water to keep them from going brown.

I pealed the outer leaves. Down to where they began to look pale green.

I trimmed the stem.

I peeled off some more leaves.

I cut off the top.

I cut them in half. They did not look like Lydia's artichokes.

I looked for the choke to remove. It was three times the size of the choke in Lydia's artichokes.

I removed the choke. The rest kind of fell apart.

I sliced what was left.

I watched another video.

The part I had left was the part that the other YouTube cook discarded along with the choke.

I threw out that part.

Then there was nothing left.
Which was exactly what I had left the last two times I tried preparing artichokes.

My recipe for artichokes: 

Take entire artichoke. Throw it in the compost bin. Peeling, trimming, removing choke: optional.
Artichokes are the vegetable from hell as far as I am concerned.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Turkey Tetrazzini alla Casa

My philosophy of cooking is that a recipe is merely a suggestion. 

Most everything I cook is del giorno (or d'jour for you French chefs) based on what I have on hand. Or alla Casa - the way I do it at my house.

We recently had Turkey Tetrazzini at a friends' home and it was delicious.  As I had leftover turkey from Christmas dinner, I figured I'd give it a try...sort of. I looked up recipes on the web. Ok, well, I use those as suggestions.

So I got a pot boiling for the fettuccine (had no egg noodles) and put some broccoli in the microwave to cook al dente. (We eat a lot of broccoli).

I just happened to have about a half pound of Baby Bella mushrooms (small Portabellas) so I sliced them up and put them into my cast iron skillet along with a sliced onion and two chopped cloves of garlic and plenty of olive oil. 

I also happened to have one small eggplant (I recalled Pasta alla Norma). So that got peeled, diced and sautéed in the skillet as well. As things got cooked to soft I added about two tablespoons of butter. (I never understand recipes that call for unsalted butter, then add salt) and let that melt into the mixture.
Olive oil, garlic, onion, mushrooms, eggplant
Then I added about two or three tablespoons of flour (I never measure) to coat the veggies and absorb the butter like doing a roux. I looked for an open bottle of white wine, alas I only had a little dry vermouth, about two fingers left in the bottle, so that got added and mixed in to begin the sauce. Then a large splash of 2% milk (cream is way too heavy for me). The sauce thickened.

We had a little take-out container of sour cream in the fridge, about three tablespoons, and that went in along with some more milk to thin the sauce as it was thickening.
I had about 1/3 of a container of ricotta cheese, so that too went into the sauce. A little salt and pepper and finally Turned off the heat and added a few tablespoons of grated parmigiano (or was that Romano cheese that I grated last week?)
Butter, Flour, Vermouth, Sour Cream, Milk, Ricotta
When the pasta was al dente I drained it over the broccoli in a large colander (to re-warm the broccoli) and returned it to the pot. I spooned the Tetrazzini sauce over it and tossed it well.


More grated cheese at the table and Leon and I pigged out. Found some white wine in the garage (where it is cool).

I think we both went for thirds tonight. 
Served with Fettuccine and Broccoli

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Homemade Ravioli

Have been wanting to make ravioli for some time and finally got motivated because I wanted to bring something special to a friend who recently lost his partner of 21 years. This dish is about as special as I can make. Ravioli are two steps above Lasagna and a step above Manicotti. Because they are labor/time intensive.

First, make some tomato sauce.

Use some cooked chopped Swiss chard or spinach to mix in with the ricotta cheese along with a little parmigiano or romano. This Swiss chard came from the garden.

I made 2, 3-egg batches of dough using three eggs a pinch of salt and 3 1/2 to 4 cups of flour for each batch. The amount of flour is more than is needed for the dough but is enough to make a crater for the eggs and enough so that as you incorporate the flour you reach a point where the dough just begins to come together.

Use a fork to mix the eggs into the flour. There will be flour left over when the dough comes together. It will be sticky and soft.

Work it with your hands adding flour and kneading for several minutes.  Divide the dough into smaller balls - about the size of an orange. Roll out one ball at a time, keeping the rest of the dough under a damp towel.

Using the old fashioned pasta machine, roll the dough into a very thin sheet. I use a long rolling pin (wooden dowel) and do the flip over technique to turn the dough over. Keep it lightly floured on both sides. It will stretch and not break under the pressure of the roller. Be patient, keep rolling until you get the desired thinness.

The flip: wrap the dough around the roller then unwrap it backwards/upside down. Roll it some more until the dough sheet is very thin. 1/8 inch or thinner. Mine could have been a tad thinner.
At this point you can make tagliatelle or fettuccine if you don't have fillings. To make ravioli...
Trim the dough sheet to a rectangle and divide into 2 smaller sheets (one slightly larger for the top).

Put about a teaspoon of ricotta filling onto the dough spacing the spoonfuls evenly.

 Brush the edges and the area between each mound with water.

Place the other half of the dough on top of the filling and press firmly around each mound of filling with  your fingers.

You can use a wooden spoon handle to make the edges of the ravioli pretty and uniform. Press firmly with the spoon handle.

Use a pastry cutter to divide the ravioli.

Place on a floured cookie sheet. If making ahead or making more than one meal, you can put all or some of them into the freezer for later use.

Clean up the mess. Don't throw out the scraps: trim them into pasta strips, then boil and top with butter or garlic/oil or sauce, or add to soup.

Cook the ravioli in salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes. Serve with tomato sauce, butter or other sauce and grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano cheese. Wine is always a nice accompaniment.
Dinner's ready.

So scrumptious, I can almost taste that photo.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Someone's Paesano's Shrimp

A neighbor and friend raves about the Shrimp Paesano in San Antonio and laments that it is so far from Cochiti Lake. I decided to attempt the dish for him and found a number of recipes on line. I'll just say that it is not a fun recipe...it takes real precise timing to get the shrimp cooked but not over cooked while preparing the sauce and having the pasta done and ready to serve. And if you are on cholesterol medication, double the dose before consuming this dish. Two sticks of butter for four people! More than I generally use in a month.

Because this is not MY recipe, I'll just give the links to recipe variations.  http://www.grouprecipes.com/94879/shrimp-paesano.html

Note that in the video, the cook does not use egg yolk in the sauce; the other recipes do. I tried it with the egg yolk.

Antipasto was breaded zucchini and pizza squares.

 Sautéing the shrimp that have been soaked in half-and-half and dredged in flour.
 Melting the butter into the lemon juice and egg yolk.
 Keep the shrimp hot under the broiler - but not too long.
 Served over capellini (angel hair) pasta

Forgot to get pictures of dessert which was fruit - lightly sugared strawberries with kiwi fruit and cantaloupe and lazy chef cannoli: broken waffle-style ice cream cones to dip in sweetened ricotta cheese with a dash of vanilla and generously sprinkled with mini-chocolate chips and topped with lemon zest.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Summer Salad "alla Carbonara"

Here's a quickie:

Decided to make a salad for a picnic. A pasta salad sounded good, but I hate making the traditional old elbows with a ton of mayonnaise.

Some of the items I had on hand were bow tie pasta (farfalle), boiled eggs, asparagus, pancetta, red onion, green olives, parsley, black pepper.

To the cooked pasta I added chopped red onion and cut up lightly sautéed/steamed asparagus, 4 cut up boiled eggs, black pepper and olive oil and tossed the whole thing together. Then I cut up some pancetta into square chunks and fried the pancetta in a little olive oil and garlic and fresh ground black pepper till it was chewy/crispy.

Add the pancetta to the salad along with some halved green olives and some fresh parsley. Drizzle a bit more olive oil on top and toss.

Pasta Salad alla Carbonara

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Another Variation On The Classic Carbonara (With Asparagus, Eggs and Pancetta)

I've done Carbonara before with step-by-step photos.  (Click on the Link)

Here is another variation - this time, instead of adding mushrooms (which is not the Classic Recipe either - the classic is just olive oil, pancetta and eggs and black pepper) I've added asparagus which is in the markets now, thanks to springtime in South America, I presume.

Asparagus is a perfect companion to eggs and "bacon" - in this case, pancetta.

I sautéed the garlic and the diced pancetta.

(DO NOT USE BACON!!!! Nothing imparts the saltiness and taste of real pancetta and smoked bacon is just nasty in this dish)

Then I added the asparagus which I had cut into about one-inch pieces and let them cook "al dente" - no mushy asparagus here.

I had prepped the eggs, beaten them well with black pepper and had the pot of water boiling with the pasta. Use spaghetti, linguini, white or whole wheat, even fettuccine. Work quickly to get all the ingredients ready at the same time. Drain the pasta and toss immediately into the beaten eggs. Add in the asparagus and pancetta garlic sauce.

Sprinkle on grated Romano or Parmigiano cheese.

Dinner was ready! And so were we!

I cooked almost a pound of linguini and Leon and I ate ALMOST the whole bowl. Benni had the rest.

Carbonara is perhaps my favorite pasta dish next to traditional tomato sauce with meatballs, sausage and pork.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Shrimp & Orzo; Zucchini & Fresh Tomato Salsa - Party Leftovers Into A Meal

Sorry, we ate the whole thing before I even thought about posting this, so there are no photos. 

On Labor Day we had a a houseful of folks over for cookout and a kind of pot-luck.  People brought salads, desserts, appetizers and there was a lot of stuff left.

I had made "Italian Salsa" to go with the corn chips: diced fresh garden tomatoes, garlic, finely diced jalapeños, parsley, basil (NO CILANTRO) and a little sugar.

My cousin Rose had made a nice casserole of orzo and there was a good portion left.

Another guest brought cooked shrimp and there were 12 - 18 shrimp left.

There was a plastic container with lots of sliced onions untouched by the burger lovers.

I'll make it brief. This is just an example of how you might create something wonderful from what's in the fridge. And it was done in less than thirty minutes - probably closer to twenty.

My cooking mind went to work, thinking basically "shrimp" "garlic" "orzo" but I needed a vegetable:

I put a handful of sliced onion into a skillet with a little olive oil to sauté.

[I'm not sure anything I cook is sautéed as the flame is always on "high" - as the song goes: I never do anything "Nice" and "Easy" just "Nice" and "Rough"]

I went out to the garden to get swiss chard but instead decided on two medium size zucchinis. I cut them up and tossed them in with the onion. Let them cook a bit, even get just a little golden color on some of the zucchini slices.

Ah! I remembered the Italian Salsa, so I put two or three ladles of that juicy tomato and jalapeño and basil mixture in to cook with zucchini.

While that simmered, I peeled and chopped some garlic, sautéed that in olive oil and tossed in the left over cooked shrimp and let them get good and garlicky.

Then I added a couple of ladles of orzo with a little water so it would steam-heat. I kept stirring it all so it wouldn't burn.

When it was heated through we had delicious zucchini with tomato-jalapeño and garlic shrimp with orzo.

Didn't matter if the zucchini mixed in with the shrimp and orzo because it was even better that way than keeping each separately! A little parmesan cheese on top. Yum.

Oh, was that good!

So, have a party! Use up those left-overs! Be creative! Dinner's ready!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Cole Slaw Plain and Simple

For this summer cookout salad you will need 1 head of cabbage or 1/2 head each of a green cabbage and a red cabbage, cider vinegar, salt, sugar, mayonnaise, prepared horseradish, baby carrots, raisins and or dried cranberries.

I start by hand shredding some cabbage. I like to mix green and red cabbage, about half a head each. Here is just a small head of green cabbage because I didn't have any red on hand.

It shreds to about 8 cups. Then add 1/4 cup of cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons of salt, and enough water to cover the cabbage. Allow to soak in the vinegar water for at least 30 minutes to an hour while you prepare the rest of the ingredients and go read a chapter of my memoir.

I like the baby carrots because I am too lazy to peel carrots; besides we always have some in the fridge because our dog, Benni, likes them as a bedtime snack. 

 Grate up about a cup of carrots.

Drain the cabbage, but do not rinse it.
Add about 1/3 cup of mayonnaise, 2 heaping tablespoons of prepared horseradish and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Mix well. Then add the shredded carrots, 1/2 to 2/3 cup of raisins and/or dried cranberries.

NOTE: This is not my preferred brand of horseradish - there is a local brand - Martin Rosol's White Horseradish - that is much better and I think it makes all the difference in the flavor. It is coarse ground white horseradish.

Add those ingredients and mix well to coat all the cabbage with the mayo and horseradish. Let the coleslaw sit in the refrigerator for several hours. (read a couple of chapters of my memoir).

Serve with your barbecued chicken, grilled hot dogs, bratwurst, or kielbasa.

Happy summer! Dinner's (almost) Ready!

Friday, March 6, 2015

(Almost) Instant Mac and Cheese (and Healthier Too)

Baked cod, roasted tomatoes, asparagus and quick mac and cheese with cauliflower.

I came up with this side dish tonight to go with some baked cod (frozen cod from Costco) with roasted tomatoes, and asparagus.

I put the cod and the halved tomatoes in a casserole and drizzled all with olive oil, sprinkled the tomatoes with salt, pepper and oregano and the cod with black pepper and Italian style bread crumbs.

That all went into the oven at 375, for about 20-25 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish) and I got a pot of water boiling and put the asparagus in a skillet with a little butter and white wine, ready to go on the fire.

I had about 1/3 box of quick-cook Ronzoni penne pasta (which cooks in 3 minutes) and when the cod was close to being done, I got the pasta into the pot to boil while the cauliflower (which was last night's leftover - roasted in the oven with olive oil and garlic, so I knew it would go good with pasta) was in the microwave to reheat - also 3 minutes.

When the pasta was done, I put the asparagus on to cook in the skillet on high heat for just a few minutes.

I drained the pasta, put in two heaping tablespoons (+/-) of plain non-fat yogurt and approximately 3 heaping tablespoons (+/-) of grated Romano cheese, added in the cauliflower with its garlicky sauce and tossed the whole thing together.

Easy and healthier mac and cheese
The fish was done and so was the asparagus. All in less than 30 minutes. Rachael Ray, eat your heart out.