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Friday, September 18, 2009

Italian Recipes - cooking class II

Roasted Eggplant
1 eggplant
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 bunch basil
1 fresh mozzarella ball
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375. Put balsamic into a small sauce pan. Bring up to a soft simmer (low to med-low heat) and let reduce by half. Cut eggplant into 1/4" slices length wise. Place on cooking sheet and brush olive oil onto the tops. Sprinkle with salt. Cut mozzarella into slices and place on each eggplant slice. Stack basil leaves, and roll into a long cylinder. Julienne the basil. Sprinkle onto of the eggplant and cheese. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and sprinkle a little more salt. Place in oven. When the cheese is nicely melted and brown the eggplant is done. This should be about 10 minutes. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and serve warm.

Tips: Another alternative to roasting the eggplant in the oven is to grill it on a grill pan. Once the eggplant is seared, then you can put the mozzarella and basil on the top, and once melted, serve.
It also works well to allow your balsamic to cool before drizzling it on the eggplant. When it cools, it will get a much thicker and syrupy consistency.

Sun-dried Tomato Crostini
1 baguette
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 small jar sun-dried tomatoes
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Cut baguette into slices, cutting on the bias. Place slices on a cookie sheet. Drain sun-dried tomatoes and cut into 1" cubes. In med mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, parmasan, and tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Spoon mixture onto bread. Place in oven. Cook until the cheese is nicely melted and browned. This should take about 10 minutes.

Tips: You can replace the sun-dried tomatoes with artichoke hearts if you prefer. You could also add some minced garlic to the recipe.
Remember that each oven is different, and thus they will take different amounts of time. Its really just a checking game.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 tbsp quality mustard
1 tsp minced garlic
1 generous tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp herbs de Provence
1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients except olive oil. Mix well. Add olive oil. If you lightly mix, this makes a good vinaigrette. If you mix well until it emulsifies, you can add a tsp of water to keep it from separating and serve on the side. Salt and pepper to taste.

Tips: Remember if you're adding grape or cherry tomatoes to your salad to put them between to lids and cut through them. This will save you lots of time and energy.

1 large onion, cut into 1" dice
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2" dice
3 ribs celery, cut into 1" dice
4 cloves garlic
olive oil, for the pan
3 lbs ground chuck (18% or less) You can also use ground brisket or round or combination
2 cubs tomato paste
3 cups Merlot (or beef stock with 2 tbsp balsamic)
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme
3 sprigs of oregano
1 lb pasta
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
high quality olive oil for finishing

In a food processor, puree onion, carrots, celery and garlic into a coarse paste (You can add some salt to help with this). In a large sautee pan over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the pureed veggies and season generously with salt (go ahead, it'll be ok). Bring pan to a medium high heat and cook until all water had evaporated and they become nice and brown, stirring frequently. 15-20 min. Be patient. Its a waiting game. This is where we get the big flavors.

Add the ground beef and season again generously with salt. Brown the beef. Remember that brown food tastes good. Don't rush this step. Cook 15-20 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and cook until brown: 4-5 min. Add the wine or beef stock with balsamic. Cook until liquid has reduced by half: 4-5 min.

Add water to pan until the water is about 1" above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves, thyme and oregano and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. As the water evaporates you will gradually need to add more, about 2-3 cups at a time. Don't be shy about adding water during the cooking process, you can always cook it out. This is a game of reduce and add more water. This is where big rich flavors develop. If you try to add all the water in the biginning you will have boiled meat sauce rather than a rich, think meaty sauce. Stir and TASTE frequently. Season with salt, if needed (you probably will). Simmer for 3-4 hours.

During the last 30 minutes of cooking bring a large stock pot of water to boil over high heat. Salt the water generously once boiling (a good handful). Salty as the ocean! If your pasta water is under seasoned it doesn't matter how good your sauce is, your complete dish will always taste under seasoned. Remember, the pasta is the star of the dish. Add pasta to water when at a rolling boil. Cook for 1-2 min less than called for on the package (for the perfect al dente). Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, remove 1/2 of the ragu from the pot and reserve.

Drain the pasta and add to the pot with remaining ragu. Remember never to rince pasta if you're going to serve it warm. Add soem of the reserved sauce if needed to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Add reserved cooking water and cook together to marry the pasta with the sauce. Turn off heat and add cheese and drizzle with high quality olive oil. Toss and stir vigorously. Divide the pasta and sauce into serving bowls, or one big serving bowl. Top with a little more cheese and the remaining sauce. Serve immediately.

Tips: You can simmer for less than the 3 hours, but remember that the longer you cook it, the more developed the flavors will be.
Remember when cutting veggies to use the good claw technique for safety. Also, use proper blade holding technique.
If you get lots of crusties on the bottom of your pan remember that its a good thing! Just deglaze the pan by adding some liquid (like the stock) and then scrape it all up. It adds delicious flavor to the dish.

Peanut Butter Frosting
1-1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1-2 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp dairy (I use cream, but you can use any kind of milk)
1/2 tub of cool whip

Put peanut butter in a med mixing bowl and beat until its creamy and less stiff. Add brown sugar, vanilla and corn syrup. Combine well. Add powdered sugar slowly, incorporating well. Alternate between adding powdered sugar and drizzling the milk product. Remember to taste it, to make sure its how you like it. You can add a little pinch of salt if you'd like. Place on cake, reserving about 1/4 cup in the bowl. Mix 1/4 cup of left over frosting with the 1/2 tub of cool whip. Stir until well combined. Use this to top your cake.


  1. I should make this peanut butter frosting...

  2. and of course, when you say "quality mustard," you mean quality DIJON mustard, i assume.

  3. Remind me never to read the recipe posts when I'm hungry!!